Sunday 26 November 2023

Palestinians have a right to resist Israeli aparthied.

I need to start this post by explaining that I don't condone the killing of anyone, anywhere, anytime. I'm against wars and for peace. Likewise, I don't support the death penalty and wouldn't even for someone like Harold Shipman.

I'm horrified by what is happening now in Gaza. Thousands of Palestinian people, including 6,500 or so children, are dead. Many more have been injured and maimed. Hospitals have been bombed and destroyed. In addition, Palestinians are being killed and displaced from their land in the West Bank. I utterly condemn this genocide, and with many others have been calling for a ceasefire for weeks. 

The seventh of October will go down in history, but the ethnic cleansing of the Palestinians started decades before. This has been going on for seventy-five years since the Nakba (catastrophe) in 1948 when seven hundred thousand were expelled from Palestine.

It's important to understand that Palestinians under occupation, and subjected to ethnic cleansing, and genocide by the Israeli government have a right to resist under international law, and that includes armed resistance. As Al Jazeera reports:

"In accordance with international humanitarian law, wars of national liberation have been expressly embraced, through the adoption of Additional Protocol I to the Geneva Conventions of 1949 (pdf), as a protected and essential right of occupied people everywhere."

Don't expect the media to tell you this. You won't hear about it.

It's time there was peace in Palestine and the international community brokered a one-state solution where Jews and Arabs can live in peace together. With western support for the war on Palestinians, don't expect this to happen any time soon.

In the meantime, we all need to work to #FreePalestine.

Thursday 2 November 2023

Free Palestine

Last Sunday I attended a rally and march in Liverpool calling for a ceasefire in Gaza and an end to the terrible bombing and destruction which has cost so far an estimated 9,061 Gazan lives. Of these 3,760 are children. Of course, I condemn the attacks on Israelis by Hamas, but the Israeli response has been disproportionate and amounts to war crimes which include, collective punishment, the use of phosphorous bombs, and the denial of food water and energy to a population of two point two million, half of whom are children. 

We met up at the bombed out church in Liverpool

The March started off down Bold Street

The march was full of energy with people chanting 'ceasefire now!', 'free Palestine' and 'from the river to the sea Palestine will be free'. I'd estimate the crowd to be about two and a half to three thousand people. Not as big as the London demo the day before - which attracted half a million protestors - but nonetheless significant and satisfying.

Sadly but predictably, Zionists have been claiming that 'from the river to the sea Palestine will be free' is an antisemitic chant - it isn't. It's a call for the only solution - a one-state solution where Palestinians and Jews can live together in peace.

How long this horror will continue, I don't know. I pray it will end soon. One thing I know for sure is that it won't bring an end to Hamas or Palestinian resistance to the racist, apartheid state of Israel which has been involved in the oppression and ethnic cleansing of Palestinians since 1948.

They're not 'their' children they're 'our children'.

A while ago, I wrote a post about western culture. It was called "Western culture is toxic and damages all of our lives". Here is a link. In it, I explored the way our culture actually harms people through patriarchy, misogyny, homophobia, racism, transphobia, criminalisation, othering of nature and many other factors. This post should be read in that context. But it's not just prejudice that damages us, it's the way we live our lives.

Recently we witnessed one of the horrors of the climate crisis. In Derna, Libya, horrific flooding led to many thousands of deaths after a storm and heavy rainfall. The flooding was exacerbated by the collapse of two dams. What most of the media failed to mention was that the infrastructure hadn't been maintained, and this was due in large part to the destruction of Libya by western powers. Libya, once one of the most affluent countries in Africa, is now one of the poorest - due to western interference. There's a lot of blood on the hands of western leaders.

One of the key features of western culture is the nuclear family. We live in small family units isolated from our neighbours. This weakens our communities and isolates many people. There are probably about 400 houses on my street. About a quarter of these are lived in by elderly couples or older individuals. The nuclear family weakens our communities and makes them less sociable and supportive. That doesn't mean there aren't good things happening in communities, but our communities could be much stronger if we lived collectively as other cultures such as indigenous peoples do.

In the Derna flood, many died, and hundreds of children were orphaned. The Guardian reported :

"Nawal Alghazal, a 62-year-old resident of Benghazi, has started a campaign to collect breastmilk from women already breastfeeding their own children and distribute it to children whose mothers are dead or missing.

“The least we can do for our country and the people in Derna is to take care of their children,” said Alghazal, who has taken 70 young children into her care since the disaster."

It's great that the local people are offering to support and care for these children, but maybe it's time we thought about them and other children people's children as 'our children'. We are social animals. We need to escape from the prison of the nuclear family and begin to learn to live together better. That is the one of the routes to building a better, fairer, more inclusive world.

Thursday 12 October 2023

"Labour is Dead" - Transform Politics demo at the Liverpool Labour Party conference

I'm a bit late in posting this, but on Sunday the 8th of October I had a day out in Liverpool - something I always enjoy - to meet up with a group of activists from Transform Politics. We assembled at Albert Dock and then did a slow march, in silence, to the Labour Party conference venue. The participants were wearing 'Labour is Dead' T-shirts and carrying a black coffin. My role was largely as photographer. 

It was great to meet some new comrades, and afterwards, some of us went to the pub to get to know each other better and have a chat about planning for the future.

We need real change in the UK, and after listening to Starmer at the conference, it's clear that Labour won't deliver that. Labour is now in the pockets of big business and the corporations, which means that the NHS is in real danger, and we can't expect better rail services and clean rivers.

Transform isn't yet a political party. It has a founding conference in Nottingham on November the 25th. New left parties have a mountain to climb to really make an impact, but it's good to see so many decent people working for positive change. Best of luck to all of them!

Thursday 14 September 2023

They want to divide us on pensions, don't let them.

When the welfare state started post WW2. Most people who were in receipt of old age pensions from the state weren't expected to live very long. It wasn't unusual for men, who worked hard in manual labour - coal mines, shipbuilding etc - to die not that long after they had retired at 65. Life expectancy has improved dramatically since then.

About a decade ago, an attack was launched on pensions by the right wing press. It was aimed mostly at 'pension fat cats' - public sector workers with final salary pensions. A deliberate attempt was made to drive a wedge between public and private sector workers, who were said to have less good pensions, which was true, on the whole. Divide and rule. Of course, the aim of the campaign was to reduce pension benefits for all workers, and it had some success.

Now, we see a similar battle being fought on pensions. The starting point is the 'triple lock'. The triple lock, introduced by the Tories, means that annually, the state pension rises by whichever is the highest of three factors: earnings growth, inflation, or 2.5%. Last year it was inflation and the pension rose by 10%. Next year it is predicted to rise by 8.5%. This has caused outrage on the right, who claim it is unaffordable. There are also moves on the right to raise the pension age. Ian Duncan Smith, the ex-leader of the Tory Party, has suggested the pension age be raised to the age of 75. As Jim Mills says in the linked article, this is "class warfare".

The reality is that the UK has the lowest pension of any country in the developed world (OECD). In 2022 the number of pensioners living in poverty rose by 200,000:

"One in five pensioners – more than 2 million people – are living in relative poverty in the UK, an increase of more than 200,000 in the past year alone, according to a comprehensive review of national data."

In addition, if the 8.5% rise goes ahead it will put many pensioners above the tax threshold and their pensions will be taxed.

A key part of this new campaign is - you've guessed it - divide and rule. This time, it's the young being pitted against the old. Young people are struggling, unable to afford a mortgage, saddled with student debt, and paying extortionate rents. They are what Dan Evans in his excellent new book describes as the New Petty Bourgeoisie*.

A Nation of Shopkeepers: Dan Evans

All of this, apparently, is the fault of the elderly, who were lucky enough to grow up in a time when it was possible to get a mortgage and a half decent pension. They are being blamed by the pundits. Don't be fooled. All of this is the fault of successive Conservative governments, whose policies have brought about this situation. At this rate, with more class warfare to come, by the time that youngsters reach old age, all except the wealthy few, will be living in poverty.

Don't let them divide us. Decent state pensions for all are affordable, as Richard J Murphy explains in his blog here. Get the rich to pay some damn tax!

* I highly recommend you read Dan Evan's book. Lots of food for thought about the state of class in the UK and where our nation is going.

Saturday 2 September 2023

Sir Kid Starver

Kid Starver

There once was a man

Called Kid Starver

Who always went on

About his father

His dad made other tools

As well as him

And he crawled up the greasy pole

Despite being dim

He said what he needed to

To get where he wanted 

When telling lies

He was never daunted

He once had a job as DPP

A role he filled disastrously

He then became a Labour MP

And lied his way to the top

Using Brexit as a prop

But the voters sussed

He had nothing to offer

And so he failed

A national disgrace

With blood on his hands

And egg on his face.

Monday 14 August 2023

The Red Wall

The Red Wall

I am sad to say

I’ve visited the red wall

Where knobhead working class Tories 

And the petty bourgeoisie

Live in thrall

To Rupert Mordoch’s Scum

And the Daily Heil

They believe what they read

And take it up the bum

Trashed by Sunak and Truss

They can no longer catch a bus

Or afford to get their teeth fixed

So they get screwed

While the rich fill their pockets

And kill the planet

As they look on

With their empty eye sockets

Moaning about small boats 

And devoid of nous

Within their Hinch-clean Deano house

They struggle with the cost of living

In constant pain

But at least they can still shag

The union flag

Before they end up

In a body bag

Sunday 9 July 2023

Meet the real BLOB that rules over us.

It's been a busy week for George Osborne., ex-MP, ex-Chancellor of the Exchequer, ex-editor of the Evening Standard, and now the co-host of a 'frenemies' podcast with ex-Labour MP Ed balls. 

Before we continue, let's not forget that Osborne is responsible for possibly the most disastrous and harmful government 'policy' in British history - austerity. In the early 2010s, on coming into office, Chancellor Osborne made huge cuts in government spending. Council budgets were cut by 40-50%, so was the Department of Justice, and the list goes on and on. It has been estimated that at least 330,000 excess deaths were caused by Osborne's austerity.

So this week Osborne got married, but before the wedding a 'poison pen' email, making allegations about his conduct, was sent to some of his guests the night before his wedding. On the wedding day, it was reported that a Just Stop Oil (JSO) protester threw orange confetti on him and his new wife. JSO have said it wasn't organised by them.

But let's get the key point of this post. For many years, the hard right have been blabbering about the 'blob' - a powerful alliance of leftie teachers, academics and civil servants who are the 'real power' behind the political scenes, seeking to thwart conservatives and their policies at every turn. The blob is the real 'establishment'.

This, of course, is total nonsense. Hard right Tory governments have been in power for 30 of the past 43 yeas, and most of their policies were followed by New Labour. But they are right about the blob, the establishment, it does exist, but it just happens to consist of hard right conservatives - politicians, newspaper proprietors, journalists, oligarchs, the Tufton Street mob, the list goes on and on.

And this was all beautifully illustrated in Osborne's wedding guest list because some key members of the real blob were there, and it's a long list - Ed balls, Yvette Cooper, David Cameron, Michael Gove, Jon Sopel and Emily Maitlis (both Ex-BBC), and Nick Robinson of the BBC radio flagship news programme the Today programme.

So, if you want to meet the blob who control the UK, get yourself invited to the wedding of a prominent member like George Osborne. It's that simple.

Friday 23 June 2023

How the #Tories and New Labour destroyed Britain.

In just over 40 years, the Tories and New Labour destroyed the UK. Here's how they did it:

1979 - the advent of Thatcherism.

  • Council house sales
  • Privatisation
  • Anti-trade union laws
  • Deregulation
  • The Big Bang
  • Corruption
  • Lack of housebuilding
  • PFI
  • 'Free' market fanaticism
  • Buy to let
  • Underfunding public services
  • Student fees
  • Bashing benefit claimants
  • Bashing the disabled
  • Racism
  • Encouraging hatred of asylum seekers
  • Homophobia
  • Transphobia
  • Islamophobia
  • Bank bailouts
  • Austerity
  • Brexit
  • Eugenics
  • PPE scandal
  • 230,000 covid deaths
  • 330,000 avoidable austerity deaths
  • Rampant lying
  • Inadequate pay for public sector workers
  • Mismanagement of inflation (BoE)
  • Sham democracy

Feel free to add more to this list.

Saturday 27 May 2023

How the right win, and how we fight back

When most people vote, it's not a rational decision, it's an emotional one. People vote with their hearts - not their heads. Most voters don’t read party manifestos. They may want nationalised railways, publicly owned energy, and a properly funded NHS, but in the end emotions win many of them over to vote for parties that have no intention of doing any of those things. 'Take Back Control', 'make Britain great again', these simple right-wing frames triumph over the changes that would really benefit them, and improve their lives. That is how the successful vote for Brexit was achieved.

The right know how to target people’s emotions, particularly their fears and anxieties, and they are very good at causing distractions from the real issues with 'woke' culture wars and conspiracy theories. They distract from the real issues by encouraging hate against people in small boats, gays, and trans people. Their ‘simplistic ‘explanations’ of the world’s problems obscure what is really happening. They create rage and anger. Love your car? Polish it on Sunday? Now these commies are trying to stop you using it and trap you in a low traffic neighbourhood (LTN) or a 15-minute city! Now you are a victim! You may have a poorly paid job, but the real big issue is a microchip in your covid vaccine!

Fox News is a classic example of right wing propaganda and audience manipulation in action, even though it has been exposed that some of their key pundits don’t appear to believe what they’re saying live on air:

“In group chats obtained by Dominion, the network’s biggest names – Carlson, Laura Ingraham and Sean Hannity – appeared to doubt claims of election fraud that were featured prominently on the network.” and:

"One of the key Fox hosts Tucker Carlson is reported to have said “I hate Trump passionately”.

Some people get subsumed by right-wing outlets like Fox News. They end up glued to the TV, consuming the lies and conspiracy theories. 

 The other thing the right do is promise people a better life - you’ll get a decent job and a decent roof over your head. That is what people want. That is what Trump’s MAGA was all about. You’ll be better off, just like your grandparents were in the good old days of the 1950s and 60s. Of course, they have no intention of delivering on this, but that doesn’t matter if it gets them elected. They will still spout the same nonsense in office as Trump did.

How does the left combat this rage and manipulation by the far-right? Well, we don’t do it by wasting hours of our lives pointing out the right’s lies, which is what many leftists do. By focusing on the far right rubbish churned out by channels such as GB News, all you do is amplify them. If you must do it, the best way is to use neurolinguist George Lakoff’s truth sandwich:

1. Start with the truth. The first frame gets the advantage.

2. Indicate the lie. Avoid amplifying the specific language, if possible.

3. Return to the truth. Always repeat truths more than lies.

He also says:

“Remember not to repeat false conservative claims, and then rebut them with the facts. Instead, go positive. Give a positive truthful framing to undermine claims to the contrary. Use the facts to support positively-framed truth. Use repetition." 

This in a nutshell is what the left needs to do, i.e. go positive and appeal to people’s emotions!. Not paranoia, fear and victimhood like the far right, but hope, compassion, and solidarity. If you are going to win people over, start from where they are, not where you are.

The left need to build a convincing story and repeat it over and over again.

People are frustrated and angry. They are suffering because of the cost of living crisis, the housing crisis and a failing NHS. The right channel that anger and make the enemy refugees in small boats, and transgender people. The left needs to channel that anger against our real enemies - those who control the media, oligarchs, big pharma, fossil fuels companies, banks and corporations. As Lakoff says, go positive, focus on the solutions and how we can build them. We have a mountain to climb to bring about positive change. We need to organise and change our focus to win.

Monday 13 February 2023

Only a dozen years of #Tory government and the UK is becoming a failed state

I've just been reading this editorial article in the Guardian about the horror that is happening in Lebanon. The ruling class - the business and political class - have run the country into the ground. Lebanon has been trashed and the middle and working classes are really suffering. Its worth quoting at length what is happening. According to the article:

"Lebanon’s problems are longstanding. Corruption, violence and incompetence dogged the years following the civil war; Iran, Saudi Arabia and others duel for influence via their proxies. Political jockeying and outright violence play out within as well as between sectarian communities. But the challenges have dramatically worsened in recent years. Those at the top essentially ran a giant Ponzi scheme – propping up the currency by attracting dollars through absurd interest rates for investors."


"Parents are sending their children to orphanages because they cannot feed them. A growing number of citizens have resorted to armed robbery as the only way to extract their own deposits (now vastly reduced in real terms) from banks when they desperately need to pay for basic services such as healthcare."

Lebanon has become a failed state and its hard to see how the situation can be retrieved. The ruling class, who are not affected, have little incentive to resolve the situation. There have always been corrupt politicians in the pockets of corporations but since the advent of neoliberalism with Thatcher and Reagan in the early 1980s, things have become much worse.

The USA has become a virtual one party state with both Democrat and Republican politicians in the pay and pockets of oligarchs and corporations. One of the latest manifestations of this is the horrific rail crash in East Palestine, Ohio which released tons of toxic vinyl chloride into the atmosphere. People had warned this was an accident waiting to happen and called for train braking systems to be updated and made safer. The train companies lobbied the politicians to stop this happening and were successful. 

After a dozen years of Tory government the UK is heading in the same direction as Lebanon with the underfunding and undermining of public services such as the NHS and education, discharges of raw sewage into our rivers and disasters like Grenfell. Corruption is rife and there is a complete lack of respect for the welfare of citizens and their human rights. Of course what has happened in Lebanon couldn't happen here could it? Don't hold your breath!

Thursday 5 January 2023

My review of 2022

Another annus horribilis. Another year of Tory disaster - lies, corruption, tax dodging, public sector destruction, swimming in sewage, and dumping on all workers. Where to start? The list of crimes is very long. 

The sad reality is that the Tories and their, Tufton Street sponsors, are getting close to their Brexit dream. Britain as Singapore on Thames, the triumph of the 'free' market - with freeports, a gig economy with no limit on working hours, no holiday pay, sick pay, or maternity leave, and the destruction of environmental protections. The only value that remains is the one that matters to them - shareholder value. Profit before people every time.

As Richard Murphy said in his 2021 article (link above):
"A government source said that Mr Johnson was pushing for Britain to become a low-tax, low-regulation regime like Singapore. Last month Mr Johnson raised the prospect of tax cuts for entrepreneurs. He told a Facebook question-and-answer session: “We’ll be looking at the tax environment and the regulatory environment and everything we can do to encourage and support business.”
Three prime minister and four chancellors in  the past twelve months year and still the shitshow goes on in our pseudo-democracy. How can this be tolerated? 

The reality is that broken Britain has been coming for a long time. It started in 1979 with the election of Thatcher as PM and has moved on ever since. One of the worst crimes came with George Osborne's austerity programme - the disastrous effects of that are still being felt with a predicted 330,000 excess avoidable deaths so far. Massive underinvestment in the NHS is now reckoned to be causing 500 deaths a week.

This week we were treated to tedious and meaningless 'promises' from the PM Rishi Sunak, halving inflation and stopping small boats, and now we're being told the government is planning to introduce legislation to force nurses, firefighters, and rail staff to work even if they vote to strike. 

So, 2023 is already looking like a grimmer sequel to 2022.  What can we do? Our number one priority has to be to support public sector workers striking for better pay and conditions. If more draconian anti-union legislation is successfully introduced we may well see wildcat strikes. Make no mistake, this is class war. Join a picket line, and contribute to strike funds if you can. Work, every day, in every way, to help bring this Tory government down!

Wednesday 21 December 2022

Productivity is tyranny

Today I was listening to Helen Lewis's programme about gurus - The New Gurus - on BBC Sounds. The show was about productivity gurus. How can you make the most of your time? You only have 4,000 weeks to live - yikes! It seems there is a guru industry out there with millions of followers on YouTube. Did I learn anything particularly useful about how to be productive? Maybe other people did.

But then I have a problem with productivity, and a large part of that is what 'productivity' is really about. Let's go back in time 500 years or so to medieval England. In those days, before the enclosures, your actual 'peasant' didn't have such a bad life. It wasn't as nasty brutish and short as some would have us believe. Productivity then was seasonal, planting seeds, harvesting, grazing livestock, hunting,  and foraging. In midwinter, where we are now, days were short, and you couldn't plant or sow, so people had holidays and celebrated instead. This is their time of the year for wassailing and celebrating the beginning of a new year. It is reckoned that, in those days, they had 150 or so holidays a year, Saints Days, etc. Not bad compared with now eh?

Fast forward to the late eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries, the industrial revolution had begun, and the common land, used by those peasants had been enclosed by the ruling class. The industrial revolution had begun. People were forced out of the villages into the growing towns and cities, to work in the mills and factories. It was then that productivity, as we know it now was born, capitalists making workers toil for longer hours and fewer holidays to increase the surplus value of their labour.

Although organised labour brought us the eight-hour day, the weekend, and many other benefits we still live in that productivity trap. Although productivity is more than just about the hours we work it's key to making the wheels of capitalism turn. Of course, if you want to spend sixty hours a week chained to a keyboard as one of the gurus admitted he did that's up to you. Me I'd rather be a wassailing! A much better use of my time.😀 🍻🌲🍎

Tuesday 20 December 2022

Merry Yule!

What does Xmas mean to me? In a word nothing. I loved Xmas when I was a child. I was lucky enough to have a loving family and a Mum who was a very good cook. The tree, decorations, the presents, and the food were great. It was a time of genuine warmth and celebration, lit by an open fire. Now things are different. I still like to make merry with family and friends as much as possible but I despise the hype and commercialism. 

I’ve never been remotely religious so that aspect had no impact on me. Now, I’m much more interested in the origins of Xmas as a midwinter festival. In the distant English past midwinter was an important festival with days of celebration. Whole communities participated in wassailing. As a sufferer from SAD, the winter equinox, Yule, is an important day for me. The days get longer and lighter. That’s what mainly I’ll be celebrating, and, as I do, I’ll also take some time to reflect on all those who’ve suffered under a dozen years of Tory government. Merry Yule! 🙂🎄

Tuesday 6 December 2022

Privatisation is theft!

In 1840 Pierre-Joseph Proudhon famously said, "Property is theft". He was right. The worst event in human history occurred when somebody put a fence around a piece of land and said "this belongs to me". All land should be held in common, and for most of our human history, it has been. In England, hundreds of thousands of acres of common land were stolen from the people by the ruling class during the enclosures. The purpose of the theft wasn't just to gain control of the land but to dispossess the English people, starving them of resources, such as food, grazing land, and firewood,  making them less independent and easier to control and dominate. 

If you want to find out more about this I can recommend two very good books on the commons. The first is  'Who Owns England' by Guy Shrubsole. In his book, he describes how the land was stolen and who now owns most of it. Here is a quote from the review:

 'Two-thirds of land in the UK as a whole – 40m acres – is owned by 0.36% of the population; 24m families, meanwhile, share the “urban plot” of 3m acres'

The second is the 'Plunder of the Commons' by Guy Standing. He describes how it's not just land and resources that have been stolen from us but the wealth that goes with them, and what we can do about it. One of his key references is The Charter of the Forest (Carta Foresta) of 1217. This document is as important as Magna Carta but has conveniently been written out of our history. It establishes the people's rights on common land in England.

So what has this got to do with privatisation? Quite a lot actually. Just as our land has been privatised so have our other natural assets. Water is in the news at the moment. Not only have millions of people been outraged by the water companies dumping raw sewage into rivers and onto our beaches but it's clear that these corporations are screwing us by extracting as much profit as possible whilst failing to invest in much-needed infrastructure. As if that wasn't bad enough they have saddled the companies with £54B of debt whilst extracting £66B in profits!

It's clear that water companies must be brought back into common ownership and that this can happen without any cost. This needs to be done as soon as possible so that the mismanagement of our water can be halted and improvements begun. That won't happen though as long as we have a Tory government that puts profit before people, and the Labour 'opposition' has shown no signs of bringing about necessary reform. 

Of course, the same is true for energy, the railway network, education, and the NHS. Such measures prove popular with voters but our politicians are more interested in the wants of corporations and donors. It's not just a massive expansion of common ownership that we need but taxes on the wealth that the 1% extract from us, a land value tax, the right to roam, and a return to the time of Carta Foresta when the commons are once again ours. Our political system is broken but there are many people engaged in the struggle to bring back the commons and public ownership. Get involved and keep on fighting for it! Oh! - and join a union, support the striking key workers, and fight for decent pay!

#EnoughIsEnough! ✊✊✊