homelessness

Conservative Lady Claims Labour and Momentum Supporters Responsible for Misogynist Abuse – But Is This Real?

There was a bit in the I today, reporting a speech made in the House of Lords by a female Tory peer, in which she broke the taboo against saying the ‘C’ word. She said it as an example of the misogynist abuse, which she claimed was coming from Labour and Momentum supporters. Mike’s already covered this issue over on his blog, pointing out that it’s been condemned by Jeremy Corbyn. Mike’s fully behind the condemnation, saying that death threats and other abuse have no place in civilised politics, and we shouldn’t lower ourselves to the Tories’ level. Which is absolutely correct, though looking at the incident, I wonder how much of the abuse, and the good lady’s outrage over it, is actually genuine.

Remember, one of the accusations that the Blairites tried to use against Corbyn and Momentum was that they were all terribly misogynist, and subjecting to poor, middle class corporatist Blairite women to vile abuse. This was taken over wholesale from Killary in the US, and her attempt to demonise Bernie Sanders’ supporters. In fact, the ‘Bernie Bros’ she claimed were responsible for all this abuse didn’t exist, and on examination neither did the misogynist abuse the Blairites were claiming came from Corbyn’s supporters. But clearly the tactic has made an impression, and it’s become part of the right-wing narrative that Corbyn’s supporters are all terrible misogynists, as well as anti-Semites. None of which is true.

It also seems to me something of a diversionary tactic. This is the week that Toby Young came under fire as May’s appointment for the universities’ regulatory board, because of the highly offensive nature of comments he’d made and written. These really were sexist and misogynist. There were Tweet after Tweet in which Young commented on the size of women’s breasts, including those of Claudia Winkleman, whom he told to ‘put on weight’. As for a photograph that seemed to show him touching a female celebrity, he also Tweeted that he had his ‘d**k up her a**e’. Labour’s women and equalities minister, Dawn Butler, rightly condemned Young’s comments as vile and misogynistic, and demanded Young’s removal from the post.

Which makes the Honourable Lady’s comments about misogyny from the Labour left, and how it was turning women off politics, seem somewhat contrived. It looks as if she was trying to take attention away from how terrible Young, and those like him in the Tory party are, by making a similar claim against Corbyn and the Labour party.

Now I share Mike’s and Corbyn’s views on such abuse. It’s clearly not acceptable. But I can understand the rage behind it. If people are sending hate messages to the Tories in May’s cabinet reshuffle, including Esther McVile, some of the anger is because they feel powerless. This government has done everything it can to humiliate and degrade working people, and particularly the sick, the disabled and the unemployed. Thanks to Tory wage restraint, jobs don’t pay. There is rising poverty, and move people are being forced to use food banks. At the same time the Tories are engineering a crisis in the NHS so they can eventually privatise it and force people into a private insurance-based system, like America. Where 40,000 people die each year because they don’t have medical coverage. The unions, with one or two exceptions, have been decimated, so that working people are left defenceless before predatory and exploitative bosses. And the benefits system has been so reformed, so that claimants can be thrown off it for even the most trivial of reasons. All so that May and her cronies can give their corporate backers even bigger tax cuts, and a cowed, beaten, compliant workforce.

In this situation, I think people have every reason to be angry. Especially when it comes to Esther McVie. When she was in charge of the disabled at the DWP, she was directly responsible for policies that threw thousands of seriously ill people off benefits, on the spurious grounds that they had been judged ‘fit for work’ by Atos and then Maximus. As a result, people have died, thanks to her policies. Personal abuse is unacceptable, but people have every right to express otherwise how loathsome she is, and how she is manifestly unsuited to have any responsible post dealing with the vulnerable.

If people are angry, and they can’t find any other way to express their anger, then it will turn into abuse. I don’t know how much of the abuse the Tory lady claimed is real, but if it does exist, it’s because the Tories have left people feeling powerless, and feeling that they have no other means of expressing their anger and fear.

And I also find it highly hypocritical that this woman, who is rich and entitled, should accuse those below her of abuse. Quite apart from the fact that I’ve no doubt that you can find similar comments expressed by the Tories on their websites, Tweets and blogs, various Tory grandees have in the past made their contempt for working people very clear. Such as the infamous comment by one of them – was it Matthew Freud? – that the homeless were the people you step over when coming out of the opera. The Tories are very well aware how controversial the appointment of these new cabinet ministers are, especially Esther McVile, the minister in charge of culling the disabled, as she’s been described by Mike and others. It looks to me very much like part of the purpose of this accusation was to silence genuine criticism of the grotesques, bigots and corporatist horrors with which May has decided once again to fill her cabinet.

I therefore have strong doubts that there was misogynist abuse directed at Tory women, or if there was, whether there was any more than usual, or the same amount of abuse directed at female Labour MPs. If you want an example of really vile abuse, take a look at some of the comments the Tories have made about Diane Abbott, which manages to be both misogynist and racist. It all looks very much like a ploy to stop people noticing the vile abuse coming from Toby Young and the Tories, by repeating the lies spewed by the Blairites in an attempt to silence justifiable criticism of May’s murderous new cabinet appointments.

Japanese History: Twelfth Century Guild Power against Feudalism

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Sun, 17/12/2017 - 10:05pm in

This is the type of history you don’t hear much about from the Land of the Rising Sun. Much of our images of Japanese history and culture are based on Japanese feudalism and the samurai, who held power until the modernisation of the country in the later 19th century during the Meiji Restoration. But there was a period during the 12th century during a period of intense civil wars when the power of the daimyos began to break down. This meant that a number of towns began to shake off their yoke, and asserted their own independence. The ruling powers in them were the guilds, who organised local armies.

This is a period I’d love to know more about. The guilds weren’t trade unions – not in Japan, Europe or wherever. But they represented the ‘middling sort’ and the craftspeople, regulated trade and provided some welfare services. They were also a powerful inspiration to the British Guild Socialists – hence the name – who formulated a British version of continental syndicalism.

During the radical ferment of the 1960s there was a revival of interest in ideas of municipal anarchism following the publication of Goro Hani’s The Logic of the Cities. This can partly be explained by the alienation many Japanese felt through the Fascism of Imperial Japan during the Second World War, and the humiliation they felt at their nation’s defeat. it doesn’t look like Japan’s current economic decline, marked by rising homelessness and poverty, will lead to renewed interest in radical ideas over there. But this is period of the 12th century seems to me to be a fascinating period that should be a bit better known.

Google Scaremongers, Claims RT’s Lee Camp Influenced by Putin

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Thu, 14/12/2017 - 4:24am in

In this clip from RT America’s Redacted Tonight, the host, comedian Lee Camp, tells how Google is trying to scare people away from watching him. Apparently if you Google his name, a little ‘knowledge card’ comes up on the screen telling you a bit about him. If you clip on the influences section, it then tells you that his comedy has been influenced by George Carlin, Bill Hicks, Douglas Stanhope, and that titan of post-Soviet mirth, Vladimir Putin. There then follows a long series of jokes about the Arkhiplut as a radical comedian, before Camp makes the serious point that this is Google trying to put prospective viewers off watching him.

He’s right. Google has been one of those desperately trying to take viewers away from left-wing and alternative news sites. They’ve even been developing computer algorithms to redirect viewers, or to make the sites deliberately difficult to find by ranking them lower than they would otherwise be.

And now they’re following the Red Scare started by Killary and her corporatist friends in the Democrats, in which anyone left-wing is automatically an agent of pernicious Russian state influence, no matter how far-fetched or contrived the allegations are.

RT America is, like RT over here, a prime target, not just because it is owned by the Russian state, but also because it’s dedicated to uncovering the kind of news the Conservative establishment does not want people in America or Britain to see. About mass homelessness, poverty, the deaths, sickness and deprivation resulting from the lack of a single-payer healthcare system, and the well-documented horrors of American imperialism. Redacted Tonight is one of those programmes taking the lid of these highly taboo subjects, which makes Lee a prime target for these smears.

RT America has so far laughed off some of the allegations. I’ve posted a vide they made spoofing the allegations, which showed the video’s host, one of the company’s senior female production crew, walking through their studios in Red Army uniforms, speaking Russian, while the news team creates fake news, amid raging gun battles and with a group of political prisoners kept in the basement.

More seriously, Abby Martin, who used to work at RT, but has since moved to TeleSur English, talked about these allegations in an interview she did with Jimmy Dore. She herself was smeared as a puppet of the Arkhiplut. She wasn’t surprised that they’ve target RT, as she saw years before how they went after Al-Jazeera. She made the point that she never said anything about Putin. And she stated very clearly that the people at RT were leftists and Socialists, who were only there because RT was the only media outlet, where they could express their views.

As for Google, I think I’ve seen somewhere that the head, or one of its heads, is a close friend of Hillary. So with those connections, it’s no surprise that it’s smearing genuine leftists and progressives as agents of Moscow.

Revealed: The Price Paid For This Doorway Sleeping Spot

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Sat, 09/12/2017 - 12:59am in

DESPITE the news that a penthouse Dublin apartment has been sold for a whopping €6.5million, there’s another property in Ireland that has gone for a far greater price, as WWN Property found out today. Located in Cork city, the roadside spot has already gone for the ultimate price at least twice, with two members of the same... Read more »

RT Footage of Workers’ Protests against Trump and Japanese Prime Minister

RT has put up this short clip of less than a minute in length, showing workers demonstrating in Tokyo against Donald Trump, who has gone on an official visit of their country, and their Prime Minister, Shinzo Abe.

The brief description for the video runs

Thousands of protesters took to the streets of Tokyo on Sunday in occasion of the 20th National Worker’s Meeting, to protest against the policies of Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe and the visit of US President Donald Trump.
Protesters contested Abe’s economic plans in the realm of company privatisation, the country’s nuclear power policies and the US troops’ presence in Japan among other things.

The marchers bang drum, and as well as carrying placards, many of them also wear headbands bearing slogan. Some of the placards have the slogans in English ‘No War’, ‘No Poverty’, ‘No Trump’. Trump and Abe are hanged in effigy, and there’s a performance in which a man, masked and dressed as Trump, is attacked and buried under cardboard boxes, bearing the words ‘War’, ‘Poverty’, ‘Kairoshi’. I’ve no idea what the last means, except it’s probably a very Japanese concept describing some godawful aspect of the present administration.

I am really not at all surprised that Japanese working people are protesting. As is notorious, they work extremely hard, but the continuing problems of the Japanese economy mean that people are being laid off, and there is very little in the way of a state welfare system to support them. A few years ago the BBC did a piece on the current state of the Japanese economy, and showed some of the victims living in tents under a bridge. One of these poor homeless souls came up to explain a few things to the programme’s host. According to the presenter, it was a bitter complaint about the government and the economy.

I am also not at all surprised at their anger against Trump. The orange buffoon’s aggressive stance towards North Korea, threatening to go to nuclear war with the Stalinist thug, is obviously going to frighten a nation that stands pretty much in the firing line. The last missile North Korea lobbed in America’s direction overflew them. The Japanese people probably remember only too well the horrors of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, and are all too horrified by the prospect of a repeat.

The presence of American troops in Japan, where there’s a base on the island of Okinawa, is another major source of irritation. You may remember that there were also massive demonstrations against it a few years ago. I think that while the Cold War was on and Communism remained a threat, real or perceived, the Japanese were prepared to accept it. But now the Japanese, or at least a sizable part of them, see it as American occupation.

Book Review: The Violence of Austerity edited by Vickie Cooper and David Whyte

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Mon, 06/11/2017 - 9:07pm in

In The Violence of Austerity, editors Vickie Cooper and David Whyte bring together contributors to explore the negative impact of austerity upon citizens in the UK, covering such topics as health, education, homelessness, disability and the environment. This is a powerful description of the consequences of austerity policies for the UK’s most vulnerable people, writes Paul Caruana-Galizia, and should be read widely. 

The Violence of Austerity. Vickie Cooper and David Whyte (eds). Pluto Press. 2017.

Find this book: amazon-logo

Milton Friedman used to say that you can’t have political freedom without economic freedom. Libertarians have taken up his saying as a mantra. There’s logic in it – taxes directly restrict your economic freedom and fund other government interventions – and rhetoric – it casts politics and government as dependent and redundant. But is it right?

We’ve been building up to an answer since the 2010 election of the Conservative-led coalition government in the United Kingdom. The country’s path to economic recovery, the coalition government argued, isn’t more government spending and intervention. It’s ‘austerity’: a sharp reduction in government spending or, in Libertarian terms, a sharp rise in economic and so political freedom. For context, Local Authority spending per person fell by 23.4 per cent in real terms between 2009 and 2015, and general government spending as a percentage of GDP fell by 11 per cent.

The Violence of Austerity, edited by Vickie Cooper and David Whyte, contains chapters on the relationship – always negative – between the UK’s austerity policies and such areas as health and education outcomes, homelessness, the environment, poverty, disability and even the Northern Ireland Peace Process. The book is varied in its coverage, but it shows one thing clearly: for a lot of people in the UK, austerity has created less economic and political freedom.

In Chapter Four, Jon Burnett and Whyte cover ‘workfare’: the welfare conditionality schemes in which people are made to work without pay to improve their employment prospects or risk losing their entitlement to benefit income. They show us that people in ‘workfare’ are often forced into unsafe, physically draining, unpaid jobs. Complaints about working conditions are met with threats of sanctions. Employers, with the government’s backing, have total coercive power. Every year, over 100,000 people are put onto workfare schemes (65). Every year, over a million sanctions are imposed on them (62).

Robert Knox’s chapter, ‘Legalising the Violence of Austerity’ (Chapter Nineteen), shows us that when a government cuts spending, it doesn’t simply provide fewer services. It compensates for lost revenues with harsher enforcement of existing regulations and the implementation of new ones. Local Authorities, for example, are now faced with declining core funding from the central government, and a legal obligation to balance their budgets. Failure to do so can result in fines, disqualification and even imprisonment, Knox tells us. He concludes: ‘austerity has been accompanied by the extension and intensification of legal frameworks into politics’ (185).

Image Credit: (Funk Dooby CC BY 2.0)

A critic might respond: ‘fine, but when funding is limited it must be managed stringently.’ So where is the government making savings? On children, as Joanna Mack shows us in Chapter Seven. Not that there’s room for it: 27 per cent of the UK’s children live in poverty, a higher rate than most EU member states. On taking office in 2010, the coalition government froze the rate of child benefit. On winning the 2015 election, the Conservatives announced further spending cuts, including limiting tax benefits to two children. Lone parent households have experienced the sharpest falls in their incomes over this period (86-87).

Savings are also being made on those with mental illness, as Mary O’Hara shows (Chapter One). Again, not that there’s room for it: mental health services receive 13 per cent of the NHS’s budget while mental illness accounts for 23 per cent of the UK’s total loss of healthy years of life (37). Still, O’Hara writes: ‘mental health provision was hit hard and early by austerity measures and this pattern continued into 2016’ (38).

John Pring tells us that savings are furthermore being made on disabilities (Chapter Three). He quotes an estimate from think tank Demos that disabled people risked losing £28 billion in income support by 2018, in response to then-Conservative Chancellor George Osborne’s ‘emergency budget’ of June 2010 (52). And savings are also being made on those who are homeless, as we see in Chapter Eighteen by Daniel McCulloch. He writes that between 2010 and 2015, the number of people sleeping in rough in England has more than doubled, increasing year-on-year (172). The number has risen by a further 16 per cent from 2015 to 2016. McCulloch cites a study which found that 67 per cent of Local Authorities have seen a rise in rough sleeping as a direct outcome of welfare reforms (173). He also references another that shows that increasingly punitive benefit sanctions exacerbate the risks homeless people face and also the risk of homelessness (173). This is all sad enough to contemplate; sadder still when you see that the savings are a false economy.

The book’s introductory chapter, by Cooper and Whyte, nonetheless misses an opportunity when assessing the success of austerity policy on its own terms. The terms: faster economic growth by cutting fiscal expenditure and public debt, which makes room for private business investment and creates a more competitive economy. Cooper and Whyte argue that austerity was never necessary as UK public debt has been higher; that mainstream economists advised against it; and that Iceland experienced a similar crisis, but didn’t undertake austerity and recovered faster than the UK. The second and third points are fair, the first less so: public debt as a percentage of GDP spiked in 2009 and remains elevated. But this is the most fundamental criticism of austerity policy – a lot of harmful side-effects without the intended effects. We should read more on why this is the case, rather than be told that it just didn’t work.

Cuts in government spending are cuts in total demand, which lower output and raise unemployment. Cuts in government spending in a depressed economy depress that economy even further: they diminish demand when demand is already low. For this reason, an empirical study across a sample of OECD countries by the Peterson Institute for International Economics found no support for the argument that austerity is good for economic growth. Even in purely fiscal terms, austerity is self-defeating: whatever savings are made by, for example, cutting income benefit, are partly offset by lower revenue. There’s only so much fat you can cut before you hit the bone.

Another empirical study by the UN’s Department of Economic and Social Affairs found that austerity generates income inequality. As Ruth London’s chapter on fuel poverty shows, there are costs to cuts. Fuel poverty, for which the government is scaling back its support, costs the NHS £3.6 million per day (101). The costs are borne by those least able to bear them – children in cold, damp homes fall ill and miss school; adults miss work and lose jobs (Chapter Nine). Those who can afford to heat their homes remain unaffected. There are occasional attempts throughout the book to link austerity and inequality to the Brexit vote. A lot of work has been done on this, and the book feels like it should have had a chapter dedicated to it.

The Violence of Austerity is a powerful description of what’s happening to the UK’s most vulnerable people: more premature deaths, more malnutrition, more suicides, people freezing in their homes. On this basis alone, the book should be read widely. That is, even if you think some of the worrying trends explored in health and in the labour market pre-date austerity policies, the book shows us that a lot more people aren’t economically and politically free, but are suffering and struggling. You’d think they need more, not less, support.

Dr Paul Caruana-Galizia is a Visiting Fellow in the Department of Economic History at the London School of Economics. He is the author of The Economy of Modern Malta and Mediterranean Labor Markets in the First Age of Globalization. Read more by Paul Caruana-Galizia.

Note: This review gives the views of the author, and not the position of the LSE Review of Books blog, or of the London School of Economics. 

 


Owen Jones Talks to Rebecca Long-Bailey: Neoliberalism Has Fallen Apart

In this video, Owen Jones, the author of Chavs: The Demonisation of the Working Class and The Establishment, talks to Rebecca Long-Bailey, one of the people responsible for the Labour manifesto and close ally of Jeremy Corbyn. He states that she has been pretty central to the whole Corbyn project. And he particularly likes her because she’s a ‘scamp’ from Manchester like him.

He begins by stating that Clement Attlee established the post-War consensus of a strong welfare state, state intervention in industry and labour and trade union rights. This fell apart under Margaret Thatcher. He asks her if Thatcher’s neoliberalism is now falling apart in its turn.

She replies very positively that it definitely is, and that more orthodox economists are stating that we need a Keynsian approach to the economy. She says that when they began promoting Keynsianism, they were attacked as very much out of touch. Now the Financial Times and another major economic journal has come out and supported state interventionism. The FT even said that we need to renationalise water. This left her absolutely speechless with surprise when she read it, as it was a Labour idea.

She was the Shadow Minister in charge of business and industrial strategy. Jones notes that the hostile press would immediately attack Labour’s policies as destructive and compare them to Venezuela. He asks how she responds to that. She replies with a very clear answer: ‘Rubbish’. She points out that, under neoliberalism, Britain has become one of the least productive nations in the developed world. Indeed, productivity is at its lowest for 20 years. And thanks to wage restraint, wages are also lower than they were before the Crash of 2008.

She states we need an investment bank for England to encourage investment, as private industry won’t invest unless government does so. She also states that we need to reform industry so that it represents everyone involved in a firm, including workers and stakeholders. When Jones asks her what she considers socialism to be, she simply responds ‘Fairness’, and talks about giving employees rights at work, protecting their jobs. She also makes it clear that she believes it is very important to show people that voting Labour will make a difference to their lives. She wants to show people in the north that Labour will tackle homelessness, not just by building more homes, but by building more social housing, so that people, who can’t afford a house will get one. It will be a radical transformation of society, just like it was in the 1940s.

She also talks about how difficult it is being an MP. As a Member of Parliament, you just want to talk about your policies and the issues, but you have to be aware that every time you give an interview, the media are trying to lead you into a trap by getting you to say the wrong thing, or criticise a Labour colleague.

Long-Bailey clearly has a deep grasp not only of the abstract economic issues involved, but also of the personal dimension as people are driven in debt, misery and despair through neoliberalism’s destruction of the British economy for the enrichment of the small number of extremely rich and privileged. And she is inspired by the same ideas as those of Clement Attlee and the great labour politicians, who forged the post-War consensus and gave Britain it’s longest period of economic growth, as well as expanding opportunities for ordinary working women and men.

And it can only be brilliant that the FT, that great pillar of financial capitalism, has come on board to support a return to Keynsianism.

As for the pet Thatcherite policies of Monetarism and neoliberalism, Robin Ramsay has spoken of Monetarism that when he studied economics in the late 60s and ’70s, it was considered such as a nutty idea that his professors didn’t bother to argue against it. He has suggested that it’s possible the Tories, who embraced it also knew it to be a load of rubbish. But they adopted it because it provided an ideological justification for what they wanted to do anyway: privatise industry and smash the organised working class.

Now Thatcherite neoliberalism is falling apart very obviously, and the elite are panicking. Hence the non-story about Clive Lewis and his supposed ‘misogyny’, which is a complete non-story. It’s being used by the Tories to try to distract people from their continuing failures over Brexit, the privatisation of the health and education services. And, of course, the sheer mass of seething misogyny and racism in their own party.

RTUK on the True Scale of Hidden and Rural Homelessness in the UK

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Sun, 01/10/2017 - 3:22am in

This is another excellent piece from RTUK. And it shows why we’re better off looking at alternative sources of news on the Net than relying on flagrantly biased BBC. Even when those alternative sources are owned by Putin’s Russia.

This report discusses the true scale of hidden and rural homelessness in the UK, which is much bigger than previously considered. Among the chilling statistics, it reports that 1 in 10 people experience homelessness every year, and that homelessness has increased 50 per cent since the Tories took power in 2010. In London, 12,500 people are forced to sleep on sofas or the Tube every night. Nationally, 70,000 people were sofa surfing, 20,000 people sleep in unsuitable accommodation, 12,500 living in squats, 9,000 living in tents. A spokesman for Centrepoint states that the statistics are patchy and unclear, and that homelessness is often unreported by the general public, because they don’t know the homeless people they see sleeping rough. This prevents it from gaining the attention it needs to attract proper political action.

Not all towns deal with the problem in the same way. While most councils try to get the homeless into a hostel or similar, Carlisle is trying to solve the problem by giving the homeless tents, toiletries and other things they need, a policy which is praised by one homeless man, a Mr. Dubka, interviewed on the programme. The programme does report the government’s response, which says that it is committed to tackling homelessness and has devoted £550 million to this goal by 2020. The government is also about to pass the Homelessness Reduction Bill intended to force council to act in cases where people are about to become homeless.

But councils are still finding it difficult to cope, as budgets have been slashed by 70 per cent from 2014, councils are forced to concentrate on the urban centres, a point supported by a spokesman for another charity, Porchlight. The programme also cites statistics collected by Herriott Watts University. It concludes that on the one hand, it’s good that the figures for rural homelessness are finally being included and pressure is being placed on the government to include them in its Homelessness Reduction Act, but on the other funding is still being reduced.

I am not surprised that there are a high number of ‘hidden homeless’ in London and around the country. A little while ago I found a study of homelessness in New York, written by an American social scientist and based on his doctoral research in the 1980s and 1990s, when it was briefly a major issue in American politics. It’s actually more difficult to define the scale of the homelessness problem in New York, because many of the homeless aren’t living on the streets. They are sleeping on friends’ couches, or in basements or closets or other areas given to them to sleep in by kindly janitors. And although the problem is much bigger in the 21st century than it was twenty or so years ago, it has practically disappeared as a political issue.

Many of those homeless in New York are graduates. I wonder how many are also people with university degrees in this country, who can’t find accommodation in the cities in which they moved to attend uni, because of a shortage of affordable housing.

The report also makes another excellent point, though one by tacit demonstration rather than open statement. The government has said that it’s devoting £550 million to the problem by 2020. This looks impressive, but as the programme shows, this is actually a cut of 70 per cent. It shows why you should be always very careful about accepting the government’s stats when they are given in isolation without corresponding data to compare it with.

Also, whatever they say, this government will do the barest minimum to tackle homelessness. Due to Tory policies, the wider British economy depends on house prices remaining high. And they can only remain high if there’s a demand for them.

Fascism and the Murder of the Homeless

Last week or so Mike put up a story reporting how a gang of thugs had decided it was amusing to set alight a homeless man and his sleeping bag. The man’s injuries were so severe he had to be taken to hospital. Mike made it clear that while those responsible were just thugs acting independently, nevertheless their actions were result of Tory propaganda, spread through the right-wing press, demonizing the very poorest in our society as scroungers and a threat to the good, righteous and thrifty Thatcherite respectable classes. He felt that such crimes were on the rise.

I’ve read and seen enough on the plight of the homeless over the years to get the impression that such attacks are very common. A few years ago the Evening Post in Bristol interviewed a young homeless woman, who described her mistreatment by members of the public. She said that one man had even tried to get into her sleeping bag with her.

Way back in the 1990s during the war in the former Yugoslavia, the ethnic cleansing carried out by the Serbs and the other participants in that war, the Croats and the Muslims, was copied across the Atlantic by the Fascists in South America. There was a report on the news one evening about attacks on the poor and destitute by the supporters of the right-wing government in Colombia. These thugs had set upon and killed a homeless man, in what they boasted was ‘social cleansing’.

Now in Trump’s America we see real Fascists coming out the woodwork again, marching in support of forced repatriation, racial segregation and chanting anti-Semitic slogans, such as ‘The Jews shall not replace us.’ Meanwhile the neoliberal policies pursued by the Republicans and Clintonite Democrats are forcing working Americans into grinding poverty, including homelessness.

Violence against the homeless, along with other poor and marginalized groups has always existed. But it’s being encouraged by the rhetoric of the mainstream right-wing parties and the vilification spewed out by the right-wing press. And these parties are moving closer towards real Fascism, as shown by Trump’s vocal supporters in the Alt Right. I wonder how long it will be before we see real Fascists making similar boasts about ‘social cleansing’ over here.

Iranians March Against Trump’s UN Speech

This is a very short clip from Telesur English showing the people of Iran marching in protest at Trump’s belligerent speech attacking their country at the UN. It’s only about 23 seconds long, but it does show the range of people on the march, from older men dressed in traditional Islamic garb to young women in chadors and people in western-style, ‘modern’ dress.

I remember the great demonstrations in Iran after the Islamic Revolution, in which thousands of people turned up chanting ‘Margh bar Amrika! Margh bar Thatcher!’ – ‘Death to America! Death to Thatcher!’ I wasn’t impressed with those demonstrations, but having read a little more about the political situation in Iran and foreign exploitation of the country by Britain and America under the Shah, I now understand why the Revolution broke out, and what motivated the marchers to come onto the streets.

The election of Rafsanjani a few years ago seemed to indicate that relations between the West and Iran had thawed. It’s true that the country still has a bounty on the head of Salman Rushdie, and claims they can’t rescind the Ayatollah Khomeini’s fatwa, a claim I find frankly incredible. However, people can move freely between the two nations, and there have been some cultural exchanges. For example, the Young British Artists – Damian Hurst and the rest of them – went to Iran to open an exhibition of their work, and the British Museum also leant the Cyrus Cylinder, documenting the conquests of the great Persian emperor Cyrus the Great in the 5th century B.C. to go on display.

John Simpson in his book on the country also points out that Khomeini and the other theocrats were careful to distinguish between America, Ronald Reagan and the American people. They denounced Reagan and America, but not ordinary Americans. He also states that, with the exception of the demonstrations at the outbreak of the Islamic Revolution, in one of which he was nearly torn apart by the crowd, he always knew he was perfectly safe. He describes covering one such demonstration where the crowd were chanting slogans against the ‘great and little Satans’ – meaning America and Britain. He then stepped into the crowd and walked up to one of the demonstrators, and introduced himself. The man greeted him, and said, ‘You are very welcome in Iran, Agha.’ That said, I do know Iranians, who have said the opposite, that you are certainly not safe during these marches.

Trump’s speech has had the effect of making relations between the west and Iran much worse. But it’s very much in line with the policy of the neocons, who defined and set the agenda for American foreign policy in the Middle East back in the 1990s. They want Iran and Syria overthrown. They see them as a danger to Israel, and are angered by the fact that Iran will not let foreigners invest in their businesses. It’s an oil producing country, whose oil industry was dominated under the Shah by us and the Americans, and which was nationalized after the mullahs took power. One of the holidays in the country’s calendar commemorates its nationalization. I’ve no doubt that the American multinationals want to get their hands on it, just as they wanted to steal the Iraqi oil industry.

Iran is abiding by the agreement it signed with Obama not to develop nuclear weapons. This is confirmed by the Europeans and the Russians. The real issues, as I’ve blogged about previously, are that they’re supporting Syria, sending troops into Iraq to support their fellow Shi’a there, and are allied with the Russians. It’s all about geopolitical power.

Iran’s an ancient country, whose culture and history goes back thousands of years, almost to the dawn of western civilization in the Fertile Crescent of the Middle East. It’s a mosaic of different peoples and languages. If we invade, as the Trump seems to want, it’ll set off more ethnic carnage similar to that in Iraq. And I’ve no doubt we’ll see the country’s precious artistic and archaeological heritage looted and destroyed, just as the war and violence in Iraq has destroyed and seen so much of their history and monuments looted.

Iran is an oppressive theocracy, and its people are exploited. You only have to read Shirin Ebadi’s book on the contemporary situation in Iran to know that. But if Trump sends in the troops, it’ll be just to grab whatever he can of the nation’s wealth for his corporate masters in big business. It certainly won’t be to liberate them and give them democracy.

And the ordinary people of America and Britain will pay, as we will be called upon to send our brave young people to fight and die on a false pretext, just to make the bloated profits of American and western big business even more grossly, obscenely inflated. Just as the cost of the war won’t fall on big business, but on ordinary people, who will be told that public spending will have to be cut, and their taxes raised – but not those of the 1 per cent – in order to pay for it.

Enough lies have been told already, and more than enough people have been killed and maimed, countries destroyed and their people left impoverished, destitute, or forced in to exile.

No war with Iran.

As they chanted during the First Gulf War – ‘Gosh, no, we won’t go. We won’t die for Texaco!’ Or Aramco, Halliburton or anyone else.

We need peace, so let’s get rid of Trump.

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