Chris Riddell on the Tea Party

November 7, 2010 at 5:20 pm (Anti-Racism, elections, Guardian, Jim D, populism, red-baiting, religious right, Republican Party, United States)

. Chris Riddell’s cartoon in today’s Observer. Worth a thousand words, eh? Btw: if you can’t read what’s in the bubbles and/or would like to see  Observer/ Graun readers’ comments, click here.

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Mail red-baiting: let’s hope it’s true

March 26, 2010 at 10:03 pm (Champagne Charlie, elections, labour party, politics, red-baiting, unions, workers)

Unite assistant general secretary Len McCluskey, pictured speaking to BA strike supporters this week, has promised to 'reconstruct' the Labour Party if elected as leader of the union
Len McClusky
The loathsome Daily Mail (together with the Murdoch press) is gearing up for the general election with lurid red-baiting about Unite taking over the Labour Party. I do hope it’s true.
The gist of the Mail’s articles can be summed up by their headline this Wednesday: “BA MILITANTS AND A PLOT TO CONTROL LABOUR.”
According to the Mail , “The hard-left clique which runs the giant Unite union plans to ‘reclaim or refound’ Labour, dumping the policies in favour of old-style socialism.”
The Mail’s evidence seems to be a series of leaked private emails from Graham Stevenson, Unite’s Passenger Transport national secretary, to a historian called Pavel Stroilov, who contacted Stevenson via his (Stevenson’s) website, which is largely devoted to British Labour movement and Communist Party of Britain history.
Stevenson’s emails (the authenticity of which have not, as far as I know, been challenged) include the following shock-horror observations:
* The Labour Party is broke. As millionaires desert them, it has been forced to go back to the unions for funding. We will have a huge number of MPs who are members…in the past both unions that formed Unite had large parliamentary groups but few actually bothered to take account of our policies. This will change!
* There is a plan to restore a more rigorous control in the next parliament. Much of the rest of our strategy will also come into play then. It will be in that period that unions will have to make a judgement about Labour – whether to give up on the reclaiming approach or to simply refound it.
* There’s now a struggle going on (in Unite), with an entirely new General Secretary elected this year. We’re backing McClusky, a left Labour man from the T&G, who is strongly allied to us. It’s no accident that McC is leading the BA strike. We are very confident he will win the election.
* The trade union leadership looks to the (Communist) Party for strategic direction and much of the left is prepared to accept the Party’s proposals for policy.
That last point aside (I’ll come back to it in a moment), what’s wrong with most of that? Unite and its predecessor unions Amicus and T&G,  have pumped millions of their members’ subs into the Labour Party through thick and thin, but have (up until now) never flexed their muscles within the Party, sought to discipline sponsored MPs or even mandated their representatives on the Labour Party NEC to vote in line with union policy. Meanwhile New Labour has maintained the anti-union laws and done the bosses’ bidding while treating the unions with disdain. Stevenson is simply saying that all that should change and the likely victory of Len McClusky (backed by the union’s United Left) will help bring that change about. Then the union movemnent as a whole will have to take stock of its relationship with the Party and decide whether Labour is “reclaimable.” Sounds pretty sensible to me – as I’m sure it does to millions of working class people in Britain today.
Where Stevenson’s analysis becomes considerably more dubious are the exaggerated claims about the influence of the Communist Party of Britain (of which he’s a member – albeit part of the saner, more labour movement-orientated wing), which are frankly nonsense. The CP does wield some ideological influence on the left (and, indeed, the not-so-“left”) of Unite, but it does not control the United Left and is not running McClusky’s campaign. Unlike some Labour-lefts in the past, McClusky is not a CP fellow-traveller  and most certainly not  (as Jack Dromey was at one time) a secret member. McClusky’s background is in the Trotskyist ‘Militant’ tendency rather than the CP.
But apart from that little bit of wishful thinking, Stevenson’s analysis of where we’re at and what needs to be done in Unite, the trade unions generally and the Labour Party, seems to me to be pretty much spot-on. Thanks must go to the Daily Mail for publicising such sensible policies and for giving Len McClusky’s campaign a big boost.
More good stuff in today’s edition.

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Michael Gove: unleash the meerkat!

March 19, 2010 at 12:06 am (Champagne Charlie, comedy, Conseravative Party, David Cameron, mccarthyism, red-baiting, Tory scum, unions)

Michael Gove (Meerkat)

Even the Murdoch press finds Gove preposterous:

…and they should know: he used to work for them.


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Unite Left discusses the Tory anti-union offensive and the BA strike

March 18, 2010 at 7:59 pm (Champagne Charlie, Conseravative Party, red-baiting, Tory scum, unions, workers)

Topic:  The Tory dossier on Unite

    The most interesting thing about the Tory angle on our union’s politics is
    that they cannot comprehend that our lay members not Whelan could have any
    political will or could exercise any control.
    Only ruling class renegades can be left wing; workers must be dupes because
    they are inferior.
    It’s a bit like the Victorians’ inability to believe, regardless of the
    evidence, that the Benin bronzes were made by black people and not visiting
    Romans (or in the for later imperialists, extra terrestials).
    It is quite sad that many on “the left” share that belief.

 Topic:  Solidarity with British Airways workers
    As you will see from below, the ITF is actively seeking solidariy from
    airport and airline workers across the globe to assist UNITE’s strike with
    BA. The International Transport Workers Federation (ITF) is probably the
    strongest and most effective global trade union federation. I have no doubt
    that BA flights manned by strike breakers will have difficulty landing at a
    number of airports across the world.
    Click here if you have trouble viewing this email.
    To ITF Civil Aviation affiliates
    Circular No.: 053/CA. 7/2010
    Dear brothers and sisters
    Solidarity with British Airways workers
    The ITF-affiliated Unite union (UK), which represents British Airways (BA)
    cabin crew workers, has informed us that their strike action will take place
    on 20, 21, 22, 27, 28, 29 and 30 March, with possible further action on 14
    April should the dispute still not be resolved. The workers are taking issue
    with company impositions, changes to working practices and reductions in
    crew numbers.
    In addition they have informed that flights departing from the UK during the
    following dates are likely to be crewed by strike breakers:
    From 00.01 hrs 20th March until 23.59 22nd March inclusive
    From 00.01 hrs 27th march until 23.59 30th March inclusive
    The ITF is calling on aviation unions worldwide to provide effective
    solidarity with those on the picket line.
    We are calling on aviation affiliates to organise every possible lawful
    action against the “contaminated work” in these flights crewed by strike
    breakers in support of our brothers and sisters in Unite.
    Click here for further information on the dispute
    (” target=”_blank)
    Please send us information about your solidarity actions
    ( (” target=”_blank) ).
    The success of Unite will be the success of stronger ITF aviation unions.
    In solidarity,
    Gabriel Mocho
    Secretary, Civil Aviation Section

 Topic:  Unite and Teamsters
    UK union in talks with Teamsters over BA strike
    By RAPHAEL G. SATTER (Associated Press)
    LONDON – Britain’s Unite union said Tuesday that it was in talks with the U.S. International Brotherhood of Teamsters regarding the seven days of strikes it plans against British Airways.
    Unite’s 12,000 cabin crew members are locked in a battle with BA’s management over a pay freeze and changes to working conditions. The group has promised a three-day strike beginning Saturday followed later by a four-day walk out. The strike is expected to affect hundreds of thousands of travelers – and Unite has appealed for international help to pressure BA.
    Spokesman Andrew Murray said a union official was in Washington to brief officials from the Teamsters on Wednesday, but gave few details.
    Murray said the official was “explaining the background to the dispute at the request of American trade unionists.” He declined to identify the official, saying the union was “not wanting to draw huge attention to all this at the moment.”
    It wasn’t immediately clear what kind of help the Teamsters, who represent 40,000 workers in the aviation industry, would provide, if any. In a statement, they said: “We stand in solidarity with our brothers and sisters at Unite who are fighting for a fair contract at British Airways” and declined further comment.
    BA condemned Unite’s talks, saying it was “seeking backing from trade unions overseas to support its unjustified strikes.” Britain’s right-leaning Conservative Party also chimed in, accusing Unite of “pulling out all the stops to frustrate the efforts BA is making to keep their passengers flying.”
    The planned strike, which comes in the run-up to the busy Easter holidays, has already made its effect felt, albeit in a small way. BA said Tuesday it had axed its only weekly flight from the Caribbean Turks and Caicos islands this weekend.
    The airline has promised to keep 60 percent of its passengers moving during the early stage of the strike, although that plan could be frustrated if foreign unions join Unite in its campaign.
    Associated Press Writer Sam Hananel in Washington contributed to this report.
    Copyright © 2010 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. 

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Kinnockite witch-hunts replayed in Unison

March 6, 2010 at 9:46 am (mccarthyism, red-baiting, Socialist Party, unions, voltairespriest)

For some time now, four prominent Socialist Party activists within Unison have been fighting against a concerted campaign to exclude them from the union’s political structures. Glenn Kelly, Suzanne Muna, Onay Kasab and Brian Debus are all members of the SP, and all have honourable records as comrades within the Labour movement. Finally, after a considerable battle, they were all banned from holding office within Unison due to absurd charges of “distributing offensive material”, in a shameful display of McCarthyite politics on the part of the union’s right wing.

Yesterday, the Unison hierarchy’s war against the four took a new and dramatic turn. I received the four’s latest newsletter (reproduced below) last night. It seems that there have been physical raids on the offices where the four work, including attempts on the part of officials to take hard drives and other information from those offices.

The writers of this blog do not always politically agree with the Socialist Party, but I think we would all recognise their members’ sincerity as socialist and progressive political activists, and also recognise the SP as one of the better elements on the UK left today. As such it seems only right to condemn this shameful attack, and to call on union members across the country to let the Unison leadership know what they think about this travesty of labour movement democracy.




Following the mitigation hearings Glenn Kelly (Bromely), Suzanne Muna
(Housing Association), Onay Kasab (Greenwich) and Brian Debus
(Hackney) have all been banned from holding any office in Unison.

Early this morning (5th March) UNISON officials turned up at the
UNISON offices of the Bromley, Greenwich and the Housing Association
having given no notice; we are awaiting an update from Hackney. The
officials have attempted to confiscate computer hard drives and other
resources, which include important documents on on-going personal

The officials intend to run elections for new branch officers but as
has happened in other branches they may well try to run the branches
themselves which has led to moribund UNISON branches.

The Four have conducted a determined and high profile campaign which
has meant that it has taken nearly 3 years to get them banned from
office. The mitigation hearings also concluded that the length of the
bans will be reduced by between 1 and 3 years.

However, this morning’s action shows the vicious reality of the UNISON
leaderships attacks on socialist activists within the union.

The four are urging supporters to phone or e-mail UNISON Head Office
now to protest against the ban and the raids of the branch offices.

What we need you to do:

1. Let as many unison members as possible know what is happening

2. E-mail letters of protest to:

– UNISON General Secretary Dave Prentis:

– UNISON London Region:

3. Phone UNISON Head Office to express your disgust on 0845 355 0845

4. Pass a motion at your next meeting to be sent to Dave Prentis.

5. Funds are urgently needed for leaflets, publicity and legal costs.

Cheques payable to: ‘Stop the Witch-Hunt’ and should be sent to:
Defend the Four Campaign, PO Box 858, London E11 1YG.

6. Please let us know details of your protests – e-mail us at:

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RIP Ian Carmichael…an excuse to revisit Fred Kite

February 7, 2010 at 6:51 pm (cinema, comedy, good people, history, Jim D, red-baiting, unions, workers)

The delightful comic actor Ian Carmichael died on Friday. He specialised in playing upper-class twits and I am eternally in his debt for introducing me to the wonderful world of PG Wodehouse, by way of his portrayal of Bertie Wooster on BBC  TV in the 1960’s, with Dennis Price as Jeeves.

So no disrespect is intended as I take this opportunity to revisit the 1959 Boulting Brothers comedy ‘I’m All Right Jack’ and show a clip in which Carmichael does not appear. Let me explain: Carmichael played Stanley Windrush, a naive posh-boy sent onto the shop floor of an armaments factory by his tycoon dad in order to gain experience of industry. There he encounters the self-important Works Convenor Fred Kite, played by Peter Sellers. The clip below features Sellers and the corrupt Works Manager, played by Terry-Thomas (plus a host of other 1950’s British character actors, including John Le Mesurier – playing the real company spy – hiding behind a copy of The Daily Worker).

‘I’m All Right Jack’ was not the crudely anti-union film that many leftist critics  at the time perceived it to be (although the Boultings were smarting from a  recent film technicians’ strike and wanted revenge). The bosses  come in for just as much stick as the unions. But it’s the monstrous yet pathetic figure of Sellers’ Brother Kite that stays in the memory, which is why many of us think of it as anti-union…but very, very funny:

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Stick the Sun where it won’t shine

September 30, 2009 at 8:19 pm (class, elections, Europe, Gordon Brown, Jim D, labour party, media, red-baiting, Tony Blair, Tory scum)

It’s the arrogance and pomposity of  Trevor Kavanagh and his sidekick George Pascoe -Watson, that enrages me: trying to make out that their scummy, smutty tabloid’s switch from Blairism to Cameronsim is something principled, and something that political people should take seriously.

Kavanagh, in particular, is a pompous, self-important twat who has just confirmed this commentator’s determination to vote Labour at the next general election.

The truth is that the Sun never did support Labour: it supported Blair, who grovelled to it by emphasising his hostility to unions, his anti-europeanism and anti-immigration credentials. Blair, of course, also tasked his ex-tabloid lackey and paid-for  professional liar Alistair Campbell with sucking up to the Murdoch (and Rothermere)  press in the 1990’s, culminating in his (Blair’s) demeaning visit to the Hayman Islands in 1995, to grovel before Murdoch.

There is, in fact next to no evidence that the press (and, in particular the tabloid press) influences election results: what does happen (despite Kavanagh’s delusions) is that Murdoch orders his craven editors to follow public opinion. Murdoch’s reputation as an “uncanny” predictor of election results rests simply upon his ability to read poll results and to instruct his editors accordingly.

The Labour leadership’s concern at the Scum‘s defection is truly pathetic, and a sign of a party in a state of desperation. Much better, the class-based distain and contempt of  Tony Woodley, whose genuine hatred stems from his Liverpudlian background and the Scum‘s filthy history of libelling the dead of  Hillborough. Brown would do well to take a leaf out of Woodley’s book.

The only down-side of Woodley’s otherwise excellent speech, was his reference to Murdoch not being British: “an Australian – American”, as though that matters. But, in fairness, Woodley is a product of the British nationalist trade union tradition. Opposition to the EU is another example of this. It doesn’t, however, detract from the truth of what Woodley has to say about the Scum.

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What’s the Matter With Harry’s Place?

January 18, 2009 at 2:30 am (crap, Euston Manifesto, Free Speech, iraq war, israel, mccarthyism, Middle East, palestine, red-baiting, voltairespriest)

Long-time readers will be aware that this blog has historically been critical of prominent pro-war left site Harry’s Place, whilst nevertheless continuing to link to it and regarding it as an important part of the political blogging landscape. We have attracted criticism from members of the SWP and others for that stance, and I for one do not envisage it changing. That having been said, I cannot let some of their recent output pass without comment.

Harry’s Place has for a long time had very obviously different politics amongst its various posters, as indeed we do here. There is nothing wrong with that – blogging is not like party politics, still less like hard-left party politics, and there is no need for any one blog to have a set political “line” on any one issue. However, Harry’s Place at its inception had carved itself out a very deliberate niche as an advocate for the use of military force to ensure workers’ rights around the world. Whilst I do not agree with them over the war in Iraq, I do not think that anyone could deny the power of the single, raised ink-stained finger picture that marked the first Iraqi general election, nor the righteous fury of the writing which underlay it. It’s in the archive on their site, somewhere.

So, what has happened recently? In place of all this, we have increasingly bilious attacks on essentially random individuals who oppose Israel’s gross and nauseating military actions in Gaza, which do not even make the pretence of protecting democracy for the Palestinian people. We have attacks on the protests against those military actions and in my view, intimations of anti-semitism. I have attended three such demonstrations in the past fortnight, one in London, one in Coventry and one in Birmingham, and the idea that their tone was an anti-semitic one is quite simply arrant nonsense. I myself was sickened by the “We are all Hezbollah” chants that could be heard on London demonstrations against Israel’s war in the Lebanon – the protests that I have been on categorically did not have that tone, and anyone who says that they did was either watching something else, is desperate to fill out a pre-existing narrative or is simply an outright liar. Further, as people who constantly ask why Israel is held to different standards than other democracies (a contention which is often spurious: imagine what would have happened if the UK launched air strikes against the Shankhill Road in the 1980s), perhaps these supporters of Israel’s actions would like to explain why they seem always to be automatically willing to offer any Israeli administration a blank cheque to do anything at all when it is attacking Arab civilians?

Another thing, which has been particularly galling, is the recent descent into red-baiting. I have already blogged about the bizarre McCarthyism which surrounded the apparent attempt to get Owen Hatherley sacked from the New Statesman for writing a review of Lenny Seymour’s book that didn’t accord with David T’s (or Oliver “I’m left-wing, honest” Kamm’s) opinions. I fully endorsed Lenny Seymour’s comments at the time, and I gladly do so again here. For those who do not remember what they were, this summarises them quite well:

Describing the reviewer, Owen Hatherley, as the “Dilpazier Aslam” of the New Statesman (recalling a case in which a trainee journalist was fired from The Guardian, having written an article that included praise for Hizb Ut-Tahrir while he was a member of said organisation), the post on Harry’s Place claims that Owen Hatherley is a member of the Socialist Workers’ Party. He is not, and never has been. But it is on the basis of this single fabrication that the author of the post launches a lengthy diatribe effectively demanding that the New Statesman publish a correction and fire the reviewer. It is a small irony that, while in effect demanding a purge on the basis of an invention, David T fantasises that it is SWP members who are ‘totalitarian’.

More recently there was this, with an even more blantant exhibition of the most disgusting red-baiting from one “Lucy Lips”. In reference to people of “far left” views getting democratically elected to positions and putting their politics up for discussion, she says:

This is why the far Left needs to be kicked out of all elected positions in the Union movement. They’ve no interest in pay and conditions. They’re happy to wreck a union, as long as it helps them to recruit. They’re waiting for the Revolution, after all.

If that isn’t a classic 1950s-era “reds under the bed” style tissue of lies and paranoia then I don’t know what is. Political arguments aside, as someone virtually whose entire family in some way was born, bred and worked on the left of the labour movement, I find it personally insulting to see some superannuated metropolitan middle-class tosser (forgive me if you’re a destitute M & S worker Lucy, but somehow I doubt it) chooses to tell me what our movement can and cannot discuss in our own forums. And if you don’t like your union officials then vote them out without indulging in McCarthy-style ideological purges. Anyone who does not support that basic level of labour movement democracy is scum pure and simple, and that is the impression which the author gives to me in that post.

And finally we have the ultimate descent into utter Bullingdon crap, with a post taking the piss out of a middle-aged woman’s looks. “LOL TROTZ!”. Jeezus, next week it’ll be “Hey, that Roosevelt, get him and his funny wheelchair!”, “LOL HAWKING!” and “Pavarotti was fat! LOL OPERASINGERZ!”. Either that or a guest post by Roy “Chubby” Brown – hey don’t laugh, I’m sure he probably wants to Defend Freedom too.

Maybe it’s a case of watching Shachtman’s descent (from fascinating dissident left-winger to outright supporter of the political right) in fast-forward from the comfort of my living room. Or maybe they just always were the political equivalent of American Dad mixed up with Beavis and Butthead. Either way I won’t pretend that it isn’t deeply disturbing to see a group of people engaging in tactics worthy of the lowest form of witch-hunting pondlife whilst claiming overtly that they are doing so in the interests of pursuing a progressive political agenda.

Guys, I hope this recent spate of behaviour represents a loss of political bearings and not a display of your true colours. Sort your shit out.

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