Tuesday, 31 December 2013

**And a Happy New Year from me!**

As I write people are already celebrating New Year in New Zealand, Australia and other parts of the world. Most people in the UK will be rushing around getting ready for tonight's celebrations. I've prepared for a quiet one myself, but that's just age catching up on me!

A Happy New Year to all my readers! Have a good one.

While we wait here is a piece of music from one of my favourite movies from the 1980s, Breaking Glass starring the wonderful Hazel O'Connor. This song is from the climax of the movie and has always ranked amongst my favourites!

Monday, 30 December 2013

Far right "comedian" has UK gig cancelled

The Football Association needs to act quickly over the anti-Semitic actions of footballer Niclolas Anelka who performed the reverse Nazi salute known as a "quenelle". The Times reports that he could face a 5 match ban.

Anelka is apparently a Muslim convert who according to the Times says his actions were in support of the notorious anti-Semitic "comedian" Dieudonne M'Bala M'Bala who is apparently a mate of his who has tried to claim his act were just "anti-establishment " not that would fool anyone with an ounce of common sense or decency.

His "mate" who performs under the stage name of Dieudonne has been found guilty on at least three occasions of incitement of racial hatred. Moreover he has given his "performances" on stage with known holocaust deniers and admitted not long after establishing an Anti-Zionist Party of receiving funding from Iran for some of his films.

The attempt by Dieudonne to perform in London has been halted by protests. The Jewish Chronicle reports:

A planned London performance by a controversial French far-right comedian has been cancelled following complaints from the Jewish community.

Dieudonné M'bala M'bala, who was last year fined by a French court for performing an antisemitic stunt, was due to perform in Kensington on Saturday evening.

The Cameroon-born performer has previously stood for the European Parliament as head of the Anti-Zionist Party, which he formed with Alain Soral, a former member of Jean-Marie Le Pen’s extreme-right National Front.

After discovering that he was due to appear in London, campaigners including Zionist Federation co-vice chair Jonathan Hoffman urged the hotel to reject Dieudonné’s booking and cancel the event.

A spokesman for the Millennium Gloucester Hotel and Conference Centre said: “It’s not going to take place. We had an enquiry from someone representing Dieudonné and then recently we had some calls from the Jewish community, telling us what the situation is with him.

“We decided not to pursue the booking and now it will not happen.”

In a separate article the JC reports that:

French Interior Minister Manuel Valls has said he is considering banning the comedian Dieudonné's shows in January over concerns for public safety.

The announcement came following a Premier League football match on Saturday at which footballer Nicolas Anelka, a friend of Dieudonne, gave a Nazi-style salute said to have been popularised by the comedian.

Dieudonné is known to have performed the “quenelle”, a downward version of the Nazi salute, as part of his stand-up routine.

The FA and everybody else must show zero tolerance for this racist and openly Nazi behaviour.

Sunday, 29 December 2013

A weekend of Islamist inspired violence

Mourners buried former Lebanese Minister Mohamad Chatah today after his murder by Hezbollah supporters on Friday. The unease that this has provoked was summarised in this Reuters report:

Friday's attack on Chatah, a Sunni who was a vocal critic of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad and his Lebanese ally Hezbollah, has once again stoked sectarian enmities exacerbated by the spillover of Syria's conflict......

The killing also carried particular symbolism three weeks before a Western-backed Special Tribunal for Lebanon, based in The Hague, begins the trial in absentia of five Hezbollah suspects accused of killing Rafik al-Hariri. Both Hezbollah and Syria denied accusations made in a U.N. investigation that they were behind the assassination.

The site of the bombing in which Chatah died, a part of the city rebuilt by Hariri after Lebanon's war, was itself meant to send a message, analyst Rami Khouri said.

"People will see this as a sign this violence can now happen in the heart of Hariri land just like it was happening in the heart of Hezbollah land before," he said. "Any target is now permissible in any part of the country.

Even as this funeral for another untimely death took place, there was yet another suicide bombing in Volgograd (Stalingrad) this afternoon. Already 18 innocent civilians have been declared dead after a woman terrorist blew herself up at the main railway station. The New York Times reports:

The blast, captured on a surveillance video camera from across the central plaza in front of the station, occurred near the metal detectors that have become a common security fixture at most of Russia’s transportation hubs, suggesting that an attack deeper inside the station or aboard a train might have been averted.

Vladimir I. Markin, a spokesman for the Investigative Committee, called the bombing an act of terrorism, though the exact motivation, target and perpetrator were not immediately clear. Within hours of the attack, the authorities blamed a suicide bomber, citing the gruesome discovery of a woman’s severed head, which, they said, could aid in identifying her.

“Most likely, the victims could have been much higher if the so-called protective system had not stopped the suicide bomber from getting through the metal detectors into the waiting room where there were passengers,” Mr. Markin said in a statement on the committee’s website.

It was the second such attack in Volgograd in two months. In October a woman identified as Naida Asiyalova detonated a vest of explosives aboard a bus in the city, killing herself and six others.

Meanwhile in Egypt supporters of the Muslim Brotherhood have been attacking universities in a concerted attempt to stop students taking exams. Reuters reports:

State-run newspaper Al-Ahram said security forces fired teargas to disperse pro-Brotherhood students who were preventing their classmates from entering university buildings to take exams.

It didn't end there though as CNN reported earlier today:

Fresh violence rocked Egypt on Sunday when an explosion wounded four people near military intelligence offices in the Nile Delta, state-run Nile TV reported.

No one has claimed responsibility for the attack.

The chaos came a day after Egyptian student protesters who support the Muslim Brotherhood were accused of torching the cafeteria of a Cairo university, state media reported.

Not to be left out, an unnamed group of Jihadists attacked Northern Israel today hoping to provoke further conflict to distract Hezbollah from its' role in supporting Assad in Syria. The Washington Post takes up the story:

Five rockets were fired from southern Lebanon toward Israel Sunday morning, with at least one landing several miles from a border town in Israel’s north. No injuries or serious damage was reported......

The Shiite political and militant group Hezbollah, whose armed wing earlier this year was branded a terrorist organization by the European Union, has its stronghold in southern Lebanon.

An Israeli military spokesman said the five missiles appeared to be 122-mm Russian-made Katyushas, most likely supplied by Iran.

Israeli Prime Minister, Benjamin Netanyau reminded observers that:

“What is happening in Lebanon is that Hezbollah is stationing thousands of missiles and rockets in apartments, in the heart of the civilian population, and is thus perpetrating two war crimes simultaneously,” the prime minister said. “It is organizing the firing at civilians, just as it did today, and it is hiding behind civilians as human shields.”

Hamas does the same in Gaza, not that this bothers their appeasers on the left. But then as we can see on a daily basis the Islamists do not respect life. 

The terrorists and their supporters must be opposed wherever they appear.

Saturday, 28 December 2013

A double threat to humour and satire

A couple of stories in today's issue of The Times (Dec 28th) caught my attention. David Blunkett isn't happy with TV satire and has suggested:

..that comedy shows such as Mock The Week and Have I Got News for You should be reclassified as current affairs programmes to face tougher scrutiny from libel lawyers.

The former Labour Home Secretary said the line between what is considered comedy and "targeted" abuse towards politicians was blurred and may now require tougher regulation.

Mr Blunkett said "The protection that broadcasters in particular have is "Well everybody knows this is comedy don't they?".... I think we need to watch that.

Given the low esteem the public already hold politicians in such remarks aren't going to win him (or any other politician) any sympathy. What ordinary people say about politicians in the privacy of their own homes would probably even make the likes of Frankie Boyle blush, well maybe not him, but you know what I mean!

The Independent looked at a survey looking at peoples attitudes to politicians just a couple of days back in which they report:

Nearly three-quarters of the British public are either “angry” or “bored” with politicians or politics in general, according to a new survey.

Only 16 per cent said they were “respectful” of politicians, who managed to make just 2 per cent feel “inspired”.

A third of potential voters said they were discouraged by career politicians who “don’t say what they believe”, about 26 per cent said they viewed the main political parties as “so similar that [voting] makes little difference”, and 25 per cent said they felt the parties did not “represent my mix of views.”

The poll asked people to choose the single word that best described “how or what you instinctively feel” about politics and politicians. Some 47 per cent chose “angry” while 25 per cent said “bored”.

At the same time Michael Palin mused in the same issue of The Times that Monty Python would not be able to make Life of Brian in the current climate. He mused that:

Religion is more difficult to talk about (now) - I don't think we could do Life of Brian any more.

Palin then continues on the subject of Islam:

We all saw what happened to Salman Rushdie and none of us want to get into that. It's a pity but that's the way it is. There are people out there without a sense of humour and they are heavily armed.

Whilst politicians might not go around shooting satirists (in this country at least), there are plenty of cowardly Islamist nutters out there who preach so much bile and hate they become parodies of themselves.


Now is the time to stand up for the right to laugh it would seem.

Life In Prison For Being Gay?

care2 petitionsite actionAlert

Stand Against Uganda's Anti-Gay Law

Please sign the petition today!

The Ugandan Parliament passed a bill that would make homosexuality a crime punishable by life in prison – and the only person who can stop it is Uganda's president. If this bill becomes law, not only will LGBT people be sent to prison for the rest of their lives, but people like HIV doctors could face prison time, too.

Homosexuality is already a crime in Uganda -- LGBT people can face a 14 year sentence just because the government has decided that their sexual orientation "destroys" the Ugandan family unit. LGBT people face horrific discrimination, with local tabloid papers, neighbors, and even family members outing them to turn them in to the police.

This climate of fear and hatred is not the way to protect the Ugandan family unit, and it's not going to cure the HIV epidemic in the country.

President Yoweri Museveni is all that stands in the way of this vicious bill – and now that foreign governments are speaking out against the bill, he's saying he hasn't decided yet if he's going to pass it. He told the press, 'I will first go through it, if I find that it is right I will sign but if I find that it is not right I will send it back to parliament.'

Tell President Yoweri Museveni to abolish the Uganda anti-gay bill.

Thank you for taking action,

Care2 and ThePetitionSite Team

Friday, 27 December 2013

Saudi blogger faces possible death sentence for "apostasy"


Saudi Arabia is one of the most oppressive regimes on earth and yet almost laughably, but not quite given the circumstances is also a member of the United Nations Human Rights Council. This is an Islamist regime that enforces sexual apartheid, runs a religious police force, imprisons and tortures dissidents.

Readers will recall that one such dissident Raif Badawi was recently sentenced to seven years prison with 600 lashes for daring to just talk about religion. His plight hasn't ended there though. The Free Thinker takes up the story:

SAUDI blogger and activist, Raif Badawi, currently serving a 7-year prison term for ‘insulting Islam’, may soon appear in a higher court on graver charges of apostasy. If found guilty, he could be sentenced to death.

The activist’s wife, Ensaf Haidar, revealed in this report that a judge had recommended that Badawi, who was also sentences to 600 lashes, should face graver charges .

Raif Badawi is the founder of the Free Saudi Liberals website, created in 2008 to freely discuss the role of religion in Saudi Arabia. His persecution for what was described as “insulting Islam” started the same year the site was set up.

The blogger then fled the country to escape arrest. He returned when the charges against him were dropped, but was eventually jailed in June 2012. In July this year, a criminal court in Jeddah him guilty of insulting Islam through his online forum and of violating Saudi Arabia’s anti-cybercrime law.

The court’s ruling was condemned by international human rights watchdogs. Said Nadim Houry, deputy Middle East director at Human Rights Watch:

This incredibly harsh sentence for a peaceful blogger makes a mockery of Saudi Arabia’s claims that it supports reform and religious dialogue. A man who wanted to discuss religion has already been locked up for a year and now faces 600 lashes and seven years in prison.

Badawi’s possible retrial is the latest episode in the country’s crackdown on dissent. Four members of the Saudi Civil and Political Rights Association (ACPRA) were jailed in 2013.

In the most recent case in December, 24-year-old Omar al-Saeed was sentenced to four years in prison and 300 lashes after calling for political reform. Amnesty International called for the activist’s immediate release. After serving his sentence he will be prohibited from travelling for four years.

In a statement released on December 19 AI said:

Amnesty International considers Omar al-Hamid al-Saeed to be a prisoner of conscience, imprisoned solely for his peaceful activities as a member of ACPRA and calls on the Saudi Arabian authorities to immediately and conditionally release him and to ensure that he is not subjected to flogging or any other corporal punishment.

Earlier, the watchdog criticised Saudi Arabia for failing to follow up on any of its promises to improve the country’s human rights record. The pledges were made following a 2009 review, issued by the UN Human Rights Council. Philip Luther, Director of Middle East and North Africa at Amnesty International said in October:

Four years ago, Saudi Arabian diplomats came to Geneva and accepted a string of recommendations to improve human rights in the country. Since then, not only have the authorities failed to act, but they have ratcheted up the repression.

Amnesty’s criticism however did not prevent Saudi Arabia from being elected to the UN Human Rights Council in November. Its three-year term in UNHRC starts January 1, 2014.

Protest Now!

In the absence of a campaign you may wish to send protests to:

Embassy of Saudi Arabia - London:

His Highness Prince Mohammed bin Nawaf bin Abdul Aziz - Ambassador of the Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques in London

30 Charles Street, London W1J 5DZ

Thursday, 26 December 2013

Erdogan's Islamist regime must go!


Earlier this year the streets of Ankara were hit by waves of protests sparked by the arrogance of the Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan. At the time he responded in a hard line manner as Alalam reported:

"Those who do not respect this nation's party in power will pay a price," he told thousands of cheering loyalists in Ankara, just a few kilometres (miles) from the clashes in downtown Kizilay Square, the latest violence in a second week of mass civil unrest. 

Old news but still a chilling indictment of his intent as the latest bribery scandal hits his regime. Nebraska TV takes up the story:

Forced to fire three of his ministers - one of whom immediately implicated the prime minister in the scandal - and struggling to contain the scope of the investigation, Erdogan seems unlikely to come out of the crisis unscathed.

But many observers say it's too early to write off the savvy politician who has weathered a series of crises since his Islamic-based party came to power in 2002.

"If the allegations are true, this would without doubt be the deepest crisis the government has faced," said Murat Yetkin, editor in chief and political commentator for the Hurriyet Daily News newspaper.

In comments published Thursday, Erdogan said he believes he is the ultimate target of the probe but declared that those trying to enmesh him in the scandal will be left "empty-handed."

However the tide appears to be turning against him. Writing in the Financial Times Andrew Finkel reports the view of dismissed Milliyet columnist Hasan Cemel

“He’s a one man show. He wants to control the police and the judiciary and has no understanding of the separation of powers”

Already the BBC World Service has reported that he has had to reshuffle his cabinet and replace half of his Ministers. The lead investigator into the bribery scandal gas suddenly been removed which will not sit well with his many critics, and he has much to fear given his show trials of many the Turkish military who see themselves as defenders of the secular state founded by Kemal Ataturk.

File:Flag of Turkey.svg

He no longer has many friends outside Turkey as Gulf News commented just before Christmas:

Two years ago, Recep Tayyip Erdogan was considered a man with a vision. And Turkey was seen as a shining example, a country whose government managed to integrate democracy and conservative Islamic traditions. Experts used to urge regional states to emulate what was then called “the Turkish Model”. It was an attractive model that was meant to appease the religious sentiments of Muslims and at the same time their hopes for representative government. Turkey was also touted as a regional necessity to counter the increasingly aggressive drive by Iran to spread its unwelcome influence in the Arab world.

That is where Erdogan seems to have misread the signals. Instead of working with regional governments, he began to work against them in an attempt, many say, aimed at advancing his AK party’s — an ally of the Muslim Brotherhood — ideology in the aftermath of the Arab Spring. Thus, Erdogan started, against the advice of many of Turkey’s friends, to interfere in Arab affairs.

In Egypt, he went against the popular sentiments of the people and supported a narrow-minded party, the Muslim Brotherhood. He does not make any secret of his animosity towards the current administration in Cairo, which came to power following the June 30 uprising against the Islamist government of currently-jailed former president Mohammad Mursi. Egypt recently cut diplomatic ties with Turkey and withdrew its ambassador, accusing the Erdogan government of trying to destabilise Egypt.

In Syria, Erdogan was cautioned about arming and giving refuge to jihadist groups fighting the Bashar Al Assad regime. He was urged to channel his support, which is vital considering the strategic position of his country, to the legitimate Syrian opposition. Today, the Syrian revolution is in trouble due to the rise of jihadists, who are turning their guns, not on the regime, but on other opposition factions in a chaotic state. Erdogan seems isolated in the region today. It is no surprise, then, that he looks increasingly isolated in his country as well as scandals hit his government and people take to the streets, calling for his resignation. He grossly misread the region. And he has only himself to blame.

The time has come for the people of Turkey to follow the example set by the Egyptians and take to the streets to bring down the authoritarian Islamist Government.

Defend the secular state!

China celebrates Mao's flawed legacy

File:China, Mao (2).jpg

China is one of the great economic success stories of recent years. Its' booming economy and economic reach have surprised and probably baffled many. At the same the gap between the rich and the poor in China has increased expediently, corruption amongst it's elite has not only rocketed but caused much open consternation amongst the general population.

Yet China is a communist country is not?

Their leaders certainly think so, formally at least and today the country celebrates 120 years since the Birth of of it's modern founder, Mao Zedong (as we now "correctly "spell it apparently).

Mao remains revered and yet the celebrations are strangely muted (but had US$2.5 Billion spent on special events), despite the production of a lavish TV drama based on his life and times (see here) which has been translated into several languages, including English which may lead to it's appearance on a telly near you.....

The Peoples Daily  reports glowingly:

Today is the 120th anniversary of the birth of comrade Mao Zedong.

Mao Zedong was born in 1893 in Shaoshan Village in central China's Hunan Province. He died in 1976 at 83. As the main founder of the PRC, Mao is one of the most influential figures in China's modern history.

Comrade Mao Zedong was a great Marxist, proletarian revolutionary, strategist, and theorist. He had broad-mindedness and awe-inspiring vision. Till now, Mao lives on in many Chinese people’s hearts and remains an eternal inspiration to people around the world. Activities marking the 120th anniversary of his birth have been held across China recently.

However China has never had its "Kruschev moment" (in which the great leaders mistakes and crimes were finally admitted to), as The Age tells us:

Zhang Lifan, a historian who specializes in the Communist Party, said he felt that this year there was a bit more attention being paid to Mao than on previous major anniversaries "because there are a lot of social conflicts and lots of debate about how we should regard Mao."

At the same time, he said the government was blocking any "real discussion" about Mao, noting that when he recently posted some material online intending to "start a new debate" about him, his microblog account was promptly shut down. Compared to the 1980s, when many documents about Mao's era were being released and there was a much more open discussion about him, "now the government does not allow you to know or discuss the facts," he added.

Zhang said he believed party leaders had looked at the history of the Communist collapse in the Soviet Union and concluded that discrediting Stalin was among the mistakes the party made that led to its downfall.

"But the achievements of reform have been getting away from Mao's policies, and the problems that remain all have Mao's DNA in them," he said. "To discuss Mao is an unavoidable thing ... and hiding history is a foolish move."

So the comrades are literally caught between "a rock and a hard place". Damned if they do, damned if they don't.

Mao was responsible for the deaths of untold millions through his policies. There are still those who suffer from his genocidal legacy. Especially in Tibet.

What the future holds is impossible to tell, but history teaches us all things must end one way or another. The real question will be what replaces the current tyranny? China has no democratic tradition, so the fight for one will be difficult indeed.

Eight in ten people believe fox hunting belongs to the past

Press release from the League Against Cruel Sports

Eight in ten people believe fox hunting belongs to the past

New polling shows majority of British public remain opposed to hunting with dogs for sport

A new survey released on Boxing Day, a major day in the hunting calendar, from the League Against Cruel Sports, RSPCA and IFAW, shows 80 per cent of the Great British public think that fox hunting should not be made legal again; 85 per cent think deer hunting should not be made legal again; and 87 per cent think hare hunting/coursing should not be made legal again. 1 Ipsos MORI

The survey, carried out by Ipsos MORI for the animal welfare charities, also revealed there to be no difference in the view held by those living in rural areas versus those in urban areas on the issue of legalising fox hunting. 80 per cent of rural dwellers thought fox hunting should not be made legal again; the same per cent for urban dwellers, highlighting that this is not a town vs country issue. 1 Ipsos MORI

The Coalition Government was quite clear in its agreement that it wanted to hold a free vote on whether to repeal the Hunting Act. The notion of returning to a time of cruelty, where hunting animals with dogs for sport was legal, is one clearly rejected by the majority of the British public.

Joe Duckworth, Chief Executive of the League Against Cruel Sports, says: “Hunting is a sickeningly cruel blood sport, which, like us, the majority of the British public do not want brought back.

“Voting for repeal would be political suicide. We need to move forward as a nation, not backwards on matters of animal welfare, which is why we recently launched our national ‘No Joke’ online and cinema campaign to remind people of the sheer horror and animal cruelty hiding behind the ‘traditional spectacle’.”

Gavin Grant, Chief Executive of the RSPCA comments: “The fact that 80 per cent of the public oppose the return of this ‘bloodsport' comes as no surprise to me. As a rural dweller I have always known that opposition to hunting with dogs has never been an issue of ‘town versus country’. This poll proves it once and for all.

"The message to MPs is loud and clear. Hunting wild animals with dogs is unethical, inhumane and cruel. The British people will simply not allow a totally unrepresentative elite to re-introduce it.”

Robbie Marsland, UK Director of IFAW, said: “The hunts will be making their annual choreographed Boxing Day appearance with a few die-hard hunters making the usual call for repeal of the Hunting Act. The truth is the vast majority of the British public, whether they live in town or country, share IFAW’s view that bringing back a blood sport is a repugnant idea that has no place in the 21st Century.”

Tuesday, 24 December 2013

**Merry Christmas to all my readers**

I may be an atheist, but I still enjoy this time of year so I hope you all have a good one!

Here's a short song for Christmas day:

Greg Lake performs his 1975 classic I Believe in Father Christmas filmed live at St. Bride's Church, Fleet Street, in the City of London with Jethro Tull' s Ian Anderson on flute, David Arch on keyboards, Florian Opahle on acoustic guitar and the church choir.

Weather Forecast with Spike Milligan!

With all the bad weather we are facing at the moment here's a little clip from the great Spike Milligan to cheer you up.......

Monday, 23 December 2013

Act Now! Christmas on the front line

An urgent appeal by Eric Lee of LabourStart

In the last couple of days, our worst fears about the railway strike in South Korea have come true.

Severe repression has kicked in as police stormed the headquarters of the Korean Confederation of Trade Unions (KCTU) -- for the first time since the union became legal back in 1999.

Smashing down glass doors, spraying pepper gas, the police arrested well over 100 union activists -- but didn't find the leaders of the striking railway workers they'd come to arrest.

The KCTU has decided to call a general strike for December 28th.

These Korean workers, fighting against privatization and for the basic human right to strike, are now on the very front lines of the battle against neo-liberalism and for human dignity.

I know that many of you will not see this message until after the Christmas holiday.

I also know that 90% of the people receiving this message have not yet sent off their messages of protest and solidarity. If you're part of that 90%, please take a moment right now to send off your message demanding that the Korean government allow the railway workers to peacefully strike:


If have already send off your message, please try to recruit just one more person who's not done so. If everyone who supported this campaign recruited just one more person, it would be the largest online campaign LabourStart has ever waged.

In addition, I'm going to ask you to do one more thing.

The mainstream media, incredibly, is completely ignoring this important struggle. LabourStart has tons of links to news stories, but these are largely from Korean media.

If you visit the websites of the BBC, CNN, and Sky News, you won't see a single word about the strike, the repression, and so on.

I've just written to all of them asking them why they're not covering the Korean strike. I think it would help if you added your voices to mine.

Here's how to do it:
BBC - go here and fill in the form at the very bottom of the page
CNN - go here
Sky News - email them at news@sky.com

Thanks very much -- and a very festive holiday season to all of you.

Sunday, 22 December 2013

NSS welcomes LSE apology over Jesus & Mo debacle

Cross-post from the National Secular Society

NSS welcomes LSE apology over Jesus & Mo debacle

The London School of Economics (LSE) has apologised to two students who were forced to cover up t-shirts featuring pictures from the satirical comic strip Jesus and Mo.

Chris Moos and Abhishek Phadnis were running the Atheist Secularist and Humanist Society stall on 3 October when they were told they would be physically removed from the annual Freshers' Fair unless they covered up the 'offensive' t-shirts.

The incident sparked a national debate over free expression, and the extent to which universities are pandering to the sensibilities of Islamic extremists on campus.

After instructing solicitors, the two students lodged an official complaint to LSE on 12 November.

Director of the School, Professor Craig Calhoun, has now written to the students acknowledging that, with hindsight, the wearing of the t-shirts on this occasion did not amount to harassment or contravene the law or LSE policies.

A statement issued on the LSE website, said: "LSE takes its duty to promote free speech very seriously, and as such, will discuss and learn from the issues raised by recent events."

The apology has been welcomed by the National Secular Society, which has been actively supporting the students with their appeal.

Terry Sanderson, NSS president, said: "We congratulate students for their fearless defence of freedom of expression. This is a welcome apology from LSE, and it should be congratulated for making it publicly, whether or not the threat of legal action played any role.

"I hope that we will now see a more sensible approach to free expression that does not rest on protecting the sensibilities of any one particular group.

"We all have to learn that being offended is an inevitable part of life, having one's fondest beliefs challenged is part of a free society. Let's hope that lessons have been learned and we don't have any repeat of this. Then we can move on to a more mature and open debate about all kinds of things – including religion."

However, Mr Sanderson said LSE's letter to the students still needed further clarification.

Chris Moos and Abhishek Phadnis also welcomed what they described as the "half-apology" from the LSE.

"We welcome the LSE's admission that its staff misjudged the situation, and their acknowledgement that we were well within our rights to wear 'Jesus & Mo' t-shirts on campus and that this neither amounted to harassment nor contravened the law or LSE policies.

"Even though it caused us great distress to be publicly harassed and humiliated by LSE and LSE Students' Union (LSESU) staff, LSE's response vindicates our decision to stand up for our rights.

In a joint statement, Chris Moos and Abhishek Phadnis added: "Even as we welcome Professor Calhoun's apology, we are disappointed that it took the threat of legal action to elicit an acknowledgement of our grievances, and that no apology has been forthcoming from the LSESU, whose grave misconduct began this chain of harassment. We also believe that several other lingering concerns must be put on record."

Read the full statement from Chris Moos and Abhishek Phadnis (PDF)

Shame -with Jesus & Mo


Saturday, 21 December 2013

Intolerance begats intolerance which...

File:Koran cover calligraphy.PNG

A number of stories relating to religious fanaticism caught my attention today.  The Times reports that:

The Muslim Council of Britain has said the BBC was "unwise" to allow Anjem Choudary, an extremist preacher, to air his views on the murder of Lee Rigby on Radio 4's Today programme. 

Britain's largest Muslim organisation said yesterday that the BBC had chosen to give Mr Choudary "the oxygen of publicity" whilst mainstream Muslims were left without a voice.

Choudary of course made the best use of his appearance on the radio to spout his usual bile which of course included his inevitable refusal to condemn the murderers of Lee Rigby. He tweeted his deranged followers that he wanted his followers to "tune in and make dua (prayers) for Allah to help pass the message".

However to say that the Muslim community is "without a voice" is stretching matters a little too far. The MCB regularly appears in the media spreading it's quite reactionary agenda and has been silent over some of the recent problems involving fanatics in the UK. Let alone elsewhere.

Choudary is part of a growing movement within Islam which is usually referred to as "Islamism". This form of Islam preaches extreme intolerance which boils down to simply do as we say or you die. It is neither insignificant on a world scale nor a force that can be ignored as the experience of Christians in large parts of the Muslim world illustrates.

The World Affairs Journal reports:

Across the Middle East, it is the same narrative of thousands of Christians fleeing their homelands. Almost half of Iraq’s Christians have left since the 2003 invasion, leaving about four hundred thousand, or scarcely three percent of the current population. Once a majority, Lebanon’s million and a half Christians—most of them Maronite Catholics—now account for thirty-five percent of the population. 

Tens of thousands of Syrian Christians have fled from cities such as Aleppo, Homs, and Qusayr in the face of Islamist rebels. The traditional Christmas market and lights in Qatana, in southern Syria, are now things of the past under pressure from Islamist militias who want no outward shows of Christian life. In Egypt, members of the Catholic and Orthodox Coptic churches make up about ten percent of the country’s total population of eighty-four million. But tens of thousands of Copts have emigrated over the past two years, particularly since the Muslim Brotherhood candidate Mohamed Morsi was elected president and especially since he was deposed.

Egyptian Copts demonstrated alongside Muslims in Tahrir Square, but from Tunisia to Yemen, one of the unwelcome consequences of the Arab Spring has been more Islamic fervor and less tolerance for non-Muslim communities, with Christians finding themselves on the wrong side of the argument.

In Iraq, Christians were thought too close to Saddam Hussein; the former Iraqi foreign minister, Tariq Aziz—now under sentence of death—is a Chaldean Christian, a branch of Eastern rite Catholics in communion with Rome.

File:Christian cross.svg

But it's not just Muslims that are doing the persecution. There is seems to be a concerted effort by some Christians against gays, promoted not just by evangelists, but even from our own Church of England. Take Uganda where a new law has been introduced against "aggravated homosexuality" (whatever that's supposed to mean). The Independent takes up the story:

Ugandan MPs on Friday passed an anti-gay law that sets life imprisonment as the maximum penalty for the new offence of “aggravated homosexuality”. The bill had included the death penalty when it was introduced in 2010, but that was removed from the revised version.

Homosexuality was already illegal in Uganda, under a colonial-era law that criminalised sexual acts “against the order of nature”, but the politician who wrote the new law argued that tough legislation was needed, because homosexuals from the West threatened to destroy Ugandan families and were allegedly “recruiting” Ugandan children into gay lifestyles.

Ugandan gays disputed this account, saying that political and religious leaders had come under the influence of American evangelicals who wanted to spread their anti-gay campaign in Africa.

Scott Lively, a Massachusetts evangelical, was sued in March 2012 under the Alien Tort Statute that allows non-citizens to file suit in the US if there is an alleged violation of international law.

Mr Lively denied he wanted severe punishment for gays, and has previously said he never advocated violence against gays, but advised therapy for them.

Meanwhile the National Secular Society reports:

One of the Sussex Diocese of Chichester representatives on the Church of England General Synod, Andrea Minichiello Williams, recently attended a conference of evangelical Christians in Jamaica to urge the Government to keep the law that criminalises homosexuality – and carries a potential penalty of ten years hard labour.

She said Jamaica had the opportunity to become a world leader by fending off foreign pressure to decriminalise homosexual sex.

"Might it be that Jamaica says to the United States of America, says to Europe, 'Enough! You cannot come in and attack our families. We will not accept aid or promotion tied to an agenda that is against God and destroys our families'" she said, adding to applause, "If you win here, you will have an impact in the Caribbean and an impact across the globe".

Muslims are persecuting Christians who are in turn persecuting gays who are also persecuted by Muslims. 

What a world we live in.

People have a right to believe and practise whatever religion they wish, but none of them have the right to tell those who do not follow their superstitious claptrap how we should think or live.

Trouble is as we saw over  the "gender apartheid" row in British Universities, there are far too many in the Liberal and Left establishment who are frankly cowardly when it comes to to standing up for reason. 

Human rights always come before religious rights.

Friday, 20 December 2013

Death of a Party

While the end isn't quite in sight for the Socialist Workers Party, it certainly has declined to perhaps only a few hundred members. Even a fragment of the totally discredited Workers Revolutionary Party manages to keep going and somehow publishes a daily newspaper the rather dull News Line, though who actually reads it and how many copies they sell is a mystery.

So don't expect Socialist Worker to disappear any time soon, but they are politically finished as far as everyone else, even on the far left is concerned. Their remnants will face a lot of hostility from now on wherever they appear.

The latest news is the resignation of Pat Stack who is quite damning about Maxine Bowler you can read his missive here. Quite why he (or some of the others) "welcome working with the SWP" in the future is beyond belief. The Professor and his remaining crew seem to take some relief from statements like Stacks as their website reports.

All these people have led deluded lives for far to long to see the damage they have caused not just now but over the years this parasitical organisation has been in existence.

Any way time for Blur to add a note or two!

Thursday, 19 December 2013

Resignations from the SWP continue....

As Christmas approaches the Socialist Workers Party continues to disintegrate at a rapid rate. The latest resignations include Sue Bond PCS Vice President, Andy Reid PCS NEC, Ian Allinson (Unite NEC) and Jonathan Neale (the SWP's "environmental expert") who got abused quite severely by the Professor at SWP Conference as the Weekly Worker reports:

The day took a nasty turn when the leadership election came up. RtP had proposed an alternative slate that removed both Amy Leather’s faction and Kimber and Callinicos - because of their role in the crisis. Softer elements of the CC such as Michael Bradley, Joseph Choonara were left on. Subsequent arguments ranged from vindictive to ridiculous. Callinicos employed both, opening with the hilarious statement that the CC’s slate represented “a continuation of our current leadership strategy in relation to the crisis”. After the worst crisis and biggest splits in SWP history, hey, more of the same please! He then turned to sneering, ‘denouncing’ Jonathan Neale saying “you’ve debased your politics” and ended shouting “You know nothing Jonathan Neale!”.

Charming stuff.

Another high profile figure to quit is Charlie Hore a member of some 40 years standing who writes:

It is with great sadness that I write to tell you of my resignation from the SWP. February next year will mark 40 years since I joined the International Socialists, but after last weekend's conference I can no longer in good conscience remain a member.

The past year has been the worst year I have spent in the SWP, and I think the worst year in the SWP's history. Over 500 people have already left, including the vast majority of our students; Marxism was a shadow of its former self, with numbers badly down and almost no outside speakers; the Unite the Resistance conference was half the size of last year's; and in the unions and movements, it's almost impossible to find anyone who thinks that we did the right thing. 

Even our successes have been tainted – the Tower Hamlets demonstration against the EDL was great, but we initially failed to offer solidarity to the almost 300 people arrested by the police, and the reaction to the 'Sisters Against the EDL' initiative seemed driven by pure sectarianism.

Over the last year I have fought to get the SWP to change its position on the two complaints against the former national secretary, and I am proud to have done so alongside so many other comrades. We started off convinced of the SWP's principled positions on women's oppression and women's liberation, and determined that those principles had to apply to every member, no matter how important. Like many others, I have been appalled by the leadership's managerialist approach to the crisis, putting party pride above principle, and by the culture of deference to the leadership that has determined the response of too many comrades. 

I'm aware that both of those elements have been around for some time, but I always believed before in the SWP's capacity to learn from and transcend its mistakes. I no longer do so, and I think that an organisation that cannot learn from criticism, and willfully ignores it, is an organisation that will calcify and become sectarian.

I have spent my adult life in the SWP, and I don't regret it for one minute. We have done great things – with the Anti-Nazi League (twice), during the miners' strike, and with Stop the War, among many other things. I have learn a huge amount from comrades I have worked with over the decades, and I am particularly grateful for the opportunities given to develop and extend my writing. Many close friends and comrades I greatly respect will stay in the SWP, and I wish them all well. After a year's debate, conference's decisions on the internal crisis are clear and unambiguous – I cannot defend them, or take any pride in my membership, and so it's for the best that I leave.

In the PCS union only the rabid SWP loyalist Marianne Owens remains on next years Left Unity slate for the NEC, though they seem to be holding on in the NUT and UCU.

Paris Thompson, one of the "Face Book Four" who were expelled for "not forming a faction" has announced that the "International Socialist tradition is now dead". Quick on the uptake that man. However what remains of interest is what will happen to the various groups that look to the SWP in their International Socialist Tendency around the world. No news as yet.

Meanwhile the grouplet that formed around Richard Seymour and China Mielville in an earlier split from the SWP earlier is already falling apart...no wonder socialism doesn't bloody work. They have no idea about mutual co-operation, compromise or reason.

See also: http://howiescorner.blogspot.co.uk/2013/11/marxism-as-religion_28.html

Wednesday, 18 December 2013

Bob Pitt: appeaser of gender separation

The decision of UK Universities to allow for gender separation  on campus to appease the wishes of misogynist preachers who seemingly are unable to control the sexual desires of either themselves or their fragile followers rightly led to a furore across the nation causing the Government to intervene.

You'd think that this decision would be welcomed by all progressive thinkers on the left right?


There's a website run by former Workers Revolutionary Party apparatchik, Bob Pitt, disingenuously called Islamophobia Watch.  The WRP, of which Pitt is a former member was hardly a good training ground to learn about such matters as women's rights, democracy or the dangers of pandering to the murky world of Middle Eastern politics.  Two words: Gerry Healy.

Still people change don't they? Well not always for the best. Islamophobia Watch is not a pleasant place to visit. It's a mix of real news about problems faced by Muslims with a hefty dose of bile aimed at anyone who dares to raise any criticism of any part of Islam whatsoever. That includes atheists and secularists who actually argue against all religion not that that's ever bothered Pitt himself.

Every critic, every criticism of Islam or any Muslim is "Islamophobic". and if you are noticed by this one-man  crusade you'll likely end up being painted as the "Great Satan" himself in the hallowed pages of Pitts view of the world.

Take the example of gender separation. Pitt writes:

When Universities UK published its guidelines on External Speakers in Higher Education Institutions last month it can hardly have anticipated the outcry that would result.

Pitt then goes on to tell us about a "clash" at a meeting held in  University College London. Quoting Channel 4 News he write:

“This was the moment one academic snapped. Professor Lawrence Krauss had come to debate ‘Islam versus atheism’, but not before a segregated audience. The clash dramatised a problem that has been quietly building on campuses – Islamist students insisting on meetings that separate men and women.”...

The reality is that gender separation was not imposed at the meeting.

Pitt then contradicts himself completely:

The audience was divided into three sections – one for women who wanted to sit separately, another for men, and a third mixed-gender section at the front .People attending the debate were free to sit where they chose.

Not sure how that doesn't count as "gender separation". And people were not "free to sit where they want" as two men were ejected for trying to do that. 

A spokesperson for iERA later explained that the two men were being ejected because they had forcibly tried to sit in the women’s section of the audience.

The men were both atheists, by the way, but what part of "women's section" was not gender separation?

It is quite obvious that the organisers were trying to separate people by gender and that's what we all object to. One of these women claimed it was her right to sit separately. Actually Its not. You are in a public space and sexual apartheid is not acceptable under any circumstances. Its' called equality and the Islamists are just trying to undermine that.

Women have fought in this country and elsewhere for equal rights, but it is clear that there is a concerted attempt in our centres of learning to reverse history. Remember these people think women are less than men and must be opposed at every turn.

Join the battle against misogyny here: Maryam Namazie is organising!

Pragna Patel, director of Southall Black Sisters, says

"For me, today is a particularly emotional moment. I stand here reminded of the heroic struggle waged against racial apartheid in South Africa, and yet find myself protesting against another form of apartheid that is also being justified with reference to that ubiquitous but flawed logic ‘separate but equal’. Who would have thought that in the 21st century, we would be protesting against policies adopted by institutions that should be in the business of producing and nurturing truth and knowledge, but which are instead endorsing the subjugation of one half of the human race? Who would have thought that in the 21st century, gender apartheid would become the new battleground?"

Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas: Don’t boycott Israel

Cross-post from Trade Unions Linking Israel & Palestine

Mahmoud Abbas, Palestinian President.

Mahmoud Abbas is the closest thing the Palestinian people have to an elected leader these days. He’s Yasser Arafat’s successor and runs the Palestinian Authority from Ramallah, in the West Bank.

Visiting South Africa last week for the Mandela memorial, at a press conference he was asked about boycotting Israel. Here is what he said:

“No we do not support the boycott of Israel … But we ask everyone to boycott the products of the settlements. Because the settlements are in our territories. It is illegal. … But we don’t ask anyone to boycott Israel itself. We have relations with Israel, we have mutual recognition of Israel.”

Supporters of the campaign to boycott the Jewish state swiftly came down hard on the Palestinian President, and of course it’s their right to disagree with him, but what Abbas said cannot now be un-said. He was absolutely clear.

So when your union discusses a boycott of Israel — including an academic boycott — it may be worth pointing out to “pro-Palestinian” campaigners that your view (opposition to a boycott) is the viewpoint of the Palestinian leadership, while theirs is the viewpoint of the terrorist organization Hamas and its allies.

Tuesday, 17 December 2013

SWP: Kimber reacts to the post-conference period (updated)

Dave Renton gives an account of SWP Conference:

There were approximately 540 delegates at conference; fewer than one in 7 were aged under 40. Of the young people in the room , a large majority were in the faction. The mood was serious, even grim. The conference was conducted throughout with the same degree of procedural propriety as you would expect of the conference of a trade union of about 30-40,000 people. Motions were taken; votes were even on occasion counted. “Delegates” were reminded of the importance of reporting back conference decisions, presumably to the 10 SWP members for whom each delegate is supposed to stand. But here were 500 people, elected from 40 aggregates in many of which there were had been fewer people in the room voting for candidates than there had been places to fill.

A number of the delegates would happily admit to never attending SWP meetings and never selling the paper; they were there solely because they had been asked to stand in order to prevent oppositional members attending. How many members does the SWP really have beyond those who were in the room? If your definition extends to a requirement that a person attend their branch meeting at least once a year, perhaps, at the very most, a further 4-500 people nationally. This is not a mass party; you cannot sustain anything healthy on the basis of the levels of fantasy that could be seen in the room.

On Saturday morning, Alex Callinicos made a supposed “apology”. The statement he read out was based on a CC motion which had been circulated in advance, and offered no specific regret for any specific action by any named individual but blamed merely “structural flaws in our disputes procedures”. Structures of course have to be carried out by people but there was no acknowledgement that any individual had done anything wrong. The motion, for which the CC apology stood as an abbreviation, blamed the faction for politicising the dispute, when it was Callinicos himself whose article in January’s Socialist Review had begun that process by mixing together the defence of the leadership’s handling of the dispute and the defence of “Leninism”. The motion explained the women’s distress in terms of the publicising of their case on the internet. It spoke for women who the CC does not know, has not asked, and about whom some CC members have been lying for a year.

A leadership supporter R- inadvertently captured the half-hearted nature of the CC’s manoeuvre when she explained to delegates in a later session; “I am prepared to say sorry. I am not going to apologise.”

Many important things were said during the course of conference. Two women who used to be on the SWP Disputes Committee explained how the majority of that committee had tried to prevent the second complaint from ever being heard, and the battle they had had to fight to have it heard, resulting eventually in the appointment of a new panel. The room quietened when they spoke; but afterwards, no-one voted differently.

The panel which heard the second complaint explained why they had found that there was a case to answer, and spelled out that they had heard from her and read her evidence, and spent 2 full days considering her case, as well as a further period debating their reasons. Any fair listener would have grasped that the panellists believed that Smith probably had harassed the second complainant. The comrades listened, and some were troubled. But they continued to vote for the leadership.

A member of the same panel explained that the second complainant also made a complaint that her email had been hacked. It was quite possibly hacked, the panel had accepted, by a member of the SWP. But if so, and this was the sole matter that interested them, the hacker had not been instructed beforehand by the Central Committee to hack her email account, and that meant there was nothing for them to investigate.

In this last episode, you can find expressed the degeneration of an entire party. What we were being told was that the DC accepted that a member of the SWP may well have chosen to hack the email account of a woman who had made a serious, sexual complaint against a leading member of the SWP. In fact while the hacker was there, as a comrade from Manchester had explained, he had not just forwarded emails belonging to the complainant, he had also deleted what he presumably thought were the only copies of emails passing between Smith and the complainant, and which subsequently helped to prove her complaint before the second disputes committee. He was doing what now passes for loyalty in the SWP – behaving in secret, destroying potential evidence, doing everything in his power to protect a man accused of rape.

If the individual who did this was not acting on orders, he was nevertheless doing something which he thought the leadership, or at least a section of it, would welcome. And there is no suggestion that he has ever been sanctioned for what he did. This mindset, of trying to think into the mind of a leadership, and of doing more and more grotesque things in the hope of winning their patronage, is associated with dark moments in history. Yet neither the disputes panel, nor it seems conference, found anything remarkable in it.

There were other bad times at conference; as when M- the outgoing chair of the Disputes Committee – sought to smear the second complainant by insinuating that she had spoken to the Daily Mail and encouraged them to doorstep Smith.

R-, who was of course a member of the SWP Disputes Committee which heard the first case, called the second complainant “obscene” for having supported a faction which had named Smith as being accused of “sexual predation” and insinuated that the second complaint had been made only for factional purposes. It was as if she could blank out of her mind the evidence of her comrades on the second panel who had accepted that Smith probably had sexually harassed a woman. She ended her speech with the words, “Honour and Respect democratic centralism! Honour and Respect confidentiality!”

I will never again use the word “socialist” to describe the middle aged trade unionist from my former branch who went round the edges of conference, confronting the youngest delegate at conference, a woman in her gap year before university who had never met him before, with the hostile greeting, “Martin is innocent”.

Conference voted by a majority of 8 to 1 in favour of a CC slate containing Callinicos and Kimber, with only 69 delegates voting for an alternative leadership (11 others abstained). I vainly shouted “count” when the vote on the apology was taken, not because it was close, but because I thought it the numbers should be a matter of record. The chair moved on, having declared the motion heavily defeated.

I believe that about 15 or so more comrades voted for it than for the alternative CC slate; or to put it another way, only 1 in 30 of the non-faction comrades broke from the leadership, even on the modt significant – and straightforward – question of whether there should be a genuine apology.

Against the many shameful things I saw, I must also insist that there were many people at conference sitting there with their heads in their hands, some in tears. You could see this most clearly among a section of the middle ground, who seemed visibly in pain at what they were watching.

As well as them, there were people who spoke out against the party’s degeneration. I think of the longstanding member who spoke twice in the debate about the Central Committee, and stated in the most direct of terms that a Central Committee which is united only to cover up a crime of this sort has no legitimacy, and that a leadership which has driven hundreds of socialists out no longer deserves to lead. It is a difficult and lonely thing to tell hundreds of people that they are wrong. You need to be brave to stand up before a room of several hundred people who are hostile to you, knowing that they will be given many more opportunities to attack you than you will be allowed friends to speak in your defence. I am proud to call that man a comrade.

Why did we lose? I looked at conference and I saw a group of ageing and tired people, who have watched their party at war with itself over the past year. Among the SWP majority, a belief is prevalent that nobody can ever really “know” what happens in the privacy of a relationship between a man and a woman. It follows that in the context of multiple allegations of sexual abuse, the party is the only thing that counts. The working class, which is under attack in an epoch of austerity, is best protected by a revolutionary party which is as strong as possible. The party is everything. Without the party, we as individuals, and the working class, are alike nothing. The protection of the party is based on a committed denial of the reality of what happened, and the self-deception that this small party whose active members count only in the hundreds, is in fact many times larger than we know it to be, and represents the whole of the class, the entirety of the movement. To keep the party you have to protect the leadership; no matter how many mistakes they have made. These members of the SWP made it a point of pride that they hadn’t read unwelcome articles in the Internal Bulletins, had not gone online or spoken to people who might disagree with them, had not tried to think for themselves about what had happened or who they believed. The leadership had spoken and that was enough for them.

Such an argument may satisfy my former comrades. But, unlike them, I have heard one of the complainants directly. Indeed, I have listened to her with more care, and over a longer period of time that anyone in the SWP ever will. And she is telling the truth.

Full post at: http://livesrunning.wordpress.com/2013/12/17/to-my-comrades-of-any-party-or-none/

Meanwhile the official line is that all is well with the SWP: http://www.socialistworker.co.uk/art/37111/SWP+conference+discusses+the+way+forward+for+the+left. What planet do these people live on?

Breaking news: Savage crackdown on railway workers strike - call for urgent support

Dramatic developments in the Korean railway workers strike
By Eric Lee

Two weeks ago I asked for your support as Korean railway workers were about to launch a strike. They were concerned back then that their government might attempt to break the strike. They wanted the solidarity of workers around the world. They wanted a clear message sent to their government and nearly 9,000 of you sent off messages of protest.

Today, their worst fears are coming true.

Just a few days into their strike, the Korean government has launched a savage crackdown.

A few hours ago, the offices of the railway workers union were raided by dozens of police. Computers and other equipment were seized.

Arrest warrants have been issued for the top union leaders -- who are currently hiding in a safe place.
Korean media are reporting that the military is prepared to send hundreds of soldiers to work as strike-breakers.

Tomorrow morning, the subway workers in Seoul are set to launch a solidarity strike, shutting down the capital.

It is our job now to mobilize the widest possible support for the Korean railway workers.

Those workers are on the front lines today of the fight against neo-liberal policies such as privatisation -- and they are defending the basic human right to have independent trade unions with the right to strike.

If you've not yet done so, please send off your message of protest today:http://bit.ly/1c8Uao8

If you've already supported the campaign -- thanks. But let's do more:
  • Post this link to your Facebook page: http://bit.ly/1c8Uao8 Tell your friends there that you support this campaign and urge them all to do so.
  • If your union has a mailing list of its members, make sure they are all informed about this important struggle. There are many millions of organized workers out there who aren't aware of this fight. Please email your fellow union members.
Finally, LabourStart is being continuously updated with news about this strike and others. Make sure it's the place you start your day on the net: http://www.labourstart.org

For Eric's article about North Korea please go to: http://www.ericlee.info/blog/?p=876

Monday, 16 December 2013

Rage against the (SWP) machine

In resigning from the Socialist Workers Party, former Central Committee member Viv Smith (who was one of the first to take up "W"s case) summarises the conflict inside their organisation:

For three years a handful of us, growing to an impressive 400-500, have tried to resolve the appalling handling of the two disputes cases. In this time it became clear that the CC chose to cover up rather than address their and the DCs mistakes or confront Martin’s behaviour.

Despite countless opportunities to resolve the situation, the CC chose to allow sexist, uncomradely and undemocratic behaviour from CC members and Smith supporters, including condoning lies that the women were spurned lovers and/or politically motivated.

This process has lead to the degeneration of our politics on women’s oppression and has destroyed the small steps we took under the Democracy Commission to open up party democracy.

It's no surprise then that the SWP are beginning to find growing hostility wherever they intervene. 

At Sussex University a group of anarchists decided to take action and not only threw water over the SWP's political literature stall and then tore up their placards. The crowd fury write

One of the first things we noticed was the SWP had a stall selling their rag and there were dozens of placards nearby, ready to hand out to unsuspecting students when the march started. I considered leaving the demo again but then I thought it shouldn’t be me who’s excluded from these events, it should be the rape-enabling SWP.

I spotted a comrade who – thanks to Twitter – I knew was critical of the SWP. I approached him and told him I was uncomfortable about the SWP presence and asked if he’d like to help me get rid of them. He didn’t need much persuading! We walked around and talked to a few other comrades about our plan. As soon as there were a few of us, we marched over to the SWP stall. I poured water over their filthy papers to make them unsellable, then my comrade tipped over their table. We then grabbed the placards and destroyed them.

Several trots came over to have a go but in all honesty, I wasn’t listening. I caught a few choice words; ‘unity… sectarianism… Nazis… Tory-led agenda’. Blah, blah, blah. None of us were bothered by what the trots had to say, we were buzzing! After the boring speeches given mostly by more swappies (seriously, they’ve infested all Sussex demos), we went on a march around campus that was more vibrant and energetic than the ones I’d been on recently.

Feminist groups aren't putting up with the SWP either.

Sign seen at a Cops Off Campus demo in London. Reads "To the SWP: We're getting real tired of your sh*t. From #creepingfeminism2013". Taken from here.

The name of love blog takes up the cudgels:

The Socialist Workers’ Party (SWP) have in recent months been revealed to be a pit of misogyny, rape cover-ups and apologism.....

What we should do

We need to keep the pressure up. The more voices are raised against the SWP’s visible presence on campus and at protests, the quicker we can shut them down.

If you feel you can, verbally confront those giving out SWP merchandise, and those accepting it. This shouldn’t be our job, and goodness knows I rarely have the mental energy or courage to do it alone, but if you can, do.

If you see someone confronting SWP members, back them up. Even if it’s only shouting encouragement, or talking to them afterwards and letting them know you’re on their side.

  1. Don't organise with the SWP and if you see them on the streets, make it clear that they are not welcome and they are not our comrades.
  2. The SWP cannot and must not be welcome in any of our spaces.

Truth is the SWP have always been a pain. The blog Revolting Pleb reminds us:

The SWP have been opportunist leeches for as long as I’ve been an activist and that can be measured in decades! They flip around from one struggle to the next, cynically using each one as a recruitment opportunity while managing on too many occasions to suck the life blood out of them. For an impassioned account of the crass opportunism of the SWP....

We are then directed to read about the SWP's antics in Tower Hamlets with some dodgy characters over at durruti02.

The only question that really remains to be asked is why has it taken so long for members of the SWP to recognise what a rotten and authoritarian organisation it is.

Women's rights are not optional they are central to creating a fairer society. The SWP along with the Islamists need to be opposed wherever they raise their ugly heads.

Hat-tip: Michael Ezra

Sunday, 15 December 2013

SWP: Resignation cycle begins anew! UPDATED!

For the past couple of days the Socialist Workers Party has been meeting again to try and resolve the internal crisis caused by the mishandling of not just the "delta" affair but other cases that suddenly arose as the arguments escalated. The organisation showed itself to be totally inept at dealing with the issues and hundreds of members have left over the past year.

The publication of hundreds of pages of their three Internal Bulletins showed that even amongst those who realised something was fundamentally flawed about the way they conducted themselves there was no way the organisation could recover. Yet another Leninist organisation was collapsing under the weight of sexual scandal last seen when the Workers Revolutionary Party collapsed in the mid-eighties after the Healy revelations.

Just before conference Dave Renton published a guest post on his website which argued:

There is no way out of the crisis in the SWP that does not openly state a clear apology to the women who have suffered abuse and then been attacked for complaining. That needs to be a proper apology in which the leadership explain clearly what the women suffered.

A public apology won’t make it okay. But it will mark recognition that what has happened was wrong and a determination to put it right. There is no way out that does not admit that the party has been tainted by the contradictory attitudes of the 1970s and 80s in regard to sexual harassment and rape and needs to take urgent action to change the culture in which young women complaining of rape and sexual harassment can be accused of “reimagining the experience by viewing it through a feminist prisim”; or of being police spies; or jealous and bitter.

Unsurprisingly the SWP has rejected such an apology at it's deliberations this weekend. Indeed the tone of the majority of the assembled was summed up in this sentence:

we aren't rape apologists unless we believe that women always tell the truth - and guess what, some women and children lie'

Appalling stuff indeed.

Ian Birchall has tweeted the following:

Well, that one's pretty much decided now.

And "Comrade X one of the complainants has just issued this statement anonymously via Twitlonger :

There are many reasons I am resigning after the events of the last twelve months, you can read some of them in my Internal Bulletin piece. I will give only one reason here: a member of the DC claimed at the SWP national conference this weekend that my email account might have been hacked but they were confident that the Central Committee was not responsible. How is it possible that this hasn’t generated outrage? When told that the woman who brought a complaint of sexual harassment has had her email account hacked and one of the emails used as evidence in her case deleted, most SWP members seem content that it is OK because the CC did not personally do it. 

This typifies the problems of the past 12 months. There has been no political will to resolve any of the issues in a principled way. There is no political will to demand that the person who gave the CC hacked emails should have to conclusively prove how they got the emails or be expelled. Instead at every stage smoke and mirrors have been deployed to manoeuvre to win votes and political positions. In the process I have been sacked, bullied, smeared and marginalised but this has been tolerated to prevent Martin’s supporters from leaving and to avoid the CC accounting for their mistakes.

What of the apology? I do not accept as adequate or sincere an apology fought for and said through gritted teeth. I first found out that the CC regretted my hurt and distress when I read about it in their motion. No-one has met with me to communicate it personally. In tragic fashion I have had to speak to a motion to fight for an apology for myself. For months I was told no apology is necessary. Is it any wonder that I am unconvinced by the apology at conference?

A sincere apology would have political consequences. It would require those who have bullied and smeared to face some sanction. Instead the party leadership continue to argue that there is parity between the slandering and smearing of women who have brought allegations of rape and sexual harassment and people, angry at the handling of a rape allegation, calling Alex Callinicos a “wanker”. A comrade who called someone an “idiot” faced disciplinary sanction, while those who claimed I was a police spy have faced none. That this is now the official party position is reason enough to leave.

The potential for a meaningful renewal of the SWP has dwindled. The last 12 months have polarised and entrenched positions. Debate is now refracted through the prism of a bitter faction fight. Too many people have left and continue to leave. For any organisation to remain dynamic and relevant there needs to be a high level of debate and discussion in order to develop the theory and practice necessary to relate to the real world. This crisis has not caused all the problems in the SWP but it has smothered the possibility that the SWP can develop into a serious revolutionary party.

I am not an MI5 agent, so I am leaving to rebuild the revolutionary left in Britain. This will be a process of years not months but for now I leave proud of my time in the SWP, deeply saddened that this is the endpoint and a little excited at the fresh air I can now breathe.

The Party is over, now we wait for the next split and more resignations over the next few days.


Twtter list of resignations here: https://twitter.com/Izaakson

Ian Birchall! http://grimanddim.org/political-writings/2013-letter-of-resignation/

Viv Smith (ex CC) leaves as does:

Pete Gillard (member since 1969) who says:

I believe the SWP is no longer fit for purpose as a revolutionary organisation. I haven’t lost faith in the working class. I don’t believe that ‘the movements’ can bring socialism. I reject all the slurs the CC has promoted in attempting to discredit the SWP Opposition. In leaving the SWP, I will play my part in the process of building a new revolutionary socialist organisation, one which builds on the best of the International Socialist tradition. I fully expect to be working and to welcome working with SWP members in my union and in campaigning activities. The revolutionary left in Britain, as a whole, is weaker than it has been for decades. We need to work together.
This indicates new group....

Gill George: Unite NEC quits SWP and is joined by Rob Owen (PCS DWP GEC). Dave Renton finally throws the towel in as well.

The backlash against the SWP has begun. I'll cover this in a later post, here's one that already appeared on line before the latest updates:

SWP not welcomehttp://crowdfury.blogspot.co.uk/2013/12/why-we-trashed-swp-stall-and-why-well.html