Support Alan’s Dryathlon for Cancer Research

December 23, 2015 at 2:35 pm (blogging, Euston Manifesto, good people, posted by JD, voltairespriest)

 Cover Photo

As it’s the Season of Goodwill and the Alan Thomas in question (under his nom de guerre ‘Voltair’s Priest’)  founded Shiraz Socialist, we are happy to republish the following appeal:

From The Gerasites:

Dear Eustonites, Gerasites, Red Tories, associated scum and villainy,

As you know, Norman Geras died of cancer on October 18 2013, and as such we feel strongly about doing our part to provide support to those looking to improve treatment and find a cure.

It has come to our attention that a Corbynite by the name of Alan Thomas is raising money for Cancer Research UK. Unfortunately, it turns out that he’s not having much luck raising funds from his comrades. Well, this is an important cause and we’d like to help.

So, in the spirit of Christmas, let’s band together and raise some money in honour of Norman Geras, and the work that has inspired us all. Sure, it might annoy Alan a little, but what a small price to pay to help to cure cancer?

Remember to sign your names as A Eustonite/A Gerasite/A Zionist, so he can be sure to know where the money is coming from. Give generously.

Let’s bring a smile to his face. Bottoms up, Alan.

A Eustonite.

JD adds: be sure to sign yourself as A Shachtmanite/ A Matgamnaite / A Shirazer, or whatever … just so the Eustonite scum don’t get the credit.

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Where to get news from Turkey

June 12, 2013 at 10:07 am (Civil liberties, democracy, islamism, Jim D, protest, secularism, solidarity, the cops, thuggery, turkey, voltairespriest, youth)

‘Voltaire’s Priest’, who founded Shiraz Socialist back in 2006, is exceptionally well informed about Turkish politics and has a number of Turkish contacts. Sadly, he’s no longer involved with the blog, but we’re still friends. I contacted him yesterday for advice about sources of information on the fast-developing crisis in Turkey, and Erdogan’s brutal clampdown on protesters…

Above: riot police in Taksim Square yesterday

…he recommended the mainstream liberal- secular Hurriyet Daily News (English language version here), and a fascinating blog called Istanbul and Beyond:

Here’s a flavour:

I must be careful of words—the old cliches don’t work anymore. Freedom, democracy, liberty, tolerance—the wrong people have used them for the wrong things for so many years. Sometimes with good intentions, sometimes with bad. My ears hurt to hear them.

So let me paint a picture.
Gezi Park, Taksim Square—The heart of Istanbul. To the left of the stairs that lead to the park, the Kurds dance the Halay in an everwidening circle. The Kurdish flag flies and the radio blasts guerilla songs. A crowd moves past them—‘Turkey for the Turks’ Kemalists most likely with red star and crescent banners emblazened with Atatürk’s face. They chant ‘We are soldiers of Mustafa Kemal!’ Down the path a little bit, they will come across a group of gay men marching in the other direction chanting, ‘We are NOBODY’S soldiers.’ They are hamming it up big time. Between the two converging groups you find a tent for the Turkish Socialist Party—old school hardliners, and another tent of middle-aged Armenian churchladies distributing cookies. Down in the main square, some Black Sea people dance the wild horon.
A few weeks ago, things would have been very different. The Kurds and Kemalists would have been fighting in the streets; the gay men harassed or jeered, maybe by the Black Sea boys, the Armenians would have been trying to keep a low profile and everyone would have beeb watching what they said—as afraid of each other, even, as they are of the government. But in Gezi Park this weekend they are all here, speaking out, without fear or censure. They don’t necessarily like each other—make no mistake about that–but they tolerate each other, they leave each other alone.
The media calls it a carnival or a festival or a party. But it’s much more organized than that—a funhouse reflection of a state. And together our protesters have created a miniature city within a city that reflects the dream of Martin Luther King—however ephemeral, however tenuous, however fast the army of police and marauders approach, people feel ‘free at last’.
Together, these disparate groups have built a ‘Museum of the Revolution’ pasting pictures of the police attacks and subsequent resistance in the abandoned trailer of the construction crew’s foreman. They have transformed the overturned and looted cars of the civil police into day-glo platforms of free speech—everyone grabs a spray can and writes what they think. And, in a first for Turkey, they write it with no fear or hesitation.
They’ve created a ‘Market of the Uprising’ where they distribute drinks for free. They set up a ‘children’s studio’ where kids get messy with tempera paints and create whatever they hell picture they want on huge sheets of white paper, emerging from their efforts covered in color.
They have trash teams that do clean up of the grounds and somehow have managed to publish two newspapers ‘Tomorrow’ and ‘The Future’ which they distribute among the hundreds of thousands of people who come to visit every day. They’ve set up a television station (online of course), a radio station, several different websites in a multiplicity of languages. They’ve created a ‘Parliament’ where different people come and debate each other and a moderator turns off their microphone whenever they get aggressive or insulting.
Now let me give you a bit of what Erdoğan’s AKP has in mind for these people—in case you couldn’t guess from the continuing brutal police attacks and arrests in Antakya, Ankara, Eskişehir and Izmir. Or from the tortures of detainees here in Istanbul (

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A break from the blogging

April 14, 2010 at 9:26 pm (blogging, voltairespriest)

There’s one more thing. I’ve decided, due both to my own lack of output and also lack of time to properly deal with its administration at present, to take a break from this blog. I’m handing over ownership of it to the other authors, and will also no longer be the administrator for the site.

I’ll still be around in the comments box etc, but will not have a role in determining or writing the content of the site.

See you all around!

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Comments about editorial policy

April 14, 2010 at 6:23 pm (blogging, voltairespriest)

A brief word, folks.

This blog has historically had a liberal stance when it comes to editing and publishing posts. There is no full-time editor, and overall control of what is published rests with no-one. We try to do the right thing, balancing posts from people of divergent political views on topics which are often controversial.

Similarly, with regard to comments policy, we try to be as liberal as we can. allowing even highly critical views the maximum possible airing (hi, Red Maria!).

However, we are also receptive to polite requests to reconsider what is written, and to general comments about the tone and tenor of the blog.  These can be addressed in the comments boxes and also to the email address at the top of our main page. All such comments and requests will get a fair hearing.

That is all.

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Voting Labour: time to kick the habit

April 10, 2010 at 12:18 pm (elections, Green Party, labour party, Respect, Socialist Party, voltairespriest)

In Johnny Lewis’ post on April 1st, he states that a progressive who casts their vote for anyone other than the Labour Party on May 6th is ignoring the “effect on the lives of our class” that general elections have. In other words, if you cannot bear to vote for the likes of Liam “my Liberal opponent is secretly soft on immigrants, he’s told the Asians” Byrne in Birmingham Hodge Hill, or Steve “Tories oppose compulsory ID cards for foreign nationals” McCabe in Birmingham Selly Oak, then however much you might think you’re doing the right thing, you’re actually bringing about a Tory apocalypse. He even gives us a helpful little scheme to show us the possible outcomes of our frivolous votes, in order of likelihood:

The probable outcomes of your Green/Respect campaign are (in order of likelihood):
1. A Tory goverment
2. A Tory-led coalition
3. A Labour-led coalition
4. A Labour government

Johnny refers specifically to the Greens and Respect, however presumably the same could apply to any left-of-Labour candidate who cannot mount a big challenge in terms of votes. After all, the brutal fact is that every vote taken away from New Labour means that a Tory government of some kind becomes more likely. Therefore, logically, is it not a betrayal of the interests of the class to vote for anyone other than the candidates of New Labour? For example, the AWL’s Jill Mountford in Camberwell and Peckham surely cannot expect a hatful of votes, so would it not then be the case that a vote for her rather than Harriet Harman is the foolish act of a middle class leftist, out of touch with “the lives of our class”?

This sort of bolt-necked Labourism on the part of sections of the left is a part of the reason why the Labour right continues to call the shots when it comes to progressive politics in the UK. The left may sabre-rattle, may howl with protest over events like the Iraq war or bankers’ bonuses, may even (in a good year for Labour) back candidates outside of the Labour party. But when it comes down to it, everybody knows that both the Labour left and parts of the Marxist left will fall in to line and dust the cobwebs off the same old phrases – “Yes, they’re shit. But the Tories would be worse”, or “The LP still has the union link so it’s still our class party”. Quite literally no matter what Labour does in government, those sections of the left will always call for a Labour vote in the end.

A similar argument comes from the AWL, reproduced here by Mr Denham. Again, underneath all the talk of class politics, it essentially boils down to “but the Tories would be worse”. Poor, comrades. Poor.

Rather than trotting out hackneyed old lines which even those saying them must surely struggle to believe, or hurling vitriol at easy targets like the more peculiar Respect candidates, can these people come up with a single positive reason to vote Labour? Apparently they cannot. Why?

Because there isn’t one.

“Labour” as we know it today is nothing more than the hollowed-out shell of what was once a mass political party, with at least the pretence of democratic processes providing checks and balances on its leadership. Since 1994 those checks and balances have been slowly removed, culminating in the union leaders’ shameful acquiescence in the destruction of the policy-making role of the party’s annual conference. Labourites used to wave the union link and the party’s structures around in order to make favourable comparisons with the US Democratic Party. Well comrades, at least the AFL-CIO are getting something of significance for their dollars in  terms of seeing politics slowly shifting leftwards, and an administration which is prepared to take a stand against the right. What have you got?

In this coming election, I think people should do something which may seem staggeringly obvious. Take a look at the list of candidates in your constituency, and vote for the one who most closely reflects your politics. Yes, really.

Depending where you are, that might entail voting for people from one of a number of different parties. Some of them might be Labour candidates. Speaking personally, I’d be more than enthusiastic to support Labour socialists such as John McDonnell in Hayes and Harlington – and incidentally if you’d like to do that, then Stroppy has a post about how to do so here. But equally, I’d be perfectly comfortable supporting Nellist in Coventry or the Greens’ Caroline Lucas in Brighton Pavillion, both of whom are far preferable in my view to their Labour opponents.

Vote for the best candidate, not for the status quo. It’s not rocket science.

Automatic support for the Labour Party – it’s time to kick the habit.

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Coventry Launch of Trade Unionist and Socialist Coalition

April 2, 2010 at 3:50 pm (elections, Socialist Party, TUSC, voltairespriest)

Last Sunday, I attended the Coventry launch meeting of the Trade Unionist and Socialist Coalition (TUSC). This is an electoral initiative set up between the RMT union and some of the various left groups which formed the backbone of the Socialist Alliance in the early 2000s, along with elements of the Communist Party of Britain.

The meeting was relatively large for a party political gathering in a city the size of Coventry. There were about 70 people in attendance, mainly though not exclusively members of the Socialist Party. The original plan had been for the meeting to be addressed by both RMT leader Bob Crow and Coventry Socialist Party councillor Dave Nellist, however Crow was tied up with what (prior to subsequent court action by Network Rail) looked like a prospective national strike by his members. Therefore Nellist addressed the meeting alone.

As someone who knows the SP in Coventry fairly well, I found the meeting quite interesting. However it was clearly geared towards the SP itself. Nellist made it very clear that, whilst he would find the votes of the SP’s candidates across the city “interesting”, their overriding priority was to re-elect his comrade Rob Windsor, who is facing a challenge from Labour in the SP’s traditional stronghold of St Michael’s ward.

It isn’t that I can’t see Nellist’s point here. The SP currently has two councillors in the city of Coventry, down from a previous total of three in the same ward. The third councillor in St Michaels is Brownite Jim O’Boyle, a former TGWU steward without any ties to the union’s left of which I am aware. If the SP were to lose Windsor, then they would not be able to form a “group” on the city council, leaving Nellist a rather ineffectual representative in terms of several procedural mechanisms which he would no longer be able to use.

However, let’s not forget that this was the launch meeting in the West Midlands of a challenge to New Labour.. It speaks to a certain lack of political confidence on the SP’s part that Nellist would even raise their worries about the possible (if unlikely) loss of a single council seat, in such a setting.

The substance of the meeting, though, was spent on major national political questions. It was good, standard fayre, laying into New Labour’s support of the banks, supporting the repeal of the anti-trade union laws, and other such issues. There were also issues specific to Coventry mentioned – in particular the enormously costly PFI hospital at Walsgrave, which has set taxpayers back a vast amount of money whilst providing not-noticeably-better medical care. All of this went down well with the assembled audience.

It has to be said that TUSC (cringe-inducing name aside) is a worthy political initiative. It doesn’t have a candidate in my own constituency, otherwise I would probably vote for it. But for me it does have the ring of “more of the same” about it. What’s so different about TUSC that means it will endure and grow beyond the next election? I’ve seen very little to convince me that it has any more likelihood of an enduring political presence than did the Socialist Alliance or the SP/CPB’s wrong-headed “No2EU” slate at last year’s Euro-elections. Indeed, its existence or otherwise seems to me incidental even to the SP’s work in Coventry – they’d be doing exactly the same thing whether TUSC had come about or not.

That having been said, there isn’t a lot else on offer. At this election, there are only various protest votes to the left of the three main parties, other than in rare cases such as Brighton Pavillion where the Greens’ Caroline Lucas has a chance of an upset. In terms of critical Labour votes, the Socialist Campaign to stop the Tories and Fascists sounds to me like nothing more than a warmed-over version of the 1979 Socialist Campaign for a Labour Victory. It’s a nostalgia exercise backed by good people who just don’t want to understand that today’s Labour Party is no longer worthy of the name.

Unfortunately that’s the way this election looks – like a deeply unappetising choice between three rotten main courses, or plates of leftovers from a tasty meal cooked some time ago.

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Okayokayokay… Defend David T

March 21, 2010 at 10:50 am (blogging, blogosphere, Free Speech, Galloway, Harry's Place, voltairespriest)

Thought I’d add my two-penneth following on from Rosie’s excellent post. Long-term readers of this blog will know that I’m not politically a fan of Harry’s Place. I find much of the coverage boorish and anti-left, and frankly I find many of their posters’ and commenters’ obsession with organised Islamist groups in the UK to be disturbing. That having been said, they do sometimes carry material that is of interest, and do have some posters whose material can be both valuable and informative. However, in general I am a long, long way from that site’s political wavelength.

My opinions of that site cease to matter, though, when it comes to the legal demand that HP supremo David T has received from George Galloway and Kevin Ovenden. Although I obviously have not had sight of it, apparently it demands financial settlement to the tune of £50,000. Presumably if that demand is not me then a libel action will follow. This furore has arisen because of a comment made by David T… on Respect member Andy Newman’s blog, Socialist Unity.

This raises a number of issues for me.

Firstly, if Galloway and Ovenden feel so slighted, then why not simply have Newman delete the comment?

Secondly, given that it is Newman’s site, and last I heard the comment was still up, why are they not threatening Newman with similar action if he does not remove the comment?

Thirdly, what’s the real motive here? It’s risible to think that David T’s comment would have caused material damage to either Galloway’s or Ovenden’s reputation. Not only do relatively few people read hard-left blogs such as Socialist Unity (or this one), the percentage of those who do, that would look at a comment like David T’s and have their views swung by it, is surely microscopic.

It has been said by people from many different political backgrounds in recent months that the growing culture of libel litigation in this country is a danger to people’s right to express a controversial opinion – unless, of course, they have a large bank balance. It is also pathetic in the extreme for people on the “left” to make use of laws like the UK’s current libel legislation, which enshrine nothing more or less than the right of the privileged and the obsessed to shut up those who speak out against them.

So yes, defend David T, whether you like him and his site or not.

And sign up for the Libel Reform Campaign here.

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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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Lenny vs Laurie

February 20, 2010 at 2:23 pm (anonymous, left, trotskyism, voltairespriest)

On a more substantive note, and possibly one of wider interest, two posts over at Liberal Conspiracy debate out the role of organised Marxist groups and the wider left. Firstly, regular LC contributor Laurie Penny puts a case for the prosecution, in particular criticising the fractious and sectarian ways of working which exist in many of the left groups. She takes the SWP as an example:

The SWP has been at the forefront of every attempt to scupper cohesion on the left over the past decade, gaining themselves a reputation for petty squabbling that, for many, overshadows their valuable work in opposing the Iraq war and propelling the anti-capitalist mobilisations of the start of the decade.

Lenny of the Tomb takes the opportunity to offer a defence on the same site, and I’d have to say it’s one of his better efforts. I do, however, think he has slightly missed Laurie’s point – I read her post as a call for pluralism in politics and unity in action on the left, and not as a simple attack on the SWP.

It’s worth reading Seymour’s whole post, but a crucial paragraph is this:

This isn’t a boast. We are a small party, and our ability to influence events in any given campaign is limited. But we are, it must be conceded, disproportionately active in such campaigns, relative to our size. And for such a small party, and one that is highly unattractive in Penny’s view, we do find a fair number of our activists ending up with leading roles because of their proven abilities and commitment.

It will undoubtedly grate with many who have had bad experiences with the SWP in the past, that Seymour details the SWP’s role in various wider campaigns in this way. However, substitute “SWP” with “left groups in general” throughout his post. It’s a fact that without the organised left’s ability to devote time and resources to building campaigns, those campaigns would either collapse or else exist on a much smaller scale. This statement could equally as easily apply to the SWP, Socialist Party, AWL, CPGB and others in various contexts, whether that be the ANL, HOPI, Defend Council Housing, or many, many other campaigns which have existed on a national or local level. For that ability to profile and build movements, surely, we should at least be a little glad of the groups’ existence.

I am not a member of any organised left group, but I’m nevertheless glad that they exist and I hope that they continue to remain a feature of the UK’s political landscape in the future. I also favour debate, discussion and disagreement within and between campaigns and organisations, even as the main thrust of a campaign or movement is driven home in unity. In that sense, I suspect, I agree with both Seymour and Penny even as they disagree with each other.

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60 Members resign from SWP, sign open letter

February 16, 2010 at 9:37 pm (SWP, voltairespriest)

Well, well, well!

Yes, they’re all probably part of the politically virtually-indistinguishable “Left Faction”. Yes, this is a bit of sectarian gossip. But hey, it’s interesting to those of us who are connoisseurs of these matters, right?

Alex Snowdon of Luna17 publishes the letter and signatories. He’s understandably closed the comments on that thread. They’re open here.

(H/T – Red Maria)

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