Archive for the ‘British politics’ Category

Pic: EPA/FACUNDO ARRIZABALAGA

The following is the text of a talk delivered by veteran journalist and film-maker John Pilger at the British Library in London last Saturday (Dec 9).  His talk was part of a festival called “The Power of the Documentary” organised by the Library.  The festival was held to mark its acquisition of the archive of his written work.

by John Pilger

I first understood the power of the documentary during the editing of my first film, The Quiet Mutiny. In the commentary, I make reference to a chicken, which my crew and I encountered while on patrol with American soldiers in Vietnam.

“It must be a Vietcong chicken – a communist chicken,” said the sergeant. He wrote in his report: “enemy sighted”.

The chicken moment seemed to underline the farce of the war – so I included it in the film. That may have been unwise. The regulator of commercial television in Britain – then the Independent Television Authority or ITA – had demanded to see my script. What was my source for the political affiliation of the chicken? I was asked. Was it really a communist chicken, or could it have been a pro-American chicken?

Of course, this nonsense had a serious purpose; when The Quiet Mutiny was broadcast by ITV in 1970, the US ambassador to Britain, Walter Annenberg, a personal friend of President Richard Nixon, complained to the ITA. He complained not about the chicken but about the whole film. “I intend to inform the White House,” the ambassador wrote. Gosh.

The Quiet Mutiny had revealed that the US army in Vietnam was tearing (more…)

Advertisements

This year is the 50th anniversary of the partial liberalisation of anti-gay laws in Britain.  The reform applied to England and Wales, but not Scotalnd or the part of Ireland still incorporated in the ‘United Kingdom’ – nor to the Isle of Man and the Channel Islands.  The reform also did not extend to the armed forces or the merchant navy.  In the article below, a longtime British marxist and former activist in the gay liberation movement looks at the significance of the law change – then and now.  

by Mike McNair

Under the 1967 Sexual Offences Act homosexuality between consenting adult males in private was no longer an offence. ‘Adult’ was defined as someone over the age of 21; and ‘in private’ was subsequently defined by the judiciary: homosexual acts were only permitted in private property and there had to be only two people present. In a public place like a hotel it would still be an offence. Given the limits of the 1967 act, I did not expect anything like the scale of celebration there has been around its 50th anniversary.

In addition we have had a brief rush of publicity around a group of LGBT anarchists forming a fighting unit alongside the Kurdish People’s Protection Units (YPG) in Syria against Islamic State. Rather startlingly, the Daily Mail on July 25 ran the headline, “These faggots kill fascists” – a photo showed them raising the rainbow flag in Raqqa.1

This story of a very small group of volunteers has been all over the mainstream media. There has been, I think, a valid argument, presented on Al Jazeera by a Syrian-Palestinian woman activist, that this group was in substance holding up the flag in favour of the general frame of western intervention in Syria, rather than having any realistic expectation that the Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK) will display strong and persistent solidarity with lesbian and gay rights.2

But the coverage demonstrates that this summer’s celebration of gay rights is very broad. The story is that our modern liberal society has liberated lesbians and gay men from the chains of medieval oppression. Alongside this celebration, LGBT issues, just like women’s issues, have been made into an instrument for the justification of dropping bombs on foreign countries.

In this context it is worth looking a little bit further at what has been celebrated: the 1967 Act, what followed it and what went before it. As I have said, it decriminalised homosexual conduct between consenting males over the age of 21. Even though the ‘age of majority’ was reduced to 18 in 1969, as far as homosexual acts were concerned, it remained at 21 until 2000.3

The 1967 Act had an interesting consequence, in that it initially led to a substantial increase in prosecutions! Roy Walmsley, a member of the Home Office Research Unit, reported in 1978 that offences for ‘indecency between males’ recorded by the police had doubled since 1967, and the number of persons prosecuted trebled between 1967 and 1971. Most of the additional prosecutions involved two males 21 or over, so it was not primarily about consent, but about the ‘in public’ issue. In 1978 there were wide variations between police areas in respect of this.4

This is by no means the only instance of law reform leading to an increase in prosecutions. The same was true of the reforms of street prostitution (introduced under the Street Offences Act 1959), of the 1959 Obscene Publications Act, and of the 1967 Abortion Act. Nearer to the core of criminal law, it was also true of the various offences under the Theft Act 1968. The replacement of laws which are understood to be ancient, unfair, technical and difficult to understand by new legislation incentivises the police to prosecute – and makes it easier for them to do so. And it makes it easier for magistrates and juries to convict.

I might add that the ‘gross indecency’ offence, which had previously been triable by jury, became, as a result of the Act, triable before magistrates. That increased the number of prosecutions, as magistrates have always been more willing to convict than juries.

Resistance

This is not the whole story, however. There has also been a good deal of judicial and prosecutorial resistance to (more…)

From 2010 to 2015 Liberal Party MP Sir John Vincent Cable was the Secretary of State for Business, Innovation and Skills in Britain.  The following is part of a retweet of Cable yesterday by author J.K. Rowling of Harry Potter fame.  Cable said:

In other words, even in terms of the operations of capitalism, scares about immigration depressing wages and limiting employment don’t hold up.

 

by The Spark

Seventy years ago, on 15 August 1947, former “British” India gained independence. But fearing that a sense of victory would allow India’s future regime to resist Britain’s continuing economic domination, while boosting the then-growing rebellion of other colonized people against their colonizers, the British government ensured that independence came at an exorbitant price for the Indian masses. It played a cynical game of divide and rule which led in the end to the partitioning of the subcontinent into India and Pakistan, thereby causing one of the largest, bloodiest refugee migrations in modern history and a toxic legacy of warfare and religious bigotry.

Proletarian masses against colonial domination

The very basis for this artificial division was laid by colonial policy. The British created an electoral system based on religion and cultivated the loyalist Muslim League against the larger nationalist party, the Indian National Congress. This INC, although it espoused an all-Indian nationalism, also had ties to Hindu nationalist groups.

The end of WWII saw a mobilization of the Asian poor masses against the colonial powers. In China, the peasantry rose against the landlords and threatened to set the towns alight. After the collapse of the Japanese occupation in Malaysia, Indonesia and Indochina, the proletariat rose against the return of the old colonial powers. In India, a mutiny of 20,000 sailors of the Royal Indian Navy, in February 1946, sparked off a wave of strikes involving (more…)

Thomas Suarez, State of terror: how terrorism created modern Israel, London: Skyscraper Publications, 2016, pp418, £20.  Reviewed by Tony Greenstein.

The state of Israel prides itself on being at the forefront of the ‘war against terror’ and the war on Islam and it is this which makes Israel the darling of Europe’s far right. But this book documents how the Israeli state was born in a wave of terror that makes Palestinian guerrilla groups seem like children at play.

Terror was remorselessly directed at the indigenous Palestinians by the three main Zionist militias – the Labour Zionist Haganah and its Palmach shock-troops; the revisionist Irgun, a split-off from Haganah in 1931 (Haganah Bet); and Lehi or the Stern Gang, a breakaway from Irgun in August 1940. The Irgun was commanded by Menachem Begin, who in 1977 was elected prime minister of Israel. Lehi, which parted from Irgun on the question of continuing the war against the British, was initially commanded by Avraham Stern and later a triumvirate, which included future Israeli prime minister Yitzhak Shamir (1983-84, 1986-92). Lehi distinguished itself by making two proposals in 1940 for a military pact with Nazi Germany against the British!

Suarez’s book is based on copious research from the Public Record Office at Kew. A clue to this book’s importance is the fierce campaign waged by the Zionist movement against it and its author. In Cambridge the Zionists managed to get a meeting relating to it cancelled.1 In Portsmouth the Zionists enlisted the aid of the Council’s Prevent officer, Charlie Pericleous, in order to put pressure on venues to cancel such talks. Presumably opposing Zionism makes you an ‘extremist’ and therefore a potential terrorist – a good example of how anti-terror laws are used to attack free speech. A talk at the School of Oriental and African Studies was disrupted by a group of Zionists led by Jonathan Hoffman, a well known activist, former Zionist Federation official and someone who has no problem with working with fascist and anti-Semitic groups, such as the English Defence League.

A talk held at the House of Lords on December 15 2016, hosted by Baroness Tonge, was subject to the same bogus complaints of anti-Semitism (on March 15 2017 an ethics committee of the House of Lords dismissed the allegations as baseless).

The Daily Mail, the paper which waged a campaign against Jewish immigration from Nazi Germany and tsarist Russia, became (more…)

Below is the text of a talk delivered by Dani in Dunedin on Friday, July 21.

by Dani Sanmugathasan

Good evening! My name is Dani Sanmugathasan, and I am a member of the British Marxist and Leninist organisation called the Revolutionary Communist Group. The following talk will be on the topic of ‘Corbynmania’ – the opportunist phenomenon that’s swept through the labour movements in core economies over the last two years – and a good place to start is at the events in London earlier this month.

INTRODUCTION

“Oh, Je-re-my Cor-byn!” rang out the chants of many on the streets of London on the 1st of July at the People’s Assembly’s ‘Tories Out’ march. The People’s Assembly, Momentum, Radical Housing Network, the Socialist Workers Party, the Stop the War Coalition, the Socialist Party, and the large trade unions (PCS, RMT, CWU, Unison, Len McCluskey’s Unite the Union…) were all rallying round the Labour Party leader, the holy Son of Attlee, the man who would save Britain from the iron grip of Tory austerity.

But beside these organisations, a distinct second current of marchers – composed of such organisations as Class War, the Focus E15 Mothers, Lesbians & Gays Support the Migrants, Architects for Social Housing, Movement For Justice, the Revolutionary Communist Group, and trade unions like the IWGB – led a different chant: “Labour, Tory, same old story!” These groups made (more…)

by Workers Fight

The recent developments on the political scene in Britain have thrown usually clever commentators and political pundits into a mild state of confusion. After all, it was one thing getting the result of the 2016 EU referendum completely wrong, but they also lost their bets on Theresa May’s “snap” election this June.

In fact almost everyone was surprised by the result, but maybe primarily by the surge in Labour’s votes, with 40% of the total, despite the Tory’s apparently unassailable lead in the polls before the election.

It should be said however, that whoever was to lead the government, whether it was May or Corbyn, or someone else, with or without alliances, this government was always going to have the job of managing the affairs of British capital to the best of its interests.

The working class, as history shows us, has never made any real gains through the ballot box and has nothing to expect from any government – because it is the capitalists who are pulling all the strings behind the “democratic” mask of a Corbyn or a May. What is more, there has been no place on the agenda of any government of the capitalist class for significant reforms which could be offered to workers, in any case not since the end of the post-war boom at the beginning of the 1970s. Since then, the world economy has been in a (more…)