Good Friday
Wednesday, 17 April 2024 13:11

Good Friday

Published in Poetry

Good Friday

by Steven Taylor

When you’ve climbed up on the roof
of the last remaining house in Gaza
throw away the ladder and dare them
to demolish you, safe in the knowledge

that Keir Starmer will do nothing

not even mention you were standing
in solidarity and defiance with
all those other people buried beneath
the rubble, or knowingly being starved

by the Labour Friends of Israel

I am ashamed of Labour,

their contribution to the genocide
but it’s pretty much as expected
from Starmer and his supporters

Jesus has been suspended

prior to his expulsion. He’s
certainly not a candidate
or Party representative. We
don’t go in for (futile) gestures

Because Labour

under Starmer
is serious about government

All Hail The Uni Party: Democans and Republicrats
Wednesday, 17 April 2024 13:11

All Hail The Uni Party: Democans and Republicrats

All Hail the Uni Party: Democans and Republicrats

As the range of debate between the two parties in the U.S. shrinks, election season becomes a time of distorting the differences to make it seem there is an actual choice.

One of the greatest aids in fostering this delusion is the mainstream media, which in this election season focuses on the individual quirks, foibles, petty corruption and outlandish and outrageously regressive positions of one party while ignoring the more systemic evil and harm caused both in the U.S. and around the world by the other party.

In the last four years the party in power has brought the country to the brink of nuclear war with Russia, China and Iran, promoted and alibied away genocide, and through benign neglect fostered an ever more widening income gap amidst a deteriorating economy (except for fintech, that grouping of the finance and the digital industries) and a devastated physical and emotional infrastructure. The former now consists of broken-down railroads, bridges, and highways while the latter manifests in the Fentanyl crisis which has followed hard upon the opioid crisis.  

Broe karens

Uniparty Karens: Bobbert and Greene 

Each party has its Karens and its Alpha Males. Karens, white suburban shriekers who came to the fore in their fear of all things non-white in the moment of the Black Lives Matter protest are represented by Lauren Boebert Clinton and Marjorie Taylor Pelosi. On the one hand, Lauren Boebert Clinton is noted for being so gun crazy that her former restaurant Shooter’s Grill was located in Rifle Colorado; for her Karen moment in claiming to be afraid of a terrorist action when Palestinian representative Ilhan Omar was standing behind her on the elevator line; and for loutish antisocial behavior such as being kicked out of a performance of Beetlejuice because she was vaping.

On the other hand, Lauren Boebert Clinton is noted for proudly boasting about destroying Libya, the country with the best education and health care system in Africa; for instigating the phony Russiagate story, given credence by the Steele Dossier manufactured by a former spy and Democratic Party employee and disproved by the Special Prosecutor assigned to the case; and for her refusal to deal with the real reasons for her 2016 presidential loss: her contempt for the American working class, calling them “deplorables” and claiming that rather than acknowledging their problems she was “flying over America,” that is brazenly acknowledging that she only related to the cultural and business elites on the East and West coasts.

Broe karens2

More Karens: Clinton, Pelosi 

Marjorie Taylor Pelosi is known on the one hand for her wild QAnon outlandish and diversionary claims such as drawing attention away from the challenge posed by global warming by claiming a wildfire in California was caused by lasers “beamed from space and controlled by a prominent Jewish banking family”; accusing schools educating their pupils about the history of racism in the U.S. as being “racist”; accosting a survivor of the Parkland slaying, and claiming an attempt to disprove her accusations was fostered not by the Gestapo police but by what she called “the gazpacho police.”

Marjorie Taylor Pelosi on the other hand has openly used her position in the House to engage in insider trading upping her net worth by $196 million; greatly increased tensions with China on a visit to Taiwan where she was also tending to the stake in a microchip company her son has invested heavily in; and when confronted by demonstrators outside her palatial mansion on the genocide in Gaza, accused them of being Putin agents.

Broe males1

Uniparty Alpha males: Cruz, Graham 

Most prominent among the uniparty alpha males is Ted Cruz Sullivan, a widely disliked senator who a member of his own party referred to as “Lucifer in the flesh.” He is most famous for fleeing to Cancun at the time his Texas constituents, many without electricity, were facing the worst storm in their lifetime; for defending a Texas decision to renege on providing funding for healthcare for poor children and in a global continuation of the same type of policy opposing a ceasefire in Gaza to stop the starving of children.

Ted Cruz Sullivan, nickname “Jake,” who moonlights as the National Security Advisor, plays Jekyll to his alter ego’s Hyde. He claims to be for reasonable solutions while all the time fostering war in Ukraine, in Taiwan and Gaza. Sullivan helped to sabotage negotiations in Ukraine which could have  brought the war to a speedy end; fostered and promoted the U.S. military presence in the South China Sea, giving credence to the war-inducing idea of an “independent” Taiwan which neither the U.S. nor China acknowledge; and promoted Israeli-Saudi rapprochement as the solution to tensions in the Middle East, which would completely destroy Palestinian claims to end the apartheid state and which probably was the cause of the Hamas attack on October 7.

Broe males 2

More Alpha males: Blinken, Sullivan

No less an “A-type” male purveyor of uniparty loyalty is Lindsey Graham Blinken who as the stalwart senator for South Carolina last year flew off the handle, outraged that the U.S. defence budget was a measly $886 billion turning a blind eye to the amount of money that each year is bilked by contractors, amounting to $150 billion in Iraq and Afghanistan and in his home state deaf to twin sisters under his watch who defrauded the defence department of $20.5 million, including selling two 19 cent washers for $998,798.

If these dastardly deeds are done by night, his doppelganger Lindsey Graham Blinken by day plays a caring, hand-wringing head of the State Department who alibis for slaughtering Ukrainians in a war that ended almost before it started because of the overwhelming might of Russia’s industrial and human capacity to fight it; picks fights with China “alerting” the world to the danger of China’s lone military base, located in Africa in Djibouti, and concealing the nearly 800 U.S. bases around the world; and finally also claiming he is for a “humanitarian pause” and the building of a port in Gaza, a minimum six-week enterprise which will have many Gazans starving as they wait for sea access to food which is possible by land as trucks every day are lined up waiting to enter Gaza. Two sides of the same coin, Lindsey Graham Blinken plays good cop, bad cop but the operant word is cop, or global and local policeman.

Broe Victoria Nuland resize

Tom Cotton Nuland handing out coup cookies in Maidan 

Finally, there is the gender-bending Tom Cotton Nuland whose male side, the Arkansas representative now running for senator, is in favor of restricting not only illegal but also legal immigration; has accused his colleagues waging a proxy war on Russia of being “soft” on Putin, a charge which he outlined in his book Only The Strong; has attempted to thwart even minimal justice reform in the country that has the highest incarcerated population in the world; and responded to the shooting in Uvalde not by proposing legislation restricting gun use but, before he even knew what was happening as the events unfolded, instead proposing “ways to improve security at schools,” that is bringing more guns into the schools.

The female side of this gender-bending duo, Tom Cotton Nuland, aka Victoria, has attempted regime change in Russia under five presidents; actively participated in the Maidan coup which led to the civil war in Ukraine, killing over 14,000 people; and pushed NATO to enlist Ukraine which prompted the Russian invasion leading to an estimated half million casualties on both sides.

She/he attempted to destroy the Russian economy through both sanctions and stealing Russian assets in Western banks, a spectacularly unsuccessful policy with Russia now the strongest economy in Europe, by some estimates expected to grow by 3 percent this year. This failure has prompted her dismissal or as the uniparty, which never admits defeat, would have it “resignation.”

Finally, there are its geriatric amnesiacs who it calls leaders, Donald Biden and Joseph Trump. Donald Biden is the openly racist candidate who launched his political career by attacking immigrants; assassinated the Iranian general who had led the fight against ISIS and who was in Iraq to promote peace in the region; bombed Syria while having dinner with the Chinese leader; and in a country where working-class people are so poor many live in their cars, has engineered a tax cut for the wealthiest, as his sole legislative accomplishment.

Joseph Trump was recently declared unfit to stand trial for pilfering security documents because of his inability to remember whether he did or not; presided over an attack on workers and the middle class by rationalizing the raising of interest rates, making it harder for cash-strapped and already in debt Americans to borrow; and championed a “rules-based order” which in effect has translated to “we make the rules and we keep the order”; effectively ruling out the United Nations Charter, the actual rules-based order, by continually vetoing proposals calling for a ceasefire to stop the slaughter in Gaza; and by not enforcing the International Court of Justice ruling that what Israel is doing tentatively amounts to genocide, all the time claiming to be “concerned.”

Labourives and Conservatours

This is the best a fading empire can muster, and it is a fit description of where the U.S. stands as its power and that of its allies begins to disintegrate. In Britain, Keir Sunak and Rishi Starmer represent labor and conservative parties who are more focused on supporting Israel’s genocide and keeping the war in Ukraine going, a boondoggle for British defense industries, than in delivering relief to a besieged populace which is every day watching the crown jewel of the British social aid system, the National Health Service, dwindle.

mirror mirror resized

Mirror, Mirror by Martin Gollan

On the continent, France’s little Napoleon, Macron, who like his namesake wants to send French troops to Ukraine, probably to share the fate of his countrymen more than 100 years ago. To maintain power he continues his mind meld with the right-wing Republicans and is now focused on “the right to die,” an issue that sums up the preoccupation of a West that itself is “concerned” not with growth and aiding its people but with ensuring they die in dignity, while at the same time, given Macron’s “reform” of the pension programme which forces them to work two more years, ordering them to live in despair.

The uniparty’s travesty of democracy, having brought home with increasing ferocity the kind of tricks they have been perfecting for years in their banana republics, features each party needing to win to prevent the other party from indicting them, with the truth being that they are both criminally negligent and easily susceptible to judicial condemnation, be it Donald Biden’s cheating of the government and inflating his worth, or Joseph Trump’s spreading the Russiagate lie or brokering his son’s involvement in Ukraine which he has partially covered up by allying with the far right  and Nazi elements in that country to lead it to war.

The only adequate reply to the nonsense of these politicians, fostered by their brother and sister elites in the mainstream media, is Mercutio’s response to the warring Montagues and Capulets: “A plague on both your houses.” The American people, the British people and the rest of the world deserve better.

The media and Gaza: 'A textbook case of genocide'
Wednesday, 17 April 2024 13:11

The media and Gaza: 'A textbook case of genocide'

An authentic democracy cannot be psychopathic because most people are not psychopaths.

Most people would not vote to kill, wound and displace hundreds of thousands of innocent civilians for power, profit or territorial gain. Most people do not accept the great lie of ‘pragmatism’: that ‘the anarchical society’ of international relations mandates psychopathic violence: If ‘we’ don’t behave as psychopaths, somebody else will.

Most people don’t believe the world can be divided between Israeli prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s ‘children of light’ and ‘children of darkness’. You don’t need to be a mystic to know that love, kindness, compassion – ‘light’ – arise naturally in all human beings allowed to live in freedom and peace.

We know from our own experience that we are wonderfully happy when overflowing with love and desperately miserable when overflowing with hate. We know, therefore, that love is suited to human nature and well-being in a way that hatred is certainly not. We know that when hate arises in large numbers of people it is born of suffering, not of some ‘evil’ disposition. We know that the real answer to hate is not violence but justice that alleviates suffering and hate.

Because we are not psychopathic, it is deeply important for us to believe that we are not living in a psychopathic society. When this human need clashes with political reality, examples of cognitive dissonance abound – psychopathic circles have to be squared, 2 + 2 must make 5. This is the task of the propaganda system comprised of the ‘respectable’ political, media and religious institutions of our society.

In an interview with Channel 4 News, the Most Reverend and Right Honourable Justin Welby, the Archbishop of Canterbury, supplied a particularly stark example. Welby began by affecting a transcendent spiritual impartiality, as one might expect:

‘I’m not pointing fingers’, he said.

Alas, Welby came back to earth with a bump:

‘I do point fingers at Hamas and say this is terrorism at its most extreme and most evil.’

Okay, but then was he also pointing fingers at the Israeli government raining hellfire on Gaza? Welby fell silent, hesitated:

‘It’s not… You can do the… You can say something which in different circumstances might be useful at a time that just makes everything worse… Let’s not run to judgement and blame straight away.’

The archbishop’s power-friendly ethical dissonance becomes even clearer when we recall that, last December, Welby told the BBC that ‘justice demands that there is defeat’ of ‘an evil invasion’ in Ukraine. It was right, he said, for the West to send billions of dollars of weaponry to support a ‘victim nation’ that is ‘being overrun by aggression’. After all, the international community had a ‘duty of care’ to protect weaker nations.

Welby’s failure to condemn any ‘evil’ committed by Israel came long after it had become clear that Israel had been criminally targeting Gaza’s civilian population with collective punishment cutting off water, food and electricity. And of course, by razing whole apartment blocks, indeed whole residential areas, to the ground.

From satellite imagery, The Economist estimated (30 October) that ‘over a tenth of Gaza’s housing stock has been destroyed, leaving more than 280,000 people without homes to which they can return’. The magazine noted:

‘Even Russia, during its siege of Mariupol in Ukraine between February and May 2022, negotiated humanitarian pauses in which some civilians were permitted to leave. Israel has thus far rejected calls, by the European Union and others, for such pauses.’

More recently, the health ministry of the Palestinian Authority has estimated that more than 50% of Gaza’s housing units have been destroyed, nearly 70% of its population has been displaced, 16 out of 35 hospitals that can take in-patients have stopped functioning, 42 UN Relief Agency buildings have been damaged, along with at least seven churches and 55 mosques. According to the World Health Organisation, there have been more than 100 strikes on health facilities. Since 7 October, more than 200 schools have been damaged in Gaza – around 40% of the total number – about forty of them very seriously, according to UNICEF data.

By any standards, this is an awesome level of destruction. In its first 563 days, Russia’s war on Ukraine killed 9,614 Ukrainian civilians, 554 of them children. In its first 25 days, Israel’s war on Gaza killed 8,796 Palestinian civilians, 3,648 of them children. Since the 7 October attacks by Hamas, at least 1,400 Israelis have been killed, including 1,033 civilians and 31 children.

Gaza - a graveyard for chidren

The UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres puts the immensity of Israel’s violence in perspective:

‘Gaza is becoming a graveyard for children. Hundreds of girls and boys are reportedly being killed or injured every day. More journalists are reportedly being killed over a four-week period than in any conflict in at least three decades. More United Nations aid workers have been killed than in any comparable period in the history of our organisation.’

On 28 October, Craig Mokhiber, one of the world’s leading international lawyers, director of the UN’s New York Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights, resigned to protest the organisation’s handling of what he called a ‘textbook case of genocide.’ In his resignation letter, Mokhiber wrote:

‘This is a text-book case of genocide. The European, ethno-nationalist, settler colonial project in Palestine has entered its final phase, toward the expedited destruction of the last remnants of indigenous Palestinian life in Palestine. What’s more, the governments of the United States, the United Kingdom, and much of Europe, are wholly complicit in the horrific assault. Not only are these governments refusing to meet their treaty obligations “to ensure respect” for the Geneva Conventions, but they are in fact actively arming the assault, providing economic and intelligence support, and giving political and diplomatic cover for Israel’s atrocities.’

In an interview with Al Jazeera English, Mokhiber made a further key point:

‘As a human rights lawyer with more than three decades of experience in the field, I know well that the concept of genocide has often been subject to political abuse. But the current wholesale slaughter of the Palestinian people, rooted in an ethno-nationalist settler colonial ideology, in continuation of decades of their systematic persecution and purging, based entirely upon their status as Arabs, and coupled with explicit statements of intent by leaders in the Israeli government and military, leaves no room for doubt or debate. In Gaza, civilian homes, schools, churches, mosques, and medical institutions are wantonly attacked as thousands of civilians are massacred. In the West Bank, including occupied Jerusalem, homes are seized and reassigned based entirely on race, and violent settler pogroms are accompanied by Israeli military units.

‘Across the land, Apartheid rules.

‘Usually, the most difficult part in proving genocide is intent, because there has to be an intention to destroy, in whole or in part, a particular group. In this case, the intent by Israel’s leaders has been so explicitly stated, and publicly stated, by the prime minister, by the president, by senior cabinet ministers, by military leaders, that that is an easy case to make. It’s on the public record.’

Our ProQuest media database search for ‘Craig Mokhiber’ and ‘Gaza’ delivered four mentions, all in the Guardian. One of these was a smear, another was a single-sentence mention in passing buried in a news piece, a third substantial piece of 667 words, and an additional mention yesterday buried in the penultimate paragraph of an opinion piece. There were no mentions found in any other newspaper and there are none on the BBC website.

On Channel 4 News, Matt Frei asked Welby:

‘What do you say to those demonstrators on the streets of London who are saying this is Israeli genocide against the Palestinians?’

Welby’s sage reply:

‘I say you’ve no understanding of what you’re saying.’

When asked if Israel was acting within international law, Labour’s chivalrous knight, Sir Keir Starmer, said:

‘As to whether each and every act is in accordance with the law, well that will have to be adjudicated in due course. Um, I think it’s unwise for politicians to stand on stages like this, or to sit in television studios, and pronounce day by day which acts may or may not be in accordance with international law.

‘I think it’s not the role of politicians. I don’t think it’s wise to do it. I come with the benefit of a lawyer of having litigated about issues like this in the past. And in my experience, it’d often take weeks or months to assimilate the evidence and to then work out whether there may or may not have been a breach of international law.

‘So, I think the call for politicians to look at half a picture on the screen without the full information and form an instant judgement as to whether it’s this side of the line or the other side of the line is extremely unwise. I’m not going to get involved with that kind of exercise.’

If this sounds like an in-depth, heartfelt response, last year, Starmer was asked:

‘Is Vladimir Putin a war criminal?’

Starmer’s reply:

‘Yes.’

On 8 February, Starmer told the House of Commons:

‘Before I entered this House, I had responsibility for fighting for justice in the Hague for victims of Serbian aggression. Does the Prime Minister agree with me that when the war in Ukraine is over, Putin and all his cronies must stand at the Hague and face justice?’

Again, completely contradicting everything he is now saying, Starmer said on 7 March:

‘Vladimir Putin and his criminal cronies must be held to account for their illegal invasion of Ukraine. The UK government must do all it can to ensure the creation of a special tribunal to investigate the crime of aggression.

‘The Ukrainian people deserve justice as well as our continued military, economic, diplomatic, and humanitarian assistance.’

Notice, Starmer was not calling for a ‘no-fly zone’ or a ceasefire – completely unthinkable in relation to Gaza – he was endorsing continued intervention in the form of massive military support for the Ukrainian war effort.

On 17 March, Starmer said:

‘I welcome the International Criminal Court’s decision to open war crime cases against Vladimir Putin and other senior Russian figures for their barbaric actions in Ukraine.’

There is nothing random, or naïve, about Labour’s hypocrisy and servility to power. Declassified UK reports:

‘Some 13 of the 31 members of Labour’s shadow cabinet have received donations from a prominent pro-Israel lobby group or individual funder, it can be revealed.

‘The list of recipients includes party leader Keir Starmer, his deputy Angela Rayner, shadow foreign secretary David Lammy, and even the former vice-chair of Labour Friends of Palestine, Lisa Nandy, who is now shadow international development minister.’

Britain’s veteran warmongers have been queuing up to persuade the public of the rightness of Starmer’s complicity in genocide. Arch-Blairite former Labour MP Peter Mandelson said:

‘As for Keir Starmer, I would just say this – I think what he’s doing is demonstrating to the British people the sort of toughness and mettle that he would display, if he were to become prime minister of this country. He has been very tough, very realistic…’

In a separate interview, as if reading from the same script, former Tory MP and Thatcherite Michael Portillo opined:

‘I’m amongst those who think that Keir Starmer has done exactly the right thing and has shown a great deal of mettle, which I think will be quite widely admired. And that’s important, I think, for a domestic audience that wonders whether he’s up to being prime minister.’

Dissidents are viewed and treated quite differently. Responding to home secretary Suella Braverman’s suggestion on X (formerly Twitter) that, ‘It is entirely unacceptable to desecrate Armistice Day with a hate march through London’, BBC sports commentator Gary Lineker posted:

‘Marching and calling for a ceasefire and peace so that more innocent children don’t get killed is not really the definition of a hate march.’

Nile Gardiner, a foreign policy analyst, former aide to Margaret Thatcher and contributor to the Telegraph, responded:

‘Gary Lineker’s knowledge of foreign and national security policy is practically zero. His vast narcissism and ego as a BBC football pundit is matched only by his sheer ignorance.’

In reality, of course, narcissism would mean Lineker keeping his head down, banking his huge salary, avoiding the inevitable torrent of abuse, and thus keeping his reputation safe and sound, like so many people do.

 

It is quite astonishing to reflect that, in 2011, NATO deployed 260 aircraft and 21 ships, launching 26,500 sorties destroying ‘over 5,900 military targets including over 400 artillery or rocket launchers and over 600 tanks or armored vehicles’ in response, not to the mass murder of civilians, but to a merely alleged threat of mass murder posed by Libya’s Muammar Gaddafi.

Not that there had been a call for a humanitarian ‘pause’, or a ceasefire, or the introduction of UN peacekeepers – the widespread demand was for massive military intervention. In reality, the NATO ‘no-fly zone’ that instantly became a bombing campaign obliterating Gaddafi’s army was based on a lie. A 9 September 2016 report into the war from the foreign affairs committee of the House of Commons commented:

‘Despite his rhetoric, the proposition that Muammar Gaddafi would have ordered the massacre of civilians in Benghazi was not supported by the available evidence… Muammar Gaddafi’s 40-year record of appalling human rights abuses did not include large-scale attacks on Libyan civilians.’

In February 2011, The Times insisted that ‘there is incontrovertible evidence’ that demonstrators in Benghazi ‘are being blown apart by mortar fire’. Even if accurate, this would have been a pin prick compared to Israeli actions now. This was the response to the Libyan government proposed by The Times:

‘British officials and private citizens must do all they can to cajole, pressure and exhort it out of power.’ (Leading article, ‘In bombing its own civilians, Libya stands exposed as an outlaw regime,’ - The Times, 23 February 2011)

By contrast, on 25 October, The Times praised Starmer’s ‘initially assured response to the outbreak of violence that followed Hamas’s terror attacks on Israel on October 7’, which ‘correctly emphasised his party’s unconditional support for the Jewish state’s right to self-defence’.

This was a reference to Starmer’s appalling declaration that Israel ‘does have that right’ to inflict collective punishment on Palestinian civilians by cutting off water, food and electricity.

On 22 March 2011, with NATO bombing of Libya underway, the Guardian’s Jonathan Freedland published a piece titled, ‘Though the risks are very real, the case for intervention remains strong’. He meant military intervention, of course – war – insisting that ‘in a global, interdependent world we have a “responsibility to protect” each other’. Freedland now warns against such ‘binary thinking’, as he baulks even at the idea of a ceasefire:

‘It seems such a simple, obvious remedy. Until you stop to wonder how exactly, if it is not defeated, Hamas is to be prevented from regrouping and preparing for yet another attack on the teenagers, festivalgoers and kibbutz families of southern Israel.’ 

Freedland’s article was titled: ‘The tragedy of the Israel-Palestine conflict is this: underneath all the horror is a clash of two just causes’. In ‘Manufacturing Consent’, Edward Herman and Noam Chomsky commented on their analysis of media treatment of victims deemed ‘worthy’ and ‘unworthy’ by the West:

‘While the coverage of the worthy victim was generous with gory details and quoted expressions of outrage and demands for justice, the coverage of the unworthy victims was low-keyed, designed to keep the lid on emotions and evoking regretful and philosophical generalities on the omnipresence of violence and the inherent tragedy of human life.’ - Edward Herman and Noam Chomsky, ‘Manufacturing Consent’, Pantheon Books, 1988, p.39

The Guardian’s Polly Toynbee also rejected calls for a ceasefire, obfuscating with a tangled web of Welby-style verbiage:

‘That word “ceasefire” has become a symbol and a semantic roadblock, as events rush on and words get left behind. “Ceasefire” has become an ideology rather than a practicality.’

When it comes to Gaza in November 2023, the famous ‘responsibility to protect’ has vanished from thinkable thought. Today, even the responsibility to protest is under legal threat. As for the British government’s response, Peter Oborne describes the shocking truth:

‘Meanwhile, not one government minister, as far as I can see, has condemned the indiscriminate slaughter of civilians in Gaza, or uttered a word of condemnation of the wave of settler attacks including displacement of Palestinian communities – war crimes – across the West Bank. Nor the genocidal language used by too many Israeli leaders.’

In describing the conflict, the BBC is content to use the pro-Israel propaganda construct ‘Israel-Hamas War’.

Israel’s murderous bombardment of Gaza was described by the BBC’s Jeremy Bowen as Israel ‘still pushing forward’. Bowen noted: ‘Palestinians call this genocide’.

It is not just the Palestinians though, as Bowen well knows.

Wednesday, 17 April 2024 13:11

The Mandelson Masterclass

Published in Poetry

The Mandelson Masterclass

by Paul Francis

You ready, Keir? The die is cast.
Embrace the future, ditch the past.
You, Rayner, Nandy were a team
but solidarity’s a dream
and figureheads must stand alone.
You have to do this on your own.

Borrow ideas, like being green,
devolving power from the machine;
this stuff from Miliband and Brown
can be picked up – and then put down.
I’m saying you need to travel light.
They can be useful, but I’m right.

Momentum, back in ‘17
had hordes of canvassers, dead keen
to spread the word that something new
was on the way – could that be true?
Enthusiasm on the streets
won’t compensate for past defeats.
So clear the slate; they have to see
“Not Corbyn” is your USP.

Now anti-semitism’s the test
of true believers, who scores best.
That’s where you showed your Midas touch.
Racism? Windrush? Not so much
but pledges, manifestoes, vows
are just a line of sacred cows
you need to slaughter. Say again
- what matters? “Me, in Number Ten.”

No truck with other parties, deals;
ignore the offers and appeals.
Collaboration, compromise
are a distraction from the prize.
You’ll need a safety first approach -
no sharing platforms with Ken Loach,
no independent stroppy mayors
with local loyalties. Who cares?
The Brexit lesson – sell your soul
and then you’re free to take control.

One disembodied, male mind
is all it takes to leave behind
the women, strikers, kids and blacks
who’ve had the Tories on their backs
for years. They’re not the votes you need.
Losers won’t help you to succeed.
Austere detachment. That’s the way
to prove that you’re above the fray.
No angry quotes on Palestine
or chatting up the picket line.
I am the guru, and I know
you’re Blair on steroids: Go, Keir, go!

Sunday September the 24th, 7.10pm
Wednesday, 17 April 2024 13:11

Sunday September the 24th, 7.10pm

Published in Poetry

Image above from Skwawkbox: Activist Audrey White manhandled by Keir Starmer’s entourage as she gives him a piece of her mind on behalf of outraged Scousers (image by Linda Sergeant)

Sunday September the 24th, 7.10pm

by Kevin Higgins

I have finally tracked you down.
Or at least am in the same city as you now.
I see from social media you
arrived a couple of days ago and are
looking for any excuse to give yourself
another round of applause.
You are telling them the story
about how, as a boy, your family once
had their telephone cut off.
But that won’t be happening again.

From the maturity of your response
to the absurd pleading
of those who hoped
to be let out of the basement
and given some air,
it’s crystal
there’ll be none of that nonsense
on your watch
but free flags for everyone
which must at all times be carried
or flown by anyone who doesn't want
their passport suspended.

For the exchequer-funded undead
who scuttle about the kingdom in medieval dress
the festival will continue.
Basement dwellers
will be allowed out appointed days
to watch their betters go past
and wave their happy little flags.

The twilight coming down on me,
as I wait for the airport taxi that will carry me
closer again to you,
is the same twilight you’d see
if you ever did anything so average
as look out a window.
Too busy kangarooing room to room
being extravagantly pleased with yourself.

In private, your anger is a big fish
thrashing on the deck of a trawler
desperate for somewhere to go
which is why, according to my sources
you sometimes throw
office furniture around the place.

You don't know me
yet. But I know what time
you'll be at the restaurant,
made my reservation this morning.
I’m enjoying
the thought of your face

Sun, sea and socialism: beach reads for August 2022
Wednesday, 17 April 2024 13:11

Sun, sea and socialism: beach reads for August 2022

Published in Cultural Commentary

Mark Perryman makes a personal selection of ten books (and a T-shirt!) to add some bright sunny thinking to any holiday

It’s August and England is basking in Euro-winning glory. At Wembley, where England last won a major tournament, the 1966 World Cup. 56 years of hurt ended by England women. How cool is that? 

August, traditionally the height of the British holiday season.  And with the climate now in full emergency mode, bright sunshine and hot weather is pretty much guaranteed. That's how most of the front pages treat this deadly prospect. Rising summer death rates amongst the old and vulnerable, bush fires and drought are pretty much a footnote. Beaches along the Kent and Sussex transformed from holiday favourites to the frontline in arguments and actions over asylum, migration and race. 

For staycations north of the border how long before passport checks and currency exchange are required? Yes really this is the kind of level of debate the Unionist Left proffers. Meanwhile any length of Scottish break will convince this is another country and deserves to be recognise as so.  

Holidays, a time of nostalgia – what it was like when we were kids, teenagers, students and twenty somethings. For those of a pensionable age now and of a certain musical and political disposition, the summers of the late seventies will always be the era of rocking against racism with TRB, X-Ray Spex, Steel, Pulse but most of all The Clash. 

Packing some holiday reading? Despite all manner of digital media the written word remains a hugely influential space for ideas. How we read forms our ideas, what is read forms the ideas of other. With the rush towards vision-free Starmerism, a politics of critique, which for many begins with questioning what we read, see and hear, becomes more necessary than ever. 

A new generation of  left intellectuals are developing the kind of ideas that serve to highlight  the absolute lack of any kind of vision from Keir Starmer's Labour. In the 1980s a similar role was performed by writers in and around the magazine Marxism Today. It isn't simply nostalgia to observe how much this kind of thinking is needed today. Revisit, review, rewrite......and here are ten top reads for starters....  

1. Suzy Wrack A Woman's Game: The Rise, Fall and Rise Again of Women's Football  

SS1

On the beach. England European Champions. A blissful summertime mix. And to add depth, context and brilliant ideas to the feelgood factor there's none better than one of the pioneers of the new (women's) football writing, Suzy Wrack, in her debut and most timely book.

2. Adrienne Buller The Value of a Whale: On The Illusions of Green Capitalism

SS2

Adrienne Buller is part of a new wave of economists producing  radical ideas, in stark contrast to Keir Starmer's mantra of 'Labour's mission in government will be economic growth'. With the climate emergency already upon us The Value of a Whale expertly explains why 'growth' isn't nearly enough.

3. Chris Armstrong A Blue New Deal: Why We Need a New Politics for the Ocean

SS3 

For the lucky ones there's no better place to spend August hols than on a beach in the sunshine. Thoughts of what rising sea levels will do to devastate coastal communities and rising summer heat as a threat to our health and environment may not be the nicest, if necessary, way to break up the sunbathing and swimming. A Blue Deal is the antidote, an incredible read on how by reversing climate change coastal communities could be regenerated.

4. Tariq Ali Winston Churchill: His Times, His Crimes          

SS4

'We shall fight on the beaches' was amongst many great Churchill lines a million miles away from the sound bites of  modern politics. But there's Churchillian myth-making too on an industrial scale: Tariq Ali provides a demolition job that some will disagree with but none should entirely ignore.

5. Vron Ware Return of a Native: Learning from the Land

SS5

For those who prefer a rural spot away from the sand and the sea Return of a Native is an insightful read of how the particularities of the English countryside have become key to constructing Englishness. Combining the ecological and the political, this is a book to provoke rethinking well beyond a holiday read.

6.  Gerry Hassan and Simon Barrow, Eds. A Better Nation: The Challenges of Scottish Independence   

SS6

The near-perfect summertime city break is surely the Edinburgh Festival. Edinburgh is also where the re-established Scottish Parliament is located. Since it was the momentum towards independence has been in fits and starts but it will come. Gerry Hassan and Simon Barrow's edited collection of essays is the best possible survey of a shift, a tad more important than fretting over whether future festival visitors from the rest of the UK (sic) will need to pack their passports. 

7. Owen Hatherley Artificial Islands: Adventures in the Dominions

SS7

Owen Hatherley is a key figure amongst the new generation of  left intellectuals. Mixing architectural critique, travelogue and cultural commentary, his writing is unique and never disappoints. His subject matter is rewardingly unpredictable, unearthing a long forgotten history of Britain and the white Dominions. Artificial Islands will spice up any holiday thoughts on the future of the Union.    

8. Gregor Gall The Punk Rock Politics of Joe Strummer

SS8

As summer draws to a close September 2022 will mark the 40th anniversary of the break-up of Joe, Mick, Paul and Topper, aka The Clash. For those of a certain age and inclination it was this foursome who provided the soundtrack to our lives – and still do. Gregor Gall brilliantly locates the music Joe Strummer provided for the band in what he calls 'punk rock politics' a mix  of radicalism, resistance and rebellion, and good to dance to as well.

9. Terry Eagleton Critical Revolutionaries: Five Critics Who Changed the Way We Read

SS9

Terry Eagleton is both a pioneer of literary criticism and an unashamed Marxist. A politics of critique remains as essential as ever, especially in an era when the party of opposition is running scared of any ideas that are remotely oppositional. If literary criticism, let alone Marxism, doesn’t sound like a natural choice for a beach read, then this highly readable introduction to Eliot, Leavis, Williams and others will surprise, intrigue and inspire.

10. Doreen Massey Selected Political Writings; with Stuart Hall  Selected Political Writings; and Robin Murray Selected Political Writings

SS10 

If room in the suitcase or rucksack is at a premium these are the books to pack. Publishers Lawrence and Wishart have produced the perfect reads to take us away from the next-to-no-ideas Keir Starmer Labour Party to an ideological place where ideas are positively overflowing. Here are posthumous collections of three writers central to the magazine Marxism Today in the 1980s. Doreen Massey, Stuart Hall and Robin Murray's political writings – there is no better preparation for the change that must follow after a summer of discontent.

…..and a T-shirt!

SS11

On the beach and ever after, wear the incredible memories of an unforgettable July 2022. Philosophy Football's unique T-shirt with England's victories with full match details: Austria, Norway, Northern Ireland, Spain, Sweden. And then after 120 minutes England 2 Germany 1 added and the 'Lionesses' became the CHAMPIONS. From here 

NB No links in this review are to Amazon. If buying books from corporate tax dodgers can be avoided, please do. Mark Perryman is the co-founder of the sporting outfitters of intellectual distinction aka Philosophy Football      

Mainstream media as Iago to our collective Othello
Wednesday, 17 April 2024 13:11

Mainstream media as Iago to our collective Othello

Tayo Aluko writes about the mysterious case of a misidentified(?) Robeson portrait. Image above: Paul Robeson as Othello

Once, many years ago, while touring the US, I happened to be listening to an NPR radio programme about Paul Robeson, with his son Paul Robeson, Jr., as the special guest. It started with a recording of Ol' Man River, Robeson's signature song. As it was playing, I couldn't help feeling that it didn't sound like the great man, but expected to be proved wrong. The presenter said, "That was Paul Robeson singing Ol' Man River," and introduced Paul Jr., who immediately retorted with, "That was NOT my father." I could feel the presenter's embarrassment, and expect a producer got chastised for that grave error.

I fear a number of people are in for similar embarrassment soon, for it has been reported in The Guardian, no less, that a long-lost portrait of Robeson has been rediscovered and will be going on display from May 14 at an exhibition of works by the painter Glyn Philpot at the Pallant House Gallery in Chichester this month.

Once again, I am prepared to be proved wrong, but I am quite sure that the portrait to be displayed is NOT that of Paul Robeson. The only similarity between the portrait's model and Robeson himself is the colour of their skin. That's all. It makes me wonder how such established institutions can be so mistaken, and why nobody else that I know of appears to be challenging the claim.

The portrait is said to have been painted in 1930 while Robeson was playing Othello opposite Peggy Ashcroft at the Savoy Theatre, so we can use one of many pictures from that production, and compare it with the model in the portrait. This is what the gallery director apparently did, but where he saw a likeness, I see only differences. Start with the hairline. Robeson's recedes away from the front in a very much more pronounced way than in the portrait. Robeson sports a goatee (he always did for this role), while the model grows hair on his jaw, not quite joining with the sideburn. Robeson's moustache isn't as luxurious as that of the model. Then, there's the nose. Robeson's is flatter, wider, and tips downwards, unlike that of the model.

The fact that the model's clothing is different from that of Robeson's Othello could potentially be explained away by the possibility that he might have sat for the portrait in rehearsal costume, but how does one account for the anonymous title given the portrait when it was sold in 1944?  Robeson had burst into public consciousness when he played a highly acclaimed Joe in Showboat at the Theatre Royal, Drury Lane in 1928. He became a regular in concert halls all over the UK thereafter, and a much sought-after celebrity. And yet, his portrait is sold with the title "Head of a Negro?" Highly unlikely.

But the Guardian says it is Robeson, so it must be, right? I beg to differ, and would say that this appears to be a case of people wanting so badly to believe something to be true, that they ignore all evidence to the contrary. If I am right, this would be another case of a journalist and editors accepting information from a source and reproducing it without doing their own checks. The Guardian won't be alone in this, and indeed all of mainstream media, the BBC included, are accused by many of being complicit in peddling untruths fed to it by the global elite to such an extent that they are complicit in creating many of the world's ills.

We saw it in Robeson's time, when in 1949, he made a speech in Paris in which he questioned why African Americans would fight against the Soviet Union (America's ally until the end of WWII, and the place where he first felt the absence of racism), when they were second-class citizens in their own country. The press first distorted the speech to make it sound deliberately unpatriotic, and then whipped up anti-Black, anti-Semitic and anti-Communist sentiment to such an extent that by the time Robeson returned to his country, he had turned from being the most popular and successful artist to the most hated. This culminated in the infamous Peekskill Riots of August and September 1949: an episode from which he was lucky to emerge alive. The following year, his passport was cancelled, and it would be another eight years before he was able to tour again. His health, his career and his reputation never fully recovered after that.

Remarkably, for one who was probably the most famous American of his day, Robeson is almost a forgotten figure today. It is therefore always a welcome sight when his name and story pop up, even if it is to use him (erroneously in my view) to promote an art exhibition.

Undermining Jeremy Corbyn

Another person who fell spectacularly from grace, thanks partly to mainstream media, is Jeremy Corbyn. What is interesting in his case is how selectively he is either ignored or remembered since his demise. Most of the time, it is as though he never existed, and you won't hear or read about him in the papers or in the news, even from people in the Labour Party he once led. Forgotten is the fact that under him, the Party became the largest political party in Europe. Forgotten, that when a snap General Election was called by Theresa May in 2017, Corbyn's Labour came barely 2000 votes short of victory. Forgotten, that following that powerful showing, people within the Party itself set about undermining him in collusion with the media and other Establishment figures to such an extent that by the time of the 2019 election, so much of the public had been turned against him and the Party that they badly lost the election.

It has also been forgotten that a report commissioned by the Party (never officially published but leaked) has documented the Party officials' and MPs' machinations. A further report commissioned into the leaking of that first report has, strangely, been repeatedly delayed. In the meantime, it has been acknowledged in a single programme on the BBC that there was never any evidence of anti-Semitism by Corbyn himself; and for an authoritative summary of why the allegations of anti-Semitism were either manufactured or grossly exaggerated, one has to go to the blog of a lone campaigner, Simon Maginn, to see how and why #ItWasAScam.

And when Labour, under its new, particularly uncharismatic and apparently unprincipled leader, Keir Starmer, performed poorly (and even worse than under his predecessor) in the recent Council elections, many current MPs and pundits have resurrected Jeremy Corbyn's name for the sole purpose of blaming him for the defeat of 2019 that they themselves had engineered! The haemorrhaging of members and funds from the Party since his departure seem not to trouble them as they prepare for the 2024 General Elections.

There are many more examples of politicians and elites using the media to persuade us to do or accept things that are palpably bad for us, others and/or the planet, whether through misinformation, obfuscation or suppression: the Iraq War; the Afghan War; Palestine; Yemen; the last US President and Julian Assange being just a few examples.

This indeed recalls Shakespeare's Othello, in which our tragic hero is persuaded by the constant whispering deceit of Iago into succumbing to "the green-eyed monster," and murdering his innocent young wife. While being nowhere near as serious or consequential a case of misinformation as many, this error by the Guardian in accepting (if I am right) the misidentification of Head of A Negro as Paul Robeson is another reason for us to "beware of the mainstream media."