The Birmingham pub bombings, 35 years on

November 21, 2009 at 11:47 pm (Brum, good people, history, Ireland, Jim D, SWP, terror)

Birmingham UK, November 21 1974:

Thirty five years ago tonight,  two bombs exploded inside busy pubs in the centre of Birmingham, killing 21 people and injuring another 182. It was a traumatic moment – we in mainland Britain had not experienced such an attack upon civilians since the Second World War. There never was any serious doubt that the Provisional IRA were responsible, though to this day they have failed to admit to it.

An additional six people can be added to the tally of victims: the innocent men who were jailed for 16 years for a crime they didn’t commit.

I was living in Birmingham at the time, a young student member of the International Socialists. The bombings made a major and permanent impression upon me, but I’ll come to that later. First, I’ll deal with what happened within the working class in Birmingham, then with the response on the left.

There was a massive and vicious backlash against all Irish people in Birmingham.  Anyone of Irish extraction or with any known Irish connection, was immediately put into fear for their very lives. A worker who was known to have played the pipes at an IRA funeral was strung up at Rover Solihull (he lived, but only by luck). Johnny Bryant, a member of ‘Workers Fight’ (forerunner of the AWL) was chased from his job at Lucas, never able to return. In shops, offices and factories throughout Birmingham, people of Irish extraction or with Irish names were in fear for their very lives. A massive march took place from the Longbridge car plant to the City Centre. Socialist activists at Longbridge had to make a quick decision as to how to react. The Communist Party who dominated the Longbridge Joint Shop Stewards Committee simply went to ground. The International Socialists, who had a few shop stewards and supporters in the plant, decided to join the march in order to argue against any anti-Irish backlash and to prevent the National Front taking the lead. They were surely right to do so. Immediately after the march, IS students (including myself) joined Frank Henderson and others in leafletting the city centre against any backlash.

To the best of my knowledge, no-one actually died as a result of the backlash in Birmingham, but that was purely a matter of luck. The atmosphere was murderous and Irish people, and those of Irish extraction, were living in real fear for their lives.

The left was in a state of shock, just like everyone else. The Communist Party and their Irish-in-Britain front, the ‘Connolly Association’, simply waited for things to blow over. The IS, which had shop stewards in major factories like Longbridge and Lucas, was in political disarray, though individual IS militants (notably Frank Henderson at Longbridge), often played principled and even heroic roles. As stated above, Frank and the other IS shop stewards and activists at Longbridge joined the protest march and argued against the anti-Irish backlash. IS members with Irish names simply went into hiding – and who can blame them?

But despite the brave and principled role of IS industrial militants like Frank, the organisation as a whole was disorientated and incoherent. No-one knew what the “line” was – whether we continued to give “critical but unconditional” support to the Provos or not. The following week’s Socialist Worker didn’t help: the headline was “STOP THE BOMBINGS – troops out now”, which didn’t really clarify matters. Was “STOP THE BOMBINGS” a demand on the Provos? Were we suggesting that the bombings were, in reality, a just and/or inevitable consequence of the presence of the troops? What the hell were we saying?

About a week after the bombings IS held an emergency meeting for all Birmingham members in the upstairs room of a city centre pub. Duncan Hallas did the lead-off, and quoted extensively from the Official IRA paper, denouncing the bombings. Inevitably, several comrades responded by asking why, therefore, we supported the Provos, instead of the Officials, whose ‘line’ on individual terrorism seemed much closer to ours. My recollection is that Hallas didn’t really have an answer to that, and the meeting ended in a sullen and resentful atmosphere of dissatisfaction.  We all knew that Hallas had been talking bollocks, but we didn’t know what the answer was. The reaction of many IS industrial militants was that it was best to steer clear of any involvment with “difficult” issues like Ireland, and to stick to “pure” industrial work.

For myself, the bombing was a sort of political coming of age. It taught me that the IS was incoherent and unprincipled on the question of Ireland, and nationalism more generally. It taught me that international issues cannot be divorced from industrial work. Most importantly, it taught me that politics is not a game or a pass-time: working class people had died and we had to have something to say. Ultimately, it taught me that simplistic “anti-imperialism” that costs working class lives is no way forward. It helped me to grow up politically – but at a terrible price.

PS: an untold story: The role of the firefighters and cabbies.

Fire engine driver Alan Hill was on duty at Birmingham Highgate station that night, and was called to the scene of the first bomb, at the Mulberry Bush pub. He told Birmingham historian Carl Chinn (in today’s Birmingham Mail) the following:

“There was now complete gridlock in the city. The only option I had was to do a reverse run down the full length of Corporation Street against the one way traffic pouring out of the city centre. It was totally against brigade policy but I really had no alternative.

“When I reached the bottom of Corporation Street, I turned left into New Street.

“Talk about out of  the frying pan into the fire. Seconds before, another bomb had expolded at the Tavern in the Town basement pub in New Street..

“The street was a scene of utter devastation.

“We sent a radio message to Fire Control explaining the position and requesting another four fire engines and forty ambulances to assist us. There was only the four of us. There were around 150 casualties. Many were trapped inside the dark basement.

“The officer in charge of the fire engine, John Frayne, who at the age of 28 was the oldest member of the crew realised it would be  ages before assistance arrived.

“John explained our position to the crowd and asked for volunteers. Twelve brave men stepped forward to assist us.

“The other two firemen, Nigel Brown and Martin Checkley, were already down in the basement.

“Although I had requested 40 ambulances I realised we would be lucky to get any. It was a case of first come first served and I knew the firemen at the Mulberry Bush had already requested every available ambulance in the city. My stomach sank to my fire boots.

“With every alarm bell in the street ringing, it was difficult to hear yourself think, but about 12 minutes into the incident someone behind me was clearly shouting ‘Alan.’ I turned around.  It was George Kyte.

“George was a taxi owner driver who lived in Corisande Road, Selly Oak. I knew George well I had worked with him in the past as his night driver.

“With typical understatement George said ‘I know you’re busy. I am on a rank in Stephenson Place. A couple have asked me to take them to hospital. Can I do that and will you need their details?’

“I could have kissed him.

“I told George, ‘Get on your radio. Make an emergency call. I need every available cab in the city here at this address now URGENT.’ Within seconds the message was sent via the TOA radio system.

“Access into New Street had been blocked by a cordon set up in St Martins Circus so the street was claer of passing traffic. Within a matter of moments the glow of an orange taxi sign became clearly visible in the darkness at the end of the street. It looked like a stretch limo. It turned out to be 25 black cabs nose to tail moving slowly towards us.

“It was the start of the ‘scoop and run’ method. As many casualties and carers as possible were packed into each cab and taken immediately to the Accident and General hospitals. Almost 100 casualties were removed from the scene outside the Tavern on the first taxi run.

“Other cabs appeared on the scene soon afterwards and were joined by cabs returning from the first run. Even two ‘black and white’ cars that shared the TOA radio scheme turned up.

“Considering that there would have been no more than 50 black cabs working the entire city at that time of a Thursday night, the reponse was overwhelming… without any shadow of a doubt there would have been far more fatalities that night from trauma and blood loss had the taxi drivers not responded in such a magnificent and selfless manner.” 

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SWP crisis goes public on Tyneside

November 21, 2009 at 1:37 pm (Champagne Charlie, political groups, sectarianism, strange situations, SWP)

It’s fairly well-known on the left that the British SWP is presently in a state of turmoil. Former head honcho John Rees is masterminding a pro-‘Respect’ faction (misnamed the “Left Faction”!), one of their leading trade unionists, Jane Loftus (CWU Exec member) has walked out rather than follow Party discipline within the union, and now their Tyneside branch has issued a public denunciation of  one of their own members:

‘[we were] very concerned to see firstly the bureaucratic heavy-handed approach taken by Regional Secretary Dave Harker towards the Youth Fight for Jobs Campaign; this resulted in a number of activists wishing to be taken off the network list…. We were even more concerned when Tony Dowling Tyneside Secretary mirrored that bureaucratic approach with regards to an event organised by the IWW in conjunction with the National Union of Mineworkers. To discover that Tony an SWP member refused to circulate details of the event on the grounds that he regarded the IWW as ‘political’ shocked our members’.

The incident giving rise to this attack sounds to be fairly trivial. But it’s an extraordinary development for a supposedly “democratic centralist” organisation and surely symptomatic of a major – and possibly terminal – internal crisis.

More about the Tyneside SWP row here.

h/t: Ed W

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Demonstrate against Sharia and racism, in London tomorrow

November 20, 2009 at 9:12 pm (Feminism, Free Speech, Human rights, islamism, Jackie Mcdonough, left, religion, rights, secularism, women)

This is secular, feminist and left-wing by any rational definition; it’s frankly a disgrace that most of the British “left”  is not supporting it. Demonstrate in London tomorrow:

To mark Universal Children’s Day and International Day for the Elimination of Violence against Women

NOVEMBER 21, 2009

Time: 1200hrs – 1400hrs
Place: North Carriage Drive, in-between Stanhope Place Gate and Albion Gate, Hyde Park (closest underground Marble Arch).

SHOW YOUR OPPOSITION TO SHARIA LAW AND ALL RELIGIOUS-BASED TRIBUNALS IN BRITAIN, IRAN, IRAQ, AFGHANISTAN, PAKISTAN, SOMALIA AND ELSEWHERE

DEMAND AN END TO CULTURAL RELATIVISM AND RACISM

DEMAND ONE SECULAR LAW FOR ALL AND UNIVERSAL RIGHTS

DEFEND THE RIGHT TO ASYLUM FOR THOSE WHO HAVE FLED SHARIA

council of ex-muslims of britainI am a supporter of the Council of the Ex-Muslims of Britain and receive emails from its courageous founder Maryam Namazie. The Council consists largely of apostates from Islam who want to be free of sharia law. On November 21st there will be a worldwide demonstration against sharia law, spearheaded by the Council. Please support the rights of Muslims everywhere to choose how they wish to live!

Please read the atrocities listed below of the suffering by innocents under Islamic/sharia law. These people are crying out for our help, as we can see from Maryam’s message asking for assistance in their plight. As you can see from Maryam’s writing, she is rather upset – and rightfully so – at this situation. Being highly empathetic to the suffering of the common people, I can relate.

Why November 21 is an important day for you

The One Law for All campaign is organising a rally against Sharia and all religious-based laws in Britain and across the world and in defence of human rights and secularism on November 21 in London. Rally organisers are calling upon those who cannot get to London to organise rallies or acts of solidarity in various cities across the globe.

A public show of opposition is crucial at a time when Sharia law is on the rise in many places and is being touted as a ‘right’ and a ‘choice’ when it is anything but these things.

Contrary to the misinformation peddled by their proponents and the far Right, Sharia courts are the demand of the political Islamic movement. They are not the demand of ordinary Muslims or those labelled as Muslims (since there are just as many differences of opinion and belief in all so-called Muslim communities as among others). Do not forget that these very “Muslims” are the first victims of and dissenters against Sharia law.

If it were really the desire of “Muslims” to be stoned to death for sex outside of marriage, hanged for being gay, executed for being apostates, flogged for eating during Ramadan, forcibly veiled and segregated from childhood, Islamic states and the regressive Islamic movement would not need to resort to such indiscriminate violence and brutality.

Only recently, this ‘cuddly’ Sharia law convicted Lubna Hussein of ‘indecency’ for wearing trousers in the Sudan, sentenced a man to be flogged for drinking alcohol in Malaysia, and sentenced a 75 year-old woman, Khamisa Sawadi to four months in prison, 40 lashes and deportation in Saudi Arabia for meeting with two young men who were not relatives who brought her bread. Just today, on October 11, 2009 – a day after the International Day against the Death Penalty – the Islamic regime of Iran executed juvenile offender Behnoud Shojaee; there are at least 160 juveniles on death row in Iran, including for homosexuality, apostasy, sex outside of marriage and involvement in school or street fights that have resulted in murder.

In this year alone, MPs in the Indonesian province of Aceh unanimously passed a law which stones adulterers to death and Sharia was introduced across the country in Somalia and in Pakistan’s Swat region. And as if Sharia law were not enough for ‘liberated’ Afghanistan, its parliament recently passed a new “rape law” for ‘Shias’ which requires, among other things, that women submit to sex with their husbands at least every four days, with few exemptions.

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Troil and error: bad sex should at least be funny

November 19, 2009 at 8:36 pm (Champagne Charlie, comedy, lesbian, literature, men, women)

According to today’s Grauniad, the great Philip Roth has been shortlisted for the Literary Review‘s  bad sex award. This trophy (a plaster foot) was inaugurated by the late Auberon Waugh to “draw attention to the crude, tasteless, often perfunctory use of redundant passages of sexual description in the modern novel, and to discourage it.”

It’s his most recent work,’ The Humbling’, that earns the great man his nomination. In one scene, an ageing actor and his lesbian friend Pegeen, pick up a girl and persuade her to join in a threesome involving a green dildo:

This was not soft porn. This was no longer two unclothed women caressing and kissing on a bed. There was something primitive about it now, this woman on woman violence, as though in the room filled with shadows, Pegeen were a magical composite of shaman, acrobat and animal. It was as if she were wearing a mask on her genitals, a weird totem mask, that made her into what she was not and was not supposed to be. There was something dangerous about it. His heart thumped with excitement – the god Pan looking on from a distance with his spying, lascivious gaze.

Pretty poor stuff, I think you’ll agree. But what really struck me was the lack of any humour to be found in this description – a startling omission from the author of the hilarious sexual comedy ‘Portnoy’s Complaint’.

But troilism and voyeurism can be amusing when described by a skilled writer – especially when things do not go according to plan for at least one participant:

‘About your idea that we all ought to go to bed, you and I and Joyce.’

‘Yes?’

‘I’ve been thinking about it.’

‘Good.’

‘Maurice.’

‘Yes?’

‘Maurice, what would you get out of it exactly? I mean I can see what I’d get out of it, at least I think I can, but where would you come in? No, Maurice, you’re not to be horrid and awful. You know what I mean.’

‘I think so, yes. Well, seeing that it’s so much fun to go to bed with one beautiful girl, it ought to be twice as much fun to go to bed with two, if not more. More than twice as much fun. Worth trying, anyhow.’

‘Mm. You want to watch us at it, kind of thing, too, don’t you?’

‘Yes I do rather. I’ve never been able to see anything wrong with the idea of watching people at it, provided that’s not all you’re doing, and that won’t apply in my case, of course. And provided, as far as I’m concerned, that neither of the people is a chap, and that’s not going to apply either’… ( a few days later)…

The two girls looked communicatively at each other then at me in the same way they had done in the bar before lunch, preparatory to accusing me of interrupting their chat. I smiled at each of them while I tried to sort out priorities in my mind..

‘What do you want us to do?’ asked Diana, with just a hint of impatience in her voice and demeanour.

‘Let’s all take everything off for a start’ I said.

A woman can always beat a man to the state of nudity if she puts her mind to it, and here were two women evidently doing so. Despite earings and necklaces, Joyce and Diana were embracing naked beside the bed while I was still working urgently on my second shoe. By the time I was ready to join them, they had thrown the covers back and were lying side by side in an ever close embrace. I climbed in behind Diana and started kissing her shoulders and available ear and the back of her neck, none of which seemed to make any special difference to anybody. I found it difficult to slide my arm round under her arm, because Joyce’s arm was thereabouts too, and impossible to touch more than the outer side of Diana’s breast, because Joyce’s breast was against the remainer of it. When I tried the same sort of thing at a lower level, I came across the top of of Joyce’s thigh. After that, I tried to alter the girls’ positions with a view to setting up one of the triads of lovemaking Joyce had mentioned the previous evening in her unvarnished way. That meant her thigh would positively have to shift, but it stayed where it was. To get Diana on her back was not even worth attempting, with her inner thigh between both of Joyce’s. It is never easy to move people about bodily unless they co-operate a bit, and neither of these was doing so at all.

What were they doing? Kissing repeatedly, in fact almost continuously, pressing themselves against each other, breathing deeply, though not particularly fast. What more? I had a totally obstructed view from where I was, but both Joyce’s hands were in sight, one behind Diana’s head, the other at the small of her back, and anyway their embrace had been so tight from the beginning that neither could could have been caressing the other in any way; they would have had to draw a little apart for that, which would have afforded me an opportunity, but I doubted very much whether either of them had bothered to think of such a point. I told myself I was not going to give up, said so aloud, said a lot more things, managing to stay just this side of whining and abuse, moved round the bed to behind Joyce, and got no change there either.

There it was, then. I stood and looked at them while they went on exactly as before, neither speeding up nor slowing down, like people unable to to foresee ever doing anything else, even of the same general sort. How well I could remember that feeling! Just then Diana’s hazel eye opened, moved across the drawn curtains and me and more of the curtains without the least self-consciousness in paying the same attention to me as to the curtains, and shut again. The thought of two women making love can be an exciting one, but let me tell you that, when they are totally absorbed in each other, the actuality is sedative. Indeed, for the moment I felt calmer than at any time during the past few days. I blew them a kiss, rejecting the idea of kissing each of them on the shoulder or somewhere as more trouble and no more likely to be noticed, picked up my clothes at leisure and carried them to the bathroom.

Author? Book? No prize this time, I’m afraid.

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Girls’ education and teachers under attack in Iraq

November 18, 2009 at 8:02 pm (Education, Human rights, iraq, islamism, Middle East, reaction, thuggery, unions, women)

COMRADES –  Iraqi teacher trades union activists are enduring persecution and violent attacks from the forces of reaction (aka The Glorious Resistance) because of their commitment to education for all (including girls) and their attempts to contribute to the rebuilding of civil society. The situation in Baghdad is particularly serious.

 Please send messages of solidarity and support to Sister Safa Abdul- Amer (Um Furat) and to the Iraqi Teachers Union via Abdullah Muhsin at A.Muhsin@unison.co.uk

 **************************************************************************

From: Muhsin, Abdullah [mailto:A.Muhsin@unison.co.uk]
Sent: 18 November 2009 09:31
To: Jerry Bartlett; Nicolas Richards; Owen Tudor; Benjamin Moxham; Sue Rogers
Subject: Dear All. I have sent a letter to colleagues in Iraq asking more information about this criminal attack

The Iraqi teachers Union condemn strongly the vicious attacks on the Head of the Al Maali School.

                                                              استنكار

The Iraqi teachers union condemn strongly the criminal attack  which colleague Safa Abdul-Amer (Um Furat) was subjected too. Mu Furat is the head of al Maali School for girls. She very well known trade union campaigner. She was attacked by a bunch of oppressive and ignorant people who are trying desperately to hinder the progress of the political process in all its fields through the liquidation of key trade unions leaders’ and scientists.

We wish Safa a speedy recovery and shame on the criminal murders.

The ITU

Baghdad

تستنكرنقابة المعلمين العراقيين بشدة الاعتداء الاجرامي الاثم الذي تعرضت له الزميلة صفاء عبد الامير (أم فرات) مديرة ثانوية المعالي للبنات والشخصية النقابية والتربوية المعروفة، من قبل زمرة من الظلاميين الجهلة الذين عرفوا بعدائهم الشديد لتقدم العملية السياسية بكافة ميادينها من خلال تصفية الكفاءات العلمية والاجتماعية المخلصة للشعب والوطن.

لقد عرفت الزميلة صفاء في الوسط التربوي بكفائتها الادارية ونجاحها في بناء واحدة المدارس المتميزة في المستوى العلمي بين ثانويات الرصافة.

الشفاء التام للزميلة والخيبة للمجرمين القتلة.

نقابة المعلمين العراقية

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Hirst: “Anyone can be like Rembrandt”

November 14, 2009 at 8:15 pm (Art and design, capitalism, Jim D)

Hirst: (in the Graun):

“Anyone can be like Rembrandt…I don’t think a painter like Rembrandt is a genius. It’s about freedom and guts. It’s about looking. It can be learnt. That’s the great thing about art. Anybody can do it if you just believe. With practice you can make great paintings.”

(From the Indie):This week we may have witnessed one of the pivotal moments in the history of art. Not only has Damien Hirst, arguably the richest and most powerful artist in history, received the critical pasting of his life, but there’s a sense that our whole perception of what art is, or should be, may have subtly – or not so subtly – shifted.

In case you’ve been miles from the media over the past week, Hirst, the man who became famous by putting sharks and sheep in formaldehyde, who summed up the 21st century confluence of art and shameless materialism with a £50 million diamond-encrusted skull – none of which he actually made himself – decided to exhibit paintings executed with his own hand in one of Britain’s most august art institutions, the Wallace Collection.

 

Related Articles

Here, Hirst’s daubs have been hung on walls newly lined in blue silk at a cost of £250,000, close to, if not actually alongside works by Titian, Rembrandt, Velasquez and Poussin. The result has been one of the most unanimously negative responses to any exhibition in living memory. Sarah Crompton, writing in this paper, was one of the kinder critics, finding the paintings merely “thin and one note”. “Deadly dull, amateurish”, wrote the Guardian‘s critic. “Not worth looking at”, said the Independent. “Dreadful”, pronounced The Times.

Hirst:

  • Damien Hirst
… Rembrandt (self-portrait):
.
.
Spot the difference in talent.

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Saxophone Colossus

November 14, 2009 at 6:28 pm (jazz, Jim D)

If you’re lucky enough to have a ticket to hear the great Sonny Rollins tonight at the Barbican, then you are very privileged. The Rollins gig  is part of the London Jazz Festival – most of which strikes me as meretricious non-jazz  of the type John Fordham enthuses about in the Graun.

Rollins, however, is a true jazz great and  – possibly – in this age of jazz being taught in universities and colleges, the last of the great individualists. There was a time when you only had to hear a bar or two of a record by one of the greats – Louis, Bix, Bechet, Teagarden,  Hawkins, Young,  etc – to know who they were. Their playing carried a signature. Parker, Gillespie, Getz, Monk and  Cannonball Adderley were similarly identifiable. In the “mainstream” world, Ruby Braff and Kenny Davern had instantly recognisable voices on their instruments.

Rollins may be the last of the distinctively individual jazz soloists – a player whose tone and phrasing is as identifiable as a human’s speech. He also has a sense of humour – something else that a lot of present-day jazz musicians noticeably lack:

Way Out West LP OJCLP 337 

At a time when most “modern” tenor players were basing themselves upon Lester Young (nothing wrong with that), Rollins remained a “Hawkins” man, and pinned a signed photo of the Hawk on his bedroom wall. He eventually got to record an album with his hero. For those of us who can’t get to the Barbican tonight, here’s a good (if rather breathless) tribute to the great man:

[Youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=oImECanKC0k]

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Those Zionists just keep getting more clever!

November 14, 2009 at 6:23 pm (crap, fascism, voltairespriest)

For those who haven’t seen this month’s Searchlight (website here, November edition not yet up at the time of writing), it really is worth buying for one story alone. I actually convulsed with slightly nauseous laughter at the sheer stupidity and paranoia of the BNP leadership, who believe they’ve rumbled the real political roots behind the gaggle of baboon-like thugs that is the English Defence League.

Nick Lowles’ article recounts footage of a conversation between BNP fuhrer Nick Griffin and his deputy, Simon Darby, having a conversation about the EDL. In spite of the involvement of BNP members such as Chris Renton and Davy Cooling with the EDL, both organisations deny having formal links with each other. Further, the “new”, “respectable” BNP is concerned to publicly distance itself from the drunken rabble of the EDL.

But of course, Griffin thinks there’s more to the EDL than that. And being a far-rightist, he puts that organisation’s actions down to manipulation by an old enemy whose very mention twitches the sphincters of fascists worldwide. Yes, it’s the Jews… oh sorry I mean “Zionists”. In a conversation with Darby, posted conveniently on YouTube for those who want to listen to them drivelling at each other, Griffin says:

“Spelling it out in simple terms, you look at the owners of the Daily Express, the Daily Star and their interests. This is a neo-con operation. This is a Zionist false flag operation, designed to create a real clash of civilisations right here on our streets between Islam and the rest of us.”

Yes, Richard Desmond, the proprietor of the two newspapers mentioned, is Jewish. The Daily Star in particular has run stories that appear supportive to the EDL. Therefore, what more proof did dear old Nick think he needed of this grand conspiracy? Stand up in a court o’ law, that would.

I am sorry to disappoint the two BNP leaders, but they have got it all quite wrong. Jim and I have checked with Shiraz Socialist’s own Zionist backers, and they assure us that they have nothing to do with the EDL. Apparently they did consider offering some support in an effort to discredit the BNP, but the costs of cheap lager and bomber jackets proved too prohibitive. Therefore they allowed a consortium of Freemasons and Marxists to move in, instead.

I hope this clears the matter up for posterity.

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Border Line

November 14, 2009 at 11:11 am (Afghanistan, immigration, Max Dunbar)

Most people find airports an absolute nightmare. Like seeing a doctor or renting a flat, simple procedures involve more and more box-ticking and form-filling as the technology improves. Spare a thought though for returning soldiers on RAF flights to Edinburgh. Frazzled and weary after high-intensity tours in Afghanistan, they then ‘find themselves subjected to a level of scrutiny by the UK Borders Agency above that of an asylum seeker.’ One para told Private Eye‘s military correspondent ‘Squarebasher’ that ‘The only way to avoid the hassle is to come home in a fucking box.’

This isn’t just a tale of red tape strangling what should be an easy process – Squarebasher’s piece also provides an insight into the nasty, squalid world of the UKBA.

Despite still being in uniform and carrying an MOD90 identity card and a full British passport, it can take up to five hours to satisfy officials of their allegiance to the country they have just risked life and limb to serve.

One returning soldier who had already completed a tour in Afghanistan found himself at the back of a long line in front of a UKBA immigration officer who, when asked about passport requirements, was heard to remark, ‘Just the brown faced ones.’ The comment enraged troops serving alongside ‘brown faced’ comrades who had faced identical threats, made identical sacrifices and won identical medals.

We can’t know if this is a case of one bad apple or a whole rotten barrel. But it’s not a great sign, is it?

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Gameboy: you’re on!

November 13, 2009 at 9:27 pm (AWL, Free Speech, Jim D, Marxism, politics, SWP)

Sometimes, all you can do is make yourself plain:

John, I’m willing to debate you here, anywhere else you choose, in person or electronically, on the subject of third campism OR ANYTHING ELSE YOU CARE TO MENTION…OK? I’m sure I’ve made that offer to you before. “Run a mile” from debate”? Name the time, place and subject, pal…

“(Preferably in person  and in public- JD).”

…in response to the below:

November 13, 2009 at 5:38 pm · Edit

“In any case here is the opportunity. The AWL are wierd. Constant demands for real political discussion. But as soon as you move away from a discussion which is apolitical they run a mile.”

Reply
  • Jim Denham said,

    November 13, 2009 at 8:45 pm · Edit

    Gameboy (aka “Johng”) writes :

    “You have not for instance registered that the article written by Denham starts off with a bold-faced lie”: John, I presume that is a reference to this:

    “in Cairo – presumably continuing the SWP’s sucking up to the clerical fascists of the Muslim Brotherhood.”

    Let’s accept, for the sake of argument, that you are factually correct that Harman was in Cairo for a meeting of socialists and *not* the Muslim Brotherhood…OK…

    1/ Note the word I used: “presumably”;

    2/ Do you deny that the vast majority of SWP jaunts to Cairo in recent years have been at the behest of the Muslim Brotherhood?

    3/ Assuming that you do not deny #2 (above): what’s so unreasonable about speculating that Harman’s visit was “presumably” to continue the SWP’s “sucking up” to the Brotherhood – a force that Tony Cliff himself once characterised as “clerical fascist”?

    I haven’t read the Harman article that Gameboy refers to, but I’d be interested to know whether it is regarded now by SWP’ers as representing a definitive break with the Socialist Review/IS “third camp” tradition now that the SWP has become a third worldist outfit. If so, I think the SWP owes it to the left as a whole to mark this departure from its own tradition rather more clearly.

    Gameboy: “In any case here is the opportunity. The AWL are wierd. Constant demands for real political discussion. But as soon as you move away from a discussion which is apolitical they run a mile.”

  • John, I’m willing to debate you here, anywhere else you choose, in person or electronically, on the subject of third campism OR ANYTHING ELSE YOU CARE TO MENTION…OK? I’m sure I’ve made that offer to you before. “Run a mile” from debate”? Name the time, place and subject, pal!

    (Preferably in person  and in public- JD)

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