Writings, photos, politics and rants... *Original content - may not be reproduced without my consent.*

Sunday, 31 July 2011

More "Poor Baiting"

I see Jane Horrocks, an actress who makes lots of money on her working class accent, has attacked the class she once was part of.  I commented on this article by Barbara Ellen in the Observer

Inverted snob - Jane Horrocks
"Excellent article.  Some of the worst snobbery and poor bating can come from those who have escaped the working class.  Horrocks and those like her, actually seem to have started to believe they are a breed apart from those struggling masses "below them."

This kind of Chav/Ned/Poor white Trash bating gives the likes of the disgusting Letwin and his "whip them into shape/make them crawl on glass for their pennies" policy making, an air of credibility.

The inverted snobbery of the middle classes have led to the present situation of a return to 19th Century politics - the "noblesse oblige," rich patriarchal "strong medicine" will help you pull yourself up by your bootstraps outlook of our privileged leaders.

The sooner the old Etonian boys network is deposed and something of a fairer system we once had with working class people close to power, the better.

The sooner our tabloid press is no longer made up of public school boys having a laugh at the expense of the poor and working, and written by more of the people who the tabloids are aimed at and with more people like Barbara bursting the bubbles these snobs are in, the better."

Friday, 29 July 2011

A reply to the Guardian writer, Martin Kettle...

Dear Martin Kettle –

I read your article (The Guardian comment and Debate; Thursday 28th July 2011) about your father. I hadn’t realised the connection between you and Arnold. I owe Arnold my education, as do many working class people like me. Let me explain why.

I was brought up in Northern Ireland. I was from a working class “unionist” family – unionist with a small u. My families reading didn’t really go beyond the Belfast Telegraph and the tabloid press. I did not pass my 11 plus, so attended the very working class “Intermediate” school in which all the social problems of the area were brought together in one building (those who could pay and those from a middle class background with enough time and money to fill their children’s lives with books and experiences ensured their children went to the local Grammar School).

I seem to disagree with you on a number of points – and you can thank your father for this. During my time in Banbridge High School, (a school I gained few qualifications from as every day was a day of struggle for survival and when this is the case, education comes a poor second) I stole a chink of light. One day as a 15 year old in 1980, in the school library I came across a book called, “Karl Marx, Founder of Modern Communism” a Pathfinder Biography written by Arnold Kettle.

Stolen - Arnold's Karl.
I don’t recall why I was in the library – but I obviously had some time on my hands as I read chunks from the book. Now as someone from unionist Northern Ireland, Marx and Marxism was equated by the right wing unionist Parties with the evils of the IRA. Socialism; socialists; communism and communists were evil red book carrying bombers (and I remember a teacher in my school saying just that!). Political working class representation was zero in the unionist/protestant communities with the exception of the reactionary DUP. As I read, it felt as if light was shining through the grey, working class monotony and violence. Through what I read that day – and subsequently when I stole the book (I remember feeling I would be fingered as a terrorist sympathiser if I took the book out officially!) I was able to apply a rudimentary lens to the events going on around me and the working class area and Province I lived in. I was also able to understand better, the changes going on with the closure of factories, destruction of manufacturing and the miners strike across the water. And with the help of the then fairer tax system and the benefits that society gained from that, I was able to leave the factory I was working in and re-educate myself and go to university (how many of the Digby-Jones working teenagers would be able to extricate themselves from low-paid jobs and pay for accommodation, food, fuel and college/University fees in the future Cameronian UK plc?)

There are a number of things I think you should reconsider in your article and your view on the past. Although I never supported the Soviet Union, I could see why it was seen as something to support during your fathers time. Until the mid-sixties, the Soviet system seemed to be pulling itself away from the dreadful Stalinist era (the Communist Party’s support for the Stalinist show trials was not a great time in it’s history to say the least). In fact Kruschev’s socialist new dawn seemed to be a threat to capitalism. Of course there was a terrible cost in lives of “dissidents” and those who challenged the managerial system – including Kruschev’s own career/reputation.

Perhaps the emergence of the Soviet managerial elite should ring alarm bells when people praise a “meritocracy?” A meritocracy for whom? The off-spring of the middle class? I don’t think your father was wrong to look to the good, or the perceived good in the Soviet system as something for us to aspire to. I think the aspiration of a fair “communist” or socialist society, however we decide those systems are ran (or are labelled), is a much better aspiration compared to the universally unfair and presently obvious unstable capitalist system. I believe your praise and support of Blair and Cameron are no more than praise for their smiles rather than their policies- and this is where your father had a better approach than you. Through my lens of experience of working class community and life, and through the political lens inspired by your father’s book, I am on the side your father thought he was on. He looked to the aspiration of equality and the sharing of resources as a citadel. He saw fair education and equal exposure to life opportunities as a need. He saw that hierarchy and elitism as not something to tell people to pull themselves up by their bootstraps and aspire to climb, but as something to level. He believed in I suppose, in what Richard Wilkinson writes about in “The Spirit Level” – a more equal society that shares resources and ensures daily struggle for food and fuel is not necessary. He believed in reforming our way to a society free of poverty, injustice, economic exploitation, war and competition for the scraps trickled down from the owner’s tables. A society free from the struggle facing more and more people in today’s post capitalist credit bubble Cameron/Clegg robbery.

Perhaps where you differ from your father is your divergence from New Labour regarding the wars. I believe your father would have taken the same stance within the Communist Party, but different from you in that if the majority within the Party EC had have voted for, he would have, quite wrongly, stayed quiet. Perhaps the anti-war Blairites/New Labourites should have been more vociferous. At the same time your father would not have criticised Harry Pollitt/Palm Dutt/ Ken Gill, just as you don’t criticise your friend Tony or his new friend, David.

Finally, I believe your father had the big picture correct. He believed that resources and power and working time should be shared. Socialism – or a system nodding towards a socialist system WAS working. 1976 is a time when our society was more equal. It was a time when Labour policy was more about egalitarian income and less about keeping people bouncing along at the bottom while the rich “claimed” more of the pie – a time when Gini coefficient was at its lowest and health outcomes and “happiness” were measured at their optimum in the past century. These were policies influenced by Communist Party members in the unions (people through the 60s and 70s such as John Tocher, George Wake, Dick Etheridge and Cyril Morton (AEU) Mick McGahey, Arthur True and Sammy Moore (NUM) Lou Lewis (UCATT) and Max Morris (NUT). Ken Gill, Hugh Scanlon and here in Dunbartonshire, Jimmy Reid) and therefore connections with the Labour Party decision makers.

The Communist Party made a difference, and had rattled the upper echelons of the hierarchy so much, they launched the denigration of working class society/community/organisation now known as Thatcherism upon us. The working class, thanks to the Tories in the 80s and 90s, and subsequently the Blairites, no longer have representation close to power. Now we have the Chipping Norton set taking over from the previous public school led Government and with every passing week, more and more people fall into the politically unrepresented, demonised and undervalued poor working class lower end of the hierarchy. A world of debt and struggle, insulted and denigrated by ignorance and prejudice led by the Chav bating Murdoch/Rothermere/Black owned press.

I would like to thank your father, posthumously, for perhaps being the spark to my becoming a mature student and the Communist Party’s role in influencing a now lost Labour Party in creating a society back in the 70s and 80s in which there was hope.

Your father was right. Blair, Thatcher and Cameron/Clegg are wrong in destroying hope in order to make the rich even richer at the working peoples expense. We need more like your father, and less of the Cameron’s, Osborne’s and Blair’s of this world.

Sincerely etc.

Tuesday, 12 July 2011

Jon Stewart Summary of the Hackgate scandal

More on the BREAKING Gordon Brown story HERE

Monday, 11 July 2011

Virtual Writers Dash

The word today was "relax" - as usual, no time to relax, as you only get 15 minutes to write!

This is my effort:

Relax, don’t do it when you want to… 

Well, relax if you want the world given over to the most powerful and rich 2%.  Relax and allow yourself to be further exploited in order to make these people become more powerful and rich.

Words?  Only words?  Well, think about it.  YOUR food has become more expensive to buy.  The poor are being blamed for being poor as jobs become as rare as hens teeth and less tax is being used for the relief of the poor.

Tax on, and the cost of, the things you need is going up, while the tax on the millionaires and billionaires – those who can take the burden of the expense of good quality services for all, is getting lower.  And they, the rich, are charging you more and more money for your electricity and heat and water…

YOU are paying for what this world has produced to sustain us.  YOU are working harder and longer in order to afford the necessities of life.  YOU are being victimised by Fox; News International; the Sun; the rich… you are a chav, a ned, poor white trash, scroungers and lazy – while they sit in their ivory towers making more and more money and power.  The bankers and investors and Murdochs and Warren Buffet’s and Carlos Slim’s of this world can be as nice as they like by going out percentages of their income to their good causes – but what if the amount they are pulling in was given out to people across the planet in services and free energy and agricultural programes?

I live in the UK and 52p (under a dollar) of my tax a year goes to paying for a few individuals to have a wonderful life.  Our Royal family travel the world and eat fantastically and have all of the material wealth they will ever need plus plus – at a cost of 52p a year to me.  Not much?  Well, with everyone in the UK paying that 52p a year, we could be paying for 1200 more teachers or 2000 more nurses or 6 new schools A YEAR.  How many Doctors and nurses and teachers and schools and hospitals a year could be paid for if Buffet, Gates, Murdoch, Arnault, Ellison and Slim were to pension themselves off with a few million to allow them to live out their years in luxury while their billions were shared out across the world?

The real greedy, lazy scroungers are plain for me to see.  And I won’t relax until the balance of the work and wealth is tipped to the majority rather than the minority.

Tuesday, 5 July 2011

Doleman's Downfall

On reading James Doleman’s review of Alan McCombes book, “Downfall,” I have to wonder, did he and I read a completely different book? Like all of James involvement with the SSP, it is a definite dodgy dossier he has concocted.  His criticism is made by selecting detail from the case in order to criticise not the book, but some of the detail McCombes inevitably had to leave out (only, perhaps, a self confessed “nerd” like Doleman could have read a book full of the kinds of details he mentions – the resulting tome surely would have made Downfall double the size of War and Peace!) The details of the case are available elsewhere – McCombes account was a personal view from someone who not only knew Sheridan, but wrote his articles and produced his press releases.

Unlike Doleman, I was here, in Scotland, a member of the SSP during all of the major incidents this book portrays. Unlike Doleman, I sat through SSP Regional Councils in which Keith Baldassarra begged Sheridan not to go through with his reckless course, only to be told, “They have nothing on me.” Unlike Doleman I was here, in Scotland for the original case, and seemingly unlike Doleman, I have spoken to members of his own political faction, the SWP, who admit they knew what Sheridan had done, but had been told by their London Central Committee to hitch their harness to “the mothership,” (their words). Unlike Doleman, I have spoken to ex-members of Solidarity who enthusiastically had gone with him out of the SSP in order to, and again in their words, “be MSP’s.” People who knew he lied – and in fact were told by him this fact. Some have expressed regret – and some have made moves to rejoin the party – or at least acknowledge the fact that the battered SSP is Scotland’s only remotely viable Anti-capitalist, Socialist Unity vehicle at the moment. Unlike Doleman, I was in Scotland and a member of the SSP on the lead up and during the split – I attended meetings of the SSP were one or the other faction was prominent, and some where people were abused for not backing Sheridan and his want for adulation both in the Scottish media and within the party.

I joined the SSP after following the fortunes of the Party – and after attending meetings and then voting for them in 2003. I decided to join after Tommy was joined by five other MSP’s in the Scottish Parliament. I was an ordinary member – unlike James, I was not aligned to any platform or left sect ideology.

I hadn’t always liked Tommy’s style, and in fact always thought his style of rhetoric was not only old fashioned (I had been brought up amongst shouty politicians in Northern Ireland), but very clich├ęd – his constant – sometimes tenuous - references to John Lennon and the song Imagine always made me cringe, for example. But his success in the first Parliament and the success of the party to go beyond his one man show impressed me enough to join.

On joining, I learned about the structure of the party, and of the various “platforms” within it. Doleman was a member of the SWP – a London based faction mostly made up of students and teachers. Their strangely middle class make up is due to the way they recruit – usually at universities. Other platforms I investigated were the SRSM, a group of socialists who put “independence first,” and the CWI who were the remnants of the group that had been expelled from the Labour Party in the 1980’s, Militant Tendency. The largest platform in the SSP was the ISM, which was the biggest faction remaining from a split in the CWI. The ISM dissolved itself into the party. This group included people I went on to admire politically, people like Richie Venton, the union Organiser of the Party; Alan McCombes, Colin Fox and Tommy Sheridan.

I found the SWP and CWI factions full of their own importance – and in the case of the SWP, I found them patronising and totally devoid of any connections to real working class people. During the G8 preparations I overheard prominent members of the SWP group discussing the fact that most young people in the party supported Scottish independence – they dismissed these people as “misguided” or “barely educated.” I witnessed at various conferences their snide remarks from the floor (during the huge conferences the SSP were having between 2004-06 while Doleman was in New Zealand).

CWI Scottish Organiser, Philip Stott
The CWI were a little different. I met their organiser, Philip Stott on a number of occasions. Our first meeting was in a bar in Glasgow. I sat and sipped a pint as Stott basically lectured me on what a good Marxist and a good Marxist organisation was. I could see, like the SWP, this was not to be a two way conversation. The CWI “analysis” was THE analysis, and moreover, Stott as the organiser and propagandist for the Scottish carload of members, had all of the answers. As an aside, I also met Peter Hadden, a northern Irish CWI organiser – and, at the time, liked his analysis of the Northern Irish peace process, and the CWI proposals for a New Ireland. I proposed in my SSP branch that he should be invited to speak at a “Socialism 200?” meeting (I cant remember exactly which one- but at a guess 2004). When he came over from Ireland, Stott, Hadden and I sat in a bar in Glasgow for what was to be another shot at grilling me, but when I told them why I disagreed on their analysis of Scotland and the Scottish Independence issue (the CWI were against independence) I watched as they signalled to each other that I was beyond their clutches – I was a lost cause and they would not be able to recruit me! This was typical sect behaviour. You are not a member in order to think. You are a member, so you listen to how you should think.

Although the SWP have distanced themselves from Solidarity and Sheridan, the CWI have found this more difficult. I believe this is because of the small size of the Scottish branch of the CWI – they need something bigger to hitch on to – the problem is they hitched to the wrong vehicle. Rather than listening to the majority of working class people who made up the SSP, the CWI decided to tweak its internal analysis to one of “we should lie for a socialist in a capitalist court” (an excuse later used by members of the SWP). This tweaking was done so they could soon have members in the Scottish Parliament on the back of the "socialist icon," Sheridan. The problem is, their history has been so changed and tweaked by Stott’s “analysis,” they find it difficult to admit their knowledge of the fact that Sheridan lied (and tried to force his party to lie), not for any political reasons, but in order to keep the mahogany veneer of the socialist messiah- and in my opinion, to save Stott’s job.

 What their analysis fails to do nowadays is face up to the fact that Sheridan is now a complete pariah to the Scottish electorate and to the working class people who have been desperately let down by yet another lying politician. At least the SWP privately acknowledge that – yet cannot seem to take the logical next step and admit their folly. Perhaps this has more to do with rallying around their members who may have perjured themselves in court.

The sad thing is – the left will never make gains if it cannot admit where it made mistakes, or expel wrong doing or wrong doers. The “left” is no better than the right if it is lying to those it purportedly represents – and the fact is, the class know they have been lied to. The unelectable status of the anti-capitalist left in Scotland will continue if vociferous organised components cannot even admit their knowledge of one man’s lies. The message of the left is still being drowned out by the fogging of Sheridan and his fans.

Frank/James Doleman
Frank Doleman, as he was known when he was a member of the SSP, is trying to forge a career in “Tommymania.” His articles and tweets and reviews are becoming as mad as those coming from Philip Stott from the CWI – only the difference is, Stott is almost intelligently covering up his own Tommymania by interpreting all around him through his own David Koresh style lens of “Marxism.” Stott is justifying his London salary as Scottish Organiser of the CWI/ Socialist Party/Socialist Party of Scotland, or whatever they call themselves this week. This is managerialism perhaps not quite on the scale of the manager class within the Soviet Union who stymied progress in order to hold on to their wee bit position – but he is stymieing progress of the organisation he represents.

Doleman is just hitching his wagon to the mothership of Tommy – but for what reason? There is no doubt Doleman’s nuanced blogging of the trial – and his careful editing of comments made each day (something he and I clashed over on twitter), enamoured him with the Sheridan’s. During the trial, Tommy's mother, Alice - along with other members of Tommy's family, was seen many times, greeting “James” with a hug and ensuring the blogger had a seat.

 Doleman is now sure of access to Tommy in order to write his eagerly awaited fanbook of the inmate of Castle Huntly Open Prison . His constant fogging of facts – a device used by Sheridan himself during both trials, is only a self serving one – one that makes this story run further in order to increase his “fame” as a blogger/writer on Tommymania. Doleman won’t make a fortune out of a book, and won’t make a huge amount writing in the papers. But I guess it is something for him to do (he was unemployed during the trial, hence his ability to attend court most days), and it gives him a wee spot in the glow of the decrepit tanned one.

Philip Stott's view HERE
James Doleman's view HERE