We’ve argued many times here at Shiraz, that the mainstream hard-left’s traditional hostility to the EU (and its predecessors) has been ignorant, short-sighted and counter-productive. It is based upon a fundamental misconception: that British workers’ difficulties stem from Brussels rather than from capitalism itself, and that getting out of the EU would somehow, magically, remove – or, even, lessen- capitalist exploitation.
The present issue of Solidarity (paper of the AWL, the one far-left group with a consistent record of talking sense on this question), lambasts the attempts of idiots like Bob Crow, to delude our movement into imagining that there is a “left-wing” case for agitating against EU membership:
“Britain already has harsher anti-union laws and weaker social provision in most areas than the main EU states. It has resisted the Social Charter, the Working Time Directive, and the Agency Workers’ Directive. Given free rein, British governments would reverse their limited implementation of those EU provisions, and scrap other limited measures of worker protection such as TUPE.
“In the meantime, the workers’ movement would have been weakened by the nationalist demagogy accompanying EU exit – the nonsensical claims that British workers’ difficulties are due not to our capitalist bosses but to this or that official in Brussels – the replacement of worker-versus-boss agitation by Britain-versus-Brussels.
“Crow claims to set out a ‘left-wing, pro-worker case’. But when Crow, with the Socialist Party, ran a ‘No2EU’ slate in the 2009 euro-election, that slate denounced ‘the so-called freedom of movement of labour’ in the EU – in fact, the real, and welcome, freedom for workers in the EU to work and live where they wish.
“Another phrase it used to denounce EU migrant workers was ‘the social dumping of exploited foreign workers in Britain’. It was only a phraseological variant of the right-wing Ukip’s rants against Bulgarian and Rumanian workers”… (read the full article here).
But now the argument within the labour movement and Labour Party isn’t only about principles (crucial as they are): it’s also about tactics and pragmatism. With the Tories tearing themselves apart over Europe, Cameron aides denouncing the grassroots as “swivel-eyed loons” and Geoffrey Howe saying the Europe debate has reduced the party to “a new, almost farcical, low”, Miliband and Labour would have to be mad to come to the aid of the Tories by endorsing the call for a referendum on Europe.
Miliband would be well advised to say little on the subject, and watch the Tories self-destruct.
The EU, despite the unrelenting propaganda of the right wing press, is by no means as unpopular as the Tory-Ukip hard-right likes to make out. And even amongst those voters who express hostility to it, the EU ranks about 10th in their list of priorities.
So leave the swivel-eyed Tory-Ukip fanatics to it, Ed, and concentrate on jobs, housing and economic growth.
As for the fake-”democratic” argument (as touted by the Tory right, Ukip and -on the “left”- the likes of Crow and Seumas Milne) for a referendum: what’s wrong with offering all those who want to get out of Europe a real democratic choice: to vote for Ukip or the Tories at the next general election?
It’s always worth listening to what intelligent members of the class enemy have to say. Just like serious shop stewards read the Financial Times. We’ve done it before, here at Shiraz Socialist, but intend to do it more regularly, using the heading Enemy Intelligence. Here’s some wise inside info from Benedict Brogan of the Daily Telegraph, on the Tories’ disarray on Europe. Anyone who thinks Labour should meet Ukip half-way, or that there’s a “left wing” case for EU withdrawal (as espoused by the moronic Bob Crow), should read this:
The Tory party’s gone crazy over Europe, and it’s Cameron’s fault
By Benedict Brogan
For a while yesterday, the European flag flew proudly over Michael Gove’s office. The Education Secretary’s vote of no confidence in the EU the day before had made no difference. Whatever others in Whitehall might say, it seemed, the Department for Education remained happily collegiate in matters continental. It had accepted a request to show the flag for Europe Day last week, which was why the circle of gold stars on a deep blue background proclaiming the penetration of Brussels deep into the workings of British governance could be seen flapping erratically in the breeze at the top of Sanctuary Buildings in Great Smith Street. No one raced for the halyards when Mr Gove appeared on television on Sunday morning to announce that he would vote to leave the EU if he could, and it was only at lunchtime yesterday, when the flag’s presence was drawn to the boss’s attention, that his ideological preferences were brought to bear and it was hastily lowered.
The waving of a flag tells us nothing about the Government’s European policy, of course, save perhaps that the EU is more deeply embedded in the fabric of the state than we would like to admit. The speed with which it was whisked off the DfE’s flagpole once it was detected by those who understand the power of symbols tells us plenty, however, about how twitchy the Conservative Party has become since the latest flare-up of its Euro neuralgia. Over the past few days it has, with a troubling degree of deliberation, thrown away the small but growing political advantage it had given itself in recent weeks in order to indulge in another of those interminable arguments about the nature of our relationship with the EU. In the space of a fortnight the Tories have gone from leading a national conversation about Labour’s unsuitability to govern a changing Britain, to staging a public family feud about who emptied the dishwasher last time and where they should go for the holidays. Read the rest of this entry »
My pal Michael Steinman, over at his Jazz Lives blog, has discovered some film of Benny Goodman and Buddy Rich together on the Merv Griffin show in 1979:
This is significant because Benny and Buddy had only ever worked together once before (an obscure recording date in 1947 that Rich mentions during the interview), and because both, as bandleaders, were notorious martinets: the combination could have been disastrous.
In fact, the meeting seems to have been very amiable, with Buddy paying Benny the compliment of comparing him favourably with Artie Shaw (Benny’s great clarinet-bandleader rival in the thirties), while Benny sort-of apologises for not having hired Buddy in 1939 to replace Gene Krupa (he hired the brilliant but unreliable Dave Tough instead).
Both these men could be complete assholes. The recording of Buddy screaming abuse at his band has become a legend in profanity, and would put Sir Alex Ferguson and his ‘hair-drying’ to shame. As for Goodman, he has twelve pages devoted to stories of his misanthropic anti-social antics in Bill Crow’s Jazz Anecdotes: the only problem is choosing the best one. I finally decided upon this, from pianist Dave Frishberg, who in the early sixties worked in a quartet with Goodman’s star drummer from the thirties, Gene Krupa, at the ‘Metropole’, New York:
“Must have been 1962. Benny walked in and the place went crazy. We were on the bandstand, just having finished an hour-and-fifteen-minute set. I looked at Gene and his face was white. He said, ‘It’s the King of Swing, and he’s got his horn. I don’t believe this. Here he comes.’
“Benny walked up on the stand and began to try out reeds. he stared off into space and tootled and fluttered up and down the scale. This went on for long minutes. Meanwhile Jack Waldorf [owner of the Metropole] had herded dozens — hundreds! — of passersby into the club, and he had them chanting, ‘Benny! Benny!’ Some were hollering out years — like ’1939!’ The camera girl, standing down by the bar, snapped a picture and hurried downstairs to make prints, promising autographs of Goodman and Krupa.
“Benny was finally ready. He said, “Brushes, Gene.” Gene obediently picked up the brushes and flashed a big smile, but I could see he was in a cold fury. Then Benny turned to me and said, ‘Sweet Lorraine, in G. Give me a little introduction.” I complied, and Benny entered in F. He waved me out and continued without piano accompaniment.
“He stayed on the stand for about an hour. The camera girl was going into a second printing. Then, abruptly, he packed up his horn and descended, demanding safe escort through the crowd, and he was gone into the night. he hadn’t signed one picture.
Krupa was drenched with two shows’ worth of perspiration, but he sat patiently on the steps of the bandstand and signed dozens of photos. He was writing personal notes on each one, asking each customer, ‘Who shall I inscribe this to?’ Later in the dressing room he said to us, ‘I was glad to sign this picture. This will be in a lot of homes, believe me. Did you get a load of this?’
“We inspected the picture then. And there was Benny with his horn in his mouth, perched on a stool with his legs spread wide. His fly was open.
“‘Buttons!’ Gene said. ‘Buttons!’ That suit’s probably from about 1940.”
NB: The group on the Merv Griffin Show was completed by Jimmy Rowles, piano, Bucky Pizzarelli, guitar and Jack Six, bass. I agree with Michael that Jimmy Rowles is particularly impressive. But, of course, they’re all fantastic.
Aisha Harris, writing at Slate, is worried by the media coverage of Charles Ramsey:
“Charles Ramsey, the man who helped rescue three Cleveland women presumed dead after going missing a decade ago, has become an instant Internet meme. It’s hardly surprising—the interviews he gave yesterday provide plenty of fodder for a viral video, including memorable soundbites (“I was eatin’ my McDonald’s”) and lots of enthusiastic gestures. But as Miles Klee and Connor Simpson have noted, Ramsey’s heroism is quickly being overshadowed by the public’s desire to laugh at and autotune his story, and that’s a shame. Ramsey has become the latest in a fairly recent trend of “hilarious” black neighbors, unwitting Internet celebrities whose appeal seems rooted in a ‘colorful’ style that is always immediately recognizable as poor or working-class…
“…It’s difficult to watch these videos and not sense that their popularity has something to do with a persistent, if unconscious, desire to see black people perform. Even before the genuinely heroic Ramsey came along, some viewers had expressed concern that the laughter directed at people like Sweet Brown plays into the most basic stereotyping of blacks as simple-minded ramblers living in the ‘ghetto, socially out of step with the rest of educated America. Black or white, seeing Clark and Dodson merely as funny instances of random poor people talking nonsense is disrespectful at best. And shushing away the question of race seems like wishful thinking.”
Perhaps surprisingly, Gary Younge at the Guardian takes the opposite view:
“Millions in America talk like him. But rarely do we hear them unless they are on Maury, Jerry Springer or America’s Most Wanted, the butt of some internet joke or testifying to a shooting in their neighbourhoods. Working-class African Americans are generally wheeled on as exemplars of collective dysfunction. So when Ramsey emerges as heroic, humane, empathetic, funny, compelling, generous and smart, there is a moment of cognitive dissonance on a grand scale. Here is a man with a criminal past and a crime-fighting present…
“…Unvarnished and un-selfconscious, charming and compelling, he reminds me of none so much as Muhammad Ali in his prime, who said: I am America. I am the part you won’t recognise. But get used to me. Black, confident, cocky.
“I’m looking forward to getting used to Charles Ramsey.”
If you’re one of the few people who hasn’t yet seen the film of Mr Ramsey in full flow, you can judge for yourself:
P.S: now there’s a song as well.
Letter to the Morning Star:
“With the Korean War, passions in The Club became more aroused and after a vote on Birmingham Trades Council in which Cliff’s supporters, including Percy Downey, voted for a neutral, third campist, position they were expelled en masse from The Club. Cliff himself, being a member of the almost non-existent Irish section of the FI, could not be expelled. The final result of these events was the foundation of the Socialist Review Group organised around the magazine of the same name” - Wikipedia
“‘The War in Korea’ appeared in the second issue of the group’s duplicated paper, Socialist Review, in January 1951. It should finally nail the lie that the organisation ‘supported the Americans in Korea’. Incidentally, it should be noted that, at the time it appeared, the FI position, as determined by world congress decision, was that North Korea was one of the states about which it had been resolved: ‘The capitalist nature of these countries imposes the necessity of the strictest revolutionary defeatism in war time.’ This fact did not prevent the British section of the FI from giving uncritical support to the Stalinist propaganda machine during the Korean war” - Duncan Hallas, introduction to The Origins of the International Socialists, August 1971.
SW said that North Korea’s nuclear weapons tests have “nothing to do with anti-imperialism or socialism“.
However, it declared the North Korean government not to blame for those tests. All the blame lies with the US and its allies.
SW said that North Korea is “a nuclear bogeyman created by the US“. SW cannot mean to say that North Korea really has no nuclear weapons (i.e. the story that it has them has been manufactured by the US). It cannot mean to say that the North Korean government is controlled by the US, and carrying out nuclear tests only because the US tells it to.
It seems to mean that the US is so aggressive towards North Korea that North Korea somehow has no choice but to stage nuclear tests. “North Korea’s third nuclear test was a direct result of bullying by South Korea, the US and Japan”.
The UN Security Council had increased sanctions against North Korea because of a previous rocket launch. The US and South Korean government had warned of further action.
This allegedly means that: “North Korea’s nuclear weapons and rockets are ‘monsters’ created by US imperialism“.
How? Let’s concede that the US has adopted an aggressive tone towards North Korea. It’s mild stuff compared to what the US has done over the decades in central America. If North Korea has developed nuclear weapons, and the central American countries haven’t, it is a matter of the North Korean government’s choice, not of compulsion.
SW’s argument here seems like their argument that Islamist terrorism, though not exactly what SWP members would want to see in their own front rooms, is an inevitable response to US misdeeds in the Middle East, so inevitable that people like those who bombed the World Trade Centre should not be condemned.
Why then haven’t the peoples of Central America been “forced” into Catholic-fundamentalist terrorism? For that matter, why haven’t workers in the US itself been “forced” into systematic bombing of civilian targets by the exploitation to which US bosses subject them?
SW continues: “The US demonisation of North Korea is part of its strategy to maintain hegemony in East Asia… There is even talk of supporting regime change in North Korea“.
The US State Department declares officially that “outstanding problems includ[e] the North’s attempts to develop a nuclear program and human rights abuses”. Facts about North Korea do not cease to be facts if the US government repeats them.
The SW article nowhere mentions the totalitarian and exploitative regime in North Korea, or its denial of all workers’ rights.
The issue on which the forerunners of the SWP first separated from other (“orthodox”) Trotskyists was that in 1950 they refused to consider the Korean war as simply an attack by the US on innocent North Korea, and insisted that Stalinism was also playing an imperialistic role in Korea.
At that time the Stalinist regime in North Korea (as far as can be guessed) had sizeable popular support. Why rally to the defence of its raddled and corrupt successor in 2013?
Presumably, to now re-write their own history and renounce, once and for all, the “third camp” politics that was their original, defining, characteristic. Professor Callinicos really believes that Tony Cliff got it wrong over the Korean war and James P. Cannon, Ted Grant, Gerry Healy and the ISFI (“orthodox” Trotskyists) got it right.
Above: Di Canio and ’irriducibili’ Ultra Lazio friends
Subject: Durham Miners Demand Banner Back from Stadium of Light
Dave Hopper the General Secretary of the Durham Miners’ Association is writing to Sunderland Football Club to demand the return of the Wearmouth Miners’ Banner, which is on permanent display in the Stadium of Light, in protest at the decision to appoint the self-confessed fascist, Paolo Di Canio, as their head coach..Mr Hopper, who worked for 27 years as a miner at Wearmouth Colliery, the site on which the Stadium of Light now stands, described Di Canio’s appointment as an outrage and a betrayal of all those who fought and died fighting fascism..He said,“I like many thousands of miners have supported Sunderland from infancy and are passionate about football. But, there are principles which are much more important..“Our banner represents the Durham miners’ long struggle for the rights of the working class, rights which were annihilated by fascism in Germany, Italy, Spain and Chile..“We have a sacred obligation to the millions who were wiped out by Hitler, Mussolini and Franco to oppose fascism wherever and in whatever context this evil creed raises its head particularly at a time when working people are again being forced to pay for capitalism’s crisis as they were in Europe in the 1920s and 30s..
“The appointment of Di Canio is a disgrace and a betrayal of all who fought and died in the fight against fascism..“Everyone must speak out [to] oppose this outrage and call on Ellis Short and the Sunderland Board to reverse their decision.”.H/t: Dave HarkerSecretaryNorth East Shop Stewards’ Network
A very unfortunate and, it seems, very nasty confrontation between SWP stewards and anti-rape campaigners at the Bedroom Tax demo in Glasgow yesterday. This footage isn’t, perhaps, conclusive proof of SWP culpability, so we’d appreciate comments from anyone who was there.
The person who took the film and posted it on Youtube, writes: “i should make it clear, i only got my camera out after the stewards started to push people back and started all this off, i hadn’t gone intending to record anything, just show my opposition to the bedroom tax.”
H/t: Mod and Jelly (an unlikely pair…)
It is with great sadness that I have to release this statement to clear my name and to protect my family and friends who have been subject to verbal assault cyber assault and even threatened with physical violence. I also truly hope that it will give men who are suffering violence and abuse in relationships some encouragement to come forward and report their abusers. I have already been contacted by a number of men in the trade union movement who have suffered domestic violence but who were afraid to make a public statement out of a misconceived shame and embarrassment about being abused. Up until this point I have not commented upon the allegation that I assaulted Caroline Leneghan as I did not wish to add to Ms Leneghan’ s mental health problems and an RMT internal investigation was ongoing . I feel that now I need to comment as my family are being seriously effected by the unfounded allegations which have been spread on the Internet by people who are not in possession of the facts.
Ms Leneghan made a complaint to the police more than a year after the alleged event(which she claims took place in January 2012), Firstly she said she had no photographic evidence of the alleged “assault” saying that it had been deleted and only laterproduced some very dubious and undated pictures more than a yearafter the event claiming to show her injuries. The police questioned me investigated the allegation thoroughly, had the case reviewed by a senior officer and took No Further Action. Ms Leneghan also made a complaint to my employer the RMT trade union which has carried out an exhaustive investigation and found that I had “no case to answer”. During both investigations I provided hundreds of texts and emails that showed that Caroline Leneghan had been abusive to and assaulted me on several occasions. During the 18 months I spent with Ms Leneghan I was slapped, deprived of sleep, punched, pinched, scratched, elbowed in the ribs, kneed, had shoes ,belts and other objects thrown at me, had paint rubbed in my face and was kicked in the stomach about a week after I had an operation for a hernia. I stayed with Ms Leneghan because she was attending therapy twice a week in an attempt to control her violent outbursts, she suffers from a condition known as Borderline, Personality Disorder and has a history of violence ,severe self harm and attempted suicide. On the day she alleges the assault took place I was assaulted by her and whilst trying to take a screwdriver away from her(on previous occasions I had to take razor blades and knives away from her and call ambulances to treat her from self inflicted razor cuts on her arms legs and stomach) we both fell to the floor, Ms Leneghan landed face down and I landed on top of her. Ms Leneghan then went to her room and appeared the next day with bruising on her face. Ms Leneghan accepted that this was an accident and explained to several people at the time what had happed(several people made statements to the police to this effect). The assault allegations only arose over a year later when I finished my relationship with Ms Leneghan after being kicked in the stomach by her whilst on holiday just a week after I had a stomach operation for a hernia. When I broke off the relationship with Ms leneghan she pretended to be pregnant and threatened to have an abortion unless I had her back ,she even threatened to commit suicide which led me to spend several hours at her address on 1 January 2013 trying to calm her down. (this is all confirmed in the emails I gave the police and my employers). Ms Leneghan then hacked my facebook account on 21 January 2013 and discovered that I was going out with someone else, she made several abusive phone calls to me and sent very abusive and threatening texts and emails to me and my girlfriend and threatened me by text that “you are going down Steve”(which I did not reply to on solicitors advice but provided the evidence to the police and the RMT investigations). Ms Leneghan then went to the police and my employers as I have described. Having spoken to Mankind an organization that deals with domestic violence against men I was informed that abusive women often continue to abuse their victims when a relationship is finished by making false allegations to the police. I hope now that the investigations are complete and I have been cleared of any wrong doing that I can draw a line under this and move on with my life . I hope that Ms Leneghan can also move on continue with her treatment for her illness and find happiness uninfluenced by those who wish to make politically motivated attacks on me and my trade union.