Saturday, 16 June 2018

What are the facts and myths about racism? Open meeting.

Open Meeting and debate on Diversity, Integration and Racism.
Time: from 7.30pm, on Monday, 25th. June 2018.
Venue: Woolworth Sports and Social Club, Gypsy Lane, Castleton, OL11 3HA
What are the facts? What are the myths? Institutional Racism. Our young.
The way forward to a truly “United Kingdom”.
Featuring a number of speakers including the Chair of BAPA (Black & Asian Police Association)
Time for questions, debate and search for solutions.

Note: The emphasis is on informed debate not just rhetoric and the purpose is to explore ways to improve integration in our communities. There is 'fake news' on this subject, which does not help.

The media's the most powerful entity on earth. They have the power to make the innocent guilty and to make the guilty innocent, and that's power. Because they control the minds of the masses. Malcolm X

BOLD (Building Our Local Democracy) are a group believing in open democracy, so everyone is welcome provided they respect others and their views. Further information: Phone 07794835959 or e-mail

Monday, 11 June 2018

'Brave New World' Hatching Eggs & Councillors

by Brian Bamford
ON the 6th, June, the website 'SKWAWKBOX' ran a story about a series of squabbles in local Labour Party branches around the country, but in particular it focused on some problems in the Rochdale Party.  Much has already been written about the disgrace brought about by the former Rochdale leader Richard Farnell, and Rochdale's former MP, Simon Danczuk.  But now a local Labour party branch has lodged its rejection of the local selection processes and the conduct of those behind them.

Northern Voices two weeks ago, was present at a meeting in the Rochdale ward of Castleton, when the status of the Local Campaign Forums in the Labour Party were discussed.  We didn't report on this then because resolutions and complaints were then still ongoing.

The 'Local Campaign Forum' it seems is used by the hierarchy within the Rochdale Labour Party as a kind of 'hatchery'*  whereby the local party bosses can manufacture future councillors in their own likeness.

Thus the regime which first laid eggs with Simon Christopher Danczuk and his aide Matthew Baker earlier in this decade, may now go on to hatch other specimens in a similar mold to Richard Farnell and the present Rochdale Labour leader Allen Brett.  Interesting bets are now being placed upon Councillor Sara Rowbotham being dusted-off for future glory in the realm of Rochdale politics:  a former sexual health worker, Ms. Rowbotham, for those who haven't heard of her, was portrayed by Maxine Peake in the docu-drama 'Three Girls'.   

According to the current report on the 'SKWAWKBOX' website:
'Seven Labour branches so far, as well as the whole Heywood and Middleton constituency party, have passed the resolution shown below and have sent it with evidence they consider shows rule breaking.  However, because of distrust of Labour’s regional office, the resolutions have been sent instead to the regional board, the body that oversees councillor discipline.'

These kind of ructions have long been going on in the Rochdale Labour Party, only last December the secretary of Rochdale Constituency Labour Party, Sharon MacLean, resigned in protest at what she describes as the party’s ‘inaction’ over the Knowl View child sex abuse scandal.

Sharon MacLean said Rochdale Council leader Richard Farnell should have been suspended over his handling of claims boys were being abused at the residential school.

In her resignation letter shown to the Manchester Evening News, Ms MacLean wrote:  'I am no longer able to be part of a local leadership that has defended [former Rochdale MP] Simon Danczuk , voted for 34% councillor allowances in a time of austerity and now, most importantly, defend the current Council Leader of Rochdale Council around the issue of CSA.'

Rochdale Labour Party may be in power and in office, but it is not a very united entity.

*   A hatchery is a facility where eggs are hatched under artificial conditions, especially those of fish or poultry. It may be used for ex-situ conservation purposes, i.e. to breed rare or endangered species under controlled conditions; alternatively, it may be for economic reasons (i.e. to enhance food supplies or fishery resources).

Saturday, 9 June 2018

When Do the Facts Matter?

by Les May

Comment is free but facts are sacred’ or so wrote the Manchester Guardian editor CP Scott in 1921.  But there’s another view attributed to the radical journalist Claud Cockburn who believed ‘facts were not like pieces of gold ore in the Yukon waiting for the prospector to dig them up and give them to the world’. His Independent journalist son Patrick recently paraphrased his father’s view by writing, ‘Unlike gold nuggets waiting to be excavated, there are an infinite number of facts in the universe, but these only gain significance and have a meaning because somebody – a journalist, a policeman – decides that they matter’.

The younger Cockburn’s comments coincided with the publication of a rather pointless article in the Rochdale Observer which reminded us that when in 1979, Rochdale Alternative Paper (RAP) published an account of Cyril Smith’s antics at Cambridge House and the editors contacted the then David Steel his spokesman is reported to have said ‘All he seems to have done is spanked a few bare bottoms.’

This is a classic example of what Cockburn was getting atAlthough all the national press knew about the story because editors had been sending taxis to the RAP offices to pick up copies, like the Rochdale Observer, they chose to ignore the story.

As a result the ‘facts’ about Smith’s behaviour, however well documented by the RAP editors, had no significance or meaning.   So Steel could brush aside criticism of Smith and the voters of Rochdale could safely ignore the RAP story and return Smith to parliament with an increased majority.  If the RAP story had been taken up by the national press it would have been an indication that Smith’s behaviour at Cambridge House mattered and Steel would have had to take action.

The lesson from all this is, as the younger Cockburn put it, ‘every fact in the media is the result of the point of view of the person who chose to report them and related them to other facts’.

Friday, 8 June 2018

Cosmetics chain closes campaign alleging intimidation by ex-cops!

Display highlighting misconduct of undercover police spies

A campaign to highlight the misconduct of undercover police spies, launched by the cosmetics retailer 'Lush', has been withdrawn after just one week after the company alleged that some staff in its 104 stores, had been threatened and intimidated by former police officers.

The retailer who removed the displays from its store windows last Thursday, said it needed to protect its staff for safety reasons and that some of its branches had removed posters following, "intimidation of our shop staff from ex-police officers and unhelpful tweets from those in high office."

It has been alleged that people disliking the campaign have been going into stores and intimidating staff to force them to take down the display. Yet many members of the public have supported the campaign. Two former wives of undercover police officers offered their support as well as the son of a police spy who abandoned him and his mother.

The Lush campaign was criticised by the home secretary, Sajid Javid, for being anti-police, poorly judged and potentially damaging to large numbers of officers who had nothing to do with the alleged wrongdoing. 

In a letter to the Guardian, the two former 'spycop' wives, said the Lush campaign had done more to publicise the issue in a weekend than a public inquiry had done in three years.

Costing more than £10m so far, the inquiry into undercover policing led by Sir John Mitting, was due to conclude this year but will not hear any evidence until June 2019.

A spokeswoman for 'Police Spies Out of Lives', said: "We condemn the sort of threats that some Lush staff have experienced in the last few days."

David Smith of the Blacklist Support Group (BSG) said that the displays had "been blanked out due to threats to staff." He added: "All workers are entitled to a safe working environment - intimidation, abuse and threats, are totally unacceptable."

Thursday, 7 June 2018


Quentin Kopp 
Today, 19:55

Thanks Les good point

Brian, they are upstairs in the Museum of Wigan Life on Library Street.

I have attached a photo, which I took last year, that has the bonus of Les in the foreground. The room, apart from new chairs and raised lighting, would be immediately recognisable to Orwell and anyone else who had visited in the 1930s.

Thanks for giving The Orwell Society the publicity.  Tomorrow we are going to go to Jura to visit Barnhill, where he wrote most of Nineteen Eighty Four.





Your members may also be interested to learn that Wigan Reference Library now has Peter Davison's Orwell library on long-term loan.  (In the same room in which Orwell researched the statistics underlying The Road to Wigan Pier).



Wednesday, 6 June 2018


North West trade unionists merge with poet of common decency
by Brian Bamford

THIS year, Tameside Trade Union Council [TUC] in Greater Manchester became the first corporate affiliate of the ORWELL SOCIETY.  This SOCIETY is dedicated to the understanding and appreciation of George Orwell's life and work as one of the greatest writers of the twentieth century.

The Society is a registered charity in the UK and it aims to keep the study of Orwell alive through its educational activities.  The Orwell Society is without political affiliation,and was founded in 2011, and though it is based in the UK its membership is worldwide.  George Orwell (the pen-name for Eric Blair; 1903-1950), was the author of Animal Farm and Nineteen Eighty-Four.

The Society's intention is to embrace a grasp of Orwell's life and writings, from his literary criticism to his diaries, and from his political writings to his poetry. . 

Last Friday, the President of Tameside, Derek Pattison, announcing this said:  'In an Age of Post Truth, Fake News, and Alternative Facts, we need George Orwell's guidance more than ever.'  

When I attended the Annual General Meeting of the Orwell Society on the 28th, April this year, I spoke to Richard Blair, the son of George Orwell, and to Quintin Kopp, the son of George Kopp Orwell's commander as captain in the general staff of the 45th Mixed Brigade of the Spanish Republican Army.  Both were anxious to get more participation in the Society from trade unionists such as ourselves.

Since Tameside TUC  first published our booklet commemorating the 70th anniversary of the Spanish Civil War in 2006, and followed this up with the unveiling of a blue plaque for James Keogh in 2011 who died fighting with the republicans in the Spanish Civil War, this trade union council has had a special interest in both George Orwell and his experiences of the Spanish Civil War.

Malcolm Muggeridge in his essay 'A Knight of the Woeful Countenance' wrote about this:
'I FIRST became aware of the existence of George Orwell in the middle thirties when I read some articles of his on the Spanish Civil War which appeared in the New English Weekly, a publication founded by A.R. Orage to expound the principles of Social Credit.  They provided the basis for Homage to Catalonia, one of his best books.  These articles made a great impression on me.  I liked their clear, simple style, and the obvious honesty of purpose which informed them,  They touched a chord of personal sympathy, too.  I saw in Orwell's strong reaction to the villainies of Communist apparat in Spain a compatible experience to my own disgust some years previously with the Soviet regime and its fawning admirers among the intelligentsia of the West as a result of a stint as Moscow correspondent of the Manchester Guardian....'

When we at Tameside TUC began to produce and publish a balanced account of the Spanish Civil War  in 2006, we were confronted with resistance from some elements within the more narrow-minded political left of the trade union movement in Greater Manchester.   These people deliberately tried to stiffle our efforts and those of other local trade unionists to bring about publication.  Both Orwell and Muggeridge had had difficultes getting their articles published by the so-called progressive publishers like Kingsley Martin at the New Statesman and C.P. Scott at the Manchester Guardian, and perhaps even more absurd, was the Victor Gollancz rejection of Animal Farm.

Muggeridge relates how when Orwell and he were lunching together in a Greek restaurant in Percy Street, Orwell asked if he would mind changing places?  When Muggeridge asked him why?  Orwell just said 'he just couldn't bear to look at Kingsley Martin's corrupt face, which, as Kingsley was lunching at an adjoining table, was unavoidable from where he had been sitting before.'

I feel much the same when I am forced to gaze into the faces of Ronald Marsden and his friend Mike Luft of the International Brigade Memorial Trust:  two people who did their utmost to undermine the production of the Tameside TUC memorial booklet about the Spanish Civil War.


Friday, 1 June 2018

Peace News on the Liverpool Anarchist Bookfair

Anarchists barred from bookfair

One person barred and a second ejected from Liverpool event.

Septuagenarian Anarchist - Brian Bamford

ON 7 April, the organisers of the Liverpool Anarchist Bookfair excluded two people from the gathering, which was taking place in the huge Black-E community arts centre near the city centre.

Brian Bamford, a member of the Northern Anarchist Network, was told in advance that he would not be allowed in, and was stopped at the door.  Another man (whose name is not known) was taken from a workshop by organisers and thrown out of the bookfair. (The workshop was about employers barring trade unionists from jobs.)

I was told by bookfair organisers that Bamford had a history of causing disturbances, and they were determined to avoid such problems at their event.  The other man was apparently thrown out for circulating an offensive anti-trans leaflet.

Read more:

Jolly jaunt to Israel by Tameside Labour MPs causes outrage!

Tameside Labour Friends of Israel - Jonny Reynolds & Andrew Gwynne on recent trip to Israel.

A group of Labour MPs have caused outrage by taking a jolly jaunt to Israel and posting tourist-type photos of themselves, shortly after the killing of over 60 Palestinians, which included eight children under the age of 16, at the Gaza barrier on 14 May 2018. At least 2,400 people were also wounded.

The tweeted picture of six Labour MPs and a Labour peer, includes Jonathan Reynolds MP (first left), who represents the constituency of Stalybridge and Hyde and Andrew Gwynne MP (second left), who represents the Denton and Reddish constituency. Although the trip has been described as a "parliamentary delegation", the group are all members of Labour Friends of Israel (LFI). Jonathan Reynolds is currently one of nine Labour LFI officers in Parliament and Andrew Gwynne is a former Chairman of LFI and is now a  LFI supporter. During their visit to Israel the group met with the Israeli Labour leader, Isaac Herzog, an advocate of disengaging with and fencing off Palestinians.

Israel is often described as the only real democracy in the Middle East. Yet it is a racist and an apartheid state, where the Israeli Prime Minister can describe Arabs as beasts, and where Palestinians are prevented from marrying Palestinians living outside Israel or from returning to their Palestinian homeland. Arabs are also prevented from living in hundreds of Jewish communities under the 'Access to Communities Act', which allows existing residents to bar Arabs from renting property there. Many Israeli settlements that have been built on the West Bank are also illegal under international law.

In 2017, a young Israeli Embassy official called Shai Masot, was caught on camera plotting to 'take down' UK MPs who have been outspoken supporters of a Palestinian state. He was filmed asking a UK civil servant Maria Strizzolo, "Can I give you some MPs that I would suggest you take down." Masot had links and was sending funds to various groups including, the 'Fabian Society', 'Labour Friends of Israel', the 'Jewish Labour Movement' and 'We Believe in Israel'. 

In what is beginning to resemble a McCarthyite witch-hunt, a number of Labour members including the Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn, have  been accused of anti-Semitism or of infringing Labour Party rules for criticising Israel and its policies towards the Palestinians. Jonathan Arkush, president of the Board of Deputies of British Jews, recently accused Jeremy Corbyn of "siding with anti-Semites." Jackie Walker, the vice chair of Momentum was removed from her position when she said many Jews including her ancestors had been the chief financiers of the sugar and slave trade. Ken Livingstone was suspended by the Labour Party when he said that the Nazi's and Zionists had collaborated when they drew up the Haavara Agreement in 1933. Labour Party member, Jean Fitzpatrick, was denounced as an anti-Semite when she asked how a two-party state in Israel could be achieved in the face of the "atomisation of the West Bank."

It is highly unlikely that Shai Masot would have had Reynolds or Gwynne in mind when he talked about "taking down" certain MPs. The dynamic duo have long-standing links with LFI and are almost Zionist poster boys. Slaughter or no slaughter, both MPs have issued statements defending their decision to go on the Israeli trip.

Andrew Gwynne said that he'd been tasked with opening the debate on anti-Semitism for the Labour frontbench and the day after:

"I was interviewed alongside a holocaust survivor. She begged visit Yad Vashem - the Holocaust memorial in Jerusalem. I agreed and this Whitsun Recess has been my opportunity to make good on my word...That I've honoured my commitment...I hope will be recognised for the right intention."

Jonathan Reynolds said that he had taken the opportunity to attend a delegation of Labour MPs to Israel and Palestine.

"This will be my fourth visit to the region since I first went in 2004. Wherever you go within Israel you see Muslim, Jews and Christians living their daily lives alongside one another. Israel is the only real democracy in the Middle East and the only country where minorities have full equality before the law. The result is a truly dire situation for the people of Gaza, as evidenced recently by their willingness to effectively walk into live gunfire in their desperation."

Unlike the Labour MP Catherine West, who demanded that her name be removed from the LFI website and utterly condemned the actions of the Israeli army in Gaza, Reynolds and Gwynne have not issued statements condemning the massacre at the Gaza barrier in May. Although reports have suggested that many of the people who were killed were shot by Israeli sniper fire, Reynolds would have us believe that the Palestinians brought about there own deaths by effectively, like lemmings, walking into live gunfire.

What Reynolds does as  a LFI officer in Parliament isn't clear, but no doubt, many of his constituents would be keen to know who paid for his trip to Israel and whether he notified his CLP of his intended visit and whether Stalybridge CLP members, endorsed the visits and the comments that he has made. It is also curious that neither Reynolds or Gwynne ever mention on their election leaflets, their involvement in Labour Friends of Israel. The public have a right to know.

Wednesday, 30 May 2018

Carillion case shows crisis public interest auditing

 Four Auditors!
by Brian Bamford
WHEN Carillion collapsed in January this year, it brought into focus the Government's relations with major suppliers and showed how it impacts on vital public services in local communities such as Tameside MBC, which since at least 2011 had deveoped a partnership with the company.  

How could the decline of Carillion have been overlooked by Government, and the firm's auditors, when readers of the Financial Times, the markets and particulary those shorting its shares since May 2015, were well aware of what was happening?

On the 23 May 2018 the Select  Committee Chair, probing the Carillion case and the role of its auditors  Meg Hillier MP:said:'Government has become dependent on large contracts to deliver public projects and services.  Great secrecy surrounds them.   If a company providing a number of these contracts fails, this is bad news for service users and the taxpayer.........

'When a contract breaks down, Government is the provider of last resort.  While it did not bail out Carillion – the company went in liquidation – it did inherit responsibilities and costs, ultimately borne by taxpayers, that would otherwise not be met.
'Failure of essential services is not an option so we need to understand the potential risks to the taxpayer....'

Of the 'Big Four' auditors available three were already deeply implicated and involved doing Carillion's accounts with KPMG, which had been carrying out an external auditor for Carillion for 19-years, while Deloitte had carried out the internal audit, and EY had provided turnround advice before Carillion was declared insolvent last January.  

Thus, it was left to the auditors PwC, which despite earning £17 million in fees related to Carillion in the last 10-years, as the least compromised by a conflict of interest to handle the liquidation when the Official Reciever came calling for a special manager to do the job.

In the Financial Times John Plender wrote on the 19th, May:
'Overall, this quartet of accountancy behemoths (KPMG; Deoitte; EY and PwC) .collectively received £51.2 million for services to Carillion in the 10 years before the collapse, a further £1.7 million for work on the company's pension schemes and £14.3 million from government for work relating to contracts with Carillion.  small wonder the MPs concluded that this was a "cosy club incapable of providing the degree of independent challenge needed".'

Somehow, perhaps owing to vain expectations, the Government failed to grasp the the seriousness of the situation.  As the Select Committee Deputy Chair, Sir Geoffrey Clifton-Brown MP pointed out lasr week:
'The Government’s RAG scale for Strategic Suppliers appears to be too slow and clunky. Profit warnings for Carillion were issued in July and September 2017 and yet a high-risk recommendation to Ministers was not made until 29 November 2017. The City, in contrast, knew well before July 2017 that Carillion was in trouble.
'Too many Government facilities contracts were concentrated in one large firm giving the impression that it was too big to fail, hence the perception that the Government would bail them out when push came to shove.
'The Carillion Board’s erroneous belief that the Government would not let the company collapse appears to have contributed to their failure to take the necessary action to save the company and prevent the sad loss of jobs and damage to numerous suppliers and subcontractors when Carillion went into liquidation.'
Even if the audit of Carillion by auditors KPLM in December 2016 was wildly over-optimistic and effectively valueless, it did show a company in trouble, and John Plender in the FT wrotes:  'I did not require a degree in accountacy to see that this tecnically insolvent company was paying more in dividends than it was generating in cash, while borrowing heavily, under-investing and sitting on a growing pension fund deficit.'

Investors who were selling Carillion shares short began to spot what was happening as early as  mid-2015.  The problem is that there is a reluctance to prosecute the auditors in these cases, as was demonstrated with the US attorney-general's decision in 2005 not to pursue a criminal prosecution of the auditors KPML over the sale of fraudulent tax products for fear of putting KPMG out of business.  The problem is that we are all now seemingly at the mercy of the global 'Big Four' auditing companies and the public interest audit function is suffering from a de facto 'too few to fail' regime.

Monday, 28 May 2018

Review: 'Slow Burning Fuse' & Anarchist Aspects

by Brian Bamford
Reviews:  'The Slow Burning Fuse: The Lost History of the British 
Anarchists' by John Quail, published by Freedom Press [2014] price £15.,
and 'Aspects of Anarchism' published by the Anarchist Federation price £1.  
 Both available from Freedom Press: 
84b, Whitechapel High Street, London E1 7QX. 

IN concluding his book 'The Slow Burning Fuse; The Lost History of the British Anarchists', John Quail writes: 
'...the anarchists of England have paid for the gap between their day-to-day activities and their utopian aspirations.  This gap consists basically of a lack of strategy, a lack of sense of how various activities fit together to form a whole, a lack of ability to assess a general situation and initiate a general project which is consistent with the anarchist utopia, and which is not only consistent with anarchist tactics but inspires them.' 

Mr. Quail admits that 'Such general Anarchist projects have existed, perhaps the best examples being the anarcho-syndicalist trades unions of Spain and France.' 

In his Forword to the Freedom Press 2014 edition of Quail's book Nick Heath*[1] writes 'I would take issue, as very much an organisational anarchist, with some of (Quail's) comments on organisation in his conclusion.'    

John Quail's book fundamentally emphasises the reactionary nature of English anarchism:  only capable of responding in a series of fits-and-starts to specifically social and political conditions.  In contrast to Quail, Mr. Heath no doubt believes what is documented in his Anarchist Federation's pamphlet 'Aspects of Anarchism' (2003) that 'The structure (of an anarchist communist organisation) must increase the ability of the organisation to perpetuate itself while its ends remain un-realised'. 

The historical characteristic of the British left in general has been to react to the agenda set by the establishment and initiatives developed by governments.  The Anarchist Federation in Britain is well within this defensive tradition of reactionary responses as is shown in their pamphlet under review 'Aspects of Anarchism' in the closing paragraphs of this booklet under the subheading 'Our Role' the author writes:  'Large demonstrations and strikes can often turn to violence and we should accept the need for self-defence.' 

Or the author writes:  'In non-revolutionary periods anarchist communists will be a conscious minority with “the leadership of ideas”.'  

There is much talk of 'revolution' here, but the writer mentions 'self-defence' because the nature of British politics is so much about reacting to the authorities in a tactical way rather than developing a serious strategy for social change.  And in the very next sentence the writer continues:  'Groups like the hit squads arising from the miners strike (1984-5) are genuine expressions of working class resistance.'  And then the writer goes on to argue 'we will need to defend ourselves against the violence of our enemies.'  This is all about 'defence' and 'resistance'  not about a pro-active program for social transformation, what's so revolutionary about that? 

The fact is that this is typical of the British left over the ages, and of the most memorable struggles in this country from the General Strike of 1926, to the Peace Movement of the 1960s, to the Miner's Strike of 1984-5, have been reactionary in that they have been responses to the actions of governments. 

Much of the rest of the AF's pamphlet in an act of belief in commitment or act of faith and of solving the problem of 'other minds', or as the writer puts it: 

'Determination and Solidarity:  To create effective organisations we must know our own and other's  [sic] minds, therefore there must be a high degree of communication, of sharing. We must set about creating aspiration, setting achievable targets, celebrating success, rededicating ourselves again and again to the reasons why we have formed or participate in organisation.'

When at random I compare this kind of feeble analyse to an interview in 1977, between the Spanish anarchist, Juan Garcia Oliver entitled 'My revolutionary life' the nature of the abstraction of 'Aspects of Anarchism' becomes clear.  When the questioner, Freddy Gomez asks 'What were the circumstances in which you became active in the libertarian movement and the CNT?'

Garcia Oliver answers:  'We need to be precise about this.  The idea of the “libertarian movement” surfaced well after the period we are talking about.  The CNT, on the other hand, was a long-established battle organisation which in those days marshaled revolutionary syndicalists, especially in Catalonia and therefore throughout Spain.  I join as a 17 year old.  I was working in the hospitality trade, as cafe waiter.  We had just seen the “La Canadiense” strike which is still famous because it was handled to perfection and won by the CNT's Light and Power Union.'

For people like Nick Heath they want to create an organisation or anarchist movement before there are anarchists, were as Garcia Oliver realises that it is in the practical life of the social body of the working class that anarchists are formed and from which the political organisation may then arise. I became an anarchist out of my experiences in the national strikes of engineering apprentices in the early 1960s; those experiences showed me first-hand how the bosses operated, and how the trade union officials and the local politicians operated, just as Garcia Oliver learnt through his experiences in the strikes of waiters for the abolition of tipping.

The point is the theory and the ideas evolve out of the shopfloor struggle.   It is this half-baked idea of the struggle developing out of the theory that is wrong with the approach of the Anarchist Federation: theirs is a form of cookbook anarchism in which the chef knows best. 

The dispute over what Peter Kropotkin stood for 'anarcho-communism', and what Bakunin believed 'collectivism', according to the anthropologist Gerald Brenan in his 'The Spanish Labyrinth' (1962), divided the Regional Federation of Spanish anarchists in 1888:  the argument was about whether anarchist organisations should consist just of convinced Anarchists or if all workers should be included if they were willing to join.  Brenan writes: 

'...with the introduction of Anarcho-Syndicalism in 1909, it was finally decided in accordance with Bakunin's ideas, the question of the nature of the future form of society became less importance.'

It is necessary to mention that this Spanish experience because the history of anarchism there is significant as a consequence of its success in that country.  Garcia Oliver responding to a question about the time when in about 1920 he joined the anarchist 'Bandera Negra' about 'some sort of understanding between syndicalists and anarchists' said:  'We were still a long way from what came later – anarcho-syndicalism – which overcame this dichotomy.  Anarcho-syndicalism allowed anarchism to become part and parcel of trade unionist groups which were imbued with anarchist thinking'.  Garcia Oliver said that he had joined 'Bandera Negra' by mistake and implies that at that time he ought to have been more syndicalist or 'revolutionary syndicalist', because 'Bandera Negra' (Black Flag) 'spent its time liaising – nationally and internationally – with other groups and its main activity was reading incoming correspondence and replying to it.'  The Spanish 'Bandera Negra', according to Garcia Oliver, like the Anarchist Federation was firmly against trade unionism and the CNT.

John Quail recalls the International Anarchist Congress of 1881 in London thus:
'The International Congress was basically an affair of and for Continental and Russian revolutionaries.  The minutes ... reveal that the English delegates played little part; yet many of the people involved were ... exiles in London and the British socialists that a more sophisticated libertarian philosophy was to develop relevant to British conditions.'  

Brenan has written of the same 1881 Congress:
'The Spanish delegate, when he went back to Madrid, took several new ideas with him.  (But) Spaniards lived then at a great distance from the rest of Europe.  Besides, anarchism had still a large proletarian following.  Under such conditions terrorist action was madness and would not find any encouragement among workers.  The new Regional Federation had in any case no need to appeal for violent methods.  Its progress during the first year or two of its existence was rapid.  A Congresss held in Seville in 1882 represented some 50,000 workers, of whom 30,000 came from Andalusia and most of the rest from Catalonia.'

In England, John Quail has demonstrated in his conclusion:
'The anarchist movement in England has shown itself capable of a progression of initiatives taken according to circumstances.  Take, for example, the beginnings of the squatters movement in London.'

Quail realises that the English anarchists are prisoner's of historical circumstances when he argues 'it is only when anarchist strategies develop [and] move from pin-prick defiance and piecemeal defence to confront and change all this that the anarchist movement will make history instead of being dependent on it.'  But this is true of the British left in general and even the trade unions, nay especially the British trade unions in this country, in so far as they are always reacting to events.  Perhaps it is because he now sees change in this respect as such an hopeless expectation in this country that I understand Mr. Quail is no longer sees himself as an anarchist.  As one northern anarchist once said to me:  'Each new batch of English anarchists have to learn the same old lessons every few decades, until in the end some of them give it up as a bad job.'

Starting in 1881, Quail identifies 'the first systematic propaganda defining itself as anarchist that had any effect within the (English) socialist movement came from America the shape of Benjamin Tucker's paper Liberty'.  It seems that Liberty was a 'lively and far ranging and even (Tucker) was prepared to give space for the Anarchist Communist view', though according to Quail, Tucker had 'a good eye for revolutionary humbug'.  And, on the English left there is so much 'humbug' about.

John Quail then goes on to remind us that '[t]he introduction of specifically anarchist ideas into the working class  movement was thus going on well before the alleged Year One of English anarchism, 1886, which saw the foundation of Freedom.' (p37)  (Freedom was finally closed down in 2014, and since then there has been an ongoing disputes between those who scuttled the ship of Freedom and their critics).

In conclusion Quail [page 333] writes:
'The anarchists have since shown the same astonishing ability to suddenly come from nowhere when everyone had assumed that they were finished...  A new movement emerged out of CND and the Committee of 100 and to dispersed.  The student movement of the 1960s again showed strong libertarian proclivities.   And that too seems to have disappeared.  I do not propose to talk about these movements in this book...  A bare mention, however, is sufficient to bear out the general thesis that has emerged throughout the book that the anarchist movement grows in times of popular self-activity, feeds it and feeds off it, and declines when that self-activity declines.'

In contrast to Quail, Nick Heath wants to keep the anarchist movement alive in the fallow years with what he calls the 'leadership of ideas'.  John Quail's book is very London oriented and it fails to include what the northern anarchist  James Pinkerton sometimes called the 'anarchist fellow travellers':  for in the same way that some say 'Christianity doesn't depend on the Christians', so very often anarchism doesn't depend upon the anarchists, as people like Colin Ward seems to have been aware.  William Morris was close to anarchism politically but his influence was larger than mere politics and people like both Quail and Heath will both tend to overlook the 'Arts and Crafts movement' intellectually dominated by Morris, John Ruskin's ideas and the development of the National Trust, and self-help societies, and other kinds of cultural and intellectual spin-off. 

Colin Ward's ideas developed in around 1960 is a more recent example of this approach, which in those days he described as 'permanent protest' or as some claim 'revisionist anarchism'.   In a soon to be published memoir by the veteran anarchist Laurens Otter writes:  'Colin (while retaining the term Revisionist Anarchism) was by 1961 defining his aim as “widening the sphere of  freedom”.'    Mr. Otter then writes:  'Ward's then desired journal (which became “Anarchy: a journal of anarchist ideas”) would from its beginning reject any belief in progressive fundamental change.'

These ideas of Colin Ward contrast not just with the kind of intellectual bigotry of Nick Heath and the the more refine historical determinism of John Quail, but also with the whole of left-wing ideology in this country.  This rupture which Colin Ward developed in the 1960s can best be understood by considering what George Orwell has to say in his essay 'Writers and Leviathan' (1948):

'The whole of left-wing ideology, scientific and Utopian, was evolved by people who had no immediate prospect of attaining power.  It was therefore, an extremist ideology, utterly contemptuous of kings, governments, laws, prisons, police forces, armies, flags, frontiers, patriotism, religion, conventional morality, and, the whole existing scheme of things.'

Anarchism, like the rest of the British left, inherited a certain evolutionary faith associated with the Whig theory of history, or as George Orwell writes:

'Moreover the Left had inherited from Liberalism certain distinctly questionable beliefs, such as the belief that the truth will prevail and persecution defeats itself, or that man is naturally good and is only corrupted by his environment.'

Elsewhere, Orwell points out in his essay 'Inside the Whale' (1940) that no 'real revolutionary feeling' had not existed for years and that the 'pathetic membership of all extremist parties show this clearly'.  In that situation the British Communist Party became a subservient tool of Russian foreign policy and the rest of the left became for most part insignificant.

It seems to me that it is hard to see how English anarchists can escape the 'fate of history' or what Mr. Quail calls 'its pin-prick defiance and piecemeal defence' anymore than the British left can transform itself from the perpetual reactionary role of resisting changes imposed by the British establishment.  Mr. Heath and his Anarchist Fed. show no sign of capturing the public imagination with his own belief in what Wyndham Lewis once called the 'associational habit' of membership organisations.

The Spanish anarchists, as Garcia Oliver says, benefited from having the trade union 'battle ground' of the CNT, and British anarchism gained vast influence when it had the peace movement to work inside in the 1960s.  Today, anarchism lacks any focus or serious social movement to seriously promote its energies, in that situation some of us have found it more prudent to adopt politics with a regional tinge.

*    Nick Heath leads a small sectarian grouping called variously the Anarchist Federation or A.fed. which grew up in the 1980s.  Unlike John Quail, he does not embrace the broader Church of British anarchism.

[1]  Since this review was first written over a year ago the Anarchist Federation: 'fight[ing] for a world without leaders'  has split in two, with Nick Heath and what was the old class war trend have now formed a group called 'communist anarchism', leaving the more modern trans-tendency inside the A.Fed, with its distinguished international affiliations, to soldier-on under the old AF label.

It was once said that the old Liberal Party MPs could just about fill a taxi, but now Nick Heath and 'communist anarchism' tribe could just about get by on a tandem made for two:  Battlescarred in London and Serge Forward in the provinces.   

For example, we learn that on Saturday 17th February [2018], 'anarchist communist militants met in Leicester to found a new organisation, the Anarchist Communist Group (ACG).'

Saturday, 26 May 2018

Small fine as contractor is electrocuted

submitted by Joe Bailey

THE partners running a Suffolk farm have been sentenced after a haulage contractor was killed by an overhead power line strike.  Basildon Magistrates’ Court heard how on 30 August 2016, haulage driver Christopher Wilson, 36, was killed when his tipping trailer was raised and made contact with overhead power lines that ran across part of the yard hard standing at the Airfield Grain store in Parham.  The site was managed by Nicholas and Roger Watts, partners in FS Watts & Sons.
An investigation by the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) found that FS Watts and Sons had failed to take suitable precautions for work near to the overhead electric power lines, despite recommendations given to them previously by NFU Mutual Risk Management Services (NFU RMS).  Nicholas Watts and Roger Watts each pleaded guilty to criminal breaches of the Electricity at Work Regulations 1989 and were each fined £9,500 and ordered to pay costs of £4,700.

HSE inspector Saffron Turnell said:  “This tragic incident led to the avoidable death of a young father. This death could easily have been prevented if those in control of operations at the grain store had acted to identify and manage the risks involved and put a safe system of work in place.”

ALLEGATIONS: Being left wing or anti-Semitic?

Attacks on Ken Livingston point to sad confusion

 by Martin Gilbert

LIKE a number of British Jews I’m an anti-Zionist. In the heat around this issue the Board of Deputies of British Jews have suggested that they speak for our entire community.  They may speak for all paid up members of
synagogues, presuming that they all support Israel’s treatment of Palestinians.  It suggests that all Christians are paid up at their local parish church.  That Board do not represent the much larger number who identify as being Jewish and are entirely secular.

Contributing to an attack on the left is a confusion that any criticism of Israel is anti-Semitic.  Corbyn’s Labour party are trying to deal with this smear. In resigning from that party Ken Livingstone described it all as
'a distraction'.  After meeting with the Board, trying to show some balance Corby attended a Passover service organised by some left wing Jews. Passover services are very jolly affairs with much singing and wine-drinking.  It is a festival of liberation but the radical, left wing theme is 'we cannot celebrate our liberation while we oppress others'.

A possible source of anti-Jewish feeling has been neglected.  If there is confusion generally about anti-Zionism and anti-Semitism, some of it may be found in immigrants with personal experience of Israeli oppression.  If that were my background it would be very hard for me to be liberal and internationalist.
Martin Gilbert, 25.5.’18.

Friday, 25 May 2018

Let’s Talk About Sex!

by Les May

ON Friday 16 March this year Amy Desir and her friend Hannah joined a ‘men only’ swimming session at Dulwich leisure centre wearing a pair of trunks and pink swimming cap.  They used the men’s changing rooms having told the staff they could join the session because they ‘identified as male’.   When a man asked if she realised it was a men-only night she told him she was a man. His response was ‘Oh really’.   No one was arrested.   No one was kicked out.

You might like to imagine the response if a couple of men had tried to join a ‘women-only’ swimming session at the Leisure centre.   I doubt the headline in the following Monday’s Metro would have been the matched the ‘Feminists set the a-gender at men-only pool session’ which was used for Amy’s exploit.

It was of course a stunt designed to highlight what she called ‘the ridiculous and dangerous move towards self identification’ and a call for women (though seemingly not men) to be consulted about the proposed changes to the Gender Recognition Act.

Two days ago Labour suspended David Lewis, who attempted to stand as a candidate to be Basingstoke Labour party’s women’s officer.  He said he had decided to stand for the role, which party rules say can only be held by a woman, in order to draw attention to Labour’s policy of self-definition, where a person is recognised as a woman if they define themselves as such.   His intention was to inform the local party, and maybe some other people, about what this policy means and about what happens when you say that someone’s gender depends only on what they say and nothing else.

Lewis was attacked by James Morton in a long article which appeared in The Guardian. Calling Lewis an ‘anti-trans campaigner’ Morton produced no evidence to substantiate his claim.  Arguing for the seriousness of the process of identifying with a different sex Morton ignores the fact that some self styled ‘trans activists’ insist that ‘gender is fluid’ and thus give credence to Lewis’s flippant comments.

Like Morton Labour seems determined to prevent any discussion about the potential problems of self identification.  Men and women may have very different views about why or if they feel uncomfortable about self identification and should be allowed to air those views without being dismissed as ‘trans-phobic’.  Amy Desir and David Lewis are trying to draw attention to this.

And please don’t tell me that in writing sympathetically about Desir and Lewis I am being ‘trans-phobic’.  As a man I have no greater objection to sharing a potentially intimate space with someone who was once a woman than I have to someone who has always been a man.  But I recognise that some women might feel uncomfortable about sharing such a space with someone who says they are a woman whilst sporting a full set of wedding tackle.  Their feelings should be respected. It is called tolerance.

Monday, 21 May 2018

Rochdale Labour Party Split?

ROCHDALE LABOUR PARTY, according to sources inside the party, is for all practical purposes split in two.  Following the local elections on May 3rd, the Labour councillors voted to re-elect Councillor Brett as their leader and therefore the Council leader by 29 to 16.

Since then, a meeting of the local Heywood and Middleton Constituency Labour Party (CLP) members has voted by 32 to 1 against Coucillor Brett, on the grounds that he has brought the party into disrepute, owing to his recorded comments about possible discrimination in how road repairs are conducted in the town.  

It is believed that elements within the party with entrenched cultural preoccupations in central Rochdale have been propping-up Councillor Brett in face of his critics.  One source close to the Labour Party told Northern Voices that there are now two Labour Parties in Rochdale.

On the 16th, December last year, the NV Blog in a story entitled 'Musical Chairs on Rochdale Council' reported:
'COUNCILLOR Allen Brett, Coun Farnell’s deputy, got the job as leader of Rochdale Council, after he was nominated by Councillor Sara Rowbotham and seconded by Councillor Neil Emmott,  The motion for Allen Brett to become Coucil leader was also supported by Councillor Ashley Dearnley and a number of  Conservaties.'  

Since then on the 5th, May this year, over a hundred 'grass-roots' Rochdale Labour Party members from 18 local wards issued an open letter calling for fresh leadership 'to take the borough forward'.