Egypt Workers Solidarity campaign set up

February 28, 2011 at 12:04 am (Egypt, Jim D, Middle East, unions, workers)


The initiators of a new Egypt Workers Solidarity campaign are seeking signatories to the statement below. They are looking to start a campaign with wide support to pursue the lines in the statement.

The need for such a campaign is all the more pressing with the Egyptian military increasing its threats to ban the strike wave that is sweeping the country.

The campaign has set up a website and the email address for correspondence is Email them if you want to sign the statement.

The statement

“The emergence of free and independent trade unions in Egypt is an event of enormous significance for the entire region and is to be welcomed by trade unionists around the world.

“We call upon the International Labour Organisation, the TUC, the International Trade Union Confederation, and the global union federations to recognize these new unions as the legitimate representatives of the Egyptian workers. The state-controlled labour front, the Egyptian Trade Union Federation (ETUF), should not be recognised as a genuine union organisation.

“We call upon the Egyptian government and the military to respect the internationally-recognised rights to join and form trade unions, including the right to strike.

“We will do everything we can in our unions and in the TUC to support the emerging Egyptian trade unions including solidarity delegations, provision of training and equipment, and financial support.”

– Matt Wrack, Dave Green, Len McCluskey and Tony Woodley have signed the EWS statement

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Irish election: some cause for hope

February 28, 2011 at 12:01 am (elections, Ireland, Jim D)

Patrick M reports:

With around 20 seats to be decided the anti-capitalist left have won 4 seats in the new Dail.

Joe Higgins of the Socialist Party was elected in Dublin West with 19% of the vote.
Clare Daly, SP, elected in Dublin North with 15.2%.
Joan Collins of People Before Profit elected in Dublin South Central with 13%.
Richard Boyd Barratt, PBP, elected in Dun Laoghaoire with 11%.

The overall result replaces one right-wing capitalist party with another but these results give a national platform to explicitly socialist politics in Ireland.
– Patrick

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Uncle Jake Hanna

February 27, 2011 at 8:28 pm (good people, jazz, Jim D)

Maria Judge, the niece of my drumming hero, the late Jake Hanna, has done me the honour of asking me to contribute to a book about her uncle. She’s also sent this YouTube tribute put together by her brother:

Jake (a great wit as well as a great drummer): “I wouldn’t work for anyone who wasn’t funny: they gotta be funny first”

Also from Jake: “If it’s not in in 4/4 I’m not gonna work the record date, that’s all there is to it:  if it ain’t swinging’ I don’t wanna be on the date.”

Maria says:

 Please feel free to pass this along to any other Jake fans who might like to share their thoughts. I’ve attached a call for stories with submission info.

I got the idea for the book last February at the San Diego Jazz Party, the week after Jake died, when all the musicians were telling Jake stories and I decided that someone needed to collect them. So some of the prospective contributors have known about this for a year and therefore needed a firm deadline, so I’ve asked for submissions by March 5. I’m still aiming to get it in print in April, but I have a bit of flexibility with the due date if people who are just hearing about it need more a bit more time. I’m self publishing it so everything is set to go with the printer once I have the material ready.

Maria would like to hear from anyone with memories of Jake: send them to me at, and I’ll pass them on to Maria.

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True Grit: a great western

February 27, 2011 at 6:47 pm (Champagne Charlie, cinema, Monarchy, United States)

At risk of seeming unpatriotic in the face of  the slow and ponderous ‘The King’s Speech”s inevitable victories in most catagories at tonight’s Oscars, can I just say that I think the Coen Brothers’ ‘True Grit’ is a much better film?

I know that some liberals and some lefties have  problems with the western per se: this writer to the Graun, for instance:

 “What is the western genre about, what’s the grand story that’s being told? Put simply, it’s capitalism vs nature, and capitalism always triumphs … Extreme violence is such an integral part of it all. Good violence in the service of the political ideology of capitalism, the expansion into the wilderness and the necessity of legitimising the genocide of the native population of North America.Much as I love westerns … there is just something odd about turning a history of genocide, a veritable holocaust for the natives, into a form of mindless entertainment.”

Despite the prejudices of Guardian-reading pricks like that, the best Westerns (eg:  The Searchers, High Noon, The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance, Shane and Red River) explore the human condition as few other film genres do; the best of them (eg John Ford’s 1956 masterpiece  The Searchers) also give sympathetic portrayals of the plight of native American ‘Indians.’

A real criticism is that most classic westerns are all-male, with little or no female involvement, apart from as brothel-keepers or wholesome mothers/wives. Actually, even that’s not entirely true, as Joan Crawford in Johnny Guitar demonstrated.

But the Coens’ True Grit features a wonderful teenage heroine (are we still allowed to use that term?)  Hailee Steinfeld as the narrator Mattie Ross, and it’s a brilliant performance. Jeff Bridges as Rooster Cogburn manages to make us forget John Wayne’s 1969 portrayal (no mean achievement in itself) in what must surely be the role of a lifetime.

The overrated King’s Speech will, no doubt, win  all the prizes tonight: but I predict that True Grit will still be being watched and appreciated in fifty years’ time, when the British pro-monarchy piece of historically-inaccurate whimsy has been all but forgotten.

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Just A Closer Walk

February 27, 2011 at 2:46 am (jazz, Jim D, music, religion)

You may have noticed that I’m not very religious. But when I go, I want a send-off like this:

Hat-tip: Norm

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Gaddafi and friend

February 27, 2011 at 12:01 am (drugs, fascism, Jim D, Middle East)

Lest we forget:

Hat-tip: Nayme Hear

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Gaddafi, friend and sword

February 26, 2011 at 11:50 pm (drugs, fascism, Jim D, Middle East)

(courtesy That Place)

There’s just got to be a caption to this, eh?

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Louis Jordan: Saturday Night Fish Fry

February 26, 2011 at 11:27 pm (jazz, Jim D, The blues)

Pre- rock’n’roll:

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LabourStart: Egypt

February 26, 2011 at 10:09 pm (Egypt, Jim D, Middle East, unions, workers)

The newsletter for LabourStart correspondents.

To all LabourStart correspondents –

The events in Egypt have rightly captured the attention of the whole world – and LabourStart has played an outstanding role by being one of the ways the newly-independent workers’ movement has gotten its message out to the world.
This week we received translations of messages that were dictated by phone when the regime had tried to crack down on Internet access.
We posted those messages in real time to our site, via our newswires and social networks.
Unions around the world have strongly supported the Egyptian people and we have published those statements — when we know about them.   
See, for example, this recent statement by the International Trade Union Confederation.
What has your union done or said?  Have you issued a statement?  Are you protesting at Egyptian embassies?  Are you providing aid to the protestors?
If so, please make sure this news appears on LabourStart and make certain to include ‘Egypt’ in the country field when you do so.
It’s very important we show our solidarity from all over the world, in all languages, at this time.
You can see what we’ve done so far here –
Thanks for all your help.

Inside LabourStart is the blog for LabourStart correspondents – check it out regularly to make sure you know the very latest.

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Green Party anti-semitism

February 25, 2011 at 11:13 pm (anti-semitism, Green Party)

“Fundamentally, therefore, not only is the Green Party institutionally anti-semitic, but for deep-seated political and emotional reasons it is incapable of dealing with this”  –  Toby Green

Over at Bob from Brockey’s consistently excellent site, ex-Green Party member Toby Green denounces the anti-semitism of the party he’s just left. He doesn’t name names, but it is possible to work out who he is talking about…

I think the first part of Green’s article, blaming the “Trotskyite views”  of the Greenleft for the toleration of anti-semitism within the Green Party, is nonsense. The main ‘left’ figure in the leadership of the Greens – Derek Wall – is far closer to Stalinism than to any form of Trotskyism. Even worse nonsense is Toby’s claim (taken from the appalling reactionary John Grey) that,  “in secular liberal society …the emergence of repressed religious manifestations… (shows itself in) … hatred of the secular form of Judaism, the political state of Israel, and a repressed form of anti-semitism that dare not speak its name.” This is just incoherent drivel, taken from an ex-Thatcherite and consistent opponent of humanism and the enlightenment – one of the most profoundly reactionary ‘intellectuals’ at large in the world today.

But you can judge for yourself, and read the whole article here.

Anyway, the important part of Toby Green’s article is this denunciation of  the anti-semitism that is condoned at the highest level (up to and including Caroline Lucas) within the Green Party:

“This has become abundantly apparent in the Green Party´s abject failure to address clear anti-semitism (and indeed other forms of prejudice) within the party. There appears to be a crass and touchingly self-congratulatory view that if someone is a member of the Green Party, they therefore can´t be prejudiced. This sort of self-regarding drivel is a symbol of one of the worst aspects of the party, which is that all too many members of the party belong because they want to feel good about themselves, not because of what they might achieve. Take the example of fair trade: a recent edition of Green World held what was essentially a two-page advertorial for a fair trade company. Fair trade is on the rise, more available in British stores than in other countries. Why? Because British leftist consumers like to feel good about themselves. Kit Kats are labelled Fairtrade in Britain but not in many other countries for instance. Fair trade is of course better than slave labour, but it does not address the fundamental issue that siphoning off agricultural surpluses from poor countries for the economies of the developed world can do very little to help redress global economic inequities; this was indeed a cycle which began with the Atlantic slave trade, when African societies had agricultural surpluses requisitioned to feed slaves on the middle passage.

“Essentially, much of the membership of the party is therefore grounded in a sort of superior bad faith. And so of course, members of the Green Party can´t be prejudiced. If they accuse members called “Levy” of being Israeli academics in disguise defending Israel, they can´t be rehashing old Jewish conspiracy theories. If they circulate emails from David Duke, a key figure in the Klu Klux Klan, on how “Jewish Zionists” are shaping American policy in Israel in alliance with Obama (thereby rehashing not only anti-semitic myths but also an alliance of this with anti-Black racism), they can still work in Caroline Lucas´s office and be on the list for the European elections. If they circulate emails accusing Jewish members of parliament of double loyalty (to Israel and the UK), there´s no need to suppose that they are re-hashing the anti-Catholic discourse which surrounded JF Kennedy´s run for office in 1960. If they talk of the “squealing zionists”, there´s no reason for them not to be respected party figures.

“To be fair, after all of this, the party did recognise that there was an issue. A report commissioned by the Green Party Regional Council (GPRC – a powerful decision-making body in the decentralisd power structure of the party), and written by two non-Jewish members, said that these were examples of a toleration of low-level anti-semitism, and that therefore a working party on anti-semitism was recommended to be established. Although kicked into the long grass at first, it started work when a senior figure recommended an article by a known holocaust denier on his blog. But the working party was quickly an impossibility. I should know: I was the chair, a position I only adopted when no one else was prepared to. Replies to very calm, polite emails asking for input came there none. Ever. Weeks would go by without any discussion, and if I as chair then asked for input this was always slack. One member only ever sent one email to the group. Eventually, a crisis came when a new GP member posted emails to a list confirming that the epithet of “squealing zionist” was justified. Since this was one of the phrases criticised in the original report to the GPRC, I brought this to the attention of the group – at which point one member resigned.

“This should perhaps not be surprising, since the member who resigned was the very same member who had first used this phrase. The fact that the Green Party put him on the group at his own request (total membership: just 6) speaks volumes for their attitude to it. Especially since, in a subsequent email which this member circulated, he said he had long told the party that the group would be used as a means to change the party´s policy on Israel. That is, this member never had any intention of supporting the work of the group, and people in the party hierarchy knew this.

“So where did this leave the situation? The Working Party was dissolved. Members of the GPRC said they would come up with their own recommendations, and recommended the adoption of the EUMC definition of anti-semitism. This created uproar, and the decision was revoked by the GPRC through a process that was specially expedited outside the ordinary parameters of the functioning of the council. The GPRC instead adopted a policy that they would not develop a policy on anti-semitism, in spite of their own report. Thus, GPRC has accepted that there is a problem, and decided to do nothing about it.

“In the midst of all this farce, a wild card entered the process, which was the joining of the party of a Jewish member who was a leading light in Jews for Justice for Palestinians. This member took to making violent ad hominem attacks on Jewish and non-Jewish party members who were concerned at anti-semitism. In what would seem to me to be clear instances of projections of their own obsessions, they expressed surprise that there could be non-Jewish members who had these concerns, and accused people of having no interest in global politics except Israel (and defending the Israeli position). As someone who has always tried to find a balance between twin unacceptables – Israeli policy in the Occupied Territories and anti-semitism – and who moreover had repeatedly voiced elements of criticism of Israel on public email lists in the party, this simplistic drivelling verbal violence was hard to take. I remained in the party. However, this individual then launched a formal complaint against a Jewish party member who has been prominent in condemning the toleration of anti-semitism in the party, accusing them of entryism – even though in the accuser´s own emails it has become clear that this is what they themselves are guilty of, since they talk of how before joining the party they had been told by people how the “Zionist lobby” was “infiltrating” the party; that is, their joining the party appears to be a clear decision to enter it to fight what they perceive as wrong.

“So, what was the attitude of GPRC to this accusation? Although their own report has accepted that there is a problem with anti-semitism, and although anyone looking at these email lists can see the violence of this member´s almost daily tirades, the accusation has not been thrown out as trivial. Instead, a full tribunal of inquiry has been established. The idea put around by this new member is that, as a Jew, they can see through the anti-semitic myths. But what is lacking in this whole debate is an understanding of Jewish culture. Jews are notorious for disagreeing with each other – there are four synagogues in Gibraltar alone. And Jews are loud. Just because (a very small minority) of Jews disagree about what constitutes anti-semitism in this case, it doesn´t therefore mean the whole issue should be dismissed.

“Far from it. After four years of this charade, it has become clear that the Green Party is institutionally anti-semitic. Its institutions have not dealt with clear evidence of anti-semitism. They show no evidence of wanting to, and indeed now seem to have decided to target perceived “problem” members of the party who have raised this issue. This is fundamentally a political decision: the Green party has decided that it is increasingly a hard left party, allied with enemies of Western capitalism. Rightly, it thinks that Islamophobia is one of the more dangerous phenomena to have arisen since 9/11, and in reaction against this it turns a blind eye to discrimination against perceived enemies of Islamic peoples, Israel, and the Jews. This is a classic case of projection: horrified at their own government´s attitudes towards Islamic countries, and wanting no part in it, this mentality projects this violence onto a scapegoat – Israel and Jews.

“Fundamentally, therefore, not only is the Green Party institutionally anti-semitic, but for deep-seated political and emotional reasons it is incapable of dealing with this. Projection, bad faith, repression of basic belief structures needed by the human psyche, unthinking reaction, and anger to political forces of the 21st century: this is a potent, unhealthy and toxic mix which leads to bad policies, bad decisions, and a party which no thinking person can belong to any more. Certainly it cannot bring about a greater peace and stability in the world, which is one of the core things that the Green Party is supposed to stand for.”

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