Wednesday, 30 September 2015

The Greens & Corbyn's Fetish for Growth

By Baroness Jenny Jones , Rupert Read
THE remarkable ascension of Jeremy Corbyn to the Labour leadership poses a challenge for the Green Party.  His rise delights us, both because it is a triumph of authenticity over cynical marketing, and because some of what he believes in, we believe in.
But we Greens are now going to have to make a strong case for sticking with us, rather than defecting to Corbyn-led Labour.  We can’t just appeal to 'anti-austerity' voters, or talk of combining social and environmental justice, or of pursuing the common good, because Corbyn does all that too.  So what is our positive case, in response to the Corbyn challenge?  It is to raise a series of our own challenges for Corbyn.
And we start with this simple point: Corbyn isn’t green.  Like us, you may like the fact that he is Old (rather than New) Labour.  It’s brilliant to see him triumphing over those who have sold out Labour’s heritage. The problem, though, is the same: he’s still Labour.
He still proudly believes in labour-ism.  This, in an era of precarious employment and of a reducing need for labour to be done (because of automation), an era when the security that citizens need should come simply from their being citizens, not from their jobs.
The Green Party doesn’t believe in work for the sake of it.  That is why by contrast the Green Party ultimately favours the fundamentally egalitarian measure of introducing an unconditional Citizens Income, which we would set at a level sufficient to ensure the poorest benefited.
On our housing crisis, the headlines of Corbyn’s 'solution' are basically:  build, build, build.  Greens have a much more nuanced view. The recent report from the Green House think tank, argues that: 'Instead of relying on a huge and environmentally costly building programme [as Corbyn-Labour would], we should ensure that the existing housing stock is better used; control rents and increase security in the private rented sector; discourage the purchase of housing primarily as an investment; reduce regional inequalities; and provide more affordable homes.'
One of the main arguments cannily used by the many — including pretty much everyone in Labour — who want to bulldoze our green belt, is that much of the land there is not high in biodiversity value: it is simply used for farming cereals, etc.
But Greens can knock this argument back, because we are serious about alternatives to industrial agriculture, especially the soil-destroying factory-farming of animals and cereals.
Unlike Corbyn, the Green Party places how we treat our land and soil centrally among our values and our policies.  We would also tax the ownership of land through a Land Value Tax and would reforming land-ownership radically.
That means we outflank 'Corbynomics', which basically limits economics to labour and capital. Such outdated approaches have not come to terms with planetary boundaries, with the fundamental realities, that is, of a post-growth world.   They have not, in particular, reckoned with the centrality of land as a factor of production, and as a constraint.
Corbyn has cannily angled for support from Greens. He may well have some good things to say on 'the environment'.  But what we have outlined above is why that doesn’t make him an ecologically minded thinker or leader. It doesn’t make him someone who has properly joined up his thinking. It doesn’t make him green.
And at this turning point in human history, when as a civilisation we will decide whether or not we are serious about leaving a habitable planet to our kids or not, we need to be holistic and bold in our thinking.  This meansthat achieving a just and swift transition to a post-growth society that practises one-planet-living is nothing less than essential.
For this reason, Corbyn, for all his many virtues, is in one central respect just like Tony Blair and George Osborne and many more: he is thoroughly in hock to the outdated fetish for economic growth.  He even goes so far as to favour the return of coal mining in south Wales.  And on the litmus-test issue for Greens of London-airports-expansion, he fails: like Sadiq Khan, Labour’s Mayoral candidate, he is in favour of a second runway at Gatwick.
All the warm words of Corbynian Labour on climate mean next to nothing, so long as the Labour Party remains dogmatically committed to economic growth as its number one policy objective – for it is growth that is recklessly driving environmental degradation and driving rampant and extreme levels of inequality in our society and in our world.
In summary, our challenge for Corbyn, might be cast in this way:  Will Labour oppose economic growth for the sake of it?  And oppose animal testing and factory farming?  Will opposition to nuclear power become Labour policy?  Plus outright opposition to the EU’s TTIP?
On the other hand, will Labour support CO2 targets sufficient to return us to 350ppm, support Land Value Taxation and planet-healthy organic agriculture?  Obviously, not just oppose or support them in warm vague words in some speech, but in actual votes in the House of Commons, in parliamentary committees, at PMQs, in its election manifesto?
Because even if Corbyn and Watson agree, they have the virtually impossible task of getting the rest of the Parliamentary Labour Party in line.  We suspect that the answer to virtually all the questions we have just asked is: No.
Therefore, we are delighted that there will now be a real opposition to the government, but it won’t mean we can spend more time at home with our children.  The need for the Green Party is 100% as strong and urgent as ever.
First published on on 21st September 2015

Performing 'The Crucible' in Our Everyday World

by Brian Bamford
WHO is to be included to membership and whom is to be excluded as  a member of a given community or association?  Group membership entitlement is a sociological problem, but the published program for the current performance of Arthur Miller's play 'The Crucible' now showing at Manchester's Royal Exchange observes: 
'At certain times in history, though, these weapons have been turned round to point at some of those already inside the community.  Perceived offenders against group identity have been stripped of the citizenship to which they were legally entitled.' 

We now, in the U.K., live in a society in which suspicions have been aroused about panic over paedophilia.  But in the USA in 1953, when the play was first performed, it was a moment when anyone could be brought under suspicion for signing a petition: One consequence of the McCarthyism of the 'House of Un-American Activities Committee' (1938-1969) may have been that the original Broadway production of 'The Crucible' only ran for 137 performances compared with 742 performances for Miller's previous play 'Death of a Salesman' (1949). 

By focusing on the historic mass hysteria present in the village of Salem in 1692, Miller is able to create from his indirect approach what he calls:  'The Salem tragedy developed from a paradox... a paradox in whose grip we still live.' 

As I write these words I glance at an article entitled 'An unjust inquisition' in last Saturday's Financial Times (F.T.) by Janan Ganesh, who writes: 
'In recent years Britain – sane, rigorous, legalistic Britain – has succumbed to a sexual McCarthyism, with paedophilia substituting for Soviet affiliation.' 

Thus, this performance of 'The Crucible' comes at a time when there have been unpunished cases of child abuse; some cases of which were revealed in our printed publication Northern Voices 14 in 2013, and on this NV Blog on the 13th, November 2012, hours before the Rochdale M.P. Simon Danczuk made his speech in the House of Commons about Cyril Smith and child abuse.   Mr. Danczuk was born in an area of Burnley, a town just south of the region associated with the trials of the Pendle witches in 1612, which were among the most famous witch trials in English history.  
Janan Ganesh in his F.T. feature commenting on what he calls 'the parliamentary wing of this slapdash crusade' writes: 
'The generous interpretation is that institutions which failed to act against real and heinous sexual abuses in the past are now trying too hard to atone.' 

This Royal Exchange production of 'The Crucible' seeks to use 'Brechtian-style “distancing” - inviting you to be aware of your own position as a community of spectators, witnessing the gradual destruction of the community of Salem.'  The play builds up from the first act which fixes the background and basic facts of the witch-hunt, then most of the rest of the play in Miller's play is invention.   

Jonjo O'Neill, as John Proctor in his first appearance at the Royal Exchange, wrestles with the difficulties of deciding between commitment to his wife, and the moral dilemma of betraying others in the community.  His is a brilliant performance in a play in which the individual in the end embraces the group dynamics:  it is John Proctor's effort to see himself as a good person that is the most moving part of the play.  Of the rest of the cast there is a Rachel Redford as Abigail Williams, who is revealed in the play as tempting Proctor  and then going on in Miller's version, to use the witch-hunt to present a 'marvellous cool plot to murder' Elizabeth, Proctor's wife played by Matti Houghton, and thus to have Proctor for herself by bearing false witness:  'It is a whore's vengeance, and you must see it.'   

Stephen Bottoms in his commentary in the Royal Exchange programme for the play writes:

'Nowadays, we might have some difficulty conceiving of a teenager as the less forgivable party in an affair with a married man in his 30s.' 

Strange how the times have changed since 1953.

Blacklist Support Group - October 2015 - Latest!

Blacklist Support Group

October dates for the diary:
LunchtimeUniversity of Leeds Fairbairn House, Suite A Room 1 (G.01) Clarendon Road 12pm-2pmSponsored by University of Leeds Unison and Centre for Employment Relations, Innovation and Change. EveningLeeds Beckett University, Broadcasting Place, Woodhouse Lane, BPAG10 6pm onwards.Presented by Leeds Taking Soundings (This is the ‘rusty tower’ building opposite the Fenton Pub. The room is on the groundfloor)
  • Wednesday 7th (10:30am) - Royal Courts of Justice, The Strand - Opening hearing for Pitchford public inquiry into undercover policing. Decision on whether Blacklist Support Group and other victims of police surveillance have been given 'core participant' status. Photo opportunity outside the court from 9am with Spies Out of Lives, Blacklist Support Group, Campaign Opposing Police Surveillance.  (press interviews available in advance if required) 
  • Thursday 8th - Royal Courts of Justice, The Strand - Case Management Discussion for High Court group litigation trial.
  • Throughout October & November: Townsend productions present: Ragged Trousered Philanthropists / United We Stand tour  
Leighton Buzzard, Harrogate, Peckham - with lots of celebs - if you've never seen these 2 iconic agitprop plays - don't miss this opportunity

Tuesday, 29 September 2015

Unite Drops Disciplinary Against N.V. Editor

EARLIER this month, after it was pointed out that Unite the Union had breached its own rules in its disciplinary procedures, the union decided that it 'would be inappropriate for us to continue with the Rule 27 Disciplinary, as natural justice would be very difficult under these circumstances'.  Last April, an editor of Northern Voices, Brian Bamford, who is also a Unite branch secretary, had been confronted with a complaint alleging he was 'bringing injury to or discredit upon the Union' and some of its members, by Unite's Chairman of the North West Local Authority Regional Industrial Sector Committee, Bro. Sidney Graves.  This related to a post on this Northern Voices' Blog posted in March this year, and entitled 'Unite Committee Bin's Blacklist Motion'.
Unite has apologized for its procedural 'error', and this matter is now closed.

The Economy in Microcosm

'A Long History of a Short Block'

 by Brian Bamford

IN a recent essay in the FT Weekend Magazine Tim Harford, the undercover economist, wrote that 'the nation state is a political unit, not an economic one', and while 'national authorities can impose a common interest rate, tax rates and regulations' through which political policy influences the economy, it can be argued that the natural unit of macroeconomic analysis is not the nation state, but the city, the region, and the surrounding areas.   

In posts on this NV Blog Les May has argued about the necessity of a National Health Service and national, if not international, standardisation of electrical supply such as equal voltages.  John Desmond has argued that a more local system would be possible in certain circumstances referring to Spanish sources  (see below Review of Anarchist Voices by Les May and other related posts).
New research by three development economists, William Easterly, Laura Freschi and Steven Pennings has produced a paper 'A Long History of a Short Block' in which they examined the economic development of a single 486ft. block of Greene Street between Houston and Prince Street in downtown Manhattan.  Easterly is well known for his scepticism about how much development can ever be planned, and how much credit can political leaders and their so-called expert advisers claim when things go well. 

William Easterly argues:

'Here's a block where there is no leader; there's no president or prime minister of this block', and Greene Street, he says, offers us a perspective on the more spontaneous, decentralised features of economic development.   

The study of the history of Greene Street offers a series swift and surprising changes.  The Dutch colonised Manhattan in 1624, but decided to cede what is now New York to the British in 1667, in exchange for guarantees over the possession of what is now Suriname in Latin America.  At that time this sugar-rich region looked a good thing, but now New York City's economy is a hundred times bigger than Suriname's. 

In 1850, Greene Street was a prosperous residential district with some households that would be millionaires by today's standards.  Two large hotels and a theatre opened, and prostitutes started to  move into the area.  By 1870, the middle-classes had shifted, and the block became the heart of New York City's largest sex-work districts. 

Towards the end of the 19th century, perhaps because property values in the red-light area were low, entrepreneurs came in to build large cast-iron stores and warehouses for the garment trade.  Then Greene Street's luck ran out when this industry moved uptown after 1910, and property values collapsed.  Urban planners in the 1940s and 1950s suggested bulldozing the area and starting again, but a campaign by the neighbourhood successfully resisted this.  Property values revived as artists began to colonised Greene Street enticed-in by the low priced large and airy spaces.   

As a lesson of this Tim Harford suggests that getting the 'basic infrastructure right –  streets, water, sanitation, policing – is a good idea', but 'aggressive planning, knocking down entire blocks in response to temporary weakness, is probably not.'   In this sense central planning and predicting the process of economic development at a local level is 'a game for suckers'. 

Friday, 25 September 2015

Simon Danczuk & E-mail 'Smear'

SIMON Danczuk, the Rochdale M.P., insists he knows nothing about an e-mail that is said to have originated from his office.  The e-mail sent in 2012 was claimed to 'smear' a Labour Party rival, Colin Lambert, the former leader of Rochdale Council and Heywood Councillor.  The e-mail has now been handed over to police officers working on the Operation Clifton Enquiry into aspects of the historic child abuse case.

Mr. Danczuk claims he has no knowledge of the e-mail, and says it was not sent from his office.  Suggestions that he knew were, he said:  'completely and utterly groundless'.

This matter is now the basis of a complaint to the National Labour Party Executive Committee from the neighbouring Heywood and Middleton constituency Labour Party.  Councillor Lambert has said that he has been the target of a 'vile smear campaign' within the Labour Party. 

Meanwhile, a Labour party spokesman has said:  'It would be inappropriate to comment on an on-going police investigation.'

Operation Clifton is examining the e-mail as part of the evidence it has gathered in the last two years.  Some of us at Northern Voices assisted in the enquiry earlier this year.

Thursday, 24 September 2015

Housing & Communication Worker's Union

CWU housing campaign: Housing for All
THE Communications Worker's Union (CWU) has today (Wednesday) launched the next phase of its housing campaign 'Homes for All'.
The campaign compliments and strengthens other initiatives such as Generation Rent’s Queen’s Speech for Housing and the TUC Young Workers Housing Charter, both endorsed by the CWU.
General secretary Dave Ward said; “The housing crisis has become a humanitarian issue for our society and a whole generation of young people. We have seen this coming for years and the current situation will take no-one by surprise – the question now is whether there is the political will to address it.
'The CWU is calling for action to deal with all of the different aspects of the problem. In particular we need to see more homes being built – not for people to let, but for people to live in – and time should be called on bad landlords and letting agents when homes aren’t fit to live in.'
The union is calling on members to support the campaign by sharing their housing details and horror stories on a campaign website.  'We last surveyed our members at the end of 2012,' said national officer Simon Sapper, 'so we need to see to what extent the national pattern of increasing dependence on rented accommodation, especially for younger workers, is reflected in our members.'
The CWU campaign also asks members to lobby their MPs to support Karen Buck, Labour MP for Westminster North’s,  Private Members’ Bill which is due to have its second reading in the House of Commons on 16th October. The Homes (Fit For Human Habitation) Bill aims to drag the consumer protection rights of tenants into the 21st century.
Dave Ward added:
'There is a now widespread recognition that we need to deal with what is now a national emergency. Our young members need homes to live in and our older ones need homes for their children and grandchildren.  This is not revolutionary politics - just common sense.'
For more information and to get involved, visit Housing for All. (

'The martyrdom of Simon Danczuk'

Les May
SIMON Danczuk's bid to be seen as a martyr sacrificed to the 'extremists' in the Labour party needs to be taken with a large pinch of salt. He's hawked his story about 'far-left' supporters of Jeremy Corbyn trying to 'silence' him and drum him out of the party to Sky News, the Sun and the Daily Mail.  Whether he has been paid for his  comments we'll find out in a month or so when he next makes a declaration in the House of Commons Register of Members Interests.
Danczuk is a self proclaimed Labour 'moderate' which makes anyone who criticises him an 'extremist'.  So what are Danczuk's 'moderate' policies which he thinks the Labour party should be following?  They seem to consist of three things: break Labour's links with the Trades Unions; plug the funding gap by saying the sorts of things which the very wealthy will find comfortable thus ensuring they will make donations to the Labour party; talk about the policies which will generate a favourable write up in the Sun and the Daily Mail.  Which leaves unanswered the question of just how Labour would differ from the Tories.
This recent flurry of activity by Danczuk seems to have its origins in the response to his promoting a Sun story about Corbyn and the IRA which had been retracted by The Times in 1987, in the discovery of an e-mail smearing Colin Lambert the ex-leader of Rochdale council which seems to have been sent by his aide Matt Baker and which is claimed to have originated in Danczuk's constituency office, and the fact that last Friday Heywood and Middleton’s constituency Labour party passed a motion agreeing to complain to the National Executive Committee about Danczuk's alleged conduct.
But don't write Danczuk off just yet.  In the past he has shown a remarkable capacity for being able to pull a new rabbit from the hat when things begin to look a bit difficult.  In May 2014 it was announced that he would give evidence to the Home Affairs Select Committee about what he had written about Cyril Smith in 'Smile for the Camera'.  Danczuk said, 'he welcomed the opportunity to explain why he’d written the book'.  He was still peddling this line in mid June.
But a week before he was due to appear on 1st, July he changed his tune and told the 'Independent on Sunday' that if he were asked by anyone on the Select Committee he would name a living parliamentarian as being involved in paedophilia.  In the event out came his story that after a late vote a Tory minister stepped out of the shadows to confront him and warn him against doing so. And with a single bound he was free!  That was the news next day.  He no longer had to run the risk of an inquisitive MP asking him whether he had any proof of his assertions about Smith's activities.
In October 2014, I wrote to Danczuk to ask how many men he had interviewed before writing his book who claimed to have been abuse by Smith after the closure of Cambridge House in the mid 1960s.  I'm still waiting for an answer.  Later in the month one of the editors of Northern Voices put the same question to Danczuk and Baker after a book reading in the ill fated 'Danczuk's Deli'. Question still unanswered the fragrant Karen ushered him out of the door for his pains.
Anyone feel like starting a petition to press Danczuk for an answer? provokes-storm-of-criticism-for-wrongly-accusing-jeremy-corbyn-of-trying-to-support-terrorism recruiter=178516679&utm_source=share_petition&utm_medium=twitter&utm_campaign=share_twitter_responsive  

The Humbug of Simon Danczuk

Les May
DURING the 2010 General Election campaign Gordon Brown came to Rochdale to support Labour hopeful Simon Danczuk.  He ended up making some unwelcome headlines for himself as a result of the 'bigotgate' incident which seemed to do Labour no harm whatsoever as Danczuk won the seat.
Mr D's comment about this was, ‘He hasn’t apologised to me at any stage. You’d have thought he would. I’d have said sorry if I were him.’   Keep that last sentence in mind!
After the publication of 'his' book, (it seems to have mostly been written by his aide Matt Baker), in April 2014, politics in Rochdale became dominated by one thing: demands by the Danczuk camp followers that the Lib-Dems should 'apologise' for Cyril Smith.  There's that word again.
This was of course a trap. Had they done so it would have been a tacit admission that the claims in the book about Smith's activities after the closure of Cambridge House in the mid 1960s were true and it would have neatly removed the problem of the authors being asked to prove their claims.  If you read the book you soon realise that they amount to little more than gossip, innuendo and assertions by Danczuk and Baker.  
What is beyond doubt, because the allegations were published in Rochdale Alternative Paper (RAP) in May 1979 when Smith was very much alive, is that at Cambridge House he carried out a number of indecent assaults whilst he was still a member of the Labour Party.  The late Mr Roger Chadwick has placed on record that he gave information about these to the then Labour Agent Josh Hughes. There were of course no demands from Danczuk that his party 'apologise'.
In April of this year Simon was calling for Director of Public Prosecutions Alison Saunders to 'apologise', (there's that word again!), over previous decisions by the Crown Prosecution Service not to prosecute Lord Janner.  Decisions made some ten years ago when she was not in the post.
Two weeks ago Danczuk was on the Daily Politics programme insisting that Ed Milliband has a lot to 'apologise' for, (it's getting monotonous Simon), and would 'probably go down as one of the worst Labour party leaders in history'.
But what happens when the boot is on the other foot and it's Simon Danczuk who is told to apologise?
On pages 221 and 222 of his book is a typical Danczuk story about Smith. In recounting this story he forgot the collateral damage being caused to the reputation of the Northamptonshire Police.
'His car had been pulled over on the motorway and officers had found a box of child porn in his boot.  The police were naturally disgusted and wanted to press charges.  But then a phone call was made from London and he was released without charge.
'Senior officers had threatened the officers involved with dismissal if he was not released immediately. The mood was tense and sullen as officers stood back while Cyril breezily walked past them to freedom. All the staff who knew about it were threatened with the Official Secrets Act if they discussed the matter any further. Once again Cyril walked out of the police station knowing he was a protected man.'
A totally convincing story,  but totally untrue.  How do we know?  Because detectives have interviewed Danczuk, two former chief constables, about 60 police staff, a journalist who has written extensively about Smith, and several members of the public.  No witness has been found who saw Smith in custody or was involved in his arrest, no reports of the alleged incident have been uncovered and no witnesses have been found from Special Branch.  A manual trawl of its archives was undertaken by Special Branch and the Crown Prosecution Service searched its archives for relevant information.  Both found nothing.
So far as I know this is the only one of Danczuk's stories that has been subject to scrutiny. I leave it to your imagination to figure out how much it has cost to find out the truth about it just because he and Baker could not be bothered to check it out before committing it to print.
Speaking on the BBC regional programme 'Look East' the Police and Crime Commissioner (PCC) for Northamptonshire Adam Simmonds said the force had been 'maligned' by Mr Danczuk adding, ‘The force should expect an apology.  Northamptonshire Police are not guilty of covering up a crime and indeed letting someone go on to perpetrate more.’So now it's Danczuk's turn to apologise.  Does he?  No, he demands something which is logically impossible, that the police 'disprove' his claim.
But the killer line is what PCC Adam Simmonds said next, ‘Everything in that book's got to be evidence-led and -based, otherwise you are alerting people to the wrong information.’ There's a lot of 'wrong information' in Danczuk's book because overwhelmingly it is not based on evidence.  The false story about improper behaviour by Northamptonshire police with regard to Cyril Smith is just one of the ways in which he tries to conjure up a conspiracy to protect Smith. 
Danczuk is good at demanding other people 'apologise' but when he gets it very wrong he refuses to do it himself.   The man is a Humbug.

(Do watch this video and see Tom Baldwin make Danczuk squirm. His ever reddening face is a picture to behold.)

Monday, 21 September 2015

An evening of music and song - Mayfied Sports Centre, Castleton.

On Saturday 3 October, several Rochdale Folk musicians will gather at Mayfield Sports Centre, Castleton for an evening of music & song. The event is one of over 200 nationwide gigs under a 'We Shall Overcome banner, to show solidarity with people and organizations affected by the Austerity cuts and to raise donations for Rochdale Food-Bank. Organizers are local musicians Paul Cunningham & Gerry O'Gorman (see pic). 

Rochdale, along with other North West towns, has been hit by cuts to jobs & services, wages & living standards, resulting in increased financial struggles for many families. The aim of theWSO gig is for musicians to show opposition to the cuts and help people at the sharp end of poverty in the town. It's a free gig but we'd really appreciate it if people brought food items & donations for the food-bank, to the gig, which will be collected on the night.

Wednesday, 16 September 2015

The possibility of anarchist healthcare

John Desmond
LES May asks eight questions in his response to my post. I hope that he doesn’t mind if I confine myself to answering only seven questions that are answerable in this blog. The question that isn’t answerable is whether a model for the provision of healthcare that is based upon local organizations would provide better healthcare than the NHS model.  Unfortunately, this question isn’t answerable because it implies too many variables. In short, it is too complex. That said; I am genuinely grateful to Les May for raising his questions because answering them has required me to test robustly my ideas.  
The first question is: ‘What advantages did the Tredegar Medical Aid Society have for the people of Tredegar?’  I think that the observation by Paddy French (1999) that I quoted in my previous post affords an answer to this question:  
‘In five decades more and more of Tredegar’s medical services are provided further and further away from the town while control becomes ever more remote.’  
The second, third, fourth and fifth questions are: 
2. ‘Will [the solution of the Tredegar Medical Aid Society] “scale”?’ 
3. ‘does this solution still work when the problem gets larger?’
4. ‘What might it look like here?’
5. ‘What would a network look like?’
Answers to these questions can be drawn from many publications, the large majority of which, predictably enough, appear to relate to Spanish revolutionary anarchism. Two books by a contemporary observer, Gaston Leval (1990, originally 1952: 122-127) and (1975: 268-273), the respected French anarcho-syndicalist, are a useful starting point. In his books, Leval was able to describe only in very broad terms the provision of healthcare for Catalonia, the population for which was then 2.5 million. However, fortunately, Xavier Ferrandis (2014) describes in detail the provision of healthcare in Valencia during the first months of the civil war in his lengthy article (which is available online and translatable with Google Translate). 

The sixth and seventh questions are:
6. ‘Would an organisation like TMAS be able to adapt to our era of “Big Medicine”?’ 
7. ‘Would a network of TMAS be able to provide [scans and knee replacements]?’
Two references about these questions might be helpful. First, Leval (1975) mentioned that ‘the cantonal Comités on the federal principle, had ramifications in Barcelona which had greater technical facilities and specialised establishments, [than the nine large sectors of the region]’ (op. cit.: 269). Second, Iain McKay (2012: 918-920) examines in Volume Two of his encyclopedic ‘An Anarchist FAQ’ the issue about whether technological advance should be seen as anti-anarchistic. By ‘technological advance’, he includes that which relates to medical technology. His examination of the issue elaborates his answer ‘Not necessarily’.  
Of course, my answers would be insufficient without an acknowledgement of the need for a critical mass of people who can be confidently relied upon to organize the provision of anarchist healthcare. Unfortunately, in Britain not only does such a critical mass not exist but also there is no indication of its likely emergence. (So much for the supposed existence of a movement.)  However, the absence of a critical mass need not induce paralyzing pessimism.  Instead, it can afford an opportunity to reflect upon why this negative situation exists, which will require a demanding examination of the past.     

John Desmond

Ferrandis, Xavier García. 2014. Anarcosindicalismo y sanidad en la retaguardia y en el Frente. Los casos de Valencia y de la Columna de Hierro en la guerra civil Española (1936-1937). Asclepius. 66 (2): PO63, doi:
French, Paddy. 1999. Raiders of the Lost Ark. Planet The Welsh Internationalist. April/May (134). 35-39.
Leval, Gaston. 1990. The socialisation of health services. In Chapter 7 of ‘The anarchist collectives’. Edited by Sam Dolgoff. Montréal: Black Rose Books.
Leval, Gaston. 1975. Collectives in the Spanish Revolution. Translated from the French by Vernon Richards. London: Freedom Press. 
McKay, Iain. 2012. An Anarchist FAQ: Volume Two. Edinburgh: AK Press.

Anarchist Answers?: Les May on John Desmond

Les May
A few weeks ago someone I had known in the early sixties died. I had read a recent article by him and smiled that he was still the unrepentant Marxist I had known fifty odd years ago.  It was simply an article of faith to him that Marxism was the best political system yet devised.  I don't think that any amount of empirical evidence to the contrary would ever have made him doubt it.

If we search for evidence that libertarian solutions are better than authoritarian solutions, can we find it?  Or is it just an article of faith that they are simply 'better'?

My experience is mixed. They seem to work best when they are spontaneous, have a definite aim and a limited life span. They attract the 'do-ers' not the 'be-ers'.  I have been involved with two of these, one in 1988 and the other in 1995.  One succeeded in its aims, the other didn't.

The Tredegar Medical Aid Society was clearly not a small undertaking if it really did cater for the (then) medical needs of some 20,000 people.  The present population is 15,000 so that figure might be an exaggeration.  That is about the size of town I lived in during the 1960s.  It had a cottage hospital at that time.

Other than the fact that it was not state run and the NHS is, what advantages did TMAS have for the users?  In addition it was not inclusive in that the individual had to join.  My mother was illiterate and poor.  I ask myself would she have joined?

Will this solution 'scale'? I don't mean 'economies of scale' but does this solution still work when the problem gets larger?  I live in a town of about 95,000.  If I add in the two adjacent towns which are administratively included the total is about 200,000. What might it look like here?  What would a network look like? Would it provide better health care than the NHS model?

Would an organisation like TMAS be able to adapt to our era of 'Big Medicine'?
In the 1930s doctors had a very limited range of drugs at their disposal.  Until the advent of sulphonamides, and later antibiotics, there were very few if any antibacterials available. The surgical procedures which were possible were limited.

My brother has had a number of PET scans (Positron Emission Tomography).  My sister and two of my friends have had replacement hips, my brother in law has had a replacement knee...  I'll stop there!  Would a network of TMAS be able to provide this?

So far as I am concerned the 'anarchist' answer to health lies in the hands of each of us; don't smoke, don't drink too much, don't do drugs, don't eat too much and don't sit on your backside all day.

Tell people this and they will complain 'nanny state', but still expect 'nanny' to make them better when they get sick.

Can anyone suggest what a 'libertarian' waste disposal solution would look like for a town like Rochdale?  If it got the unrecyclable waste bin emptied every two weeks not every three weeks it would make 'libertarian' solutions very popular in the town.   

John Desmond Replies to Les May

John Desmond
AT the end of his review (of the journal Anarchist Voices), Les (May) asks ‘What would a Wardian NHS be like’
Colin discussed the NHS on pages 13 to 15 of his 1996 book ‘Social Policy’ published by Freedom Press.  He returned to the subject on pages 27 to 29 in his 2004 book ‘Anarchism’.  This book was his contribution to the ‘Very Short Introductions’ series published by Oxford University Press.  In both books, Colin rejected the NHS.  Colin did not write anything remotely similar to the assertion by Jeff Cloves, his obituarist, on page 9 of the 13th March 2010 issue of ‘Freedom’ (71 [4]) that ‘There can be no finer expression of mutuality than the NHS ….’ 
On page 15 of ‘Social Policy’, after discussing the Tredegar Medical Aid Society, Colin asked the question:  ‘Why didn’t the whole country become, not one big Tredegar, but a network of Tredegars?’  On page 28 of ‘Anarchism’, again after discussing the Tredegar Medical Aid Society, Colin expanded upon his question by observing: 
'Anarchists cite this little, local example of an alternative approach to the provision of health care to indicate that a different style of social organization could have evolved.’  
Paddy French echoed Colin’s observation in his little gem of an article ‘Raiders of the Lost Ark’ about the Tredegar Medical Aid Society on page 37 of the April/May 1999 (134: 35-39) issue of ‘Planet The Welsh Internationalist’:  
‘The society has … watched as local influence on the [NHS] withered away.  In five decades more and more of Tredegar’s medical services are provided further and further away from the town while control becomes ever more remote.’ 

Tuesday, 15 September 2015


'Serbia's October Revolution'

The article below was written in January 2001 by Brian Bamford
then working as Northern Editor for Freedom, and was first published on the
  A - I N F O S  N E W S  S E R V I C E 
 after being sent to them on Sun, 25 Feb 2001 from Madrid by
Chris Robinson, a Canadian anarchist then linked
to the Spanish anarcho-syndicalist trade union CGT trade union. 
It was published on that site after having been rejected by
Freedom then edited by Toby Crow, a friend of Donald Rooum. 
The article below is of some interest now because Serbia is now on
the route to Hungary being followed by many of the refugees from
WAS the storming of Belgrade by enraged citizens of Serbia in October of 2000 really a piece of showmanship comparable with the script in Eisenstein's film October?  Some independent writers in the Belgrade press and the Belgrade anarchists are sceptical about some of the more theatrical scenes portrayed in the media, with crowds leaping up the steps of the Federal Parliament and flames flaring from the television studio RTS on October 5 2000 while the NEWS cameras whirled. 

What the Belgrade anarchists are cautioning is that people should distinguish between those features of the Serbian October revolt which were orchestrated and those that were spontaneous. And if stage management occurred who was behind it? 

My main contact in Belgrade, Vladimir Markovic, called what happened on the final day the Agit-Prop Revolution". He urged us to consider the stagecraft and media management used to arouse in the public mind the idea that something world shattering was happening - something like a 'revolution'. On reflection, he and other Belgrade anarchists feel the events of October 5th, with the change of rulers of the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia, though  necessary and overdue were less significant than the media images suggest.   


The Belgrade anarchists do not just base their doubts about the degree of  political change in Yugoslavia after October on their own anarchist dogma.  They are employing practical reasoning and straightforward observation of the groups, parties and individuals acting in Serb society. 

They are keenly aware of the entrenched nature of the economy which has evolved since the West imposed sanctions in 1992. And because they have insights into the developments in the regime which go beyond the websites and newsprint, they know what to expect from opposition leaders like the Federal President, Vojislav Kostunica and Zoran Djindic the boss of the DOS (Democratic Opposition of Serbia) coalition. More importantly for anarchists, they have grave misgivings about 'Otpor' (Resistance) in which many anarchists outside Serbia have had high hopes.

The British anarchist paper Freedom ran in October (2000) a front page report stating:
'The biggest catalyst for change ... has been the movement known as Otpor (Resistance), a leaderless (and for that matter anarchistic) organisation, with no formal membership.' 
Ratibor Trivunac disputed this in his Summary of the General Strike in Serbia, in October last year. When I spoke to Vladimir Markovic, Ratibor's friend and another Belgrade anarchist,  he confirmed Ratibor's criticisms and gave me an outline of the nature of Otpor. 

Otpor was founded in 1998 and was made up mainly of students. It claims to be a 'leaderless movement'. Markovic admits that as an organisation in the universities Otpor was a useful campaigning group to begin with, and it still has decent people among its members. But Markovic claims the organisation does have senior figures in it who lead the organisation, and that this leadership is composed of about ten key individuals. 

These star figures, it is suggested, work closely with both elements within the party system of the new regime and co-operate with foreign agencies. I wasn't given hard facts, the local anarchists in Belgrade are in the main working on hunches here. Their claim that the US authorities are linked to the Otpor leaders can only be speculation. What they do argue persuasively is that here is an organisation which seems to be well funded, and had no trouble mounting expensive protests during the era of Milosevic and his Socialist Party of Serbia. Markovic argues that eventually Otpor got backing from people inside the Milosevic establishment, from media people and from people in the opposition parties. 

Inside Otpor Markovic says the Council of Otpor operates. He says this is made up of professors from the universities and members of the Academy of Arts and Sciences. The novelist and politician, Dobrica Cosic, has links with this Council of Otpor. Cosic was President of Yugoslavia in 1992 and 1993. He has long been a promoter of the idea of the culture of Serb nationalism.

Misha Glenny, in his book The Fall of Yugoslavia (1992) claimed 'Cosic and some like-minded academics from the Serbian Academy of Sciences had been behind a notorious document called the Memorandum - in 1986 - (t)his bitter attack on the Kosovo policy of the then Communist authorities anticipated the atmosphere of national intolerance which was about to smother reason in Yugoslavia.'  

Curiously both Misha Glenny, the BBC journalist, and Vladimir Markovic, the Belgrade anarchist, identify the intellectuals at the Academy as being the chief culprits culturally creating the conditions of new Serb nationalism.

Misha Glenny argues 'The Memorandum (of 1986) both prepared the ideological ground for Milosevic by focusing public opinion yet more tightly on the Kosovo issue and indicated to this ambitious apparatchik that here was a real base among intellectuals for a nationalist assault .. '

Some anarchists, like most Marxists, are intellectual snobs who focus readily on the politician's dirty hands but who avert their eyes from the vanities of the ideas merchant who creates the cultural conditions in which the politician works. Vladimir Markovic was one of those anarchists who wanted to stress the danger of what George Orwell called The Dictatorship of Theorists.

Here we have the image of the intellectuals at the Serbian Academy of Arts and Sciences and theologians in the Serb Orthodox Church sowing, while politicians like Milosevic merely reaped. Markovic maintains that the Serb intellectuals were the dogmatic nationalists, and the politicians practical people at once more utilitarian and pragmatic. But it was these practical men who ended up with dirt on their hands. Meanwhile the illustrious theorists, like Dobrica Cosic, at the Academy and in the church go on to sow more seeds.


The Balkans, with its legacy from the Ottomans and the Hapsburgs, is often seen as a bridge between East and West. This seems to be important to understanding what is going on in the new governments of the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia and the Serb Republic and, importantly, in Otpor.

The theorists of Otpor, according to my informants in the Belgrade anarchists, have developed their ideas rooted in ancient attitudes and hatreds of all things they see as being 'Eastern'. These ideologues are stirring up the concept of a culture clash in Serbia between two traditions - one eastern, the other western.Vladimir Markovic calls this Cultural Racism; the dichotomy is thus defined:

An alien Asian, oriental culture which was introduced by the Turks in the 14th century and continued by Tito in the 20th century. Crudely classified as 'Oriental Despotism', an era of Turks, Sultans and Communist Commissars, belonging to a history which the Serbs should shed, together with the music and way of life that goes with it, like dead skin. 

The Otpor idea is that Serbian 'real' culture is Western, European and of the Enlightenment, but curiously it also embraces the Serbian Orthodox Church as part of this tradition. This approach proposes the spirit of individual enterprise and liberal values in contrast to Muslim and Middle Eastern ideas and values. This, according to Markovic, is a Western Enlightenment vision at once intolerant, totalitarian and ignorant.   

Let us consider the sinister sequence of events which started in 1986 with the Memorandum; in April 1987 Slobodan Milosevic made his dramatic speech at Kosovo Polje which one Kosovo Serb, Miroslav Soljevic later said 'enthroned him as a Tsar'; on May 8th 1989 Milosevic assumed the presidency of Serbia, but timed the ceremony to coincide with the 600th anniversary of the Battle of Kosovo, which took place on June 28th at Gazimestan on the battlefield in front of all Yugoslavia's top politicians and an audience of one million.   

The Memorandum was put together by academics at the Serbian Academy of Arts and Sciences, some then in the Serbian Communist Party (now re-named the Socialist Party of Serbia); today some of these same people, like Dobrica Cosic, are now influentially linked to Otpor and the Democratic Opposition of Serbia (DOS). In an essay written last June, entitled 'The Serbian opposition during and after the NATO bombing', Vladimir Ilic warns us about the efforts of the then opposition to the Milosevic regime to recruit 'elite' figures from the University, Writers' Union, Academy of Arts and Sciences.

He says 'These institutions were the ideological strongholds of ethnic nationalism in Serbia and gave a big contribution to the creation of the  phenomenon that is most frequently coupled to Milosevic's name.'   

What the Belgrade anarchists and other critics are now arguing is that, with the fall of Milosevic regime and development of the new system dominated by the Democratic Opposition of Serbia, Serb politics is undergoing metamorphosis. This is the kind of change which occurs when the maggot becomes a bluebottle. Thus Serbian intellectuals at the Academy of Arts and the Universities, who previously influenced the Serbian Socialist system of Milosevic, are now admired by the elements in the new regime of Kostunica and Djindic, and among the supporters of Otpor (Resistance). 

Markovic illustrated this by describing an Otpor demo last year in his in southern Serbia.  At that demo the organisers invoked the epic poem The Mountain Wreath, declaring:

Have done with minarets and mosques!

Let flare the Serbian Christmas-log;

Paint gaily too the eggs for Easter-tide;

Observe with care the Lent and Autumn Fasts,

And for the rest - do what is dear to thee!

It continues in a warlike tone:

Though broad enough Cetinje Plain,

No single seeing eye, no tongue of Turk,

Escap'd to tell his tale another day!

We put them all unto the sword,

All those who would not be baptiz'd; .

We put to fire the Turkish houses,

That there might be nor stick nor trace

Of these true servants of the Devil!

Now however suitable this kind of literary epic may be in seminars at the Academy, one wonders if it is seemly that it should be profiled at a political function in Nis. Least of all at a gathering of Otpor, who some claim has libertarian and anarchistic credentials, and many credit with contributing to the popular overthrow of Milosevic and the Socialist Party of Serbia (SPS),. Time Judah writes in his book 'The SERBS - History, Myth & the Destruction of Yugoslavia' " . it is essential to understand that many Bosnian Serbs went to war in 1992 elated and in the spirit of . The Mountain Wreath.'


Under the Tito regime the ethnic elites in Yugoslavia sought to restrain the nationalism of their various regions. In June 1968 there was uproar at Belgrade University as it followed in the trail of events in Paris, Prague and other places that summer. The Belgrade student strikes focused on conditions at first, but quickly became political. Authoritarianism, unemployment and the Vietnam war were denounced, but there was no sign of Serb nationalism. Much of the inspiration came from the philosophy faculty of Mihailo Markovic and others associated with Praxis, the liberal Marxist journal.  

Initially Tito declared his backing for the students. He went on TV and protested that the nation's bureaucracy had obstructed the common aims he shared with the students. Two weeks after the students surrendered the University, Tito demanded the sacking of Markovic and others in the philosophy department on grounds that they were corrupting the country's youth.

Some of today's anarchists in Belgrade trace their history back to those events in 1968. By the 1970s Zoran Djindic, now leader of the governing coalition in Serbia - the DOS - became an anarchist and remained so for about 10 years. Today younger people are in evidence among the Belgrade anarchists.
Some of these young anarchists and anarcho-syndicalists are wary of the students in Otpor and the whole university scene. Ratibor Trivunac claims:

'Otpor is a nationalistic, neo-liberal organisation which is led by a few organisers . , they are also funded by western countries.'  

Even in 1991, Misha Glenny describes how the politicians were using the students:  
'I bumped into Zoran Djindic organising his student battalions.  Djindic was in his element - a leading and respectable D.S. (Democratic Party) parliamentarian, he had never been able to discard his Marcusian memories gained as a disciple of the Frankfurt School.'  
The political writings of the anarchist academic, Noam Chomsky, had been selectively published under the Milosevic regime to justify its own case against the west. In such publications Chomsky was not identified as a libertarian socialist.

These Belgrade anarchists now look to the workers' movement and some of the trade unions as a focus of resistance to the new DOS regime of Djindic and Kostunica. To them the General Strike and the spontaneous actions of workers in the coal mines, at Cacak and in Belgrade, were crucial to the final overthrow of Milosevic. They see the more photogenic scenes outside the Federal Parliament on October 5th, 2000 as largely froth.

The Belgrade anarchists are seeking a meeting with Branislav Canak, President of 'NEZAVISNOST' - United Branch Trade Unions (UGS). This union federation has 157,000 members based in engineering, education, public utilities, transport, agriculture and mining. Canak himself voiced his backing for the demonstrations in Seattle against global capitalism. The fairytales which the Belgrade anarchists are challenging are: the 'anarchistic' credentials of Otpor; the 'revolutionary' status of the new regime and the nature of its transformation, which they would liken to metamorphosis; and the 'radical' role of the intellectuals in Serbian society. The Balkan experience ought to warn us all against absurd generalisations and cookbook critiques drafted in a rush on far-flung  campuses to prop-up some grand theory of global politics. 


Northern Editor of Freedom UK, January 2001

Brian Bamford on Jim Petty

Seventy people or more attended the
Remembrance Service of James Petty
at Saint Alban the Martyr Anglican
Catholic Church in Salford, last Saturday.

I have reason to be eternally grateful  to Jim Petty, for over a decade ago he rendered a great service to me and my family, when he performed a funeral service for my Aunty Betty at Rochdale Crematorium. 

He did it as a 'Foreigner', as a job on the side or as the Spaniards say:  'Por Gratis!' or as some say 'A Thank you job'. 

That sums up the spirit of Jim Petty:  for whether we call Jim Petty an Anglican, or an Anglo-Catholic or the Father of Northern Anarchism, we haven't begun to describe his nature as a man and human being.  Radical anarchism and human decency grew in his soul as a remarkable human being.

 His early interest in politics was at one time  in the Labour Party, but he never voted Labour after the 1970s.  Though he later he joined the Independent Labour Party (ILP), and was active as a shop steward  in both textiles, where he worked as a stripper and grinder,  and later at Lucas as SHOP STEWARD in engineering.





During this last twelve months Jim had been interested about the campaign of Tameside Trade Union Council in against the blacklist in the British building trade.  Particularly the Tameside TUC book 'Boys on the Blacklist'He told me only recently that when he'd been working at Lucas Aerospace that a bloke had come into the office and asked Jim if he could see the manager.  Jim had asked him why, and the bloke said:  'Do you know that you've got a man called Petty working here?' 

He then proceeded to outline a black-balling account of Jim's history as a trade union activist, not knowing who in fact he was talking to.   

But Jim had many interests, many causes to support, and wasn't just the bosses that wanted to to blacklist him for he had difficulties with his own unions;  the Transport & General Workers Union and earlier, in textiles, in the National Union of Textile & Allied Union.  Beyond that he was even ostracised by some of his own comrades in the Solidarity Federation and the Anarchist Federation. 

In 2003, Jim Petty was one of the people who went on to found the publication Northern Voices.  In the first issue of that journal that he wrote a six-page article entitled 'Labour's Unacceptable Architects of Urban Squalor'  about the Burnley riots of 2001; this was about the indefensible politics of race in Burnley. 

Then, in 2012, he enjoyed writing about the Burnley Liberal M.P., Philip Morel, who had bravely opposed the First World War in 1914.   Of the town itself, he wrote in Northern Voices in 2005:

'Burnley is decaying under the aegis of Burnley Labour Party's modern politics.'  And being asked by me in 2008 'How he reconciled being an anarchist with he religious convictions?' ,  Jim said: 'No problem!' and continued to say 'The basic idea of Christ was anarchism and to share all things in common.'  He then went on to describe the ideas of Gerrard Winstley from Wigan, where there is a Digger's Festival today!  Jim went on to refer me to the Bishop of Alba's ideas in Spain:  what some call the Holy Land of anarchism. 

When the Englishman Gerald Brenan wrote his book 'The Spanish Labyrith' he wrote about the attacks on the Roman Catholic Church by the anarchists and he wrote:

'In the eyes of the anarchists the Roman Catholic Church occupies the position of the anti-Christ in the Christian world.  They see the Roman Catholic priesthood as the fountain of all evil...'

And Brenan tells us to remember our own history  arguing 'one might describe anarchism as the Spanish protestant or protesting heresy which in the 16th and 17th centuries saved Spain.' 

And however violent these 'anarchists may be, Cromwell's independents were violent too, they speak the same language of love of liberty, of dependence upon the inner light that Englishmen used to do.'

This year, Jim Petty said that he didn't feel up to writing in the latest edition of Northern Voices.  He had written something in every other issue of the paper over the last dozen years or so. 

He was a very kind man and he told me shortly before he died that we ought to be very proud of Northern Voices.  I don't know about that, but I am proud to have known Jim Petty from Burnley; the Anarchist and Anglican.