Friday, January 12, 2007

If only hypocrisy was confined to the Right!


BALLERINA Simone Clarke takes the stage today as Giselle in a matinee performance for the English National Ballet at the London Coliseum. Supporters of Unite Against Fascism (UAF) plan a demonstration outside the theatre, because Clarke was exposed in a recent newspaper article as being a member of the far-Right British National Party (BNP).

"We are calling on all those who have an appreciation for the arts, music and dance to demand that the promotion of racist and fascist politics are incompatible with a leading institution such as the English National Ballet", says a UAF spokesperson.
"We want them to speak out against the association of artists with the BNP and say that Simone Clarke should be removed from her position".

BNP leader Nick Griffin, buoyed by his acquittal on race hate charges arising from anti-Muslim speeches, and going for suited respectability, must be delighted with the latest publicity. The boot-boys and bombers are still around, but now middle class racialists can reassure themselves, you need not wear big doc martins to be a BNP supporter, you can even do it in ballet shoes. Helped by continuing media hysteria about immigrats, it should be good for votes, and funds.

Clarke lives near Olympia with fellow-dancer Yat Sen Chang, a Cuban immigrant whose father is Chinese. Their four-year old daughter lives with her parents in Leeds. But the 36-year old ballerina agrees with the BNP that there are too many immigrants. No doubt she will soon be built up as a courageous heroine standing up to the left-wing union bullies. Such a change from the BNP's more familiar image.

The entertainment union BECTU's general secretary Gerry Morrisey says "The BNP and its policies are an affront to the vast majority of people in this country. Simone Clarke earns her living in the subsidised arts and with this goes certain responsibilities, which she has failed to comply with."
Whatever the best way to deal with the BNP ballet dancer, and perhaps Musicians Union members might have a say, if members of the ENB company don't feel able to - I'd like to look at this from another angle.

It was revealed in the past week that Labour's Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government, the Rt.Hon.Ruth Kelly MP, who was previously Minister of Education, was sending her son to a private school. Kelly claimed this was because the boy had special needs. But Labour has been in favour of integrating special needs pupils into ordinary schools. It also emerged that her son's problem is dyslexia - something shared with many children in the area, and catered for in local schools.

The news brought cries of "Hypocrite!", from the Tory Evening Standard across to Respect's George Galloway. As the Bethnal Green MP says in his weblog:

" Everyone wants the best for their child. What used to be a badge of honour for a Labour politician was that they wanted the best for everyone’s children. Ruth Kelly’s decision to withdraw her child from state education in Tower Hamlets undermines the life chances of other children in the borough whose parents cannot afford £15,000 a year to go private.
It is a slap in the face for the hardworking teachers and dedicated support staff in east London who have an excellent record of including children with special needs into mainstream education. It will do nothing for the morale of staff and pupils at the outstanding Stephen Hawking special school in Tower Hamlets, who achieve miracles despite a lack of resources".
Ruth Kelly’s private school decision - a "slap in the face"

Well said, George.

But as Andy Newman asks in his Socialist Unity blog, "who are the hypocrites?" "As I revealed in July 2004, Respect parliamentary candidate, and national steering committee member Yvonne Ridley, sends her own daughter to Windemere St Annes, where the fees are £16,380 per year".

Discussing this with friends the other evening, I remarked that at least Ridley had not been an Education Minister. It was an old Socialist Alliance comrade who tried Respect who reminded me that when Respect threw Ridley into the Leicester byelection, it was against a locally-chosen socialist candidate standing on a Save Our Schools platform.

This week's Socialist Worker also has a piece about Ruth Kelly, pointing out that 20 schools in Tower Hamlets provide for dyslexic pupils, but also making the point that inadequate special needs education was part of Kelly's responsibility as a minister. It goes on to quote Laura Penketh, vice-chair of the Preston District Dyslexia Society, whom it describes as a Respect supporter:
"There is a real lack of resources available. And it can be a lottery how much teachers know about dyslexia. My daughter has dyslexia – but even when you know what funding and resources are available it is very difficult to get the things you are entitled to. Ruth Kelly’s decision is atrocious. The government says that it is all about opportunity in education – opportunity for who?"
Minister Ruth Kelly snubs state schools the voters use

But not a word about Ridley.

This is not the only sad case of glaring hypocrsy on the Left.
This week's Socialist Worker has an item promoting the Unite Against Fascism demo against Simone Clarke of the British National Party, and quoting comments by Musicians Union members . Well, and good. The Socialists Workers Party is a major supporter of UAF, just as before it was the mainspring of the Anti-Nazi League.

But in the same issue, Lindsey German argues against broadcaster and poet Michael Rosen's charge that the Left is not taking some forms of racism - e.g. antisemitism - as seriously as others. German insists she is against all racism, but some, i.e. anti-Muslim propaganda and attacks- is more important right now than others.

Michael Rosen, who had to overcome an MI5 witch-hunt and blacklisting early in his career, has been a loyal supporter of left-wing causes, appearing on Stop the War platforms and at the SWP's Marxism events. But in a letter to Socialist Worker on January 6 he questioned the wisdom of inviting saxophonist Gilad Atzmon, notorious for his antisemitic venom, to the Cultures of Resistance concerts. "Cultures of Resistance is making a great mistake taking Atzmon on board with them and this will undermine and weaken what we are all trying to do".

Two other SWP members write assuring us that Gilad Atzmon has said he is not a racist or a Holocaust denier:"Gilad has now played around a dozen fundraising events for the SWP and we can say categorically that he has never made any offensive/racist comments – in fact every performance has been one of supporting the civil rights struggle and opposing war".
Gilad Atzmon is not racist

Even if we accepted Lindsey German's pecking-order perspective, which would have minorities vying in competition for the anti-racist left's sympathy, rather than uniting on a common perspective, battle-lines and priorities can rapidly shift. A few years ago when the Socialist Workers Party was still in the Socialist Alliance, leading SWPer John Rees - now Respect national secretary - told comrade Anna Chen that work among Chinese people in London was unimportant, because ‘the axis of racism is black and white’. That was presumably before the SWP decided the main issue was Islamophobia, but not long before the right-wing press launched its blame-the-victims campaign against Chinese immigrant workers, following the Morecambe Bay tragedy.

The BNP may be anti-Muslim but it also claims to be against the war in Iraq. So do a whole host of right-wing reactionaries, from France's Jean-Marie le Pen through German neo-Nazis to some wild American conspiracy-theorists. David Duke, former Imperial Wizard of the Ku Klux Klan put aside any prejudices he may hold against Muslims to attend the Holocaust Revision conference in Tehran. Since right-wing racists are not opposed to imperialism as such, how better for them to explain the war and divert fear and anger than by conjuring up, in place of US imperialism, the myth of "Jewish money-power"? Even if they cloak it momentarily behind "anti-Zionist" rhetoric, it is not long before the pose slips, as they turn to attacking left-wing Jews, if anything, more bitterly than the right-wing, capitalist ones.

And Gilad Atzmon? If the partner of a Chinese Cuban can be against immigrants, why shouldn't an Israeli Jew, with all his Zionist-taught arrogance, indulge in anti-Jewish diatribes? Writing "On antisemitism" in December 2003 on his own website ( he said: "We must begin to take the accusation that the Jewish people are trying to control the world very seriously…American Jewry makes any debate on whether the 'Protocols of the Elders of Zion' are an authentic document or rather a forgery irrelevant. American Jews do try to control the world, by proxy."

"Israel's behaviour throws some light on the persecution of Jews throughout history."

In 2005 Atzmon distributed Paul Eisen’s essay "Holocaust Wars" which the Socialist Unity website described as "a full-blooded exposition of Holocaust denial material and a tribute to notorious neo-Nazi Ernst Zundel."

Atzmon maintains link with both Eisen and the curious Russian-born Israeli Israel Shamir, who doubles as a Swedish antisemite, and has recently featured a visit to Zundel on his website. From attacking anti-Zionist and pro-Palestinian Jews in an article called "The Protocols of the Elders of London" he has turned to denouncing them as "Christ-killers" - the age old cry of the pogromists. Perhaps with Eisen and Shamir (who announced his conversion to Orthodox Christianity along with some rather old ideas on blood and matza), the talented saxophonist can say he is not racist, but only opposed to a mysterious "essential Jewishness" on religious grounds? After all, Nick Griffin persuaded a Leeds jury that he was only criticising Islam as a religion, not inciting hatred against Muslims.

By turning a blind eye to Atzmon's noxious ideas, the opportunist SWP leadership are neglecting their young members' education, as well as laying the causes with which they are associated wide open to the Zionist smear of "left-wing antisemitism". By giving Atzmon their seal of approval they are setting a precedent that others even more cynical and with less pretence to "socialist" credentials will be happy to use.

The two SWPers from east London who write defending Atzmon insist " we have publicly challenged and argued against those of his ideas we disagree with", though since they deny he is an antisemite or a racist it is not clear which these are. Still, as they say:

"Gilad has now played around a dozen fundraising events for the SWP and we can say categorically that he has never made any offensive/racist comments – in fact every performance has been one of supporting the civil rights struggle and opposing war".

Sounds like a different Gilad, but I'll take their word for it. Then again, I don't suppose Simone Clarke is going to surprise ballet fans by breaking into a goosestep, or raised-arm salute while performing Giselle. So that should be alright then, shouldn't it?

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At 4:40 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Good post Charlie!

At 5:26 PM, Blogger AN said...

What do you think about Clarke, Charlie?

I think UAF have made a mistake drawing attention to her.

She clearly isn't a facsist, and probably isn't even a racist, and the whole issue has just given the BNP free publicity, whickle making the left look undemocratic.

Let the poor woman dance i say.

At 7:40 PM, Anonymous Jim Denham said...

Good comparison between Clarke - a fucking idiot- and Atzmon, a stupid, but thought-out ant-semite. Also Clarke has not sought to bring her filthy political views into public view by way of her performances: Atzmon has done so, very plainly (eg: his 'Artie Fishial' routine). They are both reprehensible figures, but how come a section (at least) of the "left" defends one, and pickets the other?

At 9:05 PM, Blogger Renegade Eye said...

Let her dance. There are other places to confront her if need be.

At 9:27 PM, Blogger Charlie Pottins said...

I'm inclined to agree with AN that drawing attention to Clarke -first done by the Guardiab, but taken up by UAF - probably does a favour to the BNP. Pity the Guardian and other papers could not give more publicity to the ex-BNP candidate caught in an explosives case.
The BNP also turned up at the ballet (imagine), and will be keen both to show their "cultured" side and to use this woman as heroine figure, persecuted by the bullies of the Left. She will get more sympathy, and they will hope to milk it.
It is not as if Clarke was in the kind of job where she could exercise power or influence, say as a fascist in the police or some position of authority. Of course if other dancers or musicians did not want to work with her, that's another matter, but calling on her employers to sack her is a dofgy precedent for the Left.
Regarding Atzmon, it is not as if he was exposed by the press, he has made it his business to expose himself and take deliberately offensive public stands. He also does not confine himself to playing his music, but uses his talent to promote his views. I'm told when he spoke at Bookmarks even hardened SWP hacks were taken aback by his pro-Nazi outlook (not to mention the mysogyny which heped put some musicians off working with him), But evidently they are prepared to hold their noses and look away, so long as they think he will put bums on sears and help rhem raise cash. No wonder he takes the piss.
Getting back to UAF, it was almost too good to be true when the long-battling sections of the anti-racist and anti-fascist movement finally decided to unite. But though UAF has good people and union backing, it seems to be run very much from the top. This has already brought conflicts with local initiatives, but also it makes it difficult to discuss tactics which are just somehow decided and announced. UAF has another confernce coming and has invited "delegates", but as there will be little to do bar listen and applaud speakers, why bother paying a delegate fee? This is not the way to raise the level, develop policicies, or involve people.

At 9:47 AM, Anonymous a very public sociologist said...

I think you're right on the money, Charlie. The hysteria of Simone Clarke is counter-productive to the extreme. If the position was reversed and it was a socialist organisation on the receiving end of hysterical press witch-hunts, I doubt anyone of us would be complaining about the attention!

At 7:36 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Gilad Atzmon is a former Jewish soldier in the Israeli Army. His current band in cludes Yaron Stavi on bass and Asaf Sirkis on drums.

Stavi and Sirkis are Israeli Jews. Clearly Atzmon is a very unique anti-semite.

No, Atzmon is a political ly confused provocateur who likes to wind up his opponents, especially po faced dixielanders like Jim Denham (clearly not as bright as the average drummer)

At 8:15 PM, Blogger Charlie Pottins said...

So, as we keep hearing, Atzmon is of Jewish origin and was a soldier in the Israeli army. And he gives emplyment to two other Israeli Jews. Wow! Oswald Mosley had a Jewish bodygaurd at one time.
So what?
Does this make his antisemitic statements kosher then? If we were just concerned with the odd "off" joke, such as his remark at a benefit about Jews not working, perhaps we can shrug it off, or have a word. We could also guess that such attitudes reflect his Israeli Zionist education, which has inherited negative stereotypes of Diaspora Jews (there is a history to this). His mysoginy and arrogance are not that unique from the Army background either.
But Atzmon has written articles expressing antisemitic views and quite deliberately, and has arracked Jewish people publically as "christ-killers" -people who were already under attack from the Zionist Establishment and its allies because of their campaigning on Palestine.
I am not a psychologist, and won't pretend to know what makes Atzmon tick. You could be right about the "provocateur" bit. But I don't share your indulgence for provocateurs.
Talking of which, Atzmon maintains links with and defends Israel Shamir. This man, who doubles as a Swedish antisemite and has written for a far Right Russian magazine, boasted of Martin Webster, former leader of the NF as an "English friend".
When B'ham lecturer Sue Blackwell wrote an e-mail wondering if Shamir knew who Webster was, she received an e-mail reply from Webster. Since like many acdemics she had her work details etc on her e-mail she was not amused that this had been handed over to a fascist.
When someone passed on an e-mail of mine to Atzmon he passed it on to Shamir. As though I give a damn. But if you think this "guilt by association", yes, Atzmon has chosen who to associate with, and we should choose whether to associate with him.
If the SWP does not mind, that is up to them, but it does not say much for their claims to lead the anti-racist fight, nor their contribution to the struggle in the Middle East.

At 8:19 PM, Anonymous Jim Denham said...

OK, "Anon", I admit it: I *am* a "dixielander", and - ondded - a drummer (wait for the jokes, folks). How about actaually answering some of mt points? I think even Charlie agrees with me on the Atzmon business.

Btw: not all drummers are stupid: Davey Tough was renouned as an "intellectual".

At 1:04 PM, Anonymous Anna said...

Excellent post, Charlie.

The Ridley situation is hilarious.

I'm finding Clarke's half Chinese boyfriend a bit of an embarrassment. Re Clarke herself, yes, racism and fascism in the arts does deserve a public debate but the UAF is coming across as hysterical.

At 8:05 AM, Anonymous rootless cosmopolitan said...

Ms Clarke does not deserve the sympathy she seems to invoke on this blog. She was outed by the Guardian and then decided to give a nasty little interview to the Sunday Mail (Hooray for the Blackshirts and vicious campaigner against refugees, asylum seekers and migrants) defending her position and attacking 'immigrants'.Other members of the English National Ballet who are also 'immigrants', took her to task and made their displeasure felt to management, without any success as far as I can see.
No Ms Clarke is a member of a publicly funded body which has a responsibility to show that it is keeping to anti-discrimination and equal opportunities legislation and as such should be kept to the letter of the law.
Ms Clarke has a choice. If she is uncomfortable in an environment with such stringent constraints then she could go somewhere unsupported by public money where I am sure her talents would be appreciated. And yes it is important to protest against the BNP and its cohorts even when they happen to be well known ballerinas.

At 8:37 PM, Blogger Charlie Pottins said...

I don't think anyone contributing to this discussion has expressed "sympathy" for Clarke.
The concern is that focussing on her case is misguided and may actually assist the BNP, which wants to put such characters forward as its new image.
That the "Mail" would have been happy to interview her is hardly surprising - it is consistently pushing the same anti-immigrant line, and the BNP demonstrated in defence of the "Mail" against anti-racists not long ago. But "outing" her actually gave the Mail their excuse to present her before its "respectable" readers.
If other ENB workers have expressed concern they deserve our support. But demonstrators outside from UAF may be falling into a trap. We are up against professionals =not just the fash but the media -and we do need to box clever, and choose our ground, not let them choose it for us.
The public funds issue should be treated with caution. And law on discrinination might not be much use. Look how Griffin got off.
It is not the Left or the working class movement that controls funds or defines who is acceptable. the 1936 Public Order Act supposedly introduced in response to fascist marches was chiefly used against the labour movement and anti-racists. Give employers and government an excuse to victimise those they consider "extremists" and you can bet your life it won't be fascists and racists whom they go for.

At 11:47 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

The lesson of both cases is not to expect coherent political analysis from ballet dancers or jazz musicians.

At 1:18 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Further on the odious "Israel Shamir", he is now attacking the BNP from the right! In an exchange of emails with their legal advisor Lee Barnes, Shamir recently accused Barnes and the BNP leadership of "betraying the Britons and joining with the Jews"

At 1:38 PM, Anonymous Graeme said...

How can you label a Jew as an anti Semite? How can defending any of these murderous religions like Christianity, Judaism or Islam be left wing? The "old testament" is clearly a racist document with it's justification of genocide by the "prophet" Joshua. Millions of people were killed by the Church's attempt to hold onto political power in Europe. Have you forgotten the massacre of up to a million Indonesian communists by Islamic militias on the grounds that they were godless atheists?

At 2:25 PM, Blogger Charlie Pottins said...

If someone comes out with anti-Jewish ideas, and phrases, such as calling people "christ-killers", suggesting there is some truth in the notorious Protocols of the Elders of Zion, blaming Zionist policies in Palestine on some mysterious "Jewish Essence", or blaming US imperialism on "the Jews", then I think it is reasonable to say that the person is purveying antisemitism.
What the person's origins are is neither here or there. It turned out once that the leader of the American Nazi Party was of Jewish origin! I think he committed suicide but our sax player Atzmon and his guru israel Shamir, whatever his real name is, are not so obliging.
If you think they have merely been unjustly "labelled" then you cannot have read anything they said. As a communist and therefore anti-Zionist Jew myself I am all too well aware that Zionist propaganda routinely smears oppoents as "antisemitic" and Jewish opponents as "self-haters", and I have neither wish nor motivation to join them in this. On the contrary, I have been inclined to suspect that Shamir, who floats between countries and identities may be some kind of agent provocateur who deliberately insinuates himelf into pro-Palestninian circles when he can in order to tey and drag their legitimate cause into disrepute. Atzmon I don't know, not being a psychologist I am not qualified to judge what makes him tick, but much as he may be a good saxophonist he comes out with a load of shit when he takes the instrument from his mouth, and the SWP are doing neither themselves nor the Left any favours by continuing to defend him.
As for religion, I think you will find that Atzmon and Shamir - a self-claimed convert to Orthodox Christianity, though he also has a soft spot for the kind of Roman Catholicism led by Cardinal Lefevre (those who prefer their communion wine with more than a dash of Vichy water and tend to vote for Le Pen) - do not criticize Judaism from a secular or humanist standpoint but espouse Christian persecutor attacks - calling people "Christ-killers" (Atzmon) or suggesting they drink blood (Shamir) is not exactly an Enlightenment position.
For myself, I am an atheist, a dialectical materialist, but I find your attempt to link events over thousands of years and different social epochs to some timeless religious ideas is itself bordering on the religious! In any case, if you want to tell us that religious movements can perpetrate or be used in very reactionary and murderous ways (like the Islamic groups in Indonesia that were encouraged by CIA and yes, British intelligence, into massacring communists) - well perhaps you should address your remarks to the SWP who are intent these days on collaborating with Islamic movements because they are supposedly "anti-imperialist". This extends to ignoring more progressive or secularised Muslims, and silencing left-wing critics such as Iranian left-wingers.


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