Momentum’s Facebook page carries a bizarre video which comes from the TSSA rail union.
It’s about railway privatisation, but instead of talking about private businesses exploiting passengers and workers, it focusses entirely on the French, German and Dutch public railway companies that have bought up parts of the UK system, and basically rests on an implied “foreigners stealing our railways” message. Really dodgy, and particularly unhelpful at this time of Brexit-inspired nationalism and racism.
On the TSSA website the link to the video is accompanied by the following gems from the union’s recently re-elected General Secretary Manuel Cortes:
“This film makes the case that it is high time the UK takes back public control of our rail operating companies back [sic] from Keolis, Arriva and Abeilio [sic] who are just front companies for the French, the German and the Dutch states.
“Brexit has made Taking Back Control of train operating companies a vital economic necessity. Leaving the EU but leaving our rail operating companies in the control of EU countries to continue reaping the profits, would now be preposterous.
“It’s a no-brainer case and we hope this film will be shared widely and be used to hold the Tories to account in England and Wales – and in Scotland too where under SNP nationalist rule ScotRail has been tuned [sic] into a Dutch rail colony – for their unpatriotic and misguided running down of UK rail.”
Yes, we must hold the Tories to account for being unpatriotic!
Brexit is our opportunity to reshape Britain
Trade Unionists Against the EU’s FAWZI IBRAHIM gives his take on what’s up for grabs during the government’s Brexit negotiations
BREXIT has opened up opportunities for workers to shape their future and the future of the UK.
Such opportunities are very rare. They come but once in a lifetime. The last time such an opportunity presented itself was at the end of World War II.
On that occasion, the people created the welfare state, the NHS, social housing and the public ownership of the commanding heights of the economy. This time, let’s aim even higher.
Never before had the British people given such a clear instruction to a government to pursue a specific course of action as they did on June 23 2016.
The government had no choice but to heed this unequivocal instruction to leave the EU, to leave in a clean break and not some half-way house, a fake Brexit in which we remain subservient to the EU’s core institutions including the single market and its equally neoliberal Customs Union.
With “Brexit means Brexit,” Theresa May made it plain that her government will carry out the settled will of the people.
The fact that she was officially on the Remain side during the campaign and had spoken of the threats to the economy of leaving the EU to a Goldman Sachs meeting of investors before the referendum is irrelevant; if anything, it’s a testament to the depth and maturity of British democracy. The 80 per cent vote in favour of triggering Article 50 by the end of March by our parliamentarians who only a few months previously voted Remain by the very same majority is another testament to the strength of our democracy and the power workers can exert. MPs and governments are not elected to fulfil their own desires or satisfy their personal foibles, but to carry out the instructions of the people that elected them.
The referendum vote was also an instruction to the leadership of all trade unions to accept the settled view of workers and move on from the referendum debate. Generally this has been the case as more and more trade unions ditch their attachment to the free movement of labour and embrace Brexit.
Although Labour accepted the decision to leave the EU and whipped its MPs to support invoking Article 50 by the end of March, it nonetheless joined forces with those who are demanding the government state its negotiating priorities. Such a demand is both disingenuous and dangerous. It is disingenuous because its real purpose is to derail our exit. It is dangerous because it weakens the hand of the government as it goes into negotiations with the EU. As any negotiator knows, the one thing you don’t do is give away your priorities and tactics in advance.
Nicola Sturgeon’s attempt to derail Brexit by her contention that “the Scottish people voted for Scotland to remain in the EU” is fatuous. The referendum was for Britain as a whole and not whether any individual nation within it wished to stay or leave the EU. Equally questionable is her contention that by voting for the UK to remain in the EU and having failed to convince the rest of the country to do the same, Scottish people would want to leave the UK and join the EU. If four of five friends on a night out decide to go to a restaurant and a fifth expressed a wish to go clubbing, it does not follow that the person who disagreed would wish to go to a night club had she been on her own, let alone leave her friends and go to the club by herself. So it is with the EU referendum.
If Sturgeon calls a referendum on Scottish independence on the basis of joining the EU, it may very well prove her undoing. By the time the issue arises in two or three years time, countries would be queuing to leave a fractured, crisis-ridden EU rather than new ones eager to join, unless, that is, the Scottish people want Edinburgh to be the Athens of the north in more than one sense.
The Brexit vote was a rejection of neoliberalism as embodied by the single market and its four freedoms of movement.
This is the spirit of 2016, as powerful and all embracing as the spirit of 1945, which if seized could enable us to transform our economy.
Any shilly-shallying, any wavering will leave space for anti-working class organisations to divide and divert. The trade unions are uniquely placed to define this transformation.
With their extensive knowledge and expertise, trade unions should debate and formulate the policies necessary to re-orientate the economy towards a post-capitalist future. It is not a question of changing governments; it is a question of re-building Britain whichever government happens to occupy Downing Street.
Letter in response to the above, sent to the Morning Star on December 29 2016:
On reading Fawzi Ibrahim’s paean to the May/Farage approach to Brexit (M Star December 29) I thought, for a moment, that this paper’s policy of wide-ranging debate had been extended to Daily Mail leader writers.
Here’s what Ibrahim called for:
“A clean break and not some half-way house”: ie leaving the single market, which Unite says would cost tens of thousands of manufacturing jobs.
“Trade unions (must) ditch their attachment to free movement of labour and embrace Brexit”: ie unions must support tighter immigration controls – which, thankfully Unite and other progressive unions are resisting.
And here’s his attack on Corbyn’s Labour Party:
“Labour (was wrong in) demanding the government state its negotiating priorities … because it weakens the hand of the government”: ie full support to Theresa May in refusing parliamentary scrutiny!
But then I realised, this bizarre article couldn’t be written by someone from the Daily Mail, because that paper is realistic enough to understand that Brexit cannot, under any circumstances “re-orientate the economy towards a post capitalist future”! Only a delusional fantasist would expect that.
Above: Gove repeats his Brexit lies, scarcely challenged by Stephanie Flanders
Many of us were genuinely shocked by the failure of supposedly serious BBC journalists to challenge the lies of the Brexit leaders during the referendum campaign, and the willingness of the BBC news to treat those lies as though they were serious, legitimate political arguments..
The BBC’s craven capitulation to the Brexiteers continues apace. I awoke this morning to Radio 4’s Today programme, compiled by ‘guest editor’ Helena Morrisey, billed in the Guardian thus: “Morrissey, who spent 15 years as chief executive of Newton Investment Management and also spoke out in favour of Brexit, said she would be “exploring the theme of ‘power to the people’ in a year when democracy reasserted itself and disruptive forces were unleashed, leaving many of us scrambling to work out what happens next”. This ultra-wealthy member of the ruling class and representative of finance capitalism, was allowed to present herself as some sort of persecuted representative of ‘the people.
The entire programme was a plug for Brexit, with virtually no balancing opinion. Michael Gove was allowed to lie (again) about what he said about “experts” (he now claims he only meant economists) and the usually excellent Stephanie Flanders scarcely challenged him, allowing him to semi-defend the “£350 million per week for the NHS” lie.
The BBC’s craven capitulation to the lies of the Brexiteers is all the more worrying in the light of the government’s ‘power grab’ whereby ministers will have increased powers to pick political allies for senior jobs at public bodies like the BBC.
Post-referendum (and the election of Trump), we live in an age of shameless cronyism, patronage, fear and ‘post truth’ – or to give ‘post truth’ its simple, correct name: lies.
Of course, some on the idiot-left continue in their state of denial.
Above: Farage spreading lies and hatred on the morning Jo Cox was murdered
The filthy racist liar and Trump groupie Farage has sunk to new depths by first joining German fascists in blaming Merkel for the Berlin truck attack, then linking Jo Cox’s widower to “extremists” and, finally, accusing Hope Not Hate of being “violent and undemocratic.”
Speaking on LBC, Farage argued that Merkel was to blame for what happened because she supported the border control-free Schengen zone.
“These leaders of Europe support Schengen,” he said. “They support the total free movement of people without borders. And the free movement of people doesn’t just mean the free movement of good people. It means the free movement of bad people, as well.”
Farage said: “Well, of course, he would know more about extremists than me, Mr Cox. He backs organisations like Hope Not Hate, who masquerade as being lovely and peaceful, but actually pursue violent and undemocratic means.”
Farage added: “And I’m sorry, Mr Cox, but it is time people started to take responsibility for what’s happened.”
When the LBC host, Nick Ferrari, pointed out that Cox surely knew the consequences of extremism, Farage replied: “Yes, it’s a terrible thing what happened, with the murder of his wife.
“But he continues to be active in the political arena and, as I say, given some of the organisations that he supports, I can’t just stand here and say, well, I’m not going to respond.”
In a statement Hope Not Hate said: “That Nigel Farage made his remarks in the context of a discussion about Jo Cox, who was so brutally murdered earlier this year, makes them all the more poisonous and hateful.”
The organisation posted an appeal on its website for help pay for any legal case. “Help us take Nigel Farage to court,” it said, with a link to a donation button.
We can all help Hope Not Hate sue the arse off the scumbag Farage, by donating here: https://donate.hopenothate.org.uk/page/contribute/farage-to-court
Any leftists foolish enough to have advocated a “Leave” vote in the referendum may feel this is a particularly appropriate way to make amends for their dreadful error.
In general, I believe there’s too much (uncritical) time devoted to religion on the BBC. I particularly hate Thought for the Day on the Radio 4 Today programme.
But Rabbi Lionel Blue was different: not a proselytiser for his own religion, or even for religion in general, he talked about his doubts and failures with warmth, humanity and gentle, self-deprecating humour. He once, memorably, outed himself as gay during Thought for the Day.
He said, more than once, that his only aim when he broadcast, was to make life more bearable for people getting out of bed on a Monday morning and facing the everyday worries and problems of life.
I know I’m not the only atheist who will miss him.
Guardian obit here
Barbara Speed at the i:
Other voices piped up, claiming that these reports from terrified Syrians, and the warning by UN Secretary Ban Ki-Moon of possible “atrocities” taking place in Aleppo, and the Red Cross’s statement about a “deepening humanitarian catastrophe”, were mere propaganda. Footage circulated of Syrians celebrating in Aleppo at the impending government victory. Then there was the Morning Star, a socialist daily tabloid. Its front page declared the near-“liberation” of Aleppo this morning, while other publications raised the possibility that “massacres” were being committed there. (Social media was quick to pick up on the fact that when the Berlin wall fell, the paper ran with “GDR unveils reforms package” as its front page splash.)
The front page of the paper that claims to represent the British labour movement:
While the UN and all reputable news sources report on pro-government forces in Aleppo executing dozens of civilians including women and children, British Stalinists hail the massacres as a “liberation”.
The Morning Star‘s uncritical support for Assad and parroting of Putin’s propaganda throughout the Syrian war has been a disgrace that must call into question the financial support that this filthy, lying rag receives from major unions.
The only – small – thing to be said in the rag’s favour, is that it has published a few letters from a couple of readers who retain some shreds of human decency and critical thinking. As they don’t appear on the rag’s website, we reproduce them here:
December 3-4 2016
GIVEN that the United Nations estimated in October 2016 that there were no more than 900 Nusra Front fighters in Aleppo out of a maximum of 8,000 rebels in total, I’m confused by the recent Morning Star headline: “Thousands freed from jihadist grip in eastern Aleppo” (M Star November 30)
I realise the make-up of rebel groups in Syria is complex but I’ve not seen any evidence to suggest the rebels in Aleppo are all jihadists.
Furthermore, rather than cite the Kremlin and the Russian Defence Ministry as the article does, perhaps it would be wiser to focus on reports from NGOs such as Amnesty International which has called on Russia to “end indiscriminate and other unlawful attacks” in Syria, including the “use of cluster munitions and dropping unguided bombs on civilian areas.”
IAN SINCLAIR London E15
December 7 2016
I HAVE read recent reports and an editorial on Syria in our paper with dismay. I note the use of such expressions as “solidarity with the nation’s struggle against foreign-backed aggression” but never is there any mention of the people of Syria’s struggle against the hated and feared Assad regime.
Has everyone forgotten that the conflict in Syria started when the people came out on the streets, in the tail end of the Arab Spring, in revolt against the brutal repression of President Bashar Assad and his torturers?
Of course, much has changed since then, with the intervention of many other forces in this complex war but there is overwhelming evidence that the Assad regime, aided by the Russians, has been bombing civilians, hospitals and schools: murdering Syrian civilians because they oppose the regime and then describing them as “terrorists”.
It seems convenient for some to forget what the Assad regime stands for, the repression and brutality, the torture used not just to extract information but to put fear into the population so that no opponents of the regime will challenge it.
Perhaps readers are not aware that, to give just one example, a 13-year-old boy was arrested in 2011 during a protest and then tortured, castrated and his body mutilated while in the custody of the Syrian government.
I support the position of the Stop the War Coalition which I believe is that there should be no intervention or bombing, including by Russia and that we must do everything possible to achieve a negotiated settlement.
There is no easy solution but surely we must not gloss over decades of appalling human rights abuses in Syria and express solidarity with the regime at the expense of the Syrian people?
DAVE ESBESTER London SW19
December 9 2016
IN A RECENT editorial the Morning Star argued “there would be no advantage for Assad in carrying out atrocities” such as bombing hospitals and schools (M Star November 29).
If one is trying to force a large city into submission through the application of overwhelming and deadly force, as the Syrian government is doing in Aleppo, then it is logical to target hospitals in an attempt to make life unbearable for the rebels and the population they are living amongst. Furthermore, bombing hospitals significantly reduces the fighting capability of the opposition relying on the hospitals to patch up their wounded.
Surely it is the duty of all thinking and humane people to raise their voice in opposition to this illegal, murderous and morally depraved military tactic — whether it is carried out by Western/Western-backed forces or Syrian/Russian forces?
IAN SINCLAIR London E15
NB: see also Comrade Coatesy, here.
Human rights campaigner Peter Tatchell joined with supporters of Syria Solidarity to intervene at a speech by Jeremy Corbyn on Saturday. The reason was obvious: Corbyn and the Labour front bench have remained silent while Assad and Putin have bombed hospitals, aid convoys and civilians in Syria. This has been the biggest massacre of a civilian population since World War Two.
East Aleppo has been besieged for months, with Assad using his favourite tactic against civilians (after barrel bombs, that is): starvation and the denial of water, shelter and medical treatment. The UN has predicted that Aleppo will become “a giant graveyard” if Assad and Putin continue to refuse a cease fire.
Yet the so-called Stop The War Coalition, which Corbyn continues to support, says nothing. Perhaps because its current Chair supports the Russian bombing.
The politically bankrupt and morally depraved Morning Star (reflecting the policy of its political master, the Communist Party of Britain) openly supports Assad’s attacks and cheer-leads for Putin’s intervention, parroting his propaganda.
Now, the Morning Star (a paper, remember, funded by the subs of Unite members and other rank and file trade unionists, without their knowledge or consent) attacks Tatchell for disrupting Corbyn’s speech and, supposedly, “diver(ing) attention away from the crucial issue of women’s rights and domestic violence”. The M Star goes on to quote the repugnant pro-Assad convenor of the so-called “Stop The War Coalition” and professional liar, Ms Lindsey German, spreading her typically dishonest poison about Tatchell: “He claims to be on the left and a supporter of Stop the War initially but the reality is that he has supported every war since we were established”.
In the face of these Stalinist lies, and pro-Putin/Assad apologetics, we republish below, Peter Tatchell’s statement about this incident:
Syria Solidarity UK activists were joined by Peter Tatchell when they protested during a speech by Jeremy Corbyn at Westminster Central Hall on Saturday 10 December. They urged the Labour Party to pursue “actions not words” to save civilians in Aleppo and other Syrian cities.
Jeremy Corbyn was outlining the Labour Party’s commitment to fundamental rights on Human Rights Day. Syria human rights campaigners walked to the front and stood in front of him with placards saying: “Action not words: Back UK aid drops now. Protect civilians.”
Protest participant, human rights campaigner Peter Tatchell, said:
“The protest was organised by Syria Solidarity UK. It was not against Jeremy Corbyn or Labour. It was an appeal for them to act, to defend the human rights of Syrian civilians, by actively campaigning for a parliamentary vote on humanitarian aid drops, sanctions and war crimes charges against the Assad and Putin regimes, UN-supervised evacuation of civilians and White Helmet rescue teams to safe havens, and for Syria to be suspended from the UN until it agrees to a ceasefire and stops blocking aid deliveries. Neither Labour nor Jeremy are actively campaigning for any of these initiatives.
“We urged Jeremy Corbyn to press for a parliamentary debate and vote to mandate UK aid drops of food and medicine to besieged civilians in Aleppo and other cities. He declined to give that commitment when I asked him. Why isn’t he holding the government to account for its inaction, and publicly demanding that it agree to a vote in parliament on air drops of humanitarian aid?
“Labour has never organised even one event in solidarity with Syrian democrats, socialists and civil society activists. It never promoted or campaigned for the passage of Canada’s UN Syria resolution under 377A – Uniting for Peace – which called for the immediate cessation of hostilities, humanitarian aid access and an end to all sieges.
“The protest was polite and lasted five minutes. Jeremy was briefly delayed but not stopped from speaking. He addressed all the issues he originally planned to speak on.
“It was initially a silent protest until Labour officials indicated they wanted to know what it was about, which is when I spoke.
“Jeremy thanked us for raising the issue of Syria and we will now be pressing him for dialogue and action to help save lives in Syria. I will continue to support much of what Jeremy is striving for. Both of us remain friends.
“Jeremy’s speech rightly condemned Saudi war crimes in Yemen but made only a passing reference to Syria and offered no proposals to remedy the humanitarian crisis there. This has a whiff of double standards.
“What action has Labour taken to protect civilians in Syria? Nothing, so far. Aleppo is the Guernica of our age. Labour’s fine words need to be backed up with deeds. It is not listening to the appeals for action from democratic civil society activists inside Syria. We heard their cry for help and acted at their request. Our protest gave effect to their appeal for action.
“On Human Rights Day, Labour gathered to celebrate the noble sentiments in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. But in Aleppo, the Syrian and Russian military are targeting fleeing refugees, children in schools, doctors in hospitals and civil rescue teams from the White Helmets. Hundreds of boys and men have allegedly gone missing from the areas seized last week by Assad regime forces. At least 100,000 civilians are being deliberately starved in Aleppo and a million others elsewhere in Free Syria.
“Labour must act, not just speak. So too must the Conservatives – and all parties. We call on Theresa May and Boris Johnson to also heed our call. We will protest against them in due course. There must surely be a cross-party consensus on humanitarian air drops. Why aren’t they happening? Labour should give a lead by initiating a House of Commons vote to make them happen,” said Mr Tatchell.
Clara Connolly from Syria Solidarity UK added:
“Do Syrian civilians have human rights? If so, why are we allowing this to continue? Western diplomats have conceded that there are no technical obstacles to delivering airdrops of food and medicine to Aleppo using a GPS-guided parachute system. What is lacking is the political will. If we stay silent, if Western politicians refuse to take what actions are available to them, then they are complicit in these massacres.”
Syria Solidarity UK are calling on Jeremy Corbyn and Labour Party MPs and members to publicly and vocally:
• Support calls for humanitarian access to besieged areas in Syria.
• Push for a parliamentary vote on unilateral UK aid drops.
• Demand the suspension of Syria from the UN until it agrees to a ceasefire, and stops blocking aid to besieged areas.
• Request UN-supervised evacuations of the White Helmets and the civilian population.
Illustration: Steve Bell (the Guardian)
It should have been an open goal for Labour: the evasion and waffle emanating from May and her Brexit teame has become increasingly threadbare, failing to convince even her own side, or to obscure the obvious fact that the Government has no coherent plan whatsoever, beyond pandering to the racists and nationalists who drove the Leave campaign and bay from the Tory backbenches.
Labour’s Commons motion read: “That this House recognises that leaving the EU is the defining issue facing the UK; believes that there should be a full and transparent debate on the Government’s plan for leaving the EU; and calls on the Prime Minister to ensure that this House is able properly to scrutinise that plan for leaving the EU before Article 50 is invoked.”
Excellent! Except that, in advance of the debate Labour let it be known that they accepted that the government should not have to disclose anything that might ‘undermine’ its negotiations with the EU, thus accepting the May/Brexiteers’ premise that the UK is dealing with enemies.
This fatal concession provided May with her escape route in the face of a backbench revolt, and the Government tabled the following amendment that Labour cravenly agreed to support:
“ … and believes that the process should be undertaken in such a way that respects the decision of the people of the UK when they voted to leave the EU on 23 June and does not undermine the negotiating position of the Government as negotiations are entered into which will take place after Article 50 has been triggered”.
This commits Labour to backing the Government’s exit plan (ie to serve Article 50 by the end of March 2017) and commits the Tories to virtually nothing, beyond a continuation of their meaningless waffle about “the best deal for Britain”, etc, etc. No wonder the Brexiteers and their nativist press chorus are crowing with glee.
The BBC’s Laura Kounssberg hits the nail on the head here:
“Accepting the amendment does not mean they have promised to do anything in particular.
“Number 10 sources say they have not committed to publishing anything specific – a Green Paper, a White Paper, or frankly, even Theresa May’s shopping list.
“They say she has always said she would update the Commons and the public, as and when it was possible, without damaging her negotiating strategy.
“They also have not given any promise on when they might publish whatever that is. And in theory, sources point to the fact that all the public comments the prime minister has made so far on Brexit have been “published”, as in , she uttered the words, and then they appeared in the newspapers, online or on the TV or radio”.
This blunder on the part of Labour does not just flow from tactical ineptitude: it’s the result of a profound political weakness on the part of the present Labour leadership as demonstrated by Corbyn’s low-key role during the referendum and John McDonnell’s dreadful statement last month, promising not to obstruct Bexit.
“Heil Trump!” This is what “respectable” conservatives are kowtowing before
“Everywhere you look you see conservatives sniffing the air and catching the scent of the radical right. It tempts them with the most seductive perfume in politics: the whiff of power. Populists are rewriting the rules and conservatives have seen they can break the old taboos, assault the constitutional order and lie with ease. Their suppressed thoughts now look like election winners.”
On the principle of avoiding living in a political echo chamber, I’ve been a subsciber to the right of centre UK magazine Standpoint since shortly after its launch in 2008. Although I’ve never agreed with its editorial ‘line’ (broadly neo-Conservative) it was well-written, intellectually challenging and contained some excellent coverage of literature and music as well as politics. But it’s become noticeably more stridently right wing over the last couple of years. It went seriously down in my estimation when it backed Brexit. The present (Dec/Jan) issue urges readers to give Trump “the benefit of the doubt“. This is a step too far even for me.
I’ve even taken the trouble to send the editor my thoughts:
So, Standpoint urges us to give Trump the “benefit of the doubt”; so much for all the dire warnings about the Putin threat and Obama and the “EU elite”‘s reluctance to confront him. So much for the evocations of “Western civilisation” and basic democratic norms. What a craven sell-out, apparently because “several American contributors to Standpoint … are close to or even part of the new administration.” I note that your execrable pro-Trump editorial closes with an appeal for funds. You will not be receiving any from me. In fact, please cancel my subscription.
For intelligent right wing commentary I’m switching to The Spectator. It would be excellent if some of Standpoint‘s less craven/swivel-eyed contributors (eg Nick Cohen, Julie Bindle, Maureen Lipman) walked out over this.
I’m hoping Cohen, at least, will walk, given his excellent piece in last Sunday’s Observer (from which the quote at the top is taken), on the capitulation of “respectable” conservatives to the radical right. Theresa May and the Daily Mail are two obvious examples. Standpoint is another.