NO2EU: desperate, useless and reactionary

April 12, 2009 at 3:00 pm (anonymous, capitalist crisis, Champagne Charlie, class, CPGB, elections, Europe, labour party, Socialist Party, stalinism)

With New Labour openly committed to the worst excesses of free market capitalism and closed to working class input,  it’s little wonder that the genuine left is looking round for an electoral alternative. The trouble is that recent attempts – the  Socialist Alliance, the Alliance for Green Socialism, the Campaign For A New Workers Party etc, etc – have all been unmitigated disasters. The horrible miscarriage called Respect, I do not recognise as being on the “left” at all. In this situation, you can’t really blame some comrades for becoming desperate and willing to clutch at any straw.

Even so, the two latest get-rich-quick schemes conjured up by sections of the British left, are franky abysmal. The Peoples’ Charter is a petition for general good intentions, unrelated to any concept of how to actually achieve its stated objectives. It’s an unobjectionable but ineffectual waste of time and effort.

But however desperate and demoralised we may be, there has to be a bottom line – a limit beyond which no self-respecting leftist should go, even in these dog days.

NO2EU is much nastier and more dangerous than the inoffensive Peoples’ Charter and should be actively opposed. Apart from being, in reality, the latest effort by the little-Englanders of the Stalinist Communist Party of Britain (CPB), to whip up and cash in upon inescapably reactionary anti-EU nationalism, it’s also a scandalous misuse of  the subs of RMT members, misappropriated without proper debate by Bob Crow and his posturing, Stalinist mates.

Robert Griffiths, the general secretary of the CPB, has denounced left critics of NO2EU as “ultra left”: so it’s “ultra left” is, it, Mr Griffiths, to object to the denunciation of “the so-called ‘free movement of labour'” in the EU and “the social dumping of foreign workers in Britain“?

This is not the same thing as the Lindsey oil refinery strike which, for all the stuff about “British Jobs For British Workers”, was a legitimate trade union action in defence of a national agreement. NO2EU is irredeemably tainted by its nationalism and  little-England isolationism: it’s a reactionary dead-end that should be opposed at every turn. RMT members should ask Crow what the hell he thinks he’s playing at, wasting their money like this. The fact that some good comrades (like the Socialist Party) are – with reservations – supporting this nonsense, is a sign of the desperation that prevails amongst even some of the better sections of the left these days.

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Nawaz of ‘Quilliam’ spears Livingstone

April 11, 2009 at 11:03 pm (anti-fascism, anti-semitism, BBC, Champagne Charlie, islamism, israel, Middle East, secularism)

The more I see, hear and read about and from the Muslims of the Quilliam Foundation, the more I like  what I see, hear and read.

On this week’s BBC Radio 4  Any Questions, The Quilliam Foundation‘s Majid Nawaz, a former Hizb ut-Tahir Islamist who now campaigns for democracy and tolerance, upbraided the Tammany Hall shyster Ken Livingstone for having (literally) embraced the clerical fascist Yusuf al-Qaradari. Livingstone replies with his predictable cry of “Over there!”: an incoherent, demagogic rant about Israel and (as far as it’s possible to follow him), the Middle East in general. Worryingly, the shyster receives applause for this drivel.

Nawaz’s impressive performance throughout the programme gives the lie to pro-Islamists like the Guardian‘s tame public school Stalinist Seamas Milne, who have libellously described Nawaz and his courageous Quilliam colleague Ed Husain as “neo Cons.’

Listen to the whole encounter here:

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In defence of…Jazz Record Requests

April 11, 2009 at 7:49 pm (BBC, Guardian, jazz, Jim D)

Bloody hell! Twice in one week I’m quoting the Graun with approval! They’ll be thinking I’m grovelling in an attempt to get myself released from “premoderation” at CIF… well I’m not. So bollocks to ’em.

However, I have to applaud the Graun leader page for taking up cudgels in defence of BBC Radio 3’s long-running Jazz Record Requests. For years this excellent programme has had its nominally “regular” 5.00 pm Saturday slot shifted about to make way for cricket, opera and crown green bowling from Australia (OK: I made up that last one). But in recent months it’s become ridiculous. I’ve more or less stopped bothering to tune in on Saturday, because it’s never on – least ways, never on at 5.00 pm. And that is the death-knell of a long-running BBC programme. Tonight it’s been cancelled altogether to make way for Wagner from the New York Met.

It wouldn’t be so bad if the beeb was giving  jazz a decent airing elswhere in its schedules. But it isn’t. The late Humph’s Radio 2 programme has not been properly replaced, and when the Beeb does put out something called “jazz”, all too often it’s Scandinavian bagpipe explorations introduced by some pseud, or the likes of Jamie Cullen or Jools Holland trying to persuade us that pop music and jazz are one and the same thing. Actually, the Beeb seems to be obsessed by a “cult of the personality” when it comes to jazz, which now must be introduced by Cullen, Holland, Caire Martin, Julian Joseph, Courtney Pine, or…(gawd help us)…Ken Clarke.

Which is why JRR, introduced (“Hell-ooo!) by the decidedly non-celeb Geoffery Smith, carrying his in-depth knowledge of all aspects of the music, lightly and without condescention, is now unique on the airwaves. And also why the programme is probably doomed. Now that Humph’s gone, where else can someone interested in jazz get to hear Jelly Roll Morton, Lester Young, Betty Carter and Archie Shepp all in one sitting?

Over the years a number of predictable (eg: Armstrong’s ‘West End Blues’, Ellington’s ‘A Train’ and Parker’s ‘Ko Ko’), and not so predictable records have topped the listeners’ choices. Amongst the latter have been John Handy’s ‘Dancy Dancy’, Maxine Sullivan’s ‘If I Had A Ribbon Bow’ and The Mound City Blue Blowers’ ‘Hello Lola’. The one below lies somewhere in between, but always conjurs up, for me, the youthful joy of listening to jazz on record for the first time:

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Visteon: occupation ends but workers fight on

April 10, 2009 at 7:08 pm (Jim D, unions, workers)

From Vicki of the AWL:
Visteon Enfield: occupation ends but workers are fighting on
Visteon Enfield workers voted to leave their week-long occupation today, Thursday 9 April, on advice from their union (Unite had done a deal earlier in the week that kept the convenor Kevin Nolan and deputy convenor Piers Hood out of prison, in return for agreeing that the occupation would end at noon on Thursday). Some in the occupation wanted to stay, but abided by the majority decision. All the workers were applauded as they left the factory by about 300 supporters who had gathered for a rally. The union is due to have talks with Visteon management who are coming over from the US for a meeting on Tuesday. The Enfield Visteon Unite convenor Kevin Nolan will be in those talks.
The workers don’t feel that they have lost, but are regrouping – time will tell. They didn’t want the violence that might have ensued from defying the order to leave the factory. They have decided to mount a permanent picket of the factory to stop the management moving out machinery – or opening up again with a new workforce. Both of these are rumoured as possibilities.
A support group has been established to continue and to better organise the considerable solidarity that has already been shown. Website address is – the site is hosted by
Activities that the group is likely to carry out are: continuing to organise trips by Visteon workers to other Ford plants to press for boycotting of Visteon products, leafleting Ford dealerships, and deepening contcts with Unite activists, all in consultation with the Visteon workers themselves.
Belfast Visteon workers are still in occupation.
The Visteon workers at Enfield still need messages of support: and donations; a rally has been called at the plant for this Saturday 11 April, from 11am, Morson Road, EN3 4TN. Nearest railway station: Ponders End.
Have a look at this inspiring piece of film:

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Nichols at it again – now he’s going to save YOU from condoms!

April 10, 2009 at 4:40 pm (Catholicism, rights, voltairespriest, women)

Well, he didn’t waste any time, did he? To the further delight of a crowing religious right, Archbishop of Westminster Vincent Nichols has now waded into the debate about condoms and HIV. Not only has he supported the Pope’s remarks on the subject recently, albeit not with quite the same panache as our new friend Joanna Bogle recently did on Channel 4. No, he has also set about campaigning against plans to allow pregnancy advisory services to advertise on television and radio. Apparently some of the planned ads would include information about abortion and condoms, and obviously we can’t have an informed public questioning the pronouncements of a 63 year-old celibate in a dog collar on such issues, about which his past life will have obviously made him a massive authority…

Nichols has spoken a lot of de-contextualised tripe about one of the ads featuring a couple having sex on a street corner (Well! Be still my fluttering cassock!), but I don’t think that such outright Mary Whitehouse-style moralism will be the main emphasis of his campaigning around issues of sexuality over the next few years. Instead expect to hear more of the sort of smooth language which talks about “humanising sexuality” and a criticism of real sex education campaigns as over-emphasising the act of sex and not the human relationships which surround it. Nichols may be many things but he is certainly no fool.

After all, what could possibly be wrong with “humanising sexuality” (to re-quote Nichols and the Pope), any more than “humanising war”, “humanising education”, “humanising healthcare” or any other word in front of which you wish to stick the prefix “humanising”. It’s one of those words which drive spin doctors into raptures, precisely because it sounds warming whilst meaning precisely nothing outside of a specific context. And it is so with this case:  don’t look at the warmth of Nichols’ terminology, look at what he’s actually asking the national TV networks to do. He’s asking them to censor out advertisements giving information about perfectly legal practices, to which he happens to object because other people once codified such objections in textual form. One may or may not believe that said people were divinely inspired, however either way it is quite extraordinary for a minority religious leader to try to have perfectly legitimate sexual health information removed from the airwaves because of a doctrinal objection. That is quite extraordinary in a 21st century state, and certainly goes to show that attempts by powerful, conservative religious lobbies to gain political traction in the national life of the UK have not gone away.

It’s time to remember that the point of the airwaves should be to facilitate education and discussion, and not to provide a means for politically motivated interest groups such as the social conservatives currently ascendant within the Catholic church to impose their stances upon the public as a whole. I personally find it objectionable that these people should crowd my television screen with talk about issues of sexual health which has about as much relevance to social reality as reading chicken entrails does to correctly predicting the future. Furthermore on the commercial side there can be no more legitimate rational objection to Durex ads than there can to ads for Mars Bars, Cornflakes or Jacob’s Creek wine. Just because they’re on the telly doesn’t mean you have to buy them. And really, even were the information contained in these short pieces to be so offensive, I don’t think the majority of UK Catholics (whether supporters of contraceptive choice or not) would be driven to such distress by either the public health ads or commercial ads, that this discussion could be seen as in any way legitimate.

The provision of public health information should not be subject to censure by political religion. And neither should public policy as a whole. It is up to progressives of all religions and none to ensure that such a situation never becomes the norm.

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Not the only one

April 10, 2009 at 11:38 am (anti-fascism, good people, Human rights, Max Dunbar, religion)

Last week a very bad thing happened to me. Actually I was in the market for some shopping. Meanwhile I got the prayer time. Also I was in hurry to go back to my office. But I was caught by the Religious Scholars while I was taking out my vehicle from the parking. They stopped me by force and asked me to present the work permit (Iqama) I apologized that I m in a great hurry that is why I cannot go to Mosque. But they denied my all requests. And they took me to their center for preach and punishment. They slapped on my face and kicked on my back. And put me forcibly in the toilet for punishment for hours. After a long time they released me and I reached to my car by a taxi.

I want to leave this religion, but I am SO afraid on my life. My father is threatening me, he want to keep me locked in the house and to force me to leave my job because he want me to be fully dependent on him. He is a very violent man. I read your story and it was very inspiring for me.

The above are taken from anonymous letters, sent to the Council of Ex-Muslims of Britain, from people living in Islamic states.

The National Secular Society has more. Read the whole thing.

Anyone from rich, liberal, multicultural Britain want to argue that sharia law consists of harmless civil procedures? Or that Muslims are better off under Islamic regimes? Or that we should turn away such individuals when they seek asylum here?


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Remember Rwanda

April 9, 2009 at 9:15 pm (africa, hell, history, Human rights, Jim D, terror)

For 13 weeks after 6 April 1994 approximately 800,000 people – mainly Tutsis but also some moderate Hutus – were slain by the Hutu government’s Interahamwe in one of the most intensive acts of genocide ever.

On Tuesday, the tiny Central African nation began a week of mourning. President Paul Kagame spoke in Nyanza, at the site where thousands had been killed when the Belgian UN forces withdrew: “The people of Rwanda were abandoned in their time of need”, he said.

A child called Reverien Rurangwa witnessed his family being killed and was himself left for dead. Amazingly he survived, with one arm and one eye, his face a mask of scar tissue. He lives in Switzerland but has been refused asylum there. The killers of his family are still at large and he lives in fear of being deported.

Ros Wynne-Jones of the Guardian met him:

The past repeats itself over and over inside his head, in one long loop of horror. “I cannot go back to Rwanda because the person who damaged and maimed me is there. He wants to finish what he started. It is very easy to find me and identify me with all these scars. They say’There is that Tutsi from the television. The one who wrote the book…

…He misses his family immensely. “I don’t know if my mother would be proud of me,” he says. “I think she would see that I try to represent her every day I am alive.”

On the day she died, she had been wearing a beautiful red cotton dress with white piping on the pockets that Reverien had saved up to buy for her bithday from the market. “I hope one day to give her grandchildren. Normally when I decide to do something, I just do it. But it;s not like the book. I can’t do by myself.”

Inside the cafeteria is an exhibition of photos of refugees from the current crisis in the Congo – many of them Hutus. Reverien views them dispassionately. He has no forgiveness to offer the man who killed his family. He is not interested in conventional western constructs such as closure.

“How could one pardon someone who has never asked to be pardoned?” he says. “It’s not up to me to propose this to them; people who were tired from killing. People who still want to kill me today. People who don’t have any regret. How can one pardon these people?”

Nor has he found any peace or salvation in the Catholicism he was born into. “My mother died praying to God. Where was He? Why didn’t He do anything?” He laughs, a dry sound in his throat. “When you see the local priests coming with the machete and killing…When you see a church where 25 Tutsis died is cleaned up, and the ones who come to pray in the church are the ones who killed…I am finished with God.”

Read the rest here.

Reverian Rurangwa’ book, Genocide, is published this week by Reportage Press at £8.99. You can order a copy from the Guardian‘s online bookshop or by phoning 0330 333 6846.

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Bunting admits: no intellectual case for belief

April 6, 2009 at 7:10 pm (Christianity, Guardian, Jim D, religion)

Madeleine Bunting, the Graun‘s regular god-squaddist serves up a typical mix of sanctimony, hypocrisy, misreprestation  and non sequiturs in her offering for Holy Week.

As usual, she suggests that the so-called “New Atheists” like Dawkins and (Christopher) Hitchens are the mirror image of religious fundamentalists in their bogoted certainty, and once again she puts forward the banal proposition that religion can contain some useful insights into the human condition, as though that was a revelation that the closed mind of Richard Dawkins is unable to comprehend (has she actually read any of Dawkins’ work, one wonders?)

But there is one new and refreshing element to this latest Bunting banality-fest: the admission that there is no intellectual case for religious belief. I have been struck many times over the years by the complete absence of any intellectual case for the existence of god  (as opposed to utilitarian arguments about the alleged personal and social  benefits of faith) in anything Bunty has ever written (that I’ve read, anyway). Now she comes clean. Not only does she not have any intellectual case, but she is positively opposed to it. Citing with approval the ex-nun turned “historian of religion” Karen Armstrong and the anti-enlightenment “philosopher” John Gray, Bunty states: “Armstrong and Gray…pinpoint a key mistake. Belief came to be understood in western Christianity as a proposition at which you arrive intellectually, but Armstrong argues that this has been a profound misunderstanding that, in recent decades, has infected other faiths. What ‘belief’ used to mean, and still does in some traditions, is the idea of ‘love’, ‘commitment’, loyalty’: saying you believe in Jesus or God or Allah is a staement of commitment. Faith is not supposed to be about signing up to a set of propositions but practising a set of principles. Faith is something you do, and you learn by practice, not by studying a manual, argues Armstrong.”

Or as Lewis Carroll’s Humpty Dumpty said, “When I use a word it means just what I choose it to mean – neither more nor less.”

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Erdogan rocked as DTP storms home in local poll

April 5, 2009 at 12:35 am (democracy, elections, kurdistan, turkey, voltairespriest)

I missed this last Sunday, but for those of you who thought the quasi-Islamist Justice and Development Party (AKP) government in Turkey was the most popular thing since sliced bread – think again. Previous polls had seen the governing party beginning to edge out the Kurdish dominated left-nationalists of the Democratic Society Party (DTP) in the country’s troubled south-eastern region but that all changed this time as the DTP swept back to domination in the municipal elections. DTP candidates did well throughout the region, and spectacularly so in the regional hub of Diyarbakir, where they took 67% of the vote and 14 of 17 available victories.

The shock result for the AKP was compunded across the country as opposition votes surged. The main oppositon Republican People’s Party (CHP) took Izmir, Aydin and Antalya, also coming within striking distance in the prized city of Istanbul. Other opposition parties also gained at the AKP’s expense.

It’s not all over for the AKP – they are still the largest party in Turkish politics, and their opponents are a politically incoherent bunch. The ex-social democratic CHP are military aligned nationalists, whereas the DTP are Kurdish liberationists with close ties to independence movements. Other opposition parties, from the centre-left Democratic Left Party (DSP) to the ultra-conservative Felicity Party (SP), are similarly at odds. However Erdogan’s air of invincibility has gone. And this week the people of Turkish Kurdistan have been smiling.

(H/T for the news and the pic – Mizgîn)

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Books: read them!

April 4, 2009 at 3:42 pm (Education, Jim D, literature, unions)

Eric Lee of LabourStart has a simple but important message to activists; a few years ago I would have said this was a statement of the bleedin’ obvious. These days, unfortunately,  it needs spelling out:

I think there’s never been a more important time for trade unionists to read books.  And not just any books — I’m talking about books that will help us do a better job as trade unionists and as activists

Over the years, LabourStart has teamed up with unionized booksellers, publishers and authors to help bring some of these books to the attention of union members: Global Unions, Global Business, for example.  We’re pleased at how many of you ordered copies.

Today I want to bring your attention to two new initiatives we’re launching to help further promote the sale of books that trade unionists should own.

First, we’re launching a Book of the Week feature on LabourStart’s home page.  (Scroll down the left column to see it.)  Every Friday, we’ll select a book that we think is especially deserving of your attention.  This week’s choice is I Knew I Could Do This Work — a short book that explores the role of women in unions in the United States today.

Second, we’ve  launched a a group on UnionBook (the new social networking website for trade unionists) to discuss union books.  If you’ve read a book other trade unionists should know about, tell them there.  If you’re an author and have written a book specifically aimed at trade unionists, go there to talk it up.  If you think there’s a book that should be LabourStart’s book of the week, use the tools in this group to let us know.  (You need to be signed in to UnionBook to do this.)

Please help us promote the sales of these books — pass this message on to your fellow union members, co-workers and friends.

Thanks — and have a great weekend.

Eric Lee

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