A very unfortunate and, it seems, very nasty confrontation between SWP stewards and anti-rape campaigners at the Bedroom Tax demo in Glasgow yesterday. This footage isn’t, perhaps, conclusive proof of SWP culpability, so we’d appreciate comments from anyone who was there.
The person who took the film and posted it on Youtube, writes: “i should make it clear, i only got my camera out after the stewards started to push people back and started all this off, i hadn’t gone intending to record anything, just show my opposition to the bedroom tax.”
H/t: Mod and Jelly (an unlikely pair…)
After a long search, I’ve just obtained a deleted CD by my favourite singer, the now nearly forgotten Lee Wiley. It originally appeared in the mid fifties as a 10″ album called Lee Wiley Sings Rogers and Hart and the CD includes an added bonus: the original sleeve notes by George Frazier (no, not the boxer, but one of the finest jazz writers ever). As one of our missions is to bring you great writing from perhaps unexpected sources, I thought I’d reproduce the notes here. The Youtube clip, by the way, is of Lee singing Rogers and Hart’s Glad To Be Unhappy, but from an earlier (1940) recording, with Max Kaminsky (trumpet), Joe Bushkin (piano) and Bud Freeman (tenor sax) in the band:
George Frazier wrote:
Lee Wiley is one of the best vocalists who ever lived, with a magical empathy for fine old show tunes and good jazz. Indeed, I know of no one who sings certain songs quite so meaningfully, so wistfully. She is, however, an artistic snob and, consequently, simply awful when (as is blessedly rare) somebody persuades her to experiment with mediocre material. When she doesn’t get a lyric’s message, you might as well call the game because of wet grounds. But given a number worthy of her endowments — well, she is miraculous, as, in fact, she is here.
This is a portfolio of songs by Rogers and Hart — not Rogers and that other fellow (who would be Oscar Hammerstein II, who, no disrespect intended, no Larry Hart, he). These are haunting songs — songs that have withstood the ravaging headlong rush of the years, the fickleness of public taste, and the debasement of the lyric to the nadir where we are subjected to, forgive the expression, Be My Life’s Companion. But whatta hell, whatta hell. The gratifying thing is that Richard Rogers and Lorenz Hart (who, although dead and buried these many years, is more artistically alive than the no-talent author of Be My Life’s Companion) turned out some lovely, lovely stuff and that Lee Wiley has a superb affinity for it. To my mind, indeed, she is the definitive interpreter of Rogers and Hart.
I do not in the least mind admitting that it gets me livid when most girl singers make it big, for it is my dour conviction that, by and large, they have plenty of nothing. Lee Wiley, however, is an artist. About the vast art of Miss Wiley there is a sophistication that is both eloquent and enduring and utterly uncontrived. Technically, she may leave something to be desired, but artistically she’s simply magnificent, projecting emotion with dignity and warmth, expressing nuances with exquisite delicacy, and always making you share her bliss or heartbreak. She came to New York from Ft. Gibson, Oklahoma, and before long all the right people were bewitched by her incomparable magic. There is no room here to catalogue all the individuals — that is, the prominent ones — who are Wiley devotees, but right offhand I can think of Bing Crosby, Dorothy Kilgallen, Ted Straeter, Victor Young, Louis Armstrong, and Marlene Dietrich. It is my feeling that they, along with a great many other people, will be grateful for this anthology. To my way of thinking, no better Rogers and Hart collection is available. Since de gustibus and so forth, I should probably mention at this point that I rather wish Miss Wiley had substituted, say, The Lady Is A Tramp or the rarely-heard Imagine for Give It Back To The Indians, but this is carping and, in any event, you cannot really fault Indians. As for my enthusiasms, the rendition of Glad To Be Unhappy is marvellous — a great love song interpreted in all its dark splendour. It is all the love affairs ended, all the marriages put asunder, from the beginning of years. It is Fitzgerald’s rich boy walking into the Plaza that stifling Saturday afternoon and suddenly coming upon his girl of once upon a vanished time, married now and big with imminent child. It is an ineffably haunting song, robust yet gentle, and this is its finest reading. It explains, I think, why Miss Wiley is an unqualified enthusiasm with such not-easily-impressed critics as, for instance, Roger Whitaker of the New Yorker, George Avakian of Columbia Records, and Jack O’Brien of the New York Journal-American.
And here, along with Glad To Be Unhappy, are such other small (and maybe not so small) miracles as My Heart Stood Still, Funny Valentine, It Never Entered My Mind and Mountain Greenery, all of them redolent of the suspenseful moments when the house lights lowered and the curtain went up on another show by Rogers and Hart. These are literate tunes, civilised tunes. Where, if you will, is there a more nearly perfect lyric than in It Never Entered My Mind? To me, it seems the greatest lyric ever written, but until I heard Miss Wiley do it, I never realized that it is the greatest by a prodigious margin.
Right about this point, I suppose, there should be the department of how-about-a-great-big-hand-for-the-boys-in-the-band. As it happens, this is a fine little ensemble, providing an accompaniment that is cohesive, rhythmic and gratifyingly unobtrusive. Its members are all, as Professor Kitteridge used to say of Sam Johnson, good men and four-squares. I would, however, like to put in an extra word or two about the stylish young trumpet player. His name is Ruby Braff and, to my ears, he sounds rather in apostolic succession to the late Bunny Berigan, who, coincidentally enough, accompanied Miss Wiley when she recorded a Gershwin anthology a decade or so ago.
Indeed, if I have any objection to this portfolio, it is that it will doubtless assail me with bittersweet memories — with the stabbing remembrance of the tall, breathtakingly lovely Wellesley girl with whom I was so desperately in love in the long-departed November when the band at the Copley Plaza in Boston used to play My Heart Stood Still as couples tea-danced after football games on crisp Saturday afternoons, with reawakened desire for the succession of exquisite girls with whom I spent many a crepuscular hour listening to cocktail pianists give muted voice to Funny Valentine, of the first time I saw Connecticut Yankee, of — Yes, of the first years of my marriage and listening to Lee Wiley late at night. My wife, who knew more about show tunes than any woman has a right to know, had a special affection for You Took Advantage Of Me and she always sang it when her spirits were high. Afterwards, when she had long ceased to sing it, when a judge had severed that which no man is supposed to put asunder, I lived for more than a year with a girl who I had hoped would make me forget. She was not witty or talented or, for that matter, particularly pretty. But she was very, very sweet and she tried very, very hard, even pretending to appreciate the Wiley records that I used to play over and over again as I clutched at the past and, for a little while indeed, it would actually seem to be kind of wonderful, with the mournful, wailing tugs in the river below and in the distance the Fifty-ninth Street Bridge stretched like a giant necklace as we sat there listening to the songs of heartbreak. There were even moments when I rather fancied myself falling in love again. But always such moments fled, because when Miss Wiley sings, there is nothing affected. So I would sit there and hurt more and more with the remembrance of other, never to be recaptured nights in the same room. Lee Wiley can do that to you — damn her! But damn her gently, because she is, after all, the best we have — the very best.
NB: “She drank like a fish, cussed like a sailor, could treat musicians abusively, and had no qualms about stealing married men – including the star trumpeter and bandleader Bunny Berigan, with whom she recorded. ‘They had a pretty torrid affair,’ says Dan Morgenstern, the celebrated jazz historian. ‘Bunny’s wife hated her.’ But Wiley got away with a lot, for she was a dish, with smoldering sex appeal and dark hair that tumbled past her shoulders.”: from a rather more critical take on Ms Wiley, here.
It is with great sadness that I have to release this statement to clear my name and to protect my family and friends who have been subject to verbal assault cyber assault and even threatened with physical violence. I also truly hope that it will give men who are suffering violence and abuse in relationships some encouragement to come forward and report their abusers. I have already been contacted by a number of men in the trade union movement who have suffered domestic violence but who were afraid to make a public statement out of a misconceived shame and embarrassment about being abused. Up until this point I have not commented upon the allegation that I assaulted Caroline Leneghan as I did not wish to add to Ms Leneghan’ s mental health problems and an RMT internal investigation was ongoing . I feel that now I need to comment as my family are being seriously effected by the unfounded allegations which have been spread on the Internet by people who are not in possession of the facts.
Ms Leneghan made a complaint to the police more than a year after the alleged event(which she claims took place in January 2012), Firstly she said she had no photographic evidence of the alleged “assault” saying that it had been deleted and only laterproduced some very dubious and undated pictures more than a yearafter the event claiming to show her injuries. The police questioned me investigated the allegation thoroughly, had the case reviewed by a senior officer and took No Further Action. Ms Leneghan also made a complaint to my employer the RMT trade union which has carried out an exhaustive investigation and found that I had “no case to answer”. During both investigations I provided hundreds of texts and emails that showed that Caroline Leneghan had been abusive to and assaulted me on several occasions. During the 18 months I spent with Ms Leneghan I was slapped, deprived of sleep, punched, pinched, scratched, elbowed in the ribs, kneed, had shoes ,belts and other objects thrown at me, had paint rubbed in my face and was kicked in the stomach about a week after I had an operation for a hernia. I stayed with Ms Leneghan because she was attending therapy twice a week in an attempt to control her violent outbursts, she suffers from a condition known as Borderline, Personality Disorder and has a history of violence ,severe self harm and attempted suicide. On the day she alleges the assault took place I was assaulted by her and whilst trying to take a screwdriver away from her(on previous occasions I had to take razor blades and knives away from her and call ambulances to treat her from self inflicted razor cuts on her arms legs and stomach) we both fell to the floor, Ms Leneghan landed face down and I landed on top of her. Ms Leneghan then went to her room and appeared the next day with bruising on her face. Ms Leneghan accepted that this was an accident and explained to several people at the time what had happed(several people made statements to the police to this effect). The assault allegations only arose over a year later when I finished my relationship with Ms Leneghan after being kicked in the stomach by her whilst on holiday just a week after I had a stomach operation for a hernia. When I broke off the relationship with Ms leneghan she pretended to be pregnant and threatened to have an abortion unless I had her back ,she even threatened to commit suicide which led me to spend several hours at her address on 1 January 2013 trying to calm her down. (this is all confirmed in the emails I gave the police and my employers). Ms Leneghan then hacked my facebook account on 21 January 2013 and discovered that I was going out with someone else, she made several abusive phone calls to me and sent very abusive and threatening texts and emails to me and my girlfriend and threatened me by text that “you are going down Steve”(which I did not reply to on solicitors advice but provided the evidence to the police and the RMT investigations). Ms Leneghan then went to the police and my employers as I have described. Having spoken to Mankind an organization that deals with domestic violence against men I was informed that abusive women often continue to abuse their victims when a relationship is finished by making false allegations to the police. I hope now that the investigations are complete and I have been cleared of any wrong doing that I can draw a line under this and move on with my life . I hope that Ms Leneghan can also move on continue with her treatment for her illness and find happiness uninfluenced by those who wish to make politically motivated attacks on me and my trade union.
Shahnaz Nazli, a teacher at a girls’ school in the Northwestern Khyber district of Pakistan, was murdered earlier this week. Officially, the motorbike-riding killers are “unknown” but they are clearly the same brand of gynaephobic fascist bastards who tried to kill Malala Yousufzai. The killing was quite widely covered by the likes of CNN, but I could find nothing in the Guardian or on the main liberal-leftist websites.
Can it be that sections of the Western liberal-left have come to simply accept that this kind of thing is inevitable in certain cultures? Or that sections of the so-called “left” even harbour a degree of sympathy with the Taliban as some kind of “resistance” movement?
Maybe Nick Cohen has a point.
And this book is essential reading.
Guest post from Alex Callinicos:
I have to offer some corrections to a piece by Jim Denham, who has omitted some significant passages from my missive to the Organizing Committee of the Historical Materialism conference in India.
I understand of course how important the issue of rape and sexual violence is in India, especially after last December’s gang rape and murder in Delhi. It is also a very important question in Britain, and for me personally, as it is for the Socialist Workers Party. We are strongly committed to women’s liberation. We took the rape allegations against a leading member extremely seriously; the controversy over how the party handled these allegations is indicative of that seriousness.
The next paragraphs should read:-
Furthermore, our experience of dealing with rape allegations is invaluable. We have much to offer in models of procedure for how the gang rape incident in Delhi should be treated. We have developed a revolutionary method whereby some friends of the accused hold a private inquiry on whether they are guilty or innocent. If I can employ the loaded term “common sense”, who is more likely to know if someone is guilty of a crime than his long term comrades?
In the unlikely event an accused person is found guilty he should not be allowed to use that particular bus-line for a year.
We have followed this procedure for all charges of rape, sexual assault or harassment in our Party for decades now, and we can confidently assert that we have eliminated these evils totally. Similar procedures could be implemented in Delhi. It will soon lose its reputation as an unsafe city for women, especially when all those who object publicly to our failsafe methods are banished from the city or incarcerated.
Comrade Denham has seen fit to pass over these constructive suggestions for a revolutionary process of eliminating sexual violence within our society.
Jim Denham then quotes:-
This is to say nothing of the personal inconvenience and expense you are exposing me to by withdrawing your invitation a week after you had circulated a programme that included me as chairing one session and speaking at another, and barely a week before I was due to fly to India.
However again he has been highly selective in his quotation, omitting a further passage:-
I have had three different jabs for this impending trip, which have caused me considerable discomfort, I’ve stocked up on anti-malaria tablets, which aren’t cheap, and I had a nice little beach-break in Goa tacked on at the end of the conference.
I can only conclude that Denham’s selective quotations and omissions are through sectarian malice.
[NB: more from Redfriars and its Acting Headmaster Stallinicos, here]
With populism in the air at home and abroad, our old friend Coatsey draws our attention to this exposé of the horrible (but still supposedly “left”) CounterPunch magazine’s attempt to paint the racist Huey Long as some sort of progressive in the Hugo Chavez mould. Regular readers will know that here at Shiraz we don’t share the prevailing liberal-leftist adulation of el Comandante, but to compare him to the racist Long is simply an insult to Chavez (and a particularly ironic one: see below). It’s time that some leftist idiots realised that anti-capitalist rhetoric does not a socialist make.
Mike Whitney has posted an article on CounterPunch titled Our Chavez: Huey Long. There seems to be an effort in recent years on the part of some people to try to portray the sometime governor of Louisiana and U.S.Senator as a great champion of the people, no doubt because of his anti-capitalist rhetoric. Yet when one takes a closer look at his life, it becomes clear that things were not that simple.
During Long’s lifetime, most of the Left regarded him with deep wariness, if not outright hostility. There were good reasons for that. First of all, he governed Louisiana as a virtual dictator. He even organized a secret police force to keep watch on his opponents as well as on his followers.
Long was also a white supremacist. He maintained Louisisana’s Jim Crow laws. (Long would sometimes smear his opponents by spreading rumors that they had “coffee blood”. This gives a bitter irony to calling him “our Chavez”.) Long’s apologists point out that he didn’t talk about white supremacy in his speeches. This was perhaps because he didn’t need to. In 1935, Roy Wilkins interviewed Long for The Criis. They discussed an anti-lynching bill that Long opposed in the Senate…
Read the full article here
Above: this man has been personally inconvenienced
The organisers of a Marxist Conference (‘Historical Materialism’) in India have withdrawn their invitation to Professor Callinicos. He seems to be quite upset, and has tweeted (https://twitter.com/alex_callinicos/status/316678538310864897) as follows:
Dear Organizing Committee,
I was very surprised to receive your communication. You ask me ‘to withdraw [my] decision to attend’. But I only made that decision in response to an invitation to participate in your conference. So what you are in fact doing is withdrawing your invitation, as is indicated by the fact that you have already deleted me from the conference programme. I think you should take full responsibility for the decision you are actually taking.
I understand of course how important the issue of rape and sexual violence is in India, especially after last December’s gang rape and murder in Delhi. It is also a very important question in Britain, and for me personally, as it is for the Socialist Workers Party. We are strongly committed to women’s liberation. We took the rape allegations against a leading member extremely seriously; the controversy over how the party handled these allegations is indicative of that seriousness. The special conference that we recently held to resolve this controversy has set up a committee to review our procedures, and we intend to use this to reinforce our efforts to combat the oppression of women.
It is not for me to judge how grave the danger of disruption to your conference is. But an appeal circulated by an academic at JNU does not reflect well intellectually or morally on those agitating against my presence at the conference. This document is a farrago of nonsense that treats allegations as proven fact, cites tendentious opinion pieces as ‘reports’, and includes the laughable assertion that ‘the journal Historical Materialism is allied, and … is known to be principally operated by Socialist Workers Party members and supporters’.
Since this is a conference sponsored by Historical Materialism, let me remind you that I am a longstanding supporter of the journal and, along with Marxist intellectuals of many political tendencies, a member of its International Advisory Board. I have tried to support HM’s development both in Britain and internationally. Your decision damages HM’s commitment to promote Marxist theoretical development independently of organized political alignments.
So I regret your decision – not just for this reason, but also because I value my long-standing connections with the Marxist intellectual left in India. In taking this decision, based directly or indirectly on interested misrepresentations of debates inside the SWP, you run the risk of compromising your own intellectual and political integrity.
This is to say nothing of the personal inconvenience and expense you are exposing me to by withdrawing your invitation a week after you had circulated a programme that included me as chairing one session and speaking at another, and barely a week before I was due to fly to India. This is quite unacceptable in what is meant to be an academic conference, and it is also not how socialists should behave towards one another.
[NB: Statement from the organising group of the Delhi HM Conference, here]