Monday, 31 October 2016

Boozing parents abandon son to go out on lash

A shocking tale of feckless parents leaving their 11 year old child on his own in a B&B while they went out and got boozed up!

The Mirror reported "Michael Gove's young son was left alone in a room at a posh B&B for six hours while his parents enjoyed a glitzy celebrity party.The ex-Cabinet minister and his wife Sarah Vine told hotel workers they would be back by around 9.30pm.But the couple are said to have failed to answer calls from a concerned night porter who found the 11-year-old wandering the corridors, asking where his parents were.The Goves are believed to have returned to the £250-a-night, 13-bedroom B&B at 1.30am the next morning – four hours later than they said they would be".

I trust the Goves will soon be getting a visit from their local child protection unit and from the police? Hundreds of other people in England and Wales have been arrested for leaving their children alone at home

Of course incidences of child neglect among the British upper classes are nothing new - the reason they have packed their children off to boarding schools for generations is because they are either incapable of looking after their own children or they simply can't be bothered.

Sunday, 30 October 2016

In the Year 2020.......

I'm sure older readers will recall the famous 1969 Zager and Evans song 'in the year 2525' (younger readers google it). With its grim warnings for the future of the human race it was a massive hit for the nebraskan duo on both sides of the Atlantic. But it's doubtful when Rick Evans penned such doom laden lyrics as "man has taken everything this old earth can give and he ain't put nothing back" he could have imagined that the kind of troubling future he envisaged in the song wouldnt be as far off as he imagined. In fact the grave consequences of humankind's exploitation of the planet and the living things we share the earth with would be realised within a few of decades of the song's release.

Last week the guardian published a chilling report from the Living Planet Index that warned the world is set to lose two thirds of its wild animals by 2020. In the most comprehensive study of its kind ever undertaken researchers from the WWF and the Zoological Society of London revealed that the world's animal population fell by 58 percent between 1970 and 2012.

And very depressing to report that among those species we might see disappear in a short time is the African elephant. There were 500,000 Elephants in Africa in 1970 but a failure by many governments to properly enforce the world ivory ban adopted in 1989 has seen  that figure fall to under 200,000. This magnificent and intelligent species ongoing battle for survival can be seen on the miniseries the BBC is currently screening 'Saving Africa's Elephants'

It is as a result of humankind's impact on the planet in recent decades that geologists have now credited our species with the advent of a new era in earth's history - the Anthropocene era. But as i wrote a little while ago this is not a milestone we should be proud of

Zager and Evans signed off their track with a reference to the year 9595, but sad to say that on current trends it's doubtful the human race will still be around by then. But if we are still around its highly unlikely that - a few insect and marine based species aside - any of the living creatures we currently share the planet will still be around with us.

But it doesnt have to be this way as contrary to the old Thatcherite nostrum there is an alternative - and that alternative is 'eco socialism'! A philosophy which marries the pursuit of economic and social justice with the protection of the world's environment and the living things we share this planet with. As it's abundantly clear that the dominant economic philosophy of the last 3 decades - free market capitalism - is incompatible with the well being of the planet and life on it.

Thursday, 27 October 2016

Are some labour MPs on the Saudi payroll too?

I visited the subject of the war crimes committed by the Saudi regime in Yemen in a previous post so bitterly disappointing then last night to see over 100 Labour MPs helped scupper a motion in the UK parliament which sought to hold the Saudis to account for their actions in Yemen and to withdraw British support for the Saudi led coalition in the Yemeni civil war

Given the disgraceful conduct of these Labour MPs in helping to sink what was in essence a fairly moderate motion - it didnt even call for the suspension of arms sales to Saudi Arabia - we could be forgiven for concluding that along with scores of other politicians in the West there are Labour MPs in the pockets of the barbaric Saudi regime too.

Would also love to know what the 'moderating influence' the UK is exercising over Saudi Arabia Boris Johnson refers to in the article is? Maybe the medieval Saudi regime will stop beheading people in public and stoning women to death for adultery? Course what Boris Johnson really means is "buy lot of arms from us and we'll turn a blind eye to your appalling human rights record and your war crimes in Yemen".

Wednesday, 26 October 2016

Some things dont change...

Sadly some things dont change and hostility and prejudice in right wing british newspapers towards refugees is one of them.The screenshot below shows how the Daily Mail referred to 'so called refugees' in this report from 1900 - a report which also wreaks of anti semitism.

Step forward 116 years and we have the same right wing rags like the mail demonising refugees and fuelling islamophobia.

Wednesday, 19 October 2016

Shameful attacks on child refugees

Given the current story making headlines in the British media it's very important to remember that racists and right wing bigots objected to the Kindertransport scheme back in the 1930s too

Sadly some things dont change 

Sunday, 16 October 2016

A mass killer in our midst.

On friday morning a lot of news outlets in Wales led with a story in which the British Lung Foundation revealed that half of Welsh councils did not have any air quality monitors outside schools. The BLF report also revealed that 5 areas of Wales - including the major urban areas of Cardiff, Swansea and Newport - have unsafe levels of particle pollution Of course it goes without saying that all local authorities should be monitoring the air quality in their respective areas but perhaps it's more important to look at the major cause of the poor air quality in the first place ie the numbers of vehicles on our roads.

The numbers of vehicles using british roads in the last 40 years has risen exponentially. So whereas in 1977 it was estimated there were around 11 million privately owned vehicles in the UK that figure now stands at well over 40 million. Now you dont have to be a scientist to work out that concurrent with this huge rise in vehicle ownership has been a rise in health conditions associated with pollution from vehicles. As despite the improvements made to vehicles by car manufacturers in recent years petrol and diesel fumes still contain chemical agents which can cause lung disease, asthma and cancer and which can hinder intellectual development in children.Thus it was reported two months ago that air pollution kills 50,000 thousand people in Britain annually - an astonishing figure

There are a number of reasons for the huge increase of vehicle ownership in the UK in recent decades but key among them certainly was the privatisation of rail and bus services in britain by the Thatcher government in the 1980s. And an indication of the contempt Thatcher had for public transport can be seen when she once told a close aide "A man who, beyond the age of 26, finds himself on a bus can count himself as a failure". Hence one of Thatcher's dreams was to create what she called a 'great car economy'

Unfortunately Thatcher's 'dream' has turned into a nightmare for millions of people in modern britain, with bus and rail services shrinking or disappearing altogether in many places. And many people wouldnt be able to get to work or fulfill other basic activities if they didnt have access to a car. Evidently a key instrument in improving the air quality in modern britain and reducing the staggering numbers of deaths it causes would be to return the railways and buses to public ownership. Unfortunately successive British governments at westminister have remained in thrall to free market ideas and so - despite the mounting evidence - have left the rail networks and bus services in private hands. Resulting in the UK (outside london) having among the worst public transport in the developed world.

The devolved governments in Wales and Scotland have had the powers to reregulate bus services in their respective countries for some years now, but for some unfathomable reason have neglected to use these powers. In fact the ruling SNP shamefully abandoned a manifesto committment to reregulate buses in Scotland after it received large donations from Brian Souter the owner of the private bus company Stagecoach

This week a case is being heard in the UK at the high court in london brought by the Environmental organisation Client Earth. They charge the British government with failing to tackle air pollution in the UK. Let's hope Client Earth succeeds in its case - it could end up saving thousands of lives in the coming years   

Friday, 14 October 2016

Boris Johnson is no friend of Human rights

The news from a certain middle eastern country was very depressing last weekend. Riven in recent years by a brutal civil war news broke on saturday that over 100 innocent civilians had been killed in a direct hit on a funeral - assembled by a terrible irony to remember earlier victims of the terrible civil war this country is experiencing.The perpetrator of this obscenity (and 'war crime' most certainly) was the airforce of a foreign power - a foreign power which has been propping up the unpopular regime in this country.

But dont expect to hear the bigoted bombastic Boris Johnson urge folk to protest outside that country's London embassy anytime soon. You see the foreign power i'm refering to isnt Russia and the country in which these slaughters of civilians is taking place isnt Syria - i'm refering to the murderous military campaign of Saudi Arabia in Yemen.

Dogged by conflict and division in the decades since the British colonists were driven out of what was Aden the Yemeni civil war began in 2015 when the largely Shia Houthis led a revolt against the corrupt administration of the Sunni President Ali Abdullah Saleh, who the UN has reported stole 60 billion dollars from the Yemeni people during his 3 decades in power

The Houthi rebels have proposed a transitional government of National Unity as a solution to end the civil war but this was unsurprisingly rejected by the clique around the deposed president and his saudi backers. But nearly one million Yemenis marched in support of the proposal in August

The scale of the humanitarian catastrophe currently taking place in yemen was made clear earlier this year - the UN reporting that many thousands have been killed, over 10 million yemenis dont have enough food to eat or access to clean water and hundreds of thousands of people have been displaced. The medieval homicides of Al Qaeda and Daesh have also been carrying out mass slaughters of Houthi civilans.

Saudi Arabia is an absolutist and feudal dictatorship. It is ruled by the Saudi royal family much in the way European states were ruled centuries ago. Unsurprisingly then there is much about life in contemporary Saudi Arabia which could be described as positively 'medieval' - there are no forms of free and democratic politics, public beheadings are commonplace, women are stoned to death for adultery and gay people face imprisonment and even death.

Given the authoritarian nature of the Saudi Arabian state and its total absence of any form of democracy, its role in arming jihadist terrorist groups and world wide promotion of the most reactionary branch of Islam (wahhabism) and its appalling human rights record you would think then that the western democracies like the US, France and the UK would want nothing to do with Saudi Arabia and would be clamouring for the imposition of sanctions on the Saudi regime - er you couldnt be more wrong! And there are two main reasons for this - Oil and Arms sales.

British and American multi national oil companies enjoy very lucrative business from their plants in Saudi Arabia while US and British governments have been arranging multi billion arm sales to saudi arabia for decades. In fact the Obama administration has sold more arms to the Saudis than even George W Bush did, with the US completing arns deals with Saudi Arabia amounting to 130 billion dollars on Obama's watch.While during David Cameron's 6 years as British PM the MOD sold 6 billion pounds worth of arms to the Saudis.The UK based Campaign Against the Arms Trade has produced an excellent report on the murky and long history of UK arms sales to Saudi Arabia

Interestingly the Saudi royal family has donated millions to both Hilary Clinton and Donald Trump via their 'foundations'. So whoever wins the US presidential election don't expect any change towards the Saudi regime from the next US president.While the British foreign office recently blocked an inquiry by the EU parliament into the Saudi's role in the Yemen Civil war, and Boris Johnson did his best to water down an MPs report into UK arms sales to Saudi Arabia

The example of Saudi Arabia and its murderous role in Yemen simply confirms what we all know - British and American governments are generally only concerned with human rights and protecting human lives when it doesnt impact on their own economic interests.

Wednesday, 12 October 2016

An early victim of Brexit

A signal that the post brexit slump is starting to bite occured yesterday with the news the Welsh labour government was dropping a scheme called 'Communities first'. Indeed last month the Welsh first minister Carwyn Jones hinted some government backed programmes would lose out as a consequence of brexit and what it is likely to mean for the resources available to the Welsh Assembly in future

For those readers from outside Wales or who may be unfamiliar with the scheme Communities First was set up in 2001 by the Welsh Assembly and targeted resources at the poorest areas in wales. Funding numerous community schemes in areas like port talbot, wrexham and merthyr. The nature of these schemes varied - some sought to help people in deprived areas into work, others sought to impove life skills and access to higher education and others sought to engage and work with young people from disadvantaged backgrounds.

As with any government funded programmes there were hits and misses with Community First, and the widely respected academic Victoria Winkler of the left leaning Bevan Foundation has given an honest assessment of Communities First here

But when discussing the merits of anti poverty programmes like Communities First it needs to be stressed that a scheme which has in its 15 year existence received less than 400 million in funding wouldnt on its own seriously dent poverty levels in Wales - a country where one in five people lives in poverty and which has long standing economic problems.The fact is the major economic levers which can make a real difference to tackling poverty - like powers over welfare and employment law - still lay with the British government at Westminister and not the Welsh government in Cardiff bay.

It's also important to understand that many of the poorest people in Wales are actually in work but constitute that growing and disturbing development in modern Britain known as the 'working poor'

So the importance and value of government funded programmes in communities with poor transport links, where there's poor health and nutrition and where many households cant afford access to basic things like the internet shouldnt be underestimated. And if such interventions are abandoned the quality of life of people in these communities isnt suddenly going to improve by itself. Indeed with numerous reports of the grave economic consequences of brexit already emerging ( ) the future for the poorest people in Wales and the wider UK - people who need more resources and more government intervention not less - doesnt bear thinking about.

Sunday, 9 October 2016

Remembering a Socialist Martyr

"People may die but their ideas will not"
Ernesto 'Che' Guevara June 14th 1928 - 9th October 1967

Looking at the state of the world today we need people like Che more than ever.

Be very afraid.

The current affairs and news website buzzfeed published the findings of a europe wide yougov poll on friday - and the poll's findings were both startling and disturbing.The Buzzfeed report stated

"Almost half of the adults in 12 European countries now hold anti-immigrant, nationalist views, according to major new research that reveals the spread of fringe political views into the mainstream. BuzzFeed News has been given exclusive access to new data from YouGov, which polled more than 12,000 people across the continent to measure the extent of what it termed “authoritarian populist” opinions – a combination of anti-immigration sentiments, strong foreign policy views, and opposition to human rights laws, EU institutions, and European integration policies".

"In Britain, the poll found authoritarian populist attitudes were shared by 48% of adults, despite less than 20% of the population identifying itself as right-wing. Three months on from the EU referendum, prime minister Theresa May has responded this week by appealing directly to disaffected working-class voters with a promise to crackdown on immigration and reassert British sovereignty".

"In France, a clear majority of people surveyed – 63% – held authoritarian populist views, while in Italy the figure was 47%. In Germany, it was 18%, which appears low by comparison but, given the country’s history and the extreme nature of its far-right groups, is regarded by analysts as surprisingly high. The highest levels of authoritarian populist views were recorded in Romania and Poland, where they were held by 82% and 78% of adults respectively".

Of course we've seen the rise of right wing populism and support for anti-immigrant, nationalist, and authoritarian parties in Europe once before in the 1930s - and we know how that turned out. As George Santayana famously warned us many years ago "Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it". And when surveying post brexit UK and the rest of Europe in late 2016 it looks like a growing number of people have certainly forgotten what happened in the 1930s - or maybe it's just that they dont care? 

Karl Marx and Frederick Engels opened the Communist Manifesto with the memorable line "a spectre is haunting Europe" and for Marx and Engels of course that spectre was a socialist revolution that would sweep away the old corrupt monarchies and wealthy ruling elites and establish socialist societies controlled by Europe's working classes. But looking at the contemporary European political scene the spectre which appears to haunt Europe today is fascism.

And there was a very timely screening of the 1972 film Cabaret on BBC2 on Saturday night. A musical centering on the chaotic lives of 3 twenty something bohemians and set in early 1930s Berlin against the backdrop of the collapse of the Weimar republic and the emergence of Hitler and the far right in Germany. Most of the film's musical sequences take place in a berlin burlesque theatre the Kit Kat club, a raucous and liberal venue where crossdressers performed dance and jazz numbers and gay and straight patrons mingled openly and freely - needless to say all things that were detested by Hitler and his fascist thugs. And it was no surprise that soon after the Nazis took power in Germany in 1933 that so called 'degenerate' forms of music like jazz were banned, gay venues were shut down and gay people were forced to go underground. And tens of thousands of gay people would later perish in the concentration camps along with the jews, socialists and others.

We should all surely be very concerned then with the news tonite that homophobic attacks have risen by a massive 147 pecent since June 23rd And when set alongside the big increase in racially motivated hate crimes since June 23rd there's clearly something going on in contemporay Britain  - something very nasty and very right wing.

Probably Cabaret's most memorable scene occurs when the film's central characters stop off for some refreshments at a rural beer garden while out on a country drive and this is the rest of the scene as described by wikipedia

"In a sunlit outdoor setting a boy - only his face seen - sings to a relaxed audience of all ages what at first seem innocent lyrics ("Tomorrow Belongs To Me") about the beauties of nature and youth. The camera shifts to show that the singer is wearing a brown Hitler Youth  uniform. He lifts his hand in the Nazi salute as the accompanying music becomes strident. One by one, nearly all the adults and young people watching are caught up in the hysteria and rise to join in the singing and saluting".
Let's face it with the way everything is going in the UK and Europe at the moment you dont have to be Mystic Meg to see how things might turn out if we are not vigilant.

Friday, 7 October 2016

More Ambush Time than Question Time

I've long since stopped expecting any semblance of impartiality on BBCs Question Time programme. In the last few months the supposedly randomly selected audience has started more and more to a resemble a UKIP gathering - without the fighting of course. Furthermore in recent times it's become routine for anyone who challenges the accepted wisdom of the british state on any matter to get ambushed by 'randomly selected' members of the audience. Alex Salmond, Caroline Lucas, Natalie Bennet, John Mcdonnell and Diane Abbot have all found themselves in the show's crosshairs in recent months and last night it was the turn of Plaid Cymru leader Leanne Wood to get the 'treatment' in an edition of the show broadcast from Neath in south west wales.

A good friend of mine who lives in Neath who applied to be in the audience and who wanted to ask a question about the impact of brexit on Wales couldnt even get a ticket to be in the audience. But lo and behold an audience member from Carmarthen some 30 miles away got to ask Leanne a question about the Plaid controlled Carmarthenshire council's Welsh language policy in schools. I have to admit i dont know anything about the matter the audience member was referring to or indeed if it has any basis in fact but it's obviously no coincidence the programme's editorial team selected that question for discussion and no coincidence host David Dimbleby turned to leanne first for a response.

You dont have to be Columbo to work out the question was clearly selected because it was designed to try and damage leanne and damage her party on prime time tv. Worse still the resident tory on the panel the Welsh secretary of state Alan Cairns was permitted to imply that Plaid was somehow involved in the arson campaign against 'holiday homes' in wales in the late 1970s - and without so much as a word of admonishment from the show's host.

For those who may be unfamiliar with this topic the problems of empty holiday cottages in rural Wales was a major concern in the late 1970s. Local people in welsh speaking communities were unable to get housing while scores of properties - often snapped up by affluent people from the south east of England - lay empty and unused for most of the year. As a result a group calling itself Meibion Glyndwr (Sons of Glyndwr) carried out a series of arson attacks on dozens of unoccupied holiday cottages in Wales. It's worth pointing out at this juncture the issue of unoccupied holiday cottages hasnt just been confined to rural Wales - it's been a problem in other rural parts of the UK too in places like Cornwall, Yorkshire and Cumbria (and sad to report that decades on it's still a problem).

The welsh arson campaign ended in the early 1980s and despite a massive police operation no one was ever arrested or charged for the attacks. But there was certainly no evidence linking anyone in Plaid Cymru to the arson campaign. Indeed some well informed people on the welsh political scene have long suspected the british intelligence services may have been behind the arson attacks as part of a wider campaign to damage welsh nationalism. If that sounds far fetched to some people dont forget that former intelligence operatives like Fred Holroyd and Colin Walllace have confirmed that MI5 were up to all sorts of shenanigans in the north of ireland in the 70s and 80s - sometimes with deadly results.

But any uninformed observers watching last night's Question Time might well have gone away with the impression that Plaid Cymru (an essentially left of centre party it should be noted) is a party which is only interested in the welsh language and whose members used to go around burning cottages owned by english people. And just to be sure the viewers at home 'got the message' there was a bizarre cameo from an audience member - obviously straight from central casting - labelling plaid 'racist'. I think we can safely say that with regards to Last Night's Question Time it was job done so far as british state is concerned, and it can surely only be a matter of time before we hear those 3 little words - 'arise Sir David'.

Given the shabby treatment their representatives repeatedly get on the show maybe it's time the left in the UK formed a pact and agreed to boycott the show? And with the 'randomly selected' QT audiences increasingly made up of kippers it would surely make sense for the programme's panel to follow suit? The show could hardly get any more right wing than it has become - and after yesterday's startling events in Strasbourg it certainly wouldnt be boring.

Thursday, 6 October 2016

For October 2016 see October 1936

Amber Rudd's statement at the UK Tory conference this week that the British government are planning to introduce legislation which would compel employers in Britain to keep lists of the non UK nationals it employs has understandably generated criticism and also set alarm bells ringing.The historical precedents for draconian actions like this are not very encouraging to say the least. Among them the "Ausl√§nderzentralkartei" introduced by the Government of Adolf Hitler in Germany in 1936.

While her still unelected party leader - and the still unelected british PM - Theresa May really scraped the bottom of the political barrel this week with her brazen taunting of people who voted to Remain in June's EU referendum, and her snide dig that people who are concerned with the rise of anti immigrant feelings in the UK are part of some remote and out of touch 'metropolitan elite'. Im sure it would come as news to people in places like Hackney, Tower Hamlets, Glasgow and west Belfast - where they voted heavily to Remain - that they are part of the metropolitan elite.With the large remain votes in these areas also giving the lie to fashionable misconceptions that all working class people voted for brexit and are obsessed with immigration.

Ironically in the week the Tories have been playing the 'race card' to the maximum people have been marking the 80th anniversary of the famous 'Battle of Cable Street' when on October 4th 1936 trade unionists, socialists and communists joined with the local jewish and irish communities to block an attempted march through the east end of London by Oswald Moseley's fascist blackshirts. Funnily enough the 'metropolitan elite' of the time - Theresa May's middle class daily mail reading tory predecessors were in favour of the march and argued it should be allowed to go ahead.

The rest as they say is history - and a glorious episode in working class and anti racist history it was too - as despite the protection of hundreds of truncheon wielding mounted police the blackshirts got a beating they never forgot and were forced to abandon their march for their own safety. Cable street again reminds us what can be achieved when working class people and oppressed groups join together in solidarity.

But the era in which the events of Cable street took place - a period which witnessed the rise of right wing xenophobic ideas and movements and which culminated in the mass murder of millions of human beings by the Nazis - are a reminder of what can happen when racist and far right political movements are allowed to grow and prosper. There's a very good reason why the phrase 'never again' figures so prominently in the anti fascist movement.

Speaking of fascists if Oswald Mosely was around today it's a reasonable bet he'd be a member of UKIP and it was amusing then to see that the much vaunted 'safe pair of hands' Diane James didnt make much of a fist of replacing Nigel Farage as the Kippers leader - she didnt even last as long in her post as England manager Sam Allardyce did in his.

Wednesday, 5 October 2016

Will Albert Pierrepoint be making a comeback?

It's a condition of membership of the European Union that the legal system of member states no longer includes capital punishment. So if the UK hadnt abolished the death penalty in 1967 its membership of the EU wouldnt have been accepted in 1973. Similarly Turkey's interest in joining the EU will get nowhere until it stops hanging people.The UK is still currently a signatory of the European Convention on Human Rights and despite mistaken claims during the referendum campaign from morons on the brexit side this court is not linked to EU membership. Court protocols forbid the use of capital punishment by signatories to the convention.

The current and unelected British PM Theresa May however has previously made no secret of her disdain for the european court, and hinted that under a conservative government the UK might leave the ECHR (plans have already been announced to exempt the UK militart from the court's jurisdiction). May's apparent disdain for the European court stems from her time at the home office and claims the convention made it harder to act against suspected terrorists. How true that claim is we dont know but it's worth remembering that under the ECHR everyone in Britain is protected from any potential abuse by our government.

Unlike every other advanced state in the world we dont have a Bill of Rights in the UK. Legally speaking we are 'subjects' of the Crown, and when all is said and done the only legal measure actually stopping a british government from sending the army to drag any of us from our homes is the European convention on human rights.

Polls of british public opinion have consistently shown a sizeable number of people support restoring the death penalty in Britain, with the last major poll on the subject in 2014 showing nearly half the adult population in favour of bringing back hanging. Many UKIP and Conservative grassroots members support the restoration of the death penalty, indeed UKIP has recently sponsored petitions to get the matter debated in the UK parliament.

With a right wing mood on immigration seeming to hold sway - indeed the issue is dominating british politics and certainly won the referendum for the brexit campaign - what's to say similar 'popular' sentiment on capital punishment wont achieve an equally high profile and importance in the future? And if Conservative and UKIP politicians are willing to pander to this sentiment on immigration what's to say they wont do so over capital punishment? With the UK out of both the EU and the ECHR there would be nothing to stop the restoration of the death penatly in Britain if enough MPs at westminister voted for it. It really is chilling to think that the UK has embarked on a path that could see such barbarism return.

Albert Pierrepoint was the longest serving 'hangman' in british history and during his career with the home office is reputed to have executed as many as 600 people from 1931 until he resigned in 1956. Among those he executed was the later pardoned Derek Bentley. Condemned prisoners would often mistake Pierrepoint's handshake upon their initial meeting with him for friendliness - he was of course shaking their hand in order to approximate their weight for their execution. Albert Pierrepoint passed away in 1992 and barring a frankenstein style resurrection obviously wont be coming back. But given the UK's current disturbing political trajectory dont rule out notices in british jobcentres in the future inviting applications 'for hangmen - no experience necessary'. Hey given we appear to be entering an age that revels in Britain's 'glorious' past we might even go back to hanging people in public.

You can't say you havent been warned.

Monday, 3 October 2016

The resistible rise of Arturo Mackenzie

Being Welsh i do like to take an interest in the welsh blogosphere and sad to report that despite Wales proud radical political traditions the welsh blogosphere is by no means uniformly left wing or progressive. Indeed i can only think of two bloggers in Wales (apart from yours truly of course) who consistently articulate progressive and left wing arguments - Glyn Morris of the excellent 'National Left' blog and Martyn Shrewsbury's always enlightening 'All too Human blog' and links to both these blogs can be found at the end of this post. And it was while on a recent visit to Martyn's blog i learned of an online debate he recently participated in with the Neath based UKIP activist and editor of the right wing 'Burkean' website Benjamin Mackenzie.

For those who might not be familiar with 'Burkeans' and think they might be creatures from an episode of Dr Who they are in fact disciples of the 18th century Philosopher Edmund Burke and represent an eccentric strand in 'conservative' thinking that abhors the emergence of the modern state. For Burkeans the 'rot' set in so to speak in around 1832 when voting rights started to be extended to people who didnt own property. 'Self reliance' and 'thrift' are the watchwords for any aspiring Burkean. So if you need open heart surgery there shouldnt be anything as apparently 'tyrannical' as a national health service to treat you - you either do it yourself or you should have worked hard and saved to pay for it. Similarly Burkeans recoil in horror at progressive 20th century developments like 'state education' - for burkeans educating the proles isnt just wrong it's positively dangerous. It really is no surprise then that even Margaret Thatcher sent these misanthropic right wing headbangers packing during her years in office.

While for those who might not know Martyn Shrewsbury he was the first leader of the Wales Green party and has subsequently become an articulate and consistent champion of 'Eco Socialism' ie the belief that the pursuit of social and economic justice must be married to the protection of the world's environment and the livings things we share this planet with. And in that sense everyone who proclaims themselves to be a socialist in the world which exists at present surely has to be an eco socialist. For green socialists like Martyn politics begins at the community level and the phrase "think global - act local" would be a very good summation of this approach to political activity i think.

They were debating Benjamin Mackenzie's claim that Adolf Hitler was a socialist. I dont intend spending too much time dismantling this absurd proposition - suffice to say anyone with the slightest grasp of German history in the two decades after the first world war would know Hitler and his nazi regime were about as far from socialism as you could get. But just to briefly recap, lest anyone is labouring under the mistaken impression there is anything to Mackenzie's risible claims : Hitler joined the German workers party as a spy on behalf of the German army. In his deranged Magnus Opus Mein Kamp Hitler repeatedly expressed his all consuming hatred of marxism and its jewish author. Throughout his sorry misbegotten life Hitler had an abiding hatred of two things - jews and the left. Before they came to power in Germany the nazis routinely attacked and murdered socialists, communists and striking workers.

And when the Nazis came to power socialist and communist parties - along with trade unions - were immediately outlawed and it was members of these parties along with trade unionists who joined jews as the first prisoners of the concentration camps. The major german industrialists backed and funded the Nazis precisely because they destroyed the german labour movement (decapitating the organised working class has of course always been a key aim of fascist regimes). With a membership drawing heavily from Middle class professions like civil servants, doctors, engineers and the self employed the nazis privatised swathes of german industry - in fact the term 'privatisation' was first coined during the third reich - and private property was left untouched. In essence Hitler and the Nazis were to socialism what Pontius Pilate was to christianity.

If his denials of the extreme right wing nature of Hitler and the third reich werent bad enough Benjamin Mackenzie then (around 9 minutes 55 seconds in) proceeds to offer what can only be described as an undisguised apologia for Mussolini's fascist state. In a bizarre attempt to tell us that Fascism isnt synonymous with racism he cites the example of Mussolini's Italy. It would seem that according to Ben Mussolini wasnt a racist or indeed such a bad guy at all and that il duce's fascist state didnt pursue any racist policies until 1938, and that was only because of 'pressure' from his ally Hitler (clearly Ben Mackenzie has never come across the celebrated writings of a certain Primo Levi).

Unfortunately among the reams of notes Mackenzie seemingly printed off from wikipedia and recites in parrot fashion during the debate he seems to have missed the fact that as far back as the early 1920s Mussollini was stressing the importance of  'preserving europe's aryan stock' and denouncing 'jewish bankers' - phrases which could easily have sprung from hitler's own lips. And as the historian Renzo de Felice has demonstrated Mussolini was under no such pressure rather the 'race manifesto' he introduced in italy in 1938 was merely an extension of Mussolini's own long held racially motivated outlook.

Mackenzie also conveniently seems to have overlooked the deeply racist policies Fascist Italy pursued 3 years prior to this in 1935 following its brutal invasion of the then Abbysinia (now ethiopia). After a conquest in which the Italian army had used chemical weapons and slaughtered three quarters of a million Abbysinian soldiers and civilians Italian rulers there proceeded to enact a series of racial laws which would have put apartheid South Africa to shame. And in communique's Mussolini sent to the italian occupiers following the conquest he instructed that any Abbysinians who still resisted Italian rule should be 'exterminated'. Note the word extermination - a word more commonly associated with the Nazis in relation to the jews but a policy began in Ethiopia by Mussolini in 1936.

But then Mussolini was denouncing slavs as 'barbarians' in 1920 - and later incarcerating thousands of them in concentration camps. And thousands of Roma were put in concentration camps and starved to death in fascist Italy. Far from il duce aping hitler - as Mussolini apologists like to try and claim - if anything it looks as if Hitler learned a thing or two from Mussolini.

And for further evidence of the truly monstrous nature of Mussolini's Fascist rule you could also throw in the vast military and logistical support he gave to Franco's fascist forces in their overthrow of the elected republican government in spain : supplying 85,000 troops, 30,000 blackshirts and torpedoing ships taking essential supplies to ports in republican controlled towns. Indeed without Mussolini's support it's doubtful Franco's forces would have triumphed and subsequently been able to unleash a reign of terror which saw an estimated 250,000 republican prisoners summarily executed and buried in hidden mass graves.

Oh and let's not forget that on Mussolini's watch Jews in Italy were banned from public office, banned from numerous occupations and banned from marrying non jews and that 10,000 italian jews would be deported and perish in the nazi concentration camps at Auschwitz. And when towards the end of the debate Benjamin Mackenzie attempted to draw comparisons between Nicola Sturgeon's SNP (a left leaning anti racist social democratic party) and the Nazis i realised he had completely lost the plot.

Alarmingly Benjamin Mackenzie describes himself during the debate as a 'british nationalist'. Now unless youve been on another planet in the last few years you'd know that this is a term synonymous with british neo fascist organisations like the British National Party and the utterly repugnant Britain First, and because of these repellent associations it's a term which even the likes of Nigel Farage would never be caught using in a million years.

UKIP isnt of course responsible for public statements by its individual members, indeed in recent times they've acted relatively quickly when members have been found to have fascist or extreme right wing sympathies. So when Benjamin Mackenzie's fellow Neath based kipper Malcolm Biggs was recently exposed as a former candidate for a neo fascist party he was promptly removed from their list of candidates for the Welsh Assembly elections last May. But should Benjamin Mackenzie stand for position within UKIP or seek to contest an election for the party UKIP officials are going to have to tackle him about some of the deeply alarming views he expressed in this video. As a failure to do so rightly means UKIP will continue to be open to charges they are a home to people with fascist and extreme right wing sympathies.

It will be apparent to some that the title of this post is a paraphrase of a very famous work by the left wing German playwright Bertochlt Brecht (if you know the play the title requires no explanation lol).

Useful Anti-Fascist links