What would Clement do?

A Labour blog that witters on about Clement Attlee. Hurrah for The Major!

Archive for the tag “Freedom”

” …COME IN G – GEORGE, COME IN G – GEORGE…”

…Or how to be an Old Labour romantic…

I always shed a tear when the young Kim Hunter falls desperately, hopelessly in love with David Niven in Powell and Pressbergers’ “A Matter of Life and Death”. Perhaps my love of melodrama gets the better of me, or the nostalgia for a time I never new. Maybe it is just Powell and Pressberger, after all, the ending of “The Life and Death of Colonel Blimp” gets me the same way. Perhaps it is Jack Cardiff – the “colour merchant” who shot these two masterpieces, and many more.

I suspect that it is more than this, as when David Niven says that he is “Conservative by instinct, Labour by experience” that is the moment that I well up…

..I can’t help it, you see I am one of that lost tribe, the Old Labour Romantics. I suppose that being politically awoken by the Miners’ Strike and Billy “Between the Wars” Bragg doesn’t help, but that is just what I am. I must confess my sin, that I look back upon the history of our Party and Movement, and my heroes are the Major, Hardie, Maxton, Lansbury. They are the Cooks – both Robin and A J, Bevin and Bevan. They are John Smith and Kinnock, Foot and Mikardo, and hundreds of others that fought the good fight. The unsung as well as the famous, those who fought and negotiated, who put our people first, who had a sense of what was right, a sense of decency.

Bill Morris, Len Murray, Jack Jones, Manny Shinwell and a host of others who did what they thought right, and never wavered in the tasks before them.

The phrase “Old Labour Romantic” has been used to describe that great journalist and biographer Francis Beckett. I suppose that it corresponds to anyone who sees the future of this country as being in the creation of a more tolerant, open, and equal society.

I am working to make the future Red, but maybe, just maybe my heaven is in black and white…

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Getting Rid of Gaddafi – How do We Help???

After the horrible scenes we see daily on the news, it is finally clear that the madman is not going without a fight. Unlike Mubarrak, who is under army guard in his villa, Gaddafi has nowhere to run, and is now proving in deeds what his son broadcast in those terrible words.  It looks as if he will do what Saddam said he would, and fight to the last. Unlike Saddam however, he has the means and the fanatical support of some to do this.Ninety British subjects in Libya are trapped with around three hundred other foreign nationals in a camp too far from Tripoli to get out, with no transport, and decreasing supplies. At the very least these people need a rescue mission as soon as possible. Even The Times is calling (rightly) for the freezing of the Gaddafi family assets here in London, although no one is talking about redistribution to rebuild a shattered nation.

Around the Western World, in Boardrooms and the corridors of power, there must be a whole bunch of nervous people, not least Silvio Berlusconi and the Italian elite – lets not forget Italian investment in Libya, nor Libyan investment in FIAT. Government ministers here in Britain, from every Government since 1992 are no-doubt worried as to what may come out as to dodgy deals over getting Shell and BP concessions, including the Al-Megrahni affair, and the cosying-up to Gadaffi since the end of the 1991 Iraq War.

Yet behind the headlines, what can, indeed what should we in the west be doing?

  1. Much as I hate to agree with David Owen, a no-fly zone can be established by NATO forces over Libya. This needs to be U.N. sanctioned, and my suspicion is that neither China nor Russia will agree. Nonetheless we must try. Once applied in Bosnia and Iraq, no-fly zones prevented, or at least lessened the slaughter.
  2. Hit tyrants where it really hurts – in the pocket. Freeze their assets right now.
  3. Mount a rescue operation for the trapped workers too far from Tripoli. This is not impossible, nor impractical, as the operation could be mounted from NATO bases in Southern Italy. If Israel could rescue hostages from Entebbe in Uganda, surely we could do the same now.
  4. Demonstrate outside the Libyan Embassy – as ordinary citizens, show our support for freedom.
  5. Stop emasculating The World Service. Increasingly, we see the shutting-down of the internet and international TV broadcasts as a tool of repression. This that the good old short-wave World Service can be the ONLY reliable and trusted source of news. The cuts being made now are simply madness.
  6. Support Refugee and Dissident groups. Instead of shutting down these centres, like Hammersmith and Fulham Council, now is the time to engage and nurture them.
  7. Support democratic organisations in the regions. Civil groups, Trades Unions, feminists, democratic political parties need money and support right now. Show solidarity wherever and whenever you can.

Libya, Bahrain, Yemen, Iran – Hammersmith and Fulham…

For those of us who remember the glorious year of 1989, events across the Middle East have a wonderfully familiar ring to them. Then as now, a domino effect meant that tyranny was overthrown across a wide area, with regimes that seemed permanent crumbling before our eyes.

Then as now, it was not only political or religious ideas that inspired people to rise, economic factors were important too.

There are however important differences now – not least that these protests, inspired by Tunisia and Egypt, have now surged across the oil-rich Gulf.  We have heard and read today, of the markets fears of “instability”( democracy) in the region, and no doubt those trading oil have been encouraged by the brutal actions in Bahrain, a small island off the Saudi coast. I feel pretty sure that these vultures were more than “relaxed” about the repression of opposition in Iran back in 2009. The old canard that “markets ensure freedom” is laid bare. Only freedom ensures freedom.

For Socialists and Democrats of every stripe, the path is clear – we must support anyone anywhere struggling for Liberty and Justice against repressive tyranny and ignorance. The regimes of the region, whether western backed or not, are deeply divided on class lines, with tiny minorities at the top skimming off vast oil wealth, pretty much unchallenged until now. unlike the failed attempt at nation-building from without in Iraq, what we are seeing is nation-building from within. In this respect, these revolts have much akin to 1848. It is our job to help the peoples standing up against barbarism, to support them in any practical way we can, so that there is a just and successful conclusion.

In this spirit, I have a question to ask Toby Young, and the Tory-run Hammersmith and Fulham Council, apple of Boris Johnsons eye, and favourite West London Free School pioneer of Micheal “Woodentop” Gove. a disturbing story has come to light through the pages of this weeks’ Private Eye…

Palingswick House,the building that Mr Young wants to house his jolly new obsession in currently houses a number of refugee organisations. Amongst them are groups from Afghanistan and Iran. When notified of their being moved on, the Iranians politely (very courteous people, Iranians) asked what the alternative accommodation would be .

Quick as a flash, the good burghers in Hammersmiths Cabinet drew up a list of alternative provision for those who are escaping persecution, and will no doubt miss the services of the Iranian Association, and Afghan Council UK.

According to this document, any Iranian dissident should avail themselves of the fine, and no-doubt sympathetic services of another building in west London – the Embassy of The Islamic republic of Iran.

Meanwhile Afghanis are directed to the “excellent alternative” , the Southern Afghan Club. Previously, the SAC, surely a wonderful organisation in its way, gave advice solely to owners of pedigree Afghan Hounds.

 

So, Toby, Boris, Govey and the rest of you true Blues, are  you not ashamed???

A more disgraceful and shaming episode would be harder to find, even with this bunch of poltroons and knaves in power.

Egypt – Don’t Surrender the Square!

As I write, men and women thousands of miles away face a terrible choice between liberty and personal safety. I sit here, safe in a Democracy where I can think whatever I want, and express those thoughts relatively freely.

In contrast to the relatively childish issues in my last post, I hope that anyone here in London will understand the seriousness for all concerned. So in a spirit of solidarity, and with humility at the bravery being shown in Cairo and Alexandria, and also across the Middle East, I have to say do not give up. Do not relinquish the Square or the streets, and stand together.

Mubarraks’ goons have been seen entering the square, and have been starting fights against anti-Tyranny protesters. The Army let them in, and seem to be holding the ring, rather than opting for one side or the other. These soldiers are waiting inside their American tanks, unsure of what to do.

Those of us who hoped for a revolution along the lines of East Germany and Czechoslovakia in 1989 can see that the issue hangs in the balance – we could see another Romania, or worse, Tiananmen.

The Tyrant Mubarrak last night took the step of promising to relinquish power in September, and to bar his son from standing in his stead, if only everyone would get off the streets. Today we see the other side of his strategy – divide the opposition, and provoke a wave of violence, allowing him to claim to be a force for order, rather than the vile oppressor he truly is. Around the world we can see his plans for what they are, no doubt so can his people. The Army, which has little or no training in crowd control, was welcomed with open arms when they replaced the vicious riot police. Those who remember Northern Ireland in 1968 will remember the British army in a similar position.

To the ordinary soldiers in Cairo and Alexandria today I say do not waver, do not turn your guns on your people – keep them on safety, and earn the eternal gratitude of your mothers and fathers, sons and daughters.

Mr Cameron looked very fine today on Downing Street with The U.N. Secretary General, talking about “clearing a path” and other guff, but we know that the only two powers that could matter here would be the USA, who bankroll Egypts Armed Forces, and Israel, who must stay silent.

President Obama has to clearly side with the forces of Liberty, or else the whole west stands to lose the goodwill of the Egyptian people, and very probably the whole of Arabia. We in Britain are little more than sideshow players here, and have been (rightly so) since Suez.

So I call on the decent people of Egypt – do not fall for Hosnis tricks, stay united until he goes – sooner than later. Stand firm, or the criminal forces of the NDP will sense a weakness, and go for the kill. Take heart that all over the world – in New York, in Edinburgh, Berlin, Tokyo, Johannesburg, Mexico City, millions are with you.

Tunisia: People 1 – Tyrant 0

This fight is our fight, wherever we live, whatever colour we are, man and woman, young and old, all true lovers of freedom and justice will support the overthrow of a dictator by his long-oppressed people.

Its called Solidarity, in case you have forgotten.

 

The scandal of Tunisias’ ruling party having membership of the Socialist International has been highlighted by Karl Bildt, a Swedish politician. Expelling them is the least that should be done. The International needs to take firm steps in expelling member parties that do not conform to democratic norms. We are not The Commintern, and this is not the Cold War.

Lets cleanse the Socialist international whilst we have the chance, making it fit for purpose.

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