The Scottish Socialist Party suffered yet another set back as their National Secretary, Connor Beaton, sensationally quit the party on Saturday due to “serious political shortcomings” within the organisation, and accusations that the left wing party’s internal democracy is “fundamentally broken”.
Mr Beaton defended his record as National Secretary, since being elected 18 months ago in modernising the party’s internal communications and in building positive relationships with other organisations on the left, such as Radical Independence Campaign, Living Rent, Fans Against Criminalisation, the Scottish Palestine Solidarity Campaign, the Catalan Defence Committee Scotland, Anti-Capitalist Queers, and the Student Solidarity Network. However he feels he has been undermined at every turn by members of the Executive Committee who opposed his initial candidacy for the position of National Secretary.
Beaton claims a group on the SSP Executive Committee wish to exclude the wider membership from the decision making process and accused National Spokesperson Colin Fox of abusing his position by regularly phoning branch secretaries and instructing them as to how their members should vote in internal elections. He told Ungagged;
“Political power in the SSP is held by a small handful of individuals who despite assertions to the contrary, function as the SSP’s de facto leadership and continue to try to centralise power even further.”
It marks a new low point for the SSP who at its height in had six members elected to the Scottish Parliament in 2003 but failed to have any elected four years later after former leader Tommy Sheridan tore the party apart over a court action that ultimately lead to him being jailed for perjury.
The SSP experienced a brief renaissance in 2014-2015 after their successful involvement in the Yes campaign but saw another exodus of members after their ill-fated decision to affiliate to “RISE – Scotland’s Left Alliance.
You can read more views from the Ungagged collective here, or hear a range of left views on our podcast
Things were so much more simple back when I wanted them to be. Solutions were easier. Socialism was the answer and what THAT was was plain to see – to me. Until I met the left organisations that call each other “comrade,” but hate each other’s guts.
Sorry granddad, I should have listened to your story about your day of being a member of the post war Communist Party. How you treat your activists really does show the change you want to be in the world.
This piece will mention various wee groups (because they are wee – but some have inordinate power because of how they insert themselves in unions, campaigning and professional bodies). I apologise to you for that. If you want to continue reading this and don’t want to be confused by their names, think Monty Python. Think “SPLITTER!” And think “Enemy of the Party…” If you don’t know what they are, they will have a label for you. You are either a neo-lib, a Blairite, a Tory or a traitor or worse. Or a potential member with money and newspaper selling capacity. When you begin selling those newspapers, expect praise, and condemnation in equal measure. And whatever you do, don’t ever believe giving the papers away is a good way to get your message out. Taking that pound from that wee woman on her way to get her fivers worth of groceries is part of the bigger picture that will save that wee woman from the hell of not being able to afford Friday’s tea. Politics at present are odd, and I’m not sure of where we go. Trump draining a swamp, to replace it with a huge hole filled with shit; Brexit; a Scottish government with no credible opposition, plus a UK party in power that is dead but floating like a sparkling turd in the mire and actual seig-heiling Nazis on our streets, smashing up bookshops AND with power…
Don’t read this for answers. It’s about questions. And if you are happy in your cadre, this isn’t for you either. To be honest, if you are happy with your corner in the current polity, stop here. And if David Icke, Stephen Yaxley-Lennon etc hold some truths for you, please go join one of the groups I mention below and have your head at least sorted to move to my level of cynicism. It took me 13 years in one. You never know, if you join, you might find some level of comfort. You might find answers in local campaignsg (as I did) and you might find a parent who will make the tea while you sell papers.
For years I wouldn’t join a political party (I dipped in to a couple and promptly got my coat). I never joined a left faction either. I joined the Scottish Socialist Party (SSP) in 2002 because it seemed to be bringing factions and left individuals together. That was smashed of course, by the Sheridan show, the Socialist Workers Party (SWP) and the “Bambury – ites” (those who worked with Chris Bambury within the Socialist Workers Party and then split from that party to form a small Scottish Trotskyist faction), 2005-07. I stayed with that party and probably should have left in 2011, but a combination of a great active local branch and the promise of the up coming independence referendum kept me there and by 2015, had me crushed between machinations of two groups of splinters from the oldMilitant Tendency and the SWP. I left, sanity almost intact. Almost.
After the war which he spent in a factory in Lisburn County Down, building amphibious aircraft wings and being radicalised, my granddad decided to join the Communist Party and help at the 1945 election. The party at that time had a decent membership of over 1000 people. He and his comrade were given the task of monitoring a polling station and were told by a party official, importantly for poor working class people, that they would be supplied with lunch.
Labour in Scotland and the dreadful way the UK Labour Party have dealt with the anti-semitism row has ensured I stay clear of that mire. And personality politics, and the meeting of right and left in one party has kept me away from SNP and Greens (though both have got a lot of positive things going for them, and Im sure given their current message/ makeup etc, I’ll vote for them at the next election).
The left as defined by the original SSP of the early 2000’s I joined no longer exists, and can’t exist under the conditions created by vociferous mini-groups on the left with inordinate power in the press and within movements (and fronts) here, and the strength of theSNP. It cant exist now as one of the original factions that shared power controls it completely. The passion of some individuals within it is there, still, but they are voices that whisper distrust even when they herald comradeship. And all of them either accept the current long term parentage, or are enthusiastic for it. At present, I don’t feel the parameters of the existent, proactive left in the Scottish “Yes” movement work for me, or for that matter a positive vision of a better Scotland. I also feel the activities policed by a wider Yes movement dependant on money from rich SNP members, and organisations “ok’d” by the new unknown Central Committee (ie who decide who can officially take part in the nextindependence referendum), and a movement almost incapable of self criticism levelled at the pursuit of being better than what we are supposedly fighting against, ensure strife amongst those of us really not interested in replicating a Scottish version of late 20th century UK. You may not be familiar with a lot of what I say regarding Yes, or left movements. Some of you will be. If you have any questions, ask them below. Or on twitter. Or Facebook. Dont expect definitive answers on everything. But I’ll definitely get back to you. Though I’m not your mum, dad, leader, or person with all the answers. Subjectivity is understood by the right wing. The left tries to erase it from all they do, so objectively, conditions are better or worse for all when measured using their particular metre sticks. My 30 cm ruler is mine, and has measured a lot of rooms of people sagely nodding that one faction or another’s meter stick is a metre and not just clever guesses at distance.
This whinge isn’t, of course, just about the left Yes movement. It is about much more. It is, I suppose about how people interact with each other. And how some seize narratives and sew truths that pull people down rabbit holes that are new or established. It’s about how “the bigger picture” becomes “means to an end,” and “casualties of war,” and “collateral damage.”
I think there are good people with good intentions across left groups in Scotland, and the UK, but I feel the present our “Yes” movement and the left in general, is going to be walled in by self-righteous, mostly well meaning, middle aged men. The butterflies have all been painted grey and pinned to a baize covered ply board. This also goes for the left in England, Wales and Ireland. Subtleties are lost. People are lost. People become collateral damage. Enemies of the party; their faces ground into the mud are a means to an end. An unavoidable stepping stone to a better Scotland and a better world.
I’ll still vote Yes in an independence referendum here, but I don’t know what that, as a progressive, means now. Yes, no more shitty Westminster Tories, but it can’t JUST mean what the Bambury – ites say in their columns in The National, The Herald, etc; it doesn’tJUST mean what the SNP say, Labour say, the SSP say, or the SWP, CWI or Solidarity/Sheridan/Hope Over Fear. And it doesn’t mean what my analysis is either.
My Grandfather voted Communist in 1945. I wonder how unusual that was for someone perceived to be of the Unionist community at the time? Was the Unionist community different in those days? He wanted a better world for his young wife and his two wee daughters. He wanted a world much better than the poverty and death of his father. Were the CPNI a unionist party, promoting the British Union as the way to socialism/communism? They obviously offered hope to workers like my Granddad. And I don’t doubt there were many who thought the same as him. It cant have been a bad organisation.And the “good” press the Red Army got when it entered Berlin MUST have had an effect on working people. He and his comrade sat and counted voters in and out of the polling station, their heads buzzing with the new society the Communists would bring. Modernity, and scientific production that meant no-one would go without. A management of the means of production by those concerned with meeting demand rather than creating it… Simple.
A new Scotland and world is possible, but as others have been saying lately, reliving and repeating by rote, lessons learned from failures of the old left/national/other movements, and almost universal agreement on what we did right (when results of movements are, in reality, dependent on something more than binary results of activity) does not move us into our new world. We celebrate anniversaries. We celebrate glorious defeats. We stand in solidarity when there is injustice. We rail against dystopia.We don’t design utopia.And at present the left seem to be debating just how high the floodwall on this safe space for the middle classes should be. They are debating just how devoted some of those w”on our side” rally are. No one is really talking about raising all boats. No-one is really analysing if the alternative to perpetual Tories is the best alternative.
Listening to Labour, listening to the “Yes Scotland” left within and without the SNP, and seeing a hard left churn out the same things they have for decades and expecting different results, I am confused by what our demands are. I’m confused at what our movement is. I’m confused at what organisations that fear off message questions, the internetand leaked minutes can offer today’s world of multiple personalities, identities, and vast networks.
I have little to say to those on the left who tacitly approve continuity Assadist fascism, or those who feel the Rothschilds /Zionists /Jews control the world/the Tories /New Labour. They aren’t on my side, nor the peoples, but for some reason have found themselves through odd deformed analysis, supporting antisemitism, racism, torture and police states. They believe that there are baddies whose analysis is death. They don’t see the grey – the inability to analyse the huge deluge of information an interlinked, fast moving and densely populated world brings. Syria and the subtleties of anti-Semitism are two examples in a world where some on the left are making odd alliances. A Tower built on analysis that cant possibly be wrong, can it? Yet all of these people want a better Scotland and a better world, don’t they? They seem to be preaching revolution for us, but not those trapped in Assad’s totalitarian state.
I have little to say to those waving Marx around like preachers did with filtered excerpts from the bible on street corners in Northern Ireland all through my life there, and selling their pamphlets and papers that reveal the opening of the seals. Nor do I have much to say, any longer, to those who urge people to sign petitions in order to get them to part with a few coins.
Standing on a cracked paving stone, shouting “LAVA!” at those walking, crawling, shovelling, bleeding by, really doesn’t cut it.
In a political world contracting behind corporate leaders, walls, fractious self absorbed /self aggrandising left leaders etc, what unites us? Is it just what we are against? What is the progress we aim for that is new? What is this new world? The new world of 19th and 20th century philosophers or of left groups who are scared of discussion, argument and agreement outside their ossifying, smoke stained walls (via the Internet they say they distrust so much) ? Or does a world of self imposed, self condoning, filter bubble, echo chambered confirmation bias suit them?
I read monthly, the new fronts created by those “with an analysis,” sagely repeating each others step by step breakdowns of what has happened that week, and how this signifies further proof that capitalism is dying (as it has for more years than anyone reading this can possibly remember). And I read “what the class can do,” and sigh. And I read, incredulously, the wobbling towers of analysis built on shaky foundations that support people shouting from on high.The organised left created confirmation bias well before Zuckerberg and Cambridge Analytica.
I, like a huge amount of those on the left, will not be joining organisations as they exist at present. All left organisations at present replicate capitalist society anyway. “Be the [democratic] change you want to see in the world,” has totally passed them by. And listening to “analysis” from these people is like having your head drilled by politically correct, bible flapping street preachers. And none of them care much for the activists who can’t keep up with the super activists or “CC’s/ EC’s”, important meetings and large volumes of paper sales by comrade X who will within two years, fall from activity, broken, exhausted, jaded and damaged.
Their filter bubble world, created before Eli Pariser wrote about Internet algorithms, is “A world constructed from the familiar is a world in which there’s nothing to learn … (since there is) invisible autopropaganda, indoctrinating us with our own ideas.” Wobbling Towers.
So, beyond “smashing the state,” and various slogans, selling newspapers and grabbing pound coins as people sign petitions to no-one, what can we do? What is our vision? Where does this fit in to a virtually/e-connected, yet disparate, impoverished, walled off world?
The lunch never appeared. The new world of Uncle Joe’s Communism, in which everyone was looked after, crumbled in front of my Grandfather’s eyes that day. He and his friend left for home, disappointed and disillusioned. My grandfather told me, “I was a member of the Communist Party for one day. I thought, “if they cant even organise a lunch for us, how can they organise society?” He voted Labour, and what that became, for the rest of his life.And he was right. Sorry Granddad. I heard your story, but I was not listening at that time. I thought YOU didn’t understand. I was wrong. It was me who didn’t. I had found easy answers, and analysis that confirmed my bias. It had seemed so simple. Good people doing good things is all it took. But I had forgotten about the Irrational in politics. I forgot we are all looking for a parent. An authority. Someone who knows. And I had forgot that some will do anything to be thought of as that leader. That parent. And lies, mistruths and briberies are all part of the means to an end, which is usually the means to keep them in their position of parentage within a family group chosen by them. And I forgot that some, in order to be that parent on a pedestal, will never apologise and in fact, can never be wrong. The next analysis, built on the previous, will explain what some thought were errors. Or the previous analysis will disappear from the history. Nothing online mentions the communist party of Northern Ireland’s inability to get tea to their activists at polling stations in 1945. But it was something, a material thing, that was probably a factor in their immediate decline. How they treated people. How they preached bread for all, but couldn’t organise tea for the activists.
What is this better Scotland/world that is possible if disagreement and “online” can’t be part of it (as proved in my walled world in Scotland by ssh! SSP 2007/ssh! Rise 2015/ssh! SWP 2005)? The SWP proclaimed twenty years ago, that the internet would destroy them. Why? Because information was easily found. Information was easily shared. So the comrades baptised by Thatcher advised / advise activists NOT to share information. Misplaced Managerialism at best.
Is a better Scotland/world just being anti-Tory? If so, isn’t that just self defeating and ensuring we give Tories time to rethink their next image and message of “making Britain Great again?” Is it just supporting Corbyn/ the SNP, the great parent? Is it being uncritical until “it” fails, unapologetically?
If Labour win an election, and don’t make material, measurable, obvious change to lives, are we not just awaiting the next idealogical ultra capitalists to tear down more of the post war settlement and sell it off to the cartoon fat cats and imaginary, rabbit hole dwelling Anti-semetic cartoon bosses?
If we win the next Scottish independence referendum, and our lives stay the same, what have we won? The right to replace a flag?
And really, lefty Scotland, what is our vision for Scotland outside the UK? What is our vision for the EU? How do we practically get the tea on the table after next year? What is our vision for the world and our part in it? The lexit of the columnists has proven to be a sham that is further impoverishing communities they really have never lived in and the columnists and front leaders have never been elected. Or do we just sit and shout, “wrong!” ?I’m not berating anyone in particular in this piece. Its self flagellation, so sorry to the reader, if none of this is part of your world. Sorry, if you are satisfied with the current polity, or your particular part in that. You see, I want change. I wanted change from the moment I realised we are still living in feudalist societies, with Kings, racism, sexism and poverty. Its borne on disappointment and the realisation that people are still starving, people are still imposing their bigotries across the world and all we seem to do is change flags and parents.
I no longer want declarations and seven points of agreement etc. I want to know how my children’s children will survive, thrive and live in peace and abundance in an eco system that supports them and in a fair, free world. I no longer want to “foother” at the legacy of pensioners, middle aged men’s and middle class columnists analysis of 1968, 9/11, Stop the War or Yes Scotland. I don’t want to flag wave or pat myself on the back for marching. I really don’t want to listen to ego’s making demands, or shouting into microphones, or telling me I could have sold more pamphlets. I want to work for something.
If we’ve learned anything from the twentieth century it should be that utopia was lost when we set its parameters and fell for those who loved applause.And trying to reimpose those parameters, in a world where everyone has a high tech machine that punches holes in those parameters, really does not work. And creating imposed filter bubbles ossify and dessicate. And jumping from one surrogate parent and false prophet to another really doesn’t cut it.
So how high is the sky we are trying to reach? Or are we merely pointing at a branch as the current shit swamp pulls us under?Or are we all going to be left sitting waiting until someone delivers tea they had no intention of delivering?
You can read the first “being wrong” from Neil here, or read his reasons for leaving the ssp here
Most people were surprised to hear the news that Hollywood Director James Gunn had been fired by Disney from the production of big budget Marvel superhero film “Guardians of the Galaxy Volume 3”.
When the original “Guardians of the Galaxy” film was announced many thought it a strange choice as it was based on one of Marvel Comics more obscure titles that even self confessed comic nerds like me were unfamiliar with. They followed up that unusual decision with another one when they appointed director James Gunn to helm the production. Previous to working on Guardians, Gunn’s had mainly worked on independent films, often with Troma Entertainment, a company known for producing low-budget horror films, many of them playing on 1950s horror with elements of farce, parody, gore and splatter.
However Disney’s unorthodox choice of film and director seemed to pay off when Guardians of the Galaxy received glowing reviews from critics and raked in over $770m at the box office. He followed this up with a sequel, “Guardians of the Galaxy Vol.2” which brought in a further $860m for Disney so it was no surprise when he was given the chance to complete the trilogy with Guardians 3 due to be released in 2020.
However Disney are now looking for a new director for that project after firing Gunn over offensive tweets he made in 2008-2009.
It should be said James Gunn was in his forties when he made these tweets so they can’t be written off as youthful indiscretions, and the content of the tweets are pretty vulgar and reference rape, pedophilia and transphobia. However they do read as jokes, albeit sick ones, and I’m not sure anyone reading them would really think Gunn is advocating these things.
Firing Gunn does seem a bit hypocritical from Disney who produced the film “Powder” in 1995 with a convicted child molester as Director, it seems Disney takes jokes about pedophilia more seriously than actual pedophilia. They have also continued to work with actors such as Terrence Howard and Johnny Depp despite allegations of domestic violence.
The decision from Disney also seems a bit strange as they must’ve been aware of these tweets, as Gunn publicly addressed this issue in 2012 and apologised for them. The reason this issue has arisen again now is due to Gunn’s political views.
James Gunn is a critic of Donald Trump and has been very vocal on twitter in his criticism of the Great White Dope. This has drawn the ire of Trump’s Alt-Right minions who are responsible for circulating these tweets. This is what political assassination looks like in the digital age and the chief assassin is Alt-Right activist Mike Cernovich.
Cernovich is a “Men’s Rights” activist who spends his time promoting fake news and conspiracy theories. Make no mistake Cernovich was not motivated by any sense of decency having penned articles encouraging men to masturbate in front of women and claiming date-rape does not exist.
Disney’s actions have handed the Alt-Right a win and will undoubtedly cause other high profile individuals to pause before speaking out against their friend in the Whitehouse.
Ungagged asked me to write a piece around the latest row on women’s representation in the Yes movement. The story arose after Rhiannon Spear questioned whether any women would be asked to speak at a demonstration and has re-ignited the debate around “manels” – all male panels – and whether it is damaging to have male-only speakers at Yes events or whether feminism is a distraction from the cause of winning independence.
I should start by declaring an interest: I know and like Rhiannon Spear, I have known her since she was an activist with the SNP’s youth wing and she is now a colleague on Glasgow City Council. Her commitment to the cause of independence is unquestionable. I should also declare at the outset that I am firmly in her camp on this one.
Rhiannon was described last week as a “self-proclaimed feminist” which puts her in good company as far as I am concerned, along with Glasgow’s Council Leader and Scotland’s First Minister. But this seems to be a problem for some and that’s not only a pity, I think it is a problem. Let me explain why.
The SNP, and the wider Yes movement, is a broad church and many of the pews are occupied by feminists. I remember the late great Liz Quinn (one of those quiet heroes usually described as stalwarts, to whom the party owes everything) talking at SNP Conference about how she came to join the SNP back in the 70s by making a connection between the personal independence and equality she was fighting for as part of the women’s liberation movement and the position of Scotland. The room was full of women nodding in agreement.
The right to make your own decisions, to form your own relationships, to earn and spend your money as you choose, to have your autonomy respected, to have the same opportunities as your peers, to be an equal partner with your own voice in the world……. Sounds familiar?
It’s not so long ago that women did not have these rights and for far too many women these rights still need to be fully realised. The struggle for women’s autonomy that Liz was speaking about – often a very personal struggle – has helped shape many women’s support for political autonomy for Scotland. The personal is indeed political.
This makes it pretty grim to hear people – usually men – suggest that feminism is a distraction from the Yes campaign. For many of us the values and aspirations which underpin our feminism are also those which underpin our support for independence. That doesn’t mean that supporting independence means you have to be a feminist. It doesn’t. (And the obvious corollary is that being a Scottish feminist doesn’t mean you have to support independence).
But I would hope people can understand and respect that feminism is part of why many women put so much time and effort into the Yes campaign. Others may have different values and motivations which drive them: I wouldn’t question their motives. But neither should anyone question Rhiannon’s motivation or that of any other woman.
In any case, you don’t need to be a feminist to believe that the public face of the Yes movement should be made up of both men and women. The Yes movement IS made up of both men and women. Something has gone wrong if event organisers don’t know enough women to invite. I can completely understand if a particular set of unfortunate circumstances combine to prevent a woman speaker attending. But not if it is a pattern. And I can’t accept people saying it doesn’t matter.
It matters plenty if the Yes movement that exists on the ground is not represented on the platform. And that doesn’t just apply to women but to other under-represented groups as well. People may see complaints about events that only have white men speaking as political correctness but it really isn’t – the issue is that this simply doesn’t portray the Yes movement as the diverse and inclusive movement that it is. It gives a fundamentally false impression of who we are. We are a movement for all of Scotland and when people look at us they should see that. They should see themselves.
Being a movement for all of Scotland means that of course – independence aside – people won’t always agree on everything. That’s fine. The issue of gender and politics can be pretty hotly contested and people have strong feelings. Again, that’s fine. As a veteran of the decades long debate within the SNP around gender balance I wear my scars lightly because by and large the debate was conducted in a reasonable and respectful way. This in no way undermined the passionate nature of that debate but it did ensure that no-one got hurt. There’s a lesson there I feel.
That’s not to say we should impose the kind of rules which govern Conference debate outside that environment or impose a kind of faux-gentility on twitter discussions. That would be impossible. But a little bit of restraint (and possibly self-awareness) would be helpful.
There are no bosses in the Yes movement and everyone is entitled to raise any issue they wish to raise. Rhiannon was perfectly entitled to raise the issue as she did. I can appreciate that people may be tired of the debate about manels – I think we all are, Rhiannon included! But there’s a simple solution to it that would give us all peace, as well as ensuring our movement reaches out to and represents everyone in Scotland, as we must do if we are to win.
By January 1997 I was a mess, both mentally and physically. As I stumbled aboard the Gatwick-bound plane in Prague my head was throbbing and beating like an illegal rave was taking place in my brain. I needed to focus on something, on anything. There was a copy of the Guardian newspaper on the seat beside me. I opened it and idly flicked through the pages as all around and all about me various arseholes fussed and struggled with their hand-luggage and overhead lockers.
Then, all of a sudden, a strategically-placed advertisement caught my eye.
The world was suddenly stilled. John Prescott’s big beaming face leapt out at me. It was an advertisement for Ruskin College, in Oxford. The relentless drum-beat in my brain was silenced, and my whole attention was focused then upon that advertisement. This was exactly what I needed, it seemed like destiny. There was a hole in my life that needed filling, and after all, had I not always proclaimed myself to be a socialist? – Well this was surely a sign: and now was the time to put that sign to the test.
I was of course blissfully unaware that a pernicious seed had been planted. In my naivety I actually thought I had found a purpose.
STEP 2: MY POLITICAL RE-EDUCATION
When I arrived at the brutalist building on Brown Street, I knew very little about John Ruskin, other than he had been appalled to discover that his wife possessed pubic hair.
I knew even less about Vladimir Lenin, but when I and an ex-miner from Barnsley were tasked with the job of collating the contents of a recently-deceased tutor’s study, it was a Lenin book that I pilfered: The Development of Capitalism in Russia by V P Lenin.
Despite the snappy title I found the book to be something of a slog truth told. But I was relieved to find Noam Chomsky’s Class War – if not a rollicking read exactly – at least far more readable and relatable.
Although I was ostensibly studying English Literature, every subject at Ruskin College was viewed through a socialist perspective. Thus Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein was approached as a warning: a parable illustrating the inhumanity and slavery necessary for the launch of a capitalist Industrial revolution. When it came to poetry, Shelley’s Masque of Anarchy took centre-stage.
That year the avuncular Tony Benn came and gave a talk. The year previous I had heard that a certain man by the name of Corbyn had been invited to speak.
I was enthused and caught up in the solidarity of it all. Plus in between the lectures and seminars I was having lots of sex (It was only later I would come to realise that sex is an essential component of all brainwashing cults).
STEP 3: THE HANDLER
I first met my wife Julie (sic) in a pub in King’s Cross (close to Jeremy Corbyn’s constituency incidentally). She was introduced to me by an ex-fellow-student (or should I say inductee) from Ruskin.
It transpired that Julie (sic) was down in London for a Trade Union Conference. We hit it off immediately, not only politically, but she seemed to find my jokes genuinely amusing. I was instantly hooked (or should I say snared).
It is only now, two decades later that I realise my wife was quite possibly working for a Russian agent who in turn was working for a Corbyn-linked cabal that had already infiltrated the Trade Union movement.
*This infiltration would later pay great dividends to Corbyn when union support helped him become leader of the Labour Party
STEP 4: THE SLEEPER AWAKENS
As I sit here now, after conducting much research and having watched many YouTube videos I now am under no illusions that I was, for many years a de-facto sleeper-agent.
I was initially indoctrinated by Bolsheviks at Ruskin College, and then my re-education was enforced and accelerated by my militant shop-steward wife, Julie (sic).
I now realise that I was, for all intents and purposes waiting to be activated, along with many hundreds of thousands of fellow ‘sleepers’.
STEP 5: ACTIVATION. (CORBYN IS ELECTED LEADER OF THE LABOUR PARTY)
It was like a switch had been flicked; suddenly all I could think about was Corbyn, Corbyn, Corbyn. I was introduced to Twitter and in no time at all I had learnt the combined power of the soundbite and the hashtag: I ignored all those sane voices that were warning of an emerging cult (Dan Hodges; John McTernan; Nick Cohen etc.) and fired with the righteous, unblinking zeal of a true cultist I began tweeting in earnest.
COMING SOON: PART TWO OF ‘MY 11-STEP INDUCTION INTO THE ‘CULT OF CORBYN’
You can read more Ungagged writing here, or listen to more left views from the collective on our podcast
In an exclusive interview with LeftUngagged Mhairi Black labels Tory MP Jacob Rees-Mogg as “dangerous” and described his views as “vile”.
The SNP MP accused Mogg of spreading British Nationalist rhetoric that had emboldened racists up and down the country. Jacob Rees-Mogg is a prominent Brexiteer who holds many socially conservative views which some have described as verging in “fascistic”.
He opposes immigration, same sex marriage and abortion even in cases of rape, while being an enthusiastic supporter of tuition fees, the Monarchy and zero hour contracts.
Mogg has also been criticised for associating with groups outside of the Conservative Party. In 2013 he called for the Tories to make an alliance with UKIP and was an enthusiastic supporter of the more recent Tory deal with the DUP. He was also criticised for meeting with far right groups such as the ultra nationalist Traditional British Group and German Neo-Nazi Party Action for Deutschland.
She said that Mogg known as “the Honourable Member from the 18th Century” conducts himself like a gentleman and is refreshingly honest, saying he will “tell you what he thinks and why he thinks it” compared to most politicians but that honesty meant he “can’t be shamed into putting his opinions back in the closet” where the Paisley MP feels they belong.
To hear the full interview with Mhairi Black where she talks about The Growth Commission, Brexit, Indyref2, Press Intrusion, and Donald Trump, download the next LeftUngagged podcast, coming soon…
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 whenJews 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 includeJenny 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 longhistoryof 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-documentedlinks 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 sympatheticinterviews 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.
I’ve just spent a year in Russia as part of my MA in International Relations as a mature student, but I’ve done loads of stuff before that including being an admin assistant, warehouse worker and a lot more.
I’ve been involved in antifascist work, but currently I’m a cynical ex trot and ‘politically homeless’. I’m interested in politics and society in Russia and Eastern Europe but I’m also interested in writing about issues affecting the UK especially around migration, LGBT+ issues and racism.
I’m a big Wycombe Wanderers fan, I love travelling and enjoy writing fiction, some of my work can be seen on Wattpad.
I’m very excited about writing for this site and think this is a fantastic project.
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
On this episode of Ungagged, themed around “The People Spoke” and introduced by Victoria Pearson, we will hear from Flavia Trudoreanu from Scottish CND on 10 reasons not to have Trident, Jason Travis on the left and Brexit – and what he feels socialists should argue and organise for, Laura Lundahl on why the US government doesn’t represent the will of the people due to its many undemocratic practises, and Joe Solo on the rise and rise of the right.
Paul Sheridan reflects on Scotland’s angry voice and the impact we can have, Debra Torrance will be giving a more positive view of how the people can use their voices, and Graham Campbell will be on chatting with Neil Anderson about Graham’s recent trip to Jamaica, Donald Trump and Pride. Teresa Durran gives us a personal reflection of the London anti Trump march, which you can see loads of pictures of here.
It wouldn’t be Ungagged without the wee man, we will of course be hearing from Red Raiph and from the inimitable (and original) clever commie Chuck Hamilton, who will be talking about why jails profit from prisoners, and why bisexuals need to step up. The two are unrelated.
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