Corbyn must back Labour’s policy – not Stop The War’s

November 30, 2015 at 12:46 pm (Champagne Charlie, fascism, internationalism, islamism, labour party, Middle East, MPs, Stop The War, SWP, Syria, terror)

The last Labour Party conference passed fairly clear policy on Syria, setting down four essential requirements that must be met before any UK intervention can be supported. The four requirements are set out below, in bold, followed by the arguments as to why these requirements have not, to date, been fully met:

  • Clear and unambiguous authorisation from the United Nations – it is not clear that this requirement has been “unambiguously” met: a Chatham House expert has argued UN Security Council resolution 2249 does not provide a legal basis for military action as it does not invoke Chapter VII of the UN charter authorising the use of force. David Cameron claims to justify it on the basis of the collective self-defence of Iraq and of the UK, but that does not meet the condition.
  • A comprehensive EU-wide plan to provide humanitarian assistance to the consequent increase in the number of refugees – In fact, the EU refugee plan has been frustrated by isolationist governments within the EU (including the UK) and no comprehensive plan exists. There are already 4m refugees in countries bordering Syria and 6.5m displaced internally. This would increase if the bombing escalates.
  • That bombing is exclusively directed at military targets directly associated with ‘Islamic State’ – this is inevitably problematic  as it is known that ISIS/Daesh is using human shields.
  • That any military action is subordinated to international diplomatic efforts, including the main regional powers, to end the Syrian civil war – this requirement remains elusive, and the shooting down of a Russian plane by Turkey has been a major setback to diplomatic efforts towards ending the civil war.

So it is clear that, on the basis of  Labour Party policy, Jeremy Corbyn would have little difficulty in motivating his opposition to Cameron’s plan for Britain to join the bombing campaign. Unfortunately, all too often Corbyn’s approach seems guided not so much by Labour Party policy, but by Stop The War’s. This means that he comes over as opposing any military action against ISIS/Daesh under any conceivable circumstances – and indeed, often gives the impression of doubting that they need to be fought at all.

The Stop The War Coalition position is at best bourgeois isolationist/anti-internationalist and at worse – as exhibited  in this article by a founder of Stop The War  ‘defeat imperialism, not isis‘ and by Stop The War tame celeb Mark Rylance – on ISIS not being enemies and “sitting down with them” – simply apologism for the fascists.

Equally, the idea that if only we only left “them” alone “they” wouldn’t attack “us” at home (put forward in one form or another, by Stop The War, Diane Abbott, and Corbyn himself) not only ascribes rational motives to these demented fascist nihilists but also ignores and insults the thousands of Syrians, Kurds and Iraqis murdered, enslaved and raped by ISIS.

Corbyn should break with the bourgeois isolationism and appeasement of  Stop The War, and make it clear that if the conditions set out by Party policy were met, he would not rule out military action. In addition (as John McDonnell has very wisely advocated) he should allow a free vote to avoid a damaging split in the PLP and Shadow Cabinet over the wrong issue.

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Syria Solidarity: Why we oppose UK bombing and also oppose ‘Stop The War’

November 29, 2015 at 8:52 pm (Human rights, internationalism, Middle East, posted by JD, solidarity, Stop The War, Syria, terror)

Statement from Syria Solidarity UK on yesterday’s Stop The War demo:

Syria Solidarity UK and Stop the War have very different concerns regarding Syria: Syria Solidarity is concerned with ending the suffering of Syrians under the Assad dictatorship; Stop the War with opposing any UK military involvement regardless of consequences for Syrians.

We oppose the British government’s proposal to merely mimic the American ISIS-only counter-terrorism war; not only do we believe it is immoral to fly missions in Syria against ISIS while leaving the even greater killer, Assad, free to bomb civilians en masse, we also believe that any war against ISIS that doesn’t put the needs of the Syrian people first will be a failure that can only prolong their suffering.

We do call for action to protect civilians in Syria, including limited military action to enforce a no-bombing zone.

Stop the War similarly oppose British government proposals to bomb ISIS, but not because they would leave Assad alone; for Stop the War also oppose any action against Assad. This puts Stop the War against Syrians who are being bombed by Assad: it puts them not just against Syrian revolutionaries but also against Syrian doctors, against Syrian White Helmets rescue volunteers, and against Syrian civil society activists, all of whom call for international action to stop Assad’s bombs.

This is why Stop the War don’t want to listen to Syrians.

That is why we do not support their demonstration today.

 • WATCH: Muzna of Syria Solidarity UK and Diane Abbott MP debate Stop the War Coalition’s silencing of Syrians

 • READ: A letter to David Cameron from Syrians in Britain

DON’T BOMB SYRIA?

If Stop the War’s slogan “Don’t bomb Syria” is to have any meaning, let them demand the end of the regime whose bombs have killed so many.

If Stop the War oppose imperialism let them demonstrate their sincerity outside the Russian Embassy. Let them demonstrate with placards calling for Russia to stop bombing Syrian hospitals.

WHO IS KILLING CIVILIANS IN SYRIA?

The vast majority of violent deaths of civilians documented by the Syrian Network for Human Rights since March 2011 have been attributed to Assad’s forces. The following figures from SNHR’s report, The Main Conflict Parties Who Are Killing Civilians in Syria, are for the period from March 2011 to the end of October 2015.

Civilians killed from March 2011 to Oct. 2015

By Assad forces: 180,879   95.96%
… armed opposition groups: 2,669 1.42%
… unidentified groups: 2,002 1.06%
… ISIS: 1,712 0.91%
… Kurdish self management forces: 379 0.2 %
… al-Nusra Front: 347 0.18%
… Russian forces: 263 0.14%
… International Coalition forces: 251 0.13%

The SNHR also release monthly reports. For October 2015 they documented the following numbers of violent civilian deaths.

Syrian civilians killed in October 2015 alone

By Assad forces: 793
… armed opposition groups: 45
… unidentified groups: 50
… ISIS: 53
… Kurdish self management forces: 10
… al-Nusra Front: 1
… Russian forces: 263
… International Coalition forces: 1

All reports can be found on the Syrian Network for Human Rights website: http://sn4hr.org/

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Billy Strayhorn, b: 29 Nov 1915

November 29, 2015 at 8:29 pm (good people, jazz, Jim D, music, United States)

The great jazz composer and arranger Billy Strayhorn was born 100 years ago, today.

He joined the staff of Duke Ellington in 1939 and wrote the Duke’s signature tune ‘Take The A-Train’:

…note tenorist Paul Gonsalves, clearly out of it.

Strayhorn joined the Duke, initially, as a lyric-writer and had already written the music and lyrics to the remarkable song ‘Lush Life’:

Strayhorn died of blood cancer in 1967, but kept composing and arranging from his hospital bed right to the end. Shortly after Strayhorn’s death, his boss and friend Duke Ellington (and the Ellington Orchestra) made an album called …And His Mother Called Him Bill; the final track was the Duke himself, alone at the piano for most of the time (then joined by Harry Carney on baritone sax), playing Strayhorn’s composition ‘Lotus Blossom’:

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FBU will reaffiliate to Labour

November 27, 2015 at 6:23 pm (AWL, class, labour party, posted by JD, unions, workers)

Striking firefighters outside Euston fire station. Picture: Sebastian Mann

The Fire Brigades Union (FBU) has decided to reaffiliate to the Labour Party.

At a recall conference today, the issue was debated and delegates voted to reaffiliate. The FBU disaffiliated from the Labour Party in 2004 after a bitter pay dispute, where the Blair government intervened aggressively on the side of the employers. A combination of disgust with the disgraceful behaviour of Labour ministers, anti-political sentiment, nationalism in the devolved administrations and plans by some activists to back other socialist candidates saw the union voluntarily leave the party. Resolutions at subsequent conferences calling for reaffiliation, mostly from brigades in the North East of England, have been overwhelmingly rejected. The picture began to change before the election, particularly last year after Labour leaders provided some support to firefighters in the FBU’s pensions dispute. Labour shadow ministers also took on board some of the union’s political demands for the fire and rescue service, such as on flooding. The decisive shift has been the Corbyn leadership.

Corbyn and John McDonnell were co-founders of the FBU’s parliamentary group, set up after the disaffiliation. Corbyn has a record of support for the union going back to the 1977 pay dispute. Both supported the union throughout the Blair-Brown and Miliband years. Although the precise form of affiliation will be debated, to take account of differences in Scotland and Northern Ireland, re-engagement will be a tremendous fillip to the left across the labour movement and an important counter to the gathering forces of the right wing who want to depose Corbyn. Socialists should add our weight to the FBU debate as enthusiastic advocates of affiliation to the Labour Party, as part of transforming the labour movement and promoting working class political representation.

Every union, particularly those not currently affiliated, should have this discussion. Socialists should seek these discussions with other activists, rather than leave it to union leaders to make links at the top. Socialist Worker’s editorial (27 October 2015) sagely advises that “affiliating to Labour won’t stop the Tories”, but does not say whether it is for affiliation or against. The Socialist Party, whose TUSC perspective has been utterly discredited by the Corbyn surge, has Rob Williams writing in The Socialist (14 October) that “we believe it is premature to re-affiliate”. Rather than plunge into the living battle within the Labour Party, the SWP and SP advise militants to ponder their doubts from the outside, or wait until things somehow become more “mature”. Their stance is utterly useless in the debates now raging within the unions.

Labour: reaffiliate to unions

Dave Green, National Officer of the Fire Brigades Union, spoke to Solidarity (paper of the AWL) some weeks before the special conference:

Q: It has become public this week that the FBU will be discussing re-affiliation to Labour at it’s special conference on 27 November. What do you think about the affiliation debate?

The FBU disaffiliated from the Labour Party in 2004. This followed the acrimonious pay dispute a couple of years previously where firefighters were regularly vilified by not only the mass media but also Labour politicians. There had been disquiet with the Labour Party and its policies for some considerable time, from the abolition of Clause 4 through to the Iraq war. However, the public attack on firefighters and the FBU in 2002/03 was the final straw. Since then there has been much debate about affiliation. Every year there are motions to our conference asking for affiliation and, so far, every year they have been voted down. We have to be honest with ourselves about this. Firefighters are no different to the general population and are influenced by debates and issues that surround them. Many are wary about any connection with a political party. Distrust in the established political system cuts across all classes and occupations. The move away from the Labour Party reflected that distrust and a general feeling of ″they are all the same″ or ″what have they ever done for us?″ Many of us have fought for years from within to bring the Labour Party back from a party that merely diluted down Tory policies to a party that truly reflected the aspiration of working people and proactively, unapologetically made the case for socialism. We have had a presence at the Labour Party conference for several years now and the heartening aspect of that has been the positive messages we get from delegates there. Not the usual MPs, but active local Labour politicians, many of whom have the same aspirations as us. It is not just a case of the FBU affiliating to Labour, but it is more to do with the Labour Party re-affiliating to the trade union movement. Corbyn′s election has given the trade union movement, and workers generally, a massive opportunity to bring forward, through the Labour Party, policies that we as socialists have aspired to for all our working lives. A awful long time for some of us! However, this needs to be translated into positive action. Those supportive Labour politicians are still enacting cuts across the public sector. They need to be given the confidence to start resisting. An alternative narrative needs to be written, and pretty damn quick. Our Executive Council were clear. We are living through one of the most reactionary, right-wing governments that most of us can ever remember. The Tories are removing all obstacles of opposition to their policies, that are trying to create a society that looks after the elite and them only – they are attacking the only protection that workers have (through the Trade Union Bill), they are gagging the media (through attacks on the BBC), they are engineering the electoral system to ensure a one-party state (in England at least) through denying the poor a vote and re-drawing constituency boundaries to give them an inbuilt majority. If we, as socialists, are serious about creating a different society, one that reflects our wishes and aspirations and is not one that we talk about in pubs and at meetings, then we have to act. Jeremy Corbyn has fought alongside all workers in struggle, both nationally and internationally, for decades. He has supported firefighters and the FBU. He will reject austerity and will protect the vulnerable and disadvantaged in our society. At this still embryonic stage of his leadership, it is essential that all who want a better society do all they can to support him and what he stands for. That is why the FBU believes we must affiliate to the Labour Party. If we can build a mass movement from within, then who knows what we can achieve. However, I know what will happen if we stand back and do nothing, watch it evolve, watch the party machine do its dirty work. Corbyn will be ousted and the hopes of millions will be gone. What will we do then? Stand back and say ″I told you so!″? No, it’s about supporting Jeremy Corbyn and John McDonnell — not necessarily the individuals, but what they stand for, because it is what we stand for. How can we not be part of that?

Q: How do you think the FBU should organise for its politics within the Labour Party if it was to reaffiliate?

We would need to be active. We would need to ensure that our members and officials across the UK engage with what the Corbyn Labour Party stands for. We need to encourage members to be active within the Labour Party. First of all, join the Party and go to branch meetings. We can then get the fire service back on the political agenda. We would encourage more political schools around the country to discuss the fire service and organise to protect it. In order to engage our membership the Labour Party needs to show what it will do for them — both in their working lives and their lives outside the fire service. The problem with Labour under Miliband (and the others) was that whilst they talked about representing the working class and the disadvantaged they really never did. There was never any real discussion about an alternative. I think many within our movement felt completely powerless as the agenda was set by the Tories and their friends. The Labour spin machine has a lot to answer for. The amazing return for Jeremy Corbyn proves the point about there being a political vacuum as regards an alternative.

Q: The Blairites did a lot to destroy Labour Party democracy. What do you think needs to happen to re-democratise the Party?

The main thing would be conference. That is where members of the Labour Party, be it individuals or affiliates, can make a big difference. If the decisions at conference revert back to being binding on the PLP and its leadership then workers will see a real point in being affiliated. If firefighters can see that moving a motion at their local branch could become national policy, then that will energise and give them hope. It is no use having a democratic conference if there is no substance beneath it. Branch organisation is also key. Any party worth its salt has to be built from the bottom up. It is impossible to have a credible political party without there being democratic accountability on the ground.

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The six “fathers” of ISIS

November 25, 2015 at 2:12 pm (fascism, Iran, iraq, iraq war, islamism, Middle East, posted by JD, reactionay "anti-imperialism", reblogged, religion, Syria, terror)

By Ziad Majed

The organization abbreviated as ISIS (Islamic State in Iraq and Syria) is not new in the region, nor is it a newfound expression of the crises afflicting Arab societies at a moment of profound transformations, initiated by 2011 revolutions.

To the contrary, ISIS is the offspring of more than one father, and the product of more than one longstanding and widespread sickness. The organization’s explosive growth today is in fact the result of previously existing, worsening conflicts that were caused by the different fathers.

ISIS is first the child of despotism in the most heinous form that has plagued the region. Therefore, it is no coincidence that we see its base, its source of strength concentrated in Iraq and Syria, where Saddam Hussein and Hafez and Bashar Al-Assad reigned for decades, killing hundreds of thousands of people, destroying political life, and deepening sectarianism by transforming it into a mechanism of exclusion and polarization, to the point that injustices and crimes against humanity became commonplace.

ISIS is second the progeny of the American invasion of Iraq in 2003, both the way in which it was initially conducted and the catastrophic mismanagement that followed. Specifically, it was the exclusion of a wide swath of Iraqis from post invasion political processes and the formation of a new authority that discriminated against them and held them collectively at fault for the guilt of Saddam and his party, which together enabled groups (such as those first established by Abu Musab al-Zarqawi) whose activities have been resumed by ISIS to get in touch with some parts of Iraqi society and to establish itself among them.

ISIS is third the son of Iranian aggressive regional policies that have worsened in recent years — taking Iraq, Lebanon, and Syria as its backyard, feeding (directly or indirectly) confessional divisions and making these divides the backbone of ideological mobilization and a policy of revenge and retaliation that has constructed a destructive feedback loop.

ISIS is fourth the child of some of the Salafist networks in the Gulf (in Saudi Arabia and other states), which emerged and developed throughout the 1980s, following the oil boom and the “Afghan jihad”. These networks have continued to operate and expand throughout the last two decades under various names, all in the interest of extremism and obscurantism.

ISIS is fifth the offspring of a profound crisis, deeply rooted in the thinking of some Islamist groups seeking to escape from their terrible failure to confront the challenges of the present toward a delusional model ostensibly taken from the seventh century, believing that they have found within its imaginary folds the answer to all contemporary or future questions.

ISIS is sixth the progeny of violence, or of an environment that has been subjected to striking brutality, which has allowed the growth of this disease and facilitated the emergence of what could be called “ISISism”. Like Iraq previously, Syria today has been abandoned beneath explosive barrels to become a laboratory, a testing ground for violence, daily massacres and their outcomes.

ISIS, an abominable, savage creature, is thus the product of at least these six fathers. Its persistency depends on the continuation of these aforementioned elements, particularly the element of violence embodied by the Assad regime in Syria. Those who think that they should be impartial toward or even support tyrants like Assad in the fight against ISISism fail to realize that his regime is in fact at the root of the problem.

Until this fact is recognized — that despotism is the disease and not the cure — we can only expect more deadly repercussions, from the Middle East to the distant corners of the globe…

Ziad Majed

Translated from Arabic (first published in June 2014) by Jeff Regger

Publié par Ziad Majed زياد ماجد

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Unite (Scotland): back Davy Brokett!

November 23, 2015 at 9:19 pm (posted by JD, scotland, Unite the union)

UNITE the union - Logo

By Dale Street

The Certification Officer – an unelected official created by the Thatcher government for the purpose of undermining trade union democratic procedures – has ordered a by-election for one of the Scottish territorial seats on the Unite Executive Council (EC).

The seat had been held by Davy Brockett, elected to the Executive Council in April of 2014 for a three-year period. Five months after his election fellow-EC-member Agnes Tolmie formally questioned Davy’s eligibility to hold the seat.

(In the 2010 Unite General Secretary election Tolmie had backed right-wing candidate Les Bayliss, standing on a platform of class collaboration, craft chauvinism, union centralisation, and public denunciations of striking workers.

After Bayliss lost, Tolmie joined the United Left grouping in Unite. She was elected to the union’s EC in 2014 on the United Left slate. Earlier this year she again parted company with the United Left.)

In response to Tolmie’s challenge to Davy’s eligibility, the different factions represented on the Unite EC, along with members of no factions, joined together to support Davy. In December of 2014 the EC unanimously backed Davy’s right to sit on the EC.

To hold a seat on the Unite EC a member must be what is called “Rule 6 compliant”. But, under the Unite Rulebook, the EC is empowered to waive the normal criteria of “Rule 6 compliance” where a member, like Davy, has been victimised and blacklisted.

The EC is empowered to do so because employers – by sacking and blacklisting union activists – would otherwise be able to exercise control over the composition of the union’s EC.

One out of Unite’s 1.4 million members was not prepared to accept the unanimous decision of the highest decision-making lay body of the union and lodged a complaint with the Certification Officer in April of 2015.

The complainant was Ian Murray, Agnes Tolmie’s husband. (Normally one would not define a union activist – or anti-union activist – in terms of their marital relationship. Not to do so in this case would be crass negligence.)

Astonishingly, despite the unanimous support for Davy by the EC, Unite officials chose not to defend that decision and not to contest Ian Murray’s complaint.

In June, Unite – probably in the form of Len McCluskey’s Chief of Staff Andrew (not to be confused with Tolmie’s husband Ian) Murray – wrote twice to the Certification Officer “acknowledging” (sic) and “conceding” (sic) that Davy was not eligible to sit on the EC.

This left the Certification Officer with no option but to uphold the complaint by one lone member against a unanimous decision of the union’s EC. As the Certification Officer wrote in his decision:

“The Union having conceded [Davy’s ineligibility], I so declare. This decision is reached on the basis of the Union’s concession without having heard detailed argument on the correct interpretation of the relevant rules.”

In fact, the Certification Officer went out of his way to stress that his decision, based on the absence of any arguments from Unite, was not to be taken as setting a precedent:

“Should the meaning of those rules be a matter of dispute in any future case, the present decision should not be regarded as providing any authoritative guidance on their interpretation or application.”

By way of remedy, Ian (not Andrew) Murray proposed that the unsuccessful candidate in the 2014 elections should simply take over Davy’s seat. According to Murray, this would “save the division and rancour that there would be should Mr. Brockett wish to stand again.”

In the event, the Certification Officer rejected Murray’s proposal and ordered a by-election be held, with the result announced no later than late January 2016.

Davy is rightly contesting that by-election. And he is doing so not just on the basis of his past record of standing up for members’ concerns but also in order to defend lay-membership democracy.

As Davy’s appeal for nominations puts it:

“At its December 2014 meeting our Executive Council unanimously expressed its support and confidence in me. But this decision was overturned by the Certification Officer.

I am therefore standing in this by-election to uphold the principles of lay democracy, and to send out a strong message that our union should be run by the membership, not unelected officials.”

Questions certainly need to be asked about the failure of Unite officials to defend the unanimous EC decision to back Davy – and their failure to inform the EC about this.

EC members learnt that Unite officials had not defended the EC decision only when the Certification Officer’s decision was published in October. They had not been informed of this at any of the EC meetings held after the complaint had been lodged.

But right now the priority for Unite branches in Scotland is to nominate Davy for the vacant seat on the EC, and to encourage their members to vote for him when the ballot papers go out.

With the election taking place over the Christmas/New Year break, every nomination and every vote could be vital.

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Islamism and the politics of identity

November 22, 2015 at 9:16 pm (Islam, islamism, Rosie B, Uncategorized)

Kenan Malik, always worth reading:-

There appears, nevertheless, to be something especially potent about Islam in fomenting terror and persecution. Contemporary radical Islam is the religious form through which a particular kind of barbarous rage expresses itself.

So, to understand why jihadis have been drawn into a moral universe that allows them to celebrate inhuman acts, we have to understand why political rage against the West takes such nihilistic, barbaric forms, and why radical Islam has become the primary vehicle for such rage.

Jihadis view themselves as warriors against western imperialism. Yet few anti-imperialists of previous generations would recognise jihadis as ideological kin.

There is a long history of popular struggles against colonialism and empire. While such movements often used violent means to pursue their ends, they were rarely “anti-western” in any existential sense. Rather they worked within a universalist moral framework that stressed freedom and emancipation for all humanity.

Over the past few decades these anti-imperialist traditions have unravelled. The new movements that have emerged in their place are often rooted in religious or ethnic identity, and are sectarian or separatist in form. This shift is linked to the wider decline of progressive social movements, the loss of faith in universalist values, and the replacement of ideological politics with the politics of identity. Moral norms have increasingly become tribal rather than universal. Political struggle for a better world has given way to inchoate identity-driven rage.

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The intellectual vs the roaring boys

November 22, 2015 at 8:51 am (Rosie B, television, Uncategorized)

I wasn’t going to bother with The Last Kingdom. Saxons vs Danes isn’t a period of history I’m much interested in. However Tom Holland, who is researching the Heptarchy was on Twitter saying that the portrait of Alfred was very good, so I scrolled through Episode 2 till he turned up, and he is good (played by David Dawson). A melancholy intellectual, visionary yet shrewd. Fragile, delicate and only an adequate warrior whereas the Danes thoroughly enjoy the whole business of close combat sword and shield play. His intellectualism takes the form as it would in his time, of theological debate, his politics are cool and ruthless.

“Most prudent, far-seeing in wisdom, and hard to overcome in any crisis’ – Æthelwold on King Alfred & his heirs. “ (stolen from Tom Holland).

So I went back to episode 1 and followed the fortunes of Uhtred (Alexander Dreymon) a handsome young man who was born a Saxon and brought up a Dane. We get shots of him bathing – not just for a sight of his nice body but to reassure the audience that our ancestors weren’t the epitome of stench that so repels us now. (They did the same thing for Liam Neeson’s Rob Roy).

Dreymon

Uhtred – quite clean you know

He does choose odd times of the year to bathe though. It has been winter for 5 episodes. Once there was a clump of daffodils suggesting it might be at least be late March then it got back to winter. I was hopeful that we would have changed seasons in episode 5 when Uhtred’s missus was bathing with a pregnant belly, showing time would have passed since their arranged marriage but evidently she conceived in about May, since it was winter again. This is Wessex, the West Country (though it it was shot in Hungary and Wales) and that part of England has early springs and hot summers. This series won’t have done the tourist trade any good.

Uhtred is supposed to be avenging the death of his adoptive father, a Dane, and is also trying to get back the kingdom of Northumbria, to which he is the rightful heir. He has plenty of adventures but he is a dull character not a patch on Alfred. His girlfriend, Brida (Emily Cox), is an early version of the Girl with the Dragon Tattoo, foul mouthed and playfully cruel which couldn’t be allowed to Uhtred, supposed to be the hero after all. His other companion is Leofric (Adrian Bower) the classic sergeant major rough diamond, obscene-speaking and straight-talking, the kind of part that would normally be played by Sean Bean.

The series is propaganda for paganism. The Danes are buoyant and colourful. They wear wonderful animal skins (though no-one ever scratches for fleas), are finely tattooed, have wild hair, and love a fight, followed by massacre, torture and rape. The biggest, and baddest of them, Ubba (Rene Tempe), has finally been laid low and he really did have the presence of a manic head of a motorcycle gang – The Marauding Mob or the Plundering Pack. Meanwhile the poor Saxons frump about in long drab gowns, go to Church and eat gruel and apples because it is always Lent. And on that kind of diet they have to fight these evil brutes with their ultra cool ships.

 

Ubba

The manic Ubba

Some genuine suspense has built up. Uhtred, tired of being pissed over by Alfred, is going rogue and is setting to do a little plundering of his own. With 3 more episodes to go I’m fairly sure Uhtred will be reconciled with Alfred and get Northumbria back. The Danes will be expelled and converted to Christianity. So far when they come up against a priest or devout king they have Richard Dawkins style objections to the faith. The nature of conversion is something that the script-writers in our agnostic age can’t handle.

This is supposed to be the British Game of Thrones which I don’t watch as it has too much explicit torture for me to stomach. Here the violence is knockabout and doesn’t make me wince. It looks good, it’s lively and there’s always the chance of seeing Alfred dragged away from discussing scripture for yet another wretched battle, glumly putting on the chain mail helmet while the Danish roaring boys, in the ninth century equivalent of revving their Harley Davidsons, knock up yet another painted shield wall.

Alfred

Alfred at yet another sodding battle

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Peter Wilby: “Paris will … disturb most Europeans more than 9/11”

November 20, 2015 at 3:39 pm (Asshole, fascism, France, intellectuals, islamism, Jim D, murder, New Statesman, perversity, relativism)


Above: 9/11 commemoration, Paris 2011

Peter Wilby, writing in his First Thoughts column in the present edition of the New Statesman:

“In the wake of mass murder, comparisons may seem otiose and probably also distasteful.  But the atrocities in Paris will, I suspect, disturb most Europeans more than the 9/11 atrocities in the US, even though the casualties were many fewer. It is not just that Paris is closer than New York and Washington DC. The 2001 attacks were on symbols of US global capitalism and military hegemony. The victims were mostly people working in them. This did not in any way excuse the gang of criminals who carried out the attacks. But is was possible, at least, to comprehend what may have been going through their twisted minds and the minds of those who sponsored and assisted them.

“The Paris attacks were different. France, to be sure, is a nuclear-armed capitalist state willing to flex its military muscles according to principles that are not always clear to outsiders. But this was not an attack on its political, military or financial centres. It was on people of various ethnicities and nationalities on a Friday night out, watching football, enjoying a concert, eating, drinking and chatting in restaurants and bars in a city that is famed (admittedly not always justly) for romance, enlightenment and culture. That is what makes these attacks so shocking…”

So it is “possible …to comprehend” the mass killing of cleaners, office workers and (yes) financiers in the Twin Towers (and the many civilian workers in the Pentagon) because of where they worked – but not the deaths of “people of various ethnicities and nationalities” (so the 9/11 victims were all white Americans?) seeking “romance, enlightenment and culture” (concepts alien to the 9/11 victims, of course) in Paris?

Later on in his piece Wilby states that it is wrong to resort to “glib attempts to explain what drives men to kill indiscriminately.” Yet he seems to be able to “explain” 9/11. So perhaps, according to Wilby, Paris was “indiscriminate” but not New York or Washington?

The editorial of the  New Statesman of 17 September, 2001 appeared to blame Americans themselves for the 9/11 attacks — for “preferring George Bush to Al Gore and both to Ralph Nader”: the editor of the New Statesman at the time was one Peter Wilby.

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Motion to Left Unity: “The impossible has happened … and we got it wrong”

November 19, 2015 at 6:39 pm (Champagne Charlie, labour party, left, reformism, socialism)

Members of a left group admitting they got things seriously wrong and the organisation needs to fundamentally change: how often has this happened before?

Left Unity

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