Tuesday, July 31, 2007

Lewisham '77

This year sees the 30th anniversary of an event that was extremely important for South East London and for the story of race and policing in the UK as a whole: the "Battle of Lewisham" during which thousands of militant anti-fascists and local people fought sought to stop the fascist National Front from marching from New Cross to Lewisham. Check the website of Lewisham '77, the group organising the commemorative events: Lewisham77.blogspot.com

Soundtrack to this post: Heaven 17's "(We Don't Need This) Fascist Groove Thang"[mp3] from The Toaster Talks.

Thursday, July 26, 2007

The Tower

On the BBC's documentary series, The Tower, set on the Pepys in Deptford:
(You can find my view, scattered in the comments to the above, so I won't post them here.)

Not about the Tower, but for any Deptfordians reading, the legendary Lol Coxhill and master Ghanian Drummer, Nana Tsiboe are playing at the McMillan Herb Garden on Sunday (29th) 5-7pm. (Close to the former site, incidentally, of Heather's.)

What kind of self-respecting anarchist worries about the fate of the Post Office?

Solidarity Federation's leaflet about Lewisham Post Office:
What kind of self-respecting anarchist worries about the fate of the Post Office? « Someday I Will Treat You Good

(Following up this)

Friday, July 20, 2007

Lewisham bloggers drink

I failed to make it to the Brockley bloggers meet-up last night, out of overwork and exhaustion, exacerbated by a rare case of going camping at the weekend, not my idea of relaxation. But I can report, a week late, on the Lewisham bloggers meet-up a week ago.

I got there late, so I missed Max and Wulf and Adrian. But I was really pleased to finally meet Neil and Henry, as well as catch up with Rob, Michael, Andrew and Sue. I kind of failed to chat with the legendary Inspector Sands (currently of the Last Bus Home), despite sitting across the table from him all night. Topics of conversation included Class War back in the day, the synagogues of SE London, the Israel boycott, unusual ethnic mixes, the pleasures of Catford, where Brockley ends, anti-Germanism, and the pleasures of being an ex-Labour Party member. Other highlights included the (hopefully to be made a regular institution) singing of "The Red Flag" on passing Jim Connell's house on Stondon Park on the way home.

Other local news: the Solidarity Federation and the Post Office (via Andrew); the death of the lead singer of Mud; the privatization of schools.

Klezmer Idol

You just have time to listen to (and, if you feel so inclined, vote for your favourite among) ten current UK klezmer bands at the JC website.

Beskydy make heartfelt traditional Klezmer. More impressive than the tracks on the JC website are their rendering of Israeli wedding classic Erev Shel Shoshamin (a fragment of which can be listened to here) and Zapevvala Sojka Ptica (here). Their music has an old-timey feel, dominated by the weeping, slightly scratchy violin. Shir are also quite old-style, and they also do Israeli folk music. You can listen to more of their music on their website.

The Solomon Sisters' Yiddish caberet shtick doesn't appeal to me, kind of kitschy Jewish version of the Puppini Sisters. Again, their own website has (samples of) better tracks, including Chornia [mp3], which has a kind of mitteleuropa cafe vibe, Odessa [mp3], which is quite soulful and instrumental.

Klezmer KollectiV are described on the JC page and the band's MySpace page as borrowing heavily from the “hotclub” jazz style of Django Reinhardt and Stephane Grappelli, but that's not in evidence from the tracks available there, which are pretty straightahead klezmer. I prefer Matzos, whose music has a certain intensity about it. You can hear more of them on their MySpace site.

Also very good are Moishe's Bagel, whose album Salt looks worth buying. Tantz Glassidic [mp3] is a clever Phillip Glass pastiche. You can also download Sidi-kasem, la Bonhomie [mp3] from their website. Overall, their sound mixes Jewish music with chamber music, Modern Jazz Quartet, and a little bit Latin.

K-Groove are enjoyable, fusing Jewish music with other traditions. Reggae Freilach [mp3] starts out (I think) as a doina, moving into a slow and sultry reggae groove and then picks up tempo. The reggae sounds slightly contrived and casio keyboardish to me, especially as it gets faster. Smoked Salmon Salsa [mp3] works far better as a synthesis and is probably my favourite track.

Kosmos play more much more soulful klezmer. Their Devotedly Bouyant [mp3] is one of the standouts of the collection, as is their take on Astor Piazzola's Libertango (you can hear Richard Galliano's French cafe version here). Klezmer Gourmet (AKA Shna’im Lecha’im) are also in this league. I think I'd vote for one of those two bands.

Previous: Feed Your Ears (with Jewish and non-Jewish music), Jewish music/world music

Tuesday, July 17, 2007

Normal service WILL resume

Sorry I've been gone so long (at least, it seems like it). Soon, I will get back on track, and report on the Lewisham Bloggers meet-up, BBC's The Tower, the latest developments in the Israel boycott campaign, and lots of things that have nothing to do with the boycott.

Behnam Askari must stay

Le Beau Salon
11th - 29th July, noon - 5pm (closed Mons and Tues)
Solo Art Exhibition by Behnam Askari
Wide range of paintings in Vitrail, Oil, Watercolour and Acrylic - including exciting new works - exquisite hand-painted glass, prints and postcards

Sunday 29th July 2pm till 5pm:
A Summer’s Afternoon of Beautiful Music & Art
Concert hosted by Helen Lederer
Gabriella Dall’ Olio (harp), Deborah Fink (vocal), Avivit (vocal), David King (flute), Oliver Walter (violin/viola), Joan Cohen (cello) and Jey Jeykumar (piano)
Tickets £15/ £10(concessions) pauline.levis@btopenworld.com
Proceeds to Behnam & Family Must Stay Campaign
www.gopetition.com Quick Search: behnam (Link here)
Tube: Hampstead, Buses: 46, 268 Home-made refreshments available in the Buttery.

Background: Iranian artist faces lashes after bid for asylum fails (Camden New Journal)

Monday, July 09, 2007


NUJ Boycott
UCU Boycott
Comment: Having slagged off Frank Furedi earlier today, he has weighed in (THES, sub required, full text at SPME) against the UCU boycott, on the principle of academic free speech:

"If monitoring Muslim groups threatens free speech, then surely boycotting Israeli academics does too, says Frank Furedi

It is difficult not to feel dispirited about the lack of academic affirmation for free speech on British campuses. Many lecturers fervently believe in the importance of academic freedom for themselves while indifferent to the predicament faced by their colleagues. Others are very selective about whose academic freedom they take seriously. So some academics took strong exception to the Government's demand that we monitor the activities of radical Muslim groups on campuses. They rightly interpreted this as an attempt to curb free speech and close down discussion. But, sadly, their objection was not always inspired by a genuine conviction that freedom of speech is a fundamental principle that must be defended in all circumstances. In too many cases, UK academics have a selective and pragmatic approach to the right of free speech. Some who are critical of the targeting of Islamic groups believe that undermining the freedom of Israeli academics is a wonderful way to strike a blow for progress.

What they are saying, in effect, is that the promotion of the cause of Palestine is too important to be constrained by the ethos of academic debate. From this standpoint, academic freedom is a negotiable commodity; a right that can be denied to those deemed worthy of punishment. In this case Israeli academics are punished for who they are rather than what they have done.

Consistency is not always a virtue, but it is an absolute necessity when it comes to fundamental principles of democratic rights. Academic freedom cannot be exercised selectively without undermining its authority. Punishing colleagues through denying them their rights does not merely affect them, it also undermines the authority of academic freedom and therefore has a negative impact on everyone who works in a university. By now everyone should know that curbing the freedom of those with whom we disagree always creates a dangerous precedent.

One insidious outcome of the promotion of the boycott tactic is that it encourages others to play the same illiberal game. The application of bureaucratic measures against one group of academics constitutes an invitation to others to follow suit. So it is not surprising that some opponents of the proposed University and College Union boycott have threatened to seek legal remedies and organise their own form of sanctions against British universities. Tragically, this response serves to normalise the belief that the best way of resolving differences is through juridical or administrative means.

In a climate in which the main protagonists are obsessed with the question of whose livelihoods they should wreck, it is important to reaffirm the authority of academic freedom. It is no longer sufficient to criticise the so-called tiny group of obsessive union delegates for bringing academic life into disrepute. Nor is it enough for UCU members to demand a national ballot and reverse the vote. Even if the vote is reversed, the problem will not go away. The ideals of an academic Inquisition are too entrenched to disappear after the verdict of a ballot.

Those of us who adopt a consistent standard for the exercise of democratic rights should become more active and provide more space for giving voice to unpopular causes and stigmatised colleagues. Why not invite an Israeli colleague to our campuses? Better still, why not organise a joint seminar or a collaborative venture with an Israeli academic? Are there any Israeli sociologists interested in doing a couple of guest lectures for my course?

More comment from Amy Gutman.

  • News: Histradut to cut ties with T&G (JPost)
  • Comment: Jeremy Newmark says: "The new government's policy in the Middle East centres around what Gordon Brown has described as an "economic roadmap", promoting economic engagement and investment for peace. The Palestinian people are desperate need of such engagement at this time. The T & G vote cuts right across this strategy, sends out the opposite message and is actually a kick in the teeth to the Palestinians. We are sure that rank and file members of the union will ignore this vote. The rhetoric of the T & G Executive in supporting this policy was shameful, and places their union firmly on the loony left of British politics. This is the last gasp of a dying union, and as their merger progresses if the new union wants to have any influence in these matters the policy will need to be reversed."
In general


Tour de France came Sarf at the weekend. I wasn't there, but some of my virtual friends were: Transpontine, Slightly, Andrew, Deptford Dame.

Update: More here.

Lewisham bloggers meet up

Lewisham bloggers meet up

Friday the 13th at the Honor Oak is the next Lewisham bloggers' meet up. I'm hoping to be there - if the weather is good I'll be heading to the coast, but that's a vain hope in this fucked-up climate...

I'm tagging Neil, Richard and Tony, as they haven't been involved in the complicated planning in Rob's comments thread...

P.S. Blogger.com is doing something weird with my post titles today, grrr.

UPDATE: I'm going for definite now, given the weather! And Blogger seems to have fixed the title glitch.

Previous meet-up

Anarchists in the Spanish Civil War

Anarchists in the Spanish Civil War
, YouTube video)

More revisionist tosh about Bosnia from the usual suspects

Hocemo Li Na Kafu?: More revisionist tosh about Bosnia from the usual suspects
(via Will)

Keywords: Living Marxism, Yugoslavia

Friday, July 06, 2007

Adults only

Free Online Dating


I did this this morning and got PG-13. Then I posted something with the words like "rape", "stocking" and "miniskirt" in it, so wondered if I'd gotten worse. Well, I have, but according to the site:

This rating was determined based on the presence of the following words:

  • bomb (9x)
  • kill (2x)
  • crack (1x)

They raped me because I was wearing a miniskirt and stockings

In this post, I want to go back to the issue of "provocation". At the every end of yesterday's Today programme, a nice lady, a journalist, I didn't catch her name, was asked why this is such a dangerous time for journalists (a propos of the welcome release of Alan Johnston). She answered (and these are not exact words): "Because of our foreign policy", followed immediately by: "journalists are not distinguished from their countries' governments". There are two problems with this.

The first is simply that most of the journalists who are in danger are not from "the West" (which is presumably the "us" she refers to). Just to take Iraq, over 100 journalists have been killed since 2003 (70 murdered, 38 caught in the crossfire), of whom 86 were Iraqi. Most of these were killde by insurgents (62 confirmed). (And this does not count the 39 media support workers killed - all Iraqi except for one Lebanese). The overwhelming majority, in fact, work for Iraqi news organisations (63 of the journalists, 23 of the support workers). In fact, one Western journalist has been killed in Iraq this year, Russian Dmitry Chebotayev, killed along with American soliders in a roadside attack. Prior to that, the last were Paul Douglas and James Brolan, killed in May '06, killed by an insurgent bomb.

Globally, 85% of journalists killed are local correspondents, not foreign correspondents. The second most dangerous place for journalists is Algeria, where in fact it is often Islamist journalists targeted by the government, then Russia, where government-backed thugs kill dissident journalists with impunity, then Colombia, where journalists are at risk from right and left. In other words, the idea that it is "our" journalists "they" are killing is predicated on an ethno-centric view of the world.

The second, and more important point is about that word "because". Concentrating solely on Western journalists killed by insurgents, the journo's second statement, that the killers don't distinguish between "good" Westerners and "bad" Westerners is surely the correct "reason". That is, the racist, murderous, anti-Western ideology of the insurgents is what drives them to kill, not "our" foreign policy. Blaming our foreign policy is like blaming a rape victim for wearing sexy clothes.


Related posts:

Shiraz Socialist
All of us at Shiraz Socialist share in the relief and joy that Alan Johnston’s colleagues, friends and family naturally and quite properly feel at his release. Our only caveats would be, not to give Hamas too much credit for the release (after all, it was allies of Hamas who kidnapped him in the first place), and secondly, to remember all the other journalists in recent years, who have not survived: and especially this heroine, killed by the fascist barbarians of the Taliban, not just for being a journalist, but also for being a woman.
Also: Hak Mao: Upside Down, Jura Watchmaker: Alan Johnston freed - but where is Gilad Shalit?, Scottish Co-operative Wholesale Republic: Some Thoughts on the London and Glasgow attacks, Christopher Hitches: the bomb attacks were an attack on women; Bits of News: The abuse and kidnapping of migrant workers in Iraq and the Middle East.

Previous: Blaming Blair's Bombs, London bomb.

Keywords: slags

Do Zionists Run America? (Marxists and Moonbats)

Via Judeosphere, this good review of The Power of Israel in the United States by the disgusting Stalinist James Petras: Allen Ruff, "Do Zionists Run America?" in MRZine. Judeosphere rightly describes this as the Marxists responding to the Moonbats.

Ruff's piece is also published in Solidarity's magazine Against the Current, which also features a great Hannah Arendt peice from the archive, "Zionism Reconsidered", and a fascinating review of Paul LeBlanc's Marx, Lenin and the Revolutionary Experience, by smart French Trotskyist Michel Lowy.

Previous: Petras on Flemming Rose: Straussian neo-con Mossad agent; Three-Way Fight Marxism; Aufheben's analysis; Chomsky on the legitimacy of Israel; Hezbollocks and IsRabies; BS.

Friday boycott round-up: The T&G


Earlier this week, I reported that the trade union Amicus has passed an anti-Israel, but not pro-boycott, motion. Now it's sibling-union, the Transport and General Workers Union, with whom it is about to unite with in the imaginatively named Unite union, has passed an actually pro-boycott motion. The full text of the composite motion is on the Alliance for Workers' Liberty site (the AWL opposed the motion - see their anti-boycott leaflet here.)

Gene at HP notes that the T&G's Communications Director is Andrew Murray, Communist Party of Britain member and Stop The War bureaucrat...
The STWC has organized a number of small demonstrations against Israel, in which many participants expressed support for the reactionary Hezbollah and Hamas.

I can't help wondering whether Communist Party member Murray, had he been around and following the Party line in the late 1940s, would have organized pro-Israel demonstrations back then. After all the Soviet Union and its satellites voted to support the United Nations' two-state partition plan in 1947. And the Soviets approved client-state Czechoslovakia's arms shipments to the new Israeli army in 1948's War of Independence against the invading Arab forces.

It was only the Soviets decided it was to their advantage to cultivate the Arab regimes that the line changed and people like Murray became ardent anti-Zionists.

I liked Will's post on this:
In further Trade Union news... there is going to be a merger between UNISON and UNITE.

This merged TU will be named EXCLUDE.

Bit of an update: Meanwhile, trade unionists in Iran endure real oppression at the hands of the Iranian state.
Added: A JC article Arieh sent me has more from the T&G hacks.
Barry Camfield, deputy general-secretary of the union, told delegates at its annual conference in Brighton that Britain had stood alone against Hitler and had liberated Jewish victims of the Holocaust. “So we will not have the Israeli state telling us that the boycott is antisemitic,” he said.
Nationalist bullshit.

On the UCU boycott, the report mentions:
More than 100 academics from around the world have signalled their opposition to any academic boycott by responding to a call from the University of Haifa to be symbolically appointed as affiliated professors. Many of them are from Britain, including Professor Shalom Lappin, one of the first to resign from the University and College Union (UCU) after it passed its academic-boycott resolution on May 30.

Meanwhile, the UCU leadership has clarified its position, in quite a sensiblw way.

And, across the pond, Structural Subversion reports on some ardent anti-Zionists picketing a food co-op because it sells Israeli humus.

Campaigns: The official Jewish community campaign is organising an event on the evening of the 10th with Yuli Tamar,* while Engage's rally is the following night, the 11th. The latter has just finalised its programme, which looks good: John Mann MP, Jonathan Freedland, David Hirsh, Louise Ellman MP, Jane Ashworth, Robert Fine, John Strawson, Eric Lee, Eve Garrard, Tim Dawson, Maureen Lipman, Howard Jacobson, Anthony Julius.

*UPDATE: Yuli Tamer talk cancelled, as she has to cut her UK visit short.

Other blog comment: Westminster Wisdom.

Previous boycott round-up here.

“Anti-german” for dummies

I just found this very good weblog: “Anti-german” for dummies. Recommended.

Also to be added to the blogroll: The Contentious Centrist.

Why Alan Johnston was released

Gilad Shalit banner

According to a very interesting post at Israel Matzav*, there have been reports that Hamas have paid money to the Dugmash (Doghmush) clan, AKA Army of Islam, who held Alan Johnston. The blogger says that, as the clan also hold Gilad Shalit, it is unclear whether they were paid to free Johnston or hold Shalit. However, some reports say that Shalit is in fact held by the Durmush clan, AKA Islamic Army (who have also held Peruvian journalist Jaime Razuri, and were paid $1 million to release two Fox News journalists they held late in 2006). Can anyone tell me, are Durmush and Dugmush the same folks?

* Apologies for wrong link - link now fixed - go read!

Parental advisory

Online Dating

Mingle2, via Kate and Rob

I'm glad I am more offensive than Kate - that's impressive I think.

Trade unionism and the Iraq war

Three Score Years And Ten: Submission To Iraq Commission
Harry Barnes on trade unionism and post-liberation Iraq. Well worth reading.

Why I'm (still) a Marxist

Stumbling and Mumbling: Why I'm (still) a Marxist

Chris Dillow gives his reasons - including Marx on chavs. They're not the same as my reasons, but they're good ones.

Wednesday, July 04, 2007

Fasting for workers' rights

From Israel:
Tens of thousands of men and women who risk their lives to secure the entrances to schools, malls and supermarkets or who provide janitorial services in government and commercial offices or retail stores lack basic employment rights, according to Ma'agalei Tzedek, a religious social justice organization.

Ma'agalei Tzedek chose Tuesday, the 17th of the Jewish month of Tammuz, a fast day which commemorates the breaching of the walls of Jerusalem by the Romans that led to the destruction of the Second Temple, to stage a protest outside the Knesset against the exploitation of these workers.
Read the rest here. (Hat tip: Arieh)

Tuesday, July 03, 2007

Boycotts, and not actually boycotts

Amicus, the manufacturing union, has recently merged with the T&G, the transport workers union, to form the largest union in Britain, named "Unite the Union" (a crap name, in my humble).

At Amicus' final conference, it seems to have passed a motion condemning the "Apartheid Wall". The text of the motion is at Mark Elf's JsF site. The motion is not a boycott motion. The closest it comes to this is this bit: 3b "Actively campaign against the Wall by... Investigating how industries organised by our union may be involved in constructing the Wall." Whatever your position on the wall, I think you have to accept that this particular proposal is rather different from the empty and counter-productive gesture politics of a cultural boycott. Instead, it is about practically and concretely addressing a perceived injustice, on the terrain of industry, i.e. in a union's best battle-ground.

Anti-Zionist Roland Rance reports that the motion was passed unanimously, adding:
"Of course, as in Unison, the union's bureaucracy and leadership will do little to carry this out. But it creates space for Amicus members (and there must be many on this list) to raise the issues at their branches, and to work to put some reality onto these verbal statements."

The T&G, on the other hand, are about to debate an actual boycott motion, according to the JC:
The TGWU’s boycott motion has been proposed by car-industry workers at its Birmingham branch. It “deplores the actions” of Israel towards the Palestinians and accuses it of failing to recognise the “legitimate aspiration of a Palestinian state”.

The motion specifically calls upon the conference to “support a boycott of Israeli products and goods” and calls on the government to take a “stronger stance in support of the Palestinian people”.

Members of the Trade Union Friends of Israel said they were hoping to persuade the union to drop its boycott move, and would be seeking talks not only with TGWU leaders but also with the proposers of the motion.

However, Eric McDonald, the union’s Birmingham branch secretary — who said he had never been to Israel or the Palestinian Authority areas — pledged that there would be no backtracking. “Boycotting worked against South Africa and the motion was approved unanimously by the 30 members of the district committee,” representing 16,000 members.

“Israel is very intolerant and sometimes its behaviour is not dissimilar to that of the Nazis,” he told the JC. “Israel, like any other fundamentalist religious state, abuses groups that are different.” This also applied to Hamas, he accepted.
Note the union hack's insidious comparison of Israel to Nazis and its nonsensical depiction as a "fundamentalist relious state".

The JC article also reports on the anti-boycott backlash within the unions:
More than 250 members of the National Union of Journalists signed a petition calling on their union to drop its boycott resolution. Among them were a large group of BBC broadcasters including foreign correspondents Hugh Sykes and James Reynolds and political correspondent Reeta Chakrabarti. Other signatories included The Guardian’s Middle East correspondent Ian Black, The Independent’s Israel correspondent Donald MacIntyre and ITN’s father of chapel (shop steward) Dan Wright.

In a letter to The Guardian, 32 members of Unison, including national executive member Alison Brown, said that as “democrats, socialists and supporters of an independent Palestinian state we oppose a boycott against Israel”. Such a move, they said, would “strengthen the sense of being under siege in a world of enemies which is a strong element in the power of the Israeli right”.
Hat tip Arieh.

Previous boycott round-up here.

Blaming Blair's bombs

My plea to fellow Muslims: you must renounce terror | The Observer

Arieh, Daniel and Jogo all sent me this link - to an incredibly important article by ex-Jihadist Hassan Butt. Here's the opening:
When I was still a member of what is probably best termed the British Jihadi Network, a series of semi-autonomous British Muslim terrorist groups linked by a single ideology, I remember how we used to laugh in celebration whenever people on TV proclaimed that the sole cause for Islamic acts of terror like 9/11, the Madrid bombings and 7/7 was Western foreign policy.

By blaming the government for our actions, those who pushed the 'Blair's bombs' line did our propaganda work for us. More important, they also helped to draw away any critical examination from the real engine of our violence: Islamic theology.

Read the rest!

This amplifies the point that terrorist attacks are not in any sense caused by the West's "provocative" Iraq policy, as all the Chatham House type liberal idiots tell us - even though this was obvious to anyone who thought for half a second about 9/11, er, coming before the Iraq war.

It also amplifies my point that we need to take religion seriously. Without taking religion seriously, we are left either seeing it has inhumanly irrational and insane, and therefore impossible to combat without simply exterminating all its potential recruits, or vainly trying to assimilate it to some previously existing model, such as fascism (as Hitchens tries to do with the flawed concept of "Islamo-fascism") , or seeing terrorism as the rational response to "the West" and its evils. All these choices are morally and intellectually wrong, wrong, wrong. In contrast, we need to actually listen to what the terrorists say. For Osama bin-Laden, the loss of Andalusia to the Christians is as important as what America does in Iraq.

Added link: FMoaK: Ideolgy & terror
Previous: London bomb, Rushdie & secular fundamentalism, "Provocation", Pakistan-loving Tories.

Keywords: terrorism, Glasgow London car bombs

Assault on workers' rights

Russia: Dockworker leader stabbed and beaten

Yet another act of violence against the forces of democracy and civility in Putin's Russia.

Fighting for Israel and Palestine on all fronts!

Daniels Counter: Fighting for Israel and Palestine on all fronts!

The only sensible position.