Grillo and the fascists

February 28, 2013 at 11:35 pm (capitalist crisis, David Broder, democracy, elections, Europe, fascism, Guardian, Italy, Jim D, John Rees, populism, strange situations, SWP)

Above : Grillo chats to CasaPound. See comment #5 below for a translation

Letter in the Graun:

• I challenge the assertion that Beppe Grillo’s Five Star Movement poses an alternative to the dogma of austerity. Following the ex-comedian’s friendly televised meeting with the fascist CasaPound group, his calls for trade unions to be “wiped out”, and his complaints about migrant communities settling in Italy, it should be obvious that the large M5S vote is small-minded and defeatist, rather than some new voice of hope for the working class and poor. Italy may be driving in the wrong direction, but this “fuck everything” demagogue trying to grasp at the steering wheel does no favours to those on the receiving end of austerity.
David Broder
Rome, Italy

Astonishingly, the SWP think Grillo’s success is a victory for the left

…while Counterfart can scarcely contain their enthusiasm and object to the use of the  “condescending” word “populist” in descriptions of Grillo and his movement.

Extraordinary degeneracy.

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Bindel on “sexist dinosaurs of the Left”

February 28, 2013 at 12:29 am (conspiracy theories, Feminism, Galloway, left, misogyny, sexism, Sheridan, strange situations, SWP, women)

Julie Bindel, a socialist feminist [or should that be “radical feminist” ? – see comments below], writes in the generally right-of-centre magazine Standpoint. It should go without saying that us Shiraz’ers don’t necessarily agree with all of what she argues:

Sexist Dinosaurs of the Left are far from Extinct

March 2013

Disrespect for women: Tommy Sheridan (left) and George Galloway (right) share anti-feminist attitudes with the Occupy movement

Feminism’s natural home is the political Left. The struggle for equal pay, kick-started by the female workers at the Ford Dagenham car plant who went on strike in 1968, was supported by male-led unions. Socialists are assumed to be in favour of total equality between men and women and castigate the Right for considering women to be only worthy of childrearing and housekeeping.

In 2012 the Trades Union Congress appointed a female general secretary, Frances O’Grady, for the first time in its 145-year history. Yet the Tories managed to vote in a woman as party leader as far back as 1975. Who says sexism is the domain of right-wing traditionalists?

The leading contemporary socialist feminist thinkers such as Sheila Rowbotham and Lynne Segal are well known in the academy but will never become as prominent publicly as their male counterparts. The reason for this is straightforward. When women work with leftist men to achieve a common aim, any issues specific to women are often seen as a “bourgeois deviation” and counter to the wider cause.

In 1964 Stokely Carmichael, the prominent US Black Power activist, was asked about the role of women in the civil rights movement. He replied, “The only position for women in the movement is prone.” Carmichael’s remarks caused outrage among many women and are still considered emblematic of the entrenched misogyny of 1960s activist movements. Sexism on the Left on both sides of the Atlantic has a long and shameful history. One Berkeley anti-war leader said of feminists in 1969, “Let them eat cock.” At Students for a Democratic Society meetings, “brothers” reported their unique dreams for utopia which included, “Free grass, free food, free women and free clothes.” If and when women tried to criticise male chauvinism within the movement, their actions were mocked. Such sexism prompted the feminist critiques of the New Left that would later develop into the women’s liberation movement of the 1970s.

Despite more than four decades of feminism, sexism on the Left has barely abated. As recently as 2004 former Mayor of London Ken Livingstone warmly welcomed to City Hall Yusuf al-Qaradawi, a Muslim cleric who advocated domestic violence and the stoning of adulterous women, and justified doing so when challenged. Al-Qaradawi was a speaker at a conference, hosted by Livingstone, defending the “right” of Muslim women to wear the hijab. Although the conference claimed to promote “choice”, al-Qaradawi has ruled that wearing the hijab is not a matter of choice but of religious obligation. There were no feminists of Muslim origin invited to speak at the conference or any Muslims critical of religious doctrine. Feminist critics of Livingstone’s friendly relationship with al-Qaradawi described the conference as a one-sided presentation of religious fundamentalism masquerading as a human rights debate.

George Galloway is a fine example of a man on the Left who appears to consider women as inferior. Galloway, along with left-wing heroes Ken Loach, John Pilger and Michael Moore, is a supporter of Julian Assange, currently holed up in the Ecuadorian embassy in London in order to avoid being extradited to Sweden to face questioning on allegations of sexual assault and rape.

Galloway implied that once a woman had agreed to sex with a man her ongoing consent was implicit, even if she were asleep. His remarks were deemed to be so offensive to women that the then leader of the Respect party, Salma Yaqoob, resigned in protest. “It might be really bad manners not to have tapped her on the shoulder,” Galloway pontificated in a YouTube video, “and said: ‘Do you mind if I do it again?’ It might be really sordid and bad sexual etiquette, but whatever else it is, it is not rape or you bankrupt the term rape of all meaning.”

Suggestions by a number of men on the Left that Assange’s two accusers are part of a CIA-inspired honeytrap and that the great man himself is the only victim are in themselves indicative of a culture of “bros before hos”, a term some left-wing women have heard male counterparts use.

Nowhere is sexism and hypocrisy on the Left more evident than in relation to the abuse of women. The late Stieg Larsson, heralded as a left-wing anti-sexist hero for his portrayal of women’s resistance to male violence in his Dragon Tattoo trilogy, once said that those who campaigned for the rights of women in immigrant communities wanted only to “portray all male immigrants as representatives of a single homogeneous attitude towards women” and that such people “only talked about honour crime because they wanted to divert attention from how white men raised in the ‘patriarchal structures of Swedish society’ abused and murdered women as a matter of course”.

It was recently revealed that some male “leaders” of the Socialist Workers Party attempted to hold a sharia-type court hearing as a response to an accusation of rape. Tom Walker, a journalist on the party’s paper, Socialist Worker, resigned in disgust at the blatant anti-women stance taken by the central committee. “There is clearly a question mark over the sexual politics of many men in powerful positions on the Left,” he said. “It may shed some light to learn that ‘feminism’ is used effectively as a swear word by the leadership’s supporters. In fact it is deployed against anyone who seems ‘too concerned’ about issues of gender.”

Similar tales of sexism and downright misogyny came to light in Scotland during the Tommy Sheridan debacle. Sheridan, a charismatic working-class activist and convenor of the Scottish Socialist Party, stepped down from his post in 2004, citing his wife’s pregnancy. But it later came to light that the News of the World had got hold of explosive evidence of Sheridan’s extramarital affairs and trips to a Manchester swingers’ club. Sheridan admitted his indiscretions at a party meeting but demanded that members cover for him for the good of the SSP. The feminists refused on a matter of principle.

Catriona Grant, equality spokesperson at the time, says that Sheridan decided his best form of attack was to pretend that a political plot by feminists was afoot. “Seemingly the women in the party wanted to get rid of him by means of a matriarchal coup. Sheridan found himself talking publicly about witches and dark arts,” Grant told me.

Sheridan went on to sue the News of the World in 2006 for defamation and won £200,000 damages. But following a subsequent police investigation he was convicted of perjury, and sentenced to three years in prison, of which he served one. (Andy Coulson, formerly News of the World editor and David Cameron’s communications director, and two other journalists have since been charged with perjury and other offences in connection with the Sheridan case.) Gregor Gall, professor of industrial relations at the University of Hertfordshire, is author of a book on Sheridan. I asked if he considered the male party members who covered up for Sheridan to be sexist. “There were concerns about his behaviour when he was in Militant [before setting up the SSP] and complaints were made, but the leadership in London chose not to act on it. I suppose they didn’t want to kill the goose that laid the golden egg.”

The Occupy movement appears to be yet another left-wing movement dominated by sexist men. One female member, who asked not to be named for fear of being classed as a “splitter” or “scab”, explains that the movement is a perfect example of “mostly young, almost exclusively white, almost all middle-class men, who thought that the revolution was finally here. But don’t bother mentioning the oppression of women in society, sexual harassment on site, or how we end up doing all the dirty jobs in the camp, as they’ll talk over you, or shout at you to stop monopolising the conversation.”

She added: “There’s no point questioning the objectification of women, or the way we’re talked down to and not listened to by men on the site despite often having many years of campaigning for social justice behind us.”

Women in the workplace suffer sexism from men of all political persuasions, but the reality is that the very unions that can potentially support them against discrimination and sexual harassment, for example, are themselves often bastions of male privilege. Cath Elliott is a union activist and freelance writer who finds herself battling sexism almost on a daily basis. “Having been involved in left politics since I was a teenager I thought I might have got used to sexist left-wing men by now,” says Elliott. “But no, it is always disappointing when men on the Left sell women out.”

Brendan O’Neill, an extreme libertarian formerly associated with the Revolutionary Communist Party and its magazine Living Marxism, is one of many men on the Left who defendspornography despite a long battle by feminists to show how it degrades women. In a recent article, “A Marxist defence of Page 3 girls”, on the LeftCentre website O’Neill quoted Marx on press freedom before wading into the feminists who gave evidence to the Leveson inquiry about sexist media representation of women. O’Neill called them a “bevy of feminists”, “a shrill chorus”, and “boob blockers”.

Male Labour MPs are not exempt from uttering the odd sexist rant. Austin Mitchell, Labour MP for Great Grimsby, tweeted to Louise Mensch when she resigned as a Conservative MP, “Shut up Menschkin. A good wife doesn’t disagree with her master in public and a good little girl doesn’t lie about why she quit politics.” Although his comment was probably intended to be tongue in cheek, it still showed a blatant disrespect for women. When David Cameron told Angela Eagle, an openly lesbian Labour MP, to “calm down, dear” in the Commons it attracted widespread criticism. Somehow men on the Left seem to get away with it more easily, perhaps because of the patronising view that the working classes treat their women rough and ready (despite the fact that successful leftwingers are rarely working-class these days).

Vera Baird QC, Solicitor-General in the last Labour government and now Police and Crime Commissioner for Northumbria, says that she gets tired of some left-wing men sidelining women and disregarding crucial issues such as sexual violence and harassment in the workplace. “Feminists have long challenged men’s sexism, whether in trade unions or political groups, but unfortunately the same old stories keep being told. It is high time those particular men recognised that we are not going to wait for the so-called ‘revolution’, meanwhile standing there, cap in hand, waiting for our turn to speak out about what matters to women.”

Sucheta Chatterjee, a lawyer and feminist activist, recently posted on a social networking site what she imagines to be in the heads of her male comrades. “Just stop bitching about feminism and race issues. Stop being divisive and undermining the class war. How many times have I told you that after the revolution, life will be paradise? Women will be treated like full-fledged humans and blacks will be taken seriously. Till then, shut the fuck up. And bitch, go make me a sandwich. Only fair trade wheat please.”

As much as I loathed the Thatcher government I have always felt deeply perturbed by the misogyny directed towards Baroness Thatcher by men on the Left. When I hear young male socialists today shout “Burn the witch” and other such grotesque slogans I realise that the vitriol towards her goes beyond a robust dislike of her political legacy. It comes also from a woman-hating resentment that she climbed to the top of the political tree. I will not be dancing on Thatcher’s grave or holding a street party when she dies unlike many of my male comrades. I would sooner celebrate the end of the left-wing dinosaur and the beginning of true political equality.

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EDF are suing our daughter

February 27, 2013 at 6:51 pm (Civil liberties, climate change, environment, Free Speech, Human rights, law, profiteers, protest, science)

Above: EDF’s attempt to look lovable…

Our daughter Claire was one of 21 activists who spent a week up a chimney at West Burton power station to protest against the use of gas-fired power stations.

It was a peaceful protest to draw attention to the environmental consequences of burning fossil fuels for power. No one was hurt but now EDF Energy are suing our daughter and her fellow activists for £5 million.

We believe this is totally unfair and unprecedented. That’s why we have started a petition to call on EDF to drop the suit against our daughter and her friends, the West Burton activists. Click here to sign our petition.

Our daughter and her friends protested peacefully. They knew they would be arrested but were brave enough to accept this possibility. Peaceful protest has never before been followed by an injunction for costs like this. If EDF are successful in this suit it will set a dangerous precedent for the right to peaceful protest in this country.

We are proud of what Claire and her friends are trying to do. It’s heartbreaking to think that they are being punished for putting themselves at risk for the good of humanity. If EDF pursue this suit they will put my daughter and her friends in debt — possibly for the rest of their lives. For EDF it is a mere drop in the ocean, but for them it is a lifetime’s income.

EDF might think it can silence 21 activists but it has to listen to consumers. If enough consumers show they are outraged by EDF’s actions, the impact to the company’s brand will be worth more than £5 million and the suit will be dropped.

Please sign our petition asking EDF to drop this unprecedented legal assault.

Thank you,
Russ and Barbara Fauset

NB: ‘Will EDF become the Barbra Streisand of climate protest?’ – George Monbiot in the Guardian

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Tatchell on O’Brien and Catholic hypocrisy on gays

February 25, 2013 at 9:45 pm (Catholicism, gay, homophobia, Human rights, Jim D, Peter Tatchell)

Above: O’Brien coming out?

Human rights campaigner Peter Tatchell has reacted to the resignation of Cardinal Keith O’Brien, Britain’s most senior Roman Catholic, who has been accused of inappropriate behaviour with male priests.

Earlier on Monday, Cardinal O’Brien apologised to those he had offended for “failures” during his ministry and announced in a statement that he was standing down as leader of the Scottish Catholic Church.

He will not take part in electing a new pope, leaving Britain unrepresented.

In a statement, Peter Tatchell said:

Cardinal O’Brien condemned homosexuality as a grave sin and was a long-time opponent of gay equality.

He supported homophobic discrimination in law, including the current ban on same-sex marriage.

In the light of these allegations, his stance looks hypocritical.

He appears to have preached one thing in public while doing something different in private.

Several other prominent opponents of equal marriage are guilty of double standards and vulnerable to similar exposure. They include anti-gay clergy and politicians.

It is estimated that around 40% of Catholic priests in Britain are gay, which makes the church’s opposition to gay equality so two-faced and absurd.

Nearly half of all Cardinals worldwide are thought to be gay.

Recent revelations in Italy have alleged the existence of a gay mafia within the Vatican, including senior Cardinals and other Vatican officials, and their participation in gay bars, clubs, saunas, chat rooms and escort services.

The Vatican is shamelessly championing homophobia and the denial of legal equality to gay people, while hosting a hotbed of secret, guilt-ridden clerical homosexuality.

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T&G’s shameful role in 1960s Bristol bus racism

February 25, 2013 at 2:35 pm (BBC, history, Human rights, immigration, Jim D, protest, Racism, truth, TV, unions, Unite the union, workers)

A BBC South West programme, Inside Out, will tonight look back at the racist practices that stopped black people from working on the buses in Bristol.

In 1963 a young black man in Bristol was refused an interview for a job on the buses because of the colour of his skin.

It sparked a protest which attracted national attention and ultimately led the way to the Race Relations Act.

Bristol bus boycott 50 years on

But for those who had been refused job interviews, there was never an apology from the Bristol Omnibus Company nor from the union (the T&GWU) preventing them getting work on the buses. I’ve heard, but have yet to find confirmation, that Unite has now issued an apology for the racism of its predecessor union.

Reporter Alastair McKee has been to meet and interview some of the people involved in the boycott.

It is essential viewing for anyone with illusions about the history of the Bristish trade union movement, or who thinks UK unions have a qualitively better record on dealing with racism than, say, the Israeli Histadrut. Many of the arguments used at the time by union members and lay officials (see clip above) will have a familiar ring to anyone who follows the antics of today’s anti-EU fanatics of both right and “left.”

Inside Out West is broadcast on Monday, 25 February on BBC One at 19:30 GMT and nationwide for seven days thereafter on the iPlayer.

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Italian election: Grillo is no joke

February 24, 2013 at 10:44 am (capitalist crisis, democracy, elections, Europe, fascism, immigration, Italy, Jim D, populism, Racism)

Comedian Beppe Grillo’s Five Star Movement seems likely to do well in the Italian general election today and tomorrow. They may well win over 100 seats – sufficient to cause gridlock in the Italian lower house and senate, or a weak coalition likely to collapse within months. The Five Star Movement (Movemento Cinque Stelle or M5S) has not received much coverage in the British media, which is much more interested in the antics of Silvio Berlusconi. Today’s Observer carries an uncritical article that portrays Grillo and his followers as “anti-politics” populists of a democratic, even somewhat leftist, bent. But Toby Abse, writing in the present issue of the AWL’s Solidarity, paints a very different picture:

Beppe Grillo

Beppe Grillo: willing to work with neo-Nazis

Italy’s new right

The general election of 24-25 February will see the arrival in Italy’s parliament of a large contingent from a new political movement, the Five Star Movement (Movimento Cinque Stelle or M5S) of the 64-year-old comedian Beppe Grillo.

This new entry will closely parallel the arrival of the Lega Nord in the Italian parliament of 1992. M5S represents an attack on the major political parties and the traditional political class (what the Italians call la casta) and M5S is an attack from the right, not from the left.

Many have perceived Grillo as a figure of the left because of his involvement with earlier anti-Berlusconi movements and demonstrations (such as V Day, V2 Day and No Cav Day), his use of new social media, and his espousal of a horizontalist rhetoric.

Grillo appeared to be aligned with such movements as Popolo Viola (the Purple People) and Se Non Ora Quando? (If not now, when? — a feminist movement that campaigned against Berlusconi’s sexism), which have also used social media to bypass Berlusconi’s near-stranglehold over the mainstream television channels.

Grillo has a good stance on environmental issues and has close links with the No Tav movement against the projected high speed rail link between Lyons and Turin, a movement more usually associated with the radical left.

The rise of Grillo and of such “horizontalist” movements as the Popolo Viola in 2010-11 was a consequence of the ineffectual opposition to Berlusconi by the “post-communist” Partito Democratico della Sinistra/Democratici di Sinistra/Partito Democratico (PDS/DS/PD) and the implosion of Rifondazione Comunista in 2008 in the wake of its disastrous decision to participate at cabinet level in the 2006-8 Prodi government.

However, beneath the superficially attractive surface, is a rightwing demagogue whose movement’s structures are as top-down and as authoritarian as the Lega Nord in the heyday of Umberto Bossi.

Grillo has publicly opposed the granting of Italian citizenship to the children of immigrants and proclaimed his willingness to work with CasaPound, an extremely violent neo-Nazi movement whose rules require all its members to read Mein Kampf but never to deny the Holocaust on Facebook.

CasaPound has a record of murderous attacks on black people — although it tried to distance itself from a member or ex-member who went on a killing spree against Senegalese in Florence — and recently mounted a premeditated physical attack on an election candidate of the radical left Rivoluzione Civile in the Lazio region.

In the course of the general election campaign, Grillo has expressed the view that there is no need for trade unions, provided workers are represented on company boards.

It is misguided to see Grillo’s call for Italy’s exit from the eurozone and return to the lira as progressive. It is all part of a xenophobic package in which “the Germans” rather than Angela Merkel are the object of attack. It presupposes a return to protectionism and competitive devaluations which may be in the interest of certain sections of Italian capital — especially small businesses of the kind that sympathised with the Lega Nord — but are contrary to the interests of the Italian working class, whose real wages would fall even further than they already have over the last decade.

For all its faults, Rivoluzione Civile, an electoral cartel that includes Rifondazione Comunista and the Italian Green Party, represents the only serious electoral opposition to the austerity imposed by the 13 months of Monti’s technocratic government, a government which enjoyed the support of both the PD and Berlusconi for all its anti-working class measures.

Voting for M5S to attack La Casta in 2013 is like voting for the Lega Nord in 1992-94 in response to Tangentopoli: a rightist, xenophobic, racist response to a real crisis of the system.

(NB: More excellent coverage of the Italian election over at Tendance Coatsey)

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UNISON’s National Women’s Conference: the “Rape Denial” debate and the SWP

February 23, 2013 at 12:38 am (Feminism, Galloway, Human rights, misogyny, reblogged, sexism, SWP, unions, UNISON, women)

By Cath Elliott (reblogged from Too Much To Say For Myself):

There’s been some discussion online about last Saturday’s debate at UNISON’s National Women’s Conference on Motion 30: Support Rape Victims not Rape Deniers, so as the original mover of the motion at #unwc13 I thought perhaps it might be time for me to give my take on it all.

* * *

Personal Background

First though, some personal background.

The Socialist Workers Party was the first political party I ever got involved with.

It was back in the early 80′s when I was 13/14 years old and just starting to get interested in politics. I’d written off to the Anti-Nazi League, whose address I’d found printed on the inside sleeve of the latest Tom Robinson Band album, and someone from the ANL who lived locally had contacted me and invited me to meet up with him. And so I had, not knowing at the time (and not realising until many years later in fact) that the ANL and the SWP were inextricably linked.

I was 14, he was 24, but before too long we were ‘an item’; although to give A his due he behaved impeccably, and in light of some of the stuff that’s now coming out about the SWP and its history with young women it seems I was one of the lucky ones.

Anyway, to cut a long story short, I have many fond memories of Saturday mornings spent selling the paper, of the hours spent in A’s kitchen churning out indecipherable leaflets on the old hand-cranked printer, and of being in awe of, and desperate to learn from, this small group of adult men who called each other comrade and talked openly of a need for revolution.

I’m not sure how long it all lasted, but eventually I moved on and got involved with the Young Socialists instead, and while there have been a couple of occasions over the years where I’ve come close to rejoining the party, most recently at the start of the Iraq war, to be frank I’m just not a party animal: I can’t and I won’t do unswerving or unquestioning loyalty to any so-called ‘leadership’, and sadly that’s what the SWP has always demanded.

I have though supported plenty of SWP events over the years and, as the old cliché goes, some of my best friends are Swappies….

* * *

Background to the Motion

In September last year the NUS passed a motion condemning George Galloway for his comments on rape and denying him a platform at future NUS events. Rather than retract his remarks, Galloway’s response to this was to threaten to sue them.

The deadline for submission of motions to this year’s UNISON’s Women’s Conference was 18th October. At this point Galloway was still making threats, so in solidarity with the NUS position my Regional Women’s Committee submitted a similar but slightly toned down version of their motion.

Our motion was accepted onto the conference agenda, and as chair of the committee and as the Eastern Region Delegate it then became my job to move it.

* * *

Other Background

In January this year it was revealed that the SWP had held an internal Disputes Committee hearing into rape allegations against a senior SWP activist and long-standing member of its Central Committee.  The case against Comrade Delta – who it now turns out was in his late forties when the alleged rape took place while the young woman concerned was still a teenager – was found not proven.

Furthermore, as the published transcript of the Disputes Committee Report to SWP Conference makes clear, the young woman concerned, Comrade W, who made the allegations against Comrade Delta, was asked entirely inappropriate and victim blaming questions during the Disputes Committee hearing – questions about previous sexual history and so on – while the Disputes Committee itself was comprised in large part of Comrade Delta’s friends and allies.

All in all a pretty shameful state of affairs then, and one that’s been written about extensively in  the weeks since it all came out.

* * *

At Conference

I was made aware during conference that some SWP activists were planning to speak against the Galloway motion.

Word had somehow got out to them that there was a risk the party would be getting a dishonourable mention in my moving speech. I am after all one of the union activists who recently signed the open letter to the SWP Central Committee asking them to reconsider their stance, so the SWP had held a meeting and, egged on from the back of the conference hall by a full-time SWP employee, were preparing to justify the Kangaroo Court tactics Comrade W had been subjected to, and to defend the indefensible.

I was baffled by this decision, especially given the party’s now much publicised record on handling rape and sexual violence within its own ranks. But on the Saturday morning the motion was due to be heard, after I’d seen that at least one of the SWP women involved had signed the now notorious 500 signature shit list, and after this leaflet had been handed to me on my way into the conference venue, I was also bloody angry.

SWP Handout UNISON Women's Conference 2013

So in anticipation of the things I suspected they’d be saying in their opposition speeches, I sat down and wrote my right of reply.

* * *

The Debate

The first half of my opening speech was pretty much a rip-off of a piece I’ve published on this blog already – Assange, and feminism’s so-called male allies. That’s one of the joys of being a writer, you can plagiarise yourself to your heart’s content.

So I talked about Assange and Galloway and Pilger, and about my disappointment with those leftie men who are prepared to sell women out for the sake of other leftie men.

And then I talked about the recent goings on in the SWP:

“Our comrades in the Socialist Workers’ Party haven’t exactly covered themselves in glory recently either over the issue of rape and sexual assault.

For those of you who haven’t heard, the SWP held an internal hearing into rape allegations against a senior member of its Central Committee, the membership of which was made up from all accounts of a majority of the alleged perpetrators close friends and allies. The alleged victim was then asked exactly the kinds of questions we would condemn if they were asked in any so-called bourgeois court of law.

Questions about the victim’s previous sexual history, victim blaming questions to try and show that if the alleged incident did take place the victim herself must have borne some responsibility for whatever went on.

Quite rightly the SWP have been roundly denounced for its Kangaroo Court tactics, and sadly but inevitably some of our own colleagues, comrades we would ordinarily be proud to stand alongside, have found themselves and their allegiances come under scrutiny.

Conference, declaring a man to be innocent of rape and other crimes of sexual violence, purely on the grounds that he’s been engaged in important work that many of us would like to see continued, while discounting women’s testimonies and women’s concerns in the process, is just the same old same old, men protecting men protecting men, and selling women out in the process.

Well we’re calling on UNISON to take a stand. We’re calling on UNISON to refuse to grant a platform to anyone who blames women for the crimes of sexual violence committed against them, and who perpetrates rape culture through the victim blaming attitudes they espouse.

Conference we know that no platforming is a controversial measure, and it’s not something we propose lightly. But at the same time we also know that every time a rape denier spouts their victim blaming poison another woman is silenced, and we refuse to play any part in that.

Conference please support the motion.”

And then the SWP got their chance to speak.

And they blew it.

I was apparently being “nasty” and making “serious allegations” against their party. I’d been reading too much of the right-wing press and I didn’t know what I was talking about. There had been five women at the Disputes Committee hearing, and it had all been conducted impeccably and the party was beyond reproach. The ‘process’ the SWP had used to determine the guilt or innocence of Comrade Delta had been fair. And so on and so forth…

We had a queue of women lined up to speak in support, but in the end the debate was closed down after conference had heard two more speakers for and two speakers against the motion.

Right up until the point when the SWP decided to make it personal I’d been looking at my hastily scribbled Right of Reply speech and wondering whether I should tone it down a bit. But after listening to the disgraceful attempts to justify the SWP’s recent behaviour, and after hearing myself practically being accused of being some kind of right wing stooge, I decided to go for it:

“Conference, as I said in my opening speech we do recognise that no platforming is a controversial measure.

However, to have the SWP come up here and pretend that their concerns are centred on some idea that we want to no platform anyone whose views differ from ours quite frankly takes the biscuit.

No, the SWP doesn’t care about sexism or about rape victims. The SWP’s only concerns are about the implications of this motion being passed for the 500 of its members, many of them UNISON activists, who yesterday signed a statement supporting the actions of its Central Committee. Their concerns are solely about what will happen now that 500 of them have outed themselves as misogynists and rape deniers.

In the leaflet that many of you would have been handed this morning outside the conference centre the SWP say: “We believe that the allegations made by the women in the Assange case should be taken seriously and investigated.” My question for the SWP would be – why then don’t you believe that allegations made by your own women members against your own activists should be taken equally seriously and investigated?

I know this is controversial conference, but please support the motion.”

The motion was passed overwhelmingly by UNISON Women’s Conference, with only five women voting against it and several hundred grassroots trade union women voting for it.

* * *


There are legitimate arguments to be had about no-platforming people, and I wish we could have heard those arguments at women’s conference. Unfortunately though the SWP picked the wrong fight on the conference floor, choosing instead to try and defend and justify the party’s recent despicable behaviour.

And now things have got even worse for them, with the party expelling activists for the simple crime of talking to each other on Facebook without the Central Committee’s permission or something. Meanwhile those swappies who have openly discussed the details of the case face no sanction whatsoever.

I’d be interested to hear whether those who got up and opposed UNISON’s right not to give Galloway a platform will feel a similar urge to get up and defend their own (now expelled) comrades’ rights to speak at the SWP’s hastily called Special Conference on March 10th. I won’t be holding my breath though….

Oh, and as for Galloway, he apparently has no problem with no-platforming anyone …

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Vieux Farka Touré and the music of Mali: “spreading the news of what has happened to us and what is still happening”

February 22, 2013 at 8:08 pm (africa, anti-fascism, culture, Human rights, humanism, islamism, liberation, music, national liberation, song, terror, The blues, Uncategorized)

From Chicago magazine:

By Kevin McKeough

Since the late, legendary Ali Farka Touré first brought the music of Mali to widespread attention in the mid-1980s, the western African nation’s musicians have beguiled listeners worldwide with their trance-inducing guitar patterns and Arabic flavored keening. Tragically, Mali has received more attention lately for the violent conflict in the country’s northern region, which encompasses part of the vast Sahara Desert. After Islamist extremists recently seized control of a large part of the area, including the storied city of Timbuktu, and committed numerous human rights violations, in January France sent soldiers into its former colony to drive out the militants. While the French military has retaken most of the area, the situation remains unstable both in northern Mali and in the south, where the country’s military has deposed two successive governments and reportedly is engaging in harsh repression.

Vieux Farka Touré, Ali Farka Touré’s son and a world music star in his own right, was performing Friday, Feb. 22, at the Old Town School of Folk Music. C Notes contacted Touré, who lives in the Malian capital, Bamako, to gain his perspective of the travails afflicting his country and how he and other Malian musicians are responding.

What are your thoughts about the Islamists’ invasion of northern Mali and France’s efforts to drive them out of the country? My thoughts are the same as everyone in Mali. The invasion of the Islamists was hell on earth. It was a nightmare unlike anything we have ever experienced. We are very grateful to President Hollande and the French for their intervention. For the moment at least they have saved our country.

How have these disruptions affected you personally? I am safe and my family is safe. But there is great uncertainty in Mali today. Nobody knows what we can expect in the next years, months or even days. So it is very bad for the spirit to be living in this kind of situation.

What’s your reaction to the Islamist invaders banning music in the areas they controlled? I was furious. It broke my heart like it did for everyone else. It was as though life itself was taken from us.

You were part of an all-star group of Malian musicians who recently recorded the song “Mali-ko” in response to the conflict. Please talk about the project and why you participated in it. Musicians in Mali play a very important role in society. We are like journalists, telling people what is happening. We are also responsible for speaking out when there are problems, and we are responsible for lifting the spirit of the nation. So that is why we made “Mali-ko.” Fatoumata [Diawara] organized everyone and we all spent some time hanging out in the studio and doing our little parts. It was a very nice project. I’m happy with the result and I’m happy that it got a lot of attention in the United States and in Europe.

Aside from the song, what role do you think musicians can play in responding to the situation in Mali? We can do what we are already doing—we are going everywhere we can around the world and spreading the news of what has happened to us and what is still happening. Equally, we must continue to entertain our people and keep them proud to be from Mali. For Malians, music is the greatest source of pride so we must work very hard to keep that pride alive. Right now it is not easy for people to be proud and have faith.

What do you think needs to be done in Mali? First and most importantly, we need to continue to drive out all the militants from our country. There is no future for Mali with terrorists living amongst us. Period. Also we must move quickly to engage in free and open elections to restore the faith and the legitimacy of our country in the eyes of the world and its people. These two things are the most critical at this time.

Your music resembles your father’s but has its own distinct quality. Can you talk about what you’re trying to do in the music, how and why you combine traditional and contemporary styles? With my music I try not to think very much about what I am doing. I just let myself be open to inspiration and it will take me where I need to go. So I am not thinking “for my next album I must do a song with reggae, or I must do an acoustic album because this will be good for my career” or anything like that. I think all artists are like lightning rods for inspiration and you must be open to it or it will not strike you. If you try to do something artistic it will not be as good as if you just let inspiration decide what you are doing. So my style is just based on what influences me and what inspires me.

For a country with a small population, Mali has produced a large number of internationally recognized musicians. Why do you think the country has so many excellent musicians? This is the mystery that everyone wants to understand. I do not know for sure why there are so many big international stars from Mali. But I know this: We take our music very, very seriously. It is at the core of our culture and it is the definition of Mali as a people. There is no Mali without Malian music. So I think this inspires many young people to try to become musicians. Maybe everywhere in the world has this kind of talent but there is not as strong a push for everyone to develop their talents in music. But honestly, I don’t know. We are lucky for this great richness of talent. That is for sure.

Kevin McKeough is a contributing music critic for Chicago magazine

See also ‘The Hendrix of the Sahara’

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Galloway exposes himself …

February 21, 2013 at 5:15 pm (anti-semitism, Asshole, Galloway, israel, Jim D, Racism, Respect, students)

… as a racist and antisemite

It’ll be interesting to see whether anyone who is not an avowed or obvious antisemite is prepared to defend Galloway over this:

From (Oxford students’ online magazine) Wednesday 20th February 2013:

George Galloway has been accused of ‘pure racism’ by his debate opponent after ‘storming out’ of Christ Church.

George Galloway, the Respect MP for Bradford West, has been accused by Oxford students of anti-semitism.

Mr Galloway “stormed out” of a debate at Christ Church on Wednesday evening, upon finding out that his opponent, Eylon Aslan-Levy, a third-year PPEist at Brasenose, was an Israeli citizen.

Mr Galloway had spoken for ten minutes in favour of the motion ‘Israel should withdraw immediately from the West Bank’, before giving way to Aslan-Levy.

Less than three minutes into Aslan-Levy’s speech against the motion, Galloway was made aware that his opponent was an Israeli citizen.

“I have been misled,” Mr Galloway then commented, interrupting Aslan-Levy’s speech. “I don’t debate with Israelis”. He then left the room with his wife, Putri Gayatri Pertiwi, and was escorted out of Christ Church by a college porter. When prompted to explain why Aslan-Levy’s nationality prompted him to abandon the debate, Galloway stated that “I don’t recognize Israel.”

In a statement late on Wednesday evening Galloway explained that “I refused this evening to debate with an Israeli, a supporter of the Apartheid state of Israel.

“The reason is simple; No recognition, No normalisation. Just Boycott, divestment and sanctions, until the Apartheid state is defeated.” Mr Galloway is a leading political proponent of the campaign to ‘boycott’ Israeli goods, services and – it emerged tonight – people.

After the debate Aslan-Levy said that “I am appalled that an MP would storm out of a debate with me for no reason other than my heritage.
“To refuse to talk to someone just because of their nationality is pure racism, and totally unacceptable for a member of parliament.”
Mahmood Naji, the organiser of the debate, told Cherwell that he “condemned Mr Galloway’s walkout, on the basis of his opponent’s nationality.”
He went on to deny that he had “misled” the MP. “At no point during my email exchange with Mr Galloway’s secretary was Eylon’s nationality ever brought up or mentioned.” He added, “nor do I expect to have to tell the speaker what his opponent’s nationality is.”

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Trial by incompetent jury…

February 21, 2013 at 1:05 am (BBC, comedy, crime, Jim D, Lib Dems, strange situations, TV)

Mr Justice Sweeney said he had concerns about the “absolute fundamental deficits of understanding which the questions demonstrate”. He added that, since most of the answers were in his directions to the jury, he doubted that “the extent to which anything said by me is going to be capable of getting them back on track again”.

“I am like Mr Edis in the position that after 30 years of criminal trials I have never come across this at this late stage,” said the judge. “Never.”

Mr Justice Sweeney’s remarks as he discharged an incompetent jury in the Vicky Pryce case, somehow reminded me of this little classic:

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