Monday, June 20, 2022

Anything goes with Boris

Back in the good old days the sun never set on the British Empire that brought trade and justice to the four corners of the world. Though this was all nonsense the ruling class always paid lip-service to the bogus bourgeois morality that they invented to keep workers in their place and repeatedly broke behind closed doors and away from the prurient eyes of the popular press.
    At school we were taught that Britons were universally respected because an Englishman’s word was his bond – and this, amongst other things, is why we went to war with Germany to defend “plucky little Belgium” in 1914. If you were caught out you did the “decent thing” and resigned to avoid a scandal. If you lied in Parliament you walked.
    These days it seems that anything goes with the Johnson government unilaterally tearing up the EU Withdrawal Agreement to appease the bigots in Northern Ireland and the hard-line Brexiteers on the Tory back-benches while ready to send Third World asylum seekers to camps in central Africa – a move which many believe is in breach of the UK’s international obligations to refugees.
    The deportations to Rwanda, branded by the UN Refugee Agency (UNHCR) as unlawful, have been put on hold following an intervention by the European Court of Human Rights. This was supported by the Stand Up To Racism movement that said, “It’s hugely welcome that nobody has been deported to Rwanda tonight. Solidarity with all those who protested. But we know this is not the end and the struggle goes on against all racist deportations and state racism.”
    The Government claim their plan is aimed at deterring the cross-Channel trafficking gangs that exploit the plight of desperate asylum seekers. But it’s clearly one law for people from the Third World and another for the Ukrainians now being welcomed with open arms by the Government that stoked up the flames of war that forced them to flee in the first place.
    Rwanda already houses some 130,000 refugees mainly from other African countries, They have welcomed the deal which will give them £120 million upfront for housing and integrating the asylum-seekers. More will follow as the numbers rise. They say conditions in the camps in rural areas are good and that the refugees will be well-treated. That may well be so. But it’s a one-way road for the refugees who would never be able to come back to Britain whatever the outcome of their application for political asylum. If they are successful they would be allowed to live in Rwanda. If not they will be deported to some unknown destination.
    Johnson clearly hopes that this dog-whistle racism will revive his party’s flagging fortunes and help him stave off new challenges to his leadership from Tory dissidents. We must prove him wrong.
    The New Communist Party recognises the need for any sovereign state to set an immigration policy in accordance with its resources. But we firmly oppose any immigration policy that discriminates, either directly or indirectly, on the basis of race, creed, colour or gender.
    We call for the repeal of the Immigration and Asylum Acts of the 1990s, passed by both Tory and Labour governments, which make it very difficult for many genuine asylum seekers to establish their claims.
    Asylum seekers must be treated humanely and their claims dealt with swiftly. While this process takes place they must be given decent accommodation and welfare benefits to survive. No asylum seekers should be locked up unless there is good reason, with evidence, to believe they are criminals and no child asylum seeker should ever be locked up.

Tuesday, June 14, 2022

Talking about Jerusalem

The sectarian violence in Jerusalem that has enraged the Arab and Muslim world is a warning to the world about the consequences of allowing Israel to maintain its illegal and brutal occupation of the West Bank.
    The Zionist mob that swarmed through the Muslim quarter of Arab East Jerusalem last week chanting “Death to Arabs” was a deliberate incitement to violence. Under the protection of Israeli riot police and security forces they deliberately goaded the Palestinian Arabs as they gloated over their victory in June 1967.
    The Zionist settlers and their political sponsors in Tel Aviv want to drive the Palestinians out of the homes and land they hope to steal – as they did when around a million Palestinians were forced to flee by Zionist gunmen during the first Arab-Israeli war. They talk about the 1967 “Six-Day War” and think they are invincible but some clearly have short memories. They sang a different song when Hezbollah missiles rained down on Haifa and northern Israel in 2006.
    Wherever there is oppression there is always resistance. There can be no peace in the Middle East until the legitimate rights of the Palestinian Arabs are restored.

Poor Old BoJo

It seems that Boris Johnson’s luck has finally run out if this week’s vote of no confidence is anything to go by. Though Johnson won the Tory 1922 Committee ballot it was by such a narrow margin that it is difficult to see how he can long remain leader of the Conservative Party.
    Though always good at advancing himself Johnson’s performance when Mayor of London and Foreign Secretary showed that he was never fit for the highest office in the land. Johnson’s only asset was his ability to get the Tory vote out when needed. He did it to beat Ken Livingstone for the London Mayoralty and he did it again at a national level to “get Brexit done” in 2019. Had he heeded his advisers and curbed his irresponsible personal behaviour he would have been remembered as the politician who tore up the Treaty of Rome. Now he will recalled, if at all, as the man who spent a fortune lavishly redecorating Downing Street and partied during the Covid lockdown – much like Nero, to use one of Boris’ classical examples, who supposedly fiddled while Rome burned.
    Anyone else could have seen this coming and changed course. but not Johnson, which all goes to show that going to Eton and reading Classics at Balliol College, Oxford is not a measure of intelligence at all.

Pay the Tube workers

The RMT transport union showed it meant business when it shut down London’s underground network on Monday following the breakdown of talks with Management on jobs and pensions last week.
    Six hundred workers jobs could go if London Underground gets its way. So far Management has shown no interest in constructive talks to settle the dispute. It’s time for the Mayor of London to intervene. Sadiq Khan has the authority to raise taxes. Just four banks made a profit of £34 billion last year and are set to pay out over £4 billion in bonuses to London traders. A windfall tax on those profits would more than adequately fund London’s transport network. The Mayor should meet and heed the union to keep the Underground network running in the future.

Tuesday, June 07, 2022

China’s communists through the eyes of others

by Andy Brooks

Last week a video seminar was held as part of the events organised by the Communist Party of China in the run-up to its 20th National Congress this year. NCP leader Andy Brooks joined Rob Griffiths of the CPB, Ella Rule from the CPGB-ML, Keith Bennett from Friends of Socialist China, Carlos Martinez from the No Cold War movement and a representative of the CPB’s YCL to talk on the theme of the Communist Party of China in My Eyes. This is Andy Brooks’ contribution...

First of all I would like to thank our hosts for allowing me to say a few words about my impressions of the Communist Party of China which began when I first set foot in the people’s republic as part of a New Communist Party delegation that went to study economic reforms in the new enterprise zones in China back in April 1993.
    During the course of that visit we met a veteran Chinese communist who had fought the Japanese invaders and the reactionary forces during the civil war that ended in victory in 1949. He shared his memories of Harry Pollitt, who he had met when the British communist leader went to China in 1955, and he told us about the first steps taken by the communists along the road of socialist construction following the establishment of the people’s government in 1949.
    The Chinese comrade also spoke about the great changes in the countryside that had begun in 1979 and the development of the special zones that paved the way for the economic reforms that built the socialist market economy which is now the second largest in the world. He knew that dogmatists in some parts of the international communist movement didn’t understand the reform movement. But he said “what is the purpose of the Communist Party if it can’t raise the living standards of working people”.
    I have never forgotten that point. Sadly many European communists, east and west, did – leading to the fall of the Soviet Union and its allies in 1991 in the east and the collapse of communist and workers’ parties millions strong in western Europe.
    I don’t know whether that old Chinese communist lived to see the immense changes that have transform the towns and cities of China but we certainly have in subsequent visits to China over the past thirty-odd years.
    China has become a major force for peace. It has become a beacon of hope for all oppressed people.
It offers economic assistance to poor countries and has played an important role in helping the international efforts to combat the Covid pandemic.
    Cities have been modernised beyond recognition. Absolute poverty has been abolished Vast investments have created new industries to face the challenge of the 21st century and China is, once again, the work-shop of the world.
    Of course great cities are not unique to China. Monumental designs and towering blocks can be seen throughout the Western world. Modern cities house the banks and investment houses of capitalist speculation. Huge factories build the technology and the weapons needed to maintain the global system of oppression while the power of oil has transformed small fishing ports in the Persian Gulf into millionaires’ playgrounds. But this has not benefited the workers in the heartlands of imperialism while oil riches have not helped free the Palestinians or raised living standards on the Arab street.
    The immense wealth of the Western world remains in the hands of a tiny minority of capitalists and feudal lords.
    In the West millions of people scrabble to earn a living just to keep a roof over their heads, while a tiny elite live lives beyond the reach and often beyond the imagination of most workers.
    In the Third World millions upon millions live in poverty while their resources are plundered by the big Western corporations.
    We, on the other hand, see a different picture in China. Vast cities with modern offices and factories and equally modern housing for the workers who live there.
    Chinese astronauts circle the globe. A high-speed rail network spans the country. Container trains travel to Europe packed with the goods that fill our shops and markets. International airports link China to the four corners of the world. A growing network of domestic airline services and modern ports serve the seaborne trade that fires the global economy. And a state run education system and a dedicated health service that battled to contain the Covid plague is available to all.
    China’s wealth is being used to raise the standard of living of everyone in the people’s republic and help the development of the Third World through genuine fair trade and economic assistance.
    Though the social changes that inevitably followed the establishment of a mixed economy did lead to a rise in street crime it remains remarkably low compared to the norm in Europe and nothing like US or Latin American levels.
    There are no shanty-towns and slums in People’s China and the last vestiges of colonial rule, the shameful hovels in Hong Kong, will soon be swept away by the new government of the special administrative region.
    Big city pollution is being tackled by the people’s government in a meaningful way. The smog and acrid air has gone and blue skies have returned to Beijing following the national “war against pollution”, huge investments into a new regulations and an air pollution action plan that has transformed the capital and many other cities across the country.
    Over the years exchanges of views with the representatives of the Communist Party of China have deepened our understanding of the immense problems in organising the communist movement in such a vast country with such a huge population. We have also seen the immense achievements that China has made under the leadership of the Communist Party of China in overcoming poverty, providing the basic needs of all the people and tackling the population problem to give everyone a better life and a standard of living that is constantly rising.
    This year China’s communists will gather for their national Congress to chart the way forward for the Party and the country in the immediate future. Back in 2014 Communist Party of China (CPC) leader Xi Jinping said: "The very purpose of the CPC's leadership of the people in developing people's democracy is to guarantee and support the people’s position as masters of the country.”
    We are confident that the 20th Congress of the Communist Party of China will set the agenda for the people of China for many years to come. We wish the comrades success in their work and look forward to studying their conclusions in the future.

Monday, June 06, 2022

Measure for Measure

Summer may have begun this week, but it seems that the silly season, which usual starts in August, is already upon us. Boris Johnson tells us he’s going to restore the old Imperial measurements, which were discarded in the 1980s to conform with the norms of the European Union, and that he’s going to build a new European bloc consisting of the Baltic States, Poland and Ukraine to stake out British imperialism’s interest in eastern Europe.
    The return to yards and gallons, in tandem with the current metric system, will certainly be a boon to the older generation who still can’t make head or tail out of metrication, but it will be a matter of indifference to the generations brought up under the new system and it will make no difference to the price of anything sold on the high street.
    On the other hand, Johnson’s proposed British-led bloc – based on Russophobia, neo-liberalism and a loathing of the Brussels’ bureaucracy – offers little or nothing to the proposed members already in the EU and nothing at all to the Ukrainian regime that wants to be a full member of the European club. Nobody takes the idea seriously, least of all the proposed members of this alternative European union. The ‘BoJo bloc’, like the return to feet and miles, has clearly been floated by the Downing Street team to distract the public from the continuing Partygate scandal that threatens to bring down the Johnson premiership.
    The number of Tory backbenchers calling on Johnson to stand down or face a confidence vote is apparently growing, although it still falls short of the 54 needed by the Tory 1922 Committee to trigger a vote on the Prime Minister’s future. A far greater number of Conservative MPs would be needed to dump Johnson. Half of them, in fact, would have to vote to oust him for the motion to pass.
    Whether the rebels can muster the 178 or so members to take that decisive step remains to be seen. Many think that the grandees will stay their hand to see what happens at the two by-elections this month. If the Tories lose both – Labour is expected to win one, the Lib-Dems the other – then Johnson’s in big trouble. If it’s bad news for the Tories, the Remainers may make their move. But then again, maybe not.
    The Remainers, who are the driving force behind the move to topple Johnson, don’t have an agreed candidate to replace him. Jeremy Hunt is a front runner but there are others who also fancy their chances if Boris goes.
    Sadly Labour is saddled with a lame-duck leader whose only achievement has been to kick Jeremy Corbyn out of the Parliamentary Party and drive hundreds of thousands of Corbyn’s supporters out of the party over the last two years.
    While the Tories fight amongst themselves, the time is ripe for the labour movement to seek out another leader to replace Starmer to face whoever takes Johnson’s place at the next general election.
    At the same time, communists must continue to struggle to put the communist answer to the capitalist crisis back on the working-class agenda whilst building solidarity with the people of the Donbas fighting, with their Russian allies, for their freedom, and fighting for peace and socialism all over the world.

Sunday, June 05, 2022

Another romp in the jungle

by Ben Soton

The Lost City. Paramount Pictures, 2022; 12A, 112 mins. Director: Aaron Nee, Adam Nee. Stars: Sandra Bullock, Channing Tatum, Daniel Radcliffe.

The Lost City could best be described as {Jumanji} for the middle-aged with strong similarities to the Romancing the Stone franchise of the 1980s. In both cases the writer becomes the hero; effectively taking part in their own adventure. Parallels also exist when in both cases a romance takes place between the writer/heroine and an action hero.
    Sandra Bullock, whom I have to say looks rather good for 57, plays lonely bestselling novelist Loretta Sage. Meanwhile, Daniel Radcliffe plays Abigail Fairfax – a rather one-dimensional British villain who hopes to use Sage’s linguistic skills to find hidden treasure. The choice of a British villain may be indicative of the way the current Biden administration views Britain under Boris Johnson. They have never forgiven Johnson for his close relationship with Donald Trump and were not that keen on Britain leaving the European Union.
    In The Lost City Sage gets up close and personal with dim-witted cover model Alan Caprison (played by Channing Tatum). As the adventure unravels however, it appears that Caprison is not as dim-witted and shallow as he first appears.
    The film raises the issue of can anyone become an action hero if forced to by necessity, with both lead characters using their initiative to avoid capture. The two lead actors work remarkably well together, with a high-quality dialogue and a number of unexpected scenes keeping the audience focused.
    As with the Jumanji franchise, it views the world through an American prism, seeing the rest of the world as some kind of computer game. The film is set off the coast of Africa with the local population as little more than extras. This is however, where there were missed opportunities for the story to develop. Namely one of Fairfax’s henchmen, who it turns out only works for him due to lack of job prospects, on his being unwilling to do his bidding.
    Although the storyline is not original, re-hashing an old idea that worked in its day does not always make it bad. Let’s face it, Romancing the Stone was a successful film and there was also an enjoyable sequel the Jewel of the Nile that did almost as well at the box office. The acting is convincing, and the story is mostly harmless but with missed opportunities. As a result, {The Lost City} is best seen as an upper-end B-Movie with slightly above average dialogue.

Pittance pay in the heart of Cambridge

by Carole Barclay

Daniel Zeichner, the local Labour MP, joined Cambridge students and supervisors demanding “fair pay”, a contract and paid training for supervisors at a rally in the heart of the university city last week. These were the people who were the “backbone of Cambridge’s education system” a student speaker said, but the way they are treated is “cruel, exploitative and unsustainable”.
    The protest by the Justice4CollegeSupervisors campaign called for an end to the “gig economy” working conditions of the undergraduate supervisors who deliver the University of Cambridge’s tutorials on pittance pay.
    The University & College Union (UCU) says around half of undergraduate supervisions are delivered by staff forced into self-employed status or zero-hours contracts. Around four in 10 do not earn a living wage.
    Zeichner told the crowd: “I’m here to show my support for your cause. It's 2022. This university, these colleges, have a lot to be proud of. Why have we still got the systems from centuries ago?
    “I’ll say to people in the university: institutions survive when they change with the times. If they don’t change, change happens anyway, happens when people apply pressure. Thank you for what you’re doing.”
    Campaigning can bring change Zeichner said, pointing to the Johnson government’s recent U-turn on a windfall tax on oil and gas companies that was first proposed by the Labour Party.
    Although the University of Cambridge has finally agreed to draft guidance asking departments and faculties to pay for all mandatory training that they require supervisors to undertake, the university's own colleges have so far refused to follow suit.
    UCU general secretary Jo Grady said: 'It is a scandal that workers who deliver the University of Cambridge's famed small-group supervisions are often on poverty pay without any job security – conditions akin to the gig economy.
    “After years of campaigning, the university has made a first step towards paid training. Its colleges now need to do so and meet our demands to pay supervisors for the full amount of time they spend preparing for classes and provide them with secure contracts.”

Tuesday, May 31, 2022

No way to end the crisis

Some Western politicians are now talking about a compromise peace with Russia that recognises some of the Kremlin’s just demands including Crimea’s secession to Russia and self-determination for the Donbas. Most of it is behind the closed doors of the corridors of power in Europe and the USA; but others are going public. A New York Times editorial recently argued that Ukraine would have to make “painful territorial decisions” to achieve peace and Henry Kissinger, the US foreign minister during the Nixon era, told a panel at the World Economic Forum at the Swiss spa of Davos this week that Ukraine should cede territory to Russia to help end the invasion.
    Of course the old war-monger wasn’t suggesting putting much on the table but merely calling for a return to the pre-war status-quo, with Russia holding Crimea and leaving the Donbas people’s republics in an ambiguous limbo as breakaway autonomous regions of Ukraine.
    Offering someone what they’ve already got is not usually the best opening for serious negotiations. But the stand of the bogus left and much of the anti-war movement, which is still calling for an unconditional Russian withdrawal, is even worse. They pose as anti-imperialists, but their demands are essentially the same as the total war call of the US war lobby and their European NATO collaborators, which threatens to plunge the whole continent into a conflict that could easily escalate into nuclear war.
The communist stand must be for a just and lasting peace in Ukraine – for a neutral and de-Nazified Ukraine that recognises the independence of the people’s republics of the Don basin, Crimea’s decision to join the Russian Federation and equal rights for all the people of the regions of the Ukraine.

Stand by the rail workers

Whatever differences the Tories have over the EU, the one thing that always unites them is anti-union legislation. The proposed new anti-union laws floated in the Tory media last week may, of course, only be designed to wrong-foot workers preparing for a national rail strike over pay, jobs and safety next month. But the proposed new laws to ban “any strikes that did not provide a guaranteed ‘minimum service’ to limit disruption to passengers” reflects the loathing of the labour movement that runs deep within the Conservative & Unionist Party.
RMT rail union general secretary Mick Lynch rightly says that: “To make effective strike action illegal on the railways will be met with the fiercest resistance from RMT and the wider trade union movement. The government need to focus all their efforts on finding a just settlement to this rail dispute, not attack the democratic rights of working people.
“Britain already has the worst trade union rights in Western Europe. And we have not fought tooth and nail for railway workers since our forebears set up the Amalgamated Society of Railway Servants in 1872, in order to meekly accept a future where our members are prevented from legally withdrawing their labour.”
The entire union movement must close ranks around the RMT if last-minute talks to avert industrial action break down, to speed them on to victory throughout the rail network.

Creating a Perfect Storm

by John Maryon

Capitalism faces an increasing number of economic that which are becoming more regular and more acute. Its irreconcilable contradictions that arise from the conflict between productive forces and production relations, coupled with the chaos of a market-driven economy, are contributing to a collapse. The conditions exist for the terminal decline of an unequal and unjust social system that's well past its sell-by date. Capitalist problems are made worse by the motive of greed, extraordinary incompetence and a total submission to US hegemony.
    When COVID‑19 struck in the winter of 2019/2020 the capitalist world was still trying to recover from the 2008 financial crisis. The pandemic caused serious economic problems as industrial production fell, supply chains were disrupted, and unemployment increased. Countries such as Britain had already imposed harsh austerity measures that included cuts in the value of take-home pay, increasing the retirement age and making drastic cuts in public services. The conditions for a perfect storm have now been created as the impact of severe economic sanctions against Russia start to take effect throughout out the world. Just when an economic tonic is needed, we have stagflation and the makings of major financial chaos.
    The conflict in Ukraine can be said to be Barack Obama's war. He was the imperialist leader when a western-engineered coup overthrew the elected government and installed a regime that included Nazi supporters. Genocide is a much over-used expression for situations of conflict, but it can be applied to events in Russian-speaking Ukraine. The Nazi-dominated military, with the full backing of imperialism, has waged a civil war against the people of the eastern and southern regions for the last eight years. A period marked by suppression of the native Russian language, the murder of civilians in Odessa and continuous shelling of Donbas that has caused over 14,000 deaths. This to my mind is genocide.
    Like turkeys voting for Christmas, almost all the craven political leaders in Europe have rushed to align themselves with their masters in Washington. Gripped with irrational anti-Russian hysteria and blindly ignorant of the inevitable consequences, they have succeeded in crushing any economic recovery. Shortages of food and energy, stagnation and business failures will accelerate the de-industrialisation of Europe. And it will be the ordinary working-class people who will suffer. Not one of the so-called leaders has had the courage to stand up and call for a negotiated peace and de-Nazification of Ukraine. Instead, the call has been for bigger and better weapons with more cash to prolong the conflict. Undoubtedly most of the money will finance a new generation of oligarchs and many of the weapons will enter the black-market.
    Unfortunately there exists a politically semi-conscious population of do-gooders, permanent wingers and others eager to join any trendy cause, who make a lot of noise but achieve nothing. They fail to examine the causes and effects of events such as Ukraine from a clear class perspective. They, like their inept leaders, are either unwilling or unable to make any objective analysis of important issues and end up accepting without question the overwhelming imperialist narrative of important matters. Ironically, it is these very people who will end up carrying the burden of disaster.
    Economic storm clouds are starting to gather over much of the world, but they look particularly black over Europe. Capitalist economies are already facing enormous difficulties and the impact of their sanctions against Russia will make matters worse. Of course the authorities will all blame the Russian president, Vladimir Putin, for everything. So it is up to communists to analyse events, put things into perspective and come up with answers.
    The picture in Britain today is one of continued de-industrialisation with modest expansion of the service sector. The result has been a significant growth of insecure, low-paid jobs with minimal pension provision, and over 900,000 workers are on zero-hour contracts. Unemployment in February 2022 stood at 1.3 million. Poor remuneration, no guarantee of regular income and with prices rising faster than wages, poverty has increased in Britain to levels unseen for many years. The crackdown, in the name of austerity, has resulted in record levels of demand for foodbanks. All this has occurred before the impact of ill-considered sanctions becomes effective.
    The policy of the New Communist Party is to call for banning zero-hour contracts, ending pay restraint, and restoration of full trade union rights. It is vital to increase public investment in both infrastructure and high-technology industries. We call for fire-and-rehire to be made illegal. It is our aim to create well-paid, secure employment that is environmentally friendly.
    Under capitalism the first effects of efforts to increase productivity, considered essential to remain competitive, is a reduction in the number of jobs available. Without their normal income, these unemployed workers are then unable to purchase as many products and a recession may occur in which the bright new high-tech factory may be forced to close. This is one of the basic contradictions of the capitalist system, with skilled workers being chucked on the scrap heap. The NCP calls for a planned economy with increased public ownership and full control and regulation of the financial sector. NCP policy firmly rejects all variants of an Alternative Economic Strategy, as advocated by social democratic bodies and revisionist communist parties, which is a form of reformist strategy. Tinkering with a system based upon greed achieves nothing. There is no substitute for revolutionary struggle.
    Britain needs new policies that will tackle inequality whilst ensuring peace and prosperity for all. The NCP is firmly opposed to the hysterical warmongering of the British mass media that keeps people ill-informed and totally ignorant of the true events taking place in Ukraine, a stance reinforced by the denial of free speech in banning news outlets such as RT.  I found the latter to be more balanced and fairer, a stimulating alternative to the establishment narrative put out by the BBC in its crap coverage of important matters. The NCP fully supports the peoples of the Donbas in their heroic struggle for freedom.

Northern Rocks

 by Ben Soton 

Northerners: A History, from the Ice Age to the Present Day by Brian Groom. HarperCollins 2022. Hardback: 432pp; rrp: £20.

Northern England – the area between the Scottish border and the English Midlands – has been the subject of numerous books, sociological surveys and Government task forces. In the last General Election, which Sir Keir Starmer won for the Tories, much of their success in Labour’s so called Red Wall was down to talk of “Levelling Up the North”, as well as the obvious Brexit betrayal. Meanwhile, in recent years there’s even been talk of a Northern Independence Party. With this in mind, Brian Groom has written a potted history of the region, with reference to the achievements to those folk knows as Northerners.
As a separate entity the North Country has its origins in the Roman province of Britannia Inferior, the Anglo-Saxon Kingdom of Northumbria, and a brief period in the late 9th Century and first half of the 10th Century when what is now Yorkshire was ruled by Viking warlords.
Its climate is colder and its soil quality is poorer than the South. As well as being further from the centre of power in London, the North has never had the same claim to nationhood as Scotland or Wales. For most of England’s history, with the exception of the period between 1750–1900, the North produced a proportionately smaller share of national wealth.
Northern England has, however, many great cities, and beautiful countryside and coastline. It is home of the outstanding Yorkshire and Lancashire cricket clubs, and a number of major Premiership football teams. And if you watch the many adverts promoting northern counties, it also has plenty of shopping centres, restaurants and nightclubs.
The author charts the many famous engineers, artists, poets and writers to have come from the North. Groom views the north as an essentially conservative place and to a certain extent attributes this to the prevalence of non-conformism in the region; an ironic name for a strand of Protestant thinking that ultimately promoted conformism.
Many of the great rebellions before the Industrial Revolution took place in the South; for example, the Peasants Revolt of 1381 and Ketts’ Rebellion in 1549. The south was the also bedrock of Puritanism and Parliamentarian support in the English Civil War.
Much of this is neglected by the author, who makes the ridiculous comparison between the areas that supported the monarchy in the English Civil War and those areas voting for Brexit in 2016. A comparison that the author admits has numerous exceptions.
All English regions, except London, voted to leave the European Union. Meanwhile cities like Hull, a northern bastion of Parliamentarian support during the Civil War, voted Leave; and Southampton, a bastion of Parliamentarian support outside of London, also voted Leave.
Although just a potted history, it does come up with a few interesting facts. For instance, Lisa Nandy, the Shadow Levelling Up Secretary, is the daughter of the Marxist academic Dipak Nandy – another example of a left-wing academic with reactionary offspring like the fate of the more well-known social-democratic guru Ralph Miliband.
Ultimately, the book’s greatest weakness is viewing regionalism as the most important divide in society. In fact regionalism only glosses over the real division in society – that of class.
In the 19th Century, however, the newly industrialised North fired the flames of Chartism and the 1970s saw two miners’ strikes that brought down a Tory Government. Sadly, this was not repeated in the 1980s.

Monday, May 09, 2022

Fooling the Germans

by Ben Soton

Operation Mincemeat (12A). Warner Bros Pictures (2021). Written by Michelle Ashford, based on the book by Ben Macintyre. Director: John Madden. Stars: Matthew Macfadyen, Rufus Wright, Johnny Flynn, Penelope Wilton, Colin Firth, Kelly Macdonald, Mark Gatiss. 128mins.

Operation Mincemeat is an otherwise outstanding Second World War espionage film spoilt by a ridiculous anti-communist sub-plot. It’s actually a remake of the 1956 film The Man Who Never Was and tells the story of the ‘Twenty Committee’, an elite group of counter-intelligence operatives tasked with fooling the Germans that the invasion of Southern Europe will take place in Greece rather than Sicily.
    The film is dedicated to those who work in the shadows and is narrated by Ian Fleming (Johnny Flynn), the war-time intelligence officer and creator of James Bond who helped devise the disinformation concept that Operation Mincemeat was based upon.
    Much of the story is set around the work of Ewan Montague (Colin Firth) and Charles Cholmondeley (Matthew Macfadyen) and their work to deceive the Germans. They find the body of a Welsh vagrant, Glyndwr Michael, dress him up as a Royal Marines' officer and dump his body, containing fake invasion plans, in the Mediterranean. It was hoped that after his body had washed up on the shores of Spain, the fake documents would end up in the hands of German intelligence, thus fooling them about the invasion of Sicily.
    Much of the film is taken up by the tug-of-love story between Montague and Chalmondley over female intelligence operative Jean Leslie (Kelly McDonald). Ironically, the rivalry centres around the would-be suitors spreading misinformation about the other, using their skills as counter-intelligence operatives to confuse a rival.
    The anti-communist sub-plot involves Montague’s brother Ivor (Mark Gatiss). Concerns are expressed about his visits to the Soviet Union and communist sympathies. The obvious stupidity of this being that Britain and the Soviet Union were allies during the Second World War. Hence the Soviet Union would have been keen to see Operation Mincemeat succeed. This rather nasty, as well as ridiculous, sub-plot could well be part of a broader historical revisionist agenda emanating from the European Union.
    Despite rivalry and setbacks, the mission eventually goes to plan. The body is dumped off the coast of Spain and the British agents do all they can to see it ends up in the hands of the Nazis. The film ends with the successful Anglo-American landing in Sicily, where little resistance is met.
    Those who carried out counter-intelligence operations such as this should be applauded for the role they played in the defeat of fascism. The underlying reason for there being so few German troops in Sicily in 1943, however, was because they were pre-occupied fighting the Soviet Union.

Stopping the War in Ukraine

The Pope calls for an end to the fighting and the Stop the War campaign tells us to stop the war. Pope Francis wants take his appeal directly to Vladimir Putin and Patriarch Kirill, the Primate of the Russian Orthodox church. But he may have to wait a long time for a response from the Kremlin to pious appeals for peace that ignore the root causes of the conflict.
    To be fair the Pope did speak of an “anger” in the Kremlin which could have been “facilitated” by “the barking of NATO at Russia’s door”. But the Vatican has not addressed the central issue of the right of the peoples of the Donbas to self-determination.
    The Stop the War movement shamefully takes an even weaker position demanding the “withdrawal of Russian troops, an end to the military escalation by the NATO countries and for all efforts to be focused on finding a negotiated solution to this terrible war” which is more or less what NATO wants as well.
    The conflict in Ukraine has rightly heightened fears of escalation that could take Europe and possibly the world to the brink of nuclear war. But the cause of peace is not helped by those in the anti-war movement who blame the Russians for the crisis, ignore the legitimate demands of the people of the Donbas and fail to recognise that this war began in 2014 when the legitimate Ukrainian government was overthrown by fascist gangs supported by Anglo-American and Franco-German imperialism.
    The hidden hand is always at work amongst the fake left within the labour and anti-war movement who essentially argue that peace is only attainable on imperialist terms. These sinister forces have long acted as cheer-leaders for NATO and neo-colonialism.
    They serve the war party within the United States –the most venal and aggressive sections of the American ruling class that seek to dominate the entire world in the name of “globalisation” and the “new world order”.
    Some Americans call them them “deep state” – the war lobby that cuts across all party, regional or religious divides to serve the interests of the big corporations and finance houses of American imperialism.
    We must be clear on this. The call for an unconditional Russian withdrawal from Ukraine is just the demand of US imperialism and its lackeys. It would not bring peace but simply leave the anti-fascist Ukrainians and the people of the Donbas to the tender mercies of the Azov brigade and the other Nazi militias of the Kiev regime. Needless to say it doesn’t provide a serious basis for any peace talks and it’s not going to happen – full stop.
    Now, more than ever, is the time for a clear call from the anti-war movement for an end to the fighting and a just and lasting peace in eastern Europe. This can only come with a neutral and de-Nazified Ukraine that recognises the independence of the Donbas republics, Crimea’s decision to join the Russian Federation and equal rights for all the people of the regions of the Ukraine.