Wednesday, 30 November 2016

Paul Nuttall's 'Fairly Secret Army'

Older readers might recall the brilliant 1970s comedy The Fall and Rise of Reginald Perrin. The show became famous for its savage satire on 1970s consumerism and what we used to call back then the 'rat race'. While on occasions - and very unusually for a sitcom - the show would stray into the political arena. I remember in one episode Reggie Perrin (played superbly by the late Leonard Rossiter) ruminated on the question of whether or not it was possible for a socialist government to be successful in a market economy (a question we on the left are arguably still wrestling with 4 decades on).

But the show's most striking foray into the world of politics came during a memorable exchange between Reggie and his brother-in law Jimmy. A former military man Jimmy was struggling to adapt to life on 'civvy street'. He frequently wore a regulation army sweater and peppered his conversation with military metaphors and phrases. Jimmy also held some extreme right wing view, basically regarding anyone to the left of Margaret Thatcher as a dangerous communist. And Jimmy's paranoid right wing take on life was superbly illustrated in this memorable exchange between Reggie and Himself.

Of course as amusing as this scene was it's important to remember that in Britain in the mid 70s there really were people around like Jimmy. The former SAS Commander David Stirling had formed the paramilitary group GB75, who's members included  a Jersey-based arms dealer, business leaders, civil servants, ex-soldiers and spies with links to the military  and people like Peter Wright in the intelligence services. While another 'private army' - Civil Assistance - was set up by the British General Sir Walter Walker. And we now know of course there were real and advanced plans to stage a coup against Harold Wilson's labour government of the 1970s

Meanwhile Jimmy's paranoid right wing character proved such a hit with audiences he would go on to enjoy his own comedy series 'Fairly Secret Army'. A series based in part on the private armies set up by the likes of Stirling and Walker.

Seen through contemporary eyes it's not very hard to see similarities between Jimmy's reactionary and alarming opinions and many of those in Ukip, and i don't think there's any doubt as to which side Jimmy would have been on during the EU referendum campaign. Indeed it's very likely that even as i type 'Jimmy' would be trying to set up another 'fairly secret army' to deal with 'remoaners' ie people who wanted the UK to remain in the EU and who have now apparently replaced 'communists' as the the greatest threat to 'the british way of life' among paranoid right wing fantasists.

All of which makes the statement made by Paul Nutter - er sorry i mean Nuttall - following his election as UKIP leader all the more disturbing, with Nuttall telling a journalist he would be 'coming after Remainers''

What then are we to make of Nuttall's extraordinary threat? (as a threat it surely is). Can those of us who campaigned to stay in the EU during the referendum expect to be accosted on the street or in our homes by balaclava clad right wing paramilitary gangs and bundled into the backs of vehicles never to be seen again? I think Nutter er sorry i mean Nuttall owes us all an explanation, and in light of the awful fate visited on Jo Cox by a right wing paramilitary surely an apology too.

Saturday, 26 November 2016

Farewell Fidel

Sad news this morning with the passing away of former Cuban president and lifelong revolutionary Fidel Castro.The target of numerous assassination attempts by the CIA and US funded terrorists during his lifetime Fidel oversaw Cuba's transformation from a playground for the American mafia and the super rich into a socialist state with one of the best public health and education systems in the world. A state with comprehensive social welfare provision and an infant mortality rate which ranks among the world's lowest is all the more remarkable when you consider it has been achieved in the face of decades of economic and military sabotage by the United States.

Under Fidel's leadership Cuba also supported numerous liberation struggles around the world - most notably in Africa, where Cuban soldiers helped defeat terrorist armies backed by the South African apartheid regime in Angola and Mozambique. Cuba was a staunch supporter of the ANC and shortly after his release from prison Nelson Mandela singled out Cuba for the support it had given to the international struggle against Apartheid. Cuba has also been a long time supporter of the Palestinian struggle for statehood and of course Cuba has long served as a friend and inspiration to progressive movements across Latin America seeking to free their countries from US economic domination (the gun Chile's socialist president Salvador Allende used to defend himself in La Moneda during Pinochet's fascist coup was given to him by Fidel Castro).

I'm sure Fidel and his long departed compaƱero Che are already enjoying a cigar together.

Wednesday, 23 November 2016

"They've all come to look for America"

No one should be the least bit surprised at footage which has emerged in recent days of American neo nazis and other assorted right wing headbangers greeting Donald Trump's election victory with fascist salutes and ecstatic cries of "hail trump"

Throughout the Republican primaries and the presidential campaign itself there was plenty of evidence of groups like the Ku Klux Klan and the American Nazi party supporting trump, and we can be sure any self respecting American neo fascist flogged themselves to a standstill on Trump's behalf on November 8th.Of course Donald Trump isn't himself directly responsible for the activities of America's racist far right - and he has on occasions condemned such people - but he certainly could have done more to disown them. And his appointment of the Alt-Right guru Steve Bannon to his oval office team has not done much to reassure people that racists and America's hard right won't have Trump's ear during his presidency

Aside from impromptu outbursts of support for Trump on show during the leaked video perhaps the most staggering thing about it however is the sheer ignorance of those involved.The speaker Richard Spencer asserts that "until this generation America's history was white" - er has he never heard of a group of people called native Americans? There used to be millions of them right across what we now call America, before their numbers were decimated by disease, war and persecution from... ahem... white European invaders.

Today we would call the treatment suffered by native americans following the arrival of european settlers by it's proper name - genocide! Oh and the millions of black people literally stolen from Africa, enslaved and made to work for nothing might have made a contribution to America's history and its emergence as the most powerful nation on the earth too. But let's face it historical ignorance and right wing bigots are perfect bedfellows so the drivel spouted by the likes of Spencer is par for the course. But alas as we saw following the result of the EU referendum in the UK - where racists have greeted the result as a signal to increase violent attacks on non british nationals - Trump's victory has buoyed racist thugs in the US too and there has been a sharp spike in hate crimes since November 8th. And this in a country where white policeman shooting unarmed black people had already become almost routine.

Another ominous sign of what a Trump presidency will look like can be seen in his early treatment of the press. Still smarting from some of the coverage he received from the press during the election Trump has been quick to exact his revenge on some prominent US papers and journalists by refusing to grant interviews and trashing them in public. This is not a surprise of course - Trump has a reputation for seeking revenge on those whom he believes have wronged him. But now he has the power to go after his enemies in a way he could only dream of before. And this sobering point was made before Trump was elected and by one of the people who perhaps knows Trump best - author of his biography Tony Schwartz. Schwartz warned that if elected Trump will make the spiteful and sinister presidency of Richard Nixon look positively benign, even speculating that Trump would impose martial law in the US if he was presented with an opportunity to do so. Americans cant say they haven't been warned.

Course Trump has been lobbying this week for his number one british fan Nigel Farage to be appointed UK Ambassador to the US, an invitation that was thankfully quickly rebuffed by 'her majesty's government'. Presumably Trump's brazen lobbying on Farage's behalf was his reward for the slavish support he has given Trump over the last 12 months. Indeed one of the curious things about Farage and other right wing 'transatlantacists' like Nigel Lawson and Aaron Banks is that while they made great play during the referendum campaign of leaving the EU so Britain could 'get its sovereignty back' you can be certain that if tomorrow donald trump proposed making the UK the 51st state the likes of Farage and Banks would leap at the chance.

Let's face it with a legal system which still sentences people to death, where private health insurance is the norm, where racial inequalities would shame apartheid south africa and where trade unions have been completely marginalised the contemporary US is the kind of society the kippers and their neo thatcherite buddies can only dream of - and the kind of state they will create here if they get the chance.

Friday, 18 November 2016

And then there were two....

No im not referring to the number of dinner guests left alive halfway through an Agatha Christie story but the surviving members of Wales 1958 world cup team. The sad news this week of the passing away of Len Allchurch means only Terry Medwin and Cliff Jones now survive from a Wales team which - with a bit more more luck - could have quite easily won football's world cup in sweden in 1958. And if they had won that world cup how different might the history of welsh football and maybe even the history of the country of Wales itself have been?

Of course luck and the Welsh national football team have never exactly been close acquaintances. Erroneously awarded penalties, deflected goals, late goals, criminal refereeing, even drugged up opponents - you name the calamity and it's likely the welsh football side have been on the receiving end of it over the years. All of which of course made the achievements of Wales in France in the summer all the sweeter. And while a disappointing start to the current world cup campaign has seen some people all to quick to write off this team it's worth remembering that it wasn't that long ago that teams like Serbia were putting 6 goals past Wales.

But to return to the 1958 world cup team a closer inspection reveals a quite remarkable feature of that side. 6 key members - Len Allchurch and his brother Ivor, John and Mel Charles, Cliff Jones and Terry Medwin were from the same part of Wales - namely Swansea. I'm not sure if any other part of Wales has produced footballers of such quality in their entire histories but for 6 players of such quality to emerge from the same place at the same time is frankly extraordinary, and certainly something we are unlikely to see again in Wales (current manager Chris Coleman is also from Swansea as it happens).

I dont know whether it's to do with the passage of time - there's not even any colour footage or colour photographs of the Wales team in Sweden - but it's easy to forget just how good a team Wales were in 1958. In John Charles and Ivor Allchurch they possessed two world class players, and who along with Gareth Bale are the greatest footballers ever to pull on a Wales shirt. Goalkeeper Jack Kelsey and Captain Dave Bowen were part of an Arsenal league title winning squad. While Cliff Jones, Terry Medwin and Mel Hopkins would go on to star in the great Spurs team of the early 1960s. And in Jimmy Murphy they had a great manager too. Murphy was Matt Busby's assistant at Manchester United for 15 years and took charge of the team while Busby recovered from the terrible injuries he sustained in the Munich air disaster. Murphy would play a key role in developing United's star studded side of the 1960s - indeed Bobby Charlton credited Murphy with making him the player he became.

Unbeaten in their group and then seeing off what even without Puskas was a still very good Hungary side Wales faced Pele and Brazil in the quarter final. Unfortunately the battering John Charles received from the hungarians meant they did so without their best player but even so it still took a late deflected Pele goal to end Wales participation in Sweden. Of course we'll never know if a Wales with John Charles in their side would have beaten Brazil but it's not unreasonable to think that if John Charles had played in that match Bobby Moore wouldn't have been the first red shirted captain from a UK country to lift the world cup.

For anyone wanting to know more about the Wales 1958 world cup squad and what might have been i recommend getting a copy of Mario Basini's excellent book 'When Pele Broke our Hearts'.

And continuing with a Wales and Swansea theme the campaigning organisation YES Cymru will be staging a rally in Swansea this Saturday. A non party campaign Yes Cymru was launched earlier this year with the aim of building popular grassroots support for independence for Wales. Saturday's rally will take place at Castle Gardens at midday and among the speakers will be the former Labour MP Gwynoro Jones.

Friday, 11 November 2016

Poppy fascists at it again.

Lots of people in the UK wear poppies to commemorate those who've died in wars and there's nothing wrong with that. Similarly there's nothing wrong with those who choose not to wear a poppy either. It doesnt mean they don't respect or care about British soldiers who have lost their lives in wars - it means they don't feel they have to go about with a plastic flower somewhere on their clothing to show it. In recent times however the sincere and voluntary act of wearing a poppy at this time of year has morphed into something else - something ugly and almost fascist in its intolerance towards anyone who deviates from poppy wearing.

Furthermore might it not be a good idea to not send people to die in wars in the first place? Indeed the second world war aside - a war against the terrifying evil that was Nazism and which had to be fought - i cant think of a single war the British have been involved in which has been necessary or couldn't have been resolved by other means. I certainly include the first world war in that list of unnecessary conflicts - a disastrous and pointless War brought about by a falling out between Europe's corrupt ruling classes and fought by clueless aristocratic generals indifferent to the deaths of their largely working class soldiers.   

But unfortunately FIFA's hair brained inflexibility over the matter of 'symbol' wearing by national teams has this week resulted in the Wales football team targeted for abuse by the poppy fascists

The hypocrisy involved in all of this is simply breathtaking - the UK's home nations have played football matches on or near Armistice day without wearing poppies on numerous occasions before and there hasnt been a murmur of protest. Course amid all the hullabaloo and the abuse currently being directed at the Wales team by the likes of Hopkins and right wing hacks the tribute the Welsh FA are in fact planning before their game this weekend seems to have been missed

One other point - i wonder how those currently lambasting the Wales team would react if England met Argentina in the next world cup and the Argentinian team wanted to wear something on their shirt to commemorate the hundreds of young Argentinian conscripts drowned when Margaret Thatcher gave the order to sink the Belgrano? I strongly suspect the likes of Hopkins and the Daily i mean Mail ....would be singing a different tune then.

But the Welsh football team should perhaps consider it a badge of honour that they are the latest victims of Hopkins bile - anyone who urges the machine gunning of drowning child migrants surely ceased to be a member of the human race long ago

Finally - and i thought it was a fitting way to end this post - if you watched telly in Britain in the 80s chances are you would have been a fan of the comedy series Blackadder and chances are you would have been touched by the shows profoundly moving last scene. In a few short minutes - courtesy of some brilliant script writing by Ben Elton - it managed to capture the sheer insanity of much of what was supposed to be 'the war to end all wars' and the terrible human cost involved.

Wednesday, 9 November 2016

Midnight in the Century

The above phrase is associated with the Russian revolutionary and writer Victor Serge. A dedicated anti stalinist he coined the term in the mid 1930s, a time when the left opposition had been extinguished in the Soviet Union the purges and the show trials had begun in earnest and the rest of Europe quivered in the shadow of fascism and the rise of Hitler. So all in all it was a very grim time and one which Serge's phrase brilliantly captured.

In 2016 we've recently seen a vote for Brexit in the UK - a vote almost entirely based on lies on xenophobia and a nascent and ugly British chauvinism. And now we're seeing a President elected in America on a platform based almost entirely on lies on xenophobia and statements from the candidate which on times have bordered on fascism. So all in all this a very grim time for those of us with a world view based on tolerance, compassion and a commitment to social and economic justice. 

There's no way of ameliorating what has taken place or softening the blow - make no mistake this is our Midnight in the Century. We know what horrors were unleashed on the world in the decade after Victor Serge penned those famous words in 1935 - i dread to think what horrors await us in the next few years!

PS. the French National Front leader Marine le Pen was quick to congratulate Trump - ominously tweeting "their world is collapsing - ours is being built". You shudder to think what kind of world she wants to build.

Tuesday, 8 November 2016

"Birds of a feather flock together"

As far back as 391 BC Plato told us "like attracts like" and we now call this the 'law of attraction'. So lest you be in any doubt over who we on this side of 'the pond' should want to win tomorrow a quick look at some of those who are supporting the two candidates might assist you in making up your mind.

In the Hillary Clinton Camp

In the Donald Trump camp  

Friday, 4 November 2016

Er isn't this what the brexiters wanted?

The High Court's decision that the British government must get the approval of MPs before triggering article 50 and formally leave the EU has understandably made all the headlines in the last 24 hours. Predictably the europhobic right reacted with characteristic hysteria to the decision. Ukip leadership hopeful Suzanne Evans displayed echoes of Mussolini by calling for the judges to be sacked, while other kippers called for a "peoples march" on i mean London.

What critics of the decision who complain it is an attack on democracy seem to forget is the British government was going to use the archaic and entirely undemocratic royal prerogative to enact article 50. Yesterday's decision doesnt mean the result on June 23rd wont be respected and that Brexit wont happen - but it does mean that the british government will need to get the approval of MPs before triggering article 50. I can't see MPs trying to reverse the referendum result - indeed all the signs are that most MPs will vote in favour of triggering article 50. But it does mean the kipper and tory right dream of a so called 'hard brexit' may be dead - and quite right too! After all there was nothing on the ballot paper on June 23rd about leaving the EU single market or deporting millions of EU nationals currently living in the UK.

The irony about all of this of course is that what yesterday's decision represented was a British court deciding that the British government must consult the British parliament before triggering Britain's exit from the EU - now how could any brexiter argue with that? Surely that is 'taking back control'?

Finally being Welsh i did smile when i learned that the most senior judge sitting in the High court is a certain Baron Thomas of Cwmgiedd - Cwmgiedd is a village in the Welsh town of Ystradgynlais.

Thursday, 3 November 2016

Frack off Tindale!

Well Stephen Tindale has certainly travelled a long way since he was a director of Greenpeace a few years back. He was in the news in Wales yesterday for chastising the Welsh government for its opposition to fracking in Wales (fracking is a devolved issue and no fracking licenses can be issued in Wales without Welsh government approval).

Doubtless Tindale's intervention will be seized upon by the fracking lobby as evidence that opposition to fracking is misguided. But when considering his criticisms of the Welsh government it needs to be understood that the self styled 'energy consultant' Tindale was last year part of a so called 'independent' task force looking into fracking which received £650,000 from the fracking industry, including the leading shale gas explorers Cuadrilla and Centrica.The task force was also found to have strong ties to the fossil fuel industries favourite PR company Edelman

Interestingly Stephen Tindale is now a supporter of GM crops too, and in keeping with someone who now opposes everything he seemingly once believed in Tindale is now also a paid director for the pro nuclear power Alvin Weinberg Foundation. Clearly you don't have to be Sherlock Holmes to deduce that people like Tindale change their positions because it's very lucrative for them to do so, his kind are evidently the sort of unprincipled turn coats who would give their backing to anything if it was in their own financial interests to do so. And while Stephen Tindale makes much of his former Greenpeace credentials - he can be found touting his earlier role with them over the internet - he of course omits to mention that Greenpeace itself remains resolutely opposed to Fracking (and GM foods)

If anyone wants to see the terrible impact of fracking all they need do is spend a few minutes watching the excellent documentary 'fracking hell', or read the multitude of independent reports linking fracking with poisoning water supplies. Documentaries and reports like these will tell you everything you need to know about the catastrophic damage fracking does to the environment and the serious health risks it poses to nearby communities.

While there is growing scientific evidence linking fracking to an increased risk of earthquakes

This is why the Welsh government is right to stand firm on its ban on fracking in Wales - a stance for which it certainly has the backing of the majority of people. Indeed a Yougov poll last month showed a sharp rise in public opposition to fracking Delighted to report the SNP government appears equally unlikely to grant any licenses to frack in Scotland too, and while the UK government at Westminister has granted licenses to companies to frack in some parts of England the Friends of the Earth link posted at the bottom of this article shows there is widespread opposition to fracking right across England - opposition which may well succeed in preventing fracking taking place in England too.

Of course just like their devious counterparts in the nuclear lobby the hired mouthpieces of the fracking industry - like Tindale - say 'we need fracking because we have to keep the lights on" and yes they're right we do need to keep the lights on - but the point is we don't have to poison our water supplies from fracking or contaminate our land and seas with radioactive waste in order to do so.There's a clean,safe and ready made source of energy all around us - energy from renewable sources like the tides, solar and wind. A growing number of countries across the world are investing in renewable energy - Denmark, Uruguay and Costa Rica now produce almost all their electricity from renewable sources while last year more of Scotland's energy came from renewables than all other sources put together

Some useful anti fracking links :

Tuesday, 1 November 2016

The real reason there wont be a public inquiry into Orgreave

There was widespread consternation yesterday at the announcement by UK home secretary Amber Rudd that there wouldn't be an investigation into the events at Orgreave during the 1980s miners strike. It had been generally expected that following the inquiry into South Yorkshire police force's central role in the Hillsborough disaster an inquiry into the same police force's handling of the deeply troubling events at Orgreave would be a formality. Indeed even the current leadership of South Yorkshire police themselves were said to favour a independent public inquiry into their predecessors role at Orgreave.

However perhaps we shouldn't be too surprised by this decision. What Amber Rudd really meant when she said an independent inquiry "wouldn't be in the public interest" was that it wouldn't be in the interest of former senior Tories, like the then PM the late Margaret Thatcher and then Home Secretary Leon Brittan. As any independent inquiry into Orgreave might throw up evidence of Thatcher's role in directing the british state's response to the strike and her use of army personnel and the intelligence services in helping to defeat the miners.

In the compelling 'The Enemy Within' Guardian journalist Seamus Milne details the efforts of intelligence service agents like Roger Windsor to sabotage the NUM during the year long strike. He reports how even a retired senior CIA officer met with miners leader Arthur Scargill to warn him that british spooks had infiltrated the miners union. Former serving police officers on duty during the strike have told of  'people showing up during the strike in police uniform who clearly weren't police officers". Indeed it's entirely likely army personnel were among the massed police ranks at Orgreave - something an independent inquiry might reveal.

Senior tories know that an independent public inquiry into Orgreave would most likely shed light on Britain's 'secret state' - that murky side of the British state the British ruling class would rather us ordinary folk didn't know about. The dark side of the British state which smeared Harold Wilson and plotted to assassinate Tony Benn Which colluded with and armed loyalist terrorists in the north of Ireland and which has spied on trade unionists, anti nuclear activists and Scottish and Welsh nationalists for decades - and which is most likely spying on anti fracking activists today. Website of the Orgreave Truth and Justice Campaign