RIP The Bill

August 31, 2010 at 11:08 pm (Jackie Mcdonough, police, trivia, TV)

ITV didn’t know what to do with it. They fucked it about, turning it into a soap, then an attempt at a UK ‘Hill Street Blues’: why couldn’t they have just left it alone?  Now they’ve killed it off. The last episodes were outstanding – at least as good as ‘Law and Order UK’, for instance.

RIP The Bill: the best British cop series ever. Apparently, 19,00 actors appeared on it over is 27  years on the air, so it’s also a blow to Equity. Where will ex-East Enders go now?

NB: the following Youtube video is from a young fan a couple of years ago – it’s a first attempt and (imho) a worthy effort:

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Pray For Us Sinners

August 30, 2010 at 1:43 pm (anonymous, bloggocks, Catholicism, child abuse, Max Dunbar, religion)

In his 2000 novel Boiling a Frog, the Scottish crime writer Christopher Brookmyre introduced a villainous PR man who tries to change an entire political culture. Professional spinner Ian Beadie’s exposes of the sex lives of celebrities and politicians aren’t selling any more in the liberal late nineties: trying to push a story about a gay environmentalist, Beadie is told by one editor that ‘It has no bearin’ on his job, Ian, or on this campaign… The suits upstairs are sayin’ this sort of thing is turning off the readers.’ To save his business, Beadie offers his service to the Catholic Church. He wants to make their brand of puritanism more influential so that people in the public eye who break sexual taboos will become big news again.

Asking a priest how many Catholics there are in Scotland, he gets the response: ‘You mean baptised, Catholic-educated, that sort of thing?… probably in the region of 700,000.’ Beadie replies: ‘There you are, then. That’s your figure. Well, actually, 700,000 – might as well say three quarters of a million. And if you’re saying three quarters of a million, might as well round it up to 800,000.’

Let’s recap. On September 16 Britain will receive a head of state who has overseen and facilitated an organisational culture of child rape, breaking several articles of the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child. Not only will the new government welcome him with open arms, it’s also paying for his visit. At a time when the top government priority is to cut the £156 billion deficit, and when working class families are being hit hardest by slash-and-burn economic policies, we are spending £12 million on the papal visit at the very least. (The figure is dubious: police sources estimate security costs at around £70 million.)

It’s at this point that former Catholic Herald editor Peter Stanford complains in a leading national newspaper that Catholics face an ’assault on their spiritual leader’ and that ‘[t]o stand up publicly and be counted as a Catholic in Britain right now can be to invite a tirade’. Later he quotes the Catholic composer James MacMillan, who has described ’the current wave of anti-Catholicism as ‘the new antisemitism of the liberal intellectual’. To which Stanford adds: ‘why don’t other Catholics follow MacMillan’s example and speak up more often in their own defence?’ 

We’re used to Islamic bigots hurling the word ‘Islamophobia’ at their critics’ feet to deflect scrutiny from their own vicious ideas. Now the Christian right is playing the victimology game with planted stories about Christians who have supposedly been denied their freedom of religion. Most often these cases turn out to involve people who have abused the authority of public sector positions to evangelise, or bigots who have fallen foul of basic equality legislation. This kind of PR is effective, though. You can’t blame a sectarian for trying.

There’s an interesting point by Catherine Pepinster, editor of the Tablet:

If you developed an interest in British Catholicism by reading the various ‘Catholic’ blogs that have sprung up in recent years, you would conclude that we are in the midst of vicious cultural wars… But when you get to the parishes, nobody seems to be at anyone else’s throat. The idea that there is a crisis is mistaken, though the church should nevertheless be asking itself why there are so many lapsed Catholics.

This made me think of the disconnect between the splenetic ravings of Splintered Sunrise and the Torygraph Catholic bloggers, and the discussions I’ve had with reasonable and intelligent Catholics I’ve known. Similarly, Stanford notes the decline in church attendance, and the slow pace of tickets to September’s papal event among Catholic communities. He could have gone further and acknowledged the anger at the Vatican among many Catholics. Read this piece by a Catholic priest speaking out against Ratzinger:

The biggest protest which will take place in Scotland will be a half empty Bellahouston Park. 300 000 turned up in 1982. This time, 100 000 tickets have been distributed. At least 50 000 have been returned.

Ordinary, working class, educated, ‘aware’ Catholics are boycotting the event in their tens of thousands. (In one parish in Fife the priest put up two notices, one for the Papal Mass, one for the parish picnic. 129 names went up for the picnic, 6 for the Papal Mass.)

As the National Secular Society head Terry Sanderson explained:

We are told that there are a billion Catholics in the world. This may be true in the sense that a billion people have been baptised by Catholic priests. But how many of them actually want to live by the teachings of the present Vatican hierarchy?

Like everyone else – except it seems the old men in Rome – modern Catholics want to live in the modern world. They want to take account of scientific advances and knowledge. They love their church, but they don’t hate homosexuals. They like their priest, but they feel uncomfortable at the Vatican’s unrelenting opposition to contraception.

So, Protest the Pope is not anti-Catholic, it is anti-Pope – this pope.

But to acknowledge this would be to admit that Catholics are as angry about child rape as anyone else and that the accusations of anti-Catholic racism are no more than attempts to divert attention from what are very serious issues.

Stanford does find room for a quote from our old pal Joanna Bogle. ‘Yes, I write passionate things sometimes,’ she says. A trawl through the Bogle archives turns up some real classics. On the question of gay adoption: ’Golly, some readers of this blog are an odd lot. Some comments – which I have not published – have come in from people who seem to think we should emphatically do nothing to stop the Government forcing Catholic organisations to accept adoption of children by active homosexuals’. On civil partnerships: ’No Catholic can in good conscience take part in such a ceremony, and a Catholic in public life has the extra responsibility of giving scandal by celebrating the ‘gay lifestyle’, ie active homosexual lifestyle, in this way.’ Not even Bogle’s local library is safe from the gay menace:

Meanwhile, over in the educational section, a large stack of books on Islam and a smaller one of Christianity. Glossy illustrated book, thick with quotes from Hans Kung and Matthew Fox (no, I’m not inventing this, either), big chapter on homosexuality and lesbianism: ‘Reflection – I am a gay Christian….The Church’s teachings are, without doubt, hypocritical….’ section on ‘feminist theology’ and one on ‘liberation theology’, nothing whatever putting the ordinary Christian teaching and message. Some critical material on the Catholic faith and teachings but nothing simply stating facts. This rubbish is published by ‘Heinemann Educational’ and I suppose its’s used as propaganda in schools.

Now, if you get angrier by the thought of two men holding hands than by some men torturing a child, then you’ve got a right to your views, and to argue them in public. But I’m not ready to hear, from this nasty and raucous minority, that it’s those who want the Pope held to account who are on the side of bigotry and prejudice.


Bogle at her glorious best

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When Your Lover Has Gone – Maxine Sullivan

August 29, 2010 at 12:02 am (good people, jazz, Jim D)

 There’s a personal reason for remembering this particular song, but I won’t bore you with it. The music, however, is too good to keep secret:

Maxine Sullivan is all but forgotten these days, but was a great singer of the thirties and forties who made a successful comeback in the late sixties and seventies, singing better than ever. She was also a woman with a strong social conscience, devoting herself to community work and charitable activity in the Bronx, where she lived. The last picture you’ll see on this Youtube clip is of Maxine as a vivacious, smiling elderly lady, still full of music, laughter and humanity. She died in 1987.

Lee Wiley (another almost forgotten singer) also did a great version of this song, with (unlikely as it might seem),  Eddie Condon and his gang.

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Changing Trains, Nearing the Terminus

August 28, 2010 at 8:27 pm (hitchens, literature, Rosie B)

I wasn’t going to bother with Hitch-22, Christopher Hitchens’s memoir, because I read some excerpts in the Sunday Times and they were all about him and Martin Amis, displaying the laddish side of Hitchens which I don’t like.  I don’t like Amis much either, as his prose is always turned up to eleven, with full strobe lighting, so after a page or two I want to hide in the chill out room.

However I picked up the book, and found that like most things by Hitchens it was hard to put down, though very uneven.  It isn’t so much a womb to cancer-ward autobiography as a series of essays.  The one on Amis is a gushing eulogy on his brilliance and way with words even including  this paragraph on Amis’s attempts at political polemic:- (p167)

I have often thought that he would have made a terrifying barrister.  Once decided on mastering a brief, whether it be in his work on nuclear weapons, the Final Solution, or the Gulag, he would go off and positively saturate himself in the literature, , and you could always tell there was a work in progress when all his conversation began to orient itself to the master-theme.  (In this he strangely resembled Perry Anderson, the theoretician of New Left Review . . . )  Like Perry, Martin contrived to do this without becoming monomaniacal or Ancient Mariner-like.  There was a time when he wouldn’t have known the difference between Bukharin and Bukunin, and his later writing on Marxism gets quite a few things wrong. . . His labour on the great subject of Communism is also highly deficient in lacking a tragic sense, but he still passed the greatest of all tests in being a pleasure to argue with.

If I was in the dock, the thought of Martin Amis defending me would have me sweating with fear as I anticipated the size of my cell and the nastiness of my cell mate, and would develop into the kind of terror that empties the bowels as the judge made scathing remarks on how the barrister for the defendant seems to be  reading his brief from an auto-cue.  Amis’s writings on nuclear weapons and Stalin are those of a smart sixth former who has swotted up the subject for a week or two to meet an essay deadline.  That is sheer indulgence from Hitchens, and the same goes for the pages about the word games he and his mates played at their Friday lunches.  The mates are great talents – Kingsley Amis, Robert Conquest, Clive James, Julian Barnes – but you end up knowing them less and liking them less.  There is no perspective on them, and this is from a writer who could give you in a page a sharp vignette of a terrified North Korean official, shaking with fear when asked an unscripted question.

These word games are like the doings of lovers – enjoyable for the participants, but no-one else wants to hear about them.  He says that they help to put on intellectual muscle, but it’s possible to think that they encouraged a tendency to meretricious juggling and pyrotechnics – words for words’ sake – that you get from Kingsley Amis at his worst, Clive James rather a lot, Hitchens himself too much and Martin Amis everywhere.

His account of his parents are him at his most sensitive and serious.  Hitchens is a good literary critic and with his full heart and brain he reads his parents closely, the low-spirited father, the lively mother, then like a good literary critic he steps back and sees them in their historical and cultural context. His mother, the life-force, gasping in dull English provincial towns, socially ambitious for him and also wanting a bit of fun and dancing, his father, the Commander, once a naval officer in World War II, bitterly disappointed with the Britain that was not a meritocracy for the likes of him but a plutocracy that was destroying much what he valued.  Both are tragic figures – his father who felt that his dutifulness was unrewarded in work or marriage, his mother because of her frustration and ultimate suicide.  Except for the suicide, this is the every day tragedy in George Eliot or George Gissing, that of unfulfilled lives.

No-one could say that of Hitchens’s life.  He hardly mentions his wife, Carol Blue, but whenever he refers to her dry wit and understatement I wish I was having a drink with her this minute.  She’s also clever, glamorous and beautiful, so like this as in many things, Hitchens has had a best of times, doing the work he loves and has a talent for, with a host of friends and a place in the heart of things.

His has been the intellectual rock-star trajectory, as typical of its time as practising chords for those with musical ability and then heading up from the dirty clubs to the stadiums.  It’s the Byronic swagger of our day, and you would have to be a leftist saint not to envy it. At Oxford, Hitchens was getting the political gigs and his first proper shag was with a groupie who had pinned photos of him on his wall.  For a full analysis of his place in the left political scene, I would read Andrew Coates’s piece here.

So what got him into left wing politics?  A sense of economic injustice doesn’t seem to have been the driving force and he says of his mother’s sympathy towards his activism (p18) :  “Her politics had always been liberal and humanitarian, and she had a great abhorrence of any sort of cruelty or bullying: she fondly thought that my commitments were mainly to the underdog.”  It’s been the chance to bring down the overdog that has fuelled Hitchens, whether the British foreign minister that he and his activist chums shouted down at what was supposed to be a debate at Oxford or Saddam Hussein with his Neronian excesses of vanity and creative cruelty.  He wants to topple these people from their high thrones, and he admires anyone whether it’s an American grunt or a Kurdish nationalist who will put their lives on the line to do so.

Like other British rock stars he eventually broke America and indeed fell in love with it, aligning himself with its government’s actions after 9/11. The big story about Hitchens is that of his changing sides from the polemicist who damned the First Gulf War to the polemicist who ardently supported the invasion of Iraq, to the point of accusing all those who opposed it as fellow travellers of clerical fascism.  (For analysis of this and how it could lead him into misrepresentation for the sake of partisanship, read Guttenplan’s excellent piece in The Nation).  Hitchens wanted effective action.

He says in his chapter, Mesopotamia from Both Sides (p311):-

I never quite lost the surreal sense that I had become in some way a pro-government dissident and that of all the paradoxes of my little life, this might have to register as the most acute one.  But it was the demonstrators in the streets. . . who struck me as the real conformists of the scenario.  Accused of becoming a sell-out by working for the interwar Yugoslav republic Rebecca West’s guide. . . Constantine in Black Lamb and Grey Falcon, confesses that, yes: “For the sake of my country, and erhaps a little for the sake of my soul, I have given up the deep peace of being in opposition.”  I, too, began to find that I could see things from the point of view of the governors and that I was on the side of those striving to build up a new state in Afghanistan and Iraq.  In any case, the opponents of the war were themselves aligned with the view of other governors and states, many of them much more smelly than George W. Bush.

In Hitch-22 there are other pieces of interest eg his version of how he and Said fell out and some gossip about Gore Vidal.  Except for the pieces on his parents it’s not Hitchens at his best. On the whole, I don’t think he is up there with Swift, Hazlitt, Cobbett, and Orwell as one of the great English essayists and polemicists.  We’re reading and quoting Orwell sixty years after his death and I can’t see that happening with Hitchens.  But he is cleverer and wittier than most, and it’s a bad blow that it looks like his writing career is going to be cut short.  His recent piece on his own cancer is as fine and vivid as anything he has done.

The saddest thing about Hitch-22 is the book jacket.  This shows a flattering picture of him, handsome face, high intellectual forehead surmounted by a very full rug for a man of his age, the whole decorated with a curlicue of smoke from the fag in his fingers, in an irresistible combination of brilliance and loucheness. Then I look at the photos of him after the chemo, hair gone and cancer-aged by ten years and I want to cry.

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Help Save Sakineh Ashianti’s Life!

August 28, 2010 at 8:14 pm (fascism, Human rights, Iran, Jim D, women)

Help Save Sakineh Ashianti’s Life!

Sakineh Mohammadi Ashtiani, Iranian Mother, could be put to death at any moment
August 5: Sakineh’s lawyer arrested; fate of Sakineh to be handed down next week – hanging likely; President Lula’s offer of amnesty flatly refused by Iranian leadership.

Sakineh Mohammadi Ashtiani, a 43 year old mother of two, was convicted in May 2006 of having an “illicit relationship” with two men and received 99 lashes as her sentence. Despite already having been punished, she has now been further convicted of “adultery” and she and sentenced to death by stoning.

She is currently being held on death row in Tabriz Prison, north-west Iran, and faces imminent execution. Around July 7th , following international protests, officials in Tabriz asked the head of Iran’s judiciary to agree that her sentence of stoning to death be converted to execution by hanging.

On 10 July, the head of Iran’s High Council for Human Rights said that her case would be reviewed, although he affirmed that Iranian law permits execution by stoning.

On 14 July Sajjad Qaderzadeh, Sakineh Mohammadi Ashtiani’s son, was summoned to Tabriz’s Central Prison, and is believed to have been questioned by Ministry of Intelligence officials who possibly threatened him not to give further interviews about his mother’s case.

It is clear Sakineh remains in grave risk… PLEASE sign this petition which calls on the Iranian authorities to clarify her current legal status, demands that the authorities enact legislation that bans stoning as a legal punishment, and eliminates other forms of the death penalty for “adultery” such as fogging or imprisonment.


Plea to the World by Sakineh’s Children

Do not allow our nightmare become a reality, Protest against our mother’s stoning! Today we stretch out our hands to the people of the whole world. It is now five years that we have lived in fear and in horror, deprived of motherly love. Is the world so cruel that it can watch this catastrophe and do nothing about it?

We are Sakine Mohammadi e Ashtiani’s children, Fasride and Sajjad Mohamamadi e Ashtiani. Since our childhood we have been acquainted with the pain of knowing that our mother is imprisoned and awaiting a catastrophe. To tell the truth, the term “stoning” is so horrific that we try never to use it. We instead say our mother is in danger, she might be killed, and she deserves everyone’s help.

Today, when nearly all options have reached dead-ends, and our mother’s lawyer says that she is in a dangerous situation, we resort to you. We resort to the people of the world, no matter who you are and where in the world you live. We resort to you, people of Iran, all of you who have experienced the pain and anguish of the horror of losing a loved one.

Please help our mother return home!

We especially stretch our hand out to the Iranians living abroad. Help to prevent this nightmare from becoming reality. Save our mother. We are unable to explain the anguish of every moment, every second of our lives. Words are unable to articulate our fear…

Help to save our mother. Write to and ask officials to free her. Tell them that she doesn’t have a civil complainant and has not done any wrong. Our mother should not be killed. Is there any one hearing this and rushing to our assistance?

Faride and Sajjad Mohammadi e Ashtiani


>>Click here to visit

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LabourStart: the largest African strike ever

August 28, 2010 at 6:35 pm (africa, Jim D, unions, workers)

From the world’s leading trade union website,  LabourStart:

History is being made this week with the largest strike ever to take place in Africa.  

LabourStart has up-to-date and comprehensive coverage here.

Hundreds of you have signed up to the new version of UnionBook in the last several days and the site has really come alive.  If you haven’t yet been there, I urge you to check it out today — and to spread the word.
And if you support the striking workers in South Africa, please join the group we’ve set up on UnionBook. Post your solidarity messages there.  Let’s show the South African workers that they have the support of the entire international labour movement.
One of the lessons we’ve learned as move over to the new version of UnionBook is the value of great software.  That’s the subject of my weekly podcast on labour and technology which you can listen to here. You can also hear it on iTunes.
Finally, trade unionists around the world are being asked to support ending child labour in the context of the Millennium Development Goals (MDG).  Please take a moment to read and sign the online petition.
Have a great weekend.
Eric Lee

Check out our home page for breaking labour news from around the world. All our current active campaigns are here — make sure you’ve signed up to all of them.

LabourStart needs your support – please donate today!

Join our groups on Facebook and LinkedIn and follow us on Twitter.

Spread the word – pass on this message to your co-workers and fellow union members.

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‘Socialist Organiser’ on Reid and Scargill

August 28, 2010 at 5:36 pm (AWL, history, Jim D, solidarity, unions, workers)

“From a red to a rat”

By John O’Mahony, in Socialist Organiser, 1984:

The miners strike is now the great dividing line in Btitish society, in British politics, and in the labour movement. You are either with the miners or you are against them. There is no neutral ground.

It must be one of two things: either the miners will win, or the whole working class will be defeated.

Every class-conscious worker knows that this is the sober truth —and knows also that there is no half way house now. The Tories will win or we will win. They will suffer a terrible defeat, or we will.

The Tories know this, too. They have deliberately engineered the situation. They are going for the kill, believing that they have got militant trade unionism in their sights and can wipe it out for years to come.

They call it ‘Scargillism’ or ‘picket line violence’, but the proper name for it is militant trade unionism, the force that time and time again over the last 20 years has defeated and thwarted the ruling class in this country.

Therefore, the Tories are throwing everything they can at the miners. They hit miners’ families by withholding social security money. They use the viciously biased and unfair press and their other media to bludgeon the miners and the rest of the working class. They use vast concentrations of semi-militarised police, antique laws, and compliant courts.

And they make eager use of every person or grouping within the labour movement willing to help their campaign to demoralise and defeat the mlners.

Everyone in the labour movement is faced with a stark choice: either help the miners win, or, because of your indifference, inertia, cowardice, or incapacity to understand, allow Thatcher to win.

The propaganda war is one of the key fronts in this conflict— for it is there, to a considerable extent, that the crucial fight for working class solidarity is being decided.

The Tories have portrayed their intended victims as villains for fighting back; scabs as heroes, bully-boy police as defenders of peace and quiet; pickets as mindless thugs.

Arthur Scargill, the trade union leader who has had the guts to take on the entire Establishment (including much of the labour movement Establishment) in defence of his members, is portrayed as a vain and petty-minded little man out to tear Britain apart for his own personal and political ends.

And Mrs Thatcher, leader of the vandal Tories who have demolished so much of Britain over the last five years, is painted as a constructive politician; lan MacGregor, her professional’ pit butcher, as a responsible industrialist.

The double standards of the media are outrageous! This strike started because the government and the Coal Board decided’ to close down 20 pits and axe 20,000 jobs. Neither the NUM nor the miners directly concerned, nor their families nor the communities that would be decimated as a result, were to be given any say at all in the matter. They would have to accept the dictates of MacGregor and Thatcher.

Nobody but the NUM and the Left talked about how viciously undemocratic that was.


Now the Tories, their belly-crawling press, and their allies in the labour movement, base their campaign against the NUM on the fact that there was no national NUM ballot before the strike. Though 80% of the miners are on strike, and democratic delegate conferences of the union have endorsed the strike, there has not been a formal ballot of the members.

So they all scream at the miners: ‘Democracy is the issue’.

The Tories have sent armies of policemen and police cavalry against the striking miners, turned pit villages into mini police states. Where —as in Kiveton Park, South Yorkshire — even a paltry half-dozen scabs could be found, the police have used unrestrained violence to defend their right to work and scab.

Yet the Tories, and their press and TV, supported by powerful voices within the labour movement, mount much of their campaign against the miners on denunciations of ‘picket line violence’

The blame for the violence is put on the miners who defend their jobs, and not on the Coal Board which employs scabs and the government which has turned the police force into the biggest scab-herding agency in British history!

These obscene double standards are themselves proof that there is no common ground between the working class movement and the bosses, their government, and their media. In this strike there is no ground of ‘national interest’ upon which to meet, and no terrain where ‘people of reason and goodwill’ can find a common viewpoint.

This is war—class war. In war, they say, truth is the first casualty. In this class war the truth is being massacred.

The propaganda war of the ruling class has had serious effects on the working class, hindering the movement for solidarity with the miners. That is what it is meant to do.

That is why those in the labour movement who pick up and repeat the media claptrap about democracy and picket line violence are nothing less than second-string—ideological— scab-herders.

Labour Party leader Neil Kinnock has played that role—and the forthcoming Labour Party conference should call him to account for it.

Jimmy Reid, the one-time Communist Party leader who fronted the sit-in at Upper Clyde Shipbuilders in 1971 and is now in the Labour Party, is close to making a profession of ideological scab-herding. These days he specialises in writing polemics for the Tories against the miners.

For the Tories? For the Tories! There is no middle ground in this fight.

Reid has published articles attacking the miners and Arthur Scargill in the Guardian, in the Scottish Daily Record, and, now, in last Sunday’s Observer.*

This last long screed of vituperation —’The damage Scargill has done to the Left’ — appeared on the Observer’s editorial page as the main feature article.


Mr Reid says things in public. bluntly and crudely, that are said privately by many of the Labour and trade union leaders, and for that reason also his article is important.

The author’s viewpoint, though he frequently sounds like Mrs Thatcher or David Owen, seems to be that of the Kinnockite Left. His concern, Reid says, is that the miners’ strike and the picketing that sustains it are damaging both democracy and Labour’s electoral prospects.

They have created a climate of opinion among British workers favourable to the Tory anti-union legislation, he says. However the strike ends, “the main casualty will undoubtedly be the democratic Left in British politics”. It “couid even mean a further decline in the Party’s mass base among the working class”.

“The miners’ union will come out of this strike bleeding, torn apart and demoralised by a surfeit of rhetoric unrelated to reality. The likelihood is that the union will be finished as an effective fighting force for the rest of this century”.

Yes. All these evils will flow, says Reid, from one great crime committed by the NUM leaders— their failure to have a national ballot.

“This raised an issue of fundamental importance for all democratic sociaiists. The ballot box is not an expendabie luxury, something which can be abandoned to suit the tactics of any individual or group”

Reid condemns the Labour Movement for collusion in the NUM leaders’ crimes against democracy.

What does he want us to do? What Neil Kinnock has done!

The only words of praise in the article go to Neil Kinnock:

“Labour leaders, with the sole exception of Neil Kinnock, [have failed] to say one ward of criticism about the refusal to hold a ballot, and the conduct of the strike”.

The main jet of Reid’s venom is spurted over Arthur Scargill himself. Reid does say that the appointment of the ‘industrial gunslinger’ Ian MacGregor to run the coal industry was a ‘provocation’ by the Tories. But he still manages to blame Arthur Scargill for more or less everything. Scargill’s psychology and ‘adventurist’ politics are the biggest problem faced by the labour movement in Britain today!

“Scargill had been desperate for a fight ever since winning the NUM Presidency”. He considered the previous two votes against strike action as “a personai rebuff”. Reid vouches for it.

“As someone who has known Arthur for nearly 30 years I understand how bitter he must have felt at what he was bound to consider a personai rebuff”.

Much of Reid’s article is like that: Jimmy, the ‘trade union activist for many years’, knows these things.

He also knows this of Scargill: “His nature seems to demand that he must be the centre of attraction around which everything must revolve”. That’s what it’s all about? He knows, you know!

“To be blunt and honest”, he goes on, “many Labour MPs are intimidated. Arthur Scargill has become the Ayatollah, the focal point, for all the hard sectarian groupings within the labour movement”.

These forces, spearheaded by Scargill, threaten democracy and therefore undermine the credibility of the iabour movement within the working class.

Sacred democracy

For Reid, democracy is best served and preserved if the working class is meek and mild, not militant and lets the Tories and the police rampage unchallenged and unchecked.

Reid’s arguments about the ballot are claptrap. Of course it would be better if there had been a ballot vote for strike action, and a united NUM on strike. It may even be that it would have been tactically wise for the NUM to call’a ballot in April once the strike was firm. But the leaders of the NUM were in the best position to judge that.

Faced with divisions in the ranks of the miners, the militant areas had a right to act and a rightt not to be held back by areas like Notts which did not feel threatened and would probably have voted to accept, peacefully, closures in other areas.

To make a principle-of a national ballot at all costs means letting people other than those immediately threatened decide to let MacGregor decimate their coalfields.

Once on strike, the miners had the right to appeal to other workers by picketing them, and to other miners by picketing them out.


It is to the credit and honour of the NUM leaders that they stood with the militants. It is to the credit and honour of Arthur Scargill as a working-class fighter that he has given a determined lead ever since.

The whole working class needed the stand the militants in the NUM have made in defence of jobs. A united NUM would have been better, but not every fight can be conducted under the best conditions.

Reid blames the militants and not the scabs. He blames and attacks the NUM leaders. He uses the bosses’ press to join the Tories’ propaganda war against the miners!

His philosophy reproduces the basic idea of liberalism, that trouble and strife could be avoided if only the oppressed and exploited would be more docile and wait for reform through the proper channels. Indeed it could: there would be no union-busting if there had not been rough and bitter struggles to set up unions in the fırst place.

And the idea that ballot rules are the highest principle is self evidently false. Suppose, for example, that the scabs in Notts had tipped the balance against strike action if there had been a ballot in March. Would Reid advocate that the militants, the miners directly affected, and the NUM leaders just sigh, shrug their shoulders, and submit to pit closures?

The fact is that the NUM was divided. Why, once the militants were out, did they not have the right to picket out the less militant? Does Reid—or Kinnock, for that matter — support the Tory laws against secondary picketing?

Reid argues that the strike may damage Labour, electorally. He may well be right about that. Labour certainly will be damaged if the miners lose. At present Labour suffers both from the Tories’ propaganda war and from its own weaseling leaders.


The best way to stop the propaganda damaging both the NUM and Labour is to face up to it fair and square. By running away from it or echoing it, Labour leaders will only make sure it hits home. Nothing short of outright condemnation (and maybe not even that) can distance the Labour Party sufflciently from the miners to avoid being hit by the stream of Tory propaganda. Nothing can protect Labour from the terrible consequences that will come to the labour movement from a Tory victory.

The notion that the labour movement could or should have avoided this confrontation underlies most of what Reid (and Kinnock) say ‘The militants of the NUM should have chosen peace and avoided the strike… by accepting the closures.’

But to their great credit the miners did not choose to submit. And they refused to be daunted by the splits in their own ranks. The labour movement owes them an eternal debt of gratitude for it.

If they lose, fault will not be with the miners who started this fight-back for jobs, which is so necessary and was so long overdue. It will be our fault for not backing them and joining them sufflciently.

But, says Reid, to fight without a ballot majority is not socialism, but Stalinism.

Now Reid should know about Stalinism. He was in the Communist Party for nearly 30 years before he left in 1977, and for much of that time he was a leading Party functionary. He called his autobiography, ‘Clyde-Built Man’, but he was given his final shape and rebuilt in the CP and on courses for Party functionaries in Eastern Europe and the USSR.

He knows about Stalinism all right. From Stalinism he has swung to crass middle-of-the road Labourism. He identifies militant class struggle with Stalinism, and rejects both. He identified them before, but favoured them. Now he sees a refusal by fighting workers to treat constitutional legalities as gods to be worshipped, as the seed of a future Stalinist dictatorship!

Socialist Organiser IS opposed to Stalinism in all its shades and periods, and no-one who reads the paper can doubt it. We are democratic revolutionary socialists who know that there can never be socialism without liberty and democracy.

We understand, however that Stalinism is not an expression of working class struggle, but the action of a bureaucracy against the working class. We understand that right now we live not in a supra-historical democracy but in a bourgeois democracy.

This bourgeois democracy allows large areas of liberty to the labour movement, liberties which are now being battered by the Tories.

But still this state and the institutions of this democracy serve the ruling class in a thousand ways. Despite what Kinnock, Reid and the official Labour 1eaders say, this state does not stand impartially above the classes. It serves the ruling class. The law protects bourgeois property and enshrines the bourgeois values that subordinate working class life to bourgeois property.

The police protect the Coal Board and the scabs at the behest of the government, and throw their full weight against miners fighting for their jobs, for their right to live. There is no democracy – no pretence of it even – in industry.

This is a class-riddled democracy, hollowed out and undermined by the savage inequality which gives the rich in our society so many advantages over the poor.

The idea that the working class should and must treat the institutions, rules, regulations and accidental majorities of this democracy as binding and even sacrosanct is a proposal to abandon labour militancy. Even the most reformist labour movement would not have got anywhere if it had been so deferential. We would have no unions at all if it were not for workers breaking the laws passed by Parliament, which in effect, banned trade unions.

The class struggle cannot be reduced to a few basic ‘democratic’ ground rules without becoming impossible in a complex society ruled over by a clever and cunning bourgeoisie with its “agents of influence” in place throughout the labour movement.

Especially so since the ruling class themselves do not respect their own rdles. A lot of what the police have done during the miners’ strike is illegal by their own laws. There is no benign force standing above the class struggle that will call them to account for it—or give workers prizes for good behaviour when we stick by the rules.

What Reid’s idea means here and now is that we should peacefully let the Tories steamroller the miners and their industry.

Socialists who remain committed to democracy and believe there can be no socialism without democracy have to combine our commitment to democracy and our educational work against Stalinism and totalitarianism, our fight to preserve and expand liberty and democracy, with an understanding that our aims here can only be realised by class struggle. By the victory of the working class in their struggles with the bourgeoisie.

Capitalist democracy does not function impartially between workers and bosses, and does not make them equal before the law except in the most empty, formal, and legalistic sense. We have to pursue our own class interests. If that fight demands breaking the bosses’ rules in society, then we break them.


The tragedy of Reid and the many others who swing from Stalinism to vapid bourgeois democracy (many of them having earlier swung the other way) is that they are wrong in both their phases. Just as they were wrong about Stalinism, they are also wrong now in concluding that bourgeois democracy is a working class alternative to Stalinism — or that there is secure protection within it for the working class.

The working class in history by way of the class struggle has to prepare for, carve out and defend its own version of democracy, in opposition to both the bourgeoisie and Stalinism. But in the first place it must defend itself, whatever the legalities—even the legalities of its own organisations.

Right now the miners are in the front line of working class self-defence. They deserve our active support. Reid and the other ideological scab-herders deserve our contempt and hatred.

Victory to the miners!

From Socialist Organiser, mid-1984

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Reclaim the Streets!

August 27, 2010 at 11:58 pm (Feminism, Rosie B, Uncategorized, women)

I’d like to see a day when I don’t have to worry about having obscenities yelled at me or disgusting gestures made out of car windows when all I’m doing is walking to work or going about my business. I am sick and tired of being told this is all ‘harmless fun’ – it is not: it sends a worrying message that aggression towards women is acceptable and even desirable.
. . .
Street harassment is so normal and pervasive (it’s everywhere) that we don’t even register it many times when it happens – but it’s there and it’s eroding our sense of safety, self and what we believe is possible. How many women feel safe walking home after a night out? We should.

That’s from a thread over at the London Anti-Street Harassment campaign (here). The women express those familiar feelings of fear, intimidation, and the impotent, boiling rage of those harassed and bullied by men who think it’s amusing to shout out “nice tits” or whatever to some woman who is out in public. What makes you furious is that you have no effective come-back. Swearing or fuck off gestures usually attract laughter or escalated abuse or an amazed huffiness. When seeing a cluster of blokes hanging around outside a pub (the smoking ban has made this worse) or a gang of guys walking along the pavement, women will cross the street or make detours to avoid passing them, for fear, at the very least, of being embarrassed and humiliated.

Recently I wrote a post which among other things dealt with men who think they are entitled to intimidate random strangers – if the random strangers are female. The example I gave was of a Muslim woman who was spat at by co-religious males because they didn’t approve of her cycling and the clothes she wore. This looked to me like yet another way of keeping women down and I thought at the time that a Reclaim the Streets! like the Reclaim the Night! movement was needed, and then I read this in the Guardian:-

Vicky Simister, a financial analyst, . . has found street harassment particularly problematic since moving from Ireland to London for work. “I was walking down a busy road in the middle of winter,” she says, “wearing a huge jacket, when these two guys slowed their car down to pay me ‘compliments’ about my appearance. This escalated into sexual comments. I eventually lashed out in frustration, and they got out of their car and ran after me, physically assaulting me. The police were called, but I wasn’t happy with their response. One said: ‘They said they were following you, but only to say nice things.'”

After this, Vicky set up the London Anti-Street Harassment campaign (Lash), to lobby MPs and journalists, and begin a serious debate. “I want women to put their hands up and say: ‘We don’t want to be treated like this,'” she says, “and I want men to realise the impact their words and actions have.”

It’s often suggested that street harassment is inevitable. But, as May says, while it might not be considered “as serious as domestic violence or sexual assault, street harassment is on the same spectrum of violence against women.” The fact that it is so often just accepted by people suggests women’s bodies are still considered public property – an attitude the anti-street harassment movement aims to change.

(Actually from what the women on the thread are saying, street harassment is particularly bad in London, so no, it‘s not inevitable if it varies from city to city. Some think it has been getting worse in recent years.)

Right on, sisters! I wish you all the best for this campaign.

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Kristallnacht in Covent Garden

August 27, 2010 at 11:11 pm (anti-semitism, Jim D)


Kristallnacht survivors share their recollections of the day the Holocaust began, dedicated to preserving the memory of Jewish life in Central Europe Nazis

From the PSC:

“The next fortnightly demonstration outside the Ahava beauty shop in Covent Garden, London, takes place this Saturday (28 August) from 12 – 2pm.
The campaign against Ahava, not just in England, but worldwide, is moving forward rapidly with London’s fortnightly demonstrations leading the way.
Why Ahava? Ahava is an Israeli company…”

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Bob on “decency”

August 27, 2010 at 7:53 pm (anti-fascism, Anti-Racism, anti-semitism, blogging, Jim D, Pro-War Left, relativism, secularism, socialism)

Here at Shiraz we’re always keen to put our readers in touch with good blogging and serious discussion from elsewhere. Our mate Bob (Yer Man from Brockley) has initiated a discussion about the phenomenon of leftist “decency”, and where it’s at today. I would not go along with him that Lenny “Seymour” Lenin or Andy “Leftwing” Nooman, though undoubtably “indecent”, are worth taking seriously.  But Bob has initiated a very worthwhile debate. Here’s his introduction :

This post is the first of three planned oblique attempts to address the core contradictions at the heart of the Bob project, as well as to respond to some of the discussions at my more heated comment threads, such as this one, this one and this one. It starts with a report on a recent and not particularly important spat amongst the leftover remains of the British anti-racist movement carried out in the courts and in the blogosphere, amongst three of the heavier hitters of the UK-based but internationally read left bloggers, Harry’s Place, Andy Newman’s Socialist Unity and Richard Seymour’s Lenin’s Tomb. This spat is a good occasion to reflect on the meaning of “decency” and “indecency” in politics. In reflecting on this, the post touches on three areas: the conflict in the former Yugoslavia, the war on terror, and the etiquette of debate, with a kind of footnote on the anti-racist movement. All of these are illustrated with examples from British fringe politics of the 1990s and thus have a slightly autobiographical element, although I’ve done my best to keep self-indulgence to a minimum. I realise that the coherence of these elements might not be immediately apparent, but I would genuinely appreciate your responses, even if you only read part of it…

Read the rest here

The comments are also uniformly good, including even some from Gameboy, who comes over as a complete wanker when he comments here at Shiraz. Maybe he sobered up, took his medication, or just decided to be on best behaviour for Bob.


…top blogging from the Brockley Man!

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