Wednesday, 29 January 2014

Opposing World War One: Courage and Conscience

Active opposition to the First World War took many forms in British society: public meetings and demonstrations - some of these leading to pitched battles - personal protest and conscientious objection, mutinies and trade union strikes, and of course artistic expression in painting, poetry and literature.

Nevertheless, the opponents were far outnumbered by enthusiasts for the war. By 1916 there were still more men volunteering than could be equipped, according to A.J.P.Taylor, but politicians wishing to give the impression that they were helping the war effort decided that conscription was the way to demonstrate this.

The Military Service Bill (the proposal in parliament to make a new law introducing conscription) was debated in the House of Commons in January 1916. The government, led by the Prime Minister, Herbert Asquith, knew the Bill would be very controversial and that there would be fierce opposition to conscription from some MPs - particularly Quaker MPs and members of the Independent Labour Party. To deal with the expected opposition to conscription, the government had included a section in the Military Service Bill known as the ‘conscience clause’. This allowed people exemption from conscription ‘on the ground of a conscientious objection to the undertaking of combatant service’. The government knew there would also be strong opposition to the conscience clause from a large number of MPs.

MPs debated long and hard about which types of conscientious objector the new law would recognise. On the day of the final vote on the Military Service Bill there was great tension in parliament. Everyone knew the seriousness of the proposed new law and knew what a dramatic
change it would be for Britain (Ireland was not included in the Bill). Out of 630 MPs in the House of Commons at the time 165 of them were already in the army or navy and most of those had come wearing their military uniform. Only 36 MPs opposed the Military Service Bill and so, on 27 January 1916, the Bill received the Royal Assent and became the law of the land.

The new law would come into operation on 3 February 1916 and from 2 March all unmarried men aged 18-41 would be ‘deemed to have enlisted’ in the army. In just a few months conscription would be extended to married men also.

Over 16,000 men claimed exemption from military service. They were required to attend a tribunal (an interviewing panel with legal authority) to have the sincerity of their claims assessed.

Conscientious objectors were usually offered non-combatant work in the army, or civilian work (for example, working on the land) that was useful to a country at war. Men who turned down these alternatives, and men who had not even been offered them but still refused call-up, were then arrested and sent to military barracks. Here they faced court martial, like any soldier who disobeyed orders - as indeed the COs did, refusing to wear uniform or respond to any commands. The court martial would give a prison sentence, to be served in a civilian prison. When the CO had finished his time in prison, he would be called up again a day after his release and arrested when he failed to obey: this was known as the ‘cat and mouse’ process. It was all very tough on the men who endured it. More than eighty COs died in prison or as a result of their experience there. Some became physically or mentally ill, and of these some never fully recovered.

In May 1916 about 50 COs being held at Harwich, Seaford and Richmond Castle were sent to France, and threatened with the death penalty. On the ‘Front Line’ they could be court-martialled and executed for disobeying orders.

They were transported in secret by night to Southampton, but one of them managed to drop a note from the train as they crossed London. This was picked up and somehow the information reached the No-Conscription Fellowship (and their families) that they were on their way to France. Once there they remained defiant, despite the intimidation and brutal treatment - including in some cases field punishment such as being ‘crucified’ for several hours on a wooden frame or barbed wire. In June 1916 they were court-martialled and sentenced to be shot, though this was immediately commuted to ten years penal servitude. It meant being sent back to England.

COs faced the unpleasant and severe consequences of their actions with responses as varied as themselves. Their only backing came from peace organisations and a small group of Members of Parliament, and above all from the sustained vigilance of the No-Conscription

First Published 2013 by Fellowship of Reconciliation, Pax Christi,
Peace Pledge Union, Quaker Peace
Social Witness,
Women’s International League for Peace and Freedom

Newham Labour Council has rude awakening for rough sleepers

Newham Council has been the flagship of a local authority for the Labour Party going back to the day’s of Tony Blair's leadership, headed by a directly elected mayor in the form of Sir Robin Wales it has no opposition and all 60 members are of the Labour Party.

This is a council that spent £111m on a new headquarters and is now considering moving out after just three years. Newham Council bought Building 1000 for £92m in 2010 and spent a further £18.7m on a refurbishment. Designer light fittings alone cost £1,800 each. Newham Council moved from 26 different locations to Newham Dockside. The idea was to reduce overall running costs, make efficiencies and make money by letting out other council buildings, however this has backfired big time and a serving councillor, speaking to the BBC in September last year on condition of anonymity, said: "We can't sell the old buildings - we have got empty premises we can't sell.  

Mike Law, a former Newham councillor who now speaks out against the way the council is run, told the BBC: "It's a massive bungle.

"How can they say the taxpayer is going to be getting value for money by leasing Building 1000 out when the very reason they moved in there was allegedly to save money?

"There is a real problem with fiscal responsibility at Newham Council and it's a total fiasco."

So whilst Sir Robin Wales and his Labour Council endeavor miserably to play at property development they have launched an amazing disgraceful attack on the street homeless in Newham, the following was posted on the council’s own website.  

Newham Council has rude awakening for rough sleepers

Newham Council has served anti-social behaviour warnings on 28 people who were found sleeping rough in and around the shopping mall in Stratford.                
The council, working with Newham Police, the UK Border Agency (UKBA) and homeless support agency Thames Reach, has begun an operation codenamed Alabama, to deal with rough sleepers following complaints from residents and businesses.

During the operation’s first night-time patrols in late December and early January, council enforcement officers handed out notices to the sleepers warning that what they were doing was not safe and their behaviour was causing or likely to cause “harassment, alarm or distress to the local community”.

The notices warned that if they returned and further complaints were received about them, legal action could be taken against them in the form of an Anti-Social Behaviour Order (ASBO). At the same time the council also offered access to specialist support services.

Councillor Unmesh Desai, executive member for crime and anti-social behaviour, said: “Residents do not regard sleeping, drinking, urinating or taking drugs on the streets and using threatening or violent behaviour as an acceptable way of life. We will not tolerate it and will take action wherever we are able to reduce anti-social behaviour and crime linked to rough sleeping.

“In addition these individuals are in an increasingly vulnerable position in terms of their health and safety. Through Operation Alabama we will continue working with support agencies to offer help to rough sleepers to find a way off the streets.”

Of the 28 individuals identified, 11 received offers from the council and Thames Reach of help with hostel accommodation and substance misuse. One person was arrested by the UKBA and detained as an overstayer and four others were told to report to UKBA offices. Two people refused specialist help with returning to their own countries. Two people were arrested and detained by police on outstanding warrants.

Fascist or Labour Council

Having read the above I was left wondering whether my local council was a Fascist or Labour Council, authoritarian and totalitarian in respect of homeless people just like you would expect from autocratic right-wingers. Everyone knows there's a housing crisis, and that it's particularly acute in London. But when I started researching London's crisis hotspots I was soon astonished by the scale of the problem.

In Newham – home to the Olympic stadium – the crisis is most acute with nearly 1 in 4 of its residents on the council's housing waiting list. The borough needs more affordable housing. If not we know they are looking at deporting residents to far away places like Stoke-on-Trent.  

London's housing crisis is the result of a generation or more of failed policies that need urgent redress. That redress requires multiple policy changes: building new council housing on a mass scale is long overdue – or else the 'Kosovo-style cleansing' of the poor. In the short term there are only two solutions – wages and benefits must rise and rents must be capped. Instead though, the government is going in the opposite direction: cutting and capping benefits.

Housing in London has become an investment opportunity for a few, while for many more it is a constant source of anxiety, insecurity and debt. What we have mapped in Newham and in London is at its most divided: we should not be at home to it and shame on Newham Council for giving the homeless a kicking of the worst kind.

Tuesday, 28 January 2014

a fraudulent banker does more harm than a shoplifter

Shoplifting in Britain according to police records released most recently is on the increase, how could this possibly surprise anyone, especially when we read and hear much about the rise of the food bank and the millions who are forced to turn to them when the pennies just don’t seem to stretch that far enough any more, that’s if you are one of the great many working poor or even one of the many thousands of unemployed that have been sanctioned by Iain Duncan Smith's DWP.

Recession-linked crime (that’s if you think that putting food on the table is a crime) is on the up as the spending cuts bite, this is backed by Nick Gargan, chief constable of Avon and Somerset Constabulary, who told the Financial Times that police leaders were talking about an “austerity bulge” in crime figures: “We are seeing a ramping-up effort as the cuts take hold.”

The rise in shoplifting came in more than two-thirds of the 43 police force areas, with the largest increases in the West Midlands, Merseyside, and West Yorkshire.

Last week scuffles broke-out between shoppers and police and a 99p store in North Wales it scrapped its half price sale. Police chiefs, concerned about the risk of violence called on the home secretary this month to authorise the use of water cannon in protests arising from “potential future austerity measures” The Home Office said it wants to ensure police have the tools they need but has yet to give approval for water cannon - it will only be a question of time but my guess is they will get the new toys.

And finally, I am most grateful to a twitter comrade for spotting an article in the Guardian about three North London squatters charged with stealing food that had been thrown away at the back of Iceland in Kentish Town. Initially arrested for burglary, the three men were charged under an obscure section of the 1824 Vagrancy Act - you could not make this up!

Three charged with stealing food from skip behind Iceland supermarket full story

Pete Seeger, the legendary folk singer and banjo player

Pete Seeger, the legendary folk singer and banjo player who became an American icon by using protest songs to push for social changes over the 20th century and beyond, died yesterday. He was 94.

Seeger was convicted for contempt of Congress in 1961 after refusing to answer questions before the House Committee on Un-American Activities, which saw him blacklisted in the anti-communist fervor of the era. An anti-war activist in the 60’s and again in the 2000’s, Seeger saw several of his songs became pop hits, including my own favorite "Where Have All the Flowers Gone" (1961) and "Turn, Turn, Turn."

So the world has lost a great but modest musician may he now RIP - and thank you for the music Pete which lives on in people working still for world peace and especially "Where Have All the Flowers Gone" and in this the year that we in Britain commemorate the outbreak of the First World War and the needless slaughter of millions!”


Monday, 27 January 2014

winter has not shown as yet any real bite

It seems to have been a while since my last posting, and I have become a workaholic, a person who compulsively works hard and for long hours, and that’s not by choice. It’s all down to the evil deranged wickedness of Iain Duncan Smith.

I must do about 30 miles on my bike a day looking for scrap to sell to my local dealer here in Canning Town. It’s hard work, make no mistake about that and not that rewarding as the price of scrap keeps falling, but in a strange kind of way I like doing it along with the freedom of being my own boss.

This winter has been quite mild despite the appalling rain that has wrecked many a family home in others parts of the country, and those families have my sympathy which is all I can offer really, the government and local authorities should do more, it’s not fair and equitable or acceptable  that these families should witness a lifetimes work of building a home only to see it floating down the road just like the car in the photo above which a police underwater search unit inspected near the village of Muchelney in Somerset. Owen Paterson the head of The Department for Environment, Food & Rural Affairs (Defra) can take some of the blame for his climate-change scepticism could be exposing the UK to a higher risk of flooding and other global warming consequences and of course along with his own departments cuts. I suppose that those most affected would have probably voted for one of the coalition parties considering themselves to be middle England, but lets not hold that against them for in reality they are members of the working class as I have been at pains many times to explain, there are only two classes in our society, those that own and control and those of us who sell our labour power power in order to live.

So here we are then, Monday morning, the start of the last week in January and of the first month of the year, considered to be the second month of winter, and how the time is beginning to fly past, at this rate it will soon be Easter. Many of us of course, will be praying that the weather stays on the mild side and obviously without the rain. However, I was thinking how disappointing it must be for the gas and electric utilities, that winter has not shown as yet any real bite, but I do realise that we are only halfway through the winter months and things could change and as February can be a very cold month, still we have not seen any road gritters out in London so local councils will have saved a bit of money, and the homeless the old will have more of a chance of surviving, and thank God above will continue to live and exist albeit only just!”

Whilst up to now winter may be mild still three in five people (58%) are worried about the effect that higher bills will have on their finances and 53% - or 27 million - will have to cut spending to cope, according to a study by a consumer body. The survey found that of those who plan on cutting their spending, 59% say they will have to reduce the amount they spend on food, 37% will look for ways to reduce their energy bills, 8% will consider moving to a cheaper home, that’s if they can find one.

Things can only get worse as many fields resemble giant lakes, with livestock lost, we then can expect this to be reflected in higher prices in shops and supermarkets, but there is always a food bank to call on!”

Monday, 20 January 2014

That red flag with the word ‘Revolution’ printed on it

The weekend is always over before it even starts, has always been my experience.

Even when we are not working, relaxation and just trying to have a break away from it all, seems to end all too quickly and then it’s back to work, of course that's if you're in the very fortunate position to have a job. But even if you are locked up and held in unemployment, just staying afloat and holding up on benefit is hard work. Still the weekend is considered to be a time of rest and break from the many worries and stresses, and there are many of them!” We don’t take serious enough our own mental and emotional state of mind at the end of the week, the tension resulting from participating and existing in and under capitalism, from adverse and very demanding circumstances such as they are today. I think that capitalism brings on many stress-related illnesses!

I think that we spend by far, too much time working or not working, whatever the case may be.

We do not spend enough quality time with our families or the ones we really love, many do miss-out on those magical moments of being able to enjoy and witness their own children grow-up, maybe we are too busy trying to pay the bills, and bringing the bacon home has meant chaining many down to the floorboards.

Do we live to work - or do we work to live?”

I read and hear much about  cuts, about austerity how it hurts many, the attack on welfare has and is visible, and still it is allowed to continue as our political masters push ahead with more of the same, but with more intense pain. Many do not realise what this coalition of the rich have put in place or what’s coming.

The ruling class are beating us with a great long stick, many have got their heads down and are happy as it seems taking the beating being handed down to us. Things will not change if we change our socks and elect a government of the Miliband Labour Party.

This coalition has been one of the rich demonstrating that they in some respects can stick together, and on an international scale. But around the world workers and their supporters have taken to the streets inspired by the popular uprisings in Egypt and Tunisia. The Occupy Movement not just Wall Street but around the world has given us some real hope that there are still people prepared to draw a line and make that stand, and thank God above that they are amongst us albeit in rather small numbers but growing with each passing day.

This seems to be the best time to explain that despite everything that’s happened, we can see that people are beginning to rise. Some are losing their lives in these struggles, never let us lose sight of that, violence is always abhorrent and abominable as capitalism itself.

The red flag that I picked up from the road after the police had charged students with houses in Parliament Square in 2010, hangs on my living room wall, and it reminds me of that days violence, it reminds me of the thousands, the thousands who took part in it, the youth, the brave children young comrades, standing up for a free for all education system. I still see in my minds eye the layout carefully arranged elaborate security precautions that were made and put in place, the police the violence still fresh in my mind.

That red flag with the word ‘Revolution’ printed on it, now dirty and looking old still inspires me more than anything else, not strange but true!  

Saturday, 18 January 2014

Alright Dave - Roger Lloyd-Pack

What a shock it was to have learnt sadly this week that the Actor Roger Lloyd-Pack, who played Trigger in Only Fools And Horses, had died aged 69. This was very unexpected and by all accounts what a lovely man Roger was, and as well as being a lifelong socialist.

Never really a committed Only Fools And Horses fan myself by any stretch of the imagination, but I was always aware of its place in television history. A much loved British sitcom created and written by the great writer the late John Sullivan and originally broadcast on BBC One in the United Kingdom from 1981 to 1991, with sporadic Christmas specials until 2003. The series had an impact on British culture, contributing to several new words and phrases to the English language.

I remember the series grabbed my attention in the late eighties when it was probably well on its way to becoming the last great sitcom to have won a massive following on the old terrestrial television as it was then, and I totally now understand how it was able to provide much laughter in many working class family homes up and down the country, at a time when Thatcher and the Tories were at the height and indeed gearing up to give workers everywhere a right good old bashing, many must have found escape albeit for a short time (30 minutes per episode) from the worries and the misery of daily life as it was back then. Derek "Del Boy" Trotter his brother Rodney along with their elderly Grandad became heroes of a kind to a generation, and as the series became a hit other characters started to make their mark in the show and win the admiration of fans, no more so that Trigger played by Roger Lloyd-Pack, in fact Trigger will always be remembered and associated with the show as much as the main Characters as Roger always turned in a great performance.

Trigger, apparently so called because he looks like a horse, was the principal supporting character throughout the shows run; only Del Boy and Rodney appeared in more episodes. Lloyd Pack was cast by pure chance; Ray Butt, who hired him to portray Trigger after seeing him in a stage play, had only attended that play to observe potential Del Boy actor Billy Murray.

A daft road sweeper most frequently seen in the Nag's Head, Trigger was initially portrayed as a small-time thief, supplying Del with dubious goods. In later episodes he came to adopt the 'village idiot' role, drawing laughs in each of his scenes through his general stupidity, in particular his unshakable belief that Rodney's real name was actually Dave, endeared him to millions.

Lloyd-Pack was born in 1944 into an acting family in north London, and his father Charles was a regular in Hammer horror films. Roger himself the father of four was also a successful stage actor, appearing regularly at Shakespeare's Globe in central London, but acknowledged that he would always be best known as Trigger.

He (Roger) appeared in dozens of films and TV shows, including Dr Who and The Vicar Of Dibley.     His film roles included Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy and Harry Potter And The Goblet Of Fire.

Even the news of his sad passing strangely enough raises an internal smile. Trigger announcing that he had been given an award for saving the council money by maintaining his broom for 20 years. It had had 17 new handles and 14 new brushes. Comedy gold..RIP, Trigger.

Wednesday, 15 January 2014

Son of Kinnock seeks a safe Welsh Labour seat

With each passing day I become that little more convinced, that parliament and in particular our own House of Commons is full of nothing more than bull-shiter’s, and forgive my French’, that’s someone who lies so much its unbelievable.

Stephen Kinnock the son of former Labour leader Neil Kinnock and husband of the Danish prime minister Helle Thorning-Schmidt has had his path of prickly brambles cleared to stand as the Labour candidate for Aberavon by a top committee of the Labour Party.

The Labour sub-committee agreed that Aberavon should be one of two Welsh seats in which both men and women can stand for the Labour candidacy. So Kinnock junior can now have a crack at following his old man into parliament and carve out a slice of his very own bullshit pie.

Kinnock told BBC Wales: "I have been a member of the Labour party since I was 15 years old, and of course politics is in my blood.

The Aberavon Labour MP at the moment is Hywel Francis, who has announced his intention to stand down in 2015. Labour held the south Wales seat of Aberavon with a majority of over 11,000 in the 2010 general election.

Of course, young Kinnock is also the son of Baroness Kinnock of Holyhead or better known simply as Glenys to most people that can still remember her as an MEP in the European Parliament from 1994 to 2009. Glenys represented Wales in the European Parliament and in 2004, Glenys Kinnock was caught up in an expenses scandal. Fellow MEP Hans-Peter Martin claimed to have caught 194 colleagues receiving the European Parliament's attendance allowance. Kinnock was among those MEPs whom Martin found and filmed leaving the building just moments after they had signed in for the day to qualify for their £175-a-day allowance, in addition to their £70,000 salaries as MEPs. However this has not stopped her from finding favour with the current leader of the Labour Party Ed Miliband and she serves him as Opposition Spokesperson for the Department of International Development in the House of Lords.

The Kinnocks have always been able to keep in with the leadership of the Labour Party from Tony Blair to Miliband, and always seem to be eating bullshit pie at Labour Party Conference. Old man Kinnock seems to love it when a Labour leader pays him a compliment in regard to his time as Labour leader which is nothing really to be proud of, he lost what was it, three general elections and two of them to Margaret Thatcher.

Well I could write much more about this family of professional Labour careerists, intent always at furthering their own careers by any possible means, but what’s the point spending good time attacking them when real energy is better spent campaigning against the system they and Labour support - capitalism!”

Thursday, 9 January 2014

the murders of Jean Charles de Menezes, Ian Tomlinson and now Mark Duggan.

The inquest verdict that Mark Duggan - who was shot by police in August 2011, sparking riots across England - was lawfully killed dominates many front pages. The Independent describes it as "one explosive verdict".

I know that the inquest was held at The Royal Courts of Justice on the Strand in London as I’ve passed by on one or two occasions on my way to meet with friends in Lincoln's Inn Fields on nights that we have attended the soup runs that are held nightly and nearby. On one occasion I have witnessed the manhandling and subsequent arrest of supporters and members of Mark’s family, quite shocking really when I think about it and always confirming to me that there is no such thing as justice in this society, and that is something that many are slowly beginning to realise.

The delivery of yesterday’s verdict had taken me by complete surprise and I learnt about it on twitter having been out most of the day working. I came home to an outpouring of anger and disbelief after the verdict was made public. I am under no doubt whatsoever, that this is yet another black stain on the reputation and integrity (what little they had) of the Metropolitan Police here in London, their standing in the public perception has now fallen to an all time low, a tainted dishonored depravity of broken trust. Such wickedness is a debauchery that they will never recover from.

The death of Duggan resulted in public protests and very strong objection in Tottenham over the circumstances of his killing, fuelled in part by poverty and racial tension. The protests led to conflict with police, escalating into a riot in Tottenham and spreading around the capital where the police lost control and had to draft in reinforcements from around the country. These events are widely seen as proximate causes for the 2011 England riots.

The public inquest on the Duggan killing began on 16 September 2013, and ended yesterday 8 January 2014 with an 8–2 majority concluding that Duggan's death was a lawful killing. This is just unbelievable and no wonder the all male jury had to be rushed out of court, who picks the jury Theresa May?”

Whilst there is much to still be carefully considered with regard to the real role of the Metropolitan Police and who and what they really protect, the one thing that I can say with a degree of fact and certainty is that blood, working class blood drips from that blue lamp and stains our streets, never forget the murders of Jean Charles de Menezes, Ian Tomlinson, and now Mark Duggan.

Tuesday, 7 January 2014

Christmas on the street

It’s a long way from Christmas to Camden
With one tinnie to last me the night.
Dossed down in a damp, stinking doorway
Cardboard dulling the cold’s vicious bite.

All the revellers’ laughter around me
Cuts sharp with the frost, through my mind.
Shapes visions as brilliant as crystal
Of some life that once left me behind.

I can no more go back than one falling
From a cliff might soar into the air
Thronged with voices of lost loved ones, calling
Through the fogs of confusion and fear.

People pass and glance down as if I were
Something foul on the sole of their shoe.
Yes, it’s a long way from Christmas to Camden
And it’s a long way from Camden to you.

By Andre Rostant
Camden Big Issue vendor

Monday, 6 January 2014

stamp out bullying in our movement

The start to my new year is proving to be an interesting one and holds promise that this will be a year of unrelenting activity on my part, that’s the new year resolution I was looking for and now my mind and hands are on it. So my resolve is to do as much as I can in what will be my 58th year on planet earth, and forty one as a socialist.

My prayer now and God willing, is to continue on this journey along the socialist road that I have committed much of my life too, and may I add, without any regrets although the journey has not always been a smooth one by any means and I suppose its the same for many other comrades, in fact I know it is. One such example has been my fellow comrade blogger Mark Wright of ‘The Way I See Things’. Mark has put up with, and succeed in dealing with political bullying; can you believe that, and in a supposedly socialist organization a member can be persecuted, that so-called superior strength or influence is used to intimidate to force him or her to do what one wants, in this case the leadership line of the Socialist Party.

If I was to have a list of heroes, which I don’t as I don’t hero worship, then Mark would be on the top of it without exception and shame on the Socialist Party I expected better from them and now they have gone down big time in my positive estimation of them, in fact it has plummeted so much so that I will never take them serious again, and as for Mark who must have been very hurt as I believe he is a very passionate but sensitive socialist, well he will learn to harden up as he has done for most of his life contending with the disability of blindness and yet his blog is amongst the top 100 political blogs in the country - well done Comrade!”

It was not my intention to write this post about political bullying, but rather to write a post about the Peoples Assembly and a spat or argument and exchange I’ve been having with them on twitter, and I don’t know how this has turned into a post about left bullying in the movement, but it has and maybe more should be said about it, for I think it may be commonplace with many unwilling to come out and say as much, but it maybe that’s going to change if we look at the crisis and intense difficulty that's engulfing the SWP and what is now seeping out of the Socialist Party. I would encourage others like Mark to come out and say as much, don’t suffer this abuse alone, you do our movement a disservice to remain silent, and another world is only possible by always telling the truth - we must stamp out the bullying in our movement.  

People are less likely to be picked on if they walk and sit with awareness, calm, respect, and confidence as Mark has shown. Projecting a positive, assertive attitude means keeping one’s head up, back straight, walking briskly, looking around, having a peaceful face and body, and moving away from people who might cause trouble even in our movement.   

“If you are neutral in situations of injustice, you have chosen the side of the oppressor. If an elephant has its foot on the tail of a mouse, and you say that you are neutral, the mouse will not appreciate your neutrality.”

― Desmond Tutu

Saturday, 4 January 2014

to destroy the coal industry and the NUM

Three days into the new year and already I feel gutted is the truth. I don’t suppose for one moment that I will be on my own in this respect.

Many comrades and friends who were around and active during the Great Miners Strike of 84/85 will be still raging and furious at yesterday's revelations in regard to that dispute, of that I’m in no doubt. Of course, it will not have come as a complete and shocking surprise, but nevertheless such deep wounds still hurt many especially in former mining communities up and down the country.

“The policies of this government are clear - to destroy the coal industry and the NUM”.

Arthur Scargill said it and, time has proven the existence of truth and that he was indeed correct. At this point forgive me for the deviation from what is to be my intended thread, but writing and thinking back to that time seems to release some emotion, but don’t worry I am not sitting in a pool of tears as I write this post. However, I do have to say that Arthur Scargill was for many years a driving inspiration for me in my youth and when as he was back then the President of the Yorkshire NUM. I suppose in a way, and yes, I looked upon him as a hero in what now seems to me to be strange, all these many years latter, political maturity along with a better understanding of socialism has cured and relieved me of them symptoms of hero worship, thank the good Lord above.

Growing up in Scunthorpe and then working on the steelworks, which is very close to South Yorkshire and the then coalfields which were still working, ment that in his early career as a trade unionist he was always on our telly or in the local news, and of course my home town being predominantly a steel community had many links to and with our mining neighbours and especially when it came to trade unions. I can also tell you that I have met Scargill on many occasions in the past and shared a platform with him once in Scunthorpe, well of course comrades, all that is a story in itself and maybe one day I will put some more meat onto the bones and elaborate a wee bit more - just maybe?”

The one thing that I will say about Scargill, that he is a man of great integrity a wonderful orator with a great sense of wit and humor, and I very much doubt if there is anybody that possesses such skills today.

Well that’s the end of my deviation now back to the thread of this here post.

The release and disclosure of cabinet papers from the Thatcher era of her government and pertaining to the miners year long strike, and as the BBC has put it - “Scargill was right”.

The NEWLY-released Cabinet papers from 1984 justify mineworkers' union leader Arthur Scargill's long-held claim that there was a "secret hit-list" of more than 70 pits marked for closure. Over the years many people have told me that Scargill was right all along, and now the evidence is in the public domain for all to see, and let us be under no illusion here, this revelation will have far reaching consequences even today all of thirty years on. If nothing else it will harden many people up to the fact that government has only one intention, not to serve the people but to run the system of capitalism in the interests of capitalism only. That democracy is nothing more than a controlled confidence trick practiced by whoever is the majority party governing, that loyalty is not towards the people the majority, but for the minority who never have any passing interest in the welfare of others if it interferes with their profit system. That class of parasites expect government to work on their behalf, to keep slave labour in its place, to use the whole apparatus of the state if necessary to stamp out any revolt of workers who have the audacity to demand better pay, working conditions or a bigger slice of the whole cake. They tell us that its only through their hard work that they have got and earned the lifestyle that only they enjoy, when if fact it is us the workers who have created all wealth and profit and we receive so little.

Yesterday's disclosure proves the Conservative government headed by Minister Margaret Thatcher "had no credibility whatsoever". That the so-called rule of law was twisted and bent so much so that innocent principled miners and indeed their supporters, came face to face with such violence that has stained police forces up and down the country for ever more, no more so than the South Yorkshire force, and of course the brutal picket line clashes such as the infamous “Battle of Orgreave”. As I recall the coal that was heading to Scunthorpe steel works.

Coal stocks were plummeting and – alongside the miners – the dockers had gone out on strike. So in July 1984, the cabinet documents show, the government seriously considered calling in troops to move coal. Conservative policy chief John Redwood put it, the National Coal Board was “crumbling”. In a powerfully worded, single-copy letter Redwood warned Thatcher that the far left was engaged in a revolutionary strategy to “destroy” the government - Oh what a Dickhead!”

The miners strike is today depicted as one of those “inescapable” events that history is littered with: a doomed workforce staging a last ditch battle in the face of progress (what progress ?”). If you were involved – I was – it was more complicated.  

“Violence will not succeed for the police and courts will not bow to it. They are the servants not of government but of the law itself,” Mrs Thatcher said in her Mansion House speech that year.

The documents released yesterday reveal this was pure fiction. And so I say, may she rot in hell for the rest of infinite eternity

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