Wednesday, 13 November 2019


Union Disipline, Free Speech & Dissent?

PAUL EMBERY, has been a trade union member since he was 16, but Andrew Penman in the Daily Mirror on 27 JUN 2019 wrote that he:  'was kicked out after speaking in favour of Brexit at a Leave Means Leave rally.  The official policy of the FBU is to oppose leaving the EU.'

Paul, who represented the London region of the FBU on its national executive, seems to have paid a high price for publicly disagreeing.

Now the London Regional Committee has issued a statement saying his sacking from the national executive “is wrong and goes against the entire ethos of our union” and has demanded his immediate reinstatement.

'Having considered the evidence, it is clear to us that Paul has been debarred from office because of the content of a speech that he made at a pro-Brexit event organised by Leave Means Leave on the evening of 29 March 2019,' it wrote:
'People are, of course, free to agree or disagree with Paul's personal opinions on this and other matters, but the London Regional Committee recognises the right of all officials to hold and express political views that are not necessarily the views of the FBU.'

And it quoted the FBU general secretary Matt Wrack previously claiming to support free speech, saying:  'To address the huge challenges our movement faces today, we need to build a culture of debate and democracy which accepts that there will be different views and sharp difference of opinion. Democracy must include the right to express those differences.'

Andrew Penman writes:  'That sentiment does not seem to apply when it comes to his members who oppose the EU.'

To be consistent in its support of freedom Northern Voices supports this statement although I do prefer the remain option mainly because I identify with Europe as my eldest lad was born there in the 1960s.   I also believe that the UK will be drawn into the orbit of NAFTA and the USA if it is not inside the EU.



Labour candidate sues Unite & Skwawkbox for libel in High Court.

The Dartford Warbler - Anna Turley MP

Anna Turley (40) is hoping to retain her parliamentary seat of Redcar in the forthcoming general election on 12 December. Turley has been the Member of Parliament for Redcar since 2015.  A former Home Office civil servant from Dartford in Kent, Turley was elected to stand in the Redcar constituency in 2013, from an all-women shortlist.

Three years ago she made the headlines after calling Unite general secretary, Len McCluskey, an 'arsehole' on twitter. Turley has now made the headlines because she's suing Unite over an article published on Skwawkbox that related to an application she made for union membership. She's also suing Stephen Walker, a journalist who writes, edits, and publishes Skwawkbox, and says that Unite also misused her private information. Unite and Walker are fighting the case at a High Court trial in central London.

Yesterday, Anthony Hudson QC, who represents Unite, told Mr. Justice Nicklin that Turley had been dishonest and 'regrettably' was "not fit to be an MP." He added: "Turley's dishonesty permeates through every part of the case." 

The court was also told that Turley had wanted to join a trade union with the ultimate aim of ousting her own party leader Jeremy Corbyn and had links to a WhatsApp group opposing Corbyn. The court was also told that she had broken the rules when applying to join the union at the reduced rate of 50p a week. 

The trial is due to last several days with lawyers outlining their case to the Judge.

Commemorating Norman Cornish: Pitman Painter

 Pit Road, Winter by Norman Cornish
Pit Road by Norman Cornish depicts miners striding to work on a cold grey morning

A SERIES of exhibitions about a miner turned artist have been announced to mark a century since his birth. 

Norman Cornish, a former miner of Spennymoor, County Durham, was known for his paintings of life in the industrial North East.

He was a student of the Pitman's Academy at The Spennymoor Settlement set up in the 1930s to give mining families access to the arts.

Durham Council said six venues would host shows throughout the year.
One of the first shows, Norman Cornish, A Slice of Life opens at the Mining Art Gallery, Bishop Auckland Market Place on 6 April and will run until 13 October 2019.

Norman's son John Cornish said: "We are very proud of the esteem in which my father's work is held by the public and we hope the planned exhibitions and events will serve to reinforce the region's pride in its cultural heritage."
Cornish was awarded an Honorary Doctorate of Arts by the university in 2012. He died in 2014.
Later this year, four further exhibitions will be announced at Gala Gallery in Durham and the Greenfield Gallery in Newton Aycliffe.
Cornish's former home from the 1950s and 60s is set to be recreated as part of the Remaking Beamish Project 1950s town, which is expected to conclude the centenary events.

Tuesday, 12 November 2019

Waterstones cancel the book launch
UCL Backs Off Speech Restrictions at the Book Launch for  The Responsibility of Intellectuals   Reflections by Noam Chomsky and othe...
AS you may recall, this book by 5 distinguished academics – Greg Philo, Mike Berry, Justin Schlosberg, Antony Lerman and David Miller – was due to have its book launch in Brighton on September 23rd during the Labour Party conference.

However a barrage of abuse from the Zionists and the normal accusations of ‘anti-Semitism’, ‘baiting the Jewish community’ (trans. disagreeing with Zionists) led Waterstones to cancel the book launch at the last minute.  Their Head Office took the decision to overrule the local store. The pretext was a lack of professional organisation. James Daunt, their CEO, who I spoke to during this affair, insisted that this was the only reason but it was so obviously not true that he has subsequently admitted that the cancellation was a mistake.  Waterstone’s have promised to reschedule the book launch which we await with baited breath.

What this demonstrates, along with the attempt by University College London to impose restrictions on the October 29th book launch for The Responsibility of Intellectuals – Reflections by Noam Chomsky and other intellectuals is that freedom of speech is under attack by the Zionist lobby and its neo-liberal friends in this country. 

Professor Chris Knight, one of the authors, wrote to me two weeks before to say that the 5 restrictions below were being placed on the launch by UCL authorities.  I responded by saying that they must refuse to comply.  If necessary the book launch must take place on the steps of UCL.  The McCarthyites must be forced to back down.

I’m pleased to say that Chris and others took my advice and faced with the ensuing embarrassment the university authorities backed down.  You only have to look at the five restrictions to see how unacceptable they are.  Once again we see how the Labour Party ‘anti-Semitism’ smear campaign has spread outwards.  Here are the 5 restrictions that UCL were forced to abandon:
1.     Suggestions (overt or implied) that Jews as a group or particular sections of the British Jewish community invent, exaggerate or “weaponise” incidents of antisemitism for political or other benefit
2.     Suggestions (overt or implied) that Jews as a group or particular sections of the British Jewish community exploit or exaggerate the Holocaust for political or other benefit
3.     Use (overt or implied) of “dual loyalty” tropes relating to Jews as a group or particular sections of the British Jewish community and the State of Israel – for example that they are “controlled” by Israel or are working on behalf of Israel to the detriment of Britain
4.     Suggestions (overt or implied) that antisemitism is a less toxic form of racism than any other and/or that Jews are less vulnerable to discrimination than other minority groups
5.     Repetition (overt or implied) of antisemitic tropes relating to Jews and money and/or Jewish financial involvement in historical events or injustices – for example that Jews financed wars, slavery, etc

All 5 are contentious:

1.       The idea that Jews (they mean Zionists) don’t weaponise anti-Semitism is laughable.   That is all the Board of Deputies and groups like the Campaign Against Anti-Semitism do!  If you want proof you only need look as far as the front page story in the Jewish Chronicle this week which states that: 

The vast majority of British Jews consider Jeremy Corbyn to be an antisemite. In the most recent poll, last month, the figure was 87 per cent.”

Monday, 11 November 2019

Not a good night for Spanish Socialists

by Guy Hedgecoe, Madrid
Although Pedro Sánchez's [Spanish] Socialists have emerged as winners having suffered only slight losses in this election, the overall result is not a positive one for the acting prime minister.

With Podemos having lost some ground and Más País securing only a handful of seats, there is no clear left-wing majority.  The Socialists' arch-rivals on the right, the PP, have recovered many of the seats they lost in April's ballot.

If the country's longstanding political stalemate is to be broken, Mr Sánchez might have to seek the support of the PP [centre right], or else a third election in the space of one year could beckon.
Meanwhile, the huge surge by the nationalist Vox party makes it the country's third political force and it will now find it easier to set the agenda on the right. That is likely to hinder any attempts by Mr Sánchez to seek a conciliatory solution to the Catalan crisis.

The April election ended in deadlock, with parties failing to form a coalition by a September deadline, thus forcing Sunday's election.

To form a coalition now, they would need to form alliances with smaller, nationalist parties, analysts suggest.

Meanwhile, the PP and Vox could seek to make the most of their gains.

One PP politician said Prime Minister Sánchez should "start to think about going", given the early results.

Friday, 8 November 2019

Northern Zionists Score Spectacular Own Goal!

by Chris Draper

WHEN “North-West Friends of Israel” (NWFOI) and other assorted Zionists tried to provoke a city-wide boycott of an “Interfaith Conference for Palestine” they got more than they bargained for when their bigoted and abusive behaviour was exposed and denounced by Chester community leader Roderick Heather MBE.

The free entry, open-to-all conference was due to begin at St Columba’s Church, Chester on 1st November 2019 but forty-eight hours before it convened a wolfpack spearheaded by NWFOI and led by Anthony Dennison and Raphi Bloom, bombarded Chester’s numerous church halls and community venues with telephone calls, emails and social media messaging all warning them not to host this conclave of “Anti-Semites, Holocaust Deniers and Hate-Speakers”.  Unfortunately for the bigots after they succeeded in bullying the Bishop of Shrewsbury into cancelling the church booking the Conference found an ideal alternative at Hoole Community Centre where the Chairman of the Trustees, Roderick Heather courageously withstood a barrage of intimidatory NWFOI communications.

Unlike the local Labour MP Chris Matheson who ignorantly obliged local reporters with prejudiced and ill-informed comments of the “We don’t want holocaust deniers in our town” type, Roderick Heather actually took the trouble to attend the conference as an observer and judge for himself whether this was indeed an anti-semitic event or rather, a free, open-minded conference which included criticism of Israeli State policy.

After spending a day at the Conference, Mr Heather informed those attending that he was very impressed by the content of speeches, quality of discussion and conduct of the meeting and assured everyone present that they would always be welcome to return to the Hoole Centre.  This contrasted with his conclusions about the behaviour of the NWFOI and to them he addressed the following message;

“Your intervention (and the various other coordinated extreme ones we received today) did nothing to help foster good community relations here in Chester or to improve the understanding and sympathy for the Jewish cause nationally in the UK.  The ill-informed and bigoted telephone and social media campaign that we have witnessed today is a disgrace.  It was unfounded and unnecessary and has done your cause much harm. Be aware that I am ensuring that as many people as possible (locally and nationally) are made aware of the vitriolic, verbal bullying we have been subjected to today.”
Roderick Heather MBE

Chairman Hoole Community Trust

The North’s Zionist lobby is demonstrably determined to intimidate anyone who sticks their head above the parapet and criticises Israel.  The tactic is to conflate criticism of Israel with anti-semitism. Jews who criticise Israel (like those who attended the Chester conference) are branded “self-hating Jews” and dismissed. Archbishop Tutu describes Israel as an apartheid state but merely to agree with him is sufficient grounds for anyone to be expelled from the Labour Party.  Free speech is a precious commodity that’s found a friend in Mr Heather and sinister enemies in NWFOI.  Perhaps Mr Dennison, Mr Bloom,  Mr Matheson or the Bishop of Shrewsbury would care to reply and offer a justification for their appalling behaviour but I rather think not for they evidently fear quiet, honest, open, reasoned debate.


Doreen (Baroness) Lawrence accuses Grenfell firefighters of RACISM!


Jacob Rees-Mogg MP, is the kind of person you either like or loathe. I was much more of a fan of his father, William Rees-Mogg, who died in 2012 aged 84. A liberal conservative and former editor of the Times, he criticised the jailing of Mick Jagger for minor drug offences in 1967, in an editorial entitled, "Who breaks a butterfly on a wheel?"

An article that I recently read in the New Yorker by the journalist Sam Knight, had this to say of his son, Jacob Rees-Mogg:

"Even to a British person, Rees-Mogg is a figure out of time. His voice, a plangent, plummy thing, is like an artificial-intelligence simulacrum of how the upper classes spoke in Edwardian England."

Undoubtedly, Rees-Mogg is an anachronism even in today's Conservative Party. Dubbed the Honourable Member for the 18th century, the footage  of Rees-Mogg reclining  like a patrician, on the green benches in the House of Commons, as if he were at a Roman bath, went viral. This devout Roman Catholic and quintessentially English eccentric, opposes both abortion and same sex marriage. In 2012, he suggested that the county of Somerset should have its own time zone. While it is said that Jeremy Corbyn rebelled some 428 times against his own party's leadership in parliamentary votes, during the last Labour government, Rees-Mogg, before joining Boris Johnson's administration and becoming Leader of the House of Commons, had voted against the governments of Theresa May and David Cameron a hundred and twenty-seven times. 

Rees-Mogg has recently come under attack for what some people have said are crass and insensitive remarks that he made about the victims of the Grenfell Tower fire in 2017, in which 72 people died. In a phone-in interview with LBC radio presenter Nick Ferrari on Monday, Rees-Mogg claimed that the Grenfell Tower fire victims did not use 'common sense' and leave the building in spite of the London Fire brigade's instructions to stay put. In a later statement issued to the Evening Standard, he apologised for his remarks and said:

"I profoundly apologise. What I meant to say is that I would also have listened to the fire brigade's advice to stay and wait at the time. However, with what we know now and with hindsight I wouldn't and I don't think anyone else would. What's so sad is that the advice given overrides common sense because everybody would want to leave a burning building..."

Like his boss, the Prime Minister,  Boris Johnson, another pedigree chum from Eton, who talks of "pickaninnies with water melon smiles - a racial insult to black people - Rees-Mogg is also rather loose with the lip and has a habit of putting his foot in his mouth. After his remarks on the Grenfell fire there were calls for Rees-Mogg to fall on his sword and resign.

Yet, compared with the utterly outrageous comments made by Doreen (Baroness) Lawrence, about the same Grenfell tragedy, remarks made by the Leader of the House of Commons, seem to be more like a faux pas, a careless or stupid blunder, for which he later apologised.

Last month, Baroness Lawrence in an interview with Channel 4 News, claimed that the firefighters tackling the Grenfell Tower blaze were racist and that she had "no doubt" that the response to the inferno that killed 72 people was motivated by racism. She told channel 4 News: 

"Had that block been full of white people, they'd have done everything to get them out as fast as possible and make sure that they did what they needed to do."

The Grenfell Tower fire may have disproportionately affected minority ethnic communities, but 18 children died in that fire along with seven white Britons. And to suggests without a shred of evidence that the firefighters who risked their own lives in fighting that fire on the night, were more concerned with racial profiling than in seeking to rescue people and save lives, seems to be the most arrant nonsense. The Baroness, whose 18-year-old son Stephen Lawrence, was stabbed to death by a gang of racist thugs in south east London in 1993, was criticised for her 'poisonous', 'disgusting' and 'appalling' comments. Her  claims were strongly refuted by the London Fire Brigade (LFB), and were described as "misjudged and insulting."

Matt Wrack, the general secretary of the FBU, said:

"The Fire Brigades Union has a long history of standing against racism. We do not accept that the actions of individual firefighters that night were motivated by race or any other discriminating factor."

Doreen Lawrence was made a Labour Life Peer in 2013. Unlike the Tory toff Rees-Mogg, I'm not aware that there have been any calls for Doreen Lawrence to resign, but at the very least, I think she owes the London Fire Brigade an apology.

Building Our Local Democracy:

 Building Our Local Democracy (BOLD)
AN Open Meeting of Building Our Local Democracy will be held next Thursday.  
To let you have your say on how our bus services could be improved. Chance to see the Consultation Document on getting our bus services regulated. Speakers include John Boughton, Unite Union, Marie Douglas, Greater Manchester Older Peoples' Network and others. 
 Time: 7.30pm Thursday 14th. November 2019.
 Venue: Function Room, Middleton Archer Pub, Kemp Street, Middleton M24 4UA
Please try and support this event which is promoted by Better Buses for Greater Manchester and locally by BOLD (Building Our Local Democracy).


Hong Kong protests: student dies

A HONG KONG student who fell during clashes between police and protesters earlier this week has died, marking the first death from injuries sustained during anti-government demonstrations that have overtaken the city.

Hong Kong’s Hospital Authority confirmed that Chow Tsz-lok, 22, died early on Friday morning after suffering brain damage following a fall during protests on Sunday. Chow, a computer science student at the Hong Kong University of Science and Technology, was found injured early Monday morning in a car park in Tseung Kwan O in Kowloon, where he was believed to have fallen one story.
Chow’s death is believed to be the first fatality linked to police action during a protest. Protesters had been trying to disrupt a police officer’s wedding, which was being held in the area. It was unclear why Cho was in the car park or why he fell.

Police had fired multiple rounds of tear gas nearby, but security footage showed that police had not fired heavy rounds of tear gas in the car park before Chow fell.

The death is likely to escalate protests and fuel public anger at the government as demonstrators continue to demand an investigation into the behaviour of the police, accused of using excessive force on protesters.

Thursday, 7 November 2019

When is a Hate Crime not a Hate Crime?

by Les May

Last Wednesday 23 October my local paper, the Rochdale Observer, carried a report of an incident in which a tree surgeon had his hand chopped off with an axe in an attack carried out by an armed gang of up to 20 men some of whom were carrying knives, machetes, knuckledusters and a claw hammer.

Further details of the attack, the attackers and the sentences received can be found at:

 'Black & White Bastards'?

Before the attack, which took place in the Newbold area of Rochdale, the four tree surgeons had been called ‘white bastards’ who were ‘in his country’ by one of the attackers. (This is taken from The Observer article and I assume that the ‘country’ referred to is the Newbold area of Rochdale.

What the Rochdale Observer did not make clear is that this attack was a ‘hate crime’.  We seem to have become so used to hearing these words to describe what in many cases are little more than hurt feelings being reported to the police, that we have lost track of what the term actually means.  What the term means is that a crime, in this case a violent and brutal attack with an axe, had coupled with it an aggravating factor involving one of several ‘protected categories’, of which a person’s race is one. We are not talking about references to ‘pillar boxes’ here, we are talking about a young man being subjected to an attack which left him with injuries which will affect him for the rest of his life.

I do not believe it to be improper to suggest that had the attack been preceded by the words 'black bastards' it would have been reported as a 'hate crime'

Counter Productive Coyness!

If the intention of the wording of The Rochdale Observer report was to ensure continued harmony between the different communities in Rochdale then I suggest that it was counter-productive and was a potentially dangerous path to take, because it lays The Observer open to the charge that it treats reports of violent crimes differently based upon the colour of the victim's skin.

It would seem appropriate for all
Rochdale councillors, and perhaps especially those who may feel they have some affinity with the perpetrators, to take the opportunity to utterly condemn this attack and the thinking behind it, both criminal and racially motivated.   By speaking for the people of Rochdale in this way it will deter those who try to exploit incidents like this for their own racially inspired motivation from claiming that it is they who speak for us.

Already we are beginning to see references being made to this attack on websites which contain material derogatory to people who would self identify as being of a different race.  Being coy about condemning racially motivated hate crimes when they are perpetrated by people who would not identify as ‘white’, only gives the conspiracy theorists ammunition.


Wednesday, 6 November 2019

An Open Letter to Rochdale Councillors

Dear Councillor,

I am writing to you not as a representative of a political party, or of a particular ward, or because you happen to have been born with skin of a particular colour, but as someone who was elected to represent the people of Rochdale.

Two weeks ago the Rochdale Observer reported that a thug who had been ‘disrespected’ in ‘his country’ organised a gang of about twenty males who were armed with weapons such as knuckledusters, claw hammers and an axe to attack four men working as tree surgeons.  One of the men had his hand hacked off in the attack.  Before the attack the four men had been called ‘white bastards’.

Since at least the late 1980s Rochdale Council has operated an ‘anti-racism’ policy in its schools, has fair employment practices to combat discrimination and has a public stance which gives voice to these.   Why then has there been no words of condemnation of this horrific attack and the term used by the attackers?

It suggests to voters that our councillors are among the few people in Rochdale who do not believe that if a gang of twenty white men had attacked four men of asian origin and had preceded the attack with the term ‘black bastards’, it would have been roundly condemned by all our councillors and received massive publicity both in our local Rochdale Observer and in the national press.

If the complete silence from councillors and the Council as a body, and the evident reluctance of the local press to give adequate prominence to the underlying nature of the attack, is an attempt to promote community harmony it is the most ‘cackhanded’ move I can imagine, because its effect will be to do precisely the opposite.  Silence may seem an effective strategy in the short term, but what will your response be the next time our town has a group marching through it whose raison d’être is the promotion of disharmony between communities?

What is remarkable is that this attack has been condemned and aroused more interest in the surrounding towns of east Lancashire, than it has in the town in which it happened.

In the name of common decency I call upon all councillors, both individually and collectively, to condemn this attack and the language which preceded it, by bringing a motion to this effect before the full Council at its next meeting.

Les May

Tuesday, 5 November 2019

REVIEW: The Spanish Revolution 'Explained'

Review:  'Lessons of the Spanish Revolution 1936-39' 
by Vernon Richards (introduction by David Goodway). 
£15.00 ($21.95) Published by PM Press / Freedom Press.

Spanish Civil War &  

Sinful Post-Hoc Reasoning *

VERNON RICHARDS, a former long-term editor of the anarchist newspaper Freedom, in his introduction to the First English Edition (1953) of his 'Lessons of the Spanish Revolution' made a modest admission of his own limitations as he tried to counter his  critics:  'Some have cricised me for being wise after the event and for writing on events of which I was but a spectator from afar.  I mention these criticisms as a warning to the reader of my limited qualifications for dealing with such a complex subject.  But I feel I should in my defence also point out that that most of the criticisms I have made in this book were expressed by me in 1936-1939 in the columns of the journal Spain and the World.'

When recently I spoke to the historian David Goodway, who wrote the introduction for this current PM PRESS edition, he suggested that his distance from the events in Spain allowed Vernon Richards to be more 'objective' in his analysis. His remark did not entirely surprise me both because it reflected the view of other people in the Freedom group with whom I have discussed this matter, but additionally this approach fits with what Dr. Goodway argued when I attended one of his lectures at a Northern Radical History Network event in Bradford in April 2013, where he passionately argued that historians in the nature of things all develop a narrative, and then go on to relentlessly pursue the advocacy of that perspective.  Thus, history becomes a form of the art of advocacy and polemical presentation. 

'History is what historians do'?

'History is what historians do', declared Isaiah Berlin in his book 'The Proper Study of Mankind'.

Post-hoc reasoning is the fallacy where we believe that because one event follows another, the first must have been a cause of the second.  In some cases this is true, but other factors may be responsible.

Did the decision of the CNT to participate in the governments first in Barcelona and later in Madrid lead to a degeneration of the integrity of the whole of the Spanish anarchist body politic?  Was the leadership to blame for the compromise of principles or was it also a dereliction of duty on the part of the rank and file in the CNT?

In Chapter XX Vernon Richards responds to some of the critics of the original English edition.who claimed he had 'over-emphasised the faults of the leaders of the CNT-FAI' and 'had been "over-charitable" to the rank and file members of the revolutionary organisations.'   Richards admits these criticisms are 'valid, though we (he) also believes that we (he) has erred in the right direction!'

He argues further:  'The rank and file saw - or "instinctively felt" - more clearly than the leaders, and we (he) have no doubt in our mind that the action of the workers in raising the barricades in Barcelona in May 1937 was a last desperate attempt to save the revolution from strangulation by the Jacobins and the reactionary politicians who had insinuation by themselves once more into positions of power.  Barcelona in May 1937 was to the Spanish Revolution what Kronstadt, sixteen years earlier, had been to the Russian Revolution.'

The seeds of the 'Lessons of the Spanish Revolution'?

VERNON Richards admits in his Introduction (1953) that his historical account would never have been written but for the publication of the first two volumes of La CNT en la Revolution Espanola by Jose Peirats.  Other sources he gives are Diego Abad de Santillan's Por que perdimos la guerra and Gerald Brenan's Spanish Labyrinth.  

Recently Stuart Christie told me that Vernon Richards had written this history in response to Felix Morrow's Revolution & Counter-Revolution in Spain (New York: Pathfinder, 1938).  I haven't been able to confirm this but in his Biographical Postscript in 1972 Vernon Richards welcomed 'more material.... from.all quarters on the left' including Felix Morrow's  book.  

Stuart Christie e-mailed me to say:  'My recollection of Vero’s book was that it was an attempt to respond to Felix Morrow’s half-decent 'Revolution and Counter-Revolution in Spain’.

What is notable about Felix Morrow's Trotskyist account here is that he, like so many Marxists, focuses on the correct  political leadership and he argues that the anarcho-syndicalist CNT 'had changed little since its origin in the Cordoba Congess of 1872' and being 'Hopelessly anti-political, it played no role in bringing the Republic', adding  'Spain would not find its ideological leadership here'.  

Mr. Morrow concludes his analysis:  'Thus, the (Spanish) proletariat was without leadership to prepare it for its great tasks, when the republic arrived.  It was to pay dearly for this lack!'

What Morrow is doing here is using apriori or cookbook thinking in which he and Leon Trotsky use to make sense of the Spanish context in the historical background and development of the Spanish Civil War and to create a blueprint for what to do.  He takes the view that what was needed in the Spanish conflict was a 'Bolshevik methodology' (p6 of 'Revolution & Counter-Revolution in Spain' pub. by Pathfinder) arguing:
'The making of the Soviet Union and its achievements - a peasant country like Spain - were extraordinarily popular in Spain.  But the Bolshevik methodology of the Russian Revolution was almost unknown.  The theoretical backwardness of Spanish socialism had produced only a small wing for Bolshevism in 1918.'   

And yet most of the Spanish anarchists rejected the Bolshevik model.  Indeed, one of the main concerns of the adherents of the CNT and the anarchists in the FAI in July 1936, was to avoid what they saw as the errors associated with the development of the Russian Revolution.   Vernon Richards presents it thus in Ch. IV entitled 'ANARCHIST DICTATORSHIP OR COLLABORATION AND DEMOCRACY':
'The dilemma of the "anarchist and confederal dictatorship" or "collaboration and democracy" existed only for those "influential militants" of the CNT-FAI who, wrongly interpreting their functions as delegates, took upon themselves the task of directing the popular movement. '

Mr. Richards begins by saying:  'The first mistake, it should be remembered, was made in the early days of the struggle, when an ill-armed people were halting a carefully prepared military operation carried out by a trained and well-equipped army, which no one, not even some of the "influential members" of the CNT-FAI, imagined could be resisted.'

Richards concludes:  'The slogan of the CNT-FAI leadership - "the war first, the revolution after" - was the greatest blunder that could have been made.'
He supports this with a quote from Diego Abad de Santillan:
'We knew that it was not possible to triumph in the revolution if we were not victorious in the war.  We even sacrificed the revolution without noticing that that sacrifice also implied the sacrifice of the objectives of the war.'

Against this there is the view of Paul Preston, perhaps currently the most widely read historian in the English language on the Spanish Civil War, who argues:
'While exhilarating to participants and observers such as George Orwell, the great collectivist experiments of the autumn of 1936 did little to create a war machine.... The May events witnessed by Orwell in Barcelona were provoked by the need to remove obstacles to the efficient conduct of the war.  Despite incorporating the working class militias into the regular forces and dismantling the collectives, Negrin's government still did not achieve victory - not because its policies were wrong but because of the international forces arrayed against the Republic.'

Shortly before I embarked on this review one of  Preston's former students sent me this e-mail:
'The bottom line is Paul’s (Preston) fundamental and unshakeable belief that the absolute priority on the Republican side of the Spanish Civil War should have been to focus on the conventional war effort and not on the Revolution, which was detrimental to that effort — and his total support for the actions of the Negrin government and the integrity of Negrin himself.'

On the 15th, July 2016, during an interview with the historian Ian Kershaw, entitled 'The Last Days of the Spanish Civil War', Paul Preston had even claimed that Negrin was 'the Churchill of the Spanish republic - the great War Leader.'   

The main danger in philosophy, as Lars Hertzberg identifies it, is the danger of apriorism, the idea that we can tell how things “must be”.  It strikes me that some English historians like Sir Paul Preston and Dr. David Goodway readily embrace apriorism: Preston in 'The Spanish Holocaust'** and Goodway in his claim that all historians pursue and advocate a preconceived narrative.*** 

Yet Isaiah Berlin in his monumental book The Proper Study of Mankind wrote:  'History does not reveal causes; it presents only a blank succession of unexplained events.'   

In Sir Paul Preston's interview above with Ian Kershaw, Preston said that he intended to write a book about the 'guilty men' and specified Largo Caballero as a principle culprit in this respect.  Similarly Mr. Richards reveals his own bias when commenting on Burnett Bolloten's book, which he otherwise admires, he writes:  'The new material I think presents the socialist/trade union leader Largo Caballero in too favourable a light - as a victim of intrigues - whereas he was an old fox, as are all trade union leaders - not least the anarcho-syndicalist variety, such as Lopez, Peiro, and Pestana.'

I remember Jim Pinkerton, the former International Secretary of the old Syndicalist Workers' Federation, once told me that Vernon Richards would never join a trade union because it was not in his nature to do so.  At one point in this book he even describes a trade union as if it were what the sociologists call a 'total institution':  
'And trade unions just like other self-contained concentrations of human beings, such as prisons, armies, and hospitals, are small-scale copies of existing society with its qualities, as well as its faults.' 

Like Vernon Richards I've spent some time in prison in the UK, and in the summer of 1963, I was even held in a dungeon in a small village in the province of Segovia, and I can tell him that there is a vast qualitive difference in these experiences to being a rank and file member of a trade union in either the UK, in the T&G in Gibraltar, or in the La Linea branch of the CNT in Spain.  
Mr. Richards demonstrates his apriorism in the section subtitled 'Anarchism and Syndicalism' which begins by declaring:  'In organisations with a mass following, the small anarchist minority can only retain its identity and exert a revolutionary influence by maintaining a position of intransigence.' 

Then Richards concludes by telling us and the Spaniards struggling to tackle the privations of the Civil War, that:  'Thirty years earlier, Malatesta, with that profound understanding of his fellow men which inspired all his writings, had clearly seen the effects of the fusion of the anarchist movement with the syndicalist organisation...'  

In reviewing this book it is clear that it is well worth reading the present work, for as Jose Peirats in 1954 wrote:  'It is important to anarchists to draw the lessons of the facts and actions of their own movement.'    Yet Peirats argues Richards's book which extols Malatesta and anarcho-communist insurrection over the anarcho-syndicalist General Strike has flaws as well as virtues.  Indeed I seem to recall that Peirats book on  The CNT in the Revolution Espanola arguing that the anarchists were in fact 'too insurrectionary' in so far as they seized the towns and then neglected the small pueblos.

And yet, though I would have you read these histories I am mindful of what Peirats said about the Vernon  Richards' Lessons of the Spanish Revolution, he declared:  
'este obrita' (small work) is too 'severo' and 'demasiado lateral' (too bias) and 'selectivo'.  Peirats concludes that 'none of his (Richards's) statements will be contradicted by history' but it is necessary 'to give to facts their relative importance.'

We must be aware that all these historians Richards, Goodway, and Preston are guilty of  apriorism.  Both Richards and Preston, have criticised Orwell for his original naivety about both the situation in Spain when he went to Spain.  That, in my view, makes Orwell's observations more reliable because it helps him to observe the unfolding of events without the clutter of preconceived notions.

Lars Hertzberg takes up this question 'apriorism' by addressing an issue that was absolutely fundamental for a philosopher like Wittgenstein: the question of honesty.  According to Hertzberg, Wittgenstein always regarded honesty as an issue in philosophy, and the question of what it means to “try to keep philosophy honest” is unavoidable for anyone working in the Wittgensteinian tradition.  Hertzberg is not saying that philosophers in that tradition are more honest than others.  His point is rather that for Wittgenstein “a concern with one’s intellectual honesty is internal to the difficulty of philosophy”

In the case of the historians like Richards, Goodway and Preston, their primary concern is the art of advocacy. 

When Peirats writes it is necessary 'to give to facts their relative importance' it is because he is conscious that Richards has undervalued the experience of the heat of the moment in the context of the Spanish Civil War.  When I wrote in Freedom an obituary for Frederica Montseny**** in January 1994, Vernon was critical complaining to Charles Crute that it was too sympathetic to 'someone like her' and that that I hadn't refered to his own book.  Frederica had joined the republican government as a Minister but had later admitted that it was a mistake.

Helenio Capellas, the Catalan anarchist whose father was in the same Los Solidarios group as Durruti and Garcia told me in the 1990s that while Durruti was not so bright, Spanish anarchism had a lucky escape when Garcia Oliver didn't succeed in dominating the anarchist movement, because he would have proven to be a bit too much like an anarchist Lenin.

This is what Peirats means when he claims Richards is too severe on 'individuals' by which Richards means those guilty folk who joined and supported the republican government: I remember in 1964 reading in a  glossy Spanish Civil War history publication on a news-stand, that was produced by people sympathetic to Franco, and it claimed that the effect of anarchists joining the government was shocking in its effect on Spaniards in the 1930s.  

“Propuesta Premio Nobel de la Paz al Generalísimo Franco”

In 1964, General Franco's Spain commemorated 'XXV años de paz franquista : sociedad y cultura en España hacia', and I was with my family in the Andalucian town Ronda in the August of that year when the festival was in full swing; indeed 1964 was also the year that Franco was nominated for the Nobel Prize for Peace.  At that time I was just discovering Ronda a town which Ernest Hemingway and Ava Gardner spent time, but it was also where my one-year old eldest son caught a dose of hay fever and started to vomit and failing to keep his food down.  A visit to the local Chemist - we could't afford a doctor - who gave us suppositories (Spain at that time depended on imported French medicine and it meant using suppositories for more ailments than constipation) which cured him within a couple of days.

But such everyday problems are trivial to the historian who works on a grand scale.  The problem with the historians according to Tolstoy is that 'Everything is forced into a standard mold invented by the historians:  Tsar Ivan the Terrible,... after 1560 suddenly becomes transform from a wise and virtuous man into a mad and cruel tyrant.  How?  Why? - You mustn't even ask...'  

This is what Dr. David Goodway has already admitted above and it is something which truly represents the poverty of the historians.  At least Goodway was honest about that,   But Vernon Richards, unlike his companera Marie Louise Berneri, never went to Spain during the Civil War.  He later, after 1958 helped to set-up a resort on the Costa Brava.  In that way he had contact with the Catalans and found that in the rural areas the people in the villages 'talked openly, because they knew who could not be trusted in the community, whereas in Barcelona, for instance, you did not know your neighbour at the next cafe table and therefore talked openly at home or outside away from the crowds.'  That seemed  consistent with my own experience in Alicante in 1963 and later in Andalucia; I remember what a shock it was in 1967 when I went to live briefly in Portugal, in Elvas, and found the Portuguese talking freely in bars about politics.

The texture of life & 'unreal histories'

or how historians get fat?

When Isaiah Berlin***** addressed what Tolstoy had to say about the historians he quoted from the War and Peace, epilogue, part 1, chapter 1:  'If we we allow that human life can be ruled by reason, the possibility of life [i.e. as a spontaneous activity involving consciousness of free will] is destroyed.' 

According to Berlin: "Tolstoy wanted to write a historical novel whose 'principal aims was to contrast the 'real' texture of life, both of individuals and communities, with the unreal picture presented by historians.  Again and again in the pages of War and Peace we get a sharp juxtaposition of 'realty' what 'really' occurred - with the distorting medium through which it will later be presented in the official accounts offered to the public, and indeed be recollected by the actors themselves - the original memories having now been touched up by their own treacherous (inevitably treacherous because automatically rationalising and formalising) minds.  Tolstoy is perpetually placing the heroes of War and Peace in situations where this becomes particularly evident."

What we have in these histories of the historians is what Tolstoy calls the 'great illusion' which he sets out to expose.  The historian Paul Preston in the interview already referred to with Ian Kershaw,  related about when he went to Spain:  'Of course the Spain of the late 1960s, was much nearer to the Spain of the civil War than the Spain of today, ... original memories.'  He also made a joke to Kershaw:  'I was thin when I went to Spain'.  Since then he's made a good living writing about little else.

It is because of this defect attributed to the historians so clearly perceived by Tolstoy, that explains why George Orwell's 'Homage to Catalonia' with all its limitations is in the end is so much more a populat and influential to the work of the professional historians of the likes of Paul Preston.   As I write this Sir Paul Preston himself is having to admit his debt to Gerald Brenan, formerly a member of the Bloomsbury Group; with  ‎Lytton StracheyVirginia Woolf, John Maynard Keynes, and E. M. Forster, and later author of The Spanish Labyrinth: an Account of the Social & Political Background of the Spanish Civil War.  Brenan was more of an anthropologist than a historian and besides the Spanish Labyrinth wrote about village life in Andalucia, as was  Julian Pitt-Rivers who wrote People of the Sierra a study of the village of Grazellema a short bus ride from Ronda.  Franz Borkenau  produced an eye-witness accounts in the The Spanish Cockpit as a sociologist who visited Spain in the midst of the war in 1936 and 1937.  Even Vernon Richards and Jose Peirats were really autodidacts rather than professional historians, and I believe they were better off for this.

I together with my young wife lived for over a year in the home of a recently widowed seamstress and her two daughters, Conchita and Pepita, in the fishing village of Denia.  It was there that my eldest lad was born in August 1963.  Vernon Richards refers in his biographical postscript to Margarita Balaguer, an eighteen-year-old seamstress in a haute.couture fashion house 'which she had attempted  unsuccessfully to collectivize found the liberation of women the most rewarding of all the revolutionary conquests.  For as long as she could remember she had fought the accepted notion that 'men and women could  never be friends.'  Now she found she had better friends among men than among women.  A new comradeship had arisen."  I don't know what my seamstress landlady, Senora Lola, in Denia, would have had to say about that all those years ago when we went to tidy-up her dead husband's niche in the cemetery on All Souls Day in 1963.  Last month, some 65 years after General Franco was nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize, the socialist goverment of the acting Prime Minister of Spain, Pedro Sanchez has had the remains of its former dictator from the state mausoleum in the Valley of the Fallen, where he was buried in 1975, for reburial in a private grave, and  Sanchez claims it is a step towards national reconciliation, the exhumation was the most significant move in years by Spanish authorities to lay the ghost of the general whose legacy still divides the country he ruled as an autocrat for nearly four decades.  Meanwhile Catalonia is in crisis over the imprisionment of the Catalan nationalist leaders, and a poll by the pollster 40dB for EL PAÍS is suggesting that Spain which will be holding its fourth general election in four years his coming Sunday, and yet the new vote is not likely to break the prolonged political stalemate, according to a survey by the pollster 40dB for the newspaper EL PAÍS.

Logic and Sin in the writings of LUDWIG WITTGENSTEIN by Philip R. Sheilds:  Bertrand Russell was fond of relating the following story about Ludwig Wittgenstein's student days at Cambridge:  "he used to come to my rooms at midnight and, for hours, he would walk backwards anf forwards like a caged tiger.  On one such evening, after an hour or two of dead silence, I said to him, 'Wittenstein, are you thinking about logic or about your sins?'  'Both,' he said, and then reverted to silence." .'

**Danny Evans in the Bibliographical Postscript to 'Lessons of the Spanish Revolution' writes:  'Paul Preston, has moved in the opposite direction to the drift of specialist historiography, providing increasingly caricatured depictions of Spanish anarchists in his later work, most notably 'The Spanish Holocaust' (London: Harper Press, 2013).'

***  Dr. Goodway in his portrayal of the job of the historian at the 4th Northern Radical History Network meeting held on Saturday 20 April 2013, in Bradford

****    In November 1936, Francisco Largo Caballero appointed Montseny as Minister of Health. In doing so, she became the first woman in Spanish history to be a cabinet minister.[2] She was one of the first female ministers in Western Europe (but preceded by Danish Minister of Education, Nina Bang and Miina Sillanpää of Finland). She aimed to transform public health to meet the needs of the poor and the working class. To that end, she supported decentralized, locally l-responsive and preventative health care programs that mobilized the entire working class for the war effort. She was influenced by the anarchist sex reform movement, which since the 1920s had focused on reproductive rights and was minister in 1936 when Dr. Félix Martí Ibáñez, the anarchist director general of Health and Social Assistance of the Generalitat de Catalunya, issued the Eugenic Reform of Abortion, a decree that effectively made abortion on demand legal in Catalonia.  Once in exile took the view that it was an error for the anarchists to have participated in the republican government in 1936.

***** The Proper Study of Mankind: An Anthology of Essays by Isaih Berlin (PIMLICO) 1998.


Monday, 4 November 2019

The Biter Bit?

by Les May

I have frequently expressed my distaste for ‘identity politics’ which has been so enthusiastically embraced by those who like to style themselves as being ‘of the left’, but now it seems that this way of thinking may be coming back to bite them with a vengeance and ultimately harm Labour’s attempt to be seen as ‘speaking for the many not the billionaires.

The day the comment was made I watched someone who in their TV appearances comes over as being a candidate for A. A. Milne’s prose ‘For I am a bear of very little brain, and long words bother me’, sagely tell us that being a billionaire was just the reward for being hard working’.

Now as it happens I know a lot of people who are ‘hard working’.  Some of them work for other people, including billionaires, and others run their own small business.  Some of these are ‘doing quite nicely thank you’, but I can say with complete certainty that hard work alone does not turn you into a billionaire.

Someone on the National Minimum wage of £8.21p per hour would have to work 121,802,679 hours which is 2,030,044, 60 hour weeks taking 39,039 years! No, there’s not much chance of you becoming a billionaire through hard work alone. If you were a £100k a year man or woman it would still take you 10,000 years.

But today after we had heard the old chestnut of the politics of envy’ we had a new one, singling out billionaires is ‘identity politics’.

I’m not sure how far that one will run, but you never know. Who would have ever thought that anyone would take seriously the idea that if you were a man with a full set of wedding tackle and announced you were now ‘transgender’ you should be allowed to serve your sentence in a women’s prison?


Sunday, 3 November 2019

Letter to the Ed. from a Rochdale resident

 Editor:  This morning NV received the e-mail below
from a local lady.  Because the correspondent is clearly 
afraid, we have decided to withhold her name.

Good morning Brian,

Thank you for sending this [the post: 'When is a Hate Crime not a Hate Crime?'], I've read the article and the Blogspot and I'm still shocked that this hasn't been reported as a hate crime, because it most certainly is!

As the article states, if it had been reversed then it most surely would have been. I'm so fed up with everyone being scared of saying the wrong thing! Why is it in the interests of the community to lessen the impact of the story when it's Asian against white, but fully reported as a hate crime if it's the other way around? 

The problem is, we're not told 'everything' we're protected from knowing the truth about our areas/places we live in, because of fears there will be repercussions, but there has to be fairness in what's reported. 

When the grooming gangs were sentenced, all those years ago, I saw a group of men and women with placards gathered around the takeaway shop in Heywood. They weren't causing disruption, but the placards said things like "rapists get out" and "not in our town". There was a high police presence and as soon as new people arrived they were dispersed/sent home quickly. All of which I saw as I completed the short drive through the town centre. The thing is, I wasn't aware of why they were there, I looked for a news story but there wasn't one. Of course, the story did eventually break nationwide but it was a good while after.

Maybe 'they' think we couldn't handle knowing the truth? maybe it would start unrest? but this has to stop!  The speed at which the first man gathered up so many people to help him is scary.  The fact that they have weapons to hand, they can just 'grab and go', is incredibly frightening and as I said to you last night, would now make me think twice about helping someone I thought might be in need 
Bit by bit these sorts of incidents are breaking down the local and general community spirit and at a base level the normal feelings of empathy you have for a fellow human being.

Anyway, enjoy your Sunday.
Name redacted