They call him ‘Calamity Clegg’ – should we enjoy watching this politician melt?

Things are not going well for Nick Clegg. Take this video news clip (posted below). It shows his disastrous photo-opp visit to a Children’s Centre in London yesterday. This video nicely illustrates at least half of his problem. The hapless Clegg was visiting the ‘Shepherd’s Bush Families Project and Children’s Centre’. His intention was to to promote his plans to ‘improve social mobility for the young’ – and also to promote his image as a caring politician, of course.

The problem was that the centre is being cut – has just lost £47,000 – and the building itself, used by 44 local groups, faces closure as the council wants to sell it off! An outraged local community is campaigning against this, of course. He was therefore filmed being confronted by angry and concerned local people including parents, children, and workers at the centre. He even face the embarrassing and politically damaging moment of being presented with cards specially made by the children begging him and his government to stop the closure! Poor old ‘Nice Nick’ is inexorably becoming reframed as ‘Nasty Nick’.
Click here for the footage:

Opportunism in Crisis

This is of course a first class political blunder. But it is part of a much wider picture. The Lib-Dems have created their electoral base by hijacking popular local community campaigns against cuts exactly like this one. In the past they could always play the nice guy, opportunistically posing as all things to all people. Now we can see the real face of economic liberalism, as this party helps bring about the deepest and most destructive cuts in generations. In their foolish and greedy impatience for high office they have hitched themselves to an unprecedentedly vicious neo-liberal ideological and economic offensive against the welfare state lead by the Tories. Over time, as people experience and sometimes resist these bitter losses, the Lib-Dem’s electoral support will be fatally eroded, and they also risk tearing themselves apart.

Everywhere Clegg now goes, he will start to melt in this political heat. He is getting incredibly bad press – risking becoming typecast as ‘Calamity Clegg’ – as everywhere he goes he faces angry former supporters. So the very next day after this disaster at the childrens centre in London, he walks into the fire in Tyneside. The BBC headline is “Cuts dominate Nick Clegg’s return to Tyneside” while the Daily Mails spin is: “Clegg loses his cool: Deputy PM silences LibDem voter during ill-tempered meet-and-greet”.

But this only makes up half of Clegg’s crisis – the half composed of angry communities resisting cuts (communities which include dissillusuioned former Lib-Dem supporters). The other half is the Tory press and the Tory establishment who will also punish Clegg for two reasons. Firstly, they don’t trust him or like his occasional divergences from Cameron (seen as disloyalties) over issues like Trident or Iraq. Secondly as the coalition government becomes ever more unpopular and even hated by large sections of the public, the Tory press will need to find and focus attention on a variety of scapegoats. One of these scapegoats will be the Lib-Dem’s and their leader, who will be the fall-guys, crucified in a vain effort to save Tory skins (and seats)!

Clegg and the Lib-Dems are particularly vulnerable precisely because of their opportunistic past – of being all things to all voters. To appeal to disillusioned Labour voters the Lib-Dems posed as a leftish alternative to Labour, opposing the previous governments appalling record of wars, repressive laws, student tuition fees and other right wing policies. But they would put out a different tone of leaflet and campaign in more prosperous Tory voting areas. This usually worked until they took over a council, started privatising services and punishing the poor, soon becoming as hated as the Tories or the worst New Labour regime. But in the past, these were merely local problems for them caused by limited and localised exposures. Now, however, they are part of central government and this trick no longer works for them – and the chickens are coming home to roost.

So to answer the question posed in the title – yes – enjoy!

In this instance schadenfreude seems not only permissible, it may even be positively de rigueur! The Lib-Dem’s are the weakest link, the vulnerable pressure point in the Cameron regime. As their electoral support evaporates, more of the party will want to leave the coalition. This is the clearest way of bringing down the Cameron government and fighting its cuts.

But also lets build a genuinely radical alternative force in politics – one that challenges the dominant agenda of big-business, the war-mongers and sycophants of the super-rich. We need a force in politics which stands for liberty, equality and solidarity and which puts people and the planet before profit. We need a social and political movement which as its first priority organises to fight these cuts – and therefore fights to prevent this ugly Tory-Lib-Dem attempt to shift the balance of wealth and power still further in favour of the rich and ever further away from the common people.

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Jimmy Reid. July 1932 – August 2010. In memory of a great victory – and an inspiration for future ones.

Video: Matt McGinn sings ‘Wi’ Jimmy Reid and Airlie’ to images from the great UCS work in.
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In the late 1960’s, British shipbuilding was in trouble, blighted by under-investment in new technology. For decades shipyard owners had milked the industry as a cash cow, relying on a super-exploited workforce and 19th century conditions. In response the Labour government, including Tony Benn, developed a strategy to save the industry and modernise it. They consolidated three major shipyards on Glasgow’s Clydeside into UCS – Upper Clyde Shipbuilders, part nationalising it with a 48.4% stake in the project and a £5.5m interest free government loan over the first three years. The new UCS had a labour force of 13,000 and an order book of £87m. By the end of 1970 the UCS Chairman could report that the company was “gaining in strength and morale as each day passes”.

However, the incoming Tory government of Edward Heath announced a shocking U turn, and announced the closure of the yard, threatening Glasgow with mass unemployment and an end to centuries of British shipbuilding, an industry where Britain had been a world leader.

The Tory plan to close the yard represented the beginning of a new core Tory strategy of de-industrialising Britain, as they began to pursue an alternative capital accumulation strategy around global finance. This new Tory strategy would also have one advantage for the conservatives – it would help shatter the power of their biggest enemy – the organised working class and the trades unions.

As the Tories brought in the liquidators, in response the UCS shop-stewards sprang into action, holding mass meetings in the yards. Lead by communist shop stewards Jimmy Reid, Jimmy Airlie and Sammy Barr they agreed that instead of striking and locking themselves outside the gates, they would stay inside the yards and occupy them. Furthermore, they would carry on working and building ships, defying the Tory liquidators, who were forced to accept that the workers were in control. The shop stewards insisted on strict discipline inside the occupied yards to portray the best image. Tony Benn led the offensive in parliament, highlighting the massive increases in productivity and the full order books for future ships.

Upper Clyde Shipbuilders Workers Occupation.

Upper Clyde Shipbuilders Workers Occupation.

The workers occupation was able to rally the majority of society behind their fight. Mass protests of over 80, 000 people filled Glasgow to support the occupation, with 200,000 workers across the region joining solidarity strike action. Supporters from across society donated tens of thousands of pounds to help the shipyard workers cause, enabling those taking part in the work-in to continue to be paid throughout the action. The Scottish Trades Union Congress held a public inquiry that exposed the ideological nature of the Tory plan to close the yard, a plan hatched while they were in opposition, despite knowing the industry was viable. After 16 months of struggle, the Tory government gave in and agreed a settlement, giving £35 million in further subsidies for shipbuilding to continue. This represented a significant victory for the working class at the time.

This story shows what working class action could achieve, and shipbuilding continues on Clydeside to this day. Unfortunately, the British ruling class were still committed to their class war against organised labour and the de-industrialisation of Britain, sensing richer pickings through following the path of global finance capitalism. Their class war continued under Thatcher, and the key sections of the organised working class and British industry were destroyed. But the UCS occupation pointed to an alternative future, one made possible where organised workers take militant and creative action and win the leadership of the whole of society, to take it in a different direction.

Whilst we are in a different situation today, the lessons still stand. The power of organised labour can save society from the devastation of capitalist crisis, and open up a different future for us all. Young workers today must learn these lessons from their history and take inspiration, we need a new generation of the like of Jimmy Reid, as we face the battles to come, against Cameron’s attempt to destroy public services.

Jimmy Reid in 1971, leading the UCS work-in.

Jimmy Reid in 1971, leading the UCS work-in.

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Nice one Peter! Brilliant performance exposes Griffin and the BNP!

Have you seen the footage of Peter Tatchell confronting Nasty Nick Griffin this week? I think its brilliantly done! Tatchell calmly walks up to Griffin, and then simply stands beside him and asks, in a load voice, a clear and direct question:

“Hi Nick, isn’t it about time you apologised to the British people for your party’s long history of anti-Semitism, homophobia and attacks on the Muslim community?”.

The reaction is both shocking and predictable. Tatchell is manhandled out of the way by Griffins minders, the ugly squad of BNP thugs in suits. But when Tatchell responds by pointing out how this represents typical BNP behavior, commenting in a clear voice that could be picked up by the cameras: “”This is the BNP in action. Look at them, they’re thugs” the thugs and their controllers realise the trap they are in, and retreat, allowing Tatchell to continue his questioning of Griffin.

Griffin simply flees. This shows how broken he is, along with his party. There was no flair or confidence, no attempt to offer a riposte to Tatchell, no attempt to to seize the media situation. Simple thuggery and then a cowardly retreat. Nick Griffin must be a tired and troubled man, his party in crisis, weak and without the energy to spontaneously perform for media. He is just a posh stuffed shirt only able to act in stage-managed situations, delivering pre-written lines.
Griffin crumbles before Tatchell’s calm and courageous tactics. Tatchell has not been well, suffering from past assaults on him by thugs belonging to both Mugabe’s regime and Russia’s far-right homophobes. Once again Tatchell deploys a dignified and principled nonviolence in the face of real risks from the thugs of dictators and fascists.
The fascists of the BNP and the crazed anti-Muslim bigots and racists of the EDL might face certain limitations. The far right attracts bitter and broken people, desperate to lash out, but too submissive to confront the most powerful institutions – the capitalist class – so instead they attack the relatively powerless. They victimise the scapegoats – sticking the boot in to refugees, migrant workers, ethnic minorities. The basic cadre of fascist movements like the BNP is always going to be drawn from the reservoir of sad, failing people on a desperate ego trip, all scheming against each other, driven by vanity and delusions of grandeur, while simultaneously nursing a perpetual victim mentality. The EDL are also riven by fractions, some fascist and some pro-zionist, or rival football firms and competing agendas.
But however much the fascists and the far right may crumble and fall, collapsing under their own internal contradictions and general incompetence, they will always be revived by a certain life-support system. The capitalist system is in a deep and protracted crisis. To deflect the blame away from themselves, the capitalist class need scapegoats. Therefore the capitalist owned media whips up wave after wave of campaigns against Muslims. The Daily Express appears almost as a single issue campaign against refugees, migrants and Muslims, trying to marginalise and demonise these groups still further. But all the ‘tory tabloids’ and the mutinational media empire of Murdoch, with the Sun, the Times and the News of the World play the same dirty game. The Express also showed how it was prepared to go for other targets, to use homophobia as well as islamophobia and more general racism. When it can combine racism, xenophobia and homophobia together in the same story, it responds with an especially vicious zeal, as in the recent attack on LGBT asylum seekers:

Daily Express - a homophobic, islamophobic hate sheet, an instrument of divide and rule for capitalism.

Daily Express - a homophobic, islamophobic hate sheet, an instrument of divide and rule for capitalism.

In a similar vein, the tuely rancid Daily Star wrote about this issue, going into full-on right wing bigot rant headlined “NO ROOM FOR GAYS”.
Thus capitalism, the capitalist media and pro-capitalist political parties will always stir up prejudice in a crisis, picking on the easiest target they can find from amongst the poor, the weak and the stigmatised. This provides the ideal nutrients for the fascist fungus to keep on growing. But Peter Tatchell’s actions this week showed that with courageous and bold action, fascism can always be confronted and driven back.

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Tory/ Lib-Dem vermin attack the sick and disabled calling them ‘benefit cheats’ while letting rich tax dodgers off the hook.

George Gideon Osborne - Tory B*stard

George Gideon Osborne - Tory B*stard


So today George (Gideon) Osborne announced he will “tackle sickness benefit cheats next”. These people, on incapacity benefit are overwhelmingly the poorest in our society. The label ‘benefit cheat’ has been taken up by our rulers obedient propaganda machine, the Tory press including the Mail, Sun and Express. Also under attack will be housing benefits, dramatically increasing homelessness. The Tories and their propagandists say this is because we need to cut the budget deficit, and that incapacity benefit costs £12b a year. The Tory press will on cue produce manufactured stories of ‘benefit cheats’ living on luxury yachts or whatever, to manipulate gullible readers.

Let us consider some other figures. Every year, tax dodging costs us £25 billion. And there is a further £28 billion in uncollected tax, because civil service cuts mean that there are not enough personnel and resources to collect tax owed. This £53 billion a year in unpaid tax is just the figure the treasury admits to. According to the Public and Commercial Services union the real figure could be around £120 billion annually. If we collected the tax owed, there would be no need for any attacks on the sick and disabled, or on the jobs and pensions of public service workers, or on our local services like libraries and swimming pools, which face closure under the Con-Dem ‘austerity alliance’.

However allot of these tax dodgers come from the rich elite. The millionaire public schoolboys of the Con-Dem alliance cabinet won’t attack their own class. Instead they will attack the poorest people in Britain. And they will be cheered on by the Tory press, the lie machine – which is also owned by millionaires. And when people get bitter and angry, this Tory lie machine will whip up the scapegoating drive. This lie machine will probably have another go at Britains much maligned Muslim community, or Asylum seekers, or any other convenient minority that can be targeted in our rulers attempt to deflect working class anger away from themselves and onto a scapegoat. Look how these ‘newspapers’ used the frenzy around the world cup to push the Tory message.

The Sun's uses the England flag to push Tory propaganda over the budget

The Sun's uses the England flag to push Tory propaganda over the budget

The Sun is owned and controlled by Australian born Rupert Murdoch, who has American citizenship and no loyalty to Britain. His multinational empire, ‘News Corp’ is notorious for its tax evasion, avoiding paying the billions it owes in corporation tax to the Australian and British governments for years. Yet Murdoch’s ‘Sun’ leads the way in whipping up English nationalism. The posh Tory paper, the Telegraph is owned by the super rich billionaire Barclay Brothers, who live in tax exile on their private Island, in the Channel Islands. These parasites want to influence British politics, but pay no taxes to Britain, unlike the working class people they scorn.

Daily Express exploits world cup fever and English patriotism to promote Tory budget attacks on the working class

Daily Express exploits world cup fever and English patriotism to promote Tory budget attacks on the working class

And the Daily Express is owned by the multi-millionaire Richard Desmond who made his fortune in the international pornography business. The Express has lead the way in scapegoating Muslims and other minority groups while promoting the thugs of the ‘English Defence League’.

Cameron, Osborne and the Tory / Lib Dem ‘austerity alliance’ are waging a class war. They want to make the working class people of Britain pay for the economic crisis caused by the international banking elites, who continue to receive billions in bonuses. We need to fight back and demand the the rich elites are made to pay. There should be no talk in working class communities of ‘benefit cheats’. Instead we should target the wealthy tax dodgers. And to focus our energy on the greedy rich elites who are screwing this country means rejecting the politics pumped out by the phony patriots, the Tory tabloids and the EDL thugs on the streets. We can see through their fake nationalistic and bigoted version of ‘Englishness’ and their exploitation of football and the St George’s cross flag. We can see that the real divisions in this society are around class – not race, religion or nation. And the real history of the English people is of centuries of working class struggle to gain our rights and dignity.

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From Bloody Sunday to Bloody Monday – oppressors use the same old lies.

This mornings act of piracy and murder by the military wing of the state of Israel has rightly provoked outrage across the world. The Gaza freedom flotilla was an unarmed civilian humanitarian aid convoy in international waters. Yet the Israeli state propaganda (hasbara) machine is trying to construct its media spin, to justify this atrocity – they are claiming that the human rights activists were ‘Hamas terrorists’ who attacked first! This is despite the fact that the people on board the ship were an international collection of activists consisting of Jews, Muslims, Christians and others, and included citizens of America, Britain, Turkey, Israel and many more countries. On board were respected peace and human rights activists, plus parliamentarians and journalists, all attempting to bring aid to Gaza, to highlight the injustice of Israel’s blockade of Gaza which the UN has said is leading to poverty, hunger and death.

But we should beware that all states who repress a population construct a defensive wall of lies, propaganda and spin. Here in Britain we were kept in ignorance about the behavior of the british state in the north of Ireland for years. In the 1972 ‘Bloody Sunday’ massacre British troops opened fire on a civil rights demonstration. 14 people were killed. Eyewitnesses, including British and Irish journalists maintain that the soldiers fired into an unarmed crowd, or were aiming at fleeing people and those tending the wounded. After official enquiries, this is now the accepted story. Yet at the time, and for some years after, the state propaganda machine said otherwise. The British Home Secretary, speaking the next day in the House of Commons, put forward the army propaganda position that the British paratroopers had reacted to the gun and nail bomb attacks from suspected IRA members. The media spun this lie to the British public.

The same pattern can be seen in the Sharpeville massacre in Apartheid South Africa in 1960, where the South African police opened fire on a crowd of black civil rights protesters, killing 69 people. Back then, the Apartheid state and media claimed that the police were defending themselves from ‘black violence’.

The majority of White South Africans believed in the propaganda after Sharpeville, just as the majority of the British public were taken in by the propaganda after Bloody Sunday. After todays Gaza aid ship massacre, plenty of Israelis (and the international fellow travelers and apologists for Israeli state policy) will believe the propaganda as well.

This is the case everywhere. While tens of thousands of Turkish people are rightly taking to the streets in anger at the Israeli states persecution of the Palestinians, many Turks will remain in ignorance about their own states appalling treatment of the Kurdish people. Those who live inside a state that is repressing another people are the last to learn the truth.

But today, those outside the Israeli state / media bubble – i.e. the rest of the world – have seen the reality that Israel is a rouge state, out of control. Todays massacre will be a turning point, just as Sharpeville and Bloody Sunday were. Even though it took many more bloody decades of struggle for truth and justice to surface (still incompletely), it is clear that the current status quo in the middle east cannot last forever. Viva Palestina!

Another truth must surface. As Marx once said of Britain and Ireland: “A nation that oppresses another can never itself be free”.

Shalom Aleichem! שָׁלוֹם עֲלֵיכֶם / Salaam-Alaikum السلام عليكم / Peace be upon you

Free Gaza and Palestine

Free Gaza and Palestine

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Photo – EDL protesters abuse elderly Sikh man in Dudley.

Continuing our theme of photo’s of English Defence League (EDL) thugs abusing and intimidating England’s ethnic minority communities that started here….

EDL abuse Sikh man in Dudley

EDL abuse Sikh man in Dudley, photo from the Birmingham Post.


This photo appeared in the Birmingham Post on May the 4th 2010, accompanying a story entitled ‘English Defence League rooftop demo in Dudley ended by police’. You can read that story here, and see the photo in its original context.
You may recall that just before the general election last week the EDL got a couple of its provocateurs onto the roof of a disused warehouse in Dudley, to stir up trouble and division around plans (that had already been abandoned) for a new mosque in the town. Groups of young white men came to Dudley to support the EDL, and locals report some rioting and intimidating behavior. This part of Dudley is mixed, with black, white and Asian people of all faiths and none including Muslims, Hindus, Christians and Sikhs. There were also some peaceful anti-EDL protests that united locals of all colours and faiths.
Now the EDL leaders like to argue that theirs is ‘not a racist movement’, because it only targets one religious group, rather than all ethnic and racial minorities. They even parades on EDL rallies, like a trophy, the odd isolated Hindu or Sikh religious extremist pursuing the agendas of the Indian far right, in their anti-Muslim ‘united front’. However, it has always been clear from the start that the majority of their followers on the street are young white men, many of whom are only to happy to tell you hate they ‘hate all P*kies’, and often all black and Asian minorities in general. The very first protest held by this movement in Luton ended with groups of EDL supporters attacking random asian people and their businesses. The EDL could unleash a pogrom not only against the English Muslim communities (terrible as that would be in itself), but against all of the English black and ethnic minorities in general. Given the percentage of EDL followers who are ignorant racist and drunk, most would find it hard to tell a Muslim from a Sikh anyway.

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May Day Greetings!

Walter Crane, May Day

Walter Crane (1845 – 1915) was a well known English artist and book illustrator in the Victorian era. He was part of the Arts and Crafts movement, along with William Morris. Alongside other figures from these groups, Crane was involved in rebirth of the English Socialist movement in the 1880’s. These prints, above and below, were part of the beginnings of the international socialist mayday celebrations amongst working class communities in this period, where the traditional peasant celebrations of the beginnings of summertime around Beltaine / Mayday, merged with the rising new industrial working class across the world, and its desire for liberty.

Walter Crane Workers Maypole

Walter Crane Workers Maypole

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