Contending for the Living
Red Pepper, December 2013
The British left has made some terrible errors in its time but surely few more appalling than its 1948 support for the ethnic cleansing of Palestinians from their own land. Today the left is attacked for “singling out” Israel for criticism but historically its record is the opposite, as demonstrated in Paul Kelemen’s invaluable new book, “The British Left and Zionism”. Although subtitled “History of a Divorce”, it is very much a history of the marriage that preceded the divorce, a chilling chronicle of the making of that terrible error. read more…
The Morning Star, 18 November
In recent months, I’ve been taking a medication called Revlimid, given as a ‘late therapy’ for multiple myeloma. Since it looks like I may be Revlimid-dependent for a while, I decided to educate myself about the drug. As the chemistry is beyond me, I focussed my attention elsewhere.
The first thing I discovered was that Revlimid is phenomenally expensive. read more…
After watching ‘On the Waterfront’ this afternoon for the first time in ages, I was struck by the film’s mix of strengths and weaknesses, but most of all, I have to say, by the severity of the latter.
Brando’s subtle, supple embodiment of the protagonist is legendary for good reasons, and the surrounding performances justify Kazan’s reputation as an “actor’s director”. There are some wonderful, inventive moments: when Brando tells Eva Marie Saint he’s responsible for her brother’s death, his words drowned out by a thunderous factory horn; the airy and intimate roof top scenes; and the famous back seat dialogue between Brando and Rod Steiger. I also like the combination of the black-and-white palette with the Hoboken locations.
Overall, it’s watchable and dramatic, but also at times melodramatic, and in the end far too preachy and dubiously moralistic. read more…
Contending for the Living
When the left alternative goes unvoiced, the real choices unposed, democracy is drained of content, writes Mike Marqusee. That’s why we need a new party of the left
I’m one of the thousands who signed up to the Left Unity appeal issued by Ken Loach in March. I did so because I believe the continued absence of an effective left alternative to Labour hampers our resistance to austerity, racism, war and environmental degradation.
Left Unity has no shortage of doubters. There are many who reject electoral politics altogether and others who remain committed to working in the Labour Party. And not a few who simply doubt the left’s capacity to measure up to the challenge.
For me, the starting point is the franchise, read more…
Their banner reads:
“Ex-Midrand Council Workers in Dispute Since 1994!
Dismissed for fighting corruption in 1994 and still fighting today!
20 years of Sacrifice! 20 Years of Poverty! 20 Years of Solidarity!”
South Africa’s ex-Midrand Council workers are engaged in what is surely the world’s longest running industrial dispute, a Burston for our times. read more…
My oncologists are very happy with me at the moment. When I was diagnosed with multiple myeloma in mid-2007, I was given a prognosis of three-to-four years survival. My prospects were particularly miserable because the type of myeloma I have is associated with rapid deterioration. Yet here I am, more than six years later, a bit hobbled, but still able to live and enjoy life. read more…
In the strangest and most distressing cricket story of the summer, it appears that New York police have compiled lists of the city’s cricket grounds, along with cafes and restaurants where people gather to watch international cricket on TV, in order to facilitate surveillance of the Muslim population. read more…
It’s like a recurring nightmare. A nightmare in which the unbearably familiar story unfolds relentlessly, indifferent to reason or experience. Once again we’re asked to trust our governments’ assertions about WMD; once again, inspectors’ efforts are being pre-empted; once again the UN is being circumvented. read more…
Red Pepper, August 2013
Only a year ago, the London Olympics were being hailed as “a defining moment” in the emergence of a proudly multi-cultural Britain. That claim was always inflated but it looks decidedly hollow, indeed dangerously self-indulgent, in light of recent developments: the electoral advance of UKIP, the enhanced menace of the EDL and most of all the barbaric attacks on Muslims and mosques in the aftermath of Lee Rigby’s murder.
The far right resurgence, here and across Europe, poses challenges of many kinds for the left. But whatever else we do, we have to recognise that the far right feeds off and re-enforces a more diffuse phenomenon: the racism, national chauvinism and xenophobia that are part and parcel of the mainstream.
The racism of the mainstream isn’t hard to find. Just look at the pages of the Mail or Express (far more efficient deliverers of racist propaganda than the far right) or at entertainments like Homeland or Argo (where in accordance with hoary stereotypes the Muslim enemies of the west are portrayed as unappeasable, brutally irrational, and at the same time calculating and duplicitous). Then look at how racism has been shown to infect nearly all our major social institutions – from football to police and prisons to Oxford and Cambridge.
Politicians of all three main parties dabble in it. read more…
The Guardian, 31 July, 2013
Among cancer sufferers there’s often a shared moan about how some friends or acquaintances “just don’t get it”, how some turn away and retreat, and some meddle and proselytise.
Cancer sufferers all have their own pet grievances and I wouldn’t claim to speak for others. In fact, recognising the infinite variety of individual responses to cancer is a necessary part of having, handling and treating cancer. To revise Tolstoy, all healthy people are alike, all unhealthy people are unhealthy after their own fashion. We are all variants from a norm; that’s why we’re being treated.
So there are no uniform rules of the game when it comes to talking to friends or acquaintances who have cancer about their condition. read more…
Comment on the crisis at Barts Hospitals in London for Red Pepper blog.
“An hereditary crown! A transmissible throne! What a notion! With even a little reflexion, can any one tolerate it?”
Thomas Paine on the “master-fraud” of monarchy
A note by Mike Marqusee
In Rights of Man (1791-92) Paine describes monarchy as like “something kept behind a curtain, about which there is a great deal of bustle and fuss, and a wonderful air of seeming solemnity; but when, by any accident, the curtain happens to be open and the company see what it is, they burst into laughter.” read more…
The financial crisis threatening jobs and services at the Barts and London Trust hospitals is a scandal and a tragedy – because it is entirely contrived. (See today’s Guardian story)
Among the main causes of the £2 million per week deficit are “non-delivery of planned cost improvement programme schemes.” In other words, the Trust has been unable to implement the spending cuts it is required to make as part of the NHS-wide £20 billion “efficiency savings” programme.
It’s not that the Trust hasn’t been trying to meet its “savings” targets or that staff have been wanton with resources; it’s that those targets cannot be met without compromising patient care. It’s a paper exercise that is inevitably disjointed from the realities of service provision. read more…
A friend who had been on Incapacity Benefit for some years was recently ruled ‘fit to work’ after a 15-minute ATOS examination. As a result of this, he was placed on Job Seekers’ Allowance – an immediate reduction of about 25% in his (already meagre) weekly income.
As a condition of receiving JSA, he has to show the Department of Work and Pensions that he has applied for at least four jobs every week.
This is an entirely empty exercise. There are far more jobless than there are new vacancies. My friend is 60 and without formal qualifications and cannot contrive a CV that will be attractive to employers. Nothing he’s being required to do by the DWP will have the slightest effect on the likelihood of his getting a job.
It’s a charade, but not just a charade. The “job seeking” regimen is a discipline imposed for its own sake. To ensure that those outside work know and feel the lash of regulation. read more…
Because of ill health, I won’t be able to attend the People’s Assembly on Saturday. For me that’s frustrating; I was looking forward to hearing people’s ideas for action and experiences in campaigning.
As Owen Jones and others have said, it’s unacceptable that at this stage there is no broad-based anti-austerity campaign. The People’s Assembly is a welcome step in rectifying that weakness.
However, it’s being held at a time when anti-austerity activity is at a lower level than one would expect given the provocations. read more…
A look back at the local government struggle of the 1980s
CONTENDING FOR THE LIVING
Red Pepper, June 2013
Thatcher’s death and, even more, her reincarnation in Britain’s Coalition government make this a propitious moment to re-examine the history of the 1980s. With severe cuts being imposed on local government, it’s especially worth revisiting the rate-capping controversy of 1984-85.
The history of the 1980s was never a simple tale of triumphal neo-liberalism. The Thatcherite project was resisted every step of the way and at several critical junctures was seriously imperilled. read more…
Tribunal blow to Israel’s advocates
Labour Briefing, June 2013
Taunting and tainting opponents with the charge of anti-semitism is a long-standing Zionist ploy, familiar to everyone involved in the Israel-Palestine issue. As their support weakens in the face of evidence-based argument, Israel’s advocates have stepped up their use of the accusation as a means to close down debate, particularly on proposals for boycott, divestment and sanctions.
A key component in their armoury is what’s been called “lawfare”: attempts to use the courts to stifle opponents. This strategy, which has been employed in the US, France and Britain, suffered a significant reverse at the end of March, when an Employment Tribunal in London comprehensively rejected a claim made by Ronnie Fraser, of Academics for Israel, against his union, the University and College Union. read more…
Millions follow the frenzy of 20-20 cricket, but tomorrow’s Test match at Lord’s is a celebration of the game’s subtle pleasures
The Guardian, 16 May
The coming weeks will see the two contrasting faces of global cricket on show. While the Indian Premier League’s sixth season reaches its frenzied climax, over here England meet New Zealand for an abbreviated but intriguing two-Test series starting on Thursday. Both are recognisably forms of the same game, but as cultural, social and aesthetic phenomena they are worlds apart.
A brightly-coloured, fast-paced and unashamedly commercial spectacle, IPL is a 20-overs-a-side competition played by nine privately-owned franchises, each based in a major Indian metropolis and staffed by a mix of local talent and international stars. TV viewers will have noted the cheerleaders (a North American import) but the major innovation is the corporate ownership, common in other sports but until IPL unknown in cricket. read more…
Seventy years ago, the Warsaw Ghetto uprising was crushed. In London, Szmul Zygielbojm took his own life in protest. He was a Polish Jew, a socialist and the representative of the Bund (the Jewish workers’ party) in the Polish government in exile.
He left behind a letter in which he explained his action:
“The latest news that has reached us from Poland makes it clear beyond any doubt that the Germans are now murdering the last remnants of the Jews in Poland with unbridled cruelty. Behind the walls of the ghetto the last act of this tragedy is now being played out. read more…
Spanish translation of Red Pepper column ’1200 BC: The world’s first industrial action … rescuing the past for the future’ (see below)
Translated for Rebelión by Christine Lewis Carrol
La ciudad de Luxor, en el sur de Egipto, fue noticia en Gran Bretaña a finales de febrero con ocasión de la muerte de 19 turistas en un accidente de aerostato. Aquella tragedia sintetizará los infortunios de la industria turística egipcia, en otro momento fuente principal de empleo y entrada de divisas y ahora en estado de languidez ante la falta de turistas extranjeros ahuyentados por un temor -erróneo y exagerado- a la inestabilidad y la violencia. read more…