Thursday, June 21, 2007

From Guadalajara to Glastonbury, Old Comrade, New Friends

SOMEBODY has sent a comment to my posting on Spanish civil war veteran, retired hospital worker and centenarian Howard Andrews. It's actually an extract from the programme for the Glastonbury Festival:

"Last minute announcement for the Left Field stage - we've just confirmed that a veteran of the Spanish Civil War will be opening the Love Music Hate Racism night on Saturday. Howard Andrews, known as Andy is 100 years old, and worked as a medic in field hospitals as a member of international brigades.He'll be opening the Love Music Hate Racism night with a few words about his experiences of fighting fascism in Spain, and why he supports the campaign against the BNP.

So all those of us who have slowed down a little since passing 50 had better sit up and pay attention. Not content with showing up on picket lines in his buggy, Andy, at twice that age, is taking the stage at an open air rock festival. Born in Kilburn, he has lived in Somerset for half a century. Must be the air down there. Koech (Strength) and Long Life, Andy! And let's hope people pay attention to your message.
(original posting -

Thanks by the way to whoever sent the information. It came anonymously, and about four times so maybe that's four different people, unless someone's computer is playing up! This might be good a time as any to catch up on some correspondence, and mention a few new bloggers on the blog and one not quite so new.

First, as the agony and chaos in Gaza shaped into civil war last week, and there was little that you could call good news, this message from a Palestinian woman reached me:

Dear Friends,

I have decided to start a blog:
It is nothing elaborate or as politically controversial as some of the others.
The reason why I started it is to show a different side of Palestine and Palestinians. Some of you might think it's not the time, that while battles rage in Gaza I should write about that and what's happening there and the state of affairs on Palestinian political life. But everyone else is already doing that, everyone is so consumed by it...
I wanted to write something different; just things about mundane life. I feel that because of the opportunities that I've had that it makes me all the more responsible to show that life here is not just about the conflict. That some aspects are surprisingly ordinary, even if the violence overshadows everything else. Yet, I always insist that there is more to Palestinians than just the conflict and I think more people need to realize that! So, I hope that this helps in some small way. We'll see how it develops and whether I will keep it up... So check it and if you feel so inclined, leave comments, I would love to hear what you think.

Best, Margo

I think, having visited the blog, that If you can keep your head while others, so-called leaders, around you are losing theirs, then you might be part of the answer that people need, my sister.

BTW, the message from Margo was passed on to me by Julia Bard, of the Jewish Socialists' Group, who says Margo was one of her students on a journalism course at Goldsmiths, and has just returned to Palestine after four months in the United States.

Then there's Mick Hall, with whom I've sometimes agreed and sometimes argued on the Labour Briefing Readers List. It was Mick who introduced us via that list to 'The Blanket' , an online magazine started by former Irish Republican POWs. Now Mick has started a blog called Organised Rage at and so far it has been taking a particular interest in Irish politics. His blog is subtitled "The View from The Tower Block", but his is no Ivory Tower viewpoint.

Next, I don't think I mentioned when reporting the Independent Jewish Voices (IJV) meeting in London last month that among the people who spoke from the floor was a young guy from Down Under who happened to be passing through. He told us how a group of them in Australia had got more attention than they expected when they started something similar to IJV out there.
I meanwhile had recognised his name as a fellow-blogger, Anthony Loewenstein, and having only previously met in cyberspace (or on the blogosphere, was pleased to go up afterwards and introduce myself and shake hands. His website/blog address is worth a visit, at

Last, but by no means of least interest, I was pleased to welcome a communication yesterday concerning a Manchester personage, about whom I'd previously written, from someone who calls themselves Meursalt, who I see has started a blog called Nothing to Put Here at
Beyond seeing that he is a shopworker in Manchester, I know nothing about Meursalt except that his politics are left-wing, but from looking at his links, hard to pigeonhole, which makes them more interesting, nu?

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At 2:26 AM, Blogger marcus said...

Hello Charlie,
Sorry about the lateness in this comment - I didn't notice the plug at the end when I first read the article, haha.
I'm not a member of a political party, but essentially, I'm a member of the Industrial Workers of the World and a socialist. I saw you were a signatory to IJV (which gets a mention in my blog tomorrow) and wondered also, how was that progressing? Not much has been heard of it for awhile, and it's a hugely interesting project in my opinion.
- Marcus (my name on here, Meursalt, is the protagonist of 'The Stranger' By Albert Camus - my favourite novel)

At 7:51 PM, Blogger Charlie Pottins said...

Glad to see some radicalism is live and well in my old neck of the woods where so many things have changed.
Regarding IJV, it's worth checking out their website at or via the link from my blog. I wan't one of the original signatories, so am just tagging along as it were, they seem to be taling things a bit slow at present, but maybe with such a variety of people with different ideas, some new to this sort of thing, they have to proceed carefully and keep everyone on board. They have had another meeting, on the Middle east and International Law, which I missed, but it was probably a good, appropriate topic for a lot of their audience and supporters.
I am a great admirer of the IWW tradition, though I don't know about attempts to revive it, and in Britain. But a couple of IWW guys came on our NHS anti-cuts demo in Willesden at the weekend, and I was quite pleasantly surprised to find that the leaflet they gave out on the national blood service is quite relevant, informed and reasonably argued, not at all the "wildman" stuff I might have expected. So fair play to the IWW!
I'm on Brent Trades Union council as a TGWU representative, and also active in the Jewish Socialists' Group, and write in Jewish Socialist magazine. I was in the Socialist Alliance until the SWP ran it down into liquidation so they could go with Galloway's Respect. I'm interested now in the United Socialist Party started by sacked Liverpool dockers and former Labour councillors, though it has not much dpread outside Merseyside. I also supported the John McDonnell campaign in the Labour Party, since that's where most of my fellow-trade unionists remain politically, and it was a challenge to the Right. I think we need a flexible tactical approach to cope with the very fluid and sometimes confused state of working class consciousness after the blows people have taken from Stalinism, and its collapse, amd from a "New Labour" government that adopts Thatcherism and calls it "reform". Too many left groups are still locked in the belief that they are the leadership the working class needs and they each elevate their own group above the working class. Hopefully enough people will get fed up with their games without being put off the struggle.

At 1:28 AM, Blogger marcus said...

Hello Charlie,
I personally believe in the revival of the IWW. It's never really died as such to have a revival, but it's definitely started getting larger recently. To read the efforts of the IWW Starbucks organisers in the shops & warehouses in New York is particularly interest - you'd be interested's the link -

Ahh, I've actually heard of Brent Trades Council. Do you work with the Stop The War group in Brent? I believe they're quite connected..

The Jewish Socialist Group is also quite interesting to me - the group's view on Gilad Atzmon was a principled move compared to the SWP's "Wow, here's a pro-Palestinian Jew!" type publication they made of him. Didn't he seriously suggest in a "Socialist Worker" article once that Jews ran the world?

Spot on about the left. When you consider how a good 4million voters have completely disappeared off the electoral map, it's shocking when you find tiny leftist factions breaking into smaller factions over things as petty as what name to use. It's cringeworthy..In a way, Stalinism was a very good thing for the British workers movement in that it held together things for a very long time pre-1956. Now the Communist Party of Britain has about 900 members - what a sad sight. I support the USP fraternally too - as you said, it's not really gone out of Liverpool has it? I flyered for Michael Lavalette in the May elections so he could keep his seat in Preston, but I still don't really think that there's a solid, principled socialist party anymore. What about you?

I posted a new blog entry today by the way; its a bit hurried, but have a read and tell me what you think.

- Marcus

At 6:54 AM, Blogger Charlie Pottins said...

I don't know if Atzmon has had an article in Socialist Worker, bur he has certainly expressed the kind of views you hrard about in other places, and has made quite vicious attacks not on right-wing Zionist leaders but on left-wing and pro-Palestinian Jews - which may lead us to wonder just what his game is, and what interest it serves.
When he spoke at the SWP's London bookshop its own members were taken aback by his reactionary sympathies (info. I got from a PSC member who was there), but rather than admit it had made a mistake the SWP leadership defended its relationshop (it assured people he had only been invited to Marxism as a musician), which was irresponsible not only because the Zionists could continue smearing all the Left by association, but because some younger people thought they must continue defending Atzmon thinking he had been unhustly accused, and he was invited to speak elsewhere.
Scottish Palestine Solidarity did not like the JSG's open letter but having had a taste of Atzmon they publically denounced him themselves.
I think irresponsible opportunism is nothing new for the SWP leadership, mind, you probably know all about the two BNP students who infiltrated the SWP in Manchester and took them for a ride before announcing what they had done at a BNP rally. OK, maybe it could happen to other organisations, but the SWP ought to have given an apology to the wider labour and left movement, and promised greater vigilance, Instead it tried to pretend no harm had been done, though in fact in the short time the two BNPers were in they were invited to Marxism and were promoted to leading positions in the student work and NW Stop the War, so could have gathered information about all sorts of people, as well as SWP members of course.
On Brent Trades Council, or Brent Trades Union Council to give our proper nsme, is part of the Greater London Association of Trades Union Councils but we also do have good relations with the local Stop the War in Brent which is quite a thriving group noted for brilliant fundraising parties (the food is five-star!), with entertainment from the likes of Leon Rosselson and magician Ian Saville, as well as street campaigning and meetings.


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