“Criticism of Israel cannot be construed as anti-semitic”

May 30, 2007 at 10:16 pm (Anti-Racism, Jim D, left, politics, SWP, unions)

Today the university and college lecturers’ union UCU passed a motion supporting the campaign for an academic boycott of Israel (158 for, 99 against, 17 abstentions) and a further motion calling for a “moratorium on research and cultural collaborations with Israel”.

Quite apart from the affront to such notions as academic freedom, human solidarity and Israeli-Palestinian reconciliation that the boycott campaign represents, it is also worth noting that motion #30 (“Boycott of Israeli Academic Institutions”) contains the following extraordinary statement: “Congress believes that in these circumstances passivity or neutrality is unacceptable and criticism of Israel cannot be construed as anti-semitic“. Now what the hell is that supposed to mean? That no criticism of Israel can ever, possibly be anti-semitic? Or that not all criticism of Israel is necessarily anti-semitic? It could be read either way, couldn’t it? Which is a bit worrying, coming as it does from university and college lecturers, who might be expected to know a thing or two about writing clear English.

But of course, they also know a thing or two about dissembling, covering their tracks and hiding their true motives. Just like the superficially plausible UCU member Tom Hickey, interviewed on BBC radio today. It was very regrettable, he said, that the union had to even consider the question of a boycott, and all the union had done today, in fact, was to vote for an ongoing discussion about the possibility of a boycott, to be decided once such a discussion had taken place. Very reasonable: until Mr Hickey made it clear that the entire purpose of such a “discussion” was to endorse the boycott. This, it turns out, is the same Mr Hickey who “invited” NATFHE members (immediately before it merged with the AUT to form the UCU last year) “to consider the appropriateness of a boycott of those (Israeli academics) who do not publicly disassociate themselves (from Israel’s “apartheid” policies). It is also the same Mr Hickey who was filmed last year giving a talk in front of a screen upon which was displayed a recommended reading list, which included the holocaust-deniar Roger Garoudy’s “The Case of Israel”. Not surpisingly, it turns out that Mr Hickey is a member of that leading purvayor of “left-wing” anti-semitism the “S”WP.

No doubt it is also the “S”WP who are behind a similar bid to commit UNISON, at its conference in June, to support a boycott of Israel.

As David Hirsh of Engage, the left-wing campaign against anti-semitism, comments (refering to the UCU vote): “…this vote demonstrates that we live in dangerous times. The zeitgeist is now such that a representative body of te British intelligensia is prepared to say, in all seriousness and after due consideration, that criticism of Isreal can never be anti-semitic”.

On a positive note, however: whenever the arguments of the boycotters and the “left” anti-semites have been subjected to proper debate amongst  rank and file union membership (as they were in the AUT, and are at the moment within the NUJ), they have been resoundingly defeated. That’s what must happen now within the UCU.

Permalink 52 Comments

Into the depths of insanity

May 28, 2007 at 5:07 pm (hell, insanity, perversity, voltairespriest)

As some of you may know, I have recently been subjected to questioning whilst in the Dentist’s Chair of the ever-charming Hak Mao, as part of what may become a regular feature on her blog. One of the questions asked was if I could have three people shot, who would they be?

My initial response at the time was to take the opportunity to off the obnoxious “Barry Scott” from the Cillit Bang commercials. However, I then did a little research, and realised that some people are much, much worse. For instance, I think that slow torture followed by a hail of bullets would be too lenient for the sort of deviant who could make the video below. It features Barry Scott, but as you’ve never seen him before. Be warned, watch at your peril – your life will never be the same again.

I’m off to sit and hug myself, rocking, whilst sobbing silently, in a darkened room…

Permalink 38 Comments

This makes me cry (Billie and Pres)

May 26, 2007 at 6:05 pm (jazz, Jim D, music)

Some people think I’m some sort of tough guy; but I tell you, I’m a real ol’ softie. Lots of things make me weep – for instance, this 1957 film of Billie Holiday singing with Lester (‘Pres’) Young on tenor sax. Billie and Pres had been very, very close both musically and personally in the late 1930’s: it was virtually a love affair. But by the time this film was made, they’d drifted apart and hadn’t seen each other for some years. On this film, we can hear that Billie’s voice is still wonderful, but ravaged, and Pres staggers out (in an alcohol and/or marijuana haze)  from the “all star” band (including Ben Webster, who precedes him on tenor, and Gerry Mulligan on baritone sax), to play a beautifully constructed, but slightly out-of-tune solo. Within a couple of years both Pres and Billie would be dead.

When Pres takes his solo, you can see Billie smiling, shaking her head, and  nodding: it’s clearly – at least in part – encouragement, as Pres struggles through his solo; but I believe it’s also an expression of her regret over their lost love, and their failure to consumate it . But whatever: it’s clearly love, in the purest form:

Permalink 5 Comments

A disgrace to the democratic norms of the left blogging movement

May 25, 2007 at 6:42 pm (blogging, blogosphere, cyberspace, geeks, socialism, Socialist Party, trotskyism, voltairespriest)

Photo Sharing and Video Hosting at PhotobucketOn what is a sad day for their dozens of readers worldwide, it would seem that this blog’s erstwhile comrades at Militant Blog (a Militant Blog, comrades) have declared theirs to be a members-only enterprise. Click on this link to their site and, unless presumably you are Taaffeite cadre, you will be greeted by a message saying that Militant Blog is for the eyes of invited members only.  They won’t even let you look at the site (still less comment) unless you’ve been pre-approved and thoroughly screened. I don’t know much about the process but I’ve heard rumours that it includes being read tracts from “The Rise of Militant” whilst your eyes are propped open with cocktail sticks.

Well, I’ve heard of censorious blog-owners but that really takes the cake. Even Lenny Lenin and the saddo Beavis-and-Buttheadalikes at Through the Scary Door at least allow universal readership of their sites, even if they are occasionally rather censorious of commentary. Lenny, Beavis, Butthead, my apologies. One may not particularly wish to read your writings, but at least you’re good enough to offer the public a choice.

I hope very much to dispatch a taxi with immediate effect to the homes of each contributor to Militant Blog in order to hand them a personal redundancy notice. Shocking behaviour, comrades. Simply shocking.

Imagine what Ted would have said. Well actually don’t, but consider yourselves admonished nevertheless. You’re all very naughty boys.

Permalink 78 Comments

Margaret Hodge: Enoch in drag

May 24, 2007 at 2:56 pm (Anti-Racism, Jim D, labour party, politics)

Margaret Hodge may or may not be a racist. But she sure does a good impression of one. Having boosted the prospects of the BNP in her Barking consituency at the last general election, she now states that “even if we were vastly to increase the amount of social housing available, we would still need to ration what will always be a limited resource” (a strange argument that she noticeably fails to explain – surely it depends upon exactly how “vastly” the stock of social housing was increased?), and then goes on to state that “the legitimate sense of entitlement felt by the indigenous family overrides the legitimate need demonstrated by the new migrants”.

Hodge raises some important issues, but the charge against her -as with Enoch Powell and the “rivers foaming with much blood” speech- is that she is surely intelligent enough to realise that the way she raised the issues, and the language she has used, will inevitably legitimise racism and give aid and comfort to fascists.

This woman is unfit to be in government (she’s presently Industry Minister) or even to be a Labour MP.

John Cruddas, MP for nearby Dagenham, gave Hodge a well-deserved rebuke and put out a welcome call for more council housing. For one brief moment I even considered the possibility that he might just be worth voting for as Deputy Leader…

The best response so far, however, has been from the brilliant Catherine in today’s Graun:

“Not for the first time, Hodge raises a subject that must seem of crucial importance to a large number of unhappily housed, forgotten-feeling families, only to do it so ineptly that their concerns, as represented by her, can readily be dismissed as racist and illegitimate by people whose principal contact with immigrants is leering at Polish girls in Starbucks. And, not for the first time, Hodge gets herself compared with Enoch. It is beginning to look careless”.

Permalink 3 Comments

Labour Deputy Leadership: Vote NOTA!

May 24, 2007 at 1:11 pm (elections, labour party, socialism, unions, voltairespriest)

Photo Sharing and Video Hosting at PhotobucketThat’s it. Following on from Jim’s previous piece about the issue, I’ve also decided how I think people should vote on the most pressing issue in internal Labour Party politics today – the meaningless ballot on the pointless post of Deputy Leader, which will be coming up in a few weeks.

First, let’s look at the question of the post itself. It’s a job which has all the innate political clout of the guy selling roasted nuts on Westminster Bridge. The winner will have only such sway as is allowed to him/her by the guy who already won the race that really matters, before it had even begun – Gordon Brown. Again, why should people on the left waste any time and energy at all on a “race” whose ultimate goal has no meaning?

Nevertheless there are some people who (like myself) were supporters of John McDonnell’s abortive campaign for the actual leadership, who are considering backing candidates. Notably (and inexplicably) there are a few backing Hilary Benn, who was also nominated by a number of members of the Campaign Group in parliament. Yet for myself as a person of left-wing views, I cannot countenance supporting any candidate from a field in which all bar one candidate has a ministerial history in the current government, and in which all have right-wing political records. Even “dissenter’s choice” Jon Cruddas is an ex-Blairite fixer who has advocated cutting the unions’ share of the vote at Labour Party conference from 50% to 33%. He also voted for the Iraq War. And foundation hospitals. And this is the centre-left reform candidate, apparently.

It’s an extraordinary collection of blithering fools and right-wing bastards, from which I refuse to make a choice. Call me ultra-left if you will, but (to paraphrase a great man) I fail to see why I should choose when offered the choice between death by slow poisoning and being shot in the head.

Vote None Of The Above – Because Your Gag Reflex Deserves a Rest.

Permalink 4 Comments

“This was a channel openly calling for the overthrow of a democratically elected government”

May 23, 2007 at 7:28 am (Free Speech, Human rights, left, TWP)

How many of us have called “openly called” for the overthrow of capitalism? Well apparently Tariq Ali doesn’t see the irony in his statement about Chavez’s failure to renew a TV licence for the anti-government channel RCTV. By his logic most of the newspapers of the far left could be legitimately closed down in Britain.

The argument for cenorship of alternate points of view being aired within a society via radio and television is Stalinist to the core. In Cuba, Castro has done this for years and gotten away with it in the name of “the revolution”. Yet what was that revolution fought for if not freedom from tyranny? Chavez is following Castro in one of his worst legacies, despite many positive advances which remain due to the Cuban Revolution.

I have always argued for “no platform for fascists” and stand by that argument. However, this isn’t a “fascist” TV station – it simply opposes the government in the strongest terms. That is not a reason for shutting it down. The way to silence such critics is to give them less and less to criticise. In fact this kind of behaviour merely emboldens critics and gains them further adherents.

The response of the left to this development should be watched closely and one can pass their own view on those organisations which support Chavez’s latest move without critical comment.

Permalink 46 Comments

Ideas for Freedom 2007

May 22, 2007 at 6:30 pm (AWL, left, socialism, unions, voltairespriest)

Photo Sharing and Video Hosting at PhotobucketJust a quick post to let you know about an upcoming event, details for which were kindly emailed to me by the AWL. If you haven’t been before, do consider going. The AWL are one of the most democratic groups on the Marxist left in the UK, who whether you agree with them politically or not, are far more open to shows of dissent than a lot of other organisations. The debates are usually very interesting, particularly when controversial or heated – credit to the AWL, unlike certain other groups they’re willing to discuss in a very open way, and also to air their own internal disagreements at times, in a public and democratic fashion. So it’s all a very worthwhile exercise. Also, the Saturday night piss up is usually pretty good. Not that such low motives would possibly move the readers of this blog to attend, I’m sure.

Ideas for Freedom 2007

Ideas for Freedom is a weekend of socialist debate and discussion hosted
by the  Alliance for Workers’ Liberty: from the evening of Friday 29 June
through to Sunday 1 July. Resource Centre, 356 Holloway Road, London N7.

Our major theme this year is what it actually means to be on the left, and
to be a socialist. As much of the left, from the SWP and Respect to the
Labour Party, continues to move ever further away from socialist politics
and decay politically, we want to reassert the themes of human freedom,
consistent democracy and working-class struggle as the basics of any
socialism worthy of the name.

We will also be running a number of sessions “Introducing Marxism”. Ideas
for Freedom is a space in which young activists can come and learn about
Marxist ideas in a friendly atmosphere where questioning and debate are

Sessions will include:

– “Introducing Marxism”, including: Are revolutionaries violent?; Why do
we need political parties?; ‘Working class’, ‘multitude’ or ‘people of
good will’?; What does it mean to be left-wing?

– After Gordon Brown’s coronation: how can workers win a voice in
politics? A panel on working-class political representation including John
McDonnell MP, left challenger for leader of the Labour Party

– Workers’ Liberty debates Nick Cohen, Observer journalist and author of –
What’s left? on “Does socialism have a future?”

– Anarchism and Marxism in the Spanish revolution 1936-7

– Newsnight journalist Paul Mason reads from and leads a discussion on his
new book Live Working or Die Fighting: How the Working Class Went Global

– How can we get the trade unions to fight? A debate with trade union
speakers and Sheila Cohen, author of Ramparts of Resistance

– Debate with the Aegis Trust on Darfur and the left’s attitude to
humanitarian intervention

– Robin Blackburn, author of The Overthrow of Colonial Slavery, on the
real history of the abolition of slavery

– Priya Gopal, author of Literary Radicalism in India: Gender, Nation and
the Transition to Independence, and Camila Bassi of Workers’ Liberty take
part in a panel on anti-racism and multiculturalism

– Sessions on queer politics and LGBT liberation

– Understanding Marx’s Grundrisse

– Do Labour councils have to make cuts? Hackney RMT and tenants activist
Janine Booth speaks about the lessons of the 1921 Poplar Council struggle,
and an activist talks about the current anti-cuts campaigns in Lambeth

– A film showing and speakers on women and workers’ struggles in Iran

Friday 29 June: film night and social, Bread and Roses, 68 Clapham Manor
Street, London SW4, from 7.30pm-late. (Clapham Common tube or Clapham High
Street rail)

Saturday 30 June and Sunday 1 July: at the Resource Centre, 356 Holloway
Road, London N7. (Holloway Road tube)

Saturday evening social with live music

Creche provided, free accommodation in London arranged. We may also be
able to help you with transport, depending on where you are coming from.

Tickets are £25 (waged), £18 (students and low waged) and £13 (unwaged).
However, they are £3 cheaper if bought in advance. One day tickets are
also available.

More details about the event: email awl@workersliberty.org or phone 020
7207 3997.

Or you can register online at www.workersliberty.org/ideas

Permalink 15 Comments

Is there any way I can vote to say you’re a miserable, grovelling, anti-working class piece of shit?

May 22, 2007 at 12:31 am (Jim D, labour party)

Steve McCabe MP

House of Commons

London SW1A OA

18 May 2007

Dear Jim,

I told you a couple of weeks ago that I would be backing Gordon Brown to be the next leader of the Labour Party. I am proud to tell you that I was one of 313 MP’s who nominated Gordon this week.

As Gordon said in his acceptance speech yesterday “the scale of the nominations shows to the country a Party united in its determination not to retreat into the past, but going forward as new labour to address the opportunities and challenges of the future……..for me a new conversation with the country is just beginning.”

I couldn’t agree more.

It would have been good to have an all members meeting to allow you to have your say but I don’t think that is going to be possible. However there is an Executive Committee meeting on May 24 and I would like to demonstrate to them that Gordon Brown has the backing of this constituency.

Please let me have your vote of support for Gordon Brown, return the reply coupon; email me on mccabes@parliament.uk or leave a message on 0121 622 4408, with your name and address. You need to do it quickly so that I have them by 4pm on Thursday 24 May.

I have nominated Hazel Blears for Deputy Leader. I’m a geat admirer of her no nonsense approach to getting things done. She’s coming to Birmingham on Friday 29 May to open the new Allenscroft School and afterwards there will be an opportunity for you to meet her.

So, please join me and Hazel at 5.30pm-7pm, Friday 25 May, the Pavillion, Kings Heath Cricket Club, Alcester Road South.

You will have your chance to hear directly from Hazel and ask her questions.

One of the tragedies of Labour is that we can become so procedure driven that we forget that it’s the members that really count. Gordon’s promised a more open and inclusive politics. Let’s get that off to a great start by ensuring a large ballot return from new Selly oak, add a personal message too and I will make sure that Gordon gets it.

Some may say it’s a done deal or it doesn’t matter but it does. Gordon needs your support. He will be our Prime Minister. Let’s pull together and make sure he gets off to the best possible start.

Best wishes

Steve McCabe MP 


(  ) Yes, Gordon Brown has my vote for Leader  of the Labour Party, pass this on to the Executive Committee

(  ) Send me a copy of Gordon’s acceptance speech

——————————————————————————————Please pass this message of support on to Gordon Brown


(  ) I would like to meet Hazel Blears on 24 May add my name to the guest list


My vote for Deputy leader will go to






Please return to Steve McCabe MP by 4pm Thursday 24 May

Permalink 6 Comments

Search of the Day

May 18, 2007 at 7:33 pm (blogging, blogosphere, geeks, voltairespriest, whiskey, whisky, wild man)

Today’s best search comes from someone who apparently found us by googling the following terms:

Denham Zionist

Friends in every port, I tell you.

Permalink 18 Comments

Next page »