Wednesday, 8 August 2018

Left Field special edition / special price



Left Field is now on sale from Public Reading Rooms for £8 
 (hardback including delivery). These are the last of the special edition, with an embossed cover and illustrated frontispiece by acclaimed Dutch photographer,Thom Hoffman.

'David is an adventurer and a freethinker, who did something truly useful with his life.' - Brian Eno. (watch interview)  'David Wilson has lived a life and a half.The broken world needed people like David; it still does.' - Sir Tom Stoppard.    'Fantastic and salutary … a born raconteur's account of a remarkable life.' - Michael Walling, Artistic Director, Border Crossings.    'This memoir of a very colourful life is both entertaining and illuminating.' - Amir Amirani, Director “We are Many”.    'What a life this man has led.' - Dorothy Byrne, Head of Channel 4 Documentaries.   'David's entire life has been dedicated to trying to make the world a better place.' - Craig Murray, ex-UK Ambassador.    'Sometimes funny, often moving and occasionally tragic ... one of my top recent reads.' - Morning Star.  'David Wilson shows us how political activism on the Left should be: engaged, informed and passionate. With more people like him, the world would be safer and happier. - Ken Livingstone

Monday, 6 August 2018

David Wilson articles, 2000 - 2018




Palestinians have Right to Return and Live, The People's News, 20 May 2018

Israel's Act of Terror, The People's News, 14 May 2018

Giving the Finger to the DWP, The Canary, 11 May 2018  

Disabled Tribunal Victory, The London Economic, 10 May 2018

Disabled victory in courts: The People's News 9 May 2018  

Labour Party Remains on the Up, The People's News, 4 May 2018 

Theresa May + husband + war = profit, The People's News, 26 April 2018  

Criticising Israel is not anti-semitic, The People's News, 23 April 2018

The Pornography of War, The People's News, 12 April 2018

The Overton  Window, The People's News, 6 April 2018

The Overton Window,  The Internattional Times, 19 April 2018

Corbyn is no Anti-Semite, The People's News, 26 March 2018 

Corbyn Wise not to Spoil for Fight , The People's News, 15 March 2018

Disabled Man Taken off Disability Allowance, The People's News, 14 March 2018

The Calabash Tree, having a heart operation, 17 Feb 2018

NHS Privateers, The London Economic, 2 Feb 2018

Why Boris Johnson, a Face to be Punched, Public Reading Rooms review

My Disabled Son Stripped of Benefits, The London Economic, 24 Aug 2017

The Fool is for the Many, Jaroslav Hašek's novel The Good Soldier Schwejk, 14 July 2017

Music of the Spheres, Heathcote Williams play, 18 June 2017

Them or Us in the Election, The London Economic, 7 June 2017

Exposing Corruption in Charities, Guardian article about charity corruption, 16 April 2017,

Abandoning Refugee Children, The London Economic, 11 Feb 2017

In The Living Years, for Stand Alone under pseudonym, 16 Sep 2016

Who Speaks for the Refugee Children, Counterpunch after visit to Calais, 20 May 2016

Planet Zembar, Subdural Haematoma article in Huffington Post, 17 March 2015

Famous anti-Zionist Jews, Stop the War Coalition, 12 Aug 2014

What a Strange Way to Protect Civilians, article for US antiwar website about depleted uranium weapons, 16 April 2011 

Bush in London, Counterpunch, 18 June 2008 

The Collapse of Iraq's Health Services, Counterpunch article about collapse of Iraq's health services, 14 Oct 2006

Depleted Uranium Weapons, Future Trust, 2006

Gloucester Weapons Inspectors, Counterpunch, 30 Jan 2003

Music and War, as published by the European Journal of Intercultural Studies, Vol 10, issue 3, 1999 and in The Journal of Dramatic Theory and Criticism, University of Kansas, Fall 2000, Vol. XV, No. 8 & re-written for a chapter in Left Field

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Friday, 3 August 2018

Nothing changes: This is the Daily Express headline just before the 1945 general election Labour Party victory. The new government quickly introduced the National Health Service among other reforms.

Wednesday, 9 May 2018

Disabled court victory

My son lives in Cornwall and, aged 45, has been disabled since he was six months old after a vaccination precipitated Salaam epilepsy. In hospital, he contracted meningitis and started a life of physical and, more recently and courtesy of the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP), mental hardship.
Today his eyesight is poor and the right side of his body has atrophied and shortened. He often falls and has to use a stick.
After a recent scan on his right ankle which was causing him discomfort, he was given anti-inflammatories and painkillers. His doctor is currently helping him with a request to be given an electric wheelchair.
He has never been able to hold a full-time job, but occasionally picks up small bits of income working as a DJ and running an online radio station from his home. I have to include all this biographical/medical information so that you can better understand what follows.
For 20 years, he received a Disability Living Allowance (DLA) of £80 per week and £108 per week working tax credits, a weekly income of £188.
Because his mobility was worsening, he contacted the DWP to request assistance with his housework. He could only stand for a short time without pain. “Their answer was to tell me that my benefits had been assessed and that I would lose them.” says Ben. “As a result, my weekly income fell from £188 to £67. They said I could apply for Personal Independence Payment (PIP) which had replaced DLA. I did so, but my application was rejected. It was a massive blow and has left me with a huge shortfall. It’s crazy because my disability means I have to take five tablets twice a day as I’m in constant pain.”
He appealed their decision and the DWP then carried out an ‘assessment’ on Ben’s condition which concluded that their original decision to cut his benefits was the correct one.
The assessment was carried out by a private firm, Atos, one of two companies (the other is Capita) who between them earn more than £125 million a year from the taxpayers for their work. Work which doesn’t actually involve any face-to-face assessments at all. I have been unable to find out whether they employ any medically-trained staff.
The Guardian gives a figure of 80 suicides a month by disabled people refused their benefits. “Before our eyes,” writes Frances Ryan, “ the principle of a benefit system is being reduced from opportunity, respect, and solidarity to destitution, degradation and isolation”.
Those resilient enough to continue their lives and, as with my son, lucky enough to have strong family and friendship support, have been pressing their cases on to a final court-based Tribunal appeal.
Of these about 60% are successful. Ben is one of them so here’s the story of his court hearing on Tuesday 8 May at Truro Magistrates Court.
I am there as a witness for Ben which took place in front of a judge, a GP and a disability professional. It was an eye-opener to me that once the government is not present, (one of the Tribunal members said, ‘you will be pleased to know that the DWP are not represented here”), then everyone can and does start behaving as human beings.
The questions dealt with the reality of my son’s life and not with assessments carried out at the other end of the country and without anything being assessed. So it came down to ‘how do you peel potatoes?’, ‘how often do you pause when you are walking?’, ‘what are your pains and what medicines do you take?”
Ben’s cousin Peter had put together the papers for the Tribunal and when he asked to speak critically on the DWP’s assessments, was told by the judge, ”Don’t bother with that. We don’t take them seriously.”
Sir Patrick McLoughlin, former Chairman of the Conservative Party, said ministers had to view the funding for people with disabilities in the context of a wider need to reduce the UK’s budget deficit and that “as far as supporting disabled people, I think overall we do very proudly in this country.”
Scope called on the chancellor Philip Hammond to withdraw his “totally unacceptable and derogatory comments” after he said Britain’s sluggish productivity could partly be blamed on more disabled people in the workforce.
This Tory government and their devotion to weakening the already weak are beyond contempt, but their policies have a logic which is both cruel and unjust.
They take place in the context whereby the richest 1% of the global population is receiving 82% of the newly created wealth worldwide. Oxfam claims this is brought about by tax evasion, erosion of workers rights and continuing social benefit cost-cutting in countries such as the UK.
Back in Truro we were sent out of the court while the panel deliberated and after a short time, we were called back. The judge was smiling as he told us not to bother to sit down. Ben had won his appeal. The panel then told him that he would now be receiving enhanced benefits.
As we were leaving the room the judge’s final comment was “serves the DWP right”. The Truro Trio were giving a massive finger to the DWP and the government.

Friday, 4 May 2018

Haunted by the Ghostly Ghouly

What a day. A blog I wrote at the beginning of yesterday morphed into this one by the end of the day. A bad day and three coffees ended as a good day and three glasses of wine.
I have spent most of my life believing that socialism would never come via a vote in Parliament. I will never forget the start of a march on Westminster against the 1970s anti-union laws and agreeing with the speaker who recommended we don't go there as he didn't believe in disturbing the dead.
And on the Labour Party I took Ralph Milliband's words seriously when he wrote: “Pious references to the Labour Party being a ‘broad church’ which has always incorporated many different strands of thought fail to take account of a crucial fact, namely that the ‘broad church’ of Labour only functioned effectively in the past because one side – the Right and Centre – determined the nature of the services that were to be held, and excluded or threatened with exclusion any clergy too deviant in its dissent.”
But Jeremy Corbyn changed all that for me and I have now joined the Labour Party. I am probably one of the few geriatric members of Momentum. Because of illness, I have been unable to join in party canvassing and have chosen instead to write articles which I hope can serve as ammunition in the struggle. And I have Jeremy to thank for now believing that perhaps radical change can come about with a Left social democratic party.
That process started when Jeremy won the leadership, but it is a struggle in every sense of the word.
On the morning of 4 May I woke and turned on the radio to hear the Right wing MPs, Jess Phillips and Chuka Umanna, demanding an enquiry because the Labour Part had done so badly. I am not supposed to drink coffee, but was now on my third and it was only 8 am.
Why wasn't Jeremy being interviewed or, at least, a shadow minister who would speak truth to this nonsense.
As the day went on it became obvious that Jess of the Ubershrills and Chuka Themoaner were blatantly lying. The BBC's own figures settled on the following.
Labour won 2,323 seats - up 62
Conservatives won 1,330 - down 32
Lib Dems won 536 - up 75
The Greens won 39 - up eight
UKIP won three - down 123
What in heaven's name is their definition of 'badly'.
There is no way the right wing of the Labour Party will tolerate Corbyn and his challenge to the consensual tweedle-dum, tweedle-dee politics of the last decades.
At the heart of this is the neo-liberal agenda of austerity for the many and riches for the few, privatisation and war.
Labour's right wing MPs have and will actively continue to oppose any moves to the Left in their party and seem happy to sabotage a Corbyn leadership which has gathered together ½ million members. As even the 'corporate' media have recognised, any successes from the 3 May local elections have been attributed in no small measure to the dedication of Momentum members.
The ghostly ghouly Blair sits smiling on the shoulders of Tess and Chukaa and the other right wing MPs who are ably backed by their non-recall salaries and their invitations to the front pages of the right-wing media and the comfortable sofas of BBC chat shows.
Elections and their results are important – Jess, Chuka and the BBC understand that well - which is why election results are misinterpreted, but we now need to stress that a socialist Labour Party is not just about elections. We must not return to the days of incumbency in place of insurgency, church politics in place of non-conformist dissent.
The Labour Party needs to return to the mass rallies we saw at the beginning of Corbyn's ascendancy. Be present on picket lines and demonstrations. Stand with and lead popular protests on Grenfell and Windrush. Fight for and with the disabled and the welfare-robbed poor. Defend the NHS from the privateers. Be central to the anti-war movement and alert to those in their own ranks who have taken us to war in the past and likely to do so again - and soon! Support those, often Jewish and Black 'anti-semites' driven out of the Party and shout back at those fabricating 'evidence' against them.
Meanwhile I will keep writing and be on the streets once I have stopped using my stick. Or perhaps I will continue to have it with me just in case!

Wednesday, 2 May 2018

Three Jewish Tailors from Stepney


In July 1936 three Jewish tailors from Stepney, East London, set off for Barcelona. Nat Cohen, Sam Masters and Allick Sheller cycled there to witness the People’s Olympiad. Six thousand athletes from 22 nations registered after the games had been hastily organised. 

This was the Spanish Republic's response to the racism and propaganda being spewed out by the Nazi regime as a build-up to the Berlin Olympics, due to open six days after the end of the People's Olympiad.

When the tailors entered the city, there was a feeling of euphoria. 20,000 tourists had come to Barcelona to see the 'alternative Olympics'. They arrived to witness a vibrant city in turmoil: the dockers were on strike, anarchist demonstrators were in the streets and walls were plastered with political slogans, alongside bright posters advertising the games. 
 
But the tailors never got to see the People's Olympiad. The city's euphoria was replaced with fear about a possible military coup. On their first morning in Barcelona, the tailors woke up to gunfire and sirens. The Civil War had begun. They decided to stay in Spain and join the resistance to Franco's fascists. 
 
6,000 to 8,000 of the 40,000 International Brigades' volunteers are estimated to have been Jewish, including nearly half the Poles, over one-third of the Americans and around 20 per cent of the Britons. They came from 54 countries to fight in what was to become ‘the first battle of the Second World War’. 
 
The leadership of the International Brigades considered forming an entirely Jewish battalion but, because the Brigades were used as shock troops with high casualties, this idea was rejected. A Jewish contingent, the Naftali Botwin Company, was set up within the Polish Palafox Battalion.

Gerben Zaagsma, author of Jewish Volunteers, the International Brigades and the Spanish Civil War, claims the motivations of Jewish fighters were complex, especially as the situation of Jews in Eastern Europe was considerably different from those Jews in Britain or the United States. But as one recruit from the Abraham Lincoln Battalion, the unit of American volunteers, wrote, ‘I am a Jew and that is the reason I came to Spain. I know what it means to my people if fascism should win.’

Like the three tailors, George Nathan was a working-class Jew from the East End of London. He had joined the Brigade of Guards in the First World War, but left the army in disgust during the General Strike of 1926 after hearing fellow officers discuss shooting ‘dockland scum’. 
 
As Major Nathan, he became a much-respected Chief of Staff to the commander of the XV International Brigade. He died fighting in July 1937 during the battle of Brunete, alongside the men of his British battalion. Gold-tipped swagger-stick in hand, Nathan was hit by shrapnel and buried beneath olive trees on the banks of the Guadarrama River.

William Herrick, born William Horvitz, was among the first US recruits to fight in Spain. As his train left the Gare de Lyon in Paris bound for Barcelona, the recruits sang “The Internationale” and “Hatikvah”. His parents had fled Tsarist Russia and covered the walls of their apartment with pictures of Lenin, Stalin and Trotsky. In his youth, Herrick had been active in the Young Pioneers and had helped organise unions amongst black sharecroppers in the Deep South. 
 
Herrick was wounded and returned to the US to write his book, Hermanos! which has been described as ‘the fictional counterpart to Orwell’s Homage to Catalonia'. Later he went on to write Jumping the Line: The Adventures and Misadventures of an AmericanRadical.

Moishe Stern, a Ukranian Jew, arrived in Spain with a forged Canadian passport. He adopted the name Emilio Kléber and became second-in-command to André Marty, the International Brigade’s commander. When Madrid was surrounded on three sides and expected to fall into Franco's hands in November 1936, Kléber led the XI International Brigade’s heroic efforts to save the Spanish capital. Initially feted in Soviet propaganda as the ‘Saviour of Madrid’, he later became a victim of Stalin's paranoia and died in a Soviet Gulag. 
 
Nat Cohen, one of the tailors who'd set off for the Olympiad, took part in the failed attempt to liberate Majorca from Franco's forces. He was also responsible for assembling the Tom Mann Centuria, the first effort to bring British volunteers into one unit.

The Spanish Civil War was a defeat for those who bravely stood up against fascism. It marked the start of a wider world war. The victory over Hitler and fascism involved great suffering until the bitter end. In the ruins of the Warsaw ghetto the Jewish resistance leader, Marek Edelman, was following in the footsteps of Jews who had fought in Spain from 1936 - 1939. Together, the vision, hopes and struggles of these freedom fighters centred on the liberation of all mankind through socialism. 
 
Their sacrifice was a far cry from the pernicious nationalism of those they had fought against and the Zionists who today falsely claim them as their own.

David Wilson & Anne Aylor


Tuesday, 17 April 2018

The Calabash Tree



It felt like The Last Supper. My wife and I had lunch at Apuglia, an Italian restaurant behind London's St Bartholomew's Hospital. I had tagliatelle with porcini mushrooms and a glass of prosecco. There was a bicycle on the wall, for art not transport. I wasn't going to travel anywhere for some days and my body was about to be worked on with skills the equal of da Vinci.
 
We walked into the hospital past the chapel and Anne told me that she would light a candle there when I was having my operation.
 
It was now early evening and when my wife left for home I calmed my nerves by playing a Tibetan bowls recording through my earphones. I tried to meditate, but it was impossible. The last time I had had an operation, for subdural haematoma, I had been blasé about it all and remembered chatting to the others on my ward. But on that occasion most of my brain was on another planet. This time, at this hospital, I was definitely earthed. Super-conscious of all that was going on and about to happen.
 
There were some distractions; stethoscope on chest and back, blood tests and blood pressure and a visit from the anaesthetist, I was given two razors and asked to shave my chest, arms, legs and groin. It reminded me of plucking feathers from slaughtered chickens. Not a pleasant task but painless. The pain was to come later.
 
The next morning my chest was sawn open, my heart was stopped and blood flow was directed with a heart-lung machine. My body was cooled down and Anne tells me she was present in intensive care when they brought me back to consciousness by warming me up. She said that the nurse threw a switch and I started to twitch like Frankestein's monster. My eyes, she said, looked like the 'living dead' and she was afraid that I was about to sit up and pull out the many tubes and wires inserted into my body.
 
During the three-hour operation my aortic valve was replaced with cow tissue, leaving me ever grateful to my reluctant and gentle-grazing posthumous donor.
 
Of course I have no memories of my time under anaesthetic except to confirm these words from Diogenes: 'Where there is life there is no death. Where there is death there is no life.'
All I can remember from my time in intensive care is the button I was told to press when I needed a morphine shot to ease the pain.
 
Two days later and in the High Dependency Unit I was now conscious and taking note of my surroundings. Not very pleasant as I seemed to be connected to multiple monitors as well as tubes inserted into my stomach, neck and groin and with wires connected to my heart.
 
I spent two nights in HDU and it was exhausting. Any attempts to sleep were stopped by the constant checks; temperature, blood pressure, blood sampling and medication administered, as I remember, though the tube in my neck At one point the patient beside me went into a cardiac crisis and with great speed the 'crash' team arrived. I wasn't in a fit state to count precisely, but was told later that there would have been fifteen in attendance. Strangely comforting to witness such positive pandemonium in the service of continued life.
 
I can remember telling a nurse I hadn't had a pee for ages. She laughed and invited me to look below my pyjama trousers. My God, there was a tube inserted into my penis. I remembered a friend of mine who had once suffered terrible pain when this was removed after an operation who told me, 'my cock never gave me so much pleasure as it gave me pain when the catheter was removed.' I decided I wouldn't rush this procedure.
 
On the evening before surgery I was interviewed by a Filipino nurse who, when told about my earlier brain surgery, said she had once worked in neurology, but had decided to switch to cardiology. When I asked her why, she answered, 'The heart, I love the heart.'
 
Then there was the nurse pushing my bed down a corridor when moving me to a new ward. On hearing I was a writer, he brought my bed to a stop and quoted verbatim from Gabriel Garcia Marquez's 'Love in the Time of Cholera': “Age has no reality except in the physical world. The essence of a human being is resistant to the passage of time. Our inner lives are eternal, which is to say that our spirits remain as youthful and vigorous as when we were in full bloom. Think of love as a state of grace, not the means to anything, but the alpha and omega. An end in itself.”
 
Also a Filipino, (The NHS seems to be dependent on this nation), Brian Piniera, has now become a friend
 
'Breath in deeply', instructed a nurse when replacing my chest bandage. 'Puff out your chest,' she said, 'like a Robin Redbreast.'
 
Back on the post-op ward I got to know my fellow patients. Barry had already had three heart operations when he arrived at Barts for his fourth. His operation lasted 28 hours and they 'lost' him three times. He told me of his out of body experiences which had traumatised him and made him scared of going to sleep.
 
He and Erroll, a Trinidadian bus driver from West London, would chat about youthful memories of their island homes and their love of the calabash tree, its soft brown bark home to multi-coloured orchids. They told me that these trees, pollinated by bats, grow on hillside pastures, along roadsides and wherever there are human beings.
 
After five days I was ready to go home, but the final task was to remove two 'pacing' wires wrapped around my ventricles and connected to a monitor I had to carry round with me. I had thought that the two plasters on my stomach were stitches, but a nurse told me they were the entry points for these wires and that I must remain in hospital for twelve hours after their removal. If pulled out incorrectly I could die.
 
Brian works in stem cell research at the hospital but, from time to time, turns up on his old ward to help out as a volunteer. He is well known and well liked throughout the hospital. He was visiting me when I was given this information and offered to undertake the procedure. I was happy to have him do this tricky task.
 
It wasn't painful but it was frightening as I watched him start to draw them out. They were each 20 cm in length and have to be removed slowly and with a steady hand. Brian is an incessant talker, but I urged him into silence and shut my eyes.
 
Here I am writing this. Still alive and conscious that every breath I take is a gift of life and time. My cow and the skills of my surgical team have given me ten to fifteen years, but I have been told one of my two carotid arteries is 50% furred up. So who knows what I have left to me.
 
It's quality I must go for now. A friend of mine helps run an organisation called 'The 'Long Now'. They have constructed a clock which ticks once every 100 years. I used to be a bit cynical about the project, but now I understand that perspective much better.
 
Whatever life is left to me I owe it to myself, to my loved ones and family, to not let it go to waste. I will try to put back together my dysfunctional family. I will write more and have written four articles for social media sites since returning home from hospital. As a political activist they are, of course, aimed at achieving a better world, if not for myself, for the future.
 
Part of that better world is here today in the form of the NHS, a health system based in Aneurin Bevan's words on the principle that, “No society can legitimately call itself civilised if a sick person is denied medical aid because of lack of means.”
 
I am lucky to be a citizen of a country that can still offer me free medical procedures that have kept me alive. (A note to zenophobes. The NHS is run by people like my Filipino nurses, my cardiac surgeon, an Egyptian, while my earlier neurological surgeon was Nigerian).
 
I was very aware of this after both my operations and what needs to be done to save our medical services from the privatising predators who are creeping in through the cracks in our defences.
 
As recently as five months before I was admitted, Barts were responsible for their own catering. Brian told me what pride he took in serving food to his patients and how this was a central part of nursing care. Today this has been handed to Serco, who run our prisons and whose annual revenue from healthcare is over £1.4 billion. Breakfast was tepid tea or coffee, cereal or porridge and toast. As I bit into the cold, spongy “toast” I could imagine Serco executives meeting to discuss how to cut back their costs to increase their profits. “Let's start with breakfast”.
 
Back to the Calabash tree. Barry told me that the pulp of the fruit has medicinal properties and acts as a remedy for asthma, dysentry and blood pressure and can be used to treat haematomas and tumours.
 
The NHS is our Calabash tree.
 
I wrote this poem soon after the operation.
 
My blood pump was stopped
while a machine took over
the job my heart had done
for almost 73 years.
A cow's pericardium replaced
my narrowed, furred valve
that no longer moved like
a sea anemone's fronds.
This valve was given without
agreement or consent
so I made a vow to my dead donor
to never eat beef again.
Last time it was a subdural haematoma.
I escaped with my brain intact.
That involved an earlier pact,
made with myself, to act wisely
with attention to my herd.
My plan of action now
begins with breaking through the fence
to arrive, together, in greener pastures.


David Wilson