Sunday, July 30, 2006

Echoes of the past

As someone who normally has little time for nostalgia, certain stories in the last few days have forced me to cast my mind back to times past.
The death was announced last week of Ted Grant (,,1831179,00.html ). This obituary, penned by Bob Wade, whom I vaguely recall, is a sympathetic, &, at times, fawning portrait of Grant.
Wade is on strong ground when recounting the facts: "By the 1970s [entryism] began to pay dividends. Within a decade the Militant Tendency was a household name, with 8,000 members, three MPs, a seat on the TUC, control of Labour's youth section, effective control of Liverpool council and more full-time organisers than the Labour party."
All of which is true. It was a high watermark for revolutionary socialism in the U.K. Hatton was the de facto leader of Liverpool City Council (John Hamilton, the nominal leader, was tolerated, even benignly indulged, by the organisation; as long as the real position of power & responsibility lay with Hatton, no one cared about official titles). Similarly, in the Labour Party Young Socialists (LPYS), the youth section was the best possible recruiting vehicle for those in their late teens & early 20s from working class estates throughout the Thatcher years.
Wade's obit then takes a more partisan turn: "Grant...was beginning to see the writing on the wall from the Soviet Union, in that there would not be a 'political revolution' as he had previously predicted, following the collapse of Stalinism, but instead a triumphant West and an ideological counter-revolution."
This little bit of revisionism needs nipping in the bud. The fact is that Grant & his entourage left the organisation in the early 90s because they refused to accept the analysis of people like Peter Taafe that capitalism was, indeed, returning to Russia. I readily recall many a speech & article by Grant as late as the early 90s to this effect (one Grant peroration at a London conference, I remember, included the words, "Capitalism will never return to Russia!", the word "never" being roared, not just spoken).

At the time of the "split" the Tories were pushing ahead with the poll tax, using Scotland as a dry run for its introduction in the rest of Britain. Tommy Sheridan emerged as a natural leader & spokesman in the anti-poll tax movement. For all his political sincerity, a not altogether healthy entourage began to follow in his wake. Having seen a near identical pattern in Liverpool with Hatton, I treated Sheridan cautiously. The libel case he's been fighting with the "News Of The World" in a Glasgow court this month reaches its conclusion this coming week. I make no comment on the allegations which have been at the heart of the case, not just for legal reasons, but because none of the protagonists on both sides emerge with credit & dignity from this episode. (,,1833385,00.html ).

Here's something I don't like to admit, but Tony Blair made a valid point this week. Not over Iraq or Lebanon (still scampering & panting around Bush at the Washington press conference on Thursday).
No, the reasonable point he made concerned the rise of what are, let's be honest, self-inflicted ailments which doctors, nurses & GPs are being asked to treat: (,,1830606,00.html ).
I'm becoming incresingly exasperated with parents I see in public, taking their, sometimes frighteningly young, offspring into fast food emporia as a "treat". Ignorance is no longer a defence. Enough has been established by now to convince parents that giving young children fast food as a substitute for a proper meal amounts to a form of child abuse.

Tuesday, July 25, 2006

Dissecting stupidity

A week away from work which has largely been spent at home. The dubious attractions of cable TV relaying images of a globe with a death wish.
When I was a kid summer heatwaves would be seen as a Good Thing, a chance for the kids to amuse themselves while the parents could get some respite. Not any more. These days, consistently high temperatures are seen in the context of global warming. A sobering thought to act as an effective antidote to the facile cheers of those who don't think about the long term effects of being baked.
In the 1980s there were certain causes which many of us on the revolutionary Left embraced. Nicaragua, as well as the rest of Latin America was a pet topic. The Middle East, on the other hand, we tended to avoid, save for the occasional vague hope that the PLO would adopt a more Socialist path. For the most part, however, concerning ourselves with an issue which went back millenia & invoked religion (fundamentalist religion at that) made us atheists & agnostics feel deeply uneasy. The news coming from the Middle East in the last week paints a grotesque portrait of a region still mired in 12th Century theological arguments, yet using 21st Century military technology.
Feeding on feelings of unease caused by a world in flux & turmoil are the far Right. It was my misfortune to have a BNP leaflet pushed through my letter box over the weekend. Before binning the offending piece of paper, I decided to make a note of the glaring inconsistencies in their position. I have always thought that the fascists display stupidity & bigotry in equal measure. The leaflet confirmed that.
IMMIGRATION: "On current demographic trends, we, the native British people, will be an ethnic minority in our own country within sixty years."
[The source for the "current demographic trends" is not named. Nor do they care to define "the native British people". Celts, Vikings, Saxons, Normans, Hugenot French, & let's not forget the Romans, have all helped make British identity down the centuries. We know that these creatures don't see anyone from an Afro-Caribbean or Asian background as being British, so we'll just observe that the white British identity the BNP claims to represent is drawn from different parts of Europe.]
The BNP say they will "encourage the increase in the British birthrate which is the only real answer to the looming demographic crisis of an ageing population."
[The hapless lads who read the "ladmags" & surf "adult" websites will, presumably, be the shock troops in this Aryan baby boom; they'll think Christmas has arrived early.]
ECONOMY: "Globalisation, with its export of jobs to the Third World, is bringing ruin & unemployment to British industries & the communities that depend on them Accordingly, the BNP calls for the selective exclusion of foreign-made goods from British markets."
[Shall you tell them, or shall I? Wake up & smell the coffee, boneheads!]
NORTHERN IRELAND: "Long term, we wish to end the conflict in Ireland by welcoming Eire as well as Ulster as equal partners in a federation of the nations of the British Isles."
[Ah, now, isn't that nice of them to welcome the Irish Republic & its people back into Britain's bosom after the failed experiment of Irish independence & sovereignty spanning more than 80 years!]
EDUCATION: "We to instil {sic} in our young people knowledge of & pride in the history, cultures & heritage of the native peoples of Britain."
[Waterloo, yes. Peterloo, no. Hang on, isn't this line dangerously close to saying Britain is multi-cultural & multi-racial? I know it hurts your heads, folks, but do try to THINK before you come out with this crap.]

I do not wish for one moment to minimise the threat that the fascist filth pose. However, it is necessary from time to time to highlight the stupidity which underpins their arguments.

Tuesday, July 11, 2006

When the scales fall off your eyes

Many will be disillusioned by Blair over his paean of praise for nuclear power today. Some may even feel betrayed, though this is more a reflection of their own naivety than Blair's true nature. Long, long ago, way back in 1997, there was a feeling shared by many, including, I noticed at the time, those who voted Tory, that there really was change in the air. The late Robin Cook spoke confidently about "an ethical foreign policy". I held my tongue. True, the temptation to tell all & sundry that they were in for a rude awakening offered its sweet allure. But, no, I thought, let 'em learn the hard way. Sure enough, the severity of that lesson has been apparent to those poor saps in the last four or five years (many gave Blair extra time in the immediate wake of 9/11).

The bloggers have secured their first big political hit on this side of the Atlantic over the Prescott affair. Even though Guido Fawkes ( ) & I come from different political & philosophical places, I have to congratulate him on the digging he's done on one of the most hypocritical figures in New Labour ( & that's saying something!). I won't mention the name of the female Labour MP named by Guido whom, he claims, is Prescott's other mistress, not because the claim is risible (it isn't), but because you never know if a loophole can be found, & it's found that a blogger can be sued for libel. [Interestingly, the MP named on Guido's blog has, obviously, denied the story, yet declined to take legal action.]

A measure of just how far I've made my own political journey over the last decade and a half was instantly apparent to me last Saturday when More4 screened the Alan Bleasedale serial, "GBH". When it was first aired on Channel 4 in 1991 I was still very much an active member of the Militant. By a strange quirk of scheduling (at the time we were more cynical about its timing) the first episode was shown in the middle of the Liverpool Walton by-election, a contest noted for its bitterness, dirty tricks & open hostility. Both sides were guilty; I recall telling people on the doorstep that Kilfoyle had something VERY dodgy to hide.
It was an open secret in the organisation that Bleasedale's drama was a thinly-veiled portrait of Derek Hatton. Bleasedale denied that the drama's main protagonist, Michael Murray, was wholly based on Hatton's character. We claimed that it amounted to nothing more than character assassination. Looking back, both protestations were wrong. It's ironic that another totemic leader of the Trotskyite Left, Tommy Sheridan, is now revealed to have, ahem, feet of clay.