Remembering Denis Healey – the good, the bad and the utterly hilarious

October 4, 2015 at 10:07 pm (history, labour party, posted by JD, reformism, RIP)

A generous tribute to the old bruiser from a long-standing opponent, Jon Lansman (first published at Jon’s blog, Labour Futures):

Denis_HealeyDenis Healey was a great figure for twenty-five years of Labour history, a politician with “a hinterland”, very well-read and deeply interested in art and music, and, though Jeremy Corbyn may not have approved, was a master of the brilliant put-down. Geoffrey Howe was forever diminished by that greatest of personal attacks – his attacks summed up as being “like being savaged by a dead sheep“.  He will be remembered fondly even by many of us for whom he was a bête noire in our youth in the 1970s.

As Chancellor under Wilson and Callaghan he was undoubtedly the Chancellor who sealed the end of the Keynesian approach that had been adopted by both Labour and Tory governments in the post-war period until then, and has only been reintroduced as Labour’s by Jeremy Corbyn and John McDonnell. He led the battle in cabinet for the cuts in public expenditure which were the price of IMF support for Sterling.

However, with hindsight, he was chancellor in the most difficult of times with rampant inflation that was largely a consequence of the Barber boom (named after the Tory Chancellor between 1970 and 1974) and the oil price shock, and he was unfairly blamed for the winter of discontent following Callaghan’s insistence in 1978 on a disastrously low 5% pay norm when inflation was still 10%. He did, after all, favour a system of price controls far more extensive than anything being proposed by Corbyn and McDonnell and his incomes policy, agreed through full cooperation with the TUC and trade union leadership, was clearly designed to benefit the low paid.

In the years of New Labour, he may quite reasonably have been regarded as on the left of the party.

As it happens, I have a grievance against Denis Healey. On 20 September 1981, in the latter stages of Labour’s deputy leadership election campaign (the first that involved party and union members not just MPs) in which Denis Healey had been challenged by Tony Benn, Healey accused me personally on live television of “orchestrating the heckling and booing” which he had faced on the previous day at a Labour demonstration in Birmingham and at a similar event in Cardiff that July.

I was, at 24, the secretary of Benn’s campaign committee but had not been present at either demonstration. I never received an apology from Denis Healey though I did from London Weekend Television which accepted that I had been libelled. By that evening, ITN’s News at 10 ran what Tony Benn recorded in his diary as “a devastating denunciation of Healey” and showed Healey merely saying that “if I made a mistake it was unwise“. But in spite of that, as is so often the case in these situations, the Mail and Express and sundry other right-wing newspapers continued to carry nasty stories about me for several days. And even now when the incident is referred to, which happens from time to time, the accusation is normally reported without any reference to the fact that the TV company settled out of court to avoid a libel action.

Still I bear Denis no grudge. Though he won the election by a whisker of 0.5%, he so nearly failed to do so. That he suffered such an embarrassment on the eve of the Annual TUC congress was very damaging to his position. The TGWU, though it’s executive had already decided to nominate the “spoiler” candidate, John Silkin, decided the following day to give its second round vote to Tony Benn. Walt Greendale, then chair of the union executive and one of the outstanding lay union activists of the period, told me at the time that he thought it would probably not have reached that decision if it hadn’t been for Healey’s foolishness.

I hold no grudge against Denis. When he came to campaign for Tony Benn in the Chesterfield by-election in 1984, I spent a large part of the day with him and, though there was still no apology, he was witty, charming and impeccably polite. He campaigned hard all day, topping it off with the wonderfully memorable speech at one of the packed public meetings which characterised that campaign which culminated in the words “Healey without Benn would be like Torvill without Dean” at which precise point the Chesterfield Labour banner behind him came crashing down. It brought the house down with laughter, and we all retired afterwards to a pub where Denis entertained everyone, playing the piano and singing songs alongside Tony. It was one of the funniest evenings I have ever spent. He is sorely missed.

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A message from the Labour Right

October 4, 2015 at 9:50 pm (labour party, posted by JD)

Above: Dennis, where are you now that they need you?

From ‘Labour First’ (republished here for the information of the entire labour movement):

Dear ***

Thank you to everyone who was at Labour Party Conference and ensured that far from being a rout for Labour’s mainstream, we won both the main votes that were contested among delegates (the priority ballot on whether to debate Trident, and the National Constitutional Committee election) and asserted that we are here to stay, to play a loud and proud role in the life of the party, and to fight for our values and defend the policies we see as essential to a Labour victory and, in the case of Trident, to national security.

We think we struck the right tone in being clear that we accept our new party leader’s mandate and will get stuck in behind him in fighting the Tories and austerity, but we will not roll over and allow key policies where we think he is at odds with common sense and public opinion to be ditched, or allow the Hard Left to seize every layer of the party structure or to manipulate the rules to their own partisan advantage.

If you did not watch it yesterday, please take the time to read Tom Watson’s brilliant speech which closed the conference with a reiteration of the need for a broad electoral appeal and a restatement of our achievements in government between 1997 and 2010:…/tom-watson-speech-labour-par…

We come out of the conference with unexpected momentum and our heads held high. We need to build on that momentum because the Hard Left will be seeking to move fast to shift the party in their direction, using the vast amount of data and new members they secured in the leadership election.

Here is just some of what needs to happen next:
In our network

We need to expand our network round the country. Please ask everyone you know who would share our concerns about the future direction of the party to join our email list using this link:
We need a key contact in every CLP – someone who will attend CLP meetings and is able to promote our candidates for internal elections, our model motions etc., and feed back intelligence to us. If you are willing to do that and haven’t already told me, please email me at with your name, CLP and phone number.
We want to set up local Labour First groups on the model that we already have in the West Midlands, a space where Labour moderates can meet up informally and build networks with like-minded people. If you can help initiate a group in your region, county or city, please email me.

If you can donate to help us cover the costs of our increased activity please send a cheque payable to Labour First to Labour First, c/o 125 Oxford Road, Old Marston, Oxford, OX3 0RB, with a covering note with your full name and address, or make a bank transfer or set up a direct debit to Labour First account is with Unity Trust Bank.

In your Region or Nation

There are a series of Regional, Scottish and Welsh conferences coming up:
East Midlands Sat 24 October Leicester
Scotland 30 Oct-1 Nov Perth
North West 31 Oct & 1 Nov Blackpool
East 13-15 November Stevenage
South West Sat 21 November Bristol
Wales 19-22 February Llandudno

Other regional conferences happen later in 2016.

These conferences elect Regional Boards which have a role in organisation, campaigning, and local government and MEP selections. The conferences also elect two delegates each to the National Policy Forum. It is important that this layer of the party’s structures is not captured by the Hard Left.

We need to know who the delegates are from your CLP if they have already been elected, so we can ensure they know who the mainstream candidates are. Please email me back with details of your CLP’s delegation to Regional Conference if you are in a region with one scheduled, and the political stance of the delegates where known.

We will try to have fringe meetings at as many of these conferences as possible, which we will publicise in due course.

In your CLP

All of us need to be active at CLP level, if the grassroots of the party are not politically healthy, the top of it never will be:

Be welcoming. We need to take the lead in welcoming all the new members that have signed up and integrating them into the social, political and campaigning life of the party. It doesn’t matter if for some of them their motive for joining was Corbynism – many people who started out as Bennites in the 1980s ended up as Blairites or Brownites, people’s views change as they get more deeply involved in politics. We cannot afford CLPs divided into “new” and “old” members – we have to take the initiative and reach out.

Recruit. We won’t get a louder moderate voice in the party by making the whole party smaller again. That would be pernicious. We need to embrace the politics of mass movements, we need to build an even bigger party that is more representative of Labour and potential Labour voters by getting people who share our values among our friends, family and colleagues to join and become active:

Campaign. Labour’s moderates have to visibly be the people who, even under a leader we did not pick, are leading local campaigning against the Tories, the Lib Dems, the Greens, UKIP and the SNP.

Take responsibility. Every position of responsibility from branch secretary upwards has its role to play in ensuring Labour is a stable, efficient, democratic and fair party. Each feeds into the next layer above and has a knock-on effect on the overall direction of the party. We have to volunteer for – or hold onto – positions of responsibility and do the hard work that sustains the party. We should rally round hard-working CLP, LCF and branch officers, councillors and MPs if they come under unfair partisan attack.

Build alliances. Many of the old divisions and battles are now rendered meaningless. We have to work with and support anyone who has the best interests of the Labour Party at heart and wants a mainstream, electable Labour. There are many people who would until this summer have defined themselves as on the left of the party who are horrified by the way events have turned out and suddenly find themselves politically adrift. We must reach out to them.

Organise. The major challenges in early 2016 will be nominations for the NEC elections, and election of 2016 Annual Conference delegates, both of which are likely to see unprecedented levels of organisation by the Hard Left. In many CLPs we also expect to see organised attempts to take control of the key officerships at CLP AGMs. We all need to be prepared to mobilise every possible mainstream member to vote at these key meetings – with a key difference being that some CLPs have an All Member Meeting structure and others a delegate based General Meeting.

Know the rules. The national rulebook (available on Membersnet) and your CLP standing orders are your allies. Read them, and use them to ensure proper democratic procedures and appropriate comradely behaviour are adhered to.

We are at the start of a process of saving the Labour Party. It is going to be a long and difficult struggle. Let’s get to work!

Best wishes,

Luke Akehurst
Secretary, Labour First
Copyright © 2015 Labour First, All rights reserved.

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My MP (Part 2)

October 3, 2015 at 10:19 pm (Rosie B, scotland)

After the indy referendum in September 2014 we No voters – who were startled to find we’d been given a new identity, Unionists or Nawbags – thought we could forget about that interruption and get back to normality. Wrong. The SNP rode high, grabbed 56/59 (95%) of the Westminster seats in the general election and are likely to take as many in next year’s Holyrood election. Their opposition is fragmented into the old parties of Liberal Democrat, Labour and Conservative, Labour has been broken and the only party that has gained are the Conservatives as the full-out Unionist party under the gutsy Ruth Davidson. So it’s been a gloomy time for us Negative lot, with constant threats of more referenda being waved at us in spite of the once in a generation, once in a life time, One Opportunity rhetoric during the indyref. One Snat tried to convince me that One Opportunity really meant An Opportunity. Meanwhile Sturgeon swans about doing photoshoots for Vogue – though credit where it’s due – she shows a good deal of bright style in her clothing in contrast to the grey frumpy Noes. “Bitter together” describes our mood.

But now something has happened to lift our spirits with schadenfreude. It concerns the MP for Edinburgh West, my MP, Michelle Thomson. As I said before Thomson headed up Business for Scotland, a group  which encapsulates the sham of Scottish politics because it is (a) an SNP front – as demonstrated by Thomson being given the Edinburgh West seat; (b) it was called Business for Scotland – and of course other (subtext and overt ) anti-indy businesses must be against Scotland; (c) it was a load of mickey-mouse consultancies, who employed few people and did little in the way of cross border trade with England. But it was treated like the CBI by the BBC. Thomson was elected in the SNP landslide and made Shadow Minister for Business, Innovation & Skills.


Business eh? Not software design, nor extracting oil nor wind turbine manufacture nor pharmaceuticals nor widgets nor sausages. No, the business spokesperson that the SNP appointed was a woman of property with a portfolio. i.e. a wheeler dealer. Not even a builder of houses. And she had wheeled and dealed – eg (allegation at this point) that she would buy a property at X grand one day and then flog it off the same day at 2X grand to her husband. .

The Sunday Times ran an article [paywall] on 20th September about Michelle Thomson’s company buying properties from people like cancer sufferers cheap and then selling them on for a good profit. Nasty, but not illegal.

The story grew arms and legs. Here’s a piece by Ian Smart on the likely fraudulence of Thomson’s dealings:-

“there was something in that initial article that seemed to the informed eye a bit more sinister. That was the suggestion that, in some of the transactions involved, the price actually paid by Thomson was less than that declared to the Land Registry. “That looks very like mortgage fraud”.

Thomson had figured as a “Mrs A” in the Scottish Solicitors Discipline Tribunal which had struck off her solicitor Christopher Hales.

“Numerous examples of failing to inform lenders of undisclosed deposits, including examples of Mr Hales personally returning these to the purchasers, and several examples of back to backs, all equally undisclosed to the lenders.”

On behalf of Mrs A aka Michelle Thomson.

After a hearing in May 2014, the Scottish Solicitors’ Disciplinary Tribunal said Mr Hales failed to provide mortgage companies with key information used to prevent fraud and must have been aware that there was a possibility he was facilitating mortgage fraud, whether or not it occurred.

In some cases, loans obtained for the properties were greater than the actual purchase price.

The Law Society, the regulating body of Scottish solicitors, did not send this information to the Crown Office until July 2015, after both the referendum and the general election. They claimed “pressure of work” (which Scottish lawyers observe they never accept as an excuse from solicitors who have not renewed their membership of the Law Society).

The Law Society’s chief executive, Lorna Jack, took the unusual step of arranging a hurried press conference to defend her organisation’s handling of the affair, and the conduct of Sheila Kirkwood, who is secretary to the society guarantee fund sub-committee which handled the Hales case but had delayed handing the papers over to the Crown Office.

It emerged that Kirkwood was, with her husband and fellow solicitor Paul Kirkwood, a founder of the pro-independence campaign Lawyers for Yes, and as an active nationalist had attended dinners for Thomson’s pro-independence campaign Business for Scotland. Kirkwood had also “liked” Thomson on her Facebook page.

So the non SNP MSPs had for once a good time at First Minister’s Questions:-

THERE was a rumbling, gutteral soundtrack to much of FMQs today, as Nat MSPs desperately tried to drown out a series of questions about Michelle Thomson.

“Uurgrhnomorenomore,” went appalled groans when the dreaded name was uttered.

“Nananeverheardofher,” went a lip-smacking simian chatter as fingers were plugged in ears.

But despite these best efforts, the property-whizz-turned-SNP-nightmare dominated proceedings, with Labour and the Tories revelling in all the sleazy details.

The SNP now deny knowing anything about Thomson’s business deals – though before they had been lauding her business expertise:-


SNP Social Justice Secretary Alex Neil, whose portfolio includes welfare, affordable housing and other issues crucial to the poorest in society, claimed she would be a champion for such causes.

He said: ‘She had an excellent grasp of the economic picture, but also demonstrated commitment to how business can be used to support social justice.’

Both SNP Education Secretary Angela Constance and Culture Secretary Fiona Hyslop stressed her business background would make her an ideal candidate.

Constance said: ‘Michelle has a proven track record. She would be an outstanding MP. Michelle is known for her grasp of finance, business and the economy.’

Hyslop said: ‘Her knowledge of business and her passion to make Scotland a better place make her an ideal candidate for Westminster in the forthcoming General Election.’

SNP MSP Colin Keir – who represents Edinburgh Western, the Holyrood equivalent of Thomson’s Westminster seat – said in the run-up to the General Election: ‘I worked with Michelle through the referendum campaign and have seen how talented she is. In her position as a director of Business for Scotland she was asked to take part in debates against Better Together. ’

Michelle Thomson has resigned the SNP whip and is now my independent MP. Her entry on the SNP site reads like this. The police are investigating her solicitor. It could be that she will be investigated herself and charged, which should lead to an interesting by-election.

Sturgeon has said she looks forward to reinstating her but now the Sunday Herald, which supports indy, is going to release emails which show that it was Thomson’s fault that Business for Scotland made such a bad economic case for independence (rather than that there wasn’t a good economic case, as we Nawbag quislings were abused for pointing out).  Business for Scotland’s predictions of untold wealth for an indy Scotland are still quoted by disgruntled Yesses, so at least they may shut up on that score.  And Thomson will be dumped altogether by the ever ruthless and opportunistic SNP.

Update:- the article in the Sunday Herald did not show that “the economic case for independence was undermined by scandal-hit MP” as the headline has it.”  What it show was that there was in-fighting among the board members of Business for Scotland.  The most salient points are:- Thomson, the Managing Director of Business for Scotland, had her consultancy payments stopped but was allowed to keep the title and still appear on the media – it would have looked bad to dump her before the referendum; and that the controlling hand behind Business for Scotland was Peter Murrell, the SNP chief executive, also Nicola Sturgeon’s husband, which should finally destroy BfS’s pretence of being a non-partisan think tank.

I can see that Thomson with her media presence might have been thought suitable as a candidate for Edinburgh West, which she won as part of the SNP landslide. But why appoint her as Shadow Minister for Business, Skills and Innovation and boost her business expertise?  Are they short of business background among the 56 55 MPs?


Collector’s item

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Phil Woods RIP

October 3, 2015 at 10:34 am (jazz, Jim D, music, RIP, United States)

I’m ashamed to admit that I came late to Phil Woods and have only been listening intently to his superb playing since news of his death, aged 83, came through earlier this week.

He played his final gig on September 4th using an oxygen mask and, before the final number announced that due to emphysema, he was retiring with immediate effect. Due to his extensive work as a session man on pop records, many people who are not particularly into jazz, will have heard his playing without knowing it: he plays the sax solo on Billy Joel’s Just The Way You Are, for instance.

But it is as one of the greatest of post-Parker altoists that he will be properly remembered. Here he is on a live recording from 1976 (‘Live From the Showboat’), in truly magisterial form on ‘Cheek To Cheek’, a difficult song not obviously suited to jazz improvisation – but Woods makes it all sound so easy:

Phil Woods (alto) with Harry Leahey, guitar Mike Melillo, piano Steve Gilmore, drums

H/t: Pete Neighbour, who wrote on facebook, “This is one of ‘THE’ Phil Woods tracks… I remember playing this endlessly when I first got it on vinyl; desperately trying to get somewhere near this masterful performance – and failing dismally I hasten to add. My mind struggling with the harmonic complexities that Phil found in this standard….. desperately trying not to copy…but wanting… so, so wanting to be influenced and to let some of his genius seep through my playing. Today, with everyone seemingly accorded ‘superstar status’ to listen to this brings home the meaning of true musical genius. I know all this sounds ‘gushing’……..but….if it does…..I don’t care!”

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In Sneepland

October 2, 2015 at 8:10 pm (rosieb, scotland) ()

So what were we fearty goats of Unionists getting in a stooshie about today?

This on the Scots Language Centre, a site where the bairns are directed to learn about the Scots tongue:-


Of course we muzerable Nawbags’ faces were trippin’ us. We did our own sums. 1.6 million of the population voted for independence while the remaining 3.9 million either voted against independence, didn’t vote, or never had a vote.

So mibbe the dominie that scribed that was showing the weans how you can mess with numbers to tell what story you wanntae – something that we grown ups learned in the referendum especially with economic predictions of an indy Scotland involving the price of oil.

I was just starting to get a blog post going on the following lines:-

1. A Scots Language Centre which gets the folk into border ballads and Burns and all the sangs out there and James Hogg is a very good thing but; (2) why does everything cultural have to be politicised towards the same result i.e. being Scottish=being Nationalist; (3) with a caveat that though the Centre may be funded by the Scottish government it doesn’t follow that some apparatchik at Holyrood writes every entry any more than they check out every script produced by Creative Scotland (though I bet pro-Unionist projects wouldn’t get much sympathy).  And the Natz are control freaks keen to grasp their mitts round broadcasting and the universities.

There was the usual Twittering including one from Ruth Davidson:-

and then Tom Martin from the Daily Express got in touch with the director of the Centre and now the page reads:-


There were the usual apologies for “causing offence”.


To be fair it might have been one wee chappie/wifey at the Language Centre making a bit of mischief and now I even find it funny that s/he sneaked in a cheeky political point among the language studies.

But today I spittit with despyte (to quote the great Scots poet Gavin Douglas) and Lord, you have to keep yir e’en on those Gnats. They’re a flock of corbies with beaks of blood desperate to feed on our unionist corse.

Update:- the Scots Language Centre is a den of nationalists.

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Patriotism before internationalism says Boyd of Campaign Against Euro-Federalism

October 2, 2015 at 7:17 pm (Beyond parody, class collaboration, conspiracy theories, Europe, Jim D, reactionay "anti-imperialism", stalinism)

Above: the anti-EU ‘left’ at the TUC

Accuse any member of the Communist Party or supporter of the Morning Star of being a “Little Englander” or even just a nationalist, over the EU and they’ll get very hot under the collar. Robert Griffiths, general secretary of the CPB recently wrote a self-righteous letter to the New Statesman to complain about the magazine having quoted yours truly describing the MS “plumb[ing] the depths of reactionary Little England nationalism” in its coverage of the EU.

Now, I don’t know for sure whether or not John Boyd is a member of the CPB, but the MS certainly gives him a lot of coverage, regularly printing his anti-EU rants on their letters page, and quoting him approvingly in articles blaming the EU for the decimation of British industry, the undermining of British democracy, the war in Ukraine and the very existence of neoliberal capitalism, etc, etc, etc. Mr Boyd is secretary of the so-called Campaign Against Euro-Federalism, one of a number of interchangeable Stalinist/nationalist anti-EU outfits which evidently meet with the approval of the CPB and the MS.

Yesterday’s Morning Star published Mr Boyd’s latest letter, which I think is worth reproducing for posterity here at Shiraz, if only because letters published in the print edition don’t appear on the MS website. It is a chemically-pure statement of the fanatical, laughably ignorant, and utterly preposterous nationalism and isolationism that lies at the diseased heart the supposedly “left” anti-EU movement. The anti-EU ‘left’ should have this ludicrous, rambling, non-sequitur-ridden missive thrown in their faces at every opportunity. I presume, by the way, that Manu Bazzanu had written a letter attempting to assert elementary socialist internationalism, thus enraging the pro-patriotism Mr Boyd:

The nation state must come first for socialists
MANU BAZZANU (M Star September 25) brushes aside the fundamental importance of nations, nation states and their right to self determination. In fact the signs are that there will be more nation states.

Why side with capitalist interests, the European Union, the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership and its secret investment court system (ICS/ISDS) whose aims are to cull the powers of national governments, democracy and independence?

The main cause of wars is one nation state’s interference in the internal affairs and right to self-determination of another.

The Middle East is in turmoil, with the resultant mass movement of refugees, because governments of Britain and other countries have used military force to destroy infrastructures, change regimes with no respect for nation states’ governments, the nations or the peoples within them.

The objective of Islamic State (Isis) is to bring about a worldwide caliphate which does not recognise international borders, nation states and a lot more. Readers of the Morning Star vehemently oppose this.

Is it not correct that support that support should be given to a united Ireland where the Irish nation has been struggling for over 800 years to get rid of English imperialism?

Is it wrong for the French Communist Party congress to sing the Marsellaise before the Internationale? That is patriotism and internationalism in the correct order.

Dockers in the past carried out international solidarity with workers in other nation states by refusing to load or unload particular ships. That is just one example of internationalism.

Even within the EU, and in light of the refugee and Eurozone crises, national governments on behalf of their nation states have rocked this reactionary prison-house of nations to its foundations.

We are currently subjects of the British monarchy, but this does not preclude writing English, Scottish and Welsh patriotic national anthems. They should reflect the national patriotic history and aspirations, clearing us of a few obstacles!

JOHN BOYD, Secretary, Campaign Against Euro-Federalism


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Hands Off Syria?

September 30, 2015 at 7:37 pm (apologists and collaborators, imperialism, internationalism, Jim D, Middle East, Russia, Stop The War, Syria)

Stop the War holds Hands Off Syria protest at US Embassy London

Above: ‘Stop The War’ placards outside US embassy, June 2013

30 Sept 2015: A Russian general asked the U.S. to remove its planes from Syrian airspace Wednesday, just hours before Russian airstrikes began there.

 The Russian three-star general, who was part of the newly formed intelligence cell with Iraq, Iran, and the Syrian government, arrived in Baghdad at 9 a.m. local time and informed U.S. officials that Russian strikes would be starting imminently—and that the U.S. should refrain from conducting strikes and move any personnel out. The only notice the U.S. received about his visit was a phone call one hour earlier.

The Russian strikes were centered about the city of Homs, according to initial accounts in the local press and in social media. That’s significant, because Homs is not known to be an ISIS stronghold (CNN)

The leaders of the Stop The War Coalition claim to be against all interventions into Syria (without a UN mandate) … so we can expect a, STW-organised demo outside the Russian embassy any day now, eh ..?

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Trident vote: are unions reverting to their traditional role, backing the Labour Right?

September 28, 2015 at 9:10 pm (class, Europe, internationalism, Jim D, labour party, reformism, unions, Unite the union) ()

Above: Trident nuclear submarine patrolling (Getty Images)

Jeremy Corbyn has suffered his first defeat as Labour leader: and it’s been Unite and the GMB who’ve brought it about.

The decision by delegates at the Party conference not to have a debate on Trident came about because Unite and the GMB, with tens of thousands of their members’ jobs dependent upon the renewal of the nuclear weapons system, made it clear that they’d vote against any anti- Trident resolution.

Today’s Morning Star front page headline declared ‘Dismay As Trident Vote Is Blocked’ while the story beneath quoted CND’s Kate Hudson, at some length, decrying the decision as “bitterly disappointing, not just for the Labour delegates and members who wanted to see that debate take place, but for many, many others round the country who wanted to see Labour stand up unequivocally against the government’s determination to rearm Britain with nuclear weapons … Failure of Labour to change its policy means that in spring next year , when the government seeks Parliament’s approval for Trident’s replacement, Labour policy will be on the wrong side … Labour will give the Tory government a blank cheque for nuclear rearmament.”

Tucked away at the end of the Star‘s article is a brief reference to the role of Unite, the paper’s main funder: ‘Setting out his opposition to unilateralism, Unite leader Len McCluskey said: “I understand the moral case and the huge cost of replacing Trident, especially in this era of austerity, but the important thing for us is jobs and the defence of communities.”

The embarrassment of the Morning Star aside, the significance of the votes of Unite and the other major unions on this issue, is that they seem to be reverting to their traditional role as bastions of right wing pragmatism, against the leftist idealism of much of the Party’s rank and file (although, having said that, only 7.1% of constituency delegates voted for a debate on Trident). It also points to the failure of the anti-Trident left to deal effectively with the questions of jobs: Unite and the GMB in reality regard Trident as a massive job creation scheme and so far (beyond vague references to the Lucas Alternative Plan of the 1970’s) the left has failed to come up with a convincing answer.

Meanwhile the GMB’s recently-knighted buffoon of a general secretary, ‘Sir’ Paul Kenny has lined up with Labour’s Europhobes (some of the most right wing people in the Party) in urging the Party to “keep its options open” on EU membership and, in fact, campaign for withdrawal if Cameron’s renegotiation results in any weakening of British workers’ rights – quite how leaving the EU will prevent the Tories attacking workers’ rights in Britain is not explained by Kenny or his europhobic friends. In fact, Corbyn’s recent clarification on Europe (stating that he “cannot envisage” Labour campaigning for withdrawal and that the Party will re-instate any workers’ rights bargained away by Cameron) is plainly the only rational left-wing position.

For all his fake-left posturing, Kenny’s position on Europe (like his position on Trident) is, objectively, an attack on Corbyn … from the right.

It’s time for Corbyn’s supporters to start organising seriously in the unions.

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Donbas can starve say Russian-backed ‘rebel’ leaders

September 28, 2015 at 5:47 pm (Cross-post, national liberation, Paul Canning, reactionay "anti-imperialism", Russia, thuggery, Ukraine)

By Paul Canning (cross-posted from his blog):

Last winter there were some reports that people had starved to death in Eastern Ukraine. The reason was that humanitarian aid was being stolen by the criminals who run the so-called Donetsk and Luhansk ‘People’s Republics’ (DPR/LPR).The insidiousness of Russian propaganda is shown by what you’ll find if you look for that information, which is widespread Western media reports of deaths being blamed on Ukraine and not the ‘rebels’. This is because Ukraine stopped social payments and because some truck convoys were blocked.

That humanitarian aid to the Donbas was being stolen was the claim of former rebel leader Igor Girkin on Russian TV. Another rebel commander, Pavel Dremov, said that only one in ten of Russian aid convoys actually reached the people. Trucks supposedly delivering aid through Ukrainian checkpoints have been found to be carrying alcohol instead.

International agencies operating in the Donbas have come under increasing pressure. Monitors from the OSCE, there because of agreements signed by the ‘rebels’ and by Russia, have been harassed and had their vehicles destroyed. In April the International Rescue Committee, which looks after refugees, was expelled after being kidnapped and accused of ‘spying’. Aid from the European Union that does get through has been repackaged to appear to come from the ‘republics’.

Now, just weeks before temperatures plunge, the rebels have expelled every single international aid body bar the Red Cross – and Russian groups. This includes the United Nations and Médecins Sans Frontières. The Red Cross may be next given that they have been harassed in the past.

According to the UN, this is the situation in Luhansk:

Sick children deprived of essential medications, patients forced to undergo surgery without anesthesia, and food prices so high that many residents can’t afford to eat properly.

The UN also said that when the ‘rebels’ switched pension payments to rubles they “duped” pensioners by rigging the exchange rate.

Said the UN’s Stephen O’Brien:

Some 150,000 people are not receiving monthly food distributions, 1.3 million people’s access to water is at risk, and more than 30,000 people have not received shelter materials and household items they urgently need.

Those most at risk are in the villages and small towns, especially in the east. Well away from Donetsk itself, so unlikely to be seen by Western journalists. Much trumpeted Russian humanitarian aid convoys have time and again been found instead to contain weapons.

So why are the ‘rebels doing this? According to the newspaper News of Donbass it is because of “a new strategy for the external security and counter external and internal threats.” Specifically a “threat posed by these counter-revolution within the republic.”

Just let that sink in. So because of politics, because of ideology, because of paranoia their ‘people’ can be sacrificed? 

The mentality that ‘foreign’ organisations must be a threat of course comes from Russia, where numerous human rights and even scientific groups have been effectively closed down after being labeled as ‘foreign agents’. It is also indulged by many in the West who think that Russia is ‘surrounded’ and at risk of a Western supported ‘colour revolution’. Russian TV (all the people in the Donbas are allowed) is devoted to feeding this paranoia so of course a benign humanitarian group like Doctors Without Borders cannot be what the sane people reading this blog post see it as. No, it must be peddling ‘illegal psychotropic drugs’!

But these are the lunatics that the likes of Unite’s Andrew Murray, the RMT union and Stop The War Coalition’s Lindsey German (and many, many others) are supporting. So called ‘anti fascists’ who think the UN will foment counter revolution and who are prepared to see their ‘citizens’ starve or die in agony, the weakest among them first.  Thousands will die because of this decision.

It is not like there has not been fair warning aplenty before but this should be the final straw. ‘Solidarity with the Anti-Fascist Resistance in Ukraine’ should shut up shop and anyone on the left who continues to back these people deserves to be shunned. 

Edited to add: KHRPG reports that:

Ukrainian billionnaire Renat Akhmetov’s humanitarian aid is also not affected by the ban.  Jock Mendoza-Wilson from Akhmetov’s Foundation is reported to have suggested that the militants are hoping to receive humanitarian aid from Western countries via Russia.  His idea is that the aid would be presented as though from Russia.  It seems difficult to believe that western agencies would agree to this, especially given that they would be in breach of Ukraine’s law on temporarily occupied territory if they entered such territory from Russia, without Ukraine’s permission.

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Socialists and the Labour Party: letter to Charlie Kimber

September 27, 2015 at 9:23 pm (AWL, labour party, posted by JD, reformism, SWP)

The Labour Party

This first appeared in the AWL’s paper, Solidarity; Charlie Kimber is National Secretary, Socialist Workers Party:

Dear Charlie Kimber,

I am responding to your “Letter to a Jeremy Corbyn supporter” (8 September), and subsequent statements by your organisation in which you basically tell “The tens of thousands of people who cheered Jeremy at his rallies [who] are a sign of the potential for a mass movement against austerity” that they are wasting their time.

You say, the Labour Party leadership are so right wing and the unions will only back Corbyn if he can win the next election so there is, “no point spending four years striving to get Corbyn into office just to see him destroyed.”

I don’t share your analysis. While not destroying them, the effect of Corbyn’s campaign has been a disaster for the Parliamentary Labour Party and the trade union leaderships who have worked hard to maintain the wall between what Labour does politically and the rest of the labour movement.

Yes, his candidacy was a fluke and the Labour Party left is woefully unprepared for the fight against the right, both inside and outside the party. It is an indication of the weakness of whole left over decades, but we have to start from where we are and make the most of this chance.

Even in your worst case scenario and Corbyn is “destroyed” in four years time, the revolutionaries in the Labour Party will still have been struggling alongside hundreds of thousands of others for that period. People can learn from defeat as much as from victory; but to learn from either revolutionaries need to go through the struggle and having done so will get a much more receptive hearing than if you are one of those revolutionaries who remained on the sidelines as a spectator.

There is then the possibility of raising the movement to a higher political level but only if there are enough revolutionaries trying to spread that message.

For all your talk about the undoubted necessity for struggle you back away from the political struggle within the Labour Party to move it to the left. “The real danger is that Corbyn supporters are plunged into internal party struggles…” Except that this lack of internal party struggle is precisely what has made the Labour Party the top-down neo-liberal supporting organisation it is today.

The struggle inside the party can be a part of the more general struggle to rouse our class against the Tories. If “…resistance… [is] … the best route towards political radicalisation” why doesn’t that apply inside the structures of the hundreds of thousands strong Labour Party as well?

Your dismissal of the need for internal party struggles illustrates the operational mindset of the SWP’s leadership who can just tell the membership what to do without having to “waste” all that time on debate and democracy. Happily there are Corbyn supporters who understand that a healthy political organisation cannot be built be decree or decide what to do in the “… struggles at work and in working class areas” by diktat.

Socialists should be encouraging Corbyn’s supporters to flood into the Labour Party, get organised and tear down the wall before the Parliamentary Party has time to rebuild it.

You say, “We should all support [Corbyn] against the Labour right”; if you’re serious about that then join the Party and encourage your members and supporters to do the same.

Bob Anthony

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