Nineham’s wretched pro-Putin apologism should mark the end of Stop The War

October 12, 2016 at 3:05 pm (apologists and collaborators, ex-SWP, Human rights, Jim D, Middle East, protest, Putin, reactionay "anti-imperialism", Russia, Syria, war)

Chris Nineham: wretched Putin-appeaser

These things really happened, that is the thing to keep one’s eye on. They happened even though Lord Halifax said they happened. The raping and butchering in Chinese cities, the tortures in the cellars of the Gestapo, the elderly Jewish professors flung into cesspools, the machine-gunning of refugees along the Spanish roads — they all happened, and they did not happen any the less because the Daily Telegraph has suddenly found out about them when it is five years too late  – George Orwell, Looking Back At the Spanish War, 1943.

In a car crash of an interview on Radio 4’s Today programme, Chris Nineham, deputy chair of the Stop The War Coalition, was questioned about Boris Johnson’s call for people to protest Russia’s involvement in the war by demonstrating outside the country’s embassy in London. Nineham concluded by stating that the STWC’s guiding principle is to “oppose the West.”

The Foreign Secretary’s comments came after Labour’s Ann Clwyd urged those who care about the plight of Syrian civilians to gather outside Russian embassies across the globe until the country stops its bombing campaign.

Johnson also called for a war crimes investigation into the bombing of an aid convoy last month in which at least 21 people died.

Today host, Sarah Montague, began the segment on Wednesday morning by asking what the Stop the War Coalition was doing to oppose the conflict.

Nineham said: “We are we’re protesting with statements and our information that we’ve put out. We’ve condemned not just Russia but all foreign interventions into what is now an absolutely disastrous and horrible situation for the Syrian people.

“But we were set up as a coalition as a response to 9/11 and in response to the Western, British-supported drive to war back in 2001 and that is our focus.

“There’s a good reason for that…”

Montague interrupted, pointing out “we are in 2016 now” with a conflict raging in which “Aleppo is being destroyed”.

She added: “You have a Labour MP, Ann Clwyd, saying ‘where’s the rage, we should have two million, three million, four million people outside the Russian embassy…’

“Should people demonstrate outside the Russian embassy?”

Nineham replied: “This is not a serious argument being put [forward] by Boris Johnson, he’s characteristically trivialising the situation. If they want to protest outside the Russian embassy, they know where it is.”

When asked if Stop the War would get involved in such demonstrations, Nineham replied: “No we wouldn’t and the reason for that is that our focus is on what our government is doing.

“As I was saying, there’s a very good reason for this because we can make a difference to what Britain does, we can make a difference to what our allies do to a certain extent and we have done.

“But if we have a protest outside the Russian embassy it wouldn’t make a blind bit of difference to what Putin does because we are in the West and we are in Britain.

 “And not only that but a protest outside the Russian embassy would actually contribute to increasing the hysteria and the jingoism that is being whipped up at the minute to go against Russia… being organised by politicians and by the media against Russia to see Russia as the only problem in Syria.”

Montague said: “So you would urge people not to demonstrate against Russia?”

Nineham replied: “We’re not worried about it but what we’re saying is that there’s a hysteria that’s being organised by politicians and by the media against Russia to see Russia as the only problem in Syria.

“Syria is a multi-faceted war that involves Saudi Arabia, it involves the US and Britain who have been bombing the country as well.

“The real problem here is you have people who regard themselves as responsible politicians like Andrew Mitchell and John Woodcock and Boris Johnson to a lesser extent who are seriously saying that what Syria needs is more Western bombs, more Western munitions.

“And Andrew Mitchell actually came on this programme yesterday and seriously said it wouldn’t be a problem if RAF fighter pilots attacked Russian planes.”

Nineham went on: “The possibility now presents itself of there being a confrontation for the first time since the Second World War, between Russia and Western powers including Britain.

“And anyone who has a responsibility for peace or the future of the planet quite frankly needs to mobilise against that…”

At this point Montague cut off the interview but Nineham managed to get in a last few words.

“… and that means opposing the West.”

The Stop The War Coalition has now confirmed what many of us have been saying for a long while: the remnant of the group which ten years ago organised big marches against the invasion of Iraq, is now merely a “my enemy’s enemy is my friend” lash-up with Putin, Assad and any reactionary force or regime that happens to find itself in conflict with the West.

The STWC has made a conscious decision not to criticise Assad’s filthy regime. Why? Because in this war Counterfire and Socialist Action (the main political forces within the STWC)  are effectively siding with the regime.

Stop the War’s organisers are seriously politically disorientated. And that leaves them sharing platforms with a ridiculous Stalinist, Kamal Majid, and a Syrian academic, Issa Chaer, who when interviewed by the Iranian state’s propaganda outlet, Press TV, said, “I see President Assad as the person who is now uniting the country from all its backgrounds, all factions and all political backgrounds… anybody who calls for President Assad to step down at this stage; would be causing Syria an irreversible destruction.”

In theory, the STWC opposes Russian bombing. But, in reality they don’t: after all, Stop The War’s Chair supports the Assad regime and Russian imperialism in Syria.

It’s time for the serious left – including Jeremy Corbyn and Unite – to withdraw support from this nasty, reactionary bunch of apologists and appeasers.

NB: the quotes used in this piece come from the Huffington Post

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Momentum removes Jackie Walker: the right decision for the wrong reasons

October 4, 2016 at 1:11 pm (anti-semitism, Jim D, labour party, left, reformism)

Picket by some idiots in support of Walker outside yesterday’s meeting 

Yesterday’s meeting of the Momentum Steering Committee voted to remove Jackie Walker as Vice Chair, and issued the following statement:

Momentum’s Steering Committee has voted, seven to three, to remove Jackie Walker as its Vice Chair, a position it elected her to. She remains a member of Momentum and its Steering Committee.

Jackie’s actions at Labour Conference, in her subsequent Channel 4 interview, and by not understanding concern caused by her statements, have led the Steering Committee to view her behaviour as irresponsible and lose confidence in her as Vice Chair.

Having read reports of what Jackie Walker is alleged to have said, listened to the leaked video, and heard Jackie’s version of events, the Committee does not regard any of the comments she appears to have made, taken individually, to be antisemitic. However, the Committee does consider her remarks on Holocaust Memorial Day and on security of Jewish schools to be ill-informed, ill-judged and offensive. In such circumstances, the Committee feels that Jackie should have done more to explain herself to mitigate the upset caused and should have been careful about statements on this and related subjects, whatever her record as an anti-racist, which the Committee applauds.

Momentum is concerned that footage of a training session was leaked to the press. The leak is unacceptable and undermines much needed political education. Momentum also calls on Labour to apply the principles laid down in the Chakrabarti report in its investigation of Jackie. On the basis of the evidence the Committee has seen, Jackie should not be expelled from the Labour Party.

The Shiraz view is that this was the right decision, but the statement is an attempt to satisfy everyone, which will in fact satisfy no-one.

It fudges the crucial political issue (Walker’s now self-evident antisemitism) and, if taken literally, is illogical:

As in: “Her comments were offensive but not antisemitic”: but who specifically was offended by them, and why? And if the comments were not antisemitic, why would anyone be offended by them?

And if her comments were not “individually” antisemitic, does it mean that taken collectively, they might be antisemitic, but the Momentum Steering Committee doesn’t want to go there?

According to this statement, Walker’s only misdemeanours have been not to have apologised sufficiently, and not to have explained in more detail what she really meant. Our view is that the problem is just that: what she really meant.

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No more excuses for Jackie Walker!

September 29, 2016 at 8:31 pm (anti-semitism, Jim D, labour party, Racism)

Back in May, when Jackie Walker was suspended from the Labour party for alleged anti-semitic remarks, this blog called for her re-instatement, whilst making it clear that we had serious misgivings about the Facebook comments she’d made.

Like many others, we were prepared to give Ms Walker the benefit of the doubt at the time – especially as the right wing seemed to be using all sorts of pretexts for suspending leftists without due process.

But I have to say that the more I’ve seen and heard about Ms Walker since then, the more I’ve become convinced that she is, in fact, an anti-semite.

Her latest outburst at a training session on challenging anti-semitism, run by the Jewish Labour Movement, is the final straw. Not only was she offensive, but she demonstrated her extraordinary ignorance by criticising that Holocaust Memorial Day for (supposedly) excluding non-Jewish victims of the Holocaust and other genocides. She also claimed that there was no particular reason for Jewish schools to have security measures in place, and that she had never “heard a definition of anti-semitism that I can work with.”

All decent people must now surely agree with Jeremy Newmark (Chair of the Jewish Labour Movement) when he says:

“I am appalled that somebody who has already caused great hurt and pain to so many Jewish people by promoting an anti-Semitic myth would come to a training session designed to help party activists address anti-Semitism and use the occasion to challenge the legitimacy of the training itself,” he said.

“To denigrate security provision at Jewish schools, make false claims about the universality of National Holocaust Memorial Day and to challenge recognised definitions of anti-Semitism is provocative, offensive and a stark example of the problem facing the Labour Party today.

“As vice-chair of Momentum, Jackie Walker has consistently failed to demonstrate any sensitivity to the impact of her words and actions upon the Jewish community. She must now consider her position, show some sensitivity and contrition or resign.”

Walker’s initial reaction to her comments being publicised was to tweet:

Raises issues on the safety of JLM training for Labour

— Jackie Walker (@jjackiewalks) September 28, 2016

Since then, she has issued a mealy-mouthed, hypocritical non-apology beginning “If offence has been caused, it is the last thing I want to do.”

This won’t do. Walker’s increasingly obvious anti-semitism is intolerable. She should immediately resign as vice chair of Momentum, and if she fails to do so, must be removed (I understand that senior Momentum people now agree that she must go – though I fear a lot of Momentum members will see nothing wrong in what she’s said).

Coming just before Corbyn’s closing speech, in which he (for the first time as far as I’m aware) specified anti-semitism in particular (ie not just lumped in along with racism and Islamophobia, etc) as unacceptable within the Party, Walker’s words, attitude and dishonesty amount to an an embarrassment to Corbyn, Momentum and Labour as a whole. As well as further alienating the vast majority of Jewish people from the Party.

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Owen Smith’s ignorant and slanderous allegation of “anti-semitism” against the AWL

September 12, 2016 at 4:59 pm (Andrew Coates, anti-semitism, AWL, Jim D, labour party, mccarthyism, trotskyism, truth, zionism)

Owen Smith’s comments about anti-semitism and the AWL are at about 48.00

Hapless challenger for Labour leadership, Owen Smith, in the course of the BBC Question Time debate last week, mentioned the Alliance for Workers Liberty in the context of “anti-semitic attitudes” within the Labour Party. Anyone with even the most cursory knowledge of the AWL will know that it is the one group on the left with a consistent record of opposing all forms of anti-semitism, including “left” anti-semitism and “absolute” anti-Zionism.

In the course of a longer article posted at Tendence Coatesy, Andrew Coates commented:

A  few days ago there was this, from Owen Smith, candidate to lead the Labour Party, during the debate with Jeremy Corbyn on Question Time:

Mr Smith said: “Under Jeremy’s leadership, we’ve seen people coming into the Labour party from the hard-left of politics people who are bringing into our party anti-Semitic attitudes and that cannot be acceptable,

“There are people on the far left of the Labour party who are flooding in to our party and that’s their word, not mine.The Alliance of Workers Liberty only a couple of weeks ago said ‘let’s flood into the Labour party’.

“Just the other day I saw a tweet purporting to be from Jeremy’s team to members of a hard-left group saying ‘you’re welcome to come to Jeremy’s rallies, just leave the flags and banners at home’. And the reason for that is we’ve seen some of those flags and banners at some of Jeremy’s rallies and unfortunately some of those people are bringing in attitudes to our party from the hard-left that I don’t think is welcome.”

“There are people who have come from the AWL and the SWP (Socialist Workers Party) and some of the other left-wing groups which have either not been part of the Labour party or have been proscribed by the Labour party and some of those people are advocating joining the Labour party in order to support Jeremy and in order to control the Labour party. Some of the people around Jeremy are absolutely encouraging it, of that there is no doubt.”

Politics Home.

The AWL replied (in our view, in measured terms),

On BBC Question Time (Labour leadership debate, 8 September) Owen Smith, in the stream-of-consciousness style that has come to typify Smith’s approach to political debate, links the Alliance for Workers’ Liberty (as part of the “hard left in our Party” “flooding into the Party”) to those on the left who “associate anti-Zionism, anti-imperialism”, “anti-Israel” perspectives (sic). That is, he implicitly called us anti-semitic.

This incoherent tirade against the “hard left” was a disgraceful intervention into an important issue that deserves serious, well-informed debate.

Smith’s comments referred back to an earlier exchange with Jeremy Corbyn in the programme in which he accused Corbyn of not doing enough to make the Party a safe place for Jewish members; and the hard left (which would, he implied include the AWL, were causing this problem). There were other accusations streamed into Smith’s tirade, but let’s focus on the accusation of anti-semitism.

You don’t have to know very much about what the AWL stands for, agree with the AWL’s two-state position on Israel-Palestine, or even be very left-wing to be aware that any accusation of “left anti-semitism” against us, however half-stated, is ludicrous. We have spent many years exposing, analysing and fighting this phenomena and it has not won us many friends on the organised hard left!


Below: comment from Jewish Voice spokesperson on LBC:

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Whatever happened to that “£350m-a-week for the NHS” promise?

September 11, 2016 at 5:59 pm (Europe, health service, Jim D, labour party, populism, Racism, Tory scum, truth)

The Brexit liars must never be allowed to forget this.

In a letter circulated by Open Britain, Labour MPs urge Brexit campaigners, like supposedly “Labour” disgrace Gisela Stewart, to come clean about the most brazen of their many lies:

Image result for picture Giselle Stewart Boris Johnson Brexit bus £350 NHS
Above: Johnson and Stewart, a pair of shameless liars.
Open Letter on the Leave campaign’s Big Lie:

The result of the EU referendum stands, so the focus is now on how to get the best deal for the UK.

Those who voted leave, many of whom are in our constituencies, did so for a number of reasons. One was the promise that EU membership cost £350m a week and that this money should go to the NHS. This was the most prominent spending pledge of the leave campaign – spelled out on their campaign bus so no one should be in any doubt – and constantly repeated.

The prime minister has said Brexit means Brexit but doesn’t know what it means. All we know is that the government has said this money isn’t coming. We warned this was a lie – and so it turns out to be.

But there should be no escaping this pledge for the leave campaign – they cannot walk away from it now, disown it or pretend it never happened. They must either admit it was a lie and apologise to their voters, or justify it and explain when it is coming.On behalf of the communities we represent, we will keep asking, where is the £350m for the NHS that was promised by the leave campaign? Many will have voted to leave based on this pledge. Those who made the pledge must now be held to account for the promise they made.

Phil Wilson MP, Pat McFadden MP, Chris Leslie MP, Liz Kendall MP, Tom Blenkinsop MP, John Woodcock MP, Ian Austen MP, Bridget Phillipson MP, Ben Bradshaw MP, Jenny Chapman MP, Julie Elliot MP, Alison McGovern MP, Anna Turley MP, Catherine McKinnell MP, Angela Smith MP, Vernon Coaker MP, David Hanson MP, Emma Reynolds MP, Mary Creagh MP, Chuka Umunna MP, Nick Smith MP, Stephen Doughty MP

Labour, House of Commons

Link : The Guardian.

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Prince Buster: farewell to a legend

September 10, 2016 at 9:52 am (black culture, Jamaica, Jim D, music, Sheer joy)

Cecil Bustamente Campbell: musician, producer and originator of Ska. Born 24 May 1938; died 8 September 2016

One Step Beyond … and memories of my party-going days …

RIP Prince Buster

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Vaz: Bad Karma for a Bad Man

September 6, 2016 at 4:23 pm (censorship, Free Speech, From the archives, history, islamism, Jim D, labour party, MPs, Peter Tatchell, populism, relativism)

 Demonstration against 'The Satanic Verses', BradfordA demonstration against The Satanic Verses, in Bradford, 1989. Photograph: Sipa Press/Rex Features

Peter Tatchell can usually be relied on for common sense, decency and a an instinct for fair play, especially when it comes to those difficult personal-meets-political questions that seem to crop up so often these days.

So when Tatchell came on the BBC Radio 4 Today Programme, saying that Keith Vaz has “not broken any laws” and should not resign from his position as chairman of the Commons Home Affairs Committee in the light of the Sunday Mirror‘s revelations, my initial reaction was to agree.

Tatchell said he could see no public interest in publishing the story:

“As far as I can see he has not broken any laws, or caused anyone any harm and there’s no allegation of hypocrisy; buying sex in this country is lawful,” Tatchell told Radio 4’s Today Programme on Monday.

“Keith Vaz has a strong record of supporting gay rights. He has never gone tub-thumping in terms of supporting family values so what is the public interest in publishing this story … Whatever you think about Keith Vaz behaviour and some people might take the view that it was irresponsible and wrong, I don’t think it’s a resigning matter. I don’t think there is a serious conflict of interest there” [The Home Affairs Select Committee is currently overseeing an inquiry into prostitution laws. An interim report published in July recommended significant changes to existing laws so that soliciting and brothel-keeping are decriminalised].

Tatchell also suggested that Vaz may have been entrapped by the paper and argued it appeared to be a “classic tabloid sting … “It’s a throwback to the sensationalist tabloid style of the 1980s. It’s not something you’d expect to see in 2016”.

All of which is true and needed saying: well done Peter!

So why am I not inclined to take up cudgels in defence of Vaz?

It isn’t just because ever since entering the Commons in 1987 (the first Asian MP since 1929, alongside pioneer black MPs Paul Boateng, Diane Abbott and Bernie Grant), he’s been a rank opportunist and unprincipled careerist of almost breathtaking shamelessness (well described here); his personal dishonesty and contempt for free expression, secularism and enlightenment values was exposed once and for all within two years of entering parliament:

Rushdie affair (from Wikipedia):

Shortly after being elected in 1989, Vaz led a march of several thousands of Muslims in Leicester calling for Salman Rushdie‘s book The Satanic Verses to be banned.[10] According to Rushdie’s autobiography Joseph Anton, as quoted by Douglas Murray in The Spectator, Vaz had earlier promised his support against the fatwa:

Vaz said, in that phone conversation, that what had happened was ‘appalling, absolutely appalling,’ and promised his ‘full support’. A few weeks later he was one of the main speakers at a demonstration against The Satanic Verses attended by over three thousand Muslims, and described that event as ‘one of the great days in the history of Islam and Great Britain.’[11]

Vaz is a Catholic of Goan origin. But even so, I’m sure he’s familiar with the Buddhist concept of Karma (an attractive idea, even for an atheist like myself): it means, roughly, “what goes around comes around.”

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Farage and Trump: twins in bigotry, racism and xenophobia

August 25, 2016 at 5:03 pm (conspiracy theories, fascism, Jim D, populism, Racism, Republican Party, UKIP, United States) ()

Anyone who seriously believes that there could be something – anything – remotely progressive about Brexit, or who harbours illusions about a possible “lexit” (like these idiots), should watch this:

The Guardian‘s Lucia Graves reports:

“On 23 June, the people of Britain voted to declare their independence – which is what we’re looking to do also, folks! – from international government,” Trump told his audience in Jackson, Mississippi.

Jackson is a place where the memory of the Confederacy is still fresh, and as such a curious one in which to be touting a second independence day, of sorts. But such white nationalist fervour seemed to play well with the overwhelmingly white crowd assembled in the largely black city on Wednesday night.

The architects of Brexit like to frame the vote as a righteous backlash against powerful elites. As Farage put it on Wednesday: “You can beat the pollsters. You can beat the commentators … Anything is possible if enough decent people are prepared to stand up against the establishment.”

According to this oft trotted-out framing, Trump’s reviled Washington establishment is a parallel for Farage’s European Commission. But the hyper-focus on anti-elitism obscures the far less righteous xenophobia, racism and anti-immigrant sentiment that were also elements of the leave campaign

See also: Left Foot Forward, This should end the claim that UKIP is not racist

BBC Radio 4 The Briefing Room on Trump’s shock troops, the ‘Alt Right’

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The story of the National Youth Orchestra of Iraq, on BBC Radio 4

August 15, 2016 at 4:58 pm (BBC, good people, humanism, iraq, iraq war, Jim D, Kurds, Middle East, music, youth)

BBC Radio 4’s Book of the Week is Upbeat, Paul MacAlindin’s inspiring account of the creation of the National Youth Orchestra of Iraq.

I’m proud to recall that back in 2009 Shiraz Socialist publicised and supported this initiative and its brave young founder, Zuhal Sultan, then 18.

Inevitably, an “anti-imperialist” idiot sent in a BTL comment to the effect that Zuhal and the Orchestra were collaborators: we were surprised and honoured to receive this reply from Zuhal herself:

I wonder, if creating a youth orchestra is a propaganda? As the one who created it, it took me a year of hard work and sacrifice, and yes, I needed help from abroad as my voice wasn’t heard by my own governement when this initiative was just an idea. I needed help from abroad as there were no coaches to teach those young musicians, I needed help for reasons beyond anything you can think of. Later on, the office of the deputy prime minister noticed and helped funding a large amount of the project. It has nothing to do with politics.

I really hope that you can appreciate all the hard work that went into this by myself, the team who pulled this through and the hard working young musicians rather than being cynical.

Zuhal Sultan
Founder and Artistic Director of the National Youth Orchestra of Iraq.

Anyway, here’s what we posted back in August 2009; you can still follow the justgiving link to make a donation, as well:

Iraq: amidst the carnage, the music of hope

As the fascists who seek to deny the peoples of Iraq any form of reconciliation, stability or civil society strike again in Baghdad, it is easy to despair. Perhaps, then, this is the right moment to draw your attention to another face of Iraq, the inspiring  young Baghdad pianist Zuhal Sultan.


Zuhal - Music for a change

Zuhal, still just 18 years old, has formed the National Youth Orchestra of Iraq (NYOI), bringing together 35 young musicians from across the religious, racial and regional/national divides. It includes Sunnis, Shi’ites and Kurds. The orchestra’s repertoire includes Beethoven, Haydn, Gershwin, a commissioned piece by NYOI’s composer-in -residence Sir Peter Maxwell Davies, and new pieces by Iraqi Kurdish and Arab composers. They have toured throughout Iraq and Zuhal has visited the Wigmore Hall in London as a soloist and accompanist for the British tenor Andrew Staples. She would like nothing more than to take the orchestra on a similar tour. Internationalists, liberals, the left and humanitarians have, quite rightly, hailed the bridge-building work of Daniel Barenboim’s West-Eastern Divan Orchestra. Zuhal Sultan and her young colleagues deserve similar support as they embark on their brave musical journey of hope and reconciliation: send a donation,  large or small, to the grassroots fundraising site

You’ll not only be supporting a brave young woman and her colleagues, but putting another nail in the coffin of sectarianism, nihilism and fascism.

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Musical interlude: Jess Stacy, Complainin’

August 12, 2016 at 10:54 pm (jazz, Jim D)

Pianist Jess Stacy was born 11 Aug 1904, died 1 July 1995:

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