London Calling

austerity
Image by Dr. Dunno

Allow me to pre-empt some wearyingly predictable liberal condemnation heading your way.

When the riots start be careful not to get trampled underfoot as liberals and reactionaries alike bolt for the moral high-ground. Watch out for the pious; the sanctimonious; the mealy-mouthed; the people who always see unruly protest as something worse than the injustice, the oppression, the social cleansing that triggered it.

Remind them that the freedom to voice their bourgeois indignation, along with the freedom to vote, to control their own fertility, to protest, to join a trade union, to have Saturday and Sunday off work, to even get paid for work and a great deal more, were only won by centuries of often violent struggle. They give us nothing but that which we take.

Riots are the final resort of the marginalised and disenfranchised. There can be no condemnation by anyone aspiring to humanity.

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Say No to the Poppy

poppychild

The annual poppy stramash shows no signs of abating. Add the England football team to the mix and the temperature was never going anywhere but up. It’s clear that the poppy means very different things to people. My own position has been expressed perhaps less clearly (yes, really) than I’d have liked. Given that, for me, the poppy is about much more than some would have us believe, I’m taking the opportunity to address some of the many objections fired my way, recently. So, without further ado, buckle up…

“You insult our brave forces who have consistently fought for freedom”

I am genuinely incensed at the general view that soldiers – at least ‘our boys’ not those nasty foreign ones – somehow represent freedom, democracy and decency. They absolutely don’t.

WW1 was an imperial bloodbath. An orgy of death regarding markets and territory.  Whole generations of working-class conscripts fired out of trenches like so much human confetti. It was futile and every dead soldier was a wasted life. Their deaths meant nothing, achieved nothing and changed nothing. How heart-breakingly dreadful is that?

Sometimes, like WW2, they find themselves on the side of moral virtue. But that’s an accident of history. Soldiers are first, last and always there to protect, defend and consolidate the state and the establishment’s privilege and power.

Soldiers chasing down striking miners in Tonypandy, tanks rolling into George Square in Glasgow or bludgeoning trade unionists during the General Strike, to give just three examples, show exactly where our standing army ends up when freedom really does become an issue. They’ll turn on their own at the twitch of an officer’s eyebrow because that’s their job. And let’s not bother discussing the Six Counties, Aden, Cyprus or any of the former Colonies who actually did dare to fight for freedom. Their own. Free from British subjugation. We all know how they were treated…

As for Iraq, Afghanistan, Libya and Syria, only the cerebrally challenged would seriously posit that these grubby ‘interventions’ were even within touching distance of freedom or democracy.

Instead, every (comparative) freedom we enjoy today, women having the vote, political protest, joining a trade union and much, much more, were all won by working class men and women facing down the army. In reality, soldiers’ default setting is to be the enemy of freedom; at home and abroad.

“They’re just doing their job and you don’t get to pick and choose which orders you obey”

Conscription ended in the UK in 1960. Thereafter, anyone who died while killing Irish civilians in Derry, teenage Argentinean conscripts in the South Atlantic or Iraqi wedding guests in Basra did so as a result of a free and conscious choice. I will not be bullied or emotionally blackmailed into supporting such people or mourning their passing. And if you really want to talk about insulting the dead, you expect me to draw equivalence between the terrified, conscripted kids butchered in the Somme; the heroic men and women of WW2 who fought fascism and really did defend Britain and today’s squaddies ?Who choose, consciously and deliberately, to join up, invade other peoples’ countries and kill Arabs on behalf of the Brit state? Now that’s insulting.

“You lefty scum don’t know anything. The poppy is remembrance for the people not the politics.”

I wouldn’t piss on one if it was on fire. It isn’t about solely remembrance or respect anymore. Or have you folks, somehow, failed to notice the fetishisation of the military, over recent years? The attempts to cultivate and then co-opt the hideous mawkishness surrounding ‘our boys’? The poppy cult is a powerful plank in the establishment’s propaganda arsenal and like so much of their class offensive, is about the here and now and the future; not the past.

Linking the revolting slaughter of millions of wasted, pointless deaths during WW1 to the UK’s post-imperial adventures today –  in Iraq, Afghanistan, Syria – is an attempt to confer legitimacy on the latter. It’s disgusting, frankly. Cynical and inhumane.

It’s about as subtle as a punch in the face. It’s screamingly apparent that it’s a thinly-veiled disguise to justify and glorify war. Fostered by the establishment who stand to profit from the lives squandered by those who have to fight them.

We continue to glorify and sentimentalise imperial slaughter so yet more young men and women will be willing to get their legs blown off. Along with lots of brown people, of course. Who I added as an afterthought to keep this piece in line with Brit liberal values.

I want to see an end to this sick and grotesque cult of soldier worship, of which the poppy is now a central plank. It’s macabre, dangerous and hideous.

They tell you the poppy isn’t celebrating war. That it’s just a symbol of family, friends and comrades remembering those who did not come home. Try being a TV presenter and not wearing one, then. The poor bastards get virtually lynched. Try being James McLean.

No, the poppy, these days, is a kind of patriot litmus-test. A barometer of how staunchly one stands behind the troops. I mean, don’t take my word for it; the British Legion are telling you! Christ, how much clearer does that image need to be? An official British Legion PR photo with a child holding a giant poppy while wearing a t-shirt that reads ‘future soldier.’

Grotesque.
Immoral.
Obscene.

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Orgreave: “The fact is that it was a set-up and it worked brilliantly.”

otjcThe Tories can whitewash and cover up with all the energy they can muster but the fight goes on. Please support the Orgreave Truth and Justice Campaign http://otjc.org.uk/

Here’s an excerpt from my book Look Back in Anger; the Miners’ Strike in Nottingham, published by Five Leaves 2014.

In a dispute filled with violence, the final showdown at Orgreave produced the most appalling scenes thus far. Even thirty years later, the footage has the power to shock. Pickets in trainers and t-shirts, some entirely shirtless on that beautiful summer’s day, were mercilessly battered by police officers in full riot-gear, flailing away indiscriminately with truncheons, while mounted officers charged fleeing bands of men, desperate to escape. On the miners’ side, barricades were erected and bricks and stones were hurled into the mêlée. A car from a nearby scrap-yard was dragged into the middle of the road and set alight and police pursued the miners into the nearby village, through gardens and houses, hammering down all they caught.

The numbers were formidable. Accounts vary but around 8000 pickets to 9,000 police is a generally accepted figure. The police deployed around sixty mounted officers, sixty attack-dogs and several thousand officers with short-shield riot-gear and the remainder sporting long-shield issue.

There remains little doubt that the violence meted out to the miners was pre-planned, deliberate and sanctioned at the highest level of the South Yorkshire force. Miners, en route to the plant, were amazed to see signs directing them to convenient car parks, smiling officers helpfully pointing the way and guiding them in with no attempts whatsoever to dissuade or turn back the thousands of pickets who had heeded Scargill’s call. Such behaviour stood in contrast to the manner in which all police forces had handled flying pickets up to that point.

For the Nottinghamshire miners, their experiences confirmed suspicions that ‘The Battle of Orgreave’ was a set-up orchestrated by the police. Years later, in a 1993 interview, Thatcher’s adviser and strike fixer David Hart would confirm  that view: “The coke was of no interest whatsoever. We didn’t need it. It was a set-up by us on a battle ground of our choosing .  The fact is that it was a set-up and it worked brilliantly.”

The fall-out from Orgreave was considerable although it would be many years before its full truth was revealed. TV viewers were treated to scenes of mobs of violent thugs hurling bricks and stones before embattled mounted police moved in to disperse the offenders. Only it wasn’t like that at all. As Red Pepper reported, nearly thirty years after the event, “When broadcasting footage of Orgreave, the BBC, incredibly, transposed the sequence of events, making it appear that police cavalry charges had been a defensive response to antagonism by stone-throwing pickets rather than an act of aggression. Only in 1991 did the BBC issue an apology for this, claiming that its action footage had been “inadvertently reversed.” The publicly-funded, ‘neutral’ state broadcaster had reversed footage which, in its original form, showed cowering pickets with nowhere to run, desperately fending off charging police with whatever they had to hand. Given the pre-digital era of 1984, with physical tape being used for filming, which required conscious human cutting, splicing and chopping for editing purposes, one can view the BBC’s claims of the footage being “inadvertently reversed” with a degree of contempt.

The South Yorkshire Police didn’t stop at merely bludgeoning defenceless men, either. Ninety five pickets were arrested and charged with a number of offences. The most serious being charges of rioting and affray which carried sentences of upwards of ten years. In 1987 the trials soon collapsed in a welter of conflicting police evidence, fabricated statements and embarrassing inconsistencies. Although described by renowned QC, Michael Mansfield, as “the biggest frame-up ever,” no officers were ever investigated or charged. This was despite South Yorkshire Police being forced to hand over nearly half-a-million pounds in compensation to thirty nine of the arrested pickets and incurring costs of over £100,000.

In light of the Hillsborough cover-up, it’s possible that an independent enquiry into Orgreave might yet bring further humiliation to a force that was institutionally corrupt. The Orgreave Truth and Justice Campaign, Justice for Mineworkers and other organisations continue to press the case.

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LabSpeak – A Guide To The Language of The Labour Right

bernard-mceldowney-twitter-corbyn-traitor-bastard1. ‘Sieze control’ – overwhelmingly win an election fair and square in the face of gerrymandering, rigging and cheating

2. ‘Hard left – traditional left-leaning social democrats who think the market might not always be correct

3. ‘Anti-Semitism’ – criticism of Israel

4. ‘Anti-Semitic abuse’ – being correctly identified at a press conference as someone who has briefed right-wing media against your party’s leader

5. ‘Bullying’ – expressing unhappiness/disagreement with a Member of Parliament

6. ‘Trot’ – a supporter of Jeremy Corbyn. See also ‘Nazi Stormtrooper’ Rabble’ and ‘thugs’

7. ‘Misogyny’ – labelling a female Tory MP responsible for the deaths of disabled people a ‘stain on humanity.’ And/or whatever Yvette Cooper wants to invent at any given moment

8. ‘Unity’ – The desired state of their party for many right-wing Labour MPs. To be achieved by the annihilation of Corbyn supporters, a contempt for natural justice and the witch-hunting and expulsion of those on the left

9. ‘Intimidation’ – local party members discussing the replacement of their MP or prospective parliamentary candidate, via the rule-book in a democratic and properly-constituted manner, in favour of one who reflects the majority view

10. ‘Homophobic abuse’ – derogatory remarks about a female MP’s sexuality that were never said at a meeting she never attended

11. ‘Unelectable’ – used to describe someone who has presided over four mayoral wins, a string of by-election victories and two leadership elections in a year. The second of which returned an even greater majority than the first. Oh, and also attracting hundreds of thousands to your party making it the biggest social democratic party in Western Europe

12. ‘My office window’ – not a Labour MP’s office window

13. ‘Coming together to fight the Tories’ – writing in the Telegraph and demanding a Tory government, a Tory government, “crushes” a trade union

14. ‘Incompetent’ – remaining in post with increased support following an embarrassingly botched palace coup and a laughably bungled rigged election

15. ‘Moderates’ – MPs who hate the working class, trade unions and the Party membership

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Girl Power

main-leadsom

I don’t usually like attacking those who are into ‘intersectional’ or ‘identity’ politics.

In much the same way that new atheists are often simply providing a cover for Islamophobia and Western intervention, anti-intersectionalists are frequently looking for a left cover to justify their sexism and reaction.

Thus, the question of women in politics continues to generate some appalling nonsense. Exhibit A: last year’s Labour leadership contest.

The issue of working class women being excluded from politics isn’t what concerns Suzanne Moore here. It’s the exclusion of women. Period. Irrespective of how fundamentally anti-women their politics actually are.

This sort of thinking reaches its nadir with truly reality-shunning rubbish of the type spouted by Daisy Benson here. Where she actually writes “the only truly progressive thing for Labour to do would be to elect a female leader this time around – no matter what her policies are.”

That isn’t feminism. That’s insanity. It means we should’ve voted for Thatcher. Because she had a vagina.

It’s whining, middle-class entitlement which will do nothing for working class women. Except to ensure their continued exclusion because they aren’t the right type of women. Single mums from council estates, women working three minimum-wage jobs, unemployed women; these are not the women with which the Moores and Bensons of this world are concerned.

Labour had two men and two women contesting the leadership. Kendal and Cooper’s politics were  dreadful; austerity-lite policies which would have done zero for emancipating working-class women. It’s a shuddering irony that the candidate best representing women – Jeremy Corbyn – was a white, middle-class man but hey; them’s the breaks.

The answer wasn’t and isn’t to ditch Corbyn and choose Kendal or Cooper; the onus is on Cooper and Kendal to dump their reactionary politics and start really representing women; not just privileged, middle-class, white ones.

Exhibit B, in terms of spectacle, surpasses even the aforementioned. The Tory Party leadership election also features two women. Theresa May and Andrea Leadsom. The nasty party is, obviously, the most fundamentally patriarchal formation in mainstream British politics. ‘Family values’ and ‘traditional’ mores are the Tories’ home turf. Disgusting, however, doesn’t even come close to accurately describing one woman trash-talking her ‘sister’ because one womb is less functional than another.

Austerity impacts harder on women than almost any other group in modern Britain. ‘Feminism’ of the type supported by either May or Leadsom – and even Angela Eagle, too, for that matter – is the feminism that enslaves. It is feminism concerned only with allowing women access to the machinery of exploitation, alongside men. More women CEOs, greater numbers of female directors and women party leaders will benefit working-class women in no way at all.

As always, the choice is about one type of politics or another; theirs or ours. Their feminism – the opportunity to exploit, disadvantage and disenfranchise – or ours; feminism that enables, liberates and emancipates.

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Chilcot etc

blair-evilBefore proffering any comment on Chilcott, I’m mindful of David Osler’s typically dry observation of earlier today: “Prepare for a deluge of a 140-character opinions about a two million-word document nobody has read.” Well, quite.

That said I did have the pleasure of driving across England at 11.00am this morning, which afforded me the opportunity of hearing Sir John’s précis. The facts, as he saw them, which require no recounting here, were as expected.

For me, however, Chilcott’s seven-year 2.6 million-word magnum opus served merely as the hors d’oeuvre. It was Tony Blair’s response to the report that gripped me. That unnerving, not-quite-entirely fake, humility married to a truly chilling Messianic hubris, has made for compelling political theatre, over the years. Today’s events were his equal, though. As history met the man who will not yield to its cold reality, the result was grotesquely mesmerising.

With voice audibly breaking, the former Prime Minister simultaneously accepted all responsibility for “mistakes” while giving not an inch on the substantive matter; the morality, the legitimacy, the legality of going to war in Iraq.

Nor did he accept that those events have led to today’s. Politics, like nature, abhors a vacuum, so what of the destabilising of a sovereign state? What said Blair about the bloodied recasting of Iraq as a 3D representation of Bruegel’s Massacre of the Innocents?

Unless we could say with certainty that things would not have been any better had the war not occurred, then “…you are a commentator; not a decision-maker” was his belief-defying defence.

Listening to him in his trademark unleaded and fully unleashed Man of Destiny mode, on today of all days, was sickening, yes, but…

… he’s both merely a symptom and only a product of the forces that drive us, isn’t he? Humanity is, undoubtedly, seated firmly in the antechamber of annihilation and it’s taken many Tony Blairs to get us here. So what about the next one? And the one after? And, if we’re still here, the one after that?

But such a question is facile. It’s the Great Man of History theory; reducing the seismic events that shape the future and rewrite the past to the whims of the Great Ones; with humanity cast in the role of hapless observers. Only history doesn’t work that way.

Other questions occurred as I drove along quiet English lanes. The media’s framing of deceased Brit soldiers, for example. The curious Hillsborough-isation of their deaths; the references to ‘The Families.’ As though there is a comparison to be made between ninety-six working-class football fans who might reasonably have  expected – no, demanded – that they live and professional soldiers for whom death is, quite literally, an occupational hazard. Would that a million dead civilians, even brown ones, command such rage.

I’m given to understand that the lack of adequate equipment for military personnel is a source of anger for ‘The Families.’ Also, the possible illegality of the conflict itself (a bizarre thought with which to grapple. Had the war been legal, then, the resulting massacre of innocent civilians would, presumably, have been acceptable). Perhaps, then, we may see a grassroots movement spring up, dedicated to creating a system of checks and balances? Surely only a matter of time before The S*N launches its JFT179 campaign? Some mechanism designed to prevent soldiers dying in such circumstances again? I don’t know, maybe a trade union for the armed forces, say…

Something which, I’d humbly suggest, is far less outrageous than a nation that actually has the possible deportation of immigrants occupying mainstream discourse.

I’ve never felt less equipped than I do now – battered and assailed by history, on an almost daily basis, as we are – to address such questions. And what monumental arrogance consumes me that I should even consider such things to be my concern anyway?

Only that they are the concern of us all.

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With Friends Like These…

corbynThere’s plenty of justifiable criticism to be made of Corbyn, from those of us to his left, and most of it in terms of his actual politics, rather than the manufactured trash regarding his appearance, style and lack of ‘leadership qualities.’

Almost every back-stabber and turncoat (waves at Owen Jones) – as well as his outright enemies – has praised Corbyn as a man of principle and integrity; while bemoaning his lack of leadership abilities. What exactly, one can only wonder, do you consider leadership qualities to be, if not principle and integrity?

Again, I could spend a week criticising Jezza’s politics and not run out of things to say but when I hear “ah but he just couldn’t win a general election; he just isn’t a leader” well, that tells me absolutely nothing about him and everything about you.

It tells me that you’re an unthinking swallower of the media consensus; that a slick suit and superficial charm are what you think makes a leader; that you are happy to let your political enemies tell you what and how your leader should be.

You whine and you moan about spivs, con-men and liars; remote, privileged toffs who know nothing of us; who care nothing about how we live and how we die. You turn from your TV in disgust at the fiddling, the corruption and the sheer unmitigated self-interest and greed. You yearn for an honest man. You pray for a champion who will restore your party to its former proletarian glory. You want socialism! Or say you do. And then comes Corbyn…

A man whose cumulative parliamentary expenses for the last hundred years amount to fifty pence, a Refresher and a packet of fucking crisps. A man who lives in a normal house, on a normal street, and whose front garden gives an alibi to working class men all over the country: “It’ll be all right for another week, love. I mean, you seen Jezza’s?”

You’ve finally got your champion; you’ve got a leader who understands your life, lives your life and even looks like the kindly teacher we all had. And yet you moan because he dresses like a normal geezer. You bitch because he doesn’t wear a tie. You take the piss out of his allotment and you sneer at his bike.

Because the media do.
Because the established political class do.
And you swallow it.

You’re too stupid, you’re too blinded by establishment propaganda to recognise normal when it passes you on the street! This is your ordinary bloke – not in it for himself – that you always claimed you wanted. But you complain because he doesn’t dress, speak and act like those you claimed to despise. You fool.

And now they’re doing him in. They’re queuing up like a bunch of prison rapists in the showers – but with less integrity – to stick in the blade. When the posh boys, along with their establishment and traitors in the Parliamentary Labour Party, line up to shank the guy in the exercise yard, while the guards are locking the gates and the governor is urging them on, isn’t it just a basic expression of class solidarity, of decency, to join the prison riot?

His own MPs – the careerist chancers you were bitching about just last week – are now, suddenly, an infallible barometer of the electoral mood? Fuck you. You’ve bottled it. A shiver scuttled around Corbyn’s ‘friends’ looking for a spine to run down, eh?

And what did you expect anyway? A socialist of some sort finally leads the Labour Party and you thought, what? That The S*n would scatter rose petals down his garden path? That he and Dave would chuckle amiably together as they exchanged matey bantz across the dispatch box? That it’d be easy?

Let me tell you, in all seriousness, as someone who knows more than a little about conflict – when they come for you like this, when they hate you like this, you’re doing something right.

It isn’t people like Corbyn who lose Labour elections; it’s people like you.

Now, grow a pair and fight for Corbyn; because he’s spent his entire career fighting for you.

 

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