Thursday, 24 July 2014

Fatty Farnell Snubs 'Spoof Party'

in bid to keep up 'Standards' 

FATTY Farnell (still with his bad back but minus his hearing-aid), who became the leader of  Rochdale Council after overthrowing its previous occupant, Colin Lambert, in a brutal democratic coup within the local Labour Party after the local elections last May, last night presided over the Full Council meeting and denounced the newly formed Rochdale First Group as a 'Spoof Party',' and as having no credibility.  Both Councillor Farnell and his Conservative colleague, Ashley Dearnley, the leader of the Rochdale Tories, belittled Rochdale First whose membership consists of its leader Councillor Shefali Farooq Ahmed, and her husband Farooq Ahmed.  
 
Cheekily Mrs. Shefali Farooq had put down an amendment to Agenda Item 10 entitled 'Review of the Political Balance', which was seconded by the other Rochdale First Group member, Mr. Farooq himself.  Their amendment was lost, receiving all of two votes, after Fatty reminded councillors that Mr. Farooq had fallen foul of the law last January by 'threatening' his Labour Party colleague, Councillor Neil Emmot, in an altercation on Cheetham Street, Rochdale.  Mr. Farooq had allegedly called Mr. Emmot a 'queer little arse-licker' and told him to 'watch his back'.  Mr. Farooq, last night told Northern Voices that he was definitely going to appeal the public order conviction.   

Given Mr. Farooq's conviction, Fatty Farnell denounced Rochdale First Group's naughty demand to be allocated places on the 'Overview & Scrutiny Committee', the 'Employment & Equalities Committee' and the 'Standards Committee' in order to achieve political balance.  Given Mr Farooq's recent run-in with the law, Fatty said that the Rochdale First Group had never stood as such in a democratic 'election in this borough'. Fatty clearly regarded it as outrageous that, with Councillor Farooq Ahmed having a bit of a 'history', this newly formed party, led by Councillor Shefali Farooq Ahmed, should have the audacity to expect to be awarded a place on the Standards Committee.
Bad Headlines 
Councillor Duckworth raised the recent problem of 'bad headlines' for Rochdale and the need of the Council to promoted the good news about 'our town' such as the town's medieval bridges still encased in concrete beneath the town centre; Rochdale's splendid Town Hall which many would regard as something 'to die for'; the proposed statue to commemorate our Gracie, but not Turner Brother asbestos factory or since November 2012, Cyril Smith.  


'Heritage at Risk' 
Questioned about the peril to four conservation areas in Rochdale identified as 'at risk' by English Heritage, Councillor Biant, Portfolio Holder for Public Health & Regulation, was not able to say what kind of risks were at stake as she had not yet read the report which would be published by English Heritage in the Autumn of 2014.  The areas identified as 'at risk' included Rochdale Town Centre, Middleton Town Centre, Wardle and Castleton (South) Conservation Areas. 
Turner Brothers' Site Awaits Advice from Lawyers
There were no questions on the controversial former asbestos factory Turners Bros., as though Building Control had had talks with 'interested parties', including the owners of the site, which has been the subject of concern for years owing to persistent vandalism and arson, the Council is still waiting for further legal advice.  In this case it is the Health & Safety Executive that is the 'lead enforcement authority on this site with regards to asbestos removal – and not the Council'
Blue Plaques for Gracie Fields
Plans are continuing to build a statue to commemorate Gracie Fields who was a celebrated singer in the last century and who was born on Molesworth Street, Rochdale.  She came from a poor background to become a famous film star and distinguished singer.  The Council aims to put up eight blue plaques to pinpoint key locations in her life as part of a heritage trail.   One hopes they have more luck with this venture than they did when they put up a blue plaque for Cyril Smith in 2011.  

Wednesday, 23 July 2014

Floodlight of Publicity, 'Organisation' & Jim Pink!

Was Bob Miller a public figure?
THE father of Northern Anarchism, Jim Pink from Ashton-under-Lyne, who was in 1960s the international secretary of the anarcho-syndicalist Syndicalist Workers Federation (SWF), used to tell me that 'anarchists must always be ready for the floodlight of publicity to fall upon them.' Many English anarchists these days dread falling under the floodlight of publicity because they say that they have their 'jobs, careers and pensions to protect'.

'Jim Pink', as the engineering apprentices playfully used to call him after the national apprentice strikes in 1960, was really called James Pinkerton, was mentioned in a document circulated by the Economic League in 1964 to local employers in Oldham as being a political pal of mine, and was also accused of being a contributor to the paper 'Industrial Youth', put out by the Manchester Apprentice Wages& amp; Conditions Committee in the 1960s. Jimmy Pink was then a copy-taker at the Daily Herald and later worked in the same capacity for the Sunday People Copy Department. Although he insisted on describing himself as a 'syndicalist'as well as an 'anarchist', because he thought it was necessary to present a convincing organisational argument for social change to the public, and he felt it was harder to do that in England if one just simply called oneself 'an anarchist'.

Thus, what Colin Trousdale said at the branch meeting of the Manchester contracting electricians that the notion of 'anarchism'conflicted with that of 'organisation' * was not so strange if one of the most major intellectual figures of northern anarchism in the 20thcentury, Jimmy Pink from Ashton-under-Lyne, believed the exactly same. Jimmy Pink thought that the Spanish tradition of democratic anarcho-syndicalist trade unions offered a possible alternative structure to that of parliamentary democracy: it was not totally proved in Spain that anarcho-syndicalism could offer a working alternative, but some like Pedro Cuadrado have said that anarcho-syndicalist Barcelona was the first city in the world to halt the march of Fascism in July 1936, and the Italian writer Ignazio Silone (the Italian Orwell) has claimed that the Catalans with their sprite of improvisation and initiative had qualities that the more disciplined German, Austrian and Prussian trade unionists and other north European's lacked. Colin Trousdale would do well to consider how George Orwell describes the efficiency and decency of the Spanish anarchists in his book 'Homage to Catalonia' published in the 1930s.
 
The argument about Bob Miller and his obituary in Northern Voices No.13, revolves around the question of whether you regard Mr. Miller as a public figure. It boils down to this, was Miller sufficiently important to warrant an obituary? There are those that argue that he was not politically significant, and therefore his obituary ought not to have appeared a publication such as the Voicesthat appeals to Joe Public and sells outside the narrow political area, but we published an obituary for Harold Garfinkel in the same issue, and he is not a well known intellectual in this country this too was somewhat critical of the subject. The the Miller case I was comparing Bob Miller from down South to Ken Keating from Salford and I was much more complementary to Mr Keating than Mr Miller the schoolmaster, because I believed then and I believe now, that on balance Keating was the more distinguished 'anarchist' of the two. Some people obviously believe that I was not entitled to that opinion, but they should bare in mind that I was treating each man as representative of a particular type of 'anarchist' just as George Orwell referred to W.H. Auden and Stephen Spender as the 'Pansy Poets' and 'Parlour Bolsheviks' when he wrote a letter about them to Nancy Cunard. I have discussed this matter with Bob's son Tom Miller, and neither he nor anyone else has persuaded me to alter any of the views that I expressed in the original obituary, although I wish Tom when he rang me in November 2012, had kept his promise to write a letter of 300 words to Northern Voices putting the other side of the story. .

* Significantly Colin Trousdale made a comment about what he actually said:
'Colin Trousdale did not attack anarchists (at the branch meeting of the Manchester electricians - see post entitled "Laughter as Militants Mock English Anarchists!"), Colin Trousdale (me) laughed at the thought of Anarchists having a Federation/Organised structure which I feel flies in the face of my interpretation of Anarchy . NEVER MIND THE BOLLOCKS WE ARE THE SPARKS M/c CONTRACTING BRANCH. Brian please refrain from mis-quoting me in print to further your petty arguments that now having the benefit of both sides of the story I feel you were in the wrong about . This problem is hardly the re-unification of Ireland or the rights of Palestinians to live in peace in Gaza. Grow up.'

Putin's PR Disaster!


BONHAN Ratycz of the Association of Ukrainians in the UK told me last night that he thought President Putin had suffered 'a serious pubic relation disaster' as a result of the shooting down of the Malaysia Airlines Flight 17 plane last week.  Mr. Ratycz also told Northern Voices that he thought that it was likely that the plane had been accidentally shot down by the separatists in eastern Ukraine.  But he questioned the figure of 50 mercenaries given in the International New York Times (see previous post: 'Ukraine & Spain, is it the same?') as he said 'there is evidence that many more Russian mercenaries have crossed the boarder'.  It is probable that the figure of '50' given in the International New York Times refers only to those mercenaries in the city of Luhansk, and not all those across eastern Ukraine.   

Mr. Ratycz pondered the extraordinary attitude of the Russians and said 'it's as if they belong on another planet they just want to destabilise the Ukraine'.  Jim Pinkerton, a northern anarchist who had studied Russian in the 1970s, often told me that the Russians had many good points but their history had not been much influenced by the sprite of Greek civilisation that allows for individual integrity in society.   

Today's editorial in the International New York Times states: 
'The facts about the shooting down of the plane must be established by trusted, international experts.  The most likely finding, for which American and other Western officials say there is strong evidence, is that the jetliner was brought down by rockets fired from rebel-held territory in eastern Ukraine. That would require not only ground-to-air missiles but also the expertise and equipment to guide them, raising the possibility of assistance from Russia itself.  Russia has denied any such role, and its military officials have pushed a compelling scenario, inculpating Ukraine.'   

Furthermore, also according to today's International New York Times editorial: 
'In that same statement, Mr. Putin also sought to transfer blame to Ukraine, saying the tragedy would not have happened if Kiev had maintained a cease-fire.'   

Some of this may prejudge the issue, but where the editor of the New York Times writes of ‘the most likely finding…’ ,  the speculation seems to make sense.  It is just important to remember that it is simply speculation until more facts are known.  

Justice Delayed for Victims in Abuse Cases

THE solicitor, Allan Collins, acting for some of the victims in their litigation against Rochdale council and its duty of care to them is 'anxious' about the prospect of delay brought about by periodic changes to the procedures and systems of investigations by the police and other agencies:  the latest being the institution of an overarching enquiry by the Home Secretary last week.  Many of these seemingly restless changes have been brought about by the agitations of politicians like Simon Danczuk MP for Rochdale.   

Following the decision of the Home Secretary, Theresa May, to bring in an overarching enquiry the Q.C. led investigation by the Neil Garland on behalf of Rochdale council has been closed down thus preventing the revelation of its findings later this month.  It is now reported that the police have questioned 14 former Knowl View staff and students under caution.  Knowl View residential special school, which was closed in 1994, four lads claim they were abused while at the school. Separately five former inmates at Cambridge House have been interviewed, but not under a caution.   

The Rochdale Alternative Paper (RAP) reported in May 1979, that several teenage lads at Cambridge House were subjected to physical abuse and inappropriate behaviour by Cyril Smith in the 1960s.  These claims were supported by statements signed by the accusers before a solicitor.   

It is troubling that the political furore over how to do the investigations, ironically led by Mr. Simon Danczuk among others, is apparently now holding up attempts to uncover the facts.  In these circumstance it is hard to believe that some politicians are not using the victims of child abuse to further their own careers.  

Tuesday, 22 July 2014

Manchester Jazz Festival

MJF_2014



carles_benavet


diego_amador
CARLES BENAVENTTuesday 22 - St Ann's Church | 13.00
Carles Benavent
/ bass guitar
Jordi Bonell / guitar

Our fruitful partnership with mjf has revealed yet another breathtaking virtuoso yet to grace UK shores: this time, a bass guitarist whose performance credentials include Miles Davis, Paco de Lucía and Chick Corea. Carles’ breathtaking facility and lyrical expression forges a fluid lead voice on an instrument originally intended for other roles; in partnership with his guitarist, the dialogue is fiery with flamenco and fusion undertones. more
FREEDIEGO AMADOR TRÍO (Double bill with Tin Men and the Telephone) Thursday 24 - RNCM | 20.00
Diego Amador
/ piano, voice
Jesús Garrido / bass
Diego Amador Jr / drums

Amador is an electrifying, consummate self-taught musician whose hands race from one end of the keyboard to the other with tremendous force, turning the piano into a percussion instrument, fusing flamenco music with post-bop and avant-garde jazz. more
£17.50

To book:
www.rncm.ac.uk/performance/tin-men-telephone-diego-amador-trio/

Terror Law Too Widely Defined

BLOGGERS and journalists could fall foul of the British legal definition of terrorism if they publish stuff that the authorities see as a danger to public safety.  That is the view of David Anderson Q.C., the official reviewer of counter terrorism laws in this country.

Mr. Anderson said that the UK had some of the most extensive anti-terrorism laws in the western world, and this gave the police and prosecutors the powers to nail al-Qaida terrorists, right-wing extremists and dodgy Irish groups.  Anderson thinks that recently there has been a degree of 'creep' in the use of the laws on terrorism, and because they are so widely drawn up the laws include 'actions aimed at influencing governments':   Anderson said British laws treated politically motivated publication of material thought to endanger life or to create a serious risk to the health and safety of the public as being a terrorist act if it was done for the purpose of  'influencing the government'.

In other European countries and in the Commonwealth countries the level of proof was set much higher in that there had to be an 'intention to coerce or intimidate'.  According to the counter-terrorism watchdog:
'This means political journalists and bloggers are subject to the full range of ant-terrorism powers if they threaten to publish, prepare to publish something that the authorities think may be dangerous to life, public health or public safety.'

He warned that bloggers and journalists could be classed as terrorists even if they had no intention to spread fear or intimidate, and even those who employed or supported them would also qualify as terrorists.   This means a religous campaigner who publicised religous objections to a vaccination campaign could be caught foul of the law on grounds that they were a danger to public health.  Anderson claimed that on hate crimes the law could make a terrorist out of a pupil who threaten to shoot their teacher on a fascist website.  Though this is clearly criminal Mr. Anderson says, but only if they intended to harm their immediate victims, and no purpose would be served by branding such a person a terrorist. 

Anderson said Britain rightly had tough counter-terror laws that the public accepted so long as they were used only when necessary.  Yet, he added:
'But they can currently be applied to journalists and bloggers, to criminals who have no concern other than their immediate victim, and to those who are connected with terrorism' but only at remotely. 

And he insisted:
'This is not a criticism of ministers, prosecutors or police – who as a rule exercise either their remarkably broad discretions with care and restraint.  But it is time parliament reviewed the definition of terrorism to avoid the potential for abuse and to cement public support for special powers that are unfortunately likely to be needed for the foreseeable future.' 

Small Axe Winners at Tolpuddle Radical Film Festival

 

The Small Axe Radical Short Film Award winners were announced yesterday at the Tolpuddle Radical Film Festival. The films - selected by our jury earlier in the week - were given an enthusiastic reception by audiences throughout the day, with all screenings packed out and many disappointed festival goers being turned away at the doors.

Iqbal Mohammed director of 'Against the Norm' made an appearance and introduced his film and several other filmmakers sent representatives but many of the successful filmmakers could not be there.

So without further ado the winners were....

Best Student Fiction:

Kappu Kalina Shaitana (Devil In The Blackstone)

Ananya Kasaravalli - India - 20 mins

A beautifully shot and engaging piece of storytelling with a simple and effective twist. This film provides a compelling portrait of people struggling to get by in poverty. It explores how powerful influences are stacked against the poorest in society and how small moral choices become disproportionately difficult under such pressure.

Best Student Factual / Documentary

Out Of Darkness Cometh Light

Emily White - UK - 4:20 mins

An excellent example of the poetic form in documentary. This film is engaging and enjoyable to watch while raising interesting ideas and an emotional response to the subject. Being human is about more than material things. This film explores how our ideas, dreams and shared culture can overcome the physical environment we live in. This is a great example of how films can explore ideas in ways that other mediums cannot.

Best Activist Fiction

Immigrants Are Hiding?

WORLDbytes - UK - 29 secs

This is arguably the most efficient film in the entire festival. It makes a political point, comments on society, and slips in a joke all in less than 29 seconds.

Best Activist Factual / Documentary

The Racket

Joe Jenkins - UK - 20 mins

This is a powerful documentary exploring an interesting debate from an original angle. It contains fascinating insights and research. The film is focused and clear communicating a consistent message without imposing a personal agenda. This is an excellent example of classical, well researched and informative documentary filmmaking.

Monday, 21 July 2014

Notes on World War I by Steve Roman

HOW THE FIRST WORLD WAR BEGAN: A GERMAN PERSPECTIVE
My notes on a talk to the Manchester Litt & Phil by Dr. Nick Martin, Director of the Institute for German Studies at Birmingham University.

British memory of WWI:
* Mud
* Suffering/sacrifice (not killing)
* Death (700,000)
* Donkeys (lions led by – invented by Alan Clark)
* Futility
* Poets
* Veterans
* Poppies
Mud, blood and futility only since the 1950s

German memory of WWI:
* Limited/negligible (remembrance extinguished after 1945)
* Only 2 major overview exhibitions*
* Humiliating terms of Treaty of Versailles and blame (Clause 231)
* War ended 28 June 1919 when the Treaty was signed
* War guilt
* Seen as prelude/condition to rise of Nazism and the Holocaust
* Stab in the back myth
* Not fought on German soil
* Subsumed by WW2 and Nazis’ barbaric crimes
* No debate on causes
* But (re)-imagining Germany in the past 100 years and wider
commemorations of WW2 and the fall of the Berlin Wall

Causes of the War:
* Domino effect of interlocking alliances in Europe
* Increasing fear of encirclement by Russian and France
* The Blame Game – grab for world power, looking for an excuse (conspiracy theory)
* The poker players (cock-up theory)
* Sleepwalkers (Christopher Clark) blames Serbia and Austro-Hungary and the briefing paper
* 1897 – we want our place in the sun
* Schlieffen Plan 1905 (war game) but put in place together with Eastern Front

Other facets:
* Manifesto of the 93 on 23 October 1914 – leading cultural figures in science and the arts defending German actions since August: helped Allied propaganda and led to allies’ boycott of those figures into the ‘20s
* Thomas Mann – Intellectual War Service
* War is purification
* Kultur v civilization
* Massive pro-war poetry and other writings in first months
* Over 2 million German dead
* There was no plan either in the briefing paper or during the war to invade Britain but only to capture the channel ports – this fear, rather than protecting Belgium, was in the British Cabinet’s minds
* From 2001 Germany changed from ‘blood’ to ‘soil’ to determine nationality


FIRST WORLD WAR: ORIGINS AND WARNINGS FOR THE 21ST CENTURY
A debate at Manchester Salon between Dr James Woudhuysen Professor of Forecasting and Innovation at De Monfort Uni. and Terry Jackson, Chairman of the Lancashire and Cheshire Branch, Western Front Association.
The origins of the First World War are variously attributed to the collapse of the Habsburg Empire, the complex system of international alliances that developed before 1914, the way in which Germany's Schlieffen Plan depended on its army sticking to strict railway timetables, or the unreadiness of old dynasties to move with the times.
In fact, James will argue, it was the very 2014 phenomenon of Foreign Direct Investment that, before 1914, bound all the eventual participants in the conflict into a system of long-run, spiralling tensions. Today's commentators on the First World War often miss three other forces that mediated and accelerated the catastrophe.
* First, Britain's newly privatised military-industrial complex - the forerunner of GCHQ today - heightened frictions with Germany, even if it didn't cause them.
* Second, the Entente between Britain and France was based on fear not just of Germany, but of losing colonies everywhere. The First World War was, in tendency at least, a global war. It was as much about Eastern Europe, Africa, the Middle East, Asia and Latin America as it was about Verdun, or America's eventually decisive role in Germany's defeat.
* Third, class relations before, during and after the war were much more polarised than they are today. The 'social question' was key to the very fate both of Russia, and of Germany. In the final stages of the war and after it, France, Italy, the US and even Britain encountered significant strikes and militant class struggles.
Today, some see the US guarantee of Japan’s security against China as the potential trigger for a dangerously titanic conflict. In this scheme, a rising China today is analogous to an ascendant Germany before the First World War. The re-emergence of Russia as a world power, two decades after the collapse of the Soviet Union, also suggests parallels with developments 100 years ago.
It may however not be accurate to see contemporary conflicts in the East and South China Seas, and nearby, through the lens of 1914. Nor may it be helpful to view Myanmar as a new Serbia. In this discussion, we will explore the parallels and the differences between 1914 in Europe and 2014 in East Asia. He will ask whether a 'pointless' war over the Senkaku Islands might in fact emerge as the extension, by other means, of today's anxious, precautionary politics.

My notes of the debate:

* Introduction of the assembly line and cultural change
* Brand names for consumers
* Investment – mutual between UK and Germany
cross – eg France in Russian railways
* Privatised military/industrial complex driving the war
- 5 in 6 British warships built privately
- revolving door between industry and government
* Navalism – Britain 2:1 - wanted a navy twice as big as the next two
* Anti-Semitism (J A Hobson)
* Theodore Roosevelt in the Caribbean – Cuba and Panama (Canal)
* India lost 70,000 men
* Japan’s navy supporting the allies - lost a ship off Malta in 1917-18
* 200,000 in the British Army in 1914, half of them overseas
* Prussia was a signatory to the 1839 Treaty of London which guaranteed Belgian neutrality in perpetuity and by implication was one of her supporters
* 60,000 allied casualties on the first day of the Somme: 19k allied killed; 5,000 Germans killed
* 53 different ethnic groups present at Ypres

Labour Party to Act on Blacklisting!

THE Labour Party national policy forum held in Milton Keynes last weekend decided issues on to appear in the General Election manifesto and the following wording was agreed on blacklisting:

'If the current Government will not launch a full inquiry into the disgraceful practice of blacklisting in the construction industry the next Labour Government will.  This inquiry will be transparent and public to ensure the truth is set out.'
This commitment comes only days after David Cameron flatly refused a blacklisting inquiry. Vince Cable at BIS has repeatedly turned down calls for a public inquiry

Blacklist Support Group issued the following statement:
'The Labour Party pledge to hold a "transparent and public" inquiry into blacklisting should be applauded by everyone fighting for justice on this human rights conspiracy.
We have been calling for this for many years - Fair play to them.
 
A big thank you to all those who worked tirelessly behind the scenes to make this happen. 
'The Blacklist Support Group will continue to push for the broadest possible public inquiry to ensure the truth about the entire sordid conspiracy is uncovered. There is documentary proof of police and security services collusion with the Consulting Association and lawyers for the the UK government have recently admitted that blacklisting was a breach of our human rights. Blacklisting of trade unionists is no longer an industrial relations issue: it is a major human rights conspiracy between multinational corporations and the state against trade unions.  We look forward to the day when directors of multinational corporations and senior undercover police officers are publicly forced to justify their illegal covert actions while giving evidence under oath. 
We won't be cracking open the champagne just yet, we will continue to apply pressure by our extra-parliamentary campaigning but this commitment to a public inquiry is a significant step forward and a vindication of our ongoing fight for justice.'
The Labour Party policy forum also made commitments to release the suppressed government papers relating to the Shrewsbury Pickets plus on false self-employment and asbestos. See link from UCATT website for more info: http://www.ucatt.org.uk/ucatt-secures-labour-commitments-false-self-employment-blacklisting-pleural-plaques-shrewsbury
 

Ukraine & Spain, is it the same?

Does the Civil War in east Ukraine resemble the Spanish War?

LAST Thursday, Sabrina Tavernise in the International New York Times wrote a report of an incident that reminded me of my experiences in Spain under Franco in the early 1960s, Albania, Hungary, and former Yugoslavia in the 1990s.  She was in Luhansk, eastern Ukraine at a checkpoint held by a 'pro-Russian rebel with bad teeth and aviator sunglasses [who] was trying to help (her)'.  These rebels had been fighting Ukrainian regular troops but they were protective towards her an America journalist as they waited for orders from 'a higher-up'.  Later a brown Lada with tinted windows screeched to a halt at the check-point and a man got out wearing a maroon beret and black leather fingerless gloves.  He had little time for the men who were chatting to Sabrina and wouldn't give them his contact details, he merely indicated that she should get into the back of the Lada.   

The Ukrainian rebel insisted she write down her telephone number and other details before getting into the car 'just in case', and he said 'Don't be afraid  they're just going to check you out.'  The man in the sunglasses and 'arms slathered in tattoos' drove off with Sabrina into 'a strange slide into a Wonderland world, were fact was hard to tell from fiction and reality and absurdity came in equal portions.'  They ended up at his girl friend's flat in a 'dingy one room apartment', and he told her that his name was Denis and that he was head of an intelligence group in Luhansk.  He said he was tired and didn't want to be bothered checking her documents at the office.  A woman who introduced herself as Tamara Vladimirovna exclaimed at the pleasure of having such a lovely guest and shook Sabrina's hand warmly.   

These kind of incidents often happened to me in such situations in other countries in Europe:  people who one may expect to be hostile such as the Civil Guards in the mountains in Segovia in the summer of 1963, when I was returning from a trip to the Asturias where the miners were on strike, who detained me while the authorities did checks on my papers in Alicante, surprised me and I ended up being treated to Sunday dinner by the wives of the Civil Guards together with wine and Sherry; I don't recall them offering me a Cognac with my coffee though!  Something similar happened to me in Belgrade in December 2000 after the fall of Slobodan Milošević, in 1989 in Visigrad, Hungary  before the fall of the Berlin Wall, and Sarranda in Albania at the time of the rioting and civil unrest over the Pyramid Sales scandal there.  The thing is to avoid the political rhetoric, the stereotype thinking and to realise that when you get involved politics and journalism in places like the Ukraine now, and Spain under General Franco you can't operate according to any political, ideological or a priori guide book; circumstances force you to think on your feet and if you don't do that you really could end up dead..  Sabrina Tavernise made a journalistic judgement and she was well treated well, and George Orwell made similar judgements in the Spanish Civil War but in his case he and his wife only just escaped in one piece.   

The story of  Sabrina Tavernise's experience was published the day before Malaysia Airlines Flight 17 was shot down by persons unknown.  Sabrina's 'interrogator' Denis introduced himself as 'a mercenary from Russia' and he said 'I don't give a damn about any of this.'  Denis did not say who paid him but said that his group formed the heart of the rebel forces and that most of the 'insurgents here – about 80% in his words -  were were scrappy locals:  taxi drivers and coal miners who had never seen a battle'  He added:  '20% were better because they had fought in Afghanistan.'   

Reading Sabrina's account the involvement of Denis and what he says are 'about 50 Russians... being paid to fight against Ukraine's government' one could be forgiven for making a mental comparison between Denis and his Russian mercenary mates and the International Brigades in the Spanish Civil War.  The International Brigaders too were accused of being mercenaries in the 1930s, and they too saw the Spanish republican fighters militias as inferior and even racially less able:  there is plenty of documentation to demonstrate this attitude in the archives.  On the news today even the defenders of the Muslims fighting in Syria, are arguing that they are only like George Orwell who fought in Spain and wrote 'Homage to Catalonia'.  The truth is that the rebels argue that the Kiev government was installed as a result of a coup and the Spanish republican government in 1936 was threatened by military sedition which in some ways superficially represented a similar situation.  There is, however, a vast ideological difference between the participants in the International Brigades in the Spanish Civil War, and the Russian mercenaries in Luhansk, Slovyansk and Donetsk: in the case of the Russian mercenaries in east Ukraine – take Mr. Strelkov, a native Muscovite whose real name is Igor Girkin, who made a public appearance earlier this month at a news conference; Mr. Strelkov is described by the journalist Noah Sneider as having 'ideological rigidity [that] precedes any connections he has to Russia's security services, stretching back at least to at least to his days at the Moscow State Institute for History & Archives... [t]here Mr. Strelkov obsessed over military history and joined a small but vocal group of students who advocated a return to monarchism.'   

If Noah Sneider is to be believed it seems that under Mr. Putin people like Mr. Strelkov (or Mr. Girkin) are coming to the fore.  Mr. Sneider writes: 
'An ultra-nationalist and reactionary Mr. Strelkov fits an increasingly familiar profile in Russia, one that has emerged strongly with the re-election of President Vladimir V. Putin.  Messianic and militaristic, such figures combine a deep belief in Russia's historic destiny with a contempt for for the “decadent” West, while yearning for the re-establishment of a czarist empire.'   

Strangely (or perhaps predictably) in the West we have some people who are on the left who find themselves defending the Russian strategy and argue that poor Mr. Putin and Russia are in danger of encirclement by the ideas of wicked western liberal democracies.   Better a reactionary Russia or even an oriental despotism, than a decadent liberal USA or European Union.   

What ought we to do now that 298 passengers have died?   

Ought we to have more severe sanctions against Russia as a consequence of the plane that was shot down?  Ought the US or the EU to intervene to support the Kiev government?   

When America, France and the U.K. failed to intervene on the side of the Spanish republican government in the Spanish Civil War there was much criticism of them on the left.  And when, Orson Wells asked President Roosevelt in 1939 if he had any regrets, Roosevelt said 'Yes, my failure to support the Spanish republic in 1936.'  

Friday, 18 July 2014

'No Public Enquiry,' says Cameron



Prime Minister David Cameron was recently interviewed by award winning journalist Adam Smith (author of "Obama and Me") and was asked about the blacklisting in the construction industry. 
Adam Smith: "With the blacklisting scandal affecting over 3,000 people up and down the country is it not time for a public inquiry?"
David Cameron: "What is needed to make sure we exercise the legislation that is now in place, this is something that happened under the last government and now there is now legislation in place to stop illegal blacklisting".
Adam Smith: "So you don’t think there should be a public inquiry?"
David Cameron: "As I say I think enforcing the law that we have now is the most important thing".

Blacklist Support Group secretary Dave Smith responded:

"Blacklisting is a national scandal akin to McCarthyism. There is documentary proof of police and security services collusion with the Consulting Association and lawyers for the the UK government have recently admitted that blacklisting was a breach of human rights. Blacklisting of trade unionists is no longer an industrial relations issue; it is a major human rights conspiracy between multinational corporations and the state. Despite all this, David Cameron has said 'no' to a public inquiry.

Blacklisting is working class phone-hacking. Only a fully independent public inquiry will get to the truth of the blacklisting human rights scandal and expose all the corporate and state spying on trade unionists who raised concerns about safety issues: UK citizens participating in perfectly peaceful democratic activities.

It is not surprising that a Conservative Prime Minister funded by big business does not want a public inquiry. But that is what blacklisted workers, their unions and the TUC are calling for. Ed Milliband could demonstrate he supports working people against predatory capitalism by committing a future Labour government to a full public inquiry into blacklisting with be an election pledge in the manifesto".

Pic: David Cameron being interviewed by Adam Smith (right) 
Blacklist Support Group

Is Rochdale Observer Danczuk's Mouthpiece?

RECYCLING more old news tomorrow's Rochdale Observer regurgitates more muck on Cyril Smith from retired Detective Sergeant Jack Tasker.  This stuff can be found in Simon Danczuk's book between pages 215 and 221.  Tasker, now 82,  is still good for a quote and the  Rochdale Observer journalist Chris Jones tells us 'Mr. Tasker... he believed Smith would have buckled in court and been found guilty of child abuse had his enquiry been allowed to go ahead.'   

Then discrepancies start to appear when Tasker says:
'We'd brought Smith in for questioning and I'd say no more than two or three weeks later we turned up at the office and two officers from headquarters were there demanding every scrap of evidence we had.  They took the files away and told us to keep quite about it.'   

In the book by Danczuk D.S. Tasker says:
'I got the impression that if it went to trial he (Cyril) would crack.'   

But then Danczuk's book, Danczuk writes: 
'It was Thursday evening...  But by Monday he'd (Smith) given them the slip again.'   

In the first account it is 'two to three weeks', and then in Danczuk's book it's only four days after talking to Smith.   

There is a problem here with the Rochdale Observer's treatment of Simon Danczuk M.P. now in that it is treating him with just the same uncritical deference as the previous regime of Rochdale Observer editors sucked-up to Cyril Smith M.P. in the last century.   Or perhaps it's just lazy journalism?  

Bury MBC & Zero Waste?


Bury MBC & Thrice Weekly Collections

The Local Puppet Obeys its National Master!   

LAST Wednesday night, Bury Council's Labour Cabinet agreed to implement thrice weekly collections of grey bins, this decision represents not just a defeat for the public belief in regular bin collections but it is a defeat for the trade unions and particularly Unite, a union which last year ran a campaign to gain 100% membership at Bradley Fold Waste Depot.   

As I watched the Bury Labour councillors and the manager at Bradley Fold deliberate, it demonstrated, yet again, that local councils are now the mere puppets of a national government and have very little sovereignty of their own.  Time and again questioners from the floor argued that this measure was not a 'green agenda' but a cost saving exercise to please the national budget demands of Westminster.   

The Bury Labour Cabinet chaired by Councillor Mike Connolly, might just as well have been a delegation of functionaries from the offices of the national government of David Cameron.  Why do we still have this pretence of local democracy when the purse strings are controlled by London?   

They all danced merrily as Labour men and women to the tune of the Tory led Coalition, just as the national government dances in step with the market and the financiers.  Why bother to vote when this is how things are determined?   

I rose to ask the question on behalf of my members at Bradley Fold, knowing full well that no amount of fine oratory or eloquence would change anything at last Wednesday's Cabinet meeting, and asked:

 'What will happen when the “side waste” that collects in mountainous quantities beside the Bury wheelie-bins owing to the new the reduced collections?  As I know that the bosses at Bradley Fold are anxious to move the goalposts to make bin-men collect the "side waste".' 

The Bradley Fold manager Neil Long, who had been brought in to answer such a question, rose to say:  'We are aware of this problem and such debris will be mopped-up by our follow up teams.'   

There was concern that for those with big families the space in the bins would be insufficient and would lead to the increasing problems of vermin and fly-tipping.   

We were urged to rejoice in the spirit of the green agenda of Bury Council and that the Council's aim was 'zero waste'.   

I argued that:  'The talk of plans to create “zero waste” in Bury by the council bosses begins to sound like headline grabbing by an ambitious management and local politicians.'   

It all fell on deaf ears as the plan was rubber-stamped by the Labour Cabinet and the next day the Bury Times ran a headline announcing a 'BACKLASH OVER BINS' and saying that 'politicians, members of the public and a trade union (Unite) are spearheading opposition against the proposals...' , and it was reported that a lad from Radcliffe, Daniel Barkess, had handed in an online petition with 3,318 signatures on.

Blacklist Bosses' Misled Parliament correction

CORRECTION
Vinci, Laing O'Rourke & Balfour Beatty and their predecessor companies spent approximately £335,000 on the services of the blacklisting organisation The Consulting Association NOT £335 million as incorrectly stated in the previous email
 
Genuine apologies - there was no deliberate intention to mislead

On Thursday, July 17, 2014, Blacklist Support Group <blacklistsg@gmail.com> wrote: 
BOSSES from blacklist companies were today (Tues 16th July) humiliated during a packed witness session for a parliamentary Select Committee when MPs repeatedly accused them of setting out to "deliberately mislead parliament". The Scottish Affairs Select Committee investigation into blacklisting heard evidence from Nick Pollard, chief executive of Balfour Beatty, Andrew Ridley-Barker, managing director of Vinci Construction and Callum Tuckett, group finance and commercial director at Laing O'Rourke plus Richard Slaven, partner at Pinsent mason solicitors and Richard Duke from the PR company Grayling.

Simon Reevell MP (Con) condemned the letter sent by Richard Dukes of the PR company Grayling on behalf of the blacklist compensation scheme which he claimed was "intended to mislead every member of parliament" which falsely claimed that unions and representatives of blacklisted workers supported the scheme.

Jim McGovern (Lab) MP for Dundee told the industry bosses point blankly that they had "misled this committee and misled parliament"

MPs identified that Vinci, Laing O'Rourke and Balfour Beatty companies had paid in excess of £335,000 to the Consulting Association which equated to approximately 200,000 name checks on construction workers. 600 workers had either been denied employment or had persoanl information information added to the blacklist database by the 3 firms or their predecessor companies. The construction bosses were continually ridiculed and interrupted by Labour, Liberal and Conservative MPs alike who refused to accepted their grovelling apologies for their role in the Consulting Association blacklisting scandal with Select Committee chairman, Ian Davidson MP accusing the scheme of being "purely damage limitation" rather than a genuine desire to show "repentance"

The levels of compensation being offered by the scheme were also forensically taken apart by MPs and Richard Slaven, partner at law firm Pinsent Mason was forced to admit that he could not quote a single authority to justify the pitifully low figures being offered by the blacklist firms who MPs identified as having a combined annual turnover of £34 billion. Slaven was accused of being "not exactly razor sharp" by former barrister Simon Reevel MP.

The MPs suggested a number of changes that the firms said they would go back and consider including extending the schemes period to 3 years to allow for the High Court trial to conclude before workers needed to make a decision. Ian Davidson again repeated his suggestion that the compensation scheme that had been condemned by the Blacklist Support group and trade unions should exist to provide "interim damages" which would be increased once the High Court trial finished. The MPs stated that unless the scheme was drastically improved and the firms showed real attempts to clean up their acts that they should "be denied access to future public contracts"