Monday, 30 November 2009
I think that most people will say that Christmas is one big commercial jamboree or, say its for the kids. I think that the older I’ve become the more I dislike the whole thing altogether, it must be the tranquillising seduction, enticing many into winter’s commercial wonderland of jingling tills.
I wonder if people still organise such things as Christmas clubs, were, over the course of the year many workers would pay in an amount that would go towards financing the family to-do. I suppose it’s just a reminder that times have changed with the advent of plastic and the buy now and pay later culture that’s trapped a great many promoted and encouraged by the banks and other financial leaches, the bloodsucking terrestrial worms having a sucker it seems at each end.
I try my best at this time of the year to ignore and push aside, the in your face constant rapid and continuous barrage and, everywhere you turn reminders of the countdown of shopping days to that great day, starting usually after bonfire night. Only on Friday I was travailing across London on my pushbike along the south bank of the Thames, when all of a sudden I rode straight into a Christmas Market that was supposedly a German style affair, I will spear the details, but in all probability was nothing like a real German Winter Market, just another commercial scam to make money and well in advance of Christmas.
Sunday, 29 November 2009
The UK's FTSE 100 index lost 3.2%, its biggest one-day fall since March, after Dubai World asked creditors to postpone upcoming repayments until May 2010. This, the latest hiccup or should I say burp, belching a forceful expulsion of something, from inside the belly of the rotting beast and, a cruelly rapacious savage at that.
Oh, what kiddingly can the capitalist system do, after all the hype in the media about how things are on the mend, that things are getting better, fed like sprats to hungry sea lions. "Certainly the Dubai debt debacle and the uncertainty that it has created has had a severe knock on effect," said David Buik at BGC Partners, is surely, definitely and most positively an understatement?
Fears linger that Britain's beleagured banks, which are the biggest lenders to the Emirates, are over-exposed and face a further knock to their finances.Barclays was the biggest faller, down 8%, followed by Royal Bank of Scotland, which lost 7.8%.
French and German shares also declined, with France's Cac index ending down 3.2%, and Germany's Dax losing 3.4%.
For months the capitalist press have been propagandising to workers that a bright light shines in the not to far off dissidence, they said look at Germany, look at France, economies on the mend. Well the truth is that the system of capitalism is in free fall and has no control as its temple built on sand crumbles.
“The property market has crashed... Many people [got] involved and many people left overnight. If you go to the airport you'll see many abandoned cars.” Those telling words of a local Dubai businessman.
Meanwhile over at the CBI they said the recession had become the catalyst for a new era in business.
A study by the employers' group identifies four key areas of UK business where new ways of working could develop because of the downturn.
They include more flexible workforces, greater collaborations among businesses and wider financing options.
"The Shape of Business - The Next 10 Years" is being launched ahead of the CBI annual conference in London later.
Dubai may not be alone in its predicament. There is nervousness about the prospects for Greece's bonds and the ratings agencies now deem the country a greater credit risk than Colombia or Panama. But economic forecasting isn't an exact science. Britain's deficit, most recently forecast by the government to hit £175 billion this year, is now estimated to be growing at a hefty £3 billion a week, making that £175 billion figure look very optimistic.
Tuesday, 24 November 2009
If I had just a half penny for the many times that people have said to me over the years; ‘there all the same’; I would be a very rich individual, and of course I refer to what many ‘now’ say about our elected politicians’ and at every level local and national government. I thought of this having just read about the victory of the Leeds refuse worker over attempted wage cuts by the Liberal Democrat/Conservative ruling coalition. There outrageous plan was to cut the pay of the refuse collectors from £18,000 to a mean £13,000 a year.
Leeds is Liberal/Conservative coalition, a few years ago you would not have thought that possible, but times change and frontline politicians become indistinguishable from one another, saying the same thing before the election and doing the same thing when in office.
If it was not for the different coloured ribbons they sport at elections or the party logo, not to unlike a company emblem along with the name, you would not be able to tell the difference from one to the other.
So that brings me conveniently to the post ‘Hot Air’ in which I reported the statements made by two leading academics, they are Professors Andrew Oswald of the University of Warwick, who said that negative growth could lead to reductions in pollution levels not seen since the 1970s and Professor Alan Manning of the Centre for Economic Performance, who made the observations and come to the conclusions that (1) fewer people seem to believe in the ‘class war’, that there is one law for the poor and one for the rich, that big business benefits owners at the expense of the workers, that those who consider themselves (mistakenly) as middle classes are no longer envious of the rich, instead aspiring to be rich, and (2) it may once again become an attractive political policy to seek to increase the share of the taxes paid by the rich.”
Well both these two eminent academics, throw a spotlight onto two interesting if not in the daily news subjects, they are pollution levels connected to production, which affects the environment the planet on which we all live and depend, and the economic relationships that hereupon this earth is the order of all our lives, Professor Manning used the term ‘class war’ and I think he was referring in the main point of his observations to the domestic situation here in Britain. But let me briefly deal with Professor Oswald simple dissertations that negative growth, and let’s say instead of could; would lead to reductions in pollution levels. Without going into any great detail, the capitalist mold of production threatens our planet and our very existence, the flooding in Cumbria and in other parts of the country such as Hull are not acts of ‘God’ but the results and consequences of capitalisms earthly dominance. As I write the Environment Agency is saying rivers have ‘levelled’ but they expect worse weather in the coming days.
Three UK groups studying climate change have issued a strong statement about the dangers of failing to cut emissions of greenhouse gases across the world.
The Royal Society, Met Office, and Natural Environment Research Council (Nerc) say the science of climate change is more alarming than ever.
They say the 2007 UK floods, 2003 heatwave in Europe and recent droughts were consistent with emerging patterns.
Their comments came ahead of crunch UN climate talks in Copenhagen next month.
Global carbon dioxide levels have continued to rise, Arctic summer ice cover was lower in 2007 and 2008 than in the previous few decades, and the last decade has been the warmest on average for 150 years.
Apparently it seems an argument has broken out over recent days around the University of East Anglia and thousands of e-mails and documents from its Climatic Research Unit that ended on the Internet last week, sparking an ongoing fight among climate scientists and skeptics who would like to poor scorn on the idea that humans are driving global warming. Well I do suppose spats in this fraternity will happen from time to time like in any other, but then again I remember mad scientists saying that smoking was not dangers, they of course were in the pay of the tobacco empires.
Climate Change is real, it’s on us, but the vast majority of us have no real say; because we do not control the means of production, while there is a profit to be made then governments and the ruling class will bend towards the wind, whatever the dangers to the human race.
Turning to the hypotheses and theorization of Professor Alan Manning finally; I must say that there is something to be said for the idea that many people today do not see themselves as members of the working class, or even give it a second thought for that matter. Bearing in mind, that there are only two classes in society: the working class, the owning and controlling class or ruling class. I would say that the middle class thing was devised to divide and rule, if you sell your labour in exchange for a wage or salary, you are a slave to the profit system congratulations; as simple as!
Where I do part company with the Professor is over his idea that somehow taxing the rich is a solution to all our problems? What short of a world are we living in; where on the one hand workers like the refuse collectors in Leeds and other for that matter, for instance steel workers in Scunthorpe have there pay cut by being put on short time: And the best that some can come up with is tax the rich, well I never!
How is it that New Labour can find literally billions to bail out their pals in the City of London overnight, but nothing for the Post Office or other workers, while helping themselves to the gravy and then they threaten us with public spending cuts while the City fat cats spend the bonuses.
Because Labour is a Party of the wealthy few, they have the same policies as the Conservatives, and this situation has come about because instead of changing the system many have made the mistake of tinkering with it. What is needed is a revolution, a revolution to save the planet and a revolution to end the forced slavery of the overwhelming majority who has a right to live in a better world.
Photography curtsey of the BBC:
1. Port St. Mary Isle of Man
2. Sealford East Sussex
3. Purthcawl Harber
All taken on 14 November 2009
Monday, 23 November 2009
The Professor possibly a defender of the domesticated cow; thinks, Pollution is tightly linked to the level of economic activity, so that a few years of negative growth could lead to reductions in pollution levels not seen since the 1970s.
From one learned person to another, we are told by Professor Alan Manning of the Centre for Economic Performance, finds, while inequality in Britain is now much higher than it was in the 1970s. The demand for a redistribution of wealth is much lower. Professor Manning explains that many fewer people seem to believe in the ‘class war’ or that there is one law for the poor and one for the rich, or that big business benefits owners at the expense of the workers, or that those who consider themselves (mistakenly) as middle are no longer envious of the rich, instead aspiring to be rich.
But these views could shift, says the good Professor:
“As we enter a recession in which the average Briton is quite likely to feel the pinch, it may once again become an attractive political policy to seek to increase the share of the taxes paid by the rich.”
Interesting or what?
I will reply to this in the next few days, however if a reader has a point, please let’s have it?
Saturday, 21 November 2009
Well just to sum up on the rather long posts on Princes Lodge, ‘Living Hell’, as described by John Pilger in his book Heroes. I think I would like to say firstly, I’m glad that I’ve posted extracts from his book on to my blog, after all it was a campaign where fortunately I was able to try and succeed in doing something positive, just playing a part in exposing at that time, this blatant ‘out and out’ profiteering, and at the expense of homeless people, and lets not forget families with children.
Now as I said in my introduction; it was 25 years ago, which no mater how hard I try to pretend, that was a long time ago!
The world has moved on considerably in time, great changes’ have taken place, but some thing’s simply stay the same or maybe they are somewhat worse?
Looking back it would not be fair to say, that this campaign could be described as a one issues campaign – that’s if your care to look at it that way, as far as I was concerned, it was my job, that’s what was expected of me, from my employment and in my role at the Tower Hamlets Unemployed Workers Centre. However I never held the view that somehow this was working in isolation from everything else around which was going on at the same time.
The Tories and Thatcher had been in government for there first five years, they had driven up unemployment to such an extent that it led to new exploits of deprivation in every corner of the British land mass. That era, 1979-90, was a time of great social and economic change. The Tories were elected just after the so-called winter of Discontent”, and Maggie’ embarked on tough reform programmes with the top priorities as she said time and again: was tackling inflection and the unions, these policies divided the country as the service sector and home ownership boomed, but manufacturing declined and scoured working people with unemployment as a consequence. This led people in a great many cases to look and travel for employment elsewhere, even relocate, migrate whatever you may call it.
This has always been the case for working people throughout the history of capitalism.
I can hardly head for the hills and forget the fact that this was on the very eve of the miners strike, when I think back to that packed meeting of the hundreds that came out to support the campaign, I had a feeling inside of me even then, ice-cold and certain that something big was about to happen, the battle lines of that dispute were being drawn as we fought the campaign of Princes Lodge.
Just one or two things I would like to say about some of the main players and those involved in the campaign, starting with Pilger who without a shadow of drought is the world’s best investigative journalist. I was also pleased to learn this week, that he had been honored in his native Australia as the 2009 recipient of the Sydney Peace Prize, and
with indulgence, I would just like to reproduce here a part of his acceptance speech delivered at the Sidney Opera house:
“Last July Kevin Rudd said: ''It's important for us all to remember here in Australia that Afghanistan has been a training ground for terrorists worldwide, a training ground also for terrorists in South-East Asia, reminding us of the reasons that we are in the field of combat and reaffirming our resolve to remain committed to that cause.''
There is no truth in this statement. It is the equivalent of John Howard's lie that Saddam Hussein had weapons of mass destruction. Rudd was standing outside a church on a Sunday when he said this. No reporter challenged him. No one said: "Prime Minister, 'There is no war on terror. It's a hoax. But there is a war of terror waged by governments, including the Australian Government, in our name.'"
The Princes Lodge campaign public meeting; was held in the Old Poplar Town Hall where as Pilger Says’; in the 1920s George Lansbury and the Poplar Council, defied the law in the defence and in the interests of the working people they represented.
George Lansbury for me at that time, when I was still a member of the Labour Party, was a remarkable individual who was not only the leader of Poplar Council but went on to lead the Labour Party after the infamies of Ramsay Macdonald and his cohorts in the Parliamentary Labour Party who crossed the floor and joined with Tory and Liberals in forming a so-called "National Government" in which a majority of MPs were from the Conservatives.
As a result, he was expelled from the Labour Party, which accused him of 'betrayal'. Oh yes; he would have been at home with our Tony Blair even Gordon Brown I dare say.
The thing about George Lansbury is that over the years, It’s as if he’d been airbrushed out of the picture of Labour history, I only really discovered Lansbury when I moved into the east end in 1982 and I started working at the Unemployment Center which had it’s office on Bow Road a few doors away from the site of the Lansbury family home which is today marked by a monument erected to the memory of this much loved MP still a towering figure in the political history of Tower Hamlets. I should also add that our office was in a parade of shops underneath the tenement flats of Electric House which has a magnificent memorial clock in honour of Minnie Lansbury who married Edgar Lansbury, son of George Lansbury, she was jailed, along with many of her council colleagues, for refusing to levy rates on the poor of Poplar. After 6 weeks in prison they were released, but Minnie’s health was shattered and she contracted pneumonia and died in January 1922 at the age of just 32. Thousands of local people attended her funeral and the memorial clock was erected by public subscription in her memory.
Well I’m straying a wee bit from the beating path here, better get back on it.
We decided to hold the meeting in the Old Town Hall, because Lansbury if nothing else genuinely strove to alleviate the poverty of the poor in his day. A link was important and relevant; we were trying to persuade a Labour Council to take action in the same sprit as Poplar but obviously not with the risk of jail. This was also a time of great development with developers eying up Docklands. The government appointed a Development Corporation that the leader of the council was a member off, which gave rise to much dismay. Paul Beasley who had been the council leader for ten years started his political life on the left of the Labour Party, like so many, once in power changed allegiances in favor of big business, there use to be a radical book shop in Tower Hamlets that sold local artists designed post cards, one of the best sellers was a card with a giant George Lansbury towering over the houses of Poplar and a tracksuited Paul Beasley running down the road, with the caption of Lansbury calling out to Beasley: ‘Where are you running to Paul’.
The council was as Pilger said they were, but not so much an old guard, more like old sticks in the mud and very reactionary, they saw being on the council more as a privileged position as opposed to using the position in favor of there working class constituents’. Only a handful of counsellors, younger ones at that, supported the campaign from the beginning, but they were always called names by the sticks in the mud, such as commie and so on, was it really a surprise, when the first BNP councillor in the country was elected in Tower Hamlets, I’ve often wondered.
Anyhow it was a sheer joy, to have been part of forcing this council to do something they very much didn’t want too. At a special meeting of the council requisitioned by our supporters on it', in front of a packed, rammed full to overflowing public gallery and with many more standing outside on the steps of Tower Hamlets Old Town Hall, the council voted unanimously to serve on the owners of Princes Lodge a control order and start the process of compulsory purchase.
After all this time looking back down through the years, I know today, what I knew then – that this victory was a small win, yes it did lead to many other things such as the reluctance of councils to support or even use such large hostels to house the homeless. It also led to the law being changed in regard to people living in Houses of Multiple Occupation, particularly in regard to the real risks posed in such places from fire and catastrophe to life on a large and possibly massive scale.
But we never stopped people falling into homelessness, and we never will by thinking all we have to do is elect a group of individuals every four or five years who will tinker with things or make some improvements’ here and there. Today I read that in the UK we have over 300.000 empty homes, what with people sleeping rough on our streets in almost every major Town and City compelled with the thousands on social housing waiting lists, says to me that capitalism the system we all live under is the real problem to housing.
Friday, 20 November 2009
Living Hell - Cashing in: Part 2
No council officer had reported the possibility of such serious risks to children. No council officer had reported the extreme conditions under which sixteen Vietnamese refugee families were forced to live in the top floors of Princes Lodge; no doubt these were ‘problem families’. A case worker for the British Refugee Council, Romily Gregory, described the conditions to me as ‘unbelievable…In the common toilets you were up to your ankles in urine and water. The people tried so hard to make civilized order out of this, but it was impossible. In one room there are badly disabled old people, two of them paralysed. They couldn’t go anywhere. Tears streamed down their cheeks when I was there…I’ve not seen such desperation.’
On the contrary, a council environmental health officer had reported that ‘the premises, whilst far from five star hotel standards, are in reasonably clean condition, bearing in mind some of the individuals and problem families who stay there’. The implication was clear: the people, not Princes lodge, were the ‘problem. This was reminiscent of Poor Law attitudes which were not difficult to promote in devastated communities encouraged to seek scapegoats rather than political action.
Princes Lodge, which has hundreds of counterparts all over Britain, existed as a landmark a few miles from the City of London. Neither Paul Cowie nor Paul Beasley would discuss it with me. Beasley, having relinquished his leadership of the Labour group in 1984, became a busy man as ‘special projects adviser’ to a Turkish multi-millionaire financier, Asil Nadir, who has interests in Tower Hamlets.
Paul Cowie carried a plastic shopping bag containing a monkey mask which he would put on and run whenever he arrived at and left Princess Lodge. So anxious had he been to conceal his features from the Press that he would open the door of his flat in Victoria wearing the mask. The day after I published Jim and McKirdy’s complaints, Cowie’s bouncers evicted them and their children and two-other families who had complained.
It was March 13, Budget Day. While the Chancellor, was intoning his portfolio of tax favors in the Commons, fourteen people, including nine children aged from three years, attempted to assemble their belongings on a traffic island in front of Princes Lodge. An icy wind sluiced Commercial Road. It was rush hour and employed people on their way home stopped to watch. They seemed bemused and entertained as if what they were witnessing was the filming of a street scene in a movie. The bouncers brought out the families’ personal things in black plastic bags, several of which split. There was a birdcage, an ironing board, a television, Jason McKirdy, aged four, asked his mother where they would sleep that night. Key replied, ‘Oh, we’ll know soon.’ They were thrown out at dusk, just as the Council’s homeless persons unit was about to close. When I got to the Council Offices, I received a dissertation from an official on weather or not the Council had ‘statutory obligations’ to the families. I finally left with the addresses of two hotels whose gain of three families was Cowie’s financial loss; the system was simply recycling them. All three families were eventually rehoused by the Greater London Council.
Princes Lodge was important because it represented much of what had happened to working people since the days of hope in the 1960s. What its conditions vividly expressed was the failure of the ‘old guard’ of the Labour Party in local government, in Parliament, in the institutions, to protect the very people for whom the Party was meant to exist; and by not protecting them, and by consorting with their enemies, and playing tactical political games rather than opposing and fighting back with ideas and commitment, they have betrayed and effectively disenfranchised up to a third of the population. It is they who are a major source of bitterness in Britain.
Tower Hamlets is traditional, old guard Labour ground. My experience of the ruling Labour group was best summed up by the former mayor, Councillor John O’Nell, whose health and consumer services committee had resisted to the end all attempts to serve Namecourt Ltd with a control order under the Housing Act. O’Nell said to me, ‘’it’s all right you writing these melodramatic reports. Cowies’s got rights, too.’
The end came on May 3, 1984 when Tower hamlets Council was forced by pressure to serve the first statutory control order in the borough’s history, this was the direct result of a campaign led by a coalition of unemployed people, including former residents of Princes Lodge, Tower Hamlets Law Center, the Campaign for Single Homeless (CHAR) and the Houses in Multiple Occupation Campaign, together with teachers, priests, vicars, bishops, doctors, nurses, trade unionists, the Greater London Council (which has since rehoused most of the residents of Princes Lodge) and myself.
This remarkable campaign, for which I can recall no precedent, raised sprits and dispersed apathy at meetings and rallies in the East End of London. Outside Princes Lodge itself, a great ‘Living Hell’ banner was raised. On one memorable night hundreds of us crowded into or stood in the rain outside the Old Poplar Town Hall where, in the 1920s, the radical politician George Landsbury had made his impassioned speeches against the levying of punitive rates on the stricken borough, and went to gaol for his pains.
Sixty years later the coming together of so many from across the divides of class, race and creed was an echo of that struggle. And, of course, there was more to it than the closure of one slum. It was a revivalist meeting whose energy derived from a wider frustration and a deeper anger.
Indeed, the Princes Lodge campaign was part of a resistance: and resistance is the appropriate word at a time when many in the governing authorities regard large sections of the population as the ‘enemies within’. Those who resist believe, with evident justification, that democracy is no longer open to them.
By John Pilger from his book Heroes 1986
Wednesday, 18 November 2009
The Berlin-based organization Transparency International ranks countries according a Corruption Perceptions Index, which is based on a survey of business and government experts. New Zealand ranked the least corrupt country, while Somalia ranked the worst.
Now this news story caught my eye yesterday and for the life of me I could not let it pass without some comment.
Are we to be grateful to this organizations dedicated collating of such information?
And what should we make of the facts, that US-occupied Afghanistan is the world’s second most corrupt country—after Somalia, where no government has functioned for two decades—while Iraq is the fourth worst, according to this report.
Instead of going of on a conniption about Afghanistan or Iraq as I usually do, what about here back at home. Well it's not all bad, out of 180 countries listed we are joint 17th with Japan and underneath us is the US at 19th. It’s nice to known that we excel, surpass our special partners in something then.
I do suppose, when I think about it more, it all depends what we mean by corruption?
What about the whole to-do thing about MPs expenses was that not in itself – deceitful and corrupt or doesn’t that count, after all we are talking about a corruption that was very widespread and fell across the whole political establishment and parties holding up the piggy bank of Westminster.
I think it is down to what is perceived as corruption, for example I think that donations made to the main Westminster parties by big business and rich individuals is also a corrupt practice, a form of bribery that seeks to influence favourably government. They say that money makes the world go round!
Tuesday, 17 November 2009
Princes Lodge 2007
BY John Pilger
From his Book Heroes
There is also much ‘reality’ these days in the field of housing. Since 1979 spending on housing has been more than halved, and fewer homes are being built in Britain now than at any time since the Second World War. Put an other way: in 1975 equal amounts of tax money were spent on defence and housing; in 1984 five times as much was spent on the military services and war material. Britain no longer has a national housing programme.
While this policy has created more and more homeless people, a phenomenon has emerged. It is the British Welfare State bank-rolling the exploiters of the homeless and the unemployed to the extent of more than £120 million a year. This windfall now enriches the owners of so-called hotels and hostels, most of them squalid were victims of the recession are sent by the local authorities and by the Department of Health and Social Security. These are the workhouses of the late-twentieth century.
My symbol of the 1980s is not the micro-chip; it is Princes Lodge. A cavernous, granite slab, standing like a Colditz on a corner of Commercial Road in Tower Hamlets, East London, Princes Lodge was completed, appropriately, during the Great Depression. It became a British nightmare.
In February 1984 I slipped past the bouncers who guarded it and found up to five hundred people inside, an under-class of cowed humanity. They included many young children, over whom I had to step as they played in damp filth of carpets in darkened corridors; there was nowhere else for them to play. Some of the residents had complained but not for long; several were evicted, with all their possessions and their children at night, or poverty had its own debilitating effect upon them, converting them into ‘trustees’ who ran the place for a few extra pounds in hand. Having been rejected by the ‘reality’ outside, they had become dependent on a landlord, his ‘wordiness’ and his minders.
There was another group at Princes Lodge. These were people who had done what the Secretary for Trade and Industry, Norman Tebbit, had advised the unemployed to do: to get on your bike and find work. They had got on their bikes and into trains and coaches and old cars and looked for work which did not exist and had ended up in London, in places like this
Jim and Kay Mckirdy and their six children had set out from Glasgow, and Princess Lodge was the end of their fruitless travels and their hopes. They had two rooms. One room was twelve feet by six feet and had a cooker, kitchen utensils, two beds, a television, all the family’s clothes and all their belongings. It was not really a room; it was an extended cupboard.
Their six children, aged from three to eleven, slept in anther room, six feet by fifteen feet. They had four bunks and they slept in shifts. There was room for one adult between the bunks. Jim and Kay maintained the rooms as a feat of order and dignity. They could do nothing about the vermin. For accommodating the McKirdy family, the owners of Princes Lodge received public money of £195.85 every week.
Princes Lodge is owned by Namecourt Ltd, which made more than £250.00 profit on the sale of its previous slum hostel in Earls Court. From the beginning, Namecourt’s directors included members of a wealthy London family, Agrans, who are well known in the property, television and film worlds and the Conservative Party. Albert Agran is a Justice of the Peace who sits on the bench at Redbridge Magistrates’ Court.
In January 1984 the Argans pulled out of the company and left it to two Scouts, Paul Cowie and Alan Gill. Who had run an Oxford Street ‘accommodation bureau’ enterprise. It was Cowie who collected the rent at Princes Lodge every Thursday when the Social Security cheques arrived. With the Agrans out and the enterprise now his and Gill’s Cowie doubled the rent for children under the age of eleven and increased by six times the rents for those up to fifteen years old. The local DHSS office accepted the increases, the new ‘ceiling’ imposed by Cowie, and proceeded to tax the residents accordingly. One man with three children was told in a letter from the DHSS, ‘As you are probably aware, since Prince Lodge have seen fit to increase their board and lodge charge…we are unable to allow a meal allowance for children under eleven years.
The increase gave Cowie’s company up to £250,000 extra on its current income, and Cowie has become a millionaire. In County Durham he has spent £750,000 restoring an eighteenth-century Gothic castle which, until the local council rejected his planning application, he intended to turn into a profitable old people’s home.
According to Councillor Paul Beasley who was leader of Tower Hamlets authority for ten years, ‘Princes Lodge managed to slip through the net of our planning regulations. We have been against it from the word go.’ From ‘the word go’, in 1979, Tower Hamlets Council knew about conditions at Princes Lodge and, apart from a drawn-out correspondence with Cowie about ‘constructive discussions …in an attempt to maintain some degree of flexibility, the Labour Council did nothing to end the misery in its borough. Several worried councillors did not manage to get into Princes Lodge. But the Council’s own health officers were able to make a number of visits, and nothing changed. Professional warnings of the risks to health and life at Princes Lodge came from independent sources outside the Council. In 1984 two independent health officers found only sixteen lavatories for 500 people, no hot water in the bathrooms, no radiators working, broken glass on the stairs, open dustbins in the hallways, surrounded by rubbish and vomit, as well as exposed asbestos, filthy communal kitchens, half the fire extinguishers missing and ‘the very real possibilities of fire tragedies’.
The paediatrician at the nearby London Hospital, Dr R. J. Harris wrote to Councillor Beasley:
For some years now the families living in Princes Lodge have been causing anxiety. The number of hospital admissions is disproportionately high for the number of children resident in the lodge.
Dr Harris and his staff had conducted a survey and found that of nine babies admitted during a five-month period, six had serious respiratory and stomach infections. He described infants with the same strain of food poisoning, and one little girl who was admitted to hospital six times. He wrote:
I am faced with a newborn baby destined to live at Princes Lodge I tend to keep mother and child in hospital longer than would otherwise be necessary…I cannot take the risk of discharging a baby …and therefore place its life in jeopardy.
To be continued…
Monday, 16 November 2009
Image via WikipediaA while a go I published on this blog an ancient photo of a public meeting that I had a hand in organising about 25 years ago. How time fly’s, which is quarter of a century passed, blooming heck; none of us are getting any younger, say’s he consolingly.
Well I promised to give a fuller account of this meeting and the amazing campaign that involved the renowned and world famous investigative journalist John Pilger, who I had the privilege of working with at close quarters, but this nearly did not happen. So let me explain a little of the back ground and then I intend to reproduce some of what Pilger published in regard to the campaign in his best selling book ‘Heroes’ first published in 1986.
I had been employed at the then Tower Hamlets Unemployed Workers Centre, with special reasonability of working with and highlighting the many problems and sufferings of the homeless in the borough. Tower Hamlets had at that time several large hostels, which provided for a large travelling and working population; situated around the London docks and supporting industry. Missions for mariners, were doted all-around the east end, home temporally to seamen from around the world, who while on shore-leave between trips made them home. With the decline and changes in the oceanic industry during the70s and onwards meant many seamen’s hostels either closed or changed hands and use; as was the case with Princes Lodge. There is no point me delving into detail about the Lodge, as Pilger’s description is very well crafted and graphically paints the picture. My own role in the campaign was as coordinator and group convener of the activists who drove the whole thing forward.
I had been working with the residents and in particular Jim and Kay Mckirdy for about six months when I received a telephone call from Chris Holmes who was the National Director of CHAR the campaign for the single homeless. Chris informed me that a journalist from a national newspaper was eager and willing to do a story on homeliness, ‘that would set the cat amongst the pigeons’ and do an immense service to homeless people everywhere. Chris said that he knew that I was working with families, in a large private hostel and this was what the journalist was after, my first response to Chris was to say No – “it’s completely out of the question.” I just felt that this was not the sort of publicity we needed at that time, as most of the families were in a very venerable position, (here again Pilger will describe the situation). So I said to Chris Holmes who incidentally went on to be the Director of Shelter: No Way! About an hour later I received a call from Pilger, who said he wanted to help the homeless through his journalism, and that he would put the Daily Mirror; which at the time wasn’t owned and controlled by Robert Maxwell, at the disposal of the campaign. Well you can imagine, it’s not everyday you get such an offer, but still I felt that this was not in the best interests of the residents’ who included children, so ‘No’ was the answer I gave him. Pilger with his silver tong pleaded and asked if he could meet some of the residents just for a chat and let them decide, seeing no harm in this I agreed and the rest is recorded in his book ‘Heroes’.
Pilger kept to his word the Mirror was at our disposal and for 4 weeks it reported on the progress of the campaign including on one occasion a full front page with the picture of the Mckirdy children in a small cubicle on bunk beds, with the banner headlines ‘Britain 1984 Living Hell’.
This post is merely an introduction to the Pilger narrative, but there are some things that I wish to say before I post that tomorrow. First this would never have been won had it not been for Pilger and the use he made of the Daily Mirror, but equally true, is that it would not have been won without the group of activists who organised meetings made banners and accomplish a very successful fly posting exercise for which I was caught by the old bill on three occasions, twice by the same pc but not charged, just the posters confiscated and the paste poured down the loo.
In conclusion to this post I often ponder on the thought that despite all our very best efforts and campaigning we still have 25 years on a massive housing problem? This is something I shall return to after the Pilger post
Saturday, 14 November 2009
Being a member of that select company of parliamentarians must sure enough count as one of the most lucrative career choices for someone on the make, even with all the recent noise about expenses. The Glasgow North East by-election which Labour managed to comfortably hold on too on Thursday sees another young man join his tribal gang on the lush green benches of Westminster; and must be to much relief of Gordon Brown. Modern politics is very much like a jostle of forcing your way and pushing others about in order to run the system of capitalism.
Before I forget, it’s worth noting at this point even though Labour won the seat, there’s no hiding the fact that a massive 67 per cent shunned this by-election.
Labour has now begun to open up their general election campaign in the aftermath of this election. With only five months left of this government’s full term in office, we can expect to see things begin to hot up between the Gangs of Westminster. Yesterday the Guardian carried a report that Brown was in the process of putting the finishing touches to a Labour election team that is expected to be headed by Lord Mandelson and may yet include Alastair Campbell, back into the fray to try to win a fourth term.
Tony Blair's favourite headcounter Lord Gould is also being approached to play a part in the campaign.
It is also expected said the Guardian; that Charlie Whelan, the national political officer for the Unite union and a close confidant of Brown, will be given a role in the election forthcoming.
Well I found that very interesting reading. Charlie Whelan is a blast from my past; I’ve had many a beer with Charlie when we were both members of Tower Hamlets Trades Council about 20 plus years ago. To be honest I didn’t have much time for him then and not that much for him now. Back then, I recollect that he was some short of a Maoist and worked as a researcher for the AEEU. He was seen as a ‘character’ and hung around with T&G activists of the communist variety who were all frustrated trade union bureaucrats in waiting, dominant in both the Grater London Trades Council (GLATs) and the South East Region of the TUC.
When New Labour was elected in 1997, Whelan was spin doctor to Brown who as we know was Chancellor in Blair’s administration.
Whelan the son of a former career civil servant went to the Ottershaw School, a private boarding school in Surrey. He studied Politics at the City of London Polytechnic (which became the London Guildhall University in 1992).
In 1980 Whelan became a foreign exchange dealer in the city. From 1981-92 he was a researcher and assistant to Jimmy Airlie of the AEEU. Whelan use to bore the socks of me when he kept banging on about football but was popular with the other delegates to the Trades Council, he beat me in a vote for a position on an organising committee set up by GLATs to help the miners in their 84/85 strike. I had problems with Whelan and the tank’s my name for the Communist Party at the time, they didn’t approve of me and another delegate, when we kept getting arrested outside the South African Embassy every Friday for two years, during that apartheid time.
Well as time moved on I left the trades council, moved back up north for a time and forgot all about Whelan, then one day I could hardly believe my eyes when Whelan was being interview on TV and as Brown’s spokesperson, what a small world or what?
Well Whelan went on to make quite a name for himself and at the hart of New Labour in the early years. In 1999, he stepped down as an aide to Mr. Brown following revelations about the secret loan from Geoffrey Robinson to Peter Mandselson that forced the dismissal of both men as ministers.
This April the Daly Telegraph in an article describes Whelan as a former City trader from Surrey who changed career and reinvented himself as a trade union official with a distinct Cockney accent and became Mr. Brown's spokesman in 1992.
Whelan became a significantly influential figure at Westminster, actively promoting Mr. Brown's agenda and interests, undermining his perceived enemies, including Tony Blair and his Cabinet allies and took a hit for his boss when he resigned from his post, since then he has made a good living as journalist, actor and now trade union official, his business is skullduggery a member of Labour mafia, a gang member whose loyalty to the godfather is proven beyond any doubt. If Whelan returns and stands besides the godfather will this mean that the general election may become a very dirty fight. After all both Whelan and Mandy have and hold all the talents between them.
Friday, 13 November 2009
Because it was the fitters department the lads new a thing or too about the clocking on machine and they would manage to stop it hours before the end of the last shift on Christmas eve, and then everyone would trek down to the nearest pub or club – they were the days!
Oh and when I say that I was working in the fitters department, I don’t want folk to get the wrong impression for my job entailed going around the works with a grease gun greasing the thousands of grease nipples on plant; yep, that’s me a greaser!
I was speaking to my friend and comrade Brian Hopper from Scunthorpe yesterday, now Brian along with his partner Linda (Giant Haystacks) Hastings and me were amongst the first to join the Socialist Labour Party back in 1996 the party setup by the former leader of the NUM Arthur Scargill, who we got to personally know quite well back then. It’s just dawned on me if Linda reads this I’m in trouble - Oh well that’s life!
What I will post underneath this is an edited extract of some of the first chapter, but just before I do, I want to say that I intend very shortly to write a full account about Brain and his bid to oust Elliot Morley in 97 the year that New Labour was thrust onto the workers; that’s led to two wars and an unearthly favourable position of capital and I must say at our expense!
Yes – Utopia – we have the technology
By Ron Cook
Utopia is a dream that will not go away. Every child that is born brings with it from the womb the desire for a safe, free, contented life. It is part of basic human nature.
It is not surprising that Western civilisation has produced a succession of books about ideal or at least preferred forms of society ever since Plato’s Republic. In our own era especially, (quite unlike the Middle Ages) it was taken for granted until very recently that we could all look forward to a better future made possible by the progress in science and industry. Advances in medicine, dietetics, public hygiene and house building were prolonging life and raising its quality. Washing machines, refrigerators, TV sets and cars for everyone meant, it was assumed, a generally rising standard of living. Such utopian thinking has been one of the main intellectual strands of Western culture for the last two hundred years.
A modest utopia
For the vast majority of the world’s people, however, the ideal society would consist of no more than a modest – but assured – standard of living, together with freedom from war, oppression and exploitation. And, indeed, in such a context it is possible for an infinite variety of individuals to live creative and fulfilling lives in co-operation with one another. There is nothing novel or extreme about this conception of utopia. What is remarkable is that, even in the advanced industrial democracies, these modest conditions are far from being general or permanent.
Similar feelings of frustration and disillusion have become common responses to politics and politicians in the democracies of the west. Gone are the day’ when voters believed that a change of party in government could bring about a substantial improvement in their day-to day life, let alone cure the deep-seated problems of the world society. In Eastern Europe and the republics of the former Soviet Union the people become so dissatisfied with their deteriorating standards of living that they threw out the ruling Communist parties and voted in a new array of politicians. They had high hopes of their new leaders and their new freedom.
It soon became clear, however, that the regime of the market was no less ruthless and inhuman than that of their former dictatorships. Moreover, criminals had moved in to fill many of the gaps left by the collapse of Communist parties. Instead of being harassed by police and party officials, they were now harassed by grinding poverty, profiteers and thieves.
In the West, especially the USA, the financial cost of running a successful election on a national scale is now well beyond the resources of all but the most wealthy parties and politicians.
Politicians are now groomed, coached and presented by the advertising industry. Their posters and slogans, the very timing and planning of their election campaigns, owe more to show business than to statesmanship. The whole business has become so blatant and insolent that, as television viewers and newspaper readers, we are even persuaded to connive in all the tactics for impressing the voters – ourselves.
Politicians no longer bother to pretend that they are really honest and trustworthy. All they want us to believe is that they are winners. The issues at stake become so many re-iterated clichés as the party leaders demonstrate their skill at handling reporters and questioners. They express deep concern about poverty, inequality. Cruelty and injustice, and – every time – they declare their firm commitment to fight these evils. Behind their rhetoric, how ever, it is tacitly acknowledged by them all, as well as their listeners, that the basic problems of the world society are beyond the reach, and certainly the control, of the politicians and governments. Our vote is, in effect, a mandate for yet another few years of the status quo.
Capitalism is only unbeatable as long as everyone thinks it is. As soon as everyone thinks it is finished, then it will be finished. We therefore need to keep in touch with what other people are really thinking. And we need to explain, tirelessly, where the only viable future for the human race lies – in that post-capitalist society of common endeavour and common concern through common ownership of the world. It is impossible to be neutral in this desperate struggle.
One other thing that’s worth a mention is the full of the Berlin Wall and the celebrations, the Financial Times describes this event as the highest form of realism as the world watched in awe twenty years ago as Germans poured by the millions into the streets of Berlin, both east and west. Oh I forgot to mention that the author was one John McCain, yes that’s who I said it was the senator and Republican Party presidential candidate of last year.
Praising Ronny Reagan, European and American soldiers and statesmen along the lines; that this was a profound blow against totalitarianism as it gave birth to the promise of a Europe whole, free and at peace. Well this dick will say that and pretend that this is about universal human rights. So the wall fell, but what McCain won’t say is that the wall went up as a result of a carve-up at wars end between leaders Churchill, Roosevelt and Uncle Joe Stalin. The Socialist Standard has a great front cover with the title ‘Free at last’ and a picture of a guy sledge-hammering down the wall only to reveal a new wall with a $ sign all over it. And the Editorial makes it clear that the fall of the Wall did not bring peace and harmony, look no father than the war in Afghanistan supported by the German administration.
The Glasgow result is in Labour hold the seat, I wonder is a hung parliament a possibility?
Saturday, 7 November 2009
This rather troubling monument commemorates UK soldiers who were executed by their own army for cowardice or desertion. British and Commonwealth soldiers were bound, blindfolded and shot by a British firing squad at dawn. The story of the underage soldier depicted by the sculpture is disturbing.
We can feel the fear and confusion of this young man.
“The memorial portrays a young British soldier blindfolded and tied to a stake in anticipation of execution by firing squad. The memorial was modeled on the likeness of 17-year-old Private Herbert Burden, who lied about his age in order to enlist in the forces and was later shot for desertion. It is surrounded by a semi-circle of stakes on which are listed the names of every soldier executed in this fashion.”
The mix of innocence, youth, fear and vulnerability emanating from the monument gives the visitor a sickening feeling. We are once again faced with the death and the suffering of the “small people” caught in the games of the elite.
The above is taken from the VigilantCitizen Blog.
I will be thinking tomorrow on Remembrance Sunday that in World War One, 396 British and Commonwealth soldiers were executed, they gave their lives or rather had them took so that capitalism and the ruling class could enjoy the unfortunate and unscrupulous control over all are lives in the simple name of turning a world for profit.
I will be thinking tomorrow of all the soldiers who have given their life up to war, the soldiers of all Nations whose lives were pulled like the petal from that delicate poppy that covered the fields of Flanders were the war dead still lay.
I will be thinking tomorrow of the poppy fields of opium in Afghanistan, and the mission no one understands.
Bring them back!
And as the saying goes ‘there’s no fool like an old fool’ and it seems I may be such a fool.
I have just discovered this very morning that the Royal British Legion are after all calling on all twitter users to observe a 2 minute silence on Twitter at 11:00am GMT on both Remembrance Sunday (tomorrow) and on the 11 November.
I’m beginning to become very sick of this patriotic twisting by the boring Royal British Legion, that’s always led by some high ranking ex-military officer.
Although Twitter is a global social networking medium, organisers hope that British Twitter fans will uphold the silence in cyberspace.
It is believed to be the first event of its kind to be held on the microblogging site. The Royal British Legion has made a concerted effort to appeal to younger people through campaigns on social networking sites such as Facebook in a bid to appeal to the “Afghanistan generation”. A spokesman from The Royal British Legion is quoted as saying:” We hope that by embracing social networking sites, we can appeal to the “Afghanistan generation” who use Facebook and Twitter. Like wearing a poppy, it’s an individual choice and anyone who observes the Twitter silence will be gladly recognised by the Legion. We aim to raise £31.5 million this year.”
Friday, 6 November 2009
Whilst not knocking the work of the Legion and its many branches of charity work through the Poppy Appeal, of which the 2009 Poppy Appeal is emphasising the need to help the Afghan generation of the Armed Forces and their families – today and for the rest of their lives. It has to be recognised that there is something wrong when families and survivors of war particularly the two modern wars in both Iraq and Afghanistan have to rely upon public appeals for help to meet or cope with future needs, and when I think that on the streets of London I’ve met many an ex-serviceman sleeping rough which in itself says a lot.
The last few days have been a reminder to me; it cuts as it has always done; across the fundamental identity working people have to one another. It sets sections of workers against each other and in the interests of sections of the capitalist class. After all it’s their war in their interests, whether that is to secure a much short-sighted and desired commodity or an influence in a region.
It elevates the use of force as an arbiter, the supreme authority to umpire anywhere in the world. It depraves all the participants by forcing them to concentrate upon the best methods of producing misery and annihilating each other. It elevates lying as over the weapons of mass destruction, it covers cheating as in the recent elections in Afghanistan.
Young men and women, in their most impressionable years, have vile methods of warfare impressed upon them so thoroughly that they lose a balanced outlook on life and are impregnated with the idea of force. Many of those who have been subjected to the atmosphere of war remain addicted to violence when war has come to a temporary end.
Socialism is completely opposed to war and to what war represents, at the same time it is a solution to the conditions that breed war and destruction. It is a new form of society in which the people of the world will work harmoniously together for the mutual benefit of all, for there will be neither privilege nor property to cause antagonism of deep seated ill will between people of the world. To anyone who say’s this will never work or call it a pipe dream of utopia; I say why knock something that has never been given a chance and in any case; it’s surely better than war!
In the new world no coercion or compulsion will be employed because each will gain from the co-operation of a world that its people work harmoniously together in peace and understanding. Above all else, war will have ended once and for all, as their will not be a class to maintain a privileged position at the expense of the working class who are always sent off to war. That’s why I will blog and twitter on against war and at the time of the 2 minute silence and not out of disrespect!
Twigmore Woods, Scunthorpe
Guy Fawkes the only man to enter parliament with completely honest intentions.
I was travelling home last night from central London to my home in the east end, that’s Canning Town to be precise; and on my pushbike which is for me the usual mould of transport for getting around the city; and as it was bonfire night it was hard to keep my eyes fixed to the road as the fireworks took to the sky and all around, not as many I thought as in previous years, however as I hit home turf at about 9.00pm you could smell the smouldering sulphur wolf down the streets, always presenting me with a nostalgic reminder of personal years past.
I remember Scunthorpe when the Kids of my childhood and early youth, spent hours making an effigy of poor old Guy Fawkes. The idea being to raise funds for hosting a fireworks party by standing outside a pub or a working men’s club with Guy propped up against the wall or in an old pram and the kids would appeal to the drinker for the necessary cash for the venture in hand. In those day’s it must be said that most folk were very supportive especially if they’d had a good night with say a win on the bingo or the chocolate and meat board.
I was speaking to a friend from Scunthorpe this morning who informed me that Guy Fawkes had local connections; interestingly my friend said that Guy Fawkes and the plotters held meetings in local woods of Twigmore simply because it was safe: John Wright of Twigmoor Hall, Manton, and Lincolnshire was one of the Gunpowder plotters.
The Doomsday Book records Manton with the spelling of Mameltune. Over the centuries various other spellings of the name appear including Malmetuna, Maunton and Mawton. Translated the villages name means 'farmstead on sandy or chalky ground'. Manton is a small-secluded hamlet overlooking the steel works in Scunthorpe. Its population peaked in 1871 when 327 people were recorded in the census. Since however the figure has steadily decreased with only 124 people recorded resident in 1991.
Just to the north of Manton are Twigmoor Woods and old Twigmoor Hall. The Hall was as I say home to John 'Jack' Wright who was one of Guy Fawkes fellow conspirators in the Gunpowder Plot. Local legend has it that much of the plot was in fact hatched at the Hall. It is said that a musket shot from one of Sir Richard Walsh's men while trying to evade capture after the plot had been discovered mortally wounded Wright – and the rest has become history as well as becoming another way of making money out of our kids down the years!
Wednesday, 4 November 2009
Eight months after his death, Ian Tomlinson's family has announed a CANDLELIT VIGIL
to remember Ian Tomlinson
With guest speakers
Tuesday 1st December
from 6pm - 7.15pm
At: Royal Exchange by Threadneedle Street, London, EC3V 3LL
Nearest tube: Bank
Ian died in tragic circumstances, an 'innocent passerby' trying to get home, after a police assault at the G20 protests on April 1st 2009.
Eight months our family are preparing for our first Christmas without him and still waiting for justice.
We have been grateful for public support this year and would like an opportunity to hold this public memorial gathering to remember Ian, with our friends and supporters around us.
We ask that those who attend please wear black as a mark of respect and remember that this is peaceful event.
I just remembered that today is a significant day, yes, folks a year to day on the November 4, 2008 Barack Obama won the US presidential election.
The Democratic candidate defeated his Republican rival by a margin of 10 million votes, the biggest victory for a non-incumbent candidate in more than 50 years. He carried 28 states and won 338 electoral votes, while the congressional Democratic Party won its largest majorities in 30 years in both the House and Senate.
The election result constituted a popular repudiation of the right-wing policies pursued by the Bush administration over the previous eight years. Tens of millions turned out at the polls—including an unprecedented number of first-time, minority and youth voters—to express their opposition to the war in Iraq, the deepening recession, attacks on democratic rights, and a government that openly favored the rich while demonstrating indifference to mass suffering, expressed most starkly in Bush’s response to Hurricane Katrina.
Many who voted for Obama undoubtedly believed that an African-American president, by virtual of his ethnic background, would be more sympathetic to the needs of working and poor people, and that the victory of the candidate of “change” would signal a break from decades of political reaction and the initiation of progressive policies.
So a year on I’m just wondering what’s ‘Changed’, any ideas?
Alistair Darling dramatically flung another £40 billion bailing-out yet again the banking system yesterday, not that it hasn’t escaped my notice, that’s ten time the amount needed to halve child poverty by 2010.
This say’s a lot about this government and its priority processing and in who's interests, even before the recession there were 4 million children living below the poverty line. Now, many families are falling deeper and deeper into poverty, as unemployment rises and working hours are reduced.
Will we see more children growing up without the basic minimum that they need?
Tuesday, 3 November 2009
I found this on the web-site of the Scunthorpe Evening Telegraph so decided to cut and paste it here, it's a fine example of what's currently going on not just in Scunthorpe but all around the country in regard to unemployment and particulary with young people the so-called lost generation. Interesting quotes from young Job hunter Callum Sawyer and Richard Kendall from the Hull and Humber Chamber of Commerce who seems to think that the young just drift into unemployment.
ALMOST a quarter of jobless young people in North Lincolnshire have been out of work for more than six months.
The figures, released by the Department for Work and Pensions, reveal North Lincolnshire has a higher percentage of people aged 16-24 out of work compared to neighbouring authorities Hull and North East Lincolnshire and a higher level than the national and regional averages.
Business chiefs have warned that unless more is done to tackle youth unemployment, an entire generation could be lost to long-term joblessness.
Job hunter Callum Sawyer, 20, graduated from North Lindsey College as a bricklayer 18 months ago - but he is still looking for regular work in his trade.
He said: "I'm always looking. Even when I don't need to sign on, I come in and look
"It's annoying when you spend two years learning to do something and then you come out and not be able to find work."
The most recent figures show how 370 out of 1,565 jobless young people were claiming Jobseekers' Allowance in September having been out of work for six months or more, a rate of 23.6 per cent.
North East Lincolnshire has a 16.2 per cent rate while the City of Hull has a 20.2 per cent.
The UK average is 19.9 per cent while and the Yorkshire and Humber regional average is 19.6 per cent.
Richard Kendall, a policy executive at the Hull and Humber Chamber of Commerce, said it was important steps were taken to make sure a generation was not lost to unemployment.
He said: "One of the big fears of the recession is that some of these young people will quickly drift away and never come back."
Sunday, 1 November 2009
Well the first of November has arrived, the leaves and foliage now rapidly changing, rain bangs on my windows this morning. As is now the custom at this time of the year on this blog. I stop momentarily to remember all victims of war and in particular all recent young men and women who have fallen in the capitalist wars in both Iraq and Afghanistan. The Image above is of my grandfather who fought on the German side unwillingly and lost his life in the Second World War. I think of him and my other grandfather, who was evacuated and rescued from that Dunkirk beach and lived his life into old age. Underneath is an article that I’ve written for the November addition of the Socialist Standard. I dedicate it to all solders, members of the working class all over the world victims of capitalism. And a very special dedication to Linda Hastings who is fighting and winning the battle against cancer.
Joining the killing machine
The campaign to win the young to war has come a long way from that poster used in the ‘First Great War’ you know ‘Your Country Needs You’ and the pointing finger of Kitchener.
As is usual at this time of the year, we are called upon to remember the dead, the fallen of wars; not only two ‘World Wars’ but of recent continuing wars in far away places. Poppies sold, a festival of remembrance held and televised, boy-scouts, girl-guides, sea, air and army cadets, new and old soldiers march down to the local war memorial to repeat that yearly ritual, customary observance and practice.
The main event is held at the Cenotaph, the monument built to honour people whose remains are interred elsewhere or whose remains cannot be recovered and lie scattered across the fields and arable land of France; as was and still is the case for many casualties of that First Great War. The Cenotaph is in London’s Whitehall, a stones throw from Downing Street were all decisions of war have been taken and plotted particularly in the last and current century. This year’s remembrance falls in the year that marks the 70th anniversary and outbreak of the Second World War and as usual the Queen and her Royal Family dressed-up as Fleet Admirals, Air Marshals and Field Marshals with medals and self-awarded honours, will join our political leaders in honouring by this act of remembrance the war dead, who we are told time and again, gave their lives for the freedoms that we (supposedly) enjoy today.
During the summer; with its cricket field, pubs and a centuries-old church Wootton Bassett became the focuses of international media attention, not unfortunately because of its idyllic picturesque village qualities; typical of an old English town in all respects; but one: Every corpse that returns from Britain's wars abroad passes through it. In what has become a public show of respect? Wootton Bassett is near Royal Air Force Lyneham, the base to which the country's war dead are returned. Commencing about two years ago, townspeople began gathering for the processions of each soldier as the body, in a flag-draped casket, was moved from Lyneham to a coroner's office in Oxford. The inaugural processions were attended by just a dozen saluting war veterans at first. Crowds then swelled to the thousands when the repetition of these sad processions became commonplace as the convoy of coffins through Wootton Bassett turned from a trickle to a stream.
Newspapers carried front page converge that included pictures of mothers, fathers, wives, children and in some cases distraught girlfriends’ of the fallen. Anyone who picks up a newspaper or owns a television set cannot have failed to miss the risks that are involved and taken by the young in the modern wars that are Afghanistan and Iraq and have proven to be oh so deadly.
Every now and again, Brown and Cameron, before the exchange of insults during questions to the Prime Minster, will pay a tribute of hollow words acknowledging deceased military personnel. But with the public witnessing the return of young military casualties the pendulum of public opinion began to stick and stay put on questioning or opposing the military mission. The government during the summer, sensing the public perception, gave support to the first ever armed forces day, the idea being that parades and ceremonies’ would be held in every community around the war memorial to honour the role and function of armed forces personnel past and present - to use government language - honouring their commitment. This year's main national celebration was held at the Historic Dockyard in Chatham, Kent. The official party included Prime Minister Gordon Brown and his wife Sarah, the Duke and Duchess of Gloucester, and the Chief of the Defence Staff, Air Chief Marshal Sir Jock Stirrup.
Brown said: "The people that have come here today have shown the high esteem and regard in which they hold the Armed Forces of our country. The Armed Forces who do so much, the families who make such sacrifices. I don't think we say thank you enough, today is our chance to say it and say it with one voice, thank you very much to our Armed Forces."
Brown’s comments, were if nothing else, very telling about government and military strategists’ concerns and about having public opinion on side. If opinion is off side, then one thing is for sure and that’s that it’s not held against service personnel who are merely uniformed workers, working like any other workers under instructions. The British armed forces have some of the most difficult and far-flung commitments to maintain. Major commitments in Afghanistan and Iraq co-exist with others from peacekeeping in Cyprus to patrolling the Falkland Islands. To meet these commitments, an estimate is made of the required number of trained full-time personnel, known as the ‘trained requirement’. The actual number of trained personnel, known as the ‘trained strength’, is usually slightly less than requirement. The trained requirement in 2007 stood at 183,610; the trained strength stood at 177,760, of which 99,280 were in the army, 34,940 in the navy and 43,550 in the air force.
In terms of personnel, the UK regular armed forces are about the third-largest in Europe after Germany and France. Britain is the world’s largest military spender after of course the US, and our armed forces being the most stretched in the world, over £2 billion is spent each year on recruiting and training 20,000 new personnel to replace those who either leave or are killed on active duty. The armed forces, as the statistics show, draw their non-officer recruits mainly from among young people with low educational accomplishment living in poor communities. A large proportion joining for disadvantaged reasons, including the lack of civilian career choices; a survey in the Cardiff area in 2004 found that 40 percent of army recruits were joining as a last resort and the army revelled in 2004 that while roughly 45 percent of all young people leave school with 5 GCSE subjects graded A-C only, 17 percent of all Army recruits in 2003–04 had English at A-C level, with the figure for Maths at about 10 percent. On average Army recruits have 0.9 of a GCSE at grade A-C. ... Records also show that 24 percent of all Army applicants in 2003–04 were unemployed for a significant period before applying.
The killing locomotive that is the army always needs fuel to feed into its boiler, so tens of thousands of pounds are spent on newspapers and the media convincing youngsters to sign away (no apology) their lives. On the way back from visiting a friend, I found one of those free newspapers that are handed out every evening at tube stations in London and lying on the seat next to me on the train on which I was travelling, what caught my eye was a double-page spread advertisement placed in the London Metro by the army and, I assume, acting on instructions from the Ministry of Defence and the government. The advertisement carried the image of a beautiful young woman in combat fatigues. I have no reason to believe that this young person isn’t a serving member of the armed forces and with the looks of a model.
The advert had a personal testimony of army life given by Major Laura Blair, 31, (can you believe that name) who is a member of the Adjutant General’s Corps; they apparently specialise in HR Personnel. Laura, if she does exists, says wonderful things about army life and ends by advising anyone who may be interested in an army career to either pop into one of the Army Careers Offices dotted around London or visit the Army Show Rooms in Hounslow or Dalston to find out just what life in uniform could offer them.
Recruitment literature for army careers emphasises potential benefits: career interest and challenge, comradeship, the active lifestyle, travel and training opportunities. It omits to mention or obscures even blots out: the radical change from a civilian to a military lifestyle, ethical issues involved in killing, risks to physical and mental health, the legal obligations of enlistment, the state’s legal and moral obligations to its armed forces personnel, and the right of conscientious objection. By suggesting that soldiers are highly satisfied with army life, the literature also glosses over the ambivalent attitudes of the majority. The omissions conspire against the potential recruit’s right and responsibility to make an informed choice about whether to enlist. The literature also does little to enable parents to ask searching questions of their children and of recruiters in order to assure their children’s best interests.
One thing that remains the same about war is that workers fight it; and die in it; and that’s best summed-up by last surviving soldier to have fought in the trenches of the First World War and who died earlier this year. Henry John “Harry” Patch (17 June 1898 – 25 July 2009) – known as ‘the Last Tommy’ Harry, from what I can gather, hated war, and called it “organised murder, and nothing less.”
- ► 2008 (112)
- Joining the killing machine
- just drifting into unemployment.
- Handing the banks the dough...
- What's Changed?
- Ian Tomlinson
- Enter parliament with completely honest intentions...
- Twitter on against war!
- The 11th hour of the 11th day of the 11th month
- twitter and that two 2 minute silence
- At the Centaph
- Bring me sunshine - Bring me Utopia!
- Mary Travers 1936-2009
- Gangs of Westminster
- Living Hell
- Living Hell - Cashing in
- Corruption Perceptions
- Living Hell - Cashing in
- Reflections Living Hell and Back
- Hot Air
- The Red Flag
- An ill wind!
- a wiggle or is it a wobble?
- Christmas Shopping
- ▼ November 2009 (24)
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- ► 2013 (120)