Archive for September, 2009

Guevara said that’s crazy and ordered up a bottle of wine…

September 29, 2009

I’m waiting to watch Gordo’s speech on t’telly and I can hear the Levellers’ song ‘What a Beautiful Day’ being played in the conference hall. When I went to conference as a CLP delegate in 2004 it was also played numerous times. It’s clearly on someone’s ‘Labour conference mix’ CD that gets blasted out every year.  

The Levs celebrated Labour’s 1997 victory, but being anarchist types haven’t been too fond of what the party has been up to in government since then. I wonder if they’re ok with their tune, which seems to be vaguely about revolutionary idealism, being used to fire up the Labour troops before the leader’s speech?


Off with their overheads.

September 26, 2009

The Guardian is reporting today that the weird state-owned enterprise known as the Royal Family is to be exempt from any cuts in public spending next year when its civil list funding comes under review.

Unlike all other public sector workers, members of the House of Windsor have their pay settlements negotiated only once every decade. In 1990 John Major kindly made provision for an annual inflation rate of 7.5% over the next ten years. 1990s inflation turned out to be just 3.7% and so Mrs Windsor and her crew raked in a surplus of £35 million.

The Royals might have had to endure some anni horribiles in terms of their amusing family feuding, but it was all anni mirabiles when it came to the finances. Although Dear Leader Blair froze the payment level in 2000 they are still sitting on top of a surplus of many millions.

The Guardian claims to have seen Treasury papers which indicate that Parliament cannot decrease the amount paid through the civil list. MPs are apparently only able to adjust the civil list upwards. If true, this is a ridiculous situation. With public spending cuts being widely described as inevitable everywhere else, could the Royal Family avoid having greater frugality forced upon them?

But not only could they avoid cuts – the Royals still want more. Reading Johaan Hari’s excellent article on the Queen Mum, it seems the gin-soaked old bigot’s obtuse opposition to lowering any spending on the monarchy lives on.

I don’t like the government’s acceptance of the need for drastic reductions in expenditure at all. However, it will be truly, truly sickening if the public sector cuts go ahead whilst the Royal Family continue to enjoy an unabated lifestyle of privilege. 

As a nation, we are clearly very sentimental in that we are still inexplicably prepared to let the Windsors kid themselves into thinking that they have a divine right to ‘rule’ over us. This does not mean the Royals can be allowed to shield themselves from the economic sacrifices the rest of the population is supposed to make.

Despite their feudalistic social structure, bees deserve a Bee Solidarity Campaign.

September 25, 2009

Bees are very clever. Did you know that they can communicate through a waggle dance? By dancing around in a certain way, bees are able to tell each other the direction and quality of nectar and pollen up to 5 kms away!

But even with their impressive dancing skills, bees are in big trouble. Around a third of British honeybee hives were lost between 2007 and 2008. The situation is even worse in the United States. Apparently every third bite of food we consume depends on pollination by bees, so the spread of colony collapse disorder and death of millions of bees across the world is seriously bad news.

The Co-op has launched Plan Bee which calls for further research into the mysterious decline of the bees. Sign their petition here.

Immediate action can also be taken by each of us:

  • Stop spraying chemicals on flowers! Insecticides are (obviously) not bee-friendly, so find another way to ‘cultivate yo garden’.
  • In-fact, if you have space outside, why not let it go wild? Bees love horticultural anarchy.
  • City-folk can carry around packs of wildflowers seeds and drop them into patches of urban wasteland. More greenery around the place = happier buzzing from our black and yellow comrades.
  • Find a shallow bowl or dish, fill it with water, drop some pebbles in it, and leave it outside. Bees get thirsty and appreciate somewhere to cool off, have a drink, and go for a swim (the pebbles are to give them easier access in and out of the water)! I’ve done this at Jako Towers already.
  • And without wanting to get too organico-bourgeois on y’all, if you can buy honey from a local beekeeper who uses low-tech farming methods that’s seemingly better for the bees as well.

So there we go. Give just a bit of simple solidarity to the bees and hopefully they’ll stop dying in their millions.

It’s official: Richard Barnbrook of the BNP is a dirty liar.

September 24, 2009

Failed artist, former homoerotic film maker, and BNP London Assembly member Richard Barnbrook has been found guilty of fabricating stories of murders in his constituency and of therefore bringing both the GLA and Barking and Dangenham Council into disrepute. He is to be suspended from the council for a month and to take training in ‘Not fibbing’.

Barnbrook’s apology for accidentally, mistakenly, and ever so unwittingly telling a massive Porkie Pie was guffaw-inducing. He put on a totally OTT act exaggerating his dyslexicness (funny how he has never spoken so slowly or struggled with his words to quite such a painful degree in his Assembly appearances!). He additionally claimed that the sound of loud church bells had confused him and made him start speaking utter shite (how very anti-Christian of him; surely it would have been more in keeping with BNP teachings to blame a rowdy local mosque?).

The BNP are scum. Help take action to spread the word.

More ‘leftists’ the Morning Star might want to revere.

September 24, 2009

If the Butcher of Belgrade can make the list on the grounds that he was ostensibly a ‘socialist’ and stuck two fingers up to Western sensibilities, then I don’t see why the following leaders were excluded from Neil Clark’s hero-worship:

 Kim Il-Sung

Happy Kims celebrate their independence from the neocon agenda.

The first leader of everybody’s favourite Stalinist dictatorship, People’s (aka North) Korea, Big Man K ruled his country from 1948 to 1994. That makes him the longest serving dictator of the twentieth century – useful knowledge for pub quizes. Kim bravely took on the mighty forces of US imperialism when he invaded South Korea in 1950. His heroic attempt to unite Korea under a single communist government was thwarted when the Yankees kept beating him in battles. Millions of Koreans died in the conflict. Kim was a man of principle and rejected the fashion for de-Stalinisation after Uncle Joe’s death. In line with socialist teachings, Kim’s son became his designated successor. The people of North Korea today live happy and free lives, grateful that their government pursues an independent foreign policy and that they are not slaves to the neocon agenda.

Enver Hoxha

Sticking it to US imperialism.

Sticking it to US imperialism.

Another long-serving – and therefore presumably much-loved – leader, Hoxha was another solid Stalinist who made the Communist dream a reality in Albania. When the moustached one kicked the bucket in 1953, Hoxha ordered a period of national mourning in Albania. He even reportedly made the Albanian people swear a two-thousand word oath of gratitude to Stalin “the great liberator”. Like Kim, Hoxha rejected the new fangled liberal ideas of de-Stalinization and was especially peeved when Khruschev announced that the USSR sought peaceful coexistence with the West. Hoxha denounced Khruschev as a “revisionist” and cosied up to China instead, but China soon grew tired of sending aid and Albania became the ‘billy no mates’ of the Communist world. Hoxha left a glorious legacy of labour camps, economic stagnation, and international pariah status, but most importantly he never became a lap dog of US imperialism.

 Nicolae Ceausescu

De-stalinisation is for wussies.

De-stalinisation is for wussies.

Despite some unimpressive tendencies to seek cordial relations with the West in the early years of his rule, the Communist leader of Romania soon realised that the best way to serve the interests of the Romanian people was to stop giving two figs what outsiders thought of his regime. Just like Kim and Hoxha, Ceausescu was not a fan of de-Stalinization and stood up for old school Communism when it came to domestic freedoms. His take on foreign policy was erratic to say the least (much like his grip on reality) but was certainly not a neocon, and that’s what matters. Admittedly the Romanian people did eventually rise up against him, but even as he was facing the firing squad he did not sell-out.

Neil Clark on “the leftists who didn’t sell out”.

September 23, 2009

Printed recently in that bastion of sensible socialist thought – The Morning Star – Neil Clark provides a list of heroic leftist leaders who “did not betray the people and who, despite enormous pressure from international capital and their political emissaries, stayed on the progressive path”.

Some of those on his list get the Paintbrush thumbs up. Clem Attlee, Salvador Allende, and Olof Palme, for sure. I’m surprised that Clark is so enthusiastic about Attlee considering that it was his government that developed Britain’s nuclear deterrent and signed up to the Korean War at the behest of the US.

Anyways, others on Clark’s list are thoroughly vomit-inducing. Take Slobodan Milosevic. Serbian nationalism is progressive! Overseeing years of ethnic slaughter demonstrates care for the plight of the workers! Since the US did not approve of him he must be ok! Ousted by popular protests and put on trial for crimes against humanity, war crimes, and genocide, Slobodob cowardly snuffed it before a verdict could be reached.

This sort of freaky thinking, this fetishising of the enemies of human rights in the name of ‘anti-imperialism’, is insulting to the socialist creed.

“Heathcliff, it’s me, Cathy, I’ve come home!”

September 22, 2009

I recently read Emily Bronte’s Wuthering Heights for the first time. Now that I know all about Heathcliff’s violent temper, his obsessive hatreds, and ultimately tragic life-story, I can’t believe that Gordon Brown ever thought it was a good idea to say it was “absolutely correct” to compare him to Heathcliff as he did in this interview last year with the New Statesman.

Gordo is said to be a great lover of books but maybe on that occasion he got his classic works of fiction mixed up. Did he perhaps instead think that people were comparing him to Mr. Darcy, who first appears to be an arse but then turns out to be a good bloke (and of course in the 1995 BBC adaptation makes all the ladies swoon with his pond-diving antics)? Mr. Darcy is surely a better role model than Heathcliff, who is so psychologically-tortured that he ends up as a  child and wife abuser and generally nasty person.

Here’s Kate Bush’s take on the whole thing:


Biased BBC

September 18, 2009
Jamie Ward celebrates his goal in front of the pigs

Jamie Ward celebrates his goal in front of the pigs

Being a provincial out-of-towner, I get rather excited when the Blades play live on Sky as this often affords an opportunity to watch them in the pub. However, due to the paucity of drinking/watching partners in London, I resigned myself to listening to the Steel City Derby on BBC Radio Sheffield. Those of you familiar with the station will be well acquainted with ‘Football Heaven’, presented by Paul Walker and Seth Bennett, which provides excellent coverage of South Yorkshire football with Keith Edwards providing his expert opinion on all Blades-related matters. After the match, the traditional ‘Praise or Grumble’, in which disgruntled fans will moan for 3 seconds before being cut off, provides further entertainment.

Anyway, it turned out that for some contractual reasons, Radio Sheffield’s coverage of the game was not broadcast over the internet. Therefore, I had to listen to Radio 5 Live instead.

What a mistake. The main commentator (don’t know who he is) was joined by Chris Waddle, a former Wednesday player who is now best known as the punchline in a Fast Show sketch. And what bias! The whole match was “Sheffield Wednesday have been playing the best football”, “Sheffield Wednesday are really dominating the match”, “Sheffield Wednesday are REALLY good in bed” etc etc etc. It was ridiculous and disgusting. At half time, Waddle declared that Wednesday had “dominated possession.” However, the BBC website’s stats had the possession listed as 52% to United against 48% to Wednesday. How that can be interpreted as Wednesday dominating possession I do not know!

Anyway, the Blades won in the end (despite Wednesday pulling 2 goals back after half time), so all is good. However, 5 Live cannot keep getting away with this sort of skewed commentary. Thankfully, I could listen to Radio Sheffield after the match ended but if that hadn’t been the case I’d have considered withholding my license fee. Seriously.

The limits of No Platform

September 9, 2009

I haven’t run this past the other comrades of the Paintbrush Collective yet, and I’m not entirely sure whether they would agree. So, to be clear, this is very much a personal view, so if you’re going to send us any excrement in the post, please make sure it’s clearly addressed to me.

First things first: I am a No Platformer. In my student days I vigorously defended our Student Union’s No Platform policy (and fought to strengthen it); was in favour of the NUS having a No Platform policy; and I helped organize large-scale opposition to Nick Griffin and David Irving’s visit to the Oxford Union Society in November 2007 (in fact, I resigned my Union membership in protest – which is £150 that I’ll never see again). I don’t repudiate any of that.

No Platform is not an aberration of free speech: the right to freedom of speech is one guaranteed by the State, and protects against state persecution on the basis of what you say. Free speech doesn’t mean that a private body – like a debating society, or a student union, or a trade union – has an obligation to allow its resources and prominence to be used by anyone.

In fact, they have a perfect right to deny these things to people whom they believe to lie outside of the best interests of their organization. To say otherwise is to hold a position that would oblige an organization to have a member of the Flat Earth Society present for any discussion of geography, so that they could point out the dangers of falling off the edge of the Earth.

Also, I believe that No Platform works. It’s not a cure-all for the Fascism problem, but it’s an important weapon in the fight. It contributes to the public perception of Fascists and Racists and being indecent, uncivillized, and at odds with the broadly liberal democratic values on which society and the political system rest – in short, very starkly outside of the political mainstream.

No Platform has also, I believe, protected a large number of people from danger and harassment. In addition to political reasons, I believed that the Oxford Student Union needed a No Platform policy so that its ethnic minority, gay, and disabled members could enjoy their student experience without the very definite risk to their personal wellbeing and security posed by BNP and other Fascist activism.

But on the issue of Nick Griffin’s likely invitation to appear on Question Time, I am a little more equivocal.

Obviously, I would prefer that he was never on the airwaves; but I would also prefer that he were not an MEP, and infortunately, he is.

I have to grudingly accept that the BBC’s policy – in line with OFCOM’s rules about political impartiality – are fair; there’s no other way for any British broadcaster to balance political parties other than according to their level of electoral success, especially if it’s a public service broadcaster like the BBC.

I would still fight for the right – and moral imperative – of a private organization to No Platform the BNP; I would encourage, for example, voluntary organizations who hold election hustings meetings to No Platform BNP election candidates, and if I were a Labour candidate I would refuse to share such a platform with a BNP member if we were both invited.

The point is, though, that broadcasting is different. It has to be.

So if we’re going to have a genuinely impartial broadcast media, we have to grit our teeth when that means the BNP leader gets to go on Question Time. That’s not the BBC’s fault – the uncomfortable truth is that it’s down to the number of people who voted for him, and the ultimate failure of the anti-Fascist movement to persuade them not to.

And if Griffin does go on Question Time, he’ll be able to spout his prejudice, but also his lies and innuendo with which he dresses his raw, naked racial hatred. As far as I’m concerned, the only thing worse that Nick Griffin going on Question Time is him being able to do this unchallenged.

I don’t generally buy the “defeat them in debate” argument, since hatred is not an argument, and therefore cannot be defeated by reasoned inquiry and opposition.

But this is an argument for not holding a debate. But once one is going to happen anyway, damage limitation is required – this means that someone is at least needed to point out the untruths and the window dressing and expose the fact that underpinning it all is pure, unadorned racism.

To this end, as a good No Platformer, I think that Labour should find someone who will be able to hold their nose and share a studio with Griffin – or at least reach some arrangement with the BBC whereby we are able to rebut his points directly (perhaps by having back-to-back programmes).

Labour Party members should support this view – if only because, from where we are now, the alternative is even worse.

Mad Nad rides again – legal edition

September 7, 2009

Apparently Nadine Dorries is going to sue Damian MacBride about the contents of his infamous email in April.

I can very well understand why Nadine might be upset. She says the allegations about her in MacBride’s email are false, and I have no reason to disbelieve her.

But how does this amount to a case that’s worthy of a courtroom?

Both the torts of libel and defamation require publication. I don’t see how the email MacBride sent to Derek Draper meets this criterion: publication, it seems, was specifically avoided. They were sent in a single email to a single recipient.

This is not to say that MacBride and Draper are anything other than a pair of idiots who got what was coming. However, there is something worrying happening in politics when the courts are continually used as an extra chamber in which to carry on essentially political debates. Apart from everything else, it’s a very expensive waste of time.

Or does Nadine think that spinning the MacBride story out for a few more months, to the benefit of the Tories and the detriment of Labour, is worth as much public money as may be wasted in frivilous litigation?