‘A poet’s work. To name the unnameable, to point at frauds, to take sides, start arguments, shape the world and stop it from going to sleep.’ So says the irreverent, satirical poet Baal in The Satanic Verses. What the storm over Salman Rushdie’s non-appearance at the Jaipur Literature Festival reveals is that too few people these days think like Baal.
Rushdie was due to have attended the festival – which is quickly becoming one of the most important global literary events – to give a talk on Midnight’s Children, the film of which is released later this year, and to take part in a discussion on the history of English in India. Rushdie has visited India many times over the past decade and has attended the Festival before. This time Muslim activists issued threats. Instead of standing up the bullies, both local and state governments caved in, both exerting pressure on the festival organizers to keep Rushdie away. ‘I am sure the organizers will respect the sentiments of the local people’, said Ashok Gehlot, the chief minister of Rajasthan, whose capital is Jaipur.
In the end Rushdie cancelled his trip having, he said, received information about a plot to assassinate him, a plot that now appears may have been invented by the Rajasthan police to ‘persuade’ Rushdie not to come. In response, the novelist Hari Kunzru and the writer and poet Amitava Kumar, both speakers at the Festival, publicly read passages from The Satanic Verses. Later, two other speakers, Jeet Thayil and Rushir Joshi, did so too. The novel is still banned in India, having been placed on a proscribed list in 1988 by the then-premier Rajiv Gandhi, who, facing a crucial election, crumbled under Islamist pressure. The Festival organizers distanced themselves from what they called Kunzru and Kumar’s ‘unnecessary provocation’, and put pressure on other speakers not to follow suit. ‘Any action by any delegate or anyone else involved with the Festival that in any manner falls foul of the law will not be tolerated and all necessary, consequential action will be taken’, threatened a subsequent press release.
While many have shown support for Rushdie, others have also sprung to the defence of the festival organizers. ‘I’m not sure this Rushdie intervention was wise or effective’, tweeted Guardian books editor Claire Armistead about Kunzru and Kumar’s decision to read from from The Satanic Verses. But if it is not the role of literary festivals to stand up for writers, and to defend their right to speak, especially in these circumstances, it is difficult to know what is. The Festival’s decision not just to distance itself from Kunzru and Kumar but to threaten others who might be thinking of following suit was nothing less than cowardly.
Contrast the pusillanimity of the Jaipur festival organizers with the response of writers, publishers, editors, translators and booksellers faced with Ayotalloh Khomeini’s fatwa in 1989. Salman Rushdie was forced into hiding for almost a decade. Translators and publishers were assaulted and even murdered. In July 1991, Hitoshi Igarashi, a Japanese professor of literature and translator of The Satanic Verses, was knifed to death on the campus of Tsukuba University. That same month another translator of Rushdie’s novel, the Italian Ettore Capriolo, was beaten up and stabbed in his Milan apartment. In October 1993 William Nygaard, the Norwegian publisher of The Satanic Verses, was shot three times and left for dead outside his home in Oslo. Bookshops were firebombed for stocking the novel. Yet Rushdie never wavered in his refusal to withdraw the novel and Penguin never wavered in its commitment to Rushdie.
Penguin’s CEO at the time was Peter Mayer, and he talked publicly about those events for the first time in an interview he gave for my book From Fatwa to Jihad. Mayer himself was subject to a vicious campaign of hatred and intimidation. ‘I had letters delivered to me written in blood’, he remembered. ‘I had telephone calls in the middle of the night, saying not just that they would kill me but that they take my daughter and smash her head against a concrete wall. Vile stuff.’ Yet neither Mayer nor Penguin countenanced backing down. ‘I told the [Penguin] board, “You have to take the long view. Any climbdown now will only encourage future terrorist attacks by individuals or groups offended for whatever reason by other books that we or any publisher might publish. If we capitulate, there will be no publishing as we know it.”’ Mayer and his colleagues recognized that ‘what we did now affected much more than simply the fate of this one book. How we responded to the controversy over The Satanic Verses would affect the future of free inquiry, without which there would be no publishing as we knew it, but also, by extension, no civil society as we knew it. We all came to agree that all we could do, as individuals or as a company, was to uphold the principles that underlay our profession and which, since the invention of movable type, have brought it respect. We were publishers. I thought that meant something. We all did.’
Nygaard, too, was resolute in his refusal to give way. He spent weeks in hospital, followed by months of rehabilitation. It was two years before he could fully use his arms and legs again. ‘Journalists kept asking me, “Will you stop publishing The Satanic Verses?”’, he told me in an interview. ‘I said, “Absolutely not”.’
Mayer and Nygaard belonged to a world in which the defence of free speech was seen as an irrevocable duty. The organizers of Jaipur festival belong to a different world, one in which the idea that a poet’s work is ‘To name the unnameable, to point at frauds, to take sides, start arguments, shape the world and stop it from going to sleep’ is seen not as self-evident but as shockingly offensive. Over the past two decades, the very landscape of free speech and censorship has been transformed, as has the meaning of literature. The response of the Jaipur organisers gave expression to this transformation.
‘Give me the liberty to know, to utter, and to argue freely according to conscience, above all liberties’, wrote John Milton in Areopagitica, his famous 1644 ‘speech for the liberty of unlicenc’d printing’, adding that ‘He who destroys a good book destroys reason itself’. For the next three centuries all progressive political strands were wedded to the principle of free speech as the necessary condition for social and political advance.
Of course, the liberal defence of free speech was shot through with hypocrisy. Milton himself opposed the extension of free speech to Catholics on the grounds that the Catholic Church was undeserving of freedom and liberty. John Locke, too, fêted as the founder of the liberal tradition of tolerance, helddeeply bigoted views about Catholics. A whole host of harms – from the incitement to hatred to threats to national security, from the promotion of blasphemy to the spread of slander – have been cited as reasons to curtail speech. Yet, however hypocritical liberal arguments may sometimes have seemed, and notwithstanding the fact that most free speech advocates accepted that the line had to be drawn somewhere, there was nevertheless an acknowledgement that speech was an inherent good, the fullest extension of which was a necessary condition for the elucidation of truth, the expression of moral autonomy, the maintenance of social progress and the development of other liberties. Restrictions on free speech were seen as the exception rather than as the norm. Radicals recognized that the way to challenge the hypocrisy was not by restricting free speech further but by extending it to all.
It is this idea of speech as intrinsically good that has been transformed. Today, free speech is as likely to be seen as a threat to liberty as its shield. By its very nature, many argue, speech damages basic freedoms. It is not intrinsically a good but inherently a problem because speech inevitably offends and harms. Speech, therefore, has to be restrained, not in exceptional circumstances, but all the time and everywhere, especially in diverse societies with a variety of deeply held views and beliefs. Censorship (and self-censorship) has to become the norm. ‘Self-censorship’, as the Muslim philosopher and spokesman for the Bradford Council of Mosques Shabbir Akhtar put it at the height of the Rushdie affair, ‘is a meaningful demand in a world of varied and passionately held convictions. What Rushdie publishes about Islam is not just his business. It is everyone’s – not least every Muslim’s – business.’
Increasingly politicians and policy makers, publishers and festival organizers, liberals and conservatives, in the East and in the West, have come to agree. Whatever may be right in principle, many now argue, in practice one must appease religious and cultural sensibilities because such sensibilities are so deeply felt. We live in a world, so the argument runs, in which there are deep-seated conflicts between cultures embodying different values. For such diverse societies to function and to be fair, we need to show respect for other peoples, cultures, and viewpoints. Social justice requires not just that individuals are treated as political equals, but also that their cultural beliefs are given equal recognition and respect. The avoidance of cultural pain has, therefore, come to be regarded as more important than the abstract right to freedom of expression. As the British sociologist Tariq Modood has put it, ‘If people are to occupy the same political space without conflict, they mutually have to limit the extent to which they subject each others’ fundamental beliefs to criticism.’ What the anti-Baals of today most fear is starting arguments. What they most want is for the world to go to sleep.
The consequence of all this has been the creation not of a less conflicted world, but of one that is more sectarian, fragmented and tribal. As the novelistMonica Ali has put it, ‘If you set up a marketplace of outrage you have to expect everyone to enter it. Everyone now wants to say, “My feelings are more hurt than yours”.’ The more that policy makers give licence for people to be offended, the more that people will seize the opportunity to feel offended. It leads to the encouragement of interest groups and the growth of sectarian conflict.
Nowhere is this trend clearer than in India. There is a long history, reaching back into the Raj, of applying heavy handed censorship supposedly to ease fraught relationships between different communities. It is a process that in recent decades has greatly intensified. Hand in hand with more oppressive censorship has come, however, not a more peaceful society, but one in which the sense of a common nation has increasingly broken down into sectarian rivalries, as every group demands its right not to be offended. The original confrontation over The Satanic Verses was a classic example of how in encouraging groups to feel offended, one simply intensifies sectarian conflict. The latest row is another step down that road.
It is not just Muslims that are adept at playing the offence card. Hindus have done it perhaps even more assiduously, as have many other groups. Nor is it just an issue for India. Exactly the same trends can be seen in Britain, and other Western nations.
The ‘never give offence’ brigade imagines that a more plural society requires a greater imposition of censorship. In fact it is precisely because we do live in a plural society that we need the fullest extension possible of free speech. In a homogenous society in which everyone thought in exactly the same way then the giving of offence would be nothing more than gratuitous. But in the real world where societies are plural, then it is both inevitable and important that people offend the sensibilities of others. Inevitable, because where different beliefs are deeply held, clashes are unavoidable. And we should deal with those clashes rather than suppress them. Important because any kind of social change or social progress means offending some deeply held sensibilities. The right to ‘subject each others’ fundamental beliefs to criticism’ is the bedrock of an open, diverse society. Or, as Rushdie put it in his essay In Good Faith,human beings ‘understand themselves and shape their futures by arguing and challenging and questioning and saying the unsayable; not by bowing the knee whether to gods or to men.’
Shabbir Akhtar was right: what Salman Rushdie says is everybody’s business. It is everybody’s business to ensure that no one is deprived of their right to say what they wish, even if it is deemed by some to be offensive. If we want the pleasures of pluralism, we have to accept the pain of being offended. Not least at a literary festival.
By Kenan Malik from his blog Pandaemonium
I gave a talk on Wednesday night to the Studienbibliothek in Hamburg. Entitled ‘Left, Right and Islamism’ the talk explored the ways in which the responses of both left and right to Islamism have betrayed of basic principles of freedom and liberty. One of the key themes in the discussion afterwards was about how the liberal fear of giving offence has helped created the space for Islamists to take offence. The more that we worry that people will be offended by a book or a play or a cartoon or an idea or a thought, the more we give licence for people to be so offended, and the more that people will seize the opportunity to feel offended.
It is not just Islamists who live by outrage. Returning to Britain, I discover in the three days I’ve been away three incidents that perfectly illustrate how everyone now wants to feel offended – or rather how the authorities, from the police to trade union bureaucrats, seem to want everyone to feel offended.
First, there was the case of the woman whose racist rant on a Croydon tram went viral after another passenger videoed it on a mobile and posted it on YouTube. The police tracked her down from that video, charged her with ‘racially and religiously aggravated harassment’ and got her remanded in custody. Then came Jeremy Clarkson who made a typically inane joke about public sector workers needing to be shot. UNISON, the public sector union,demanded his sacking and a police investigation. And then Manchester City footballer Micah Richards received some racist backchat on his Twitter feed. @WillMadine94 tweeted: ‘You big fat nigger u r shit. Martin Kelly over u all day for england. Play for africa!!!’. Lincolnshire police launched an investigation (the tweeter is believed to live in the county) and are trying to track him down.
Each of these incidents is different, ranging from poor taste to hateful abuse, and each requires a different response. What none of them requires is for the law to intervene.
Tram woman was nasty and abusive; she is of a kind I have faced many times in my life (though thankfully rarely in recent years). The way to deal with her was as the passengers on the tram actually did: they confronted her and challenged her abuse.
Clarkson should simply have been ignored. He is like the pub bore whose whole aim is to provoke a effect. The more that people rise to the bait, the more they make his day. At least Clarkson had the excuse that he was trying to make joke. UNISON has no such excuse. There is, as David Allen Green pointed out , something more than a little odious about a trade union ‘calling for someone to be summarily sacked. No disciplinary procedure, no due process, no contract rights: the man should be fired immediately.’
@WillMadine94 is one of those foul-mouthed, bigoted trolls that pop up all too frequently on the web (though he seems now to have deleted his Twitter account). Richards, if he had really felt offended, could have blocked @WillMadine94 on his Twitter feed. Instead, Richards responded : ‘Love the racist abuse keep it coming… ☺.’Hardly the response of someone shattered by the abuse. The police decided to step in anyway.
Outrage these days has become almost a means of defining oneself, of marking out one’s identity. I know who I am because I am outraged by this, you know who you are because you are outraged by that. Muslims, Christians, atheists, liberals, conservatives – for every group outrage has become an expression of self-definition. The mark of identity is the possession of a thin skin. Monica Ali, whose novel Brick Lane caused umbrage among some Bangladeshis , talked in an interview I did for my book From Fatwa to Jihad , of the creation of a ‘marketplace of outrage’:
What we have developed today is a marketplace of outrage. And if you set up a marketplace of outrage you have to expect everyone to enter it. Everyone now wants to say, “My feelings are more hurt than yours”.’
Indeed they do. It is a marketplace that is quickly becoming more crowded than a passport queue at Heathrow airport.
The marketplace of outrage is not, however, simply a means of creating self-identity. It is also a means of social regulation. Speech regulation – whether of hate speech or of offensive speech – is becoming a mechanism through which the authorities can police relations between groups in an era of identity politics. in an increasingly tribal society, the slightest whiff of saying something unacceptable has become a matter for social discipline. It is a kind of society that Islamists revere. What is extraordinary is how many liberals, and those on the left, seem to desire it too. I’m outraged.
From the Cautiously Pessimistic blog.
A fair amount of the stuff I write is made up of criticisms of various parts of the left. Lefties and anarchists famously spend a vast amount of their time arguing with each other, and a lot of people, understandably, get upset by this and tend to think that if only we could just get on and work together we’d achieve so much more. It’s certainly a view I used to take when I was slightly younger and less cynical. So, here’s my attempt at giving a few reasons why I think it’s perfectly legitimate to spend a lot of time sniping at the left:
1) I think it’s more important to say something that isn’t that obvious, rather than to say something that everyone knows. Pretty much everyone can tell you that the BNP are bad. Ed Miliband, the Guardian, and probably your gran can all tell you that David Cameron’s a wanker, even though they might not all put it in those terms. An explanation of the way that unions and left-wing parties, rather than just standing up for workers, actually often suppress workers’ struggles, is a lot harder to find, so offering that kind of criticism feels a bit more worthwhile than just reminding everyone that the tories are bad, again.
2) Being politically active necessarily gives you a skewed viewpoint on reality, something that all activists would do well to remember. Obviously, the extent to which your perspective gets warped will vary wildly depending on what you do and how active you are – camping out in an eco-village is very, very different from normal life, trying to get the people you work with to go on a go-slow not so much – but still, if you’re politically active in some way, your experiences will differ from the experiences you’d have if you weren’t active. You’re unlikely to bump into a BNP organiser on a picket line, and the chances of meeting a hardline tory at a march to save your local hospital aren’t great, but you are pretty much guaranteed to meet someone selling Socialist Worker wherever you go. So it’s not really that much of a surprise that you build up pretty strong opinions on much of the left quite quickly.
3) This is the important one that needs to be borne in mind: these people are part of the problem. From Germany in 1919 and the Kronstadt rebellion to the Spanish revolution and May 1968 , those claiming to be on the side of the working class have often ended up as the most dangerous enemies of a revolution. But this isn’t just some dry historical point: there’s plenty of examples to prove the same point today. Of course, the most dramatic case is that of Greece, where Communist Party members joined with the police to protect the Parliament from attack last week , a move which has been condemned by the popular assembly of Syntagma Square . Elsewhere, an “Anarchist Watch” twitter account has been set up by McCarthyite elements in Occupy Denver to try to drive radicals out of the Occupy movement; it’s already inspired an “Anarchy Watch UK ”, which may or may not be a pisstake, it’s anyone’s guess.
But, even though the left here doesn’t actually assemble squads to fight in defence of capitalism, and the “Anarchy Watch UK” account may well be fake, there’s still plenty of examples to show how keen the left are to serve our rulers: from the tiny Trotskyist groups mourning the tyrant Gaddaffi to the Labour Party supporters taking the opposite approach and arguing that “now the left should back UK big oil” , the perspective of international working-class struggle against all dictators and exploitative companies doesn’t even get a look-in. I don’t often look at the Weekly Worker, but I happened to do so this week* and found a very revealing article on the recent violence in Rome , which is especially relevant in light of last week’s battle in Greece, where they complain about the fact that anarchists and autonomists had been “allowed” to fight the cops, and blaming this tragedy on the Spanish movement’s hostility to political parties, because “parties have a degree of internal cohesion, group loyalty and discipline” that would have allowed them to take control of the situation. In an article complaining about the black bloc’s fighting with the cops, this can only mean that, as in Greece, the left groups see their role as being to act as an external guard for the police, beating back militants before we can even reach police lines. Of course, groups like the Communist Party of Great Britain or the Workers’ Revolutionary Party are far too weak to actually play the thuggish, reactionary role they’d like, and they’re totally irrelevant to most people’s lives, so confronting them won’t be a strategic priority for the forseeable future; but still, just because they’re weak enemies doesn’t mean we should forget that supporters of Gaddaffi, UK oil companies and the police are still our enemies.
Still, it’s not enough to just be against the various defenders of capitalism; we also need some idea of what we want, and what kinds of action we want to encourage. So, to turn over to the positive section of this post, parents and staff at Bournville School in Birmingham have recently defeated plans to turn their school into an academy , the Indian car workers who occupied their factory have won the reinstatement of 1,200 jobs , disabled folk and their supporters rallied all over the country at the weekend , Frank Fernie, the student jailed for his role in the March 26th protests, is now out , students occupied Chile’s senate building for several hours last week , and the rank-and-file struggle in the construction industry continues with protests in London and Manchester on Wednesday 26th October and plans for a national demo on November 9th . Since that’s the same day as a major student demonstration, things could get very very interesting then, and I’d urge anyone who’s a student or unemployed to try and get down to London for the night before, since things are likely to start pretty early in the morning.
Finally, a few interesting articles that I’ve seen recently: Italy Calling has a piece on the clashes in Rome one week on , Open Democracy has a big analytical article looking at the Occupy movement and UK Uncut as examples of a new kind of movement without organisation , and libcom’s Occupy Wall Street tag just has loads of interesting stuff, updated fairly regularly . Of particular interest is this communique from Baltimore . “Identity politics” and class struggle are often seen as conflicting, but the W.A.T.C.H. communique does an excellent job of showing how feminist, queer, trans, and anti-racist “anti-identity politics” are vital to a truly revolutionary class struggle anarchist/communist analysis.
By Sam (NCAG)
According to a well known anecdote, a German officer visited Picasso in his Paris studio during the Second World War. There he saw Guernica and asked Picasso “did you do this?”
Picasso calmly replied: “no You did this!”
Today, when asked “did you do this? did you want this,?” we must respond – NO you did this, this is the true result of your politics.”
- Slavoj Zizek.
A man was killed in London, the next day a 16 year old girl was beated down to the ground by 15 police officers. Then for the next four nights London burned. People stole things, fought between themselves, others and the police, and generally trashed the city they lived in. And there is no doubt that most of the rioters had no political intent in their actions.
While the arguments on Facebook, in the pub, and on the streets was obviously divided and passionate, the arguments in the papers and from the mouths of politicians were all exactly the same formulated phrases.
The politicians answer has the benefit of simplicity. It states that these riots were the result of bad people doing bad things. That there is a class of people who are sad, bad, and nasty to know. These people have to be beaten into line. These people are responsible, the city burns because human nature is bad. But this answer is in no way satisfying. What’s really annoying people is that none of this makes sense. Only a child would expect the answer that “people are doing this because they’re bad.”
If that’s the case we have to ask some questions – why did they start being bad today? Why are we better than them? Are we better than them? If people are bad does it make sense to give certain members of our society guns and call them cops? Also if these people are bad, why have those who are better not managed to improve them yet?
There are so many questions that come from this seemingly simple answer, but the problem is that its completely wrong – people are social, it takes a lot of violence to make people riot.
“When liberty comes with hands dabbled in blood it is hard to shake hands with her.”
- Oscar Wilde
The problem is the fundamental way that we look at these protests. It’s not true to see this as a sudden outbreak of violence in an otherwise peaceful society. Rather this is the most obvious face of the constant violence in society. Not only do the poorest in London live a decade less than the more wealthy, not only do thousands die because of accidents at work that are due to the profit motive, but also alternately the fact that most people have no control over their lives. There ability to pay each months rent is questionable. Their ability to live is dependant on their boss, the police, any number of loan sharks or petty council officials. All of this is an act of violence.
Parents see their children denied educational opportunities, life stolen from them, constant poverty and uncertainty. Those who argue that these poor people are not poor enough- you can just fuck off. Whatever other objections you have – these areas are poor, these people are isolated from society.
If they weren’t rioting there would be something wrong. As long as the power to legislate, to pay and to dominate, is in the hands of a tiny minority, then violence will always happen.
To liberals, who claim to sympathies, to see the people at the bottom and see that they need “help”, to the people who condemn the riots as detracting from the work of making real change – to these people we have a simple message.
For over 100 years we’ve tried things your way, tinkering at the edges. Messing around. Don’t you think that if all society needed was a slight change in the tax regime, a few thousand more council houses, and ethical shopping that we’d have done so already? The real reason you condemn these riots is you don’t want anyone getting your ‘ivory towers’ messy.
What we have seen with these riots is the immune system of our society starting to kick back into action. In the same way as vomiting when you’re ill isn’t pleasant, but is necessary for the process of getting well, so it is with the riots. (If you were to over extended the simile then the clean up crews are like the friend that helps you into bed, nice and every thing but not really part of the solution).
What the ruling elites and all those who are suffering from Stockholm Syndrome are really objecting to is that these riots were effectively society rejecting the civilisation we have built up. The work of western capitalism has been judged and found wanting, and it is this that is the greatest insult to our lords and masters.
Obviously there is much work to be done. Raising money for the normal people who have lost their homes and places of work, explaining what these riots really mean, and building the alternative to all of this.
But there is also reason enough to perhaps smile a little. In some places the riots have found the real enemy. And who knows, maybe somewhere in some mountain range the branch of Al Queda that deals with the UK is shutting up shop, as a year of Tory policies has done much more than any terrorist could ever hope to do.
But most importantly if we can teach the police that every time they murder a man, and beat up a child, London burns, then a small victory at least has been achieved.
It’s been an interesting week, watching the media talk up a riot, public servants ‘STRIKING…RALLYING…MARCHING!’
Yet it seems it doesn’t have enough ‘oomph’ anymore for the press. It’s only newsworthy if there’s a ruckus involving ‘latchers on’ from the ‘anarchist movement’…heaven forbid an anarchist might themselves be part of a Labour Party recognised trade union…
HEADLINE! READ ALL ABOUT IT! THE SCARY UNIONS HAVE LOST THEIR MOJO! HOODED MENACE TO TAKE OVER PLANET! More dangerous than Al Qaida…till next week…
Likewise it’s been an interesting and pleasing week watching friends and comrades rising to the challenge in defending the unions and taking the struggle to the streets against the Tory/Liberal ‘coalition’ government…who seem hell bent on destroying our welfare state…much to the derision of the press and unions in equal measure of course…
It’s also been a sad sad week. A week where comrades have been taken from us…
You know solidarity is a great great thing. There’s not enough of it about these days. So it fills me with joy to see it on display.
It is however a two-way street. And it is rarely reciprocated.
Over the last year I’ve spent a lot of my time involved with my organisation in our local ‘Coalition Against The Cuts’. Those on the inside ‘leading the fight’ are a hodge podge bunch, of local and regional union officials, some permanently involved in the usual paper-sale and petitioning for this months big issues, others less politicised but falling into place behind their more ‘senior’ union members. Hidden caucuses, caucuses hidden or within caucuses that are hidden from caucuses…
They use great and meaningful words like ‘worker’ and ‘working-class’. Even…’comrade’…although it’s often followed my a snigger and a red face…
These words however just seem to roll off the tongue.
There’s little passion there. It’s as if they’re acting out a part and the main lines of the script have become their catch phrases.
They talk of ‘fighting’ and ‘uniting the class’…
And this friends is where they start to lose me…when they eagerly discuss booking whole trains to take down to demos held in London which would ‘easily be filled to the carriage’ by a happy throng of ‘the class’…who would be eager to ‘rally to the cause’…
Only it’s all just fantasy…
As is all the talk of ‘the class’…
Class… They don’t belong to my class. Increasingly…they don’t belong to my class…Increasingly they don’t share the same life experiences, of dole, and housing office queue…of the prison…
They work for the state, they increasingly have the degree (that’s not a dig), often work in comfy offices, they have ‘expenses’, and something called’by the mile’… they work a rigidly set working week, hours never to be tampered with or there’ll be hell to pay…most of us don’t…and they have things called pensions…and their idea of conflict with the state…
Many of us too are currently in conflict with the state…and all it’s little branches…it’s offshoots…it’s wheels and centres of enforcement…
They work in the police station, the social services, the job centre, the housing office…’the public services’…the very services that many of these individuals will never ever have to utilise themselves… the very services that many of us have to deal with on a regular basis when we’re unemployed or in need of housing or desperate for work and money…or banged up…
‘NOW JUST HOLD ON!’ I hear you cry…’There’s nothing wrong with having a degree or working for the state and going on strike over pensions!’
You’re absolutely right, there’s not and my hat goes off to them…Likewise I remain steadfast and committed to the principle ‘a grievance to one is a grievance to all, I SHALL NEVER CROSS A PICKET LINE…’
But It would be nice if the solidarity that you and I believe in would be…and here’s that word again’…’reciprocated’.
It would be nice to know that those on the marches and rallies waving their flags shouting ‘support us’ and ‘join us’…that those same people this Monday weren’t going to be throwing us out of our houses, taking or children away, cutting our dole money, putting us in prison, and being the holders of the keys to our cell doors…
Because they will be.
Yes it would be nice if there was…solidarity…
The recent attempts made by the Norfolk Community Action Group within the local coalition to try and bridge this situation fell on deaf ears. So we chose to part company.
Our arguments that if they want ‘popular support’, and yes folks that does mean engaging with the Sun reader and the Daily Mail reader, then they will have to stop solely ‘agitating’ within their unions…an ‘agitation’ that often is nothing more than an email and a flyer on the union notice board or a phone call to the very same people who attended the meeting the week before, the pathological ‘preach to the converted’ who can only be bothered if it affects ‘them and theirs’…and get off their arses and physically start engaging with their local population explaining and arguing why they BELIEVE they are RIGHT to take the actions they are taking, in plain words with the use of plain English, without the use of a pre-script or the handing over of a leaflet that will never ever ever in a million years dear God get read because it’s cold, it’s heartless, it will not engage…
It can not engage.
Because there’s no soul in a leaflet…or a petition…especially when it’s a petition for OUR benefit…and our benefit only…
Yes that means job centre staff walking onto council estates, Yes that means teachers walking onto council estates, Yes that means housing officers walking onto council estates…Yes that means social workers walking onto council estates, Yes that means trade unionist from each and every sector of public services in this ‘country’ of ours walking onto council estates…
Not destroying peoples lives and being the first port of call of the oppressive state…
Only they won’t will they?
They won’t because there is a barrier…
They won’t because there is a barrier of ‘us’ and ‘them’…
They won’t because there is a barrier of ‘us’ and ‘them’ and ‘service provider’ and ‘service user’…
That is…dare I say it…a barrier…of one class against another, even if that ‘class’ can not be easily differentiated. They would if they could though comrades…’differentiate that is…
Long gone are the days of Dave Douglass and the great Hatfield Main branch of the NUM, all the miners, the steel workers, the toilers, the manufacturers, the print workers…
They have been taken over…by the bureaucrat…the degree in trade union studies…and the Tolpuddle Martyrs, more an historical quaintness than a model, example, direction and template of struggle…
Unless miraculously new Dave Douglass’ appear and return the trade unions to their rightful place…holding meetings at the bottom of our streets, discussing and showing ‘solidarity’ and helping the unemployed with education and training, and building a real resistance to the aggressive Tory doctrine that has recently returned to plague us…
You know comrades, only 26% of the workforce in Britain today are unionised…and it’s falling daily…
They had better appear soon…before trade unions go the way of the Tolpuddle Martyrs..and become ‘a quaintness’..
Did you notice the use of the word ‘they’?
by Ian Bone
‘ We are asking people to form up from 11am at Victoria Embankment, but we don’t expect the last marchers to leave until well after 2pm.’
‘The march will leave at noon and then head to Hyde Park for the rally. This will start around 1:30.’
Two quotes from the TUC website. People will be asked to form up at 11am but many will not move off to ‘well after 2pm’. So that’s a three hour wait at least – well handy for the old, kids. anyone who needs a toilet. Knowing that many won’t even move off by then nevertheless the rally will begin at 1.30pm – with breaks the TUC tell us for those who might have to get a coach home from Wembley! So many lining up for hours will never see any of the rally.
Fact is that the TUC are just not geared up for a million people. They require hundreds of thousands to leave before the others can get in. Everything is subordinate to getting a prime time slot for Ed Miliband and ed Balls.
THIS IS ENTIRELY THE TUC’S OWN FAULT. THEY NOT ONLY REFUSED TO ORGANISE FEEDER MARCHES WHICH WOULD SOLVE THE PROBLEM OF THREE HOUR WAITS BUT DENOUNCED THOSE THAT ARE BEING DONE AS ‘UNOFFICIAL’
By Tony Barrett
In light of the governments’ new proposals to combat binge drinking, I believe it is time to set the record straight as to how this not so new cultural aspect of British society has come to be one of our present day nightmares. The past and present government has insinuated that it is societies fault for having no self-control, I disagree and so would most others.
What follows is my defence of society and to show that it was the last Conservative government that introduced a new legal framework governing the sale and distribution of alcohol making its accessibility easier, the Labour government that followed then relaxed the laws even further.
The results of excessive/binge drinking are numerous; one only has to walk up the high street after 10 o’clock at night. (With its clubs, bars wine bars all side by side all offering cheap deals for a few hours early on in the evening, encouraging us out earlier.) We see adults and youth of various ages in various states of inebriation some are lying on the floor being attended by paramedics, others are in direct confrontation with each other, policemen everywhere, A&E full of drunk people who have hurt themselves with their mates being a nuisance. All this is putting pressure on services that are already stretched. Paramedics Nurses Doctors the Police do not need to be wet-nursing the drunken idiots created by consecutive governments making decisions based upon. “Business Pressure, their own Greed, and the need to create forms of Social Control. They need to be protecting and caring for society.
Time after time we have heard the past and the present Government voice their concerns over the issue of “Binge Drinking.” Binge drinking has been about within the younger generation of our society for at least three generations. It has been made a lot easier since the 1990s. Before the introduction of new legislation, the lessening of the severity of licensing laws, there were only small windows of opportunities for us to be able to get a drink in drinking establishments. These establishments were only open for a few hours a day and even less on Sundays, off licences were a rarity on the high street.
When attending college in the early eighties, you couldn’t wait to get to the bar and see if you could beat your time on the yard of ale, or just pint for pint challenges. When on University campus in the early nineties the entire culture was one of lets get pissed. Football violence/hooliganism was at its worst in the late seventies and the majority of the eighties to see, what excessive drinking did to the mind set of opposing fans, this is not to exclude the other influences on the violent conduct, adding copious amounts of alcohol can be seen as adding petrol to a simmering fire.
Toward the end of the eighties a new trend was seen to be sweeping the country, described by the media as “Acid House Parties”. Adults gathering together to listen to music all night, take MDMA, (Ecstasy) dance the night away, whilst not touching a drop of alcohol. Returning home the next day on a great high. No hangover, did not have a bad night due to drunks in the towns. Very little expenditure, when these so called Parties first started the MDMA was free and pure and there was no admittance fee. Best of all did not have to listen to the appalling noise that was Brit pop music that did nothing for the soul and only appealed if one was under the age of 13. Coincidently with the availability of ecstasy on the increase we saw a drop in football hooliganism, ecstasy cannot take the entire credit some has to go the authorities for changing the infrastructure surrounding the watching of football within stadiums.
During the early part of the 1990s Night club owners, Publicans and the Breweries began experiencing a down turn in income, there were several reasons for this, fairly high inflation, low wages, high unemployment, restrictive legislation governing the availability of entertainment, and small windows of opportunity when establishments were open, and the lack of a “Drink Culture”. For those working and able to afford to go out and consume alcohol, it was a mad rush to get home from work, change, have something to eat, and get out before everywhere was shut.
Those within the Industry approached the government asking for a review of the licensing laws as their industry was suffering, they cited that it was mainly down to the rave culture, conveniently forgetting several other contributing factors. The then Conservative government had concerns with the rave culture;
- They were unable to Tax these events.
- They had no control over them.
- They were unable to engage with this culture.
The governments decision was to hold a review of the licensing laws, whilst to include within the CJB (Criminal Justice Bill), Sections that outlawed the setting up of Raves, an act that would serve to criminalise those wanting to dance the night away in friendly surroundings without alcohol. The review was going to take time therefore the Publicans and nightclub owners began employing Rave DJs trying to entice punters to their establishments. This worked totally in the favour of the Raver, there was somewhere to go for a warm up until 02:00am in the morning then off you’d go to an underground rave until the sun was up. It backfired on business because they had not taken into account, “we only wanted to dance”. Alcohol had no place, a side effect of MDMA and the absence of a “Drink Culture”.
With the review of the licensing laws, Nightclubs were able to remain open longer, gained extensions on the times that alcohol could be served, Supermarkets, Wine bars, Lap Dancing clubs Café bars, outlets of all descriptions all competing to get you as drunk as possible suddenly began springing up, the length of the high street. The unavailability of pure MDMA, the clamping down by local authorities on the Rave culture, and the heavy-handed tactics used by police forces when breaking up these harmless events. (It is a misconception that the organisers had no respect for the countryside or others. Most raves were sited away from residential areas, and the crews spent up to two days making sure they left the area as they found it.)
This combination of actions pushed vast numbers into alcohol consumption, the competition to sell the cheapest drink pushed the price even lower. The coalition of the drinks Industry and the past two governments served to encourage the consumption of alcohol on a vast scale. In effect once again becoming a peddler of an addictive and intoxicating substance. If the nation is inebriated there is less chance of it turning on the government, “Social control” comes to ones lips.
Thus asks Andy Newman on his Socialist Unity site. His excuse for running the piece is the egging of Brendan Barber at Goldsmiths last night. This has given Newman - a supporter of Ed Balls, Galloway, Livingstone, Cruddas, Searchlight, Abbott, Sheridan etc etc – an excuse to re-run his hoary old stalinist anti-anarchist lies.
The egging is compared to Class War’s assault on Neil Kinnock in Hyde Park in 1983.
In the build up to March 26th we can expect much more of the same from the Left as they see their tired old formulaic A-B marches and Vote Labour aims discredited.
A clear attempt to frighten the punters on the march from taking any action promoted by these ‘enemies’. It might have worked in the past Andy – Spain 1936 – but this time the horse has bolted with a red and black flag on it’s head and thousands of punters failing to accede to Brendan’s pleas to GO HOME at 5pm from Hyde Park.
You’ve been rumbled Andy – I’d check the flights to caracas if i were you…
by Laurie Penny
Ed Miliband’s pitiful offer of 1p membership won’t tempt the young back to parliamentary politics.
Democracy is going cheap. Just in time for the January sales, the party responsible for introducing tuition fees has decided that it wants to jump on the youth protest bandwagon. “Join the party for one penny, and we will be your voice,” writes Ed Miliband in a rather desperate Christmas message to under-25s.
Labour is making a fundamental error, however, in assuming that these young protesters want or need anybody to “be our voice”. Parliamentary politics has sold the young out, and whatever bargain-basement price tag mainstream parties slap on their membership, they aren’t buying it any more.
The young people of Britain do not need leaders, and the new wave of activists has no interest in the ideological bureaucracy of the old left. Their energy and creativity is disseminated via networks rather than organisations, and many young people have neither the time nor the inclination to wait for any political party to decide what direction they should take. The Liberal Democrats represented the last hope that parliamentary democracy might have something to offer the young, and that hope has been exquisitely betrayed – no wonder, then, that the new movements have responded by rejecting the old order entirely.
What we are seeing here is no less than a fundamental reimagining of the British left: an organic reworking which rejects the old deferential structures of union-led action and interminable infighting among indistinguishable splinter parties for something far more inclusive and fast-moving. These new groups are principled and theoretically well-versed, but have no truck with the narcissism of small differences that used to corrupt even the most well-meaning of leftwing movements.
At the student meetings I have attended in recent weeks, ideological bickering is routinely sidelined in favour of practical planning. Anarchists and social democrats are obliged to work together alongside school pupils who don’t care what flag you march under as long as you’re on the side that puts people before profit. When the Unite leader, Len McLuskey, wrote in these pages this week encouraging union members to lend their support to the “magnificent student movement”, he hit precisely the right note – one that respects the energy of these new networks of resistance without seeking to hijack it. The unions have begun to realise what the Labour party is still too arrogant to consider – that the nature of the fight against bigotry and greed has evolved beyond the traditional hierarchies of the left.
It is highly significant that one of the first things this hydra-headed youth movement set out to achieve was the decapitation of its own official leadership. When Aaron Porter of the National Union of Students was seen to be “dithering” over whether or not to support the protests, there were immediate calls for his resignation – and in subsequent weeks the NUS has proved itself worse than irrelevant as an organising force for demonstrations.
Of course, the old left is not about to disappear completely. It is highly likely that even after a nuclear attack, the only remaining life-forms will be cockroaches and sour-faced vendors of the Socialist Worker. Stunningly, the paper is still being peddled at every demonstration to young cyber-activists for whom the very concept of a newspaper is almost as outdated as the notion of ideological unity as a basis for action.
For these young protesters, the strategic factionalism of the old left is irrelevant. Creative, courageous and inspired by situationism and guerrilla tactics, they have a principled understanding of solidarity. For example, assembling fancy-dress flash mobs in Topshop to protest against corporate tax avoidance may seem frivolous, but this movement is daring to do what no union or political party has yet contemplated – directly challenging the banks and business owners who caused this crisis.
The young people of Britain are no longer prepared to take orders, and are unlikely to pay even a penny for a vacillating, pro-business party to be “our voice”. We have never spoken in just one voice. We speak in hundreds of thousands of voices – voices that are being raised across Europe, not in unison but in harmony. The writing on the wall of the Treasury earlier this month may yet prove prescient: this is just the beginning.
Momentum is everything in politics and now we have it. Instead of a one-off isolated event like G20 we now have a series of actions week after week. Novembrer 24th walk out now encompasses occupying Lib Dem constituency offices and is to be followed by action against tax avoiding companies on december 4th.
The violent attacks on Tory HQ far from alienating public opinion has energised it. A quick trawl through the Sunday Papers reveals columnists like Suzanne Moore in the Mail on Sunday standing 4 square with the violent students and is replicated by opnion pieces elsewhere not only in the liberal media but in the right wing ones. Where commentators are not in support they are fearful. take Martin Ivens in the Sunday Times : ‘If a rash of violent disputes were to become a settled pattern the coalition government might look as if it were no longer in control, the agenda of early cuts too confrontational, it’s narrative of national salvation could be challenged.Public opinion is the prize. Who runs the country asked Ted Heath.Clearly not you replied the voters’.
Nick Clegg’s u-turn on student fees has alienated the middle classes into a temporary alliance with the proles.’What would happen now if nurses took to the streets against NHS cuts? Liberal opinion would be with them as well. The government could fall. It’s all to play for – but the door is open now – NOW is the time to push further. Forget next March – the next 4 weeks will be decisive. Go for it.
On November 20th the STWC is organising a march which they say is ‘crucial’ and will be ‘massive’. Organise your coach now. The route will be Hyde Park to Trafalgar Square where you will listen to Tony Benn, Lindsay German……….zzzz.
Of all organisations STWC should recognise the law of diminishing returns on repeat marches but they are totally incapable of thinking of a new tactic – leave alone acting on it. On November 6th UAF are organising a march to Trafalgar Square where you can listen to Tony Benn…….zzzz.
Next MARCH the TUC are organising what realy should be a huge march – from Hyde Park to Trafalgar Square where you can listen to Tony Benn……zzzz.
None of these marches will achieve anything. The first spasms against the cuts have resulted in local marches all over the country. But what now? Go home and wait for the TUC coach to London? Phil Ochs had a great song called ‘I aint marching any more’.
The only march that ever achieved anything was the Poll Tax riot and if that had ended in just a rally Thatcher would still be in fucking Downing Street.
OK -I’m railing against an easy and well worn target here. It’s up to us to come up with something more effective rather than whining about the failures of others. Flash mobs, occupations, direct action guerilla war of blocking streets and swiftly moving on………..whatever……at least we need to have some debate and ideas.
If the sum total of our thoughts is just to go on the TUC march next year with a banner saying ‘Direct Action Bloc’ we’re fucked. Carrying a banner saying ‘Direct Action Bloc’ is not direct action. If ever the imaginaton was needed to seize power it is now. But it’s almost like there’s a psychology at work (see ‘The Irrational in politics’ by Maurice Brinton) that stops us mounting real rather than ritual opposition. How do we get off the tramlines of protest ritual?
On the Downing street march last week the COR had already set up speakers behind barriers for people to walk behind. A few hours earlier top Tory politicians – including Danny Alexander! – wandered unmolested around St. Stephens Green just down the road. Could I get more than two people to turn up for that? Imagine what 50-60 could have done.
In a cold crispy March the TUC carthorse will shift into gear nostrils flaring and lead the procession off to Trafalgar Square. Down the road in the afternoon neon and twinkling lights the cash tills in the Osborne and Little fabric shop will merrily ring away building George’s inheritance fund.
Never the twain shall meet.
Chloe Smith, the Conservative Norwich North MP has this afternoon defended the governments announced £82 billion cuts in public services by making this remarkable statement..
“I know people will carefully consider today’s announcements about benefits. I think pensioners locally will welcome a sincere, permanent increase in cold weather payments and the retention of other help for them. I hope Equitable Life victims will also appreciate the sum that has been found for them. People I speak to locally do want the UK back on a sustainable financial footing. We can’t burden future generations with debts we wouldn’t be prepared to pay today”.
Nice one Chloe. The Silver and Essex Rooms closures ring any bells by any chance? The fact that the poorest 10% of the population are going to be potentially living on the streets homeless, a lot of them likely to be pensioners, due to the £8 billion in benefit cuts and rent increases simply passed you by has it?
And as for your comments on future generations not being burdened by debts Chloe, it’s not you or your ideologically motivated party who are going to be paying them is it! It was however your lot who caused it!
Chloe and her ‘pensioners and future generations’ are clearly a class above the rest of us…either that or they’re living on a completely different planet!
You might find Clueless Chloe knocking around Norwich North on Saturday.
“I will be holding special public meetings this Saturday and next to make sure I understand people’s opinions locally about the announcements.”
We do hope it’s in the poorer areas of the city…
By now many will have heard of the death of Angolan freedom fighter Jimmy Mubenga who died at the hands of immigration security while being restrained on a plane during his deportation.
What was Jimmy Mubenga’s crime? To flee to this country from a regime that killed members of his wife’s family, and had threatened his life due to his activities as a student leader opposing the government of Angola. There isn’t a family in Britain who wouldn’t do the same to protect the lives of their families.
Whilst living here for 15 years he was involved in a pub brawl an event that could happen to anybody at anytime in any public house in Britain. He was given a two year jail sentence and his ‘exceptional leave to remain’ status was revoked.
While many on ‘the left’ such as the UAF concentrate their efforts on the likes of the English Defence League, the State, to appease the ‘anti-immigration’ fever that has been sweeping the country scapegoating immigrants, runs a system that imprisons children and causes deaths ‘in custody’ just like this one, and has just lifted a ban on deporting refugees from Mugabe’s Zimbabwe.
The left need to sort their priorities out.
The EDL may be bigoted racist fools, in the main their members are just full of beer, fear and self percieved ‘pent up anger from years of neglect’, but the biggest threat to minorities doesn’t come from a tiny section of ‘the white working class’, it comes from the STATE ITSELF and always has done.
The left helped to create the EDL phenomena when they should have been outside the immigration detention centres trying to pull down the walls and freeing the likes of Jimmy Mubenga.
‘Despots and Dictators of the world, don’t kill freedom fighters who oppose your stinking murderous regimes…send them to Britain…and we’ll do it for you..’ you can almost hear the British state say…
Meanwhile the left busy themselves publicising and creating a public platform for bigots from some of Britains most disenfranchised communities. They should be inside these communities building links and addressing the problems within them, and outside detention centres shouting ‘tear down the walls’ so that deaths at the hands of immigration services never happen again!
Jimmy Mubenga leaves a wife and five children behind, another family torn apart by the actions of the British State and those that work for them.