Friday 30 July 2021

Solidarity with Craig Murray



This article by Jonathan Cook clearly explains what lies behind Craig Murray’s imprisonment. It should not make any difference to the strength of his piece, but I would like to add that I have known Craig since we met when he travelled the country speaking for the anti-war movement after he had been sacked by Blair and Straw as UK Ambassador to Uzbekistan.

I recommend his book  “Murder in Samarkand” which explains his experiences in some detail. Thank you Craig for doing the job that has been neglected by so many of those who call themselves ‘journalists’.

I will never forget how he travelled to London for the launch of my book and contributed the best and funniest speech of the evening.

Solidarity with Craig Murray.

Read his wife Nadira's, statement here

Monday 26 July 2021

The Overton Window



The Overton Window is a phrase taken from Joseph Overton’s argument that public debate should take place within an ‘acceptable’ frame. Anything outside that frame is not allowed. I have written about this in International Times.


The result is a bias to the right, so right-wing ideas are defined as ‘moderate’ and are inside the window while left-wing ideas are defined as ‘hard-left’ and are excluded.


After visiting my friend Merilyn Moos the other day, I posted a blog on my personal Facebook, (No Pasaran is more than a lifetime's struggle). I wrote about her years as a trade union activist and how she had been influenced by the political strruggles of her radical parents.


Facebook rejected the post with this message: “your post could not be shared because this link goes against our community standards.”


One friend emailed me that, “Sometimes it is how the algorithm functions. It can pick up a word like ‘Nazi’ and assume the opposite of what’s true.”


Another friend commented, “It is significant that FB won’t allow it. I notice the establishment won’t use the F word these days - Fascism. I recently complained to the BBC that they would not use the Fascism word on National Holocaust Day - and this while dwelling on images of Bergen-Belsen. Fergal Keane blamed it on extremism. And here are the politics. The equation of fascism with communism, even socialism.”


Decide for yourself what is going on, but I managed to post it by removing the word ‘Fascist’, ‘Nazi’, ‘Trotsky’ and ‘Palestine’.


We are not only living in troubled times, but it’s all so weird. If it turns up on The People’s Campaign for Corbyn FB that will be confirmation of that. Talking of whom, is he in or outside that window frame?


The original ‘out of the window’ blog about my friend Merilyn Moos can be read here:

Saturday 24 July 2021

'No Pasaran' is more than a lifetime's struggle



I spent yesterday afternoon with Merilyn Moos. We have been friends for fifty years, almost to the day, so the cuppa tea and lemon cake in her garden was a sort of anniversary marker. We talked about those years and what had become of us and the half-century of struggles we have been involved in. Perhaps it is good I was there for tea and cake and chat. A little later in the day and it would have been time for wine and whisky and brutal curses.

Merilyn has been a trade union and political activist all her life and feels that she has been carrying the baton passed to her by her parents. Her German mother, Lotte, was involved in left wing agitprop as Hitler came to power. She followed her lover to the USSR and felt guilty that she may have contributed to his death. He was sent to Spain at the time of the Civil War and, in a card she wrote to him there, she praised POUM. He was kidnapped, sent back for ‘trial’ in the Soviet Union, accused of Trotskyism and died in the Gulags.

Her father, Siegi, witnessed the sailors declaring a Soviet on the steps of Munich town hall in 1918. He was a leading figure in agit-prop which is how he met Lotte. He became an active anti-fascist. They arrived separately in the UK where, in 1940, Lotte was imprisoned in Holloway prison as a spy.

After many years as a trade union activist in further education, Merilyn started to write about her family history. She writes about her parents in “The Language of Silence”, but in recent years has dealt with the history of anti-nazism within the German working class to counter the view that there was no significant German resistance. “Anti-Nazi Germans” by her and Steve Cushion deals with this.

My wife Anne Aylor, is writing a novel set in the Spanish Civil War and, as her proof reader, can testify to the numbers of Germans who took up arms against fascism. The German Thälmann batallion was one of the largest of the International Brigades.

Many of these people would, like Merilyn, have described themselves as “historically Jewish” and would join her today in support of the Palestinians. “It is a terrible irony”, she told me, “that the very people once defined as untermensch are now treating others, the Palestinians, as untermensch.”

Because of our frayed health neither of us were able to make it to the recent Palestinian demonstrations, but stick or no stick, we will join the nurses and health workers if they take to the streets as now seems likely.

A good review of “Anti-Nazi Germans’ is here:

Merilyn’s other writings on German anti-fascist resistance can be found here:


Monday 19 July 2021

20 years of Jeremy Corbyn's 'anti-semitism'




18 April 1977, Corbyn organises the defence of the Jewish population in Wood Green from a Neo-Nazi march

8 May 1987, Corbyn succesfully campaigns to stop property developers taking over a Jewish cemetery in Islingon. He was opposed by then council leader, Margaret Hodge.

7 Nov. 1990, Corbyn signs motion condemning the rise of antisemitism, EDM3933

11 Apr. 2000, Corbyn signs motion condemning David Irving for being a Holocaust Denier, EDM634

6 Nov. 2000, Corbyn praises the ‘British Schindler’, Bill Barazetti, for his WW2 kindertransport, EDM1124

28 Jan. 2002, Corbyn signs motion praising football clubs for commemorating Holocaust Day, EDM742

30 Apr. 2002, Corbyn is primary sponsor on motion condemning antisemitism, EDM1233

11 May 2002, Corbyn leads a clean up of Finsbury Park Synagogue after an anti-Semitic attack

23 July 2002, Corbyn condemns attacks on a synagogue in Swansea, EDM169

26 Nov. 2003, Corbyn officially condemns attacks on 2 Istanbul synagogues, EDM 123

16 Dec. 2003, Corbyn signs motion commemorating International Holocaust Day, EDM298

Jan 2004, Corbyn condemns news that anti-Semitic hate crimes had risen for yet another year

21 Jan. 2004, Corbyn condemns the French government’s moves to ban the Jewish Kippa in French Schools, EDM461

26 Feb. 2004, Corbyn signs motion praising Simon Wiesenthal for bringing Nazi perpetrators of the Holocaust to justice, EDM717

8 Sept. 2004, Corbyn co-sponsors a bill expressing fears for the future of the United Synagogue Pension Scheme, EDM1613

11 Oct. 2004, Corbyn condemns arbitrary attacks on civilians in Israel and Palestine, EDM1699

12 Jan. 2005, Corbyn commemorates International Holocaust Day, EDM482

16 June 2005, Corbyn condemns the desecration of a Jewish cemetery in east London, EDM343

11 Jan. 2006, Corbyn commemorates International Holocaust Day, EDM482

,8 Mar. 2006, Corbyn condemns an Iranian Magazine soliciting cartoons about the Holocaust, EDM1774

16 Apr. 2006, Corbyn condemns Bryan Ferry for anti-Semitic remarks, EDM1267

26 June 2006, Corbyn praises British war veterans for their efforts to combat the Holocaust, EDM2414

10 Oct. 2006, Corbyn signs a motion marking the 70th anniversary of Cable Street, EDM2705

14 Nov. 2007, Corbyn co-sponsors a motion lamenting the poverty and social exclusion suffered by East London Jews, EDM27

12 May 2008, Corbyn praises the efforts of the Jews in the Warsaw Ghetto during the uprising of 1944, EDM153

27 Oct 2008, Corbyn signs a motion marking the 70th anniversary of the horrors of the holocaust, EDM2350

8 Dec. 2008, Corbyn condemns the Press Complaints Commission for refusing to sanction The Times for antisemitism, EDM173

14 Jan. 2009, Corbyn condemns a wave of recent anti-Semitic incidents, EDM461

27 Jan. 2009, Corbyn signs John Mann’s motion condemning antisemitism on university campuses, EDM605,

26 Feb. 2009, Corbyn signs motion condemning antisemitism on the internet, EDM917

24 Mar. 2009, Corbyn signs motion praising the heroism of British Jews during Holocaust, EDM1175

2 Dec. 2009, Corbyn condemns Iran’s treatment of Jewish minorities in Iran, EDM337

9 Feb. 2010, Corbyn joins in calls for Facebook to do more to fight antisemitism, EDM850

22 Feb 2010, Corbyn co-sponsors a motion calling for Yemen’s Jews to be given refugee status to the UK, EDM891

27 Oct. 2010, Corbyn praises work of late Israeli PM in his pursuit of a 2 state solution, EDM908

27 Jan. 2011, Corbyn co-sponsors motion praising the ‘never again for anyone initiative’, EDM1360

3 Mar. 2011, Corbyn backs motion condemning the anti-Semitic remarks of Dior’s lead fashion designer, EDM1527

14 Mar. 2012, Corbyn condemns the sale of Nazi memorabilia at an auction in Bristol, EDM2870

14 Mar 2012, Corbyn co-sponsors a bill condemning the rise of antisemitism in Lithuania, EDM2866

20 Mar. 2012, Corbyn condemns a terrorist attack on a Jewish school in Toulouse, EDM2899,

12 June 2012, Corbyn co-sponsors a motion condemning anti-Semitic attacks during EURO 2012 in Poland, EDM168,

13 June 2012: Jeremy attacks BBC for cutting Jewish programmes from Its schedule, EDM 195

1 Mar 2013, Corbyn joins a chorus of calls condemning antisemitism in sport, EDM 1133

1 Oct. 2013, Corbyn was one of the few MPs who defended Ralph Miliband from Daily Mail antisemitism

9 Jan 2014, Corbyn praises Holocaust Memorial’s work on antisemitism education EDM 932

22 June 2015, Corbyn condemns a Neo-Nazi rally planned for a Jewish area of London, EDM 165

Sat 4 July 2015, Corbyn co-plans a counter-fascist demo in defence of Jewish residents at Golders Green. The march was re-routed

18 Nov. 2015, Corbyn uses one of his first PMQs to challenge Cameron to do more on antisemitism

9 Oct 2016, Corbyn, close to tears, leads commemoration of the Battle of Cable Street 9 Oct 2016

3 Dec. 2016, Corbyn visits Terezin Concentration Camp to commemorate Holocaust victims

In 2017-19, Corbyn introduces 20 new measures to combat antisemitism in the Labour Party.

original blog on People's Campaign for Corbyn here 


(Thank you Sue Luton for the initial research)


Sunday 18 July 2021

Is there no end to this posh barbarism?

Here is Ewen Fergusson, newly appointed by Boris Johnson to the Committee on Standards in Public Life. I cannot think of anyone more suitable for this job. He has wide-ranging experience of standards. Here he is with Boris Johnson as a member of Oxford’s Bullingdon Club, an all-male dining club, known for its wealthy members, grand banquets and bad behaviour, including vandalism of restaurants, bars and hotels. Membership is expensive, with £3,000 tailor-made uniforms, and a tradition of spiteful personal and public damage. When Johnson was a member the initiation rites included tearing up a £50 note in front of the homeless. A former member told the Daily Mirror, “Women aren’t allowed to formal dinners but at informal gatherings we would make them get down on all fours like a horse, whinny, and bring out hunting horns and whips. Yes they were degraded to some extent, but it was all done respectfully.” Is there no end to this posh-barbarism? But at least Jeremy Corbyn was stopped from being PM.

Thursday 15 July 2021

A canal walk with Jim


I recently went for a canalside walk with my friend Jim Brann, one of the unsung heroes from the time I worked at Stop the War Coalition. He is a walking encyclopedia on London history and there is nothing I don’t know about the Regent’s canal in the time it took us to reach London Zoo from Kings Cross.

When I turned talk to the present political situation and expressed my pessimism at the continued ascendancy of reaction and the Right, Jim had a London story with which to cheer me up. This time set beside the waters of the Thames.

Julius Jakob Freiherr von Haynau was an Austrian general who suppressed the 1848 insurrectionary movements in Italy and Hungary. He was a ruthless commander. His soldiers called him the "Habsburg Tiger" and his victims referred to him as “hangman” and “hyena”. He was notorious for hanging male prisoners and flogging females.

When he came to London in 1850, word spread that he was visiting the Barclay & Perkins brewery in Park Street. He was attacked by draymen who threw mud and horse shit at him and chased him down the street with brooms and stones, shouting “down with the butcher".

 Taking refuge in The George pub in Borough High Street, he was rescued by the police and spirited away by boat on the Thames.

When Giuseppe Garibaldi visited England in 1864, he insisted on visiting the brewery to thank “the men who flogged Haynau”. You can still see this plaque in Park Street.

I think my next Jim walk has to be to Park Street ending with a pint or two at The George. We will drink to the memory of those draymen.


Wednesday 14 July 2021

Craig Murray on Julian Assange


Former UK Ambassador, Craig Murray, does that here, speaking out for gaoled truth-teller, Julian Assange.

Saturday 10 July 2021

Paris Commune - a revolution of more than its own time



"a revolution of more than its own time"


A revolutionary tradition has always been strong in France. “From childhood,” wrote Eugene Varlin, a member of the 1st International, “people are brought up having revolution glorified … boys who cannot work out their own pay, who do not read newspapers, rush out as soon as there is any disturbance in the street.” This applies to Parisians most of all who are still proud that they destroyed the Bastille in 1789.


When war broke out between France and Germany in 1870, The International Workingmen’s Association called for a General Strike against the war in all countries of Europe. It was just a hope as workers were gripped by patriotic fervour while Emperor Napoleon III was half-hearted in his attempt to check a German advance. On 9 August 1870, a large crowd gathered in the Place de la Concorde to demand the Emperor’s abdication and the arming of the people. 

The defence of Paris now lay with the National Guard, the armed militia which had sprung up after the fall of the Bastille. Their allegiance was to the people rather than the State and the government was more frightened of  the people than they were of the German army. One minister said that there is a fear that “the agitators would use their arms more for social upheaval than for national defence”. With Paris under siege from the Prussian army, by the end of the year, 300,000 Parisians were under arms.


The government proceeded to to make peace as soon as possible and on 3 September 1870 the French army surrendered to the Germans at Sedan. The Republic was declared, supported by the old bourgeois parties who acted to prevent a social revolution.  The people of Paris, however, were demanding defence of their city, universal elections and municipal freedoms. A “Commune” was declared by delegates from the arrondissements in January 1871 and the Revolution was about to begin.


The Paris Commune was the first revolutionary upheaval in France in which the working class played the leading role. “Its true secret was this,” wrote Karl Marx. “It was essentially a working class government, the product of the struggle of the producing against the appropriating class, the political form at last discovered under which to work out the economic emancipation of Labour.”


The government moved to Bourdeaux, headed by August Thiers who had suppressed workers revolts in Lyons and Paris in 1834 and 1848, referring to them as “that vile multitude”. Paris was defended by the Commune, with cannons placed on the Montmartre hillside. The army attempted to move these guns on the night of 20 March, but the officers in charge forgot to bring horses to draw the guns away and the populace was alerted. They fraternised with the soldiers and drew them away from their commanders. The army retreated to Versailles, but the Commune made its first and most fatal mistake. They failed to pursue them.


The Commune had two months to make its mark on history. “Time,” Marx said, “was not allowed to the Commune.” The political spectrum of the Commune was wide: Jacobins, socialists, members of the International and anarchists. The provinces supported Paris so long as municipal liberties remained a Commune demand. The more revolutionary Commune characteristics found strong support in the larger French towns, such as Lyons and Marseilles (where there was a short-lived Commune). The countryside remained antagonistic, a conflict that stretched back to 1848 when the peasants had supported Napoleon III against Republican Paris, helping to assault the city’s barricades. 


For many Communards the Commune was not revolutionary enough. Some wanted to seize the National Bank. “The appropriation of the Bank of France would have been enough to put an end with terror to the Versaillais”, declared Marx. But the Commune supported the setting up of workers cooperatives which resulted in ten large factories taken over by their workers. The socialist paper Affranchi called this, “The glory of the Paris Commune, rallying and bringing over definitely all workers to its side.” But the attempts by some of the Commune’s delegates to take over the monopolist factories for the workers were not taken up.


Decrees on educational reform were ambitious although little was accomplished. The poet FB Clement faced the issue in the pages of Le Cri du Peuple. “What will remain if the people are defeated?” he asked, “if not the principles enshrined in its decrees. They can kill us if they wish, they can rip down our posters and remove all traces from the walls, but the principles that have been affirmed will still exist, and whatever is done, whatever is said, they are monuments that the Versaillais cannot destroy either by strokes of the pen or shots of the cannon.”


In Lenin’s words the Paris Commune was “a festival of the oppressed”  which lasted long enough to show mankind a possible new future. Direct democracy of delegates replaced the parliamentary representatives. The Commune declared that “those elected by the people have the duty of keeping in constant touch with their electors in order to give account of the mandate they have received and to submit themselves to questions.”


The fighting for a total involvement of the people in their own democracy gripped Paris. The newspaper Rappel declared, “Today Paris has become truly pictureaque with the cries of its paper-sellers from dawn to dusk. It is a permanent concert, a sort of perpetual fair.”


Debates took place, at the Hotel de Ville, and in cafes and clubs. At the Club St Lieu they discussed  ‘Whether the rich should be shot or simply made to give back what they had stolen from the people.” The vote taken declared that they should first surrender their ill-gotten gains and then be shot. A woman at the Club des Proletaires suggested that as a last line of defence women should march to the basrricades with their children. “We shall see if the solders fire on them. Perish our children if necessary, but the Commune must live.” The League of Prostitutes met and declared that, “We are 25,000 and we will rip open the guts of the Versaillais.” Some took up arms, others became nurses. Many died on the barricades.


In the words of the historian Stewart Edwards, “The Commune was a truly revolutionary event, the breakthrough into a new order where what seemed to be barely possible, however fleetingly, became actual.”


Neverthelees, a gap existed between the demands and hopes of the people and the actions of the Communards. Eduard Vaillant, editor of Affliche Rouge, expressed this difference when he wrote, “Instead of a revolutionary Commune, Paris had an elected Commune. It did its duty and it did its best. But because of its electoral origins, it could not have the unity of action and the energy of a committee arising spontaneously, from a people in revolt.” A Communard, August Malin, was later to admit, “The men of the Commune were not up to their task. One is never up to a people in revolt.”


The army broke into Paris in the last week of May 1871. A massacre took place. Le Figaro spoke of the need, “to purge Paris. Never has such an opportunity presented itself for curing Paris of the moral gangrene that has been consuming it for the past twenty years. What is a republican? A savage beast … we must track down those who are hiding, like wild animals. Without pity, without anger. Simply with the steadfastness of an honest man doing his duty.” Le Monsieur Universal said that the Communards should be treated as “the most appalling monsters ever seen in the history of humanity.” Le Bien Public spoke of the need for a “Commune Hunt”.


Paris was put to the sack by 130,000 troops. Upto 30,000 people were slaughtered with corpses thrown into the River Seine. Blood ran down the streets. Bourgeois women  poked at bodies with their sunshades while their husbands boasted to theit wives and children of the numbers they had killed.


The dead took their revenge. The large numbers of corpses in the streets threatened pestilence. There were over a thousand piled outside the Trocadero. Outside the Ecole Polytechnique the bodies were three deep in a line one hundred metres long. Limbs were sticking out of the ground in Place St Jaques. Flies were everywhere. Even the London Times condemned, “the inhuman laws of revenge under which the troops had been shooting, bayonetting, ripping up prisoners, both women and children, during the last six days.”


As well as the 30,000 killed in this way, a further 25,000 were exiled to island prisons where many died. The ruling class exacted their revenge in the only way they considered appropriate, with a bloodpath.


Once the city was subdued, the national government celebrated its victory by constructing a monument in ‘expiation’ for the crimes of the Commune - The Sacré-Cœur a white basilica dominating Montmartre, which had been the centre of Red Paris.


If you visit Paris and the Sacré-Cœur think of why it is there and think of the people defending that hill at the end of their short-lived Commune. In the Jardin de Luxembourg visualise the corpses heaped there by the troops after the carnage on the barricades of Rue St Michel. Then take Metro Line 2 to Philippe-Auguste station and visit Père Lachaise cemetery, Of course pay homage to Oscar Wilde and Frédéric Chopin, Gertrude Stein, Molière, Marcel Proust and Jim Morrison. But don’t leave without a visit to the momument to the Mur des Fédérés. On 28 May 1871, 147 Communards were put against this wall, shot and thrown into a trench below.


Tweny years ago, I was standing at this spot when an old man approached me and said that his father had first taken him here on his shoulders. “Tourists come to Paris, and they know about the 1789 Revolution, but how many know about the revolution of 1871? How many of us French even  know?” He was silent for a long time, then raised a clenched fist to his temple. “The truth about what happened here has been hidden for too long. It was a revolution of more than its own time. And it is our duty to keep their struggle and sacrifice alive.”


Walking back to the Metro station, I remembered a Mexican proverb, "They tried to bury us, but they didn't know we were seeds".




This is written on the 150th anniversary of the Paris Commune