Wednesday, 19 May 2010

The State of Israel, Chomsky & his critics

ON Sunday, a row broke out in Israel over the nation's refusal to let Noam Chomsky, a linguist and darling of the US left, to enter the West Bank from Jordan. Today an International Herald Tribune editorial stated: 'One does not have to be an ardent supporter of Chomsky in order to agree with his view that Israel is behaving like South Africa in the 1960s...' It seems Professor Chomsky was informed at a border crossing that 'Israel doesn't like what you say.' The International Herald Tribunal asks: 'Is this a reasonable pretext for a democratic state to detain someone for questioning or hold him up at the border?' But then the editorial asks: 'Who is this "Israel" that doesn't like what Chomsky says?' - 'The general public?' - 'The government?'

Ironically, in the year 2000 some of the people who later went on to found Northern Voices, had a bit of a run in with Professor Chomsky over things he didn't seem to like to hear regarding criticisms of his linguistics in a publication that was called 'The Alternative Raven: Chomsky & his Critics'. At that time Professor Chomsky seemed anxious that this publication was not published. More recently there has been a revival of interest in this publication and a suggestion that it be republished in an edited form.

Election: Everybody loses!!!

IN THE race in Through the Looking Glass the Red Queen declared 'everyone had won', but in the elections on the 6th, May, it was as if there had been a Black Queen who determined that 'everyone was a loser'. Even the election of the first Green MP at Brighton Pavilion didn't change the fact that the Greens got less votes than the BNP: who, in their turn, were crushed in their own most favourable areas. Even the anarchists with their 'Don't Vote' campaign couldn't claim success as the national turnout went up. The Trade Union & Socialist Coalition (TUSC) all but disappeared from the political radar and George Galloway failed to get a seat for his Respect Party. Meanwhile, the Labour Party was clearly defeated and the Tories didn't win either; doing particularly badly in Scotland and Northern Ireland. And yet, the Scottish Nationalists made no headway either, and the Lib-Dems lost seats despite popular poll ratings.

Monday, 17 May 2010

Tameside Gauleiter Voted Out!

Britain`s longest serving council leader, Councillor Roy Oldham, is expected to stand down as the leader of Tameside Council, in Greater Manchester, after losing a leadership election yesterday. It is believed that Councillor Kieran Quinn, from Droylsden, won the support of 27 out of 46 councillors who had assembled at the Stalybridge Labour Club on Sunday to elect the leader of the council.

Despite having led Tameside Council for the last 30 years, the 75 year old councillor, failed to win the support of the Stalybridge & Hyde constituency party earlier this year, who voted to back councillor Quinn - a decision which councillor Oldham likened to a 'slap in the face.'

Over the last 30 years, councillor Oldham, has managed to thwart many attempts to oust him as leader of the council, but last year, following the death of his wife and after being diagnosed with cancer, he said that he was 'minded to stand down' as leader. This precipitated the leadership battle to replace him.

Friday, 14 May 2010

News from Spain on the Trade Union reaction to the government's austerity plan

Translation official CCOO

Given the harsh Government's adjustment plan "CCOO TRADE UNION DON'T DISCARD ANY STAGE OF MOBILIZATION" Democracy loses, the Market wins. The Market executives, the managers of the speculative economy, the Central Banks chiefs. All of them haven't been chosen by citizenship. They have grown up in the shadow of power, the murky business of financial capitalism, or simply they have been designated by the Executive. They are the same people who caused the root of the worst economic and financial crisis since the Great Depression and was accompanied by a radical liberal agenda (casino capitalism, unregulated market, speculative economy) and emerge again as a guide looking for the end of the crisis. "Those who caused the crisis mark the way out now," complains Toxo (former leader in CCOO). On Wednesday 12 May, President of the Spanish Government presented at the Congress an adjustment plan, bowing to market pressures and the European Union (EU); hitting pensioners, public employees, dependents and unemployed people. A package of measures obsessively directed to reduce public spending, while ignoring the necessary initiatives to increase revenue. One plan won't help to revive the economy and create jobs -indeed, recognized by the Government himself- and it will destroy the slight upturn in the economy, it will contract the consumption and it will make the recession longer. The stop on public investment ratifies this diagnosis.


The european dimension of this economic and financial crisis has led to plans for adjustment at the European Union. But they have been late, and these adjustments has earned the rejection of workers everywhere. CCOO Public Area (Federation) will propose to the rest of the CCOO Trade Union organization movements that will culminate in a general strike in ALL public administrations (Government, regional and local).

From Emy of National Shop Stewards' Network

El Pais headline today reports Spain's 'Unions have limited their protest to a strike of civil servants' on the 2nd, June.

Thursday, 13 May 2010

David Cameron's common touch

After the events of the past few days, we all need a bit of light relief, so what better way than to spend a few minutes taking in this re-working of Pulp's Common People.

PEOPLE'S CHARTER: Is this an alternative agenda or vain expectations?

This coming weekend the TUC Trade Union Councils' Conference 2010, will discuss the People's Charter. It calls for 'the nationalisation of banks, insurance and mortgage industries and an end to asset stripping, raids on pension funds and corporate tax loopholes.' It asks for 'more taxes on the rich; better and more jobs by [the State] investing to create employment, and a higher minimum wage; decent homes, no repossessions, rent control, and more funds for councils to build homes and buy empty properties; bringing energy, transport, water, post & communication under nationalisation; free heating & transport for pensioners, an end to child poverty & bring back education grants without fees; reintroduction of trade union rights; end cost of war & nuclear weapons, and cancel debts of poor of the planet.'

To bring about this lot, the motion says: 'it is noted that the TUC Congress 2009 agreed to build support for principles outlines in the Charter in workplaces & communities to help promote progressive policies in the Labour Party & [wait for it] to get a million signatures to show that the government must put people first. Trade Union Councils to collect a million UK signatures to show the Government it must put people first and to get MPs and local councillors, particularly but not exclusively those in the Labour Party, to back the People's Charter.'

These people haven't progressed since the 19th Century when the original Chartist Movement set out to appeal to the powers that existed then, with a petition. It represents a kind of strategy, but one that looks to the government (preferably a Labour Government) to set out an agenda, amended to include the above incoherent wish list: a potted program based on vain expectations and, in the present economic and political climate, a total illusion. A domestic colander so full of holes it is hardly worth serious consideration. It is such a weak effort, so lacking in intellectual rigour and analysis, that it merely demonstrates the absence of vision in the current UK labour movement.

Monday, 10 May 2010


THE motion before this coming Saturday's TUC National Conference of Trade Union Councils in Blackpool, from Greater Manchester Association TUCs is as follows:
'Conference notes the exposure by the Information Commisioner of an illegal database/ blacklist managed by Ian Kerr and his subsequent conviction for this in July 2009 in the Knutsford Crown Court.
'Conference calls upon the TUC to seek to urge a future government to place legislation on the statute book that amends the Employment Relations Act (1999) to make all blacklisting illegal, where companies seek to deny employment on grounds of trade union activities, or industrial action, when these stoppages are the result of safety concerns by the workforce or refusal to undertake voluntary overtime.
'Furthermore, any regulations should provided automatic compensation to any worker who has been found to have been blacklisted and that once a blacklist is found the workers' affected should have an automatic right to be informed of the fact. also any regulations drawn up should be done so to specifically exclude the possibility of 'back door blacklisting' under the guise of devious recruitment practices.'
Greater Manchester County Association TUCs

Thursday, 6 May 2010

A4E 'All 4 Emma' - Money for Old Rope!

According to a recent update by A4E (aka 'Action4Employment') of the 30,000 long-term unemployed who have been press-ganged into attending their 'Flexible New Deal' course, only 2,630 jobless have been supported into work since the scheme was launched six months ago. In an interview with the Guardian on 30th April, Emma Harrison - the CEO of the company, told the paper:
"It`s too early to measure the scheme`s success but I`m excited about the fact that 90% of those in jobs are staying in them for 13 weeks or longer - around double the level on the previous scheme." 
Last year A4E secured a 5 year £800 million contract to help run New Labour`s Flexible New Deal Scheme.

Wednesday, 5 May 2010

Wanabee an MP

Intro: Earlier this year an application for land at Springfield Park, Marland in Rochdale, for a Golf Driving Range was turned down. Recently there was a suggestion in the Rochdale Observer that there was to be a reapplication. What follows is possibly electioneering or wishful thinking or just tactics.

Yesterday Wera Hobhouse (Lib Dem candidate for Rochdale South) targeted voters in the Marland area of Rochdale, with a leaflet claiming the unpopular plan to take over one half of Springfield Park to build a Golf Driving Range has been rejected. Not true of course! As the leaflet tells the story it's just a claim by another councillor (Irene Davidson, Lib Dem) that the Cabinet is going to reject the plan after the election. Interestingly local ward councillors, Ted and Pat Flynn, don't get a mention in the leaflet. I wonder why? Do they know a bird in the hand is always worth two in the bush?

Signed: SPUD.

Tuesday, 4 May 2010

Anthropology of British Hypocrisy continued

Did Rochdalian Duffy Duff-up politics?

LAST SATURDAY, Shakespeare's shortest play The Comedy of Errors was performed before a packed audience of hundreds at Manchester Royal Exchange Theatre, while over in Peace Square a May Day Rally of all of a hundred and odd, assembled in the sun beneath a sprinkling of red flags to hear someone called Ian Allenson, and a few others, tell us how awful the Tories and the BNP are. The play is about the chaotic consequences that occur when two pairs of twins are brought together: the politics of today is about what happens when you get political triplets in suits with only different coloured ties to distinguish them.

On Sunday, in The Observer, Nick Cohen, after asking Douglas Alexander and Ed Balls, 'why left-of-centre voters should stick with Labour rather than vote Liberal-democrat' was told: 'Well, if you vote Liberal Democrat you could let the Tories take power.' Nick Cohen went on to write: 'No appeal to idealism. No vision of the future, or offer of hope. No assertion that Labour had the vitality to govern Britain for another five years, and possessed better ideas and stronger morals than the superficially plausible Mr Clegg.' This morning, both Peter Hain and Ed Balls, two leading Labour strategists, have now come out and asked voters to vote tactically to keep the Tories out.

Damage limitation is all that seems to matter now, together with sound-bites and spin, and avoidance of gaffes. Principles, standards, ideas and ideals are not being given the time of day.

Two blokes I respect at the Manchester May Day Rally, last Saturday, told me that bumbler Brown made a mistake when he apologised to Gillian Duffy for describing her as a 'bigot'. Can they have read what she said?

Gillian Duffy from up Healey in Rochdale declared: 'The three main things what I had drummed in when I was a child was education, health service and looking after people who are vulnerable. But there are too many people now who aren't vulnerable but they can claim, and people who are vulnerable can't claim, can't get it.'

Gordon Brown responded: 'but they shouldn't be doing that, there is no life on the dole for people any more. If you are unemployed you've got to work.'

Gillian Duffy: 'You can't say anything about the immigrants because you're saying that you're ... but all these eastern Europeans what are coming in, where are they flocking from?'

Since these words were uttered I've spoken to local women on the 471 & 17 buses that run between Bury and Manchester to Rochdale, and they have insisted that Mrs Duffy 'is only saying what others round here are thinking' or words to that effect.

Yet once in the 'privacy' of his car Gordon Brown's aide asked: 'What did she [Mrs Duffy] say?', to which Mr Brown replied: 'Everything, she was just a sort of bigoted woman who said she used to vote Labour.'

But it turns out that Mrs Duffy wasn't so much offended by being called a 'bigot', as when Mr Brown referred to her as 'that woman'. To the middle-classes 'bigot' is an ugly word of French origin, but 'that woman' is a categorisation device which the English white working-classes in the North of England feel profoundly, because it puts them down or as Mrs Duffy has it: 'It's as if I'm to be brushed away.' 'BRUSHED AWAY', that is what has happened to the white working-classes in the North in recent decades. The word 'bigot' is just an insult and English workers are use to insults, they insult each other all the time with great glee: yet, 'that woman' does something fundamental by packaging her and reducing Mrs Duffy to a category to be disposed of, and in the same way, as a boy, I soon learned that women up North don't like being referred to as 'she' - they will say 'Who's She? The Cat's Mother?' Mr Brown is the son of a Presbyterian minister and those kind of middle-class people with their wagging fingers often refer to others in the third-person: it gives them a sense of superiority and control. One aspect of this is those fashionable political correct people on the left who say as one bloke, who I also respect in many ways, did recently that Northern Voices by publishing a portrait of a nude by the Rochdale artist Walter Kershaw on our current front cover was, in some way, exploiting women. He didn't say we were exploiting 'a woman' - in this case Heather Brown, the artist's model at Bury Art School - he said 'exploiting women': a category. The middle-classes use these kind of devices with blind abandon and in so doing 'brush away' others who they see as essentially inferior and beneath them.