How, just 50 years ago, the closed shop reinforced the colour bar

October 26, 2016 at 7:03 pm (BBC, Civil liberties, history, Human rights, immigration, posted by JD, Racism, Socialist Party, unions, workers)

A superb BBC Radio 4 programme today, told the story of how rail worker Asquith Xavier took on the colour bar operated at Euston station by NUR lay officials claiming that all they were doing was operating the ‘closed shop’; Socialist Party members take note:

BBC, 15 July 1966:

1966: Euston staff ‘colour bar’ ended

A West Indian refused a job at Euston Station will now be employed there after managers overturned a ban on black workers.

Two months ago Asquith Xavier, a train guard from Dominica, was refused a transfer from Marylebone Station to Euston because of his colour.

The new job would have meant a pay increase of around £10 a week for Mr Xavier who started work for British Railways (BR) as a porter 10 years ago.

He was informed about his rejection and the reason for it in a letter from Euston’s local staff committee whose members belong to the National Union of Railwaymen (NUR).
BR does not have to abide by staff committees’ recommendations on appointments but they are very influential.

However, at a news conference on Friday BR spokesman Leslie Leppington said the colour bar at Euston Station had now been ended and Mr Xavier would be given a job.

However, Mr Leppington insisted the ban – rumoured to have been in place for 12 years – had not been a “real” colour bar.

He said it had been instigated by the workers out of a desire to protect their jobs and had never been management policy.

“If we had wanted to impose a real colour bar we would not have done it this way.

“We would have found some excuse to show he was not suitable for the job, wouldn’t we?” Mr Leppington said.

Mr Xavier, 44, is currently off work due to ill health and was not at the news conference.

But afterwards the secretary of the West Indian Standing Conference, Jeff Crawford, said they would be calling for the government to take action.

“We are going to urge the government to conduct a full and independent inquiry into discrimination throughout British Rail – to find out the extent of the problem, the cause and effect and the solution,” Mr Crawford said.

Similar bans to that ended at Euston are reported to be in force at other London stations including Camden and Broad Street.

But under current law the government’s options to curb them are limited.

The Race Relations Act was passed last year but contains only measures to combat racial discrimination in public places such as hotels and pubs (discrimination in the workplace was not illegal until an amendment to the Race Relations Act in 1968 -JD).

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Tatchell: ‘gay cake’ verdict is defeat for freedom of expression

October 24, 2016 at 7:35 pm (Christianity, Civil liberties, Free Speech, gay, homophobia, law, LGBT, Peter Tatchell)

Peter Tatchell once again demonstrates his fairness, generosity of spirit and commitment to freedom of expression:

Ashers Baking Company refused to make this cake

The law should not compel businesses to aid political messages

London & Belfast – 24 October 2016

The Appeal Court in Belfast has today ruled that a local Christian-run business, Ashers Bakery, was wrong to refuse to decorate a cake with a pro-gay marriage message.

“This verdict is a defeat for freedom of expression. As well as meaning that Ashers can be legally forced to aid the promotion of same-sex marriage, it also implies that gay bakers could be forced by law to decorate cakes with homophobic slogans,” said human rights campaigner Peter Tatchell, Director of the Peter Tatchell Foundation.

“It seems that businesses cannot now lawfully refuse a customer’s request to propagate a message, even if it is a sexist, xenophobic or anti-gay message and even if the business has a conscientious objection to it.

“Although I strongly disagree with Ashers opposition to marriage equality, in a free society neither they nor anyone else should be compelled to facilitate a political idea that they oppose.

“Ashers did not discriminate against the customer, Gareth Lee, because he was gay. They objected to the message he wanted on the cake: ‘Support gay marriage.’

“Discrimination against LGBT people is wrong and is rightly unlawful. But in a free society, people should be able to discriminate against ideas they disagree with. I am saddened that the court did not reach the same conclusion.

“The judgement opens a can of worms. It means that a Muslim printer could be obliged to publish cartoons of Mohammed and a Jewish printer could be required to publish a book that propagates Holocaust denial. It could also encourage far right extremists to demand that bakers and other service providers facilitate the promotion of anti-immigrant and anti-Muslim opinions.

“What the court has decided sets a dangerous, authoritarian precedent that is open to serious abuse.

“Discrimination against people should be illegal but not discrimination against ideas and opinions,” said Mr Tatchell.

Read Peter Tatchell’s detailed reasoning as to why he changed his mind on the Ashers case (he initially supported the verdict against them) and why he opposes the new legal ruling:

Why I changed my mind on the Ashers gay cake row

The law should not require bakers to aid the gay marriage campaign

By Peter Tatchell

Like most gay and equality campaigners, I initially condemned the Christian-run Ashers Bakery in Belfast over its refusal to produce a cake with a pro-gay marriage slogan for a gay customer, Gareth Lee.

I supported his legal claim against Ashers and the subsequent verdict, which last year found the bakery guilty of discrimination. My reasons for supporting Gareth’s claim were:

1. Ashers had falsely advertised their services, saying they were willing decorate their cakes with any message that a customer wanted. They did not say there were any limits on the designs or wording.

2. I feared that Ashers actions could open the flood gates to allow sectarian loyalist-republican discrimination and discrimination against women, LGBTs and other minorities – and their points of view.

But I later changed my mind. Much as I wish to defend the LGBT community, I also want to defend freedom of conscience, expression and religion.

While Christian bed and breakfast owners and civil partnership registrars were clearly wrong to deny service to gay people, this case is different. It is about the refusal to facilitate an idea – namely, support for same-sex marriage.

I will continue to oppose the proposed “conscience clause” in Northern Ireland. It is intended to allow discrimination against LGBT people. I do not accept that people of faith should be permitted by law to deny service to LGBTs – or anyone else. Discrimination against people is never acceptable.

The whole saga began in 2014 when Ashers said they were not willing to ice a cake with the words “support gay marriage” and the logo of the equality group, Queer Space; claiming it was contrary to their Christian beliefs to promote homosexuality and gay marriage.

This struck many of us as discrimination based on religious-inspired homophobic prejudice. Ashers believe that the relationships of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) people are wrong and should not be eligible for the status of marriage. They translated these beliefs into action and declined to make the cake. Ashers would have decorated a cake with a message celebrating traditional heterosexual marriage and promoting a Christian organisation. Surely this was an example of clear-cut anti-gay discrimination?

Gareth Lee’s legal case against Ashers was backed by the Equality Commission of Northern Ireland. It argued that the bakery’s actions breached the Equality Act (Sexual Orientation) Regulations (Northern Ireland) 2006 and The Fair Employment and Treatment (NI) Order 1998, which prohibit discrimination in the provision of goods, facilities and services on the respective grounds of sexual orientation and political opinion.

A Belfast court last May agreed and found Ashers guilty of discrimination on both grounds; ordering them to pay Gareth £500 compensation.

I profoundly disagree with Asher’s opposition to same-sex love and marriage, and support protests against them. They claim to be Christians and followers of Jesus. Yet he never once condemned homosexuality. Moreover, discrimination is not a Christian value. Ashers’ religious justifications are, to my mind, theologically unsound.

Nevertheless, on reflection, the court was wrong to penalise Ashers and I was wrong to endorse its decision.

For sure, the law suit against the bakery was well intended. It sought to challenge homophobia. But it was a step too far. It pains me to say this, as a long-time supporter of the struggle for LGBT equality in Northern Ireland, where same-sex marriage remains banned.

The equality laws are intended to protect people against discrimination. A business providing a public service has a legal duty to do so without discrimination based on race, gender, faith, sexuality and so on.

However, the court erred by ruling that Gareth was discriminated against because of his sexual orientation and political opinions.

His cake request was not refused because he was gay but because of the message he wanted on the cake. There is no evidence that his sexuality was the reason Ashers declined his order.

Despite this, Judge Isobel Brownlie said refusing the pro-gay marriage slogan was unlawful indirect sexual orientation discrimination because same-sex marriage is a union between persons of the same-sex and therefore refusing to provide a service in support of same-sex marriage was de facto sexual orientation discrimination.

I disagree. Refusing to facilitate a message in support of same-sex marriage is not sexuality discrimination. It is discrimination against an idea, not against a person.

On the question of political discrimination, the judge said Ashers had denied Gareth service based on his request for a message supporting same-sex marriage. She noted: “If the plaintiff had ordered a cake with the words ‘support marriage’ or ‘support heterosexual marriage’ I have no doubt that such a cake would have been provided.” Brownlie therefore concluded that by refusing to provide a cake with a pro-gay marriage wording Ashers had treated him less favourably, contrary to the law.

This may be a case of differential treatment. However, it was not discrimination against views held or expressed by Gareth but against words he wanted on a cake. Moreover, the law against political discrimination was meant to protect people with differing political views, not to force others to further political views to which they conscientiously object.

The finding of political discrimination against Gareth sets a worrying precedent. Northern Ireland’s laws against discrimination on the grounds of political opinion were framed in the context of decades of conflict. They were designed to heal the sectarian divide by preventing the denial of jobs, housing and services to people because of their politics. There was never an intention that this law should compel people to promote political ideas, such as same-sex marriage, with which they disagreed – let alone on a cake.

The judge concluded that service providers are required by law to facilitate any “lawful” message, even if they have a conscientious objection to it.

This begs the question: Will gay bakers have to accept orders for cakes with homophobic slurs? I don’t think LGBT people should be forced to promote anti-gay messages.

The court judgement also leads me to ask: Should a Muslim printer be obliged to publish cartoons of Mohammed or a Jewish one a book that propagates Holocaust denial?

If the current Ashers verdict stands it could, for example, encourage far right extremists to demand that bakeries and other service providers facilitate the promotion of anti-immigrant and anti-Muslim opinions. It would leave businesses unable to refuse to decorate cakes, print posters and emblazon mugs with bigoted messages.

In my view, it is an infringement of freedom to require private businesses to aid the promotion of ideas to which they conscientiously object. Discrimination against people should be unlawful but not discrimination against ideas and opinions.

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RIP Jimmy Perry: Alan Coren on Dad’s Army

October 24, 2016 at 1:44 pm (anti-fascism, BBC, comedy, funny, history, posted by JD, RIP, television, tragedy, war)

RIP Jimmy Perry, creator and co-writer (with the late David Croft) of Dad’s Army.

In honour of Jimmy Perry’s greatest creation, we reproduce here the late Alan Coren’s brilliant Times review:

Dad’s Army, BBC1, by Alan Coren
They belong to the oldest regiment in the world, the men of Dad’s Army. The Sidewinder may replace the siege-engine and the Armalite the longbow, but the nature and composition of the King’s Own 17th/21st Incompetents change not at all. I watched them all troop on again last night, out of step, ragged, potty, insubordinate, inept, and who are Arthur Lowe and Clive Dunn and John Le Mesurier, I said to myself, but Bardolph and Nym and Ancient Pistol? Or, come to that, Schweik and Yossarian and Stan Laurel and Miles Gloriosus; and, though memory, not to say erudition, escapes me, I will just bet that the literatures of Sanscrit, old High Gothic and Xhosa are packed to their various margins with stories of soldiers who right-wheeled into the wall, fell over their side-arms, and shot the regimental ferret in error.

I suppose the monumental madness of war can be made tolerable only by this kind of miniaturisation; there is a wider lunacy beyond the script in the fact that Clive Dunn might well, in theory at least, have been the only thing standing between us and Dachau, and the alternative to allowing that thought to send the shrapnel shrieking round the brain is to watch him fire his Lewis gun into the ceiling of the church hall while we all fall about gasping on hilarity instead of on gas.

So much for today’s Sobering Thought. What must now be said is that these particular khaki fools do no discredit to the great tradition; the timing of their disasters is impeccable, the individuation of their character has been splendidly fleshed out so that each identity is total, and their personal conflicts are soundly based in those differences. The essential quality of mock-heroic is always sustained by the parody of Brit-in-arms (there was a superb moment last night when Arthur Lowe restrained his enfeebled warriors with a terse: “Steady! We’re not savages”), and behind the daftness there lies a certain valuable poignancy which is not altogether explained by nostalgia. I suppose what I mean is that they would have died, too, if the greater folly had demanded it.

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Hungary 1956: revolution and Stalinist counter-revolution

October 22, 2016 at 4:56 pm (democracy, history, posted by JD, revolution, stalinism, tragedy, trotskyism)

Image result for pictures Hungary 1956

On October 23, a large group of unarmed students gathered outside the Budapest radio station and demanded that their 17-point programme of democratic demands be broadcast. After the police opened fire the government dominated by Erno Gero, a Kremlin stooge, called on the Soviet leadership to send in troops.

On October 24, Russian tanks and artillery fired on demonstrators in Budapest killing and wounding hundreds of men, women and children. It was this which sparked the armed resistance.

This response was published in November 1956 by the the British “orthodox” Trotskyists. The fact that in all likelihood it was written by the proven political gangster, thug and rapist Gerry Healy does not detract from its value, or from the essential truths it contains (in the face of persisting Stalinist lies about the uprising being “fascist”). The “orthodox” Trotskyist view of the world is reflected in the article’s repeated and excessive insistence upon denouncing “world imperialism and its agents” and warning against “capitalist elements” supposedly “in the ranks” of the Hungarian revolutionaries – indeed, even urging Hungarian Communist Party members (the majority of whom supported the revolution) to “stay in the Communist Party and fight it out.”


That is the message spelt out in letters of blood by the Hungarian people.

The labour movement of the world is rightly shocked at the brutality and ruthlessness of the Soviet armed forces. But this fact must not permit us to be taken off guard for one moment by world imperialism and its agents. Stalinist rule has always been associated with persecution and murder, both inside and outside the Soviet Union. Eden and Eisenhower have never protested when revolutionary opponents of the regime have been smashed. They helped to whitewash and justify the Moscow trials through the book and film Mission to Moscow written by American ex-ambassador Joseph E. Davies. Both the British and American governments refused asylum to the great revolutionary Leon Trotsky when he was being hounded from one country to another by Stalin’s GPU.

If these gentlemen shed tears for Hungary today it is not for the workers and peasants who have borne the brunt of the fight against Stalinism but for their fascist and landlord friends.

What happened in Hungary, as we shall see, was a revolution for national independence and democratic rights. Connected with this was a series of demands passed by the trade unions.

1. Workers’ councils in every factory to establish workers’ management and radically transform the system of state central planning and directing.

2. Wages to be raised immediately by 10 to 15 per cent and a ceiling (about £106 a month) fixed for the highest salaries.

3. To abolish production norms except in factories where the workers or workers’ councils wish to keep them.

4. The 4 per cent bachelor and childless family tax to be abolished; the lowest retirement pensions to be increased; child allowances to be raised with special reference to the needs of large families.

5. Speed up house-building with the state, co-operatives and other organisations launching a powerful social movement to mass produce houses.

6. Negotiate with the governments of the Soviet Union and other countries in order to establish economic relations that will ensure mutual advantages by adhering to the principle of equality.

(Daily Worker, October 27).

The backbone of this movement was the demand for the withdrawal of all Soviet troops from Hungary.

The imperialists were against this type of revolution. On the same day, October 27, the New York Times -mouthpiece of American big business-declared: ‘The view prevailing among United States officials, it appeared, was that “evolution” towards freedom in Eastern Europe would be better for all concerned than “revolution”, though nobody was saying this publicly.’ The New York Times again returned to this theme the next day, October 28, when it declared that the problem of western imperialism is  ‘how to encourage the nationalist and libertarian spirit in the satellites without flaming it into a large scale revolt.’ As if not to be outdone by the New York Times the London Daily Worker, echoing Moscow, declared on October 25: ‘Only false friends resort to the gun. . . .’ Five days previously (October 22), John Foster Dulles speaking in Washington defended the legality of the presence of Soviet troops in Poland under the Warsaw agreement.

‘From the standpoint of international law and violation of treaties,’ he said, ‘I do not think you can claim that it would be a violation of a treaty.’ Mr. Dulles was fully aware at the time he made that statement that a revolution was under way in Hungary and Hungary was also a party to the Warsaw agreement.

Hot on the heels of Mr. Dulles came R. Palme Dutt of the British Communist Party.

‘The Soviet armed forces,’ he wrote, ‘were legally in Hungary by agreement under the Warsaw Pact.’ (Daily Worker,’November 10.) In a cable from Washington by its correspondent Philip Deane, the London Observer, November 11, 1956, reports that: ‘High Administration sources say that the United States has tried to let the Russians know, without being provocative, that Berlin and Austria will be defended by American forces. Hungary, meanwhile, has been officially and finally abandoned to its fate.’ And Basil Davidson, one of the last journalists to leave Hungary, reports that of the American financed propaganda station Free Europe Radio one revolutionary said: ‘I wish I could shut its ugly mouth. It lied to us just as the Russians lied to us.’ Neither the Soviet bureaucrats nor the imperialists and their representatives Palme Dutt and Foster Dulles care two hoots about the working people of Hungary. They were both, for different reasons, opposed to the revolution, and in each case supported their own particular agents and not the movement of the Hungarian people as a whole.


On October 23, a large group of unarmed students gathered outside the Budapest radio station and demanded that their 17-point programme of democratic demands be broadcast. After the police opened fire the government dominated by Erno Gero, a notorious Kremlin hack, promptly called for Soviet troops.

On Wednesday, October 24, Russian tanks and artillery fired on demonstrators in Budapest killing and wounding hundreds of men, women and children. It was these actions which sparked off the revolutionary armed resistance. During the next day, October 25, armed rebellion broke out. Workers on Csepel island in the Danube took up weapons against the security forces. Radio Budapest announced this as a rebellion of the working people: Absolutely no mention was made at that time that this was the work of armed gangs and the counter revolution. Read the rest of this entry »

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Evans case shows victims still blamed for rape

October 22, 2016 at 9:25 am (celebrity, crime, Feminism, Human rights, law, misogyny, women)

By Elizabeth Butterworth (this article also appears in Solidarity and the Workers Liberty website)

Last week, the footballer Ched Evans was cleared of rape after appealing against his 2012 conviction. This does not mean that he did not rape victim X, or has “proved his innocence”, but that the jury had “reasonable doubt” about whether he had raped X or if she had consented to sex.

Reports of the trial’s proceedings suggest that the events were as such: X was engaged in sexual activity with Clayton McDonald, another professional footballer, who was acquitted of rape in the original trial. Evans then proceeded to have sex with X without having spoken to her, while Evans’s younger brother looked on from a window.

X has testified that she cannot remember any of these events due to being too drunk. Evans’s lawyers claimed that she had “directed” events by saying things like “fuck me harder”. The evidence in this re-trial apparently hinged on the testimony of two men who had had sex with the victim on other occasions, and attested that she had said similar things to them as what Evans had claimed in the original trial.

It is difficult to “prove” rape, in terms of being able to show a jury that the victim was not consenting and the defendant was aware that (s)he could not or did not consent, which is what this case rested upon. However, it is difficult to see why the Court of Appeal deemed that this evidence was compelling enough for a re-trial.

It is worrying that the victim’s sexual history was brought into the trial. The implication is obvious: that, because she’d had casual sex or drunken sex on other occasions and said things that suggested she liked having sex, it was simply a case of her having done that again. Which raises the question, do women need to police themselves to the point of not being able to have casual sex or not being able to drink, in order for men not to rape us? To which the answer is, no, men should know to leave drunk women alone and that each time someone has sex, consent must be sought first.

What I’ve read about the Ched Evans case from the perspective of criminal lawyers does not suggest wide legal implications in terms of setting new precedent. This trial, and other rape trials where there is some level of “victim blaming”, do set a cultural tone, however. In the Daily Star, their columnist Helen Wood rants, “These silly bitches who need a good slap of reality should stop and think…

“We’re all meant to get our violins out because they’ve had to change their names five times, if she’s stuck on a new name for in future, C*** would be a good one…. Hope this case has set a lesson for all the ladies out there trying to scar people for a dollar, if you drop your kecks, deal with the walk of shame, quit trying to frame.”

X has had to change her name five times and is, according to some sources, considering moving abroad due to the harassment and abuse she has suffered both on and off-line. The abuse, like Wood’s disgusting tirade (which, let’s not forget, was published by a newspaper with about 430,000 readers), centres around X being labelled a slut, a bitch, money-hungry and a liar: all classic misogynist tropes.

The simple fact is that pretty much every woman I know has been a victim of sexual assault or rape. And has been sexually harassed countless times.

I’ve reported being assaulted to the police and had to deal with total incompetence, inertia and non-existence of resources. I went to the police after a friend was assaulted with a knife and, after hours of painful interviews, the assailant was slapped with a fifty quid fine and no criminal record. I’ve been raped, twice, by two different boyfriends. I’ve also walked down the street and been grabbed. When I shrank away and asked them to leave me alone, I was followed and called a bitch and a cunt. I’ve changed my mind and not gone through with sex, at which point the man I was seeing got extremely aggressive and I had to literally run away.

In fact, any time I have challenged men — even “nice men” — over their behaviour, they become aggressive and sometimes violent. They believe they are entitled to make lecherous comments, to look up women’s skirts, to stare down our tops and to intimidate us. And despite having had relationships with both men and women, and having been dancing in many gay clubs as well as straight, I’ve only once felt that a woman was going “too far”. The hundreds of other times have all been men.

We have a huge problem of misogyny in society. I mean actual women-hating, not just sexism. What else is it when you don’t think someone has a right to ownership over their own body and what happens to it? This is perpetrated by lots of men, who seek to show their dominance, and exert power.

And it is backed up by the internal misogyny of women like Helen Wood, who try to differentiate their womanhood from that of the “silly bitches”.

Rape is on the books as a crime. And the word and idea of “rape” is sensationalised. Yet, the reality of women’s lives is that rape is pretty “normal” and common. And due to the inertia of the police, the brutality of the courts system and the cultural bias of juries, many of us don’t see the point of reporting, let alone pursuing the case and taking rapists to court.

The victim in the Ched Evans case is my hero for reporting and taking the case to court. In the end, Evans may have been cleared, but at least this has drawn attention to the very real problems we face as a society.

Until the women are free, the people cannot be free. Until men realise that women need to be empowered at every level, we will not be successful as a movement or as a class.

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21 October 1966

October 21, 2016 at 5:19 am (children, history, poetry, tragedy)

Aberfan mining disaster

Rescue workers form a chain to move debris, in an effort to reach any children who may still be alive in Pantglas Junior SchoolPA

A villanelle about the Aberfan disaster, in which 144 people, including 116 school children, died when a coal mining waste tip collapsed.

There was a lot of anger at the National Coal Board for its neglect of safety, and at the inquest, one father insisted: “I want it recorded — ‘Buried alive by the National Coal Board’. That is what I want to see on the record. That is the feeling of those present. Those are the words we want to go on the certificate.”

21 October 1966
By Janine Booth

The miner insisted the coroner record
The Pantglas School building a homicide scene
They were buried alive by the National Coal Board

His heart was in bits though his shoulders were broad
Though mining was dirty, were consciences clean?
The miner insisted the coroner record

The muck, slush and water had tumbled and poured
The slurry ran black through the valley of green
They were buried alive by the National Coal Board

We all feel this way, the father implored
The mums and the dads of the hundred-sixteen
The miner insisted the coroner record

The standard of care that it did not afford
A tip in a place it should never have been
They were buried alive by the National Coal Board

Aberfan wanted some justice restored
Though justice had perished at 09:13
The miner insisted the coroner record
It was buried alive by the National Coal Board

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What’s behind Stop the War’s aversion to Syrian voices?

October 19, 2016 at 4:15 pm (apologists and collaborators, internationalism, Libya, Middle East, posted by JD, reactionay "anti-imperialism", Stop The War, Syria)

From The New Arab:

What's behind Stop the War's aversion to Syria voices?

Above: a Stop The War Coalition protest outside Downing Street, 12 Dec 2015 [Getty}

By Joey Ayoub

Date of publication: 17 October, 2016

Comment: The problem with the Stop the War coalition, is that it is fundamentally not anti-war, but simply anti-western intervention, writes Joey Ayoub.

On 15 November 2015, Diane Abbott went on the BBC’s ‘Daily Politics’ show to defend herself and the Stop the War (StW) coalition against a rather odd accusation: that they refuse to give a platform to Syrians when discussing Syria.

It followed a heated exchange just days prior, in which Syrian activists challenged StW’s leadership on the matter during a talk on Syria. They were backed by Peter Tatchell, the veteran anti-war activist who had also been criticising StW for what many perceive as its intolerance towards left-wing, democratic and anti-Assad Syrian activists.

This was not a new accusation. StW has prevented Syrian activists from speaking at their rallies or from taking part in any “anti-war” campaign, while giving a platform to pro-Assad apologists and inviting Assad’s own allies like the Ghouta massacre-denier Fadia Laham, also known as “Mother Agnes”, for years.

This exposes two fundamental aspects of StW today: A de facto tolerance and acceptance of Assad’s tyranny translated as the problem of people “over there” which “we” must not get involved in, regardless of the repercussions, and a hatred for subaltern voices, in this case Syrians, who do not fit the accepted narrative.

This, in turn, works hand in hand with an outdated cold war-era framework, still plaguing much of the western and Arab Left, which romanticises (read: whitewashes) the Kremlin’s politics.

Nineham forgot to ask a single Libyan about the effects of the no-fly zone in Libya

Fastforward to October 2016. Chris Nineham, the Vice Chair of StW, writes an article entitled “Don’t Believe the Start the War Coalition – Ask Libyans About No-Fly Zones” (NFZ). On reading that article, filled with oversimplifications and vague warnings, one notices something fairly obvious: In an article asking “us” to ask Libyans, Nineham forgot to ask a single Libyan about the effects of the NFZ in Libya.

Indeed, the only six mentioned in that article are Andrew Mitchell, Boris Johnson, Hilary Clinton, Joseph Dunford, Emily Thornberry and Jeremy Corbyn (who was also recently heckled by a pro-Syrian activist). Had StW followed their own advice and asked Libyans about the NFZ, they might have found inconvenient answers which challenge their de facto isolationist politics.

Indeed, the NFZ was seen as the lesser of many evils by countless Libyans who rose up against Gaddafi. A 2012 Gallup poll interviewing approximately 1,000 Libyans showed that 77 percent “broadly support several forms of potential assistance from the West, particularly military support”.

The idea of a NFZ seems far more contested among a group of privileged leftists who do not live under a tyranny, than among Libyans themselves

One Libyan activist, Rema Abdulaziz, even recently wrote in The Independent that she and many more are actually grateful for the NFZ. In other words, the idea of a NFZ seems far more contested among a group of privileged leftists who do not live under a tyranny, than among Libyans themselves.

Furthermore, what is often ignored about the NFZ in Libya is that not a single member state of the Security Council, including Russia, opposed it and that it was another Arab country, Lebanon, which officially proposed the NFZ to the Security Council.

To the isolationists, “they” needn’t be asked what they think of their country’s situation, for “we”, as owners of great social capital, know best. To borrow from Bell Hooks, Libyans, like Syrians today, were and are told that “there is no need to hear your voice, when ‘we’ can talk about you better than you can speak about yourself.

No need to hear your voice. Only tell me about your pain. I want to know your story. And then I will tell it back to you in a new way. Tell it back to you in such a way that it has become mine, my own. Re-writing you, I write myself anew. I am still author, authority. I am still [the] colonizer, the speaking subject, and you are now at the center of my talk.”

This is no mere detail in this story. In fact, it is the central one: If, as leftists, we wish to support revolutionary emancipation regardless of man-made borders, we must make sure we are being useful allies, not useful idiots.

The problem with StW is that it is fundamentally not anti-war, but simply anti-Western intervention regardless of the realities on the ground. This is why it is an isolationist movement, a deeply conservative one at that, and one which has dangerous repercussions in an age of increasing xenophobic nativist rhetoric.

‘They’ needn’t be asked what they think of their country’s situation, for ‘we’, as owners of great social capital, know best

As StW proudly wrote on their own website, they are accused “of having a doctrinaire rejection of western intervention in the Middle East” which, they add, “is correct – our doctrine has been fully vindicated by the consequences of such interventions in Iraq, Afghanistan and Libya.”

Perhaps the StW is led by people who are not aware of the definition of doctrinaire, namely “one who attempts to put into effect an abstract doctrine or theory with little or no regard for practical difficulties”.

The ‘abstract doctrine’ is anti-western imperialism (not anti-imperialism in itself) and anti-western intervention, of any kind. As for the ‘practical difficulties’, they are nothing less than the aspiration of Syrians who took to the streets in 2011 demanding justice, those same Syrians who were, and are, tortured in their tens of thousands in Assad’s gulags and slaughtered in their hundreds of thousands.

We must make sure we are being useful allies, not useful idiots

As we’ve seen over the past few years, the slogan “Assad or we burn the country” of the Assad regime and its state-sponsored militias known as the Shabiha, is meant literally.

The fact that StW always refers to Iraq in particular as ‘proof’ speaks volumes, given the fact that there was no revolution in Iraq nor is there a western invasion and occupation in Syria remotely comparable to the 2003 US-led invasion and occupation.

To quote the Lebanese Marxist intellectual Gilbert Achcar, commenting on Corbyn being heckled, this reactionary isolationism represents “a national-selfish attitude that doesn’t care about what happens to the rest of the world as long as ‘we’ are not directly concerned and our well-being is not affected – or (the leftwing version) as long as our ‘anti-imperialist’ conscience is not troubled by any of the complexities of the real world.

They’d rather see Benghazi or Aleppo razed to the ground and their inhabitants massacred, than see the UK or any Western government attempt to do something about it, let alone call on them to do something, even when there are no other forces capable of preventing the massacre.

In that balance, one Libyan or Syrian killed by ‘our’ government is more unbearable to our conscience than ten thousand killed by the local despots: this may be a form of ‘anti-imperialism’, but it is as far away from ‘internationalism’ (a leftwing value that seems to have completely vanished) as isolationism is.”

By ignoring a fundamental principle, that “critiquing our own governments and their crimes is a necessary but not sufficient part of the fight for justice”, we end up giving ammunition to a xenophobic rhetoric that is already gaining momentum.

This has been repeated so many times since the beginning of the Arab Spring that no honest observer can claim ignorance. Cynical indifference, however, is always available, and those who wish to adopt it should express no surprise at the continuing rise of nativism and xenophobia within Fortress Europe’s borders and beyond.

Joey Ayoub is the MENA editor at Global Voices as well as a Lebanese researcher from Beirut currently living in London. He is the founder of Hummus For Thought and mostly writes on Syria, Israel-Palestine and Lebanon.

Follow him on Twitter: @joeyayoub

Opinions expressed in this article remain those of the author and do not necessarily represent those of The New Arab, its editorial board or staff.

See also: Tendance Coatesy

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Chris Birch: eyewitness account of Hungary 1956

October 18, 2016 at 1:37 pm (CPB, history, liberation, posted by JD, protest, stalinism, students, tragedy, truth, USSR, workers, youth)

Image result for pictures Hungary 1956

As the 60th anniversary of the heroic anti-Stalinist uprising in Hungary approaches, Chris Birch – one of the few surviving eye-witnesses – replies to a request for further information in a letter to the Morning Star:

Chris Gould asks (M Star October 11) for an analysis of the 1956 Hungarian uprising and its effects. I was working in Budapest before, during and after the fighting and met Matyas Rakoski, the general secretary of the Hungarian Working People’s Party and the man largely responsible for the crimes and policy mistakes that led to the uprising in October 1956.

It started with a student demonstration at the Petofi memorial, demanding to be allowed to travel to Western countries. It had been banned, then the ban was lifted and I went to look.

During the afternoon the demonstration grew to immense proportions, and the party’s first secretary went on the radio to denounce the demonstrators, many of whom were communists, as “counter-revolutionaries.”

He said that the policies of the party and the government were correct and would not be changed. I was in Parliament Square listening to the broadcast, and the good humour of the crowd visibly turned to anger. A fortnight later I found myself trying to bandage Soviet soldiers.

Soon after my comrade Charlie Coutts and I returned to London, we had a meeting with Communist Party of Great Britian (CPGB) general secretary Johnny Gollan, and presented him with a 19-page document simply headed “HUNGARY: Charlie Coutts and Chris Birch.”

It covered our views on party democracy in Hungary, Hungarian and Soviet party relations, democracy and corruption. Gollan passed it on to the Soviet ambassador in London and he sent it on to the central committee of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union and to the Soviet foreign office in Moscow. It was eventually published in a Soviet journal.

John Callaghan in his “Cold War, Crisis and Conflict: The CPGB 1951-68” gives a brief account of what was happening in Hungary in 1956 and a fuller account of their effects on the British party. I hope the above may help Mr Gould.


JD recommends some reading and resources:

1956: the Hungarian revolution – A short and clearly written history of the Hungarian workers’ revolution against the Communist dictatorship.

Other recommended reading

Other media

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Assange backs Putin and Trump

October 17, 2016 at 11:32 pm (apologists and collaborators, Asshole, misogyny, posted by JD, Putin, reactionay "anti-imperialism", Russia, sexism)

By Mike Harris (at The Independent):

As he faces questioning in London, the liberal left must accept the significant role the WikiLeaks founder is playing in Trump’s presidential campaign

  • julian-assange.jpg

Donald Trump is the greatest threat to Western civilisation we have faced since the fall of the Berlin Wall. If elected, he threatens to jail his opponent, Hillary Clinton. He is emboldening the cranks and racists of the alt-right and destabilising the American people’s faith in their democratic institutions with his loose talk that the system is “rigged”. And, even though Trump represents a virulent strain of hard-right populism, he is being helped along by a hero of the libertarian left – Julian Assange.

Assange’s alliance with Donald Trump looks, on the face of it, like one of the most unusual political alliances in recent history. The players in this dangerous alliance may share a fondness for the conservative patriarchy of Vladimir Putin’s Russia but, for Assange, Trump is part of his calculations to escape his room in the Ecuadorian Embassy in Knightsbridge. A presidential pardon may stop him facing jail in the US (though no charges have been brought against him there so far), but it won’t stop his extradition to Sweden to face sexual assault allegations.

Assange’s political influence only remains because too many on the left have made half a decade’s worth of excuses for him.

For a brief moment, Julian Assange looked like the future. The hacker-turned-activist had the vision to co-found WikiLeaks and turn it into the world’s number one whistleblowing platform. He was hailed as the spirit incarnate of the internet; a man willing to face prison to let people know the truth about corruption in their governments and corporations. It is easy to forget how influential WikiLeaks once was.

The organisation had an inner circle of highly skilled data analysts and journalists working across the globe on leaked documents. When WikiLeaks published US embassy cables on President Ben Ali’s pilfering of state assets for shopping trips in Paris, it helped trigger the uprising in Tunisia.

Assange inspired an era of whistleblowing, from Edward Snowden exposing illegal US and UK surveillance, to the Panama Papers that showed the extent of global tax avoidance. Assange was powerful, seemingly above the law, and attracting international attention. A minority of journalists dared ask the question: who can hold the whistleblowers to account?

On 20 August 2010, two women entered a Stockholm police station and asked police to ensure Assange took an HIV test. The women allege that Assange had committed rape and sexual assault, charges Assange denies. He was due to be interviewed by police on 14 October 2010, but instead fled Sweden for London in late September.

People around Assange began to trash the reputations of the two women involved saying they were motivated by “malice and money”. Others said the allegations were part of a sinister CIA plot to destroy WikiLeaks. Few of Assange’s celebrity friends were willing to ask the question, what if Assange had committed sexual assault.

The law in Sweden means the charge of sexual assault has already expired and the rape charge will expire in 2020. He is now due to be questioned again by Swedish prosecutors inside the Ecudorian Embassy.

By now, you may have expected a chorus of voices from the liberal-left calling for Assange to return to Sweden to face questioning. If he was innocent, why could he not be questioned on these serious charges? Instead, people made excuses.

The excuses continued when months later, Padraig Reidy and I exposed damning evidence that suggested a close associate of Assange had given top secret US embassy cables to the dictator of Belarus, which may have landed brave democracy activists in prison. At first, we heard nothing. It took a former WikiLeaks staffer, James Ball, to blow the whistle for us to be taken seriously: ironically, now leaks were exposing an apparent cover-up culture at WikiLeaks.

It is because prominent people have made personal and professional excuses for Assange that he feels beyond reproach – even as he alienates those closest to him. Emboldened, Assange is going for his greatest ever prize: the US presidency.

WikiLeaks is leading the attack on Trump’s rival, Hillary Clinton, with leaks that have so far cost the job of Debbie Wasserman-Schultz, the former Democrat party chair. Just last Thursday, another 2,000 internal emails from the Clinton campaign were released. And moments after the infamous video of Trump allegedly boasting about groping women was put online, Wikileaks responded with leaked emails of Hillary Clinton’s speeches to Wall Street banks.

Robert Mackey of The Intercept, a site that has done much to give whistleblowers a global voice, says WikiLeaks has “started to look more like the stream of an opposition research firm working mainly to undermine Hillary Clinton than the updates of a non-partisan platform for whistleblowers.”

It seems odd that the world’s most prominent whistleblowing website has leaked nothing on Donald Trump and his mysterious tax records, yet is leaking the personal details of Democrat party donors. It seems highly likely that Wikileaks received these leaked emails from hackers working for the Russian Government.

With ammunition from Wikileaks, Trump is hammering home his case that the first female nominee from a major party for the presidency is unfit for office. Trump has lavished WikiLeaks with praise, telling a rally in Pennsylvania, “I love Wikileaks”.

It is claimed that support for Wikileaks is rising among US right-wingers. FoxNews TV shock jock Sean Hannity went as far telling Assange in a live interview, “I do hope you get free one day.” This is perhaps Assange’s strategy – damage Clinton (who ran the State Department when Assange leaked the embassy cables) to secure a Trump win and a presidential pardon.

I’ve written at length about Obama’s war on whistleblowers and the appalling record of the Democrat party in prosecuting brave Americans who speak out about their government’s human rights abuses. I would support any campaign to prevent Julian Assange’s extradition to the US, where the law would prevent him from running a public interest defence for his disclosures and would likely see him placed in jail alongside Chelsea Manning, who has suffered disgracefully at the hands of the US government.

If Donald Trump becomes US President, it will be in no small way thanks to the efforts of Julian Assange. After they’ve defended Assange against allegations of rape and helping the dictator of Belarus, will the liberal left continue to defend him if he gets Trump elected?

Mike Harris is the founder and director of 89up and the publisher of Little Atoms magazine

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Defend Gina Miller

October 16, 2016 at 6:10 pm (anti-semitism, democracy, Europe, law, misogyny, posted by JD, thuggery)

This is a guest post by Jonathan Hoffman

Gina Miller is the lead litigant in the Article 50 case that started in the High Court on Thursday.  The case is about the fundamental role of Parliament and preserving our modern democracy.

She is getting death threats, racist and sexist abuse – including to her corporate email addresses (she is an investment manager and runs a philanthropic Foundation).

However you voted (and if you didn’t vote) please do not stand aside while this is happening.

We all have the right to go to Court if we feel that an injustice has been done.

Antisemitism lies not far beneath this hate. Gina isn’t Jewish but her lead Counsel is Lord Pannick who is, and Mishcon is the law firm (they have also received serious abuse). You can bet that they will continue to get antisemitic mail.

This article is from July:

However you voted, to support Gina and stand up for what is right, please tweet these articles, write op-eds or blogs and interrupt the nastiness happening on Twitter at her handles. politics/2016/oct/13/gina- miller-theresa-may-article-50- brexit-parliament-legal- challenge business/anthony-hilton-high- principles-clothed-in-low- politics-for-may-a3368356.html



And please share this post

PS This is from Lord Pannick’s submission on Thursday:

LORD PANNICK: Yes, those are my points, my Lord, thank you
very much.

I am sorry, my Lord, there is an important point and
it is this: your Lordships may have seen that in the
hearing before Lord Justice Leveson, there was
a reference to the abuse by way of emails and other
matters, of claimants who were bringing this case.
Regrettably, I am informed that my client is getting
further abuse, and threats, and insults. I don’t know
whether your Lordship would think it appropriate to
repeat the comment made by Lord Justice Leveson, that
such comments are entirely inappropriate, and in extreme
cases, the court has ample powers to deal with it.

THE LORD CHIEF JUSTICE: We do indeed. This is a point of
law that is being taken. It is not a point that has –
although it may have political significance, the point
is not a political one.
LORD PANNICK: I am very much obliged, my Lord, thank you.


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