Support these Iranian trade unionists!

February 28, 2009 at 12:02 pm (Iran, Jim D, unions, workers)

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Iran: Verdict against five union leaders of Haft Tapeh expected in next few days

Posted to the IUF website 24-Feb-2009

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To read more and help these brave workers click here.

The court hearing against the five union leaders of Haft Tapeh in the southern city of Shush concluded yesterday at 2.30pm local time. The Revolutionary Court said that the verdict will be issued in a few days. All five men are on trial for “propaganda against the government”. During the hearing, the union’s lawyer argued against this allegation citing that it is too vague and the court has not followed the proper legal procedure.

The verdict against Ali Nejati, Feridoun Nikoufard, Mohammed Heydari Mehr, Ghorban Alipour and Jalil Ahmadi were scheduled to be delivered on 17 February but was forced to be delayed after the defendants and the lawyer demanded the presence of the plaintiff who did not even bother to make his appearance before the judge that day. Nor was there any serious “evidence”, they argued successfully.

After this session, another Executive Board member of the union, Rahim Beshag, was arrested on 22 February by the secret police and taken into the custody. His charges are not known. This is a part of the on-going attack by the authorities to crack-down the union activities at Haft Tapeh. Today, the Ministry of Labour pushed for an election of Islamic Labour Council at the factory. Much to their dissatisfaction, a small minority of the workers took part in the voting.

The IUF and the unions around the world have been supporting the Haft Tapeh workers union and this court case over the past few weeks. Upon hearing this brave news of the defendants challenging the Revolutionary Court procedure, they stepped-up their campaign by organising mass protest mails to the Iranian leadership. More than 8,000 people have accessed to the online protest sites set by the IUF and LabourStart in less than a week. Mailing lists by the ITF and Amnesty International were used to support the campaign.

In the past, the court has “issued” verdicts in other cases involving the leaders of independent workers’ movement such as Mansour Osanloo but have often failed to produce anything in writing. In some cases, it has taken a few months for the verdict to be delivered.

IUF members stand ready to support our members in Iran and we will provide updated information as this case progresses.

H/t: Eric Lee at Unionbook and LabourStart

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Jabbo’s hidden treasure

February 28, 2009 at 1:12 am (jazz, Jim D)

There’s nothing like a mysterious or semi-forgotten musician to bring out the romantic jazz fan in me. Buddy BoldenEmmett HardyBoyce Brown, and -the ultimate jazz Jack o’ Lantern – the enigmatic and outrageous  trumpeter Jack Purvis , all provide the required fascination quota for an old-time jazz fan.

Cladys “Jabbo” Smith very nearly falls into that catagory. Back in the late 1920’s Jabbo – a red-hot trumpet player – was signed by Brunswick as their answer to Okeh’s Louis Armstrong. Of course, he couldn’t match Louis: no-one could. But the nineteen sides he recorded for Brunswick  in 1928 – 29, were simply brilliant, even though they didn’t achieve the commercial success required to rival Armstrong. Then Jabbo went quiet, and apart from a few recordings in the late 1930’s, no more was heard from him…until 1961, when a group of young Chicagoan traditional – to -swing  jazz players tracked him down and brought him out of retirement to record with them. And even then, the results weren’t issued until the early 1980’s.

In the meanwhile, Jabbo finally received his just recognition, being made guest of honour at the 1975 Newport Jazz festival and then starring in the show ‘One Mo’ Time’, as well as touring Europe to enthusiastic audiences throughout the 1980’s, sometimes in the company of Don Cherry!

Well, I was browsing through the Jazz section of HMV last week, and what should I come upon, but Jabbo’s 1961 “comeback” sessions reissued on the ‘Lone Hill’ label? They were originally issued as two LP’s on a label called (appropriately) “Hidden Treasure”. The ‘Lone Hill’ re-issue is made up of all the material Jabbo recorded with the then-young Chicagoans (including guitarist Marty Grosz and clarinetist Frank Chace), complete with breakdowns, false starts and studio chatter. It’s fascinating stuff and well worth tracking down: “Jabbo Smith – The Complete Hidden Treasure Sessions“, LHJ10352.

Here’s Jabbo in the late 1920’s, as a challenger for Louis’ crown:


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Celebrating MacGonagall at the ‘Graun’

February 27, 2009 at 8:01 pm (Galloway, Guardian, Jim D, literature)

From today’s Graun ‘Letters and emails’  page:

Here on the beautiful banks of the silvery Tay / We the Guardian readers of the bonnie city of Dundee would just like to say / That your paper has paid us a great compliment and done much honour to us all / By writing an editorial in the style of our great poet William MacGonagall (26 February). / The only criticism we might make (and we think we probably should) / Is that the metre was too regular and the rhymes far too good.”  Andrew Johnstone  Dundee

Here’s what Mr Johnstone was on about…

…and here’s a taste of the wonderful original …

NB: If I was from Dundee, I’d be a lot happier to be associated with William MacGonagall than with George Galloway.

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The ‘Morning Star’ and the Iraqi ‘resistance’

February 26, 2009 at 9:04 pm (iraq, iraq war, islamism, Jim D, left, stalinism, thuggery)

I sent this letter to the ‘Morning Star’ (the newspaper closely associated with the old, Stalinist, Communist Party of Britain, and also with a layer of the trade union bureaucracy), today:

Dear Comrades,

I was disappointed to find the ‘Star’ giving uncritical coverage for two days running (Feb 25 and 26) to a film (“Meeting Resistance“) that appears to portray the Iraqi resistance as a progressive force.

From the two articles, I gather that the central thesis of the film is that “the vast majority of the resistance is a nationalist, popular resistance by Iraqis who have no relationship with the former regime.”

Whilst it is true that the “resistance” has many components, that assessment flies in the face of what socialists, secularists, women’s and gay organisations – all of which have been brutally attacked by the resistance – have to say. Even female dancers have been murdered by the resistance, for being “pornographic”.  The best evidence available (more reliable than the testimony of eleven people featured in the film, anyway), is that the “resistance” comprises loyalists of the old regime, an unknown number of foreign jihadists, straightforward criminals and some (like the Mahdi Army) who combine conservative Shia Islamic fundamentalism with an element of nationalism.

None of these forces can be described as any sort of national liberation movement.

Most extraordinary of all was the ‘Star”s failure to mention the resistance’s savage attacks on trade unionists, including Hadi Salih, the international secretary of the Iraqi Federation of Trade Unions, who was horribly tortured before being shot dead by ex-Ba’thist assassins on 4 January 2005. “My enemy’s enemy is my friend” is never a good slogan – and especially not in Iraq.


Jim Denham

To read the ‘Star’ articles I am referring to, click here, and here.

For a good, working class  pre-emptive rebuttal, read this.

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Post about house prices

February 24, 2009 at 5:34 pm (capitalist crisis, Guardian, Max Dunbar, media)

mailandexpresshouseprices1Polly Toynbee has a good piece up at CiF today, arguing that our economy’s been too long dependent on property values:

The nation is still deeply dependent on house prices rising for ever. We still live in a bubble economy, with no way to live except by reinflating it. The state itself has been mainlining on the house-price drug, as addicted as the happy home-owners.

As Kammo pointed out – although I can’t find the exact article – it is ridiculous to assume that falling house prices are in and of themselves a bad thing. In fact it can be good because falling prices allow young people to get on the ladder. During the boom years I was hard pressed to find acquaintances who could afford to rent, let alone buy. And the buy-to-let scum will be hammered and that is good.

Another pertinent question is: why is everyone in this country so obsessed with buying a home? Much of our news and cultural output is devoted to it in some way. I was talking to a student from Germany the other night, and she said that her country doesn’t share the British home-ownership neuroses. Apparently, people just rent most of their lives, and buy when they retire.

I think that’s a better way than our total identification with a single property – the idea of paying half my salary to a mortgage company for twenty years, and being tied to a specific place for decades, gives me the horrors. As Kerouac said, the one and only function is to move.

(Thanks to Hackademic for the image)

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Unite Left launch meeting

February 22, 2009 at 7:45 pm (left, unions, voltairespriest)

Yesterday the Birmingham City Council chamber was packed with Trades Unionists from the former TGWU and Amicus wings of Unite, as it saw the launch of the united left platform within the new union. Representing the fusion of the TGWU Broad Left and the Amicus Unity Gazette, the new left will be a powerful body within the largest trade union in the UK.

The meeting itself was something of an odd affair, however it began with an excellent address from TGWU-Unite General Secretary Tony Woodley, who set out a stall calling for nationalisation to protect jobs, and reminding the assembled members of the importance of a strong, member-led union. We were then treated to a rather odd speech from Labour Left MP John McDonnell, who gave what appeared to be an update on the state of left politics in the UK in general, followed by a call to support the “People’s Charter” which he and others are involved in promoting. The meeting was chaired by the thoroughly affable and genuine Martin Mayer of the TGWU Broad Left, who then gave a possibly over-enthusiastic call for people to endorse the Charter “in principle and in spirit”. This would be all very well were it not for the fact that no-one in the room had seen the document, which as far as I understand it hasn’t even been finalised as yet. McDonnell helpfully gave us a run-down of roughly what would be in it, which appeared to satisfy the crowd. Two of the audience in particular (one of whom is known around this parish) spoke against endorsing a document which they hadn’t seen, yet such was the good will in room that it was endorsed anyway. Mr Denham rather appositely compared this to putting an amendment with a speech which doesn’t say what it is that you’re trying to amend, but there we are. Let’s hope the Charter reads as well as you think, John.

About halfway through Woodley’s speech we were joined by around 15-20 supporters of Derek Simpson, the Star Bird hogging, “British Jobs For British Workers” placard poser currently running for re-election to a 1-year lame duck term in a totally unnecessary ballot precipitated by ex-SWP member Jerry Hicks, who is a rank outsider candidate in the same election. The election has no “good” outcome that most observers can see – Simpson is a lame duck whether he wins or not, Hicks isn’t going to win, and the worst possible outcome is that right-winger Kevin Coyne is elected, giving him a head start over a politically better candidate (probably from the ex-TGWU Broad Left) for the unified general secretary’s post at the next full-term election. Quite what if anything the Simpson people hoped to accomplish is not clear, and indeed their interventions in the meeting did not appear particularly organised.

The meeting had a discussion about the aims and organising principles of the new left, which initially looked like it was about to descend into “can we amend it to replace ‘if’ with ‘but’ in line 444” type nitpicking. However this was cut short by a female delegate pointing out that this really wasn’t the time for such wrangling, and that there would be ample opportunity to debate this out at a later stage. With the exception of one north-western supporter of Simpson saying that he wouldn’t be able to support the documents because he hadn’t had enough opportunity for member consultation (which rather raises the question of why not, given that the documents have been circulating for months), both statements were passed by acclamation. We then all wandered out, TGWU members being slightly perplexed by Simpson and Hicks leafletters glowering at each other across the entrance. The prize for crap slogan of the day goes to the Simpson guy who I am reliably assured regaled one group of departing TGWU members to vote for Simpson (which they couldn’t even in the unlikely event that they wanted to) in order to stop the “loony left”. Perfect pitch for the launch meeting of a union left bloc, not. You provided us with a chuckle in the pub anyway, comrade.

Overall, the meeting went very well and could have been a lot less cordial than it was. However it was unfortunate in my view that a union whose members have been involved in most of the sharp-end industrial relations issues in this country over the past few months, chose to platform only Woodley and McDonnell. Where were the victorious strikers from Lindsay, the sacked workers from Cowley, or the occupiers from Waterford Crystal? It seems to me that a trick was missed there.

Either way, we will see how things progress. The foundation of this new left is an accomplishment in itself, particularly given the balkanised and fractious histories of the lefts in both unions. Let us hope it gives us a platform from which we can continue to rebuild a grass-roots, socialist labour movement in the UK: if ever the protection of that movement were needed, it is now.

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Another controversial figure banned from UK

February 21, 2009 at 10:18 am (reaction, religion, voltairespriest, wankers)

The Times has a report on yet another ban from the UK, which rather creates problems of consistency both for those who argue free entry for speakers of hate on the grounds of free speech for all, and also for those who get their knickers in a knot when religion is criticised by people on the left.

Yes, it’s none other than swivel-eyed loony preacher Fred Phelps and his daughter Shirley, of the Westboro Baptist Church. Google their site if you must: I won’t link directly. Amongst other things they’re known for travelling far and wide, waving placards full of offensive bollocks at people (including other Christians) in almost any situation you care to name. Every interview I’ve ever seen with them reveals people consumed by self-righteous anger, or malevolent spite, depending on your perspective. Highlights have included writing vile statements praising homophobic killings, picketing the funerals of soldiers killed in the Iraq War, and being mean to Louis Theroux. The latter I feel is unforgivable, but that’s just a matter of personal taste. They’re known to the Southern Poverty Law Center as a hate group. All in all, they’re proper religious-far-right ultra-reactionaries, as you can see.

Phelps and his offspring have been barred from coming to flaunt their bilious material at Queen Mary’s College, Basingstoke, where a play about the 1998 homophobic murder of student Matthew Shepard is being shown. One part of the Phelps’ response to this murder at the time was to put up a clock on their website counting up the amount of days that Shepard had spent in hell. They’re special people, as I say.

So… any takers for protesting the draconian decision to bar Fred and Shirley from coming to the UK? Those who stood up for Dutch far-rightist Geert Wilders are surely obliged in the name of consistency to stand up for the Phelps’ (and for that matter Louis Farrakhan’s, and that of any any other loon, goon or buffoon that you may care to name) right to freedom of speech. After all, surely in this Enlightenment-governed haven of civilisation we allow people the absolute freedom to tell people things they might not want to hear? What’s that you say? What do you mean, “no”?

Similarly those who seem to think that it’s a mark of progressive politics to be uncritical of reactionary religious beliefs (and that it’s “imperialist” to verbally bash such beliefs) may also have a problem. Although they’re usually far happier to allow bashing of Christianity at the same time as furiously hurling accusations of bigotry at those who criticise other faiths, in this case there’s a fly in the logically-inconsistent argument. You see, Phelps believes the Iraq War (and especially the death of troops in Iraq) to be a part of God’s judgement on the USA for, amongst other things (you guessed it) tolerance of gay people. Now surely such consistent anti-imperialism cannot be overlooked from a devout man who lives in the belly of the Yankee Beast? No? What’s that, the sound of vomiting I hear?

Speaking for myself, mind, I hope he gets run over by a truck. And then that it reverses back and forth over his church. But that’s just me: I’m a classy kind of guy.

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“He’s done his fight…”

February 20, 2009 at 9:51 pm (anti-fascism, blogging, fascism, good people, history, Jim D, left, spain)

This blog has had its differences over the years, with Will Rubbish, but all of us feel proud and humble in joining  him in his salute to this hero:

A witness to and fighter of barbarism



Another witness and fighter of fascist barbarism has passed away — aged 92.

THE LAST surviving Irish volunteer who fought on the Republican side against Franco in the Spanish Civil War has died in London. He was 92.Bob Doyle was born into poverty in Dublin in February 1916.

After being beaten up in street fights with the Blueshirts which left him with permanent damage to one eye, he was recruited into the IRA by Kit Conway, whom he later followed into the Communist Party and the Republican Congress. Conway was killed in action in the Battle of Jarama on Doyle’s 21st birthday, but Doyle was not to be dissuaded from joining the fight against fascism. Among the group he led into Spain was the writer Laurie Lee.

After fighting at Belchite, he was captured at Gandesa by Italian fascist troops in 1938, along with Irish International Brigade leader Frank Ryan. He was imprisoned for 11 months in a concentration camp near Burgos.

There he was regularly tortured by Spanish fascist guards and interrogated by the Gestapo before being released in a prisoner exchange. He enlisted in the British merchant navy during the second World War before settling in London with his Spanish wife, Lola.


Dublin honours veteran of Spanish Civil War

Julian Doyle said his father was a “smiling revolutionary” and that it was great to see everybody at the event. “He’s done his fight – maybe people will pick it up and make a better world,” he said.



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I Ain’t Gonna Give Nobody None…

February 20, 2009 at 8:38 pm (beer, Jim D, trivia, whisky)

I’ve just made two wonderful discoveries, one of which is difficult to get hold of (but well worth the effort if you can – and I particularly recommend the brew named after “The Originator of Jazz – Stomp – Swing“) ; the other (12 Year Old Highland Malt)  is readily available from your local Sainsbury’s, and it’s a top notch single malt at any price…let alone the £15 or so that Sainsbury’s are asking…

Btw: I’m not being paid for any of this, you understand. The money from international Zionism is quite sufficient, thank you.

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Young Israeli “refuser” coming to UK

February 19, 2009 at 9:37 pm (anonymous, Human rights, israel, Jim D, Middle East, palestine, youth)

Tamar Katz, a 19 year old Israeli conscientious objector who has already served three prison terms, will be touring Britain early next month. She’s one of the ‘Shministim’ , a group of Israeli  high school students who refuse to serve in the IDS while Gaza and the West Bank are occupied.

Heather, who has helped set up the tour, writes:



I’ve just finalised the flight bookings for Tamar Katz to come and do a speaker tour of our fair isle. She will be arriving in London on March 5th, around lunchtime and leaving on 15th in the morning. You can have a look at Tamar’s profile on the Shministim website here.


More info will follow including a schedule for the tour but so far we have arranged meetings in Sheffield, Edinburgh, Newcastle, Nottingham, Cambridge, Sussex (Brighton), Manchester and London. She will also be speaking at RMT Women’s conference and the Feminist Fightback International Women’s Day meeting in London the weekend of 6th/7th and being welcomed at a reception held by Janine’s RMT branch (thanks Janine…you’re amazing!).


Thanks for your patience during this entire process – with the rising arrest rate of refusers, peace activists and young people in Israel since the attacks on Gaza it has been pretty hard work pulling this together at their end and I know that they are excited at the opportunity we have offered them. This is a really big deal, we are the only ones doing this and for good reason and because of this I urge you, no, BEG you to do everything you can to make this tour a success. Build like crazy, go to the meetings and offer to help with planning, transport, accomodation and activities if you can. Let’s give this the attention it deserves despite the short time we have to prepare.


Thanks Comrades,


In solidarity,



Shiraz Socialist will keep readers posted with details of the meetings as soon as they become available – see ‘comments’ box, below:

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