Politics & Current Affairs

Open Letter to David Cameron

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Dear Dave (I can call you Dave, right?)

I watched your exchange at PMQs with Jeremy  Corbyn, earlier today, and I must confess to ending up a bit confused. Of course, I’m not a sophisticated, Eton-educated politician, holding the reins of state power like your own fine self, so I thought you could help me out a wee bit.

Firstly, Corbyn and his “friends from Hamas”, who you described as a “terrorist group.” Well, I did a bit of research and was surprised to learn that Hamas were actually elected, with over 70% of the vote (over double the size of your own mandate, by the way, Dave, lol!), by the Palestinian people, in a free and fair election, overseen by neutral and impartial international observers. So doesn’t that make them, well, the government, Dave? Like your own, in fact, only with shit-loads more votes?

Secondly, I get that these are violent guys, what with all those rockets and whatnot fired into Israel, but I’m given to understand that the Geneva Convention, the International Criminal Court and the Treaty of Rome all permit armed resistance by an oppressed people whose land is illegally occupied by a foreign military power, no? If so, then Palestinian rockets are the legitimate resistance of an oppressed people, fighting a recognised and permitted national liberation struggle, no?

Also, even if you disregard international law (surely not, Dave?) and you class the few poxy home-made rockets desultorily fired into Israel as ‘terrorism’ then I assume, surely, that dropping white phosphorous onto kids, blowing up hospitals, bombing schools, shooting children playing football on beaches, evicting people from their homes so the illegal occupiers can move their folks in, surely, Dave, all that must count as ‘terrorism’?  Surely the Israeli state and the IDF are the terrorists? (also, what about Saudi Arabia? Some pretty dodgy links with Daesh, Dave. And they even – get this! – execute women who have been unfortunate enough to get themselves raped. Seems to me, Dave, you’d at least be critical of their dodgy approach to human rights, rather than selling them weapons of mass destruction).

I also think you need to be a tad cautious, mate, banging on all the time about Jezza saying “our friends from Hamas.” You know, what your Maggie being an actual personal pal of General Pinochet. You remember him, Dave? Mass-murdering fascist dictator? Didn’t even get as many votes as you, mate, never mind Hamas. Nope, he just toppled the democratically-elected government in a bloody coup, then unleashed his infamous ‘Caravan of Death’ to tour the country massacring civilians. “A true friend” was how your Maggie described him, as she went to bat to prevent his extradition to face justice for his reign of terror.

You see my point, Dave? Hamas: democratically-elected, fighting a legitimate war of national liberation = bad guys.
Pinochet: unelected dictator, topples democratically-elected government at gunpoint, murders his own people = “true friend.”

Maybe, it’s because he wasn’t a Muslim, Dave? Is that it? Aye, it’s all a bit confusing to a state-educated working class lad, I must admit.

Maybe it’s the anti-Semitic thing with Hamas, then, Dave? That’s shit’s not on at all. I’ve heard about the infamous Charter with all it’s truly vile anti-Semitic filth. I’ve even read it myself. Real horrowshow. Mind you, it turns out, I’m told, that it was written by one geezer and distributed by him without the knowledge or permission of the leadership and so doesn’t represent Hamas’s official position. Instead, I was directed to their official position on the question, which reads as follows:

What is Hamas’ position on Anti-Semitism?
Charges of Anti-Semitism is a most convenient and handy argument Israel’s apologists often throw out when they are basically run out of arguments. They use such an accusation in order to intimidate Israel’s critics or to sterilize discussion and divert attention from the real issues.

 The scourge of Anti-Semitism is an abhorrent form of racism that discriminates against all Jews for who they are, and therefore, much like all other forms of racism targeting other decent human beings, it must confronted and eliminated.

There is a clear distinction between Anti-Semitism on the one hand, and legitimate criticisms of Israel’s degrading and oppressive policies against the Palestinian people. We have nothing against Jews for who they are.  We are not against Jews as a religion or an ethnicity.

There are many conscientious Jews and Israelis who are ashamed and sickened by what Israel has been doing in their name. These principled Jews have consistently condemned Israel’s violations of Palestinian human rights and its settler colonialism

Hamas is against Israel as a settler colonial state that occupies Palestine and subjects the Palestinian people to war, colonization and displacement. The conflict with Israel is fundamentally political and the Palestinians are fighting for freedom and self-determination. Had Palestine been occupied by another people holding a similar or different religion, Hamas and the Palestinian people would have fought against it with all their force. (See Hamas’ Conceptualization of the Other: Its stance towards Judaism, Jews, Zionism, Zionists and Israel)”

Seems pretty clear, that, Dave, no? The sort of unequivocal rejection of anti-Semitism that’s all the rage, these days.

Now, I’m a bit confused with all this stuff about racism anyway. I totally get one absolutely shouldn’t say, for example, that Jews control the banks and the media; clearly anti-Semitic, no question. But Boris came out with all that guff about “Pickaninnies” and “watermelon smiles.” Surely that’s well racist, Dave? No? And the stuff about refugees being a “swarm”? The constant Muslim-baiting of Sadiq Khan? Then there’s the less recent stuff like leaflets mentioning having “… a nigger for a neighbour.” Seems like you might have a race problem in your party, Dave. Why, it’s almost like it’s institutionalised in the Conservative Party. Why don’t you set up one of those enquiry thingies that Corbyn’s got going on, currently?

Anyway, I appreciate you’re a busy guy so, you know, no rush to reply. I would’ve asked Jezza for some help but he’s even busier than you, currently. What with retreating at full speed in the  face of all this relentless bullshit and throwing his most loyal supporters under the bus you’re driving, so whenever you can get to me, Dave.

Politics & Current Affairs

Nick Cohen and Corbyn’s ‘New Politics’

Labour Party leader Jeremy CorbynMozart’s inarguable genius often obscures the fact that he was also a debt-ridden hack; a jobbing muso who took on many commissions simply for the money. To that end, like many of the great composers, he was a skilled re-cycler of his own work. You don’t need to listen to a lot of his music to spot the re-used motifs, phrases and – in more contemporary parlance – riffs that constantly reappear. There’s no shame in that, of course. We’ve all got to earn a living. Even Nick Cohen.

However, that’s where the comparisons end. I offer the premise, with no expectation of controversy, that Nick NeoCohen is not a genius. Like Wolfgang Amadeus, though, Nick also re-cycles his own work. As many, with even the most casual acquaintance with his oeuvre, will know, Nick has, at most, two articles in him and merely offers seemingly endless variations on their themes. In fact, scratch the Mozart analogy; Nick NeoCohen is the Status Quo of contemporary political commentators. Double denim at the ready; again, again, again, again; why don’t you do it? Why don’t you do it ag-ain?

The first article concerns his obsession with Islam and how nasty it is; how reactionary and how little it differs from fascism in its applied form.

The second concerns how appalling the British left is and how it aligns itself with the aforementioned reactionary Islamic creed. As a result the left has degenerated to such dreadful form that Nick cannot, any longer, be sullied by it and must, therefore, ‘resign’.

With such a limited palette from which to paint – and always with the broadest of broad brush strokes – Nick must be eternally gratefully to Jeremy Corbyn. The rise of Corbyn has provided our anti-hero with the opportunity of combining both his articles, as his latest polemic shows.

Nick ignores, though, the fact that any left organisation is as much a product of the capitalism it aspires to oppose. It will contain exactly the same kind of flawed human beings as any other organisation. It’s only as dysfunctional, incompetent and unpleasant as any other organisation that comprises human beings. Yet far from being quiet, or complicit, in the crimes of which Nick accuses it, one factor in the weakness of the left is that it often tears itself apart in a principled refusal to accept some of the foul infections with which it finds itself assailed.

The Socialist Workers Party is now merely a shadow, numerically speaking, of its former self. The ‘Comrade Delta’ scandal saw the organisation explode into a bitter internal war as huge chunks of the membership refused to stand idly by and be a party to the leadership’s attempted cover-up. There are now scores of lefties who will never again associate, in any way, with the SWP in protest at its gasp-inducing misogyny.

Similarly, the most successful socialist initiative ever seen on these shores in modern times – the Scottish Socialist Party – destroyed itself rather than accept misogyny, perjury and corruption as the price for proletarian glory.

To give just two examples.

And so to Corbyn. Nick has no words for the extensively documented ‘bullying’ and ‘intimidation’ by his Blairite heroes. Still fewer for the contempt with which whatever passed for democracy in New Labour was held. No, Corbyn’s ‘new politics’ is mere apologia for racism, intimidation and violence, according to the NeoCohen gospel. As with all the current attacks on the Labour leader, in this regard, there is no, none, nada, zero evidence presented to establish Corbyn’s culpability; simply the wearily familiar device of smear by association.

Two wrongs rarely make a right and the ah-yeah-but-what-about tactics of most political partisans is distasteful. And, to be fair to Nick, he has ‘resigned’ from the left so cannot reasonably be expected to examine it any more fairly or rationally than previously. Nevertheless, it’s instructive that NeoCohen chooses to aim his fire at the non-existent campaign of Corbyn-inspired bullying and yet utters not a word about a case of genuine bullying that led to an actual death…

Elliott Johnson was a Conservative, though, so it doesn’t fit the popular anti-Corbyn narrative. Still; give Nick some time and he’ll no doubt devise another variation on his riff that blames Corbyn for the unfortunate Johnson’s demise.

After all, those bills won’t pay themselves, right?

Politics & Current Affairs

God Save the Queen: Corbyn versus the State

jezzaSo the republican, atheist Leader of – irony on the way – Her Majesty’s Loyal Opposition didn’t sing the national anthem. Oh very dear. Really, this should have been as controversial as discovering David Cameron dislikes income tax and poor people. Colour us surprised indeed.

Reactions were to be expected. It was “disrespectful”, it “hurt and offended” some and “angered” others.  However, those of us urging Corbyn on and who welcomed his election as Labour leader – however cautiously and with whatever caveats attached – were left feeling frustrated at his handling of the criticism.

There were any number of ways in which he could have responded. He could have stated that one of the main reasons he appealed to people was that he was honest. That it would be an odd way to show respect for anyone, or anything, by turning himself into a hypocrite and tipping his hat to an institution everyone knows he opposes.

He could have applied simple logic and said that respect for the victims of fascism has nothing whatsoever to do with tugging the forelock to an unaccountable, unelected Monarch. Especially one whose anthem says nothing at all about the very people to whom Corbyn was supposed to pay tribute.

He might even have gone on the offensive. He could have insisted that he, a left-winger, would brook no lectures about honouring those who fell fighting fascism; especially those from an establishment with very dodgy form in this regard. The left, republicans, communists, trade unionists etc, were dying in the fight against fascism long before it was trendy. If they weren’t getting shot by Franco’s fascists, as members of the International Brigade, then they risked jail when they arrived home. Because the UK’s ruling class had agreed a non-intervention treaty with Spain and were actually quite happy with fascism in Europe – until it threatened their own imperial interests. The British monarchy, for example, was besotted with Hitler’s Nazis. As recent tabloid photographs have only confirmed.

There was an open goal just begging for a shot into the top left (natch) corner where his press critics are concerned. After all, The Daily Mail not only supported fascism in the 30s but as recently as 2012 called for a vote for Le Pen’s National Front. The Mail’s Richard Waghorne told readers, “Despite her flaws, the only responsible vote in France next Sunday is one for Marine Le Pen.”

We can only hope he maintains his position and refuses to sing the imperial homage on future occasions, despite hints from “sources” and “insiders” that he will cave in and do just that.

Sadly, the miserable economism and myopia, regarding the really big class questions, with which the English left is infected are intact. Some have suggested now is not the time to have this fight. That it’s a trivial issue and not as important as unemployment/housing/jobs/add your own sect’s current hobby-horse here. That it will only cost Corbyn votes from sycophantic royalists and lumpen, lager-soaked, solider-worshippers.

Such people couldn’t be more wrong. This issue goes right to the heart of power in the UK; the Monarchy, House of Lords, Parliament and so on. Issues of this type address the very nature of democracy; about how we are ruled and by whom. These are fundamental questions that can’t simply be avoided by a serious politician, intent on radical change. ‘Ah yes, but now is not the time to ask those questions!’ say some. But if not now when? And if not by the most left-wing leader of the Labour party ever, then by whom?

As Jeremy Corbyn stares across the despatch box at David Cameron, he knows that while his opponents are in front of him, his enemies are behind him. His only real defence against the impending treachery from within his own ranks is to build on the support of the hundreds of thousands outside parliament. Those people who supported his leadership bid because he was a republican, because they believed he was a different breed of politician. Because they believed Corbyn was a man prepared to, finally, take on the powerful vested interests that really run the UK.

Capitulation now will win him no support from monarchists but could easily cost him support from others. From those who really believed he was a man who meant what he said and said what he meant. He must ignore both those in his own ranks and also an opportunist and cowardly left who tell him to back down.

It’s never the wrong time to say the right thing.

Politics & Current Affairs

Jeremy Corbyn’s Women Problem

Labour leadership candidate Jeremy Corbyn attends the Fabian Women's Society annual summer gathering at the Fabian Societies offices in London Credit: Euan Cherry/Photoshot
Photograph: Euan Cherry/Photoshoot

Attacks on Corbyn were obviously going to redouble the very minute he won the leadership contest on Saturday. And they will come from many different places but, so far, it seems to be the Labour leader’s stance on women that’s coming under sustained attack.

We’ve seen some truly appalling nonsense on the question of women around the Labour leadership election and still more now the new leader has announced his shadow cabinet. And most of it from that doyen of middle-class ‘feminism’ The Guardian.

The issue of working class women being excluded from politics (and let’s be honest; everywhere else) isn’t what concerns Suzanne Moore here, nor her fellow-Guardianistas like Yvonne Roberts here. It’s the exclusion of women. Period. Irrespective of how dreadful and actually anti-women their politics might be.

This sort of thinking reaches reaches its nadir with truly risible nonsense like this from the The Independent’s Daisy Benson where she, in all seriousness, presumably, writes, “that’s why 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.” Incredible stuff.

This isn’t feminism. This is insanity. It means we should’ve voted for Thatcher. Because she had a vagina. It’s that whining, middle-class sense of entitlement  which will do nothing for working class women except to ensure their continued exclusion. Because they aren’t the right type of women. They are not the women with which the Guardianistas of this world are concerned.

Labour had two men and two women contesting the leadership. The women’s politics were wholly without merit (as were Andy Burnham’s). Indeed, possibly Cooper and certainly Kendal would look perfectly at home on the wetter wing of the Conservative Party. Their respective politics, had either been elected,  would have done nothing for emancipating working-class women. Quite the reverse; their victory would only have ensured more women bearing the brunt of neoliberal austerity.

It’s a shuddering irony that the candidate best representing women from a neoliberal majority 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 stop having nasty anti-women politics and start really representing women; not just the privileged, middle-class, white ones.

BBC News, earlier this evening, continued the theme started by The Guardian. An alliance of ‘feminists’ covering MPs, broadcast media and, from that bastion of women’s liberation, The Spectator, attacked Corbyn on the gender balance of his Shadow Cabinet. There still weren’t sufficient women; those who made the final cut were token appointments; no woman had one of the ‘top jobs’ and so on.

Now many of these are the same women who remained silent or supported and/or voted for austerity measures, welfare sanctions and cuts. You know; those things overwhelmingly borne by women. Of course, these are largely working-class, BAME and disabled women so who cares, right? Sisters doing it for themselves? Well, yes; but only themselves. Working class women need not apply.

Brit media – suddenly giving a damn about women since around 11.30am Saturday, September 12th, 2015…