Sunday, 26 January 2020

Left Field after four years

My memoir Left Field was published in 2016 and is still available in shops and as an e-book and an Audible book. 

The intervening years have been ones of personal and political hope and of personal and political despair. In other words, nothing out of the ordinary.

Not surprisingly for someone in his seventh decade, these have been years when close friends have left this planet while I remain clinging to its edges, aware of Leonard Cohen’s words to Marianne Ihlen that, “I am so close behind you that if you stretch out your hand, I think you can reach mine.”

The subdural haematoma operation I wrote about in Left Field was followed two years later by a heart valve operation, then a stroke caused by infection of my new valve. I used my hospital stays to campaign for an NHS that had now saved my life more than once. 

 

I am proud that the unfairly much-vilified Jeremy Corbyn visited me when I was in St Barts Hospital. The worst insult he has had to endure has been ‘anti-semitism’ accusations about a man who has been at the forefront of anti-racism struggles for decades.

To that end, I helped organise a letter signed by Ken Loach, Brian Eno, Grime4Corbyn, Nigel Kennedy, Alexei Sayle and thousands of others in support of Corbyn, whom I consider to be our El Pepe. 

These years have been ones when my eldest son lost and won back his disablity benefits. Many haven’t and many have lost their lives in the process.

These have also been years of loss for me, not of the dead, but of a living son who has ghosted me. I wrote about this under a pseudonym for Stand Alone, a wonderful charity set up by a friend of mine for people estranged from their families.

My past as co-founder of the charity War Child still haunts me and hope it haunts those I write critically about here. I recently learned that the present War Child CEO receives an annual salary of £108,000.

My critique of aid charities continued after two visits to the Calais ‘jungle’ refugee ‘camps’.

Perhaps we have to become more French because La Lutte must continue against a system that rewards rogues, steals votes, and is run by Boris Johnson, a PM who hides in fridges.

I will end with some music. I will be back in Bosnia Herzegovina soon to stay with my Bosnian family. But, before that, I will be at the Dubioza Kolektiv gig in London. Here is the schedule for their upcoming UK tour and a track of theirs about borders that kill. Join me there.

 

 









Tuesday, 21 January 2020

Vive Ken Livingstone


I went to a talk this morning given by Ken Livingstone and organised by the indomitable director of Hampstead’s Pentameter Theatre, LĂ©onie Scott-Matthews.

Ken read from his book, Livingstone’s London.’

It was good to hear his memories of being brought up in London (he and I were born the same year). Ken in Streatham and me further south in leafier Bromley. I have written about him before and like and respect the man enormously.

 

He has a “Pink Hat” - (OK let me repeat. My father said you can always tell who is the honest politician, ‘the one wearing the pink hat’.)

 

When he was leader of the GLC, Margaret Thatcher accused Ken of introducing aneastern European” style “tyranny”, for crimes such as lowering bus fares and organising anti-racist celebrations. More recently he has, with Jeremy Corbyn, been a victim of the right-wing ‘anti-semitism’ vilification.

 


That right-wing, as now represented by the current PM and politicians such as Jacob Rees-Mogg. Ugly hatted, but certainly not pink, with company accounts showing more than £100 million untaxed profit over the last 5 years.

 


There was a lot of discussion about the Labour Party leadership election and I am puzzled why he supports Keir Starmer on the basis that he is a good ‘administrator’ and is 'someone who looks like they can run the country'.

 

When discussion turned to whether Labour could win an election in five years I mentioned that the French haven’t waited and have been on virtual general strike for many weeks; that last week Macron, the French President, was driven out of a theatre onto streets occupied by striking ballet dancers.

 

 

 

 

So in conclusion Vive La France and Vive Ken Livingstone. La lutte continue.

 

My memoir ‘Left Field’ is, after four years, still on sale online and in bookshops, but can now be read for free here

 

 

 


www.davidwilson.org.uk





Monday, 13 January 2020

Open letter to Bosnia

To my friends in Bosnia Herzegovina. I think this is the right moment to explain to you what is going on in my country – the misnamed “United Kingdom”. 

You and I know – you much more than me – the terrible results of corrupt political practices and how staged nationalism, manufactured racism and fascist nostalgia are threats to our humanity, to our lives.

My father used to joke that, “You can always tell the honest politician. He is wearing a pink hat.” There have been few pink hats in your country. In mine too, but weirdly, and against the odds, there has been one in recent years. His name is Jeremy Corbyn.

He became leader of our Labour Party and with him came 400,000 new members. Me included. Most were young and eager to support a Corbyn-led party that would defend the weak, reverse the Neo-Liberal privatisation of our National Health Service and national utilities, promote peace in place of war and ensure the richest 1% at least started paying their share of taxes.

As in your country the odds against him, and us, were too great. Not in terms of numbers, but in terms of who had the most money and could shout the loudest - The billionaire Press and broadcast media, (I am sure many of you will be shocked that the BBC led the way here), and the influence of foreign states.

But, as in your country, the good overwhelms the bad. I may be too old and ill to have the chance to witness our victory, but it will come. Across the Adriatic from you a victim of an earlier fascism, Antonio Gramsci, said from his prison cell, “Pessimism of the spirit. Optimism of the will.” DA, SI, YES

www.davidwilson.org.uk


Sunday, 12 January 2020

Crossing the Line

As part of the the Johnson government’s Brexit Bill, the UK Parliament has voted against guaranteeing the right of unaccompanied child refugees to be reunited with family living in this country.


Labour's Lord Dubs - who came to the UK as a child to escape the Nazis, and who has campaigned for the children, called the decision “Appalling and deeply distressing." Jeremy Corbyn said, "for his whole life Lord Dubs has worked tirelessly to ensure children affected by the worst aspects of global injustice are given sanctuary in this country … Now this government, in its first weeks in office has ripped up those hard won commitments."

 

The Guardian reports ..

"More than 10,000 unaccompanied children are believed to have entered the UK over the past decade using dangerous methods such as hiding in the back of a lorry. 90% of the minors have illegally entered the UK and done so by risking their lives.”

 

In solidarity with the abandoned children and in disgust with our dubiozly ‘elected’ ‘government’ here are Dubioza Kolektiv and Manu Chao with

 

Cross The Line





Friday, 10 January 2020

The four horsemen


This is a condensed version taken from articles I have had published in recent years. I think it addresses issues which are sadly blocking the road to a better future – perhaps any future.

In recent days US Vice President Mike Pence and Sec of State, Mike Pompeo, have been urging Trump to attack Iran. Both of them are supported by the Christian-Zionist movement who can’t wait for a Biblical Armageddon in the Middle East.

In this country we have a Prime Minister who is happy to be the fourth horseman of the Apocalypse and many in the Labour Party too ready to clamber up behind him .

The Labour Party will soon be choosing a new leader and, surprise surprise, accusations of anti-semitism are once again being used against those who dare criticise Israel and who speak out for the rights of Palestinians.

After claiming that Jeremy Corbyn scored 0 out of 10 as party leader Emily Thornberry said, “We need to get down on our hands and knees to the Jewish community and ask them for forgiveness and a fresh start.” On BBC Question time Clive Lewis ‘apologised’ for Labour’s ‘anti-semitism’.

Leading party leader contender, Rebecca Long-Bailey better be among the first to get on her knees and ask forgiveness after former Labour deputy leader Tom Watson said she was was the candidate he "would worry about" adding, “she's the continuity candidate, she stands for Corbynism in its purest sense.” He went on to criticise her for not joining Labour Friends of Israel.

And forgiveness for what?

Perhaps forgiveness for agreeing posthumously with Albert Einstein who wrote:“The (Israeli) state idea is not according to my heart. I cannot understand why it is needed. It is connected with many difficulties and a narrow-mindedness. I believe it is bad.”  Or with Sigmund Freud who said, “I concede with sorrow that the baseless fanaticism of our people is in part to be blamed for the awakening of Arab distrust. I can raise no sympathy at all for the misdirected piety which transforms a piece of a Herodian wall into a national relic, thereby offending the feelings of the natives,” Perhaps also for agreeing with Erich Fromm: “The claim of the Jews to the Land of Israel cannot be a realistic political claim. If all nations would suddenly claim territories in which their forefathers lived two thousand years ago, this world would be a madhouse,” or with Primo Levi, writer and Auschwitz survivor: "Everyone has their Jews. For the Israelis they are the Palestinians." Perhaps we should also seek forgiveness on behalf of Marek Edelman, last surviving leader of the 1943 Warsaw uprising: who wrote a letter in support of the Palestine resistance, comparing them to ZOB, the Jewish fighters in Warsaw. He opened with, "Commanders of the Palestine military, paramilitary and partisan operations - to all the soldiers of the Palestine fighting organisations,” And there is of course Hannah Arendt who wrote, The trouble is that Zionism has often thought and said that the evil of antisemitism was necessary for the good of the Jewish people. In the words of a well-known Zionist in a letter to me discussing the original Zionist argumentation: 'The antisemites want to get rid of the Jews, the Jewish State wants to receive them, a perfect match,'” Finally a voice from the living, Noam Chomsky: “In the Occupied Territories, what Israel is doing is much worse than apartheid.”

It has now reached the level of absurdity when these giants of our political history are ignored or maligned and the rest of us must bend the knee before criticising Israel.

My father was one of the first Allied doctors to enter Bergen-Belsen concentration camp. The photos he took there, and later showed me of the skeletal prisoners, scarred my young mind. It was those haunting pictures that led me to a lifetime of anti-fascism.

At sixteen I had my first contact with real anti-semites. One Saturday morning in Bromley High Street, thugs from the British Movement, forerunners of Tommy Robinson's Britain First, and shouting “You bloody Yids”, beat me up for selling Peace News. I discovered the headquarters of the Zionist Federation and they gave me Star of David badges. The following Saturday I, and a fellow pacifist wore these badges and were beaten up again.

As a member of the Anti-Nazi League in the 70s, I helped set up a support and defence group in North West London for Asian shopkeepers attacked by the National Front.

I consider that I am in the proud tradition of anti-fascists, both Jews and non-Jews, many of whom were or, like Chomsky, are anti-Zionists.

Amongst the first Jews who opposed Zionism were those who set up the Jewish Bund in Poland and Russia. They stressed the principles of socialism, secularism, Yiddish and doyikayt or “localness.” Doyikayt was encapsulated in the Bund slogan: “There, where we live, that is our country.” “We Bundists”, wrote one of their early leaders, Viktor Alter, “wish to shatter the existing economic frameworks and show the Jewish masses how a new society can be built not by escape, but by struggle. We link the essence of the Jewish masses’ life to that of humankind.”

Their contemporaries in this country can be found in Jews for Justice for Palestinians, Jewish Voice for Labour and others.

Arthur Miller’s play, The Crucible, takes place in 1692 during the Salem witch trials. It tells the story of a group of women who accuse other villagers of witchcraft. The play was written as an allegory during the McCarthy years and the House of Un-American Activities trials in the 1950s. To be accused of being a member of the Communist Part then ensured that jobs, reputations and, for some, their lives, were lost.

It mattered little whether the accusations were true or not. It mattered even less that membership of the CP at that time was evidence of radical political consciousness and not criminal inclination.

Our Salem trials are an attempt to mask the real anti-semitism that has always been at the heart of the British political Establishment.

It started with poor Jeremy. “Now, within living memory of the Holocaust, and while Jews are being murdered elsewhere in Europe for being Jews, we have an anti-Semite as the leader of the Labour Party” declared the Chief Rabbi. He ommitted to add that one of those countries where anti-semitism was now rampant is Victor Orban’s Hungary. The same Orban who was an honoured guest of the Netanyahu Israeli government.

In our own country, the pro-Israel Middle East Forum funded fascist Tommy Robinson while he was in prison. In the words of their Director, Gregg Roman, who has worked in Israel’s Defence and Foreign Ministries, “we are helping Robinson in his moment of danger in three main ways ... to fund his legal defence … bringing foreign pressure on the UK government to ensure Mr. Robinson’s safety and eventual release …” NOTE: Robinson has recently joined the Tory Party!

Let us take a closer look at the ancestry of Zionism. Their founder, Theodor Herzl, an admirer of the British Empire wrote to Cecil Rhodes, who gave his name to the white settler colony Rhodesia, about his passion for a Jewish state in the Middle East, “You are being invited to help make history … it does not involve Africa but a piece of Asia Minor, not Englishmen but Jews … I turn to you … because it is something colonial ..”

Chaim Weizmann, who suceeded Herzl, wrote to the Manchester Guardian: “Should Palestine fall within the British sphere of influence and should they encourage Jewish settlement … we could develop the country, bring back civilisation and form a very effective guard for the Suez Canal.”

Back to those Chrisian Evangelicals, Iran and the Middle East. Prayers at the opening of the US Israeli Embassy in Jerusalem, were delivered by Robert Jeffries, a Dallas megachurch pastor who said Hitler was sent by God to drive the Jews to their ancestral land. A busy God who, Jeffries assures us, was also standing over the shoulder of Donald Trump and those horsemen.

A lifetime of anti-fascism and anti-racism makes me also anti-Zionist. If I was being beaten up today by those fascists in Bromley Hight Street chances are that they and not me would be wearing Star of David badges.







Tuesday, 7 January 2020

Privatising my Vote

The postal vote at the 12 December election was 37%. In previous elections it never got out of the teens.

 

The postal vote was, in many areas, ‘managed’ by a private company, Idox Elections, that has donated to the Tory Party. 

 

Almost one third of all the voters in the UK are now registered to use its electoral registration software.

 

The company used a wholly owned subsidiary, Halarose, to manage postal votes at the election and yet Halarose is listed as being ‘dissolved on 24 Dec 2019’. This seems convenient.

 

With a Tory peer on its board, former Tory MP and Social Security Secretary, Peter Lilley, now Baron Lilley, It describes itself as "one of the premier election service providers in the UK, providing outstanding expertise and knowledge across all areas of election management".

 

Was it part of their expertise to provide Laura Kuenssberg with insider information?

 

Theresa May’s comment to Jeremy Corbyn about his prospects of being PM, “We will never let it happen” now chills my bones. As do the words of Roberto Saviano, anti-Mafia lawyer when he said, “Britain is the most corrupt country in the world.”

 

Whoever is leader of the Labour Party must, alongside the party’s membership, confront the privatisation of our voting system.

 

Otherwise Jeremy Corbyn’s fate will be theirs … and ours