Saturday, 30 November 2013

Left Unity has the "Full Argument" and calls itself err...Left Unity shock!

One of the two far-left events taking place in London today is the Left Unity founding Conference. From the video link provided it appears that around 400 comrades turned up to the event led by Liz Davies a former member of the Labour Party National Executive Committee.

Also in attendance were most of the Trotskyist sects you can think of, other than those who think they can still make it alone (that's the Socialist Party and the SWP). Counterfire was notably absent (from what I could see) but most of them (and they have only 90 or so members) would have been supporting their gurus Lyndsey German and John Rees at the "rival" Stop the War Campaign" rally being held elsewhere.

Left Unity

This latest attempt at uniting the various conflicting currents on the far left (along with more than a few individuals who had previously remained independent) was marred from the start by the attempt of each of the Trot sects to establish "Platforms" (which in plain English means Factions) caused a considerable amount of per-conference jitters. This plainly affected the debate as seen by Richard from Southwark's sectarian attempt to reject the final constitution after losing the argument over mixed versus "democratic" control over the economy.

By "democratic" he means the "centralisation of the means of production" Leninist style. Richard ended his final intervention by calling for "a struggle against the anti-socialist constitution" of the new organisation. So much for "left unity".

From the bits of their bash that I managed to watch, the whole affair was quite amateurish and the decision of one delegate to sing part of her contribution was frankly embarrassing.

Despite persuading the Guardian to publicise  this event with an number of ropey sponsors, (I hope Zita Holbourne refrained from treating delegates to her "Vogon" style poetry that she oft claims to perform at PCS Conference) the LU Conference seems no different to the Socialist Alliance that grew and fell apart (under the weight of factional intrigue led by the SWP and SP).

Such factionalism was clearly evident in the run up to today's event. The Communist Party of Great Britain published the following advice to attendees:

Left Unity: How to vote at conference (CPGB Provisional Central Committee recommendations)

So much for an open mind, let alone open debate, eh comrades. I'm sure the other various sects attending had their own plans. Jack Conrad (the CPGB "guru") made it quite clear to the assembled ranks of lefties that the CPGB would organise, plan in private and argue about all and everything as they saw fit regardless of how they might feel about such matters and then complained about the clause in the new constitution that allowed for the proscribing of groups from Left Unity.

That told 'em Jack! I'm sure everyone was so keen on attending your meeting on Bordiga after your little outburst. Not.

And for those interested in more arcane matters, they voted to call themselves Left Unity. There's a surprise. Doubt it will last long or have any kind of impact, but it will be something else for inveterate "Trot-spotters" to watch for the moment.

Wait for all the reports in the left press and on-line. Should be interesting how this is all spun. John Mc Dermott at the Financial Times writes a warning (shades of Krondstat) here (£)

Meanwhile something completely different......

Musical Interlude- Paradise Lost (The Herd)

Winter is closing in on us and preparations begin for Christmas as December approaches, there remains a little time for nostalgia in the form of this short ditty, Paradise Lost from The Herd.

The group is probably remembered best for launching the career of Peter Frampton who as all you oldies like me will remember went on to form Humble Pie.

This song reached number 15 in 1968.

Friday, 29 November 2013

Religious freedom banned in Saudi Arabia but focus is on Angola

File:Flag of Angola.svg

A few days ago I noticed a couple of reports via Goggle News that Islam had been banned in Angola. A rather odd event I thought and when the Angolans denied it I took this at face value. After all there are always scare stories when religion is involved. I wish I'd kept the links now as the story is now in
the Guardian newspaper. Under a picture of "Palestinians burning an Angolan Flag" (surprised they had one to be honest) they report:

Angola has been accused of "banning" Islam after shutting down most of the country's mosques amid reports of violence and intimidation against women who wear the veil.
The Islamic Community of Angola (ICA) claims that eight mosques have been destroyed in the past two years and anyone who practises Islam risks being found guilty of disobeying Angola's penal code.
Human rights activists have condemned the wide-ranging crackdown. "From what I have heard, Angola is the first country in the world that has decided to ban Islam," said Elias Isaac, country director of the Open Society Initiative of Southern Africa (Osisa). "This is a crazy madness. The government is intolerant of any difference."........
Religious organisations are required to apply for legal recognition in Angola, which currently sanctions 83, all of them Christian. Last month the justice ministry rejected the applications of 194 organisations, including one from the Islamic community.
Under Angolan law, a religious group needs more than 100,000 members and to be present in 12 of the 18 provinces to gain legal status, giving them the right to construct schools and places of worship. There are only an estimated 90,000 Muslims among Angola's population of about 18 million.
Further on in the paper they also report the growing imposition of Sharia Law on non-Muslims in Nigeria's northern states:

About 240,000 bottles of beer have been shattered by an earthmover as part of a widening crackdown in Nigeria's northern city of Kano.
Alcohol is banned under sharia law, imposed in the city in 2001, but authorities had turned a blind eye to its consumption in hotels and the Sabon Gari Christian quarter.
At the public destruction of beer on Wednesday the head of the religious police board warned that his officers would put an end to alcohol consumption.
Bars in Sabon Gari were the target of multiple bombings on 29 July. The attacks, which killed 24 people, were carried out by suspected Islamist militants who have claimed authorities are not properly applying sharia law that governs nine of Nigeria's 37 states. The country is divided between a mainly Christian south and predominantly Muslim north.
As a secularist and atheist I believe in the rights of everyone to hold their own beliefs or just as important none if that is their freely held choice. I oppose all and any attempts for others to impose their religious beliefs on others. If Muslims do not want to drink that's fine, but no one has the right to enforce their choices or as in this case kill people who choose to do so.

The Islamists of Boko Haram are part of a growing clerical-fascist movement within the Muslim world. However while they and others may be the focus of ire in the West, it's often ignored or deliberately overlooked that a lot of Muslim countries either ban or persecute members of religious minorities.

Iran target the Baha'i faith and imprison christian "apostates" who they accuse of leaving Islam. Pakistan has it's draconian blasphemy laws which are regularly abused to suppress both religious dissent and members of other faiths, especially Christians. In Egypt, Iraq and Syria Christians are persecuted by Islamists and treated very much as second class citizens.

I'm waiting to see in particular what the Wahhabi dominated Saudi regime will have to say about all this. Saudi Arabia offers no legal rights to members of other religions. People are not allowed to make any public displays of their alternative faiths. This a country with a religious police force, unbelievable but that is the case and you wouldn't want the Wahhabi Gestapo knocking on your door.


This a country where you can be arrested for wearing a Christian cross and distributing (that is even just selling) the Bible is prohibited. Don't even think about changing faith from Islam, the penalty of this barbaric state is death.

All this goes on while so called "progressives" bleat about "Islamophobia" but say not a word about the fate of Christians, Jews and others across the Muslim world.

The trick guys is to learn to respect each others rights to believe and express views without resorting to hate speech or violence. If you don't like a book or TV programme or someones opinions it's just tough. 

Live with it!

Thursday, 28 November 2013

Marxism as religion

Over the past year there have been a couple of high profile cases in both the world of blogging and the mainstream media about left wing groups and their treatment of individual members. The first of course was the allegations surrounding "Comrade delta" in the Socialist Workers Party and now we see similar scrutiny over former Maoists around "Comrade Bala" and the alleged "slave keeping" in what remained of their Maoist "Commune".

Over at A Very Public Sociologist Phil BC tries to make some sense of this from a Marxist perspective. He writes:

Messianism is not the unique property of Maoists. Just as the far right is divided among would-be fuehrers who brook no opposition, so the far left is split between collectives of varying sizes, each uniquely offering the correct politics and the right leadership to sweep capitalism away - if only the working class would listen to them instead of their traditional (mis)leaders. If you subscribe to a group with grand pretensions of a glorious mission, one shouldn't be surprised if they act a bit strange. Or self-destruct spectacularly.

Of course Phil goes on to write about Trotskyism and reminds us that Marx himself rejected the idea he was a Marxist and showed disdain to those who proclaimed themselves "Marxists". In my view this misses the point entirely. No matter how you choose to view the "Marxist" movement the groups that follow this philosophy and their supporters show the same traits that one would find in religion.

Given we live in a period where religion is seemingly making a come back, particularly in the backward version of Islam promoted by the various Islamist hate preachers that tour the world spreading bile along with the high profile Christian Fundamentalism found in the United States and elsewhere, shows that this kind of messianic thought is highly prevalent even in the modern, open world that has evolved in the West in particular.

Yet even amongst so called "progressive" thinkers and their follower a messianic "world view" has developed around an alternative "Holy Trinity" in  the form of Marx, Engels and Lenin.

The texts of these men are treated with due reverence but the many Marxists that exist on both the fringe and more mainstream political movements that exist today. You can substitute the Bible for the collected texts of these men, Gospels if you like such as The Communist Manifesto (Marx/Engels), What is to be done? (Lenin) and so on. Every word of these men has been preserved in print or on line for reference by their followers.

The Marxists even have their own "heresies". The majority of Communists world wide have followed in the tradition of Stalin, but a substantial number of today's activists (particularly in the UK) are disciples of Leon Trotsky considered as not just a "false prophet" by the mainstream communists but condemned (unto real death) as an agent of fascism. His murderer Ramon Mercader  was famously made a Hero of the Soviet Union on his release.

Like religion there has been a process of splits and upheavals within the Marxist Tradition. Each group has developed it's own "guru". This can clearly be seen within the British Trotskyists. In the beginning there was the Revolutionary Communist Party (1948 or thereabouts) which contained nearly all the major influences on the existing sects today. There was Tony Cliff (founder of the Socialist Workers Party), Ted Grant (Militant/Socialist Party/Socialist Appeal) and the infamous Gerry Healy (Workers Revolutionary Party).

All these groups have seen doctoral and personality schisms over the years of which the "delta" affair is the most recent. Even the smaller groups have their prophets like Sean Matgamna (Alliance for Workers Liberty) David Yaffe (Fight Racism! Fight Imperialism). Overseas other groups have also developed in similar (and sometimes laughable) ways. Take Jean Posadas. He argued for the Soviet Union and China to use their nuclear weapons to "wipe out capitalism" (which fortunately no one ever took notice of) but also gained notoriety for claiming that flying saucers come from a workers planet. His inane logic suggested any civilisation that advanced had to be socialist. Go figure.

Despite the insanity of Posadas his determinism that the next stage of human development after capitalism would be socialism (and then communism) is actually the basis of most Marxist thinking. They live in a cosy little world where the superiority of "scientific socialism" was the cure-all answer to man's problems.

Combine such thinking and reverence for a political system of thought and hey presto you have
an embryonic religion. The Party is always right, the leadership of the party must be followed and of course deviation will not be tolerated. Imbued with the enthusiasm of people looking for easy answers to the world around them and there you go.

The Church of the Hammer and Sickle.

File:Hammer and sickle.svg

That even in this day and age members of an organisation that claims to fight for women's rights cannot even treat it's own members with humanity and respect, preferring to trust in the Professor and his merry crew is a sign of cultism. Less so perhaps than the Maoists, but equally as disturbing. The SWP should have fallen on it's sword a year ago. They can't even admit wrong-doing. Those that do are simply brushed aside.

Blind faith indeed!

Lets end with a Maoist "Hymn" by Cornelius Cardew.

Terrible stuff.

Wednesday, 27 November 2013

Renewed speculation about a possible PCS/Unite merger

A motion was passed at PCS Conference which looked at the very least to further developing talks with the Unite union about both joint working and a possible merger should the situation be right. For a while this has been on the "back burner", in part due to the foolish decision of leading PCS members in backing Len McCluskey's Trotskyist opponent, Jerry Hicks (see here). However Hicks has managed to fall foul of most of the left in Unite with his somewhat belated foolish antics over the election results as widely reported.

The PCS union is in the middle of both a serious political and financial crisis. Only recently the National Executive had to admit that over 4,000 members had been lost. What they failed to tell members was that a whole Department has broken away to form a new union. That information is still being withheld from the wider membership. The reason? They don't want to admit to their blunders in dealing with the issues that led to the split in PCS. I can tell you now Serwotka's actions were central to their departure and people wonder why I have no confidence in the "Great leader".

Nevertheless with declining membership and the all most total loss of clout, PCS and in particular the activist caste (the Socialist Party and their fellow travellers in Left Unity) are looking long term to try and regain ground through uniting with another "left" union.

Trouble is there are conflicting agendas here. McCluskey and his supporters are very fixated on the Labour Party as the recent events in Grangemouth have shown. The PCS leadership on the other hand is obsessed with building an alternative to the Labour Party with the tiny and electorally irrelevant Trade Union and Socialist Coalition.

At the same time the left in Unite has split with those opposed to working with the Socialist Workers Party (described as "rape apologists" by many) will find working with the current PCS Left Unity group problematical since it contains err... the SWP.

At a PCS meeting in Glasgow last week NEC member Derek Thompson made it clear that that talks with Unite are "on-going" but did emphasise that there were no firm "options" at present. Most PCS activists present were reportedly very much in favour of a merger during the ensuing debate. However sources from Unite seem to suggest that this is very much on the cards.

If such a merger went ahead the largest of the Civil Service unions would end up subsumed in a much larger and more general body. For members this would be a disaster as there is a need for a distinctive trade union voice for civil servants, Trouble is, with the likes of Serwotka and the Socialist Party in charge that voice has been muted prematurely as nobody seems to listen to PCS any more.

That includes it's own members as one PCS member, Dorothy wrote in response to an e-mail I issued last week:

I like the way you say it as it is, keep up the good work.  A few people have said to me" what's the use of the union they never do anything"  they are only staying in the union in case they need help at work.

She is not alone, Audrey from another Branch writes:

I too lack confidence in the PCS as is currently. I would further declare that were it not for your personal union work in particular, I would consider withdrawing my membership as I feel PCS is no longer willing or able to represent me. I do not want to be affiliated to a union that is a political party.

Please return to Howie's Corner on Sunday night for an announcement. (Though I hope most of you will return before then!)

Tuesday, 26 November 2013

A quick guide to Maoism in the UK today

The alleged involvement of the (now defunct) Workers Institute for Marxism-Leninism-Mao Zedong Thought in the South London slavery case has led to renewed attention to the almost forgotten Maoist parties that exist today. The following is just a quick guide to the groups that follow in that tradition but is not intended to be a full history. For anyone wanting to read about the development of Maoism I thoroughly recommend reading Mao: The Unknown Story by Jung Chang and Jon Halliday.

The only Maoist group I have ever come into regular contact with was the Communist Party of Britain (Marxist Leninist) back in my student days (the late seventies). The CPB (M-L) controlled the Students Union at the Polytechnic of Central London (now the University of Westminster) and were a tightly knit group seemingly welded not just to the Chinese Communist Party, but in particular to Enver Hoxha the Albanian dictator.

I haven't seen any evidence of them for years but as their website show they are still around and publish (unusually for a Maoist group) a quite readable magazine Workers. Their founder was Reg Birch a well known trade unionist active in the Amalgamated Engineering Union (AEU) back in the seventies. They were and still are from the look of it quite a small group, but then none of the Maoist groups ever attracted the same kind of attention that the Trotskyist groups did (and still do). Unusually the CPB (M-L) does not have (or at least declare) any international links.

Next on our list is the Revolutionary Communist Party of Britain (Marxist Leninist) founded by the politcally itinerant Hardial Bains who died in 1997, but remains the inspiration for this tiny sect which published unreadable nonsense on it's website in the form of the Workers Weekly (not to be confused with the Trotskyist Weekly Worker). They currently run a sort of bookshop-cum-party centre called the John Buckle Centre, though be warned you have to phone ahead before visiting otherwise you might not get let in. (I'd say "or out" again, but in the current circumstances they might not be amused).

What do they stand for? Here's a taster:

It is also instructive to examine the experience of the Soviet Union of Lenin and Stalin and Albania under the leadership of Enver Hoxha, which were states where the working class was in power, which were run in the interests of the working people and where the political processes ensured representation in the interests of the working class and people. These were the most advanced examples to date of states with democratic political processes. However, lessons can also be drawn from the fact that the socialist system was destroyed in these countries. A further advance was 
necessary which would have enabled the working people to actually govern themselves 
and not depend on representatives.

You can find out more in their self deluded "Programme" (read Manifesto) here.

The other organisation that might be considered to be at least around that tradition is the New Communist Party, which originated as a split from the Official Communist Party (CPGB) in the 1970's and has drifted towards the North Korean regime through such fronts as Juche Idea Study Group of England and Friends of Korea (by which they mean North Korea) and promote the most oppressive nation on earth under Kim Jong Un (that's the one that looks like he's eaten all the pies whilst his people starve).

The NCP are led by Andy Brooks a quite amicable fellow (known him for years) and has a couple of interesting sidelines being a known expert on Oliver Cromwell and is active on the satirical website PFLCPSA which covers the antics of leading figures in the PCS Union.

Over the years Maoist groups have come and gone (or changed their names) and their history for what it is can be found at the Encyclopedia of Anti- Revisionism on line, but good luck with that if you choose to enter.

Further info on Mao and "Comrade Bala" as he is becoming known in the two posts below this one.


Family Tree of Maoism in the UK.....

Mao Zedong’s Man Made Famine

This post was originally published at Harry's Place September 2010

By Michael Ezra

I was planning on interrupting reading Frank Dikötter’s just published and gripping book, Mao’s Great Famine: The History of China’s Most Devastating Catastrophe, 1958-62to commence reading Tony Blair’s A Journey. This plan fell apart as I became too engrossed in Dikötter’s riveting study. The reading of Tony Blair’s memoirs was put on hold. In today’s newspapers, The Observer refers to Dikötter’s book as “masterly” and  The Sunday Times as “a work of brilliant scholarship.”
Dikötter explains in meticulous detail the policies that led to the deaths of over 45 million people during the period 1958-1962:
Thanks to the often meticulous reports compiled by the [Chinese Communist Party] itself, we can infer that between 1958 and 1962 by a rough approximation 6 to 8 percent of the victims were tortured to death or summarily killed – amounting to at least 2.5 million people. Other victims were deliberately deprived of food and starved to death.  Many more vanished because they were too old, weak or sick to work – and hence unable to earn their keep. People were killed selectively because they were rich, because they dragged their feet, because they spoke out or simply because they were not liked, for whatever reason, by the man who wielded the ladle in the canteen.
Local farmers knew that the agricultural methods that the Communist Party insisted upon were absurd, but as the Party is always correct, these were the methods that people were forced to follow. Huge percentages of grain and other produce grown were sold abroad, often below cost, and in some cases given away. Meanwhile, the population at home was starving.  The logistics of transporting this grain had not been properly thought out. Dikötter concludes, “It would have been difficult to design a more wasteful system, one in which grain was left uncollected in dusty roads in the countryside as people foraged for roots or ate mud.”

To add to the catastrophe, people were taken out of working on farms because Mao Zedong decided that he wanted substantially higher steel production in his Great Leap Forward. Yet, according to an official Chinese report, “in many provinces not even a third of the iron produced by backyard furnaces was usable.” Moreover, even ignoring the damage caused to the people and to the buildings that had their floorboards ripped out to provide fuel for the furnaces, the project was substantially loss making.
To add further to the problem, Mao insisted upon paying back foreign loans years earlier than necessary. This meant an even higher amount of food produce was exported as opposed to retained for the Chinese population where it was desperately needed.

One disaster after another; horror after horror; death after death; and terror. The blame should be properly placed with the Communist government for the policies that they insisted were carried out. At the top of the party was one man, Mao Zedong. Those beneath him, aware they could be purged if they tried to cross him, obediently enforced these policies and praised Mao for his leadership.  This is a man who said, “When there is not enough to eat, people starve to death. It is better to let half of the people die so that the other half can eat their fill.”

In China alone, tens of millions died trying to fulfil an impossible dream: that of a Communist utopia. There are still people in the world today who promote the idea of Communism.  They can only look forward to a society that they dream of because they cannot look back at others who have attempted the same thing. For if they did, they would only see death, destruction, famine, torture and the Gulag.


Michael recommends Triumph Forsaken Vietnam 1954 to 1965 as essential further reading.

Monday, 25 November 2013

Maoists implicated in South London slavery investigation?

The recent discovery of three women living in slavery in a home in Brixton caused understandable shock when reported across the media. The main priority of the authorities has been quite rightly to attend to the welfare of the individuals concerned, but there has been some speculation about the circumstances surrounding their imprisonment.

The police referred to "invisible chains" which suggested a strong psychological hold over these women by the alleged perpetrators. Hints began to arise that not just a cult, but a "Marxist collective" may have been involved at some stage. Earlier today the blogger Andrew Coates suggested  that the organisation involved was the Workers Institute of Marxism-Leninism-Mao Zedong Thought.

This Brixton based group was certainly active in Brixton in the 1980's and were generally avoided by shoppers on a Saturday lunchtime as they peddled their wares to passers by which included a leaflet that claimed we were being "controlled by satellites beaming counter revolutionary thoughts direct into our brains". Of course we all laughed then, but not so much now that suspicion has been placed on the remnants of their organisation for being involved in this disgusting affair.

The BBC reports:

A married couple suspected of holding three women as slaves for more than 30 years are former Maoist activists Aravindan Balakrishnan and his wife Chanda, the BBC understands.
According to Marxist archives they were leading figures at the Mao Zedong Memorial Centre based in Acre Lane, Brixton, south London, in the 1970s.
It was raided by police and five people, including the pair, were held.
Mr Balakrishnan, 73, and his 67-year-old wife were arrested on Thursday.
Three women were rescued from their home in Brixton a month earlier.
The couple has been linked to 13 addresses across London, the Met has confirmed. The force would not confirm or deny their names.
So just what was this group? It is believed that at most there may have only been a couple of dozen members or so but their politics can be seen in this excerpt from a document published in 1977 following their split from another group:

Repudiating the “gang of four”, Birch-Bains-Reakes-Evans, it affirmed that the world has entered a new stage where the principal contradiction between the people of the world, including the people in the imperialist heartlands such as Britain, and the two hegemonic superpowers, the United States and the Soviet Union, is on the verge of being resolved. The principal aspect of this contradiction is the people of the world, in particular the people of the Third World, led by Socialist China. The method to resolve this contradiction, which influences every other contradiction, is through world people’s revolution, the victory of which will result in the establishment of the INTERNATIONAL DICTATORSHIP OF THE PROLETARIAT i.e. the transformation of the dictatorship of the proletariat in China from national into an international one. Chairman Mao’s proletarian revolutionary line, which embodies the historic mission of the proletariat to liberate the whole of mankind, shows us that at this stage the two hegemonic superpowers which protect themselves with the military blocs, NATO and WARSAW PACT, must be dismantled so that the SOCIALIST NEW WORLD can be born and mankind can march onward to Communism. For this purpose beloved Chairman Mao has painstakingly built the three magic weapons: the great, glorious and correct Communist Party of China, the heroic and invincible proletarian internationalist army under its absolute leadership, the People’s Liberation Army of China, and, the International United Front of the people of the whole world led by Socialist China. Party building in Britain can be correctly done only by upholding the authority of the Communist Party of China – the Party leading world revolution to victory.

Phew! Well done if you got through that garbage.

They were considered bizarre even by the standards of the rest of the far-left back in the day. Can't see even Professor Callincos wanting to refer to "magic weapons". Maoists have seemingly disappeared off the political scene in recent years. The nearest groups to that tradition like the Revolutionary Communist Party of Britain (Marxist Leninist) and the New Communist Party have become cheerleaders for the equally bizarre and very brutal regime in North Korea.

The far-left has produced some strange organisations and characters over the years. The avowedly trotskyist organisation the Workers Revolutionary Party was notorious for heavy handed internal behaviour back in their heyday and eventually collapsed after news broke about their leaders sexual abuse of their "youth" members.

Lessons remain unlearned as we have seen over the past year as the Socialist Workers Party has fallen apart publicly over not just the well documented "delta" affair, but other alleged rapes and instances of sexual harassment that has left them pariahs even within the myopic world of British Trotskyism

There will no doubt be more to come on this story over the coming weeks. The cult of Marxism will be under public scruitny once more.

Sunday, 24 November 2013

Act Now! Women's rights are at stake!


Update on: Sex segregation in Universities 

The Independent carried a disturbing report that the National Union of Students and the UCU lecturers union have "backed" the policy to allow segregation of the sexes:

The document won approval from both lecturers’ leaders and students yesterday - with the National Union of Students saying it had been involved in detailed discussions with Universities UK about drawing up guidance.

Colum McGuire, vice-president of the NUS, said: “NUS has very clear guidance for students’ unions and societies on external speakers.  We encourage our members to follow this to assess the risk of all speakers to determine the action they should taker to protect students and keep them safe.

“We fully support UUK guidance and worked with them to advise on best practice in these matters.”
Sally Hunt, general secretary of the University and College Union, added: “Freedom of speech is a key tent of any democracy and one of the fundamental principles of a university. However, universities also have a responsibility to all their staff and students and must ensure that controversial speakers do not also bring with them any risk to the university or wider community.”

The time has come to act!
* There will be a protest at Universities UK offices in London on 10 December 2013, International Human Rights Day, to oppose sex segregation. You can join Facebook Events Page here.
* Teams of Sex Apartheid Busters are being organised to break segregation wherever it is instituted. To join, email
National Secular Society Meeting
Saturday 7 December 2–6pmConway Hall, London
On 7 December the NSS will be hosting a half-day conference to discuss secularism and feminism, and the relationship between the two causes.
Throughout the world, religion is the primary defence used in sustaining misogynistic laws and norms and in perpetuating the control and subservience of women. From the Vatican's attacks on reproductive rights and autonomy, to the use of Islam in the Middle East and North Africa to justify the most appalling oppression and violence – it is clear that secularism is vital in the fight for women's empowerment and equality.
In the UK, the advancement of secular thought has pushed back much religious misogyny and created safe spaces for women and protected our rights; but is the importance of secularism in the fight for women's rights fully appreciated?
The event will be chaired by Anne Marie Waters and speakers at the event will include Pragna Patel (Southall Black Sisters), Nahla Mahmood (Council of Ex-Muslims of Britain), Helen Palmer (Central London Humanists), Helen Nicholls (Lawyers Secular Society), Yasmin Rehman (The Muslim Institute) and Julie Bindel (Justice for Women).
The conference will take place from 2pm – 6pm at Conway Hall in central London. It will be followed by an evening of comedy as Terry Sanderson presents his film compilation show "Women laughing". Tickets for the conference are free (£5 for those who also wish to attend the evening event). Registration is essential. Please email to reserve your place, or contact the office.

Neil Davidson on the crisis in the SWP

The crisis in the Socialist Worker Party continues though with a little less attention being paid to it by even inveterate Trot spotters as they argue over the same ground again and again. The recent publication of their third Internal Bulletin left most observers cold. All that remains to happen is yet another split when the party holds its Conference early next month.

However in the mean time.........

The following video appeared on You Tube yesterday and shows Neil Davidson speaking at the Rebuilding the Party faction meeting of the Socialist Workers Party held on November 3rd.

Saturday, 23 November 2013

Universities UK: Rescind endorsement of sex segregation at UK Universities

Universities UK: Rescind endorsement of sex segregation at UK Universities

Universities UK (UUK) has issued guidance on external speakers saying that the segregation of the sexes at universities is not discriminatory as long as “both men and women are being treated equally, as they are both being segregated in the same way.” 

UUK add that universities should bear in mind that “concerns to accommodate the wishes or beliefs of those opposed to segregation should not result in a religious group being prevented from having a debate in accordance with its belief system” and that if “imposing an unsegregated seating area in addition to the segregated areas contravenes the genuinely-held religious beliefs of the group hosting the event, or those of the speaker, the institution should be mindful to ensure that the freedom of speech of the religious group or speaker is not curtailed unlawfully.”

We, the undersigned, condemn the endorsement of gender apartheid by Universities UK. Any form of segregation, whether by race, sex or otherwise is discriminatory. Separate is never equal and segregation is never applied to those who are considered equal. By justifying segregation, Universities UK sides with Islamist values at the expense of the many Muslims and others who oppose sex apartheid and demand equality between women and men.

The guidance must be immediately rescinded and sex segregation at universities must come to an end.

Initial List of Signatories:

A C Grayling, Philosopher
Abhishek N. Phadnis, President, London School of Economics Atheist, Secularist and Humanist Society
Anissa Helie, Academic
Charlie Klendjian, Secretary of Lawyers' Secular Society
Chris Moos, Secretary, London School of Economics Atheist, Secularist and Humanist Society
Deeyah Khan, Film Director and Music Producer
Dilip Simeon, Chairperson of the Aman Trust
Faisal Gazi, Writer and Blogger
Gita Sahgal, Director, Centre for Secular Space
Harsh Kapoor, South Asia Citizen's Web
Helen Palmer, Chair of London Humanists
Kate Smurthwaite, Comedian and Activist
Marieme Helie Lucas, Coordinator, Secularism is a Women’s Issue
Maryam Namazie, Spokesperson for One Law for All and Fitnah 
Mina Ahadi, International Committee against Stoning
Nadia El Fani, Tunisian Filmmaker
Nahla Mahmoud, Spokesperson of Council of Ex-Muslims of Britain
Pavan Dhaliwal, Head of Public Affairs of the British Humanist Association
Peter Tatchell, Director of Peter Tatchell Foundation
Polly Toynbee, Journalist
Pragna Patel, Director of Southall Black Sisters
Richard Dawkins, Scientist
Rohini Hensman, Social Activist
Rory Fenton, President of The National Federation of Atheist, Humanist and Secular Student Societies of the UK and ROI
Rupert Sutton, Lead Researcher of Student Rights
Terry Sanderson, President of National Secular Society
Yasmin Rehman, Women’s Rights Campaigner

Sign the petition now!

Multiculturalism is not working

Over the past week there have been a number of stories in the press which give cause for concern over the continued promotion of multiculturalism, with particular and obvious problems with the integration of the Muslim community. The Times reported on Thursday that:

Four British extremists have been killed fighting alongside al-Qaeda-linked fighters in Syria amid fears that jihadists  returning from the war are a growing terrorist threat.

MI5 estimates that 200 to 300 young Britons have travelled to fight in Syria causing concern in security circles about the threat they pose when they return home.

Oddly when The Times returned to the same story the following day Duncan Gardham reported that these men had been "speaking of their willingness to give up their lives to make it (Syria) an Islamic state. Yet one (unidentified) male stated he "did not want his mother to worry". He (like so many others had come from a comfortable background in the UK, what is referred to as a "decent family" and was well educated.

These men claim to be "standing up for the people of Syria" but one has to ask why, having been afforded the opportunities of education in a modern democracy instead of joining the democratic opposition (such as it remains in the three way conflict) they chose the medievalists of al-Nursa and worse who would take Syria back to the dark ages with their barbaric implementation of Islam.

Something has obviously gone wrong with the integration or rather the non-integration of the Muslim community in this country. Something seen across the western world, Europe in particular. The fact that Sharia courts operate in semi-secret across the UK and women are routinely denied their rights being subjected to discrimination, FGM,  so called "honour killings " should send a warning that something is seriously wrong.

The fact is that a One Law for All campaign has had to be established to try and reverse this separation from the real law of the land. One that treats all as equal before the courts, a seemingly alien concept amongst the supporters of Sharia. Trying to fight for equal rights for women (in particular) and others usually raises shouts of Islamophobia from not just the Islamists themselves but sections of the so-called "progressive" left.

There are two websites that spout such nonsense. One of course is the Socialist Unity run by Andy Newman and his odious sidekick John Wight. In a discussion about Syria Newman makes the following observation about a well known misogynist and anti-Semitic preacher:

I think that Al-Qaradawi is an important and modernising figure within the Sunni faith community, despite the fact that he is profoundly wrong on a number of issues.

Yet at the same time John Wight reveals a quite contradictory political stance by supporting the Baathist fascists around President Assad against what even he calls the "savages" of the Islamist rebels. Yet at the same time continues to support equally savage movements like Hamas. Socialist Unity is renowned (if that's the right word) for supporting clerical fascists in the shape of the Iranian Government.

The other equally banal website that comes to mind is Bob Pitt's Islamophobia Watch. In a recent article he claimed not to know what the "totalitarian left" was when referring to criticisms from secular campaigner Anne Marie Waters. Pitt is a former member of the Workers Revolutionary Party, an organisation that fell apart after revelations of sexual abuse and rape on the part of it's now deceased leader Gerry Healy. The WRP were definitely part of the totalitarian left

It's likely that the remarks of Dominic Grieve in The Telegraph today will cause some consternation in certain quarters when he remarks:

Governing involves hard choices. “We have managed integration of minority communities better than most countries in Europe.”
But that requires maintaining the rule of law, democratic institutions and stemming corruption. The problem is growing, he says, because some minority communities “come from backgrounds where corruption is endemic. We as politicians have to wake to up to it”. As if he was not being candid enough, he cites the South Asian communities, and the Pakistani community in particular. This is risky territory for any politician, but as a lawyer he is quite deliberate. The rule of law is what defines us as a nation. Many immigrants, he explains, “come from societies where they have been brought up to believe you can only get certain things through a favour culture. One of the things you have to make absolutely clear is that that is not the case and it’s not acceptable. As politicians these are issues we need to pay some attention to”.
In a sense this is not an unknown phenomenon, but like the the arguments that broke out over child abuse in Bradford by some Muslim men will be condemned without much thought by the PC brigade. The abuse of children, whilst not confined to one particular group was clearly ignored by the relevant authorities because of the fear of being called racist. As a result the crimes continued for far too long.

The Telegraph also reports:

Mr Grieve praised the integration of minorities into British life, and pointed out that corruption can also be found in the “white Anglo-Saxon” community.

And of course he is right. On both counts. There are problems that need to be addressed and they cannot be ignored.


Since this post was written Dominic Grieve has issued an "apology" for his statement. The Telegraph reports:

The Government's chief legal advisor has apologised for "any offence" caused when he said corruption in parts of the Pakistani community is “endemic” and a growing problem that politicians have underestimated.
Dominic Grieve QC, the Attorney General, said he had not intended to suggest there was a "particular problem in the Pakistani community".
He was accused of being "populist" but the fact remains a debate has to be had over all the issues surrounding "multiculturalism" and suppressing discussion via the "easily offended brigade" will only create problems for the future.

No wonder people don't trust politicians. They have no mettle these days it would seem. 

Friday, 22 November 2013

A celebration of Doctor Who with....Spike Milligan??

All week the BBC along with the rest of the media has been preparing us for the 50th Anniversary episode of Doctor Who, one of the most quintessentially British TV programmes of all time.

I was six years old when the first episode was broadcast and vaguely remember the first story, but it was of course the Daleks that stuck in my mind along with the rest of my generation who ended both hiding behind the sofa and running around the school playground pretending to "exterminate" all and sundry. Ah, those were the days!

So here is a short sketch from Spike Milligan to add something a little different to the celebrations. Enjoy!

Thursday, 21 November 2013

Around the web

A few items that caught my attention today:

The U.N. and Israel: A History of discrimination
by Joshua Muravchik

“Unfortunately . . . Israel [has] suffered from bias—and sometimes even discrimination” at the United Nations, said none other than the UN’s highest official, Secretary General Ban Ki-moon, speaking in Jerusalem in August. Back at headquarters a week later, Ban withdrew the substance of the comment without denying he had made it. The retraction was less surprising than the original assertion, which was remarkable because of the identity of the speaker, not for what was said, the reality of which is about as well concealed as the sun on a cloudless noon.
Israel’s status as a pariah state at the United Nations reflected a change in the world body dating from the 1970s. In its early decades, the UN was dominated by the Cold War competition between East and West, but between 1952 and 1968 these two blocs became outnumbered by a third, as the UN’s rolls increased from eighty-two to one hundred and twenty-six member states. Most of the new members were former colonies that had recently won their independence, and they formed what became the leading bloc at the UN, the Non-Aligned Movement.
The dearest cause of the NAM was anti-colonialism, which put the West in the dock. Thus, the new bloc was non-aligned far more emphatically with the West than with the Communist world. Indeed, while the Soviet Union was held at arm’s length by the NAM, other Communist states, some of them Soviet-allied, such as Cuba and Vietnam, played leading roles in the organization.
Read the rest at the World Affairs Journal
The Horror in North Korea
by Alan Johnson

Published in 1999, The Black Book of Communism was a melancholy 858-page compendium of the global tally of, in the words of its subtitle, crimes, terror, and repression produced by the political movement that the historian François Furet famously called an “illusion.” The book is often criticized from the left for overestimating the victims of Communism (“The total approaches 100 million people killed,” insisted the editor Stéphane Courtois), but as it turns out, Pierre Rigoulot, the author of the chapter on North Korea, actually underestimated the death toll, reckoning there to be three million victims of North Korean Stalinism.

Continued here

Open Letter to Stop the War Coalition on Agnès Mariam de la Croix

By the way, here’s a good article by James Bloodworth on this issue saying she is “the equivalent of one of Hitler’s brown priests” and that though she has now pulled out, she would have fitted in so very well…Here’s an open letter to Stop the War Coalition that I signed which (yet again) highlights their support of those who defend oppressive regimes like Iran’s and Syria’s. The open letter was published here. You can read it below.
News recently broke that Stop the War Coalition (StWC) invited Mother Superior Agnès Mariam de la Croix to speak at its November 30 International Anti-War Conference. Fellow guests included MPs Diane Abbott and Jeremy Corbyn and journalists Owen Jones and Jeremy Scahill.
Responding to a firestorm of protest, Jones and Scahill vowed to boycott the event if the Syrian-based nun spoke alongside them. Eventually she decided to “withdraw” from the conference and StWC issued a statement without explanation. Nor did it divulge why anyone would object to a Syrian cleric’s participation in an ostensibly pro-peace event.
Here are some reasons why we consider Mother Agnès-Mariam’s inclusion in an anti-war event to be a “red line” for opponents of conflict. Despite contrary claims, she is a partisan to—rather than a neutral observer of—the war in Syria.
syria-12Mother Agnès claimed that the Syrian opposition faked films of Bashar al-Assad’s 21 August 2013 sarin-gas attack on Ghouta in the suburbs of Damascus. In her 50-page dossier on the horrible events of that fateful morning, she wrote that the dead, gassed children documented in those videos “seem mostly sleeping” and “under anaesthesia.”
According to Father Paolo Dall’Oglio, a Jesuit priest exiled by the Assad regime for speaking out against its suppression of peaceful protests and currently a prisoner of al-Qa’ida’s Syrian affiliate, ISIS, Mother Agnes “has been consistent in assuming and spreading the lies of the regime, and promoting it through the power of her religious persona. She knows how to cover up the brutality of the regime”.
Moreover, Syrian Christians for Peace have denounced Mother Agnès for claiming there had never been a single peaceful demonstration in Syria. The also accused her of failing to disburse any of the money she raised in the name of their beleaguered community. They have asked “that she be excommunicated and prevented from speaking in the name of the Order of Carmelites.”
Having a massacre denier and apologist for war criminals like Mother Agnès speak alongside respected journalists such as Jeremy Scahill and Owen Jones is not only an insult to them and their principles. It is also, more insidiously, a means of exploiting their credibility and moral authority to bolster hers, both of which are non-existent.  No journalist should be sharing a platform with Agnès when she stands accused of being complicit in the death of French journalist Gilles Jacquier by his widow and a colleague who accompanied him into Homs during the trip arranged by Mother Agnès in January 2012.
Given that her UK speaking tour is still scheduled to last from the 21st to 30th November we, the undersigned, feel compelled to express our profound and principled objections to those who give a platform to a woman condemned by Syrian pro-peace Christians for greasing the skids of the regime’s war machine.

Wednesday, 20 November 2013

SWP Internal Bulletin No 3 now on-line

For the past few days trot watchers far and wide have been waiting for the final Socialist Workers Party pre-conference bulletin number three. And here it is without comment as it is 136 pages long and I am still in the process of reading it.

Thanks to whoever posted this!

Comments are open as always......

Take Trophy Hunter Melissa Bachman's Show Off the Air

care2 petitionsite actionAlert
action alert!
"Hardcore" hunter Melissa Bachman recently posted a photo of herself behind a lion that she had "stalked" in South Africa. Her completely unnecessary hunts are aired every week on satellite TV.
Please sign the petition today!Sign the Petition to Get Michelle Bachman Off the Air!
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Care2 member Thor was outraged when he saw the photo of Melissa Bachman standing behind a defenseless lion that she had gunned down. He decided to take matters into his own hands and demand that Bachman no longer be allowed to have her own television show to display this cruelty.

Bachman is the host of "Winchester Deadly Passion," during which she stalks and hunts various animals for the adrenaline rush. These hunts serve no purpose aside from destroying the life of an innocent animal and that animal's family or pack. 

There is no reason why Bachman should be given such a pedestal on which to display this cruel and damaging "sport." It is a terrible influence for children and makes a mockery of animal conservation efforts everywhere.

Sign Thor's petition today demanding that The Pursuit Channel, DirecTV and Dish Network remove Bachman from their programming immediately.

care2Thank you for taking action,

Emily L.
Care2 and ThePetitionSite Team