Sunday, September 30, 2007

Umdumo Wesizwe

Yesterday on Fargate in Sheffield, I had the good fortune to sit down in the open air with my wife just as a busking-style performance commenced directly in front of us by the above group from Bulawayo in Zimbabwe. Having already given performances in the area at Buxton, Barnsley and Sheffield they are due to gives further performances at October's Black History Month at Sheffield Hallam University.

We bought a copy of their CD "nqi ngqo..." (i.e. the sound made by the ringing of a bell) which I am listening to as I post this item. A taster can be found on their web-site here.

Umdumo Wesizwe show what a fine country Zimbabwe can become if it is given half a chance.

Counting In Afghanistan

Things have been peculiar with this blog over the past few days. I have just noticed that my profile has been claiming that I am an Accountant living in Afghanistan. So I have moved back into retirement in the United Kingdom. I hope there are no more outstanding problems. The glitches are, of course, due to the fact that "a" is the first letter in the alphabet.

Friday, September 28, 2007

That Man From Iran

For the video of President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad's speech at Columbia University see this item posted by Iraqi Mojo. For a response to the claim in his speech that "in Iran we don't have homosexuals, like in your country", see this as posted by Rantings Of A Sandmonkey.

Thursday, September 27, 2007

Can International Islam Resolve The Dilemma of Iraq?

The Badr Brigade and the Mehdi Army have been major disruptive forces based in the Shia areas of Iraq. They cover some 65,000 combatants and have directed themselves against (a) Coalition Forces, (b) the Sunni (especially those elements who are themselves organised into a variety of competing terrorists groups), and (c) each other. They have also infiltrated the Iraqi administration and what should be its forces of law and order.

The religious leader of the Shia in Iraq is the Grand Ayatollah Al al-Sistani. He has often seemed to be a respected figure in the background as the men of violence gained our attention. But there are periods at which his position comes very much to the fore. This started soon after the invasion when he issued a fatwa against Bremer's proposals to have the Iraqi Constitution written by outsiders. He stressed the need to transfer power to Iraqis as soon as possible.

He has now made a welcome appeal to Shiite tribal leaders to leave aside their divisions with the Sunni. His voice is widely revered.

Furthermore Shiite and Sunni tribal chiefs are said to be pondering the possibility of forming an alliance against terrorism around the 10 point "Mecca Document" which has emerged from the Organisation of the Islamic Conference which represents all 57 Islamic Nations. I have stressed this body's potential in the recent past.

The Mecca Document also has the approval of Sistani. He has also today had a significant meeting with the Sunni Vice-President of Iraq.

It would be quite something if it was International Islam who made the major move to give the Iraqi people the decent future they need.

6-5, Then And Now

I regret not making Sheffield FC's cup game at home to Gresley Rovers on Tuesday evening. It was a 5-5 draw at full time and Sheffield went on to grab the winner in extra time. Here is a report of what I missed.

When I was a youngster of 14 I remember being in the lengthy queue at a shop at Easington Colliery waiting for copies of the Football Echo to arrive by van from Sunderland to read about Sunderland's 6-5 defeat at Derby County. I remember someone moaning about the result as it meant we had fallen to 19th in the old First Division, which contained 22 teams in those days. Yet I thought that scoring 5 in a match could not all be bad.

The report said that Dicky Davis was unlucky not to get a late equaliser which would have given him a hat-trick. Besides we were handicapped, Shackleton wasn't in our team due to injury.

Things picked up as the season progressed. Sunderland got to the quarter finals of the FA Cup, losing in a reply at Wolves. In a cup game against Norwich, the great Willie Watson scored the best goal I ever saw at Sunderland's old ground at Roker Park. We also rose to end up 13th in League.

So even though I missed out on Tuesday, the result still revived memories from 57 years ago - with the help of a notebook I used to keep on our games. Unfortunately, it was probably these experiences of Saturday's game which deterred me from seeing Tuesday night's football feast.

Tuesday, September 25, 2007

Iraq : Which Troops Should Get Out?

The article I posted in July on Iraqi Trade Unions was subsequently covered in Harry's Place and this led to a lengthy debate in its comment box. As a consequence of the debate and under pointed questioning, I came to clarify my position about whether to have foreign troops in Iraq.

I argued (a) for the removal of mercenaries and (b) the replacement of Coalition forces by troops from Islamic nations (other than the nations surrounding Iraq). On the later it needs to be remembered that more than half of the world's Muslims forces live in South and South East Asia; whilst Islam is the world's second largest religion and isn't dominated by political extremists.

Since I represented my case the urgent need for point (a) has been furthered by the Blackwater's disgraceful operations in Iraq. I then dealt with this matter here, here, here, here, and here. The case for the replacement of American troops (in particular) is now advanced HERE. For such acts are in the style of Blackwater themselves.

Football In A Time Warp

Is There Anybody There?

Sheffield FC's home game against Warrington Town on Saturday initially looked as if it would never start. Later it felt as if it would never end.

I had settled in my place at the ground just before the scheduled kick-off of 3 pm. A few Sheffield players were aimlessly kicking a ball around, but the strips they were wearing weren't the ones they use on match days.

Eventually, an announcement informed us that the Warrington team's bus was delayed. Around 3.10 pm we were told that it had now turned up and the match would start at 3.35 pm. Yet immediately a couple of their players rushed on the pitch to get some practice in. Perhaps they were an advance guard who had arrived by car.

Where Were You At 3 O'clock?

As matters finally got underway eight young men displaying a Sheffield FC banner were stood at the back of the small seated section whilst hammering the metal shelter with their hands. They shouted "Sheffield! Sheffield! Sheffield!" and then "Yorkshire! Yorkshire! Yorkshire!". They only dropped the later chant when it was pointed out to them that the home ground they were situated in is actually in "Derbyshire! Derbyshire! Derbyshire!".

They then took to shouting "Where Were You A 3 O'clock" at the Warrington team. This wasn't the wisest tactic as Warrington responded by almost scoring precisely at 4 O'clock.

Against The Run Of Play

Initially, Warrington seemed to be suffering from jet-lag, but then Sheffield began to look as if the long wait from the kick-off had overcome them.

It took almost 20 minutes for the game to come to life. Sheffield striker Vill Powell suddenly went into overdrive - smashing shots past the post, missing clear chances and setting up others who failed to take advantage of their opportunities. It was all goal chances and corners for Sheffield.

So the inevitable happened, Chris Moore of Warrington scored from a half-chance after 37 Minutes. His team led 1-0 at half-time.

Dug Out And Dug In

I dashed to the Coach and Horses for my half-time pint, but the delayed start must have wrong-footed the bar staff. Initially, there was only one person serving to deal with the crush at the bar.

Inevitably, I was late back for the second half. But being late was the order of the day.

Ten minutes into the second half, the referee fell to the ground. On rushed our trainer and eventually the referee was helped off the pitch. He was replaced by an Assistant Referee, but there was another hold-up as it had to be sorted out who would then substitute for the Assistant Referee for his line duties.

When someone emerged from what seemed to be the Sheffield dug-out on the far side of the pitch to undertake the task, it was decided to swap his place with the Assistant running the line on our side of the pitch which housed the Warrington dug-out. Presumably, they could keep an eye on what he was up to.

As you can imagine, this all took a considerable amount of time. But by now I had lost count.

When Will It Ever End?

The game lasted that long that the weather kept alternating between heavy rain and bright sunshine. For the last 10 minutes, the foodlights had to be switched on. I had to ring my wife on my mobile to tell her I might not be back until supper-time.

Although the game went on and on, Sheffield could not get the equaliser and the substitute referee finally blow the whistle at 5.38 pm. I think that he actually ended the match a little early. No doubt Warrington had a bus to catch.

Even so, the game ended a good 45 minutes after what would normally have been the case. It was as if we had played a third-half.

Before I caught a bus back up Wreakes Lane, there was just time to slip back into the Coach and Horses who now had a full bar staff. When I got home I discovered that my other team, Sunderland had managed what Sheffield FC didn't - a late equaliser. But then Sunderland hadn't been placed in a time warp.

Tonight Sheffield FC have a home Cup game which is scheduled for a 7.45 pm kick-off. I am in two minds whether to go. After all what if the Gresley Town's bus is late, the game might drag on way past my bed-time.

Crowd 280 - Click here for the authorised version of the Club's report.

Monday, September 24, 2007

Great News From Grant

Grant has placed the following welcome news in my comment box. We are all in his debt.

Monday, September 24, 2007 4:58:00 PM, Political Opinions said...
Harry, largely thanks to your blog and the support received from other blogs and emails - I have decided to restart the Political Opinions site - albeit with a few modifications - I no longer hold articles for more than 30 days and no longer display the first 250 characters of an article - just the title.

Thanks,

Grant

Top 100 Left Of Centre Blogs

Here is Iain Dale's list, with links.. I have moved up from 70th position to 21st. All I now need are legal threats from Usmanov to get rid of the 20 above me! Oh, Sorry Bob!

For his other lists see elsewhere on Iain Dale's blog.

NOTE

This is the 200th item I have posted on this blog. But see item 201 above for the big celebration.

Our Pipe Line Is Back

Good News. Bob Piper's Blog is up and running again. He had been caught up in the obnoxious legal threat issued on behalf of Usmanov (the would-be owner of Arsenal) which stopped the the operation of the sites run by Craig Murray and Tim Ireland. Unfortunately, Craig and Tim's sites are still down.

Bob provides an invaluable list of links in the first item he posted upon his return. Given the ending of Grant's site "Political Opinions", Bob's links are well worth keeping.

The return of Bob, plus his list means that the Blogging Desert which I referred to earlier shows signs of containing an oasis. There is an old Persian saying which comes to mind - "as long as the roots of the plant are in the water there is still hope." Welcome back, Bob.

UPDATE

Bob tells me his list comes from the site entitled Chicken Yoghurt, which provides a great service by even facilitating PC illiterates like myself to reproduce the following -

Curious Hamster, Pickled Politics, Harry’s Place, Tim Worstall, Dizzy, Iain Dale, Ten Percent, Blairwatch, Davide Simonetti, Earthquake Cove, Turbulent Cleric (who suggests dropping a line to the FA about Mr Usmanov), Mike Power, Jailhouse Lawyer, Suesam, Devil’s Kitchen, The Cartoonist, Falco, Casualty Monitor, Forever Expat, Arseblog, Drink-soaked Trots (and another), Pitch Invasion, Wonko’s World, Roll A Monkey, Caroline Hunt, Westminster Wisdom, Chris K, Anorak, Mediawatchwatch, Norfolk Blogger, Chris Paul, Indymedia (with a list of Craig Murray’s articles that are currently unavailable), Obsolete, Tom Watson, Cynical Chatter, Reactionary Snob, Mr Eugenides, Matthew Sinclair, The Select Society, Liberal England, Davblog, Peter Gasston Pitch Perfect, Adelaide Green Porridge Cafe, Lunartalks, Tygerland, The Crossed Pond, Our Kingdom, Big Daddy Merk, Daily Mail Watch, Graeme’s, Random Thoughts, Nosemonkey, Matt Wardman, Politics in the Zeros, Love and Garbage, The Huntsman, Conservative Party Reptile, Ellee Seymour, Sabretache, Not A Sheep, Bartholomew’s Notes on Religion, The People’s Republic Of Newport, Life, the Universe & Everything, Arsenal Transfer Rumour Mill, The Green Ribbon, Blood & Treasure, The Last Ditch, Areopagitica, Football in Finland, An Englishman’s Castle, Freeborn John, Eursoc, The Back Four, Rebellion Suck!, Ministry of Truth, ModernityBlog, Beau Bo D’Or, Scots and Independent, The Splund, Bill Cameron, Podnosh, Dodgeblogium, Moving Target, Serious Golmal, Goonerholic, The Spine, Zero Point Nine, Lenin’s Tomb, The Durruti Column, The Bristol Blogger, ArseNews, David Lindsay, Quaequam Blog!, On A Quiet Day…, Kathz’s Blog, England Expects, Theo Spark, Duncan Borrowman, Senn’s Blog, Katykins, Jewcy, Kevin Maguire, Stumbling and Mumbling, Famous for 15 megapixels, Ordovicius, Tom Morris, AOL Fanhouse, Doctor Vee, The Curmudgeonly, The Poor Mouth, 1820, Hangbitch, Crooked Timber, ArseNole, Identity Unknown, Liberty Alone, Amused Cynicism, Clairwil, The Lone Voice, Tampon Teabag, Unoriginalname38, Special/Blown It, The Remittance Man, 18 Doughty Street, Laban Tall, Martin Bright, Spy Blog The Exile, poons, Jangliss, Who Knows Where Thoughts Come From?, Imagined Community, A Pint of Unionist Lite, Poldraw, Disillusioned And Bored, Error Gorilla, Indigo Jo, Swiss Metablog, Kate Garnwen Truemors, Asn14, D-Notice, The Judge, Political Penguin, Miserable Old Fart, Jottings, fridgemagnet, Blah Blah Flowers, J. Arthur MacNumpty, Tony Hatfield, Grendel, Charlie Whitaker, Matt Buck, The Waendel Journal, Marginalized Action Dinosaur, SoccerLens, Toblog, John Brissenden East Lower, Electronic Frontier Foundation, Peter Black AM, Boing Boing, BLTP, Gunnerblog, LFB UK, Liberal Revolution, Wombles, Focus on Sodbury…, Follow The Money, Freedom and Whisky, Melting Man, PoliticalHackUK, Simon Says…, Daily EM, From The Barrel of a Gun, The Fourth Place, The Armchair News Blog, Journalist und Optimist, Bristol Indymedia, Dave Weeden, Up North John, Gizmonaut, Spin and Spinners, Marginalia, Arnique, Heather Yaxley, The Whiskey Priest, On The Beat, Paul Canning, Martin Stabe, Mat Bowles, Pigdogfucker, Rachel North, B3TA board, Naqniq, Yorkshire Ranter, The Home Of Football, UFO Breakfast Recipients, Moninski , Kerching, e-clectig, Mediocracy, Sicily Scene, Samizdata, I blog, they blog, weblog, Colcam, Some Random Thoughts, Bel is thinking, Vino S, Simply Jews, Atlantic Free Press, Registan, Filasteen, Britblog Roundup #136, Scientific Misconduct Blog, Adam Bowie, Duncan at Abcol, Camera Anguish, A Very British Dude, Whatever, Central News, Green Gathering, Leighton Cooke (224).

Saturday, September 22, 2007

Labour's Pre-Conference National Executive Commitee Meeting

This is Ann Black's Report of Wednesday's Meeting.

National Executive Committee, 18 September 2007

The prime minister reviewed the summer with justified
satisfaction. Despite terrorist attacks, floods, foot-and-mouth
and financial turbulence Labour had turned the polls around
since last year. But people voted for what parties would do in
the future, and we would only keep their trust by listening.
NEC members duly suggested things that he might listen to,
starting with dismay at his admiration for Margaret Thatcher as
a conviction politician (“so was Pol Pot”, someone
commented). Gordon Brown said that prime ministers always
invited their predecessors as a courtesy, and working with
people from other parties showed strength. I doubt if many
object to disaffected Tories or fellow-travelling LibDems writing
reports on rainforests or childcare, and even Patrick Mercer is
working with Trevor Phillips despite his remarks about ethnic
minorities, but “that woman” destroyed too many lives and
livelihoods.

However Gordon Brown responded with a passionate list of
dividing lines which would make a splendid conference
speech: three million new homes, grants for two-thirds of
students, individual tuition in state schools, near-full
employment, international aid, investment in health, and
protecting those at risk, most recently by intervening to stop
the Northern Rock panic. In contrast the Tories presided over
sky-high interest rates, negative equity and repossessions,
and would slash taxes at the expense of public services. And
his subsequent decision to boycott the Europe-Africa summit if
Robert Mugabe is present will reassure those who want to see
some limit to the Big Tent.

The shift in body language towards George Bush was
welcomed, with Muslim voters in particular ready to accept Iraq
as a past mistake and come home to Labour. Gordon Brown
assured Walter Wolfgang that Britain was pursuing diplomatic
rather than military options with regard to Iran, and he was
meeting a delegation from Colombia, where human rights
abuses are widespread. Responding to Christine Shawcroft,
who asked him to listen to those opposed to American use of
Fylingdales and Menwith Hill, he said the “missile defence”
programme was mainly based in Eastern Europe. He
reassured Gary Titley that a referendum on the European
reform treaty was still unnecessary, despite the opportunistic
attacks of Thatcherite Tories (and, I regret to say, some
prominent Labour figures).

Other concerns included agency workers; spending on health
and safety (more building workers die in accidents than British
soldiers in Iraq); European action against converted weapons;
and privatisation of homecare services leaving elderly people
unvisited at weekends. On Remploy, Gordon Brown promised
to seek a solution which protected jobs and pensions. Pete
Willsman warned against Callaghan-style pay freezes, with the
problems exacerbated by multi-million pound city bonuses.
And Dennis Skinner worried about trust, with too many people
in the Northern Rock queues convinced that politicians lied to
them about everything.

Renewal or Repression?

On this theme, Gordon Brown stressed that how we conducted
politics was as important as the policies themselves, within the
party and the community. His plans for change attracted
comments from 173 individuals and 90 affiliated organisations,
constituencies and other units, meaning that only one in eight
constituencies responded, perhaps because hard copies were
not sent out. They were discussed extensively with trade
union general secretaries over the summer, and party staff
were already lobbying constituency delegates, but the rest of
us had only five minutes to read the final version.

Some recommendations had stayed: more local policy forums
and community engagement and better communication with
national policy forum members, though no sign that they will
be enabled to contact constituencies and vice versa. The
extra twelve NPF members had been dropped, but there was a
surprise new move to add four NPF members to the
conference arrangements committee.

Conference would no longer debate contemporary resolutions.
Instead constituencies and affiliates would submit
contemporary issues, subject to the same arbitrary criteria as
now, and ranked in a priorities ballot. The movers of the
winning topics would then discuss with policy commissions
how these might be progressed. After hearing speakers,
conference would vote on whether they still thought the issue
was important, in which case there would be specific
reportbacks to the following year’s conference, which would
express satisfaction or otherwise.

Once in each parliament all members would be balloted on the
party programme: a short summary would be circulated, with
the full papers available on the website, and the poll
conducted mainly online and by telephone.

NEC members’ views were predictable, with some inspired by
the spirit of Neil Kinnock and others predicting the final death
of democracy. Some saw contemporary motions as a
necessary safety-valve, and the government would not be
defeated if it listened; others thought they exposed crude
voting power, political weakness and damaging divisions.
Perhaps most honestly, party procedures had always involved
fixing and this was just a different fix, though Gordon Brown
preferred to stress the principled nature of his ideas.

Christine Shawcroft spoke for mainstream activists in asking,
in vain, for opportunities to amend or refer back parts of NPF
documents rather than yes/no take-it-or-leave-it votes. Indeed
the NEC itself was not allowed to vote on the rule changes
separately, and the package was carried with four against
(Christine, Walter Wolfgang, Dennis Skinner and myself, with
Pete Willsman adding belated dissent), in my case mainly
because of unhappiness with the process.

The unions have accepted the promise of a review after two
years in return for their support, and were right not to threaten
to defeat a popular prime minister at his first conference.
However I remain concerned that Gordon Brown described
this exercise as a model for future policy development. It is
bad tactics to exclude people and then to bounce them. I am
still pushing for closer links between the NEC and the joint
policy committee, including constituency representation, and
this may be discussed further, along with Jeremy Beecham’s
proposals for reserved places for Scottish and Welsh
representatives.

Standing back, I doubt that much of this will matter on the
ground. What members want is first, a Labour government
that pursues policies of which they generally approve, and
second, responses to letters and mails which show that
someone has read and understood what they are saying. In
ten years of Partnership in Power they have been repeatedly
promised proper feedback and real influence. The
requirements for success were summed up as resources and
trust, and we now have to deliver both.

Harriet in the High Street

Deputy leader Harriet Harman spoke of her campaigning in
marginal seats and her work with trade unions, especially in
mobilising women members. She found voters’ priorities were
housing and youth services, though others reported
complaints about broken pavements and immigration, and
xenophobia against new eastern European groups. She had
asked Operation Black Vote to look at how all-black and ethnic
minority shortlists could work in practice, with legislation a
possibility.

General secretary Peter Watt reported that resources were in
reasonably good shape. The Tories did not seem to want
agreement on Hayden Phillips and party funding, but he
thought Labour would end up in a position which members
would find acceptable. I asked when constituencies would get
the extra membership money agreed in the 2005 rule change.
This raised standard subscriptions from £24 to £36 and
assigned the extra £12 to a campaign fund, held by the
national party except in the year of a general election when it
is paid to constituencies, giving them £20 instead of £8 per full-
rate member. With rumour and speculation rife, local parties
need to plan their budgets, but I am now concerned that we
may not get the money until after the election. For some of us
that will be too late.

Conference Arrangements

The main themes would be education, health, law and order,
housing and a strong economy. Though environment was not
included, this year’s conference would be greener, with
carpeting recycled and exhibitors encouraged to minimise
paper and plastic bags. The NEC would propose a rule
change allowing the black socialist society executive to attend
conference and, in a welcome U-turn, supported a
constituency amendment excluding ministers from the
conference arrangements committee. The socialist health
association’s proposal to change clause IV was opposed, as it
would have removed some rather good bits.

Bethnal Green & Bow would be asked to remit their
amendment on reducing thresholds for extra women and youth
delegates, with an assurance that the NEC would review all
thresholds in the light of membership levels. I also hope to
look at the interpretation of the gender quota, which
permanently bars some constituencies from conference. And
finally there _will_ be a national spring conference, in
Birmingham, either 14/16 February or 28 February/1 March
2008.

Circulated to members as a personal account, not an
official record. Questions and comments are welcome.
Past reports are at www.annblack.com.

Ann Black
annblack50@btinternet.com

I will also forward Ann whatever emerges in my comment box. Harry Barnes.

A Love Of Books In Baghdad

Here in an fine article and a telling video about a bookseller in Baghdad.

When I undertook my National Service in Basra in 1955-56, I paid a weekly visit to a bookshop in the town and purchased a small library of books which I still possess. I also ordered and obtained weekly copies of the New Statesman on rice paper and backed-dated copies of Reynolds News and the Observer which arrived by sea. A copy of the latter included Khrushchev's lengthy revelations about Stalin.

The bookseller also had a fascinating display of Rationalist Press Association Books from which I made several purchases. The only book he could not obtain for me was Karl Marx's Das Capital, when the local Chief of Police vetoed the sale.

The Baghdad bookseller's love of books as shown in the video, shows just why Iraq can still have a future.

Friday, September 21, 2007

A Blogging Desert

Legal Threats

I had links to the important blogs operated by Bob Piper and Craig Murray. When I click into these now I am told "This page cannot be displayed".

What has occured is that Craig Murray posted an item in which he criticised Alisher Usmanov the Russian/Uzbekh billionaire who is trying to take control of Arsenal Football Club and currently holds 21% of its shares.

Schillings, a leading London law firm issued a legal threat on behalf of Usmanov to Fastnet Internet Limited who then pulled the plug on Craig Murray's blog (and on that of Tim Ireland who had acted in a similar way to Craig in criticising Usmanov).

Bob Piper's blog (and that of others including Boris Johnson) also went down, merely because they also use Fastnet as their host.

The disturbing nature of all this is spelt out in a fine item on Ian Dale's Blog, where a full debate is taking place in the comment box of this particular thread.

End Of A Free Service

I also have a link to what was a first rate service for political bloggers by Grant of "Political Opinions". Unfortunately, Grant has called it at day, for the reasons he explains here.

His service had provided introductions to hundreds of political blog items shortly after they were posted. A reader just had to click in to what caught the eye, to follow an item in full. There were also links to the past archives of each of the bloggers he covered.

Unfortunately, all I am able to get from what remains of this site is the following list of the blog titles which Grant covered. I will have to Google for those I select to discover who I can link to. In time (if Grant's site does not disappear completely), I will add what category each blogger falls into - for instance; Labour, Lib Dem or Conservative. The frustrating thing is that without Grant's site being in full operation, I can't discover whether someone else with proper computer skills has already done all this - or more. PLEASE LET ME KNOW VIA MY COMMENT BOX IF ANOTHER BLOGGER HAS COVERED WHAT I AM AFTER.

For Political Bloggers, Things Aint What They Used To Be

1169 and Counting
4glengate.net
A Conservative's Blog
A Councillor Writes
A Far Fetched Resolution
A Liberal Dose
A News and Politics Blog ...
A Petrosexual's Tuppence
A Place To Stand
A Very British Dude
Aberystwyth CF
Abolish the GMC
About Whose News
Action-without-theory
Adam Boulton
Adam Haigh
Adam Smith Institute
Adele Reynolds
Adrian Monck
Adrian Yalland
Aidan Maconachy
Alan Beddow
Alan Muhammed
Alex Fisher
Alex Wilcock
Ali Miraj
All About Nothing
All Saints Gazette
Allan Andrews
Alun Cairns AM
Alun Pugh AM
Amusingly Shaped Turnips
An Englishman's Castle
And Then He Said
Anders Hanson
Andrea Leadsom
Andrew Allison
Andrew Brown
Andrew Garner
Andrew Milton
Andrew Percy
Andrew Woodman
Andy D'Agorne
Andy Mayer
Andy Reed MP
Ann's Sedgley Blog
Anne Snelgrove MP
Anthony McEweon
Antoine Clarke's Election Watch
Antonia's Blog
Antony Little
Anyone But Ken
Arsembly
Arwen Folkes
As a Dodo
Austin Mitchell MP
Average guy on the street
Backing Blair
Baggage Reclaim
Bailey Blog
Bala Fr/a>
Ballots Balls & Bikes
Barry's Beef
Bart Ricketts
BBC News
Beau Bo D'Or
Bedworth Liberal Democrats
Bel is Thinking
Benedict Brogan
Bernard Wooley
Best News First
Big Stick & Small Carrot
Bill's Comment Page
Birmingham University Labour Students
BirminghamiNS
Bishop Hill
Black Country Boy
Black Triangle
Blair's Britain
BlairSupporter
Blairwatch
blamerbell
Blazing Cat Fur
Bloggerheads
Bloggers 4 Labour
Blogging 4 Merton
Blognor Regis
Blogzilla
Blue Shark TV
Blunt & Disorderly
Bob From Brockley
Bob Piper
Boris Johnson MP
Bread and Circuses
Brentwood, Essex, England
Brian Barder
Bristling Badger
Burning Our Money
Campaign for an English Parliament
Campaign for an English Parliament
Cardiff Respect
Caroline Hunt
Cassilis
Chameleons on Bicycles
Charles Anglin
Charlie Marks
Chicken Yoghurt
Choice Cuts
Chris & Glynis Abbott
Chris Doidge
Chris Paul: Labour of Love
Chris Rossdale
Chris Whiteside
Christian Political Forum
Ciara Leeming
Cicero's Songs
Civitas
Claire Palmer
Clive Davis
Cllr Paul Hopfensperger
Cllr Philip Booth
Cllr Sue Luxton
Colin Ross
Conservative Future TV
Conservative History
Conservative Home
Conservative Party Reptile
Contra Tory
Corruption is a Crime
Councillor Steve Wakefield
Coventry Conservatives
Craig Murray
Cranmer
Croydon Against The Arena
Croydon Greens
Croydonian
Cunning Title
Curly's Corner Shop
Cynical Chatter
Daily Pundit
Daily Referendum
Dan Hassett
Daniel Finkelstein
Daniel Hayward
Danvers Baillieu
Darlington Councillor
Dave Hill
Dave's Part
David Aaronovitch
David Davies MP
David Heathfield
David Miliband MP
David Nikel
David Rennie
David Smith
David Walker
DavidP
Dear Julie Morgan MP
Deirdre Alden
Despatch Blog
Devil's Kitchen
Dirty Leftie
Disillusioned and Bored
Dizzy Thinks
Don Paskini
Don't trip up
Donal Blaney
Dont Mention the Gravy Train
Double Negative
Drinking from Home
Duncan Borrowman
Dunderheadedness
Eaten by Missionaries
Ed Vaizey
Educational Conscription
EIP News
Ellee Seymour
Elliott Joseph
Emily Thornberry MP
Eric Avebury
Eric Lee
Esther McVey
EU Referendum
Europhobia
EURSOC
Fair Deal Phil
FibDems
Fiona Colley
Fisking Central
Flip Chart Fairy Tales
Flock Together
Fora
Forceful & Moderate
Frank Chalk
Fraser Macpherson
Freedom & Whiskey
Freemania
From Socialite to Socialist
From the Right Side
Garden Grabbing in Wales
Gareth Griffiths
Gavin Ayling
General Theory of Rubbish
Ghandi's Steakhouse
Global Dashboard
Global Warming Hysteria
Godfrey Lazarus
Golden Strawberry
Gordon Labour News
Grant Thoms
Guido Fawkes
Guildford Lib Dems - halve truths and lies
GUTHRUM
Guy Burton
Gweirdo
Harriet Harman MP
Harrowgate Hill Blog
Harry Barnes
Harry's Place
Havering On
Hengis
Henry North London
Hidden Ireland
Hilary Benn MP
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Thursday, September 20, 2007

Violations Of Trade Union Rights - Including Iraq

The International Trade Union Confederation (ITUC) has published its annual survey of violations of trade union rights. It shows that in 2006 there were 144 murders of trade unionists for defending workers' rights and a further 800 suffered beatings and tortures.

There were 5,000 arrests of trade unionists, with 484 new cases of continuing detention. 6,000 dismissals are recorded.

As an honourary member of the Iraqi Federation of Trade Unions, I regularly post items about such problems as faced by Iraqi Trade Unions and I recently addressed the Coleg Harlech Association of Old Students on the issue. Here is the ITUC's coverage of the violation of trade union rights in Iraq. It is a topic on which I am prepared to travel to address meetings.

I am grateful to Labour Start for bringing the ITUC's report to the attention of a wider public.

Blackwater : Shadow Army

After reading this, please turn to the important link I provide at the end.

The link takes you to the comments section of an item posted by "Treasure of Baghdad". Just above the point at which your arrive there is a telling You Tube Video to watch of Blackwater Security operatives in Iraq travelling by car and engaging in randomn shooting at other vehicles. After you have watched it, see the further video links shown at the bottom of the screen. In particular, look at the one entitled "Blackwater : Shadow Army."

The post and its comments are also worth examination.

This is the link.

Wednesday, September 19, 2007

Bush On Private Security Firms

This is what he did not know. Does he know (or care) much more now? Whilst this is the lastest US response on this issue which I have covered over the past two days.

Tuesday, September 18, 2007

Needed - Security Against Security

The news that the Iraqi Government is finally to review the position of overseas security firms who operate in a free-lance way in their country, can only be welcomed.

The early withdrawal of these private armies of 20,000 overseas mercenaries is essential. In the meantime, Britain and America (in particular) need to ensure that their own sets of private warriors in Iraq are placed under strict controls as was pointed out in this recent evidence by Duncan Bullivant to the Iraq Commission. It is revealing material directly from a security sector operative.

Blackwater Security who are under contract by the US State Department had their licence revoked by the Iraqi Government yesterday following their killing of 8 Iraqi citizens and the wounding of 13 others. Further relevant links are given in this item which I posted yesterday.

Monday, September 17, 2007

Private Armies Out

Blackwater Security who are under contract by the US State Department to operate in Iraq have had their licence cancelled by the Iraqi Government following an incident in which it killed 8 people and wounded 13 others.

There are 20,000 foreign private security workers in Iraq, making them the nation's second largest occupying force.

The first priority for troop withdrawals in Iraq should be for the removal of these private armies. Here is an article which spells out the depth of the problem.

The significance and menace of privatised military operations is spelt out in the book "Corporate Warriors" by P.W. Singer - here is the full book. The matter is also under investigation by the United Nations.

Oh! Oh! What A Referee!

Crowded Out

On Saturday as I turned into Wreakes Lane to walk down to Sheffield FC's ground, I was astonished to see a long line of cars parked on what is normally the clear right-hand side of the road. The adjoining Sainbury's car-park was also full.

Did his mean that Alsager Town supporters were out in force, although they had had to travel over from Cheshire? I might not be able occupy my usual spot at the ground.

But as I passed the 24th car, I saw the real reason. The Scouts were holding their Centenary Gala in the field which holds the Scout and Guides hut. It was packed, but Sheffield FC's ground wasn't.

The Scouts' jamboree might well have taken away potential support from the game. For the attendance of 195 was the smallest of the season so far.

Filming The Evidence

On the opposite side of the pitch from where I stood, the match was being filmed. This was done from the top of the bank where officials normally have to chase children who are playing. Except on this occasion, the children were all celebrating with the Scouts.

Along with the filming of next week's home game against Warrington Town, a DVD will be made of the match for a sale which aids a Charity. I am after a copy to see whether it confirms my grouses about the match officials.

Roll On Half Time

In the 18th Minute Ian Robinson, Sheffield FC's regular midfielder fell to the ground with a blooded injury. The referee allowed play to continue for a lengthy period before the ball went into touch, with Alsager in control and almost scoring.

Robinson was finally helped off the pitch and was immediately substituted.

For the first 35 minutes, the game was fairly even and uninspiring. Although Alsager's attacks often made it into the Sheffield penalty area, but Sheffield's attacks broke done without bothering the opposition's goalkeeper.

It was all very different from the pre-match description which Tom gave me of the last two games which I had missed and which ended in 4-0 and 4-1 victories. We had been passing the ball along the ground. But this was all route one stuff, with our efforts easily being cleared.

In the last ten minutes of the half, matters picked up and foreshadowed the shape of things to come. It all started with an interchange between Gavin Smith and Chris Dolby down the right wing, with a cross which nearly produced a goal. Sheffield FC suddenly seemed to remember what they had been up to in the last two games.

But I still rushed to the Coach and Horses at half-time to grab a pint to help me forget most of what I had just witnessed.

A Game Of Two Halves

10 minutes into the second half Vill Powell rose majestically to firmly head in a corner and put us into the lead. Now playing as I had been told we could, Vill was next through the Alsager defence and crashed the ball home from outside the penalty box.

Standing just opposite the incident, none of us could believe it when the goal was ruled out for offside. We had to wait another quarter of an hour for justice to be done with Tom Jones, the skipper rushing forward as the ball bounced about the goal area to put us further into the lead with a powered header.

Five minutes from what we thought was the end, Alsager pulled one back through Andy Parkinson. It was now insult added to injury. Alsager were given a free-kick just outside our penalty area for "something we know not what". Parkinson hit it as soon as the referee seemingly satisfied with the wall, blew his whistle. The player who blocked it then received a yellow card. The kick was retaken and the ball flew straight into the back of the net. Thanks to two doubtful bits of refereeing, Alsager were back into the game.

Instead of blowing the whistle to put us out of our new state of apprehension, the game was allowed to go on and on. I started to wonder whether we would need the floodlights. But eventually we took all three points with a 2-1 victory.

Top Of The Pops

Furthermore, we have gone to the top of the League, although we have played a game more then our nearest rivals. But at least we feel that the League we are newly promoted to holds few fears - as long as we pass the ball along the ground and don't face too many refereeing problems.

But oops! I have just seen Stuart Hammond's column in "Non-League News" entitled "Ref bashing helps no-one". So you had better forget what I said above or at least buy the DVD.

Here is the Club's version of events.

Sunday, September 16, 2007

Organised Chaos

The organisation for ex-students at Coleg Harlech is known as the Coleg Harlech Association of Old Students (CHAOS).

Never has chaos been so well planned.

A week ago my wife and I spent a fine week-end at the CHAOS annual re-union at the College. I was there to talk about the Iraqi Trade Union Movement.

It is 40 years since my only previous visit to Coleg Harlech. Along with other lecturers from the Sheffield University Extramural Department, I was present for a fortnight's Summer Schools in 1967.

Ann and I have the good fortune to live near Geoff Bratley-Kendall who is the Secretary of CHAOS. He not only gave us a lift to and from the College, but he also toured us around telling sites at Portmeiron, Criccieth and Portmadog. He then took us to (and from) the CHAOS-organised walk around Harlech.

We were blessed with a week-end of fine weather and had a breathtaking view from our room at the top of an eleven storey residential block. We looked out upon Snowden, Harlech Castle, a fine Golf Course, the Bay, a single line railway and the College itself.

Spreading Chaos

An important feature of the week-end was that the ex-students of Coleg Harlech, the Northern College and Ruskin College built an important link for the future. Ten ex-students from the Northern College were in attendance, whilst the Secretary of Ruskin College's equivalent body arrived to attend CHAOS's own AGM.

The new interconnection is one I indentify with closely. As an ex-Ruskin Student, I am a member of its ex-student body - the Ruskin Fellowship. Whilst I organised an annual short-course at the Northern College for nine years following its opening in 1978.

On top of this, I had a small hand in facilitating the new links by passing on a couple of key e-mail addresses to the right person at the right time - Geoff.

Geoff Bratley-Kendall

Geoff was an electrician at Markham pit when I first met him. This was only a month after I had first visited Coleg Harlech. He was a student on an Industrial Day Release Class run for Derbyshire Miners and I was the politics tutor. Afterwards, he moved from day-release studies to two year's full-time studies at the Coleg Harlech Adult Education College.

He then moved on to my old University at Hull, College Lecturing and firm voluntary commitments with his Trade Union NATFHE (National Association of Teachers in Further and Higher Education). On retirement, he has had the good sense to return to his original electrician's work, but now in a self-employed capacity.

In the days when Geoff and I attended Adult Education Colleges, these were part of an important (if limited) provision of full-time study for mainly working-class adults who had few or no formal qualifications. Geoff and I benefitted from this. Today this avenue is largely replaced by wider forms of opening for educational advancement. But for late developers like Geoff and myself, this tends to require a slog to obtain acreditations - a stage at a time. I am convinced that it is an access route to higher education which we both would never have had the determination, self-belief and planning to follow. For it is an avenue in which ambition tends to replace an interest in study for its own sake. Yet the chance to pursue new interests and develop fresh horizans, seems to some of us to have had invaluable spin-offs both for the individuals who participated in such studies and the wider society.

Hopefully, the new links forged through CHAOS will help keep a belief in the earlier formats of Adult Education at College's such as Coleg Harlech, Ruskin, and the Northern College alive. A good sign at Harlech is that the College is now known as "Coleg Harlech WEA". The Worker's Education Association were, of course, amongst the original propounders of the educational values I have stressed. And they were the organisers' of that first Summer School I attended at Coleg Harlech 40 years ago.

Wednesday, September 12, 2007

Remembering Ian

I was saddened to hear of the death of Ian Porterfield. Although a lifelong Sunderland supporter, I did not obtain a ticket for the 1973 FA Cup Final when he scored the only goal in Sunderland's dramatic 1-0 defeat of the then mighty Leeds United. It can be accessed here.

But I did see the first game he ever played for Sunderland on 30 December, 1967. It was a dramatic 3-3 draw at home to local rivals Newcastle United.

I also took my son Stephen as a four year old to his very first football match when Porterfield was playing for Sunderland in an away game at Huddersfield Town. It was on 23 September 1972. Porterfield scored the equaliser in a 1-1 draw. It was the very season in which Sunderland went on to win the FA Cup, via that other famous Porterfield goal.

Throughout his football and coaching careers, Porterfield was always well respected. He was a skilled and cultured player. My son and I will have our own special reasons to reflect on his sad departure.

Thursday, September 06, 2007

Spreading The Word

I would encourage anyone attending the TUC Conference next week to call in at this Fringe Meeting entitled "Solidarity With Iraqi Workers". I was with five out of the six people on the platform on a memorable visit to Iraqi Kurdistan last year.

I will be making my own contribution on the topic to the men and women of Harlech this week-end, when ex-Coleg Harlech students assemble for their annual get-together.

It is 40 years since I went to the College to participate in a Summer School. Over the years I have, however, written many references for Adult Students who went on to study at the College. Most of these were Derbyshire and Yorkshire Miners. Although like myself via full-time studies at Ruskin College, many of them then moved into areas of work that made use of the qualifications they obtained.

I dislike just repeating a talk I have given. So I have come up with a fresh analytic framework for the type of material I have regularly posted on this blog. I hope that it makes sense to the listeners, so that they will then be able to become contributors in our discussions.

Wednesday, September 05, 2007

Iraq, GDH Cole And Friends

This item is some 3,500 words long with an additional 45 footnotes.

Iraqi and Trade Union Influences

After the invasion of Iraq on 19 March 2003, it took only four weeks for Saddam Hussein’s Government to lose the control of Baghdad.

In the Commons six days earlier (1), I had already raised the question of whether a role would be open for the re-emergence of the Iraqi Labour Movement (2) in order to assist it in the reconstruction of its country. Around that time, I also started raising the issue of the role of the Iraqi Trade Union Movement with Tony Blair at meetings of the Parliamentary Labour Party.

It was natural for me to concentrate then (and since) on the role of Trade Unionists in Iraq, as my links with both Trade Unionism and Iraq go back a long way and have always been deep.

On Trade Unions, I taught classes on politics and industrial relations for them at Sheffield University Extramural Department/Division of Adult Continuing Education for 21 years before entering Parliament in 1987 (3).

On Iraq, I also underwent the bulk of my National Service in Basra in 1955 and 1956 at a time when it was peaceful.

So much has happened in Iraq since then that it was never difficult to keep up with its main developments (4). In fact, its relative tranquillity was shattered by events around the time of my demob when I had just got back in England.

A Window To Change

In this article, I wish to explore how my experiences as a young man came to shape my overall political views and led to my current involvement with the work of “Labour Friends of Iraq” (5) who link closely with the main Iraqi Trade Unions.

Shortly after I arrived in Iraq early in 1955, I travelled from Baghdad to Basra by train. On the southern outskirts of Baghdad, we pulled to a stop and I looked out on, what for me, was a life-changing scene.

Through the window of the train, I was looking at a large settlement on a hillside; known as a Sarifa (6). Everything was made out of baked mud. There were extensive mud walls, numerous one-story mud houses, mud streets with open sewers and even a well that was dug into the mud which had baked mud surrounds.

The hillside was full of people. Children were playing in the streets around the sewers. Women in black burkas were busy, mainly carrying large cans of water. There were fewer men, but most were in clean white Arab clothing.

It seemed to me that they had a hugely impoverished existence. Not then knowing anything about Islam, I thought that I had stumbled on a biblical scene. It should be appreciated that this was well before people had become accustomed to seeing far worse scenes from the third world on their TV screens. What I saw was completely new to me.

My culture shock was soon reinforced. Whilst I undertook clerical work at the RAF Movements Unit on the banks of the Shatt-al-Arab river at Basra, my work also took me on regular visits to the town’s marshaling yards, docks, railway station and shipping lines. I persistently saw groups of labourers bent double carrying huge loads on their backs, such as old fashioned bulk refrigerators.

The best opportunity I had to talk to Iraqi workers about their lives was in the camp, with local clerical and labouring staff, including workers unloading goods from barges at our quayside. As I never studied Arabic, I was dependent upon their speaking English. But this was fairly universal amongst those given work with us.

Labourers in particular seemed to me to have exceptionally hard lives. Some of the statistical evidence on this is shown in material I eventually obtained as an M.P. from a researcher at the Commons Library, which showed that in 1960 (shortly after my stay in Basra) the Gross Domestic Product(GDP) per capita in Iraq was only 18% of the equivalent in the United Kingdom. The GDP was also very badly distributed (7).

Reassessing Religion

Up to arriving in Iraq, I had regularly attended a local Methodist Chapel and had acquired Labour leanings. Some of the lay preachers were ethical socialists and I had been impressed with the powerful socialist content of a sermon by the Rev. Donald Soper, who in later days I was to read in the pages of Tribune. I also lived in a Mining colliery where during the 1945, 1950 and 1951 General Elections most homes displayed Manny Shinwell’s Election Address in their windows.

But there was no great depth to my Labourite views. The best of my socialist readings were the plays and prefaces by George Bernard Shaw which Penguin Books published.; although I read these as much from an interest in the theatre as to absorb Shaw’s political standpoint.

I was, therefore, fairly ill-prepared for my experiences in Iraq and they immediately raised questions in my mind.

How could an all loving, all perfect and all knowing creator, permit such conditions to exist? And how could human beings in positions of authority, let it persist?

I had no idea that these were perennial philosophical and political questions, nor that these matters could form a part of academic investigations.

I never rose above the rank of Leading Aircraftsman and I only ever found one person to discuss such matters with. Corporal Murphy had “atheist” on his locker where we had to designate our religion. He was an ex-Catholic who introduced me to the works of James Joyce; but he was sceptical of my efforts to regurgitate the bits of socialism that I had picked up from Shaw whose fictional and other books I was now reading more fully(8).

A bookseller in Basra also helped. He sold English books and had a supply from the Rationalist Press Association, with titles such as “Let the People Think” and “Men Without Gods” (9). When I heard the Anglican Minister in Basra preach
against their evil influence, these books became even more appealing to me.

Whilst my move away from my past religious convictions was fairly rapid, I never adopted an anti-religious stance. This was because the Methodists I had known (including my mother) had mainly been kind people and also because of the nature of the political values I was starting to absorb in Iraq. I recognised that it is intolerance that brings problems; whether in the guise of religion, atheism, political ideology or from tribal, racial and national fanaticism. Although this did raise the difficult question of how far we should then tolerate the intolerant.

As I have indicated, pondering over religion opened up philosophical problems for me. So when I finally reached University as an adult student, I studied for a degree in the two subjects I hit upon in Iraq - politics and philosophy.

Seeking Socialism

On politics, I began to pick up bits ands pieces from the BBC overseas broadcasts which included references to newspapers and weeklies I had never then read. Through my bookseller, I found that I was able to order the air mail edition of the New Statesman and dated copies of the Observer which came by sea.

I still hold a New Statesman review on rice paper written by GDH Cole (10) about a book by the Socialist Union entitled “Twentieth Century Socialism” (11). So I ordered the book as well.

The Socialist Union’s case was encapsulated in a memorable phrase about their stance on page 146, namely a “socialist economy is a mixed economy, part private part public and mixed in all its aspects.”

Cole, who wrote regularly in my New Statesman, issued his lengthy critique. He was never a Marxist, but he claimed to be “Marx-influenced” (12). In his review, he argued that the Socialist Union’s case suffered “badly from the illusions of what Marxists call ’petit-bourgeois idealism’ and from an under-estimation of the need for a fighting working-class anti-capitalist drive as the impelling force towards a Socialist society.” I was on his side.

The extent to which Cole rejected the arguments for a genuinely mixed economy was shown in a Labour Party pamphlet published in 1947 in which he listed thirteen areas which were “at least” open to the extension of public ownership. These started with rural and urban land and ended with any industry or service which operated inefficiently (13).

Early on, I felt that I had been lucky to discover a handful of Cole’s books in the camp library (14). I began to absorb something of Cole’s position, when unfortunately the library was closed down. Much later, I came to interpret his stance as containing six basic provisions. I appreciate, however, that these are not to be seen as rigid and unqualified dogmas and that Cole adapted these stances to fit in with changing circumstances.

GDH’s Guidelines

First, he favoured participatory democracy and spurned bureaucratic structures, even when these arose under Communist or Democratic Socialist arrangements. It was some time before I came across his early advocacy of Guild Socialism, which he drew from throughout the rest of his life. His early views provided a synthesis between Syndicalism and Democratic State Socialism, and allowed for both collectivist action and freedom (15).

Secondly, his criticisms of reformist Democratic Socialism and Communism didn’t prevent his seeking to get them to work together, in the hope that the process would nurture aspects of his own synthesis and provide the necessary forces to tackle Capitalism (16).

Thirdly, his dislike of the undemocratic nature of Communism did not restrain him in his advocacy of public ownership. For he felt that limited reformist programmes would easily be undone through subsequent Capitalist manipulations and that they would also dampen down the fervour of the socialists who pursued such avenues. (17).

Fourthly, he associated himself with the Marxist concept of working for and with an organised working class as the major engine for the social change he desired. But he looked for a socialism that could be organised in line with the participatory values which he saw as being embryonic in the organised labour movement (18).

Fifthly, he believed that socialism had to operate in a comradely way on an international canvas in order to overcome colonialism, racism and the financial controls of capitalism (19).

Finally, and by no means least, he believed that socialism required people (and especially working people and their families) to appreciate and pursue co-operative socialist values. This was necessary not just to achieve forms of socialism, but to ensure that socialism itself would then fulfil its potential. He, therefore, had a great commitment to the educational ideas (20) of bodies such as the Workers’ Educational Association and produced a series of political works aimed at seriously minded working class men and women. (21).

To me, his arguments for universal moves towards equality and democracy seemed to fit in well with the needs of the Iraqi people - although I could not find Iraq dealt with in his writings (22).

His way to socialism, meant that I should keep my guard up against both the blandishments of Communism and the restricted vision of Labourism, but that (as long as I knew what I was about) I shouldn't’t be frightened to deal or associate with either.

I appreciate that today, economic and social changes have arisen which challenge the relevance of aspects of Cole’s analysis. These include the collapse of the Soviet Union, the high-tech revolution and a developed phase of globalisation. But I like to think that it was because I adopted Cole’s style of approach, that I have been able to adapt it to many of the avenues I pursued; especially when an M.P.(23)

Back To Basra

In Basra, the reason my small local stock of Cole’s books disappeared with the rest of our library was that our camp was being downsized as a consequence of Britain signing the Baghdad Pact (24).

Through the pact; Iraq, Turkey, Pakistan, Iran and Britain (with the encouragement of the USA) provided a “defence line” against the Soviet Union.

Up to that stage, Britain had run three RAF camps in Iraq on land that was British Crown territory. These were at Habbaniya (where I landed and finally departed), Shiaba (which I visited) and our Movements Unit in Basra.

In addition, each camp contained sections for Iraqi Levies, who were Iraqi troops (often Assyrian) under British control and with British Officers.

As a consequence of the Baghdad Pact, the camps officially became Iraqi territory and the Levies were disbanded. Iraqis serving as Levies were given the option of joining the Iraqi Armed Forces, although the Assyrians (who were strongly pro-British) overwhelmingly refused this option.

British troops remained (technically as advisers), but the numbers were cut along with our library. So apart from reading Cole’s regular articles in the New Statesman, I turned to those he was given to analysing. First, I obtained a copy of “New Fabian Essays”(25) and then I attempted to order a copy of Karl Marx’s “Das Capital”. But my bookseller had to tell me that the local Chief of Police had subsequently informed him that he was prohibited from ordering the latter.

Into Politics

It wasn’t until I returned to England that I appreciated that the Iraqi Communist Party (ICP) formed the key element of the Iraqi Labour Movement and was seen by the regime as being a major threat.

Whilst I came to have a great sympathy for the role of the ICP (26) in Iraq; Cole’s worries about the role of Communism were being confirmed elsewhere.

At the start of July 1956 my belated copy of the Observer arrived containing 26.000 words from Khrushchev’s speech to the 20th Conference of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union in which he denounced Stalin’s cult of personality.

Then my period of demob occurred at the time of the Hungarian Crisis, with Soviet troops encircling Budapest on 4 November, 1956. I was fully in support of Imre Nagy’s agreement to introduce a programme of free elections and solidly against the Soviet Union’s invasion.

In fact the first political meeting I attended following my demob (which was also the first I attended in my life, expect for Durham Big Meetings as a socialising teenager) was a British Communist Party Rally held in Newcastle which was addressed by their General Secretary, John Gollan. I roundly heckled him over his support for the Hungarian invasion.

There was, however, another aspect of Golan’s speech which I cheered. This was his criticisms of the British and French invasion of Egypt which had also just taken place. It was action which was to have a dramatic impact on Iraq.

Nasser nationalised the Suez Canal on 26 July 1956, whilst I was still in Basra. It was only when I saw a dated copy of Reynolds News three weeks later that I read the type of support for his actions that I was seeking.

The British and French assault on Egypt started with bombings on 31 October just after I left Iraq. The invasion went down badly with the Iraqi people, who increasingly opposed the close relationship between their regime and Britain.


In 1958 their own Colonels led a revolution which toppled the Iraqi Monarchy and a year later half a million people out of a population of only seven million joined the May Day Demonstration in Baghdad, with the ICP playing a dominant organising role (27). British troops evacuated Iraq around the same time, not to return for another 44 years.

It is amazing the number of Iraqi people I have met recently who attended the above Rally, mainly as young children.

When I was an M.P. in 2003 , I was astonished when the Defence Minister Geoff Hoon, came up to me and asked “Harry, what on earth were British Troops doing in Iraq 50 Years ago?” This was asked at the time of the latest invasion. It would have helped if he had been briefed (or had read his Departmental brief) on the matter before helping to turn the clock back.

My own experiences 50 years ago helped me to become a humanist (but not a Dawkin’s style zealot) and a strong democratic socialist who, following Cole, rejected both Communism and limited Labourite methods. I also felt that socialism needed to place international concerns at its centre.

GDH’s Final Fling

Demobbed and back in England, I had a chance to support what was to be Cole’s last political project.

He had written a pamphlet for the New Statesman in July 1956, coinciding with the review which I kept on rice paper. It was called “World Socialism Restated” (28). I didn’t obtain a copy until I was back in England and it was reprinted in March 1957 with a postscript added to cover the relevance of his project to the recent Suez and Hungarian invasions.

This pamphlet has always been important to me.

First, it embodies the basic lessons I had reached from my experiences and limited readings (including Cole) whilst in Iraq.

Secondly, it is one of Cole’s more readable and lasting contributions. For it is generally accepted that many of his books (but not all of his writings) after his early work on Guild Socialism were somewhat pedestrian although detailed and well researched (29). His wife Margaret, who shared much of his life’s work, correctly pointed out that the pamphlet contains “some of his finest and most sincere writings in the post-war years”. (30)

Finally, it was published as part of an effort to assist in the establishment of a body called the International Society of Socialist Studies (ISSS) which he was to preside over.


Cole hoped that the ISSS would be as influential internationally as the Fabian Society (which he had Chaired) had been earlier in furthering ideas for the British Labour Movement, except he hoped it would be his own form of socialism that would be to the fore and not that of the Webb’s.

I attended the Inaugural Conference of the ISSS in London at which Cole discussed a paper they had issued entitled “How Current Trends in Capitalism Influence Socialist Policies”.(31). A concept which still has considerable relevance.

The ISSS failed to make the impact which Cole had hoped for because in the words of his wife “the objects which those who joined it had in mind it were wildly incompatible” . (32).

It has, however, been argued that two preparatory Conferences held in Oxford and Paris which led to the launch of the ISSS were “the first political gatherings of anything that could be called a New Left” (33), which emerged even before Khrushchev’s speech on Stalin had shaken sections of the British Communist Party (34) and other leftists into setting up “The Reasoner” (an unheard of Journal of Dissent inside the British Communist Party)(35), “The New Reasoner“ (36), “University and Left Review” (37) and the early issues of “New Left Review” (38).

In fact Stuart Hall, the first editor of New Left Review participated in the Paris Conference and was elected to the ISSS’s International Committee at its Inaugural Conference.

The initial stimulus which led to the move towards setting up the ISSS came from two linked articles by Cole appearing in the New Statesman on 15 and 22 January 1955, just before I arrived in Basra. I did not come across these until they were reproduced by the ISSS in a 1959 publication (39) . Cole having died in the January.

Cole’s articles had the overall title of “The Future of Socialism”. The same title used a year later by Tony Crosland for his very different revisionist work (40). Margaret described her husband’s version as “indignant” and “calling upon those who had been his comrades and correspondents to look into their hearts and wake up before it was too late” for he felt that “the Socialist movement all over the world had lost not only its way but its drive and energy”. (41)

50 Year In Labour

At the time of preparing to attend the ISSS launch in September 1957, I also joined the Labour Party. The passing reason being that I needed to join to qualify to enter an essay competition on Nationalisation which was sponsored by the local Labour M.P., Manny Shinwell.

But Cole’s embryo (and long existing) New Leftism was quite compatible with work in the Labour Party and the Trade Union Movement, as long as this was done without any illusions. From such a perspective, it was better than being taken over by Communists or Trotskyists. It also meant full involvement with the official labour movement, not as entryists but as a "sensible extremist" and a "loyal grouser" (42).


My Trade Union was the Transport and Salaried Staff Association, so I attended Branch Meetings and was sent as delegate to a Line Conference. As the main speaker was Ray Gunter, the Labour Right-Winger, I soon realised the avenues open to me would present me with rather a long-haul towards socialism.

I then moved on to be a student at Ruskin Adult Education College with fellow Labour Movement activists in studying politics and economics. As indicated earlier, Cole had himself worked in and for Adult Education (pursuing what are normally termed liberal adult educational values hopefully for intelligent socialist ends). As a student, then a lecturer, this was to become my own major involvement for 27 years of my life. Working ,for instance, with two classes of Yorkshire Miners during the NUM’s 1984 strike.(43).

I have always, of course, since 1957 been politically active in the Labour and Trade Union Movement. But for a fully fledged democratic socialist this can be a draining as well as a sustaining experience. It is essential to discuss and dispute matters with activists who share similar horizons. More than any other avenue, Independent Labour Publications provided me with this opportunity for a decade or so from 1975.(44).

A Labour Friend Of Iraq

Whatever reformist and even New Labourite programmes I later became tainted with (especially in the second half of my 18 Years as an M.P.), at least I can point to numbers of justifiable campaigns I have been involved in (45) . None more important than what might well be my own final political project : work with “Labour Friends of Iraq”, who have those invaluable links with the Iraqi Trade Union Movement. A Movement at the cutting edge of the struggle for the principles I came to believe in.

My proudest possession is my certificate of honorary membership of the Iraqi
Federation of Trade Unions presented to me during a visit to Iraq in April 2006. Here are comrades who deserve our active backing as they struggle for democracy, freedom and justice in the hideously difficult circumstances.

If things have come full circle for me, at least I am now properly involved with Iraqi comrades and I have finally graduated from just looking with shock out of a carriage window.

FOOTNOTES

1. Hansard, 3 April 2003, columns 1090-1.

2. Hanna Batatu, “The Old Social Classes and the Revolutionary Movements of Iraq”, Princeton University Press, 1978. See Book 2 “The Communists from the Beginnings of their Movement to the Fifties”.

3. Michael Barratt Brown, “Adult Education for Industrial Workers: the Contribution of Sheffield University Extramural Department”, 1969, National Institute of Adult Education (England and Wales).

4. Marion Farouk-Sluglett & Peter Slugett, “Iraq Since 1958”, KPI Ltd., 1987.

5. http://www.labourfriendsofiraq.org.uk

6. Edith & E.F.Penrose, “Iraq: International Relations and National Development”, 1978, Ernest Benn Limited. See photograph section.

7. Abbas Alnasrawi, “The Economy of Iraq”, 1994, Greenwood Press.

8. e.g. Bernard Shaw, “Essays in Fabian Socialism”, 1932, Constable and Company. I obtained a 1949 reprint in Basra in 1955.

9. Bertrand Russell, “Let the People Think”, 1941, Watts and Co. Hector Hawton,“Men Without Gods”. 1948, Watts and Co.

10. G.D.H.Cole, “Twentieth-century Socialism”, New Statesman. 7 July, 1956, pp 8-9.

11. Socialist Union, “Twentieth Century Socialism”, 1956, Penguin Books.

12. G.D.H.Cole, “The Meaning of Marxism”, 1948, Victor Gollancz, p12.

13. G.D.H.Cole, “A Guide to the Elements of Socialism”, 1947, The Labour Party. pp 15-16.

14. G.D.H.Cole & Raymond Postgate, “The Common People”, 1938, Methuen was amongst them.

15. G.D.H.Cole, “Self-Government in Industry”, 1917, G. Bell and Sons Ltd. Sets out his blueprint.

16. R.H.S. Crossman, “G.D.H.Cole and Socialism”, 2 September 1960, New Statesman, pp 311-2. He states “The split in the Labour Movement was for Cole not merely a political disaster but a torment of the soul. During the Thirties he fervently supported the Popular Front and in 1945 saw the main role of the Labour Government as reconciling East and West."

17. G.D.H. Cole, “World Socialism Restated”, July 1956, New Statesman Pamphlet,p 7, “…even where the parliamentary road is open, it is all too easy for those who follow it to abandon the quest for Socialism and to rest content with such advances towards the Welfare State as can be made without attacking the fundamental inequalities of capitalist society.”

18. G.D.H.Cole, “Organised Labour”, 1924, George Allen and Unwin.

19. G.D.H.Cole, “Capitalism in the Modern World”, October 1957, Fabian Tract 310,pp 23-25.

20. A.W.Wright, “G.D.H.Cole and Socialist Democracy”, 1979, Clarendon Press,pp 144-9.

21. GDH Cole & Margaret Cole “The Intelligent Man’s Review of Europe To-Day”,1933, Victor Gollancz, is an example. Although the teaching, industrial and political avenues which GDH participated in were male dominated, his works were also meant to appeal to women. See Betty D. Vernon “Ellen Wilkinson”,I982, Croom Helm Ltd, pp 31-35.

22. G.D.H.Cole, “The Intelligent Man’s Guide Through World Socialism”, 1932,Victor Gollancz, p 46. The text is 659 pages long and the only reference to Iraq is in a table of populations

23. I would claim that there were aspects of a common overall approach in the forms of action I took against the Poll Tax, for a "democratic, federal and social Europe", over aid for Iraqi Kurds, for the defence of the Coal Industry, for improved electoral registration, against environmental pollution, for disability rights, for peace and reconciliation in Northern Ireland, for the Tobin Tax, in the campaign to try to save 700 local jobs at Biwater which led to subsequent campaining against the Enterprise Bill, over military adventures and finally in working with the Trade Union Movement in Iraq.

24. Charles Tripp, “A History of Iraq”,2000, Cambridge University Press, pp 140-3.

25. R.H.S. Crossman (editor), “New Fabian Essays” 1952, Turnstile Press.

26. op cit ,Hanna Batatu, Book Three, “The Communists, the Ba’thists, and the Free Officers from the Fifties to the Present".

27. Abdullah Muhsin & Alan Johnson, “Hadi Never Died : Hadi Saleh and the Iraqi Trade Unions”, 2006, Trade Union Congress, p 17.

28. See footnote 17.

29. “The New Reasoner”, Issue 8, Spring 1959, pp 36-9 , Kingsley Martin and Asa Briggs “Two Tributes to G.D.H. Cole” in which Kingsley Martin states “What his writing lacked was imagination; his strong personality and deep feeling was apt somehow to get lost. He did not call to his service the periphery of his mind.He explored no byways of thoughts, and though he seldom used an inept word, he did not stop to find a memorable one.”

30. Margaret Cole, “The Life of G.D.H. Cole”, 1971, MacMillan, p 284.

31. Report of the Proceedings of the Founding Conference of the International Society of Socialist Studies, “ISSS: a new crusade”, ISSS, pp 56-70.

32. op cit, Margaret Cole, p 285.

33. Peter Sedgwick, “A Return to First Things”, 1980, Balliol College Annual Record, pp 86-88.

34. Michael Kenny, “The First New Left: British Intellectuals After Stalin”,1995, Lawrence & Wishart, pp 17-19.

35. Lin Chun, “The British New Left”, 1993, Edinburgh University Press, pp 10-12.

36. “The New Reasoner”, Issue 5, Summer 1958, G.D.H. Cole, “Next Steps in British Foreign Policy”, pp 8-11.

37. “Universities and Left Review”, Volume 1, No.1, G.D.H. Cole ,“What is Happening to British Capitalism?”, pp 24-7.

38. “New Left Review”, No.1 Jan-Feb 1960, p 1. G.D.H. Cole died a year before this first issue, but the opening quotation at the head of the editorial would have gladdened his heart, it was from one of his favourite's William Morris and read “It is a new Society that we are working to realise, not a cleaning up of our present tyrannical muddle into an improved, smoothly-working form of some ‘order’, a mass of dull and useless people organised into classes, amidst which the antagonism should be moderated and veiled so that they should act as checks on each other for the insurance of the stability of the system.”, William Morris, “ Commonweal, July, 1885. Cole had been converted to socialism by reading his “News From Nowhere” when a schoolboy.

39. op cit, International Society of Socialist Studies, pp 11-20.

40. C.A.R. Crosland, “The Future of Socialism”, 1956. Jonathan Cape.

41. op cit, Margaret Cole, p284.

42, op cit, A. W. Wright, pp 2. Also, Betty D Vernon “Margaret Cole, 1893-1980”. Croom Helm Ltd 1986, pp 81-84 shows that the term “loyal grouser” was initiated by Francis Meynell to describe those involved with the Society of Socialist Inquiry and Propaganda (SSIP) which the Coles helped to establish in 1930-1. Although it was restricted to members of the Labour Party, it was something of a model for the international aspirations of the ISSS.

43. Labour Leader, December 1984, pp 6-7 contains extracts from 12 of their essays about expereinces during the strike.

44. Barry Winter “The I.L.P. : a brief history”,1982, Independent Labour Publications, p 12 on the Vienna Union, known as the Two-and-a-half International, “between” the Second and Third Internationals has relevance to another New Leftism which did not wish to be identified with Communism or Social Democracy, but still looked for formulas which could unite the two on a worthwhile socialist platform.

45. An eventual source on these will be the 120 detailed reports I issued to the
North East Derbyshire Constituency Labour Party in my period as an M.P. between 1987 and 2005.