Sunday, August 25, 2013

Suffer Little Children...Will Bishop bar the Brownies?!

IT used to be unkindly alleged by some that the Church of England would rather abandon all 39 of its articles than surrender an acre of its property. There were even quite salacious allegations about the nature of the businesses carried on in some properties owned by the Church.

The Church Commissioners did get rid of a lot of west London real estate in the 1950s, some of it taken over by the London County Council for redevelopment and council housing, and some alas falling into the hands of such philanthropic gents as Peter Rachman. The Church and its capital were  thus freed for investment in new developments.

Nowadays the Church Commissioners oversee some £5.2 billion investments including industry and finance as well as £1.71 billion in property. There is also the Church of England Pension Fund. Attempts by the Church's synod or senior churchmen to dissociate from embarrassing business links (Wonga) or divest on ethical grounds (Caterpillar) can run into resistance from the more commercially-minded Commissioners, who number 33 including the Prime Minister and other members of government.

But then there's the more modest property attached to the parish church, the church hall which can be host to all sort of community activities. Only some churchmen are threatening to ban one particular organisation - the Girl Guides!

Before you go wondering in your imagination what sort of dreadful sin the Guides have been committing (shades of St.Trinian's, their patron?) it is their elders who are to blame. They have decided that in Britain in the 21st century the Guides need no longer include God in their oath of allegiance.  The Queen is still there, unfortunately, though Guides can now promise to Do Their Best for the community, rather than country.  The new promise comes into force on September 1.

Except in Harrogate, apparently, where some Guide leaders say they will stick to the godly version. Rev Brian Hunt, minister of the church where Harrogate Guides have met for many years, supports their stance, indicating that the unit could not possibly expect to use the facilities otherwise.

“My church allows the Guides to use my premises for free,” he said. “And we do that because they’ve always tried to look after the whole person – body, mind and soul – and we encourage that. I don’t think, in fairness, that Girl Guides can expect churches to provide premises for free when they don’t believe in God.”

Hundreds of Guide groups around the country have been using church premises free or for a small fee for many years. In return, vicars faced with dwindling congregations have relied on groups like the Guides to take part in church activities and processions.

A Girl Guiding spokeswoman insisted that the decision to change the oath was based on research that found it should “unify all girls of all backgrounds and all circumstances”. he said: “Updating the Promise does not alter our continuing commitment to offer all girls a safe space where they can explore and develop their beliefs".

That space may no longer be found in the church hall.

Rt Rev Michael Nazir-Ali, the former Bishop of Rochester, said that he hoped “many others” would follow the stance taken by the women in Harrogate, North Yorks.

Christian Concern, which is concerned about abortions, Islam and gay rights, and defends Christians supposedly prevented from raising their faith at work, goes further, accusing the Guide movement of a “slap in the face” to the churches.“It’s understandable that some church leaders won’t be happy providing premises if the Guides are so insistent on keeping God out of the movement,” a spokesman said.

The Evangelical Alliance agreed, suggesting that the decision to remove the reference to God could backfire."Many churches must now be reconsidering whether they want to give their resources, free time and free use of their buildings to an organisation that wants to cleanse itself of God, especially when there is an alternative in the Girls Brigade that is rooted in the Christian faith,"

The Guides' and Brownies' promise to “love my God” is to be replaced with a more individualistic pledge to “be true to myself” and to “develop my beliefs”.

The patriotic pledge to serve "my country" is replaced by one to serve the community.
But in a consultation which attracted almost 44,000 responses Guides made clear that they wanted to retain a public expression of allegiance to the Queen, who is also their patron.

The group’s new chief executive, Julie Bentley, is the former head of The Family Planning Association, and describes the Guides as “the ultimate feminist organisation”.
Gill Slocombe, the Chief Guide, said the changes would make the promise less “confusing” and easier for the organisation’s 550,000 members to take with sincerity.

But while Guide leaders stress the need for sincerity, and some people would remind less tolerant churchmen of the duty of charity, their opponents plainly believe the greatest of their assets is church property.

Reverend Paul Williamson, of St.George's Church in Feltham, Middlesex, says it would be “hypocritical” of the Guides movement to think it could continue as before after abandoning its core beliefs.“If the Guide promise does not mention God, I cannot see why they should be on Church premises.”
 Rev Williamson, a former Scout leader, warned that most Guide groups did not have the funds or the ability to run their own buildings and that local schools or councils would charge far more for the hire of their facilities.“It seems to me the Girl Guides are being doctrinaire, feminist and anti-church,” he said. “How can they expect, as a reputable charity organisation, to go on using church premises whilst telling young girls that that cannot promise their duty to God?”

Fortunately for the Church, clerics like Rev.Williamson seem to be less strict about excluding funding for their premises. Here's a local report:

"A HANWORTH church congregation celebrated the completion of a new £250,000 roof on Sunday.
A special service of celebration was held at St George's Church in Elmwood Avenue to mark the end of repair works.

The service was officiated by the right reverend Robert Mercer, and was followed by a champagne reception. The new roof has been funded through grants from a host of organisations, driven by The Hanworth Park Preservation Trust.

The scheme involved the replacement of the roof on the historic building's chapel and chancel, the area which houses the altar and choir stalls. New guttering and rainwater systems were installed, and the chancel walls were re pointed to stop water creeping in. Areas of internal plasterwork damaged by water were also repaired, as well as distinctive and rare marble panels.

Funding was provided by English Heritage, The Garfield West Foundation, The National Churches Trust and The Veolia Enivronmental Trust.

Speaking about the end of the project, church vicar, the Reverend Paul Williamson, said: "It's wonderful to see the church watertight after two decades. When I first arrived over 20 years ago, the floor was dotted with large black buckets. This work returns the church to the community for all to enjoy."

Speaking about the end of the project, church vicar, the Reverend Paul Williamson, said: "It's wonderful to see the church watertight after two decades. When I first arrived over 20 years ago, the floor was dotted with large black buckets. This work returns the church to the community for all to enjoy."

Executive Director of The Veolia Environmental Trust, Margaret Cobbold, said: "It is great to hear that this project is complete and all the hard work that has gone into it is going to be celebrated.
"It was important to the trust that we helped protect and preserve this important building and I hope the repairs mean St George's remains at the heart of Hanworth for years to come."

Veolia is the French company that has acquired so much utility and public service provision, despite strong criticism of its involvement  in illegal settlements and discriminatory practices such that some consider it an obstacle to peace in what Church of England vicars often call "The Holy Land".

But I doubt whether it or the other donors were required to promise to "serve God", any more than you or I would be, before being allowed to make a donation to church funds and charities.

Still we must be grateful, I suppose, to the C of E and other religious denominations for letting us make use of their premises, regardless of belief, when thanks to their resources these are often the only places available. 

 Church of England investments:

The Church Commissioners

Church and Caterpillar
Ethical Investments

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Thursday, August 22, 2013

No Invitation to the 'Butcher of Gujarat'!

AYES (FAR) RIGHT?  Narendra Modi could use Commons visit to boost his campaign to become prime minister of India. 

RIGHT-wing Indian politician Narendra Modi, whom many people hold responsible for riots in which 2,000 people were killed, has been invited to Britain, and a Labour MP has made the invitation.

Modi, Chief Minister of the Indian state of Gujarat, is expected to run for prime minister of India next year on behalf of the right-wing Bharatiya Janata Party(BJP), and opponents fear a British visit will be used to boost his prestige and the party's fundraising.  A Modi campaign would favour big business while spelling hostility to India's minorities and neighbouring countries.

 Modi first became Chief Minister in the western state of Gujarat in 2001, and within a year an attack by Muslims on a train carrying Hindu pilgrims from a controversial site became the pretext for riots which many describe as government-organised pogroms, prepared beforehand. Muslim homes and shops were attacked, and as many as 2,000 people, including children, may have been killed.

Women and young girls were subjected to some of the worst violence. Some 250 were gang raped and killed, their bodies being thrown on bonfires. Some children were burned alive.
The gangs appear to have had lists of addresses to target, and police had instructions not to interfere with the attacks. A leaked report from the British High Commission in India said the violence 'had all the hallmarks of ethnic cleansing' and that 'far from being spontaneous' it was 'planned, possibly months in advance, carried out by an extremist Hindu organisation with the support of the state govemment.'

The High Commission gave as his opinion that "reconciliation between Hindus and Muslims is impossible while the chief minister [Narendra Modi] remains in power'.

A Special Investigation Team appointed by India's Supreme Court cleared Modi of complicity last year, but Muslims reacted with anger and disbelief, and human rights organisations say evidence was suppressed. Modi is a lifelong member of the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS),which drew much of its inspiration from European fascism, describes himself as a "Hindu nationalist", and remains unrelenting in his hate-mongering.

In 2005 the United States decided to refuse Modi a visa because of his record, and in 2009 an invitation to him to address a prestigious business conference in London was cancelled. But this time, with the US, EU and British business seeking advantages, the invitation to Modi comes from Labour Friends of India chairman Barry Gardiner, MP for Brent North. He has been joined by the Conservative Friends of India in inviting Modi to address MPs in the Commons on "The Future of Modern India".

“The invitation is a culmination of several years of engagement between senior representatives of the Labour Party and Narendra Modi,” the MP for Brent North said.

If that is true then a lot of people, and not least Labour Party members and supporters, might want to know more about it.

Meantime the focus is on Barry Gardiner. The Brent North MP has a large number of Hindus among other people in his constituency, and some may be supporters of the BJP.  His Tory predecessor in the seat Rhodes Boyson once chaired a meeting with Menachem Begin. But it is not a precedent to be followed, let alone exceeded (Begin was already Israeli PM and the guest of the British government by then). Cultivating good relations with communities is one thing, assisting right-wing parties and leaders to exploit them as base, and build bridges to government, is another.

Several people and organisations, including Brent Trades Union Council, are writing to Barry Gardiner expressing concern over the Modi connection, and an online petition against the visit has gathered more than 7.000 signatures. The South Asia Solidarity Group is inviting people to join a protest at the MPs surgery on September 9.

Join the protest, No Invitation to the Butcher of Gujarat!
MONDAY September 9, 11.30am to 1pm, at Brent Civic Centre, Engineers Way. Wembley, HA9 OFJ (nearest tube Wembley Park).

See also:

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Tuesday, August 20, 2013

Brent council urged to "Bin Veolia!"

OUTSIDE Brent's new Civic Centre, campaigners gather to make their point. But will councillors listen?

WHO takes decisions in the local council? If it is the elected councillors, why would they be shy about talking with the public on some issues, and leave it to full-time officers?

Brent's Labour-led council, in North-West London, has taken some unpopular decisions in the past couple of years, such as closing six local libraries, as it tried like others to conform to the government's austerity drive. The case of the Counihan-Sanchez family, made homeless by the callous interpretation of council rules above human duty, is only the tip of the iceberg of housing failure.

To be fair, unlike his predecessor, council leader Mohammed Butt has been prepared to talk to local trades unionists, and listen to what they had to say, and he was persuaded to add his voice to concern over NHS cuts in the area. But whether this has meant any real change in council policy is another matter. Long gone are the days when Brent and its Labour Party were associated with outspokenly left-wing policies.

Indeed, on some issues the councillors don't seem to be very outspoken at all, preferring to leave it to full-time officers employed by the council to lay down the law.

Yesterday evening a group of protestors gathered outside the new Brent Civic Centre, overlooked by Wembley stadium, to back a delegation presenting a petition signed by hundreds of local residents, calling on the council to exclude the French-based company Veolia from the Public Realm contract procurement process. The contract worth up to £250m over 16 years will be awarded by the Brent Executive at their October 14th meeting. Already strongly criticised over its performance in previous council contracts, Veolia wants to expand its reach from waste disposal to parks and open spaces, and other amenities. It has been short listed along with Enterprise and Serco.

Veolia has been the subject of an international campaign because of its operations in occupied Palestine, including the use of controversial landfill sites as well as the Jerusalem Light Railway (JLR) and 'bus services linking illegal Jewish settlements. Palestinians say the continued expansion of these settlements is an obstacle to peace. The bloc around Arab East Jerusalem separating it from its hinterland reinforces Israel's unilateral annexation, which British and other governments have not recognised, and accompanies the ethnic cleansing of the capital.

Addressing Brent council's planning executive last night, Liz Lindsay from the 'Bin Veolia' campaign and Brent and Harrow Palestine Solidarity, said "Just as pension funds are concerned about ethical investment we believe the council should be concerned about ethical procurement".

Outlining the company's involvement in the West Bank, Liz cited the Jerusalem Light railway, bus routes using the "Apartheid road" 443 lining settlements, and the Tovlan landfill site. "Veolia therefore profits by actively supporting Israel’s continued violation of international humanitarian law", she said.

"Under Public Contracts Regulations, a public body may exclude a bidder or reject a bid where it is found the organisation has ‘committed grave misconduct in the course of their business’
In 2009, the UN General Assembly called on Israel to cease the dumping of waste  in occupied Palestinian land.

"In 2010, UK was one of countries that voted in support of the UNHR Council resolution that stated JLR operated by Veolia is in clear violation of International Law and relevant UN resolutions.
In 2012, Richard Falk UN Special Rapporteur on Human Rights in the OPT concludes that
– Veolia’s grave breaches of the UN Global Compact make it an inappropriate partner for any public institution, especially as a provider of public services. Also, Veolia was forced to withdraw JLR recruitment advertisements because they discriminated against Palestinians.

"Locally,  West London Waste Authority, Ealing, Harrow, Richmond did not select Veolia as the preferred bidder and all had been involved in discussions with anti-Veolia campaigners. Veolia withdrew after 2 years from the final stages of the £4.5bn North London Waste Authority  procurement when they were one of only two bidders left.

"As Veolia has become the target of worldwide campaigns, Veolia  has tried to waive responsibility, claiming in 2011 for example that it had sold Tovlan. However,  on the 17th Jan 2013, the Israeli Ministry of Environmental Protection –in response to FOI by a Women's Peace Group in Tel Aviv confirmed that Veolia is the sole owner and operator of Tovlan. We informed Brent Council of this on the 14th March but Veolia repeated its claim on 21st May 2013. The Council does not appear to have challenged this misrepresentation.

"In June 2013, an Israeli Court fined Veolia 1.5 million shekels for burying mixed waste to avoid higher fees and for keeping inconsistent records. Brent Council should seriously question any information that Veolia provides in its defence in its bid to win the contract".

Rejecting claims that Veolia UK and Veolia in Israel were separate companies, Liz Lindsay reminded Brent Council of its pride in representing a very diverse population, and stated commitment to equality and opposing racism. The council had shown this by its stand against the Home Office's racist poster van touring the borough, and UK Border Agency raids at some local stations.

"Human rights issues are at the core of the Council's values.

"Our campaign has been supported by members from many religions and non-religious residents, by members of the Labour, Lib Dem and Green parties, by Brent TUC, trade unions,  GCs of Brent Central,  and Hampstead and Kilburn Labour Parties and local members of Jews for Justice for Palestinians.

"We call on the Executive to take a principled stand on the issue of Veolia's collusion in the abuse of the human rights of Palestinians in the occupied territories and to take action by excluding Veolia from the £260m Public Realm contract."

After this appeal, which was warmly applauded from the public gallery, the chair announced that the executive would be referring the petition to Fiona Ledden, head of procurement, for consideration, and she would then reply to the campaigners. With this assurance, the Bin Veolia delegation left.

According to the official handbook,
Fiona Ledden is the Director of Legal and Procurement and also the Borough Solicitor.
She joined Brent in March 2010.Fiona has the overall responsibility for the procurement strategy and policy across the council. The procurement team ensures that the council achieves the best possible service at the best possible cost from the suppliers that it works with across all services within the council.

Nothing there about the political and moral questions that might be involved, nor even conditions of staff. But then Ms.Ledden, however well qualified and efficient, is not an elected councillor, but a professional there to give expert advice, rather than take decisions.  Is that not so, councillors? 
VEOLIA campaign has wide support in a very diverse borough.

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Sunday, August 18, 2013

Thatcher's Claws (28) coming back via Blair's Academies?

WHEN Baroness Thatcher died earlier this year, Gay rights campaigner Peter Tatchell reminded people of some of the nastier side of her reign, including the anti-gay law Section 28, so called because it was introduced as a Clause 28 of the Local Government Bill, becoming Section 28 when the bill became an Act of parliament, which stated a local authority "shall not intentionally promote homosexuality or publish material with the intention of promoting homosexuality" or "promote the teaching in any maintained school of the acceptability of homosexuality as a pretended family relationship".

Brought in on the back of the AIDS panic and with newspapers like the Daily Mail publishing sensational reports of explicit homosexual material supposedly aimed at small children, the law nevertheless aroused widespread opposition and protests, ranging from conventional mass demonstrations to dramatic actions such as lesbians abseiling into parliament and invading a TV studio.One good effect of the bill was that many "straight" left groups and individuals like myself whose attitude had been at best complacent now felt obliged to join the opposition to this reactionary measure.

There was concern at the homophobia encouraged by presenting gay people as somehow proselytising, by "promoting" their personal lifestyle, and fears that not only would support groups be hit, but education censored. Would teachers be allowed to mention famous writers who had been gay? Would they be afraid to counter bullying, or give counselling to young people worried about their sexuality?  What about pupils with a gay parent or family member?

A National Union of Teachers (NUT) statement remarked that "While Section 28 applies to local authorities and not to schools, many teachers believe, albeit wrongly, that it imposes constraints in respect of the advice and counselling they give to pupils. Professional judgement is therefore influenced by the perceived prospect of prosecution."

The Department for Education and Science issued a statement meant to reassure people that Section 28 "will not prevent the objective discussion of homosexuality in the classroom, nor the counselling of pupils concerned about their sexuality.”
But Tory Education Minister Jill Knight said: “     This has got to be a mistake. The major point of it was to protect children in schools from having homosexuality thrust upon them."

Thatcher had attacked “positive images” of gay people, saying during a speech on Section 28 that she worried: “Children are being taught that they have an inalienable right to be gay.”

In May 2000 the Christian Institute unsuccessfully took Glasgow city council to court, claiming it was promoting homosexuality by funding an AIDS support charity.  One month later the newly devolved Scottish parliament voted overwhelmingly to get rid of Section 28, despite a campaign to keep it by millionaire transport boss Brian Souter.

Someone else who strongly defended Section 28 at this time was David Cameron. He accused Labour and Prime Minister Tony Blair of being "anti -family" and wanting the "promotion of homosexuality in schools". Cameron continued backing Section 28 when he was elected as an MP in 2003, and tried to amend its repeal, though he failed, and was absent from the vote when it was revealed. Then in June 2009, having become leader of the Tory party, and hoping to be Tory prime minister, Cameron apologised for his party introducing the law, saying it had been a mistake and was offensive to gay people.

So with Section 28 repealed, and the government supporting gay marriage, the issue would seem to be like Margaret Thatcher, thankfully dead and buried. Except it isn't. Kent County Council for one has kept its own version. And an article in Gay Star News reveals that the hated Section 28 has been given a new lease of life in the Sex and Relationships Education policies adopted by several of the schools that have become so-called Academies. The schools’ policy states while ‘objective discussion of homosexuality may take place in the classroom,’ ‘the governing body will not permit the promotion of homosexuality’.

"The schools are Castle View Enterprise Academy in Sunderland, Swindon Academy, Stockport Academy, Radcliffe School in Milton Keynes, Grace Academy in Coventry, William Hulmes Grammar School in Manchester and Bridge Academy in Hackney, London. Colston Girl’s School in Bristol are reviewing their anti-gay policy after complaints..."

Like the Private Finance Initiatives (PFIs) in the hospitals, the Academies were a Tory idea adopted and introduced with enthusiasm by New Labour. Tony Blair and his education adviser Lord Adonis started the policy in 2000. For an investment of 10 per cent, up to £2 million, leaving the taxpayer to make up the rest,  rich business people or religious outfits gain control of a school's policies, curriculum, and appointments.

Among the first to get into the game was Sir Peter Vardy, whose wealth came from Reg Vardy PLC, the second-hand car business he inherited from his father. He acquired three academies for £2 million each, while public money made up the rest.  The bills included £14,039 to the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association for the loan of Sir Peter's brother David, and larger sums to Sir Peter's own company. Render unto Ceasar, as they say. Unlike your ordinary state school the Academies are not under the control of elected local authorities, and nor are they obliged to put work out to tender. The government has been much more generous in funding for these supposedly independent academies than for state schools.

Some academies say they believe in honouring national agreements, but others are not too keen on the teachers' unions.

Sir Peter is a Bible believer, though he denies being a creationist in the sense of thinking God made the universe in six days. His man running the Emmanuel Schools Trust, Mr.Nigel McQuoid, however says schools should teach the creation story as told in Genesis.  

Mr McQuoid also said: “The Bible says clearly that homosexual activity is against God’s design. I would indicate that to young folk.” As for those who did not agree, he told a local newspaper: “I don’t have to respect everyone’s opinion. I don’t respect the opinion of people who believe it’s fine to live with a partner. Head teachers are responsible to God and the standards of the bible. Nothing in the school should contradict the teachings of the bible.”

“If academies are to succeed,” says his colleague John Burn, “they need to be led and staffed by people who are obedient to God’s truth as revealed in the scriptures.” So, no teachers who do not hold the approved theological opinions. 

Mr Burn is one of the founders of the Newcastle-based Christian Institute, set up in 1991 to promote fundamentalist Christian beliefs, and is an outspoken opponent of the ordination of women. In September 2000, Stephen Layfield, head of science at one of Vardy’s schools, Emmanuel College, Gateshead, delivered a lecture called “The teaching of science – a biblical perspective”. It reads rather like a revivalist sermon and lays down a duty upon teachers to “do all they can to ensure that pupils, parents and fellow colleagues are reminded frequently that all is not what it seems when popular so-called scientific dogma presents itself before them.” When you find mention of evolution in a textbook, “point out the fallibility of the statement.”
- From Francis Beckett’s book, The Great City Academy Fraud, published in 2007 by Continuum.

Tony Blair said he was not concerned about schools being run by creationists as long as they got good exam results. In fact, despite having more resources, and carrying out selection (and in the Vardy case, more expulsions), Academies have not being do so well academically. But they have kept on spreading, and receiving government encouragement, and funding.

In 2010, Vardy's Emmanuel Schools Foundation announced it was handing over management of its schools, all in the North East, to the United Learning Trust (ULT), based in Oundle, Northamptonshire. ULT was formed in 2002 as a subsidiary of the United Church Schools Trust (UCST) which has been running independent schools in the UK since 1883.

ULT, whose connections include Vodafone UK Foundation, Honda and Barclays, is the sponsor of the Swindon and Stockport Academies and the William Hulme Grammar in Manchester, mentioned in the Gay Star News report. It subscribes to a "Church of England ethos". The Grace Academy in Coventry is run by the Grace Foundation, a registered charity founded by Bob Edmiston, of the evangelical international charity Christian Vision.

In recent years we may have relaxed our vigilance with Section 28 seeming out of the way. Just now there is a storm justifiably growing over similar legislation, as well as brutal homophobe attacks, in Putin's Russia. We might also need to wake up to some quieter reactionary developments in Britain.

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Friday, August 16, 2013

Massacre in Egypt

EGYPT is sliding into a bloody civil war in which the only outcome could be death and suffering for ordinary people, and misery whichever side wins.  According to official figures at least 600 people were killed on Wednesday when the Army opened fire on a Muslim Brotherhood-led protest against the military takeover of the country.

The Brotherhood says the true figure is over 2,000 dead. 

Egypt's ambassador to the UN claimed on BBC News Night that the armed forces were not using live ammunition! But the government has authorised the use of live ammunition today, in defence of government buildings and forces.

US Senator John Kerry has deplored the "violence", and Obama himself has urged restraint on both sides. Maybe the Egyptian military had been paying more attention to the advice in the Murdoch-owned Wall Street Journal recently that Egypt needed another Pinochet.

US joint manoeuvres with the Egyptian forces have been cancelled, but not yet aid and arms supplies. The EU too has reacted, and so has the UN. But not with anything like the response which NATO countries gave to repression and conflict in Libya or Syria.   

There have been attacks and arson, presumably the work of Islamicists, against not only government buildings but Christian churches. But as to the claims that Morsi supporters and the Muslim Brotherhood were responsible for initiating the bloodshed on Wednesday, this is not accepted by objective or foreign reporters. The Israeli newspaper Ma'ariv is hardly likely to sympathise with the Muslim Brotherhood, particularly when the Egyptian military appears to be turning its peace with Israel into a de facto alliance against the Palestinians. But its correspondent Nadav Eliav wrote yesterday (15 August 2013 7.04am):

"The Egyptian army rushed yesterday (Wednesday) to make available dimmed images of some individuals, allegedly members of the Muslim Brotherhood, firing weapons during the riots. The photos looked a bit suspicious, the weapons in them reminded some observers of obsolete carbines. What happened yesterday in Cairo was not a battle, but a bloodbath, something a lot closer to massacre than a struggle between two armed sides.

"Yesterday the Egyptian army carried out its own Hama massacre, albeit on a much smaller scale than that carried out in Syria by Bashar Assad's father, Hafez, about 30 years ago. Then and now, the purpose of the massacre was a deterrent, creating a balance of terror and making it clear to the Muslim Brotherhood who is the undisputed ruler. "

Here is a statement by the Revolutionary Socialists of Egypt, published today in Socialist Worker:
The bloody dissolution of the sit-ins in Al-Nahda Square and Raba'a al-Adawiyya is nothing but a massacre—prepared in advance. It aims to liquidate the Muslim Brotherhood. But, it is also part of a plan to liquidate the Egyptian Revolution and restore the military-police state of the Mubarak regime. The Revolutionary Socialists did not defend the regime of Mohamed Mursi and the Muslim Brotherhood for a single day. We were always in the front ranks of the opposition to that criminal, failed regime which betrayed the goals of the Egyptian Revolution. It even protected the pillars of the Mubarak regime and its security apparatus, armed forces and corrupt businessmen. We strongly participated in the revolutionary wave of 30 June. Neither did we defend for a single day the sit-ins by the Brotherhood and their attempts to return Mursi to power. But we have to put the events of today in their context, which is the use of the military to smash up workers' strikes. We also see the appointment of new provincial governors—largely drawn from the ranks of the remnants of the old regime, the police and military generals. Then there are the policies of General Abdel Fatah Al-Sisi's government. It has adopted a road-map clearly hostile to the goals and demands of the Egyptian revolution, which are freedom, dignity and social justice. This is the context for the brutal massacre which the army and police are committing. It is a bloody dress rehearsal for the liquidation of the Egyptian Revolution. It aims to break the revolutionary will of all Egyptians who are claiming their rights, whether workers, poor, or revolutionary youth, by creating a state of terror. However, the reaction by the Muslim Brotherhood and the Salafists in attacking Christians and their churches, is a sectarian crime which only serves the forces of counter-revolution. The filthy attempt to create a civil war, in which Egyptian Christians will fall victims to the reactionary Muslim Brotherhood, is one in which Mubarak's state and Al-Sisi are complicit, who have never for a single day defended the Copts and their churches. We stand firmly against Al-Sisi's massacres, and against his ugly attempt to abort the Egyptian Revolution. For today's massacre is the first step in the road towards counter-revolution. We stand with the same firmness against all assaults on Egypt's Christians and against the sectarian campaign which only serves the interests of Al-Sisi and his bloody project. Many who described themselves as liberals and leftists have betrayed the Egyptian Revolution, led by those who took part in Al-Sisi's government. They have sold the blood of the martyrs to whitewash the military and the counter-revolution. These people have blood on their hands. We, the Revolutionary Socialists, will never deviate for an instant from the path of the Egyptian Revolution. We will never compromise on the rights of the revolutionary martyrs and their pure blood: those who fell confronting Mubarak, those who fell confronting the Military Council, those who fell confronting Mursi's regime, and those who fall now confronting Al-Sisi and his dogs. Down with military rule! No the return of the old regime! No to the return of the Brotherhood! All power and wealth to the people

The Revolutionary Socialists 14 August 2013 Article information News Wed 14 Aug 2013, 16:19 BST Issue No. 2366

The Muslim Brotherhood has today called a Day of Anger against the government and the army. There are fears that Egypt could go through the kind of horrors Algeria underwent in the war between military and Islamists.

The Egyptian working class would suffer the most in such a war and has least to gain from the victory of either the Brotherhood or the Military. The workers' movement has the difficult task of uniting people under conditions of repression, terror and vengeance. We can only voice our solidarity and hope its courage and vision of a happier future is successful against these odds. 

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Wednesday, August 14, 2013

Captain Galloway suppresses Mutiny!

OH DEAR! Trouble at t'sea. Swashbuckling Cap'n George Galloway has had to put down a mutiny in the crew, who heard he planned to sail off again without them. He has threatened to make them walk the plank after suspending two of the troublemakers from the yardarm.

Well, suspending them anyway.

The Bradford West MP, first elected to parliament for Labour as Glasgow Hillhead  MP, later becoming MP for Bethnal Green and Bow as head of his own Respect party, returned to Glasgow for the 2011 Scottish elections, before winning his present seat in March last year. Now he is reported to be considering standing for Mayor of London.
The councillors, who were elected to Bradford council last May following Galloway's byelection victory that year, say he should resign as MP if he is serious about running for mayor of London. They may quit Respect and work as independents if necessary.

Galloway's response on Tuesday to their criticism was to suspend two councillors for disloyalty and accuse all five of "conspiring to seize executive power".
Galloway spoke about his mayoral ambitions in a media interview, saying he had a good chance against Boris Johnson and Ken Livingstone. The Bradford councillors complain they were given no warning of his plans.

 "It's a slap in the face for the people of Bradford," said Ishtiaq Ahmed, a mental health worker who represents the Manningham ward.  He claimed Galloway spent too little time in the city. "People are always asking me: where's George? This weekend I had more than 20 calls from constituents asking me why George is talking about London and not Bradford. As councillors we have only had one strategic meeting with him in the past year... I'm always reading on his Twitter feed about his appearances in Westminster, his Edinburgh Fringe show, his tour in Scotland – it sometimes feels as though he goes everywhere but Bradford."

Galloway says he is in the constituency almost every week, running a regular MP's surgery, and he can point to his recently taking up the defence of Bradford's media museum. But this does not answer concern that his sights are set elsewhere.

Alyas Karmani, a veteran youth worker who is leader of the Respect group in Bradford's City Hall, said: "If he really wants to be mayor of London, the campaigning starts now, and I don't see how he can be a good MP at the same time. In the meantime, he's still got two more years here [until the 2015 general election] and he should be here. We want him to be more visible in Bradford. George does make himself available here, but whether it's at the level we want is debatable."
Ahmed said: "Mr Galloway can't do both. If he says he is committed to Bradford then Bradford should be his priority. If he wants to run for London, he should think about stepping down as MP."

Galloway insists that he is no worse than any other MP, and asks how much time Ed Milliband spends in Doncaster. But the people who voted for him in Bradford thought he would be better than just any old MP. And with all due Respect, he does not carry the same burden of responsibility as the leader of the Labour Party.

What is most striking is the Respect MP's response to criticism:
When the Guardian contacted McKay on Tuesday morning for a response to the councillors' united criticism, Galloway suspended Ahmed and Shabbir from the Respect party. In an email Galloway accused the five councillors of attempting a power grab.
"Two of your sources for this latest attack... are already in the process of disciplinary action for factional disloyalty. They are jumping from your low bridge before they are pushed. It is a documented fact that for months now all five councillors have been conspiring to seize executive power in the Bradford party, so their motivation is more than a little suspect," he wrote.

He added: "There is high tension between the MP and them that's true. The MP's frustration with them is shared by many party members, and many of their constituents. Two of them are already facing disciplinary action and so I cannot comment on their cases meantime. All five, then unknown, were elected in the wake of my election victory. Does anyone doubt that they would never have been elected but for that? For months now they have been making concerted attempts to take control of the Bradford party, which I have strongly resisted."
I don't know any of these councillors. But I do know that when I visited Bradford some years ago there was already some discontent and frustration among people who would otherwise have been Labour supporters. One of the people I spoke to then was indeed a Labour councillor. I can well imagine that such people might have seen Galloway's candidature as the chance to make a change in local politics as well voting for someone whose anti-war stand and support for international causes they admired. Looking at the councillors with whom Galloway has fallen out, they seem like genuine community activists rather than just careerists out for themselves.

Would anyone only out for self-advancement have taken their chance on joining Respect?   For Galloway to jeer that they would never have been elected without his victory, shows his ego and contempt for the ordinary supporters without whom he would have stood no chance of getting in. But people who saw Galloway as a rebel standing up to New Labour leaders and US senators are now seeing how he treats anyone who rebels against himself. And if the reports are accurate, we are also seeing a political party in which the Leader can suspend people from membership, just like that. Ed Miliband must look on with envy at such powers!

I can remember when George Galloway was under fire for spending more time in the Big Brother House than in the Commons speaking up for his Bethnal Green and Bow constituents' interests. I remember seeing embarrassed SWP members trying to defend him, knowing that though they were at that time in Respect, Galloway had not been concerned in the slightest with what his fellow-members thought. Evidently some of the Respect members in Bradford have got more bottle.

I also keep seeing names prominent in the People's Assembly or this Left Unity effort, of people I remember telling us what a great leader George Galloway was and exhorting us to drop whatever else we were in and join Respect. Some put too much faith in leaders, and some are easily led.

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Sunday, August 11, 2013

Class in the Country

STRIKE SCHOOL at Burston. Its stones record the solidarity which came from far and wide to help build it.

THREE weeks from now I'll be with the crowd celebrating what has been called the longest strike in British history. It happened not in Liverpool or London, Bristol or Birmingham, nor even in the coalfields, but amid the fields of rural Norfolk, and it was started by schoolchildren.

They walked out when their teachers, Tom and Annie Higdon, were sacked from the village school at Burston, near Diss, after a dispute with the area's school management committee.

Already at their previous school the couple had upset the authorities by complaining about damp conditions, and objecting to local farmers pulling children out of school when they wanted them to work on the farm. At Burston they carried on the same. Tom Higden supported the farm workers' union, writing for its magazine, and to make matters worse, he stood successfully for the parish council, in 1913, heavily defeating the local Church of England rector, Reverend Charles Tucker Eland, who came bottom of the poll.

Burston village school was Church of England, and Eland had been appointed chairman of the School Managing Body.  Living in a comfy rectory, on an annual salary of £581, compared to the farm labourers' average £35 a year, he expected the respect and deference to go with it. The village schools were supposed to turn out docile farm labourers and skivvies, with just enough schooling to thank the Almighty for their lot on Sunday. The Higdons were plainly up to something different.

One morning when children had walked three miles to school in pouring rain, Kitty Higdon lit a fire so they could dry their clothes. She was charged with having a fire lit without the management committee's permission. A further charge was raised over a complaint about an alleged beating of two Barnardos' pupils. But in the end, though neither charge could stick, the Higdons were accused of "gross discourtesy" to the management and given notice.

On April 1,1914. as this was due to take effect, and the authorities were taking over, a commotion could be heard. It was the sound of children marching and singing. Some 66 of the school's 72 children walked out on strike, marching around the village waving flags. None of them returned to the school. Instead they began taking their lessons on the village green. A marquee was set up and later when the weather was bad they moved into a carpenters' workshop. This strike school was properly conducted, with a timetable, and orderly lessons.

It had the support of parents. The authorities were not so pleased, and took 18 parents to court for failing to ensure their children's attendance at school. Collections outside the court paid the fines, and since the parents were sending their children to the school of their choice, the authorities were soon forced to back down.

As word spread, the strike school caught the imagination of trade unionists, and the interest of educationalists. Visitors came, and speakers. The authorities kept up their intimidation, and some farmers sacked their labourers, which could also mean eviction from tied cottages. But with the World War I raging both food and workers were in demand. The workers had to be re-employed.  Still, strike families who rented land from the Rector for growing food were evicted and their crops and property destroyed. The village's Methodist preacher, who held services on the village green on Sundays for families of the Strike School children, was censured by his church.

At the end of the first year of the strike, with the lease on the old workshops due to expire, an appeal was made for funds to build a new school. By 1917, a National Appeal had reached £1250 with donations from miners' and railway workers' unions, Independent Labour Party branches and Co-operative societies. The new school was opened on 13 May 1917, with the leader of the 1914 demonstration, Violet Potter declaring, "With joy and thankfulness I declare this school open to be forever a School of Freedom".

STONES preserve history of donors like the Mountain Ash and Powell Duffryn miners' branches.

The Burston Strike School continued until 1939. Tom Higdon died on 17 August 1939. Kitty, in her seventies, was unable to carry on alone, and the last eleven pupils transferred to the Council School. Kitty died on 24 April 1946. Both are buried in Burston.

Every year since 1984 there have been regular rallies at Burston to commemorate the school strike. Unite the union, which incorporates the old National Union of Agricultural Workers which became part of the T&GWU, is the main organiser, but other unions and organisations are involved.

   This year's rally, on Sunday, September 1, will be chaired by Megan Dobney of the Southern and Eastern Region of the TUC, jointly with Pilgrim Tucker, Unite community organiser. Speakers include Mark Serwotka of the PCS. Entertainment is promised from Leon Rosselson, Red Flags, and the RMT brass band. Transport is being organised from London and other areas.

With the Con Dem coalition's attacks on so many things, from the Agricultural Wages Board to education and schools, the Burston rally and the struggle it commemorates should provide inspiration, and food for thought.

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Friday, August 09, 2013

'Auntie''s Favourites (and Unmentionables)

YEARS ago I knew two brothers from Willesden Green. Both had been in the Labour Party youth section, but whereas one, Cyril, became a Marxist, lecturing for a time at the London School of Economics (LSE), his brother Tony, down from Oxford to the BBC, was a committed Fabian.

One Budget Day a BBC crew were out on the street interviewing people near LSE when Cyril came along. Before the interviewer could step up to him with a mike, an anxious figure came zooming out from somewhere exclaiming "Not him! Not him!" It was Tony from the Beeb, ensuring brother Cyril's incendiary views were not broadcast to the nation.

That story is quite old, and may only concern two individuals, but a few years ago after the government announced it was scrapping plans for a third runway at Heathrow I watched a TV interview with MPs who had opposed airport expansion. They spoke to a Tory or two, and a Lib Dem, I think from Kingston. In the background, you could see left-wing Labour MP John McDonnell chatting to someone, maybe a constituent. Some pleasant parts of John's constituency would disappear under the concrete if the runway had gone ahead. But the interviewer never reached him. Perhaps there just wasn't time, or maybe the interviewers thought John McDonnell was still banned from airtime, as he seemed to be while he was challenging for the Labour Party leadership.

The criteria for whom the BBC invites and whom it excludes may not always be obvious, but nor are they random, or decisions left to individuals.  The individual broadcasters must learn whom or what is acceptable, and what best avoided.

Perhaps the best known case of the Corporation taking a political decision - whether or not it did so on its own - was at the beginning of 2009 when it refused to allow a charity appeal for people in Gaza. It seemed the Season of Peace and Goodwill to All had been cancelled.

  There have been less well known examples. On May 25, 1995, Yugoslav Youth Day, a Serb mortar attack on a cafe area in Tuzla killed 71, mostly young people, and injured hundreds more.  The mayor of Tuzla radioed the UN saying "Tonight we are picking up the pieces of our children".

It so happened that a man from Tuzla, parent of two, was visiting London at the time, and offered to go into the BBC studio to be interviewed. His name is Faruk Ibrahimovic and he speaks perfect English. The Beeb told him he would not be needed.  On Radio Four next morning they had their regular guests from the Serb Information Centre, messrs. Gasic and Gavrilovic, to deny that Karadzic's forces could be responsible for the slaughter of the innocents.

Earlier at the outbreak of the Bosnian war I heard a TV news announcer say that "the Muslim authorities" in a particular town were investigating a murder. For a moment, as I entered the room I wondered naively why the religious authorities were entrusted with such matters, but what I saw on TV was an ordinary Bosnian police car. Perhaps the driver was a Muslim, perhaps not. You would not expect a report on crime in London to say it was being investigated by the Anglican church authorities ( nor even , as a friend adds, the Masons!) But throughout the Bosnia war the Beeb would only refer to Bosniacs as "the Muslims". I don't think they ever got around to interviewing visiting Bosnian General Jovan Divjak (who happened to be Serb), nor diplomat Sven Alkali (a Sefardi Jew), as this would only have confused the poor listeneners and viewers.  (Though General Divjak  appeared in the BBC documentary The Death of Yugoslavia).

I think the BBC's coverage of the Bosnian conflict had been slanted to serve the dominant faction at the Foreign and Commonwealth Office, for which official recognition of Bosnia and Herzegovina as a state was reluctant, and blamed on German pressure: whereas Britain's arms embargo (cf it's 'non-intervention' policy re Spain), and belief in partition (these foreigners only want to kill one another) went with an inclination to support traditional allies, the nationalist Serbs. However it was only some time later that Dame (now Baroness) Pauline Neville-Jones, who had been Lord Hurd's chief of the Joint Intelligence Committee, became a BBC governor.      

On November 2, 2005, the BBC TV London news had a report on the Skies Are Weeping concert, dedicated to American campaigner Rachel Corrie, killed by an Israeli army bulldozer in Gaza. The concert, for which Rachel's mother had flown over, had taken place at the Hackney Empire the night before. It was the world premiere of a cantata dedicated to Rachel Corrie by American composer Philip Munger.

 Having given the event no previous publicity, the Beeb's coverage focused on its "controversial" nature, featuring a small Zionist demonstration outside, and giving the last word to the demonstration's organiser Jonathan Hoffman. I wondered why the reporters had not interviewed the concert's organiser and soprano Deborah Fink, who could have told them that there were far more Jewish people like herself enjoying and participating in the concert, and more Jewish people among the celebrity sponsors, than Mr.Hoffman's sorry bunch, which included Kahanists and Christian Zionists, outside. It turned they had interviewed Deborah, who explained to them what it was about and why Jewish people were involved along with Palestinians and others. But someone must have decided that this was all too much to take in, and so Deborah Fink was simply edited out, and became an unperson, while not for the last time, Jonathan Hoffman of the Zionist Federation became a star. On February 16, 2006 the BBC sent Deborah an apology, admitting they had given a misleading impression. It was not the last time they had to apologise for news items in which Mr.Hoffman has appeared.

Still I suppose the BBC's belated and inadequate coverage of the Skies Are Weeping concert compares favourably with its two year blackout on the Liverpool docks strike and lockout, only lifted by Robbie Fowler revealing a dockers' support tee shirt to the cameras on Match of the Day.   

University lecturer and East End councillor Rania Hafez recently found herself invited to discuss women's rights and Islam on BBC One with none other than Tommy Robinson, alias Stephen Yaxley-Lennon, of the English Defence League. Amenable though she might be to civilised discussion, Ms. Hafez decided that the ex-BNP founder of the EDL was not someone suitable with whom she wished to have a friendly chat, nor would she lend herself to BBC programme makers' pretence that he was.

To Yaxley Lennon and Nick Griffin, we must add another offensive personality for whom the BBC seems to have a soft spot lately, and that is the Israeli musician Gilead Atzmon. Now if the BBC wants to broadcast him on sax with his Orient House ensemble or whatever I've no objection. He is entitled to pursue his profession, and his music has given a lot of people pleasure. He only becomes  objectionable when he takes the saxophone out of his mouth.

But the BBC's Persian service, for instance, seems to have decided lately that its Iranian audience could not get enough of Atzmon on the Iranian government-sponsored Press TV, and they must have more of him assuring listeners he is not an antisemite before explaining his antipathy towards "Jewish identity" and other sins on the BBC.

If the BBC wanted to find an Israeli dissident to interview, there is no shortage to hand these days. There's Professor Ilan Pappe, author of 'The Ethic Cleansing of Palestine' , who is at Exeter, and Iraqi-born Avi Shlaim at Oxford. Miri Weingarten, of Physicians for Human Rights is here in London, as is journalist Rachel Shabi.  Moshe Machover, a founder of the left-wing group Matzpen is a professor emeritus of Queen Mary's College, and in touch with left-wing Iranians through his activity in Hands Off the People of Iran (HOPI), which supports workers resisting the Islamic regime and opposes war and sanctions. Such people and their views might be of interest to the Iranian audience, even if they are not good sax players.

But unlike Atzmon, they have not taken sides with Holocaust deniers, hinted that the Protocols of the Elders of Zion might contain some truth, or spent their time denouncing the motives of Jews who are on the Left and involved in pro-Palestinian and anti-Zionist campaigns. All of which makes me wonder what are the motives of the BBC in providing a platform for Atzmon?

Still, I see his latest interview is on You Tube, and being touted around as "superb" by David Icke's supporters. So maybe Icke too will soon be on the Beeb,  expounding his view that the Royal Family are descended from reptiles. At least that should be more entertaining than Atzmon. 


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Thursday, August 08, 2013

For Seattle council: Conlin against Sawant, O’Brien against Shen

Seattle Times staff reporter

Seattle City Council incumbent Richard Conlin will face Kshama Sawant, a Seattle Central Community College economics instructor, in the November general election. Incumbent Mike O’Brien will square off against engineering consultant Albert Shen.
Don’t look for an overarching theme in the first-day returns for the two primary races.
Sawant, a socialist, says she’s challenging Conlin because the four-term incumbent is too conservative for Seattle. Brian Carver, the other Conlin challenger, raised more in campaign contributions than Sawant, but she touted endorsements from The Stranger, local labor unions and activists including Real Change director Tim Harris.
Conlin collected 49 percent of the vote to Sawant’s 33 percent and Carver’s 17 percent.
In the other council race, Shen says O’Brien, a one-termer, is too close to Mayor Mike McGinn. David Ishii, the other candidate challenging O’Brien, did not mount a serious campaign.
O’Brien won 57 percent to Shen’s 35 percent.
The two races will offer voters a real contrast in candidates.
Conlin, 65, was an early adopter of environmental sustainability and has been the council’s chief advocate for urban agriculture. He’s been endorsed by environmental, labor, business and Democratic Party groups. He has raised over $100,000 more than either of his opponents.
Sawant, 40, is running as a “socialist alternative” candidate. She ran for the Legislature last year against House Speaker Frank Chopp. She supports a $15-per-hour minimum wage, rent control and a tax on millionaires. She criticizes Conlin as the candidate of the corporate establishment. She has raised approximately $20,000 in campaign contributions. Conlin has raised $143,000.
O’Brien, 45, a former local Sierra Club activist, is considered McGinn’s most reliable ally on the council. He has successfully pushed onto the November ballot a proposal to have taxpayers finance council campaigns. And he led the council to increase affordable-housing fees for developers in South Lake Union. He’s been endorsed by numerous labor unions and Democratic Party groups.

Saturday, August 03, 2013

How the Bank of England helped Hitler loot Czech gold

REFUGEES from Czechoslovakia, like this Jewish couple detained at Croydon airport on March 31, 1939, were not warmly welcomed.
But Nazis were welcome to help themselves to Czech wealth, thanks to Bank of England.


SEVERAL newspapers this week carried the story this week of how the Bank of England assisted Nazi Germany to lay its hands on the Czechoslovak gold deposit, sent abroad for safe keeping. This was a valuable asset to the Nazis wageing war.
Though this story is not new, it is confirmed now in the Bank's own official report, released for the first time.  As Adam Lebor writes in the Daily Telegraph, (Jyly 31) "The documents reveal a shocking story: just six months before Britain went to war with Nazi Germany, the Bank of England willingly handed over 5.6 million pounds worth of gold to Hitler - and it belonged to another country.

"The official history of the bank, written in 1950 but posted online for the first time on Tuesday, reveals how we betrayed Czechoslovakia - not just with the infamous Munich agreement of September 1938, which allowed the Nazis to annex the Sudetenland, but also in London, where Montagu Norman, the eccentric but ruthless governor of the Bank of England agreed to surrender gold owned by the National Bank of Czechoslovakia.

"The Czechoslovak gold was held in London in a sub-account in the name of the Bank for International Settlements, the Basel-based bank for central banks. When the Nazis marched into Prague in March 1939 they immediately sent armed soldiers to the offices of the National Bank.

"The Czech directors were ordered, on pain of death, to send two transfer requests. The first instructed the BIS to transfer 23.1 metric tonnes of gold from the Czechoslovak BIS account, held at the Bank of England, to the Reichsbank BIS account, also held at Threadneedle Street.

"The second order instructed the Bank of England to transfer almost 27 metric tonnes of gold held in the National Bank of Czechoslovakia’s own name to the BIS’s gold account at the Bank of England.

..... "The Czechoslovak bank officials believed that as the orders had obviously been carried out under duress neither would be allowed to go through.

"But they had not reckoned on the bureaucrats running the BIS and the determination of Montagu Norman to see that procedures were followed, even as his country prepared for war with Nazi Germany. His decision caused uproar, both in the press and in Parliament".

Indeed, the financial journalist Paul Einzig had got hold of the Czech gold story and contacted George Strauss, the Labour MP for North Lambeth, who asked Prime Minister Neville Chamberlain on May 15, 1939: "Is it true, sir, that the national treasure of Czechoslovakia is being given to Germany?".

Chamberlain - a major shareholder in ICI, which had links with IG Farben in Germany and was a corporate member of the Anglo-German Fellowship -denied it.  Chamberlain's Chancellor of the Exchequer, Sir John Simon, denied knowing anything about it. But the row had just started.

As Adam Lebor writes:
"George Strauss, a Labour MP, spoke for many when he thundered in Parliament: 'The Bank for International Settlements is the bank which sanctions the most notorious outrage of this generation - the rape of Czechoslovakia.’

"Winston Churchill demanded to know how the government could ask its citizens to enlist in the military when it was ‘so butter-fingered that pounds 6 million worth of gold can be transferred to the Nazi government’.

"It was a good question. Thanks to Norman and the BIS, Nazi Germany had just looted 23.1 tonnes of gold without a shot being fired. The second transfer order, for the gold held in the National Bank of Czechoslovakia’s own name, did not go through. Sir John Simon, the Chancellor of the Exchequer, had instructed banks to block all Czechoslovak assets."

Others have explained that the gold did not have to be shipped from London. The Bank of England authorised its partner in the Bank of International Settlement (BIS) in Basle to deduct $40 million from the Bank of England's holding there, and then replaced it from the Czech National Bank holding in London. 

 The BIS was set up under the Young Plan, which provided for US loans to Germany to help it meet World War I reparations. The German banker Hjalmar Schacht publically denounced the Young Plan, and took charge of  big business fundraising for the Nazi party, but according to Adam Lebor:

"The BIS was founded in 1930, in effect by Montagu Norman and his close friend Hjalmar Schacht, the former president of the Reichsbank, known as the father of the Nazi economic miracle. Schacht even referred to the BIS as ‘my’ bank. The BIS is a unique hybrid: a commercial bank protected by international treaty. Its assets can never be seized, even in times of war. It pays no taxes on profits."

"The Bank of England’s historian argued that to refuse the transfer order would have been a breach of Britain’s treaty obligations with regard to the BIS. In fact there was a powerful counter-argument that the Nazi invasion of Czechoslovakia had rendered any such obligations null and void as the country no longer existed".
(Indeed Hitler had declared triumphantly "Czechoslovakia has ceased to exist").

"A key sentence in the Bank of England documents is found on page 1,295. It reads: ‘‘The general attitude of the Bank of England directors of the BIS during the war was governed by their anxiety to keep the BIS to play its part in the solution of post-war problems’’.

"And here the secret history of the BIS and its strong relationship with the Bank of England becomes ever more murky. During the war the BIS proclaimed that it was neutral, a view supported by the Bank of England. In fact the BIS was so entwined with the Nazi economy that it helped keep the Third Reich in business. It carried out foreign exchange deals for the Reichsbank; it accepted looted Nazi gold; it recognised the puppet regimes installed in occupied countries, which, together with the Third Reich, soon controlled the majority of the bank’s shares.

"Indeed, the BIS was so useful for the Nazis that Emil Puhl, the vice-president of the Reichsbank and BIS director, referred to the BIS as the Reichsbank’s only 'foreign branch’. The BIS’s reach and connections were vital for Germany. So much so, that all through the war, the Reichsbank continued paying interest on the monies lent by the BIS. This interest was used by the BIS to pay dividends to shareholders - which included the Bank of England.

"Thus, through the BIS, the Reichsbank was funding the British war economy. After the war, five BIS directors were tried for war crimes, including Schacht. ‘They don’t hang bankers,’ Schacht supposedly said, and he was right - he was acquitted."

Indeed, by the 1960s, Schacht was back in business, turning up in countries like Iraq and Indonesia after CIA-backed coups had led to massacres of commumists and trade unionists, making these places safe and profitable for Western big business. 

Lebor continues:
"Buried among the typewritten pages of the Bank of England’s history is a name of whom few have ever heard, a man for whom, like Montagu Norman, the primacy of international finance reigned over mere national considerations.

"Thomas McKittrick, an American banker, was president of the BIS. When the United States entered the war in December 1941, McKittrick’s position, the history notes, ‘became difficult’. But McKittrick managed to keep the bank in business, thanks in part to his friend Allen Dulles, the US spymaster based in Berne.

"McKittrick was an asset of Dulles, known as Codename 644, and frequently passed him information that he had garnered from Emil Puhl, who was a frequent visitor to Basel and often met McKittrick.

"Declassified documents in the American intelligence archives reveal an even more disturbing story. Under an intelligence operation known as the ‘Harvard Plan’, McKittrick was in contact with Nazi industrialists, working towards what the US documents, dated February 1945, describe as a ‘‘close cooperation between the Allied and German business world’’.

"Thus while Allied soldiers were fighting through Europe, McKittrick was cutting deals to keep the Germany economy strong. This was happening with what the US documents describe as ‘the full assistance’ of the State Department.

"The Bank of England history also makes disparaging reference to Harry Dexter White, an official in the Treasury Department, who was a close ally of Henry Morgenthau, the Treasury Secretary. Morgenthau and White were the BIS’s most powerful enemies and lobbied hard at Bretton Woods in July 1944, where the Allies met to plan the post-war financial system, for the BIS to be closed.

White, the Bank history notes rather sneeringly, had said of the BIS: ‘‘There is an American president doing business with the Germans while our boys are fighting the Germans.’’

"Aided by its powerful friends, such as Montagu Norman, Allen Dulles and much of Wall Street, the BIS survived the attempts by Morgenthau and White to close it down. The bank’s allies used precisely the argument detailed on page 1,295 of the Bank of England’s history: the BIS was needed to plan the post-war European economy".

With his brother John Foster Dulles as US Secretary of State, Allan Dulles as head of the CIA was a powerful figure in US global hegemony and the Cold War. Harking back to the IG Farben connection, pro-Soviet and Czech propaganda pointed to the Dulles' brothers links via Standard Oil, but oddly failed to get on to the Bank of International Settlement.

It is interesting that the Bank of England report was drawn up in 1950 and yet has only just been published. Perhaps 1950 was too close to the Second World War, and too far into the Cold War. Two years before the Communists had seized power in Prague and the Western powers set up NATO. In 1950 the Korean war began, and West German rearmament was beginning.

The next question is why, apart from the bad name which bankers have gained,  the story is suddenly newsworthy. Maybe there's a clue in what Adam Lebor goes on to say.

"From the 1950s to the 1990s the BIS hosted much of the planning and technical preparation for the introduction of the euro. Without the BIS the euro would probably not exist. In 1994, Alexander Lamfalussy, the former BIS manager, set up the European Monetary Institute, now known as the European Central Bank.

"The BIS remains very profitable. It has only about 140 customers (it refuses to say how many) but made a tax-free profit of about 900 million pounds last year. Every other month it hosts the Global Economy Meetings, where 60 of the most powerful central bankers, including Mark Carney, Governor of the Bank of England, meet.

"The BIS also hosts the Basel Committee on Banking Supervision, which regulates commercial banks, and the new Financial Stability Board, which coordinates national regulatory authorities."

Adam LeBor is the author of ’Tower of Basel: The Shadowy History of the Secret Bank That Runs the World’, published by PublicAffairs.

See also: 

The economic background to appeasement, and the search for Anglo-German detente before and during World War II.


Charles Higham, Trading With the Enemy.

Adam Lebor, Hitler's Secret Bankers

John Weitz , Hitler's Banker

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Thursday, August 01, 2013

Class War in Pacific Islands

HAWAII is a faraway place I'd associate with fantastic holidays, hula skirts, ukuleles and a long gone TV police series, naturally more blue sky than film noire. Apart from its being the only US state with a union jack in its flag, I've little idea of its history from the death of Captain Cook in a fight to the attack on Pearl Harbour, and more recently the birth of Barack Obama.

Happy the nation without history, as someone said, but thanks to a Facebook page called Bread and Roses, I learn that on this day 75 years ago a place called Hilo in Hawaii took its place in both Pacific island and US labour history.

"The 'HILO MASSACRE' occurred on August 1, 1938, in Hilo, Hawaii, when over 70 police officers attempted to disband 200 unarmed protesters during a dock strike, and injured 50 of the demonstrators. The strike leading to the Hilo Massacre was a multi-ethnic, multi-union mass effort that began on February 4, 1938. The unions involved were the Honolulu Waterfront Workers’ Association, the Inland Boatmen’s Union (IBU), the International Longshoremen and Warehousmen’s Union (ILWU), the Metal Trades Council, the Quarryworkers International Union of North America and the Women's Auxiliary of the ILWU.

"Workers demanded wages equal to what workers on the West Coast earned, among other demands. On the other side was the Inter-Island Steamship Company, owned by one of the “Big Five” companies that dominated Hawaii’s economic and political scene at that time—Castle & Cooke, and by the Matson Navigation Company.

"The Inter-Island Steamship Company refused the workers’ demands, leading to a strike at the port where the SS Waialeale, crewed by scabs, was to arrive. About 170-180 workers were on the docks when police opened fire with shotguns on the unarmed strikers. The 50 workers injured included two women and two children.

"We remember".

For more on the massacre, including video footage:

...And now in Fiji

Coming up to date, and in another "island paradise", part of the British Commonwealth
Fijian sugar workers have voted to on strike, as reported by Radio Australia.

Fiji sugar workers vote to strike despite 'intimidation' (Credit: ABC)
Their union says attempts were made by to intimidate the union with police and military officers present at the polling places, and threats from management to forward the names of those participating in the ballot to the coup installed military government.

67.5 per cent of the membership voted, of which 90% voted in favour of strike action, which fulfils the legal requirement for strike action.
Sugar is vital to Fiji's economy, and the interim government is reported to have said the mills will be kept open despite a strike. That sets the stage for a potential showdown between the interim government and the trade union movement.
Sugar and General Workers Union General Secretary, Felix Anthony, says the Fiji Sugar Corporation and the interim government went to great lengths to stop workers participating in the strike vote.
Radio Australia has approached the interim government and the Fiji Sugar Corporation to comment, but neither has responded so far.

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