Monday, 29 August 2016

TTIP Off?

The end of TTIP would be a very significant vindication of Jeremy Corbyn and John McDonnell. They have been going on about it for years.

This issue was also central, both to the Labour Leave and Left Leave campaigns that were decisive of the referendum, and to the insistence of the Conservative Party that, even after the referendum, it could only ever be led by a Remainer.

Actually withdrawing from the EU, which will never be remotely likely under the Conservatives, would also be much harder to sell to Labour if TTIP were off the table.

But so long as there had been a refocusing of the political debate in general to the areas that had voted Leave while voting Labour, then our point would still have been made.

That was what really decided the referendum. Why do you think that no one much cares that we show absolutely no sign of ever leaving the EU? Least of all now that TTIP seems to be no more.

A happy fact that is itself not unconnected to the decision of the British referendum by the Labour-voting areas.

Saturday, 27 August 2016

Mandatory Reselection, Indeed

The largest mandate that the Parliamentary Labour Party can possibly claim is the total number of people who voted Labour in the seats that Labour won, not the nine million who voted Labour in the country as whole.

But in claiming those nine million, the PLP is conceding the point that the votes were cast for the party, and that not a single one of them would have been elected without the words "The Labour Party Candidate" next to their names on the ballot paper.

Nor would they be elected in 2020.

These are the products of an extremely narrow pool. An entire generation of Labour MPs was lost under Tony Blair.

The only people allowed to stand for Parliament were those who assumed, as if it were self-evident, that politics, as such, had come to an end, leaving only a sort of management.

Although vaguely political noises still had to be made in order to keep the troops in line.

Mostly tribal, childish drivel about how much worse "the Tories" would have been, a proposition for which no evidence was ever produced.

That drivel was often delivered in highly exaggerated, or in downright affected, accents by people who were in reality upper-middle-class.

The present PLP is the result. It would never have existed if the pool of potential candidates had been wider. As, of course, it could have been.

So the cream of the crop is Owen Smith. Everything that Jeremy Corbyn says is echoed ever so faintly, but in an increasingly heavy Welsh accent.

No one is fooled. Nor should they be.

In any case, even were Smith to win, then there would be another Leadership Election next year.

Never mind the Reading and Leeds Festivals. Never mind the Notting Hill Carnival. The highlight of the Great British Summer would be the Annual Labour Leadership Election.

All with a view to installing David Miliband.

Yes, the Miliband who could not even beat the other Miliband. Yes, a man who has been on a different continent throughout the most tumultuous period in British politics in at least 30 years.

Corbyn's victory, however, combined with his supporters' storming of the National Executive Committee, will make it impossible for Miliband to secure a Labour nomination at a by-election.

A by-election that, no matter where it was, he would in any case certainly lose.

As yet, despite Labour's triumph at every by-election under Corbyn, no candidate has been elected whom it would be impossible to depict as anything other than a full-blown Corbyn supporter.

That needs to change and Batley and Spen.

By then, it will be able to do so.

Far From The Finished Article

Article 50, which ought to have been invoked on the day of the referendum result, would in any case be meaningless without repeal of the European Communities Act.

There will be no repeal of the European Communities Act until there are 326 MPs from UKIP, which has pretty much collapsed, or from something like TUSC, but with a vastly broader base.

Something, however, is emerging that could be described as like TUSC, but with a vastly broader base.

Indeed, TUSC openly aspires to dissolve itself into that emerging entity.

The defeat of Owen "Second Referendum" Smith will be the defeat of the concept of EU membership as some kind of of article of faith.

After that, a flash of the EU's true character, most obviously TTIP, ought be enough for Jeremy Corbyn's intensely Eurosceptical entourage to swing the Labour Party, as it now is and as it will be by then.

I cannot think of a single person in Corbyn's or in John McDonnell's office or closest circle whom anyone would honestly believe voted Remain.

And let's just say "the Morning Star". Or "Counterfire". Or ... well, it is a pretty long list.

It is common knowledge that the European Commission has always regarded British withdrawal from the EU as more likely under a Labour than under a Conservative Government.

Even before the rise of Corbyn, and of everyone who comes with Corbyn.

All Things Being Equal

However ludicrous Theresa May's equality audit may be, it could not have been suggested before Jeremy Corbyn became Leader of the Labour Party. Nor would it be conducted if he were to be removed from that office.

Yet, while it is difficult to imagine that any functioning member of adult society would be so deluded as to believe in that possibility, every conceivable device is being employed to reduce what would rightfully have been Corbyn's runaway margin of victory.

On 8th July, there were 515,000 members of the Labour Party. 165,000 of them will not receive a vote in the Leadership Election.

On 20th July, there were 183,541 people signed up as Registered Supporters. 54,541 of them will not receive a vote in the Leadership Election.

Taken together, and even allowing for some overlap, that is around one third of the people who ought to have had a vote.

That combined figure needs to be added to Corbyn's total, in order to give the real result.

Friday, 26 August 2016

All The Fun of The Fair Votes

There is a positively carnival-like feel to the Corbyn Movement now.

It is like the livelier sort of arts festival, or undergraduate life in the summer after the exams have finished.

I have never before experienced such sheer joy in, of all things, the political field.

But then, I was not born until 1977.

Oh, to be 20 years younger.

With Persistence and Dedication

For the first time in 14 years we have the leader of the Labour Party today unequivocally committing the party to reversing the legislation which has created in England a broken down, market-based healthcare system: one which is unrecognisable from that which was introduced in 1948 and which still exists in the rest of the UK.

Surely now the whole Labour movement can combine together, left, right and centre to make this official party policy at this year’s autumn conference.

Background:

Jeremy Corbyn’s statement means that the Health and Social Care (Community Health and Standards) Act 2003 and the Health and Social Care Act 2012 under these proposals are, in effect, rejected and will be replaced. 

This surely must end all Labour’s troubled equivocation over a marketised NHS and provide a political route on which party members and supporters can campaign together. Already in Scotland this is in effect government policy.

The Campaign for the NHS Reinstatement Bill has been campaigning on a cross party basis for this outcome through successive Private Member’s Bills in both the Lords and the Commons ever since I presented the first National Health Service (Amended Duties and Powers) Bill [HL] in January 2013.

It is a triumph for learning together, with cross party grassroots organisations working closely with health and legal professionals with persistence and dedication.

“Nothing without local consultation,” we are told today. Yes, they really do think that we are that stupid. We need to show them that we are not.

Citizen Smith?

I would bet you anything you liked that Owen Smith was a republican, which is at once a very New Labour and a very Welsh Labour thing to be.

Moreover, he would place far more emphasis on it than would, and does, a Leader who is busy with more pressing concerns.

Of course, the desire to abolish the monarchy is found across the political spectrum.

There are, to my certain knowledge, privately outspoken republicans among those MPs who supported Andrea Leadsom for Leader of their party.

Hitching The Parties

Peter Hitchens has always wanted a Labour Party that would renationalise the railways, and a Conservative Party that would bring back grammar schools.

He now has one of them. But he is not going to get the other one. 

"Only in poor areas, and with a quota of pupils on free school meals" is not grammar schools. That latter may even be imposed on the grammar schools that already existed.

Labour, however, really would renationalise the railways. That could be done easily and for free, and it is no longer controversial within the Labour Party.

Thursday, 25 August 2016

And Something Worse Is Set To Take Its Place

Giles Fraser writes: 

These are good: Vladimir Putin. White identity politics. Star Wars. Austrian free market economics. Donald Trump. LOLs. Bitcoin. Darwinism. Silicon Valley. Science and technology. Transhumanism. Pepe the Frog. 

These are bad: Islam. Feminism. Democracy. Black Lives Matter. The new Ghostbusters movie. Egalitarianism. Political correctness. God. Immigration. Hillary Clinton. Newspapers. Government. Academia. Liberalism. 

Welcome to the complicated world of the so-called alternative (or alt) right. Think Mein Kampf meets The Big Bang Theory

For years these socially dysfunctional millennials have sheltered behind their bedroom laptops, watching porn, sending abusive tweets (anonymously) and eating pizza in their underpants.

Mainstream politics – both left and right – has previously ignored this developing phenomenon.

But with Donald Trump they have found a champion who understands their anger. And they have become his digital vanguard. 

Tonight in Nevada, Hilary Clinton will give a major speech linking Trump to the alt right. And with this speech the alt right will further enter the political mainstream. 

One account of their rise to political significance cites the 2014 Gamergate controversy

This vicious internet culture war took place between those who were pressing for a more inclusive video gaming culture (more women, less violence) and those who reacted against what they saw as a humourless leftwing threat to their enjoyment of guns and boobs

These burgeoning alt right gamers have little in common with traditional Republican conservatives and their evangelical Christian values. 

They don’t go to church. Indeed, many are aggressively atheistic. 

Rather, they come together on blogs and online community forums like 4chan where they fulminate against social justice warriors – SJWs – who want to spoil their fun. 

They hate the liberal apparatus of the state, including the mainstream press and Ivy League academia that they collectively dub as The Cathedral. 

And they hate normies – normal people – and their repressive political philosophy, democracy. 

Instead of democracy, they propose that the US should be run like a large company with a CEO at its head, preferably one from Silicon Valley. 

Someone like PayPal founder Peter Thiel, whose views include: “I no longer believe that freedom and democracy are compatible.” 

But Trump will do for now. 

Oh, and only intelligent people should be in charge, and that means white people.

“Ever since Mill wrote his response to Carlyle on The Negro Question, writers of the English Protestant tradition have been defending the blatantly theological position that ‘all men are created equal’,” wrote the computer programmer and alt-right hero Curtis Yarvin under his pen name Mencius Moldbug. 

He continued: “Note that exactly the same rhetorical strategy can prove the existence of God or the Flying Spaghetti Monster for that matter.” 

Traditional Republicans are now regularly dismissed by the revolting term cuckservatives – an insult first used by white supremacists of Christian conservatives who, they said, have allowed themselves to be cuckolded by racial minorities. 

They darkly summon the idea of interracial sex – a theme that was also an obsessive preoccupation of the KKK. 

And its meaning broadens out to refer to those who witness their country being taken away and don’t have the balls to do anything to stop it. 

That’s why they want a US version of Putin. Because they don’t think he would allow that to happen.

Of course, racism has a long and inglorious history in US politics

But it now has a very new iteration in the nerdy tech-savvy generation of the alt right. Racism 2.0. 

They don’t speak of eugenics but rather of maintaining “human biodiversity”. And they have a thing about IQ tests showing that white people are cleverer than others.

I know, we’ve heard all this crap many times before. But there is something new here. 

For in cross-pollinating with the anonymity and viciousness of the internet, with porn and video games replacing Christianity as the common language in which conservatives talk to each other, with openly anti-democratic impulses being justified as rationality, the virus of racism is capable of spreading as never before. 

The age of the Christian right is over.

And something worse is set to take its place.

The Destruction of Memory

Simon Jenkins writes: 

If you demolish a historic building in Timbuktu you commit a war crime. If you demolish one in Britain you apply for retrospective planning permission. What is the difference? 

The decision of the international court in The Hague this week to prosecute a former al-Qaida insurgent, Ahmad al-Mahdi, for destroying nine ancient tombs in Mali is deeply significant. 

For the first time, the concept of war criminality has been extended from killing people to trying to wipe out their cultural heritage. 

In 2012 al-Mahdi led a band of jihadis in the systematic destruction of relics of Mali’s ancient culture of pluralism, claiming it as an offence to Islamic fundamentalism. Timbuktu’s three mosques and its mausoleums were the great treasures of Saharan Africa, a culture that flourished at the time of Renaissance Florence. 

Despite the efforts of their custodians, manuscripts and books dating back to the 13th century were lost. Unesco’s director general, Irina Bokova, called the attack part of “a genocidal project, an attempted annihilation of otherness”. 

The mayor of Timbuktu said the shrines “belong to the whole world”. 

In theory, the definition of a war crime has long gone beyond killing. It embraces torture, rape, the use of certain weapons and the destruction of property. 

Conventions in 1954 and 1977 specifically extended the protection of international law to “cultural property”, including sites, monuments, museums and art works. 

A 1999 protocol set out criminal sanctions covering such matters. Prosecutions were never brought. 

This was partly for fear of appearing to elevate objects above people, but also because few hands are clean in this matter. 

No action was taken over the 1993 demolition by Serbs of Bosnian mosques and other historic structures. No action was taken in 1999 over Nato’s senseless bombing of historic structures in Novi Sad in north Serbia. 

Britain itself has never even ratified the 1954 convention, despite promises as recently as in last May’s Queen’s speech. 

It is believed the RAF lobbied against doing so. In other words, the Hague case could open a can of worms – and with luck will do so.

One of the most depressing books I have read is Robert Bevan’s The Destruction of Memory

From Cortés in Mexico to Britain’s bombing of historic Lübeck and the retaliatory Baedeker raids in the second world war, Bevan records systematic attacks on heritage targets as integral to military conquest. 

In case after case - mostly recently the Taliban in Bamiyan and Isis in Palmyra - wiping out the culture of a hated people was a means of subjugating them. 

Even in peace, communist regimes knew that destroying old buildings played a part in countering the conservative enemy within. 

The jihadis’ destruction of Islam’s past may have seemed appallingly systematic. 

But its effect on the ground was no more appalling than the reckless western, and now Russian, aerial bombardment of urban targets in Iraq and Syria. 

Some 50,000 bombs and missiles have fallen on these countries since 2003. The tally of civilians killed by such bombs is almost certainly greater than those killed by Islamic State

The cultural devastation cannot be computed. 

America standing by during the firing and looting of Baghdad’s library and museum during the 2003 invasion was in flagrant defiance of the Hague convention. 

It makes al-Mahdi’s crime seem almost petty. 

Timbuktu’s assiduousness in pursuing its case reflects the complex relationship of all countries to their past. 

Old places are not simply relics for scholars. Millions visit historical sites because they see them as exemplars of continuity and stability amid change. 

As Bevan points out, that conquerors so crave their destruction is a measure of their significance. 

I like old places not because I always find them beautiful – many are not beautiful while some new buildings are. 

Rather I prefer the display of the old as illuminating the new. It pleases the eye and stimulates memory. 

It is older quarters of towns that nowadays attract crowds. This applies even where they have been drastically rebuilt. 

If the 19th century had not restored so many Gothic cathedrals and old towns, 21st-century Europe would be immeasurably the poorer. 

Historic buildings possess the same cultural vitality as do great sculptures and paintings. We have international laws governing the restitution of art to its owners. 

The Hague prosecution suggests that we might treat destroyed old buildings the same, protecting them in time of war and restoring them to their cities if damaged afterwards. 

Warsaw rebuilt its old square, Dresden its Frauenkirche and the National Trust its fire-damaged Uppark.

It is to Unesco’s credit that it has already used local craftsmen to rebuild the shrines smashed by al-Mahdi, even if it cannot recover their books and contents.

By prosecuting those who did the smashing, the court greatly strengthens the case for such rebuilding. Yet a new fundamentalism is emerging, that of “historical authenticity”. 

Unesco still cannot make up its mind to restore the Bamiyan buddhas, even though parts of them were already copies. 

Argument is raging over whether the bombed temples of Palmyra should be rebuilt – as conservationists stand ready to do – or left as piles of rubble as obscene monuments to Isis. 

The future of old Aleppo faces those caring for Syria’s past with a clear choice: to restore as in Warsaw, or to “modernise”. 

Our debt to the past is growing more complicated than either wiping it out or putting up fences and charging for entry. The challenge is constant.

In Britain this week, Liverpool is demolishing its earliest cinema, the Futurist, and Grimsby seeks to wipe out the legacy of its maritime dockside. 

The cause may be development value rather than war. The loss to communal memory is the same. 

If a vase is broken or a picture slashed we do not leave them unrepaired. Why treat a building or a neighbourhood or a whole culture more harshly, when we now have the means and the skills to repair them? 

To retreat into some ideological “truth to materials” or “conserve as found” is elitist, obscurantist and, in the case of jihadi outrages, a glorification of terrorism. 

The Hague trial honours the obligation of today’s generation to guard the evidence of the past, at least in times of conflict. 

In admitting his guilt, al-Mahdi’s lawyer says “he regrets all the acts he committed… and feels pain and a broken heart at what he has done”. 

Would that all who perpetrate similar destruction, in war or peace, might say the same.

Imprisoning al-Mahdi cannot do much good. Making amends by correcting his destruction is far better. 


If Timbuktu is any guide, the miseries lately inflicted on Iraq and Syria could yet be turned to recompense and renaissance.

When peace returns, we cannot breathe life into dead bodies, but we can redress the murder of memories.

Labour Pains

Unendorsed even by Carwyn Jones, Owen Smith can only lose with something resembling dignity by having his supporters on the Labour Party's staff suspend the membership of, among other people, the General Secretary of an affiliated trade union.

Clearing out the staff ought to have been the first thing that Jeremy Corbyn did. I would have gone round to one of their houses, to point and laugh as the bailiffs took away his furniture. This year, I intend to do precisely that.

Meanwhile, a man who has just given two million pounds to the Lib Dems remains in receipt of the Labour Whip in Parliament itself.

And Durham County Council has let it be known that, in express defiance of Corbyn, it will not be giving justice to its Teaching Assistants. At best, they can expect a "compensation" payment that would not pay for a family holiday these days.

The 57 Labour councillors who passed this are objectively "worse than the Tories", who abstained, and far worse than the Independents and the Lib Dems, who voted against it. Their membership of the Labour Party is very literally bringing it into disrepute.

I do not want to join a party of which they are members. I believe that they ought all to lose their seats next year. I will be contesting the Lanchester Ward to that end.

This photograph will feature prominently in my campaign.


The World Well and Truly Transformed

While the Labour Party Conference may be cancelled, it is being "organised" by Jeremy Corbyn's enemies.

Like all the others, it has been held purely for the benefit of the BBC's daytime schedulers for at least 20 years now.

Tell them to put vintage sitcoms on instead. Yes, including on BBC Parliament.

Meanwhile, Jeremy's supporters are organising The World Transformed.

That is definitely going ahead, and it is what BBC Two and BBC Four were invented for.

The Lanchester Review: The Debut of Our Revolution

Norman Solomon on the next stage of the Bernie Sanders movement.

"Social Apostolate"?

The churches, and supremely the Catholic Church with Her Universal Teaching and Pastoral Office, held firm against the tyrannies of Left and Right alike during the second half of the twentieth century.

That is the official version, and it is broadly correct. But there were large and inescapable exceptions. Here are a few.

The Byzantine Rite Catholics in Romania were strong opponents of the British and French-backed Ceauşescu regime, a stand for which they paid a terrible price while Ceauşescu was being created a Knight Grand Cross of the Most Honourable Order of the Bath.

But from 1962 onwards, although there were individual heroes and martyrs, the Romanian Orthodox Church, as a body, was certainly not of that mind, instead devising an entire ecclesiology of "Social Apostolate" in support of Ceauşescu's admittedly anti-Soviet foreign policy and in order to refrain from criticising his domestic policies even while numerous churches were being demolished.

Two Metropolitans, who are Archbishops, were members of the Great National Assembly, Ceauşescu's puppet legislative body. As Theresa May might put it, "Remind you of anywhere?"

In pro-Soviet Bulgaria, meanwhile, the Orthodox Church and the Communist Party were practically symbiotic, with the regime even using the Church's historic jurisdiction over Macedonia, which was then in anti-Soviet Yugoslavia, over Western Thrace, which is in modern Greece, and over Eastern Thrace, which is the European part of modern Turkey, in order to press its own claims to those territories. 

People are often vaguely aware of the Russian Orthodox Church's complicity in the crimes of the Soviet regime, although it is amazing how frequently one encounters perfect ignorance of that fact.

But the collusion and worse of churches throughout the old Eastern Bloc cries out for a television documentary, perhaps even a series, with attendant newspaper articles and so on.

The Polish priests and the East German pastors are still fairly well-remembered, although they could do with being revisited, not least because they must and do often wonder why they bothered. But the whole story needs to be told.

(Angela Merkel's father and his brethren were no neoliberal capitalists, and I reproach myself for not knowing more about their admirable, but very startling, departure from Lutheran Erastianism right there in Saxony and Prussia. Learning German has been on my To Do list for 25 years. Was it the influence of the Confessing Church? I suppose so. But what lay behind that, in turn? Most Lutherans had not joined it, to say the least.)

The same is true of the striking similarity to the Romanian "Social Apostolate" in the formal and informal theology of the English-speaking and sometimes even the African-initiated churches in apartheid South Africa.

People know about the theological justification provided by the Afrikaans churches. People know about the valiant stand made officially by most of the rest.

A few people, although nowhere near enough, know about the immense self-sacrifice of those who opposed apartheid within Afrikanerdom, including within its churches until they were very often driven out of them.

But taboo continues to surround the role of the English-speaking whites. 

And of those blacks who were persuaded that the ANC was purely, since no one doubts that it was in no small part, a viper's nest of Stalinism.

As well as those whose tribal backgrounds, often at once defining and defined by ecclesiastical affiliation, placed them in opposition to the ANC.

And as well as those who were simply bought off. Sometimes with the best of intentions, such as the desire to save a desperately needed pastoral ministry that might have been a community's only primary school, or clinic, or what have you. But even so.

The churches are not the only way into examining all of that. But they are the most obvious one.

From Bucharest to Bloemfontein, and on into the present day from Nolbert Kunonga to the Chinese Patriotic Association, it is time.

Wednesday, 24 August 2016

My Small Rebellion Against This Evil Empire

Practising Muslims have only five fundamental religious obligations: we must commit to monotheism, pray, give to charity, fast during the month of Ramadan and go on pilgrimage to Mecca.

I try my best to discharge these duties but will not go to Mecca.

Our sacred city, unfortunately, is in Saudi Arabia, which is ruled by a base, cruel, corrupt, absolutist, tyrannical, filthy rich, destructive, ungodly clan.

They have even bulldozed precious historical and religious sites.

I hope God will forgive me for my small rebellion against this evil empire. Many other Muslims are similarly revolted by the Saudi regime. 

Yet for successive UK governments as well as our biddable royals, powerful elites in the US, France and other western states, these worst of Muslim rulers are the best of friends. 

The loyalist nations are complicit in abominable human rights abuses within the kingdom as well as catastrophic Saudi funded Islamo-fascism, wars and terrorism the world over. 

It can't go on. 

Our citizens need to hold politicians to account for aiding and abetting these crimes against humanity and political integrity. 

Oxfam issued a stark statement this month about the hidden war in the Yemen where the Sunni leadership is fighting Shia rebels. 

We sold the arms to Saudi Arabia now being used against the Yemenis. We are violating the Arms Trade Treaty we backed and signed up to. 

Yes, that old, shameless British hypocrisy again – this trade has brought in 6 billion pounds.

Indiscriminate bombing has killed over 8,000 people. 82% of Yemenis are now dependent on international aid. 

Our government remains intensely relaxed about this military adventure. 

The US too, has unconditionally backed the Saudi rulers.

But, unlike here, influential Americans are getting uneasy, more wary and outspokenly critical of this diplomatic love-in. 

Toby Jones is associate history professor at Rutgers University, New Brunswick. 

In February this year, he wrote a grim paper for the Hoover Institution, a conservative think tank: "The kingdom has become increasingly violent, beholden to dangerous pathologies and unpredictable." 

The US government knows all this. 

In 2009, Hillary Clinton wrote in a leaked email: "Saudi Arabia remains a critical support base for al-Qaeda, the Taliban and other terrorist groups." 

Yes, and Isis since then. 

Key parts of an official report on Saudi Arabia and the 9/11 killers have been redacted. Not one of them was an Iraqi, but Americans were directed to blame Iraq. 

Soon after the attacks, 144 Saudis living in the USA were flown home before they could be interrogated.

US activist Medea Benjamin in her new book, Kingdom of the Unjust: Behind the US-Saudi Connection, tells it how it is, how it has been for too long: 

"It is not hard to connect the dots between the spread of Saudi intolerant ideology of Wahabism, the creation of Al Qaeda and Islamic State and the attacks in New York, Paris, Brussels and San Bernadino. 

"You can also connect the dots between Saudi Arabia and the failure of some of the historic democratic uprisings associated with the Arab spring, since the Saudi monarchy did not want calls for democracy to threaten its own grip on power." 

Did you know that Harry St John Philby, father of spy Kim Philby, was a colonial operator and Wahabi convert who helped to create Saudi Arabia? I have written about him in my book, Exotic England

Oil and arms trade and business interests explain the tolerance of Saudi Arabia in the west. But now that Islamicists are here among us, causing mayhem, public opinion will shift, is shifting. 

Saudi Arabia is not only sponsoring violence in the east and south, it is fomenting extremism in Europe, the US and UK. 

Two British Muslim men are currently being tried for the murder of Jalal Uddin, an elderly imam in Rochdale. 

Allegedly, they were Islamic State (IS) groupies who, according to the prosecution, hated Uddin's "un-Islamic" beliefs. 

Clerics sponsored by Saudi Arabia tacitly back the new unholy holy war against outside and inside "infidels". Our country is full of angry young Muslim men and women. 

I have talked to a few reformed jihadis and can see how intelligence, religiosity, identity clashes and duplicitous geopolitical games can lead to a nihilist mind set, set off furies. 

A good number turn to Wahabism because, like Bin Laden, they want the west to get out of their holy lands. 

But the majority cannot endure the lies, deceit and western support for dictators. Some fantasise about savage acts while others carry them out and end up in prisons. 

Now the government wants to separate extreme jihadis from those who are not that hardened. Again the government prefers to act rather than think. 

If ministers did stop to consider the factors that produced violent Islamists, they would have to accept that they are the bastard children of Saudi Arabia and British "diplomacy". 

How could they bear that responsibility?

Skyhawks, Indeed

Of course, this has been rumoured for years. But David Blair writes:

Israel sold weapons to Argentina at the height of the Falklands War in 1982, according to newly declassified Foreign Office files.

British diplomats cited evidence that Israel had supplied the Argentine military junta with arms that were used against the Task Force during the campaign to liberate the islands.

Israeli military exports before the war included the Skyhawk jets that would later be used to bomb British warships, killing dozens of soldiers, sailors and marines.

Four British warships were sunk by bombs dropped from Skyhawks, including RFA Sir Galahad, a troop carrier that was set ablaze while anchored in Bluff Cove, killing 48 sailors and soldiers.

Simon Weston, the badly burned veteran, was among the survivors. Another four ships were damaged by Skyhawks.

A book published in Argentina in 2011 exposed how Israel armed General Galtieri’s junta, dispatching weaponry to Buenos Aires on secret cargo flights routed through Peru.

The Foreign Office files provide further evidence.

The documents state that Israeli military exports to Argentina continued after the Falklands War and were still happening in 1984.

By then, Israel had abandoned its previous policy of denying that any weapons sales were taking place.

A book published in Argentina in 2011 exposed how Israel armed General Galtieri’s junta, dispatching weaponry to Buenos Aires on secret cargo flights routed through Peru.

The Foreign Office files provide further evidence.

The documents state that Israeli military exports to Argentina continued after the Falklands War and were still happening in 1984.

By then, Israel had abandoned its previous policy of denying that any weapons sales were taking place.

Instead, the country’s argument was that deals with Argentina were essential to sustain its domestic arms industry – and Britain was also supplying munitions to Israel’s enemies in the Arab world.

A memorandum from C.W. Long, then head of the Near East and North Africa Department at the Foreign Office, states:

“Israel was one of the few countries to supply Argentina with arms during the Falklands conflict and has continued to do so.” 

The document, released by the National Archives and dated Nov 16, 1984, adds that Israel was, at that time, poised to sell Argentina spy planes designed to gather electronic and signals intelligence. 

The document states that Sir Geoffrey Howe, then foreign secretary, had personally asked Israel’s government not to go ahead. 

But Mr Long thought Israel would pay no attention. 

“I do not believe the Israelis are to be moved on this issue,” he writes. 

“This is not satisfactory, but Israeli interests in Argentina will outweigh any readiness they might otherwise feel to be helpful to us.” 

The document is filed alongside a copy of an article from a specialist journal stating that Israel had sold Skyhawk jets to Argentina’s air force before the Falklands War.

In his book, Operation Israel, the Argentine journalist Hernan Dobry writes that Israel provided the spare parts and long range fuel tanks needed to keep these aircraft in action against the Task Force.

When British diplomats confronted their Israeli counterparts with evidence of arms sales, they were met with blanket denials. 

The official history of the Falklands War, written by Lawrence Freedman, states: “British troops entering Port Stanley at the end of the war came across Israeli equipment.” 

 Menachem Begin, then Israel’s prime minister, had begun his career as commander of the Irgun, the Jewish underground which fought the British in Palestine in the 1940s. 

A fellow Irgun fighter, Dov Gruner, was hanged by the British in 1947.

In Operation Israel, Mr Dobry suggests Begin saw arming Galtieri as a way of exacting revenge against Britain.

After authorising the sale of weapons during the Falklands War, Begin reportedly said: “Dov up there is going to be happy with the decision.”

There follows a chart of the damage done by the Skyhawks.

In all fairness to Margaret Thatcher, she had wanted to refuse to meet Begin when he visited London. After she had met him, she said that she wished that she had stood her ground.

Operation Israel is not on either the British or the American Amazon site. Time to put that right. In Spanish initially, if necessary. But in English as soon as possible.

Dress Sense

I am a fairly dedicated Francophile. But all countries have their nasty streaks; ours certainly has.

And as if it were not bad enough that middle-aged men prescribed exactly how much flesh women were allowed to show (these same seaside towns have had trouble before about bikinis that were considered too revealing), we now see men with guns using the full authority of the State to force women to undress.

If I were 15, 20 or 25 years younger, and this were done to a woman in my family, then I would be wrong to board the first vessel of any kind that was on the way to Raqqa, or to Google ways of taking more immediate action closer to home.

But that is what they are going to do.

We Need To Disband NATO


Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn has said the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation, or NATO as it’s otherwise known, should be closed down – and he’s right.

Following the signing of the North Atlantic Treaty in 1949, NATO itself was finally launched in 1952 as a military alliance whose purpose it was to defend Western Europe against a Russian invasion that never happened.

Its ultimate objective, however, was to fix the postwar military order in place. As its first secretary general, Lord Ismay, said privately, NATO exists to ‘keep the Americans in, the Russians out, and the Germans down’. 

NATO’s claim that it set out to defend democracy turned the truth on its head.

As a military alliance, it was profoundly conservative, and has been hostile to democracy throughout its 64 years.

From the outset, NATO included dictatorships like Antonio Salazar’s in Portugal, fostered military takeovers in Greece in 1967 and in Turkey in 1980 (carried out while the Turkish military were taking part in NATO manoeuvres), and cooperated with fascist Spain until dictator Francisco Franco’s death in 1975.

As many journalists and researchers have noted over the years, NATO’s military structure included secret armies put in place on the basis that they would make up ‘the resistance’, staying behind ‘when Russia invades’.

But as European Parliament investigations uncovered in 1990, these ‘stay behind’ armies were ‘a clandestine parallel-intelligence and armed-operations organisation in several member states of the [European] Community’. 

‘For over 40 years’, the report went on, ‘this organisation has escaped all democratic controls and has been run by the secret services of the states concerned in collaboration with NATO’. 

The most alarming of these secret armies was the organisation known in Italy as ‘Gladio’, which recruited neo-Nazis to carry out several bomb attacks and assassinations to terrorise and demoralise the population – culminating in the bombing of Bologna railway station in 1980, which killed 85 people. 

NATO’s secret armies were not only organising anti-democratic forces in Italy, but across Western Europe – in the very countries where NATO was tasked with defending democracy. 

With some restraint, the European Parliament resolved to protest ‘vigorously at the assumption by certain US military personnel… of the right to encourage the establishment in Europe of a clandestine intelligence-and-operation network’. 

NATO was vigorously opposed by left-wingers across Europe, with good cause. It was an organisation given over to militarism and repression.

But at the end of the Cold War, its purpose was looking questionable.

After the Berlin Wall came down, German foreign minister Hans-Dietrich Genscher crashed a meeting of the NATO and Warsaw Pact generals in Berlin and demanded to know what they thought they were doing there.

Without a credible Soviet threat, the ostensible point of NATO seemed to be at an end.

Across the world people looked optimistically towards a peace dividend, but the NATO powers made sure that did not happen.

Norman Schwarzkopf was made head of US Central Command in the Middle East in 1989.

He was in the doldrums: ‘Nobody except a few stubborn hard-liners believed we’d go to war against the Soviets in the Middle East.’ 

Unnerved at the pointlessness of the US military, Schwarzkopf was ‘determined that the scenario we’d rehearse that summer would be one in which the enemy was not the Soviet Union, but Iraq’. 

Such was the success of the US military’s public-relations effort that the war against Iraq in 1991 was not carried out under NATO, but under the wider United Nations. 

But NATO was not wound down at the end of the Cold War.

Instead, the Western powers used the NATO structure to award membership to those East European countries like Poland, the Czech Republic and Hungary that displayed loyalty.

NATO forces bombed the Bosnian Serbs in 1995.

In 1999, the citizens of Belgrade protected their bridges from 72 days of aerial bombardment by making themselves ‘human shields’.

The Chinese embassy, meanwhile, was targeted and destroyed by NATO. NATO structures, then, turned out to be an important part of the post-Cold War militarisation of international relations.

NATO also led operations against Afghanistan in 2001, and against Libya in 2011.

NATO’s rewarding of its East European allies paid off when they voted alongside Britain and America in the United Nations resolutions to invade Iraq in 2003.

ATO is a military alliance that puts militarism and elite rule above the democratic right of countries to decide their own future.

Militarism has long been a resource drawn on by anti-democratic elites, and one that they have used again and again to subvert democracy.

That’s why Corbyn is right: we need to disband NATO.

Tuesday, 23 August 2016

Two Months On

And still no Article 50.

Not this year, says Theresa May. So, not without a second referendum, then.

As advocated by Owen Smith, whose programme the Conservatives will gradually adopt, having already adopted Ed Miliband's.

Only Jeremy Corbyn called for Article 50 on the only day that it could reasonably have happened, two months ago tomorrow.

All In The Mind

When Ken Livingstone made an off colour remark about the mental health of Kevan Jones, then all hell broke loose, and not without cause.

Tonight, Owen Smith called Jeremy Corbyn "a lunatic".

Un-Cooperative

The Co-operative Party once refused to allow me to re-join it, because I was not allowed back in the Labour Party.

It is a long story why I was trying to re-join the Co-operative Party, but never mind.

Has it expelled the MPs who have been trying to cut its links to the Labour Party altogether, in order to create a separate bloc as the Official Opposition in the House of Commons? If not, why not?

Jeremy Corbyn should insist that it if had not done so by the beginning of the Labour Party Conference, then those links would be cut from the other side.

And Owen Smith ought to be challenged to echo that, or to explain why not.

The Success of South Africa

The Left has been highly critical of the ANC for many years.

The election results in South Africa have come as no surprise to anyone who has been reading the Morning Star, or attending the events around the Durham Miners' Gala.

Or listening to Jeremy Corbyn.

But the fact that those results have been recorded, without apparent reprisal and without significant gains for the violent fringe, is a sign that the country that the ANC created does work politically.

To the extent that it even works against the ANC, when that is what the people want.

Mind The Gap

Cutting the pay of a 94 per cent female workforce by 23 per cent is certainly one way of addressing the pay gap.

Well done, Durham County Council.

Take The Strain

The carry on over Jeremy Corbyn's train journey now comes down to whom one believes, and why.

Why would Richard Branson want to discredit a man who wanted to renationalise the railways? Are Corbyn's supporters supposed to treat Branson's website as a reliable source? How sweet.

I had a perfectly good, if brief, journey both ways on Virgin Trains last night. But since when was the last train to Durham from Newcastle at 10:46?

And that was not the half of it. I was only able to go at all because a friend of mine could arrange to get me back from Durham to Lanchester.

The last bus used to be at 11:10. But no more. Nine o'clock, as if we all had to be up for school in the morning.

In many ways, I would like to re-join the Labour Party. In many ways, I am a more active member of it than a good many card-carriers, and far more so than most of its MPs.

But then I look at the atrocious Owen Smith-like machine in these parts.

£12,000 is more than many a full-time job in County Durham. It is also the Council Chairman's clothing allowance.

Yet, for those of us who are medically unable to drive, cuts to the bus service have turned Lanchester, which was previously very much on the beaten track and which is only eight miles from Durham city centre, into the middle of nowhere in the evenings, on Sundays and on Bank Holidays.

Red and Black

I tend to think of those as my campaign colours.

Social Democracy and Christian Democracy, reaching out to the wider Left and to the wider tradition of dissent from Whiggery and Jacobinism, capitalism and imperialism, neoliberalism and neoconservatism.

As well as a reminder of how, even as a light-skinned "Mulatto" (to use the preferred term of the man responsible), both of whose parents had been born with Scottish surnames, I was nevertheless deemed racially unfit to be a district council candidate for Tony Blair's unmourned New Labour Party.

Red and black are also the colours on the star-shaped badges of something else. I might even adopt that symbol, but with the colours reversed.

That should be enough to give dear old Oliver Kamm a seizure, considering how he once reacted to something else.

Red and Blue

I had a useful little chat with Ken Loach last night. He is recovering well from the death of Deirdre.

Seriously, I did have a useful little chat with Ken. All sorts of things are moving.

A recurring theme in The Spirit of '45, much discussed afterwards last night, is that, for all its stunning achievements, the 1945 settlement was overly centralist and bureaucratic.

It replaced private corporate bureaucracy with central government bureaucracy. In the first instance, it very often turned exactly the same private corporate bureaucrat into a central government bureaucrat.

That said, central planning was the whole point of the NHS, and of the nationalisation of transport (especially the railways) and of the utilities.

The lack of central planning is the very problem with the dismantlement of the NHS, and with the privatisation of transport (especially the railways) and of the utilities.

Many of us remember when privatisation very often turned exactly the same civil servant into a lavishly remunerated "captain of industry".

In the intervening three years, the people making the critique of 1945's centralism and bureaucracy have become staunch supporters of Jeremy Corbyn, or they have died, or both. Mostly, though, the first of those.

Tony Mulhearn, John Rees, the late Stan Pearce (whose uncompromising dialect must have caused quite a stir at many an international film festival): Trotskyists all.

Yet all articulating the exact sentiment that Blue Labour was also articulating, at exactly the same time.

I have yet to hear a Blue Labour stalwart express any enthusiasm for Owen Smith, even those who reluctantly intend for vote for him.

When Jeremy wins again, then the common ground is already waiting to be cultivated. Both sides bear some responsibility for the fact that has not already been going on for a year by now.

The Fake New Cold War and The Fake Old Cold War

The Lanchester Review: Clinton’s Transition Team, A Corporate Presidency Foretold

Norman Solomon is on very fine form.

Sunday, 21 August 2016

The People's Response To Chilcot

The booing of Sadiq Khan at tonight's Jeremy Corbyn rally, importantly held at the noted Trotskyist stronghold of Kilburn's Ruach City Church, put me in mind of the booing of Churchill in The Spirit of '45.

I shall be seeing that again tomorrow evening, in Newcastle, followed by a Question and Answer session with Ken Loach himself.

Hence, I shall not be able to make it, between half past five and seven o'clock, to Alington House Community Association, 4 North Bailey, Durham, DH1 3ET.

But you should.

There, you will hear no less a person than Andrew Murray, who presided over the largest demonstration in British history.

At which two million people were addressed by the then Mayor of London and by several Members of Parliament.

Including the then Leader of the Liberal Democrats and a future, namely the current, Leader of the Official Opposition.

Durham Stop the War starts as it means to go on. At the very heart of the movement.

In The Strongest Possible Terms

I do not know whether this made any of the papers (I am rather tied up with something else in that vein, of which more anon), but here it is:

Dear Sir,

In the midst of apparently never-ending austerity and war, it is absolutely imperative to defend and expand the space in which neoliberal economic policy and neoconservative foreign policy are subjected to a robust critique that is variously traditionalist and libertarian, conservative and liberal, social democratic and democratic socialist.

Whatever we may think of any one or more of the specific policies of Jeremy Corbyn, his election as Leader of the British Labour Party has been a significant victory in that defence and expansion, which would be set back very considerably if he were to be removed from that office. We therefore urge the British Labour Party, in the strongest possible terms, to re-elect Jeremy Corbyn as its Leader.

Yours faithfully,

David Lindsay (Lanchester, County Durham; @davidaslindsay)
Professor Pritam Singh (Professor of Economics, Oxford Brookes University)
Thomas Smitherman (Bergen, Norway; University of Zürich)
Adam Young (Burnopfield, County Durham; @JustALocalSerf)

Thomas and Adam are diehard paleocons, as dyed in the wool as it is possible to be.

Spooky Spad

Owen Smith was a Special Adviser at the Northern Ireland Office. Who gets to be one of those? The forces behind him are not even being subtle. They are screaming it at the tops of their voices, because they can.

As for his infantile and tribal "Don't have one" to the question of his favourite Conservative politician, that kind of thing is always the sign of people who have no political difference with the other side, so they have to be abusive instead.

Has Smith no admiration for, say, the house building programmes of the 1950s? Or is here merely unaware that they ever happened?

Be Careful What You Gloat Over, Be Careful Who You Blame

Channelling his inner Jeremy Corbyn and George Galloway, Peter Hitchens writes:

Who can fail to be moved and grieved by the sight of a small child in distress? But please do not let your emotions stop you thinking.

The picture of the shocked Aleppo survivor, Omran Daqneesh, like that of the drowned child Alan Kurdi last year, should not be allowed to enforce a conformist opinion on the world.

The death of Alan Kurdi did not mean that it was wise to fling wide the borders of Europe (as Germany’s Angela Merkel now well knows). 

The rescue of Omran Daqneesh should not make us side with the bloody and merciless Syrian rebels.

Why is Aleppo a war zone in the first place? Do you know? I will tell you.

Syria was a peaceful country until it was deliberately destabilised by Saudi Arabia and its fanatical, sectarian Gulf allies, consumed with hatred for the Assad government and, above all, its ally Iran.

Worse, this monstrous intervention was supported by the USA, Britain and France, all sucking up to the Saudis for oil, money and arms contracts.

In the hope of bringing down Assad, we made a devil’s bargain with some of the worst fanatics in the Middle East, people who make Anjem Choudary look like the Vicar of Dibley.

We know of Britain’s role for certain because of the very strange case of Bherlin Gildo, a Swedish man accused by British authorities of attending a terror training camp in Syria.

His trial collapsed in June 2015 because his defence lawyers argued that the terror groups he was accused of supporting had been helped by British intelligence.

The Assad state, as you might expect, defended itself against its attackers, helped in the end by Iran and Russia.

And the war which followed was the ruin of Syria, whose innocent people found their peaceful cities and landscape turned into a screaming battlefield, as it still is.

If you are truly grieved by the picture of poor little Omran, just be careful who you blame.

And:

Anjem Choudary, broadcasting’s favourite Islamist loudmouth, was and is a vain, bloviating, blowhard fraud, another boozy drug-taking low-life posing as a serious person.

He found a role and fools to indulge him, many in the same media who now queue up to rejoice at his imprisonment.

But I do not feel safer from terror now that he is locked up.

Worse, I feel less safe from Chairman May’s sour-faced surveillance state, which takes a dim and narrow view of free speech and liberty.

Choudary has been locked up not for what he did but for what he said. Claims he influenced anyone into crime are thin.

Even the sneaky wording of the Terrorism Act, in which he was charged with ‘inviting’ support for IS, is suspicious.

It sounds like ‘inciting’, and is meant to, for incitement to terror and murder is a real crime, even in free countries.

But it isn’t the same as ‘inviting’, a much weaker word.

You may gloat that Choudary is eating Islamic porridge. But be careful what you gloat over.

A law as loose as this could easily be used against anyone the state doesn’t like. I predict that it will be, too.

By the way, I spent several hours last week circling Government offices trying to find out how many such charges there have been – the CPS sent me to the Justice Ministry, they told me to call the Home Office, who sent me back to the CPS.

This pathetic pass-the-parcel evasion suggests they don’t care much.

This stuff is propaganda, not genuine security.

Feminism and Working-Class Boys

My friend Michael Merrick is a proud teacher in a comprehensive school, and a stalwart of the enormously expanded Labour Party in Carlisle. Sounding for all the world like one of the Corbyn Boys who look to me as a style icon (yes, really), he writes:

If you are a working-class boy, there is every chance that most of the professionals you will come across in your formative years are women.

If you are a working-class boy, there is every chance that most of the authority figures you come across in your formative years will be women.

If you are a working-class boy, there is every chance that your experience of women/girls during your formative years is that they are generally the high achieving and successful ones.

Unlike you. And your mates.

If you are a working class boy, there is also every chance that a good chunk of the males you encounter are proving less than successful in life.

If you are a working class boy, there is every chance that a good chunk of the males you encounter are underemployed and undereducated.

If you are a working-class boy, there is every chance that the places you are most likely to come across successful males – secondary school, celebrity culture and the professional services – seem so remote, sometimes even antagonistic, to your own everyday experiences as to be almost alien.

We paint in broad brush strokes, of course, but there is justification, if only to tease out the central point.

The idea that women are systematically disadvantaged in society might well be true.

For this reason, we might well deem it morally justified to address this, through our politics, through our legal system, through our education system, through our cultural norms and practices.

But by the frames of reference available to working class boys, this can so often seem only to contradict lived reality.

And if we then sit them down and tell them that they are part of the privileged, the winners in society, such that their interests must at times be circumvented to help girls and women be more successful, to achieve, to succeed in life – what do we expect the reaction to be?

To feel engaged in eradicating injustice, or to feel even more alienated? To feel empowered, or further disenfranchised? To feel magnanimous, or further slighted?

Working class boys have it pretty tough, though there is little political capital in making the improvement of their condition a priority.

And if one has already accepted that gender must trump class, then there is little moral reason to do so either.

In the meantime, we have a generation and more of working-class boys becoming a sink subsection of society, developing into the kind of men that only confirms the worst suspicions of those who would so readily write them off.

We must not deny moral agency here: oftentimes this is of their own making, engaged in a downward spiral, formed within a cultural landscape marked by precisely that transience and insecurity that shapes a view of life and living that schooling and learning is failing to counter.

And which only further feeds into that feeling of alienation, that perpetually unsuccessful attempt at the art of living well.

The result? Disengaged, angry young men. Lots of them. It is no surprise that this is beginning to shape our politics.

The condition of working-class girls is an essential part of this story, though it is legitimate to question how effectively feminism has captured this reality.

I am from a northern working-class family in which the women are hard, authoritative, confident – though their concerns seem a world away from the attentions of academics and professionals, that which characterises the principal cultural and political expressions of feminism.

My point is not that we must therefore choose between the two, but allow as valid a space where other narratives might appear.

And one of those narratives might be the impact social changes – economic and cultural – have had on working-class boys and men.

We might think these changes worthwhile, worthy, fully justified, but we must also take account of the experiences of those on the sharp-end of such progress.

Maybe a working-class feminism would better capture an understanding of the needs of working-class boys too.

Maybe it wouldn’t. I really don’t know.

But what is clear is that working-class boys are struggling. Economically, socially, culturally, they are fast becoming a dalit class.

We cannot claim to be a society that seeks justice if we stand blindly by and allow it to happen.

And if feminism is really the best vehicle we have for providing an account of the way gender interacts and impacts on one’s place in society, then maybe there are grounds for hope.

Because this seems to be precisely what working-class boys need right now. Maybe, then, working-class boys need feminists too.

I suppose the question is: would feminists be willing to address that need?