In memory of our beloved comrade, Avijit Roy

February 28, 2015 at 9:24 pm (Andrew Coates, Bangladesh, blogging, Free Speech, good people, humanism, islamism, murder, posted by JD, religion, RIP, terror)

Reblogged from Tendance Coatesy:

Memorial Protest for a Beloved Fighter for Freedom.

Avijit Roy, who has been killed in an attack in Dhaka at the age of 42, was a Bangladeshi-American blogger, published author, and prominent defender of the free-thought movement in Bangladesh.

Mr Roy rose to prominence though his prolific writing on his self-founded site, Mukto-Mona – an internet gathering of mostly South Asia free-thinkers, ratio­nalists, sceptics and humanists founded in 2000.

He was a passionate atheist and an adherent of metaphys­ical naturalism – the school of thought that rejects the supernatural concepts and explanations that are part of many religions.

He was the author of numerous books, and had many articles published in magazines and journals.

In a conservative country like Bangladesh, his subject matter was often contentious, covering sensitive issues such as homosexuality – which he argued was inherent in nature – religious unbelief and cosmology.

Mr Roy’s followers argue that many of his secular ideas are in the tradition of the great Bengali writer Rabindranath Tagore, who died in 1941 and is often referred to as “Bengal’s Shakespeare”.

Some of the last books Mr Roy wrote, Obisshahser Dorshon (The Philosophy of Disbelief) and Biswasher Virus (The Virus of Faith), were critically well received around the world.

In the Virus of Faith he argues that “faith-based terrorism will wreak havoc on society in epidemic proportions”.

In one of his last published articles in the Free Inquiry magazine, Mr Roy wrote: “To me, religious extremism is like a highly contagious virus. My own recent experiences in this regard verify the horrific reality that such religious extremism is a virus of faith.”

He said in the article that a book he published last year “hit the cranial nerve of Islamic fundamentalists” and led to him being targeted by militant Islamists and terrorists.

It also led, he said, to a man openly issuing death threats against him on Facebook.

“Avijit Roy lives in America and so it is not possible to kill him right now,” Mr Roy quoted one threat against him as saying, “but he will be murdered when he gets back.”

BBC.

The Independent reports,

Avijit Roy and his wife were returning from a book fair at Dhaka University on Thursday evening when they were attacked.

Witnesses told local media their bicycle rickshaw was stopped by two men who dragged them on to the pavement but police chief Sirajul Islam said the couple were ambushed as they walked towards a roadside tea stall.

Both accounts said at least two men with machetes started hacking at the couple as they lay on the ground.

The attackers then ran away, disappearing into crowds.

Mr Roy, believed to be in his 40s, was pronounced dead during emergency surgery at the Dhaka Medical College hospital and his wife, Rafida Ahmed Banna, lost a finger and is being treated for serious injuries.

Police found her severed finger alongside two machetes and a bag possibly belonging to the attackers at the scene

In Commemoration: Avijit Roy.

News From Bangladesh:

BD News 24.

Avijit’s killing stirs world media Mohammad Abu Bakar Siddique

The brutal killing of writer, blogger Avijit Roy in hand of machete-wielding assailants has created a shockwave in the global media.

The leading news organisations from around the world including BBC, Reuters, the Guardian, The New York Times, NDTV etc condemned the barbarous killing, bringing out detail of the attack.

BBC placed the news on the attack that left the Bangladesh-born US citizen dead and his wife also a blogger Rafida Ahmed Bonna, critically injured, as its lead on the following day, with the headline suggesting “US-Bangladesh blogger Avijit Roy hacked to death.”

The contributions of Avijit, a naturalised US citizen, particularly his activism for scientific knowledge and secularism through online and publications, his receiving threats from militants groups, the attack by the widespread protest against the killing and for arrest of the attackers, and the country’s context were mentioned in the BBC’s report.

The killing of the son of the country’s one of the most prominent professors Ajay Roy was covered Reuters, as “American blogger killed in Bangladesh machete attack,” the New York Times reported “Avijit Roy, Bangladeshi-American Writer, Is Killed by Machete-Wielding Assailants,” besides several other versions with updates.

Roy came to Dhaka for publication of his new books in the book fair around mid-February with his wife, and on the evening they fell under the attack in the TSC area in Dhaka University on the way back from the fair.

Avijit wrote a number of books on mainly philosophy, rationalism and science, in line with his activism, also in online, for secularism and freedom of expression, for which he had been receiving death threats since long, including the recent one when social media fanatics openly declared to kill him on coming home, family told media.

The UK-based the Guardian reported “American atheist blogger hacked to death in Bangladesh” mentioning the previously happened similar attacks on the free thinkers.

“American-Bangladeshi atheist blogger Avijit Roy hacked to death by suspected Islamist extremists,” wrote the UK based the Independent.

The Telegraph wrote: “Atheist US blogger hacked to death in Bangladesh,” while The Times headlined “Atheist US blogger hacked to death in Bangladesh”

CNN titled “Prominent Bangladeshi-American blogger Avijit Roy killed” where it detailed with the facts related to the killing and the shocks emerged from it.

It reported on the very attack in two more stories with title “American writer hacked to death in Bangladesh spoke out against extremists”, and “Blogger’s brutal death for speaking his mind.”

From the murder to the UN condemnation, the media all around the world are coming up with the follow ups as well.

The attack was widely covered in the media of neighboring India and Pakistan.

India’s NDTV and Pakistan’s Dawn among the prominent news media covered the story, his contributions, threats were mentioned.

These news media are also following the developments in Bangladesh and the world, in response to the attack, protest and condemnation that began in Dhaka.

 

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Love and utter solidarity

December 31, 2014 at 1:26 am (Andrew Coates, anti-fascism, humanism, kurdistan, posted by JD, reblogged, solidarity)

Comrade Coatesy posted this, and I endorse it with all. my heart:

Olympe would have been proud of you: beloved comrades.

“Je n’ai qu’un moment pour les faire, mais ce moment fixera l’attention de la postérité la plus reculée.

I have but a moment to spare, but this moment will hold the attention of the  most distant posterity.

Olympe de Gouges. The original Declaration of the Rights of Women. 1791.

 By Zîlan Diyar, a Kurdish guerrilla fighter:

This piece originally appeared in Yeni Özgür Politika in Turkish with the title ‘The time has come.’

The whole world is talking about us, Kurdish women. It has become a common phenomenon to come across news about women fighters in magazines, papers, and news outlets. Televisions, news sites, and social media are filled with words of praise. They take photos of these women’s determined, hopeful, and radiant glances. To them, our rooted tradition is a reality that they only recently started to know. They are impressed with everything. The women’s laughter, naturalness, long braids, and the details of their young lives feel like hands extending to those struggling in the waters of despair. There are even some, who are so inspired by the clothes that the women are wearing, that they want to start a new fashion trend!

They are amazed by these women, who fight against the men that want to paint the colours of the Middle East black, and wonder where they get their courage from, how they can laugh so sincerely. And I wonder about them. I am surprised at how they noticed us so late, at how they never knew about us. I wonder how they were so late to hear the voices of the many valiant women who expanded the borders of courage, belief, patience, hope, and beauty. I do not want to complain too much. Perhaps our eras just did not match. I just have a few words to say to those who only now begin to notice us, that’s all.

Now one half of us is missing. If there is no past or future in your environment, one feels like a sound, an upsurge that gets lost in the black holes of the universe. The excitement and beauty of today can only be measured by those who were able to carry it to this day and their ability to carry it further to the future. In the cry of Zîlan (Zeynep Kinaci), who detonated herself in 1996 is the breath of Besê, who threw herself off the cliffs in the Dersîm uprising in the 1930s, saying “You cannot catch me alive” and that of Berîtan, who surrendered neither her body, nor her weapon to the enemy, when she threw herself off the mountain cliffs in 1992. It is the reason why YPJ fighter Arîn Mirkan made a mountain wind blow through a desert town, when she detonated herself rather than surrendering to ISIS, in order to cover her retreating comrades in Kobanê this October.

In the hearts of the Yezidi women, who take up arms against the men with the black flag is the homesickness of Binevs Agal, a Yezidi woman, who joined the guerilla from Germany in the 1980s and crossed continents to return to her country. In the words of Ayse Efendi, the co-president of the Kobanê people’s assembly, “I will die in my homeland,” is hidden the odin of the rebellious Zarife, who fought in the Dersim uprising. In the smile of the YPJ fighter, who poses with her child while carrying a rifle, is the hope of Meryem Colak, a psychologist, who chose to fight in the mountains and who often shared with us her longing for the daughter she left behind. Deniz Firat, a Firat News journalist, who was killed by ISIS in Makhmur in August, learned to search for truth from Gurbetelli Ersöz, a journalist and guerrilla fighter who died in clashes in 1997. Sema Yüce (Serhildan), who set herself on fire in protest in a Turkish prison in 1992, whispered the secrets of the fire to Leyla Wali Hussein (Viyan Soran), who self-immolated in 2006 to draw attention to the situation of Abdullah Öcalan.

Those who today wonder about why the “Girl with the Red Scarf”, a Turkish girl, who was disillusioned from the state after the Gezi-Park protests, would join the mountains, would have known the answer if they had known Ekin Ceren Dogruak (Amara), a Turkish revolutionary woman in the PKK whose grave stone says “The girl of the sea who fell in love with the mountains” and Hüsne Akgül (Mizgin), a Turkish guerrilla fighter of the PKK, who died in 1995. Those surprised at the US Americans, Canadians joining the YPG are those who do not know Andrea Wolf, a German internationalist in the PKK, who was murdered in 1998 and whose bones were thrown into a mass grave, and whose memorial could not be tolerated by the state.

Our calendar did not run parallel to the world’s calendar. These women’s gaze was focused on the depths of the far distance, their steps were fast. In order to bring the future closer, they were so impatient that they did not leave a single bridge behind. These two reasons kept us apart from the realities of the world. That is why the world did now know the women in the mountains, tens, then hundreds and later thousands of them, in the same time frame. Now it’s time to combine calendars, to set clocks. It is time to tell these women’s life stories that swung between dream and reality, their happy moments that sound like fairy tales, the ways in which loss has proven to be our most egregious teacher in our quest for truth. Now is the perfect time to entrust what I was able to carry from the past to this day. In order to join the world’s calendar, I will carry our past to the present. May my past be your present.

I wake up on a cold spring morning of Cirav in 1997. I throw the nylon, moistured from the frosty night, off me and I see a face, different from those of the swarthy warriors, in front of me. As if the sun had only mildly radiated on this face. As if her hands, her smile described elegance and nobility. I am happy that a warrior who is newer than me had arrived, that I had become a little old. I later find out that I had a five-year guerrilla in front of me. At the time, I knew only her code name; Zinarîn… If it wasn’t for the white strings in her hair or the way sorrow sometimes carried her smile away, you would not understand that she had been a guerrilla for five years. I am unaware of the pains she experienced, the sacrifices she made in her quest for truth. I am going crazy, being curious about what she is writing into her notebook, as she takes refuge under the shadow of a tree. The feelings that she felt in the short life that I shared with her, I later read in Zinarîn’s diary after her martyrdom.

I am in autumn 1997. A day on which the weary feet of autumn try to drag us towards winter. A day in which sorrow does not conquer Haftanin, but our hearts. I learn about Zinarîn’s martyrdom months later. I’m still vulnerable to the pain of loss. As I wander around with unchained rage, Meryem Colak reads on my face how my soul boils with pain. As I stopped talking to anyone upon Zinarîn’s death, she asks “Are you mad at us?” and answers the question herself “Don’t be angry at us, be angry at the enemy”. From that day on, my immunity towards loss increases. A few months later, I learn that Meryem Colak, when heading towards Metina in order to exit the operation field with a group of women on her side, was killed in a tank ambush. I learn from the witnesses of the moment that she spent her last energy to speak not to send greetings to her daughter, but to entrust her companions with her weapon, cartridge belt and codes.

It is 1999. I am in the Zagros mountains that did not permit Alexander’s army passage, but where the guerrilla managed to open paths. We are halfway through a long journey that would last a month. With me is the 22-year old Sorxwîn (Özgür Kaya). Our Sorxwîn, who allows the mountain conditions to rule over her body, but who will not allow her child’s heart to submit to the laws of war. A commander, a companion, a woman, and a child. Each one of her identities adds a different beauty to her. The best part of the one-month long arduous journey is her cheering us on to keep marching. Of course it was this child called Sorxwîn that invented children’s games to give us strength. Mischievously laughing, she says “This is nothing. I can carry a BKC with 400 bullets on my back, so I will climb this hill in four hours without a break”.

These women could not catch up with our time because they rushed towards the fire like butterflies. But they have been living on for three generations. Three generations grow up with their stories, carry their names, listen to the burning songs dedicated to them. They pick up the riffles that these women left behind and take off to Shengal, Kobanê, Botan, Serhat. They leave to bring light to the world that the men with the black flag want to darken. And their names are Zinarîn, Berîtan, Zîlan, Meryem, Sorxwîn, Arjîn, Amara, Viyan, Sara…

Kurdish Question.

I have no long words to express my deep feelings for our beloved comrades.

I simply want to say: love and utter solidarity.  

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Goodwill and love: Louis and Jackson play and sing ‘Rockin’ Chair’

December 20, 2014 at 4:27 pm (Christmas, humanism, jazz, Jim D, love, music)

At this time of year, those of us without Christian religious convictions attempt to make the best of things by celebrating goodwill and love towards all humanity. For those of us in the jazz community, nothing can express this better than Mr Jackson Tea and his old friend Louis singing and playing ‘Rockin’ Chair': the affection – indeed, love in the truest, platonic, sense – is obvious. It transcends all racial, cultural and other artificial divisions of humanity.

This 1957 TV performance is as near as we’ll ever get to a film of the legendary New York Town Hall performance of ten years earlier: Bobby Hackett (cornet) and Peanuts Hucko (clarinet) are once again present, which is just great; but Jackson and Louis are the timeless stars – wondrous then, now and forever:

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Tom Cashman: R.I.P.

August 7, 2014 at 8:15 pm (good people, humanism, Jim D, Marxism, RIP, secularism, Unite the union, workers)

He was  … “a  friend and partisan of all good causes, always ready to circulate a petition, help out a collection or get up a protest meeting to demand that wrongs be righted. The good causes, then as now, were mostly unpopular ones, and he nearly always found himself in the minority, on the side of the under-dogs who couldn’t do him any good in the tough game of making money and getting ahead. He had to pay for that […] but it couldn’t be helped. [He] was made that way, and I don’t think it ever entered his head to do otherwise or live otherwise than he did.

“That’s just about all there is to tell of him. But I thought […], that’s a great deal. Carl Sandberg said it in this way: ‘These are the heroes then – among the plain people – Heroes, did you say? And why not? They gave all they’ve got and ask no questions and take what comes to them and what more do you want?’ “ – James P.Cannon (The Militant, June 1947)

With comrades cashman,Byrne,Denham andO'Sullivan
Above: Tom towards the end, with old friends and comrades.

I’ve just heard that Tom Cashman is dead.

His daughter, Ruth, got in contact to say:

Hi comrades,

My dad died yesterday. Though he had differences  […]  he considered you all comrades.

We will send round details of the funeral once it has been arranged.

In solidarity,

Ruth

“For forty-three years of my conscious life I have remained a revolutionist; for forty-two of them I have fought under the banner of Marxism. If I had to begin all over again I would of course try and avoid this or that mistake, but the main course of my life would remain unchanged. I shall die a proletarian revolutionist, a Marxist, a dialectical materialist, and, consequently, an irreconcilable atheist. My faith in the communist future of mankind is not less ardent, indeed it is firmer today, than it was in the days of my youth…”

Leon Trotsky — the Last Testament of Leon Trotsky, Mexico, 27 February 1940

Tom had been ill with a brain tumour for a couple of years, so at one level his death is not a shock.

But Tom’s mental and physical strength meant that he’d hung on for much longer than would normally have been the case.

Not necessarily a good or merciful thing, but there we are.

I’ll write more about Tom shortly.

But for now, I’d just like to say:

He was about the finest and most principled person I ever knew.

He introduced me to real socialist politics.

He understood the interaction between trade unionism and socialist politics.

He – together with Graham Stevenson, who had completely different politics – devised the plan that kept union organisation intact on London buses after privatisation.

He was the voice of political sophistication and Marxism on the T&G -going into -Unite Executive, while he was on there.

Best wishes and solidarity to Ruth, Johnnie and all Tom’s friends, comrades and family.

I’ll write more soon.

Jim

 

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A desperate plea for peace in Gaza …

July 30, 2014 at 3:41 am (good people, Human rights, humanism, israel, Middle East, palestine, posted by JD, solidarity)

An incredibly moving cry for peace and simple human solidarity with the people of Gaza, from an Israeli citizen:

“I call on the Israeli government to put an end to this bloodshed now … this is not a video game … there are only losers … Israeli society is losing its tolerance and becoming a mob…”

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Time for a secularist challenge to all faith education

July 15, 2014 at 10:47 am (Christianity, Education, humanism, Islam, islamism, Judaism, posted by JD, reblogged, relativism, religion, secularism, television)

By Andrew Coates (reblogged from Tendance Coatesy):

Humanists Show the Way Forward.

Faith Schools Undercover: No Clapping in Class  (Monday 14th July at 8pm on Channel 4) revealed:

  • Exclusively that even before the so-called anonymous ‘Trojan Horse’ letter came to light the Prime Minister’s office had been warned of what was going on
  • Claims by current and former members of staff at Park View – one of the schools implemented in the ‘Trojan Horse’ allegations – that male pupils were given worksheets saying women couldn’t say no to sex with their husbands and also girls at the school were sent home from a sports event because only a male coach was present
  • The ultra-Orthodox Haredi Jewish schools in the London Borough of Hackney ‘operating illegally and without the most basic health, safety and child welfare checks’. Channel 4 Dispatches has shocking evidence that Hackney Council, the Department for Education and Ofsted have all known about the schools for years

The programme began with concerns at  Oldknow Academy Birmingham. A parent had complained at Christmas not being celebrated and got short shrift. He wrote to the PM.

The most important item was on Park View school,

A former teacher said, on camera, but anonymously that,

“about 60 male pupils were given a worksheet saying women couldn’t say no to sex with their husbands.

She says: “The work sheet categorically said that you know the wife has to obey the man. Well I think it makes the boys feel that they have got that power over girls. The east Birmingham area has one of the highest rates of domestic violence in the country.”

This was flately, and not very convincingly, denied, by the school.

Local MP Khalid Mahmood  says: “I am not talking about here extremism in schools although ultimately it could lead to it, and that’s my fear, is that when you are grooming young people into that sort of a mind-set then its very easy once they leave school is to go that extra additional step.”

He also dismissed suggestions the controversy smacks of Islamophobia.

“Over 200 people complaining to the local authority about what’s gone on and you can’t really claim that it’s a witch-hunt,” said Mahmood, whose own actions have shown him sensitive to the difficulties raised by racist attacks on Birmingham Muslims.

There was a report on Olive Primary School in Blackburn.

During this there was evidence that  music in school was discouraged, that clapping was not encouraged, and that other “un-Islamic,” practices were frowned on.

Olive Primary  is run by the Tauheedul Education Trust, with two other secondaries in Blackburn.

The Lancashire Telegraph draws attention to one feature of the Trust’s activities,

The programme revealed trust schools hosted lectures by three extremist preachers, including Mufti Ismail Menk banned from six UK universities for preaching same-sex acts were ‘filthy’.

It showed him saying of gay people: “With all due respect to the animals, they are worse than animals.”

In Hackney illegal Jewish religious schools (for the ultra-orthodox) exist,

Channel 4 Dispatches discovered that more than 1,000 boys aged 13 to 16 have disappeared from registered schools in the London borough of Hackney.

Instead they are being sent by their parents to be educated in yeshivas – fee-paying schools where the curriculum is solely religious.

We have identified more than ten unregistered, illegal, schools.

And what’s really shocking is that Hackney Council, the Department for Education and Ofsted have all known about these schools for years.

We’ve seen internal government briefing documents that reveal as early as 2008 the Department for Education was aware of the issue. One document states the Department knows a number of schools are ‘operating illegally and without the most basic health, safety and child welfare checks’.

In 2012 the Department acknowledged those running the schools were breaking the law, but said they preferred to work cooperatively with the community.

There were shots of a school, including a room where Hasidic instruction and disputation was taking place. Students went in an out till late in the day.

The conclusion of this section was very unsettling.

Dispatches contacted the schools featured but have received no response.

Hackney Council, Ofsted and the Department for Education told Dispatches their concerns date back many years and they are aware of all the schools on our list.

They say they’ve been working to get them registered.

The Department for Education, who Ofsted and Hackney say have the power to take action against the schools, told Dispatches that ‘where applications for registration are still not forthcoming we will press for a prosecution as it is a criminal offence to operate an unregistered illegal schools.’

The programme seemed to suggest that the Council, out of concern for religious and cultural feeling, was unwilling to act.

Andrew Gilligam reports,

Government documents obtained by Channel 4’s Dispatches and the Jewish Chronicle newspaper say that many of the schools are “operating illegally and without the most basic health, safety and child welfare checks”.

Many boys in the Orthodox Jewish community in Stamford Hill, London, “will stop secular studies at the age of 13 or 14 and start attending ‘yeshivas’ where the curriculum is solely religious,” the documents say.

Between 800 and 1000 boys aged between 13 and 16 are “missing” from the school system in the borough of Hackney alone, the papers add.

Undercover filming by Dispatches in and around the schools shows the boys packed more than 50 to a classroom in dirty, run-down buildings, some converted houses. More than a hundred boys were filmed going in to an illegal school in Lynmouth Road, Stamford Hill, arriving from 7.30 in the morning and leaving late at night. The establishment is believed to be one of twelve illegal schools in the neighbourhood.

In 2011, about one third of the 20,000 state funded schools in England were faith schools, approximately 7,000 in total, of which 68% were Church of England schools and 30% were Roman Catholic . There were 42 Jewish, 12 Muslim, 3 Sikh and 1 Hindu  faith schools.

The British Humanist Association says,

“Around a third of all state-funded schools are schools ‘with a religious character’ – the legal term for ‘faith’ schools. This number has grown in recent years as successive governments have increased the influence of religious groups in the state-funded education system.”

That is, with the introduction of Academies and Free Schools, this percentage is believed to have risen.

Faith Schools Undercover noted their role in encouraging  ethnic and cultural segregation.

The idea that parents have the right to run, publicly funded, education that promotes their religion, is fundamentally wrong.

Some liberals seem unable to respond to the issues raised (Harry’s Place for example).

There are those who claim to be on the left who find excuses for these arrangements.

They claim that criticisms of, notably, the Birmingham schools, are an ‘Islamophobic’ conspiracy.

This completely fails to look at the problems religiously-run schools create – as indicated by the Channel Four Dispatches documentary.

It indicated that concerns had a solid basis.

The National Secular Society sets out a much better position that those wishing to sweep the subject of Faith education under the carpet.,

Rather than facilitating the segregation of pupils along religious lines, we would like to see steps taken to ensure children of all faiths and none are educated together in a respectful but religiously neutral environment.

As long as faith schools are publicly funded, we campaign for an end to exemptions from equality legislation that allow them to select pupils on the basis of the religion, or religious activities, of the child’s parents.

We are concerned that the Government’s desire for greater proportion of academies and free schools, which are independent and self-governing, will see more and more control of state funded education handed to religious organisations.

Dispatches showed more than enough reasons to back this stand.

The author of many of the pro-religious education policies, Michael Gove, is now Chief Whip.

He has been replaced by even more faith-influenced minister, Nicky Morgan, a Tory MP who voted against same-sex marriage, as  education secretary. She “continues as minister for women and equalities”.

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Just remind me again: where was Alex Callinicos educated?

July 14, 2014 at 7:36 pm (gloating, Guardian, humanism, Jim D, stalinism, SWP)

Thanks to Owen Jones, in today’s Graun, for drawing my attention to a nasty little piece in the present edition of Socialist Worker. SW was once essential (and – believe it or not – entertaining) reading on the left, even for those of us who had little time for the SWP’s politics. But I haven’t bought a copy since September 2001 and so very rarely get to read it.

Above: Prof Callinicos, privately educated scion of the ruling class

For those of you who can’t be arsed to follow the link above, the article is entitled ‘Eton by Bear? The inquest begins,’ a supposedly ‘humorous’ take on the death of Horatio Chapple, mauled to death by a polar bear while on a trip to the Svalbard archipelago of Norway.

What makes the death of Chapple suitable material for SWP chortling is, it seems, the fact that he was a posh boy who went to Eton.

There was a time when I might have joined in with the sniggering, but I well remember being admonished over this by a senior comrade (himself of unimpeachable working class credentials) who told me, “socialism is about doing away with the idea that people’s worth should be judged by an accident of birth – and that applies just as much to workerism on the left as it does to mainstream society’s fawning before the aristocracy.” He was surely right, and I’ve never forgotten it – or the shame I felt at having to have such an elementary point explained to me.

Socialist Worker’s unpleasant sniggering over the death of this young man is all the more bizarre and distasteful when you consider the upper class, public school backgrounds of so many of their leading comrades, past and present – not least head honcho Callinicos, who (according to Wikipedia) “was educated at St George’s College, Salisbury (now Harare) …  [and] … first became involved in revolutionary politics as a student at Balliol College, Oxford, from which he received his BA.”

Even more importantly, SW‘s gloating over this horrible death tells us a lot about the kind of “socialism” that this degenerate organisation now represents. Jones usefully reminds us of the words of Peter Fryer, the Daily Worker (forerunner of the Morning Star) journalist who resigned from the Communist Party of Britain after they suppressed his sympathetic coverage of the 1956 Hungarian revolution. Fryer was describing the Stalinist CP, but his words equally well apply to the nominally “Trotskyist” SWP of today:

“Stalinism is Marxism with the heart cut out, de-humanised, dried, frozen, petrified, rigid, barren.”

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Milt Hinton: lessons in bass playing – and kindness

July 4, 2014 at 3:31 pm (humanism, jazz, love, posted by JD, Sheer joy)

I’d intended to post something at the end of last month, on the occasion of what would have been his 104th birthday, about the great jazz bassist Milt ‘The Judge’ Hinton (June 23 1910 – Dec 19 2000); but for one reason and another I  didn’t get round to it.

Anyway in the Youtube video below Milt gives a lesson in jazz bass playing. And below that is a heart-warming story from fellow-bassist Bob Cranshaw, via my pal Michael Steinman at Jazz Lives.


Michael Steinman writes: The extraordinary pianist Ethan Iverson (of The Bad Plus) has a superb blog called DO THE MATH, and most recently he has offered a lengthy, lively conversation with string bassist Bob Cranshaw here. This story seized me.

BC:  Milt Hinton was one of the first bass players that I heard. This was before TV. I heard him on the radio. I think he was my biggest influence. When I heard him play, the shit was swinging so hard that the radio was about to jump off the table. I went to my father, and I said, “I want to play that.”

I have a story about Milt when I came to New York. I had been in New York maybe a few months, and I was on 48th and Broadway. I was on my way to rehearsal with somebody and I had a bag on my bass that was raggedy and about to fall off, but I couldn’t afford anything else. I was walking down to the rehearsal and this gentleman dressed with a tie stopped me on the street. He said, “Hi. What’s your name?” I said, “Bob Cranshaw.” He said, “Are you a professional bassist?” I said, “Yes, sir.” He said, “I’m Milt Hinton.” I said, “Oh, shit.” It was like meeting God. Here’s my mentor.

He took me into Manny’s and he bought me a bass case on the spot.

EI:  Really? Hadn’t even heard you play a note?

BC:  Took me and bought me a bass case right there. He said as a professional, I couldn’t be walking around with a bag like that. What I teach in my method and my thought of music is, I say, “The Milt Hinton Method,” because when I came, I followed Milt around. I used to just go. They were doing a lot of recording. They were recording all day. I would just go to the date and I would sit on the side. I didn’t want to disturb anybody, but just to watch him. What I got from watching him was when – it could be 50 musicians – when The Judge walked into the room, you could feel the energy. Everybody was talking. That was the kind of guy he was. That was the life. He was my biggest, my most wonderful influence, was watching The Judge. When I started to play, when I started to work with Joe Williams and so forth, Milt did all the record dates. He was part of the rhythm section with Osie Johnson and a couple other guys. I would go to the dates and just watch him because I was working with Joe and I was going to have to play the same music the next week. I said, “I might as well get it from the horse’s mouth. Let me get the first thing and then I have a better understanding of what I need to play when we go out on the road with Joe Williams.”

I followed Milt’s career all the way to the point where I used to call him every Sunday. I’d say, “Judge, I just want me blessing,” just to talk to him and so forth. One Sunday I called, and his wife said, “The Judge is at a club meeting.” I’m saying, “He’s almost 90 years old. What kind of club meeting? What could he be into now?” There was a club called the Friendly Fifties that are in New York and I’m a member now. I joined following his thing. It was what guys like Jonah Jones and a bunch of the older guys put together, this club, so that the wives could be more together when they were traveling. These were the early days. I became part of the Friendly Fifties, and I wrote an article for Allegro at the union about all of these famous guys that were part of this club that nobody had any idea it existed.

I love the rest of the stories — because Milt in person was the embodiment of Wise Joy — but it is the little anecdote of the bass case that catches me and will not subside into a Nice Anecdote about One of My Heroes. You will notice that Milt didn’t lecture the young man about how wrong he was; he didn’t sell him a case and ask for money to be paid back; he was serious but gently fixed what was wrong with loving alacrity.

We all praise Kindness as a virtue.  We try to be Kind.  But how many of us would have made it so vibrantly alive as Milt did?  Kindness in Action.

Several years ago, I wrote a post I am still proud of: I called it What Would Louis Do?.

Meaning Louis no disrespect, I would like to propose the quiet religion of Hintonism. Nothing new except the name. Doing good without asking for recompense. Taking good care of a stranger.

When we lie down in bed at night, we could ask ourselves, “Did I do my Milt today?”  If we did, fine.  We could try to do several Milts the next day, and ever onwards.  We might have less money, but we’d be surrounded by love and that love would surely be immortal.  Just a thought.

May your happiness increase!

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Gove doesn’t want pupils to read ‘Of Mice and Men’

May 25, 2014 at 11:24 pm (Asshole, culture, Education, humanism, Jim D, literature, Tory scum, tragedy, United States)

In an extraordinary outburst of anti-American philistinism, Michael Gove seeks to remove Steinbeck’s ‘Of Mice And Men’, and Harper Lee’s ‘To Kill A Mockingbird’ from the GCSE curriculum. What a disgrace!

‘Of Mice and Men’ may not be Steinbeck’s greatest novel, but it’s still a major work. The final scene is one of the most moving pieces of literature you’ll ever read, to be set alongside the best of Dickens, but without the mawkish sentimentality: Steinbeck’s terse, straightforward prose prevents that.

The book was originally going to be called ‘Something Happened’, which sums up Steinbeck’s approach to story telling. Like the book that preceded it, ‘In Dubious Battle’ and the book that followed, ‘The Grapes of Wrath’, this is about itinerant agricultural  labourers in 1930’s Carlifornia. But unlike those two books, there is little overt social or political context: it’s essentially a story of friendship, hope and loss. It’s a great modern tragedy and that final scene remains the only piece of fiction I have ever read that can, without fail, make me cry.

Lennie looked eagerly at him. “Go on, George. Ain’t you gonna give me more hell?”

“No” said George.

“Well, I can go away,” said Lennie. “I’ll go right off in the hills an’ find a cave if you don’t want me.”

George shook himself again. “No,” he said. “I want you to stay with me here.”

Lennie said craftily – “Tell me like you done before.”

“Tell you what?”

“‘Bout the other guys an’ about us.”

George said, “Guys like us got no fambly. They make a little stake an’ then they blow it in. They got nobody in the worl’ that gives a hoot in hell about ‘em -“

But not us,” Lennie cried happily. “Tell about us now.”

George was quiet for a moment. “But not us,” he said.

“Because  – “

“Because I got you an’ – “

“An’ I got you. We got each other, that’s what, that gives a hoot in hell about us,” Lennie cried in triumph.

The little evening breeze blew over the clearing and the leaves rustled and the wind waves flowed up the green pool. And the shouts of the men sounded again, this time much closer than before.

George took off his hat. He said shakily, “Take off your hat, Lennie. The air feels fine.”

Lennie removed his hat dutifully and laid it on the ground in front of him. The shadow in the valley was bluer, and the evening came fast. On the wind the sound of crashing in the brush came to them.

Lennie said, “Tell how it’s gonna be.”

George had been listening to the distant sounds. For a moment he was business-like. “Look across the river, Lennie, an’ I’ll tell you so you can almost see it.”

Lennie turned his head and looked across the pool and up the darkening slopes of the Gabilans. “We gonna get a little place,” George began. He reached in his side pocket and brought out Carlson’s Luger; he snapped off the safety, and the hand gun lay on the ground behind Lennie’s back. He looked at the back of Lennie’s head, at the place where the spine and the skull were joined.

A man’s voice called from up the river, and another man answered.

“Go on,” said Lennie.

George raised the gun and his hand shook, and he dropped his hand to the ground again.

“Go on,” said Lennie. “How it’s gonna be. We gonna get a little place.”

“We’ll have a cow,” said George. “An’ we’ll have maybe a pig an’ chickens…an’ down the flat we’ll have a…little piece alfalfa  –  “

“For the rabbits, ” Lennie shouted.

“For the rabbits,” George repeated.

“And I get to tend the rabbits.”

“And you get to tend the rabbits.”

Lennie giggled with happiness. “An’ live off the fatta the lan’.”

“Yes.”

Lennie turned his head

“No, Lennie. Look down across the river, like you can almost see the place.”

Lennie obayed him. George looked down at the gun.

There were crashing footsteps in the brush now! George turned and looked towards them.

“Go on, George. When we gonna do it?”

“Gonna do it soon.”

“Me an’ you.”

“You…an’ me. Ever’body gonna be nice to you. Ain’t gonna be no more trouble. Nobody gonna hurt nobody nor steal from ‘em.”

Lennie said, “I thought you was mad at me, George.”

“No,” said George. “No, Lennie. I ain’t mad. I never been mad, an’ I ain’t now. That’s a thing I want ya to know.”

The voices came close now. George raised the gun and listened to the voices.

Lennie begged, “Le’s do it now. Le’s get that place now.”

“Sure, right now. I gotta. We gotta.”

And George raised the gun and steadied it, and he brought the muzzle of it close to the back of Lennie’s head. The hand shook violently, but his face set and his hand steadied. He pulled the trigger. The crash of the shot rolled up the hills and rolled down again. Lennie jarred, and then settled slowly forward to the sand, and he lay without quivering.

George shivered and looked at the gun, and then he threw it from him, back up the bank, near the pile of old ashes.

The brush seemed filled with cries and with the sound of running feet. Slim’s voice shouted, “George. Where you at, George?”

But George sat stiffly on the bank and looked at his right hand that had thrown the gun away. The group burst into the clearing and Curley was ahead. He saw Lennie lying on the sand. “Got him, by God.” He went over and looked down at Lennie, and then looked back at George. “Right in the back of the head,” he said softly.

Slim came directly to George and sat down beside him, sat very close to him. “Never you mind,” said Slim. “A guy got to sometimes.”

But Carlson was standing over George. “How’d you do it?” he asked.

“I just done it,” George said tiredly.

“Did he have my gun?”

“Yeah. He had your gun.”

“An’ you got it away from him and you took it an’ you killed him?”

“Yeah. Tha’s how.” George’s voice was almost a whisper. He looked steadily at his right hand that had held the gun.

Slim twitched George’s elbow. “Come on, George. Me an’ you’ll go in an’ get a drink.”

George let himself be helped to his feet. “Yeah, a drink.”

Slim said, “You hadda, George. I swear you hadda. Come on with me.” He led George to the entrance of the trail and up towards the highway.

Curley and Carson looked after them. And Carlson said, “Now what the hell you suppose is eatin’ them two guys?”

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It’s A Wonderful Life: the Fox News version

December 24, 2013 at 12:14 am (Christmas, cinema, economics, fantasy, film, humanism, Jim D, red-baiting, satire, solidarity, United States)

This comes courtesy of Jimmy Kimmel, via Gene at That Place. The entire clip is worth watching (dealing, at first, with the burning question: “is Santa white?”), but the classic film trailer starts at around 2.10:

Below: clip from dangerous leftist subversive Frank Capra’s 1946 ‘It’s A Wonderful Life’ before it became the ideologically acceptable ‘Mr Potter and the Commies of Bedford Falls’ (NB: children and impressionable adults should not be allowed to watch this unsupervised):

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