Sunday, December 31, 2006

Rumsfeld and Saddam


Saddam Hussein and his co-defendants were convicted for crimes committed in the town of Dujail in 1982.

Saddam shaking hands with a beaming Donald Rumsfeld in Iraq on December 20, 1983. Is it possible that Rumsfeld and his friends were unaware of Saddam's acts the previous year? Not really.

Wednesday, December 27, 2006

Eyes Wide Shut (contains spoilers)

I can honestly say this is the most unusual Christmas film I have seen. However I watched it on Christmas Eve and the action all takes place during advent. There are some jolly characters in red cloaks but no beards but they are taking part in a somewhat satanic prelude to an orgy and they soon drop the cloaks to reveal that is all they are wearing apart from the occasional thong.


And the viewer/voyeur is sometimes invited to see the nudity through the eyes of a doctor – Dr Bill Harford – first the naked body of an unconscious woman whose life he saves and the naked body of an apparent suicide victim

And for all the nudity, Bill Harford’s sexual encounters are all unfulfilled. His initial encounter with Domino (a name which presages the “fancy dress” masked orgy he later attends – is interrupted by a telephone call from his wife (curse these mobile phones!) He himself turns down the offers of his deceased patient’s daughter and a fancy dress shop owner who offers him his underage daughter “for anything the doctor orders!” And at the satanic fancy dress orgy he sneaks into, he is teased and then caught and sent off with a warning.


The film is also a thriller in the more traditional Hitchcock sense of the term. There seem to be two murders but the good Doctor drops all his investigations and accepts the unlikely explanations of his rich client who turns out to have been behind one of the masks. In the end he is content to go back to his beautiful wife and keep his eyes wide shut.

The dialogue transcript is available here http://www.script-o-rama.com/movie_scripts/e/eyes-wide-shut-script-transcript.html

Tuesday, December 26, 2006

Tories name the 12 who shaped our nation.

The Conservative education spokesman, David Willetts has announced his “nation building” History curriculum. In place of the study of history, he prefers the narrative approach (telling children little stories) about 12 chosen great people.

The list has 11 white men, three of them wearing crowns, and one white woman. It seems the black and ethnic minorities in the UK made no contribution to its history if we believe the Conservative party; and men made 11 times as great a contribution as women.

Some of the choices – based on the contribution to creation of British institutions and structures are surprising. The inclusion of Oliver Cromwell probably has Prince Charles feeling his collar – one of Cromwell’s “memorable structures” was the scaffold on which King Charles was executed.

Although there are three kings, King Henry 8th is excluded. It is unusual for the Conservative Party to assert that the Church of England is not a significant institution.

Other omissions are less surprising. The Tolpuddle Martyrs are not there – trade unions are an institution the Conservative Party would sooner forget about.

And the whole concept is cockeyed. History is not made by individuals “great” or otherwise. Nye Bevan did not single-handedly create the NHS any more than Millicent Fawcett single-handedly brought about votes for women and neither of them was stupid enough to believe they did.

It is convenient to reduce history to stories about individuals – and then pick and choose which individuals constitute “history” but the events which really shaped these islands, like the Chartist movement, involved the participation of the working class and the poor.

History is made by millions. And so is the future. As David Willetts and his merry men will find out.

Derek McMillan

The list is:

Saint Columba, 521-597 (Christianity in Britain)
Alfred the Great, 849-899 (the Kingdom of England)
Henry II, 1133-1189 (Common law)
Simon de Montfort, 1208-1265 (Parliament)
James IV of Scotland, 1443-1513 (the Kingdom of Scotland)
Thomas Gresham, 1519 -1579 (the stock market)
Oliver Cromwell, 1599 -1658 (the British Army)
Isaac Newton, 1643-1727 (the Royal Society)
Robert Clive, 1725-1774 (the British Empire)
Sir Robert Peel, 1778-1850 (the police)
Millicent Fawcett, 1847-1929 (universal suffrage)
Nye Bevan, 1897-1960 (the National Health Service)

Wednesday, December 13, 2006

Christmas cards with a purpose

Omar Deghayes, British resident imprisoned without charge or trial and currently being tortured in Guantanamo bay will be spending Christmas in prison while Blair and co are enjoying themselves.

The Save Omar campaign - whose only demand is that he should stand trial if he has committed any crime - are asking all supporters to post Christmas cards with anti-Guantanamo and Justice for Omar greetings to the Prime Minister and the relevant members of his cabinets. Here are their addresses:

Prime Minster Tony Blair
10 Downing Street
London
SW1A 2AA

Foreign Secretary Margaret Beckett
Foreign and Commonwealth Office
19 King Charles Street
London
SW1A 2AH

Home Secretary John Reid
2 Marsham Street
London
SW1P 4DF

Sunday, December 10, 2006

Yule

A speaker in assembly at a school "somewhere in Sussex" was fulminating at tedious length about the attempt to "do away with Christmas" by calling it something else.

It has always been called Yule until the Christians came along and appropriated the pagan symbols of holly, mistletoe, the yule log and the tree and called it Christmas.

Well it is a free country they can call it what they like but their synthetic indignation is irritating.

Saturday, December 09, 2006

Bush's mid-term defeat cartoon

Alan Hardman's cartoon comment on Bush getting his come-uppance in the mid-term elections.

Wednesday, November 29, 2006

Private Armies in Iraq

The story on Channel 4 News this evening about private security firms in Iraq make one wonder whether the British death toll is being disguised. They showed the grieving family of one soldier who will get no military funeral because he signed up with a private army in Iraq.

They also quoted from one security man who was hired to protect American soldiers. I will repeat that. hired to protect American soldiers and derided their lack of security consciousness concluding "If they get killed by a roadside bomb they will have nobody but themselves to blame." For someone employed to protect them I have to say this is probably not an attitude his employer would want made public.

Moreover the idea that the American army need to be protected by security guards does nothing for their macho image.

The fact is that private soldiers, who will get no flag-draped coffins going home, are very convenient for Bush and Blair.

Monday, November 27, 2006

Animal Rights on BBC2

I have just been watching a scientist on BBC2 comparing Animal Rights protesters with terrorists and explaining that all medical advances have been brought about by animal experiments in the past which proves conclusively that there will never be an alternative in the future.

His case was undermined just a little by the way he was puffing away on a cigarette throughout. Obviously all those experiments proving that beagles get cancer if you force them to smoke were lost on him.

I am not an animal rights supporter - I stroke the cat occasionally but that is about it. I do know that equally serious scientists are seeking alternatives to the old fashioned methods of animal experimentation.

Tuesday, November 21, 2006

Paranoia Paedophilia and other things beginning with P

I do have a concern about behaviour which my father or his would have regarded as innocent sending parents into a panic which they blatantly enjoy.

A pupil was leaving a football match at our local park. I asked him what the score was and got a mouthful of abuse from his mother. Then they left. Then they came back and she said that her poor son had told her that I was his teacher and she apologised. She still didn't see anything wrong with abusing - with glee - any adult who so much as spoke to her son.

And this wasn't one of those Sun readers who attack paediatricians because of limited reading ability. This was an articulate, concerned but just a bit paranoid parent.

Sunday, November 19, 2006

Socialism 2006

Socialism 2006 looks like being an excellent weekend on November 25/26th. We've got a wider range of speakers and debates than ever - something for everyone.

There should also be an opportunity for Socialist Party teachers to meet on the Sunday to discuss union work.

The details of the event are on the website
www.socialism2006.net
You can also buy tickets online at that site.

Sunday, November 12, 2006

White poppies

A lot of fuss about newsreaders being made to wear poppies. I thought the idea of charity was it was voluntary. A lot of people choose to wear poppies and they think the money is going to a good cause.

My mother always wore a white poppy. She made it herself. People celebrated the end of the war. It was only later that the generals and the politicians decided to make 11th November into a celebration of the glory of .... politicians and generals.

And the idea that people fought for the freedom to be forced to wear a poppy is not fascism but it is a bit ironic.

The state has money to wage war. To look after the victims of war apparently is a job for charity. What if it were the other way round. What if the state looked out for the victims of war but the generals had to hold charity drives to buy cluster bombs?

Saturday, November 11, 2006

Boycott Israel

“I lost my sister, my brother-in-law and five of my nieces and nephews this morning. I feel nothing now; I can’t find the right words. All I know that the attack wasn’t a mistake. Israel fired six shells, how can that be a mistake? Israel wants to push us from our homes, but we will stay. This is our land.”

-- Omar Thamena, 46, engineer

“A third of unarmed Palestinians killed during IDF operations in the Gaza Strip since the abduction of Gilad Shalit have been minors, according to a new report prepared by Physicians for Human Rights, to be published Wednesday. Between June 27 and October 28, 247 Palestinians, including 155 civilians (63 percent) were killed by the IDF. Among the civilians killed, 57 were minors. This figure does not include minors who were armed.”

-- Haaretz, 8/11/2006

“We must use terror, assassination, intimidation, land confiscation, and the cutting of all social services to rid the Galilee of its Arab population.”

-- David Ben-Gurion, May 1948, to the General Staff. From Ben-Gurion, A Biography by Michael Ben-Zohar


I do not know whether boycotting Israel will halt its genocidal policy towards the Palestinians. I do not know whether the boycott of Apartheid helped to bring it down.

I do know that the ANC called for the boycott of Apartheid; I do know that Palestinians have called for a boycott of Israeli produce.

I also know that not supporting Israel or not supporting Apartheid is simply refusing to be an accomplice.

Israel does not use suicide bombers against unarmed civilians. It uses long-range artillery and it apologises once in a while. That does not make it morally superior does it?

Wednesday, November 08, 2006

Bernie Sanders - first socialist senator?

The victory of Bernie Sanders in Vermont shows the potential for someone who stands against the millionaires to gain support. Right wing republicans cannot afford healthcare, right wing republicans cannot get their kids through college - they want someone to look after their economic interests.

He approved of the idea of millionaires voting against him - it is in their class interests to do so!


Bernie described socialism on Democracy Now! as follows:

"Well, I think it means the government has got to play a very important role in making sure that as a right of citizenship, all of our people have healthcare; that as a right, all of our kids, regardless of income, have quality childcare, are able to go to college without going deeply into debt; that it means we do not allow large corporations and moneyed interests to destroy our environment; that we create a government in which it is not dominated by big money interest. I mean, to me, it means democracy, frankly. That's all it means. And we are living in an increasingly undemocratic society in which decisions are made by people who have huge sums of money. And that's the goal that we have to achieve."

Bernie is not a member of the CWI and his view of socialism is more on the Scandinavian model. Nevertheless his victory does show what is possible.

Thursday, October 26, 2006

Cheney on torture

According to the US TV program "Democracy Now!"


"Vice President Dick Cheney has apparently confirmed US interrogators engage in water-boarding – an outlawed practice that creates the sensation of drowning. The admission came during an interview on a right-wing North Dakota radio program on Tuesday. Cheney said he agreed with a listener’s comment that terrorists should be dunked under water if it could save American lives. Cheney added: “that's been a very important tool that we've had to be able to secure the nation." A spokesperson denied Cheney had endorsed waterboarding and said he was referring to broad interrogation procedures. Water-boarding is barred under international treaties that prohibit torture."

Water boarding is a technique the CIA have directly copied from the Gestapo. Don't it make you proud?

Friday, October 20, 2006

An Excellent Mystery

Although I don't usually review "whodunnits" (and look away now if you don't want to know!) Ellis Peters' books are interesting as an insight into aspects of medieval life - not least into the monk/pharmacist Cadfael's extensive knowledge of herbs.

The restrictions on Cadfael's knowledge which would come of him being a medieval monk are circumvented by his earlier life as a crusader and as a sea captain.

The only drawback in this novel is that everyone is just too nice to be true - even the villains. The way Peters deals with homosexuality in the monastery is at least sensitive although there is a bit of cheating (no I really will try not to give the plot away here).

However the book passes the test: it keeps the reader guessing (and wasn't I smug that I guessed aright!) and it is written with the economy of words which makes it readable but enough detail to make me want to read more Ellis Peters books.

Saturday, October 14, 2006

STOPP it!


School Teachers Opposed to Performance Pay has been relaunched in view of the government's intention to tighten the pay regime in schools so that teachers who are "merely satisfactory" are not to get annual increments. They do mess around with the language don't they. Satisfactory is a grade you would give to someone who was doing OK not to someone who ought to be penalised.

http://stopperformancepay.blogspot.com/2006/10/postponed-for-year-year-to-build.html

Apparently stopp also stands for Society of Texans Opposed to Private Prisons! We're with them!

General Dannatt

I was wondering about sending General Dannatt an invitation to join the Stop the War Coalition. He is saying what everybody else is saying - we are doing more harm than good in Iraq now - bring the troops home before any other mother has to mourn the loss of her child.

Of course the General is most concerned that British Imperialism should still have an army intact and he would probably support other colonial wars if the casualties were "acceptable".

Nevertheless his remarks give the lie to the current spin from Downing Street which boils down to "forget the lies we told to get into this war - we need to stay now or there would be a bloodbath". The General thinks otherwise.

Friday, October 06, 2006

Static by Amy and David Goodman

Static
Government Liars, Media Cheerleaders, and the People Who Fight Back
By Amy and David Goodman
ISBN: 1401302939
Published by Hyperion Books

Amy Goodman hosts the radio, TV program and website Democracy Now! which provides a platform for the voices of dissent in the United States. David Goodman is an award-winning investigative journalist.

I have to warn you that the first half of this book is worse than a nightmare because the stories it tells are true. Like the story of Maher Arar who was abducted by the FBI at JFK Airport on his way home to Canada, sent to Syria where he was put in a cell the size of a grave and tortured repeatedly and brutally.

Ironically when he was released without charge a year later, Bush made a speech denouncing the “Dictators in Iraq and Syria and their legacy of torture, oppression, misery and ruin.”

Horrific though it is, this is an excellent book for socialists to have to hand. It is full of facts and figures about issues from the systematic use of torture by the United States, media manipulation, the illegal surveillance of US citizens, the profiteering from war, denial of free speech and of course the horrors of the Iraq war itself.

However the second part of the book is inspiring. Beginning with Sindy Sheehan who set out to find out for what “noble cause” her son had died in Iraq the book gives example after example of people fighting back.

These are not always people with a fully-rounded political program. Many start out as pro-war until they see the realities for themselves. One was a man who joined the Marine Corps in 1999 as an artilleryman “to blow things up.” Now he leads anti-war protests.

Both as a source of facts and a source of inspiration this book is well worth buying. Or get your local library to get a copy so other people can share it.

Saturday, September 16, 2006

The Picture of Dorian Gray

The Picture of Dorian Gray
Oscar Wilde
ISBN 0745139302

Also available online here

It would be difficult to provide spoilers for this novel because most people know practically from the title the conceit of the narrative: Dorian Gray has his picture painted, the painting degenerates and ages while he retains his youthful good looks.

This is not a moral book although it is about morality. Victorian times were full of improving novels which would tell the reader to do good things and never do bad things. Unusually Oscar Wilde invites the reader to *think* about good and evil.

The main characters were all reflections of Wilde's personality. He had the same reputation as Lord Henry Wotton as a man who makes brilliant epigrams which are at variance with the moral dictums of the time.

He wanted to remain young and beautiful like Dorian Gray and he sought to be an artist in the field of literature as Basil Hallward is in the field of painting.

There is an astonishing homoerotic theme to the relationships given the Victorian world in which homosexuality was illegal and certainly no novelist could openly allude to it.

The victorian society was very like Dorian Gray with the appearance of innocence and the reality of corruption. Prostitution and drug addiction were rife in a society with apparently strict moral rules.

Sunday, September 10, 2006

The reluctant cannibal

Boris Johnson is still refusing to apologise for his remarks about the people of Papua New Guinea being cannibals.

He thinks schoolboy jokes about Papua New Guinea and cannibalism are still funny. He was presumably misled by Flanders and Swan's "The Reluctant Cannibal" which contained the memorable line "If the Good Lord had meant us not to eat people, he wouldn't have made us of meat." Of course Flanders and Swan had wit and style and musical ability whereas Boris Johnson is Boris Johnson.

I can imagine an eve of poll election broadcast showing the Shadow Higher Education's more memorable stupidities - his attack on the people of Liverpool and his parlous performance on "Have I got News for You". In all seriousness is that what you want running the country? Is this the kind of thing the universities should be teaching?

Thursday, September 07, 2006

Kelly Osbourne supports Tony Blair

Kelly Osbourne has spoken in support of Tony Blair as he struggles to maintain his well-paid job.

She decided to voice her opinion on the British Prime Minister as he is hit with demands to leave his position - many from his former close supporters.

"She told Contactmusic: "The way I see it, we've voted this guy in to run our Government and we can't just turn against him. It must be the hardest thing in the world to run the country - I know I couldn't. Poor Blair. That said, I always try to stay out of politics."

Perhaps she was right in her decision to stay out of politics. Tony Blair needs her support like a hole in the head. He is paying the price for his lies over Iraq. Thousands of others have paid a much higher price.

The latest rumour is that he will stand down when the weapons of mass destruction are found

Monday, September 04, 2006

Socialism 2006


Socialism 2006 is a weekend of discussion and debate hosted by the Socialist Party, taking place on 25 and 26 November 2006.

Socialism - is society still divided into classes, can socialism be achieved in a globalised world, could a socialist-planned economy save the planet?

There will be a wide range of seminars with lively discussion and debate.
3-5 pm Saturday 25 November 2006
10-4.30pm Sunday 26 November 2006

Sunday, August 20, 2006

Smart Bombs - a short story.

As he got on to the tube train, rubbing shoulders with the men and women, almost tripping over the push chair, his mind was filled with those other men and women; people stranded without food in the rubble of their homes, bearing bloodstained makeshift bandages, searching without hope for loved ones among the slain.

These people did not know what that was like. They were going to find out.

The train pulled out of the station. It was crowded, he had to stand. One or two people eyed his rucksack and then looked away. If they only knew.

Today his family were going back. They had no comfortable lives, no smart suits and mobile phones and ipods. They didn’t have to “imagine no possessions.” They had the clothes they stood up in and those needed a good wash. Their home might be there. Mr Blair and Mr Bush might have sent over one of their smart bombs to destroy it. How smart is that?

If it was gone they would camp near the rubble of their house and try to rebuild their lives, just like before…and the time before that. The smug faces around him hid minds which did not know what that was like.

This was a war of the rich against the poor. The rich have always been at war with the poor. And they conscript the poor to fight their battles.

And suddenly he realised there were men in flak jackets on either side of him. A gun to his head and the carriage was being evacuated. They pushed him to the ground and held him down. Then they were kicking him and shouting questions at him. The contents of his rucksack were strewn all over the carriage.

And then the policemen were laughing and they stood on the sheets of paper. “What the fuck is this? Bloody poetry? Do you think you can win a war with ideas?”

He didn’t say anything but inside his head he whispered, “yes.”

Tuesday, August 15, 2006

Monday, August 14, 2006

Dispatches on PFI

Dispatches on Channel 4 on Monday 14th August was a detailed expose on the costs of PFI to the public services.

The government can borrow money cheaply, PFI means that the public sector has to pay a higher rate of interest. However once a hospital, road or school has been constructed a much lower rate of interest is possible. This enables PFI companies to refinance their loans and make millions, sometimes hundreds of millions. Under pressure they might sometimes pay back a fraction of this to the taxpayer.

Liam Halligan compared PFI to going on a shopping spree with a ludicrously expensive credit card. The amounts do not appear on the government’s books but there will be an almighty payback in the future. Any student with a loan will know just how that feels.

Financiers openly talk about “sweating” resources. Once they have a guaranteed income stream from the government they can seek to minimise their costs. The program showed one example after another of corners being cut in PFI projects. The public institutions can complain as much as they like, they are locked into 25 or 30 year contracts with the private sector willy nilly!

The program also showed in detail how companies like HSBC legally avoid paying UK taxes on public sector contracts. For example, they have transferred a £311 million Home Office contract into an offshore fund .

They also detailed how companies can manage to tell their shareholders they are making a profit and the taxman they are making a loss. The profits seem to disappear into subsidiaries which do not have any employees but manage to provide “management services.”

Some opf these companies are making an extortionate 123 percent on capital investments. Instead of locking them up for profiteering, New Labour award them further contracts.

Liam Halligan has done an excellent job exposing this public scandal. How interesting that HSBC and numerous other financial institutions refused to buy advertising space around this program!

It was not his job to provide a political alternative to PFI but this is all grist to the mill for the Campaign for a New Workers Party.

Friday, August 11, 2006

Relief at foiling of terrorist plot

There is a sense of relief that an apparent terrorist plot to blow up aircraft has been foiled. It will be a bit of a nuisance for people who have to carry GTN (which is actually nitroglycerine!) for angina. I do not look forward to explaining that one. However it seems a price well worth paying.

Unfortunately there has been an unsubtle focus on the muslim community which is irrelevant. Calling Osama Bin Laden a muslim is like calling the Rev'd Ian Paisley a Catholic. The constant linking of "terrorist suspect" and pictures of mosques is not subtle.

The Nazi newspaper, Der Stürmer used to show pictures of synagogues alongside pictures of rats for the same reason. What Der Stürmer did was to take every crime which was committed by a Jew and use it as a way to label all Jews as thieves, rapists and murderers.

And of course the old "innocent until proven guilty" palaver is replaced with a journalist muttering "alleged" occasionally.

The terrorists are making repression and the loss of civil liberties easier.

Terrorism is the other side of the coin from repression. The government can use terrorism as pretext to take away old fashioned "pre 9/11" concepts like freedom of speech or trial by jury.

If they didn't have terrorist plots then they would have to invent them. You can bet good money Dr John Reid will end up with much more power when all this is over and done with and he will be oh so reluctant to relinquish it.

Wednesday, August 09, 2006

Fake "war on terror" in Lebanon

The "war on terror" happens to be a war of rich nations against poor nations, with terrorism as a pretext.

Bush and Blair have no objection to terrorism - for example the terrorism of the Contras or Posadas, when it serves their purposes. The rulers can claim no high moral purpose.

Now they must be laughing up their sleeves as they arm the Israeli Defence forces to the teeth and send them off to fight their battles for them. In this war there will be no embarrassing death tolls of American or British soldiers, no irate mothers camping out to demand to know why their sons have been killed.

It is all being done by proxy. The terrorists are doing the imperialists' dirty work for them by providing a pretext and the imperialists are boosting the terrorists. In Lebanon people could understandably see Hezbolla as a resistance movement, the only people apparently fighting back as the American proxies kill civilians.

At the moment Israeli and Lebanese civilians are the main victims. And Blair is enjoying a nice holiday.

Tuesday, August 08, 2006

Churchill’s Hour

Churchill’s Hour
Michael Dobbs
ISBN 0753124386

This is the third historical novel by Michael Dobbs in the Winston Churchill series following Winston's War and Never Surrender. Dobbs has mined the seam of Churchill’s larger than life personality, the cult which grew up around him during the war and added some rather fanciful conspiracy theories from his own imagination.

I won’t spoil it for you by detailing the clever and just-about-possible “inside stories” which exist in these books. What I will say is that the most incredible events in Churchill’s Hour are the landing of Hitler’s deputy in Scotland and the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbour – you really couldn’t make them up.

The intelligence or lack of it surrounding Pearl Harbour has always been a mystery and few people have been able to penetrate what was going on in Rudolph Hess’s brain at the best of times.

The truth in these books really is stranger than the fiction.

Saturday, August 05, 2006

Tommy Sheridan 1 Rupert Murdoch 0

Rupert Murdoch, millionaire and muckraker, won't engage in an honest debate over the ideas of socialism. He prefers to concoct stories about socialists. He received a beating from Tommy Sheridan in court. The News of the World claimed their story was "substantially true" - which is a legal way of saying that it wasn't actually true but a bit like the truth. The verdict of the jury was that it wasn't even that!

The full text of Tommy Sheridan's speech after beating the News of the World in court follows.


"On behalf of my wife and I, can I first of all thank my two sisters and John Aberdeen, from Orkney, for being the best amateur legal team in the world.

"We have over the last five weeks taken on one of the biggest organisations on the planet, with the biggest amount of resources to pay for the most expensive legal team, to throw nothing but muck against me, my wife and my family.

"Well, brothers and sisters, what today’s verdict proves is that working-class people, when they listen to the arguments, can differentiate the truth from the muck.

"The working-class people on the jury who have found in our favour have done a service to the people of Scotland and have delivered a message to the standard of journalism that the News of the World represents.

"They are liars and we have proved that they are liars.

"I could never have conducted this case without the loyalty and support of my wife, my mother, my father, my sisters, my family and thousands upon thousands of working-class people in Scotland who want me to get out of this court and start fighting for the things that matter most.

"Against poverty and inequality in Scotland, and against war and against nuclear weapons.

"Those are the things that matter most, brothers and sisters, and I assure you we will retire for a few days to spend some quality time with our 14-month-old daughter, whom we have had to be apart from for most of the last five weeks, and that’s been the largest and most difficult thing to countenance.

"We’ll spend some time, quality time, with our daughter Gabrielle over the next few days but then I guarantee you, the people of Scotland who believe in their hearts in justice, who believe in their hearts in fighting poverty and inequality and who believe in their hearts in the need to fight against war, I’ll be back on the streets calling for the Israeli troops to stop killing innocent people in Lebanon, calling for the scrapping of nuclear weapons and to call for an independent socialist Scotland

"I want to finish, brothers and sisters, by saying one thing. Gretna have made it into Europe for the first time in their lives, but what we have done in the last five weeks is the equivalent of Gretna taking on Real Madrid in the Bernabeu and beating them on penalties, that’s what we’ve done."

Thursday, August 03, 2006

Against the slaughter in the Lebanon


National demonstration
Saturday 5 August: Assemble 12 Noon
Speakers Corner, Hyde Park, London
March to Parliament Square for rally

Tuesday, August 01, 2006

A game of chess


White Black
1. c2-c4 e7-e5
2. N-c3 N-f6
3. g2-g3 d7-d5
4. c4xd5 Nxd5
5. N-f3 N-c6
6. NxNd5 QxNd5
7. d2-d3 B-e6
8. B-d2 O-O-O
9. B-g2 Q-b5
10. N-g5 Qxb2
11. BxN b7xBc6
12. NxBe6 f7xN
13. Q-c1 Q-b6
14. Q-c4 R-d5
15. O-O B-c5
16. e2-e4 Bxf2+
17. RxB R-f8
18. Ra1-f1 R-d6
19. B-b4 RxRf2
20. RxRf2 R-d4
21. Qxe6+ K-b7
22. B-c3 Rxd3
23. Qxe5 Q-e3
24. B-a5 R-d6
25. K-g2 c6-c5
26. R-b2+ K-a6
27. Bxc7 R-d2+
28. RxR QxR+
29. K-h3 Q-h6+
30. K-g4 Q-g6+
31. K-f3 Q-f7+
32. K-e3 c5-c4
33. Q-c5 K-b7
34. B-e5 g7-g6
35. Q-b5+ K-c8
36. Q-c6+ K-d8
37. B-f6+

Sunday, July 30, 2006

Ted Grant 1913-2006

Ted Grant

I was sorry to read about the death of Ted Grant in The Socialist 27 July. I first met Ted in 1968 when I was 16. One of his strengths was his ability to patiently explain the fundamental principles of Marxism to young and inexperienced socialists. I didn’t feel patronised. For him the movement and the ideas were all important; he was painstaking and perfectionist in relation to ideas and fond of open debate.


I ended up working with Ted and the others (in a very minor role) with Militant. He was not the easiest of people to work with but the role of Militant in that period is well-documented and we were all caught up in the work and the ideas and consigned personalities to their proper place.

He will always be remembered as someone who kept the ideas of Marxism alive under the most difficult of circumstances in the UK.

But Militant grew. It was very far from being a “one man band” like some of the “piddling little ultra-left sects” Ted used to laugh at. And in the heat of the Poll Tax campaign and the struggle against Thatcher, new tactics were called for.

When I knew him, he was fond of saying, “Events, events, events will teach the broad masses of the working class more than any pamphlet or manifesto.” And events (the symptoms of the degeneration of New Labour) were to invalidate the position he came to adopt – seeking signs of life in the corpse of the Labour Left. He remained wedded to a tactic which was doomed to failure.

He is rightly honoured as a pioneer. He is not honoured by those who seek to gloss over his mistakes.

Thursday, July 27, 2006

In the Moodle

In the past “Virtual Learning Environments” were regarded with suspicion by teachers as a sci fi concept in which teachers are replaced with computers. After attending Moodlemoot ’06 at the Open University, I can honestly say that Moodle, the open source course management system, is actually whatever the teacher wants it to be.

The course seminars included teachers from diverse disciplines from Science to English to Music and of course ICT who all used Moodle to teach in the way which suited them.

Although the system is based on a social constructivist model of education, teachers frequently start out using it to replicate traditional classroom activities like essay-writing, feedback and redrafting or quizzes/tests with the slight difference that these are self-marking and pupils get instant feedback. Teachers only then go on to some of the more unusual features of Moodle like Wikis, blogs, asynchronous discussion groups and podcasting.

And because it is Open Source free software, teachers can contribute to the future design of Moodle without some acquisitive corporations we could mention seeking to block them under the pretext of “business secrets”.

Moodle is now used by over 100000 registered users, including the Open University. It is free to download and use and many schools and local authorities who have poured hundreds of thousands of pounds into the coffers of Microsoft are keen to find free software.

If you want to find out more there is a website which talks about the conference and demonstrates the program at the same time. It is called http://moodlemoot.org/ and all of the conference is available as audio or video files. I recommend the audio file because the video quality will depend on the quality of your computer.

Sunday, July 23, 2006

WSTA on Wikipedia

Wikipedia is fast becoming the standard online repository of all knowledge and wisdom. Although it contains much that is inaccurate, the rigorous scrutiny each new entry received from around the world means that inaccuracies do not remain on the books for long.

There is even a page about the West Sussex Teachers Association

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/WSTA

And like everyone else on the internet, you can edit it.

Friday, July 21, 2006

Church school bans "Imagine"

A church school in Devon has banned children from singing the John Lennon classic, "Imagine". Obviously people have a right to their religious beliefs but this is supposed to be a free country and there is such a thing as freedom of speech. Banning songs is one thing. How long before they start burning books too?

The lyrics of this wicked song are as follows:

Imagine there's no heaven
It's easy if you try
No hell below us
Above us only sky
Imagine all the people
Living for today...

Imagine there's no countries
It isn't hard to do
Nothing to kill or die for
And no religion too
Imagine all the people
Living life in peace...

You may say I'm a dreamer
But I'm not the only one
I hope someday you'll join us
And the world will be as one

Imagine no possessions
I wonder if you can
No need for greed or hunger
A brotherhood of man
Imagine all the people
Sharing all the world...

You may say I'm a dreamer
But I'm not the only one
I hope someday you'll join us
And the world will live as one

Wednesday, July 19, 2006

World leaders impotent to help the Lebanon

According to Democracy Now!

"The humanitarian crisis in Lebanon continues to worsen. At least 500,000 people have been displaced from their homes. Scores of roads and bridges have been hit making it hard to transport food or humanitarian aid. Recent Israeli strikes have targeted the country’s largest milk factory, a major food factory and two pharmaceutical plants. Earlier bombs hit water processing plants, power plants and grain silos. On Tuesday a convoy of two trucks carrying medical supplies donated by the United Arab Emirates was hit. The trucks were destroyed and both drivers died. The Israeli military has denied targeting the factories or aid trucks. Two ambulances were also bombed on Tuesday. They were carrying Lebanese soldiers who were injured in an Israeli attack on their base that had killed eleven soldiers. A Greek Orthodox Church also suffered a direct hit. Inside the church were civilians who had taken refuge. At least 10 people were injured. "

This is particularly horrifying for people who remember when Beirut was a byword for violence and instability and the massacres at Sabra and Chatilah where Christians murdered women and children while the Israeli army stood by with its arms folded..

The policy of brute force and ignorance has not brought peace to the middle east and yet Israel is giving it another shot with the blessing and the massive financial backing of the US. The Israeli Defence Forces are not "defending" anyone. By murdering hundreds of Lebanese civilians they are sowing the seeds for revenge attacks in the future.

The people of Israel and Lebanon are being betrayed by their governments and paying a price in blood. Imperialism cannot bring peace and its twin peaks - terrorism and Zionism - exemplify this.

Sunday, July 16, 2006

Others

Others
James Herbert
ISBN: 0333761170
Whenever a mother has a child she hopes the baby is going to be OK, not the kind of person who will suffer a lifetime of pain and abuse and ostracism. Most babies, apart from an unfortunate tendency to look like Winston Churchill, are like that. Some have disabilities which attract sympathy. Then there are the “others” of the title.

James Herbert is a top horror writer and resides in Sussex (this novel is set mainly in a realistic and recognisable Brighton). I read horror stories when I was a young teenager because a good horror story (and that is what James Herbert writes) take the reader to a world where they can escape the ordinary. This book however locates the extraordinary firmly in the ordinary.

I won’t put in too many spoilers here but it is a fairly standard narrative. Why do evil doctors have this strange need to tell heroes all their plans before they make improbably inefficient attempts to kill them?

However the main theme of the novel is the way society treats “others” and of course Brighton is teeming with “others” of various kinds. It is not a book for the queasy and the kind of horrific description at which James Herbert Excels is there in abundance. It is highly readable for people who like this genre.

I repeat the warning. To read it is easy but it is not for the queasy.

The book was first published in 1999 and is available in a large print edition. Avoid reading the blurb on the back of the book by the way because it gives rather more spoilers than I do.

Thursday, July 13, 2006

Well you know what they say.

As a friend of mine put it, "Who are 'they' and how come they know so much?"

I have come in for the usual obloquy from English teachers over my use of "they" in place of the more correct "he or she". Comments have been roughly evenly divided for and against. I can honestly say that I don't use it to excess but here is the OED website on the topic:

"The English language unfortunately lacks a simple singular pronoun which does not specify gender. Various people have suggested new words to fill this gap, but none of them have caught on, or (frankly) are ever likely to: it is not practical to try to change such a basic element of the language by sheer will.

"However, children and adults alike naturally find the obvious solution to this conundrum: rather than using the formal and awkward formula 'he or she', they simply use they, especially after words such as anyone and no one which are strictly singular but often imply a reference to more than one person.

"This is not a new problem, or a new solution. 'A person can't help their birth', wrote Thackeray in Vanity Fair (1848), and even Shakespeare produced the line 'Every one to rest themselves betake' (in Lucrece), which pedants would reject as logically ungrammatical.

"If you do not find this usage acceptable, there are alternatives. You could resort to the awkward 'he or she' formula, or to the practice of writing 'he' when you mean 'he or she' (which many people find objectionable), or to recasting all your sentences to avoid the problem!"

The OED website is a mine of information on this kind of issue.

Tuesday, July 04, 2006

Teacher Power! A report on the National Education Conference

The first session was a fascinating speech from Mick Waters of the QCA. Most teachers think of the QCA as a very top-downwards, authoritarian body producing highly prescriptive “advice.” Mick Waters brought an entirely different perspective. While recognising the tension between national testing and local autonomy he was perfectly clear that “people in schools need to set their understandings of their children alongside the learning they should meet to create learning which is irresistible.” Unlike the run-of-the-mill bureaucrats he prefers to spend his time in the classroom working with teachers.

This set the tone of a conference which was about (apologies for the jargon) empowering teachers. Teacher power! It has a certain ring to it!

This was continued with a discussion of “personalised learning” and the somewhat ambiguous definitions available from the government. It was felt that “personalised learning” could be used to promote teacher autonomy (teacher power again) and the concept that learning should be related to the needs, aptitude and ability of the pupils. There was also a warning that “personalised learning” could be misinterpreted as a system which involved pupils interacting with computers without any teacher intervention and the delivery of education could be in the hands of unqualified staff.

Paul Crisp is the managing director of CUREE and although his presentation was heavily focussed on the research methodology of his work on mentoring of teachers, it is clear that much useful material has come out of this research which will be of use to Union Learning Reps in the future. Much of it is now available online.
click here

Elizabeth Wood of the University of Exeter talked about research on the issue of the underachievement of boys. Although she was restating much of the existing knowledge on this subject it is clearly important to go on stating it in a climate where the underachievement of boys is misunderstood. In many ways it is an oversimplification to talk about boys’ underachievement and her research was firmly based on the observation of children and her insights into the role of play. “When girls performed less well than boys it was not called underachievement. It was because they were all dumb blondes.” She has some very interesting and provocative research.

The future of the National Education Conference was a wide-ranging discussion somewhat depleted by some football game taking place at the same time.  It is proposed to promote the National Education Conference to teachers who take part in NUT Continuing Professional Development. They may well include the future leadership.

Maurice Galton’s research on “The Cost of Inclusion” tackled one of the conflicts in education at the moment. How can inclusion be helping pupils when the resources are not being provided to support the pupils being included? It is unsual for speeches to be interrupted by applause at the NEC. His remark that “these pupils have a right to be taught by qualified teachers” did receive a spontaneous ovation.

The final session of conference was a speech by Peter Mortimore who is not only an accomplished orator but also a powerful voice in educational circles. He had done a comparison between the NUT’s “Bringing down the Barriers” and the government’s Education Bill. The NUT had no input as to what his final result would be. The results are available online.
http://wsta.org.uk/mortimore.pdf

As Bill Greenshields concluded, “We are involved in a battle for ideas, every school is a fortress,”

Thursday, June 29, 2006

Tis

Tis
Frank McCourt
ISBN 0684865742

Every teacher has a book inside them. In some cases it is as well if it just stays there. In Frank McCourt’s case I can only say I am glad it came out into the open.

In prose a bit like a stream of consciousness, he writes about his life in Limerick and the problems of moving back to New York and trying to make headway against poverty and prejudice. So far so depressing but he manages to make it come alive and make it highly readable.

And then in the second half of the book is his life as a teacher. His description of his first lesson with a sassy New York class is a delightful and frightening evocation of the problems everyone encounters as an NQT. I can recommend it to anyone who has ever come into a classroom and found the pupils know how to handle the situation much better than they do!

He is very open about his feelings even when these are discreditable, especially when these are discreditable. He does not give himself the benefit of the doubt or cloud his emotions. When he wants to be extremely rude to his mother or father he gives his exact feelings but concedes that he didn’t actually say any of these hurtful things.

He compares being Irish and being expected to be interested in “irishness” with being black and expected to be interested in specifically “black issues.” He adds that at least he could (if he wanted) have changed his accent but not the colour of his skin.

(Grammatical note – my use of the word “they”is wrong as any English teacher will readily assert. However the Oxford English Dictionary (no less) acknowledges, perhaps reluctantly, that “they” can be used as a substitute for “he or she” where the latter would be clumsy.)

Every teacher will find something to like in this book

Wednesday, June 28, 2006

New RIG Proposals

From August, automatic pay progression will be scrapped. You haven't been consulted about this, parliament hasn't voted for it, the NUT has not been invited to discuss it. This is another present from the people who brought us TLRs, abolished your recruitment and retention allowance and scrapped the top two points from the Upper Pay Scale.

Full documentation of proposals and deadlines are at:

http://www.dfes.gov.uk/consultations/conDetails.cfm?consultationId=1386

Click on the link and tell them what you think!

Ealing NUT have sent out a suggested resolution which schools might wish to use:

Model motion for schools/union branch meetings


New RIG Proposals*


“This meeting rejects the latest proposals on Performance Management from the government via its Rewards and Incentive Group (RIG) of social partners. We particularly regret that leaders of TUC-affiliated teacher unions (NASUWT and ATL) have met with government to agree these proposals whilst knowingly excluding the biggest classroom and head teachers’ unions.



We particularly reject:

The new mandatory three hours per year of teacher observations, on top of OFSTED or Local Authority surveillance.
The new requirement for middle-managers to determine the pay level and incremental progression of their colleagues.
The DfES’ rushed deadline for consultation of 12 July


We call on the NUT to:

a. immediately conduct a full-membership action ballot to implement NUT policy on performance management

b. seek support from the headteachers’ union, the NAHT, to implement such action if these changes are introduced in a revised School Teachers Pay and Conditions Document by September.

c. To produce press and campaign materials highlighting the detrimental effect on workload and industrial relations these proposals will bring.”



Send To:



NUT General Secretary

Hamilton House

Mabledon Place

LONDON

WciH 9BD



E-mail: s.sinnott@nut.org.uk

The problem of teaching

A poster on TES website asked for teachers who enjoyed teaching to post to a thread and got a variety of responses.

After 26 years of teaching I still don't think the kids are the problem. (And believe me I teach some *charmers*!) I still think it is the perceived failure of SMT/SLT to back you up which is the problem.

It is their *job* to support staff *contra mundum*. Remind them today. Make a note to remind them tomorrow.

And if the SMT are a problem the government and the journalists are worse because they don't appear in the staffroom periodically so I can't give them a piece of my mind :)

SMT= Senior Management Team
SLT = Senior Leadership Team

If they spent half the time doing their m**********g job as they do on dreaming up fancy names for themselves, things would be better :)

Sunday, June 25, 2006

Safe in Cyberspace.

I can understand the lure of the internet as a means of making new friends. Teachers talk a lot about the dangers and they do exist. However pupils are attracted by the safety as much as the dangers. They see it as an opportunity to play with monsters at a safe distance.

You are much safer in cyberspace than RL.

IRL someone can stick a knife into you. Unless there is something seriously strange about your peripherals you don't face such dangers on your computer!

Personally I never meet anyone IRL I have met online. (I know one person who is smiling about this now - well there are exceptions to every rule A!)

Hiding behind an alias and keeping a safe distance from people they chat with; being aware that the 14 year old girl is probably a 40 year old FBI agent and realising that someone in Africa probably doesn't want to give you millions of dollars. These things are probably part of growing up and perhaps less harmful than other rites of passage like smoking behind the bike shed.

Sunday, June 11, 2006

Three dead at Guantanamo. TES debate

A debate rages on this issue on the TES website. It is difficult to understand why apparently intelligent people can use the deaths in London as an excuse for torturing and abusing prisoners at Guantanamo. They certainly have an alibi and have been charged with no crime.

Omar Deghayes, for example, has had no evidence produced against him and he has been tortured by the brave American guards. There is not much excuse that they were "under battlefield conditions". They had helpless prisoners at their mercy in Guantanamo, which is not a battlefield, and they tortured them.

Only a raving lunatic would presume that any and every opponent of injustice in Guantanamo was automatically a supporter of sectarian violence in Iraq. I do know that occupying armies expect to make use of sectarian divisions in the subject population - the whole history of imperialism shows that.

While Sunni and Shia muslims are fighting each other they are not ridding their country of the occupying force and they provide an excuse for the imperial power to stay. "We had to invade them because they are killing each other...of course they weren't before we came but what they hell!"

Three dead at Guantanamo. Suicide?

"Two men from Saudi Arabia and one from Yemen were found ``unresponsive and not breathing in their cells'' early Saturday, according to a statement from the Miami-based U.S. Southern Command, which has jurisdiction over the prison. Attempts were made to revive the prisoners, but failed."

They have been charged with no crime.
They have never been tried.
They have been ill treated and in some cases tortured.
Now three Guantanamo prisoners are dead.
The authorities - the same authorities who told us about those weapons of mass destruction - say that this was suicide and all possible measures were taken to revive the prisoners.

If someone has been imprisoned without charge or trial and without any hope of release. If they have been subjected to ill treatment and torture and the threat of a lifetime of more of the same, how can you call it suicide?

In any case the lychin' mentality of the guards has to be taken into account as well. Faking a "suicide" would not be all that hard would it?



ITN managed to devote a good twenty seconds to these deaths after about ten minutes of World Cup trivia including extensive coverage of a family watching the world cup on the TV....this was more important news as far as ITN were concerned.

Saturday, June 10, 2006

About Linux and Windows XP

As a sort of public service, here is a piece of information which I picked up about Windows XP.

If you bought Windows XP and installed it on your computer, the odds are an irritating message saying "You might be a victim of software counterfeiting" will come up again and again, issuing dire threats and suggesting the solution to your problem - to all your problems - is to give lots of money to Bill Gates because the poor chap is hard up.

The solution obviously is to upgrade to Linux which is free. However if, like me, you might need XP once in a while for work, here is a work-around I came across. It is written by someone only identified as "Piece Meal":

1. Locate wgatray.exe and wgaLogon.dll on your PC. It is defaulted at c:\windows\system32
2. Boot your PC in Safe Mode and with DOS Prompt. Press F8 during boot will get you there.

3. At DOS prompt, change directory to the location of the files. (e.g. cd c:\windows\system32\ )

4. Delete the two files wgatray.exe and wgatray.dll. (rename is fine, but why keep it around?)

5. Reboot your PC and voila. Remember to turn off Automatic Updates feature, and tell it not to remind you of it any more.

Life is supposed to be normal and good.
Piece Meal on May 31, 2006 10:04 AM

Incidentally turning off automatic updates is done by going to Control Panel and selecting Performance and Maintenance, then "See Basic Information about your computer" and click on Automatic Updates.

And of course Linux is free to install, free to upgrade and does not give you nagging messages or enrich people like Bill Gates.

Friday, June 09, 2006

Mcdonalds cashes in on World Cup

A lot of my pupils (and indeed two of my sons) like watching and playing football. I think it keeps them healthier than they would otherwise be, although they seem to get a lot of injuries.

However I notice Sainsbury's are making a pretty penny selling memorabilia of "heroes of football". A hero is someone who risks his own life rescuing a child from a burning building. It is not someone who is paid an obscene amount of money to play what is after all a game?

And McDonalds are celebrating the world cup by introducing a new big mac which is 40% bigger than its biggest current burger. They will pack a belt-busting 669 calories. That is a happy meal which will make not my pupils much healthier.

A diet high in fat, salt and sugar will kill you. How many youngsters have McDonalds bumped off?

Sunday, June 04, 2006

WSGFL and the Crawley course

West Sussex Grid for Learning has been very helpful. I have emailed members in Crawley and so far have 10 responses to the proposed ICT course. There are only a few places left but by emailing me you can be added to the database so that the NUT is more likely to organise courses.

This includes any people who want basic ICT training as well as the advanced course.

Oh and apologies for the Yahoo advertising which gets appended to my emails. I have put a signature which suggests people ignore it but it is the price of "free" email I'm afraid.

Thursday, June 01, 2006

X Men 3

The film was likable and undemanding with some good special effects. I think some of them were a bit old. Dr. Jean Grey/Phoenix transformation was remarkably like Willow in Buffy TVS except that she kept her red hair on. I was disappointed when she pulled the Matrix trick of making the bullets stop in mid air. That was so clever when they did it *for the first time* in The Matrix but it is so old hat now.

The film had a semi-serious message about prejudice and exclusionism. The idea that you can "cure" differences between people which are not illnesses is a bit of a sideswipe at Bush and his religious cohorts who claim they can cure homosexuality. And of course there are people who accept the cure because they can't take the persecution any more.

However nothing is allowed to get in the way of the spectacle. Ian McKellen is magnificent in the role of Magneto, showing you what Gandalf would have been like if he had turned to the dark side perhaps. His clothes sense alas has not improved. Nobody could get away with *that* helmet.

Vinnie Jones is a thick thug. (no further comment seems necessary!)

Rebecca Romijn is brilliant as Mystique but we don't get to see nearly enough of her. This is not a reference to the "artistically necessary" nudity. Her character has a lot of scope for trickery and cunning plots but she loses her powers early on.

It was a bold decision to kill off Patrick Stewart's Xavier and deprive Magneto of his powers. It means any sequel will be the poorer. Possibly this was intended as a way to signal this time there really won't be a sequel? If so look out for the prequel!



IMDB refers to a mistake in the film - Wolverine's wounds disappearing. Anyone who looked during this scene would have seen them healing. Special powers. Ever heard of them?

Monday, May 29, 2006

Free ICT courses for teachers


The National Union of Teachers provides free courses for teachers in ICT. If enough people are interested, we will run a multimedia skills courses in Crawley next term. These courses cover the use of interactive whiteboards, use of digital photography and Publisher and are aimed at teachers who have basic ICT skills but want to improve them. If you already know how to use a word processing package, email and file management, come along.

The course will consist of 12 "twilight sessions" (which always sound rather more romantic than they actually are - in fact it just means it is after school and therefore does not incur cover costs) and there will be places for 15 applicants on each course

If you are interested in this course or in basic ICT training, contact me by emailing wsta_addresses@yahoo.co.uk. which is the email I use for learning rep work. You can also ring me on the helpline 01342 410805. I will only need your name and address and whether you seek a basic or intermediate course.

You can indicate your preferred course location by giving either school address or home address. I will forward this information to HQ for inclusion on a database which is used to plan training.

Wednesday, May 24, 2006

Two lives

Vikram Seth ISBN 0-316-72774-1
Published September 2005

“Don’t take the black man” were the first words Henny Caro first said about Shanti Seth when he was proposed as a lodger in her family home – hardly a promising start to a relationship which was to last the rest of their lives.

Shanti and Henny Seth were not famous, at least prior to the publication of this book. Their lives spanned a fair proportion of the twentieth century and they were dominated and changed forever by the rise of Nazism and the second world war.

Shanti, born in 1908 and brought up in India, was sent to study dentistry in Berlin in the 1930s although he did not speak a word of German. It was there that he met Henny who came from a patriotic “intensely German” family. In addition to her initial hostility, she was also engaged to someone else.

She was able to get out of Germany and went to reside in London where they became close friends. He lost his arm at the battle of Monte Cassino but went on to pursue a successful career despite his disability. It was only after the war that she learned that her mother and sister died in Auschwitz. The book traces her search for the truth about their fate.

This close intimate portrayal of their lives by their nephew is a powerful work of art and will not leave any reader unmoved.

Interestingly as well as dealing in detail with the plight of the Jewish families in Berlin during the war it also deals with the less well-documented suffering of Germans in the post war period.

It also deals with the effect on Henny’s group of close friends in Berlin, Jewish and non Jewish, one of whom became an apologist for the Nazis. The personal is political in this novel but there is nothing but the most superficial of political analysis on the part of the writer; the reader has to provide that.

In addition to spanning the century, the narrative spans the globe, from India, Germany, Israel and Palestine to Britain where they lived most of their lives.

Reflecting on the story which he has been telling, the author concludes, “Behind every door in every ordinary street, in every hut in every ordinary village on this middling planet of a trivial star, such riches are to be found.”

Read it.

Sunday, May 21, 2006

Eurovision

I swear Finland's drummer was Bill Bailey. Not very heavily disguised either. Their heavy metal blasted away the lacklustre entries from the rest of Europe. Certainly nobody had any difficulty remembering which one was Finland!

Wogan (who might usefully be pensioned off to make way for, for example, Jonathan Ross) made some good jokes about, well to be honest one good joke about, the countries who voted for their neighbours.

Since the "balkanisation" of Eastern Europe the voting has been skewed. It is as if England, Scotland, Wales, Cornwall, Strathyclyde, The Isle of Man etc each had a vote and voted for each other.

However Wogan then praised good old Ireland for voting for the UK which sounded odd and even more weird he was cynical about Serbian people voting for Bosnia. Short memory Terry - they used to be at war - there is no old pals act between Serbia and Bosnia, just a legacy of bitterness. Perhaps the young people in Serbia want to put nationalism behind them and vote on the merits of the song.

Wogan is in no position to call another presenter a one-trick pony. He needs to get some more jokes.

Monday, May 15, 2006

Water companies record profits

WATER companies are expected to unveil 2 billion pounds annual profits compared with 1.7 billion last year. Meanwhile we face higher bills and the first drought order for a decade has been introduced in Surrey, with more to follow.

Three companies - Southern, Mid Kent and Sutton and East Surrey - have applied for drought orders.

Profits would be lower if more money was being spent on reducing the 800m gallons of water lost each day through leaks.

Barrie Clarke, Water UK's spokesman arrogantly dismissed criticisms. "Whether you like it or not, in England and Wales we have a private sector water industry. The question people need to ask themselves is would they like to have successful companies running services of such public importance or less successful ones, and successful companies are those that provide the service they are expected to provide and make good profits.'

If you can't water your garden it's because there is a fat cat sitting on the hosepipe!

Saturday, May 13, 2006

Forget you had a daughter

There is a clear implication in many of the books written about European or American prisoners in jails abroad that it is all very well for the "natives" to have to put up with disgusting conditions but it is just not cricket to expect us to.


For example, anyone who has read Midnight Express will have felt sympathetic to the protagonist but still felt, 1) he was a drug smuggler carrying an improbable amount of dope for his own use and 2) he seemed to have a contempt for the people and the country where he was imprisoned.

"Forget you had a daughter" by Sandra Gregory is the story of a drug smuggler who wound up in prison in Thailand and how she coped with the experience. She wound up in the infamous Lard Yao prison, jokingly referred to as the "Bangkok Hilton". If anyone begins this book thinking it is another "Midnight Express" they are soon disabused.


Sandra Gregory, who wrote the book with Michael Tierney, steers clear of that. The early chapters express her love for Thailand and the story ends with her regret that she can never go back there. She makes no bones about her guilt and/or stupidity. Moreover, she earned the disapprobation of some white prisoners because of her friendships with Thai prisoners and she has harsh words to say about the treatment of prisoners in British jails where she spent the last years of her sentence.

It doesn't sensationalise the sexual tension in a women's prison but doesn't skirt round it either.

The corruption in the prison was remarkable, prisoners could get most things on the black market but woe betide them if they couldn't pay their debts: "On one occasion a Nigerian woman had her bottom lip bitten off and fed to a cat, for not keeping up the repayments." I have to warn you that that is mild compared to some of the things reported in this book. It is not for those who are too fastidious.

Sandra Gregory is not obsessed with herself, throughout the book she observes and tells the stories of other prisoners. This is no sob story. Although it contains graphic descriptions of the conditions in prison it is written with some humour and is a very readable narrative.

Monday, May 08, 2006

A message of hope

Leon Trotsky said that socialism was a message of hope but fascism is a message of despair.

How would you apply this to the present situation?

When Unison came out on strike against New Labour's plans for pensions (they have billions for war but nothing for the poor) - it was probably the biggest strike since 1926. They weren't divided on racial or religious lines, they acted together and they made the government sit up and take notice. What use are the BNP? Their sick message of hate is irrelevant.

Tuesday, May 02, 2006

Bullies Nazis and Prats


The BBC had a news item about former Labour voters so fed-up with New Labour that they are voting BNP. The BNP understandably made the most of the release of foreign criminals by the home office.

What the program did not mention was the criminal records of the BNP leadership - they couldn't be deported because they are good old British criminals!

Who says today’s politicians lack convictions. The British National Party is brimming with them – all of a criminal nature. “The BNP will crack down on crime and restore public safety and confidence,” its website states. But despite claiming to be a party of law and order, the BNP is home to criminals, racist thugs and football hooligans. The ranks of the criminals extend to the very highest level of the party. They include:

Nick Griffin (Party Chairman) Received a two-year suspended sentence in April 1998 for inciting racial hatred. His magazine The Rune carried obscene anti-Semitic and Holocaust denial material as well as crude racism.


Tony Lecomber
Tony Lecomber (Group Development Officer). In 1985 he was convicted on five counts for offences under the Explosives Act, including possession of homemade hand-grenades and electronic timing devices. Sentenced to three-years imprisonment.
In 1991 he was sentenced to another three years imprisonment for unlawful wounding for his part in an attack on a Jewish schoolteacher whom he caught trying to peel off a BNP sticker at an underground station. He has a total of 12 convictions.

Colin Smith (South East London organiser). Has amassed a total of 17 convictions for burglary, theft, stealing cars, possession of drugs and assaulting a police officer.

John Tyndall (founder of the BNP). Six convictions. In 1962 he was jailed for organising a paramilitary organisation. Four years later, he was again sent to prison for possession of a loaded gun. In 1986, he was convicted for incitement to racial hatred under the Public Order Act and sentenced to 12 months imprisonment.

Warren Bennett (Chief Steward). Supposed to keep order in the party yet has convictions for football hooliganism. In 1998, he was deported from France with over 50 other Scottish hooligans, including several BNP members.

Steve Belshaw (East Midlands BNP organiser. Was convicted in 1994 for assaulting a lawyer in his home-town of Mansfield. At the time, Belshaw combined his BNP membership with Combat 18 activity.

Kevin Scott (North East Regional Organiser). Was convicted in 1993 for hurling a glass at a black customer in a pub.

Alan Gould (Waltham Forest Organiser). Was convicted in 2000 for racially abusing people in a local pub. He told the court that it was the drink getting the better of him.


Robert Bennett
Robert Bennett. A leading activist in Oldham BNP during the 2002 elections campaign, Bennett has served five years in prison for the gang rape of a woman. He has also served seven years for armed robbery and has over 30 convictions in total.

Mick Treacy. The Oldham organiser has five convictions for violence, theft, and handling stolen goods

Darren Dobson. Found guilty of racially aggravated assault at Oldham magistrates in November 2001. Fined £300. Connected to football hooligans in the Oldham area, and has links to the nazi terror group Combat 18

Darren Hoy. April 2002, the BNP supporter was sent to prison for 3 months for racially abusing people as they left an anti-fascist rally in Oldham.

Monday, May 01, 2006

Happy Mayday



Happy Mayday whether you are dancing around maypoles, marching against the government or just enjoying a day off.

The day dawned gloomy here so we will have to see how it goes.

One old English saying (i.e. one most old English people have never heard of):
"Nut for the slut; plum for the glum
Bramble if she ramble; gorse for the whores."

Preferably leave hawthorn at a friend’s door for their luck, but other plants are an insult. I suggest you leave the gorse at home. I also assume btw that "gorse" rhymed with "whores" - terribly confusing for those who like horse-riding I should imagine.

Saturday, April 29, 2006

Two days early, Mayday comes to Croydon

I joined the first mayday demonstration in Croydon for ten years today. Campaign for a New Workers' Party were by far the largest political group. Trade Unionists did not perceive us as outsiders or interlopers. The demonstration was for "Public Services NOT private profit." New Labour were conspicuous for their absence. It is not a slogan they endorse. The demonstration had banners from public sector trade unions. It is an irony that the leaders of UNISON support New Labour but Croydon Labour wont lift a finger to support UNISON.

Thirty years ago I took part in a Mayday march in Croydon. The Croydon Labour Party were the backbone of that march.

Thursday, April 27, 2006

Mayday in Croydon

First mayday Demo in Croydon for over a decade, against the destruction of public services in Croydon. - 29th April, Thornton Heath Clock Tower, assemble 11 am.

Thursday, April 20, 2006

Eileen and Natara Hunter

“An injury to one is an injury to all”

This is the text of the leaflet distributed at NUT Conference. The support for Eileen and Natara Hunter and their brand of fighting trade unionism is growing.

After yesterday’s debate on management bullying, many Conference delegates will have been left wondering why a Union President, so keen to tell us that women should assert themselves, should then so harshly silence Eileen Hunter, a delegate from Birmingham, when she tried to seek a reassurance that the Union would defend anyone disciplined for what they had said from the Conference rostrum.

Delegates are also asking what is being done to defend two active union members, mother and daughter, who have been dismissed from their posts.

Both Eileen and Natara are pursuing employment tribunals against their dismissals but, under our harsh employment law, even if their cases are “won”, this is by no means a guarantee that they will win their jobs back. They have felt that they have had to fight at every stage even to get the Union to support them this far.

It is not appropriate to go into the specific details of the cases in this leaflet but there is one thing that Eileen and Natara are quite clear about. They believe that Eileen was dismissed because she refused to be cowed by a bullying school management and continued to speak up and organise as a fighting school rep. In turn, they believe that management also did not want her daughter to remain on the staff either.

In seven years Eileen had built the NUT membership from five to forty three, as well as encouraging the support staff to become unionised and fight off the threat of job cuts.

For acting as a rep, and speaking out at both school union group meetings and at last year’s NUT Conference, Eileen was charged with jeopardising the future of her school and undermining its management. If this is grounds to lose your job, then this a threat that could be made by a hostile management to many active reps and Conference delegates.

One of the main pieces of evidence against Eileen was reports made in the national press last Easter quoting from a speech she made at the Gateshead NUT conference, daring to criticise the disciplinary system and high number of exclusions which had been implemented in her school federation. But what price freedom of speech if your opinions are then used to help sack you?

Small wonder Eileen sought to ask her question yesterday. Small wonder why Eileen and Natara want to be sure that if union reps put their heads above the parapet against a bullying management that the Union will use all its resources to defend them against victimisation. If not, then which teacher will want to become a rep? How will the Union be built and maintained in the divided and harshly managed school system which this Government seeks to impose?

Conference rightly voted for the Union to confront management bullying with a collective response. But that policy must be put into practice. When our union reps are – as too often – at the receiving end, then they must be confident that the NUT will stand firmly behind them, not just with advice and legal support but also by offering and encouraging strike action.

Eileen and Natara can be contacted on

07876 361128

NUT conference resolutions against bullying

The debate on bullying at NUT conference was very good, Annette Pryce made a brilliant speech moving the main motion and outlining (you only have four minutes for these speeches) the issue of bullying.

Everyone will also remember John Illingworth talking about the effects of stress and very bravely talking about his own mental illness. To confess weakness before a mass audience takes "a real man".

I was also privileged to meet Eileen and Natara Hunter. Eileen and her daughter Natara were both sacked for standing up to bullying but they have lost nothing of the fighting spirit. In seven years Eileen had built the NUT membership from five to forty three, as well as encouraging the support staff to become unionised.

For acting as a rep and speaking out at both school union group meetings and at last year's NUT conference, she was charged with jeopardising the future of her school and undermining its management. If this is grounds to lose your job then it is a threat which could be made to many active reps and conference delegates.

We need more reps like her, not fewer.

Wednesday, April 19, 2006

"If Blair is a criminal he should be locked up."

"If Blair is a criminal he should be locked up."

This is just a statement of fact. However when Hank Roberts said it and was censured by the president at NUT conference it was Hank who received massive applause from delegates and that is significant.

Contrast the mood when new Labour came to power. Outside the ranks of the left there was widespread acceptance of the idea that "things can only get better." Now there is widespread distrust of new Labour.

General Secretary Sinott's speech at the end of conference was well-received when he was praising the achievements of the union but there was a certain muted response to his illusions in Brown which are not I suspect shared by many delegates. The most positive response to Brown which I heard was "wait and see" - there is not much enthusiasm for the line of the union leadership that the possible advent of Brown will signal an improvement in new Labour.

However the most memorable speech at conference was John Illingworth recounting his mental illness as a result of the stresses of the job and his perception that as a head he was being bullied by the government.

Wednesday, April 12, 2006

Bulletin for Conference

Yesterday I received the Socialist Party bulletin for NUT conference:
I have put a Word/Open Office and HTML version onto the internet
here
The following is a couple of paragraphs from Martin's article. I look forward to Martin and Jane Nellist speaking in the debate on faith schools.
THE FAITH SCHOOLS DEBATE Martin Powell-Davies (Lewisham NUT)

The fact that 2006 NUT Conference is debating a motion specifically on faith schools reflects the increasing concern of many teachers at the growing influence of religious views on both education and politics in general.

When a Prime Minister, happy to let God judge his support for war in Iraq, is also happy to let fundamentalist car dealers like Sir Peter Vardy run his Academy according to "Biblical teaching", there is plenty to be worried about.

The Education Bill will give business and religious sponsors the opportunity to instil their ideas on young people. As with existing faith schools, foundation schools will also be able to set separate admission criteria which allow selection, perhaps overtly on the grounds of faith but also, even if covertly, on academic and social grounds as well. A recent survey of Church primary schools in England confirmed that they were less likely to accept children from low-income families than council-run schools.

The Union must firmly state that all schools should belong to a democratically-elected Local Authority, operating the same comprehensive admissions arrangements.

(The bulletin also has an article by yours truly on the Campaign for a New Workers' Party)

Tuesday, April 11, 2006

Brokeback Mountain

Well I can see that it is a great film although it is slow-moving to start. If you watch it all the way through and you don't have tears in your eyes at any point, you are probably "a real man!"

"Tell the truth and shame the devil." is what my dear old mother used to say. I never had to tell her I was gay however. Back in the era of this film the very word scarcely existed. At the beginning Ennis and Jack have to hide their feelings from each other and most importantly from themselves. Traditional Westerns are about the theme "A man's gotta do what a man's gotta do." and curiously so is this. I will seek strenuously to avoid any spoilers. I think it is fair to say Ennis and Jack feel forced into roles, marriage and family, which really do not suit them.

Are they going to live how they want to live and face the (dire) consequences or are they going to settle for unhappiness?

We have all faced difficult situations though hopefully not usually as difficult as these two star-crossed lovers. And how many of us have settled for unhappiness because it seems easier?

What do you think? If you have seen the film what did you make of it?

Friday, April 07, 2006

"Political Correctness gone mad" rallying cry of the BNP

I have just listened to a daft interview on Radio 4's today program. A judge has criticised a case of a ten year old boy being prosecuted for persistent racial abuse as "political correctness gone mad." What was daft about the interview was that the NASUWT spokesperson was unable to talk about the school or the pupil because the details are confidential and it was clear the interviewer didn't know what she was talking about for the same reason.

I think that judges should show more judgement. Whatever he thought about a particular case he did not have to use the rallying cry of the BNP to make his point. I believe everyone who says "I oppose racism but this isn't the way to do it" has a duty to add "what I am doing to oppose racism is..."and complete the sentence with something concrete they are personally doing against racism so they don't sound like a hypocrite.

And what happens next? I am a teacher, next time I tell off a pupil for being rude or racist I will get back the judge's considered judgement "Oh sir, that's political correctness gone mad that is."

Thursday, April 06, 2006

Moodle

West Sussex is trying out a piece of open source software called Moodle. It seems (so far) to work well with programs like Hot Potatoes.

What I have done so far is on http://learning.sackville.w-sussex.sch.uk/

It is very rudimentary at the moment but we have to start somewhere.

Another interesting development is that the online test for KS3 ICT involves database and spreadsheets which are clearly not Microsoft. This suggests that the over dependence on Microsoft in education is misplaced. Pupils will need to adapt to different software. Downloading some free open source software would give them that choice.

Sunday, April 02, 2006

V for Vendetta

"V for Vendetta" is great fun. It is an adventure film with some serious messages included. It is usually possible to wade through the deepest ideas in an adventure film (for example, X men, Catwoman) without getting your ankles wet. This is a bit different.


John Hurt and Stephen Fry are always good value for money and Hugo Weaving in the title role was a revelation with his ability to create a role brilliantly while hiding behind a mask for the whole of the movie.

Terrorism, homophobia, racism and islamophobia are all dealt with in the film in different ways. There are chilling insights into the secret camps where alleged terrorists are tortured for the good of the state. And the media are not exonerated either.

Most crucially the plot shows the way the religious right can use terrorism as an excuse for repression. In the course of the narrative responsibility for a terrorist outrage is shifted to whoever is the current enemy of the state. It comes as no surprise to find out that the author of this "9/11" turns out to be the dictatorship itself.

John Hurt is very good as a dictator and he also plays a caricature of himself on a TV show hosted by Steven Fry's character, Deitrich. Deitrich falls foul of the secret police for his pains. He expected to get away with a grovelling public apology. Instead he is killed when a copy of the Koran, which he kept because of its poetry, is found in his house.

If you have ever had a sneaking suspicion that Guy Fawkes was the only man to enter Parliament with honest intentions, the sight of millions marching in Guy Fawkes masks to overthrow a corrupt government based on lies is inspiring.

And that is where the film falls short. What happens next? It is here that the emasculation of the original story is most keenly felt. The "politics" were not exciting and spectacular enough so they remained on the cutting room floor. The original story of V was not from a socialist but an anarchist perspective but at least didn't leave the basic questions unasked; the original message of the story has been toned down and given the Hollywood treatment.

I still think the film does fulfil in an attenuated form, the concept of the original writer, Alan Moore "../the central question is, is this guy right? Or is he mad? What do you, the reader, think about this? Which struck me as a properly anarchist solution. I didn't want to tell people what to think, I just wanted to tell people to think, and consider some of these admittedly extreme little elements, which nevertheless do recur fairly regularly throughout human history."/

You have to like action/adventure films to appreciate it but if you do, this film is for you.

"People should not fear their governments. Governments should fear their people!"

Saturday, April 01, 2006

"Only the Innocent Suffer"

In Canada, a US soldier who fled to avoid serving in Iraq is having his asylum case heard in front of an immigration board. Josh Key, who served in Iraq for eight months, said he decided to desert military service after witnessing several atrocities commited by the US military. In an interview with the BBC, Key said: "The only people that were getting hurt was the innocent; that was innocent Iraqi people, as well as innocent soldiers."

Meanwhile Condy Rice has been visiting the UK

She has an awful human rights record - with the massacre at Fallujah and torture at Abu Ghraib on her conscience.

If she were hanging around the school gates any self-respecting head would want her moved on rather than invited in.

And she masquerades as a Beatles fan? "All you need is love?" "Power to the people?" "Money can't buy me love" Not exactly her cup of tea I wouldn't have
thought.

Even Roger McGough has had his (extremely attenuated) conscience pricked by this and pulled out of a concert in her honour.

Tuesday, March 28, 2006

BBC anti-union stance.

The BBC coverage of today's public sector strike was a disgrace and echoes their worst efforts on behalf of Margaret Thatcher during the miners' strike.

They portrayed the strike as a battle between the public and private sector and continually repeated the refrain that "the public will have to pay for this" and while grudgingly accepting there was massive public support for the strike they insisted "this will not last."

The government is unilaterlaly breaking an agreement with public sector workers and their proposal is daylight robbery.

The head of the CBI who pontificated against the strike looks forward to a golden farewell worth millions while bleating that the country cannot afford to honour the agreement.

And what aout the vaunted superiority of the private sector? Not in terms of pensions obviously.

Everybody knows that if the public sector workers just accept this theft of their pensions the government will only squander the money on war. There was no talk about "and the taxpayer will have to pay for this" when the bombs were falling on Baghdad.

Monday, March 27, 2006

The Tao of Pooh

Benjamin Hoff
The Tao of Pooh

Tao (the way) is too complicated to admit of a thumbnail definition. The book explains the concepts of Taoism in familiar terms of the Winnie the Pooh characters.
It is a novel approach and a good introduction. First rule of teaching – explain the unfamiliar in terms of the familiar.

It suggests among other things that when we find out something we do not like about ourselves we are better off trying to turn it into a more useful channel than trying to eliminate it. I am lazy and selfish and I drink too much. I wonder if there is a use for these characteristics somewhere.

The book is highly critical of Western Science and Philosophy and correctly castigates a tendency to worry too much, overintellectualise things and strive too hard.

On the other hand I remain wedded to Western Science because of my medical condition. After all Western Science is what is keeping me alive.

Lady Chatterley’s Lover

I read this as a result of watching the TV program The Lady Chatterley Affair. It is not the best book in the world but rereading it after all these years the notorious sex scenes do seem more human than a lot of writing on the subject. You find sexism, racism and homophobia in what Mellors says, but his conversation is very human if some of his ideas are weird.

It could have been called “When Ollie Met Connie” because the first 119 pages feel a bit empty and listless because they show how empty and listless Constance Chatterley’s life is and the story comes alive when she gets together with the gamekeeper. He is referred to as Mellors and “The Gamekeeper” more often than by his first name.

“When John Thomas met Lady Jane” would make a nice title too – these are the pet names for his cock and her cunt :)

Of course it was the idea of one of the lower classes having sex with an aristocrat which was really immoral to the prosecution in the court case. I mean you wouldn’t want your wife and your servant to get ideas!

Sunday, March 26, 2006

New discussion group on Yahoo

Teachers at the launch conference of the Campaign for a New Workers Party have put together a discussion group on Yahoo. Information about the launch is available here: http://cnwp.org.uk

You can join here

Post message: CNWPteachers@yahoogroups.com

Subscribe: CNWPteachers-subscribe@yahoogroups.com

Unsubscribe: CNWPteachers-unsubscribe@yahoogroups.com

List owner: CNWPteachers-owner@yahoogroups.comI

It is open to everybody and there is a sign-up link on the Socialist Teachers' webpage. here. The only memberships which will be terminated are those which are seriously off-topic or advertising.

Saturday, March 25, 2006

Norman Kember

From Democracy Now:
The recently freed kidnapped members of the Christian Peacemaker Teams are enjoying their first full day of freedom and preparing to head home. On Thursday British, U.S. and Canadian troops raided a home in Baghdad and found the three peace activists. The men -- Norman Kember of Britain, and Canadians James Loney and Harmeet Singh Sooden - were alone in a house and reportedly in good condition. It was only after their release that the men learned that their colleague Tom Fox had been killed two weeks earlier. The four men were kidnapped together in November. Following their release, the Christian Peacemaker Team organization vowed to stay in Iraq and continue their efforts in helping the families of jailed Iraqis. In a statement the group said "During these past months, we have tasted of the pain that has been the daily bread of hundreds of thousands of Iraqis... We renew our commitment to work for an end to the war and the occupation of Iraq." Officials estimate an average of 30 Iraqis are kidnapped every day.

Thursday, March 23, 2006

Free games for your pupils to use

Pupils will use any games available on the net so adding educational ones is a surefire winner.

Teachers can add games to free software moodle program as follows:

So far the only way I have found to do this is:

1) Make a fling the teacher (I like free software and it is all I will use at home on principle!) game
2)post it to a website. For example atspace will allow ad-free websites and it has to be ad-free (see point one)
3) upload it as a link to moodle in this case http://learning.sackville.w-sussex.sch.uk/

There really ought to be an easier way!

If voting changed anything they would make it illegal?

I sympathise with people who don't vote under the present circumstances.

The opportunity exists to run alternative candidates even without the backing of the millionaires who own the main parties body and soul.

Whatever you might think about Richard Taylor or George Galloway (or Ken Livingstone before he rejoined New Labour), they do provide evidence that candidates from outside the main parties can be elected.

In Germany the new left party gained 8 percent of the vote and 54 seats. You don't have to endorse every dot and comma of their program to realise this shows there is a potential for an alternative. An alternative which is not a "Labour Party Mark 2"

Wednesday, March 22, 2006

Campaign for a New Workers' Party

The Campaign for a New Workers’ Party conference, meeting in London on 19 March, was attended by some 450 people.

Former Labour MP and current Socialist Party councillor in Coventry Dave Nellist chaired the conference, which debated nine resolutions about the future shape of the campaign and elected officers and a steering committee to take the campaign’s work forward.

An overwhelming theme of the conference was that after previous false starts in trying to establish a new party to represent working people – such as Arthur Scargill’s Socialist Labour Party – any new party would have to be democratic, open and inclusive. At this stage the delegates at the conference felt it should take a federal approach to bring in as many supportive organisations and groups as possible, with no one group or individual dominating.

Dave Nellist, elected as the chair of the new steering committee said after the conference: "Today has been a very good start to our aim of preparing the way for a new party based on trade unionists, anti-war campaigners, community and environmental activists and particularly young people.

"With PCS general secretary Mark Serwotka speaking at the conference, along with other supportive messages from leading trade union figures, then this shows we have a strong base in the unions. A key objective now will be to get the unions to break from Labour and support our campaign."

Over 300 of the delegates at the conference were active trade unionists, including many members of trade union national executive committees and leading representatives at all levels of the trade unions. The new Campaign has a structure that allows trade unions to affiliate it and over half of the new steering committee were elected by trade union commissions on the day..

Dave Nellist added: "I think the timing of our launch has been just right. The sleaze allegations surrounding Labour, along with talk of state funding of the political parties which will further break the unions’ now tenuous links with Labour then I think we are well placed to see our campaign go from strength to strength.

"The Conference clearly concluded that Labour was no longer an option for working people. The CNWP needed to become the clear option for the working class, but it must first be rooted in communities and within the left, and that will be our task in the months ahead"

Although this was an initial conference of the CNWP it agreed a number of immediate tasks aimed at popularising the idea of a new mass workers’ party amongst as wide a section of the working class as possible.

This included:

* Actively supporting any initiatives towards the development of a new party. In particular encouraging those trade union and trade union leaders that no longer believe that New Labour can represent their interests to take active steps towards founding a new party.
* Reaffirming support for the declaration for a new workers’ party and aiming to have at least 5000 trade union, community and anti-war activists signed up by the end of 2006.
* Establishing affiliation to the CNWP. Affiliation for national organisations will be £50 and for local community, trade union and campaigning organisations £25. All national affiliated organisations with 100 or more members would have a seat on the steering committee.
* To get CNWP speakers to address local community, trade union and campaigning organisations meetings.
* Organise a CNWP speaking tour in May which aims to develop local CNWP campaigns in those areas where they don’t yet exist.
* Organise CNWP fringe meetings at as many trade union conferences as possible.
* To give support to genuine socialist and anti-cuts, anti-privatisation campaigns in the local elections.
* The steering committee will call a second national conference, by the end of March 2007 at the latest, to assess the progress made and look at how to further take the campaign forward.



The new officers of the campaign elected at the conference are:
Position Nomination
Secretary Roger Bannister (member of UNISON national executive – personal capacity)
Chair Dave Nellist (Socialist Party councillor, Coventry)
Vice-Chair Kevin Kelly (vice-president PCS national executive – personal capacity)
Vice-chair Jeremy Dewar
Press Officer Pete McLaren
Treasurer Fiona Pashazadeh
Trade union liaison officer Glenn Kelly (UNISON national executive – personal capacity)
Assistant Secretary Hannah Sell


Below is a link to pictures of the conference

Images from the "CNWP Conference".

You can review the images by clicking on this link.

http://www.flickr.com/photos/autobiographical/sets/72057594085687243/



Further information contact:

Pete McLaren on 07881 520626

Or Dave Nellist on 07970 294237