Thursday, 29 January 2015

A new beginning in Prospect

Prospect: Union for professionals
As the cycles of change become ever shorter and the demands placed on organisations increase trade unions cannot be expected to be isolated from these developments.

Our challenge lies in preserving our core values, while responding to what members and potential members want from a union in the now rather than the past.

Unions remain a key pillar of civic society, embodying enduring values of collective voice, mutual support and a commitment to fairness and diversity.

Mike Clancy, Prospect General Secretary  

Refreshing words from a forward looking trade unionist, rather than than the outdated nonsense I used to hear from my previous union.

I feel at home already.

My membership pack for Prospect arrived today with all the information I need to start out as a new member. It'll take me a while to plough through it all but all the services a worker needs are there from support over personal cases to a 24 hour legal help line.

Prospect has over 117,000 members with some 34,000 in the civil service which I am sure will grow as people look for change.

It is indeed our needs in the here and now to establish a fair future that I seek as a trade union member.

So much that goes on inside the trade unions is indeed old fashioned and a turn to modernity an essential requirement if the unions are to adapt and survive in the twenty-first century.

The ideologies of old are past their sell by date.

I f you are looking for a rational, well organised and led trade union in the civil service I recommend you join up.

Please go to the Prospect website today.

Wednesday, 28 January 2015

The longest general election.....

No matter where I look in the press or on television the general election (still about a hundred days away) is already under way. One of the major areas being argued about is the televised general debates. Will Cameron take part. Should the Greens be included.

How much do people really care?

According to The Times (no link £) the "majority" of people think the debate should go ahead whether David Cameron takes part or not. Frankly it's more than likely the vast "majority" won't even watch the debates at all and will probably be watching a repeat of Downton Abbey or a film somewhere else on the vast number of channels that are available.

The fact is people are fed up.

The reason UKIP runs high in the polls is simply due to disaffected Tories wanting to give Cameron a kicking over Europe. The Greens are running high because disaffected lefty's want to give Milliband a kick up the backside.

Then there's the Nationalists.

The SNP will pick up seats, at Labours expense no doubt, Plaid Cymru not so much.

Then there's the Democratic Unionist Party.

They "want in" on the televised debate as well.

Next it'll be Sinn Fein the SDLP and god knows who else....

And what do the electorate want?

To get out of Europe? Immigration controls? An end to austerity?

People are "fed up" of cuts according to a You Gov poll in The Times today. Money should be spent on public services. Joining in "US led wars" is unpopular apparently, and there's a wish to to stand up against business.

All good and well.

With so many differing "wants" and "needs" being fought over by a myriad of competing parties over such a prolonged period of time makes this election unpredictable.

But how quickly will people be bored of all this?

Politicians do not impress much any more.

And yet there is a need for change.

Ed Milliband must step to the challenge.

This country cannot afford another Conservative government.

Tuesday, 27 January 2015

My Darling Party Line

No time for a blog tonight so I thought I'd share this little period ditty from the good old US of A which just takes the piss out of the Communist Party in 1939 after the Hitler/Stalin Pact.

Performed by Bill Friedland and Joe Glazer.

Hat Tip/Nick Cohen

Monday, 26 January 2015

Syrzia enters coalition with anti-Semites


Most of the left has been experiencing euphoria about the election of the "anti-capitalist" Syrzia to power in Greece. However there is one disturbing post script to this election that seems to be being ignored.

Syrzia has entered into a coalition with a small party called the Independent Greeks in order to get a majority in parliament. So exactly who are these people. The blogger An Irate Greek explains:

I am incensed – INCENSED – that SYRIZA chose to go for a coalition with Independent Greeks instead of repeat elections. I believe that people like Panos Kammenos – the raving, racist lunatic who said last week that that “Buddhists, Jews and Muslims don’t pay taxes” – should never, ever be given positions of power. Furthermore, accepting people such as Kammenos in a left-led government is playing with fire because it gives public and political legitimacy to his xenophobic, racist, antisemitic, homophobic views and Greece doesn’t need more of that when it already has a neo-Nazi party as its third largest political force.

Nor is this odd alliance new. Andrew Flood writes:

I saw this morning that they have gone into coalition with what has been described as an anti-migrant right (or even far right) party called the Independent Greeks ( or ANEL). ANEL have a strong anti-ECB stance but on the level of seeing Greeks as a victim of an 'International Conspiracy'. Tie that into their leader claiming falsely that Jews pay no Taxes and it should sound warning bells. They do have 15 elected members so it gives the coalition a strong majority and Syriza have worked with them in the past. Presumably this and their strong anti ECB stance is why Syriza has decided that their anti-migration policies are not important.

Lets examine part of that statement again:

Syrzia have worked with them before.


Here's a little bit more about the nasty little allies of the comrades in Syrzia courtesy of Open Democracy:

"The Independent Greeks differ from Syriza on many traditionally conservative issues, pledging to crack down on illegal immigration and defend the close links between the Orthodox Church and the state."

"The party programme introduced the notion of a 2.5% quota for non-Greek population residing in the country. It advocated for maximum-security detention facilities in distant and isolated places, the mass expulsion of illegal immigrants, and a hierarchy of 'preferred' immigration by country of origin, heavily biased towards western and Latin American countries."

How do the "anti-racists" of Syrzia explain this I wonder?

The far left and the far right finding common ground.

Who would have ever thought....

Sunday, 25 January 2015

After the Paris attacks against Jews, some questions for the rest of the Left

The following article was posted on the Shiraz Socialist blog, one of the few left socialist websites that tackles anti-Semitism seriously. I don't agree with every point made, but then I'm not a socialist nor do I think the Campaign Against anti-Semitism is a "right wing group" as the author alleges. 

However I think there is value in re-posting this article for wider discussion as the author does make some interesting observations worth discussing. Levi Tahir points out that "the left has seperated itself from the Jews". Quite.

Cross-post from Jewdas
By Levi Tazir

Two weeks ago, four Jews were killed in a kosher supermarket for being Jews. Anti-Semitism was in the news once again. The headlines confirmed what everyone in a minority has known for some time: racism, in all forms, is on the rise.

Right-wing Jewish groups like Campaign Against Anti-Semitism seized on it as an opportunity to feed paranoid dogma. Zionist groups used it as an excuse to promote immigration to Israel. Conservatives pulled together awful policies, saying it meant we needed more police.

We, on the Jewish Left, struggled to articulate ourselves, to say that Jews did of course have a future in Europe, to reject right-wing opportunism, to say that we would be stronger if we united with all other groups facing bigotry, to express our concerns about Islamophobic and anti-immigrant backlashes, to offer our best arguments for socialist, anarchist and democratic solutions to anti-Semitism.

And we did it alone. We did it alone.

If you read any of the left-wing news sources or subscribe to any of the UK’s leftist parties, you wouldn’t even know an attack on Jews had happened. You’d know about Charlie Hebdo. You’d know about the attacks on mosques in the aftermath. You could read deep and insightful histories of French colonialism in North Africa and interesting accounts of the problems in the Parisian banlieus. But nothing about Jews.

On Counterfire: nothing. On Left Unity: nothing. From the Greens: nothing. Red Labour: nothing. On the Revolutionary Socialists Network: nothing.

My Facebook and Twitter feeds filled up with Jews offering their thoughts. But from other, non-Jewish leftists, I just heard nothing. Absolutely nothing.

I want to know why. I want to ask some questions to the rest of the Left.

Do you think it doesn’t matter?

Maybe you thought it wasn’t newsworthy. But it’s not every day that Jews get killed in a supermarket for being Jews. That felt pretty important, to us at least.

Didn’t you care?

You must have cared. You’re leftists because you care about other human beings. You worry about people’s lives and want to see them do well. Surely a public execution of Jews warrants something. Just your condolences. Just your acknowledgement. That’s all.

Do you think anti-Semitism isn’t an issue?

In that case, how many Jews need to die before it is?

Did you think that Islamophobia mattered more?

The gunman was a Muslim. We were all worried that the attack would result in a backlash against Muslims. It has. It’s been terrifying. We’re adamant that we must stand together with Muslims and support our comrades and neighbours through all that’s happening. But surely – surely – the attack on Jews warranted enough to worry a little bit about anti-Semitism too. Just enough to say it was happening.

Do you believe the lies they tell about us? Do you believe we’re all rich and doing fine?

It’s an old distraction tactic from the right-wing elites to scapegoat Jews as wealthy. They think that if they point the finger at us, nobody will notice that the ruling class is overwhelmingly white, Christian and from the same schools. The truth is Jews are evenly spread across all classes, mirroring almost exactly the rest of society. As a religious group, we are no more wealthy or poor than any other religious group.

Do you think we’re all white?

Most of France’s Jews come from North Africa. The murdered came from Tunisia and Algeria. The Jews of Paris come from the same cities as the Muslims of Paris. Most Jews in Europe come from the Middle-East and North Africa. Not centuries and centuries ago. They and their parents were born in Morocco, Iraq, Iran, Egypt, Yemen and Afghanistan. We’re overwhelmingly not white.

If we were all rich and white, would it mean it mattered less?

Perhaps it would. But surely it wouldn’t mean it mattered so little that anti-Semitism didn’t deserve a mention.

Do you think Israel’s occupation of Palestine justifies anti-Semitic attacks in Europe?

One BBC reporter, Tim Wilcow, said exactly that.

Israel is occupying Palestine. It’s inexcusable and unjust. It gives anti-Semites an excuse. It makes people everywhere angry. But the Jews who live in London, Paris and the rest of the world don’t have any control over that. We are not Israel’s military occupation any more than Christians are the Pope. Of course we’re not. A people can be oppressed in one space and oppressors in another. That shouldn’t mitigate against mentioning their oppression where you see it.

Do you think support from Tories is enough?

Theresa May and Eric Pickles were snapped holding up signs saying “Je suis Juif” [French: I am a Jew], in solidarity with those killed. Conservatives and right-wing Labour leaders made statements. The Spectator and The Telegraph wrote articles about the worrying growth in anti-Semitism. But we didn’t want, need or ask for their support. It’s the support of our comrades – the people who stand with us on anti-cuts and anti-war demonstrations – that matters. We needed to hear something from you.

Do you know that your silence is driving Jews to the right?

When you ignore Jewish suffering, you hand undecided Jews over to fundamentalist religious movements and Zionist political groups on a plate. They see no place for themselves on the Left, so go in any other direction. One of the main reasons that groups like the reactionary street movement Jewish Defence League are growing is that the organised Left hasn’t stepped in to offer an alternative. It’s not enough for Jewdas to write articles and organise vigils. We need you on our side.

I hate it, I really do, when anyone starts a conversation with “the problem with the Left is…” It’s an act of separating yourself from the rest of the Left, giving up and saying that it’s somebody else’s responsibility to change.

Only in this case, we didn’t separate ourselves from the Left. The Left separated itself from the Jews. You did that when you didn’t acknowledge that four Jews were murdered in a supermarket for being Jews.

And I want to know why.

Saturday, 24 January 2015

Musical Tribute to Edgar Froese

One of the bands I grew up listening to back in the seventies was Tangerine Dream, a pioneering electronic ensemble from Germany.

I was saddened to hear of the death of it's founder Edgar Froese today and thought an excerpt from a live concert in Coventry Cathedral and would be an appropriate tribute.

The music is from the album Ricochet.

Friday, 23 January 2015

The Green Party: From Bacon Sarnies to 'elf n'safety

The Green Party has been in the news recently as the arguments erupted about whether they should be included in televised debates during the general election. According to the latest polls they are seemingly "surging" ahead in the polls with 11%, overtaking the Liberal Democrats who are down to just 9%.

Of course this unlikely to translate into many seats, if any due to the "first past the post" electoral system. They do have one sitting Member of Parliament though, Caroline Lucas in the Brighton Pavilion constituency.  However indications are that her seat is at serious risk.

Brighton and Hove also happens to be the only Green Party controlled Council in the country and things have not been going well all!

Brighton Greens have not been doing well in their running of the local authority having attracted the ire of trade unions not just with their cuts policies but also ridiculous ideologically motivated proposals such as attempting to ban rubbish collectors from eating bacon sarnies at the end of their shift on a Friday as part of "meat free day". That particular absurdity was abandoned.

You may also recall the council banned the annual Christmas day swim on the beach due to "health & safety" concerns despite there being no recorded injuries in all the years it had taken place. Locals rightfully ignored such nonsense.

The local party has been engaged in so much infighting that the Greens actually hired a counsellor to try and end it. Like that worked! 

They are divided into two factions with nonsensical names, Mangos and Watermelons.

Yeah I know you couldn't make it up. 

They are led locally by a Mr Kitcat (no relation to the chocolate bar beloved by millions) who has been deep in recycled matter over a deal with unions to avoid £700 million legal bill .

Kitcat even had to face an irate Ms Lucas on the picket line.

Deary me.

Even worse is their record on recycling, surely a central plank of environmentalism! Yet Brighton Council has managed to reduce recycling from 40% to just 26% plummeting to 305 in the league table.

Embarrassing or not?

The problem with the Greens is frankly the attempt to push ideological dogma before considering basic reality. 

Of course there is disillusionment about the mainstream political parties, the Lib Dems in particular suffering as a result of their behaviour in the current coalition government. UKIP has been one beneficiary of this trend, but they remain buffoons when examined whilst the Greens might be seen as more coherent.

The truth about the Greens needs exposing. They behave no differently to the many Trotskyist type sects that have plagued the unions for years.

They have proved no alternative at all.

Best avoided methinks...