Archive for the ‘1’ Category

Bathbombing

June 4, 2018

DSCN1141

 

Soap suds wash away our cares,
bombs in our bath allay our fears.
Cannot cleanse minds of those
damaged by abuse. Plain clothes
masked their true intent.

Under covers, undercover cops lie.
Working with victims, Lush bravely try
to expose police brutality,
the real casualty is democracy;
bruised and battered and bent.

Listen to those who were spied on,
who were raped, lied to. The baton
raised against those who dared
raise a dissenting voice, who aired
concerns for the environment.

Ordinary folk, who put up a fight,
for basic justice, human rights,
to freely express their legitimate view
without fear of the boys in blue.
Relax, pause; breathe in the scent.

Time to reflect on hidden oppression,
fifty years of state’s secret obsession
still lingers on. The racist Prevent agenda,
unsubtle government propaganda.
Burst blue bubble, smug and complacent.

 

This poem is dedicated to those campaigners whose lives were ruined by police oppression. There has been a brave and timely campaign by Lush to expose 50 years of secret police interference with the lives of protestors, environmental campaigners, trade unionists, socialists. Many victims were deceived into relationships with those they thought they could trust.

More information – https://tombfowler.wixsite.com/spycops

Please sign the petition – https://www.change.org/p/sajid-javid-support-victims-of-police-spying-get-access-to-justice

 

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Divine Interference

May 29, 2018

To our so-called Superiors, and their “god-given” right,
To abuse power and profit, while hidden from sight.
To those who would question how we live our life,
To pass judgement on doctors for using the knife.

Their medieval morality no longer holds sway.
Their perseverance and courage at last won the day.
Their banner said ROSA, and true was their cause;
Their vision: freedom, end to outdated laws.

The women of Ireland, no longer enslaved;
The millions of people, who battled and paved
The way forward to victory in historic vote,
The thousands returning by plane and by boat.

Who abolished dark memories of Magdalene Laundries,
Who cleansed those captive, communal memories.
Who were determined the world must at last hear their voice,
Who campaigned for a new, generational choice.

As we sing, voices carry cross ocean’s blue swell,
As our demands for equality will one day surely tell.
As we challenge authority’s hypocritical boast,
As it is always the poor, who suffer the most.

Attempt at communication

May 19, 2018

Connection lost. Background static,
Footprints of big bang. Space-time:
Expansive, easy to lose ourselves.
The random hiss speaks volumes
Of long-vanished nebulae,
Impressions of bare-footed runners,
Distant smoke signals,
Hooves of stagecoach thundering,
Telegram’s staccato flourishes.
Tesla’s Wardenclyffe Tower
Sparked with potential.
Wireless, an invisible tight-rope walker
Tries to bridge the gap . . . but falls.

Fragile signal is drowned in white noise.

Should Ken Livingstone be expelled from the Labour Party?

May 14, 2018

The furore over alleged “anti-semitism” in the Labour Party stems from accusations following Labour MP Naz Shah sharing a facebook post, suggesting that Israel be relocated to the United States, as this would save the US billions in defence expenditure, in other words pointing out that Israel is a client state of the US. Shah apologised for any offence caused and after a period of suspension she was readmitted to Labour.

Ken Livingstone stepped into her defence in a radio interview with Vanessa Feltz. After this interview, John Mann, a Blairite Labour MP, angrily confronted Livingstone, hectoring and bullying him. If you watch the televised coverage of their argument, Livingstone is admirably restrained in his response. He says “it is a matter of historical fact”, “should I apologise for saying that the Normans invaded England in 1066?” and he does not deny that the Holocaust happened. Yet, he is accused of being mentally ill, “you have lost the plot”, “you need some help”; of being a Nazi apologist and of being a conspiracy theorist – he is guilty by association!

Livingstone claimed that there was a secret meeting between Nazis and Zionists, at the time of the Nazis coming to power, to discuss the removal of Jews from Germany. He points out, in a later interview, in 1935, Hitler banned flags from flying in Germany, except the Zionist blue and white flag and the swastika. He said that Naz Shah was “over the top”, but she was not being anti-semitic, adding that, in over 40 years of membership of Labour, he personally had not encountered anti-semitism. There is a medal with a Nazi insignia on one side and the star of David on the other:- http://northshorenumismaticsociety.org/little-known-medal-marks-nazi-zionist-co-operation-in-1933/

Livingstone explained, “Hitler was a monster from start to finish”. But, however unpalatable it may be to the Labour right, there is strong evidence that the Nazis engaged in secretive deals to relocate German Jews to Palestine (the Haavara agreement of 1933). You can argue that this may have not been the most diplomatic argument for Livingstone to pursue, but he has facts on his side, even if he was slightly muddled in the details, having being pounced on by Mann. Hitler was not above accommodating those who he vehemently disagreed with; the infamous Hitler – Stalin pact is clear evidence of this.

For pointing out these links, Livingstone was accused of not knowing his historical facts, being anti-semitic, a holocaust denier, believing in conspiracy theories and being a Nazi apologist. Who is behaving like a school bully, bringing the Labour Party into disrepute here? Isn’t this a calculated effort by a Blairite MP to bring down one of Corbyn’s most articulate allies?

This is an important attack, not just on Corbyn, Livingstone and the Labour left, but also on freedom of speech. It is not anti-semitic to criticise the Israeli government’s policies, to point out the American defence budget contributions, and the way that the state has attacked unarmed Palestinian protestors.

Ken Livingstone should be reinstated as a Labour party member. John Mann and the other Blairite MPs, who have constantly sought to undermine Corbyn at every opportunity, are the ones who should be subject to deselection, as they have “brought Labour into disrepute”.

A World Where News Travelled Slowly

April 15, 2018

I have just been reading Lavinia Greenlaw’s collection  A World Where News Travelled Slowly – and must recommend her poetry wholeheartedly. Her poems are an overheard conversation, conspiratory and private. She beckons us into a private, old-school world of Greek myths, apothecaries, alchemy and subtle eroticism.

The title poem is probably her most famous. A World Where News Travels Slowly harks back to the stagecoach and calligraphy, the human connection with the message, the act of delivery. We travel forward in time to “the clattering mechanics of the six-shutter telegraph”, beautifully mirrored in the rhythm of the line, to the present day. Now we take for granted the ability to connect with each other – but “we’re almost talking in each other’s arms” – the contemporaneous nature of news makes everything immediate – “nets tighten across the sky” – we are too close, trapped by proximity.

“Acquisitions” explores origins and the appropriation of artefacts, in relation to marriage, traditionally the possession of a spouse. “Is marriage by capture, exchange or purchase?” It alludes to American imperialism, Fordism and a denial of history.

One thing that stands out in this collection is Greenlaw’s shatteringly confident ability to make us see things afresh. “Reading Akhmatova in Midwinter” is an incredibly precise, measured description of the cold. Nature hangs in a cryogenic state, “each leaf carries itself in glass / each stem is a fuse in a transparent flex”. Always she harks back to the specific – in Last Summer, she reminisces of “the housemartins that flew semicircles / over the garage eaves, building or feeding”, while in a broken-down car with her daughter; “the thing’s running on fresh air!”. A snapshot of a commonplace incident, becomes a rhapsody on the freedom of nature vs. mechanism, her daughter’s childish exuberance trapped inside the car, “her fables, her wolf-dance”.

If there is a common theme to these poems, it is that humanity triumphs. In What We Can See of the Sky Has Fallen, a paean to Luke Howard, a Quaker who came up with the names we use for clouds, “somewhere between Income Tax and the Battle of Trafalgar”. He finds himself “skybound, abstracted”, striving to classify the unclassifiable. We impose our way of seeing on the world, it is interpreted through our eyes.

There is a tension between the abstract and the specific throughout this collection, the snapshot and the timeless, hot and cold, romantic and scientific. It does not provide you with easy answers, as in the ironically titled poem, “Guidebook to the Alhambra”, but it will introduce you to unfamiliar ideas, make you think anew and reconsider our position in the world. Isn’t that what poetry should be about?

 

On Fat Cat Thursday

January 5, 2018

Fat Cat Thursday,
Boss gets more pay.
Let’s change the way
Things run. Equality.

The fifth of January
Should not be a black day.
Senseless ignominy,
Fat cats’ gluttony.

Slaving for obscene wealth.
Stop this evil cult of self,
Question this mad belief,
Overthrow the thieves.

Their citadels we can tear
Down. We fight for our share,
A fresh start, morning.
A new world dawning.

A celebration,
Bold expression,
Our liberation.
End oppression.

Fascism

September 26, 2017

A heavy word. Not one to be tossed easily,
Grenade-like into polite conversation.
A threat, a lie, a swindle to
Set us against each other.

But tyrants are mortal.
You cannot set in stone,
When wind erodes,
Time crumbles to dust.

National pride wrapped in bundles of sticks.
Together we are strong, individuals can be broken.
In basements, under spotlights, in gas chambers.

The Roman salute, Hail Caesar!
Mussolini stole such
Patriotic guff. Clothed his men in uniform
To inspire fear, to stand aside from
Crowds of unbelievers.

For fascism to take hold
It first has to rid itself
Of opposition. Crush resistance
From those who conspire and
Dream of freedom, democracy.
Label others with stigmata.

Hitler failed at art.
If only his school teachers
Praised his scribblings,
Galleries showed his work,
His ego may not have found
Such an outlet.

He was also a thief.
Cloaked distasteful ideas, at first,
In talk of socialism,
Freedom from wage tyranny.
But hate and terror prevailed,
The world blazed in agony.

Together, humanity defeated such ideas:
Or so we may talk ourselves into believing,
Sitting here, discussing politics and struggle.
Yet still there are people

Who swallow lies of superiority,
Deceit of supremacy.
Visions, of returning to
Non-existent golden era.

Rome taught them the art of carving up
Ruling supreme. Keep tribes squabbling
With petty concerns,
Or if revolt threatened,
Throw their chieftain a juicy bone.

Corruption still gnaws at our society.
But there is human solidarity,
Kindness, and comradeship,
Which, if it stands firm,
Can overcome racism and division.

When we realise that we are all just
Part of a fragile, blue bauble in space.

 

Hillsborough and Grenfell

August 28, 2017

On June 14th, 1989, Liverpool were set to play Nottingham Forest in the FA Cup semi-final, which took place at the Hillsborough Stadium in Sheffield. Liverpool were allocated less tickets than Nottingham Forest, despite having more supporters. The police rejected a request from the Football Association to allow more tickets to Liverpool fans.

As a result, 24,000  Liverpool fans were squeezed into the Leppings Lane end of the stadium (before all-seater stadia, fans were corralled onto terraces, and pens were employed to keep rival supporters from clashing with each other). Congestion in getting to the ground meant that many Liverpool fans were delayed in arriving. A further request to postpone the start of the match was denied, and instead 2,000 football fans were herded into an already full “pens”. The people there could not leave the pen, as there was only one exit door, which was locked. Before the match started fans were shouting to the police to open the gate, their demands were ignored. The police’s reaction was to assume that there was crowd trouble.

The match was recorded on television by eight BBC cameras, but the resulting footage was considered “too distressing” to broadcast. The game started but lasted just seven minutes before it was halted. The coroner’s report showed that some fans had already succumbed to injuries even before kick off. The Superintendent in charge of the game, David Duckenfield, who was inexperienced in managing such a major football game, tried to claim that ticketless Liverpool supporters had broken into one of the gates and stormed the pitch – this was a lie. A major incident plan should have been put in place immediately, allowing ambulances to enter the pitch. Police officers and stewards should have been giving first aid, instead of forming a cordon to prevent a pitch invasion, as they initially saw it. In the event, only three ambulances were allowed onto the pitch despite dozens of ambulances being parked outside – the first did not arrive until 3.15pm, a quarter an hour after kick-off.

A nearby gymnasium was used as a makeshift holding area, and alcohol tests were carried out on all the bodies at the request of the police, including children, who made up many of those who tragically lost their lives. The purpose of this was to try to pin the blame on Liverpool fans for the disaster. The accusations of the police were later supported by the right-wing tabloid press – The Sun published a disgraceful headline “The Truth”, claiming that police officers were urinated on, that fans pickpocketed victims and attacked a police officer who was giving the kiss of life. In reality, it was fans who were administering first aid, carrying away the injured on makeshift stretchers made from advertising hoardings. The police were determined to try to shift the blame away from themselves and on to “drunken, ticketless Liverpool supporters”, for which they “had to find evidence that this was the case”. No proper emergency response ever happened. Those who tried to tell the real truth were ignored, slapped down or browbeaten. One doctor who was in the crowd had his reputation attacked and was accused of publicity seeking, in an attempt to discredit him or shut him up.

Senior police officers also falsified the evidence of their colleagues – police were not told to write down witness statements in the normal way, but to put their recollections of the incident down on plain paper, which was then redacted. The Taylor enquiry was set up, but in such a way that one police force was investigating another, and the South Yorkshire Police Force could take its own officers’ statements. Criticisms of the policing operation, such as, “It might have been better to direct fans into flank areas which were not full” and “Why were the sliding doors at the back of the tunnel not closed when those sections of the ground were full?” were censored, but any criticisms of the fans were left in. Despite these attempts at whitewashing, the Taylor Report still found that the main cause of overcrowding was due to the failure of police control. Margaret Thatcher made a handwritten note: “What do we mean by ‘welcoming the broad thrust of the report’? The broad thrust is devastating criticism of the police. Is that for us to welcome?”

Prosecutions were expected to follow, but then the chauffeur of the Chief Constable and the Law Lord claimed that they were determined to blame the police force. Again, this was a lie, but it ensured that no criminal charges were brought by the Director of Public Prosecutions.

Subsequently, calls for an independent inquiry were raised by families of the 96 victims of the disaster. The then Prime Minister, Tony Blair scribbled “Why what is the point?” on a paper requesting a review of the evidence.

Is it a coincidence that it was Liverpool the right tried to blame, in the aftermath of the influence of the 47 Liverpool Councillors who resisted Thatcher’s government and wrested millions of pounds out the Iron Lady for the city, who built 5,000 council houses, leisure centres and nurseries?

The need for public housing leads on to a more recent disaster, also entirely preventable, the Grenfell Tower fire. Cladding was put on the ageing tower block to improve the view of the area for the gentrified parts of Kensington and Chelsea. The tower blocks are home to a very impoverished community, in the middle of one of the richest parts of London, where billionaires buy empty properties as an investment.

The fire began with a faulty fridge on the fourth floor. the advice given was for people to remain in their rooms, but the heat spread the fire to the exterior cladding and rapidly the whole building became engulfed in flames. A tenants’ group had previously warned that the cladding was unfit for purpose and dangerous, yet this warning was ignored.

Thatcher’s right to buy policy, introduced in 1980, allowed tenants to buy their own council homes at a discount. Finance to local authorities for building council homes was cut, the responsibility being passed to housing associations and private landlords. The result has been a return to Dickensian housing standards, overcrowding and slum landlordism. Homebuilding has steadily fallen. 171,000 homes were built in 2015, of which just 2,700 were built by local authorities. As demand has outstripped supply, property prices and rents have soared, along with the problem of homelessness. No-one took the place of local government in providing housing.

Cost-cutting on projects has become the norm, as a direct result of her policies – the combustible cladding used saved just £300,000 from the cost of refurbishing the Grenfell tower, and there was little discussion of the implications for the safety of residents. A sprinkler system would have saved lives; a revision of evacuation procedures following the cladding being installed would have saved lives; retaining three nearby fire stations, which were closed by Boris Johnson, the former Mayor of London (out of 10 across the city, with the loss of 600 firefighters’ jobs) would also have saved lives.

A true, official death toll of Grenfell may not be released until 2018. Millions of pounds of working-class people’s money, collected for the residents have still to be distributed to those in need.

We cannot have another cover-up, as happened in the 28 years it took for those responsible for Grenfell to be brought to justice, with David Duckenfield being charged with manslaughter and five others being charged with perverting the course of justice and lying about the incident. Yet there signs that this may already be happening. Firefighters who attended the incident were banned from speaking to the media about the true death toll. We must demand an independent inquiry, led by trade unions and residents, which would look into the causes of the disaster and expose the crimes that were committed in the interests of making cuts and protecting profits.

(Speech given to Leicester Socialist Party branch meeting Saturday 26th August 2017).

The Pentrich uprising

June 30, 2017

DSCN0961It is 100 years since the Russian Revolution of 1917, but the village of Pentrich in Derbyshire is celebrating the anniversary, 100 years earlier of its own “revolution”. It was one of the first workers’ uprisings, coming at the beginning of the Industrial Revolution. It was the last armed uprising in the UK.

On the 9th June 1817, 200-400 workers with sticks, pitchforks, pikes and a few guns marched from the village of Pentrich to Nottingham, with the idea that they would be part of a national uprising to overthrow Lord Liverpool’s Tory government and install a workers’ government in its place.

Today, Pentrich is a quiet village, but it has few of the picture postcard cottages that most villages in Derbyshire have. Just over 100 people live in Pentrich at the last census. However, in 1817, around 700 people lived here. A mine had been discovered in 1750, and a canal dug in 1794. The Butterley ironworks (which made the roof of St Pancras Station) opened in 1790 and employed some 700 workers from the surrounding area.

With the Industrial Revolution came mechanisation – small farmers were forced out of business, and replaced with day labourers (the equivalent of today’s zero hour contracts). Textile workers, handloom weavers, knitters and lace makers were also being replaced with factories, whose steam-powered frames were forcing down prices and therefore wages.

In 1815, the Napoleonic Wars ended and 10,000 soldiers returned to the UK – today servicemen still receive inadequate support for their physical or mental health – in 1815, before any national health service, before the concept of psychiatry, there would be nothing in the way of support. Furthermore, the ending of the war further reduced demands for iron and textiles. The war had increased the national debt to 200% of GDP (today it stands at 80% of GDP). Lord Liverpool’s response was to abolish income tax and replace this with more direct taxation, benefiting the rich at the expense of the poor.

What little support there was came in the form of poor relief, but this was paid for locally, and represented an extra burden on the villagers.

In 1815 a volcano in Mount Tambora, Indonesia, recorded the largest eruption in recorded history. The effect was to turn summer into winter for the whole of 1816 – frosts wrecked the crops and the price of bread and potatoes doubled.

Unsurprisingly, workers were fighting back. In 1812, the first trade union of framework knitters was formed. they struck for minimum wages. The government had its own anti-trade union legislation at the time, in the form of the Combination Acts, which made it illegal to have collective bargaining or trade unions. The leader of the framework knitters’ union was sentenced to one month’s hard labour.

The response to mechanisation came in the form of the Luddites, who were active in Nottinghamshire and Derbyshire. Workers at the Heathcotes textile factory had suffered a third cut in wages, and in Loughborough 53 machines were smashed. Only one person was found guilty, due to a code of silence amongst the workplace.

The Tory government was terrified of a repeat of the French Revolution, just 20 years earlier. they introduced the Seditious Meetings Act, which forbade an assembly of more than 50 people. It was not until 1986 that this Act was repealed, and assemblies can still be declared unlawful today.

The village people held a meeting to plan their revenge, but unbeknownst to them, a spy, William Oliver, was in their ranks. The authorities still spy on trade unionists and socialists today, and spied on the predecessor of the Socialist Party, Militant Labour. A police officer recently began relationships with members of an environmental group, amounting to rape.

The agent provocateur William Oliver spread a fantastic tale of 70,000 ready to join the uprising in London, 150,000 in Birmingham and 90,000 in Manchester. In the event of the 9th June, 100 rose up in Nottingham and 60 from Huddersfield, but it was clear that no mass uprising was going to develop.

The men from the village left in the dead of night, in pouring rain. They got as far as Giltbrook, where they stopped at a pub. However, the landlord, appraised of the fate of their endeavour, offered to hide them in the cellar. Their leader courageously insisted that they should press on to meet their fate.

By the time they arrived in Nottingham, the men were arrested by the light dragoons. It was reported erroneously in the press that the troops repulsed an attack, when in fact they were the aggressors.

The leaders of the uprising were hung and their houses demolished, which is why there are no pretty picture-postcard cottages in the village of Pentrich. Some were jailed and others deported to Australia. The village has held a number of commemorative walks to celebrate and in Australia, there have also been re-enactments of the events of 200 years ago.

Workers will keep struggling against oppression, whatever is thrown at them. What is needed is a mass revolutionary party to force revolutionary struggles to their logical conclusion – the overthrow of capitalism.

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Abandoned railway station by the Butterley Ironworks.

How to make yourself cross this Thursday

June 7, 2017

Cross at cuts to the NHS;
cross at duplicitous career politicians;
cross at millionaire MPs freezing our wages;
cross at working till 67;
cross at we’re all in this together;
cross at zero hour contracts;
cross at “strong and stable” government;
cross at Blairite betrayals;
cross at tragic foreign interventions;
cross at terrorism;
cross at delayed trains and extortionate fares;
cross at 20,000 fewer police officers;
cross at election expenses scandal;
cross at tuition fees;
cross at austerity.

Cross the road to the polling station.

Cross for Corbyn;
cross for socialism;
cross for change;
cross for solidarity;
cross for leadership;
cross for the 99.9%;
cross for hope;
cross for equality.

Cross the box.

Cross your fingers.

mayends2