Saturday, August 30, 2008

Censoring Darwin

Just how sensitive are our public authorities becoming to the whinges of religious fundamentalists?

A Northampton museum covered up part of a display on evolution because one single Christian objected.

I'm sure I needn't go into one here about the importance of defending free speech and scientific progress against superstitious throwbacks - it's one of our favourite subjects here on Stroppyblog, after all. But I can't help but suspect that, say, a decade ago, this simply wouldn't have happened. Maybe the Christian would not even have complained, but if s/he had done, I feel confident that the administrators of a public service would have politely explained that a museum's role is to provide interesting, educational, factual displays, not to pander to religious sensibilities, and certainly not to allow one person's 'offence' to deny everyone else the right to view an uncensored exhibit.

Hat tip: Pat

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Support Eurostar Cleaners

I mentioned recently the victory by Tube cleaners in securing better wages (more details here). RMT cleaners are also fighting back on the 'big trains' too, and ask for your help in supporting those who clean Eurostar. Please read the appeal from the union's Euro Passenger Services branch secretary below, and take a few minutes to send off the email that he suggests.


The Eurostar/OCS campaign cleaners pay campaign has had two actions this week. A solid 24 hour strike on Monday and a lobby of the OCS corporate stand at the international cricket match at the Oval today. We will be announcing more strike action and protests shortly.

In the meantime, the EPS branch and the cleaners in dispute would be very grateful if members and activists would keep up the pressure on Eurostar to fund the London Living Wage by emailing the Eurostar Chief Executive directly. Eurostar proclaims its green credentials through its Tread Lightly campaign, but the cleaners are on poverty pay with no other conditions above statutory minima.

We have provided a model email attached for you to use, but please feel free to devise your own (no abuse please at this stage). Please take the time (less than a minute) to send the email to Richard Brown.

Our suggested text is:

Dear Mr Brown,

I am extremely disappointed to learn that the cleaners on the Eurostar service are currently paid more than £1 per hour less than the London Living Wage. I hope that you agree that in order for Eurostar to maintain its image as a progressive and ethical organisation it must ensure that everybody working on the Eurostar service is at least paid at the hourly rate of the London Living Wage.

The image and reputation of Eurostar is damaged by the double standard of having a Tread Lightly campaign on the environment, while exploiting cleaners through low pay and poor conditions.

I do hope that your company will take the necessary steps to ensure that it looks after the people working on the service as well as those which have been taken in caring for the environment. I urge you to take the necessary measures to eliminate the poverty pay currently endured by the cleaners at Eurostar.

Yours sincerely,

Simply copy and paste the text into a fresh email and send to him direct. Please also forward this to all of your contacts and encourage them to do the same.


Michael Lynch
EPS Branch RMT


Friday, August 29, 2008

Tracey Emin Exhibition - Edinburgh Modern Art Gallery

Eddie and I went to see the Tracy Emin exhibition at the Edinburgh Modern Art Gallery here today and I really liked it, I saw some of her work when it was displayed for the Tate Award some years back and I loved it then.

Tracy Emin is fantastic - have others seen her stuff? She is clever in how she collects stuff and most of it relates to her. She tells her story through objects, paintings and banners. Her banners and films I like the best.

It exposes a lot about her experiences of sexual, physical and emotional abuse from men. She tells us she was sexually abused and raped on more that one occasion. My favourite piece being a short film entitled "Why I didn't become a dancer". She tells the viewer about having lots of sex as a teenager and then one night when she is in a dancing competition boys verbally attack and humiliate her shouting slag at her. She had had sex with most of the boys. What is that about? Anyway at the end she does a great damnce to "You make me feel" and dedicates it to those horrible young men.

Of course the "bed" was there, which in the exhibition makes perfect sense.

What was interesting is that in the visitors book - the women thought it was "fantastic" "brilliant" "super" "loved it" but quite a lot of the negative comments appered to come from men "is this art" "so you were raped and had an abortion - get over it" "shit" "this crap". There were a mixture from both genders saying runof the mill things but I was surprised to seen the polarity in the comments from men and women. Almost as interesting and thought provoking as the exhibition itself.

Anyway had a nice day out and it was nice a warm.


Harry's Place, racist websites and the lefty blog response

I haven't been around much the last few days, so this is my catch up on the the issue of Harry's Place and Jenna Delich.

I'm not going to say much as others have already written at length on this, instead I'll highlight some posts .

First off Jim, as usual, calmly addresses the issue:

We basically come from very different places and usually when I read HP it's with one long tut on the go.

However, that does not mean I think it should be closed down. Particularly for mentioning an uncontested fact - that a UCU union member posted a link to an article on the website of David Duke, who's politics are down the line racist.

... I can imagine someone scan reading the piece and, not knowing who David Duke was, forwarding the link. Although, having said that, they would have to be pretty unobservant not to cast their eye to the right of the screen, to the array of links and banners which do rather give the game away. Thankfully being unobservant is not yet a crime.

However, if I'd posted a link to a vile and genuinely dangerous racist, when it was pointed out to me I'd go "oh my good Lord" take down the link and apologise to everyone. In fact exactly that happened to me once - I linked to a BNP members blog. The piece itself was innocuous (it was on some local bit of news I think) but I hadn't bothered checking out the rest of the blog so I got a horrible surprise when someone said "Jim, why are you linking to fascists?"

It's one thing to link to abhorrent material (after all I've even done so in this post, it can be impossible to avoid if you're to allow the reader to judge for themselves) but it's quite another to kick up a fuss when someone highlights the fact that you did so. It's alright to make a mistake, it really is, who's perfect after all? But if you react to that mistake by refusing to correct what you've done and instead closing down the opposition - well, don't expect to feel the love.

Tactically she's clearly made one of the stupidest decisions of her life because her name will now be associated forever with posting a link to one of the world's leading racists and thinking it's everyone else who has the problem. Let's bring Harry's Place back on line.

Now I have my differences with Andy, but he has argued strongly on SU that its pretty hard not to a) know who David Duke is b) even if you didn't the website is pretty clearly written by someone with racist white supremacist views (the guy was in the KKK ffs ). Andy takes apart the idea that someone might miss the 'clues' about the nature of the site :

So it is immediately obvious to anyone who visits it with a remotely critical outlook that this is a far right, anti-Semitic and racist web-site

What is remarkable is why so few left activists are prepared to challenge this, rather than making excuses for it.

It is incumbent upon the left and the Palestinian solidarity movement to both be aware of the conscious effort of far-right Anti-Semites to infiltrate the movement , and also to vigorously oppose and exclude these anti-Semites. Association with the likes of David Duke is extremely damaging for the Palestinian movement.

By linking to this article, that gave credence to anti-Semitic myths of Jewish conspiracy, and that was hosted by a notorious and obvious neo-Nazi she was at least exhibiting an indifference to anti-Semitism. We have already seen such tolerance of Anti-Semitism in the debates over IndyMedia’s moderation policy, and socialists providing a platform for the anti-Semitic Gilad Atzmon.

For those that still have trouble noticing a far right site when its bleeding obvious Mod has a guide.

For some rational thoughts on the subject of Israel and Palestine pop over to Dave's.

Other posts to have a look at include Phil and Shiraz.

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Thursday, August 28, 2008

I've going to London - but not to see the queen

Yipee! I'm on my holidays - and at very short notice I am going to London. Going from Saturday to Wednesday. Is there anything exciting on in London? Awfy excited. I know it's a big place but if you see me please say hello


SNP face backlash for hiring firm accused of Iraq torture

This was sent to me to from a comrade in scotland who thought it would be of interest to sb readers.


SNP face backlash for hiring firm accused of Iraq torture - Muslims and anti-war groups issue warning as petition is launched against census firm.

THE SNP are being warned this weekend that they risk alienating Scotland's Muslim community and the entire anti-war movement because of the party's insistence on hiring a firm accused of torturing Iraqi prisoners at the infamous Abu Ghraib prison in Baghdad to carry out the nation's next census.
The warning, from the most prominent Muslim leaders and organisations in the country as well as from the heads of the nation's peace movement, follows the Sunday Herald's exposure last month that the SNP granted an £18.5 million contract to CACI UK, a subsidiary of the firm accused of involvement in torture in Abu Ghraib.

The SNP's decision to employ CACI badly damaged the party's claims that it put human rights at the top of its agenda and was more ethical than Labour. It also led to fears that the personal data of millions of Scots collected by CACI as part of the census might end up in the hands of the US government, given the close relationship between the Bush administration and the company's head office in Arlington, Virginia.

CACI's parent company in the US was one of two private US contractors hit with lawsuits from four Iraqis in June over allegations that they were tortured in Abu Ghraib.
US civilian staff working for private American security companies which specialised in carrying out interrogation work for the military were heavily implicated in human rights abuses against detainees.There have also been allegations that CACI interrogators used dogs to terrify captives, placed detainees in "stress positions" and encouraged soldiers to abuse prisoners. Scottish human rights campaigners criticised the decision, taken in June, to appoint CACI as the nation's census-taker in 2011, and also accused the SNP of selling their soul.
There were calls for a mass boycott of the census by the nation's population.Glasgow Labour MP Mohammad Sarwar said the SNP's decision to award CACI the contract after their high-profile opposition to the invasion of Iraq looked like "sheer hypocrisy", adding:

"They have let down the reputation of Scotland. I have heard Alex Salmond say that the Iraq war has damaged our image abroad. What he has done now is damage that image even more."How can the SNP on one hand say they are against the war and then on the other hand give over sensitive data on Scottish Muslims and others to this company?

This decision has damaged the credibility of the SNP with all communities in Scotland, particularly the Muslim community."Sarwar is among hundreds of Scottish citizens who have signed an online petition opposing the contract and calling for its cancellation.

The petition, launched by the Scottish branch of the Stop The War Coalition, highlights the promise made by deputy first minister Nicola Sturgeon at the World Against War march in Glasgow in March. At the event, she said: "We now have a government in Scotland that opposes the war in Iraq and is prepared to say so."Among the signatories are SNP members and voters. One SNP supporter says in the petition notes that they are "very disappointed and surprised that the SNP government could even contemplate endorsing anything like this".

Aamer Anwar, a prominent figure in the country's Muslim community and a leading human rights lawyer, is to meet with the heads of the General Register Office of Scotland, which runs the country's census, to discuss the awarding of the contract to CACI."It is unacceptable that the SNP is refusing to cancel this contract," said Anwar. "This could be disastrous for the SNP if they refuse to address this issue, or give some mealy-mouthed response like the Labour Party would have done

."Until now, the party had an outstanding record. The SNP must not throw away its mandate. If the SNP doesn't listen, then it will have a shock in store for it. People are battle-ready from dealing with Labour and punishing them."If Salmond fails to do that, he can no longer chase the Muslim vote, the human rights vote or the anti-war vote."

The Scottish Islamic Foundation (SIF), which is closely linked to the SNP and has been heavily funded by the nationalist party, has written to the government calling for the contract to be cancelled.

SIF is headed by SNP parliamentary candidate Osama Saeed. A senior member of SIF, when asked if the SNP risked squandering the Muslim vote, said that "it depends what the party does from here". The SIF member said the government's response so far had been "unimpressive".

Pete Cannell, co-secretary of the Stop The War Coalition in Scotland, said the SNP's position was inconsistent with their previous rhetoric and added that the party had taken a decision which appalled most voters. "We hope it is ignorance rather than malice that led to this decision. If that's the case then there is no obstacle to getting it changed," he added.

SNP MSP Bashir Ahmad, Scotland's first Muslim MSP, said: "The SNP, and in particular the first minister, are recognised as close friends within the Muslim community. They have stood with them in consistently opposing the Labour-led Iraq war and standing up for our civil liberties ."A senior SNP spokesman added: "The contract was negotiated and agreed by the General Register Office for Scotland, who could not take unproven allegations into account during the procurement process. The SNP's record is clear and consistent in opposing Labour's illegal war in Iraq and dumping of a new generation of Trident nuclear weapons on the Clyde."CACI has consistently said that the claims against the firm are "not substantiated by any evidence or proof ... and ... the allegation remains unfounded".
CACI insists that it holds itself "to the highest ethical standards".

For the online petition click on the below link

Wednesday, August 27, 2008

Support This Campaign

I don't even know who Jenny is, but it looks like her appeal is well worth supporting.

Hello Everyone!

Please, please, please can you sign this petition, if you have not already done so. It is for Prossy Kakooza, a very brave asylum seeker. Her story (and petition) can be found on this link.

Prossy is a good friend of mine, and it is her final asylum hearing next Friday. We need as many signatures as possible by next week, as the Home Office are still insisting she returns to Uganda, despite the medical evidence in Prossy's case.
Her courage in the face of all this is astounding, as Prossy is still suffering Post Traumatic Stress Disorder from the (proven) rape,torture and attempted murder she was subjected to by the Ugandan police and her own family. So please read her story by clicking on the link above, or copy the link into your browser if that doesn't work. The petition only takes seconds to sign.

Apologies if any of you get this email more than once. And if you get this email again, Prossy, chin up honey, not long now, and we're with you every step of the way. I'll be there on the day of the hearing as promised. Go Prossy, go Prossy, ra ra ra! ;)

Everyone please show your support for this amazing and deserving case! Let's all cry out in the name of justice, and force our government to protect human rights! Send this to every person you can think of! Let's get even more fire into this

Thank you, kind people! Make some noise! We are eternally grateful!



Where were you when...

This meme is doing the rounds. I'm going to cheat though and just do:

Where were you when there was the Attack on the twin towers - 11 September 2001

I was in New York in my hotel room getting ready for the day(it was morning ). I was alone as my then partner had gone back a few days earlier to go to work and I had decided to stay on a bit longer. I had TV in the background and heard a plane had crashed into one of the towers. Prior to that the news had been about Magic Johnson and I remember thinking isn't there anything else going on in the world. It sounded as though it was a small aircraft, the news was patchy. No journalists seemed to be there yet, reports were relying on people ringing in with eyewitness accounts. I went for my shower and came back to see the news of the second plane.

I decided to go out to see what was happening (I was staying mid town, but it was clear from the skyline). The hotel staff advised me to stay where I was but I didn't.
I walked to the Rockefeller Centre and watched the news ticker tape , the Pentagon plane came up .I wondered what else was going to happen.

People were looking at the skies .

I walked around , sitting in cafes and bars. I talked to people , watching the news with them.
I sat in central Park and watched people flinch as the sound of a plane went over. It was military as everything else was grounded.

I rang home . My ex at the time had seen it on the screen where he worked. He was scared as I had said I might pop down there . My mother was worried. Then it got hard to ring later as lines went down.

I spent the rest of the week trapped as I couldn't get a flight out. I remember the smell in the air , a mixture which included building, plane and bodies. No one of course voiced that last element.

On the news and on boards in the street people showed pictures of people , asking if anyone had seen them. No one really wanted to let go of the hope.

Stories were emerging of people jumping .

I expected a military response from the US and I wanted to get home. That day no one could get out of New York or in, roads were closed off and no public transport was running. For a few days after there were no flights. I felt panic .

I wandered about observing people for that week.

I thought back to the night before 9/11. I had stopped off at the Twin Towers. I went under to the shops below . It was rush hour and people were going down to the subway under the Towers. I watched the people in and out of the lifts, the shoe shine stands and pottered into Borders for a coffee . I pondered whether to go up to the 'Windows on the World' and look out at that view, but I'm a bit scared of heights.I thought perhaps I would come back later. I then went to find a bus back and got lost wandering around in the rain. The weather had been hot but that night there was thunder and hard rain . I looked up at the lightening behind the skyscrapers .

I wondered what became of those people I saw who were there working in the shops ands the Towers.

Eventually I got a flight out. As I sat in the boarding area the TV screen was on. As with all that week there were very little 'normal' programmes. I watched as the footage of the planes hitting the Towers was replayed. I tried to stay calm about getting on a plane . The security had not exactly been tight at the airport. I rang home and then boarded .

Getting back I felt disorientated. People were laughing on the train and airport, suntanned from returning from their Greek Hols and such. My head was still full of the horrors I had left behind.

I found 'normalness' disconcerting and realised I was probably still in shock.

I watched the news now from a distance .


The other 'where were you when's ' are :

"Princess Diana's death - 31 August 1997"
"Margaret Thatcher's resignation - 22 November 1990"
"England's World Cup Semi Final v Germany in - 4 July 1990"
"President Kennedy's Assassination - 22 November 1963"
oh and of course" When David Broder left the AWL."

I won't tag, either add to the comments or post on your blog if you want.


Tuesday, August 26, 2008

Carnival of Socialism

He may be the best Greenie Blogger, but Jim hasn't let that go to his head. This week he is mucking in and hosting the Carnival of Socialism.

He needs more posts. They can be your own or others you have seen and are of interest.

But do hurry up as Jim is going to write up the carnival post on the strike of midnight, after the ball I presume.

So off you go. Oh and volunteer to host one. Its good fun and doesn't have to be hard work.

Pop over here for details.

UpdateThe carnival is now up!


Sunday, August 24, 2008

Wheeeee ...1000th post !!!!!!

Yep, the top Trot Wag blog(Dave being 'ironic'), has reached its 1000th post .

Oh and a new twag 'signing', welcome Tami.
So here's to the next 1000 posts covering all those 'lifestyle' issues that Punchie disapproves of.

Coming up ...


Is Carla Bruni-Sarkozy the new Jackie O and where does she get her clothes from.

A "How to look good naked" special starring your favourite bloggers.

What the best dressed Trot will be wearing for the autumn/winter demos.

Real life stories

Will tells of the moment he saw the face of Jesus in a crumpled up crisp packet and how this lead him to become a Priest. He talks movingly about his past life as a swearing ranty Geordie and how the love of god has helped him make amends to all those he was rude to.

Coleen Rooney talks exclusively to Stroppyblog about her time in the International Bolshevik Tendency and her frustrated attempts to form a pro Manolo's tendency.

Food and wine

Jim Denham's guide to dinner party etiquette and is it ever acceptable to call your hostess a Nazi.


Paddy the Puritan invites us for a tour of his stunning loft apartment on Stoke Newington Church Street .
He talks exclusively about why he shops at Fresh and Wild and gives us a sneak preview of his design collection for the more modest woman, inspired by his muse Yvonne Ridley .

New age

Our resident astrologer and tarot reader, Hakmao, will tell your fortune.


Stroppy's new column 'bottle blond binge drinkers:' a guide to growing old disgracefully.

Fucking, Fisting and Fishnets

Ms Stroppy answers all your problems.

Personals for sad leftie men who want to get laid

Includes the cream of the left ...

Jim D " Spank me baby!I have been a very very bad boy and am looking for someone to tell me off in German.Uniform optional. Melanie Phillips look a like my ideal"

Jon R " Is your idea of a romantic night in one spent reading Trade Union rule books to each other? If so do get in touch. I have an extensive collection going back many years, many unions and they are only slightly sticky"

Punchie " Up against the wall baby. Wanted: right wing Paris Hilton look alike to polish my AK47 . Asda knicker wearing lefties a no no."

Update: Sadly its now goodbye to Tami who doesn't want to blog here at the moment.


Alternative Living: Polyamory

During the debate on abortion rights earlier this year we heard arguments put forward once again which claimed that abortion rights were in the realm of the "personal" and therefore separate from "political" questions such as war, racism and so forth. This was explicitly rejected by myself and others who argued that women's rights were not "personal" and therefore secondary, but actually a fundamental part of any socialist struggle for a better future.

I want to now push the boundaries of that argument forward and look at alternative living that has been previously considered "personal" and therefore seen as separate from how socialist feminists live and indeed how socialists - male and female - actually function in society.

I am going to explore the concept of how socialists, radicals and others fighting for a better society might consciously live in a way that encompasses more than going to meetings and demonstrations, but also includes living and having relationships in a way that we think may be more fair, more progressive and more in line with wanting to make a better world than traditional forms.

In this context I am going to posit why I think socialists and socialist feminists should have honest and possibly open relationships. I can already hear the objections of many people claiming that I have no place to make such a claim and that this has nothing to do with politics - but I think it may. Just as I am an environmentalist and as such live in a way that means I do not waste energy unnecessarily and recycle my goods, so too should I seek to make my personal relationships - whether they involve friends, lovers or companions - ones that mirror the sort of personal relationships that I envision we would have in a better society.

For me, this means being polyamorous. Being polyamorous has many definitions but the most important part of poly is honesty, openness and communication. Of course one need not identify as poly in order to live this way in a relationship, but I think it helps. Why? Because having an open relationship based on these things discourages dishonesty and encourages everyone to be honest with one another at all times. Does it always work out that way? No, but I believe it has more potential for creating a culture of honesty than strict monogamy does.

In addition, traditional concepts of monogamy entail notions of "ownership" whether explicit or implicit which encourages people to rely on other individuals instead of groups of people or broader communities. This is not to say that people who are monogamous all think or even act this way but rather that it is difficult not to fall into such patterns when practicing monogamy. As socialist feminists we can recognise that monogamy is largely a social construct which complements capitalism's necessity to reproduce the working class and provides a supposedly stable situation by which this reproduction can occur.

In reality, monogamy is violated time and again and people appear to desire sex, love and emotional relationships outside of their couple pairing at some point in their relationship. Normally when this is broken, dishonesty is the solution to situations where people fall in love with another person - or indeed recognise that they are in love with two or more people at the same time. They have what they believe is no alternative. This is due to the a variety of factors including the myth that love is "zero-sum" - ie that loving one person means loving someone else less as a result. This is patently not true. Further, many people will have extreme feelings of guilt, loss of self worth and so forth that come from believing they are doing "something wrong" by loving and caring about someone outside of the couple. Again, these feelings of guilt are due to social factors and are completely unnecessary if honesty and openness are fundamental tenets of the relationship from the beginning.

Many people, socialists, radicals and social activists, do not live in a way that gels with their view of a better world when it comes to personal relationships. They cheat, lie, hurt each other - whether intentional or not - and practice their personal relationships in much the same way as any other person in Western societies. But this need not be the case. It does not simply have to be the way it is. If we can advocate social change, up to and including revolution, then why can we not also advocate different and new ways of living and treating each other in personal relationships as part of the whole package of change?

But why is openness necessary? Why can't monogamous, socially aware couples simply agree to be honest? The answer is that they can, but the question is - why limit ourselves? As mentioned above, reliance on a single individual for emotional, sexual and other needs solely and completely is not necessarily desirable. Under the current system, the stresses and strains on individuals are enormous. Whether it comes to raising children, sexual demands, work demands and so forth. Why do we live in such a way that we insist that only one other individual in our lives be responsible for all of this when, giving an alternate way of living and loving we can greatly expand our social groupings, carers for children and sexual and emotional experiences?

I am interested in what others think about this issue, so please do contribute to the discussion in the comments box.

For further information on the concept of Polyamory see: Polyamory? What, like, two girlfriends?

For a very interesting weekly programme which explores Polyamory see: PolyWeekly

Saturday, August 23, 2008

The AWL, Israel and Iran

This is reprinted from Shiraz Socialist and is written by David Broder, formerly of the AWL (Alliance for Workers' Liberty). I am going to do an official introductory post over the weekend but thought it was important to make people aware of this in the meantime.

The furore over the recent article by the Alliance for Workers’ Liberty’s Sean Matgamna excusing an Israeli attack on Iran has now died down. The four pages splashed across Thursday’s Solidarity belie the silence that has fallen. There have been hardly any comments on the AWL website about the issue for a week; except for a short piece by Matgamna proving that the CPGB have upset him in the recent Punch-and-Judy, the articles in Solidarity are all old reprints from the website discussion; the statement circulated between around a dozen AWL minority comrades did not make the paper; and the discussion bulletin promised for August 17th never materialised.

This was hardly surprising - the participants in the discussion all had totally different parameters for debate and therefore the argument ran into the ground without any new conclusions being drawn. This despite the one glaring similarity between the Matgamna position and the so-called “kitsch left” position, namely that neither side is aware of the difference between the interests of the working class and their ‘national’ ruling class and therefore have no option but to line up behind the “lesser evil” bourgeoisie, whether that be the “anti-imperialist” rulers of Iran or Israel, which Solidarity labelled “the most democratic society on Earth”.

The level of debate was appalling. Sean Matgamna - who admitted at our North London AWL branch meeting when challenged that he could not name a single Iranian trade unionist and was unaware of strikes taking place in Iran - simply assumed that the Iranian rulers were all al-Qaedist suicide bombers and that they were developing nukes. Anyone who knows me will know that I am no apologist for the Iranian regime, but you have to take the dynamics of the situation seriously. Khatami has repeatedly criticised “hard liners”, preaching moderation, civilian nuclear energy only, and Iran-US negotiations. A brief search on Google reveals that Iran’s “Supreme Leader” Khamenei issued a Fatwa against the development, stockpiling and use of nuclear weapons in August 2005, unlike Mohsen Gharavian - a disciple of Ayatollah Mesbah-Yazdi, who is close to Ahmedinejad - who in February 2006 said that it was permissible to use them. I would certainly not advocate alliance with sections of the regime opposed to Ahmedinejad or support for “reform” Islamists, but they are a real factor in the situation.

Furthermore, the argument was characterised by ridiculous personal attacks. On the AWL website Mark Osborn wrote that “in an ideal world [Workers' Power's] Richard [Brenner] would be well balanced and a foot taller”, called Bill Jefferies “Bill Braincell” Ben Lewis “Benny Boy” and made a Welsh/sheep-shagger joke about the CPGB’s Mark Fischer. Tom Unterrainer wrote that “when it comes down to it HOPI will strain every sinew to excuse and defend the actions of Iranian clerical fascism against the Iranian working class”, without any explanation. If only the AWL leadership really did devote as much time building links with Iranian socialists as they did to squabbling with the rest of the left, their position would be a little more credible. Not that any of the Iraqi socialists they would talk to refuse to call for “troops out now”; similarly, I doubt the Iranians would be too delighted if the Israeli jets came and the AWL “refused to condemn” it.

You might be wondering why I’m moaning about all this: of course, none of this behaviour is new. After the close vote on Iraq at the AWL conference in May, Mark Osborn had loudly heckled that the group was full of “Maoist youth”. Last summer there was a pathetic fight between the CPGB and AWL, with lengthy, rambling personal attacks in both papers and the bizarre spectacle of the AWL’s Paul Hampton picketing the CPGB’s Communist University holding a cornflakes box and making chicken noises. I can’t quite remember what the dispute was about: I’m sure some trainspotters of the “blogosphere” will. Solidarity has just as much bumpf about left groups as any other paper.

While I had generally disliked the culture of AWL internal debates, which are usually characterised by a few people rallying around the EC and blandly asserting that their critics are “ill-educated” or “outside the tradition” without any explanation, what really changed my mind about the possibility of “reforming” the AWL was a specific incident that took place at the group’s office, where I have worked on-and-off, two weeks ago.

It started when I received a phone call from Tom Unterrainer that morning. As soon as I had said “hello” he said “I hear that you’re organising a faction”. Tom said that Sean and him were concerned about my recent “behaviour” in the Israel-Iran debate and wanted me to come to the office and discuss it with them.

Unsurprisingly, at the “meeting”, Sean repeated the age-old claim that I had pieced together a “rotten bloc” of minority comrades who I allegedly “actually” disagreed with.

But, much worse, in a series of paranoid slanders I was also repeatedly accused of supporting and goading on “kitsch left” attacks on the AWL; questioned on what links I have with the CPGB (a group I left over the question of Respect more than four years ago, aged 15, having been a member for barely two months) and Workers’ Power; and questioned over my motivations for having a personal friendship with Ben Lewis, who is in the CPGB.

In a breathtaking accusation of disloyalty, they asked what meetings I had had with the CPGB and Workers’ Power. Even to ask the question is an open expression of mistrust. (Thinking back, I once did go to meet Luke Cooper and Richard Brenner from WP, and did go to the Communist Students conference… in both cases having sought the AWL Executive Committee’s permission in advance!)

In this vein, I was asked how come the CPGB and I “use the same formulations to polemicise against [Sean]“. By “same formulations” they meant: I recently criticised Sean for “excusing” an Israeli attack on Iran, then a few days later the Weekly Worker had a headline criticising Sean with the word “excuse” in: as if the mere word “excuse” were some new invention of mine.

So not only was I accused of having been provoked the whole debate (since it was I who wrote the first response to Sean’s article on the website: apparently the article itself was not the cause of the row), thereby giving some sort of passive encouragement to the “kitsch left” to attack Sean: but I was also accused of active collaboration with the CPGB and Workers’ Power.

The one thing not up for discussion at the “meeting” was the politics of Sean’s article: Sean said he did not want to discuss it since my response was “not political” but rather “a stream of personal attacks”. He couldn’t cite any specific personal attack though, which made me think that they can’t have been particularly hurtful, and he turned down my offer to show him the article so that he could point out where all the personal attacks were.

Indeed, at this “meeting”, after repeatedly expressing my objections, I was mandated by these two Executive Committee members to produce a statement repudiating the CPGB and Workers’ Power and affirming my loyalty to the AWL, which Sean would then “vet” and make “suitable” for publication. When I sarcastically commented that rather than “vetting” the statement, maybe Sean should write it himself and put my name on it, he paused and then said - apparently entirely sincerely - to Tom, “I’d prefer to do that, but then he’ll claim afterwards that he was forced to do it”.

Indeed I was forced to do it. But I didn’t - to write a “statement of loyalty” and stick it up on the AWL site would have been grotesque. The culture in the AWL is not “Healyite”, but this was along those kind of lines.

I instead wrote a message to the AWL’s email list explaining what had happened and why I wouldn’t do it, which was met with a cavalcade of responses from all the usual suspects, most of them claiming that it was in fact I who was acting undemocratically since I should have written my response to Sean on the National Committee email list rather than publicly. Quite why I am to blame for “starting” a discussion for writing the second piece in it (you see, without a second post it wouldn’t have been a discussion, just an article… although it was entitled “discussion article”, which implies that it should be both…) is beyond me.

In a bizarre rant, Sean said that the cause of the problem was that… “David has bought into some commonplace anti-Bolshevik mythologies: he clearly does not agree with the organisational norms of the AWL, or of the political tradition that we trace back to the Russian Revolution and the Bolshevik Party. He sees or construes things – in this case the ‘meeting’ – to fit the anti-Bolshevik caricature of organisations like the AWL.” I was furthermore an “anti-Bolshevik” and a “centrist-anarchist”. People took sides on the “meeting” according to their views on Israel and Iran.

A discussion bulletin had been mooted, and the “meeting” was meant to be discussed at the next National Committee. Of course, there is no way in which Sean Matgamna and his ally Tom Unterrainer could have been censured by such a meeting.

There is, indeed, no prospect of replacing the EC of the AWL with another set of people, and that stymies all other discussions. If Dan Randall’s “troops out” motion had got a few more votes at the group’s conference and secured 51%, that would not have changed anything, since the same people would write the same articles about Iraq, perhaps calling their pieces “discussion articles”. The same people would be in charge of educationals and set the tone of all debate and discussion, and indeed even if the AWL had voted for “troops out of Iraq” Sean’s piece would still have appeared and had all the same outcomes, including the heretic-hunting “meeting”.

All debates are in any case largely between people on the leading committees of the group and have little input from the rest of the membership: I was amused by the suggestion that I am just angry at not being on the AWL EC, given that any vote on that committee on any issue would have been 6 against 1. In this case, Sean Matgamna decided that he disagreed with the conference policy on Iran and thus wrote an article saying we should not oppose an Israeli attack against that country: now it is universally believed that this is the AWL position, there is a moratorium on discussion, and so he has got his way.

With all that in mind, Chris Ford and I agreed that it was pointless to continue fighting in the AWL. There are lots of dedicated and intelligent comrades in the AWL who I was reluctant to break with: but they also will hit a brick wall (and the same kind of behaviour) if they attempt to fight the leadership. The only real alternatives are to leave or to bury yourself in your “own” campaigns and activism while semi-ignoring the “big politics” spouted by the AWL leadership. The latter is of course pointless - you can be a perfectly good activist or union militant without advocating any of the ideas expressed by the AWL.

Presumably all AWL “dissidents” want to advocate independent working-class politics, re-examine the state of our movement and the tasks of the working class and articulate a vision for a communist society. They will have much more chance of doing that with Chris Ford, myself and others who were not in the AWL than they will by remaining in that organisation.

Thursday, August 21, 2008

Women Migrant Workers Cheated Out Of Minimum Wage

Gawd bless the TUC. You can't rely on them to organise workers to fight back, or to say boo to a goose, but they come up with some useful research every now and again.

So the latest from the Department Of Oo You Don't Say is the startling news that female migrant workers are the group most likely to be paid less than the minimum wage. You probably guessed that already, but at least you now have the facts at your fingertips.

Still, at least this will not include women cleaners on London Underground, as RMT cleaners have won the 'London living wage' after a hugely inspiring struggle which I must write up at some point.

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Tuesday, August 19, 2008


I am going for a lie down after I have taken two paracetamol as Paddy the Puritan has made my head hurt.

Sometimes I despair. We are talking about people's lives, not some sort of game. See comments in the post below as to why I am ranting !

Do some on the left see their anti imperialist goal as a bloody nose for the US? is that more important than the lives of the oppressed in places like Afghanistan.

I want to see troops out of there and now.

I won't though cheer if they are replaced by the Taliban.

What exactly is the point if all we do is replace one oppression for another?

As socialists shouldn't we be humane, want an end to poverty, war and oppression?

Have we as a left really lost sight of what sort of world we want?

I know I don't want one where women are forced into marriage, often as children, raped and pregnant at 11. Where they are imprisoned if raped or have sex or love the wrong person. Where girls cannot have an education and are more or less imprisoned in their homes as chattel.

I don't admire them as paddy does. I don't admire people who oppress women.

Would Paddy and others still admire them if you replaced 'women' with 'black' people or any other oppressed group?
I hope not, so why do when it is women?

Paddy says it wouldn't be worse for women under the Taliban. OK, how about this :

The following list offers only an abbreviated glimpse of the hellish lives Afghan women are forced to lead under the Taliban, and can not begin to reflect the depth of female deprivations and sufferings. Taliban treat women worse than they treat animals. In fact, even as Taliban declare the keeping of caged birds and animals illegal, they imprison Afghan women within the four walls of their own houses. Women have no importance in Taliban eyes unless they are occupied producing children, satisfying male sexual needs or attending to the drudgery of daily housework.

Taliban restrictions and mistreatment of women include the:

1- Complete ban on women's work outside the home, which also applies to female teachers, engineers and most professionals. Only a few female doctors and nurses are allowed to work in some hospitals in Kabul.

2- Complete ban on women's activity outside the home unless accompanied by a mahram (close male relative such as a father, brother or husband).

3- Ban on women dealing with male shopkeepers.

4- Ban on women being treated by male doctors.

5- Ban on women studying at schools, universities or any other educational institution. (Taliban have converted girls' schools into religious seminaries.)

6- Requirement that women wear a long veil (Burqa), which covers them from head to toe.

7- Whipping, beating and verbal abuse of women not clothed in accordance with Taliban rules, or of women unaccompanied by a mahram.

8- Whipping of women in public for having non-covered ankles.

9- Public stoning of women accused of having sex outside marriage. (A number of lovers are stoned to death under this rule).

10- Ban on the use of cosmetics. (Many women with painted nails have had fingers cut off).

11- Ban on women talking or shaking hands with non-mahram males.

12- Ban on women laughing loudly. (No stranger should hear a woman's voice).

13- Ban on women wearing high heel shoes, which would produce sound while walking. (A man must not hear a woman's footsteps.)

14- Ban on women riding in a taxi without a mahram.

15- Ban on women's presence in radio, television or public gatherings of any kind.

16- Ban on women playing sports or entering a sport center or club.

17- Ban on women riding bicycles or motorcycles, even with their mahrams.

18- Ban on women's wearing brightly colored clothes. In Taliban terms, these are "sexually attracting colors."

19- Ban on women gathering for festive occasions such as the Eids, or for any recreational purpose.

20- Ban on women washing clothes next to rivers or in a public place.

21- Modification of all place names including the word "women." For example, "women's garden" has been renamed "spring garden".

22- Ban on women appearing on the balconies of their apartments or houses.

23- Compulsory painting of all windows, so women can not be seen from outside their homes.

24- Ban on male tailors taking women's measurements or sewing women's clothes.

25- Ban on female public baths.

26- Ban on males and females traveling on the same bus. Public buses have now been designated "males only" (or "females only").

27- Ban on flared (wide) pant-legs, even under a burqa.

28- Ban on the photographing or filming of women.

29- Ban on women's pictures printed in newspapers and books, or hung on the walls of houses and shops.

Apart from the above restrictions on women, the Taliban has:

- Banned listening to music, not only for women but men as well.

- Banned the watching of movies, television and videos, for everyone.

- Banned celebrating the traditional new year (Nowroz) on March 21. The Taliban has proclaimed the holiday un-Islamic.

- Disavowed Labor Day (May 1st), because it is deemed a "communist" holiday.

- Ordered that all people with non-Islamic names change them to Islamic ones.

- Forced haircuts upon Afghan youth.

- Ordered that men wear Islamic clothes and a cap.

- Ordered that men not shave or trim their beards, which should grow long enough to protrude from a fist clasped at the point of the chin.

- Ordered that all people attend prayers in mosques five times daily.

- Banned the keeping of pigeons and playing with the birds, describing it as un-Islamic. The violators will be imprisoned and the birds shall be killed. The kite flying has also been stopped.

- Ordered all onlookers, while encouraging the sportsmen, to chant Allah-o-Akbar (God is great) and refrain from clapping.

- Ban on certain games including kite flying which is "un-Islamic" according to Taliban.

- Anyone who carries objectionable literature will be executed.

- Anyone who converts from Islam to any other religion will be executed.

- All boy students must wear turbans. They say "No turban, no education".

- Non-Muslim minorities must distinct badge or stitch a yellow cloth onto their dress to be differentiated from the majority Muslim population. Just like what did Nazis with Jews.

- Banned the use of the internet by both ordinary Afghans and foreigners.

Is that really the point of being a socialist and anti imperialsit, to see this as some sort of victory?

Check out Jim's post on morals and the secular left. He states :

Whilst some may see wrangling over moral issues as unscientific weakness I think it's important to recognise that the left is on the left precisely because of a moral standpoint. When we see war, oppression, starvation and intolerance we rail against it rather than looking for ways to make money out of it. We are not coolly objective but scathing in our attacks on injustice. We think it's wrong.

And that means railing against oppression even if the perpetrators are also giving the Americans a bloody nose.


Monday, August 18, 2008

Women imprisoned in Afghanistan for the 'crime' of being raped.

A report in The Independent makes for depressing reading:

In Lashkar Gah, the majority of female prisoners are serving 20-year sentences for being forced to have sex.

Beneath the anonymity of the sky-blue burqa, Saliha's slender frame and voice betray her young age.Asked why she was serving seven years in jail alongside hardened insurgents and criminals, the 15-year-old giggled and buried her head in her friend's shoulder.

"She is shy," apologised fellow inmate Zirdana, explaining that the teenager had been married at a young age to an abusive husband and ran away with a boy from her neighbourhood.

Ostracised from her family and village, Saliha was convicted of escaping from home and illegal sexual relations. The first carries a maximum penalty of 10 years, the second 20. These are two of the most common accusations facing female prisoners in Afghanistan.

Two-thirds of the women in Lashkar Gah's medieval-looking jail have been convicted of illegal sexual relations, but most are simply rape victims – mirroring the situation nationwide. The system does not distinguish between those who have been attacked and those who have chosen to run off with a man.

Colonel Ghulam Ali, a high-ranking regional security officer, explained sternly that he supported the authorities' right to convict victims of rape. "In Afghanistan whether it is forced or not forced it is a crime because the Islamic rules say that it is," he claimed. "I think it is good. There are many diseases that can be created in today's world, such as HIV, through illegal sexual relations."

It seems 'progress' is being made. And what's that you may ask? Does that mean women will not be imprisoned for choosing who to have sex with or love or being raped , both as adults and children? Nope :

A female shura, or consultative council, was established in Helmand province last week to try to combat the injustice of treating an abused woman as a criminal, and not a victim. British officers and Afghan government officials from the province's reconstruction team are also overseeing a project to build humane accommodation for the 400 male and female prisoners.

Yep, lets just make their prison a little nicer :

In a separate area are the female "criminals" – the youngest is just 13 years old – along with their small children, who must stay with their mothers if no one else will claim them. Their only luxury is a carpet, two blankets, basic cooking facilities and two daily deliveries of bread. They have neither medical care nor, as Colonel Ali acknowledged, "basic human facilities", such as washing areas, electricity and drinking water. All this he hopes will be rectified when the new building his finished.

One case demonstrates the brutality and lack of worth accorded to not just women but young girls :

Pushing her five-year-old son's arm forward imploringly, Zirdana, 25, pointed to the festering wound buzzing with flies. The little boy was just two months old when his mother was convicted of murdering her husband, his father. Zirdana had been handed over to him at the age of seven, as part payment in a financial dispute. She gave birth to the first of her children when she was 11 and was pregnant with her fourth when her husband disappeared and she was accused of killing him. Her three older children were taken from her by her brother-in-law.

A report highlights the situation for women :

Earlier this year a report by Womankind, Taking Stock: Afghan Women and Girls Seven Years On, revealed that violent attacks against women, usually in a domestic setting, are at epidemic proportions – 87 per cent of women complain of such abuse, and half of it is sexual. More than 60 per cent of marriages are forced and, despite laws banning the practice, 57 per cent of brides are under 16. Many of these girls are offered as restitution for a crime or as debt settlement. Afghanistan is the only country in the world with a higher suicide rate among women than men.

So much for the west riding to the rescue of women. That doesn't mean a cheer if the Taliban take control though, even if some on the left might see that as a victory for anti - imperialism. My enemy's enemy is my friend does sod all for women, LGBT people, socialists and trade unionists .
There is nothing progressive in this, however much they hate the US, an organisation that would stop girls from having an education through violence and intimidation.

I await the first comment where I am told its all a bit unfortunate but that we must remember who the real enemy is. Tell that to the women suffering in prison or the schoolgirls attacked. The West should not be in Afghanistan but the Taliban will not be liberators in any true sense .The left should support socialists and progressive forces.As Dave puts it :

Because revolutionary socialists are implacably opposed to US imperialism, it does not follow that we are therefore indifferent to what undermines it.


Friday, August 15, 2008

Iran: No to whippings and executions of worker activists

From LabourStart. Anyone think supporting these women and workers is some sort of capitulation to imperialism?!

On May Day this year in Iran, two brave women - Sousan Razani and Shiva Kheirabadi - participated in open celebrations of the international workers' holiday.

The regime considers this to be a crime and the women were arrested.

They have just been sentenced to 15 lashes apiece, as well as four months in prison.

They're not alone. In a new and ferocious wave of repression directed against worker activists, a Kurdish teacher (Farzad Kamangar) has been sentenced to death. Three men (Abdullah Khani, Seyed Qaleb Hosseini, and Khaled Hosseini) have been sentenced to 120 lashes between them, as well as prison sentences. Afshin Shams has been arrested and awaits trial.

Meanwhile, Mansour Osanloo, leader of the Tehran bus workers, has languished in jail since July 2007.

Enough is enough.

The Iranian regime must now receive a loud and clear message from the international labour movement that we have not forgotten our sisters and brothers in Iran. Thousands of us must raise our voices.

You can help send that message by going to LabourStart's new campaign page here.

We have also launched a cause on Facebook for those of you using that social network, here.

Spread the word – build the campaign. No to whippings and executions!


Wednesday, August 13, 2008

Must see movies

Time for a bit of culture and much needed light relief on the blogs.

Whilst pottering round some charity shops I came across 1001 Movies You Must See Before You Die. I have no idea how good it is, but for £1.99 I decided it might widen my viewing as I am trying to catch up on both recent and older films I have missed.
1001 is a little daunting though and this is where the readers of the blog can help out.

What 10 films would you be your 'must see before you die'?

Oh and don't try to be all arty and clever and just list obscure unwatchable pretentious films , lets have what you really like.


Tuesday, August 12, 2008

Woman's Drinking Not To Blame For Rape

Good news. A woman has successfully challenged a decision by the Criminal Injuries Compensation Authority to cut her compensation for being raped on the grounds that she had been drinking beforehand. The CICA admits that it probably made the same 'mistake' (read: sexist victim-blame) in 14 other cases, and will now review its practice on this issue.

The compensation payout concerned was a mere £11,000, hardly a fortune especially compared with the £4.5m paid to Ben Collett, whose football career was terminated by a nasty tackle.

Nearly three years ago, I blogged about the tendency to blame women who have been drinking for being assaulted. Such nasty excusing of the perpetrator, and of the system that endorses him, is undoubtedly still with us. But at least this victory for one woman may have made a dent in it.

Now, let's see ... How about the CICA reviewing its view that a mother who takes her kids out on fireworks night should expect to lose an eye?!

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Sunday, August 10, 2008

Johnson/Cruddas dream ticket?

Todays observer has an awful piece about unions backing a johnson-cruddas dream ticket, and no mention of a change in policies.

Dream ticket? Its my idea of a nightmare!
I know let's repeat the mistakes of a few years back!

I've sent in this in response and would encourage others to do similar.

(John4leader 08 anyone?)

Date: Sun, 10 Aug 2008 13:09:38

Subject: Unions and Mps back 'dream ticket' 10.08.08

Unions and Mps back 'dream ticket'.
Unions and trade unionists are not particularly interested in who the leader is but in a change of policy. It is the centre right agenda fully backed by Johnson that is alienating those union members that Tony Woodley mentions. As for Cruddas he fails to convince as Prescott to Johnson's Blair. Neither candidate has a solid track record of support for union policies. If union members want influence for our policies - and our unions - in the context of the forthcoming leadership election we need to focus attention on those policies, rather than the personalities who are jockeying for position. That is why we need a candidate who will stand to promote union policies and put these firmly on the agenda before all the candidates.

Workers' Liberty vs Weekly Worker: debate goes nuclear

I return from my week in Dorset to find that the proverbial has well and truly hit the fan about Sean Matgamna's discussion piece on the prospect of an Israeli attack on Iran's nuclear facilities. There is a lively debate on Workers' Liberty's own website, and over on Shiraz Socialist, they are going at it hammer and tongs.

Personally, I think there are grounds to criticise Sean's article, and am inclined to broadly support David Broder's response to it. More on that later. However, far more shocking and appalling than anything that Sean wrote is the response from some sections of the 'left'.

You know when opposition is desperate and groundless when it resorts to simply making stuff up. So the Weekly Worker chose not to bother with a rational critique of Sean's views, but simply invented a story that he supports Israel nuking Iran. I'm not going to dissect their ridiculous coverage, as the very fact that they put a blatant fiction on their front page tells you all you need to know. Didn't I say something before about the Weekly Worker's sad disregard for the truth?

(BTW, I know there is a tenuous justification from the WW that because nuclear installations can apparently only be destroyed by nuclear weapons (not sure what science that is based on), and that Sean does not condemn (let's leave aside for now that neither does he support) an Israeli attack designed to knock out Iran's nuclear capacity, therefore he is, and therefore the AWL is, in favour of Israel nuking Iran. This is the equivalent of me saying "I wish someone would turn down my neighbour's loud music", and someone claiming that my neighbour's music system does not have a volume switch or an off switch, and he has sworn that he would protect it with his life, and thus concluding that my entire family advocates the brutal murder of my neighbour. In other words, it is pants posing as an 'argument'.)

Along with this comes all sorts of cant about driving the AWL out of the labour movement. For starters, you might notice that the labour movement is not in the habit of taking orders from the Weekly Worker. I wouldn't boast a massive influence for the AWL either, but the WW's is tiny, if that, and its pretence to be able to demand another group's exclusion implies a self-aggrandising delusion that is no surprise from a group which claims to be the Communist Party.

For seconds, their low level of involvement in the labour movement should not excuse their ignorance of that movement's tradition that debate is tolerated, even welcomed. We don't drive people or groups out for their views. The only group that should be 'driven out' of the labour movement is a fascist group.

For thirds, I don't recall - though I may be wrong, given that I don't read the Weekly Worker very often, life being too short - the WW demanding any other left group be treated as persona non grata, no matter what their thought-crimes. So link-ups with religious reactionaries, association with dictators, dumping of abortion rights and LGBT rights, selling out on pensions, apologism for war criminals, ... none of these things have warranted a fatwa from the Weekly Worker when groups other than the AWL (or WW) have done them. Oh no.

Next up, we have one Chris Stafford, commenting on Shiraz Socialist, Sean is very clear on which side he and his merry band are on: 'But if the Israeli airforce attempts to stop Iran developing the capacity to wipe it out with a nuclear bomb, in the name of what alternative would we condemn Israel?' Excuse me, but how on earth can you make clear what side you are on simply by asking a question?! A straightforwardly rhetorical question can indeed make your position clear - eg. "What the bloody hell do you think you are doing voting for Respect?" - but Sean's question is not of that kind: it is a question looking to discuss answers.

It seems to me that all the shrill blusterous denunciation of the AWL because of Sean's article throws up a convenient smokescreen to avoid answering that question. The attempt to address this question is the strength of Sean's article - the left has for too long settled for being against things without troubling itself about the grounds. Just as there were bad as well as good grounds for opposing the invasion of Iraq (eg. the far-right view that Britain shouldn't waste its time and money on foreigners), there are bad as well as good grounds for opposing an Israeli attack on Iran's nuclear capacity - an example of 'bad grounds' would include asserting that Iran has the 'right' to nuclear weapons, or that Iran nuking Israel wouldn't be so bad. I shudder to think what some on the left will come out with, and it is right to challenge and discuss this in advance.

Anyone who is going to screamingly denounce Sean's article should actually address these questions: Is it OK for Iran to have nuclear weapons? Does Israel, and do Israelis, have genuine grounds to fear being nuked by Iran? And if so, what are they entitled to do about it?

I should at this point emphasise that Sean's opinion is Sean's opinion, and that AWL policy is to "oppose military action (whether invasion or air strikes, bombing raids etc) or economic sanctions against Iran ... We characterise any realistically likely military conflict between the US and Iran as one between two imperialisms: an imperialist superpower and a regional 'sub-imperialism'. A conflict between Iran and Israel would constitute war between two sub-imperialisms, with one most likely backed by the American superpower."

Sean's article has many weaknesses. I personally dislike his style of writing, which I think creates confusion rather than clarity. George Orwell put together a good set of rules for clear political writing, and Sean breaks most of them in most things he writes. It takes a little effort to tease out what is unhelpful writing style and what is political mistake, and there is overlap between the two. David Broder makes several worthy points, and I'll add a handful. Sean's article:
  • does not explicitly oppose an Israeli attack on Iran, as AWL's Sacha Ismail rightly argues. 'Not support', 'not take responsibility for', etc, is not good enough;
  • does not engage with the uncertainty as to whether Iran is actually developing nuclear weaponry;
  • addresses the issue from the point of view of what the Israeli state does and does not have the right to do, rather than how the Israeli, Iranian and Arab working classes can stop the warmongers;
  • does not consider Israel's aggressive and oppressive actions and intentions in the region - I'm not sure the article would be any different if written about a peace-loving, non-aggressive state (if such a thing could exist) feeling threatened by a nearby state;
  • rightly opposes the idea that socialists should not be 'unconditional pacifists', but skips over the idea that we should be generally anti-war. We are not pacifists because we do not oppose every single war in every single circumstance, but we are anti-war and anti-militarist; in fact, exposing the inbuilt drive to war is part of the socialist critique of capitalism.
Sean's article concludes by hoping for a calm debate. Given the left's habitual ways of arguing, that may be a triumph of optimism over experience, but he is right to hope for it. But if Sean had wanted a calm debate, he should have written a more balanced and calm article. Instead, he launched a flame-thrower, and got himself a flame war.

And finally ... I don't find gratuitous abuse in political debates, particular referring to mental health, in the least bit helpful, whether it be someone from Permanent Revolution calling Sean a nutcase or any similar comments coming in the other direction. And Jim Denham should probably avoid joining in debates, even on his own blog, when he has just come home from the pub. Other commenters on Shiraz, such as Alan Laurence, show that patient, reasoned argument get you a lot further than Jim's late-night intemperate style.

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Saturday, August 09, 2008

Deleted Without Being Read

There is no doubt lots of serious stuff going on in the news, but I've just got back from me hols, so commenting on world-shaking events will just have to wait. Among the 200+ emails awaiting my attention was this little classic:

Your message

To: Jennette Arnold
Subject: Loud announcements from Hackney railway stations
Sent: Mon, 5 May 2008 05:31:17 +0100

was deleted without being read on Sat, 9 Aug 2008 08:56:40 +0100

Now, I wouldn't expect the average Stroppyblog reader to be hugely interested in the sleep deprivation caused to me and my neighbours by loud announcements from our local railway station, but I thought you might be interested - in a not-very-impressed sort of way - with a New Labour GLA member's commitment to representing her constituents. Yes, for those of you wondering who Jenette Arnold (pictured) actually is, she is GLA member for North East London, which includes Hackney.

What do you do if someone emails you about a quality-of-life issue that obviously matters to several people whom it is your job to speak up for and represent? Er ... Ignore it for three months, then delete it without reading it.

And Labour wonders why its base in working-class communities is shrinking to virtually nothing? (OK, something to do with generalised attacks on the working class, privatisation, cutting public sector pay, unpopular wars, sucking up to the rich, failing to protect us from the credit crunch etc, but you get my point ...)

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Friday, August 08, 2008

What do women want ? Husbands, babies and cushions.

Well that's the impression you are left with after reading what I assume is meant to be some witty battle of the sexes type banter over at The Times.

If you are feeling a bit bored pop over and see how many stereotypes you can find.

Tad and Molly are debating whether women should live with a man if she wants him to get down on one knee and propose (this is assuming heterosexuality here of course).

Molly thinks a woman should hold out for a proposal before rushing to move in:

My view is that until a man proposes he is still at some level deciding whether his girlfriend is The One. Until he decides, the downside of moving in together is too big to risk it. You know what they say about buying cows when you get milk for free...

Yep, that oldie, sex as a bargaining tool used by women.

Tad responds a bit later:

it's a big deal if a man asks a woman to move in. If we do it, it's because we want you there and probably want to marry you. The prize is there for the taking.

This article is pretty insulting for straight men and women.

Men are portrayed as seeing living together as a way to get 'free' sex. Tad disputes that , but its not much better. Seems if a man lives with you then feel honoured that you may get the 'prize' of being his wife.

Women are manipulative,with a 'ticking body clock', looking at the best way to trap her man and get that sparkler on her finger.

So yet again the stereotype of women not really being that into sex , using it to get what they want which is of course full blown domesticity. Oh and chuck in the tired cliche's about cushions and toilet seats . Surely 'Bridget Jones' is just so last century ?

Where to start with all this?

Well relationships can take all sorts of forms and not all are the heterosexual, married 2.4 kids variety. Some men really really want kids, some women have no interest in then whatsoever.

Some men want to marry, some women want to have open relationships or have a number of partners perhaps even with other women !

People do not have to live together to be partners.

Some women even quite like sex and don't see it as a way of trapping men and then feigning headaches for the rest of their not so wedded bliss.

Surely we can move on from the stereotype of the woman desperate to ensnare their 'prize' of a man .

Sex and relationships are a lot more complex, and potentially fun, than that .

Oh and Tad and Molly, try to be a bit more imaginative next time.


Thursday, August 07, 2008

The fight for secular, progressive, feminist and anti-racist values

Interesting article by Pragna Patel,chair of Southall Black Sisters and a member of Women Against Fundamentalism in the New Statesman. It looks at the implications of the recent victory in the courts.

Pragna states :

Specialist services like ours are needed not only for reasons to do with language difficulties and cultural and religious pressures on women.

Women turn to us because of our considerable experience in providing advice and advocacy in complex circumstances: where racism and religious fundamentalism (the political use of religion to seek control over people, territories and resources) is on the rise in the UK and worldwide; where legal aid is no longer easily available; where privatisation of what were once important state welfare functions is accelerating; and where draconian immigration and asylum measures are piling up.

These developments threaten our very right to organise and challenge abuses of power by state and community leaders. Secular spaces are literally being squeezed out of minority communities.

The SBS challenge to Ealing Council represents a key moment for black and minority groups that have organised politically to counter racism and other forms of inequality based on gender, caste and ethnic divisions between and within communities in the UK.

The current drive towards ‘cohesion’ represents the softer side of the ‘war on terror’. At its heart lies the promotion of a notion of integration based on the assumption that organising around race and ethnicity encourages segregation.

At the same time, in the quest for allies, it seeks to reach out to a male religious (largely Muslim) leadership, and it thereby encourages a ‘faith’ based approach to social relations and social issues.

This approach rejects the need for grassroots self organisation on the basis of race and gender inequality but institutionalises the undemocratic power of so called ‘moderate’ (authoritarian if not fundamentalist) religious leaders at all levels of society.

The result is a shift from a ‘multicultural’ to a ‘multi-faith’ society: one in which civil society is actively encouraged to organise around exclusive religious identities, and religious bodies are encouraged to take over spaces once occupied by progressive secular groups and, indeed, by a secular welfare state.

In the process, a complex web of social, political and cultural processes are reduced by both state and community leaders into purely religious values, while concepts of human rights, equality and discrimination are turned on their head.

The problem with the state accommodation of religion – even so called moderate religious leaderships – is that they work against and not for equality and justice.

Since 9/11, we have witnessed the rise of religious intolerance in all religions, which has in turn fostered a culture of fear and censorship.

The failure of the British state to de-link the state from the Christian church – coupled with its anti-civil liberties agenda and disastrous foreign policies – has fuelled a faith based politics of resistance amongst Muslims.

In the event, many have become ever more vigilant in the protection of their religious identity, as borne out by increasingly loud demands from religious and even fundamentalist leaders within black and minority communities. Such demands – for blasphemy laws, for state funding for separate religious schools, for female dress codes, and for customary laws for family affairs to name but a few – have nothing to do with challenging racism or poverty, but everything to do with ensuring that all state institutions accommodate ‘authentic’ religious identity: an identity which depends on the control of female sexuality.

Such demands, by their very nature, deny the numerous progressive religious and even secular or feminist traditions that exist within minority communities
In this context, the sentiments recently expressed by the Archbishop of Canterbury and the Lord Chief Justice concerning sharia law are very telling: in the rush to be tolerant or sensitive to religious difference, they create the space for the most reactionary and even fundamentalist religious leaders to take control of minority communities, and they enable a climate which allows religion to define our roles in both private and public spaces.

Their sentiments appear contingent on the false assumption that black and minority cultures are intrinsically opposed to universal human rights principles, and that they do not contribute to the body of law based on such principles that now inform the English legal system. In doing so, they allow religious and cultural contexts to become the overriding framework within which those from ethnic and religious minorities are perceived, inevitably drawing on very narrow assumptions about religion and the role of women.

Do read the whole of the article. I think it raises questions for the left in their response to this.


Friday, August 01, 2008

Prison Officers Propose Strikes For Trade Union Freedom

The Prison Officers' Association has submitted an excellent resolution on trade union freedom to this year's TUC Congress. Marking a change from the annual charade of passing a resolution denouncing the anti-union laws but doing little concrete about it, the POA proposes a series of one-day general strikes to demand trade union freedom.

No doubt, the TUC bureaucracy will bring megatonnes of pressure to bear on the POA to withdraw the final paragraph. Let's hope they are tough enough to resist. And should anyone fear that such strikes would be illegal, just stop and ask yourself ... Who exactly is going to lock us all up?!

P05 Trade union freedom

Congress recognises the level of work carried out by the General Council in an attempt to progress the Congress resolutions that called for a more modern, fair and appropriate approach to trades union rights in our country.

Further, Congress places on record its appreciation to all those academic lawyers and MPs who sought to take the Trade Union Freedom Bill through the Parliamentary process, but expresses its disbelief at the Labour Government which choose to talk the Bill out of time, in order to ensure that the Bill fell. This act of “political sabotage” is unworthy of any Government, but particularly a Labour Government.

Congress recognises that the actions of the TUC and affiliated unions have had no success to date in persuading the Government to amend legislation to return the fundamental rights of all workers. In fact, Government has taken even more draconian legislative action to stifle trade unions.

Therefore, Congress instructs the TUC to organise a series of one-day general strikes until such time as the Government removes the restrictive anti-trade union legislation from statute.

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