Author Archives: John

Massacres at Jallianwalla Bagh and Peterloo.

It is one hundred years since British troops opened fire on defenceless people including women, children and men in the area of the Punjabi city of Amritsar known as Jallianwalla Bagh. It was an enclosed public space where people regularly assembled for meetings or spent leisure time. There were high walls and very narrow alleyways. Gates were locked at the time, and many died escaping the bullets by jumping into a well. This notorious massacre has gone down in history and on the centenary of the event many are lobbying parliament for an official apology of what took place.

Just two hundred years ago people had gathered in such a space in and area of Manchester. As in India armed militia were brought in and an order given to open fire directly into the crowd. This too has gone down in history as the Peterloo Massacre.

A meeting held in Handsworth Birmingham on Saturday, 20th April 2019, remembered both events and attention was drawn to how people have been, and continue to be oppressed by a ruling elite using armed militia. They unite people of India and the UK by the brutality they experienced at the hands of the ruling class in a shared history.

The film Gandhi (1983) recreates events at Jallianwalabagh on April 13th, 1919. A film about Peterloo was released in 2012. An illustrated book about the event is due out to coincide with the bicentenary of the Peterloo massacre in August 1819. Both events should be included in schools’ curriculum.

Aimez vous Brahms?

Growing up in the fifties and sixties I listened to a lot of music, becoming hooked on the classics. I spent time working in a gramophone record library in my home town of Enfield, alongside Eric Cooper who became quite well known in this innovatory field. We lent out vinyl lps and spent time inspecting borrowers’ stylus tips and the records themselves, recording scratch marks on disks printed on card, just as if hiring a car.

Among the celebrities recording Beethoven, Mozart, Brahms were the likes of Toscanini and Bruno Walter, perhaps the established classic sets of that time. Karajan and Klemperer are coming into view, both with the celebrated Philharmonia Orchestra. Guido Cantelli became a firm favourite, although I didn’t attend any of his concerts. I still enjoy the recordings of Debussy, Ravel and de Falla.

I began visiting the famous HMV store in Oxford Street, in London’s West End, and acquired mono recordings of the Italian and Unfinished symphonies of Mendelssohn and Schubert. Also a couple of 10″ disks of Brahm’s Third and Schumann’s Fourth. I still have these on CD and download.

I began going to concerts, particularly at the Royal Festival Hall, in 1955/6. The conductors for some reason all seemed to have names beginning with “K”. First there was Karajan in a Mozart concert with pianist Clara Haskil, and then Beethoven under Klemperer. Others I was to encounter were Josef Krips, Royalton Kisch, Rafael Kubelik and Rudolf Kempe. I missed out on Keilberth and Knappertsbusch, but there were always recordings in the library! Oh yes there was a young Charles Mackerras. Does that count?! I think it was Harry Newstone who broke the mould. I have kept all these concert programmes. What do I do with them now?

Aimez vous Brahms?

Klemperer in particular became noted for slow speeds. His lumbering presence, after suffering strokes and brain tumours, was reflected in his music making. Not least this was so in Brahms, but I heard a riveting account of Brahms First Symphony, particularly in the granite like conclusion. This is evident on his recording with the Philharmonia. I later found the performance of the Brahms First Symphony is also swift in the first movement when I started catching up with reissues.

I was brought up at a time when slow or deliberate tempi were the norm, but lived to witness a time when authenticity has become the order of the day. When it comes to Brahms a clutch of recordings from chamber ensembles have appeared, comparable to the size of the Meiningen Orchestra which Brahms knew and first performed some of his works. A set came out from the Leipzig Gerwandhaus Orchestra under Riccardo Chailly. This referred back to a set made by the London Symphony and Philharmonic Orchestras in 1939/40 under Felix Weingartner. I find these performances more compelling than many of the new recordings I’ve heard. Music performance is created from momentary feelings and ideas as much as anything and spontaneity is crucial. This seems evident in the Weingartner recordings. Other recordings from the thirties shows much quicker tempi, and these were from people who either knew Brahms, as Weingartner did or were closely linked. Recordings of the two Piano Concerti from Backhaus and Schnabel are considerably faster than performances even now. A recording of the Tragic Overture by Bruno Walter and the New York Philharmonic Symphony Orchestra is also exciting and revealing making you feel this is the way it should go. Subsequent recordings with the Columbia Symphony Orchestra don’t catch this mood.

Carlo Maria Giulini visited Birmingham Symphony Hall with the Philharmonia with Hugh Bean leading. Both have since left us. Brahms Second Symphony was four slow movements and for me painful to sit through. I thought I was used to Klemperer performances, but they certainly didn’t have the same effect.

Looking back at recordings from fifties I found that there were performances among my vinyl collection which were swift in contrast to the prevailing slowing down of the classics favoured by so many of the star conductors. I discovered, or rediscovered that Cantelli’s performance of the Schubert Unfinished Symphony’s first movement was a real allegro. I haven’t heard many performances like this, an exception being Thomas Dausgaard with the Swedish Chamber Orchestra which is, well, fast! Cantelli’s is a performance I want to return to.

Klemperer’s Beethoven became legendary, but the issuing of Roger Norrington’s Beethoven recordings I found a revelation, particularly with Symphonies Two and Eight which I had on cassette. I found Harnoncourt fine, but the performances I enjoy above all came from an unexpected source: Emmanuel Krivine with the Chambre Philharmonique which really points up a link between these works and dance or folk traditions that existed, on which Beethoven must have drawn. They can all be seen on Youtube. Similarly Mozart Symphonies from Jos van Immerseel and Musica Aeterna, Bruges are exhilerating.

Booted and suited.

Brexit rides rough shod over political identities, Tory or Labour, left or right, brexiteers or remainers. The booted and suited remainers could well be Labour, we know that it is the Tory elite group who are leading the Brexit campaign since this is the message repeated ad nauseam in press reports. The left case is less well documented.

Brexit has been identified with the right from the start with UKIP getting full press coverage. Takis Fotopoulos analyses a situation where, not only in Britain, but elsewhere, including the US, confusion has abounded. The population, divided between the beneficiaries of globalisation and those (the majority) who have found themselves its victims, have looked for alternatives. The traditional left has failed to show support for the victims while many are giving support for remaining in the European Union, an engine of globalisation repressing further those affected by austerity, the loss of what were termed “essential services” provided by almost non-existent local government.

In case any one missed it, this was David Cameron’s promise around the time he offered the chance to take part in a referendum on staying in or leaving the EU. Since then local government has shrunk losing the ability to provide even the most essential of services at the same time as increasing council tax levels significantly. Privatisation of everything, following the highly praised model of Chile’s experiment under Pinochet, has taken hard as “globalisation” (neoliberalism) has taken firm hold. It has become the engine of the European Union and its institutions as well as governments universally whether calling themselves right or left.

Every where privatisation has been practiced flagship projects have ended in tears as private providers collapse through corruption and greed. Carillion failed in the middle of building new hospitals, our railways are costing more and more, at the same time as failing to deliver basic services with huge profits going to providers which include companies set up by state railways of Germany, France, Netherlands, Italy etc. Carillion’s highly paid boss not only landed a new job leading another failing company but was retained as a government adviser. Heads they win, tails we lose.

47th Anniversary of the Battle of Saltley Gate

Flier for meeting in Birmingham on 47th anniversary of the Battle of Saltley Gate, addressed by Arthur Scargill

The 47th anniversary of the Battle of Saltley Gate, which took place in Birmingham on 10th February 1972, will be celebrated in Birmingham with an address from the man who took a lead on that day, Arthur Scargill.

An act of betrayal of both socialist principal and a betrayal of the democratic vote of the British people

Press release from the Leader of the Socialist Labour Party

“Jeremy Corbyn’s statement that any discussions with the government will only take place provided that ” NO DEAL ” is taken off the table is not only deplorable but an act of betrayal of both socialist principal and a betrayal of the democratic vote of the British people and the 60 per cent of Labour Constituencies who voted to leave the European Union including its corrupt Customs Union, it’s rigged single Market and it’s unacceptable Free Movement of workers and Capital. His appalling abandonment of his previous position would have been condemned by the late Tony Benn; Michael Foot and is condemned by me who for over 40 years regarded him as a comrade and friend. No More.” 

Arthur Scargill Leader Socialist Labour Party and former President National Union of Mineworkers 1982 — 2002

Labour Party MPs and Labour Party leadership ” Betrayal “

Labour Party MPs and Labour Party leadership ” Betrayal “

The Labour Party MPs and the Labour Party leaders who voted yesterday to oppose a “NO DEAL”  are guilty of betraying the British people and betraying comrades such as Tony Benn and Michael Foot who warned that membership of the EEC and later the. European Union  would destroy our economy and hand over our sovereignty to an unelected body who take decisions and adopt laws which are binding on all member states, and more important membership would bind Britain to a EU which has a constitution which commits all member states to a Capitalist system. I congratulate Ronnie Campbell ( a mining MP ) Graham Stringer and Kate Hoey who were the only three to keep the faith. The Labour Party leadership should lead the fight for a ( NO DEAL) exit from this rotten bureaucratic E U.  

Arthur Scargill leader Socialist Labour Party and former President of the National of Mineworkers.

We Had the Vote: Leave the EU Now. Conference, Birmingham 27/10/2018

A veritable line up of speakers attended yesterday’s conference held in Birmingham against the flow of demos demanding that we stay in the EU and its institutions. None of them made arguments remotely resembling those associated with the Brexiteers on the right flooding page of press, tv representing the massive reaction of the EU elite to those who had the temerity to vote to leave the EU in 2016. We had the vote: leave the EU now!

Issues raised at the outset included sovereignty, which can be associated with the wishes of supporters of UKIP and the Tory right, although for totally different ends, but from thereon there was little if nothing comparable. Dr Kim Bryan from the Socialist Labour Party spoke of the endless and destructive wars in which NATO was involved in proxy wars accounting for 95% percent of deaths in continuing global conflicts: the Balkans, Iraq, Afghanistan, Syria, Ukraine, the Yemen. The EU is committing increasing funds using NATO to protect its interests. 

Ken Capstick, former Deputy Leader of Yorkshire NUM, spoke of austerity as a “Capitalist Crime” which is being allowed continue after the 2007 financial crash. The leaders of the EU, financiers and bankers, were associated with fraud, theft and other criminal activities and should now be in jail. Don’t hear this from Tories and their right wing allies. 

Professor Costas Lapavitsas, a former Greek MP in the Syriza Government made an eloquent and clear case for the need to end any association with free markets and the tools being used by the EU to meet their agenda. Their aim was to bring about stabilisation through measures such as austerity. Since the method used was to created money is this “stabilisation” real? As is being shown now in Italy, as well as Spain, Portugal and Greece. Austerity is not a policy, it is now institutionalised so that voters have no choice of voting for a party which can do anything different. The “democratic deficit” has become an abyss. There is a profound divergence among people as a result with feelings of powerlessness reasons for which many are unable to comprehend. While the message is that EU produces harmony among member states the reverse is true: Germany is using the EU for its own purposes with France in a support role. Central European states support Germany’s industrial base while those in the south are sources of cheap labour. 

Prof. Lapavitsas ended with advice about what we can do now, discussed in more detail in his new publication “The Left Case Against the EU”. Reform he saw as complete surrender. We are internationalists, but we need the internationalism of labour, not capitalism. For this we have to start from home.

Doug Nicholls, General Secretary of the General Federation of Trades Unions, pointed out that we need to get out of the single market institutions to restore our freedom to determine our future. The “Freedoms of Maastricht” are restrictions except for big international corporations. The basis of the single market came from Thatcher’s decision in 1979 to remove exchange controls on capital in Britain. The result caused misery for many when industry moved elsewhere across the globe. People were told to “get on their bike” to get jobs, as we thought that we had a right to expect employment where we were living. Movement of labour internationally hollowed out the work forces of some countries. UK agricultural and fishing industries were devastated and our ability to sustain ourselves in food and energy was reversed. As net contributors to the EU budget we had a little of our money returned through projects across the nation.

It was pointed out that the EU has not been audited for 20 years. It is rife with corruption and people don’t know where the money goes. We need to re-establish self-reliance to rebuild our own economy and industry. At present EU procurement and competition policies consistently disadvantage British industry. We have to ensure that EU law doesn’t continue to overrule employment law that we ourselves have created. Poland had to tear up all their collective bargaining agreements as a condition of joining the EU.

We need to reject protracted negotiations designed to keep us tied to the EU in some way, but we had a significant working class positive vote which generally lit a spark across Europe and which should mean that we will leave in EU on 29th March.  The elite were caught unawares that this would happen are themselves divided. Britain’s history has been one like a sleeping giant which periodically re-awakens to challenge. The question of an Irish border with controls is an excuse being used to frustrate an agreement. We should remember the great leaders such as James Connolly who stood for freedom and self-determination of their countries, free of impositions from others. These were understood as internationalist perspectives where all others would have their rights respected based on creative co-operation.

Arthur Scargill, Leader of the Socialist Labour Party concluded drawing on his long experience of campaigning against Europe, including in 1975 alongside Tony Benn and Jeremy Corbyn. Going into Europe had resulted in the UK losing its manufacturing base which accounted for 80% of the GDP. Germany is succeeding because of its manufacturing strength, not least in the automotive industry, formerly a feature of a strong British industry. If we take back control we can revive our manufacturing base, using our energy supplies, with new technology available for clean energy, and provide the jobs we need.  

We at this conference should determine to oppose the economic and political decision to sabotage the people’s decision to leave in an unprecedented and sustained campaign through media that ran even into children’s television. We have a responsibility to respond with the case against membership of the EU  We need to understand the issues now and go from here to tell others bringing people onto the streets to oppose what’s going on.

Scargill pointed out that we had a people’s vote. He was referring to the General Election called by Theresa May in 2017. In that resulted he noted that 75% of constituencies with Conservative MPS voted to leave the EU and 61% of constituencies with Labour MPs. If that was reflected in parliament there wouldn’t be a need for a debate. We don’t need further debate, we need action. 

Instead we have betrayal from many in the labour movement who need to understand the facts of life we’re discussing. No socialist can support the free movement of people or capital. Tony Benn made it clear that the EU constitution supported Capitalism. 

The Labour Party did not escape criticism in its wish for a customs union and a free market.

We need to call meetings like this across Britain to say what is going on and will not accept the sabotage of the right wing. That is the way to win the votes of the British people.

Corbyn’s Embrace of a Customs Union is a Sell Out to Labour’s Right Wing on EU Fanatics 

Jeremy Corbyn’s embrace of a Customs Union is a sell out to Labour Party’s Right wing EU fanatics Keir Starmer and Chuka Umunna and it means that the Labour Party is now committed to, Free Movement of Workers from 27 EU Countries in to the U K,  a Single Market which allows Companies to move out of the U.K. to other EU States where workers are paid lower wages, The EU’s constitution is committed to Capitalism and membership or collaboration with the EU means Britain has to accept the tariffs ( Import Controls ) stipulated by an unelected body in Brussels.

It appears that Labours Leadership have forgotten that the 1945 Labour Government applied import controls which saw a Britain build an economy which had 80 per cent based in Manufacturing( today it’s 10 per cent ) an economy which built cars, aircraft, steel,coal, cotton,wool,agriculture and fishing. Labours Leadership are ignoring that 60 per cent of Labour Constituencies voted to leave the EU, something Britain could have done the day after the referendum. Britain has an annual deficit of £80 billion in trade with EU countries whilst Britains trade with the rest of the world produces a £40 billion surplus. It’s economic and political madness to remain in the EU. If the Labour Party continues with its present policy on the EU the British people will never forgive what they are doing. The British people voted to leave this bastion of capitalism. I call on all who want an independent Britain to make clear in any future vote to support those who want ” No Deal ”

Arthur Scargill.  Leader Socialist Labour Party.

Labour Party’s proposal to give shares in firms. Statement from Arthur Scargill, Leader, Socialist Labour Party (SLP)

The Labour Party’s proposal to ” give shares to workers in the firms that employ them” means that the Labour Party is now firmly committed to retaining a Capitalist System, a clear abandonment of Socialism. It’s the same stupid policy as the Labour Government’s ” Bullock Commission” in 1976. How on earth can any socialist support this party’s continued ” Sell Out ” Arthur Scargill ( Author with Peggy Kahn) of The Myth of Workers’ Control ( 1976)

Arthur Scargill, Leader, Socialist Labour Party (SLP)

Further reading

Statement from Arthur Scargill: Labour Party Leadership– Act of Treachery

The statement by the Labour Party Leadership that they would support a second referendum is an act of treachery for which they will never be forgiven. The ruling class have used and will continue to use every means including a media which has sought to overturn to overturn the decision of the British people in the 2016 Referendum. Tony Benn warned that membership of the European Union would mean that Britain would governed by a Constitution which is committed to Capitalism. The ruling class and the EU will demand another referendum and another until they get the result they want. As a socialist I call for all those who call themselves socialists to condemn this act of treachery by the Labour Party Leaders and campaign for withdrawal from this bastion of Capitalism.

Arthur Scargill, Leader Socialist Labour Party.