A Raisin in the Sun

February 11, 2016 at 7:18 pm (Racism, class, United States, women, black culture, theatre, poetry, culture, civil rights)


Above: trailer for the 1961 film version

Review by Jean Lane (also published in the current issue of Solidarity):

A Raisin in the Sun was written in 1959 by Lorraine Hansberry (1930-1965), the first black woman to have a play performed on Broadway and the inspiration behind Nina Simone’s ‘Young Gifted and Black’.

The play is set in an overcrowded Chicago slum apartment just before the emergence of the civil rights movement. The Youngers, a working class family comprising of grandmother Nena (Mama), her son Walter with his wife Ruth and child Travis, and Walter’s sister, Beneatha, are about to come into an insurance pay-out of $10,000, after the death of Nina’s husband. The potential opportunities that come with it, cause tension.

Walter wants to use the money to realise his dream of self-advancement by investing, along with his old street friends, in a liquor store business. His sister, Beneatha, is studying to become a doctor. She is experimenting with radical ideas new to her family such as atheism. She berates one boyfriend for his assimilation into white culture and is being drawn by another, a Nigerian medical student, into the ideas of black nationalism and anti-colonial independence.

Arguments over the money and the cramped conditions of the Youngers’ lives are exacerbated when Ruth discovers that she is two months pregnant. Her relationship with Walter reaches breaking point when Lena refuses to fund the liquor store idea. Instead, Lena puts a deposit down on a larger house in a solidly white neighbourhood. Eventually Lena relents and gives the rest of the money to Walter to use as he sees fit, with the proviso that he keeps back enough of it to pay for his sister’s education.

A representative of the white neighbourhood, Karl Linder, turns up with the message that they would far rather the Youngers did not move in as they would not fit in, and offers to buy the house from them. With righteous indignation from the family, Linder is sent packing by a Walter now imbued with a sense of confidence, as a young up and coming business man. However, Walter’s friend, Willy, runs off with all the money including that for Benathea’s education. Walter’s chance to prove himself a man deserving of respect again seems far away. To the horror of the three women in his life, he contemplates taking the money from the white man who says that they are not good enough to be his neighbours.

The dashing of the family’s dreams of a better life are reflected in Benathea’s loss of confidence in an independent future for black people. She asserts that nationalism is a lost cause which can only lead to the swapping of white masters for black. Walter finally proves himself to be a man in Lena’s eyes by telling the white man where to go with his money and the family prepare to move into their new home. The play ends leaving the audience aware that many of their troubles as a black family in 1950s America have only just begun.

The title for the play is taken from a poem by Langston Hughes:

What happens to a dream deferred?
Does it dry up like a raisin in the sun?
Or fester like a sore – And then run?
Does it stink like rotten meat?
Or crust and sugar over – like a syrupy sweet?

 Maybe it just sags Like a heavy load.

Or does it explode?

All the emotions expressed in the poem are there in the play, in this production, directed by Dawn Walton, and electrically so. All the political ideas of identity, racism, gender roles and social consciousness are brought refreshingly within the sphere of working-class life.

• The play is on tour around Britain ending in Coventry on 28 March.

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Report from the first Momentum National Committee

February 9, 2016 at 6:02 pm (labour party, left, posted by JD, socialism)

By Ed Whitby, North East and Cumbria delegate (personal capacity)

On Saturday 6 February, a Momentum National Committee met for the first time in London. Just the fact of Momentum holding its first democratic national representative meeting was a success. The procedure could certainly have been improved – there was not enough time for local groups to prepare properly for the regional meetings, indeed some regions didn’t meet at all, and for both the regional meetings and the NC, many documents were either not presented until the day or circulated at very short notice. Nevertheless in many groups and regions it appears there was a lively process of electing delegates and discussing issues, a process which has helped to draw Momentum together.

In general delegates to the meeting pushed things in the direction of greater democracy and a more radical political line. I will summarise here but also publish some of policy passed, remitted, etc, soon.

A summary of what was decided by the NC

– The basic statement of aims was amended to refer more to socialism and the working class. It is still, in my view, far from adequate, but it was agreed as an interim statement to be reviewed by the Steering Committee for redrafting in consultation with NC members and local groups.
– Momentum is oriented towards organising within Labour, as well as broader campaigning.
– Momentum will become a membership organisation. It will encourage its members to join Labour, but anyone who wants to support Labour and is not a member of a party organisationally opposed to it can join, be a representative, officer, etc.
– Momentum will work with others on the left, who are free to distribute their literature at Momentum public meetings, etc.
– In addition to local groups and regions, there will also be the possibility of specific Momentum campaigning organisations: the document specifically mentioned Momentum NHS.
– We agreed to set up an interim Student and Youth Committee made up of student and youth members of the National Committee and nominations of student and young members from regions and a formal more detailed proposal on this work was referred to the Steering Committee.
– It was reported that some regions were already organising policy conferences, but the proposal for holding regional and national policy conferences was remitted to the Steering Committee for further discussion
– A summary of votes of North East and Cumbria proposals are listed at the end of this report.

National Committee and Steering Committee

The NC meeting was attended by 53 delegates (26 from the regional meetings, 8 equalities reps, 11 from various Labour left groups and 8 from trade unions – Unite, TSSA, CWU, Bakers, ASLEF and FBU). About eight delegates were also members of left organisations not formally represented, including two from my organisation Workers’ Liberty. Copies of Solidarity, Socialist Appeal and Labour Briefing were sold at the meeting: a welcome exchange of left-wing ideas. There were people active in a number of unions not formally represented, eg NUT and PCS, and in campaigning organisations including the People’s Assembly and the National Campaign Against Fees and Cuts.

The NC will meet at least quarterly. It also elected a Steering Committee to meet more regularly and guide the organisation. The eight representatives from England elected to this committee are (designations indicate who they represented at the NC meeting – they were all elected to the SC as individuals): Jill Mountford (London), Michael Chessum (London), Marsha Jane Thompson (Eastern), Jon Lansman (Left Futures), Sam Wheeler (North west), Jackie Walker (LRC), Christine Shawcroft (Labour Briefing Coop) and Cecile Wright (Black and Minority Ethnic).

They will be joined by four trade union representatives, one rep from Scotland and one from Wales.

The membership debate

This was a big debate at the NC. First we agreed to have paid membership; those who don’t join will remain supporters.

There were proposals about who could become a member and who could become a supporter, and what rights these two categories will have.

The lack of time and clarity in advance caused real problems here, in part because the wording of the options was not very clear, but I think the NC did a reasonable job of untangling things.

The three options were:

a. Only Labour Party members can join or even take part in organising / planning meetings as supporters; though local groups can continue to organise joint meetings with other organisations which can be open to non-Labour members.

b. Membership open only to Labour members, but people can be supporters and participate in local groups, voting only on local issues not connected to Labour – as long as they do not support parties against Labour. Only members can stand for office.

c. Membership and supporter status open to any person who supports Labour and doesn’t support other parties which oppose Labour. All members can take part in all decisions, stand for all positions, etc.

The first position received two votes, the second 18 votes and the third 27. I think that was the right decision. People should join the Labour Party, and it is right that Momentum will strongly encourage this; but there are still many people coming to the organisation who for whatever reason haven’t joined yet. We need to encourage and persuade them, not throw up an unnecessary barrier (insisting Momentum members and supporters must not oppose Labour is enough). And we have avoided creating anything like a two-class system of membership.

It also positive that the NC voted, by an overwhelming margin, to allow other organisations to distribute their literature at public meetings and so on. It is right that those who support other parties against Labour cannot join; but that is no reason to create a culture which discourages debate and free exchange of ideas.

Other discussions

There was discussion, and some criticism, about how equality reps (and also the student/youth reps) had been selected. Although there was not a vote on this, there seemed to be general agreement that there should be broad, democratic equalities/liberation networks established who should allow open nominations and to elect delegates to future National Committees as happened with regions.

Michael Chessum proposed a document to create a democratic Momentum Youth and Students organisation. There was wide support for this but it was referred back to the Steering Committee. It was agreed that the youth and student reps on the NC will form a provisional Youth and Student Committee, which the SC will work and consult closely with.

The North East and Cumbria region proposed national and local policy making conferences made up of delegates from local groups. This was remitted to the SC.

The meeting voted by a clear margin not to organise in Northern Ireland. I think this was wrong. The document said that this was in line with, and for the same reasons as, the Labour Party not doing so. But that is factually wrong: the Labour Party does organise in Northern Ireland, it just doesn’t stand candidates. Moreover, the document didn’t spell out what the Labour Party’s reasons are: I would say that they are generally conservative reasons about not upsetting the “normal” operation of sectarian politics. It was argued that people in a British orgnisation shouldn’t decide or comment on Northern Ireland: surely it dictates to tell them they can’t organise a Momentum group even if they want? Anyway, this is something that comrades in NI can best take up.

Momentum Scotland submitted a report on their work. The Scottish comrades amended one document to point out that the Scottish Assembly elections, and not just the 2020 general election, are also important. Momentum NHS also submitted a report, and its activists spoke about groups mobilising for the junior doctors’ picket lines on 10 February.

We accepted a finance report, setting out some outline funding plans and proposals for employing full-time staff (eight posts to be advertised).

Affiliations

Very positively, Matt Wrack from the FBU moved proposals for unions to be able to affiliate to Momentum, including non-Labour affiliated unions if they sign up to Momentum aims.

I proposed an amendment saying that the requirement to agree with Momentum aims and formally affiliate should also apply to Labour left organisations that take a formal role in Momentum. This was agreed.

Campaigning objectives

The documents passed set out a wide range of campaigning objectives, along lines that will be familiar to Momentum supporters. I will post the relevant material soon.

In the discussion on the 16 April People’s Assembly march, which Momentum is building for, Rida Vaquas from Red Labour argued that Momentum should seek to improve and make more radical the draft demands on a number of issues: build council housing; repeal all anti-union laws, legalise solidarity; demand free education and living grants for all students. The original demands were too conservative, in some cases less radical than official Labour policy (eg it just said “Scrap the Trade Union Bill”, when last year’s Labour Party conference voted to legalise solidarity strikes). This was agreed.

There was some discussion on the Centre Left Grass Roots Alliance slate for the NEC, and some criticisms were raised. Althought it was agreed to support it. There was also discussion on Trident and criticism of Corbyn’s suggestion of building just the submarines proposal. Comrades from Socialist Appeal made good contributions on scrapping Trident but defending the jobs and incomes of workers through conversion.

To conclude

For all the problems, I think the National Committee was positive. There was lively discussion and the NC certainly did not act as rubber stamp; on a number of points the documents were amended and the proposed position changed. Moreover a wide variety of people from different sides of various debates were elected to the Steering Committee.

We need to ensure that the Steering Committee meets regular and functions well, establishing real democratic control over Momentum’s operations and working closely with local groups.

Most importantly, Momentum needs
1. To get out on the streets campaigning on big issues in the class struggle, the NHS being one of the most obvious, supporting workers’, anti-austerity, anti-racist and other struggles, and pushing for the Labour Party to do the same.
2. To develop a clear program of demands and initiatives to shake up and transform the Labour Party, involve more people, change and activate policy and crucially democratise the party.

I think we are in a stronger position to do that after Saturday.

Please feel free to get in touch, tell me what you think, or ask questions: edunison@gmail.com

Appendix
Specific proposals from the North East and Cumbria regional meeting – how the NC voted.
1) Change ‘Make Labour a more democratic party’ to ‘Support democracy within the Labour Party”- final wording: “Transform LP into a more open, member-led party with socialist policies and the collective will to implement them in government.
2) Change ‘…with the policies’ to ‘…with the socialist policies’ – see above
3) The National Committee, along with the Regional networks, have responsibility for ensuring that Momentum groups cover every locality and that all supporters/members are connected within groups and regions. – agreed and incorporated
4) The National Committee should be tasked with engaging with special interest groups, such as Momentum NHS. – agreed
5) The National Committee should meet in different regions (not always London) – agreed
6) The National Committee should organise an annual policy making conference with delegates from local groups – deferred to steering committee
7) The regions should be the largest represented group on the National Committee to ensure that there is a strong sense of democracy and representation. – almost (53 delegates (26 regional, 8 Equality, 11 labour left groups, 8 trade unions)
8) Strong desire for Trade Unionists to be involved in Momentum. However, Trade Unions having ‘block votes’ was strongly rejected by the group. National unions and regions can affiliate and can get 2 delegates to regional network meetings (i.e. the same as local groups with same rules)
9) Strong desire for regions and local groups to be able to access data in a controlled way. – agreed
10) Regions should organise policy making conferences – remitted as a policy, but regions can do this (East Midlands has one in March) it is just not a requirement for regions to do this
11) Membership and attendance at meetings: Remove the second paragraph:
Organising or planning meetings should be open to members of Momentum (Labour Party members, affiliate members, or individuals who are not members of other political parties who support the aims and values of the Labour Party*).
“Momentum groups may choose to organise campaigning activities or public events, which may be open to individuals who adhere to the ‘code of ethics.’ However, as Momentum is a Labour-oriented organisation, individuals are not permitted to promote any other political party (this includes distributing literature for or by another political party).”. We agreed to remove this and agreed that members of momentum can be labour party, members, affiliates or supporters as long as they do not support other parties to labour.

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Junior doctors: industrial action to go ahead

February 9, 2016 at 1:08 pm (health service, posted by JD, protest, solidarity, workers)

From the BMA:

Junior doctors: industrial action to go ahead

With no agreement reached on key issues, junior doctors will provide emergency care only for 24 hours from 8am on 10 February.

Latest news

Despite the best efforts of our negotiating team, and hours of talks facilitated by Acas, we have not managed to reach agreement with NHS Employers and the Department of Health on the new junior doctors contract.

As a result, the industrial action we planned for 10 February will be going ahead. However, rather than the planned full walkout, the action will mirror that of 12 January. Junior doctors in England will be offering emergency care only for 24 hours from 8am on Wednesday 10 February to 8am Thursday 11 February.

Read the news story in full

Important information

Advice note for junior doctors on days of action

We are aware that some trusts have sought to nominate junior doctors to have one or two doctors to be on standby for every ward, other than out-patient departments and elective procedures, for the duration of the industrial action (IA). The BMA has taken expert legal advice on this issue.

Read more (PDF)

Read our FAQs (PDF)

Dates of industrial action for junior doctors in England

The BMA is calling on junior doctors in England to take official industrial action on 12 January, backed by a near-unanimous vote in favour in accordance with trade union legislation. Many members of the public have expressed support for our action, but we do not condone or encourage any form of unofficial industrial action or unlawful activity.

We have announced three days of action in total:

12 January 2016 – COMPLETED

Emergency care only between 8am on Tuesday, 12 January and 8am on Wednesday, 13 January (24 hours).

26 January 2016 – SUSPENDED

Emergency care only between 8am on Tuesday, 26 January and 8am on Thursday, 28 January (48 hours)

10 February 2016

Emergency care only between 8am on Wednesday 10 February and 8am on Thursday 11 February (24 hours).

Why junior doctors are taking industrial action

In 2012 the Government asked the BMA to look into negotiating a new contract for junior doctors. After two years, negotiations stalled because the contract on offer would not have provided sufficient safeguards for junior doctors and their patients – either today or in the future.

The DDRB, an independent body, undertook a review and provided recommendations for a new contract. After the recommendations were released the Government asked the BMA to re-enter negotiations with the recommendations as the basis. We could not agree to the unsafe and unfair preconditions proposed, and so the Government said they would impose a new contract from August 2016.

We have consistently and clearly asked Government for the key assurances we would need in order to re-enter negotiations – the first of which was a withdrawal of the threat to impose a contract. These assurances have still not been given to us. In September, the BMA’s junior doctors committee took the decision to ballot junior doctor members on support for industrial action. We have continued to request the key assurances for genuine negotiations. The result of the ballot of more than 37,000 junior doctors in England was announced on 19 November, with more than 99 per cent having voted in favour of industrial action short of a strike, and 98 per cent for full strike action, demonstrating the strength of feeling amongst the profession.

The BMA suspended industrial action planned for December following progress made through talks facilitated by Acas. While progress was made on some issues during negotiations between the BMA, NHS Employers and the Department of Health, the offer that Government made on 4 January was not acceptable to the BMA. As a result, the action planned for 12 January went ahead.

Discussions with the Government continued throughout January, which led to the suspension of the planned 48-hour action on 26-28 January. However, despite the best efforts of the BMA negotiating team, major sticking points, including around the classification of Saturdays, remain. Because of this, the BMA decided that the industrial action planned for 10 February would go ahead, although it would see junior doctors offering emergency care only over a 24-hour period, rather than the planned full walkout from 8am to 5pm.

Find a picket line

The BMA is supporting around 149 picket lines across England. Contact your junior doctor representative, your LNC representative or your Industrial Relations Officer for more information.

Click here to view a map of picket lines

Legal advice

The right to strike is a fundamental human right protected by Article 11 of the European Convention on Human Rights. However, we are aware that an NHS trust has suggested that the proposed industrial action by junior doctors is unlawful, being in breach of the Trade Union Labour Relations (Consolidation) Act 1992 (TULCRA). We have sought urgent legal advice from John Hendy QC, the leading authority in this area of law.

Get involved

Campaign materials can be ordered for meetings, rallies and street stalls via local BMA reps or ordered online.

Orders must be placed by 11am on Monday 8 February in order to be despatched in time for industrial action.

Order a standard campaign pack

Please email materials@bma.org.uk, stating your name, your BMA membership number, and delivery address. The pack will include the following:

Order specific campaign materials

Please email materials@bma.org.uk, stating your name, your BMA membership number, and delivery address. Choose from the following:

Print your own

Show your support online:

Download (or ‘save as’) a Facebook cover image (.jpg)

Download (or ‘save as’) a Twitter cover image (.jpg)

Add a Twibbon to your Twitter profile

Would you like advice on how to most effectively use social media to share your message? Download our top tips (PDF)

Information for non-junior doctors

The decision to take industrial action has implications for all doctors working in the NHS in England. Read our guidance:

Information for the public

Public information leaflet

Read our leaflet explaining why junior doctors are taking industrial action, Copies will are also available from local BMA representatives on picket lines.

The junior doctors dispute – in their own words

Few people choose medicine for the glory and the riches. Far more likely is the opportunity to make a difference, to help people – but just because, for most, this is a vocation, that isn’t an invitation to undervalue what they do.

While politicians and commentators may try and portray the junior doctors dispute as being all about money, doctors themselves are clear that it’s more fundamental than that: it’s about valuing what they do – and what they have to sacrifice to do it.

Here, they explain it in their own words.

Meet the doctor events

Junior doctors are also holding ‘meet the doctors’ events across England to explain the position to members of the public.

Click here to find local meet the doctor events

News and photos from the first day of action

Dispute timeline

Key dates as the junior contract negotiations have unfolded:

  • July 2013 – UK Junior Doctors Committee agreed to enter formal negotiations.
  • October 2013 – Department of Health grants NHS Employers a mandate to negotiate with the BMA, formal negotiations commence.
  • October 2014 – Talks stalled in light of the Government’s failure to agree measures to ensure patient safety and doctors’ welfare.
  • December 2014 – The BMA submitted evidence to DDRB.
  • March 2015 – DDRB invited stakeholders to give evidence.
  • July 2015 – DDRB submitted its final report to the Government.
  • August 2015 – Junior Doctors Committee decided not to re-enter contract negotiations based on the Government’s preconditions and threat of contract imposition.
  • September 2015 – The BMA voted to ballot junior members in England for industrial action.
  • November 2015 – In a turnout of 76.2 per cent, junior doctors voted overwhelmingly for industrial action.
  • November 2015 – Temporary suspension of industrial action by the BMA following talks with NHS Employers and the Department of Health, brokered by Acas
  • December 2015 – Industrial action in England was suspended following conciliatory talks with NHS Employers and the Department of Health.
  • December 2015 – BMA Junior Doctors Committee negotiating team entered negotiations with NHS Employers and Department of Health
  • January 2016 – Talks concluded with no resolution. Industrial action to go ahead.

Junior doctors in Northern Ireland, Scotland and Wales

Northern Ireland

The Northern Ireland health minister, Simon Hamilton, has said he has “no desire” to impose the junior doctor contract and an imposed contract would be the “worst possible outcome”. BMA will be meeting with the Minister to discuss how we can work together to resolve the situation.

Wales

On 18 September 2015, Welsh Government officials issued a statement to BMA Cymru Wales indicating that they will retain the current junior doctor contract in Wales.

Scotland

The Scottish Government has made clear that there will be no junior doctor contract imposition in Scotland.

Join us

Join 160,000 members standing up to unreasonable Government demands

In the uncertain and volatile environment that the Government seems intent on creating for doctors, representation is more important than ever.

Join the BMA today


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The Great SNP Quiz

February 7, 2016 at 4:20 pm (populism, reformism, scotland, SNP, wankers)

 Steve Bell's If ... 13/11/2014 Steve Bell’s If ? 13.11.2014 Illustration: Copyright Steve Bell 2014

By Dale Street

1) When Michelle Thomson MP (SNP whip resigned) twice bought properties in 2010 and sold them to her husband later the same day, by how much did their price increase between purchase and re-sale?
a) £50,000
b) £54,400
c) £60,000

2) When Michelle Thomson MP (SNP whip resigned) paid her business partner £95,000 for a property he had bought for £64,000 from a 77-year-old cancer-sufferer earlier the same day, how much did she receive as a “cashback” from her partner as part of the deal?
a) £25,000
b) £28,180.80
c) £30,000

3) During the 2014 referendum campaign, who was the director of the pro-independence “Business for Scotland” organisation (“The business network with a conscience. We will promote the values that can build a more equal and fairer Scotland.”)?
a) John Paul Getty III
b) Nelson Rockefeller Jnr.
c) Michelle Thomson

4) What happened in 2014 to the solicitor who had represented MP Michelle Thomson (SNP whip resigned) and/or her husband and/or her business partner in 13 different property deals?
a) He was named Solicitor of the Year by the Law Society of Scotland.
b) He was appointed as a judge in the Inner House of the Court of Session.
c) He was struck off by a Law Society Discipline Tribunal for 13 counts of professional misconduct.

5) Who was SNP leader Nicola Sturgeon referring to in the 2015 general election campaign when she said “Michelle knows what’s she’s doing, knows her area and knows about fairness, equality and prosperity. I say: Bring it on, Michelle!”?
a) Michelle Pfeiffer
b) Michelle Obama
c) Michelle Thomson

6) What is the current value of the seven properties in SNP MP Lisa Cameron’s property portfolio?
a) £618,000
b) £628,000
c) £638,000

7) What is the difference between the monthly rent charged for one of five former council flats owned by SNP MP Lisa Cameron and the monthly rent charged by the council for a council flat in the same area?
a) Higher by £140 a month.
b) Higher by £150 a month.
c) Higher by £160 a month.

8) Last September SNP MP Phil Boswell tabled a Parliamentary Question calling for a crackdown on tax avoidance. How much was the interest-free loan which Boswell himself received as part of a tax-avoidance scheme when working for a US energy company?
a) £16,000
b) £18,000
c) £20,000

9) SNP First Minister Nicola Sturgeon has condemned tax avoidance as “obscene, immoral and despicable.” What did she say on learning of SNP MP Phil Boswell’s involvement in a tax-avoidance scheme?
a) This is obscene, immoral and despicable.
b) This is what happens when Scotland is governed by Westminster.
c) Nothing.

10) Including the discount secured for the venue (Stirling Castle’s Great Hall), how much did the SNP Holyrood government donate to the launch event of the Scottish Asian Women’s Association (founder: Tasmina Ahmed-Sheikh, now an SNP MP) in 2012?
a) £15,160
b) £16,160
c) £17,160

11) At its launch event, attended by 160 guests including Alex Salmond and Nicola Sturgeon, SNP MP Tasmina Ahmed-Sheikh’s Scottish Asian Women’s Association spent £4,500 on canapes and £400 on flowers. Over the next three years how much did the charity donate to worthy causes?
a) £600
b) £700
c) £800

12) In the run-up to the 2014 Euro-elections the Facebook page of which organisation appealed to its readers: “Remember to vote SNP on Thursday to get Tasmina Ahmed-Sheikh elected and keep UKIP out of Scotland”?
a) A political party: the SNP.
b) An anti-racist campaign: Hope Not Hate.
c) A registered charity: the Scottish Asian Women’s Association.

13) Natalie McGarry MP (SNP whip resigned) is currently under police investigation for the unaccounted disappearance of how much money from donations made to Women for Independence?
a) £25,000
b) £30,000
c) £35,000

14) Who reported the disappearance of the £30,000 to the police, resulting in the investigation into Natalie McGarry MP (SNP whip resigned)?
a) Red Tories who always talk Scotland down.
b) Real Tories who always talk Scotland down.
c) 20 members of the Women for Independence National Committee, including seven SNP Holyrood candidates, one SNP branch convenor, the vice-chair of the British Association of Social Workers, and the Chief Executive of Scottish Women’s Aid.

15) Who did Natalie McGarry MP (SNP whip resigned) recently accuse of tweeting in support of “a misogynist and abusive Twitter troll”?
a) Tommy Sheridan
b) Comrade Delta
c) J.K. Rowling

16) Which song has Natalie McGarry MP (SNP whip resigned) described as “banter”?
a) Somewhere Over the Rainbow.
b) Bohemian Rhapsody.
c) The Famine Song.

17) In the 2015 general election campaign the SNP told voters: “The only way to lock the Tories out of 10 Downing Street is to vote SNP.” The SNP won 56 out of Scotland’s 59 seats. What was the result?
a) The Tories were locked out of 10 Downing Street.
b) The Tories returned to 10 Downing Street in a coalition with the Lib-Dems.
c) The Tories won an absolute majority of seats.

18) Which party did the SNP not call for a vote for anywhere in the UK in the 2015 general election campaign, while simultaneously listing what it would demand of it as the next Westminster government?
a) Green Party
b) Plaid Cymru
c) Labour Party

19) Which organisation adopted the following rule at its 2015 annual conference: “That no member shall within, or outwith, the Parliament publicly criticise a Group decision, policy, or another member of the Group”?
a) The Mafia (as an extension of the code of Omerta).
b) The Vatican (as an extension of the Bull of Papal Infallibility).
c) The SNP (because it’s the SNP).

20) 20 SNP branches have submitted motions to the party’s 2016 annual conference calling for a ban on fracking. What is likely to happen to the motions at the conference?
a) They will be passed.
b) They will not be passed.
c) Nothing – because they have all been ruled out of order and will not appear on the agenda.

21) What did the then SNP First Minister Alex Salmond prophesy in March of 2013?
a) The end of the world.
b) The second coming of Christ.
c) A second oil boom, beginning that year, which would generate tax revenues three times higher than official estimates.

22) What did the then SNP First Minister Alex Salmond, speaking in September of 2013, say was the value of North Sea oil and gas reserves?
a) Peanuts – it’s just something we dip into now and again when there’s a glut of shortbread on the world market.
b) Make up your own figure, provided that it has a lot of zeros at the end.
c) 1.5 trillions – twelve times higher than official estimates – “worth £300,000 for every man woman and child” in an independent Scotland.

23) What did SNP MP Alex Salmond have to say about the North Sea oil industry two years later?
a) The second oil boom is underway!
b) Hold out your hands for the first tranche of your £300,000!
c) The industry is suffering from tough low-oil-price conditions and needs every single market it can get.

24) Which piece of writing prophesised that the average price of a barrel of oil in the period 2014 to 2019 would be at least $113?
a) The Predictions of Nostradamus.
b) Mystic Meg’s horoscope for Leo in the “Sun” last week.
c) The SNP’s 2013 White Paper on Independence, “Scotland’s Future”.

25) What was the price of a barrel of oil in mid-January of 2016?
a) $113
b) $226
c) $27 (i.e. less than the cost of the barrel containing it).

26) According to “Scotland’s Future”, in the financial year 2015/16 North Sea oil revenues would amount to £8.3 billions. What is current estimate of North Sea oil revenues for 2015/16?
a) £8.3 billions
b) £16.6 billions
c) £130 millions

27) In January of this year SNP MP Dennis Robertson (Aberdeenshire West) said: “There is no crisis in the … … industry. We have just extracted more … than ever before. The industry is booming.” What industry was he talking about?
a) Dentistry.
b) Brain tumour surgery.
c) The North Sea oil industry.

28) How many jobs dependent on the North Sea oil industry had been lost in the twelve months prior to SNP MP Dennis Robertson’s statement?
a) 60,000
b) 70,000
c) 80,000

29) How did the daily rate of oil and gas extraction from the North Sea in the twelve months prior to SNP MP Dennis Robertson’s statement (“… just extracted more oil than ever before …”) compare with the daily rate of extraction in 1999?
a) Down by 2.5 million barrels a day.
b) Down by 3 million barrels a day.
c) Down by 3.5 million barrels a day.

30) In the 2014 referendum campaign which of the following did the SNP promise would always be lower in an independent Scotland than in England?
a) Levels of poverty.
b) Levels of social inequality.
c) Corporation tax.

31) What do the following have in common?
a) Air Passenger Duty.
b) Corporation Tax.
c) Taxation of the oil and gas industry.

32) Which of the following has SNP First Minister Nicola Sturgeon promised will never be cut?
a) Holyrood’s funding for Glasgow City Council.
b) Holyrood’s funding for maintenance of the Forth Road Bridge.
c) Holyrood’s annual contribution to the Sovereign Grant paid to the Queen.

33) When the SNP Holyrood government cut spending on its “non-profit distributing programme” from £353 millions to £20 millions in the financial year 2013/14, how did the then SNP Deputy First Minister Nicola Sturgeon describe the cut?
a) A savage cut.
b) An unacceptably savage cut.
c) Reprofiling.

34) When the SNP Holyrood government cut spending on its green energy budget in the financial year 2014/15, how did the SNP Finance Secretary John Swinney describe the cut?
a) A savage cut.
b) An unacceptably savage cut.
c) Reprofiling.

35) When the SNP Holyrood government announced a cut of over £350 millions in funding for local authorities for the financial year 2016/17, at a cost of 15,000 jobs, how did SNP First Minister Nicola Sturgeon describe the cut?
a) A savage cut.
b) An unacceptably savage cut.
c) Reprofiling.

36) SNP First Minister Nicola Sturgeon has said that it was “absolutely” not true that maintenance budget cuts led to the closure of the Forth Road Bridge last December. When the former Chief Engineer subsequently gave evidence to MSPs, what did he blame for the closure?
a) The San Andreas Fault.
b) Mars being in conjunction with Saturn.
c) A 58% cut in the bridge’s maintenance budget by the SNP government in 2011.

37) Between the financial years 2010/11 and 2014/15, by how much did the SNP Holyrood government cut spending on pre-school education places, primary school pupils, and secondary school pupils?
a) 7%, 10% and 3% respectively.
b) 8%, 11% and 4% respectively.
c) 9%, 12% and 5% respectively.

38) By how much did the SNP Holyrood government cut Further Education funding in real terms between 2010 and 2015?
a) 15%
b) 20%
c) 25%

39) What was the fall in the number of students at Further Education colleges in Scotland between 2010 and 2013?
a) 100,000
b) 108,000
c) 116,000

40) What was the fall in the number of teaching staff in Further Education colleges in Scotland over the same period?
a) 6,000
b) 7,000
c) 8,000

41) The poorest 20% of youth in England are 2.5 times less likely than the wealthiest 20% to go to university. What is the figure for the poorest 20% of youth in Scotland, compared to the wealthiest 20% of youth in Scotland?
a) 3 times less likely to go to university.
b) 3.5 times less likely to go to university.
c) 4 times less likely to go to university.

42) In England the proportion of university students from non-professional backgrounds is 33%. What is the equivalent figure for Scotland?
a) 26%
b) 27%
c) 28%

43) How much have owners of band ‘G’ and ‘H’ properties ‘saved’ in the period 2008-2016 as a result of the SNP’s council tax freeze?
a) £250 millions.
b) £300 millions.
c) £350 millions.

44) On average, a low-paid worker living in a Band ‘A’ property ‘saves’ £60 a year (0.3% of income) as a result of the SNP’s council tax freeze. On average, how much does someone living in a Band ‘H’ property ‘save’ each year as a result of the freeze?
a) £324 (0.7% of income).
b) £370 (0.8% of income).
c) £394 (0.9% of income).

45) What did SNP MP Tasmina Ahmed-Sheikh say on her return from a visit to Iran as part of an official SNP delegation last December?
a) A reactionary, homophobic, misogynist regime.
b) So that’s John Mason’s vision for Shettleston!
c) While Iran clearly has a distance to travel on gender equality, so too does Holyrood Westminster.

46) Which one of the following is not boycotted by all true Scots?
a) B&Q
b) Sainsbury’s
c) Iran

47) And which one of the following is not boycotted by all true Scots either?
a) Tunnock’s Teacakes
b) USDAW
c) North Korea

48) With which of the following countries does SNP MP Alex Salmond look forward to Scotland developing a “productive and enduring relationship”?
a) England
b) Israel
c) Iran

49) After 30 years of opposition, what did the SNP annual conference in 2012 vote in favour of membership of?
a) The United Kingdom.
b) The Russian Federation.
c) NATO

50) The Facebook page of the Scottish Resistance carries a video clip of one of their members wielding a sledgehammer. What is he doing with the sledgehammer?
a) Repairing the Forth Road Bridge.
b) Laying the foundations of an independent Scotland.
c) Crushing a pack of Tunnock’s teacakes, with the words “This is a wee message to every c**t who is still a f***king secret teacake eater. F**k Tunnock’s.”

51) Which books did North Lanarkshire SNP councillor Rosa Zambonini tweet that she would ban her children from reading?
a) Books containing lots of violence.
b) Books containing lots of sex.
c) Books by J.K. Rowling.

52) Dundee SNP councillor Craig Melville was suspended from the SNP for having allegedly tweeted which of the following messages to a female Muslim SNP member?
a) Scottish nationalism is different from all other nationalisms – it’s a civic nationalism.
b) That Man to Man the warld o’er shall brithers be for a’ that.
c) It’s not personal, I just f****** hate your religion and I’ll do all in my life do defeat your filth. We live in an uneducated loopy left-wing society which is more interested in claiming benefits. … Horrible murdering Islamic c***s.

53) Which of the following has North Airdrie SNP councillor and Central Scotland SNP list candidate Sophia Coyle said should be banned from fostering and adopting children?
a) Members of ISIS.
b) Members of al Qaeda.
c) Gay couples.

54) According to cybernat Shelley Detlefsen, what was the cause of the cancer which killed David Bowie?
a) Smoking.
b) Poor diet.
c) Supporting a ‘No’ vote in the 2014 referendum.

55) The Tories have recently promised to “stand shoulder to shoulder” with the SNP. But “stand shoulder to shoulder” with them doing what?
a) Repairing the Forth Road Bridge.
b) Fracking.
c) Opposing Labour’s proposal for a 1% income tax rise.

56) On 28th January this year SNP First Minister Nicola Sturgeon tweeted: “I’m standing up for a fair deal for Scotland – Labour should try it some time, instead of always backing the Tories.” What happened six days later, when Labour proposed a 1p increase in income tax?
a) Labour voted with the Tories.
b) Labour voted with the SNP.
c) The SNP voted with the Tories.

57) What did the SNP support in 1999 but oppose in 2016?
a) Membership of NATO.
b) Membership of the European Union.
c) Increasing income tax in Scotland by 1p.

58) According to SNP First Minister Nicola Sturgeon, nurses would be hit harder by Labour’s proposal for a 1% income tax increase than she herself would be. What is the explanation for this claim?
a) Nurses in Scotland are paid over £136,000 a year.
b) Nicola Sturgeon is paid her salary through a tax haven.
c) Nicola Sturgeon can’t count.

59) Which of the following politicians is the highest paid?
a) The President of France.
b) The Prime Minister of Spain.
c) SNP First Minister Nicola Sturgeon.

60) What did the by then former SNP First Minister Alex Salmond cancel after the referendum of September 2014?
a) His coronation as Supreme Leader and Great Helmsman.
b) Renaming the Royal Mile the Alex Salmond Mile.
c) His television licence.
d) All of the above.

Answers on a postcard to:

Nicola Sturgeon, Bute House (absent a commercial transaction with Michelle Thomson and her husband in the meantime), 6 Charlotte Square, Edinburgh, EH2 4DR.

How many questions do you think you answered correctly?

0-20: You should join the SNP. Because they all say “But we never knew about that!” as well.
21-40: You should join RISE. Because you have some (modest) criticisms of the SNP, but not so many that you can’t approach SNP supporters to beg for their list vote in May.
41-60: You are an anti-Scottish Red-Tory traitor who is always talking Scotland down.

Permalink 22 Comments

Muslim women ‘stopped from becoming Labour councillors’

February 6, 2016 at 7:56 pm (elections, Galloway, Islam, islamism, Jim D, labour party, misogyny, sexism, women)

Shazia Bashir

“Because I didn’t have my father’s consent and support, I had to step down. I was pressured into stepping down”  – Shazia Bashir (above)

Another said she had been told by Labour members “Islam and feminism aren’t compatible”.

An advocate for gay rights was told: “This is un-Islamic. Leave that for white people.” And many spoke of being criticised for being too Westernised.

http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-politics-35504185

A comrade from a Muslim background comments, “I can tell you the number of people in my family who were surprised by this story when I mentioned it to them and that is nil – which, at an educated guess, is almost certainly also the number of people in the SWP, the NUS Black Students’ Campaign and other groups who usually fall over themselves to say how much they support Muslim women, who are likely to do anything about this issue.

JD comments: it’s not just a Labour Party problem or a problem at councillor level: just look at the misogynistic abuse Naz Shah got from Galloway and his Respect Party supporters when she stood against him in Bradford West at the general election.

Permalink 23 Comments

FGM: stop this mutilation now!

February 6, 2016 at 12:11 pm (child abuse, crime, Feminism, Human rights, internationalism, misogyny, posted by JD, relativism, women)

Today (6th February) is International Day of Zero Tolerance for FGM. To mark this important occasion, and to support the aims of anti-FGM campaigners throughout the world, Shiraz Socialist republishes the following:

FEMINIST STATEMENT ON THE NAMING & ABOLITION OF FEMALE GENITAL MUTILATION (2013)

Patriarchal oppression is the bedrock of female genital mutilation (FGM) and related harmful traditional practices.  

The aim of this Statement is to gather support, from concerned citizens and from people directly working to abolish FGM, for research, dialogue and activism which derives from such an understanding. To that end we insist, for instance, that FGM be correctly named – as specifically ‘mutilation’ and not, in formal discourse, by any evasive or softening euphemism.

PLEASE ADD YOUR NAME  HERE  TO THE FEMINIST STATEMENT ON FGM

1. Female genital mutilation (FGM) in all its forms is cruelty and abuse. The United Nations has decreed it a fundamental violation of human rights [a].

2. FGM is practised in many parts of the world. The World Health Organisation estimates that some 140 million girls and women now alive have undergone this mutilation, with around 3 million more experiencing it every year [b].
140 million is however a very conservative figure and the total including e.g. Indonesia [c], the Middle East and diaspora destinations is likely to be much higher.

3. FGM, like other traditional practices which harm women and girls [d], is done from fear in many guises, at the instigation behind the scenes of powerful people who stand to benefit from it, for themselves [e].

4. The proper, and necessary, response to FGM is to treat it, wherever it occurs, as a very serious, sometimes deadly, crime. There is substantive evidence to suggest this approach, allied with appropriate education and support, is the most effective way of stopping FGM [f].

5. It is essential to acknowledge that African women leaders themselves, in joint statements [g], have decreed that FGM should in all formal discussion be called ‘mutilation’, and not by any other euphemistic term. It is deeply disrespectful of those brave women – and also extremely unhelpful – to ignore their judgement and advice.

6. We are concerned simply and solely with the essential protection from FGM, everywhere, of defenceless children, irrespective of whether the intended FGM operators are traditional practitioners or, in the modern contemporary sense, medically trained [h] .
(NB Necessarily, our concern further extends, in some communities, to the protection of women subject to involuntary FGM, e.g. when their marriages are arranged, after childbirth or after criminal abduction.)

7. We believe that all women and girls who have experienced FGM are entitled, as and if or when they wish, to skilled reconstructive or other surgery and /or additional medical and personal support, free of charge, as part of reparation for this crime.

8. There are many people with different skills and insights who can and should contribute to the work of abolishing / eliminating / eradicating FGM; each of us has a part to play.
It is however fundamentally important to recognise unreservedly, and to hear, the centrally critical contribution of women with direct experience of this harmful traditional practice who are seeking to eliminate FGM.

28 August 2013

Footnotes
[a] United Nations (2012): Intensifying global efforts for the elimination of female genital mutilations  (24 September), United Nations bans female genital mutilation (20 December) & Sources of international human rights law on Female Genital Mutilation
[b] World Health Organisation (2013): Factsheet 241: Female Genital Mutilation and UNICEF (23 July, 2013) Despite overwhelming opposition, millions of girls at risk of genital mutilation 
[c] See for example this Research Report: Female Circumcision in Indonesia – Extent, Implications and Possible Interventions to Uphold Women’s Health Rights (Jakarta, 2003)
[d] Which must also be abolished, see e.g. World Health Organisation website page: Female genital mutilation (FGM) and harmful practices
[e] Feminist Europa. Review of Books. Vol. 9, No 1, 2009 / Vol. 10, No 1, 2010 (Tobe Levin, p.69) and To Stop Female Genital Mutilation In The UK, Follow (And Invest) The Money (Hilary Burrage, 28 Feb., 2013)
[f] Thomson Reuters Foundation (22 July 2013), Thirty million girls at risk of FGM despite decline in support – UN
[g] Regional Conference on Traditional Practices Affecting the Health of Women and Children in Africa organised by the Inter-African Committee (IAC) on Traditional Practices Affecting the Health of Women and Children, 19-24 November 1990, Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, and later reaffirmed in Mali in 2005 .
[h] World Health Organisation (2010): Global strategy to stop health-care providers from performing female genital mutilation

~ ~ ~

Now please add your name and thoughts via  Support The Statement On FGM .

The instigators and authors of this Statement are listed here.

For information on the reasons and rationale for this Statement please see Statement Background.  An account of how it came about can be found here.

We welcome support from everyone, women and men, black and white, academics, activists in the field, professional practitioners, political representatives, policy makers or simply concerned citizens of the world.

Please choose as many as you wish of the options which follow to let us know about your engagement with our Statement, and why it is important to you.

1. SUPPORT the Statement publicly, via the Change.org e-petition:
FGM researchers and policy makers across the international community: Support the Feminist Statement on Female Genital Mutilation – and also forward the e-petition elsewhere if you can, please;
and / or

2. JOIN THE DISCUSSION on this website, here about how to move the FGM agenda forward  – feel free to also add your website / Twitter etc info for all to see, if you’d like to publicize them as well;  everyone is invited to do this!
and / or

3. REGISTER YOUR INTEREST in future involvement privately, here. 
This is for activists, researchers etc: your name will not be made public if you choose only to do this, but we will know you are supportive and that we may contact you again.

Please note that
1. all posts on this website are moderated, and only posters who we believe give their real names will have their support published;
2. whilst we recognise and are also opposed to male genital harm, this Statement concerns specifically gender-related harm to women and girls. We will therefore publish only Comments which are directly on-topic (but if your website or Twitter handle also reflects male-gendered concerns,   :-)   that’s probably not a problem).

The names of some initial supporters of the Statement can be seen on the Statement Signatories Page.

Many thanks indeed for your support and engagement; we look forward to hearing from you!

_ _ _

See also: Hilary Burrage : author of

Eradicating Female Genital Mutilation: A UK Perspective (Ashgate, 2015)15.07.14 FGM Book1 jacket jpeg
> Hilary Burrage has written the most definitive book ever on FGM.  An invaluable tool to help eradicate it worldwide. A personal triumph.  (The Guardian)

Permalink 3 Comments

NUM answers smears over Ukraine solidarity

February 5, 2016 at 3:42 pm (internationalism, posted by JD, Russia, solidarity, stalinism, Ukraine, unions, workers)

NUM logo.png

Statement from the NUM (also published, in extended form, as a letter in the current issue of the Weekly Worker):

CONDEMN THE DEFAMATION OF NUM SOLIDARITY WITH UKRANIAN MINERS

The National Union of Mineworkers is disturbed by the smears against our union regarding our approach to the conflict in Ukraine. These smears have been promoted mainly by elements on the outskirts of the labour movement. Sadly, some who should know better have been willing to give air to such defamation. We at the NUM have long experience of those who would seek to sow divisions and discredit us and we have a proven record of defending ourselves when necessary.

It is shamefully claimed the NUM has joined the camp of our enemies and abandoned our history of working class internationalism. Some even asserting we have crossed into the same camp as fascists and taken the line of Nato. Let us set the record straight.

The NUM has not based its response to the Ukraine crisis on what the British or Russian media tell us. We have not been charmed by the opportunity to sit in their TV studios and accept without question their government’s line. Instead we naturally turned to our fellow miners’ unions, with whom we have a friendship stretching back decades: the Trade Union of the Coal Mining Industry (PRUP) and the Independent Trade Union of Miners of Ukraine (NPGU). The very first statement issued by the NUM executive committee was clear:

“The NUM supports the international principle of self-determination and expresses its support to our brothers and sisters in the miners’ union, PRUP, who are calling for all interference from outside Ukraine to stop. The NUM calls for a peaceful resolution to the current issues facing the people of Ukraine and our thoughts are with all the miners in the Ukraine, who we regard as our friends.”

During some of the worst fighting in Ukraine, we hosted a delegation of miners at the Durham Miners Gala in 2014 that were warmly received, yet our hospitality is now denigrated by assertions they were not miners, but national union officials from Kiev. This is untrue. The delegation was from Donbas and the speaker that addressed the gala was chairman of the Dnipropetrovsk branch of PRUP.

The NUM has sent two delegations to Ukraine; we have visited industrial areas, met national union officials, local branches and rank-and-file miners. We have also met with activists of the wider labour movement. The NUM attended and addressed the joint union congress of Miners of Ukraine on April 21. We are proud to have taken part in a protest by thousands of miners in defiance of riot police at the parliament in Kiev against pit closures.

Those attacking the NUM seek to question the legitimacy of the Ukrainian trade unions. Yet we have seen with our own eyes that the miners’ unions are not slavishly following the oligarchs and the government. They are resisting as best they can pit closures, austerity and anti-union laws. The NUM is being attacked because we support fellow trade unions that appeal for solidarity instead of the armed forces that hold a third of the territory in Donbas. Despite the wishful thinking of some, Putin’s Russia is not sponsoring a revived 1917-style soviet republic or a Spain of 1936. It is clear the takeover in parts of Donetsk and Luhansk area was initiated by rival oligarchs and Russia out of their own vested interests. In those areas the existing labour movement has been suppressed, trade unionists have been kidnapped, tortured and even murdered. This is common knowledge and has been reported to the international trade union movement repeatedly.

We have given our support to the Ukrainian labour movement in supporting the unity of Ukraine and of the working people of Ukraine, opposing the undemocratic division of Ukraine by force, which has been a humanitarian and economic catastrophe; it has divided working people and their labour movement.

At no time has the NUM given support to either Russian or Ukrainian far-right forces active in Ukraine – our solidarity is first and foremost with the labour movement. The NUM endorses the calls by the Ukrainian trade unions for justice for victims of the attacks on both the Kiev and Odessa trade union buildings, and of those killed on the Malaysian airline.

The situation was summed up in an address by the Union of Railway Workers of Ukraine to the conference of its sister union, Aslef, that “Ukraine has been squeezed between an aggressive power in our east and neoliberal economic policies from the west. The working people of Ukraine are suffering from both the terrible cost of war and of austerity.” NUM shares the view that it is for the Ukrainian people to determine their own future, free from external intervention from Russian or western imperialism. That is, we support the achievement of peace through self-determination, solidarity and social justice.

National Union of Mineworkers
Barnsley

Permalink 9 Comments

EU: time for the UK left to face reality

February 3, 2016 at 7:56 pm (David Cameron, Europe, internationalism, Jim D, left, Murdoch, populism, Racism, Socialist Party, stalinism, SWP, Tory scum)

Portada de The Sun (United Kingdom)

As Cameron embarks on his campaign to sell his “reformed” relationship with the EU, the xenophobes have begun their anti-EU campign in earnest. Today’s Sun gives us a taste of what to expect: denunciations of migrants, demands for stricter border controls and thinly-disguised racism.

It’s time for the left to get real: the anti-EU movement is of necessity nationalist, xenophobic and border-line racist. No matter how much idiots like the Morning Star, the SWP and the Socialist Party try to dress up their anti-EU rhetoric with the word “socialism” and dire warnings about the evils of international capitalism and the “bosses’ Europe” they cannot escape the reactionary logic of their anti-EU stance.

Yet for decades now most of the British left — and the left in a few other European countries, such as Denmark — has agitated “against the EU”. The agitation has suggested, though rarely said openly, we should welcome and promote every pulling-apart of the EU, up to and including the full re-erection of barriers between nation-states.

Yet the possibility of a serious unravelling of the patchwork, bureaucratic semi-unification of Europe, slowly developed over the last sixty years, is more real today than ever before. The decisive push for unravelling comes from from the nationalist and populist right.

And that calls the bluff of a whole swathe of the British left.

For decades, most of the British left has been “anti-EU” as a matter of faith. In Britain’s 1975 referendum on withdrawing from the EU, almost the whole left, outside AWL’s forerunner Workers’ Fight, campaigned for withdrawal. Since then the left has hesitated explicitly to demand withdrawal. It has limited itself to “no to bosses’ Europe” agitation, implying but not spelling out a demand for the EU to be broken up.

The agitation has allowed the left to eat its cake and have it. The left can chime in with populist-nationalist “anti-Europe” feeling, which is stronger in Britain than in any other EU country. It can also cover itself by suggesting that it is not really anti-European, but only dislikes the “bosses’” character of the EU.

As if a confederation of capitalist states could be anything other than capitalist! As if the cross-Europe policy of a collection of neo-liberal governments could be anything other than neo-liberal!

As if the material force behind neo-liberal cuts has been the relatively flimsy Brussels bureaucracy, rather than the mighty bureaucratic-military-industrial complexes of member states. As if the answer is to oppose confederation and cross-Europeanism as such, rather than the capitalist, neo-liberal, bureaucratic character of both member states and the EU.

As if the EU is somehow more sharply capitalist, anti-worker, and neo-liberal than the member states. In Britain more than any other country we have seen successive national governments, both Tory and New Labour, repeatedly objecting to EU policy as too soft, too “social”, too likely to entrench too many workers’ rights.

As if the answer is to pit nations against Europe, rather than workers against bosses and bankers. The anti-EU left loves to gloatingly  remind us of the EU leaders’ appalling treatment of Greece and Tsipras’s capitulation – despite the fact that while in Greece and Southern Europe the EU is indeed a force for neoliberal austerity, in the UK no-one can point to a single attack on the working class that has originated with the EU against the will of a British government: indeed the EU has forced reluctant UK governments to enact limited but real pro-worker legislation (despite the Morning Star‘s dishonest claims to the contrary, the EU has been responsible for real pro-working class reforms such as the Transfer of Undertakings Regulations, the Agency Workers Regulations and the Working Time Regulations – none of which are at any immediate risk as a result of Cameron’s “renegotiation”).

When Socialist Worker, in a Q&A piece, posed itself the question, “wouldn’t things be better for workers if Britain pulled out of the EU?”, it answered itself with a mumbling “yes, but” rather than a ringing “yes”.

Socialist Worker is against Britain being part of a bosses’ Europe”. Oh? And against Britain being part of a capitalist world, too?

Britain would be better off in outer space? Or walled off from the world North-Korea-style? “But withdrawing from the EU wouldn’t guarantee workers’ rights — the Tories remain committed to attacking us”. Indeed. And just as much so as the EU leaders, no?

A few years ago the Socialist Party threw itself into a electoral coalition called No2EU. Every week in its “Where We Stand” it declaims: “No to the bosses’ neo-liberal European Union!”, though that theme rarely appears in its big headlines.

Even the demand for withdrawal is a soft-soap, “tactical” gambit. In principle Britain could quit the EU without disrupting much. It could be like Norway, Iceland, Switzerland: pledged to obey all the EU’s “Single Market” rules (i.e. all the neo-liberal stuff) though opting out of a say in deciding the rules; exempt from contributing to the EU budget but also opting out from receiving EU structural and regional funds.

That is not what the no-to-EU-ers want. They want Britain completely out. They want all the other member-states out too. A speech by RMT president Alex Gordon featured on the No2EU website spells it out: “Imperialist, supranational bodies such as the EU seek to roll back democratic advances achieved in previous centuries… Progressive forces must respond to this threat by defending and restoring national democracy. Ultimately, national independence is required for democracy to flourish…”

But does the left really want the EU broken up? What would happen?

The freedom for workers to move across Europe would be lost. “Foreign” workers in each country from other ex-EU states would face disapproval at best.

There would be a big reduction in the productive capacities of the separate states, cut off from broader economic arenas.

Governments and employers in each state would be weaker in capitalist world-market competition, and thus would be pushed towards crude cost-cutting, in the same way that small capitalist businesses, more fragile in competition, use cruder cost-cutting than the bigger employers.

There would be more slumps and depression, in the same way that the raising of economic barriers between states in the 1930s lengthened and deepened the slump then.

Nationalist and far-right forces, already the leaders of anti-EU political discourse everywhere, would be “vindicated” and boosted. Democracy would shrink, not expand. The economically-weaker states in Europe, cut off from the EU aid which has helped them narrow the gap a bit, would suffer worst, and probably some would fall to military dictatorships.

Before long the economic tensions between the different nations competing elbow-to-elbow in Europe’s narrow cockpit would lead to war, as they did repeatedly for centuries, and especially in 1914 and 1939.

The left should fight, not to go backwards from the current bureaucratic, neo-liberal European Union, but forward, towards workers’ unity across Europe, a democratic United States of Europe, and a socialist United States of Europe.

It’s time for the anti-EU left to get real, face facts and pull back from its disastrous de facto alliance with some of the most reactionary forces in British politics.

Permalink 28 Comments

US Socialist Worker on Election 2016

February 2, 2016 at 10:07 am (Democratic Party, elections, posted by JD, Republican Party, United States)

Here’s the US Socialist Worker‘s take on the run-up to US Election 2016, written before the Iowa caucuses, in which Ted Cruz beat Donald Trump and Bernie Sanders very nearly defeated Hilary Clinton. By the way, the US SW has nothing to do (any more) with the UK SWP:

Year of the renegades?

The usual election circus is reflecting broader dissatisfaction with the status quo.

IT SEEMED so simple–and soul-deadeningly boring–a year ago. Election 2016 would be a match-up between two political dynasties–the Clintons and the Bushes–with nothing but months of Super PAC spending and stage-managed sound bites between then and the election.

Now, we’re headed for a February where the Republican heir apparent Jeb Bush is bumbling along among the also-rans in opinion polls, and the first primary contests seem certain to be won by right-wing maniacs who regularly denounce their own party’s establishment leaders. Billionaire Donald Trump remains the runaway frontrunner, but Tea Partier Ted Cruz is coming up on the outside.

And on the Democratic side, a self-identified socialist has a fair shot at winning at least the Iowa caucuses and New Hampshire primary over Hillary Clinton, who was once thought to have the Democratic presidential nomination in the bag a full year before the party’s convention.

For anyone on the left, this should inspire both dread and enthusiasm.

Neither Trump nor Cruz may survive what promises to be a bruising and unpredictable GOP primary battle that won’t be decided for months. But in the meanwhile, they give legitimacy to ideas at the far right of the mainstream political spectrum–and then some.

As for Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders, he has a lot more obstacles–like, for example, the Democratic Party’s completely undemocratic practices, like seating party insiders and officeholders as unelected “superdelegates,” specifically designed to head off left challenges–between him and the party’s presidential nomination.

But Sanders has tarnished the aura of inevitability that once surrounded Hillary Clinton–and what’s more, he’s done so by generating real excitement among millions of people who vote Democratic mainly because they despise the Republicans, not because they feel inspired by the corporate-dominated party that falsely claims to speak for them.

Sanders is talking about the issues that should matter in a real election campaign, like jobs, health care, poverty, challenging racism and the like. It’s no wonder that so many people see him as a breath of fresh air–though he has also gone along with many conventional mainstream Democratic positions, most obviously to defend and extend the power of the American empire.

We can celebrate the opinion polls that show Sanders gaining support against Clinton, most of all because of what they show us about the growth of a layer of people in society who are looking for a radical alternative to the political and social status quo.

If Sanders fails in his still-long-shot quest to win the nomination and then does what he has promised from the start and endorses the presidential candidate of a pro-corporate party, he won’t have answers for the questions those people are asking. Socialists need to be ready with answers of our own, and we can start now, as this election year is unfolding.

– – – – – – – – – – – – – – – –

AT ONE point not too long ago, Hillary Clinton greeted Sanders’ candidacy within the Democratic Party as a positive. Clinton understood that Sanders’ campaign would motivate the party’s base of progressive supporters, while she could still be seen as the “realistic” candidate who stood the best chance against the Republicans in a general election.

Since then, opinion polls have shown that Sanders could hold his own against the Republicans. In December, in a hypothetical race against the GOP’s front-running reality TV star, the Vermont social democrat came out ahead by 13 percentage points–stronger than Clinton’s 7 percent–according to a Quinnipiac poll.

As Sanders has climbed in the polls–building a clear lead over Clinton in New Hampshire, threatening in Iowa and creeping toward a real contest nationally–the Clinton campaign went on the attack.

Often enough, this merely provided further evidence of what a cynical political insider she’s always been. According to the Nation, for example, the Clinton campaign put out a press release calling Friends of the Earth Action a “dark money group”–after it put out TV ads commending Sanders’ fight against the Keystone XL pipeline.

During a candidates’ debate in South Carolina, Clinton claimed that Sanders was going to undo all of the Obama administration’s hard work on a health care law and tear up the Affordable Care Act (ACA). Clinton acted as if she was attacking Sanders from the left, but as Sanders explained during the debate, he favors a much more radical solution to the health care crisis that the ACA has made worse in numerous ways: a universal, “Medicare for All” health care plan.

For the most part, though, Clinton is sticking to what she knows. That’s her claim to be the only “viable” candidate against a host of scary Republicans.

As the first primary contests approach, the organizations whose jobs it is to rally followers behind the conventional liberal choice–the Human Rights Campaign, Planned Parenthood, a number of unions–are announcing their endorsements of Clinton. This despite her record of betraying the very people who are expected to campaign for her–as in the case of the United Food and Commercial Workers, which only recently backed the campaign for a living wage at Walmart, where Clinton once served on the board of directors and silently sat by while the mega-retailer rolled over workers.

The Clinton campaign understands that the odds are still with her winning the party’s nomination. But victories for Sanders in New Hampshire, Iowa and beyond would damage her inevitability factor in a race against Republicans.

What all this reveals is something that mainstream political commentators have a hard time predicting or processing–despite all the talk about Clinton being the most viable candidate among the widest range of voters, Sanders is showing that there is a huge opening for unapologetically liberal and even radical political ideas.

The huge electoral support for Sanders is a reflection of the state of U.S. politics, where a growing number of people are expressing their dissatisfaction with status quo politics. That sentiment is expressed in specific attitudes about issues like police violence or racism, but it can also be seen in the widespread feeling that political leaders don’t represent us–and don’t even try. No event illustrates this more than the protests by residents of Flint, Michigan, whose elected officials allowed their drinking water to be poisoned.

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ON THE other side of Election 2016, the Republican Party establishment is discovering that its anointed “inevitable” candidates–conservatives like Jeb Bush and Marco Rubio with just enough sheen of moderation to appeal in a general election–are in big trouble.

The reason is that the Republican right–unleashed as attack dogs during the Obama years to drive the political mainstream further and further to the right–isn’t going away. It wants its place in the spotlight.

The mobilization of the Tea Party fanatics, backed by big-money right-wingers like the Koch brothers, was central to the Republican victories in the 2010 and 2014 midterm elections. But Republican base voters were whipped up not only against “big government” and “special interests,” associated with the Obama administration, but the “Washington elite” in general–which sometimes meant Republican leaders like former House Speaker John Boehner who were judged to be not fanatical enough.

Now that it’s time to elect the president, the GOP establishment would like the right-wing fringe to step aside. But no such luck. In spite of every vile statement and blunder, billionaire Islamophobe and immigrant hater Donald Trump has stayed well ahead of the pack in opinion polls. After the rise and fall of crackpot Ben Carson, Ted Cruz has been the only contender to make a real run at Trump–and in some ways, he’s more of a threat to the party establishment than Trump.

The structure of the Republican primaries, with delegates awarded based on the proportion of votes in each contest, guarantees that the nomination battle will drag out for months. It’s impossible to predict whether Trump or Cruz will survive to become the party nominee, or if the establishment will unite around an alternative. But whatever the case, this is a recipe for chaos and splits within the historic party of Corporate America.

The enduring appeal of the Trumps and Cruzes in Election 2016 is more evidence of the instability and polarization in a society that’s motivating people to reject politics as usual. But it’s not only that.

In Barack Obama’s State of the Union address this month, he boasted about the amazing U.S. economic recovery. But for most working-class Americans, there are few signs of these better times. This, coupled with the Obama administration’s escalation of the “war on terror,” has produced a frightening and unpredictable world.

This is why Trump can gain a hearing for right-wing ideas that attempt to redirect the blame onto scapegoats, such as immigrants or Muslims.

In this respect, Trump is leading the way for the Republicans, as conservative ideologues Rich Lowry and Ramesh Ponnuru wrote in the National Review: “[W]hile Trump is not a conservative and does not deserve conservatives’ support, Republicans can nonetheless learn from him…He has exposed and widened the fissures on the American right. If conservatives are to thrive, they must figure out how to respond creatively, sensibly and honorably to the public impulses he has so carelessly exploited.”

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IT FRIGHTENING to think of the “public impulses” that Lowry and Ponnuru want another Republican to exploit less “carelessly.” But as the atrocities of the Republican presidential contenders pile up, it will be important to remember that the same political circumstances are radicalizing people to the left.

The strong support for Bernie Sanders is the most obvious evidence. But the people being won over to Sanders won’t necessarily stop with a campaign within the Democratic Party. While Election 2016 goes on, there will be many opportunities for protest and politics, with those enthused about the Sanders campaign certain to play a role.

And the odds are still strong that Sanders will ultimately confront those supporters with a choice later on this year. They can join him in supporting the candidate who beat him for the Democratic nomination, even if they represent everything that millions of Sanders supporters are fed up with.

Or they can stand for a real alternative. That will mean casting a ballot for an independent left candidate next November. But even more important, it will mean participating in the grassroots movements and struggles well beyond the ballot box that, as history has shown us, can bring real change.

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Les Salafistes and the horrors of Daesh

February 1, 2016 at 10:03 am (Andrew Coates, fascism, film, France, iraq, islamism, posted by JD, reactionay "anti-imperialism", Syria, terror, Uncategorized)

Reblogged from Tendance Coatesy
Ce documentaire montre de façon brute et sans voix off l’idéologie, le quotidien et la violence des djihadistes d’Aqmi. Certains lui reprochent son manque de décryptage de l’image.

Image from «Salafistes» Libération.

By Andrew Coates

In France the film, Les Salafistes, has created intense controversy. At one point it seemed as if it might be banned. Now the documentary has been released, with a certificate than denies cinema entry to under-18s. In Saturday’s Guardian Natalie Nougayréde discusses the picture, which includes videos from Daesh (Islamic State – IS, also ISIS) and al-Qaida au Maghreb islamique (AQMI), with interviews with Salafists (rigorist Islamists) and jihadi leaders (Les Salafistes is gruelling viewing – but it can help us understand terror.)

She states, “The most gruelling moment comes when an Isis propaganda films shows a line of captured men walking towards the banks of a river; jihadi militants then shoot them in the head, one by one. The waters of the river start flowing with blood. And we see the pleading, panic-stricken faces of Isis’s victims, filmed close-up just before they are killed.”

Nougayréde considers that Les Salafistes “opens our eyes to a fanatical world”, that we “need to understand that ideology, however twisted and repulsive” Claude Lanzmann – the director the monumental film on the Holocaust, Shoah, she notes, has defended the film and asked for the age limit to be withdrawn. The screen shows better than any book the reality of the most fanatical form of Islamism. Lemine Ould M. Salem et François Margolin, have created a “chef d’oeuvre”. Its formal beauty brings into sharp relief the brutality of the Islamists, and “everyday life under the Sharia in Timbuktu, Mauritania, in Mali, Tunisia (in areas which have been under AQMI occupation or influence), and in Iraq. The age restriction on entry should go.  (Fleur Pellerin, ne privez pas les jeunes du film, Salafistes! Le Monde 29.1.16.)

Lanzmann also argues (which the Guardian columnist does not cite) that Les Salafistes shows that “any hope of change, any improvement, any understanding” with the violent Islamists it portrays, is “futile and illusory”.

In yesterday’s Le Monde (30. 1.16) there is a fuller account of Les Salafistes and the controversies surrounding it, as well as on Made in France a thriller that imagined a jihadist cell preparing an attack on Paris. With a planned release in November, as the Paris slaughters took place, it was withdrawn and now will be available only on VOD (View on Demand).

Timbuktu not les Salafistes.

Saturday’s Le Monde Editorial recommends seeing the 2014 fiction Timbuktu rather than Les Salafistes. The Islamic State has already paraded its murders and tortures before the world. Its “exhibitionnisme de l’horreur” poses a serious challenge to societies that value freedom of expression. In the past crimes against humanity, by Stain, Saddam Hussein, Hitler, Pol Pot or Pinochet, were carried out in secret. The Nazis or the Khmer Rouge’s propaganda was designed to hide the reality of genocide; Daesh’s videos are explicit and open,  produced to terrorise their enemies and to rouse the spirits of their supporters. Margolin and Salem’s film does not, the Editorial argues, offer a sufficiently clear critical approach for a non-specialist audience. The victims only speak under the eyes of their butchers. The drama Timbuktu, where ordinary people in the city of that name are shown grappling with the everyday despotism of AQIM occupation – the rigorous application of the Islamists’ version of the Sharia, is a better way of thinking through the phenomenon of Jihadism. Its quiet and subversive message, the simple acts of playing prohibited music and smoking (banned), many would agree, unravels the absurdity and cruelty – the callous stoning of an ‘adulterous’ couple – of Islamism on a human scale.

Le Monde’s account of the controversy (La Terreur passe mal sur grand ecran) also observes that books about the Islamic State have reached a wide audience. They offer a better way, less influenced by the emotions that the cinema screen arouses, to understand Jihadism. It is equally the case that, through the Web, a substantial number of people have already seen the kind of horrific scenes Les Salafistes brings to the big screen.

The Empire of Fear.

Empire of Fear. Inside the Islamic State (2015) by the BBC correspondent Andrew Hosken is one of many accessible studies that have reached a wide audience. It is a thorough account of Daesh’s origins in the Al-Qaeda milieu and how it came to – separate – prominence in the aftermath of the US-led Coalition’s invasion of Iraq. Hosken has an eye for detail, tracing out the careers of key Daesh figures such as Zarqawi and Baghdadi. He challenges for example the widely claim that Islamic State leader Baghadadi and ‘Caliph’ was “radicalised” in a US prison in Southern Iraq in 2004. In fact “hardening evidence” indicates, “Baghdadi may have started his career as a jihadist fighter in Afghanistan and may even have known Zarqawi there.” (Page 126)

The failure of the occupation to establish a viable state in Iraq, the absence – to say the least – of the rule of law, and the importance of Shia mass sectarian killings of Sunnis in the Islamic State’s appearance. The inability of the Iraqi army to confront them, culminating in the fall of Mosul, were conditions for its spreading power, consolidation in the Caliphate, in both Iraq AND Syria, and international appeal.

Empire of Fear is valuable not only as history. Hosken states that by 2014 it was estimated that there were between five to seven million people living under Islamic State rule. “The caliphate has not delivered security, human dignity, happiness and the promise of eventual pace, let alone basic serves, but it has produced piles of corpses and promise to produce piles more.” (Page 200) He states that the “violent Islam-based takfirism” – the practice of declaring opponents ‘apostates’ worthy of death – has taken its methods from former Ba’athist recruits, always ready to slaughter opponents.

The suffering of those under the rule of Daesh is immense. “Men and children have been crucified and beheaded, homosexuals thrown to their deaths from high building and women stoned to death in main squares.” (Page 228) The Lion Cubs of the Khalfia, an army of children, are trained for battle. Even some Salafists initially allied with Daesh – with counterparts in Europe still offering succour to the dreams of returning to the golden days of the prophet, have begun to recoil. Hosken observes “..they have ended up with Baghdadi and his vision of an Islamic state with its systemic rapes, its slaves and concubines, child soldiers, murder, torture and genocide.” (Page 236)

Totalitarian Islamism.

The Islamic States efforts to capture more territory and people will continue with or without Baghadadi. The film title Salafistes reminds us that the Islamic State’s totalitarian Islamism is not isolated. It is connected to a broader collection of groups preaching rigorist – Salafist – Islamism, not all users of extreme violence, still less the public glorification of murder. The creation of all-embracing State disciplinary machines to mould their subjects to Islamic observance is a common objective of political Islam, from the Wahhabis in Saudi Arabia to Daesh’s mortal enemies in Iran. The religious cleansing of religious minorities, Yazidis and Middle Eastern Christians continues under a variety of Islamic forces. Yet the degree of oppression and genocide marks the Islamic State out.

The recent Channel Four Documentary The Jihadis Next Door indicated that there is a European audience, however small, for Daesh’s genocidal propaganda. In Britain alone up to 700 people have been attracted enough by Islamic State death videos to go and join their ranks. One can imagine that amongst them some will be capable of watching Les Salfistes in a spirit far from the critical intentions of the film’s directors. It is to be doubted that they would have been reached by the scorn for Islamist rule and the resilience of humanity displayed in Timbuktu.

Hosken concludes, the “group may end up destroying itself or being destroyed by its many enemies. However, whatever happens, its virulent ideology looks likely to survive in a Middle East now riven by sectarian division, injustice, war and authoritarianism,” (Page 257)

The British left, with no government at its command, is not in a position to negotiate in efforts that try to bring “security, justice dignity and peace to a deeply troubled region”. We have little leverage over Bashar Assad’s own despotism in Syria. But we may be able to help Syrian democrats, and those fighting the Islamic State, to give our support to those fighting for dear life for freedom – from the Kurds to Arab and Turkish democrats – by ensuring that there is no quarter given to Daesh’s Salafist allies in Europe and totalitarian Islamists of any kind, independently and against those who see the Syrian Ba’athists as an ultimate rampart against IS.

To defend human rights we need to align with the staunchest adversaries of all forms of oppression, the secularists, the humanists, the democratic left, and, above all, our Kurdish and Arab sisters and brothers who, with great courage, face Daesh every day on the battle field.

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