Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Arab Construction worker killed and 9 wounded as missile hits Israeli city

This is from WAC-MAAN, the Workers' Advice Centre (Ma'an in Arabic) which works to unite Israeli and Palestinian workers.


WAC-MAAN – Nazareth

Press release: December 30, 2008

Arab Construction worker killed and 9 wounded as missile hits the Israeli city of Ashkelon on Monday

WAC-MAAN calls upon trade unions and the international labor movement to pressure their governments to stop Israel’s war on Gaza

On Monday morning, Dec. 29, a Grad missile launched in Gaza hit a construction site in the Israeli city of Ashkelon. It killed Hani al Mahdi, 27 years old, from the Arab town of Aarara in the Negev. It also injured nine workers from the Arab village of Kufr Manda in Galilee.

These men, who were working to gain a decent life for their families, fell victim to Israel's war on Gaza, which started Saturday and has so far killed 300 in Gaza, as well as injuring 1000. Among the killed and wounded are many civilians.

Israel claims that it is defending its citizens in the South. But these people are working-class, and the government has shown by its policies that the lives and security of workers mean nothing to it: its priorities are with the rich.

WAC-MAAN, an independent trade-union association, has been active for many years in Kufr Manda. Many construction workers, including those who were injured on Monday, are members and supporters of WAC, which acts day and night to defend the rights of workers in Israel, especially Arabs.

We know from our members that they have to travel 200 kilometers each day, like the nine who were injured in Ashkelon, just to find a place that is willing to hire them. Their tenuous job situation has caused them, in recent years, to work without social benefits at sites that threaten their safety and health. The government encourages the formation of a “precarious work force” in order to help employers and investors.

The same government that started the present war has sent tens of thousands into unemployment, while destroying the social security net in accordance with its neoliberal agenda.

WAC-MAAN opposes the war on Gaza and calls for an immediate cease fire. After the war ends, we know, hundreds of thousands on both sides of the border will remain poor and unemployed. Palestinian workers are shut jobless behind the separation wall, while their families languish in poverty and hunger. Israeli workers, for their part, are starting to feel the pinch of the global financial crisis, with higher levels of unemployment and further attacks on earlier social gains.

The killing of Hani al Mahdi on Monday brings to mind the situation of 1.2 million Arab citizens of Israel, whom the establishment routinely brands as disloyal. In reality, half the Arab families here live below the poverty line, although the national average is 20%. They live in towns without infrastructure or job opportunities, a result of discriminatory policies implemented since Israel was established 60 years ago.

WAC-MAAN calls upon trade unions around the world to pressure their governments for action that will force Israel to end its brutal attack on the Palestinians in Gaza, stop its occupation of Palestinian lands and accept the right of the Palestinians to self determination and peace.


3rd January - National Demonstration - Hands off Gaza: Stop the bombing: Free Palestine


Change of time and meeting place:

03 January 2009
Time: 12:30 - 16:00
Location: Embankment, W2

Info from facebook of a national demo this saturday :

Date: 03 January 2009
Time: 14:00 - 16:00
Location: Parliament Square, W1

Other demos :


TUESDAY 30 DECEMBER, 2 - 4pm outside Israeli Embassy,
Kensington High Street, London, W4. Nearest tube
Kensingston High Street (turn right out of tube station and walk along the main road.

WEDNESDAY 31 DECEMBER, 2 - 4pm outside Israeli Embassy

THURSDAY 1 JANUARY, 2 - 4pm outside Israeli Embassy

FRIDAY 2 JANUARY 2 - 4 pm. Outside the Egyptian Embassy, .
26 South Street, London, W1K 1DW. Call for Egypt to open the border immediately.


Saturday 3 January 12 noon. Outside Lloyds TSB St Vincent Street then assemble for demo at Blytheswood Square 2pm

Saturday 3 January 12 noon. Foot of the Mound, Princes Street

Centre, opposite the Hippodrome, Tuesday - Friday 5.00 - 6.00 and Saturday 3.00 - 4.00.

Tuesday 30 December 12 to 1pm. outside Cardiff Market/ St John's Church, the Hayes

Wednesday 31 December New Year Vigil. Nye Bevan Statue, Queen Street

Tuesday 30 December 12 noon, Market Square

Tuesday 30 December 12 to 2pm, West Quay Entrance, High Street

Saturday 3 January 11am, Guildhall Square
Organised by Portsmouth Network for a Just Settlement of the Arab-Israeli Conflict, and Portsmouth Stop the War Coalition

Saturday 3 January, 11am. Queen Victoria Square.


Saturday, December 27, 2008

Emergency Protest Against Israeli Bombng of Gaza

As the news reveals the horrifying bombing of Palestinians in the Gaza strip by the Israeli military, you might like to join this demonstration tomorrow ...

Saturday, 27 December 2008 - Emergency demonstration outside Israeli embassy

Last night Israel announced the end of the blockade and this morning they bombed over 150 Gazans to death.

The operation against the Hamas is "only just beginning," Avi Benayahu, an Israeli military spokesman said.

This is a war crime on an industrial scale.

There will be a demonstration outside the Israeli embassy ( 2 Palace Green, London, W8 4QB. Map here

Assemble 2pm on Sunday 28th December 2008.

Supported so far by: Stop the War, Palestine Solidarity Campaign, BMI, PRC


Friday, December 26, 2008

Eartha Kitt

Well this blog had to do a tribute to the best Catwoman.


Thursday, December 25, 2008



Wednesday, December 24, 2008

A Merry Communist Christmas

Hat tip: Heather

Update: Mod says "click on the image, the right click and turn off loop and play." - but I can't get it to work for me.


Pope Slags Off Gays Shcoker

The Pope is obviously intent on spreading goodwill to all men - except the ones who fancy other men. In his Christmas address, the former Hiltler Youth member tells us that homosexuality is as much a threat to humanity as climate change.

The Pontiff and/or his advisers seem to have realised that directly attacking LGBT people as sinful is somewhat passe and may attract criticism, so tried to code the message. But everyone knew what he meant when he said the church viewed the distinction between men and women as central to human nature, and asked "that this order, set down by creation, be respected". He said that the church "should protect man from the destruction of himself" and that a sort of ecology of man was needed, adding: "The tropical forests do deserve our protection; but man, as a creature, does not deserve any less." He attacked what he described as "gender" theories which "lead towards the self-emancipation of man from creation and the creator". Oh, and lifelong wedlock between a man and a woman is like "the sacrament of creation". And sexual behaviour beyond that between a man and a woman is a "destruction of God's work".

Even the Daily Telegraph accepts that the comments will be perceived as anti-gay. It does, however, seem more concerned that the Pope has been a little naive in saying such things given how prone the homosexual lobby is to over-reaction.

The odd thing is that anyone other than the Pope who came out with this kind of ridiculous nonsense would be instantly dismissed as some eccentric babbler who deserves no attention whatsoever. But because a bunch of other eccentric babblers decided he was God's spokesman on Earth, somehow his bigoted views are broadcast worldwide as though they deserve some kind of credibility.

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Monday, December 22, 2008

Day of Action report: Free the Shministim!

Here is a report from Israel on last Thursday's Day of Action in support of the Shministim, Israeli teenagers jailed for refusing to serve in the Army ...

It is hard to convey, and impossible to overstate, just how completely saturated Israeli culture is by the heroic image of the Israeli Army. In school, advertisements, marketing campaigns,store discounts, discussions with neighbors, every way you can imagine, the Army is portrayed as the ultimate form of service to the country. When I took my daughter, who is five, to the doctor recently, the doctor began her explanation of how vaccines worked in this way: “you know how Israel has an Army that protects us? Well the vaccines are your body’s army…”

It is simply everywhere.

That is what makes the shministim all the more remarkable. These are young adults, just out of high school, who have managed to break through all the myths that they have been immersed in and figured out for themselves what the Army actually does. Having reached the conclusion that being in the Army would force them to commit immoral actions, they have taken the next obvious—but in no way easy—step of taking action by refusing to serve. All in the face of family pressure, peer pressure and societal pressure that is absolutely intense. They are willing to pay the price, which can and does include jail time, for standing up for what they know is right.

As far as I am concerned, as a mother who is raising two Israeli daughters, they could not be better role models.

So I invited my daughter to join me at the December 18th Day of Action in Solidarity with the Shministim, and I was thrilled that she even agreed to leave her sister’s Chanukah party early to accompany me.

The Day of Action had already attracted welcome attention: a front page article this morning in Haaretz, a moving statement of solidarity from U.S. Army war resisters, and a strongly worded statement of support from Amnesty International.

When we arrived, the first thing we saw was box after box after box after box lined up on the street. These were the letters and postcards that had been generated by the international campaign, over 20,000 in total.

We were arrayed across the street from the imposing kiriya, the Army headquarters. This was as close as the police would allow us to get. We were a small group, about two hundred people, and this reminded me just how brave and still isolated the refusenik movement in Israel is, and therefore how much the international support really means.

The spirited crowd chanted and yelled support as some of the shministim–Omer Goldman, Sahar Vardi, Raz Bar-David Varon–and the relatives of Yuval Ophir-Auron and Sahar Vardi, took turns bringing the boxes of letters to the locked gates of the kiriya, where eventually two men in suits agreed to take them all inside. They make a nice group, indicative of how a refusenik can come from any part of Israeli society, as Omer’s father made his career high up in the Mossad and Sahar’s family are relentlessly dedicated left-wing activists.

There is a traditional belief in Yiddish culture, which comes from the Jewish mystical tradition, about the lamedvavniks, the thirty six righteous and humble people for whom God saves the world. The shministim are our lamedvavniks-our voice of conscience, our tiny flickering hope of building a society that does not willingly participate in controlling, terrorizing, and killing the Palestinian people-enforcing the checkpoints, demolishing homes, destroying ancient olive groves, building the Wall, confiscating land, enforcing siege and all the other immoral and illegal actions of the occupation.

In the last minutes of the demonstration, I talked briefly with one of the organizers. She said, “you know, there’s a lot more we can do with these letters. We can hand them out on the streets of Tel Aviv. There are all sorts of things we can do.” She was clearly buoyed and excited about building on the movement the Day of Action had generated. And as we got back on our bike to ride home in the still-warm December air, my daughter said to me, “Mama, I never want to be in the Army.”

This is how it can begin. Because what if instead of six, or ten or sixty, six hundred refused? What if 6000 refused? The occupation would be over.

Rebecca Vilkomerson


Friday, December 19, 2008

Job Losses: Can The Unions Defend Their Members?

Contrary to some opinion amongst the trade union bureacracy, workers join unions not for plastic key fobs and will-writing services, but to defend and improve their jobs. With economic crisis biting and jobs being lost by the shedload, the unions' ability to deliver this most basic of their functions is being put to the test.

And while the unions could and should put up an effective fight to protect workers from the effects of the crisis, the sad truth is that many union leaders are failing this test in quite spectacular fashion.

Faced with the collapse of Woolworths and the loss of 30,000 jobs, USDAW can do nothing more than be appalled, plead with the government to ask JobCentres to help Woolies workers get new jobs, and give us the dates when the stores will close. There is no hint of any effort to stop the job losses, not even a flicker of a fight from a union that to all intents and purposes gave up before such a fight event started.

Could USDAW not even bring itself to suggest to the government that it might take Woolworths into public ownership?! After all, Gordon Brown found £500b to bail out the banks and Woolies is on sale for a quid. Could it not have mobilised workers, their families, and the potentially massive public support? A big march? Local protests? Sit-ins of stores? Dare I say it - industrial action?! Oh no - just sadness at the demise of the shops and their members' jobs.

That sadness - at Woolworths and MFI going into the hands of the administrators - came two days after USDAW had issued one of its frequent press releases in praise of the New Labour government, lauding the pre-Budget statement and claiming that it would relieve the financial pressures that its members were feeling. USDAW's leaders have long been the most obsequious creeps to Blair/Brown amongst the trade union movement (which is quite an achievement) and one of the least effective industrially, two things which are most definitely linked!

So it was pleasing, but not surprising, that there was a hefty vote for a lefty against the sitting USDAW General Secretary in September. Said lefty - Socialist Party member Robbie Segal - is now standing for the Executive and for President, and must stand a decent chance of being elected: although if she is, we can be confident that the bureaucracy will minimise her power and influence on the union. I should also note that Robbie was not too impressive when she was on Newsnight the other night, although at least she was there and speaking up for workers and criticising the government, unlike the union's leaders.

Anyway, I digress. Lest anyone think that USDAW's leaders are the only ones failing to give their members the lead that they need and deserve, the GMB's Paul Kenny has thrown his hat into the ring. Despite his reputation for being on the left of the union movement, of being part of the 'awkward squad', Brother Kenny has called for workers to take pay cuts in order to prevent job losses, and his GMB union has already persuaded members to do this in at least three companies.

Kenny claims that "It is difficult for union officials to stand up in front of members and recommend that they should lose pay. It is much easier just to say 'No, no, no' to employers." Sadly, it seems that many union officials do not find it difficult to recommend that workers lose pay, nor do they find it easier to say 'No, no, no' to employers. In reality, most union officials seem to find these things completely the other way round (except that they might find the 'standing up in front of members' bit hard, and prefer to accept pay cuts behind closed doors). Mind you, since the economic crisis clearly threatens the financial health of unions too, can we assume that Brother Kenny and other union leaders will be offering up their pay to be cut?

Kenny's grasp of history is also poor. In the slump that started in 1920, union leaders such as Jimmy Thomas and Ernest Bevin accepted pay cuts for their members in order to save jobs. Guess what happened next? They got job cuts too.

A dishonourable mention, too, for Unite's Tony Woodley who, while making the case for a car industry bail-out on the telly yesterday, indulged himself in a little special pleading. He suggested that it was OK for the government to let the likes of Woolworths go to the wall, as other shops will pick up their trade and create jobs which the ex-Woolies workers can get. Redundant car workers, on the other hand, will remain redundant car workers, and therefore their employers deserve the bail-out that high street stores do not. Actually, not only is that special pleading of a quite nauseating nature, it is also wilfully ignorant illusion-mongering to assume that if a Tesco store sells a few more rolls of Sellotape on the back of the local Woolworths closing down, it will necessarily create new jobs.

Our urgent priority now must be to demand that the unions fight the job cuts not by sacrificing workers' pay or rights but by waging an effective battle. And if the leaders fail, the rank and file must take up the challenge, for example by occupying shops and factories under threat of closure and demanding they be taken into public ownership and run democratically. In the absence of such a fight, no amount of petitions or proclamations will do the job.

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Wednesday, December 17, 2008

WTF - parents name kid Adolf Hitler...

and say they aren't racist !!!!!!!

The parents of a three-year-old boy have branded a supermarket 'intolerant' after it refused to decorate their son's birthday cake with his name - Adolf Hitler Campbell.

The couple from New Jersey had asked ShopRite staff to decorate their son's cake with his name - which he shares with the Nazi dictator - and were outraged after staff refused to on the grounds that it was 'inappropriate'.

It has also emerged that the couple have in the past asked for a swastika decoration.


However, the child's father Heath Campbell said it was time that people looked forward and accepted change.

'They need to accept a name. A name's a name. The kid isn't going to grow up and do what (Hitler) did,' he said.


Mrs Campbell, who said his ancestors are German, insisted the uproar had come out of nothing and that the couple were not racist.

Mr Campbell said more than a dozen children had attended her son's birthday party including several who were of mixed race.

'If we're so racist, then why would I have them come into my home?' he asked.

The Campbells' other two children also have unusual names: JoyceLynn Aryan Nation Campbell, two and eight-month-old Honszlynn Hinler Jeannie Campbell.

So if they aren't racist, yeah right, why the name? Well :

Mr Campbell said he named his son after Adolf Hitler because he liked it and because 'no one else in the world would have that name'.

Those poor fucking kids, get them out of there so they might stand a chance.


Tuesday, December 16, 2008

The correct attire for blogging

Inspired by Janine talking about naked blogging , I pondered on the readers of this blog whilst avoiding more pressing but less disturbing tasks.

Yeah, look away now Punchie, this is a 'lifestyle' post ;-)

I personally never go near the blogs unless wearing ripped fishnets, DMs and red lipstick, one has standards of sorts however low.

So what of others ?

as we know is a suave Terry Thomas look a like , sitting in front of his computer in a smoking jacket , with a glass (OK, a bottle) of whiskey and a fine cigar .

I imagine Mod dressed as a garden gnome like his picture. Duff I see wearing tweeds.

Imagining people naked is supposed to be good to calm nerves when speaking in public. I wonder what effect imagining bloggers in their pyjamas and slippers would have; how seriously could we take Punchie wearing his specially made pyjamas with a little AK47 motif . Hmmm


Getting Your Nob Out On The Radio

OK, so I'm a bit late at picking up this story - it's a couple of weeks old - but John Barrowman and the BBC have apologised after Captain Jack got his nob out on the radio.

On the radio. ON THE RADIO. It's a sound-only broadcast medium. You don't watch it. You don't see anything. So what exactly is the problem? The sound of a zipper? His reference to his fruit and nuts? Behave.

If I told you that I was sitting here naked whilst typing this blog entry, would that be grounds for complaint? (Actually, don't answer that.)

Interestingly, the report I linked to connects this incident to the Ross/Brand affair. I worried at the time that the moralism of the like of the Daily Mail over Ross/Brand would lead to an revival of demands for 'naughtiness' to be excised from the media and that essetnially harmless pranks would be caught in the reactionary net. It seems to me that John Barrowman's nob shows that this worry may be coming true.


Sunday, December 14, 2008

Whatever Happened to the Female Heroes?

Over on his Part, Dave has produced a list of heroes. Woefully, unless his yet-to-be-revealed top ten is chock full with women, Dave's list of heroes is a pretty spectacularly female-free zone. Tut tut.

I was going to respond with a list of female heroes. But here's something better: a list of heroes both male and female, as some women deserve their place on such a list without needing a women-only list of their own. As on Dave's Part, it's a mix of political and cultural, and please feel free to comment on my choices and suggest omissions. Or ask who on earth some of them are ...

Minnie Lansbury, Clara Zetkin, Rosa Luxemburg, Aretha Franklin, Paul Weller, Steve Marriott, Rosa Parks, Dita Sari, Taslima Nasrin, Spartacus, Sylvia Pankhurst, Leon Trotsky, Shirley Winter, Emma Goldman, Alexandra Kollontai, Constance Markiewicz, Edgar Lansbury, Eric Heffer, Ray Davies, Alec Guinness, Marilyn Monroe, Angela Davis, Harvey Milk, James Connolly, Jim Larkin, Eleanor Marx, William Morris, Lynn Segal, Harry Thompson, Arthur Miller, Tanya Byron, John Wheatley, Albert Einstein, Charles Darwin, and I'll no doubt think of some more as soon as I click 'publish' and will have to keep pestering the comments box.

PS. Like Dave, I fondly remember a certain Stranglers song, and indeed my forthcoming book has a chapter called 'Whatever happened to the heroes?'


Sheridan on Celebrity Big Brother ?

Sheridan and his ego have finally succumbed to the vanity project that is Celebrity Big Brother . Perhaps he hopes to follow in the paw prints of that other great male leader of the left, Gorgeous George, one can but hope for some similar cringe worthy footage. And surely after that fiasco Sheridan can't make the argument he wants to put forward socialist ideas to a wider audience as the that is not permitted.

Nope its the money and the fame, as it seems to be with all too many supposedly principled lefties .

As I said two years ago when he turned it down :

Now ideally I would love to see Galloway and Sheridan eating bugs and wading through spider pits on I'm a celebrity get me out of here. As that's not on the cards two egos such as Hasselhoff (SB:not sure who he is in with this time, suggestions dear readers for a good line up?) and Sheridan could prove interesting .
I do hope they provide lots of full length mirrors and a tanning bed as well .

Hmmm, yep I'll go with the cheap shot picture .

Oh and no comments pertaining to court cases please, I'll delete them.

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Saturday, December 13, 2008

Free the Shministim

Seven Israeli teenagers are refusing to serve in Israel's army because they object to Israel's occupation of Palestinian territories. Known as the Shministim, they are all 18 or 19 years old, have been called up for military service but have refused to go, and are now in prison.

They deserve our full support for the brave stand they are taking against the occupation and in support of Palestinian rights.

The Shministim have asked campaigners around the world to let the Israeli government know we are watching, and that we support their courage. They are hoping to receive hundreds of thousands of postcards to be delivered to the Israeli Minister of Defense on December 18th, when they will hold a massive rally and press conference. They have asked every person who strives for justice to support them.

To read more about them and to put your name to a letter to the Israeli government, click here.

If you put your name to the letter, you get this very nice letter from the campaign organisers, which also tells you what else you can do to help.

Dear Janine,

Thank you for taking the time to send a letter to Israel's Minister of Defense, Ehud Barak, about the Shministim. The Shministim are confident that tens of thousands of letters demanding their release will make a real difference.

We've generated 11,000 letters so far. We have about 1 week to go.

It has been a wonderful experience for us at Jewish Voice for Peace to work with the Shministim. They are real-life heroes, strengthened in their resolve to stand up against overwhelming pressure and all too aware that their counterparts in the Occupied Territories must endure far worse on a daily basis.

Please continue to tell your friends and family about You can put the web address in your email signature, post a web badge on your blog, tell your Facebook friends, put a poster on your door and more. Go to for ideas.

Let the world know that for the sake of both Israelis and Palestinians, Israel's occupation must end, and that a new generation of young people is willing to go to jail to stand up and say NO.

On behalf of the countless people and groups working to free the Shministim,

Cecilie Surasky
Jewish Voice for Peace

PS Join JVP's Facebook group:


Friday, December 12, 2008

Jean Charles de Menezes verdict

The jury were denied the option of an unlawful killing verdict , but after hearing all the evidence they have returned an open verdict.

They were asked twelve specific questions about whether or not a series of events on 22 July 2005 contributed to the 27-year-old's death and their response was :

After returning an open verdict, the 10 jurors rejected a string of claims made by officers about the events leading up to Mr de Menezes being killed.

The jurors concluded that six police failings caused or contributed to the innocent man's death.

After recording an open verdict, the jurors, who began considering their verdict at 2.40pm last Thursday, ruled the following:

* Firearms officer C12 did not shout the words "armed police" before opening fire.

* Mr de Menezes stood up from his seat before a surveillance officer, known as Ivor, grabbed him in a bear-hug.

* But the Brazilian did not move towards officer C12 before he was seized by Ivor.

They also concluded that six factors caused his death:

* A failure to obtain and provide better photographic images of the terror suspect Hussain Osman for the surveillance team.

* A failure by the police to ensure that Mr de Menezes was stopped before he reached public transport.

* The fact that the views of the surveillance officers regarding identification were not accurately communicated to the command team and the firearms officers.

* The fact that the position of the cars containing the firearms officers was not accurately known to the command team as the firearms officers were approaching Stockwell Station.

* There were significant shortcomings in the communications system as it was operating on the day between the various police teams on the ground and with New Scotland Yard.

* A failure to conclude, at the time, that surveillance officers should still be used to carry out the stop of Mr de Menezes at Stockwell Station even after it was reported that specialist firearms officers could perform the stop.

But they found that the following two factors did not play a part in his death.

* The general difficulty in providing an identification of the man under surveillance in the time available and in the circumstances after he had left the block at Scotia Road.

* The innocent behaviour of Mr de Menezes which increased the suspicions of some officers.

I'll round up some comment on this later.


Thursday, December 11, 2008

Lying about books you have read to get into someone's knickers

A survey states that :

Nearly half of all men and one-third of women have lied about what they have read to try to impress friends or potential partners, a survey suggests.
Men were most likely to do this to appear intellectual or romantic, found the poll of 1,500 people by Populus for the National Year of Reading campaign.
The men polled said they would be most impressed by women who read news websites, Shakespeare or song lyrics.
Women said men should have read Nelson Mandela's biography or Shakespeare.

Among the 1,500 who took part in the research were 864 teenagers.
About four in 10 of the 1,500 said they had lied about what they had read to impress friends or potential partners - 46% of men and 33% of women.
Among teenagers, the figure rose to 74%, with most saying they would pretend to have read social networking pages or song lyrics.

One in five adults said t
hey would read their chosen material whilst waiting for their date to arrive in the hope of making a good first impression.

Hmmm. How wide is the definition of reading in this survey ?Are song lyrics or facebook the same as reading a book or paper ? Does reading a bus timetable count ? I know someone who reads my shampoo bottle labels ,and then asks what the fuck is gru gru,  very annoying .
Oh and a grumble about the survey. It seems from the article to assume people are heterosexual, looking at what impresses men about women and vice versa.

OK, apart from being pedantic , this got me wondering about the readers of this blog . Now I know from the Stroppyblog  Sex Survey you can be a little, ahem, different. The whole theory as foreplay showed  reading got some of you turned on, as the responses below illustrate:

Dirty talk, theory as foreplay...

Marx - The second volume of Capital (9.8%) 5
Ernest Mandel's Late Capitalism (7.8%) 4
Weekly Worker (11.8%) 6
A Trade Union rule book ( 7.8%) 4
How many people were on the last anti war demo (7.8%) 4
Was the Soviet Union state cap or degenerated workers state. (35.3%) 18
Swearing al la Will (13.7%) 7
None of the above, that’s too kinky for me. (31.4%) 16
So, have you ever lied about what you have read in order to get into someones knickers ? 
What would impress you ?
And have you ever lied or embellished to score points when chatting to other comrades?


Tuesday, December 09, 2008

Oliver Postgate RIP

This morning I heard the sad news that yesterday, Oliver Postgate died aged 83. Oliver was the creator of much-loved kids' TV from the era when I first watched it - ie. when I was a kid - including Noggin the Nog, Ivor the Engine, The Clangers, Bagpuss, and my personal favourite Pogles' Wood (pictured). His son Daniel is a children's author, and wrote my youngest son Harrison's current favourite book, Smelly Bill.

Amongst the many tributes that will be blogged this morning, may I be the first 1920s labour history nerd to point out that Oliver was the son of Raymond Postgate and Daisy Lansbury, both lifelong, active socialists, and therefore the grandson of George Lansbury. Which, of course, makes him the cousin of Angela Lansbury; he was born in the same year as her too. And the nephew of my personal hero Minnie Lansbury, although she died before Oliver was born. And, like all GL's descendants, quite possibly also the descendant of a Tolpuddle Martyr. George's wife, Bessie Brine, was probably - although it has never been proved for sure - the granddaughter of Tolpuddle's James Brine.

So I think we can assume that Ivor the Engine had a sup at the South Wales NUR club after finishing a good day's chuffing.

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Sunday, December 07, 2008

In defence of social work

So I admit it I am a social worker, a senior one at that and a Practice Teacher for social work students. And after the past few weeks the steam has finally stopped coming out of my ears.

Like everyone else I have shaken my head at the press reports about the torture and death of Baby P and even shed a tear for the wee mite but I haven't got caught up in the social work baiting.

In the current climate we need to defend social work and social workers. I am not trying to defend incompetence or anything like that but there are procedures for that and there is also employment law. But you cannot sack people just because The Sun newspaper calls for them to be sacked, there must be due process.

Being a social worker is a hard and difficult job but can also be the most fabulous job in the world. There are many good times in social work as well as bad and even sad. There are so many difficult decisions to make every day you are at work - everything is a dilemma. Unless you are one it is hard to explain the difficult decisions you have to make from day to day - you have to make relationships with people whose lives you might ultimately destroy.

Have you ever written a report for someone and the consequences is that they will go to prison - they go to prison and then you have to visit them the next week to plan for their release?

Have you ever had to support a woman whose third child is being adopted and you are the one making the recommendation but have to hold her hand when you are sitting in court with her whilst she's breaking her heart?

Or assessed that someone should be sectioned in a psychiatric hospital against their will but you have to then run back to their house to get the cat, Ginger, to take to their Auntie Jessie's house.

Unless you are a social worker you will never have done any of these things, they are unique to social work.

I could tell you tales that would curl your toes , make you weep for a week and make your ribs hurt so much from laughing - social work is a unique profession.

Particularly in child protection the decisions that need to be made on a day to day basis are very difficult and sometimes the right thing is the wrong thing for someone.

The problem also is when it comes to child protection most parents do not want a social worker as they have to say and do difficult things and it is intrusive, there is little privacy and a family is turned inside out. Social workers alongside their colleagues in education, health, police and the voluntary sector have to balance children's attachments to their care givers and the the risk they may be at from them or because of them - and that is very, very difficult to do particularly now we know how children's attachments happen and the ripping and tearing of affectionate bonds is not recommended unless absolutely necessary.

And not there is a discource that is different that the past when the joke "What the difference between a rottwillier and a social worker - you get your kids back from a rottweiler!" was common - nopw everyone wants all the children on the Child Protection Register to go into children's homes!

There is a lot being said about Baby P and Shannon Mathews but people should be careful for what they wish for - it could lead to sharing of information without consent, children taken into care who might not need to be in care and a whole lot of other things most socialists would disagree with.

It is easy to call for the sacking of Baby P's social worker or the workers who didn't think Shannon Mathews needed to be on Child Protection Register and I am not suggesting that they should not be but only after an investigation and the correct legal process has gone through and only if it is the right thing to happen.

The issue for me about social work is that it moved from a community development model that was predominant in the 70s and 80s to case work. This is due to cuts and attacks first from the Tories and then the latter squeezing of local authority funding. Seeing "clients" as individuals and not in relation to their community, for me remains an issue.

Social work is one of the last "professions" which is under democratic control i.e. local authorities.
Of course there is an argument whether this is democratic or not but all major policy changes are decided by local councillors and not by boards or quangos and I think we need to defend that.

There is much more effective practice out there in social work than poor practice.

Social workers support thousands and thousands of adults and children every day, the problem is lack of resources and workers - it is common to freeze vacancies to pay for over time, not to fill posts to keep budgets in place - look around Britain and there are many cuts to the social work budgets.

I also think some of the attacks on social work and their clients, Baby P's mum and Karen Mathews come from a misogynist framework.
70% of social workers are women and in reading some of the blogs about social work in relation to Shannon Mathews and Baby P there have been quite lumpenised comments about social work as a profession and the work social workers have to do.
But there is a sort of sexist undercurrent to the discussion too (though I hope it is not intentional) Socialist Unity comments about "over-professionalising" social work, teaching etc - professions dominating by women but there would never be such remarks made about steel workers or car factory workers.
There are also comments about the salaries of social workers - electricians, plumbers etc. get paid more than social workers. And do I need to remind comrades that the majority of socialists supported Fire Fighters to have a wage of £30K a year a few years back?
Is it because social workers are women and their work is done with people usually children and vulnerable people that their value is not recognised or is it that working with women like Karen Mathews and Baby P's mum is seen as worthless despite being chastised and criticised for doing it wrongly or badly?

Dave Osler had a sensible post on his blog in my opinion however chaos broke out on Socialist Unity and one of the contributors got himself in a right pickle and did a 180 degree spin particularly once Michael Rosen contributed (he was very sensible) but I did think to myself "What is it that made the comrade change his mind after reading the internationally renowned author Michael Rosen's comments?".

The same old argument about the middle class and the working class came out in regards to social workers - I actually find this quite a boring argument.
I know working class social workers I wouldn't cross the road to talk to and one of my favourite social workers is a Laird, and he is lovely and very well liked in the community he works in.
The issue is a class one, however, because the majority of social work "clients" are working class and very poor working class families at that and they don't protest or complain, they don't demand better and the consequences is shoe string budgets.
If social work was universal like education and the NHS then I think there would be more resources but it is not.

Social workers are common whipping girls and boys but they are the last effort of the welfare state to try and have a collective response to problems in communities and families, you cannot make it safer by more regulations - social workers need more time, resources and support in order to do a very difficult job. Are you brave enough to defend the pariahs that are social workers?

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Friday, December 05, 2008

Guest post -HOPI Conference - 13th December

Another guest post , this time from Ben Lewis :

Ben Lewis is a member of the HOPI Steering Committee and a member of the Communist Party of Great Britain.

The second annual conference of Hands Off the People of Iran comes at a vital moment for the struggle against the threat of war on Iran and the sanctions war currently being waged on Iran.

Hopi has had some important successes over the past twelve months, not least the affiliation of the two major national unions Aslef and PCS. But our small steps forward underline just how much work needs to be done - especially at a time when some in the anti-war movement seem to think we can afford to relax about the threat of a new disastrous war in the Middle East.

Comrades in the movement have told us that the world economic crisis, with its attendant collapse of major banks and financial institutions, eases the pressure on Iran. Many sincere activists hope that perhaps the leaders of the Western world will now be too preoccupied with their financial woes to countenance starting a new war in the Middle East.

In Hopi's view, this is dangerously complacent. In the past, imperialism has often turned to external war to alleviate problems at home. Reports reach us that influential voices in the Israeli government and secret service are lobbying the US government hard to “deal with Iran” before George W. Bush leaves office. The election of Barack Obama - however his foreign policy develops in the longer term - actually adds to pressure, as noted in the Sunday Times by David Owen (foreign secretary from 1977 to 1979):

“Some key decision makers in Israel fear that unless they attack Iranian nuclear enrichment facilities in the next few months, while George W Bush is still president, there will not be another period when they can rely on the United States as being anywhere near as supportive in the aftermath of a unilateral attack. 

“Following an Israeli attack and Iranian countermeasures, the American military would be bound to follow Bush's orders. The president-designate … would be wary of criticising him. It is imperative that voices are raised in America and Europe to warn Israel off unilateral action against Iran. The experience of Georgia has given an amber, if not a green, light to Israel …” Now is not the time to relax - now is the time to dramatic step up our anti-war agitation and activity!

HOPI’s political perspective flows from two principles:

1. Imperialism has no progressive role to play in this region or in any other part of the world. It is the main enemy of the peoples of the world. We therefore campaign against the threat of any imperialist intervention and fight for an end to sanctions. Sanctions are not an alternative to war, but a form of war. We demand the immediate, unconditional withdrawal of all occupying troops from the Gulf and an end to Israel’s expansion and aggression.

2. The islamic regime - whether in the sway of the ‘reformist’ faction around Mohammad Khatami (dubbed the ‘mullah with a smile’ by radical Iranian students) or the hard-line Mahmoud Ahmadinejad - is also an enemy. Its repressive and reactionary policies actually smooth the way for imperialist designs on the region. This means that we must build active, practical solidarity with grassroots, progressive and secular forces in Iran - the radical women’s, workers’ and students’ movements. The ongoing nightmare of Iraq underlines that US-led imperialist forces can only introduce social meltdown and chaos - a fertile breeding ground for reaction. Progressive, democratic change must spring from below - from the struggles of the working class and social movements.

In fact the question of imperialist threats and the islamic regime are directly interrelated, with the Iranian theocracy using the pretext of imperialist intervention to divert attention away from the country’s endemic crisis, deflect popular anger onto foreign enemies and thus prolong its iron rule.

This makes the tasks of the anti-war movement quite clear, underlining the significance of HOPI’s political approach. As Mike Macnair put it in a discussion on The Commune:

“Solidarity against US attack on its own, without opposition to the regime and support for the Iranian workers’ movement, is not even anti-imperialist because the Iranian regime is the main regional backer of the US war in Afghanistan and occupation of Iraq and because the US may at any moment come up with an overt deal with the regime.

Solidarity with the Iranian workers’ movement on its own, without clear opposition to the role of the imperialists in the region, tends to fall in behind the US plans and covert ops for a ‘colour revolution’ or break-up of Iran”.

The Hopi conference is an important opportunity for activists to clarify our plans. There will be plenty of time to during the day to debate motions submitted on important themes. Speakers from Iran will provide up-to-date information on the women's, workers' and students' movements as they face up to the enormous pressure being exerted on them as the theocratic regime uses the war threat to clamp down on its internal dissidents. The conference will be a chance for trade unionists to share their experiences of Iranian solidarity work in different parts of the movement.

Speakers on the day will include:

John Mc.Donnell MP

Behrouz Karimizadeh (Iranian Students for Freedom and Equality)

Kaveh Abassian (Iranian Students for Freedom and Equality)

Torab Saleth (Workers’ Left Unity Iran)

Yassamine Mather (CPGB)


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Thursday, December 04, 2008

Protesting Against Primark

Tomorrow morning, an extraordinary event will take place. A company that sources sweatshop labour will be meeting in the headquarters of Britain's trade union movement.

The No Sweat campaign will rightly be protesting outside, and here is what they have to say about the issue ...

Friday 5 December from 10.30am, TUC, Congress Centre, 28 Great Russell Street, London WC1B 3LS

PRIMARK's AGM is the most important opportunity this year to put pressure on PRIMARK. This annual shareholder meeting is when important decisions get made regarding PRIMARK's policies and procedures.

It is PRIMARK's shareholders who take home the lion's share of PRIMARK's profits and who have the power to make PRIMARK introduce policies and procedures that will ensure the lives of workers are put ahead of PRIMARK's pursuit of profits.

So join us on Friday 5 December from 10.30 onwards to make your voice heard. We have seen how fearful PRIMARK is of us publicly shaming them, so please help us make sure their shareholders deliver justice to the workers making PRIMARK clothes.

It beggars belief that PRIMARK has been caught on the back foot again. Just five months on from the BBC exposé that highlighted the appalling conditions faced by Indian workers producing clothes for the famous high street store and PRIMARK has yet again been caught out disrespecting these workers. Join us on 5 December to hammer the nail in PRIMARK's ethical coffin.

An embarrassed and defensive TUC bureaucracy is fighting its corner, with General Secretary Brendan Barber issuing the remarkable statement reproduced below. Aside from his haughty chagrin that any supporter of workers' rights dare publicise any issue without approaching him first, the statement also endorses Primark's owning company ABF in words that could have been written by its own PR department.

And if the leaders of Unite, GMB and USDAW think it is OK for the trade union movement to host this event, then they should be ashamed of themselves.

I have received a number of enquiries from colleagues following the story in today’s Guardian headed ‘TUC in sweatshop labour row over firm hiring congress hall’.

I am therefore writing to all unions to set out the background and the TUC position.

Some months ago the company ABF made a commercial booking for Congress Centre conference facilities for their company AGM on 5th December.

Ten days or so ago, a letter was received by the TUC from Brent Trades Council demanding that the commercial booking should be cancelled because of unacceptable labour abuses in Bangladesh perpetrated by Primark which is a wholly owned subsidiary of ABF.

Their letter purported also to be on behalf of the campaigning group ‘No Sweat’ though no direct approach to the TUC has ever been made by No Sweat itself.

The letter also referred to an on-line petition to the TUC.

The TUC has been well aware of concerns over issues in Primark’s supply chain and has raised these through the Ethical Trading Initiative.

ABF is a member company of ETI and has accepted that they have responsibilities to ensure that their supply chain should observe decent employment standards.

The International Textile, Garment and Leather Workers’ Federation (ITGLWF) (which is also represented on the ETI) has also been actively following up issues with Primark in Bangladesh and other countries.

On receiving the approach from Brent Trades Council the TUC communications department consulted their counterparts in Unite, GMB and USDAW all of which are recognised within ABF.

None of the unions supported the demand that the contract with ABF should be cancelled.

The following statement was then issued to the Guardian when it raised this issue with us:

"Associated British Foods has made a commercial booking to hold its AGM in the TUC's conference facilities. This is not a Primark event.

"ABF is a unionised company with good relations with UK unions.

"The TUC has a proud record of campaigning in the interest of vulnerable workers both in the UK and developing countries.

"We believe in constructive engagement with companies. We welcome ABF's membership of the Ethical Trading Initiative and have used that opportunity to press concerns about supply chain issues - including in Bangladesh.

"Unions recognised by ABF also, of course, have other direct channels to raise such issues with the company."

If any union ever does have an issue over Congress Centre bookings then of course it is always open to them to raise it direct with the TUC. This is surely preferable to raising issues through the media.

Yours sincerely
General Secretary

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Tuesday, December 02, 2008

No Justice for Jean

The coroner in the inquest into the shooting of Jean Charles de Menezes has banned the jury from returning a verdict of unlawful killing. Yes, banned. Just when they thought they were there to assess the evidence and pass a judgment, the boss man tells them that they can't even consider the one verdict that might make sense, let alone bring justice.

So whatever the killing was - and the remaining verdict options are 'lawful', 'open' and 'narrative' - it was not unlawful. And neither must the jury blame anyone. This despite evidence that:Coroner Sir Michael Wright told the jury that their choice of verdict now depends on whether they feel that the two officers who shot and killed the innocent Brazilian honestly believed that he represented an imminent, mortal threat. So the jury could decide that the two officers did not really believe that Jean represented an imminent, mortal threat, shot him dead anyway, and that would still not be 'unlawful killing'.

No wonder Sir Michael urged the jury to "Put aside any emotion". Perhaps he should also have urged them to put aside justice, accountability and even basic logic.


Monday, December 01, 2008

The private sector stays King

Morning all,

Tis Kate here from - have been invited to join you here at stroppyblog, which is a great honour, so many thanks!

Thought I'd start off by putting the boot into the service-assassins at Hammersmith and Fulham and Barnet councils. There are protest meetings planned about service cuts at both those councils this week - have been writing about this a lot at my blog and also

The creepy ruling cadres of Hammersmith and Fulham and Barnet Tory councils meet this week to try and push through more abhorrent and unpopular service-cutting plans. Joint union protests are planned for both places. (The details for both are at the end of this post).

Hammersmith and Fulham is proposing to move its contact centre (and everyone in it) to Rochdale, and to radically reduce the terms and conditions of all its staff. Barnet (best known, btw, for the Fremantle careworkers' dispute and banking an appalling amount of money with Icesave) wants to outsource every service the council provides to the private sector (Barnet has paid a shedload to PricewaterhouseCoopers, apparently, to tell them outsourcing was great).


It remains unbelievable that even now the private sector keeps such a grip on government imagination: even a council that was led down the dark Icesave path comes bollocking back for more. The private sector is useless at service delivery, famously rash with your money, and brilliant only at getting more of it.

That's why tis hard not to keep reaching the conclusion that the privatising of public services is just a good, old-fashioned, arsey class war: it's not about saving money, or getting better value for it. It's about removing state-funded housing, health and education services from the picture, as well as the people who need and provide them (although Rochdale is probably still too close for the Hammersmith Tories).

Of course - you knew that. Everybody does. I've been writing about this crap for so long that I can hardly write anything else. I remember Public not Private running a survey a year or two back that demonstrated only 17% of people liked the idea of privatising public services. Everyone else thought putting public services into private hands was garbage, and only had to look at Jarvis, Capita and a very long list of failed PFIs for proof.

I remember also talking to an older guy called Patrick Clifford from Queens Park - he'd been a welder for British Rail for 25 years, and he'd also been member of the Labour party. He'd left because of Tony Blair. He put the problem most succintly. 'Everything that was for the working class has been taken away. Health, education, even water. Those things were for us.' Exactly.

Certainly, those things were never for the dysfunctional, and now famously failed, private sector. People see a shifty turd like Richard Branson and know instinctively that they don't want him owning a maternity ward, or getting his sticky hands on a preschool. That instinct is good.

The instinct at Hammersmith and Barnet, alas, is elitist, sexist, and racist. Hammersmith council now charges for services like recycling, homecare and meals on wheels (you don't have to know much to know that these last two will now need to be provided by the women of the home), even as it brags about cutting council tax. Last year, it launched an almighty attack on voluntary sector groups, cutting all funding to immigrant support groups like the Horn of Africa, and whipping more than £100,000 from the local law centre that specialised in immigration law.

Barnet, meanwhile, has distinguished itself by overseeing - and failing utterly to resolve - the Fremantle careworkers' dispute. The careworkers are mostly women and from a variety of ethnic groups. They've been in dispute with the Fremantle Trust - to whom they were outsourced - for nearly two years, ever since Fremantle cut their leave and sickness allowances, and abolished the weekend payrates which made their wages liveable. Fremantle's private partner Catalyst Housing, meanwhile, pursues the council for an extra financial settlement in the millions. The service suffers, the women suffer and the council doesn't save a penny.

But as I say, you knew that. We all know that.

Can't stand it.

Anyway - the Hammersmith and Fulham protest rally and council cabinet meeting is tonight. The protest starts as 6pm outside the Town Hall on King Street, W6 9JU.

The Barnet protest rally is on Wednesday 3 December at 6 pm in the Committee Room,
Barnet House, 1255 High Road, Whetstone N20 0EJ.