If only hypocrisy was confined to the Right!
NOT LIKELY TO DO A GOOSESTEP?
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 (www.gilad.co.uk) 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?