Archive for the ‘Politics’ Category

Advice for Jackie Doyle Price (Suicide Prevention Minister) on her first day at work

October 11, 2018

It shouldn’t be too hard. I will even give you a few tips.

Causes of suicide:
Drug and alcohol misuse, history of trauma or abuse, unemployment, social isolation, poverty, poor social conditions, imprisonment, violence, and family breakdown.

Invest in services (women’s refuges, LGBT services, ESOL provision, etc.) which vulnerable people rely on.

Allow asylum seekers to have jobs.

End benefit sanctions.

Increase welfare so that it acts as a genuine safety net for the unemployed.

Provide meaningful and well-rewarded employment.

Get rid of academy schools, SATs and league tables, which stress our children needlessly.

Invest in mental health provision.

Stop criminalising street drugs – instead control and license their use.

Cut the prison population, by giving the mentally ill support and help, rather than “punishing” them (around 50% of the male prisoners in the US and 73% of female prisoners are mentally ill – I haven’t been able to find figures for the UK).

End austerity, so that millions no longer have to rely on food banks.

Make decent maternity and paternity leave compulsory.

Start building council houses, to begin to end homelessness and give people a secure place to live.

Renationalise the NHS.

Reduce loneliness and isolation for the elderly.

Oh wait, you are a Tory, whose policies are largely responsible for suicides in the first place. The best thing you could do would be to resign. Preferably now.

But we can do something ourselves.

None of this is going to happen under the Tories (red or blue).
Bring on Corbyn. Get rid of the Blairites.
Join a trade union and demand leadership from those who should be leading the struggle.
Join a political party (I am a member of the Socialist Party) and fight for a more humane, just, socialist society.

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I do not like the Daily Mail

August 27, 2018

I do not read the Daily Mail;
Against its views, I rant and rail.
I do not like the Daily Mail.

I do not want a trial subscription;
I’d rather get an ear infection.
I do not like the Daily Mail.

I do not care for your free gift.
I’d much prefer being stuck in a lift
than have to read the Daily Mail.

What it lacks in news, it makes up in puff,
I do not care for that sort of stuff.
I never read the Daily Mail.

Against Corbyn, it runs a personal vendetta.
I feel like writing a strongly-worded letter
to the editor of the Daily Mail.

Headlines attack, divide the working class;
As racist scroungers who never get off their arse.
I do not like the Daily Mail.

With a few billionaires in charge of our press,
No wonder British journalism is in such a mess.
And then there is the Daily Express.

Brexit Blues

August 7, 2018

Tories they are in meltdown, they’re going round the bend
The Tories are in meltdown, they’re going round the bend
When we voted for Brexit, seismic shockwave we did send.

It was felt all the way to Dublin, and far-off Athens too
It was felt all the way to Dublin, far-off Athens too
Syriza caved in to Brussels, and the Greeks were feeling blue.

That damned Lisbon Treaty, Thatcher’s proudest boast
I said, that damned Lisbon Treaty, Thatcher’s proudest boast
It privatised our railways, and privatised our post.

Their flag may be blue in colour, but it ain’t got no soul.
Their flag is blue in colour, but it ain’t got no soul.
The posted workers’ directive, chucked thousands on the dole.

I ain’t gonna be no hamster, ain’t nobody’s guinea pig.
I ain’t gonna be no hamster, ain’t nobody’s guinea pig.
Sinking deep in Eton mess, this problem’s way too big.

There’s one man who can pull us out, and he is called J C
I said, there’s one man who can help us, his name it is J C
But this ain’t no second coming, it ain’t no epiphany.

Let’s chuck out Blairite turncoats, they are not our friend.
Get rid of Blairite traitors, they’ve never been our friend.
We need a socialist Europe, we need austerity to end.

All around the Clocktower (apologies to Bob Dylan)

July 8, 2018

“There must be some kind of a way outta here”, said Sir Soulsby to the thief.
“There’s way too much crosstown traffic, I’ve got to build me a relief
road through Aylestone Meadows. JCBs dig my earth.
None of our fifty Labour councillors, have any idea what its worth”.

“No reason to get excited”. The thief, he kindly spoke.
“There are many here among us, who think you are but a joke.
But you and I, we know the score, and this is not our fate.
Here is a shiny £1 coin, payment for Braunstone Gate.”

All around the Clocktower – the homeless slept right through
buskers endlessly busking, and street preachers too.
Outside, by cold Welford Road, the Tigers they did roar.
Two riders were approaching, Leicester rain began to pour.

Why #SPYCOPS matters

June 27, 2018

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The Campaign Opposing Police Surveillance (COPS) has been in the news a lot in the past few weeks, as a result of the high street cosmetic chain Lush’s highlighting of this issue. The Lush window display originally featured a montage of half a uniformed police officer and half the same person in plain clothes, with the headline “PAID TO LIE”, underneath which some fake police tape said “POLICE HAVE CROSSED A LINE”. It encouraged people to tweet support for victims of #SPYCOPS, innocent people who were “SPIED ON FOR TAKING A STAND”.

This display was later changed, as a result of a backlash from the UK cop humour site, with Lush staff being threatened and harassed. The Lush facebook group (which previously had an 80% approval rating) was targeted, with a slew of negative reviews and threats to boycott the company. Ironically, takings at Lush were actually up 13% during the campaign – brandwatch has done an interesting analysis, explaining that Lush’s customer base and the visitors to the police website were completely different, and Lush’s customers overhelmingly approved of the campaign.

The police units concerned operated since 1968 until at least 2010 and may well still be operating under a different guise today. The tactics which were employed included using the names of dead people as cover identities, without knowledge of the families concerned; having non-consensual sex with victims and in some cases even having children with their targets.

The full extent of the police operation is unknown, but at least 1,000 groups were infiltrated in this way. The only thing all of them have in common is that they are all left wing! Environmental campaigners, trade unionists, socialists, the Stephen Lawrence family, animal rights campaigners all found themselves targeted by the state, including members of the Socialist Party, of which I am a member.

Under pressure, Theresa May began a public enquiry in 2015, but this is not expected to give any answers until 2023, officers have been granted anonymity, and the enquiry does not cover Scotland. There is a petition for full details to be released and for a fair and transparent enquiry, with justice for the victims – https://www.change.org/p/sajid-javid-support-victims-of-spycops-get-access-to-justice

#SPYCOPS matters because we are supposed to live in a democratic country, with freedom of speech, where we have the right to join a trade union and the right to criticise the government. It matters because we need to stand up for the environment, because we need democratic, fighting trade unions to improve our working conditions and to fight against privatisation and casualisation of jobs. It matters because there are victims up and down the country, mostly women, who were left bereft as the men they thought of as their partners led double lives. It matters because the police’s record on investigations is abysmal – e.g. Orgreave, Hillsborough, Jean Charles De Menezes, Stephen Lawrence . . . It matters because police resources were wasted in deceiving innocent protestors rather than targeting criminals.

To read more about the campaign visit campaignopposingpolicesurveillance.com/

Leicester – a smarter city

June 13, 2018

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To create a smarter city:
Signs are installed,
to attract exhaust fumes
and be daubed with graffiti.

In this smarter city,
the address points forlornly
to Page Not Found.
Your search did not find any results.

To create a smarter city:
The council chops down trees,
holding them responsible
for ‘anti-social behaviour’.

Create a smarter city.
Protect our few wild sanctuaries.
Don’t try to improve on Nature.
Living things should be left
to flourish in peace.

In this smarter city,
we will build cycle paths, not link roads.
We will take our buses back.
We will re-open closed libraries,
use empty offices for housing.

In this smarter city,
people will no longer sleep on streets;
ordinary people will regain their voice
and demand what should be theirs.
We can provide for all.

Bathbombing

June 4, 2018

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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

 

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.

You are being lied to about Syria.

April 16, 2018

syriaAs we slide inexorably into renewed conflict in the Middle East, it might be worth revisiting some of the lies, fabrications and half-truths that took us to a decade of war in Iraq. These are worth remembering, as you watch a politician on the news decry the Assad regime in Syria for using chemical weapons, while not mentioning inconvenient truths: precursors to chemical weapons were sold to Syria by the UK in the 1980s, the attack by Israel on Gaza using white phosphorous or the use of depleted uranium shells in Iraq by the US.

We see a tendency by commentators to oversimplify, “the enemy of my enemy is my friend”; the logical fallacy of the excluded middle. Socialists oppose individual acts of terrorism. Instead of mass action to remove dictators, the actions of a few “heroic” individuals or suicide bombers (depending on your viewpoint), are supposed to bring down those in power. There is nothing progressive about terrorism. It destroys innocent lives, it does not empower the working class and rather than an attack on the establishment, it only strengthens racism. It divides rather than unites us.

It is worth re-reading Trotsky’s articles Marxism opposes Individual Terrorism and the Bankruptcy of Terrorism. In place of individual action, socialists propose mass action through the organised working class, to transform the lives of millions and end this brutal, warmongering, uncaring system of capitalism. We propose a rationally planned society, worldwide, in which the collective productive forces of humanity can be used for the good of all, rather than killing people. “If we can find the money to kill people, we can find the money to help people”, as Tony Benn argued.

Just as Theresa May is ignoring the democratic process now, so Tony Blair refused to acknowledge the mass demands in 2003 to Stop the War, the biggest demonstration in British history. Just as then, the conflict in Syria is not about chemical weapons, it is not about bringing democracy or peace, but it is about US prestige, the “special relationship” between the US and UK and a struggle with Russia for control over proposed oil pipelines in Syria. The destruction and casualties of war in the Middle East go back a long way, to British imperialism, the carving up of the Middle East by Britian and France, with the Sykes – Picot agreement in 1916, to carve up the spoils of the First World War, and the advocacy of mustard gas by Churchill to attack Kurds in Mesopotamia (Iraq).  The US is not without its own hypocrisy; as in the 1980s they supported Saddam Hussein’s Baathist regime in Iraq, as a bulwark against the USSR.

What was lacking in 2003, and what is urgently needed now, is a call to action on the part of the left. Tony Benn was the leading figure of the Labour left in those days, but he mistakenly put his faith in the UN and bringing Bush and Blair to task through legal and Parliamentary channels. This is wholly insufficient. We need to hit the capitalist powers where it hurts, in their wallets. Mass strike action is necessary to bring down Theresa May and Donald Trump. The working class alone has the power to end war and austerity. What is lacking is the political leadership and will to see the struggle through to its logical end. I hope Corbyn, as leader of the Labour movement in the UK, will call mass demonstrations, and use these as a platform to enthuse mass opposition to this war.

During the Iraq conflict, in Motherwell, the actions of a few, determined train drivers organised by the ASLEF trade union caused delays to the plans of the US, when they refused to carry munitions destined for the war zone.  If this spirit had spread to other unions, and mass resistance was shown – like the student walkouts, and if the trade unions had the necessary leadership – Britain’s involvement in the war could have ended. There would not have been years of needless suffering. Worldwide there were also similar actions – In Italy, people blocked trains carrying American weapons and personnel, and dockers refused to load arms shipments. US military bases were blockaded in Germany. Unfortunately, such examples were all too few – too little, too late to stop that bloody conflict.

There is also the question of what happens when, with the military might of the Western superpowers, they “win” the war. There were lies about carefully targeted “precision bombing” in Kuwait and Iraq, there were lies about “shock and awe” and “mission accomplished” – in reality the war dragged on year after year, millions of people died through sanctions and warfare, and millions more became displaced refugees.

During the Iraq War a central slogan of the anti-war movement was “No War for Oil” – this latest conflict is no different, it is not about the use of chemical weapons. It is more about who controls the oil supply, as pipelines are planned to run through Syria by Russia and the US.

The Socialist Party, to which I belong, does not support undemocratic, despotic regimes. We denounce terrorism. Our enemy are not innocent people in the Middle East who are caught up in a brutal, sectarian civil war. We point out that bombing will only intensify and risk further conflict – even the spectre of a Third World War and war with Russia is raised. We do not support imperialist Western powers imposing military might on people in an effort to impose freedom and democracy, as if that was possible – clearly the wars in Vietnam, Iraq, Korea and Kuwait have taught them nothing. The only beneficiaries of further conflict are private security companies, the arms industry, and the oil companies, whose donations help fund the Democratic and Republican parties in the US.

We need to build a mass movement to bring down those in power, and we need to do it now.

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.