Monday, 30 September 2013

A very, very stupid man

There are times when I read something and frankly, words fail me. The following report from Reuters is one of those stories:

A conservative Saudi Arabian cleric has said women who drive risk damaging their ovaries and bearing children with clinical problems, countering activists who are trying to end the Islamic kingdom's male-only driving rules.

A campaign calling for women to defy the ban in a protest drive on October 26 has spread rapidly online over the past week and gained support from some prominent women activists. On Sunday, the campaign's website was blocked inside the kingdom.
In an interview published on Friday on the website, Sheikh Saleh bin Saad al-Lohaidan said women aiming to overturn the ban on driving should put "reason ahead of their hearts, emotions and passions".
Reuters earlier wrongly identified him as Sheikh Saleh bin Mohammed al-Lohaidan, a member of the Senior Council of Scholars, one of the top religious bodies in the birthplace of Islam.
By contrast, Sheikh Saleh bin Saad al-Lohaidan, the person quoted in the report, is a judicial adviser to an association of Gulf psychologists.
His comments reflect the extent of opposition to women driving among some conservatives in Saudi Arabia.
"If a woman drives a car, not out of pure necessity, that could have negative physiological impacts as functional and physiological medical studies show that it automatically affects the ovaries and pushes the pelvis upwards," he told Sabq.
"That is why we find those who regularly drive have children with clinical problems of varying degrees," he said.
He did not cite specific medical studies to support his arguments.
I cannot make my mind up whether this man is just a simple idiot or is just a plain liar. Perhaps both. Who can tell with these medieval backwards men.

You can read about one Saudi woman' s experience:

After I was inspired by Manal Al Shirf campaign I asked my brother to teach me how to drive. Back then I was living in Riyadh city. Our teaching sessions have always started on Friday or Thursday mornings that’s when the streets are less busy. After making a good progress my brother started letting me drive to my hometown, the Eastern province, which is about 450 kms away. After we pass the check points we would swap the seats and I would sit behind the wheels and drive. I traveled to China but I came back to Saudi to visit my family 5 weeks ago and I wanted to continue learning.
Read the rest here
The October 26th driving campaign has produced the following petition calling for women's right to drive.

1- Since there is no justification for the Saudi government to prohibit adult women citizens who are capable of driving cars from doing so, we urge the state to provide appropriate means for women seeking the issuance of permits and licenses to apply and obtain them.
2- Many claim that this is a “societal decision”. However the public discourse will not be resolved except through a firm governmental decision to implement what was proposed in point one. Here it is important to point out that women will not be forced to drive if they do not wish to do so.
3- Deferring an issue such as this until a “societal consensus”, has only increased divisions because it constitutes that some will be forced to concede. We as a Saudi people are diverse and accepting of all views that are not prohibited in the Quran or by the Prophet.
4- In case the Saudi government maintains the ban on women driving, we demand that it presents to the citizens a valid and legal justification and not simply to defer it to a societal consensus.
5- In case the government refuses to lift the ban on women driving and refuses to provide the people with a legal and valid justification, we demand that it provides “society” with a legal mechanism through which it can express what it wants. 
Their website is currently blocked in Saudi Arabia.
Bunch of frightened old men if you ask me!

Sunday, 29 September 2013

The PCS union and the sex trade

Amongst the paperwork that arrived on my desk from the union on Thursday was a consultation paper on (motion) A27; Sex workers and the sex trade. I had noticed the motion on the conference agenda this year, but not being able to attend, the motion did not particularly register in my mind. Our delegates had an entirely "listen & decide" mandate from the Branch, but this was not one that either delegate chose to mention on their return.

Given the PCS union is currently bogged down in a dispute with  the Government over issues more directly affecting members nobody (including myself) had treated this particular motion with much urgency.

There are hundreds of motions submitted to conference every year and there are always motions like this one which go into issues that are not at the forefront of members minds. For example for years in one of the predecessor unions there was always a motion from one branch calling for the return of Albania's gold. As far as I'm aware it never got debated and in any case with the fall of the Hoxha regime they did indeed get their gold bullion back.

Nevertheless we have now been presented with a paper that tackles the thorny issue of the sex trade and in particular prostitution. One issue that needs to be immediately separated from this is the question of human trafficking, or slavery which it actually is.

There can be no question that the union, its' members or anyone else should be opposed to this vile (and already illegal) trade. There is in fact an organisation that PCS should consider affiliation to, the Anti-Slavery Campaign which runs world wide campaigns against this evil trade.

Then there is the question of the sex trade itself. The papers writers seem to take to broad a view of what should be included in this. For example they suggest that those who run "Anne Summers parties" should be treated as such.  The logic would also imply that the shop workers in Anne Summers would also fit into this category, though I'm not so sure that any of these people would consider themselves part of the "sex trade" as they simply sell "adult clothing & toys", which seems to me to be pretty innocuous and after all what consenting adults do in private is their own concern.

Being quite "liberal" on such matters, the same principle would apply to the production and consumption of adult pornography, which by my definition excludes other non-adult or child imagery which is and always should remain both illegal and unacceptable.

The paper also covers the question of prostitution often described as the "oldest profession" and one that causes much moral questioning. In my view whilst "pimping" is and should remain outlawed, there is a need to be practical about the whole issue.

Prostitution has existed throughout the ages and the authors seem to think that prostitution will not end after capitalism, which leads me to believe that this paper has influences from the revolutionary left. Capitalism in nowhere near being ended and I was not aware that "ending capitalism" was part of the PCS unions remit. However the lines between the Socialist Party of England & Wales (SPEW) and the PCS as a union have become very blurred over the years.

The real and more practical question for the moment is the protection of the women involved in the trade and whether they should have the right to belong to a trade union. There are organisations which work on behalf of these women one of which is the English Collective of Prostitutes who also work with others around the world for their rights. The statement they have issued includes the following:

All sex workers must be decriminalised whether they work on the street or in premises.
Scrap the prostitution laws: they criminalize sex workers, divide us from our families and friends, make us vulnerable to violence, and set us apart from the rest of the community — separate is never equal.
An end to police brutality, corruption, racism and other illegality against sex workers: police who break the law should be prosecuted.
Protection from the police and courts against rape and other violence, whoever is the rapist.
No zones, no licensing, no legalised brothels which ghettoize sex workers; we oppose all forms of apartheid.
An end to racism and other discrimination within the sex industry.
Sex workers must be recognized as workers with rights like other workers, including the right to pensions, the right to form and join trade unions.
Free/low cost, high quality and flexible childcare for all children regardless of their mothers’ occupation or ‘lifestyle’.
Free, accessible and non-discriminatory health services for all: no mandatory health checks or HIV tests.
The right to legal aid.
Autonomy and self-determination for prostitute women and other sex workers. Sex workers must decide how we want to work: we oppose any form of legalization which gives powers to police, local authorities, pimps, madams or other managers to regulate our wages and working conditions and censor what we demand so that they and those they work for can profit from our work. Workers must decide, not the industry.
Prostitute women must have the right to organize independently from men, including male sex workers.
Sex workers must organize independently from pimps, police and those who are managers in the sex industry. Unions are for workers not for bosses.
These are demands that should be considered for serious and open minded debate within the trade union & labour movement. However this debate will continue and your opinions are welcomed

Saturday, 28 September 2013

New faction formed in the SWP

The crisis in the Socialist Workers Party has taken a new turn with the formation of yet another faction. The in-fighting is getting more intense as they head towards their forthcoming conference.

The "Rebuilding the Party Faction" have issued the following statement:

The SWP is going through the most serious crisis in its history. Comrades across the party now need to unite to ensure its recovery, whatever side they took over recent months. We need to ensure that all the issues surrounding the dispute are fully resolved and that political solutions are found to address the roots of the crisis. The party has already lost over 400 members, including most of our students. If we want to avoid further losses, and the risk of marginalisation and isolation within the wider movement, we can’t simply carry on as we are.

We have been through a period of intense debate in the party. The leadership’s approach to political argument has been largely responsible for the damage caused: they sought to suppress information and debate; comrades have been misled; differences within the leadership have been hidden from the membership; the scale of the crisis has been consistently underestimated. Progress has been made, but only after intense pressure was applied on the leadership.

These flaws are the same ones that characterised the last major crisis faced by the party, around Respect. Although they were widely acknowledged in the party at the time, they were only partially dealt with by the Democracy Commission and many of its recommendations have not been implemented. Alongside resolution of the immediate issues around the disputes, a political reckoning is required if we are to learn lessons from what we have been through. We need a leadership that enables the whole party to learn from mistakes and move on, which means being able to openly and politically explain changes in position.

It is up to all SWP members to ensure that both the immediate issues and the roots of the crisis are addressed within the party. Some basic necessities need to be swiftly dealt with around the dispute. The disputes commission report, whose findings are due to be refined and developed during the pre-conference period, could provide a basis to move forward. Full resolution of the issues arising from the dispute, however, will require some political steps to be taken by the leadership:

1. A public acknowledgment of the specific nature of the mistakes that occurred.

2. An apology to the two complainants for the negative consequences they have suffered as a result of their treatment.

3. Revision of Disputes Procedures to make them “fit for purpose”, as called for by the report on the second case.

We also need to make strenuous efforts to address the failures to apply our principles and regain confidence in our ability to act as a tribune of the oppressed. This should include a period of debate about how we equip the party, in theory and practice, to lead and intervene effectively on questions of women’s oppression.

Some comrades have echoed right-wing sexist arguments, such as that women frequently make false rape allegations or that if a woman doesn’t report a rape immediately this indicates that they are lying. The party needs to assert in practice its commitment to zero tolerance of sexist comments and behaviour.

We need to face up to how we got here and address long term flaws in the party’s internal functioning and its relationship to the wider movement. Otherwise the party will not recover from this latest in a series of crises and splits.

These questions are fundamental to the party’s ability not just to speak to those beyond its ranks, but to listen to them. This interaction allows the party to locate its day-to-day activities within a wider strategic framework, giving members and non-members clear political perspectives. Full participation of comrades in debate, and the involvement of the wider movement, will help strengthen the party's theory and practice, allow us to intervene more effectively, to learn from the movement, help shape it, and attract the best fighters. As part of this process a campaign should be launched to win back those comrades who have left the organisation over the dispute.

We need to address both immediate questions and the accumulated longer term internal problems that have contributed to this latest crisis. The following proposals will not provide a complete solution but they are essential if we are to achieve a wider process of renewal in the organisation:

1. The CC’s role in the crisis needs to be addressed if the party as a whole is to hold it to account. It is impossible for the organisation to make an informed decision about the membership of the CC when serious divisions are withheld from the membership – these divisions must be laid out before the party. The composition of our leading bodies (CC, NC, DC) needs to reflect the fact that the political lessons of the past year have been learnt. This will require electing new ones mainly comprising comrades willing to recognise the mistakes made and work to correct them, and removing those members who have acted to frustrate and obstruct a satisfactory resolution to the disputes processes.

2. The relationship of the membership to the branches, fractions and elected bodies of the party needs to be reviewed. This should include:
- a concerted campaign to rebuild and regenerate the branches
- the strengthening of the party structures to play a meaningful role in developing and debating perspectives and holding the CC to account
- strengthen our fractions for united front, trade union and student work, ensuring consistency, transparency, reporting and accountability to elected bodies of the party

3. Proper and open debate needs to be facilitated on key questions in line with decisions taken at the special conference. The party website should be opened up to contributions on these questions. Decisions of previous conferences need to be implemented, including those providing for debates to be carried in SW and our other publications.

4. Proper accounting of where we are as an organisation, including regular reporting of membership figures (recruitment, resignations and subs base) and publication sales figures to the party.

5. Acknowledging the damage done to our student work and ensuring that the party as a whole acts to repair this damage, working with our remaining students to re-establish the SWP’s political relationships on campus.

6. For these debates to take place there must be a commitment from the CC that faction speaking rights and the election of delegates to conference will maximise debate and reflect the real differences that exist within the party. It must intervene to prevent the ostracism in certain districts and branches of comrades who have been critical of the party’s handling of the dispute.

Such preoccupations are not the preserve of any one grouping within the party. But since it looks unlikely that the CC intends to provide adequate leadership on these issues, it is now up to all comrades who want to find a way out of the crisis and begin to repair the damage to the party, to come together and assert a way forward.

There are currently around 270 members or so who have signed this statement. 

The Party is nearly over for this hateful organisation one can only hope!

Musical interlude: Back street love (Curved Air)

Its a Saturday morning and time for a musical interlude. My choice for this week is from Curved Air a band formed in 1970 which attracted a cult following both here and the United States. This particular song was their most successful single and reached number 4 in the charts in 1971.

As a schoolboy I recall being rather taken by the lead singer Sonja Kristina, who despite her Swedish name was actually English coming from Brentwood in Essex. Sonja's first major appearance had been in the musical Hair when it opened in 1968 and featured on the album performed by the original cast.

The band are still going and you can find out more about them at their official website: here

Friday, 27 September 2013

Launch of Atheist Census

Go To: Atheist Census - Numbers matter. Be counted.

UN's Ban Ki-moon: We won't negotiate with unions

LabourStart appeal by Eric Lee

This is outrageous.

The Secretary-General of the United Nations, Ban Ki-moon, is derecognizing the organization's staff unions who represent 65,000 workers.

He will no longer negotiate with unions over issues like safety and security, welfare and conditions of service.

The people who work for the UN often risk their lives to do so. 

In the last decade, 555 staff have been attacked and 200 killed. 

They often work in dangerous and hostile locations.

The UN Staff unions are calling for support from trade unionists everywhere.  

They are demanding  that Ban Ki-moon respect labour rights at the UN. 

Please support the online campaign and spread the word - click here.

Thursday, 26 September 2013

Why is the state funding the indoctrination of children in schools with dangerous ideologies?

Cross post from the National Secular Society
By Terry Sanderson
The Prime Minister, David Cameron, made a statement last week about the Nairobi shopping mall massacre which almost beggars belief. He said:
"These appalling terrorist attacks that take place where the perpetrators claim they do it in the name of a religion – they don't. They do it in the name of terror, violence and extremism and their warped view of the world. They don't represent Islam or Muslims in Britain or anywhere else in the world."
Nobody but a politician scrabbling around for votes could possibly imagine that separating Christians from Muslims and then killing the Christians was not an act related to religion. It might be the extreme end of religion, but it was a religious act – pure and simple.
The danger is that in denying it in such extreme circumstances it makes it easier for him to deny it in other instances.
Last week we were reporting on the goings-on at a Derby state school with an Islamic ethos. What emerged — girls treated as inferior to boys; women teachers of all religions made to wear head coverings; ham sandwiches banned; no stringed instruments on the premises; no singing (except Islamic prayers) and the whole curriculum overwhelmed by religious studies and praying — is part of the same pattern of denial.
To pretend that such a school is not divisive is just plain foolish. Some educationists actually argue that such schools increase integration and social cohesion.
But Mr Cameron, and his acolyte Michael Gove, intend to increase the number of these schools. They seem completely unconcerned that Islamic schools with such an unbalanced emphasis on religion pose a potential danger to us all. Our politicians appear to make no connection between this inculcation of ultra-orthodox religion with the growth of religious extremism.
How can children raised in this "ethos" have a balanced view of the world? How does telling them that they are the true believers and everyone else is an infidel help them respect their fellow citizens?
How have we allowed state schools to fall into the hands of people with such a sinister agenda of indoctrination?
This coalition government is complacent about it, but unfortunately so would be a Labour government. No-one in parliament is prepared to even question the desirability of swamping this nation's children in religion while they are at school.
By permitting the extremists and the zealots — determined and well-organised as they are — to install their agenda in our schools, we are storing up big trouble for the not-too-distant future.
The answer is not just to dismantle Muslim schools, but the whole ridiculous "faith school" system.
Terry Sanderson is the President of the National Secular Society. The views expressed are those of the author and do not necessarily represent the views of the NSS.

Wednesday, 25 September 2013

SWP: expulsions and further splits on the way

The hunting season has begun inside the Socialist Workers Party early this year as the comrades head towards their (very much brought forward) Annual Conference. Not content with tearing themselves apart for most of the early part of 2013, they are now preparing the "lynch mobs" for the final purge of the professors orders.

The publication and wide dissemination of their first pre-conference bulletin (this link courtesy of the Weekly Worker) has become part of the course for the SWP who can no longer "wash their dirty laundry" in private any more. Despite the departure of Martin Smith, the man at the centre of the scandal that has bought the party to its' knees, the Pandora's box he managed to open continues to plague what was once, but no longer, the largest organisation on the British far-left.

The 92 page bulletin number one (there are two more of these to come) is full of articles attempting to soul search,  witch-hunt and bizarrely lecture us on the nature of sales of Socialist Worker in Liverpool (or was it Manchester, lost the will to live after two paragraphs of that diatribe). There are those who seem to remain in denial of the position of the SWP following the "delta" revelations. Roger from Huddersfield opens his contribution thus:

The SWP continues to be the leading representative of the classical Marxist tradition of revolutionary socialism, with a very effective cadre of a few thousand comrades in the UK; whilst the ideas of that tradition are spreading internationally....

He continues:

Comrade Delta, having stood down as National Secretary in 2011 and from the CC at the end of 2012, has now resigned from the Party. In the absence of any explanation having yet been given for this, I assume that this amounts to an admission that Comrade Delta himself, the CC and the Party majority have for the last year been attempting (no doubt unwittingly in most cases) to defend the indefensible, and that this is no longer possible. 

If this is so, it is embarrassing but no disgrace. (my emphasis)

No disgrace? Who is he kidding. Has he not read the reams of criticisms published across the web and the mainstream media? I despair.

Then there is Ray, Dave and Alex from Liverpool who brush off the drastic membership losses:

So while the numbers we lost would seem to be high the proportion of these who could be described as active members even in the broadest sense was in fact small. We strongly suspect that being part of giving the SWP and its leadership a good kicking on the internet was a lot of fun for many of these people and much more exciting than selling papers, attending meetings and demos etc, the activities expected of our members. Such people were clearly not the loss they at first might seem.

Right, keep telling yourselves that comrades. Especially when there's virtually nobody left to listen.

What immediately comes to ones attention is the call for expulsions of "the factionalisers" that have been openly operating in the SWP for some time. A number of the Professors supporters write:

Since our last conference, some members have organised in opposition to the Party, acting as a permanent group, separate from the Party, in opposition to our agreed perspectives and our elected leadership bodies.

We believe that being a member of a permanent faction is incompatible with membership of the SWP. Comrades who continue to belong to a permanent faction should be expelled, to ensure they do not damage and undermine our Party. 

There we go. This is at the heart of what will happen at the SWP conference. A wave of expulsions, at least a couple of hundred more whilst the Prof and his crew sanitise their project for the future. I'm told that this is a foregone conclusion unless the oppostionists change their errant ways as Callinicos has a majority of the remaining membership behind him, motivated by the "broader struggle" or in layman's terms blind loyalty. They summarise thus:

The Central Committee is responsible for bringing out Socialist Worker every week. The paper acts as an educator, an agitator, and organizer of the Party. We expect every member to sell the paper. It provides the ‘scaffolding’ around which the revolutionary party is built.

Our tradition is based upon the pursuit of the revolutionary road to socialism. The 1917 October revolution in Russia changed the world. The party of Lenin and the Bolsheviks won the political argument amongst the masses for the necessity of revolution, they organised the world’s first successful evolution that overthrew capitalism.

Our Party must be able to develop a determined and resolute political leadership, prepared to lead in the class and in the Party. We believe it is our historic responsibility to fight to build a leadership and a Party, fit for purpose, in the 21st century.

Fit for the 21st Century? Then they need to understand the lessons of history. The 1917 coup-d'etat led to the starvation, murder and incarceration of millions in not just Russia, but China, Cambodia and more. It led to oppression and suppression on a scale that equalled if not exceeded the crimes of Nazism and yet so many of the chattering classes still seem to think such ideology is acceptable in the modern era.

The fight that is needed for the 21st Century is for Human Rights, equality, regardless of gender, race, sexual orientation and a commitment to the right of free speech and association upon which all the former depend.

Marxism is not the answer, it is part of the problem.

There will be more to come in the next two "internal" bulletins which will inevitably be leaked on line. The comrades do not seem to even be able to start to comprehend their shortcomings and failures let alone the contempt in which they, probably more than any other group on the left are held.

No expulsions comrades. Its' time to shut up shop and leave politics to the grownups.

Tuesday, 24 September 2013

Andy Newman & Socialist Unity: the politics of a scratch card

The recent selection of Andy Newman as the Prospective Parliamentary Candidate for Chippenham Labour Party at first caused some mirth as Andrew Coates lampooned the announcement over at Tendance Coatsey, however that was only the beginning. In a short piece here and at Harry's Place the serious side of his selection was examined and finally by Nick Cohen at The Spectator. Eyebrows were clearly being raised.

Such unwelcome publicity did not go down well over at Andy Newman's main political project, the Socialist Unity blog. After an initial moan he panicked and set about not only trying to reinvent himself but the blogs immediate look with a few uncontroversial pieces, a couple of messages of support including Diane Abbot MP (as if that would impress anyone) and produced a soliloquy praising Ed Miliband over at Left Futures in order to ingratiate himself with the Labour Party.

However despite trying to bury his recent (and continuing) involvement with the far-left (including it should be noted a place on Respects National Council until he had a wee bit of a "falling out" with Galloway), it didn't take long for his rabid co-thinkers at Socialist Unity to drop him it with their latest missive on the forthcoming split in the Socialist Workers Party.

Tony "tourettes" Collins writes:

There are good, solid people inside the organisation fighting for it, and our best bet is to give those people solidarity and support rather than just demanding that they do the same thing we all did (leave!) – they’re not stupid, they are conscious of the poor likelihood of winning this fight. In order to win against a CC that has proved it will tell any lie, carry out any level of bullying and intimidation, and lose any politics in order to win, they would have to wage a relentless fight against their own comrades. It’s something they’ve not been able to do, but it doesn’t make them any less worthy of our support.

Why a website that pretends to support the Labour Party should be concerned with "supporting" revolutionary socialists committed to overthrowing democracy not matter what side of their internal divide they rest escapes me. As a Labour supporter I would want to see pernicious outfits like the SWP simply disappear up their own proverbial....

 More to the point is the sheer hypocrisy of Collins when he writes:

There’s been so much wrong with the way the SWP works for so long – the lack of democracy, the bullying of dissidents, the use of full-timers as enforcers, the way oppositionists are tossed out and pushed out of the movement. The way the party leadership reacted to allegations of rape against a leading member have brought all this to a head: it’s one thing for the party to bully and cheat when there are political differences. But when it comes to allegations of rape denial and rape apologism, that’s quite another.

This is actually more illuminating than it might seem. Socialist Unity is renowned not just in the world of blogging, but on the left as a whole for being censorious and banning any opponents or critics from its pages. So much for debate that it claims to promote! Also comrades its not just "one thing" to bully and cheat, its' actually unacceptable to operate in that manner if your organisation is, err..supposed to be about creating a better world.

But then Socialist Unity is renowned for it's bizarre positions on Iran, Tibet, Syria, Islamism and the Chinese Communist Party. Scratch a Socialist Unity card and you'll find a losing symbol underneath. One that signifies oppression, dictatorship and reaction.

The Labour leadership need to review this characters unsuitability for candidature sooner rather than later. They have a "cuckoo in the nest" and in more than just one meaning of the expression.

Monday, 23 September 2013

Islamism: fight back against the new fascism

For the past three days the Somalian based terrorist organisation believed to be Al-Shabab has been holed up in a shopping mall in Nairobi shooting and killing non-Muslims at every opportunity. The BBC reported that people were being singled out for execution if they were not Muslims. An Indian man who could not name the mother of Muhammad was shot outright.

On Sunday two suicide bombings hit a Christian church in Peshawar, Pakistan killing at least 78 people according a report by Aljazeera  who reported that:

The attack occurred as hundreds of worshippers were coming out of the church in the city's Kohati Gate district after services to get a free meal of rice offered on the front lawn, said a top government administrator, Sahibzada Anees.

"There were blasts and there was hell for all of us," said Nazir John, who was at the church with at least 400 other worshippers. "When I got my senses back, I found nothing but smoke, dust, blood and screaming people. I saw severed body parts and blood all around."

The white walls of the church, which first opened in the late 1800s, were pockmarked with holes caused by ball bearings or other metal objects contained in the bombs to cause maximum damage.

What kind of religious ideology motivates such barbaric actions?

The Prime Minister of Pakistan has condemned the attack as violating the basic tenets of Islam, yet the Islamists continue to attack both Christians and Shia Muslims which they see as "heretical" and obviously have developed their own version of Islam to follow.

Whatever the "theological" basis they use for justifying their murderous actions, as an atheist and a humanist all I see is a group of ideologues murdering anyone they see as different which simply makes them fascists in my mind.

The Islamists are a threat to us all.

We often hear in the media that these people only represent a minority within the world Muslim community. That is undoubtedly true, but they are not a small minority. They have their sympathisers, who may not agree with their methods, but give tacit support and welcome their aims. The nearest analogy I can think of is the attitude of sections of the Catholic community in Northern Ireland who may not have approved of the bombings but wouldn't shop them to the police either.

The Islamists have a social base.

If we are to truly combat the seeds of their nefarious and hateful theology then the real fight begins within the Muslim community itself.

What Islam needs is an Itjihad, a reformation and modernisation of its way of thinking for the modern era. 

The medievalists of groups like al Shabab and others need to be challenged on an ideological level, more to end the brain-washing of the young that these fanatics seem to attract.

It means challenging the exclucivism that seems to be practised by some Imams and I don't just mean the crazy ones that promote themselves in the media. There are state funded schools such as the al-Madinah school in Derby that was the subject of a report in the Sunday Times this weekend. No education establishment should be allowed to impose segregation and religious teaching at the expense of proper education, yet here they are apparently doing so with impunity.

Including imposing Muslim dress on non-Muslims it would seem.

Such establishments will continue divisions between Muslims and others with such backward practises.

The there's the question of the veil, a subject of much debate recently. In my view, not Islamic (you cannot cover your face when you go to Mecca), so it can be clearly seen as part of a separatist agenda from the medievalists.

The debate must be had whether some like it or not.

And it can be heard here. Try and get along.

15 October 2013, Niqab: human right, security concern or symbol of oppression? LSE

15 October 2013, Niqab: human right, security concern or symbol of oppression? LSE

Maryam Namazie will be speaking at a debate on the niqab (face veil): human right, security concern or symbol of oppression? on Tuesday 15 October 2013. Chetan Bhatt, Director of the LSE Centre for the Study of Human Rights, will chair the debate. It starts at 6.30pm in CLM 4.02 Clement House at 99 Aldwych, WC2B 4JF. Registration at door.

UKIP proscribe... Hope not Hate????

HOPE Not Hate

The delegates at last weekend’s UKIP national conference voted to proscribe HOPE not hate. That means any supporter of HOPE not hate cannot now be a member of UKIP.
It's incredible that a party that's desperately denying claims that it is racist bans membership from Britain's largest anti-racist organisation.
UKIP claim HOPE not hate is an extremist organisation, putting us on par with the fascist BNP. This is clearly ridiculous.
UKIP have proscribed HOPE not hate
The reality is that over the last few months we have begun to put UKIP under the microscope. We've exposed the racist rantings of some of their key organisers and councillors. Just in the latest fortnight we have exposed Farage's speech writer and press spokesperson for using insulting and abusive language mocking people with disabilities and the NF past of a Thurrock UKIP councillor, who told us when we confronted him that he saw in UKIP the same things he saw in the NF.
We have got under UKIP's skin and they don't like it. But rather than deal with their own racists they are trying to silence us.
Over the last six months we have had a conversation with our supporters over our attitude to UKIP. Over 3,000 people completed our surveys and 1,200 attended 70 meetings we held around the country. And there is a clear consensus about our position.
HOPE not hate is not against UKIP as a party and we do not take a position on membership of the EU. We do, however, oppose political parties who whip up anti-immigrant prejudice through scaremongering and playing on racist fears. This not only leads to increased racism in our communities but risks pushing the main parties to the right on immigration and multiculturalism.
So, over the next six months, we will continue to scrutinise UKIP. We will monitor their comments, challenge the lies they spread and promote a Britain that celebrates its rich diversity. We will stand up positively for OUR Britain.
UKIP might proscribe us but they will not silence us.
Nick Lowles
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Sunday, 22 September 2013

The Socialist Party: a "teenage rampage"

One of the main features of the Socialist Party (of England and Wales, SPEW for short) is that it has nearly always managed to keep its' internal travails private. Not so anymore it would seem. Just like their counterparts in the thoroughly discredited SWP, the age of the Internet has started to change all that.

The establishment of an open "opposition" blog in the form of Marx Returns from the Grave has now prompted the Socialist Party leadership to issue a formal, some ten thousand word reply to the criticisms of not just the author Bruce Wallace, but also other members of their organisation.

Peter Taffe and Lynn Walsh write:

A discussion on Marx's economic ideas and their relevance today, particularly of the Law of the Tendency of the Rate of Profit to Fall (LTRPF), has been initiated by some comrades in Scotland and England and Wales......

Because these comrades - Bruce Wallace in particular, who attacks almost daily the Socialist Party, its leadership and the CWI, not through the structures of the CWI but in the public arena - echo the central ideas of Kliman, of necessity therefore a large part of this document will take up Kliman's ideas as well as those of Wallace and others, who have hailed him as an 'unsung hero'.

This is a clear indication that the ideas of their intrepid oppositionist has begun to have an impact inside SPEW. To outsiders much of the debate will seem like (to put it politely as I can) "navel gazing", but to Marxists the "word" is all-important and the leadership do not like having their Pope like infallibility challenged.

Brucie responds thus:

.... never before in history I think has such a humble rank and file party member like me received such an intended drubbing when the reply isn’t even addressed to them! I really don’t understand the vitriol of this document considering the ideas it is directed against are so obviously outlandish?
Comrades Taffe & Walsh accuse both the economist Andrew Killman and Bruce Wallace of (gasp) following the ideas of (wait for it) the Socialist Workers Party. The evidence being:

Before dealing with Kliman's economic ideas, it is necessary to draw out the political implications of what he writes.

He unapologetically shares a 'state capitalist' analysis with the Socialist Workers Party (SWP) in Britain, although he is not a member of their 'international', the International Socialist Tendency (IST).

In fact, he dedicates his book to one of the SWP's theoreticians, the late Chris Harman, who shared his approach to the rate of profit issue.

Bruce Wallace may try to pretend that this has no bearing on his economic analysis. But it is the experience of ourselves and many workers in Britain with the SWP and others who adhere to a state capitalist analysis of the former Soviet Union - it was a state capitalist regime not a degenerated workers' state, they argue - that it leads them to a mistaken approach on virtually all political questions both of an historical and contemporary character. (See our book 'Socialism and Left Unity'.) In his book, Kliman, when it comes to politics - as well as his economic analysis that we will deal with later - commits one blunder after another, particularly in the concluding chapters.
There is a very simple aphorism in judging individuals and political groupings: "Show me who your friends are and I'll show you who you are."

The fact that Bruce Wallace can swallow so easily the ideas of Kliman, somebody who rejects Trotskyist methods and programme, speaks volumes about his present position.

Aah, that old cookie, oppose the leadership and you have abandoned your faith. Such heresy!

The fact remains though that the Internet is changing the way activists are now viewing politics. Gone are the days of old when internal debate was limited to scruffy duplicated documents passed around smoke filled rooms and not seen by anyone outside the organisation that produced them.

In the case of groups like SPEW and the SWP one of the tenants of their practise a little thing called "democratic centralism" is now looking to be a thing of the past, an outdated, misued and erroneous way of conducting politics that is more appropriate to the ways of Stalinism, as are their elitist so-called "vanguardist" politics. With luck, except for the hardcore fundamentalists this nonsense will die the death it really deserves.

The teenage rampage of trotskyism belongs to the past.

As does this song.


Saturday, 21 September 2013

News of the UCU strike ballot

Guest Post by Sarah AB

[image depicting] UCU - University and College Union logo

Clearly UCU members are divided on the issue of strike action. On a local level, it’s worth noting, the threat of a strike seems to have produced a very welcome win for members in Liverpool. Here the protest was triggered by a threat to dismiss hundreds of members of staff and then rehire them on less favourable contracts:

UCU regional official, Martyn Moss, said: 'Our members felt so strongly about the way the university was bringing in new contracts that many were prepared to take industrial action and their support was critical in resolving this dispute. Fortunately, in the end we were able to sit down and reach agreement through negotiation with the help of ACAS which of course, is better for everyone involved.

Here's a reminder of why a majority of UCU members taking part in a recent pre-ballot survey supported the call for industrial action on pay:

The union highlighted its members in higher education have not received a meaningful pay increase since October 2008. Since 2009, they have suffered four consecutive years of pay cuts and seen their pay drop by 13% in real terms.

The squeeze on staff pay comes at a time when the cumulative operating surplus in the sector was over £1 billion, while many higher education institutions have built up cash reserves, and overall student numbers have held up in the face of higher tuition fees.

Those in charge are cynically using a more competitive funding environment to justify driving down terms and conditions and pay for the majority of staff. At a time when staff have been under great pressure to improve the student experience and workloads have increased they have had their pay held down"

Those unsure about strike action may cite members’ greater anxieties about issues other than pay - casualisation, stress, workload for example – or may express concerns about ensuring concerted commitment to industrial action from a critical mass of members.

Whether or not you support strike action at this time, what you really really don’t want to do is vote for ASOS (action short of a strike) unless you also back this up with support for strike action. Too many members are voting just for ASOS. If you are unsure – make your mind up – fence sitting is not the way to go. ASOS can be a very effective tool but it is not an easy option. Employers will in fact be much more perturbed by an assessment boycott (one kind of ASOS) than by a one day strike. If you fail to fulfil a single element of your contract (however well you are performing in other respects) then employers may, quite legally, decide to deduct 100% of your pay. Unless employers know the union can escalate to full strike action ASOS is likely to prove ineffective – and painful. It makes no sense at all to vote just for ASOS and is the second worst way to use your vote in the upcoming ballot.

The worst is not to vote at all.

Musical Interlude: In my own time (Family)

In the second of an occasional series of music videos on a Saturday morning is a performance of the first single I purchased back in the years when I still had hair.

Family are one of my all time favourite groups and Roger Chapman's vocals are quite unique.  They were a "Prog Rock" band and released several albums of which Fearless and Bandstand are well worth a spin.

This song was released in June 1971 reaching No 4 in the charts in September of that year.

Friday, 20 September 2013

I need your help to save the life of Victor Crespo

Urgent appeal by Eric Lee of LabourStart

Last Friday, armed men attempted to force their way into the home of Victor Crespo (pictured), the general secretary of a trade union in Honduras.  They threatened Crespo's life -- and only fled the scene once neighbors were alerted.

The International Transport Workers Federation believes that the attack is related to Victor's leadership of port workers who have been demanding the right to bargain collectively with their new employers in Puerto Cortes.

Fearing for Victor's life, the ITF has taken steps to guarantee his safety, and he's been moved to a safe location.

They have launched a global campaign to demand that the Honduran president intervene and get proper protection for him.

Please take a moment to send a message supporting this demand - click here.

In yesterday's mass mailing, we asked you to support the latest two IUF campaigns on Colombia and Honduras.  For about two hours yesterday, the IUF website was offline and many of you were unable to gain access.  It's back online and you have another chance to support these campaigns:

The latter campaign has gotten the attention of the Rainforest Alliance, which has responded to thousands of you with their side of the story.

And the IUF has responded to their statement quite forcefully here.

It includes this powerful passage: "The IUF believes that strong, independent unions are the best 'monitors' of working conditions. External audits can only provide a snapshot at best of working conditions; a union would be there every day representing workers, bargaining for improvements in pay and conditions and making sure labour legislation and international standards are applied."

The struggle continues.

Thursday, 19 September 2013

Save Our Royal Mail

A Communication Workers Union Campaign

Save Our Royal Mail

***Sign the petition against Royal Mail privatisation. This petition was set up by postman Darren Rowbotham and will be handed into parliament in September. Please sign and share with your colleagues, friends and family.***

CWU is opposed to the privatisation of Royal Mail. We do not think it is in the interests of postal workers or customers and we're campaigning to keep the UK's postal service in public hands.
The campaign to Save Our Royal Mail represents a broad coalition of organisations with the same objectives and aims to highlight the threat an autumn Royal Mail sell off will place on postal services throughout the UK. By identifying six real threats privatisation will have on the public, the campaign is supported by groups representing a variety of interests, from the countryside, to the elderly, small businesses, the blind and the workforce.
The union wrote an open letter to MP Michael Fallon on the 10th July inviting the Government to work together towards a new solution or face strike action. Read theLetter to MP Michael Fallon in full. 
Please sign the online petition to show your support.

Wednesday, 18 September 2013

Left wing extremist behind the pro veil calls at Birmingham Metropolitan College

Reports appeared in the press this week about student activist Aaron Kiely being behind the campaign at Birmingham Metropolitan College to lift the ban on the veil introduced as a result of "security concerns.  The Times reported that:
He is being investigated after a series of outspoken comments, including his opposition to the deportation of a notorious Islamist extremist and his accusation that the Conservative Party was "whipping up racism".
The left-wing activist is a £23,000-a-year black students' officer for the National Union of Students and is also a Labour councillor in Thurrock, Essex.
Mr Kiely, 24, said that he would oppose the ban on the niqab in any area of public life, and accused opponents of the veil of "whipping up fear and insecurity".
He described any ban on the niqab as "an infringement on the rights to religious freedom and cultural expression and a clear violation of a woman's right to choose".
He was also criticised after describing the "shame" of the deportation of Abu Hamza, the convicted Islamist hate preacher, to the United States. The student leader had previously been forced to apologise after defending the London rioters and accusing the Metropolitan Police of being institutionally racist."
Socialist Action

So just who is this individual and what is his political background? Turns out he is a member of the secretive Socialist Action group, that's the one that provided the bag carriers for ken Livingstone when he was Mayor of London and boasted of turning the city into a "socialist bastion". The fact they got highly paid for it didn't hurt either it would seem. 

Aaron Kiley is also a Labour councillor though doesn't turn up to many meetings as the Daily Mail reported last October:

A Labour councillor who opposed the extradition of hate cleric Abu Hamza has been branded 'disgraceful' after it emerged he pocketed nearly £7,000 of taxpayers' money despite only attending one half hour council meeting this year.  

Aaron Kiely, 20, has so far earned £6,667 this year from Thurrock Council, but has only made the one appearance at the mayor-making ceremony in May.

And fellow councillors were left fuming when he publicly threw his support behind the bid to halt the extradition of hate cleric Abu Hamza to the United States.
Current rules mean Mr Kiely must only attend one other full council meeting between now and next May to avoid triggering an automatic by-election. 

Frustrated fellow councillor Lynn Carr slammed Mr Kiely, claiming he has not been representing the people of his ward in South Ockendon, Essex.

She accused him of neglecting the concerns of residents in favour of his £20,000 role as black students officer at the National Union of Students.

This principled "comrade isn't as daft as one might think. Workers Liberty take up the story:

Whether as a deliberate strategy or not, Kiely has not attended council meetings, so this year at least has not had to vote either for or against cuts (he attended half of last year’s meetings, so it seems likely he did vote for cuts at some point). Instead he has pocketed his councillor’s salary (on top of his salary as NUS Black Students’ Officer) without turning up and thus avoided trouble with either the Labour council leadership or the student left.

The other  point that one has to consider in all this is the contradictory position of Socialist Action on the question of so-called "Islamic clothing" as their rivals at Workers Liberty gleefully point out:

Another interesting contradiction, typical of Socialist Action's method: SA accuse the AWL of being Islamophobic and even racist for saying that the hijab is oppressive to women while also opposing state bans on the hijab and supporting the right of all women to dress as they choose.
But at the same time they wholeheartedly, indeed uncritically, endorse the French left social-democratic presidential candidate Jean-Luc Mélenchon, who supports the French state's bans on the hijab in schools and the burqa in public places - but naturally, do not mention this inconvenient fact...
Indeed the world of Trotskyism is full of such contradictory and frankly opportunist positions.

As is comrade Keily it would seem.