Antisemitism in the UK

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Antisemitism in the UK

Many minorities are said to be ‘the new Jews’ because of the hate and bigotry they face. But this can sometimes ignore how Jews are still ‘the new Jews’. Antisemitism has become a serious problem in the UK since 2008. This article will attempt to analyse the reasons why.

 

The rise in antisemitism cannot be separated from the consequences of the 2008 crisis, which legitimized every form of racism and bigotry in British society, and the all-out assault on minorities since 2016. The weak, unstable and short-lived governments which imposed austerity also introduced and strengthened punitive anti-immigrant policies. Xenophobia and racism surged even more in 2016 following Brexit and the US election. While Brexit cannot purely be explained by racism, the referendum outcome legitimised existing anti-immigrant policies, stoking extreme nationalism and myths of going ‘forward to the past’. A common sentiment was ‘we voted for you to go home’.

 

2018 saw a ‘scandal’ involving the deportation of thousands of people who came to the UK in the 1950s and 1960s from the Commonwealth and held British passports – or had the ‘right to remain’ – a ‘right’ which means nothing for those chewed up and spat out by the UK state. The Home Office even produced a ‘guide to Jamaica’ for long-term residents who had not been there in decades, advising deportees to ‘adopt a Jamaican accent’. Disability hate crimes have soared in the years following 2008, due to marginalization and lack of support, social stigma and years of tabloid and state rhetoric about ‘scroungers’. With the housing crisis, soaring homelessness and extortionate rental costs, lack of job security and ability to save, the ripping out of the social safety net and the terrifying speed of climate change, we are all looking at a ‘cancelled future’.

 

Antisemites too are increasingly organised, confident and empowered.

 

The Community Security Trust, which monitors and records antisemitic incidents, recorded its worst ever number in 2017 at 1,382 (see p.4 of link), beating 2016 and 2015, which were both also ‘the highest on record’. Most of these incidents involve verbal harassment and abuse in the street, but also include property damage and violence. The recorded number for January to June 2018 is down on 2017, making it ‘only’ the second worst year ever, with around a hundred incidents recorded every month. A 2013 EU report showed 21% of Jews in the UK suffered harassment in the last 12 months (p. 6). Most hate crimes in the UK go unreported, suggesting the true incidence is far higher. The CST reported 145 violent assaults in 2017 (p.6) – with charges brought in less than a tenth of cases.

 

It is impossible to believe the incessant claims of antisemites to ‘just be criticizing Israel’, when one considers that antisemitism has returned with such viciousness as a political force when Jews are more critical of Israel than ever. Even the Board of Deputies of British Jews, notorious for being a conservative and slow-moving body, was among those criticizing Netanyahu’s new law enshrining religious discrimination into the constitution. This would have been unthinkable twelve years ago, when they organized poorly attended demos supporting Israeli stances. The Movement for Reform Judaism have criticised Israel’s prohibition on non-orthodox and secular marriages and ban on women praying at the Wall, and have taken part in protests against religious discrimination. Groups such as Jewdas are vocal in criticizing Israel’s policies against the Palestinians. Any view of Jews as ‘zionists’ unable to handle criticism of Israel has no basis in reality.

 

As the pro-Corbyn left enjoy pointing out, antisemitism exists in all political parties. Examples include Tory MP Aidan Burley who dressed up as an SS officer at a dinner party, and members of a Conservative Association at Oxford University singing Nazi songs and making ‘gas chamber jokes’. Lib Dems who have made antisemitic statements include Jenny Tonge and David Ward. David Icke was a Green Party spokesman in the 1990s; other ex-members have included Tony Gosling and the Holocaust denier Nick Kollerstrom. UKIP has shed its previous attempts at respectability politics to embrace the extreme right. Yet Labour under Corbyn has been hit by more accusations of enabling and covering up antisemitism than any other party. Corbyn supporters, with some justification, ask why he is being singled out for this criticism. Many, but not all internal critics of Corbyn have views substantially to the right of the leadership, and suspicion has arisen that these accusations are part of a ‘Blairite coup’.

 

Corbyn is not entirely responsible for how this situation has developed. His widespread popularity has ensured people on the fringes of anti-capitalist scenes, often attracted to conspiratorial views, have drifted into supporting or joining Labour. Any popular left-wing leader in the UK would have attracted the support of antisemites and would have struggled to tackle this problem, let alone one with Corbyn’s long history of questionable acquaintances. The organized far left in Britain has suffered defeat after defeat, and is largely invisible outside student activism and the public sector. When a popular leader finally achieves mainstream success with something resembling ideas they’ve devoted their lives to, some people see the mildest criticism as ‘sabotage’. This is exacerbated by the authoritarian, cult-like atmosphere common on the left, with party leaders using ‘democratic centralism’ to stay in power forever. The exposure of previous ‘scandals’ such as the ‘Comrade Delta’ rape case, was met with outrage and desperate attempts at a cover-up, with the SWP holding a ‘trial’ by themselves rather than facing exposure in the ‘bourgeois courts’. Now the stakes are higher, with the possibility of real political power for the first time in decades and the chance to ‘make the left great again’.

 

The nearest parallel to leftist antisemitism is probably leftist transphobia and ‘trans-exclusionary radical feminism’ (TERF ideology). TERFs use feminist language combined with conspiratorial rhetoric about a ‘trans lobby’ controlling the medical establishment and media. They claim ‘women and girls’, especially lesbians, are oppressed by ‘privileged’ trans women who ‘force their way into women’s spaces’ such as bathrooms. TERFs say they are ‘gender critical’, often proclaiming a ‘socialist’ or ‘Marxist’ ideology, and have won support among trade unionists, anarchists and the extra-parliamentary left, despite the well-documented links of TERF groups to the US far right. The furious denials from ‘moderate, reasonable’ people with ‘good politics’ that TERF arguments are based on bigotry, and their demands trans people take part in dishonest ‘debates’, should be familiar to anyone who has experienced antisemitism.

 

Leftists sometimes assume ‘fascist’ ideas are ‘far right’ economically, and socialists cannot be bigoted by definition. But most modern European antisemitism views Jews as powerful, rich, and evil. These beliefs can coexist with opposition to capitalism, believing there should be more money for the poor, investment in the health service, and so on; you can oppose and campaign against injustice while believing ‘the Jews did it’. There are only around 200,000 Jews in the UK, meaning many people have never met one, making stereotypes hard to challenge. Slogans associated with ‘the left’ are routinely employed by neo-Nazis, with banned terrorist group National Action vandalising a Jewish memorial in 2015 with slogans such as ‘1%’ and ‘bankers’. The NSDAP itself produced pamphlets encouraging a vote for Hitler to ‘bring down the system’ so the working class could take control.

 

Conspiracy theories are often seen as harmless and fun, and have gained mainstream popularity through being packaged as entertainment. However, they are an insidious way of spreading hate, fake history and pseudoscience. Conspiracy theories about the Rothschilds and the Illuminati proliferate on social media, often spread by professionals like David Icke, who has promoted the Tsarist-era forgery the Protocols of the Elders of Zion. As described in Norman Cohn’s book ‘Warrant for Genocide’, the Protocols purports to show a Jewish conspiracy and helped provide Hitler and the NSDAP with a justification for the Holocaust. Icke has worked with celebrities such as Russell Brand and hosted debates with the Canary editor Kerry Anne Mendoza, performed at music festivals around the world and been given sympathetic interviews on popular internet news outlets. Antisemitic conspiracy theorists deliberately present an image of themselves as being harmless cranks, thus avoiding serious opposition.

 

Discussions of antisemitism in the UK often overlook English nationalist mythology regarding World War II and the British Empire. English nationalism centres around WWII, Churchill and ‘Britain standing alone’ against ‘the Germans’, which often ‘stand in’ for modern-day Germany and the EU. This attitude trivialises the Holocaust and contrasts with state and media glorification of the British Empire and refusal to acknowledge the UK’s crimes, including against Jews. These include the infamous ‘blood libel’ myth of Jews drinking children’s blood, originating with the death of William of Norwich in 1144, and the ‘Edict of Expulsion’ by Edward I in 1290. This WWII obsession goes with a myth that the UK is more ‘generous’ towards immigrants, ‘less racist’ and ‘less antisemitic’ than other countries. The English nationalist attitude to Germany can be summed up in the phrase ‘two world wars and one world cup’, and Germans in the UK themselves face xenophobia.

 

As the last generation of Holocaust survivors and WWII veterans die out, post-Nazi social taboos about open antisemitism have lessened. In the world of ‘alternative facts’ online, deniers can easily portray the Holocaust as a myth. The UK’s failure to face up to its past, its glorification of the war, and the impression given by popular culture that the UK went to war to protect Jews against Hitler, fuels accusations that Jews are distorting and exaggerating the Holocaust, perhaps even starting it themselves. The SWP once did a ‘Sean Spicer’ on the Holocaust, mentioning every group to be killed except Jews. Jews are accused of ignoring Hitler’s other victims and those of other genocides, although it is not ‘Jews’ doing this, but nationalist British politicians. Holocaust memorial events organised by Jews, while being religious commemorations, emphasise non-Jews killed by the Nazis, other genocides in history and the importance placed in Judaism on resisting hate.

International developments also influence conditions in the UK. The 2008 crisis and the so-called ‘refugee crisis’ since the outbreak of war in Syria and elsewhere in the Middle East have acted as a catalyst for the extreme right across Europe. Many far-right parties are now in coalition governments. Hungarian and Polish neo-Nazis are active in the UK and leading figures from Hungary’s Jobbik such as Gabor Vona have spoken at events in London. Hungary and Poland are examples of authoritarian right-wing governments who discriminate against Jews and promote antisemitic campaigns on social media, and politicians from Ukraine and Romania have also made bigoted remarks. The Polish government made a law forbidding criticism of the country’s war record or stating Poles participated in the Holocaust, and Hungary has passed ‘Stop Soros’ laws preventing citizens from helping refugees, with George Soros depicted in a stereotypical Jewish way. Recently, Soros was blamed by the Telegraph for a ‘plot to stop Brexit’.

 

Mainstream and far-left groups in Europe have also embraced anti-migrant, islamophobic and antisemitic sentiments; this often comes with pro-Assad stances on Syria and the idea Syrian rebels are all ‘jihadis funded by Saudi Arabia and Israel’. Iran’s Press-TV has promoted Holocaust denial and ideas of a Jewish conspiracy as it uses Israeli state racism as a cudgel to attack Jews; Corbyn has been criticised for his repeated appearances on the channel. Russian disinformation campaigns to support Assad and Western ‘populist’ candidates have been covered in depth and do not need to be mentioned in detail here, but RT is popular and has employed antisemitic conspiracy theorists such as Tony Gosling. But Putin’s opponents sometimes play into such tropes by exaggerating Russian influence and ascribing dissent in British society to ‘foreign money’ and a ‘Russian conspiracy’ to undermine our society and values. The Economist’s depiction of Putin as an octopus tightening its grip around the world is an example of how these ideas are unthinkingly repeated.

 

The election of Donald Trump in 2016 provided a beacon and an inspiration for the extreme right. It’s hard to see accusations of bigotry as a ‘nuclear bomb’, when the president of the world’s most powerful country, and the UK’s most important ally, tweets racist things every day and rants about ‘shithole countries’. Trump has rarely (!) been openly antisemitic, despite using antisemitic dog-whistles in his campaign, and the Trump administration includes Jews such as Stephen Miller and Jared Kushner. But in 2017, neo-Nazis marched in Charlottesville chanting ‘Jews will not replace us’, killed one anti-fascist protester and threatened worshippers at a synagogue, while Trump criticised anti-fascists and talked about ‘right and wrong on many, many sides’. Trump has made the unacceptable acceptable even for his leftist opponents, none of whom are immune to prejudice. His constant incitements to hatred, instantly visible on social media, create a ‘hostile environment’ for every minority and embolden fascists and white supremacists worldwide.

Antisemitism in the UK is now an extremely serious social problem. It has been enabled by both the far right and left, as well as sections of the media and political establishment. Inaction on the left and a willingness to ignore and cover for antisemitic discourse has resulted in its widespread acceptance, as a resurgent far right takes power across Europe. Rather than concerning prosecco-sipping socialites earning more than 70k a year, antisemitism kills and hurts vulnerable people. In this it resembles transphobia, also dismissed as something only ‘millennials’ with ‘first world problems’ care about.

 

Many Jewish people have now lost all faith in the organised left and view socialist movements with mistrust. The left must not just cry about being ‘smeared’ and close ranks around their political leaders, but do something. They can start by challenging hate from ‘comrades’, examining their own behaviour, listening to people and believing their experiences, instead of saying, ‘Well actually, it’s about Israel,’ while ignoring naked antisemitism. If they really want to ‘condemn all forms of racism’, they must drive out bigotry and hate from their own ranks. Until then they are just another set of lying politicians.

 

By Rachael Horwitz

 

 

You can read more Ungagged writing here, or listen to more left views from the collective on our podcast

The Battle of Hawthorn Town Hall

Reading Time: 12 minutes
        

Last night shortly after I started this the battery in my modem melted down. It just stopped working, and on inspection it felt as though the interior of the battery had turned to mush. So today I will be spending the day without internet access until I can collect a replacement, hopefully tomorrow. This is somewhat disappointing, as I had intended to publish this story today, as it is a significant anniversary. Twenty years ago, on the 19th of July 1998, an incident took place which has become quite famous, or infamous depending on your point of view, in Australian political history. Or possibly mythology.

 

Pauline Hanson, the neo-fascist Queensland politician, was prevented from addressing a public meeting in Melbourne at the old Hawthorn Town Hall by a counter demonstration and picket. Much has been said and much has been written about the events of that day, both at the time and in the years since, absolutely none of it accurate. Despite the fact that at least 2,000 people were there that day, with some estimates saying as many as 3,500, only around a hundred people, half of them demonstrators and half of them cops, know what really happened. I am one of them, and I think the time has come for the story to be told and the record corrected.

 

 

In researching this story I have read a number of accounts of the events of that Sunday afternoon, from both left and right, and of course numerous media reports at the time, none of them remotely reflecting the true story. Of course this is in part because many of those discussing it didn’t actually see it, and tend to have an axe to grind, the Hanson apologists wishing to portray it as left wing thuggery (poor, misunderstood little fascists), a dastardly plot by the ALP or the Greens or, even less plausibly Militant, who had a negligible presence in Australia at the time and the leaders of the organised left wishing to paint it as a great victory for their tactics and strategy. In fact it was neither. The first point I have to address is the violence that really did take place and the reason for it. As with the fact that Hanson was prevented from speaking, everyone has sought to impose their own interpretation of this violence. For the Hansonites it was an outrageous victimisation, for the left a heroic stand against oppression and for the police, well they painted themselves as the victims too. Again, they are all wrong, and the truth is far more mundane, and far less flattering to all concerned.

 

 

For those who remember the incident, have you ever wondered why, although there were a number of injuries that day, there were no arrests? There’s no great mystery about it in fact. The simple truth is no arrests were made because no offences were committed. Not by the demonstrators at any rate. Unfortunately I can’t say the same for the police. The violence was on their part, and was entirely the responsibility of the sergeant in charge of the contingent of mounted police attending. Without orders, acting on his own initiative, he led his unit through the crowd in front of the town hall, riding down demonstrators and causing all of the injuries. The incident commander, who was inside the building at the time, was heard to be furious when he was informed of what had happened. He demanded they be called off, but this was not done for, again, one simple reason – the police comms failed.

 

 

But I’m getting ahead of myself, that was later. I haven’t arrived yet. The meeting was scheduled for 4pm, and I got there shortly before that in the company of two friends, a couple in fact, who were relatively inexperienced with demos and who were somewhat apprehensive given the trouble that had attended earlier One Nation events in Geelong and Dandenong. I was 33, and a veteran of numerous demos in Glasgow and London, so I’d sort of taken them under my wing. When we arrived most of the demonstrators were already there, the vast majority at the front of the town hall on Burwood Road. I suggested we take a walk around the whole block before joining them. This was basically a scouting mission to identify all the access points to the area, to work out where we could go if things turned ugly.

 

 

Now the geography of the place is key to this story, and building work means it no longer looks the way it did, so in the absence of an accurate diagram I’ll have to describe it as best I can. The town hall complex was on a corner. The cross street was Glenferrie Road. Part of the complex is, or at least was in 1998, the Hawthorn Police Station, which was around the corner and behind the town hall. Between them was an open quadrangle in use as a car park, with a larger car park taking up the diagonally opposite corner of the city block. There was access to the rear of the complex from that car park, across a wide area, and also by two narrow passages on either side of a smallerbuilding (not sure what that was, gone now) which occupied the actual corner, one along the side of the town hall and one along the side of the police station. At the rear of the hall there was a passageway along the back side of the building, about 12′ – 15′ wide, contained by a wall around 4′ to 5′ high, which allowed access to a side door. This wall had a gap of around 15′ – 20′ right at the back. To access the hall you would enter the passageway there, turn left and walk around the corner to the side door.

 

 

Much has been made of this layout by the Hansonites. According to this document, which appears to have been online since shortly after the day, the police were either weak or in league with the protestors, because it should have been easy for them to bring Hanson in by that side entrance. And it might have been, because I believe that had been their intention all along, if it hadn’t been for my scouting mission. Yes folks, confession time, I was the one who thwarted that plan. You see, when I saw that layout it was immediately clear to me what they intended to do. There were hardly any demonstrators at the rear of the town hall at this point. Adjacent to the gap in the wall someone had parked a Nissan Civilian, directly facing the wall. A Civilian is a small bus, bigger than a minibus, smaller than a city bus or a coach, holds about 30. It was dusty, white and unmarked. A bit like this:

 

 

 

It occurred to me that it would be the simplest thing in the world to bring up another similarly-sized vehicle to take the corresponding position on the other side of the gap, creating an easily defensible area into which they could bring her by car. Of course they didn’t want the demonstrators to realise what they intended to do, so they had left just one young cop to keep an eye on it. There were no demonstrators near it. When I figured out their plan, I went to the first stewards I could find and asked for a couple of dozen people to go and block the passageway. People who heard this started volunteering and soon we had what I estimated to be an adequate number, so I led them round there. As soon as we got there the single cop on lookout duty got on the radio, which was still working at that point, and cops started arriving from everywhere!

 

 

We were able to get roughly half way along the rear of the building before they mustered sufficient numbers to link arms and block our progress. Now I didn’t do a careful head count, but I’d estimate there were roughly 50 of us, and a similar number of police, some of whom arrived behind us so we were hemmed in. That was fine, because we had successfully blocked the passageway, and the police presence was effectively helping us to do that. Indeed at first they were pushing us in both directions at once. At that point I stuck my head up and loudly pointed out that this was what they were doing, and suggested they make their minds up. “Which way are you trying to push us?” They didn’t know. I’d rumbled their Plan A, and they clearly didn’t have a Plan B. But they stopped trying to push us from behind. Because of the wall there was nowhere for us to go anyway.

 

 

In this article, written by someone involved in the organisation of the demo, they claim that demonstrators linked hands all the way around the town hall, and bravely held out in the face of mounted police charges. The earlier document indicates that the Hansonites believed that too. Didn’t happen. In fact there were effectively two separate actions that day. The first, and the one that everyone saw, including the TV cameras, was at the front of the hall. Over 2,000 people participated there. The ill-disciplined action by the mounted police unit took place there, and those who faced that charge were indeed courageous. I want to be absolutely clear about that. I didn’t see it personally, but I know they stood their ground, and that deserves acknowledgement and credit. The decisive action however, the reason the police incident commander advised Hanson they could not guarantee her safety if she attempted to enter the hall, was carried out by me and my brave 50 out the back.

 

 

Once we and the 50 or so police who responded to us settled into our allotted roles that afternoon, we began to communicate. This is very important. If you ever find yourself on the front line of a demo, this is what you do. You keep up a dialogue. Now it fairly quickly became apparent to me who the natural leader amongst the police was. He was being extremely vocal, and was yelling, “Blood rule! Blood rule!” when I first noticed him. Remember, this was in the days when people were still fairly paranoid about blood, fully effective treatments for HIV/AIDS were not yet available, and all sports were rigidly enforcing blood rules whereby the slightest sight of blood would immediately see the player sent to the sidelines to be patched up. The pre-eminent sport in Victoria was of course Australian Rules Football (AFL), hereinafter referred to as ‘footy.’ So I looked where this guy was pointing.

 

 

He was right. There was a young guy on our side who was bleeding from a head wound. It wasn’t a particularly serious-looking one, and he almost certainly got it before he joined our number, but the blood was clearly visible. I worked my way through the crowd to reach him and told him to go and get medical attention. There was a first aid tent in fact, not more than about 50 yards from our position at the near corner of the larger car park. St. John’s I believe. He didn’t want to go, so I spoke to him in the voice I inherited from my father (the one that allows me to do gigs without a mic or busk in busy streets), making sure everyone on both sides heard me. I told him he was injured, that he’d done his bit, and that now he needed to go and get medical attention. I got the rest of my 50 behind me, and by moral suasion we prevailed on him to go. I took care to let him do so without losing face, and we even gave him a few cheers and a round of applause as he went. I then turned my attention to the vocal cop.

 

 

His name (and this alone shows that it was a more innocent time, the fact that many of the cops were still wearing their name badges, you don’t see that any more) was Constable N. Smith. I’ll explain the reason I remember that like it was yesterday in a minute. Now for my non-Australian audience, I should explain that police ranks in Australia are a little different to those you’d find in Scotland or the UK. Constables are obviously the same, but you also get Senior Constables. That’s sort of equivalent to a Sergeant. They wear two stripes. An actual Sergeant is equivalent to a UK Inspector, and a Senior Sergeant is equivalent to a Chief Inspector. The group who faced us were mixed, Constables and Senior Constables. So although Constable Smith was not the senior officer present, nobody seemed to be formally in charge, and he emerged as the natural leader. So once our wounded soldier had departed I got his attention.

 

 

I can’t remember my exact words, but basically I communicated to him, in far fewer words than I’m about to use, that our enforcing of the blood rule, at his request, was a good faith gesture, and proposed that we agree to broaden the understanding and adopt footy rules more generally. That meant a bit of push and shove, a bit of the old hip and shoulder, was fair game but there was to be no striking, no kicking, no tripping, no eye-gouging, no hair pulling, etc. Once that understanding had been reached, Constable Smith and myself kept up a continuous dialogue, with a bit of friendly banter, for the rest of the afternoon to ensure its enforcement on both sides. I soon nicknamed him ‘Norm’ because of the medal. The Norm Smith Medal is awarded to the player adjudged best on ground in every AFL Grand Final. It’s named for some legend of the game from way back. I want to say 1920s. That’s why I’ve never forgotten his name. Anyway, the dialogue worked and where we were there were no injuries and no arrests that day.

 

 

They did try to bring a couple of people through. One made it, albeit looking as though he’d been dragged through a hedge backwards (which he had really, a human hedge), the other didn’t. Nobody struck them, but we were completely hemmed in, forming a solid phalanx. There simply wasn’t room for anyone to move. Not that we were trying. Our intention was to put our bodies in the way and to block access. In this we succeeded, at least insofar as having seen the results of their attempts to bring people through our cordon, the commander recommended to Pauline Hanson not to try it, and told her, I would imagine, that he couldn’t make any promises once she was in the middle of the crowd. Due to the extremely restricted space there was no chance for either side to reinforce our numbers once the block was established. Would she have been unharmed if they had tried it? I don’t know. That was certainly my intention, but she does tend to attract a lot of hostility. I do know that in the case of those two of her supporters they tried to get through, they were not harmed, however we carried out our stated intention of doing our best to block their path.

 

 

So given all the above circumstances I am quite prepared to take responsibility for preventing her from addressing the meeting. I’d do it again in a heartbeat, and I’ll tell you why. I do believe in freedom of speech, as a general principle, with one vital exception – no platform for fascism. No right can ever be absolute, not in the real world. The reason for this is that there are overlapping rights, some of them a priorirights. All such judgements are a balancing acts. So where does your right to freedom of speech end? That’s not a rhetorical question. It ends with hate speech, because that infringes on certain a priori rights of others. Even Americans, who have more legal protection for the absolute right to freedom of speech than pretty much anyone, ought to understand this. The first rights their fledgling nation ever asserted for its citizens were life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. In that order. And that is entirely right and proper, isn’t it. The most fundamental right of all must surely be the right not to be killed. Hate speech leads to killing, it’s as simple as that.

 

 

That is why in countries not quite so obsessed with free speech there are laws constraining what you can and cannot say. Incitement to racial hatred for instance has long been a criminal offence in the UK, and that is entirely appropriate too. The problem is, and this is certainly the case in Australia as well as the UK, that allowances do tend to be made for politicians that would perhaps not be made for the rest of us (think of Donald Trump – much of what he says would be illegal in the UK or Australia, some of it probably is even in America). Stephen Yaxley-Lennon* is, in my view, one such politician. He is in jail for contempt of court, for defying a judge, not for the disgusting things he says, although arguably he should be. Pauline Hanson, who as you may have heard has called for his release, is another. She is a racist, a proto-fascist, what she says (some of which she has got away with under parliamentary privilege) is hate speech, and although she is not physically attacking people herself, views like hers legitimise and enable such acts in the minds of others, of her followers. Once you set out down that road it’s only going to end one way – badly.

 

 

And it’s impossible to escape the reality that fascism is a problem for us, the working class left, to deal with. Nobody else will do it for one thing. Remember in the 1930s none of the Tories, apart from Churchill famously, wanted to oppose the Nazis. They wanted to reach an accommodation with them. In Spain only the International Brigades, working class, left wing volunteers, went to the defence of the Republic. It’s our clothes they’re trying to steal and our people they are trying to recruit for another thing. The reason these ideas are so insidiously seductive is because they marry some left wing-sounding economic populism, which they invariably fail to deliver on when given the opportunity by the way, with the deeply rooted human tendency to out group hostility, xenophobia and scapegoating. It’s the worst part of our nature, and we know where it can end up go in an era where technology has made us far more dangerous than we ever were in the days when being that way conferred, presumably, some sort of evolutionary advantage. The price of freedom, as they say, is eternal vigilance, and the only thing a tolerant society cannot tolerate is intolerance. For these reasons we must be eternally vigilant not to tolerate this poisonous ideology ever taking root or thriving again. It is not within the boundaries of legitimate political opinion. The ordinary protection of political speech does not apply to it. It understands only the language of force and as our grandparents knew, it must be opposed, unconditionally and at any cost. Never again!

 

*the fuckknuckle who goes by the alias of Tommy Robinson

By Derek Stewart Macpherson

 

You can read more Ungagged writing here, or listen to more left views from the collective on our podcast

Norsefire on the Horizon?

Reading Time: 5 minutes

Norsefire on the Horizon?

We live in an age where senior SNP politicians are openly expressing worry about the rise of a far-right figure in England.  Alyn Smith, MEP, said that the situation in England is so precarious that one wrong move, so to speak, could lead to the emergence of the far-right.  Smyth cites Tommy Robinson, and the associated campaign to free him after he was rightfully locked up for contempt, while attempting to exploit trials involving child abuse to smear Muslims.  Smith’s conjuring of Robinson of course hints at the way all these causes of the right intersect with Brexit. Many people, mostly Labourites and Unionists, might make the charge that Smith’s comments are some attempt by the SNP to fearmonger, but those people don’t know Alyn Smith. He doesn’t do hyperbole. He can just sense the political mood, as many of us who have seen the grand catastrophe of Brexit can.  

I often cast my mind back to those early debates I had with some Lexiteers, including one with Corbyn’s now economic advisor.  While they said Brexit would pave the way for a veritable anti-neoliberal utopia of the left, one of our warnings was that Brexit would radicalise everything to the right. Well, we were 100% right.  

UKIP have always been a party of racists, including literal Neo-Nazis (the fact the disintegration of the BNP accompanied UKIP’s rise is no coincidence in terms of activists, members and electoral forces), but they always maintained a kind of right-wing Tory leadership. Norman Tebbit-like people who would maintain decorum while tolerating loathsome extremes in private.  The mask of plausibility in an age of multiculturalism and anti-racism (derided by the right under that vague spectrum of ‘political correctness’) – well, in today’s England, Brexit England, there’s no longer a need for the mask.

Now UKIP have a leader who is openly supporting the fascist, Islamophobic pogromist Tommy Robinson. Everything is being dragged rightwards in England, while the conditions of a ‘no deal’ Brexit might very well put all of us across these islands in uncharted political territory – I’m thinking of Weimar Germany in October 1929, when the Great Depression hit Europe like a tonne of bricks, and overnight revamped the at that point rapidly disintegrating NSDAP (the overall radical right, the Volkisch right, as they were called, were still alive and kicking in Germany, but the NSDAP were like a dying fish, following the Beer Hall putsch of November 1923 until the Great Depression).  Brexit could have similar consequences, especially the consequences of a ‘no deal’ scenario, which would splinter the British economy and lead to a social and economic crisis on par with World War 2, with potential food shortages and the possibility of a return of rationing.  Progressive politics rarely ever do well out of crisis –societies facing crisis almost always turn inwards and towards the most bestial instincts of such societies. In England, we can now see the kind of beasts of the far-right who could potentially capitalise on a Brexit dystopia.  Such a dystopia would’ve been unthinkable even 5 years ago, but now government departments are planning for it.

I don’t foresee a fascist party emerging as a serious force in the UK any time soon. But if you look at the balance of political forces in England, it’s more bleak than I’ve ever see – more bleak than I could ever have imagined when I first became politically aware during the Major years, when we were told, so famously, by a certain Mr Blair, that things could only get better.  My own view on the ascendant alt-left, namely Corbyn’s Labour, is that it would be a huge catastrophe, given the relation of their kind of pro-Putin politics, dressed up in the phony languages and symbols of the ‘anti-war’ movement and superficial notions of ‘anti-imperialism’, to wider global happenings that have a direct effect, a boomerang effect, on domestic politics.

But the rise of the alt-right in a similar fashion would represent something altogether more immediately sinister.  It’s perfectly true that the only two political leaders to call for triggering Article 50 on the night of the Brexit victory were UKIP’s Nigel Farage and Labour’s Jeremy Corbyn.  It’s also true that Corbyn espouses a ‘left-wing’ anti-immigration message regarding freedom of movement – he dresses up the old far-right slogan of ‘British jobs for British workers’ and the idea that immigrants drive down the wages of ‘indigenous’ workers in the language of immigrants being exploited by EU bosses.  No matter the spin of Corbyn’s supporters, it’s simply a form of racism associated with the conservative left that simultaneously reflects their conservative core, as well as acting as a device of populism, appealing to the reservoir of racism that lies behind our entire current predicament. However, to reiterate, the alt-left represent one kind of threat, the alt-right have these things at their political core and they represent the tip of an iceberg of concrete fascism.  

Thus far the alt-right have been confined to the fringes.  However, the Tommy Robinson affair, and UKIP’s embracing of it, as well as its connivance with fascist conspiracists like Paul Joseph Watson (the leader of the English wing of Alex Jones’ fascistic pro-Trump conspiracy media outlet ‘Infowars), are symptomatic of the radicalisation of the right.  In fully mainstream terms, we see the rise of old school League of Empire Loyalist type Tories like Jacob Rees-Mogg, who has direct links with people like Steve Bannon and British fascists. Both of these elements of the spectrum of the emergent alt-right grimly demonstrate that there is the bones of a genuine threat from the right that could capitalise on their political ground zero, their political point d’honneur, Brexit.  

It’s not just an English phenomenon, or a peculiarity of British nationalism – these kind of politics, the politics of neo-fascism, are being revived across the world, with Europe sliding rightwards against the liberal democratic grain.  We’ve seen a host of European countries experience either the alt-right gaining political power, such as in Italy, Austria, Poland and, of course, Orban’s Hungary – minorities are increasingly unsafe, with Muslims and Roma most in jeopardy.  But the rightward slide of the UK also has a direct and astounding international component – If someone told me almost 10 years ago that the Islamophobic fascist football hooligan, Tommy Robinson, he who started the EDL, and who is an almost comical caricature of a typical English racist, would essentially have backing from people serving in the administration of the President of the United States, I’d have considered the person to be having some kind of nervous breakdown.

It’s not quite Darkness at Noon here yet , but I remember reading the astoundingly brave anti-Nazi writer Fritz Gerlich (murdered in Dachau, after being arrested during the Night of the Long Knives – all that remained of him was his broken glasses, callously sent to his grieving widow) writing about how Nazism had come upon Germany like ‘a smouldering fire that in the blink of an eye turned into a terrifying blaze’.

I can really understand it. I can now understand how quickly you find that ‘civilisation’ is like a thin layer of ice over a sea of barbarism. We can now see the cracks. I genuinely wonder not if but when it will fully shatter.

After the shock of the Leave victory in the Brexit vote, I used to joke that the next stop was ‘Norsefire’, referring to the fictitious fascist party that rules England in Alan Moore’s V for Vendetta.  It’s becoming less and less of a joke every day.  Do I see Norsefire on the horizon? No, but I see the kind of people who would make up Norsefire stepping out of the shadows.

 

by Sam Hamad

 

You can read more Ungagged writing here, or listen to more left views from the collective on our podcast

May, You Live In Interesting Times

Reading Time: 5 minutes

May, You Live In Interesting Times

I was an enthusiastic participant in the original Pussy march in London on 21 January 2017, along with an estimated 5 million people worldwide – there were over 400 anti-Trump marches in cities across the world that day. It was unlike any other protest march I had previously joined, both in its organisation and its atmosphere; it had been entirely planned via social media which made it feel somehow ‘word of mouth’, organic and democratic. Although there was an organising committee and co-sponsors, it felt like a really populist (in the best sense of that word) occasion, and it is the first march I have ever been on which didn’t feature ubiquitous identikit SWP placards. All the banners and signs I saw that day were home-made, original and overwhelmingly witty; this felt like it was a march of mainly engaged, confident and articulate people. The atmosphere was positive, inclusive, good humoured and warm, despite the freezing winter weather. At that point, Trump’s election as president felt unreal and absurd, like part of the plot of a far-fetched dystopian sci fi film which had somehow bled off the screen and into real life, but there was also such an optimistic spirit in evidence that day that it also felt fixable.

 

My assumption at that point was that, once Trump was actually installed in the White House, the grown-ups would take charge. I’m just about old enough to remember Reagan, who was also something of an iconoclastic loose cannon on the campaign trail, but whose worst excesses seemed a little tamed once he took office. He was regressive, divisive and, quite frankly, dim, but there was always a sense that there were experienced advisors around him. The fear of nuclear war was very real during his presidency but I always assumed that there were cooler heads around the president and that their wiser counsel would eventually prevail.

However, as far as I can tell – and it is difficult to keep up with the rapid personnel changes around the president – Trump has fired all the grown-ups and either not replaced them at all, or replaced them with his own minions. First rate sycophants with fourth rate minds. He does not listen, he will not take advice which differs in any way from what he already thinks (although I use the word ‘thinks’ advisedly) and he takes capriciousness all the way to the point of perilousness and beyond. The Trump Blimp is absolutely spot on – here is a petulant baby, full of hot air and trapped in the day glo orange body of a dangerous and powerful world leader. On any given day, literally anything could happen in his world which could result in extreme danger to ours.

 

There were actually two marches in London today; one organised by Women’s March London, who were behind the January 2017 march and another hosted by Owen Jones and organised by Stop Trump. I was drawn to the first, which was titled Bring The Noise: as they explained:

 

Bring pots and pans; bring drums; bring musical instruments; bring your voices. We’re taking pots and pans from the domestic space of home into the public space of politics – their purpose transformed for participation, engagement and joyful noise as we bring Cacerolazo

 – ‘Casserole protest’ – to the heart of the city.

 

For someone who was born and bred in London, I am spectacularly bad at Londoning. I’m scared of the entire underground system, and I’m not great in crowds so it took me a while to walk across the city to find the march. By the time I did, it was well formed, joyous and noisy; there were plenty of home-made placards, plenty of wit, plenty of focused anger and plenty of pots and pans. Rather than join the front or middle, I stood at the side of the road to wait for the tail. It took 23 minutes for everyone to pass me, which gives some idea of just how many people there were (later estimates suggest that around 250 000 people were protesting in London today). I’m glad, in retrospect, that I had the chance to do this; in January 2017 I was in the middle of the group and so didn’t get the chance to appreciate the scale, or see all the banners. The march finished in Parliament Square, home of the glorious Trump Blimp and I am really glad that I will be able to tell my as yet unborn grandchildren that I witnessed it in all its orange magnificence. I listened to some moving speeches and poems (although I couldn’t see much, being a small woman at the back of a big gathering) before having to leave in search of shade and water.



The overall mood of the day seemed to me to be as positive, enabling and inclusive as last year, but this was an angrier march too, with a more focused, more determined undercurrent. There were representatives from many organisations (yes, I did see SWP placards this time); if nothing else, Trump has succeeded in uniting a lot of people. There was, of course, a heavy police presence – plenty of helicopters and blue lights  – but it was not heavy handed at all, as far as I could see. The officers were mainly observing passively, and giving directions to bewildered tourists, and seemed good natured and relaxed. I like to think that this is because they agree with the aims of the march, but of course I have nothing other than my sunny and/or feckless sense of optimism as evidence for this belief.

I know the PM has few people other than herself and her government to blame here, but I couldn’t help but have a pang of pity for her. We were on the streets, in the beautiful sunshine, venting our displeasure clearly, cleverly and with cacerolazo, while she has to be in the same room and breathing the same fetid air as this monstrous, maggoty excuse for a man. She has to witness his boorish buffoonery at close quarters, and remain civil and welcoming. I guess this proves that you reap what you sow. I guess this is karma for insulting your 27 closest allies and putting all your eggs in a tangerine, shit shaped basket. I guess this is how her future will look, presiding over the break-up and break down of the increasingly ironically named United Kingdom. Bowing, scraping  begging. Humiliating. 

 

There isn’t, apparently, an old Chinese curse which says ‘May you live in interesting times’ – there is no equivalent idiom in Chinese and the phrase was first recorded in the 1930s. It is a saying which has often puzzled me – I’m easily bored, why wouldn’t I want to live in interesting times? – but these last few years have helped me understand more profoundly the meaning; I would now quite like to have a few calm years with no alarms and no surprises. Please.

As Martin Luther King said, light always drives out darkness, and this current darkness will end, but there may be a lot of pain for a lot of people before dawn comes. Meanwhile, I hope Theresa May is extremely unhappy in living through interesting times, though. I hope Trump’s life is nothing but extremely interesting for the rest of his days. I hope they, and the other right-wing enablers who have unleashed the current darkness, intolerance, hatred and fear across the world never have a peaceful day again.

by Teresa Durran

 

You can read more from the Ungagged collective on our writing page, or listen to left views on our podcast

 

And you can download free anti-Trump posters and placards here – it’s not too late!

Trump Divides, The People Unite: Bridges Not Walls

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The STUC organised #dumptrump Anti-Trump Rally in George Square, Glasgow was a colourful and enjoyable affair. 

 

I suppose the good weather helped but there was a party atmosphere. Many different groups (there were three I’m a part of) there under the one cause of being against the racist, misogynistic, ruthless capitalist… you know the rest, “The Donald” Trump. 

 

There were Trade Unions (GMB, Unite, EIS and others), pressure groups (like Global Justice Now & Stand Up to Racism), political parties (Scottish Greens, Scottish Labour, Scottish Socialist Party) and ordinary members of the public. 

 

There was a large diversity in those attending. Age; there was a baby in a papoose, who really didn’t have a say whether to attend or not but there were a number of young people from 5 upwards, there, happy and having fun brandishing their homemade placards opposing the presence of the current incumbent of a great office. Also ethnicity (biggest ethnic diversity I’ve seen at a rally), social background (I hate the word ‘class’) – posh folk and ordinary folk like me. And a wide range of politics, albeit all on the left.  

 

As you will see in the pictures there were many home made placards deriding Trump and people were only too pleased to pose with them for my (and many others) pictures. This shows that they didn’t only want their hatred/disdain/etc of Trump to be noticed today at a rally but were happy for it to be shown worldwide, as people know that’s what happens to photographs these days. And everyone with a smile or pose for the camera. I hadn’t intended taking so many shots of banners & placards but they were fascinating, just wish I could have got them all. 

 

If only the left could unite on all causes like it did today. All there, all for one cause, happy, sharing stories, praising each other’s placards/banners and most importantly engaging the normally non-politically active members of the public. 

 

If we could do that, austerity wouldn’t have a chance! Bring it on. 

 

By Neil Anderson

 

You can read more from the Ungagged collective on our writing page, or listen to left views on our podcast

 

And you can download free anti-Trump posters and placards here – it’s not too late!

The Trumpist Welly Boot, Dog Walking Into Fascism

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Get your free Dump Trump placards here

The Trumpist Welly Boot, Dog Walking Into Fascism

Walking my dog this morning in a suburban Scottish park, I got into an argument about the UK visit of the President of the United States.  How fascism spreads – it seems to hit the middle class dog owners first.

The person I argued with is usually affable.  They usually nod in agreement at my disgust at whatever political storm is brewing here in Scotland, in the UK or in the world.

Today was no different until we started talking about Trump.  We spoke about how the SNP were doing (we are both pro- Scottish independence and a bit cynical at times, over how the SNP are doing).  WE spoke briefly about what was happening in Northern Ireland – always an obvious topic because of my accent, and then we got on to Trump.  And this is how it went.

Me:  Good to see so many people protesting Trump today.

Her: Oh, I don’t know.  He’s honest at least.

Me: (silence for an uncomfortable moment) The man is a fascist.  Mussolini was “honest!”

Her:  Maybe that’s what we need.  A bit of fascism.  The world is out of control at the minute.

Me:  (silence and facial expression, and stuttering to show my disbelief – then composed myself)  Have you heard the Sun tape this morning?

Her:  I have.  And it sounded as if he was right.  I mean, May is a terrible Prime Minister.  Boris would at least be a new broom sweeping clean. If we had him negotiating Brexit, we’d be out by now.

Me: (Stopping walking, turns to face her with incredulous look on my face) You voted Remain!

Her:  Yes, but we are where we are.  May is going to crash our trade.

Me:  He’s a racist!  He is a misogynist!  He has already started a trade war with us that is costing jobs here at the very least!

Her: He’s broken no laws.

Me: Mussolini broke no laws.  The Nuremburg Race Laws were not broken by the Nazi’s…

Her:  You are being ridiculous.  Trump isn’t Hitler.

Me:  You are right.  But he has passed anti-muslim laws, and has separated children from their families…

Her:  They shouldn’t be there!  Immigrants shouldn’t cross borders…

Me: That is just ridiculous..!

Her:  He’s right… Europe isn’t like it was when I was young.  The culture is being changed by these people flooding in…

Me:  You mean brown people…

Her:  Exactly.  Even here [suburban, middle class, 99% white] I see a real change. The fabric of Bearsden is being changed.  We are losing our culture…

Me:  (it’s before breakfast… I am stunned by this!)  Our culture..?

Her:  Yes.  I mean, I live near the local primary school.  The amount of people in hijabs…

Me:  I cant believe you are saying that!  A few years ago, people used to say the same about Irish people… I would have been accused of “changing the fabric of Bearsden…!”

Her:  Yes, but that’s different.  That was wrong.  But they are changing our laws…

Me:  (realising I am talking to the nouveau-raciste) The only laws that have changed are ones that target people of colour… I wonder how many Windrush folk in Scotland were deported, or threatened with deportation?  How many of those hijab wearing womrn have been spat at or shouted at?

Her:  Ack, that doesn’t happen!

Me:  Really?  As a white, middle aged man with an irish accent, I’ve been shouted at and called names countless times by those who are full of Bearsden Culture… I cant imagine how those of colour have been attacked…

Her:  Well we aren’t going to agree.  Trump is good for Scotland.  Look at the business he has brought here…

Me:  He’s squashing business here!  He has imposed import taxes on lots of our products!  He is costing us business.

Her:  He protects his country.  That’s the sort of leader we need.  We need a Trump here.

Me: (losing is a bit) Like Tommy Robinson?  Farage?  Boris?

Her:  Exactly.  That’s what Scotland needs.

At this point I was on the verge of shouting.  It was 8am.  I needed to get away. So I hitched my dog on to its lead to walk off, with the parting words,

“You’ve given me the fear.  I really am scared by what you’ve said.  I wasn’t going to go to the protest against the racist, proto-fascist misogynist today in Glasgow, but I know I need to.”

Her:  We should be welcoming him.

I shook my head and walked off.

Mussolini talked about changing society to a fascist one, not by sending in the jackboots.  To paraphrase him, he said a chicken will scream if you pluck it a handful of feathers at a time.  But pluck it feather by feather, it won’t notice until it is too late.

I noticed the mottled pink, scarred,  flesh showing through this morning in suburbia.

See you on the streets.

 

Neil Scott

You can read more from Neil on his Ungagged Writing page and hear him on our podcast

 

Ditch the Donald, Dump the Trump

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Ditch the Donald, Dump the Trump

free protest signs

Want to carry a super cool protest sign for when the orange menace visits the UK, but you aren’t very artsy? We’ve got you covered. Our art department (the brilliant Red Raiph and Debra Torrance) have created a whole range of  Dump the Trump posters that you can download and print off to use absolutely free. After all, he deserves an appropriate welcome.

 

We’ve got full colour, black and white for cheaper printing, images to scrawl your own slogans on, have a scroll through and take as many as you like:

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Again, you are welcome to download as many of these images as you like to use for your own protest signs, give them to friends, use them as posters, share them online, whatever you like, absolutely free, but if you’d like to make a donation, you can find our collection tin at paypal.me/ungaggedleft

AUOB? Kick Out The Fascists

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Ball to the Wall

Tommy Ball

AUOB? Kick Out The Fascists

Why YES doesn’t need fascists marching under our banner

 

The Yes campaign/movement is one of the most remarkable organic movements in history. Opposed by the British government, the Crown, and all but one daily and Sunday newspaper (and increasingly, seemingly, by its own major political party), it seems to have lost little, if any, support in the four years since the first independence referendum. It retains its civic characteristic, having steadfastly refused to be racist or isolationist; violent or bigoted. This has disappointed a great many people on the British government side of the constitutional debate.

 

Yet we have a dirty little secret, and that secret needs to be outed, aired, and smashed.

 

We all have differing opinions on the value of marches and parades, and the participants therein (my own view of the latter coincides remarkably with my opinion on what sort of potatoes ought to be consumed on a Sunday). Let us concede that the independence march this month in Glasgow, at least, did no harm.

 

I was cheered to see a banner on the march bearing the legend TORY SCUM OUT. This annoyed precisely the right people. Staunch, florid-faced, tweed-wearing chaps who have spent their political careers defending rape clauses and poll taxes miraculously transformed into a bizarre cross between Maude Flanders and Kenneth Williams upon seeing it. Demands were made of Nicola Sturgeon – a First Minister who could never be accused of taking too close an interest in the wider Yes movement – to apologise for/immolate herself in a baby box in protest at/condemn the banner. Questions will be asked in Holyrood in the shrillest of fashions. Stephen Daisley was said to have collapsed in shock and was only induced back into consciousness by the wafting of a pie in front of several of his chins.

 

But here’s the thing. They were right.

 

Not about the content of the banner, nor that it was or is wrong to hate Tories. These people are worthy of our hatred and contempt. They force rape victims to undergo interrogations to prove they are worthy of state support. They pack black British citizens into aeroplanes and deport them to Jamaica. They drag disabled children into assessment centres to satisfy themselves that they’re “disabled enough” to deserve support. They are scum. And they do need ousted.

 

But what they don’t need to be ousted by is Siol nan Gaidheal, the makers of said banner. This is an ethnic nationalist grouping. A bona-fide blut und erde gang of fascists. They see our English neighbours not as partners in rebuilding our country, but as a fifth column; an enemy within.

 

It shames us to have such people marching in our demonstrations. And it needs to stop now. We pride ourselves on inclusiveness, but that inclusiveness can never and must never extend to those who would be exclusive. “Our” fascists are still fascists. And fascism must always be opposed.

 

What SnG is doing to us is exactly what Britain First is doing to Centrist Das. TORY SCUM OUT is our equivalent of “WANT TO STOP THIS PUPPY BEING TORTURED? LIKE THIS BRITAIN FIRST PAGE”. It’s not good enough. These people ought to be persona non grata-d from our campaign.

 

The problem with Unionism is that too many good people stood back and watched the far-Right take over on the ground. They normalised the far Right within Unionism. We don’t need that.

 

We need to exclude if we want to be inclusive. A nationalism which panders to fascism is not one of which I want any part.

 

The next time SnG turn up to a Yes march, imagine what you’d think of them if they carried a Union Jack instead of a Saltire.

 

The only thing a fascist needs is a boot to the face. He doesn’t need embraced by a campaign like ours.

 

I’d rather a break bread with a thousand Tories than a single Scottish fascist. Let’s nip it in the bud and nip it now.

 

 

Tommy Ball contributes to the Ungagged Podcast. You can find more of his Ungagged Writing here.

Battle of Backwater Bridge

Reading Time: 4 minutes
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Victoria Pearson

 

The situation in North Dakota took a significantly more sinister turn on Sunday, as militarised security personnel began to attack unarmed water protectors with water cannon, tear gas, rubber bullets, and concussion grenades.

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In a move condemned by both the UN and Amnesty International, water cannon were deployed against unarmed peaceful protesters, including elders and children, during freezing conditions. Journalists on scene reported ice forming on the protester’s clothing and skin, triggering cardiac arrest in one elder, who is currently in a critical condition in hospital. Latest reports state that over 300 people are injured, with 27 needing hospital treatment for a variety of injuries including hypothermia, fractures, sight and hearing damage and injuries from rubber bullets. One unarmed 21 year old woman, Sophia Wilansky, suffered a direct hit from a concussion grenade which injured her so badly she is now facing having her arm amputated (you can help with her medical costs here ). She remains in a critical condition.
The Standing Rock Sioux Tribe have been protesting the pipeline since April, and during that time Ungagged has witnessed influential voices within the camp, including Ruth Hopkins, who gives us regular updates when she is able, repeatedly requesting that protesters standing with the tribe remain peaceful and unarmed, to prevent law enforcement using that to excuse excessive force. As she said on twitter:

“we stay unarmed while protesting because they’ll use the sighting of any weapon to kill us like they did at Wounded Knee”

Live streams from various media organisations, including Unicorn riot, show protesters either standing still, dancing, or trying to hide behind makeshift plastic shields, while they are attacked by police who stand behind a barricade of razor wire, concrete barricades, and burnt out cars.
Nevertheless, mainstream news organisations in the US have described the Protest as a “riot” and have unquestioningly accepted the sheriff spokesman’s explanation that the water cannon were used to try and put out fires set by the protesters.

The tribe insist that the fires were in fact mostly started by police, although they say some were started to try and combat the freezing conditions. Given that so many people in the camp are suffering hypothermia after being doused with freezing water during the coldest part of the night, this doesn’t seem unreasonable. Live stream footage clearly shows a few small fires, which are not out of control in any way, and water cannon being directed squarely at protesters, and journalists who are nowhere near the fires. At one point during the livestream, the water cannon trajectory is changed to aim the water blast at media drones streaming the atrocities to social media.
It seems self evident to me that if the police were bravely battling a violent riot without using excessive force, they’d have no problem with being filmed, in fact would welcome it. Instead, they are reportedly using signal jamming equipment to interfere with live streams and social media access. Police in the area have refused multiple requests to confirm or deny this.
The conflict began around 7pm (ET), when the Water Protectors made a further attempt to remove the blockade of burned out vehicles at Fort Rice on Highway 1806, erected by the National Guard on October 27th 2016, to restore access to the road. The police responded by forming a line to kettle the Water Protectors on Backwater Bridge, firing water cannon from one side and tear gas, pepper spray and rubber bullets from the other. Trapped in the crush and unable to escape the gas, which is designed to induce panic and reacts painfully with water, protesters were reportedly vomiting and losing control of their bladders in response. A journalist from Unicorn Riot was shot in the abdomen with a rubber bullets, which tore through their press pass.IMG_20161122_123053.jpg

Despite calls of condemnation from leading human rights groups, Mandan Sheriff Jason Zeigler is unrepentant about the use of water cannon, and won’t rule out using them again.

“It depends on the circumstance, if it’s the force necessary to maintain control and order and to keep them from throwing rocks and burning logs at our police officers to try to, you know, maintain law and order, yes,” says Zeigler.

This would appear to be in direct opposition to their position two days prior to the use of water cannon, the 18th November, when the sheriff’s office put out a statement of concern for the protesters, citing the cold temperatures and wind chill as potential dangers, and offering advice to protect from hypothermia, frostbite and pneumonia particularly for “infants and the elderly” who they are aware are in the camp.
Morton County sheriffs office confirmed that there had been one arrest at the protest, and that one officer was bumped on the head with a rock.

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How to help:
• You can contribute money to the protester camp’s official GoFundMe account, which will go toward purchasing water, food, propane, blankets and other supplies. Cheques, cash or supplies (an extensive list of what they need is here) can also be sent through the mail to:
Sacred Stone Camp, P.O. Box 1011, Fort Yates, ND 58538
OR
202 Main Street, Fort Yates, ND 58538
Alternatively, you can also supplies via the group’s Amazon WishList. 

• You can also donate to the Sacred Stone Legal defence Fund
Protesters have set up a legal defence fund to help defray the legal bills of those involved in the protests. To save the group processing fees, you can also donate directly to their PayPal account at freshetcollective@gmail.com.
• You can call the people who have the ability to do something.

A. Jack Dalrymple, Governor of North Dakota: 701-328-2200
B. Army Corps of Engineers (demand to reverse the permit): 202-761-5903
C. The executives at Energy Transfer Partners, the company building the pipeline.
i. Lee Hanse
Executive Vice President
(210) 403-6455

ii. Glenn Emery
Vice President
(210) 403-6762

iii. Michael (Cliff) Waters
Lead Analyst
(713) 989-2404

• Or you can sign the petition here

Sleepwalking to the Abyss

Reading Time: 5 minutes

 

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Allan Grogan

 

 This piece originally appeared on Allan’s  website

2016 has been some year so far. A year in which Scotland once again failed to qualify for an international football tournament and 2 months into the new qualifiers already look out of the next one. A year which every celebrity is wondering if they will be next for the Grim Reaper.

In politics the shocks just keep on coming, with pollsters wondering if they are remotely relevant at all. Following a 2015 election win for the Tories they overtook the Labour Party to become the official opposition in the Scottish Parliament at the Holyrood elections this year. Following that was the earthquake referendum result which saw Britain sign up for an EU exit resulting in a PM departure, A new PM unelected by party or public and a strengthening of mandate for a Labour leader trying to bring the party back to its founding roots. Now finally a new President of the United States, not the one that was expected or for most within America and around the world..wanted. The TV star and multiple business failure Donald Trump.

Pollsters are shocked, the public are stunned. Just what is going on with the western world at the moment? Why is fear and hatred winning out over logic, reasoning and compassion? What kind of society and world are we heading into? Well perhaps we are already there.

For years the Third Reich in Germany, Hitler and the Nazi’s have been a curious fascination to many, prompting thousands of books and documentaries of their rise and fall out of power. It has always seemed so surreal. How could a country allow itself to be engulfed by an such a monstrous ideology led by crazed and evil men who wished to destroy a race of people and the very notion a of civilised world. For many German citizens at that time they don’t really recall how it happened they just seemed to sleepwalk into it. As bizarre as it seems we here in the UK are sleepwalking towards this more and more.

After the First World War, Germany was in a state of disarray, an attempted takeover by the communists which was ill planned and without mass support was soon extinguished after a split between the Bolsheviks and the SPD who stated;

“ Socialism cannot be erected on bayonets and machine guns. If it is to last, it must be realised with democratic means. Therefore of course it is a necessary prerequisite that the economic and social conditions for socializing society are ripe.”

Needless to say it was soon destroyed by the ruthless Freikorps. What followed was a weak democracy which accepted in full the demands of the Treaty of Versailles in spite of the impact it had on the German people’s self pride and their finances. Through mass loans from the US the German economy was able to rebound until the Wall Street Crash in 1929 when the US required all debts to be re-paid sending the German economy into a tailspin leading to huge volumes of quantative easing leading to a huge deflation of the mark.This led to the rise of extremes,with the public utterly disillusioned with a government and a system it no longer trusted seeking alternatives… any alternatives. Sound familiar? Hitler who had been seen as a comedic figure and as such gained more traction in the press than most of the minority parties. Hitler used this notoriety to send the message of hatred and fear that eventually led to the rise of the Nazi Party and the Third Reich.
To see a re-run of this in modern day look out for the satirical film on Netflix ‘Look who’s back.’ Hitler was entertainment value for the democratic elite (See Nige Farage).

There were many Germans who were hurt, angry and frustrated following the First World War. For some they found their home in the National Socialist movement. Like wise after the crash in ‘29 and the weak and insipid responses by the Weimar Government. Germans looked to extremes and Hitler’s message of blame was seen by many as a solution. Why take responsibility or accept shortcomings when the blame can fall on the Versailles traitors, Jews and others who are not ‘us’.

Yet in spite of this the Nazi Party never received a majority vote in multiple party free elections. How then did they come to power? Edmund Burke’s famous line is most apt. While those who wished to change the system to harsh bigoted and fascist extremes did so. Those on the left were a disorganised rabble obeying orders from Moscow no matter the damage. While most Germans just stood back and got on with life. Those who survived the experience looked back on this time as simply not recognising the symptoms and the growth of fascism before it was too late. Are we likewise? How far to extremes will we go before we awake from this slumber.

Since the ascent of New Labour there have been many warnings as to the rise of the far right with parties such as the BNP and EDL rightly investigated and outed for the organisations they really are. Since that time however we have had a Conservative Government aided by a right wing media in attaching blame for the financial crisis, not at the banks or big business which led us to ruin and refuse to pay tax. Rather at an easy target without the financial muscle to fight back. The poor, the disabled and migrants coming into the UK to find work. Despite tax evasion costing some £14bn last year to an estimated benefit fraud between £1.6 bn -£3.3bn.

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Make no mistake the ascension of ideologies of Donald Trump and Nigel Farage have long been in the making. One need only to look at Benefit Britain on Channel 5 or…. well basically any article in the Daily Mail for the last 10 years. The rise of Nigel Farage, even when an unelected leader of a small political party into becoming a regular on media should set alarm bells ringing. Remember in Germany who was also given free press as he was seen as a fool.

Perhaps the biggest mistake we made when seeking out the rise of the right in the UK was that we looked to the BNP to backstreet pubs and shady politics when the real dangers were dressed in expensive suits under the guise of a quiet Home Secretary keen to observe your internet searches and a bumbling Mayor of London. The notion that we are sleepwalking into the abyss should have been awoken with the Nazi-esq front page of the Daily Mail calling UK judges enemies of the state for daring to rule in favour of the democratic rule of parliament.

How did we get here? Yes the governments more extreme ideologies are beginning to show more with May than Cameron’s ‘Compassionate Conservatism,’ Yes we have a right wing media with a clear agenda to suppress any notion of progressive politics but we too as the left must hold our hands up as culpable too. For far too long and far too often we have fought each other rather than the real enemies of working class people. Too often have we embraced ism’s to attack our own declared the state of the world is purely down to bigotry, sexism and racism. That Donald Trumps success was working class men trying to hold onto power! That the leave victory is down to ignorance, racism and bigotry.

This is a sham. Yes, racism and intolerance has begun to breed in this country and other parts of the western world. But it is not the cause rather the effect of factors that for too long we have neglected to address. This lazy blame culture removes the need for real assessment of the lefts failure to articulate solutions to the social and economic conditions that are prevalent and have allowed the right and far right to successfully peddle these distortions based on fear and hatred.

How long will it be before the left decide it is better to understand than to grandstand? To find solutions than to find someone to blame? More worryingly how much more will it take for the people of this country and others to wake up and begin to reject this move towards a fascist state?

With the election of Trump the coronation of May and potential far right gains in France and Germany next year, How much longer will good men and women do nothing and allow the triumph of evil over hope and progress?