Friday, April 23, 2010

Move to Wordpress

I've decided to move this blog to It's better, it's really that simple, although I do have other reasons.

Check it out.

Friday, April 2, 2010

The Pope: A Cunt or and Even Bigger Cunt?

Joseph Ratzinger has come under fire for his involvement in the covering-up and thus enabling of the rape and sexual abuse of children within the Roman Catholic Church. It says a lot about a man when such a severe crime, one which alone would tempt me to call for the return of the death penalty, can be said to be among his most minor.

While the 'abuse', and I do so thoroughly hate the way that euphemism is used when the crime in question tends to be rape, of young children (particularly boys) monopolises the headlines, the crimes of this organisation, and Ratzinger's cover-ups, go far beyond this. 95% of people who are the victims of 'sexual abuse' at the hands of RC priests are adult women. A peer-review study conducted in 2003 found that 3.1% of regular female congregants were the victims of sexual abuse by the clergy.

American psychologist Gary Schoener, who has dealt with thousands of cases or clerical 'abuse', claims that:

“Women and girls are every bit as much at risk as boys and men. But the sexual abuse of a boy is treated far more seriously, and is considered a far worse offence.”


“The church is so dominated by men that there's a tendency to portray girls as provoking the crimes against themselves. The depositions read like rape cases used to: Did you enjoy it? What were you wearing?”

Reports suggest that many women have been encouraged to seek abortions by the clergy following their rape and that junior female employees of the church have been sacked for reporting their abuse.

But even if the child 'sex abuse' scandal currently in the news is only the tip of the iceberg of Church sex abuse, the sex abuse scandals themselves are only a drop in the ocean of the blood spilled by His Holiness.

Ratzinger has held the office of Pope for just under five years, and during that time over seven million people, primarily Black Africans, have died unnecessarily of AIDS as a result of his policies. Ratzinger, who also oversaw the Papal prohibition on condoms through much of the reign of his predecessor, has presided over a holocaust in Sub-Saharan Africa which, even by the most conservative estimates, rivals that of Hitler. If the deaths he was responsible for prior to his ascension to the highest office in Christendom are taken into account then this man is almost without a doubt the greatest living mass murderer.

Focusing on his role in the child rape scandal is alot like focusing on that one time Hitler stole from the corner shop. The media should be ashamed.

Gordon Brown claimed yesterday that the Pope's followers were the “conscience of the nation”. Go, fucking, figure.

Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Is Amnesty International Biased Against Everyone? (Except Criminals)

Recently Amnesty International Director Kate Allen has taken issue with an article in the Morning Star by Communist Party Executive Committee member John Haylett over AI's treatment of the death of Orlando Zapata Tamayo, a prisoner who recently died on hunger strike in a Cuban jail.

Usually I take no notice of stories regarding alleged prisoners of conscience in Cuba, they all say more or less the same thing, and I've always found Amnesty's demand for the immediate release of all political prisoners (regardless of who their backers are or what the conditions in the country in question are) painfully naïve and reeking of petty-bourgeois liberal sentiment. That's fine if that's the kind of organisation they wish to be, and they have never suggested otherwise, but there's little reason I should take particular interest in their views on Cuba's treatment of political dissidents under state of siege.

As a result I missed most of the media coverage surrounding the death of Zapata so I was forced to conduct some fresh research. At first my assumption was that, like many others Amnesty have designated 'prisoners of conscience', he was a terrorist or that he had been receiving money from the US. I was surprised, it was nothing so noble. Orlando Zapata Tamayo was arrested in March 2003 at around the same time as the now infamous (but greatly exaggerated) crackdown on counter-revolutionary activities, but he was not one of those arrested in connection with such activities, as the UN list (whose objectivity is at best questionable, but that won't be addressed here) drawn up in its aftermath can verify.

While Zapata turning out to be simply a common criminal and not a great subversive was surprising, what I found positively shocking (perhaps you could call me naïve) was that the level of bias in the initial AI report when he was classified as a prisoner of conscience (retroactively, nearly a year after his most recent arrest), and in all reports since, goes far beyond simple ideological one-sidedness and dives head first into the realm of intentional misrepresentation.

How can AI justify not even mentioning in passing his previous serious criminal convictions and the fact that he has served time in prison previously for assault (more than once, including attacking a man with machete), fraud and illegal possession of a weapon?

In this light the claims made by the Cuban authorities that Zapata associated himself with political dissidents following his detention in order to win the improved conditions associated with political prisoners must at least be taken seriously. In Cuba, political prisoners are not forced to wear the same uniforms as common criminals, a fact the British Government could take note of.

What seems evident, without having to take either side on their word, is that Zapata joined the Movement for an Republican Alternative after a long history of violent crime (whatever his motivations). Why AI have deemed it appropriate to strike any reference to his criminality from their reports is certainly a valid question.

Another curiosity is that, while recent AI reports have made a big deal of the fact that Cuban courts have subsequently drastically increased his original sentence (which was three years for public disorder), none have mentioned the reason for these additional sentences (other than an ambiguous yet harmless enough sounding 'resistance in prison'). It was actually for assault. Even if AI contest this accusation, why don't they mention it? How can they contest it without mentioning it? The language is almost as though Kate Allen and Amnesty International condone Mr Zapata's actions.

Now, I'm not going to accuse Amnesty of a pro-western bias, or an anti-communist bias or anything like that. They're treatment of western countries is no different and they haven't been slow to condemn the abuses of the United States in particular. Instead I'm going to accuse them of bias in favour of finding conspiracy and persecution even where it doesn't exist – of being biased against all governments.

Now, I understand this mentality; I have many friends in Amnesty, all with good intentions, all good people. I have cooperated with them in the past on issues of mutual interest. But by damn if they wouldn't assume the guilt of the government and the innocence of the alleged prisoner of conscience. It's their distrust of government that often makes them good activists, but it also makes it institutionally impossible for Amnesty to make balanced and unbiased judgements on such issues.

My advice to comrades in Amnesty is this: all future reports should set out both the case of the government and the case of the prisoner, complete with whatever commentary they deem appropriate. Amnesty are of course free to campaign on the behalf of any prisoner they see fit (well, not in Cuba...), but they owe it to their activists to provide them with all the facts, not just the ones that will move them to righteous anger.

Sunday, March 21, 2010

Who're the Real Bullies? BA Go All Out in Dirty Tricks Campaign

Right-wing newspapers and bloggers have been making a lot out of allegations of intimidation by picketers against BA scabs. These claims have been put forward by an unnamed representative of the 'Professional Cabin Crew Council' (PCCC), which claims to represent those members of the Cabin Crew who are fed up with Unites' militancy [sic] but in reality is a front organisation for the BA management and as such is unable to obtain official recognition as an independent trade union.

What's amazing is the utter transparency of the accusations made, and the (perhaps not-so-shocking) complete lack of journalistic standards in misrepresenting the reality of such 'intimidation' and in failing to undertake even the most rudimentary research into the reliability of the accuser (or, perhaps more likely, wilfully ignoring its revelations).

We are told this woman who has betrayed her co-workers has been the victim of “meaningful looks” from pro-strike co-workers and she then goes on to make an entirely baseless and irresponsible assertion “But when you know the militants know where you live. Where your children are. Then you start to wonder exactly what they are capable of. Just how far they might go.” This despite the fact that she admits no actual threats have been made!

This is just one small part of a dirty tricks PR campaign by an employer against its workers without equal in recent memory. The BBC reported Saturday that more planes were flying than expected (implying that large numbers of workers were crossing picket lines and going into work), what they failed to mention was that many of them were empty – ghost flights to keep up appearances of normality. These tactics accompany false figures which the company released to the media.

There is a repeating theme developing on the right-wing blogosphere. Tory b**ger Iain Dale accuses the striking cabin crews of “thuggery”, the professional politically motivated arsehole and angry Libertarian self-parody at The Devil's Kitchen calls them “silly cunts” and calls for them to be sacked. Well, Willie Walsh is well ahead of him on that count, a point I'll develop later. It seems that in Tory land to withhold one's labour is to become a thug – let their be no mistake a worker who cannot withhold his or her labour is nought but a slave (with the 'option' of unemployment, of course...).

The strike ballot at the end of last year saw similar dirty tricks employed, BA bosses refused to provide the union with a list of those who had accepted voluntary redundancies thus making it impossible to exclude them from the ballot and hence impossible to hold a 'legal' ballot.

The Torygraph and the BBC are not alone in their parroting of BA propaganda, the entire media (except, of course, the usual suspects) have been jumping at the chance to wage an ideological war on the cabin crew and Unite. Beyond the typical distrust of notions such as solidarity and collective action which so thoroughly run against the hegemonic individualism of our times, there is a clear political motivation for most of the media: by demonising Unite they demonise the Labour Party by association, in what appears to be a mounting campaign in that regard. See Though Cowards Flinch for an excellent rebuttal of this 'Union Modernisation Fund' non-scandal the Tories have been mindlessly regurgitating.

Yet the media, ever eager for a story of Labour Movement “bullying” have been extremely quiet about the intimidation campaign being waged by the BA management against those considering joining the picket lines instead of scabbing. Striking cabin crew are afraid to reveal their identities on camera, forcing the Unite to rely on full-time organisers as opposed to those on the shop floor for press communications.

Any suggestion that these fears are exaggerated should be dispelled by the suspension or disciplining of 38 pro-strike cabin crew employees on, to say the least, dubious grounds.

Sunday, March 7, 2010

Constitutional Showbiz

Lately I've been waking up to headlines such as “Gordon Brown on course to win the election” or “Brown narrows poll lead” and I must admit something of a surprise. Don't get me wrong, I'm not surprised that the gap in the polls is decreasing, I've been expecting that for months, I'm surprised that as someone who follows politics so closely I could have missed the drastic change in constitution which makes this possible.

When, in the eyes of the media, did this country pick up an officially Presidential Government?

This goes further than a few poorly worded headlines. The Leaders Debate we were once promised has silently been transformed into a 'Prime Ministerial Debate'. What's so wrong with this, after all only three men will have a chance of forming the next Government? The problem is we're not having a 'Prime Ministerial' election, we are electing a Parliament (well, half of one anyway). As such a clear cut between who should and should not be represented cannot be drawn.

A debate between the Tories, Labour and the Lib Dems is entirely worthless in Scotland where the Tories are little more than a fringe party. Likewise in Wales Plaid are more deserving of representation than the Lib Dems. If the media has determined that three sides is the most which can exist in a debate (the US media has little difficulty inviting every candidate to the Republican and Democratic Primary debates) then surely separate debates should be arranged for each Home Country?

Over the last century or so the office of Prime Minister has accumulated so much power that we now in many ways can be said to have abandoned Cabinet Government for the de-facto Presidential variety. The difference is our 'president' has the power to command the legislature, and isn't directly elected. It seems in many ways we have all the disadvantages of a Presidential system with none of the perks.

With the media so obsessed with personalities before policies and presidential figures, is it even possible to return to a non-Presidential system? It certainly seems desirable to do so, but can it be done? Perhaps we should take the other option, face facts, make it official and actually elect a President?

There are serious problems with the media forcing this kind of Presidentialism on British politics. What if people vote for President Cameron, he doesn't seem quite such a bad chap? We'll end up with a Tory Government, a Tory Government in which Cameron can be ousted and a hard-core jingoist, racist and anti-science Tory becomes Prime Minister.

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Capitalist Meltdown

By now you've all see those adverts on TV begging for gold offering you a wonderful opportunity to exchange your unwanted jewellery for additional asset liquidity in these challenging economic times. These vultures entrepreneurs are everywhere: on TV, in shopping centres... in capitalist terms, everywhere. Now, you don't need me to tell you that this is a scam and that anyone who actually goes ahead with this is going to be woefully underpaid for their gold (they're better as a quick no questions asked market for stolen jewellery than anything else), but that's not the topic of this post.

Instead I want to look at the economics behind the transaction in Marxian terms. The intellectual poverty of bourgeois economics is exposed here, able only to tell us that the seller of the gold does so because s/he needs money, while the buyer of the gold does so for... more money. By applying the labour theory of value we can get a better idea of what's happening beneath the surface.

When gold is processed into jewellery socially useful labour is performed adding value to the end product. By melting down jewellery value is destroyed, this apparent madness is financially justified by the capitalist as it allows for the purchasing of (although not the creation of) large quantities of money capital.

The same drive to destroy value can be seen throughout the economy during a capitalist crisis. This process allows for the rationalisation of the market, overcoming the problem of overproduction. The necessary consequence of capitalist productive relations is that more commodities are produced than can be consumed (purchased). This abundance of value in the economy then needs to be destroyed; as far as methods of destroying value goes, gold vultures are preferable to a World War, I guess, although a public works programme wouldn't go amiss.

The Drums of War

The Daily Telegraph is often viewed as little more than a more respectable version of the Daily Express, but sometimes they even fail at that. Sure, this recent blog entry from Nile Gardiner uses complete sentences and appears to have mastered the art of punctuation, but does it mask its inherent racism more successfully?

“The Falklands conflict: tin-pot tyrant Hugo Chavez roars like a mouse against the British lion”

I guess not, he didn't even make it past the headline.

But what's that? 'Tyrant'? As in dictator? Surely not?

“It’s rather pathetic when a Third World dictator starts ranting and raving like a caricature villain from a Bond movie circa 1973.”

Huh, I guess being repeatedly democratically elected, having pushed through numerous democratic reforms, having an approval rating no British Prime Minister could dream of makes him a dictator. But this frequent Fox News pundit doesn't stop there:

“In a rather hysterical televised speech worthy of Saddam himself, the Butcher of Caracas and prominent state sponsor of terrorism declared...”

See he's like Saddam, let's emphasise that fact. As well as being a dictator (which he's not), and having used American WMDs to commit genocide against an ethnic minority in his own country (except he hasn't) and he was overthrown by the US (which he was... for two days).

But the 'Butcher of Caracas' couldn't be a reference to the Chavista violence which led to the coup which Fox News reliably continues to remind its viewers of could it, despite having been exposed as a fabrication repeatedly? Well, yes, but that's an understandable mistake to make, it's not like he claims to be an expert on international affairs...

Oh damn.

Now, some evil leftist bloggers may use the opportunity to point out that accusing Chavez of being a state sponsor of terror is an outright lie; sure these claims aren't recognised by all those other tin-pot coloured people countries, but at least the US have placed them on their recently updated state-sponsors of terror list... oh, oops.

Friday, February 19, 2010

The Absurdity of BBC Impartiality

A man has been killed with malice and intent, the BBC reports this as a murder. It is revealed that Israel was responsible, suddenly the very nature of the death is transformed and it becomes a 'targeted killing'. This is the absurdity of the BBC's laughably named 'impartiality'; the severity, nature and name of the crime (it, of course, cannot be reported as a 'crime' now) is dependent upon the culprit.

Impartiality (standing in contrast to objectivity) will always, by definition, portray the guilty party with obscurantistly favourable language. A murder is a murder regardless of who was responsible.

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Why Not?

The news that Phil BC of A Very Public Sociologist has defected from the Socialist Party to the Labour Party is likely to raise some negative response from those parts of the left where “Labour Party” has become a curse word interchangeable with “Tory” or “Dirty Bastards”. And it's certainly not like the Labour Party leadership hasn't spent the last sixteen years attempting prove those people right. But Phil's analysis of the Labour Party is one that I and most (big 'C') Communists can largely agree with.

This is what he has to say on the matter:

Thirdly is the question of the Labour party. For anyone concerned with socialist strategy and working class politics, how one deals with Labour remains *the* central strategic issue. Though I have blown hot and cold over the characterisation of Labour since being a SP member, but I never believed the party's settled position that it was a straight party of capital not fundamentally different from the Tories and LibDems. Aside from the formal affiliation of most of the major trade unions, there remain thousands of small scale links. For instance the majority of union activists who are members of a political party are in Labour. You'll find thousands of Labour party members in community-based campaigns too. Neither can you hide from the fact that despite some decomposition in Labour's support, its working class base remains stubbornly welded to it.

Like it or not (as the case is perhaps most likely to be) any working class political project which does not involve Labour may as well not exist, and any nationwide programme for workers' representation in Parliament begins and ends with Labour.

It is also true that the Labour Party, for all its sins (and recently they have been many) is a special kind of party: not only is it distinct by its very nature from the Bourgeois parties but it's structure and relationship with the labour movement as a whole makes it unique amongst the social-democratic parties of the Second International in Europe.

It is for these reasons and others that Phil BC should not be asked to justify his decision to join Labour, but those of us who deem themselves committed socialists and serious labour movement activists yet choose to remain outside of the Labour Party who should think carefully about our justifications.

I, as someone who has himself considered a similar move in the recent past, and drawing inspiration from Harry Pollitt and his “Why You Should Be A Communist” (1945) pamphlet have come to the conclusion that a Communist Party organising independently of the Labour Party (and also standing clearly apart from the ultra-leftism so prominent in the extra-Labour left) plays a vital role within the Labour movement, even if its destiny is not Parliamentary success or the glamour of Government. Much as a minor species can play a vital role within an eco-system, in which its demise could slay elephants, the absence of a Party which can put forward clearly and agitate for a programme of true working class politics, a party which can train, educate and indirectly influence young trade unionists and socialists, a generation of Labour Party activists can spring up who have little direct experience of genuine socialist politics, perhaps sensing the hollowness of the New Labour programme but not knowing the alternative.

This may seem an unrealistically grandiose view of the Communist Party, and I am by no means suggesting that the current CPB is capable of taking on this role, but many of the best and most prominent activists within the Labour Party and the Trade Union movement were fellow travellers if not outright former card holders.

It is in rebuilding a party which can take up this duty as its own, in a symbiotic (if not friendly) relationship with the Labour Party, which I feel I can play a role, and in which I feel I can do more good than I can as a fringe activist within the Labour Party.

Friday, February 12, 2010

For the lols

I haven't been posting too much recently but there's plenty of content coming up. I've prepared this comic to fill my absense:Yes, I know I have no artistic talent. So what?

(It appears the image is slightly too large for the frame, so click to enlarge).