Saturday, February 28, 2009

Addenda etc

On Howard Jacobson and Caryl Churchill's Seven Jewish Children:
On the BNP:
  • Addendum to this post: Boffy on Ravenscliffe, where the BNP are mounting another challenge, and how socialists should respond.
On the Convention on Modern Liberty:
I wonder whether COML presenters acknowledge that modern liberty isn’t the only thing we hold dear which is under threat. I wonder if they’ll actively and sympathetically relate to other threats - terror, hate speech and incitement. I can see some speakers whose radars are attuned to such things. But it is too often the case that the people who staunchly defend liberties - free expression being one, free movement another - then retreat, job done, leaving beleaguered minorities on their own to defend themselves against free speech taken to extremes and with no commitment to relevance or political responsibility.
On "free speech":
Other things:

Thursday, February 26, 2009

Yiddish beats

I haven't done a music post for a while, so here we go.

Arieh sent a YouTube of a great Yiddish reggae track "Shtiklakh (Klezmer goes Rocksteady)" by NYC's King Django in his Roots and Culture Band guise. Note cool anti-Deutsche politics from Schmidthorst69 in infobox at top right. King Django's Ashkenazi/urban mashup goes back to 1997, predating, I think, the likes of Matisyahu, Oi-Va-Voi, SoCalled and others who do that kind of thing. Listen to more at MySpace &, read interviews at Redstar73, Shemspeed & Global Rhythms, and read reviews at CDBaby & Jewish News.

"Shtikhlakh" (sing.: shtikl), by the way, means little morsels: it was the word Irving Howe's father used for Howe's short essays (Howe being one of my heroes). A really little morsel is a shtikele, as in the heart-rending Dovid Edelshtat poem "A shtikele broyt".

Arieh also sent a rather sweet rendition, in bad Yiddish, of "Vakht Oyf" by Edelshtat (with music by Jacob Schaefer): Vi lang, oy vi lang vet ir blaybn nokh shklafn un trogn di../װי לאַנג, אָ װי לאַנג װעט איר בלײַבן נאָך שקלאַפֿן און טראָגן די. An accurate, if rather bombastic, version is here. The English words are here, wrongly attributed to another song of the Yiddish labour movement, "Makhnes Geyen" by Mikhl Gelbart, which you can listen to a version of by the Chorus of the Workmen's Circle of Boston here, and whose Yiddish words are here. Edelshat, by the way, had a strong London connection, and frequently wrote for Rudolf Rocker's Arbayter Fraynd. (If you like this sort of thing, check out Steven Fischler and Joel Sucher's wonderful documentatary Free Voice of Labour, re-released a couple of years ago by AK.)

Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Liberal fascism continued

Back here I linked without comment to Nick Cohen's review of Jonah Goldberg's Liberal Fascism. Here, the Fat Man puts his finger on what is wrong with the book and therefore the review.

For a new Iranian revolution

Exciting events in Iran recently, with shockingly little attention paid by the Western media. Students at Amirkabir University of Technology in Tehran have been protesting the reburial there of "martyrs" in the war with Iraq; some 70 have been arrested, with 20 transferred to Evin prison. At the notorious Evin prison, meanwhile, there been a series of executions, of prisoners charged with “fighting against God and being corrupt on earth”. AFP reports that 49 people have been executed in Iran so far in 2009.

You can read updates about what's going on at the blogs Revolutionary Road and Azarmehr, and you can watch YouTube clips of the protests made by the students here, here and here.

Sources: Washington Post, NCRI, Human Rights Activists in Iran.

Today's bits

Monday, February 23, 2009

The resistible rise and rise of the BNP

Two significant BNP election results in greater Southeast London last week. In St Mary's in Swanley, the BNP gained a councillor, despite an incompetent campaign. I know St Mary's fairly well, and I think this interesting article in the Indy over-plays the importance of race in the election. For me, the real issue is class. St Mary's is one of the poorest places in the region, and this drives local anger far more than the presence of tiny numbers of non-white immigrants. The local comment highlighted here sums it up.

Closer to home for me, the Lib Dems beat off Nazi Tess Culnane in Downham, Lewisham. The BNP only came fourth, but they got a full 10% of the vote, so no grounds for complacency. Mary Honeyball rather tenuously manages to portray this as a victim for Labour. However, I would have to agree with her on this:
On the streets it was sad to encounter young voters talking about voting BNP, we need to tackle this and their vote of 10% seems to have come mostly from the Liberal Democrats. As I posted in my comments previously, my experience had been that Liberal Democrats in this part of Lewisham had been quiet happy to quietly pick up racist support. Good to see they ditched this approach in Downham by selecting Duwayne Brooks. I hope that principled Liberal Democrats like John Grieves can influence his colleagues who still turn a blind eye to this. Elsewhere in London the Lib Dems still play fast and loose with race for the sake of a few votes.
Incidentally, I would add local Lib Dem councillor Pete Pattison to the category of "principled Liberal Democrats".

I also liked these congratulations for Duwayne Brooks from Raedwald on the right.


This is highly unlikely to be a factor in Swanley or Downham, but there is evidence that some Jewish voters are turning to the BNP and that its efforts to portrays itself as a mainstream Euronationalist party, akin to UKIP or Pim Fortuyn, have been partially successful. So, it is important to stress that, for all its slick presentation, at the core of the BNP is antisemitic conspiracy theorising fascism. The fact hardline Nazi Culnane can find a home there exemplifies this, as does recently released mosque firebomber Mark Bullman:
[Bullman] had left the BNP shortly before the fire bomb attack to form what he called the “1290 sect”, named after the year the Jews were expelled from England, and he wrote to me: “I only attacked the mosque because there is no synagogue in Swindon, and it was close enough for public consumption”. The fuse used for the fire bomb was a rolled up BNP leaflet.

Also worth repeating, I think, that the pandering of the mainstream parties to the BNP's agenda, particularly in a time of economic crisis, fuels their rise. This is one reason why it is important for anti-fascists to articulate the arguments for the immigration. On this, see Matt S, on Greens and immigration.


dr_strangelove_1ed07web.jpgA local post for local people. Stanley Kubrick's wonderful classic Dr Strangelove or: How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Bomb is at the Brockley Jack Film Club at, surprisingly, the Brockley Jack pub in Crofton Park, London SE4, tonight at 7.30. I'm told there are still seats, so phone 020 8699 6685 for tickets now.

Sample dialogue: “Gentlemen! You can’t fight in here, this is the war room!”

Friday, February 20, 2009

More bits

Free speech continued - more in relation to Geert Wilders and the Salman Rushdie fatwa anniversary:
Left antisemitism and Israel/Palestine:
Other weighty matters:

Thursday, February 19, 2009

Bob's bits

Sharia in Britain, one year after Rowan Williams:
Is Caryl Churchill's Seven Jewish Children antisemitic?
Forgiveness and irony:
  • Roger Scruton has a very profound piece in the latest City journal on the legitimacy of secular government in the West, in relation to the philosophical challenge posed by Islam. Even if you don't agree with all of it, very valuable food for thought. [h/t Jogo] (More from Francis here.)
Rick Stein and Rudolf Rocker:
Of Maus and men:
Islamism is a political not religious ideology:
News from the border:
  • Our politicians and mainstream media like to hate Robert Mugabe, but our system is not hospitable do those who seek sanctuary here from his horrific regime. Lorraine Thulambo deserves asylum here.
  • A rare piece of good news on the asylum front, and one that might cause the Daily Mail a conflict of interest: Pegah Emambakhsh, Iranian lesbian whose partner was executed by the theocratic regime, has finally been allowed to stay after four years of fighting against her expulsion.
Battling against indecentism, right and left:
And more reading selections here and here.

Friday, February 13, 2009

Something for the weekend

Still pending: Geert Wilders

In the meantime, I tend to agree with Graeme.

Bonus link: Though Cowards Flinch

Thursday, February 12, 2009

Thursday linktastica - late edition

The wildcat strikes:
  • VIMEO exposing the BBC's lies about the wildcat strikers' racism (also mentioned here), via Mr Stott.
  • Ian Bone picks some of the best SU comments critiques of the SWP's idiocy in relation to the strikers.
  • Barnsdale Brigade on Caroline Flint.
  • Not to do with the wildcat strike, but you can listen to afore-mentioned Bone interviewing afore-mentioned Stott here. Interesting comments on the BNP and (at about 9 minutes) the Rushdie affair.

Oops, just edited this from "the odious Henry Williamson". Henry, of course, Brockley resident and Tarka The Otter author, was also odious though.

Thursday linktastica

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

note to self re Geert Wilders

My list of pending tasks is mounting up: responding to this post from TNC on choosing sides on Gaza, a piece I'm writing in my head on the wildcat strikes, a response to this debate between Ross and Duncan about the BNP, a response to Maps' analysis of the pro-war left... But I can't find the time at the moment.

And now I have a new task: my position on Geert Wilders' banning from Britain. However, Charles Johnson of right-ish Little Green Footballs more or less captures my view.

Oh, and on the wildcat strikes, read this about the BBC apology for framing white workers as racist.

I have been detained in a ward with walls as tall as history, continuing to eternity itself

Farzad Kamangar's letter from death row

Remembering Blossom Dearie

at Hungry Blues

The book burners

A very good documentary on BBC Radio 4's Archive on 4 about the burning of Salman Rushdie's Satanic Verses, two decades on. You have 3 days left to listen on the iPlayer, so go listen now.

You have more time to read Boyd Tonkin in the Independent, inviting a number of writers to reflect on the fatwa, including Hanif Kureishi, Lionel Shriver and Suhayl Saadi.

Also read: "If you think you've had a bad Valentine's day" in The Badger; Article XIX on freedom of expression (pdf); the Index on Censorship blog; Yasmin Alibhai-Brown with a different perspective.

P.S. To lower the tone, here is Rushdie with his latest "long-stemmed glamazon", Pia Glenn.

Monday, February 09, 2009

BNP in Bexley

A very depressing result in Bexley, outer South East London, with the a close second to the Tories, and the far right vote split by the English Democrats - discussed by Dave Hill (h/t Transpontine/853). Up north, Lancaster Unity portrays a Labour win in Newtown Hyde, Greater Manchester, as a victory, but it was another fairly strong second place vote for the BNP. And in Fenham, Newcastle, they only came third, but with nearly 900 votes, over 25%. These are scary times.

See also Philip Honour at Labourist.

Capitalism functions (when it does) through a series of bets on the future

Transpontine: Walking New Cross no.12: Briant Street

A Bundist Comments on History As It Was Being Made

Motl Zelmanowicz and a Bundist view of the postwar era [h/t Arieh]

Thursday, February 05, 2009


I have been very busy the last couple of days, which is irritating for lots of reasons, one of which is the long blog post percolating in my head, which I may never get time to write, about ruling class racism, middle class classism and the wildcat strikes. In the meantime, coverage from Duncan, Phil, the Shirazites, the commune and Libcom is among the best.

Wednesday, February 04, 2009

South London pastoral

Sunday. I am in my front room doing some decorating. I hear horse hooves. I look out the window. The first light flakes of snow are fluttering down. Into view, on my quiet Victorian terraced street in London SE4, come two horses, both dappled grey. On their backs, two white youth in hooded tops. Five minutes afterwards, I wonder if it happened or if I imagined it.

On to my music player comes Caetano Veloso singing "London, London", written when he was in chilly exile from the right-wing military dictatorship in Brazil. The eight words at the heart of the song sum up so perfectly what England is like: "Green grass, blue eyes, gray sky, God bless."*

Monday morning. The snow has settled. The schools are closed, the roads are still, many workplaces are shut. Blythe Hill park is clogged with kids on sledges, dads who have taken the day off. A sense of timelessness: could be a hundred years ago. It's a cliche to talk of London's villages, to talk about community spirit, but it was palpable. The TV talked about the billions lost to industry, but how does that compare to families actually spending time together? To adults - and teenagers - remembering how to be children?

A carnival feel. In carnival, there is a taste of a different life, the sense another world is possible. Not governed by the rhythms of labour and consumption. Beneath the snow, as the helicopter ambulance man on the news said last night, the definition disappears. The grid is whited out.

*Check out lovely cover (and great video) by another Brazilian exile in London, Cibelle

More South London snow: Transpontine, 853, Anette, Howard, Ali Kati, Bird Champ, David Marston, Moth. Bonus link: Beyond the implode.