Author Archives: John

Re-opening schools

The Socialist Labour Party issued the following statement from its Leader, Arthur Scargill on 2nd May, 2020

No Schools, Colleges or Universities should be re-opened until there is a drug to cure anyone infected by the virus or we have a vaccine to prevent it. In the event that a decision is made to re-open Schools the maximum allowed in a classroom should be 15. This will require the building of hundreds of new classrooms; a task which could be achieved quickly as shown by the building of new Hospitals in 7 to 10 days. The health of our children and grandchildren is our responsibility; and we should protect our students at College and University in the same way.

We are pleased to note that the leaders of the Scottish National Party, the Welsh Assembly and the Northern Ireland Assembly have all issued statements today, 11th May, 2020, echoing the Policy of the Socialist Labour Party’s opposition to the Tory Government abandonment of the policy “Stay Home; Protect the NHS; Save Lives”

Socialist Labour Party 20/5/2020

Deaths from Covid19 Pandemic in UK: official and real.

Arthur Scargill, Leader of the Socialist Labour Party, has noted the announcement, now over a week old, that the figures for death from the Covid19 virus across the UK was more than 10,000 higher than the figures released as the official ones. One week on he points to the headline figure in the Mirror, just one of the papers that revealed the real figure last week, and is wondering why the lower figure is still in circulation.

The Daily Mirror’s headline today announces that the official death toll in the UK is today, 23rd May, 2020 35,023 with 227 added overnight. A week ago the Mirror itself announced a different figure

“Data from the Office for National Statistics (ONS) reveals that by May 8, the number of Covid-19 deaths in England and Wales was 39,006 – compared to 29,349 previously declared by the Department for Health. It brings the current death toll to more than 44,000 when Scotland and Northern Ireland’s deaths are accounted for, and those confirmed by NHS England on dates after May 8.”  

This was corroborated by an ITV report.

Other news outlets are using the old outdated lower figures. Why? Arthur Scargill thinks that the figure of 44,000 announced over a week ago now could have passed 50,000. What are the reasons that updates based on what is the real figure have vanished?

We are not being told the truth as in many other key contentious areas such as personal protection of workers putting themselves at risk, the state of testing and tracking, the movement of people from hospitals to care homes and how safe it is to re-open schools and work places. New Zealand by contrast had things up and running from early on and it tells.

Global Crises and Socialism

Global Crises and Socialism

There is much talk about “a return to normality”, but after the succession of crises we have endured is that really what we want or need? Each one has brought into sharp relief deep entrenched failures of our society under Capitalism.  The 2008 financial crash was a crisis on a global scale and led to response of governments to austerity and privatisation, a further crisis affecting working people disproportionately. Those unemployed and dependent on state support shook our faith in government to its foundation. Here we argue that the conditions which have led to the crises are inevitable under the neoliberal Capitalist system which is the norm over so much of the world so we need to look at the global crises and socialism.

The paralysis felt over years on the failure to resolve the outcome of the 2016 referendum, when nearly 17.5 million voted for Britain to leave the EU has also had a traumatic effect on the population. The Brexit debate dragged on in Parliament for 3 years until the 2019 General Election brought in support for those Tories who with Boris Johnson resolved to “Get Brexit Done”. The slogan was effective when many of those in depressed areas of the UK, notably in North and Midland areas of England, abandoned traditional voting habits supporting the Labour Party, voted Tory. The Tories achieved a landslide majority.

Professor Takis Fotopoulos characterisation of people who voted for Brexit seems to me a lot more rational than that drummed up by “the EU elite, closely associated with bankers, financiers and those associated with the 2008 financial crash, (who) are using a poisoned cocktail of ‘suppression and mainly deception’”. The entire press, along with every opposition party in Westminster echoed the EU elite view where Brexiteers were typically racist xenophobes and supporters of the fascism seen as growing dangerously across Europe and elsewhere. Once papers like the Guardian and Independent could be relied on for a balance of articles which put across other points of view. In 2016 the Guardian published some unpicking neoliberalism as one of the great dangers. Over the next few years a number of writers responsible for these simply disappeared from view on their pages. While the Morning Star did continue to publish such articles, it became compromised by its support for Jeremy Corbyn as leader of the Labour Party failing to note the complete reversal of his long standing opposition to the EU, along with Arthur Scargill, Tony Benn and others. As can be seen in writings and speeches during this period by Scargill he has remained consistent in his criticism of the EU and its elite, which means withdrawing from customs unions and leaving a “no deal” Brexit on the table. Undoubtedly any agreement required by the EU would entail continued acceptance of EU law, as is shown in the case of Norway, which while not in the EU has to accept that overriding Norwegian law. This has led to rights hard won by unions to be overturned in favour of the wishes of big business. Why those in the Labour movement persist in saying that the EU policies and practice is in the interest of working people and supportive of their rights is a mystery. It is demonstrably not the case as we can see notably in France where workers were moving towards a General Strike after weeks of unrest and taking to the streets. This has attracted little comment in the main stream pro-Europe media.

The latest crisis which has cut across all others, the global pandemic, Coronavirus, puts the others into sharp relief. Those relegated to obscurity without a voice are now visible in the front line of the fight against it. Earlier in the year Matt Hancock is on record saying that we were fully prepared for such an eventuality. The results of earlier, deliberate policy to reduce state control through austerity, privatisation, bailing out banks etc. has left us floundering. Those on the front line are having to make do with shortages of protective equipment. Even that issued has been shown to be flimsy and inadequate putting lives of hard pressed, essential and experienced personnel at great risk. There are far too many among those who have died from this highly contagious pandemic. 

It has been noted that those countries who took steps early on to identify those who were safely immune and those who spread the virus have been successful in keeping the number of deaths relatively low, notable South Korea and Germany. 

As for the EU, its ability respond to the pandemic and give help to struggling countries is starkly apparent. Italy has had to rely on help from Cuba and China. Cuba, a small state struggling under sanctions by the United States, continues to give support to so many others. Even the British Government noted the help it had received from them. (True to form little was said in the press, except to continue to criticise). 

If as Takis Fotopoulos has suggested Brexit is part of an anti-global movement by those who have experienced and suffered from globalisation and neoliberalism, the result of the 2019 General Election in the UK an be seen as consistent with that view. The EU’s strategy of making it appear that Brexit was essentially a right wing, racist movement appears to have been successful. For many antiracists on the left the idea of being labelled as supporters of the likes of Farage and Johnson was too much. But this was how the media consistently ramped up that message with these figures shown as the main and only ones who supported Brexit. In the mid seventies the Labour movement had opposed it. Arthur Scargill, renowned for his consistency, has continued to oppose it with a completely different message. At one time he was seen on television and reported in the press regularly, but now we see Johnson and Farage. (If anyone wants to check Arthur Scargill’s speeches at and since the referendum look at the “Socialist Labour Party GB” channel on Youtube and their website at https://socialist-labour-party.org.uk/ )

There is a whole army of others who have to go out on call in spite of everything. Supplying food is essential – here we have a system of supply which is creaking as we depend on imports more than home grown produce. It could be the next crisis. We depend on those in this industry which like so much more is hugely dominated and controlled by multinational companies and profit. We need those who clean up and care for the environment for reasons of health and wellbeing. Again working people including refuse collectors and cleaners. Those who keep us safe, maintaining public order or responding to emergency: police, fire fighters, ambulance workers. How do we show they are valued when their numbers have been vastly reduced, their pay has been reduced or they have been outsourced to private providers who oppose union membership, give them zero hour contracts or withdraw sick pay?

So let’s return to normality, a normality not dominated by 1% of the population, but one where those who are needed and able to work are rewarded with pay and conditions which reflect the high value that society places on them. Those that can’t have a strong support network that recognises their care, housing, health and other essential need for well being. Immediately following the financial crisis in 2010 David Cameron as Prime Minister, with the willing connivance of the Liberal Democratic Party in coalition, announced the need to reduce the role of the state in providing for people. As writers at the time said his real aim was to follow up on Thatcher and end the welfare state. It was Cameron who led in announcing a referendum on Britain staying in or leaving the the European Union. He promised that the outcome would be respected. This was duly acknowledged and agreed by the Labour leadership. Between then and the 2019 General Election there was complete stalemate in Westminster with politicians unable to agree with every party, apart from the divided Tories putting forward policies favouring remaining in the EU. Those Tories which recognised the ground swell of people voting to leave saw an opportunity and went to the country on the promise to “get Brexit done”. 

They appealed to the British people by stealing socialist clothes. Labour by contrast appeared to ditch the leave voters by talking about a referendum and joining with all other Westminster parties by campaigning to stay in the EU. Doug Nicholls, General Secretary of the General Federation of Trades Unions, made the point in a speech at a Socialist Labour Party meeting in Birmingham that Boris Johnson had completed the one policy the Tories had fought the 2019 election promising, to “get Brexit done”. That had now been achieved and now is the time for Johnson to step aside. Now is the time for the Labour movement and Trades Unions to step up and provide leadership in working for the fairer society that successive crises have shown very clearly is essential for a society that puts human need ahead of the greed of the few which has brought us to our knees.

Arthur Scargill on Jeremy Corbyn and Brexit

Arthur Scargill on Jeremy Corbyn and Brexit
https://www.antiglobalization.org/2019/01/26/arthur-scargills-statements-on-the-betrayal-of-brexit-by-the-labour-party-and-takis-fotopouloss-response/

One of the worst aspects of the period leading up to the 2019 General Election was that few claiming to be on the left, both in the Labour Party would dare criticise Corbyn’s response to Europe falling in line with Blairites in the party and others who campaigned to remain. Arthur Scargill has been active in opposing the European Union recognising it does not support the working class. Quite the opposite since it is run by financiers who have vested interests in international finance and showed in the 2007/8 financial crisis that they were prepared to bail out banks with unlimited funds. They followed this by supporting austerity and privatisation, opposing trades unions and their members. Countries in the EU that were weaker financially, such as Greece, face enormous pressure which affected key services to people. Meanwhile the wealthy elite thrived and capitalised on the crisis.

Neoliberalism has ravaged the world, and now a global pandemic has followed in its way exposing the ruling elite. Health services already ravaged by neoliberal policies of cutbacks and savings have been ill prepared. There is a total dependence on working people to step up to the front line to deal with the deadly virus at great cost to themselves and their families. They are having difficulty getting adequate protective equipment that is essential for their welfare. Testing, found to be key in China and others battling the pandemic, is hardly in sight.

Takis Fotopoulos writing in 2016 characterised the Brexit movement as one leading a response to neoliberalism and globalisation when working class people had suffered significantly because of austerity, withdrawal or privatisation of essential public services and opposition to union membership.

Lost mural is found

Detail of Saltley Gate mural showing Arthur Scargill, at that time a rank and file member of the NUM, addressing the strikers and supporters in including 30,000 Birmingham workers who stopped work on 10th February 1972.

It’s just two years before the 50th anniversary of the Battle of Saltley Gate in 2022. South and City College, Birmingham in Digbeth, long a centre for trades union studies, are hosting us for the 48th anniversary on 11th February. Banner Theatre will be leading the celebrations with excerpts from their acclaimed repertoire around working peoples’ achievements, including the Battle of Saltley Gate. An unknown rank and file NUM member in ’72, Arthur Scargill, will be back in Birmingham to speak at this event. He will be joined by Paul Mackney, a former General Secretary of NATFHE, closely involved in the commissioning of a mural on Saltley Gate at this college when President of Birmingham Trades Union Council and Doug Nicholls, President of the Federation of Trades Unions from 2007-9 and elected its General Secretary in 2012.

A group of us visited the College in advance to make arrangements for the meeting: Ian Scott, President of Birmingham Trades Council, Graham Stevenson, a former national organiser for the TGWU and son-in-law of the late Frank Watters, a key player at Saltley Gate, Bhagwant Singh and myself from the Socialist Labour Party. We were met by a member of staff, new to the College. We met in the place where the event would take place. Our first question was “where is the mural?” “What mural?” came the response.

At that moment a college lecturer arrived. “Yes I can show you the mural. It’s in the classroom I use for teaching about trades union history” he told us. 

The College has undergone modernisation and is a thriving organisation. However the mural had been moved from the original site. We joined our hosts on a trip up two floors, and yes there it was, or at least most of it. Our hope is to get the mural on display in its entirety, preferably in Birmingham which in 2022 will be hosting the Commonwealth Games. 

There never was a better time to revisit Saltley in 1972 when failure to achieve solidarity for working people in struggle has allowed political opportunists to masquerade as their champions at the 2019 General Election. The very authors of austerity and opponents of trades union power were allowed to take over by a disunited leadership in the labour movement, a significant number of whom were distracted by the privileges and opportunities for personal advancement offered to them by powerful interests particularly in Brussels and Westminster.

The 48th Anniversary of Saltley Gate meeting takes place at South and City College Birmingham Annexe, High Street, Deritend, Digbeth, B5 5SU on Tuesday, 11th February from 6.00pm to 9.00pm

There will be exhibition stalls at the meeting at Digbeth representing unions and other organisations fighting for equality and justice, including the IWA in Birmingham who have led on demonstrations in Birmingham and London in support of rights of Moslems in India, and the West Midlands Palestine Solidarity Campaign. 

The Labour Leadership’s Betrayal. Leave Now. No Deal.

Corbyn’s call for a national government is a Betrayal reminiscent of Ramsay MacDonald’s Betrayal in 1931, A NO DEAL is a Socialist Deal because it sets Britain free from a European Union which has a constitution committed to Capitalism and an economic and political system which embodies a Customs Union (the EU’s Union) a Single Market (the EU’s Single Market), the Free Movement of Capital( look at who owns Britain’s Rail, Steel, Electricity, Gas,and large sections of our NHS) and Free Movement of Workers (look at facts- Britain has a falling birth rate yet free movement has seen Britains population has rocketed from 59 million to 67 million!) 

The EU compels Britain to outsource sections of our economy such as Council Housing to private landlords, the NHS is now partly owned by International Trusts, and Care of the Elderly are now in the hands of private providers, 

The EU precludes a Government from giving subsidies to Britain’s remaining basic Manufacturing Industries whist allowing an Internatioal Pension Fund to bid/own our Steel Industry,——

I call on all Constituncies who voted in 2016 to leave the EU to collect  the 10% of the main signatures to remove any and all MPs who are acting in breach of the Referendum and replace them with MP’s who will honour the decision of the British People.  Remember Britain loses £85 billion a year trading with the EU whist Britain secures a £41 billion surplus from its trade with the rest of the world.      

STOP THESE MP”s FROM WRECKING THE WILL OF THE PEOPLE.   LEAVE THE E U NOW WITH NO DEAL.                                 

                                        ARTHUR SCARGILL–LEADER SOCIALIST LABOUR PARTY.

Brecon and Radnorshire bi-election confirms result of 2016 referendum

The result in the Brecon and  Radnorshire is a disaster for the Labour Party  and a success for Brexit.  The total vote for leave parties without a deal was 50.21 per cent whilst the vote for Remain parties was 49.78 per cent. The vote is in line with the 2016 Referendum and the vote in the 2019 European Elections. 

The clamour in Westminster by those wanting to remain in the European Union is pressing for a second referendum. That held in 2016 gave a result which many didn’t like so they want another one. So far succeeding elections have shown a similar result to 2016 so why hold yet another ignoring the results. The country is governed according to the results of a process intended to be democratic, so discarding the outcome raises questions of the legitimacy of the outcomes. To change it questions a democratic process. This is not to say that the system can’t be improved so that votes cast to elect representatives do properly reflect accurately the wishes of the people. Many countries have adopted one form of proportional representation but that has so far been resisted in the UK with the major parties in what has up to now been a two party system who fear change will disadvantage them. The time for electoral reform is ripe.

The Electoral Reform Society reported that in 17 councils the party with the largest number of votes did not secure the most seats. Scotland has already adopted a new system.

A view from Europe on the UK EU election on 23rd May

La Tribune des Travailleurs [Workers’ Tribune] Issue no.191 – 29 May 2019

Britain: The  people  want  democracy  respected

The simple truth is that the people want democracy respected – and political power back.” This is how Doreen MacNally, one of the British delegates to the internationalist rally in Strasbourg (France) on 11 May, summarised the result of the European elections in Britain.

Three years during which the Labour leadership did everything it could to oppose a clear and full  break as decided by the voters in the 2016 referendum.

On Thursday, 23 May, British voters had to elect members to the Parliament of the European Union (EU). An EU that they had already decided to leave three years previously. Let us remember that on 23 June 2016, a majority of the British people – especially in working-class constituencies – voted in favour of leaving the European Union.

Three years during which the crisis that has torn the Conservatives apart has seen conflict between the City’s financial representatives in favour of remaining in the EU and those who were saying that they would implement the EU’s anti-working-class policy from outside the EU. 

The leaders of the Labour Party and the Conservatives have consistently agreed on this denial of democracy. 

Regarding the minority of voters who took part in the election, Tory voters largely turned to the Brexit Party of far-right politician Nigel Farage. The Labour Party’s electoral base mostly abstained, although it is indisputable that some Labour voters voted for Farage’s party – for which the Labour Party leaders bear full responsibility.

The result on 23 May: an abstention rate of 63 per cent, rising to over 70 per cent in some working-class constituencies where there had been a majority in 2016 in favour of leaving the EU.

It is pointless to beat about the bush: democracy means breaking with the European Union, as the people decided in 2016. What is now on the agenda is rallying together all those in both the trade unions and the Labour Party who are in favour of respecting the 2016 mandate: a clean break with the European Union and all its anti-working-class and anti-democratic provisions, which would open up the path to renationalising privatised services, to ending privatisation and zero-hour contracts, and to satisfying working-class demands which are forbidden as long as the straitjacket of the European Union remains in place.

Jean-Pierre Barrois

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.