The Penniless Philanthropist

By Daniel Margrain

Sculptor Drew Edwards (second right) unveiled his moving work Children of the Mediterranean on campus with the help of Syrian refugees now studying at MDX

Actor and sculptor, Andrew Edwards, has been dubbed the ‘penniless philanthropist’. The 51 year old’s life-affirming sculptures, mainly created from tonnes of granite, are a labour of love for Edwards who neither receives, nor asks, for a penny in return for his efforts.

I’ve witnessed the artist toil for hours on end in our communal garden sculpting his creations with a hand grinder. The man often suffers for his art – sometimes, in the physical sense, literally. Last summer he nearly lost a finger and more recently he suffered a deep wound to his leg – the hand tool almost severing a tendon.

The rewards for Edwards is the knowledge that he is making a difference – no matter how small – to help shift the public’s consciousness in terms of bringing to their attention the plight of the some of the most desperate souls on the planet – refugee children driven from their homes by the ravages of imperialist wars who are then exploited by criminal gangs.

Edward’s remarkable story culminated in the recent unveiling of his latest creation, a 91-piece installation entitled ‘Children of the Mediterranean’ – dedicated by the artist in memory of refugee children who were drowned or have been trafficked crossing the Mediterranean sea.

The 91 figures represent the percentage of children who have made the perilous journey unaccompanied. It is the first major piece of art to be erected on the Ritterman plinth in the centre of the new prestigious £18m Ritterman building at Middlesex University’s north London campus.

Edwards began his two year long ‘Children of the Mediterranean’ project after seeing the lifeless body of a small Syrian boy washed up on a beach. The image was captured by the corporate press and printed on many of their front pages, It was subsequently used by Western governments as justification for implementing their regime change agenda in the country.

The image of the dead child brought back disturbing childhood memories for Edwards. At the age of eight, the artist remembered watching the TV documentary series, ‘The World At War’. Edwards was haunted by the image of small children imprisoned in a concentration camp. The nightmare of this experience and the terror on the faces of the children and those who had survived the Mediterranean sea journey, are represented in the faceless stone figures that comprise his most recent creation.

“I didn’t want these children to be forgotten”, said Edwards in his statement to those who attended the recent unveiling of the piece. He added: “This is my way of ensuring this doesn’t happen. News coverage of these kinds of tragic events are often transient in the minds of the public. Hopefully, my work offers a sense of permanence. I think the piece is self-explanatory.”

The logistics involved in moving 7 tonnes of granite into a relatively small outdoor space in the university campus space where the plinth is located was a feat in itself. But having done so, with minimal support, is a testament to the artists commitment to his work.

All the effort was worth it. It’s a stunning piece. The clamor of various sizes of granite stone pieces are packed together in close proximity to one another – a community of lost souls bound together metaphorically and literally by their shared sense of resilience to survive against the odds.

Among them is a solitary figure of white marble, and hidden amid the bodies, is one of the sculptors trademark angels – perhaps symbolizing hope for the future. The entire piece is enmeshed in rusted encased chains that invoke in the viewer an emotional connection to the helplessness of human beings imprisoned by an endless ocean.

Invited by the event organiser to say a few more words during the unveiling, a self-effacing Edwards continued:

“I feel the piece will now have a life of its own. I can’t say for sure where it will be next or where, if ever, it will end up.”

Edwards has other pieces of his dotted around the capital city. Two months ago, the artist was so moved by the Grenfell Tower fire disaster, he donated a statue to the shrine in memory of the victims. It now stands among the flames and tributes at the entrance to Notting Hill Methodist church. Entitled, ‘Grieving Figure In Stone’, it was gratefully accepted by the minister of the church, Rev. Mark Long. and it is hoped it will become a centrepiece in a future garden of remembrance.

Edwards, who is dyslexic and suffers from Grave’s disease, turned to sculpting three years ago as a means of remaining creative between acting jobs. He left school at 15, and at the age of 24, paid to go through drama school and become an actor. Unfortunately, he also became an alcoholic and drug addict but has been clean and sober for the last 20 years.

The artist, whose last role was in the Meryl Streep film, Suffragette, began sculpting by creating angels. Largely inspired by the paintings of William Blake, Edward’s creations have a contemplative and ethereal quality to them. Much of his work seems to hint at themes of spiritual yearning and of the vulnerability of the human condition in a world that is seemingly spiraling out of control.

His first major work was a 20-foot high ‘Memorial Angel’ of recycled wind-blown oak and stainless steel that he donated to the Finchley Memorial Hospital. It stands outside the children’s cancer unit and attracts a great deal of attention from children and passers by.

He donated the sculpture as a thank you to the doctors and nursing staff at the hospital that saved his life when he developed septicemia 18 years ago. He has also donated another sculpture – ‘Mother and Child’ – to the Memorial hospital. It is carved from recycled granite and stands on the approach to the reception area. A third, almost finished piece, is in memory of a nurse at the hospital who worked in the cancer ward and sadly died of cancer herself.

Edwards has a further five granite angels ready to be donated or auctioned off for worthy causes and is presently working on a huge sculpture to be donated to the London Borough of Barnet – a 40-foot high piece entitled ‘Angel of North London’. The council have been extremely supportive of the sculptors work by allowing him the use of a work yard, and local builders have made it possible by supplying granite.

The artist wouldn’t have been able to create his work had it not been for those who assisted with transport and equipment. “They all knew I had very little money and it was the drivers bringing the granite who gave me the nickname of the penniless philanthropist”, he said. “I never thought of myself that way, but I do take it as a compliment.”

Edwards has previously said that he will consider at some point in the future to move ‘Children of the Mediterranean’ to a safe stretch of the Thames where, as the tidal water recedes, the ghostly stone figures will appear. “I would like the installation to remind commuters on their way across the Thames that children are the most vulnerable and defenceless members of society. With the ongoing conflict in Syria, and also beyond in a myriad of other places, it’s vital we don’t forget them”, he said.

Edwards concluded:

“The more we see clips of children drowning and fleeing conflict zones throughout the world, the more numb we become. It’s media fatigue. The unforgivable has become palatable. I hope it will make people ponder for a moment how privileged we are to live in one of the richest and safest democracies on earth, and perhaps consider how they can help more.”

‘Children of the Mediterranean’ will be on view at the Ritterman plinth, Middlesex University, for six months after which Edwards hopes it will be bought and the money donated to a children’s charity of the sculptors choice. If not, Edwards will probably relocate it to the banks of the Thames, although he hasn’t ruled out the possibility of it being moved abroad providing he receives the required funding.

Further information from Andrew Edwards:
E mail drewedwards@hotmail.co.uk
Tel: 07957234346

Why Are Public Libraries Closing?

By Daniel Margrain

Today (Monday, October 9-14) marks the beginning of Libraries Week, “the annual showcase of all the creative, innovative and diverse activities that UK libraries have to offer.”

In a city like London where the wealth gap between the top and bottom of society  continues to widen inexorably, and where public space appears to be at a premium, it’s becoming harder for people with a minimal income at their disposal to access modes of information and entertainment outside of the home.

With an increase in the level of in-work poverty over the last decade due largely to the normalizing culture of zero-hours contracts and part-time work, access to the paid cultural aspects of a city like London is fast becoming the domain of the few as opposed to the right of the many.

Highly inflated costs during a sustained period in which wages have stagnated, not only means that more people are being priced out of corporate-controlled spaces, but they are also denied the socialized interaction that are analogous to them.

Infotainment/infoadvertising

But this not the whole story. It’s perhaps tempting to believe that the corporate world of learning is diverse and the flow of information wide-ranging. But this is an illusion. Entertainment, like TV news, is increasingly ideological and uniform in nature, the purpose of which is to satisfy the financial demands of advertisers.

What in the corporate world of information and entertainment is purported to be reality, in other words, often merges seamlessly into overt propagandized fiction. In what John Pilger describes as a media age as opposed to an information age where lines are deliberately blurred and diversity and creativity restricted, “the available information is repetitive, safe and limited by invisible boundaries.”

This is where public libraries, as alternative spaces, come into their own. Many people regard libraries as the most valued and trusted resources at the heart of communities because they foster not only learning but social, cultural and economic well-being.

Public libraries are one of the few spaces where people can enter a world devoid of the dominant ‘infotainment’ and ‘infoadvertising’ forms of corporate culture. But in addition to offering an alternative to the increasingly atomizing space of the home, they provide people with the opportunity to temporarily escape from a ‘brainwashing’ narrative that portrays them as “a corrupting, anti-social group that exist outside of society.” Think of shows like Jeremy Kyle and Benefits Street.

More than just books

In that sense, public libraries are more than just books. Not only do they provide a space for people to escape, they are also beneficial in terms of the health and well-being of society. They help to foment children’s literacy and encourage them to become active during term-time and holidays.

They are used by parents and nurseries. They offer access to the internet to those that don’t have access. They provide space for people to read and study in peace that is not always possible in their homes. They are places to host community events, training and education.

They provide respite for the mentally ill and a space for people with physical disabilities who perhaps feel isolated in the home, as well as offering a temporary sanctuary to the homeless. They are, in other words, the embodiment of community spirit. And, of course, they are free. Indeed, there are many reasons for arguing that the library is the most important place in town.

So the question is, why is the government seemingly intent on getting rid of them?

Freedom of Information (FOI) figures show that since 2010, 575 council-run public libraries have either been closed, transferred to community groups or outsourced. This is a trend that is set to continue into 2018 as a further 111 are due to be closed within a year.

The main reason for this asset-stripping of a public utility is ideological. Public libraries represent notions of community and collective values. Many sit on prime value land. But the shift in government attitudes goes deeper than that. In part, it’s also that libraries represent the very antithesis of the fast-paced rhythm of modern life.

The process of reading books is a slow-burning aesthetic pleasure that cannot be reduced to a soundbite phrase or snappy commercial. Furthermore, books are tangible things, not abstractions that exist in ‘clouds’ and can be taken away for free, a system paid for through taxation based on the concept of reciprocity. These are the kinds of values the Tories detest.

The ‘cowardly new world’ of Barnet

The Tory-controlled London Borough of Barnet appears to be the model testing-ground for a future government-planned country-wide closure of libraries as part of a broader programme of austerity-driven measures. Cuts to library services in Barnet are severe and their impacts will come down hardest on children.

A 2016 study by brain specialist and child development expert, Dr Aric Sigman is said to reveal concerns about the permanent damage to health, development and achievement the prolonged and repeated reading from screens, as an alternative to reading books, has on children.

Sigman ‘s findings are consistent with Barnet’s own ‘Risk Assessment’. But despite this, the council urges young people to adopt an even more sedentary lifestyle and spend up to four-times the safe limit staring at computer screens.

Barnet’s own documents show that children aged 10-15 account for 12 per cent of library use and they do so independently after school. Massive closures will almost certainly impact negatively on their levels of literacy and, as a result of the increase in the lack of study space, will likely damage older children’s exam pass-rate potential.

Protester Ralph Vincent summed up the bewilderment and fury of local children when he said:.

“Dystopia should be confined to works of fiction rather than the very real actions of our local government. We simply want the proper educational and cultural access that is our right. When the council is happy to spend more to lock us out of our libraries than to simply let us have a usable service that promotes learning and happiness, we are entering very dark and scary times indeed. I guess we could call it “A Cowardly New World.”

Slash and burn

To mark the 20th celebration of World Book Day, schoolchildren gathered locally to denounce the council’s plan to shut down two-thirds of Barnet’s libraries. Despite several consultations and pending legal action, the council approved 12 separate planning applications to spend more than £14m in an attempt to save less than £2.3m (a massive 2177.5% increase in cost per user resulting from these drastic cuts). This highlights that the decision to cut services is ideological rather than economically pragmatic.

Barnet’s ‘Risk Mitigation’ and ‘Equal Opportunities Assessment’ states that of the 64 per cent of disabled people who visit a library on a weekly basis who can no longer physically enter them, should instead stay at home and use the mobile service. Last year the mobile service in Barnet catered to barely 3,000 or 1.6 per cent of users.

The decision by the council to go ahead with these drastic cuts to services clearly contravenes the 1964 Museums and Public Libraries Act which was introduced in order to ensure council’s didn’t renege on their duty to encourage use of library services. The Act legally requires local authorities to provide comprehensive and efficient library services.

The campaigning group Save Barnet Libraries have called on the Secretary of State for Culture Media and Sport, Karen Bradley, to intervene but this has been disregarded. One anonymous disgruntled local resident remarked on the government’s failure to adhere to its responsibilities:

“Has the disregard for the Libraries and Museums Act been a willful collusion with the ‘fake news’ agenda to dismantle cheap and easy access to legitimate information for all? Or, like so much pride before the fall, are we seeing a spirit of complacency that has led us to the shuttering of refuges of truth?  Will the disregard for the Libraries and Museums Act of 1964 prove as disastrous for democracy and literacy as the arrogant repealing of the Glass-Steighel Act to separate Wall Street from Main Street was for financial stability?”

Barnet council’s slashing of libraries is a policy that has also been adopted by Wirral council. It looks set to be repeated throughout the country. Author Michael Rosen wrote of the importance of maintaining a comprehensive library service and implored Wirral council and, by extension all council’s, not to undermine this endeavour:

“It is vital for the lives of us all that [libraries] are supported, expanded, enriched and diversified. If we let them close, we are in effect consigning huge sections of the population to a world either without books, or a world with only the books that the giant corporations want us to read. This is an appalling prospect and I urge the councillors of the Wirral to fight every attempt to destroy your local library service.”

But more than that, on the basis of protecting our children’s health, well-being and education attainment levels, Tory plans to cut library services throughout the rest of the country must be resisted at every turn. Organizations like the NHS, and local public services like libraries, are too important to lose.

Frank Who?

By Daniel Margrain

Leicester City’s monumental achievement at being crowned Premier League champions at the end of the 2015-16 season at odds of 5,000-1, is a feat that is unlikely to be repeated by a similarly moderate sized club for many decades to come. The football club’s slide the following year to 12th position one place below my team West Ham United, and their current position of 17th after seven games of the current season, is more historically typical of a club of their stature.

In light of BT Sports excellent Farewell to Upton Park video piece on West Ham United that preceded the clubs move from their spiritual home to the Olympic Stadium, the thought of Leicester City’s triumphant 2015-16 season reminded me of the “Boys of ’86” – the West Ham team that came within a whisker of matching Leicester’s incredible success story.

Challenge

West Ham’s challenge for the league title in 1986 was surprising given that the team had an abysmal pre-season that led up to it. Having been outplayed by Leyton Orient at Brisbane Road (merely Orient as they were known then) where the Hammers lost 3-1, the consensus among both the press and West Ham fans in the build up to the 1985-86 season was that the team would struggle to avoid relegation.

The backdrop to the 1985-86 was one in which the Heysel stadium tragedy that preceded it played a significant part. But what the fans and critics alike didn’t take into account was the return to the team from injury of the magnificent Alan Devonshire (in my view only second to Sir Trevor Brooking in the Hammers all time list of greats), the signing of the underrated Mark Ward, and arguably most important of all, the arrival at the club of the former cab driver, and boy about town, the mercurial, Frank McAvennie. These three players represented the new creative spine of the team.

Who is Frank McAvennie?

It’s perhaps ironical, that as a result of a media black-out of English football, the ‘playboy’ Frank was able to maintain his legendary hedonistic status unhindered by the media spotlight mainly because his prolific goal-scoring record was barely televised in England during the first handful of games of the 1985-86 season.

As incredible as it seems today, I remember getting second hand reports about Frank’s prowess in front of goal from people in Denmark and Sweden. For many football fans in Britain, when Frank McAvennie’s name was mentioned, the response was invariably, “Frank who?”

It’s almost forgotten now that the former St Mirren ace was inches away from putting pen to paper with Luton Town. Apparently, somebody reminded him of the World Cup winning legacy that will forever be associated with the club from east London. Legend has it he turned Luton down in favour of West Ham on that basis.

Despite having been refused entry to the infamous West End nightclub, Stringfellows (which it was said was the main reason Frank decided to head south in the first place), the Glaswegian finally saw sense having had a last minute change of mind. The rest, as they say, is history.

Party animal

Frank has admitted to partying heavily on a regular basis up until, and including, the Wednesday’s prior to Saturday match days which he contends had no adverse impact on his fitness levels. Given that Frank went on to net 26 league goals in the 1985-86 season which was only bettered by Everton’s Gary Lineker who went on to score 30, his claim appears to be well-founded.

There’s an alcohol-related story that involves Frank and team manager, John Lyall that goes something like this:

An important meeting had been arranged with management in which the whole team were expected to attend. It was a morning meeting and Frank had been clubbing the previous night.

Suffering from a heavy hangover, Frank phoned John and asked if it would be alright if he would be able to give it a miss.

John, in no uncertain terms, emphasized to Frank the importance of the meeting. John suggested that he (Frank) should try his best to make it, especially as the media pack were expected to turn up and it wouldn’t look good for the club if he wasn’t there.

Frank proceeded to plead with his boss that he really wasn’t well enough to attend.

While sympathetic to Frank’s plight, John nevertheless insisted that he attend because he felt unable to satisfactorily explain away his absence to the media pack.

In response, Frank exclaimed:

“Boss, surely you can come up with something, You have before now. I’m really not up to it. I’m suffering so badly I can barely walk to my bathroom, let alone step over all the bodies that are lying about everywhere”,

John replied: “Yes, I understand your situation and you know me Frank, ordinarily I would be able to come up with a suitable excuse to bail you out. But here’s the thing, Frank, we’ve arranged for the meeting to be held at your place and there’s a whole load of us freezing our nuts off outside your gaff waiting to get in.”

Undistinguished

In addition to the drinking culture of the period, it’s perhaps interesting to note that all of the starting eleven that played for West Ham during the 1985-86 season were British-born players. On paper the team was not particularly distinguished, containing few internationally renowned players of note.

Although the team comprised the clubs record signing, colossus Phil ‘Cossack’ Parkes in goal, the hot shot penalty king in Ray ‘Tonka’ Stewart on the right side of defence, the dependable Alvin Martin on the left and maestro and play-maker Devonshire in midfield, the rest of the team were largely an untried experiment.

The 1985-86 season might have ended differently had John Lyall played Frank in his accustomed midfield role (his position at St Mirren which was the reason why he was brought to Upton Park in the first place}.The intention was to play him deep in the hole behind the underrated Paul Godard. Frank has since joked that playing in the hole was something he had done most of his adult life.

But Frank wanted to score goals. He craved the adoration that came with it. However, playing in the hole wasn’t going to cut the mustard for him. So having asked management if he could play up front instead, coach John Bond obliged.

Fortunes always hiding

Having lost two of their three opening games of the season, the omens for the Hammers weren’t looking good. By mid-September the team had only reached the dizzying heights of 17th while Manchester United had won their opening ten games on the bounce.

Thereafter, the fortunes of West Ham United began to change after the club went on what can only be described as an incredible run of form. Beginning with a convincing 3-0 victory against Leicester City on September 14, the team drew 2-2 against Manchester City the following week. The Hammers then won eleven of their next twelve league matches.

Defender Tony Gale has described the team that went on this magnificent run as being better than the league champions he subsequently went on to play for, Blackburn Rovers. The 84 point total the West Ham team acquired at the end of the 1985-86 season was a tally that would have won the league the previous season.

What also must be kept in mind is that the team lost ten games that season which illustrates how many games they won, as opposed to drawing. By the years end, just four points separated West Ham from the league leaders, Liverpool. It was only the Reds amazing run of ten victories in their last eleven games that prevented the Hammers from claiming the title.

Third-placed finish

Arguably, West Ham’s historical bogey team, Everton, who were also on an amazing run, defeated West Ham 3-1 at Goodison Park in the teams penultimate game which finally sealed the Hammers fate. West Ham went on to finish third behind Liverpool and Everton. Very rarely does the league table lie, but that particular season it did.

Many neutrals old enough to remember, have claimed that the West Ham team of ’86 were the most talented set of players never to have won the league in any given year. To add salt to the wound, West Ham were denied UEFA cup action the following season due to the ban on English clubs in European competitions, which had started a year earlier due to Heysel.

The following season, having finished 15th and with Frank scoring just seven league goals from 36 games and eleven from 47 games in all competitions, the inextricable slide of the club began. For his one remarkable season alone, Frank McAvennie can justifiably claim the mantle of the likes of Hammers legends Brooking, Devonshire, Dicks, Moore, Peters, Hurst, Di Canio and Bonds.

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Tom Petty

By Daniel Margrain

It wasn’t cool to like Tom Petty in the late 1970s. British music critics couldn’t quite pigeonhole him and his band, the Heartbreakers. Among the others of his peers they couldn’t put into a box who emerged from the cultural wasteland of the mid -1970s and who made a name for themselves this side of the Atlantic, included The Patti Smith Group and The Pretenders.

As was the case with these artists, Tom Petty And The Heartbreakers transcended the narrow confines of the punk and new wave movements from which the likes of The Ramones, Sex Pistols and Clash belonged. Thus Petty and his band were to punk and the new wave what Captain Beefheart and his Magic Band were to the Delta Blues. For a start, Petty was a far more accomplished musician than many of his more fashionable peers. His music struck the balance between harmony and melody that was simultaneously catchy, visceral and solemn. Tom Petty and The Heartbreakers were a class act.

The group provided the bridge between the formulaic hard rock radio friendly groups of the 1970s, the West Coast Hippy vibe of The Buffalo Springfield, the quintessential American roots music of Creedence Clearwater Revival and the US pop-rock of the new wave. Many of the bands – The Cars, The Knack and The Runaways etc – that emerged out of the latter scene were invariably inferior musicians who produced weak songs.

By contrast, Tom Petty and The Heartbreakers stood out among many of their contemporaries. Unlike the British punks, they were not sloppy but serious musicians who crafted their songs in such a way as to exude emotion and intensity whilst also managing to marry the spirit and attitude of somebody like a ‘Highway 61 Revisted- era Bob Dylan.

Tom Petty was at heart a folk-rock musician – a great songwriter – who produced a succession of brilliant melodies. But he was also an artist who wore his heart on his sleeve and he expressed his angst with a quirky sense of genuine raw emotion. Like Patti Smith and David Byrne, when Petty had something to say, you had better listen. A visceral punk aesthetic was nearly always below the surface of the folk-rock rhythm of the The Heartbreakers music.

The groups first three albums – the debut, ‘Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers’ (1976), ‘You’re Gonna Get It’ (1978) and ‘Damn The Torpedoes’ (1979) – were masterpieces that have stood the test of time. With the former, Petty is respectful, not only of the music and traditions that influenced him, but seemed determined to want to educate a generation of young punks that a dehumanizing attitude on its own is essentially an exercise in futility if its devoid of authenticity.

Bruce Springsteen, another artist of the period who bridged many genres from different eras, also preached a similar message. Petty, Springsteen and Patti Smith were there to remind those who would care to listen that alienation is rooted in something more profound than merely the slogan. Neil Young understands this too, so does Bob Dylan and so did Lou Reed.

While in a song like ‘American Girl’, Petty deliberately played on crude US stereotypes with humour and pathos, on others like ‘Breakdown’, ‘Luna’ and ‘Fooled Again’, he paints an atmosphere much darker that’s a cross between the work of the band, Television and the ruminations of Neil Young at his most cerebral and psychedelic. The punks at the time didn’t get the message but they, not Petty, were the ones who were the losers.

Petty’s follow-up, ‘You’re Gonna Get It’, maintains the winning formula of the first and is perhaps even smarter than its predecessor. Although the electric jingle-jangle style of the Byrds and the visceral garage-blues of say, The Yardbirds,  is evident throughout the record, there is enough modern variation on established themes and originality in the terms of the delivery of the message for the group to avoid being labelled as mere imitators of their heroes.

At the time of the release of ‘Damn The Torpedoes’, Petty was riding a wave of popularity and artistic credibility that was comparable to Springsteen’s which further alienated the punks. Petty’s third masterpiece was an illustration of how he was able to transcend the claim by some that he was a one trick pony.

With songs that are a series of powerful melodramas, particularly ‘Refugee’, his work took on an aura of sophistication that was both classic-sounding and elegantly produced. Still grounded in the sixties, the songs are nevertheless modernist masterpieces – delicate, serene and dreamy. Petty was to produce a succession of other great albums – Southern Accents (1985) and Full Moon Fever (1989) among them, but they couldn’t quite match the supreme quality of his earlier works.

One of Petty’s most memorable and intimate live shows was when he and his band performed at the Bridge School in 1994. It was the last time the original lineup played together. ‘Freefallin’ from Full Moon River is arguably the greatest live version of the song ever performed. The group delivered a particularly delicate and emotional rendering of the song. The lyrics, “I’m gonna free fall out into nothin’
Gonna leave this world for awhile” have of course, taken on an added poignancy since Petty’s death.

Petty wasn’t an innovator but an impeccable craftsman, who like Springsteen, Young and Dylan, chronicled the internal struggles of what it is to be human in a way that the punks could not. I never got to see Tom Petty live and was annoyed to have missed his concert at Hyde Park in the summer. Sadly, their won’t be another opportunity. I’m gutted at the news of his passing.

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Neoliberalism: Manipulation of The Many to Benefit The Few

By Daniel Margrain 

 

Theresa May recently described free-market capitalism as the “greatest agent of collective human progress ever created”. But progress is an ideology linked to advances in technology and science, that since the emergence of industrial capitalism in the mid-19th century, has infected much of intellectual life (see, for example, Chris Harman’s ‘A People’s History of the Worldpp. 384-86).

What the obsession with the prevailing neoliberal socioeconomic orthodoxy of successive governments over the last 40 years illustrates, is that right-wing politicians like May proselytize, not on behalf of genuine free-markets, but an extreme form of crony capitalism in which the publicly owned assets of the state are systematically asset- stripped and the spoils distributed to the elite economic and political class.

Farm subsidies, public sector retrenchment, quantitative easing, share giveaways and housing benefit subsidies, are some of the ways in which neoliberal corporate welfare continues to greatly enrich the wealthiest in society. Figures reported in the Guardian indicate that the richest one per cent in Britain have as much wealth as the poorest 57 per cent combined.

More evenly shared

The growth in inequality during the neoliberal era contrasts with the thirty year “post-war settlement” period in which the wealth created by workers was shared much more evenly. For example, data indicates that the share of income going to the top 10 per cent of the population fell over the 40 years to 1979, from 34.6 per cent in 1938 to 21 per cent in 1979, while the share going to the bottom 10 per cent rose slightly. Meanwhile, other figures indicate that economic growth in the UK, adjusted for inflation, has grown over the last 60 years from £432bn in 1955 to £1,864bn in 2016.

The Tory exchequer in 2017, therefore, has roughly four times as much money at its disposal in real terms compared to six decades ago. Moreover, the ratio of national debt to GDP was approximately three times higher in the post-war years compared to 2017. Nevertheless, the then Labour government built hundreds of thousands of “homes fit for heroes” and brought the National Health Service into being.

Many decades later, Theresa May who leads a immeasurably wealthier country than was the case during the post-war period, claimed “there is no magic money tree” to fund public services. Whereas neoliberal fundamentalists envisage the market as an ideological manifestation of a notion of scientific and technological progress, Corbyn’s vision is a return to a more equal society in which improvements to the quality of life for the majority through investing in public infrastructure and social capital play a crucial role.

The evidence Jeremy Corbyn intends to break the neoliberal consensus marking a return to the kind of equitable redistribution of the spoils of growth of the post-war years, is an economic strategy that is worrying a Tory government bereft of ideas. May and her Chancellor, Hammond, continue to advance the notion that the aspirations of those at the bottom of the socioeconomic ladder are most effectively met as a result of economic trickle-down emanating from the top – a theory that has – given the subsequent growth in inequality – been comprehensively discredited. Under neoliberalism, wealth doesn’t trickle down. On the contrary, it gushes up.

Mixed economy in the right hands

Potentially, sustained economic growth that capitalism engenders can create the conditions for the mass of humanity to overcome poverty and pestilence and to meet its fundamental needs – but only in the right hands. Paradoxically, the neoliberal model is is likely to lead to the exact opposite: the extinction of our species and probably many others.

The poorest who can’t afford to enjoy the benefits of capitalism are, in the short-term, the most likely to be adversely affected by the climate chaos and wars it engenders. But the rich are not insulated from the process either since the affects of nuclear fallout and global warming are not undemocratic.

Theresa May’s notion that the ideology of progress, manifested in scientific and technological advancement, is indicative of the “greatest agent of collective human progress ever created”, is negated by the chaos wrought by global warming, the spread of wars, the growth in relative poverty and the lack of disposable income for millions of people.

Under neoliberalism, the impoverished and war-torn are unable to engage in the kinds of commercial and cultural activities the rich disproportionately benefit from. It is therefore not “collective” human progress that May is referring to when she espoused the virtues of capitalism.

For neoliberal ideologues, progress is measured in terms of the extent to which people are able to consume what the advancements in technology the market is able to deliver. While it is true that more people than ever have access to “luxury” technologies like flat screen TVs, mobile phones and computers, it’s still the case that the majority of the worlds population don’t.

Moreover, it doesn’t necessarily follow that those who do have access to them are not struggling to feed their families. There is no correlation between poverty and the amount of consumer goods people have access to. Poor and hungry people without money who do have access to consumer goods like mobile phones are not able to console themselves by eating them.

Absolute v relative poverty

The Prime Minister is right to infer that the historical inward tidal flow of capitalist development over time has corresponded to an overall reduction in absolute poverty. But if it were only absolute poverty that resulted in social resistance there would never have been general strikes or revolutions after the first years of industrialization. As John Rees in Imperialism and Resistance (pp. 102-3) remarked:

“Few people in modern Britain wake up in the morning to face a new day and content themselves with the thought that at least they are not living like 19th century weavers. They ask themselves different questions. Is my child’s life going to be harder than mine? Are we, the people, who do the work, getting a fair share of all the wealth that we see around us in this society?”

It is therefore not capitalism’s ability to reduce the level of absolute poverty, but it’s socially relative poverty measured in terms of the level of income inequality that counts. 

At the turn of the century, the Office of National Statistics provided a snapshot of relative poverty in Britain. In interviews with panelists selected from the General Household Survey, it drew up a list of items regarded as “necessities”: a bed, heating, a damp-free house, the ability to visit family and friends in hospital, two meals a day and medical prescriptions.

The study found that four million people do not eat either two meals a day or fresh fruit and vegetables. Nearly 10 million cannot keep their homes warm, damp-free or in a decent state of decoration. Another 10 million cannot afford regular savings of £10 a month. Some 8 million cannot afford one or two essential household goods like a fridge or carpets for their main living area. And 6.5 million are so poor to afford essential clothing. Children are especially vulnerable – 17 percent go without two essential items and 34 percent go without at least one.

With the massive increase in the use of food banks, the rise in zero hours contracts and in-work poverty; the adverse affects of the bedroom tax and cuts to council tax benefit for the poorest over the last decade, these figures almost certainly understate the extent of the current problem.

Wanda Wyporska, Executive Director of The Equality Trust, said:

“The cavernous gap between the richest and the rest of us should be a real source of worry…Extreme inequality is ravaging society…While many people’s incomes have barely risen since the financial crash, a tiny elite has continued to pocket billions. If politicians are serious about building a genuinely shared society, then they urgently need to address this dangerous concentration of power and wealth and tackle our extreme inequality.”#

System of enslavement

A world in which the mass of humanity is getting increasingly poorer while the rich are getting richer, largely as a result of the latter’s collective theft of state assets, is indicative of a form of inherent systemic corruption on a huge scale. This is reflected by the extent to which public enterprises are privatized for profit and private capital debt is socialized through subsidy by the tax-payer. This is the kind of “free-market” capitalism espoused by May – a vision of a system built on the principle of socialism for the rich and enslavement for the rest. 

Although many commentators point out, correctly, that this neoliberal socioeconomic model is not working for the vast majority of people, the point is, it was never intended to be that way. The purpose of neoliberal socioeconomic policy is not to improve the living standards or protect the jobs for the many, but to defend the short-term economic interests of the few.

In Spain, the Rajoy governments use of brute force against the people of Catalonia is an illustration of the extent to which the one percent are prepared to go in order to protect their corrupt neoliberal system of wealth usurpation. In theory the EU, as an institution, can be the catalyst for raising the living standards of the poorest, but under neoliberalism, it too, has become a corrupt extension of the sovereign state.

What Theresa May really means, is not that capitalism is the “greatest agent of collective human progress ever created”, but rather that neoliberalism is the best economic model through which her class is able to financially enrich themselves by manipulating the institutions of society.

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“Antisemitism”, JLM & Free Speech: The Issues That Won’t Go Away

By Daniel Margrain

On the surface Jeremy Corbyn’s rally leading up to the Labour Party conference and his closing leadership speech in Brighton were both resounding successes. But there is a long-standing issue that many activists argue need to be addressed by the Labour leadership, namely, the continued false accusations of “antisemitism” instigated by the Zionist lobby within the party, of which Corbyn’s new found indifference to the plight of Palestinians is symptomatic. The first time Corbyn seemingly capitulated to the Zionist lobby occurred when he failed to publicly challenge the staged and contrived attacks on Ken Livingstone by Labour’s principal Zionist henchman, John Mann.

“Antisemitism”

The misnamed, Jewish Labour Movement (JLM), is the main driving force behind a proposed rule-change agenda to redefine “hate speech” as a means of nullifying all criticism of the Zionist state of Israel, and is predicated on the flawed non-legally binding International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance’s (IHRA) definition of antisemitism.

The IHRA definition states:

“Antisemitism is a certain perception of Jews, which may be expressed as hatred toward Jews. Rhetorical and physical manifestations of antisemitism are directed toward Jewish or non-Jewish individuals and/or their property, toward Jewish
community institutions and religious facilities.”

With the inclusion of the phrase “physical manifestations”, which might encompass criticism of Israel and Zionism, the definition is essentially meaningless.

Nevertheless, the JLM unwittingly appear not to have realized that the IHRA definition above is a vast improvement on the long and convoluted 500 word ‘antisemitic anti-Zionism’ European Union Monitoring Centre (EUMC) definition authored by attorney Kenneth Stern that preceded it.

Brian Klug, an Oxford academic who specialises in the study of antisemitism, manages it in 21 words:

“Antisemitism is a form of hostility to Jews as Jews, where Jews are perceived as something other than what they are.”

This seems to be a perfectly adequate definition. But preventing genuine cases of antisemitism is not the objective of the Zionist propaganda organisation, the JLM. Evidence uncovered by the Al-Jazeera news network, revealed that through the use of journalists and right-wing Labour MPs, their real purpose is to undermine and/or subvert a Corbyn-led Labour government by using the spectre of antisemitism as a weapon with which to achieve it.

A genuine left-wing UK party is seen as undermining what Zionists regard as the very real threat to their Eretz (Greater) Yisrael project of a territory stretching from the River Nile to the River Euphrates. The JLM is affiliated to the Israeli Labor Party and the World Zionist Organization – the latter of which pumps millions into building in the occupied West Bank through its settlement division.

Misnomer

As I inferred in a previous article, the JLM is a misnomer and is more accurately described as a Zionist movement whose aim is to proselytise for Israel. The overriding requirement for membership is an adherence to the movements’ Zionist aims which pertains to the belief that Israeli Jews have the right to settle on land in the West Bank and Gaza Strip in addition to that captured following the Six-Day War in 1967.

The contradictory nature of the organisation is highlighted by its membership criteria which excludes potential Jewish members on the basis of their lack of Zionist credentials. So we are left with the absurd situation in which Jewish members can be excluded from an ostensibly Jewish organisation. The anti-Zionist activist, Jackie Walker, although Jewish, is not permitted to join the organisation, for example. However, non-Jewish Zionists are welcomed with open arms.

This is the context in which Mike Sivier pointed out, correctly, that the proposed Labour Party rule change incorporating the IHRA definition supposedly to combat hate speech and racism is “not about antisemitism; but removing a person from the party who does not support Zionism from a position of influence.”

Moral panic

In response to a moral panic about “antisemitic anti-Zionism” seemingly spreading throughout the Labour Party membership, a loosely-knit group of Jewish Labour Party supporters called Free Speech on Israel gathered for an inaugural meeting in April, 2016. The fifteen-member group, which included Emeritus Professor of Operational Research at the London School of Economics, Jonathan Rosenhead, concluded that over their lifetimes they could muster only a handful of antisemitic experiences between them. And, crucially, although in aggregate they had hundreds of years of Labour Party membership, not a single one of them had ever experienced an incident of antisemitism in the party.

These experiences would appear to tally with the findings of the Channel 4 Dispatches programme. Despite filming undercover for six months at political meetings in an attempt to discredit Corbyn, the programme-makers could not find a single incidence of antisemitism among party activists.

CHAC report

In October, 2016, the Commons Home Affairs Committee (CHAC) commissioned a report ostensibly into antisemitism which all reasonable observers acknowledged was another biased political weapon with which to attack the Labour leadership.

In a Facebook post, Jeremy Corbyn commented on the report:

“Although the Committee heard evidence that 75 per cent of antisemitic incidents come from far right sources, and the report states there is no reliable evidence to suggest antisemitism is greater in Labour than other parties, much of the report focuses on the Labour Party.

The Committee heard evidence from too narrow a pool of opinion, and its then-chair rejected both [Labour peer and barrister] Shami Chakrabarti’s and the Jewish Labour Movement’s requests to appear and give evidence before it. Not a single woman was called to give oral evidence in public, and the report violates natural justice by criticising individuals without giving them a right to be heard.”

Corbyn continued:

“The report unfairly criticises Shami Chakrabarti for not being sufficiently independent. This fails to acknowledge public statements that the offer to appoint Chakrabarti to the House of Lords came after completion of her report, and was based on her extensive legal and campaigning experience. Commissioning Chakrabarti was an unprecedented step for a political party, demonstrating Labour’s commitment to fight against antisemitism.”

Farce

At a fringe meeting at the Brighton conference, absurdity turned into complete farce when Miko Peled, the renowned Jewish Israeli anti-Zionist activist, became the latest target of the JLMs antisemitism allegations after it was claimed he said that discussion of the Holocaust ought to be allowed, even if that meant embracing denialism or revisionism. However, activist, Tony Greenstein who was at the meeting said the claims attributed to Peled and others were a fabrication.

This led former UK diplomat Craig Murray to conclude that the “antisemtic Corbynites” meme printed in the pages of the tabloid press was Fake News. The perpetuation of this fake narrative has been reproduced consistently throughout the media that has led to the wildest of claims. During an interview on the BBC Radio 4s Moral Maze programme, for example, former representative of the Zionist Federation and current Director of Communications for the Campaign Against Antisemitism, Jonathan Sacerdoti, claimed that Jews were being driven “in fear of their lives from Britain to Israel.”

Hyperbole

With this kind of highly exaggerated hyperbole, Sacerdoti appears to be confusing Britain’s multicultural, secular and pluralistic liberal democracy, albeit flawed, with the inherently racist, Zionist entity headed by an Israeli Prime Minister who sees himself as the leader of the whole of the Jewish world. Clearly, it hadn’t occurred to either Sacerdoti or Netanyahu that Jews born in Britain are British, just like their Black or Asian counterparts. They are not Israeli. Therefore, Zionists can make no legitimate claim to lead or control the Jewish diaspora. To suggest otherwise is to replicate the false racist and sectarian-based trope that Zionists and Jews are synonymous, and therefore to criticise Israel is “antisemitic.”

Of course, this serves a dual political purpose. With Israel’s Jewish population decreasing in proportion to their Palestinian counterparts, the fear of antisemitic attacks against the Jewish diaspora increases the potential for Jews to emigrate to Israel, while justifying increasing levels of funding to Jewish “charities” and organisations like the highly politicised Campaign Against Antisemitism (CAA) and the JLM, whose interests are best served by playing up the antisemitism “threat.”

Self-determination

The narrative of Jews being threatened outwith Israel in which the so-called Jewish State is perceived as a safe haven, perpetuates the racist myth that self-determination can only be adjudged based exclusively on one specific ethnicity and religion.

The JLMs own website states:

“The [object of the] Jewish Labour Movement [is]…to maintain and promote Labour or Socialist Zionism as the movement for self-determination of the Jewish people within the state of Israel.”

The notion that passport-holding Jews born in countries like France, the US and the UK have any less of a right to self-determination than other groups with citizenship rights born in these countries, perpetuates the myth that Jews can only be safe from the threat of violence when resident in Israel, exclusively among other Jews. This, in turn, reinforces another corresponding racist myth, namely, that the concept of multi-ethnic and secular democratic liberalism is antithetical to “Jewish interests” and that coexistence with other groups is problematical.

Netanyahu outwardly expressed this kind of Jewish-Zionist conflated racist exceptionalism and exclusivity for ideological and political reasons after he attempted to shift the blame for the Holocaust from the Hitler fascists onto the Grand Mufti. From the Zionist perspective, this makes sense given that Muslims are considered to be the joint enemy of both the European far-right and their Zionist allies.

Banned

Attempts by Labour activists to challenge the curtailment of free speech by raising the issues above is the reason why those critical of Israel’s apartheid state and treatment of the Palestinians, have been banned or suspended from the party under the pretext of “antisemitism”. This was the rationale that led to the decision of Finchley and Golders Green CLP last month to reject my application for membership of the party, ostensibly based on a blog article I wrote in which it is claimed I used “Zionist” as a term of abuse – the story of which made it onto the pages of The Jewish Chronicle.

Given that Zionism is indeed an exclusivist, supremacist and racist ideology deserving of abuse, I stand “guilty” as charged. The systematic smears and attacks by Zionists against the right to freedom of speech which challenge the Zionist narrative is the kind of policy Corbyn appears happy to endorse. Indeed, the Labour leader’s close association with the JLM at conference in which he was photographed with some of their leading figures, was a kick in the teeth for the family of Labour Friends of Palestine activist, Del Singh, who died in a Taliban attack in Kabul in 2014. Tony Greenstein on twitter, exclaimed:

“Its outrageous  should hang his head in shame-its like honoring Paul Golding of  with the Jo Cox award – really sick.”

Corbyn’s repugnant rallying behind the JLM that followed his effective rubber-stamping of the IHRA definition of antisemitism, appears to be indicative of the lack of control he has within his own party. Despite all of the sound rhetoric during his 75 minute closing speech in which the Labour leader focused on the importance of unity, putting people before profit, abolishing tuition fees, rent controls, affordable housing and work-place democracy, the party continues to be dominated by right-wing Zionist forces.

There are few signs at present that he intends to confront the situation. Instead, he seems content appeasing various hypocritical and back-stabbing leading party figures like Tom Watson, Joan Ryan and Jess Phillips, who have either openly said in the past they are opposed to his policies or have abused him. Many people, including millions of Iraqis, Libyans and Syrians would not consider it spiteful of Corbyn to take a firm grip on the party and get rid of the traitors within his midst. On the contrary, they would regard it as a small step towards justice.

Compulsory deselection

Compulsory deselection is the obvious way forward. But to date, Corbyn has suffered from an inability to influence constituency Labour party policy at the local level, where the full-time paid staff are institutionalised. They see in Corbyn, somebody who is a potential threat to the status quo. The General Secretary, Iain McNicol, represents the apex of this kind of tendency towards self-preservation which explains why during the last election campaign, Skawkbox was able to allege that:

“Almost no resources were made available for the fight to win Tory-held marginals or even to defend Labour-held ones. Party officials and national executive right-wingers either assumed that Labour could not win seats or deliberately sought a bad result to undermine Corbyn.”

Of the 260+ parliamentary Labour MPs, roughly 60 hold genuine left-wing views, while a similar amount tread the ground between the left and right. The vast majority of the Parliamentary Labour Party (PLP) – roughly 140 – however, are right-wing disciples of the Chicago school who are unprincipled cynical opportunists or, as Tony Benn put it, “weathervanes”. They will only go with the Corbyn programme if it looks good for their money-making prospects.

Battle

This illustrates the battle Corbyn and his supporters are up against. If Corbyn ends up being too accommodating to the right-wing of the party it will only encourage them, resulting in the blunting of his radical message which is the major part of his appeal and the very reason why Labour voters, especially the young, voted for him in such large numbers in the first place.

Keeping young voters on board is particularly important given that the proposed boundary changes the Tories will be keen to bring in before the next election will benefit them by 18 seats. This will provide the ideal opportunity for Corbyn to force through the compulsory resubmission of candidates to members who are energised by a very different set of priorities to that of the right-wing within the party. If Corbyn proves brave enough to seize the moment by taking control of the party he currently lacks, all of those people who are motivated primarily by money, will disappear by stealth into the ether.

The right-wingers are currently on the defensive and Corbyn might be advised to exploit this situation to the maximum. There were some encouraging signs during the fringe meetings at Brighton which would seem to suggest that sufficient movement within the grass roots will force Corbyn’s hand. Indeed this “stealth tactic” is one the Labour leader might be relying on and that there is sufficient movement happening behind the scenes that this writer is unaware of.

The emergence of the seemingly radical anti-Zionist JVL organisation have made in clear they will not tolerate anymore of the false antisemitic allegations made against Labour members by the JLM, and certainly the tide does appear to be turning against right-wing Zionist forces in the party. The worse case scenario is one in which these right wing elements wrestle back significant control. With hardcore Zionists like Watson and others remaining in positions of prominence and influence, will only encourage this latter eventuality.

The contradictions among the right within the party that the left has exposed, highlight the extent to which the ideological consensus between the New Labour hierarchy and the ruling Tory establishment, is structurally embedded within a dysfunctional system of state power that is no longer fit for purpose. Corbyn’s task in changing this situation around is difficult but not impossible. Perhaps he is biding his time in terms of deciding when to act decisively. Will he wait until after the next General Election? There are potentially exciting times ahead.

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Correcting Tyranny

By Daniel Margrain

Under the 1st and 14th amendments to the United States Constitution it is possible, under the auspices of  freedom of religion provisions, to obtain equal recognition for any proposed “religion” upon the payment of a nominal fee. A few US states have offered ordination by mail or on-line of The Church of the Latter-Day Dude and the Church of the Flying Spaghetti Monster as a result of their adherents’ willingness to stump up the requisite cash.

These, and other parody religions have also sought the same reasonable accommodation legally afforded to mainstream religions, including religious-specific garb or headgear. One approach to parody religion is to place the kinds of critical demands on it as one would do in relation to other issues in order to highlight its deficiencies.

This was clearly the aim of the groups above who used their right to freedom of expression under the US Constitution in support of a parody so as to expose the flaws in the original argument. If the right not to be offended can be codified in law as a result of parodying aspects of orthodox religious dogma, then it logically follows, believers in the existence of the Flying Spaghetti Monster or the congregation of the Church of the Latter-Day Dude also should have their right “not to be offended” codified in law.

Satirists and others who believe in freedom of speech, actively embrace both their right to be offended and to offend the belief systems of others unhindered. One of my earliest memories of having my right to be offended and to offend curtailed was when, in their infinite wisdom, Torbay Borough Council and thirty-eight others throughout the UK decided to ban the Monty Python religious comedy satire, The Life of Brian, from cinema’s on the basis that it was deemed by a small minority to have been “blasphemous”.

Following the films release in 1979, I walked 6 miles to a cinema in Newton Abbot in the rain to watch it. Incredibly, the ban in Torbay continued until 2008 after the Council finally permitted the film to be shown after it won an online vote for the English Riviera International Comedy Film Festival. Perhaps more importantly still, the film was shunned by the BBC and ITV, who declined to show it for fear of offending Christians in the UK. Blasphemy was restrained – or its circulation effectively curtailed – not by the force of law “but by the internalization of this law.” (p.27).

Almost a decade after the controversy surrounding The Life of Brian, orthodox religion was again the catalyst behind the attempt to censor art. The Satanic Verses, Salman Rushdie’s fourth novel, first published in 1988, was inspired in part by the life of Muhammad. As with his previous books, Rushdie used magical realism and relied on contemporary events and people to create his characters. The title which refers to a group of Quranic verses is based on the historical interpretations of events by the scholars al-Waqidi and al-Tabari

Many Muslims accused Rushdie of blasphemy and subsequently engaged in a number of book burning exercises throughout the UK. In mid-February 1989, following a violent riot against the book in Pakistan, the Ayatollah Khomeini, then Supreme Leader of Iran and a Shi’a Muslim scholar, issued a fatwa against Rushdie and his publishers.

Disgraced British parliamentarian, Keith Vaz, who led a march through Leicester shortly after he was elected in 1989, rallied behind India’s decision to ban the book by calling for the same in the UK. To date, with police protection, Rushdie has escaped direct physical harm. However, forty-one others associated with his book have either been murdered or have suffered violent attacks leading to serious, and in some cases, life threatening injuries.

Islamic fundamentalism was again to play a part in regards to its opposition to the French satirical magazine, Charlie Hebdo. The publication, which featured cartoons, reports, polemics, and irreverent jokes, was the target of two terrorist attacks, in 2011 and 2015 in response to a number of controversial cartoons it published of the prophet. In the second of these attacks, 12 people were killed, including the magazines publishing director and several other prominent cartoonists.

On Christmas Day, 2015, Jewish comic, Sarah Silverman caused controversy after she had tweeted to her 7.5 million followers ‘MERRY CHRISTMAS! Jesus was gender fluid!’. The joke triggered a fierce backlash online from Christians who were outraged at the suggestions that their Lord and Saviour identified as both male and female.

Meanwhile, in France, public officials, Jewish groups and others have attempted to censor the satirist, political activist and comedian Diedonne M’bala M’bala, who created and popularized the quenelle gesture in 2005. These groups have interpreted the quenelle as an inverted Nazi salute, while others view it as antisemitic and have sought to ban it.

Professional footballer Nicolas Anelka was fined and banned after he used the quenelle salute during a match, while British musician, Alison Chabloz made headlines after she was photographed doing a quenelle pose following the banning of her show at the Edinburgh festival on the grounds her material was deemed to have been antisemitic.

In her recent blog article entitled, A Song Is Not A Crime, Chabloz recounts her alleged harassment at the hands of supposed anti-racists. The musician and satirist currently faces a criminal conviction for malicious communications for two of her songs, allegedly on the basis of evidence supplied to the Crown Prosecution Service by members of the Campaign Against Antisemitism (CAA), Gideon Falter and Stephen Silverman.

As I previously stated, the CAA are in reality a pro-Zionist and Israeli front organisation whose role is to characterize anybody who opposes the State of Israel – particularly anti-Zionist activists and Corbyn supporters – as antisemites. In addition to chairing the organisation, Falter is a board member of the Jewish National Fund which has a long history of supporting ethnic cleansing in Palestine.

The notion the UK is awash with antisemites serves a political and ideological purpose. The promotion of the idea that Jews within the diaspora are under threat of antisemitism, intimidation and violence is intended to encourage their emigration to Israel, thereby helping to further reinforce Zionism’s role as Israel’s state ideology.

Jewish fundamentalist groups like the CAA and others need “antisemitism” to flourish in order to justify their continued government funding. I, myself, have recently been subject to the iron fist of the pro-Israel lobby following Jeremy Corbyn’s recent capitulation in response to the CAAs political weaponization of antisemitism.

My application to join the Labour Party was rejected on the basis of an opinion piece  I wrote in which I supposedly used “anti-Semitic language, including the use of ‘Zionist’ as a term of abuse and indicated support for a candidate other than the Labour Party candidate” at the last election. I’ll leave it the followers of this blog to decide whether this is an accurate characterization of my article.

The smears and attacks by the Israel lobby on anti-Zionist activists and campaigning journalists such as Mike Sivier, Dinah Mullholland, Rebecca Massey, Ken Livingstone, Shami Chakrabarti, Jackie Walker and Craig Murray, is indicative of a McCarthyite attack on freedom of speech, whether that be through the medium of satire and the performing arts or through political writing in blogs like this.

It’s worth pointing out that the latter individual is currently being sued by the lawyer Mark Lewis for libel in the High Court in England on behalf of the Zionist, Jake Wallis Simons, Associate Editor of the Daily Mail Online. It was Mr Murray’s Sky TV appearance which led to the libel action against him.

Mr Wallis Simons boasts on his website:

“In 2015, I published a series of articles exposing Jeremy Corbyn’s links with anti-Semitic figures, and this led to what is now known as the “Labour anti-Semitism scandal.”

In an interview, Mark Lewis characterizes opponents of Israel such as Mr Murray as “Nazis” and opines “I am quite happy to take their homes off them… at least they can be a homeless Nazi.”

Mr Murray has stated on his blog that he cannot afford to defend himself against the charges made against him. I implore all those who care about freedom of speech to dig deep and donate to Mr Murray’s defence fund. The stakes for the rest of us couldn’t be higher.

Ultimately, in terms of whether myself or others agree with the views of the likes of Mr Murray or Ms Chabloz is neither here nor there. For the record, I strongly support Murray’s stance on Israel and fundamentally disagree with Ms Chabloz’s Holocaust “revisionist” views. The latter is as insane as claiming the earth is flat, or the twin towers on 9/11 were brought down by controlled explosives.

The point is, though, the ability to be able to circulate ideas that some extremely rich and powerful people deem to be uncomfortable, should not be the reason for these ideas to be suppressed. The disproportionate and widely discredited UK libel law is increasingly being used by rich people against poor people for this reason.

The great musician and satirist, Frank Zappa, believed rightly, that no barrier, however “offensive”, should be placed in the way of freedom of expression. Zappa’s targets were everything and everybody from religion, politicians and corporations through to “Catholic girls”, “Jewish princesses”, “valley girls”, black people, white people and ideologies and dogmas of all kinds. He showed no mercy for the human race and regularly exposed hypocrisy at every turn. This is the spirit of freedom and openness that we should all aspire to but which religious dogmas and political ideologies often try to suppress.

I rely on the generosity of my readers. I don’t make any money from my work and I’m not funded. If you’ve enjoyed reading this or another posting, please consider making a donation, no matter how small. You can help continue my research and write independently..… Thanks!


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