Sunday, 4 December 2022

The NSPCC / JCB and Letters to Santa Claus


Every child is important in the eyes of the National Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Children – unless they are Palestinian, it would seem, because they have accepted millions from JCB a company which makes money from destroying Palestinian homes, traumatising the children and plunging the families into instant poverty.
And a three-year campaign to change the charity’s practice eventually evinced a response that they had checked with their lawyers, and it was legal to do so.
JCB, which has not engaged at all with campaigners, exports to an Israeli partner, Comasco. The bulldozer manufacturer is fully aware that their equipment is used to demolish Palestinian homes, schools, clinics, olive groves and water pipes. This is completely illegal under the Fourth Geneva Convention, the human suffering is immeasurable and studies by psychologists show that the children are permanently traumatised.
But it is all part of Israel’s policy of “judaizing” Palestine in – among other places – East Jerusalem, the highly fertile Jordan Valley and the Naqab (Negev).
But that cuts no ice with the charity which claims to exist for the protection of children. The acceptance of money from JCB is “legal” so the human misery wreaked by their bulldozers is ignored.
Faced with calls that it should refuse to accept money earned in activities that involve severe and enduring harm to Palestinian children, the NSPCC has  previously said that, "In line with Charity Commission guidance the NSPCC has produced ethical corporate fundraising guidelines reflecting its values… and undertakes due diligence based on criteria approved by its Trustees in relation to corporate partners."
Surprisingly, perhaps, the NSPCC feels entitled to regard profits earned from home demolitions, and the cruelty they inevitably entail, as clean money. Perhaps this is because the guidelines only advise the refusal of moneys "associated with any organisation connected with slavery, human trafficking and child labour or where a director or officer has been convicted of a sexual offence."
In a pamphlet called "Living Our Values", the NSPCC states: "We will speak out when something is wrong… We seek to achieve cultural, social and political change – influencing legislation, policy, practice, attitudes and behaviours and delivering services for the benefit of children and young people."
The NSPCC here recognises a responsibility to challenge accepted norms where these expose young people to harm. Yet when it comes to children in faraway lands, it suggests that government trading priorities provide an adequate guide to moral practice: "The export activities of a corporate do not form part of our ethical checks" unless concerning a country "on which the UK Government/ Department of Trade has formally imposed trade restrictions."
With this legalistic approach, the charity's officials brush aside a serious moral challenge to their mutually beneficial relationship with JCB.
Meanwhile the United Nations, Amnesty International and Lawyers for Palestinian Human Rights have all denounced JCB’s complicity with Israel as war crimes. And the company is currently under scrutiny by the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) for its lack of a human rights policy.
A broad coalition comprising Defence of Children International, ICAHD UK, the Palestine Solidarity Campaign, Protecting Palestinian Families, the Shoal Collective, Social Work Action Network, the UK-Palestine Mental Health Network, eminent social work and medical professionals and thousands of individual citizens has bombarded the NSPCC with letters, postcards and Tweets, all asking the senior staff and every single trustee at NSPCC to sever links with JCB.
All these bodies and individuals condemn JCB, quoting International Humanitarian Law, International Law and Human Rights conventions. But the NSPCC ignores it all, citing narrow legality.
And here comes the hypocrisy. NSPCC uses the following language of some of these documents in its banner headlines – “Every Child Matters” and “Every Child is Worth Fighting For” but these wonderful slogans don’t apply to Palestinian children.
The NSPCC was founded to prevent cruelty to children.  but despite them having received detailed information about JCB’s complicity in Israel’s house demolitions, it continues to accept donations and partner with the company. that derives profits from inflicting cruelty on Palestinian children – it doesn’t make sense.
The NSPCC has  recently launched its annual festive fundraiser, Letter from Santa. Aiming to drive donations for the charity during the winter season, the campaign, which is in its 20th year, encourages supporters to order a personalised letter from Santa for the little ones in their life. Apparently if children write to Santa with their own unique message via the NSPCC they will get an answer
So this information has been used to write a letter from an imaginary Palestinian child. It makes the point about the toxic relationship between the charity and its donor JCB.  
It would be great if as many copies of the letter flooded into the inboxes of NSPCC trustees and officers before Christmas. You could use the following actual letter, a modified form of it or a completely original letter of your own to one, more or all of them.
It would great to do the whole thing on December 6, the feast day of Saint Nicholas aka Santa Claus, but any day you can manage would be excellent.
Here are the addresses of the principal officers and all the trustees of the NSPCC and some of them use twitter – see below   director of income generation          chief executive        @peterwanless  director of communications and marketing  director of services chair of trustees @neilberkett treasurer @jobegent9

other trustees using same email format                    

Elizabeth Brash

Peter Daffern

Eithne Daly @eithnedaly

Pippa Gough @pippagough

Ife Grillo @ifetalksback

Albert Heaney

Andrew Kerr @andychariots

Tarek Khlat

Derrick Mortimer

Sheanna Patelmaster @5h34nn4

Sarah Ridgway

Tom Toumazis @tomtoumazis

Emma Smyth

Dear Santa 
My name is Leila and I live in Bethlehem. Most people in the city are Muslims but my family is Christian - however at this time of year we all celebrate Christmas! Everybody loves the enormous Christmas tree set up in Manger Square and all my school friends wish me “Happy Christmas!” Of course we wish them “Happy Eid” when it’s their turn and we all share the special foods in each other’s tradition. 
I have heard that children in the UK write to you via the NSPCC which helps children who are suffering from cruelty and that if they use this charity, you will write back to them so I am sending you my wish.  Please can you give my cousin Nabil a new house? A big yellow bulldozer knocked down his house last week. The soldiers said they had to destroy the house to make way for a new Israeli settlement and that the whole village is in the way. 
It’s getting cold and rainy now and Nabil is living under a plastic sheet near the rubble. His baby sister Maysun suffers from asthma and it’s hard to get her to hospital because of the checkpoints. So I’m very worried about what will happen to them as the winter goes on. 
My teacher told me that the company that makes the bulldozers gives money to the NSPCC but I am sure that must be a mistake. A charity which prevents cruelty to children wouldn’t take money from a company which made my cousins homeless, would it?
Anyway Santa my best present would be a new home for Nabil and Maysun 
With love from Leila 
ps I have been a good girl this year

Tuesday, 29 November 2022

International Day of Solidarity With The Palestinian People 2022


Today is International Day of Solidarity with the Palestinian People. The United Nations chose this day, 29th November, in accordance with mandates given by the General Assembly in its resolutions 32/40 B of 2 December 1977, 34/65 D of 12 December 1979, 56/34 of 3 December 2001, and other relevant resolutions.
The date of 29 November chosen has meaning and significance to the Palestinian people. Because on that shameful day in 1947, the General Assembly adopted resolution 181(II), which came to be known as the Partition Resolution. That resolution provided for the establishment in Palestine of a “Jewish State” and an “Arab State”, with Jerusalem as a corpus separatum under a special international regime. Of the two States to be created under this resolution, only one, Israel, has so far come into being.
This United Nations decision unleashed a catastrophe whose reverberations Palestinians continue to experience until today. On 14 May, 1948, the state of Israel was formed.Three-quarters of a million Palestinian Arabs—who were the majority of the population of historic Palestine, fled for their lives after experiencing or learning of massacres by Zionist paramilitary organizations, or were expelled from their homes during the ensuing Arab-Israeli war of 1948. By the 1949 armistice, the original partition lines had shifted violently so that Israel’s footprint became much larger than envisioned by the proposed partition plan, it was accorded 55 percent by the plan, but seized an additional 25% of Palestinian territory.
At present, the drastically reduced Palestinian land continues to be occupied by the Israeli military and Jerusalem is occupied and divided with Israel controlling and limiting access to religious sites. Palestinians originally displaced during the Nakba (the Arabic word for Catastrophe—what the Palestinians call the 1948 war when they lost their homeland) are still prevented from exercising the right to return to their homes in what is now Israel. And contrary to the resolution (and to the Fourth Geneva Convention )   Israel has continued to expropriate additional vast tracts of Palestinian territory for its own use and especially for the building and transfer of its own Israeli citizens to illegal settlements on occupied Palestinian land.
The Palestinian people, who now number more than 8 million, live primarily in the Palestinian territory occupied by Israel since 1967, including East Jerusalem, part of which is now administered by the Palestinian Authority; in Israel; in neighbouring Arab States; and in refugee camps in the region.
The International Day of Solidarity has traditionally provided an opportunity for the international community to focus its attention on the fact that the question of Palestine is still unresolved and that the Palestinian people is yet to attain its inalienable rights as defined by the General Assembly, namely, the right to self-determination without external interference, the right to national independence and sovereignty, and the right to return to their homes and property from which they had been displaced.
Today reminds the world that the threats facing the Palestinian people intensify day by day,  and our only response can be to give even more, and to do even more as the Israeli government continues to press ahead with its gross violations of international law and Palestinian human rights, accelerating the ongoing colonisation of yet more Palestinian land, continues to demolish Palestinian homes and buildings in the Occupied West Bank and continues to subject Gaza to an ever-tightening land, air and sea blockade, making life insufferable for the nearly two million Palestinians, the majority of them refugees from Israel’s ethnic cleansing, trapped in the enclave, like Palestinian refugees everywhere, are denied the right to return to the homes from which they, their parents or grandparents were expelled.
For decades the world has been helplessly watching the Palestinian tragedy unfold as the people of this land are being driven out of their homes that are being destroyed. They are forced to wander as they are constantly harassed and deprived of the very basic necessities such as water. They have no freedom of movement, as they are being arrested arbitrarily, even little children and women have been detained.
Recent actions by the Israeli Government have illustrated the continuing nature of Israel’s illegal occupation and the denial of the rights of Palestinian peoples with the use of militarised violence and forced displacements. The attacks on Gaza in August 2022 killed 44 Palestinians, including 15 children, and were described by the UN Special rapporteur as an act contrary to international law. The Israeli army’s killing of the Palestinian journalist Shireen Abu Akleh; the attacks on the Al Aqsa mosque and the outlawing of 7 NGOs who spoke up for Palestinian rights.
According to the Palestinian Ministry of Health, the Israeli occupying forces have killed over 200 Palestinians so far- 51 of that number are children, the majority shot by Israeli forces or armed settlers in the occupied West Bank. 
As recent Israeli elections recorded a swing to the far-right and the targeting of activists and peaceful protesters has vastly increased, the conditions for Palestinian prisoners mirror those on the ground. Currently, 4760 Palestinian political prisoners are held in Israeli occupation prisons, including 160 children and 33 women. Of that number, 820 are administrative detainees, held without charge or trial based on undisclosed "secret information," four of whom are children, and three are women.
All the above  being just some examples of the  seriousness of the situation facing the people of Palestine, that is confirmed by the the continuing de facto annexation of Palestinian land by accelerated settlement building alongside statements of Israel’s continuing intention to proceed with annexation, show it is clearer than ever that the Israeli State is intent on eliminating any prospects of Palestinian self-determination.
These are threatening, uncertain times for Palestinians living in Gaza, the West Bank, and East Jerusalem. No Palestinian is untouched as we see the intensification of settler colonialism and occupation.More soldiers, more checkpoints, more harassment and more settler attacks.
There is no room for normalcy.The Palestinian Rights can no longer be "exceptions to the rule" of International law. As their advocates, our steadfastness is critical.
It is a testament of hope and perseverance that today the recognition of Israel as an apartheid state and the demand for it to be held accountable for this crime against humanity is becoming mainstream worldwide. Just as in southern Africa, relentless indigenous grassroots struggle and meaningful global solidarity have made this year a remarkable one for the Palestinian anti-apartheid struggle to end Israel’s ongoing Nakba. Beginning with Amnesty International’s milestone report on Israel’s apartheid, in high level UN meetings several states have acknowledged and condemned Israel’s apartheid regime and, in some cases, called for international pressure to end it. 
Although the circumstances of Palestinians have changed over the years, their core demands for liberation and return – and the need for resistance and solidarity to achieve this – have not.The tenacity of Palestinians in struggling for their most basic of rights, and the continued solidarity of people across the world in response, offer a ray of hope that neither alarming rightward drift of Israeli politics nor the bleak geopolitical landscape can diminish. The ongoing challenge for Palestinians, and those engaged in their struggle, this 29 November, is to translate this sentiment of hope into tangible structures capable of moving towards a different political reality.
Today and everyday  lets  re-affirm our solidarity with all Palestinians in historic Palestine and their right to self-determination' with Palestinian political prisoners (women, men & children) in Apartheid Israel's jails, and with the millions of refugees struggling to make their legally guaranteed right of Return a reality.
struggle that should concern people with humanitarian values everywhere. We can  amplify the Palestinian people’s call for freedom, justice, equality, security and dignity and the right of return,by supporting “effective measures” including sanctions, as called for by Palestinian civil society, against actions by the Israeli state that are illegal according to international law. This must include action to ensure that Israel stops the building of settlements, reverses any annexation, ends the occupation of the West Bank, ceases the blockade of Gaza, brings down the Wall and respects the right of refugees to return to their homes under international law.
The UK government must take action too by banning trade with illegal Israeli settlements and implementing sanctions, including a two-way arms embargo, until Israel complies with international law. Public bodies also need to take action to ensure that they are not investing funds or procuring contracts with companies complicit in Israel’s human rights abuses. 
In drawing attention to the struggle of the Palestinian people we cannot but remember the firm stand that the United Nations took against racism, against the evil of Apartheid and supported the liberation struggle of the people of South Africa. 
 At the time his people were liberated, the celebrated leader of the liberation struggle for South Africa Nelson Mandela made a profound statement, which resonates around the world to this day.
 He said: “For many years the United Nations stood firm against racism. Because of that a worldwide consensus was built against this unfair system. We know too well that our freedom is incomplete without the freedom of the Palestinians.” 
Today on International Day of Solidarity with the Palestinian People wherever you are in the world you can activate your solidarity by joining and sharing existing campaigns that can put an end to Israel;s impunity. Apartheid is still a crime against humanity. From the rivers to the sea, Free Palestine!

Monday, 28 November 2022

Nov 28 1820 - The birth of Friedrich Engels. Lifelong revolutionary, friend & collaborator of Karl Marx.


Friedrich Engels, Philosopher, Political economist, activist and Revolutionary Socialist, was born in Barmen, Rhenish Prussia, on the 28th November 1820. He was the oldest of the six children of Friedrich and Elisabeth Franziska Mauritia Engels. The senior Engels, a successful industrialist, was a Christian Pietist and religious fanatic. After attending elementary school at Barmen, young Friedrich entered the gymnasium in nearby Elberfeld at the age of 14, but he left it 3 years later. Although he became one of the most learned men of his time, he had no further formal schooling.
Under pressure from his tyrannical father, Friedrich was sent to the city of Bremen to be inducted into the family business by learning about the industry as a clerk to a firm of linen exporters.To assuage the deadly boredom, Engels wrote articles in newspapers that were critiques of the conditions of workers and the social costs of industrialisation. He had naturally not yet formulated any critique of capitalism per se, His ire was directed at the stultifying effects of Calvinism and the social costs of the Protestant work ethic with the misery it imposed on factory workers.
In 1841, bored with being deskbound in Bremen, Engels returned home to a life that he found equally tedious. To escape he, later that year, volunteered for one year’s service with the Royal Prussian Guards Artillery, based in the capital Berlin.
In Berlin, he came into contact with the radical  Young Hegelian movement who were inspired by the revolutionary essence of the  German idealist philosopher George Hegel, and attracted by his dialectical method which espoused constant development and change through contradiction. Engel's embraced these ideas.
They were bent on accelerating the process by criticizing all that they considered irrational, outmoded, and repressive. As their first assault was directed against the foundations of Christianity they helped convert an agnostic Engels into a militant aetheest, a relatively easy task since by this time Engels’s revolutionary convictions made him ready to strike out in almost any direction.
Engels said of the Young Hegelians that some, including himself, ‘contended for the insufficiency of political change and declared their opinion to be that a social revolution based upon common property, was the only state of mankind agreeing with their abstract principles.’
After some free-lance journalism, part of it under the pseudonym of F. Oswald, in November 1842 Engels moved to Manchester, England, to help manage his father's cotton-factory in Manchester. Several months prior to Engels’ arrival, the Chartist movement reached its peak. With 70,000 members, it was the first mass political movement of the working class anywhere in the world. The Chartists collected 3.3 million signatures on a petition presented to the House of Commons calling for universal suffrage for all men over the age of 21 to end the political monopoly of the capitalist class. However the rest of their programme went even further. As Engels stated of the Chartists programme had been put in to practice it would have amount to the end of the entire British establishment. The rejection of the petition by the House of Commons triggered a series of strikes that were brutally suppressed. Engels supported the cause and became friends with the left-wing Chartist leader Julian Harney and wrote for his newspaper, the Northern Star. He also had contact with the followers of Robert Owen’s utopian socialism.
Manchester in the 1840s was a crucible of the industrial revolution and Engels found himself working and living in a community dominated by the cotton manufacturers.
Here he came face to face with unbridled capitalist exploitation and the degradation of the working class.
He wrote later: ‘A few days in my old man’s factory have sufficed to bring me face to face with its beastliness, which I had rather overlooked.’
Although forced to work alongside the bourgeoisie, he made a point of not socialising with them. He wrote: ‘I forsook the company and the dinner parties, the port wine and champagne of the middle classes, and devoted my leisure hours almost exclusively to the intercourse with plain working men.’
Aged just 24, Engels, guided by Mary Burns a radical young working class Irishwoman who became his lifelong companion, witnessed capitalist industrialisation more extensive, repressive and exploitative than any he had seen in Germany.
In his first major book, ‘The Condition of the Working Class in England in 1844’, Engels reports in excruciating detail the miseries of child labour, starvation wages and appalling working conditions, resulting in crippling injuries or deformities even among the youngest workers.
He called living conditions in English industrial towns ‘the highest and most unconcealed pinnacle of social misery existing in our day’.
Accompanied by Mary, he witnessed and heard from their own mouths the conditions endured by workers and their families.
Engels wrote: ‘It is utterly indifferent to the English bourgeois whether his working-men starve or not, if only he makes money. All the conditions of life are measured by money, and what brings no money is nonsense, unpractical, idealistic bosh.’
Engels observed the rapid rise of illegal trade unionism.
He wrote: ‘The incredible frequency of these strikes proves best of all to what extent the social war has broken out all over England.
No week passes, scarcely a day, indeed, when there is not a strike in some direction.’
Many liberals had bemoaned the wretched inhuman conditions of the working class but they saw it as a helpless class that deserved the ‘help’ of their liberal superiors.
But ‘Condition of the Working Class in England’ was much more than just an exposé of the inhumanity of capitalism.
Engels was the first to understand that this oppressed mass was not just an exploited working class but the only class that could liberate mankind from capitalism – capitalism for Engels had created in the working class its own ‘gravedigger’.
The book created an immediate sensation in German radical circles (it was at first only published in Germany). Karl Marx was particularly enthusiastic about it.
In 1844 Engels began contributing to a radical journal called Franco-German Annals that was being edited by Karl Marx in Paris. In the same year1844, Engels contributed an article, ‘Outline of a Critique of Political Economy’. In this, Engels laid the foundational principles for the critique of bourgeois political economy. Engels demonstrated that all important phenomena in the bourgeois economic system arise inevitably from the rules of private  ownership of the means of production and a society without poverty could only be a society without this private ownership. This immensely fascinated Marx. He came to the conclusion that through a critique of bourgeois political economy, another thinker had come, independently, to the same conclusion that he had come to with his critique of Hegelian philosophy. The pioneering work by Engels, ‘The Condition of the Working Class in England’, also greatly influenced Marx’s line of thinking on the beginnings of the industrial revolution that was taking place in England. During ten days of exchanges in August 1844, Marx’s admiration for Engels grew enormously. He admired Engels’ courage, dedication, single-mindedness and noted that both were in agreement on all theoretical questions of the day. Later that year Engels met Marx and the two men became close friends. A lifelong intellectual rapport and camararderie  was established between them. Finding they were of the same opinion about nearly everything, Marx and Engels decided to collaborate on their writing. It was a good partnership. Whereas Marx was at his best when dealing with difficult abstract concepts, Engels had the ability to write for a mass audience.
While working on their first article together, The Holy Family, the Prussian authorities put pressure on the French government to expel Karl Marx from the country. On 25th January 1845, Marx received an order deporting him from France. Marx and Engels decided to move to Belgium, a country that permitted greater freedom of expression than any other European state. Friedrich Engels helped to financially support Marx and his family. Engels gave Marx the royalties of his book, The Condition of the Working Class in England and arranged for other sympathizers to make donations. This enabled Marx to study and develop his economic and political theories.
In July 1845 Engels took Karl Marx to England. They spent most of the time consulting books in Manchester Library. Engels and Marx returned to Brussels and in January 1846 they set up a Communist Correspondence Committee. Engels returned to England in December 1847 where he attended a meeting of the Communist League's Central Committee in London. At the meeting it was decided that the aims of the organisation was "the overthrow of the bourgeoisie, the domination of the proletariat, the abolition of the old bourgeois society based on class antagonisms, and the establishment of a new society without classes and without private property".
Engels and Marx began writing a pamphlet together. Based on a first draft produced by Engels called the Principles of Communism, Marx finished the 12,000 word pamphlet in six weeks. Unlike most of Marx's work, it was an accessible account of communist ideology. Written for a mass audience, The Communist Manifesto summarised the forthcoming revolution and the nature of the communist society that would be established by the proletariat. The Communist Manifesto was published in February, t. The opening lines of the Manifesto - “a spectre is haunting Europe  highlight the revolutionary events taking place in Marx and Engels’ lifetime, which clearly had a profound impact on the thinking of the two men. It goes on to  declares proudly:
 ‘Of all the classes that stand face to face with the bourgeoisie today, the proletariat alone is a really revolutionary class. The other classes decay and finally disappear in the face of modern industry; the proletariat is its special and essential product.
It goes on: ‘What the bourgeoisie therefore produces, above all, are its own gravediggers. Its fall and the victory of the proletariat are equally inevitable.’
The Manifesto concludes: ‘Let the ruling classes tremble at a Communist revolution. The proletarians have nothing to lose but their chains. They have a world to win. Working men of all countries, unite!’
The French Revolution had given rise to a plethora of socialist movements. But these were generally of a utopian character, seeing socialism as simply a ‘great idea’ that had to be struggled for by ‘great men’. 
In contrast to this idealism, Marx and Engels sought to establish a materialist basis for the movement of the working class; hence their own description of their ideas as ‘scientific socialism’. 
They explained that socialism is not an a historical blueprint for society, but a system of socio-economic relations. This system, in turn, requires certain material conditions - the development of large-scale industry and monopolies; a strong working class; the interconnectivity of the world market - in order to arise and flourish. Most importantly, Marx and Engels identified the agents for this revolutionary change: the organised working class - the “gravediggers” of capitalism. This radical potential of the working class could be seen in the enormous movements shaking Europe at the time: from the Chartists in Britain, to the revolutions that swept across the continent in 1848
Three days after the manifesto was published, a revolutionary uprising in France overthrew the monarchy. The revolution spread to Germany in March and rapidly expanded across Europe. The feudal rulers of the German states were forced to abdicate in droves or accept parliaments and constitutions. In May, the National Assembly began meeting in the Paulskirche in Frankfurt, where it was to draft a constitution for a united Germany.
The founders of Marxism were not mere observers to such events.Marx and Engels did not hesitate for a moment to participate in the revolution. Drawing on the tradition of the Rheinische Zeitung, which was banned in 1843, Marx and Engels founded the Neue Rheinische Zeitung (NRZ) in Cologne.The men hoped to use the newspaper to encourage the revolutionary atmosphere that they had witnessed in Paris. Three hundred and one editions of the paper appeared between June 1, 1848 and May 19, 1849, and the publication reached a circulation of 6,000, a considerable number at the time. The newspaper saw itself as the left wing of the democratic camp and its task as pushing forward the bourgeois revolution, which, as the Communist Manifesto had declared, “will be but the prelude of an immediately following proletarian revolution.
Engels helped form an organisation called the Rhineland Democrats. On 25th September, 1848, several of the leaders of the group were arrested. Engels managed to escape but was forced to leave the country. Karl Marx continued to publish the New Rhenish Gazette until he was expelled in May, 1849. Engels and Marx then moved to London.
In November 1850, unable to make a living as a writer in London and anxious to help support the penniless Marx, Engels returned to his father’s business in Manchester. All the time, the two men kept an almost  daily correspondence, exchanging ideas and opinions and collaborating in developing the theory of scientific socialism. Friedrich Engels sent postal orders or £1 or £5 notes, cut in half and sent in separate envelopes. In this way the Marx family was able to survive.
At the same time, they took a leading role in the struggle of workers in Britain and across the world.
In 1864, Marx and Engels founded the International Working Men’s Association retrospectively known as the First International,.which, in accordance with their idea of uniting workers of all countries, was to have a tremendous significance in the development of the international working class movement.
The International was a rich tapestry of working class organisations and left-wing groups, containing utopian socialists, communists, and anarchists. But despite the ideological confusion within the IWA, Marx and Engels saw the International’s creation as an enormous step forward for the working class. After all, as they would later comment in respect to their criticisms of the Gotha Programme, the political document adopted by the nascent Social Democratic Party of Germany: "Every step of real movement is more important than a dozen programmes." 
Nevertheless, Marx and Engels made it their goal to bring ideological clarity to the International, putting the movement on a firm theoretical foundation. This is why both Marx and Engels dedicated so much of their time and energy to corresponding with other leading political figures and - most importantly - producing vital works of Marxist theory.
This process of political clarification did not come without fierce battles and struggles, however - most notably with Bakunin and the anarchists.
Following the defeat of the Paris Commune in 1871, Marx and Engels wound up the First International to focus their attentions elsewhere. But their efforts were not in vain. Rather, this aborted attempt to create an international revolutionary organisation, in retrospect, can be seen as the prelude to the creation of mass working class parties that were founded on the basis of Marxist ideas.
In September 1870 Engels moved to London, settling near the home of Marx, whom he saw daily. A generous friend and gay host, the fun-loving Engels spent the remaining 25 years of his life in London, enjoying good food, good wine, and good company. He also worked hard, doing the things he loved: writing, maintaining contact and a voluminous correspondence with radicals everywhere. 
After Marx’s death, Engels continued alone as the counsellor and leader of the European socialist movement, which had become a mass force. His advice was eagerly sought after, and he drew on his vast knowledge and experience in his old age.
Like Marx, Engels knew many foreign languages, he could converse freely in English, French, Italian, and could read Spanish and almost all Slavic and Scandanavian languages. He and Marx conducted a massive correspondence on a host of questions. Incredibly, this covers 13 volumes of the Collected Works, amounting to 3,957 letters. These reveal the fascinating close bond between them and their joint work.
Marx died before he could put the final touches to his vast work on political economy. Using the drafts left by Marx, Engels put his own research aside and took on the colossal task of completing Marx’s work, editing and publishing volumes two and three of Capital. Only he could decipher Marx’s unintelligible handwriting.
Engels continued to write prefaces to the ‘Communist Manifesto’ and other newer editions of their works on the basis of contemporary developments enriching the international working class struggles and urging its forward movement.
On Aug. 14, 1889, the 100th anniversary of the French Revolution, the Second International was founded in Paris at Engels’ initiative. Around 300 parties and organisations from 20 countries were represented. Engels was in particularly close contact with the leaders of the German Social Democracy, who regularly sought his advice. He attended the Third Congress of the International in Zurich. In the closing session, he addressed the delegates first in English, then in French, then in German.
After Marx’s death (1883), Engels served as the foremost authority on Marx and Marxism. Aside from occasional writings on a variety of subjects and introductions to new editions of Marx’s works, Engels  other two late publications were the books Der Ursprung der Familie, des Privateigenthums und des Staats (1884; The Origin of the Family, Private Property and the State) and Ludwig Feuerbach und der Ausgang der klassischen deutschen Philosophie (1888; Ludwig Feuerbach and the Outcome of Classical German Philosophy). All the while he corresponded extensively with German social democrats and followers everywhere, so as to perpetuate the image of Marx and to foster some degree of conformity among the “faithful.
Engels died of cancer in London on Aug. 5, 1895 a revolutionary communist to the very core. His ashes were cast into the sea off Beachy Head in Eastbourne. 
Upon  hearing of the death of Friedrich Engels 1895, Vladimir Lenin wrote:“The name and life of Engels should be known to every worker...Above all, he taught the working class to know itself and be conscious of itself, substituting science for dreams...”
“Let us always honour the memory of Frederick Engels - a great fighter and teacher of the proletariat!”
In the history books, Engels is often recorded as simply being Marx’s philanthropic benefactor. It is true that Engels’ financial contributions (obtained from his bourgeois family’s textile industry wealth) were essential in allowing Marx to dedicate his time to writing. But, as a result, Engels’ own important political contributions to the ideas of Marxism are often overlooked.
In truth, Engels was himself a theoretical giant.  Engels’ masterful command of language, his ability to present complex material in an understandable way, his encyclopedic knowledge, and his humour, which shone through even in connection with the most serious topics, make the reading of his works a pleasure to this day. He not only had a profound knowledge of economics and history, but also a burning interest in philosophy, science, literature, and even military tactics.Without him, Marx's work would have been impossible and would not have been preserved. Marxism was originally an Engels-Marx-ism Whoever speaks of socialism today must not forget Engels for the vital contribution that he made to developing the ideas of Marxism, for which we owe him an enormous debt of gratitude.
I will acknowledge we should not forget those that twisted communism into tyranny's that Marx and Engel's  could not have anticipated. In none of his writings did Engel's  condone, mass murder, torture or show trials.
It is fashionable in some academic circles to try and emphasise political differences between Marx and Engels. However the voluminous correspondence between the two lifelong friends shows the inseparability of their bond. Their multiple co-written titles, meanwhile, provides further evidence of their close political connection.
During his lifetime, Engels experienced, in a milder form, the same attacks and veneration that fell upon Marx. An urbane individual with the demeanour of an English gentleman, Engels customarily was a witty associate with a great zest for living. He had a code of honour that responded quickly to an insult, even to the point of violence. As the hatchetman of the “partnership,” he could be most offensive and ruthless, so much so that in 1848 various friends attempted unsuccessfully to persuade Marx to disavow him.
Today I remember a man who dedicated his life to the revolutionary struggle  of the proletariat to free itself from the chains of capitalism and usher in a new era of history. Without doubt his  towering revolutionary spirit lives on in the Marxist tendency, which  continually defends his legacy, and the struggle for world socialism and many  after his birth Britain is still, sadly a country that murders it's poor, if we really want to remember him we should continue to fight against poverty and the conditions that creates it. And as long as capitalism exists, his teachings will remain relevant.

Friday, 25 November 2022

Another anniversary we should never want to Forget

One year ago,on 24/11.22 a rubber dinghy carrying 34 people sank in the English Channel. There were two survivors. in what was the worst disaster on record involving migrants in the sea separating France and the United Kingdom, an incident that shocked people around the world.
They all had different hopes and dreams. Many were trying to flee violence, persecution or hardship in their own country. Some were seeking to reunite with their family and partners. Others wanted to find work here to support the family they’d left behind. All were hoping to find safety and security. 
The incident came amid record numbers of asylum seekers attempting to cross the Channel and further highlighted the dehumanisation and objectification of migrant ‘bodies at borders’.
The British government steadfastly refused to take responsibility, instead pointed the finger of blame at the French for failing to stop people smugglers operating on the beaches near Calais.
In the 3 hours it took for the boat to sink, distress messages flooded in from those on board, yet French and British coastguards debated whose responsibility it was to rescue them. No help came, as one by one the passengers died of cold or drowned. 
Evidence from the two survivors, phone calls, text messages and emails unveiled the horror of the disaster. The phone conversations suggested that neither the French nor the British coastguards wanted to take responsibility, each believing the vessel to be in the other's waters.
A preliminary report, put together by a law firm representing the victims' families, said that the first calls for help were made around 2am and continued for over two hours, with the passengers increasingly begging for help.
Logs published by the Le Monde newspaper   last weekend indicate that they tried to contact both French and English rescue services, but were not rescued before the captain of a private boat reported bodies floating in the water in the strait of Calais – 12 hours after the first mayday call on 24 November 2021.
The account only covers the response by French authorities, because logs and other evidence from the British coastguard are subject to a separate investigation that has not yet published its findings.
The first call to the French coastguard was recorded at 1.51am local time, when a passenger stayed on the phone for 14 minutes begging for help for more than 30 people on board the inflatable boat. 
 “We need help, if you please, help us,” the man was recorded saying.
Minutes later, a telephone conversation between British and French authorities reportedly indicated that the boat was in French waters around half a mile from the nautical border.
Migrants continued to call for help, but at 2.33am logs show that French authorities instructed them to call 999 because they were in British waters at that point.
They were given the same message in further calls before the boat is believed to have overturned around 3am. 
Half an hour later, logs compiled by French lawyers show that a survivor on the phone to French authorities said people were in the water but was told: “Yes, but you are in English waters.
Records show that shortly after 4am, British authorities told their French counterparts that they had received a distress call but found nothing at the reported location of the boat. 
French authorities formally closed their operation at around 4.30am after calls ceased and a French fisherman found the victims’ bodies the next day. 
We now know far more about what the French coastguard did that night. But the British actions are covered-up. The French coastguard disclosed its record of emergency calls to lawyers as part of a French investigation. The British authorities have not.
The Marine Accident Investigation Branch, tasked with investigating the worst loss of life in the Channel in over 30 years, to add further injury  will not present its findings until next year and has yet to get in touch with most of the families of the dead, despite receiving their contact details. The families have also been denied access to recordings of their loved ones’ final calls for help.
The unmistakable message conveyed by such responses is that these deaths don’t matter and that the families of the deceased are unworthy of respect. But the  people who died in the Channel  have names, lives, stories, and families, and should  not be forgotten.
These drownings were not an isolated incident, over the last 20 years, many other asylum seekers have also died trying to cross the Channel to the UK. And in the 365 days since those 31 people drowned, nearly 44,000 have made the dangerous crossing and the numbers are only going up, according to data from the PA news agency.
Under the UK government’s hostile environment policy, many legal immigration routes have been closed and the rights of asylum seekers have been severely curtailed. The increasing number of people attempting to cross the Channel in small boats in recent years appears to be linked to the closing down of other routes.
Thus, far from tackling a dangerous migration process, the British government’s actions seem to be feeding this route and as a consequence will guarantee more drownings.The simple truth is that people fleeing war and persecution will continue to risk making these perilous  frightening journeys. whether by boat or other means, if  the government refuse to share responsibility for providing safe access to a kinder, fairer and more effective properly functioning asylum system
On the anniversary of the tragedy, refugee and migrant support groups joined relatives at memorial events  across the country and, through calls for a public inquiry into the events, made it clear that callous indifference to the lives and deaths of migrants and refugees will not be tolerated.
They also called for an end to the poisonous rhetoric used by our politicians – calling innocent refugees ‘illegal migrants’ or, worse, ‘an invasion’ – that only serves to breed more fear and division.Demanding safe and legal passage to refugees to allow them to claim asylum in Britain without risking their lives in the Channel.
By shutting down ordinary routes for people to seek asylum in the UK, the Tory government has encouraged ever more dangerous smuggling operations that have become a last resort for those desperate enough to put themselves in smugglers hands. If the UK government really cares and wants to put people smugglers out of business, the simple demands for safe and legal passage would ensure they would disappear overnight. and more importantly, it would safe lives. On behalf of the the victims and their families of the the 24 November tragedy we must continue to demand change. 

Thursday, 24 November 2022

National Day of Mourning/ Unthanksgiving Day

The National Day of Mourning is observed on the fourth Thursday of November, which fell today on November 24 this year, which also happens to be Thanksgiving in the United States. a day focused on spending time with family and indulging in delicious treats, gratitude and good times.
A national holiday that marks the harvest feast going back to the so-called ‘First Thanksgiving’ in 1621, when the Pilgrims ( the colonists who came over on the Mayflower and  arrived in Plymouth and established the first colony.) shared a meal with the Wampanoag people.
Without the help of the Native Americans living in the region however, the Pilgrims of Plymouth Colony would not have likely survived their first years in the New World. For many Americans, therefore, Thanksgiving symbolises a bond and peace between the two peoples as they sat together at the same table, and perhaps hope of a lasting reconciliation after centuries of division.
For many other Americans, however, this is not a cause for celebration. It is a reminder of the brutal acts perpetrated on the Native Americans by European settlers and then the US government: massacres, land stealing and relentless attacks on their cultures and livelihoods. 
So today also marked the National Day of Mourning and Unthanksgiving Day, a day of protest that illuminates the Native American perspectives surrounding the very first Thanksgiving, that acts as a reminder of the inequitable treatment of them since the 1620 Plymouth landing. The National Day of Mourning also serves as a reminder to everyone that Thanksgiving is only one part of the story.
The official  National Day of Mourning was established by the United American Indians of New England back in 1970 when Wamsutta, an elder of the Aquinnah Wampanoag, was invited to a Thanksgiving state dinner in Plymouth, Massachusetts – the site of the Pilgrims’ colony – and asked to give a speech to mark the 350th anniversary of the Mayflower’s arrival. He was politely requested to show a copy of what he intended to say first, though. Wamsutta, also known as Frank James, had written an impassioned and forceful indictment of the white conquest of native lands, starting immediately with the Pilgrims.

"This is a time of celebration for you – celebrating an anniversary of a beginning for the white man in America. A time for looking back, of reflection. It is with a heavy heart that I look back upon what happened to my people,” he said early in his 1,400-word speech. “We, the Wampanoag, welcomed you, the white man, with open arms, little knowing that it was the beginning of the end; that before 50 years were to pass, the Wampanoag would no longer be a free people.”

He went on to say: “Although time has drained our culture, and our language is almost extinct, we the Wampanoags still walk the land of Massachusetts. We may be fragmented, we may be confused. Many years have passed since we have been a people together. Our lands were invaded. We fought as hard to keep our lands as you the whites did to take our land away from us.”

 In his speech, Wamsutta not only named atrocities committed by the Pilgrims, but also reflected upon the fate of the Wampanoag at the hands of settlers. The speech contained a powerful message of Native American pride. “Our spirit refuses to die,” wrote Wamsutta. “Yesterday we walked the woodland paths and sandy trails. Today we must walk the macadam highways and roads. We are uniting. … We stand tall and proud; and before too many moons pass, we’ll right the wrongs we have allowed to happen to us.

The speech contained a revolutionary spirit, clearly inspired by the fledgling “Red Power Movement,” which demanded equal rights and self-determination for Native Americans. This without a doubt frightened the state officials, whose minds were likely drawn to the 1969 Occupation of Alcatraz, a 19-month-long protest involving Native Americans and supporters taking over the abandoned federal penitentiary on Alcatraz Island in California. The Occupation of Alcatraz was the first intertribal protest that garnered national attention, and it had struck fear into the hearts of the ruling class, because it was becoming clear that Native Americans, like African Americans and other oppressed peoples, were saying “no more!”
A representative of the Department of Commerce and Development perhaps unsurprisingly told Wamsutta that he would not be able to give that speech, saying “the theme of the anniversary celebration is brotherhood and anything inflammatory would have been out of place”. Wamsutta was given a different speech to read, Wamsutta  rejected the invitation to speak, declining the offer to “speak false words” in thanks of the pilgrims who claimed native land and caused pain and suffering to native people. 
Instead, he led a group of protestors to Cole’s Hill in Plymouth and, standing next to a statue of the great Wampanoag leader Massasoit, declared the first National Day of Mourning. Native American leaders made speeches about the deplorable conditions Native Americans faced, the genocidal actions of the United States government and the devastation caused by the Pilgrims.
The group went down to the waterfront, where they buried Plymouth Rock in sand and painted it red. A small group of protesters made their way to the Mayflower II, a replica of the original Mayflower, and boarded the ship. They climbed the rigging and tore down the flag of Saint George, the patron saint of England. They tossed a wax statue of the captain of the Mayflower, Christopher Jones, overboard, along with the flag of Saint George.
The protesters then made their way to a “re-creation” of the first Thanksgiving dinner, where they flipped over tables saying that they “would not eat the white man’s food.”
One AIM leader would later say of the first National Day of Mourning that it “is a day American Indians won’t forget. We went to Plymouth for a purpose: to mourn since the landing of the Pilgrims the repression of the American Indian; and to indict the hypocrisy of a system which glorifies that repression. We fulfilled that purpose and gained a spirit of unity that spread across the land.” (“Russell Means Recounts NDOM, 1971”)
Since that say in 1970, Native Americans have gathered at noon on Cole’s Hill in Plymouth, Massachusetts, to observe a National Day of Mourning on Thanksgiving Day.
To them, Thanksgiving is a cruel reminder of “the genocide of millions of Native people, the theft of Native lands, and the relentless assault on Native culture.”
They participate to honor Native ancestors and the current struggles of Native peoples to survive. “It is a day of remembering and spiritual connection, as well as a protest against the racism and oppression that Native Americans continue to face.”
This event is sponsored by the United American Indians of New England (UAINE). They argue that when the Pilgrims arrived in North America, they claimed tribal land for themselves rather than establishing a mutually beneficial relationship with the locals. The settlers, according to UAINE members, “introduced sexism, racism, anti-homosexual bigotry, jails, and the class system.”
Since then, the organization along with its supporters continues to amplify Native American perspectives relative to the Thanksgiving holiday and other current struggles native people face today.The National Day of Mourning is celebrated by the Wampanoag people, who are local to the New England area, as well as tribes across the United States, and other Americans who show their support and recognize Native American perspectives.
At the 1972 National Day of Mourning, a young woman was attacked by the police for wearing an upside-down American flag draped over her shoulders. At the 1974 National Day of Mourning, Wamsutta and protesters liberated the bones of a 16-year-old Wampanoag girl from the Pilgrim Hall Museum.
In 1997, National Day of Mourning organizers and protesters were attacked and brutalized by the Plymouth police, who arrested 25 protesters. The resulting court case and settlement led to the installation of two plaques, one that marked the origin and purpose of the National Day of Mourning, the other commemorating Metacomet (King Philip), who led resistance against English settlers in 1675. The settlement also ensured that charges were dropped against all 25 protesters and protected the right to march without a permit each National Day of Mourning.
While the initial National Day of Mourning still takes place in Plymouth, Massachusetts, and will continue to do so into the future. Similar to the National Day of Mourning, Unthanksgiving Day is a demonstration held on the fourth Thursday of November in remembrance of the Native American lives lost following the European settlement of the United States. The Unthanksgiving Day protest is held on Alcatraz Island in the San Francisco Bay.
Both the National Day of Mourning and Unthanksgiving Day protests provide a platform for Native American peoples to share their experiences, honor loved ones lost, and advocate for progressive measures to improve the lives of native people and their relations with their past, present, and future and speak truth to power. 
National Day of Mourning does not only focus on the past. Speakers talk about many contemporary issues,Key issues that were addressed today included the potential overturn of the Indian Child Welfare Act (ICWA); Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women, Girls and Two-Spirit People (MMIWG2S); and clemency for longtime Native American political prisoner Leonard Peltier.
 As Moonanum James, son of Wamsutta Frank James and the late co-leader of UAINE, said to the crowd at the 2019 National Day of Mourning, “We will continue to gather on this hill until corporations and the U.S. military stop polluting the Earth. Until we dismantle the brutal apparatus of mass incarceration. We will not stop until the oppression of our Two-Spirit siblings is a thing of the past. When the homeless have homes. When children are no longer taken from their parents and locked in cages. When the Palestinians reclaim the homeland and the autonomy Israel has denied them for the past 70 years. When no person goes hungry or is left to die because they have little or no access to quality health care. When insulin is free. When union-busting is a thing of the past. Until then, the struggle will continue.
 Kisha James—who is an enrolled member of the Wampanoag Tribe of Gay Head (Aquinnah) and is also Oglala Lakota—told BBC. "What we do object to is the Thanksgiving mythology."
In a powerfuil Thursday speech, James—whose grandfather dounded the National Day of Mourning in 1970—challenged the lies of "mythmakers" and history books, instead highlighting "genocide, the theft of our lands, the destruction of our traditional ways of life, slavery, starvation, and never-ending oppression."
"When people celebrate the myth of Thanksgiving, they are not only erasing our genocide but also celebrating it. We did not simply fade into the background as the Thanksgiving myth says. We have survived and flourished. We have persevered," she declared.
 "That first Day of Mourning in 1970 was a powerful demonstration of Native unity," she said, "and it has continued for all these years as a powerful demonstration of Indigenous unity and of the unity of all people who speak truth to power."
James noted that "many of the conditions that prevailed in Indian Country in 1970 still prevail today," pointing to life expectancy, suicide, and infant mortality rates—along with the rising death rate for Native women—and taking aim at racism and "the oppression of a capitalist system which forces people to make a bitter choice between heating and eating."
 And we will continue to gather on this hill until we are free from the oppressive system; until corporations and the U.S. military stop polluting the Earth; until we dismantle the brutal apparatus of mass incarceration," James vowed.

In all of its work, whether organizing National Day of Mourning or leading Indigenous Peoples Day efforts, UAINE seeks to unite Indigenous Peoples, center Indigenous Peoples’ voices, learn from each other, and educate non-Native people as well. Now more than ever, non-Native people need to learn the truth about the impact of colonialism and listen to what Indigenous Peoples have to say about many issues, especially frontline Indigenous perspectives and wisdom on how to properly and immediately address the climate crisis.

Tuesday, 22 November 2022

Remembering the life of Cecil Sharp founding father of the folklore revival in England in the early 20th century (22 November 1859 – 23 June 1924)


Cecil James Sharp (1859-1924), musician and folk-music collector, was born on St Cecilia's Day, 22 November 1859 at Camberwell, London, eldest son of James Sharp, slate merchant, and his wife Jane, née Bloyd, both music lovers. Cecil attended Uppingham School, University College School, London, and from 1879 Clare College, University of Cambridge (B.A., 1883).
After Cambridge his father suggested he go to Australia to seek his fortune. He arrived in Adelaide, where his first job was washing hansom-cabs, then as a bank clerk. He also taught violin, and continued with his amateur musical interests, for which he became well known in Adelaide. From the bank he moved to a legal firm. However he resigned this job, and started on a full-time musical career, as an organist, pianist, conductor and then as a teacher at Adelaide College of Music.
Sharp was well liked; he was a debonair young man. He was musical director in 1883-84 of the Adelaide String Quartet Club , assistant organist to Arthur Boult at St Peter's Anglican Cathedral and conducted its choral society, for which he arranged Nursery Ditties (Adelaide, c.1890), and also the Government House choral society which performed his settings of Guy Bppthby's Dimple's Lovers in September 1890. Later he conducted the Adelaide Philharmonic Choir.
In 1889 Sharp, who had many pupils, became co-director with Immanuel Reimann of the Adelaide College of Music. Sharp's students adored him but he resigned after two years. He had written an operetta to a text by Boothby: Sylvia, produced at the Theatre Royal in December 1890.
He returned to England in 1892, taking various musical jobs as a conductor and teacher. He was appointed music-master at Ludgrove, a prepartory school for Eton. Sharp married Constance Dorothea Birch. also a music lover at Clevedon on August 22nd 1893. They had four children, Dorothea, Charles, Joan  and Susannah By 1900 he had written some forty works; few were published. He taught at several schools and at the Metropolitan College, Holloway, and was principal of the Hampstead Conservatoire of Music in 1896-1905.
Early attempts at becoming a composer largely resulted in failure and frustration, but two chance meetings led to significant changes in his life purpose.
The first of these was on Boxing Day, 1899. Staying for Christmas at Sandfield Cottage, the home of his mother-in-law in Headington, Oxfordshire, Sharp overheard a style of music he had never encountered before. Watching from his window, he saw the Headington Quarry Morris Men dancing to the traditional tunes, ‘Laundnum Bunches’ and ‘Rigs O’Marlow’, which he quickly noted down. 
Morris dancers performed in unusually exotic costumes, and their repertoire involved a form of martial dancing whose origins are somewhat mysterious. The term is though to be a derivative of “Moorish” or “Moroccan,” and dates back to the 1490s, when dances known as the moresca were performed in Spain in celebration of King Ferdinand (1452-1516) and Queen Isabella (1451-1504)'s move to eject the Moors from the Iberian peninsula. In fifteenth-century England, Morris dancers would blacken their faces in what was apparently an imitation of the darker North African Moors, but by Sharp's era they had retained only the bells attached to their boots and their somewhat fanciful North African-inspired garb. By the time that Sharp saw the dancers on the street, the Morris groups were a dying breed, with just a handful of active groups in England left.
Stepping outside, he met with William Kimber, the side’s musician, who agreed to return the following day and play more tunes. This he did, and Sharp took down two further tunes, ‘Beansetting’ and ‘Constant Billy’. 
His second significant meeting came in September 1903, Cecil Sharp visited his friend Reverend Charles Marson in Hambridge (Somerset).  During his stay, he heard Marson's gardener, the appropriately named John England, singing  the traditional song The Seeds of Love as he mowed the lawn.  Sharp was gripped by some strange enthusiasm.  He grabbed a pencil and notebook, then wrote down the melody and words.  Over the next few hours, Sharp worked on his notes, and devised a piano accompaniment for the song.  That evening, The Seeds of Love was sung by his protégé, Mattie Kay, to the other visitors in the house.  Someone present remarked of Sharp's new arrangement that it was the first time that folk-song had been presented in evening dress. As Sharp’s confidante and biographer, Maud Karpeles, wrote in 1967:

Sharp was sitting in the vicarage garden talking to Charles Marson and to Mattie Kay, who was likewise staying at Hambridge, when he heard John England quietly singing to himself as he mowed the vicarage lawn. Sharp whipped out his notebook and took down the tune; and then persuaded John to give him the words. He immediately harmonised the song; and that same evening it was sung at a choir supper by Mattie Kay, Sharp accompanying. The audience was delighted; as one said, it was the first time that the song had been put into evening dress.

That was 1903. Sharp was 44 years old. Perhaps tired of struggling as a never-quite-there composer, he threw himself into his new passion with a zeal that altered the fate of English traditional music.These events led Sharp to realize that there was a wealth of traditional dance and folksong material that needed to be preserved. He would devote the remainder of his life doing just that.
Sharp became the most enthusiastic of the Morris collectors, travelling the length and breadth of England in search of the dances and their associated tunes. Particularly before the Great War, Sharp cycled and walked many miles, collecting folk songs and morris, sword and country dances.
His notebooks contain over 1700 variants. The first collections he published were part I of Folk Songs from Somerset (with Charles Marson) in 1904, and The Morris Book (with Herbert Macilwaine and George Butterworth) in 1907; a list of his published collections is in Maud Karpeles's biography. In 1918 Percy Grainger arranged Country Gardens, a Morris dance which Sharp collected; Grainger could never persuade Sharp to accept half the royalties. They differed too on folk-music collection methods, Sharp preferring the pad and pen to the phonogram. Other parts of The Morris Book were published, with Part 5 in 1914, in association with George Butterworth. As a result of these labours he also published The Sword Dances of Northern England (1913), 3 parts, and The Country Dance Book, (1909), 6 parts. A number of morris and sword teams started up, notably Thaxted Morris Men in 1911.. In the same year Sharp founded, and in 1912-24 directed, the English Folk Dance Society(
Traveling with his associate Maud Karpeles, Sharp visited North Carolina, Virginia, Tennessee, West Virginia, and Kentucky, collecting over 1600 tunes that resulted in the publication of two volumes of this music.  The travel was arduous and his health was not good at the time.
The two formed lifelong connections with many of the mountain residents.  His work was also documented with a series of photographs.  Maud Karpeles carried on this work after his death and became Sharp’s biographer.  In 1950 she returned to the area to record this music and located a number of people from their previous encounters.After 1918, Sharp never did return to America but his influence continued.
In 1919 he became an occasional inspector, in folk-song and dancing, of training colleges, to spread his enthusiasm among teachers and in 1923 his old university made him an honorary master of music; in the House of Commons he was described as one 'to whose work in this field British education owes an almost irredeemable debt'.Next year he completed The Dance, a historical survey of dancing in Europe, with Adolf Paul Oppé.
While at Cambridge, Sharp heard the lectures of  William Morris and became a Fabian Socialist and lifelong vegetarian. He was cautious in his public statements, however, feeling that he had much to lose, since, unlike Morris, he was not independently wealthy but dependent on outside funding for his researches. Respectability was important to him, increasingly so as he got older. According to his biographer, Maud Karpeles: "Any display of singularity was displeasing to him; and he followed the convention in behaviour as well as in appearance unless there was a very good reason for departing from them. 'It saves so much trouble,' he would say." During the post World War II "second" British folk revival of the 1950s and 60s, Sharp was occasionally chided for this by leftist critics such as Bert LLoyd. C. J. Bearman writes that "Lloyd was effectively the first to offer public criticism of Sharp and of the first revival generally. This critique was from a Marxist perspective: Lloyd (1908–82) had associated himself with the Communist Party since the 1930s. ... However, he was always more pragmatic than doctrinaire, and he combined criticism of Sharp's philosophy and methods with high and unreserved praise for his motivation and the epic scale of his achievement."
 His own description of his political beliefs - 'Conservative Socialist' - coupled with his regular support for Liberal Party candidates, only serves to deepen the confusion concerning his political values.
Sharp has also often been criticized for the way in which he ran roughshod over some of his fellow-collectors and their work, not least by Lucy Broadwood. Recalling his mannerisms in a letter dated July 22, 1924, she wrote:

“[Cecil Sharp] unfortunately took up old songs and old dance collecting as a profession, and, not being a gentleman, he puffed and boomed and shoved and ousted and used the press to advertise himself; so that, although we pioneers were the people from whom he originally learnt all that he knew of the subjects, he came to believe himself to be King of the whole movement.”

As Lucy Broadwood noted, Sharp was a driven man who “puffed and boomed and shoved and ousted” until he got what he wanted, which, ultimately, seems to have been wider recognition of the traditional folk songs and dances that he so loved. It is very tempting to simply describe him as a man of his time and leave it at that, but few of his contemporaries managed to create quite such a difficult reputation for themselves.
In 1993, Georgina Boyes published The Imagined Village – Culture, ideology and the English Folk Revival, which argued (amongst many other things) that Sharp was deeply sexist and sought to undermine the female leaders of the first folk revivalist movement. He was known to be anti-suffrage, despite his sister, Helen Sharp, being a prominent member of the Suffragettes.
Sharp’s views on race are also the subject of frequent debate. Both his Appalachian Diaries and the writings of his assistant, Maud Karpeles, make use of derogatory terms for people of colour, and contain an oft-cited instance in which the pair arrived at a cove called Sylva, only to leave without collecting songs because the population was largely black. However, it has also been argued that Sharp was one of the only collectors to collect (on different occasions) from people of colour, and that the instance in Sylva may have been the result of ill-health and feeling out of place. His use of derogatory terminology might also be attributed to his being “a man of his time”. However, neither of these explanations account for an outburst on page 247 of his diary  in which he complains of the town smelling of, “tobacco, molasses and n****r”.
Then there's the question of theft.  Defenders of Sharp grow furious when they hear such terms. Sharp can be presented in almost Biblical terms as a suffering, ageing man, working almost alone, dedicating himself with a selfless, single-minded intensity to the preservation of a folk heritage.  How could anyone call this secular saint a thief?  It must be remembered that for much of his life folk song wasn't simply a passion for Sharp, it was also a career.  He earnt his bread and butter by talking about and teaching folk song.  Inevitably, he had to present himself as an authority on the topic, and this led him to downplay or deny the influence of other collectors.
But more seriously than this, Sharp actually copyrighted much of the material he collected: if not the original tune or dance, then his arrangement of the tune or dance.  Legal experts Richard Jones and Euan Cameron note: 'The "folk" were seen to have passed on the folk song, but had no conception of this process and, in consequence, made no creative contribution to the song." On at least one occasion, a dance troupe realized the implications of his actions, and denied Sharp permission to use their material. Sharp's collecting was not a two-way street: he gave nothing back to the people from whom he took material. 
Clearly, collecting folk-songs wasn't simply a means for him make money: the dedication he showed to this cause went far above and beyond that. On the other hand, one can assume that throughout his collecting, Sharp was thinking about his career: he wanted to generate an income from folk song and, less creditably, he wanted to prevent rivals from blocking his rise.
Long plagued by asthma, he died on  Midsummers day 23 June 1924 at Hampstead. Survived by his wife, three daughters and a son, he was buried in Golders Green cemetery.
In 1930, six years after his death, the Cecil Sharp House was founded in London, dedicated to the preservation of folksong and dance. The English Folk Dance Society amalgamated in 1932 with the Folk Song Society; in 1930 their headquarters had become Cecil Sharp House.
A world-class dedicated folk arts centre, Cecil Sharp House is at the heart of English folk. With a unique history.the venue is a memorial to Cecil Sharp.Vibrant and diverse, Cecil Sharp House exists to serve its wide and diverse audiences - engaging with art lovers (oft times folk art lovers) through unique and inspiring artistic events, and creative learning. The iconic Grade II listed building is home to the English Folk Dance and Song Society and the Vaughan Williams Memorial Library, England's national collection of folk music and dance.
Cecil Sharp remains a complicated and controversial figure, and a troublesome one for many interested in traditional music who may find it difficult to reconcile his reported views with the fact that he did so much to save the songs and dances they love from extinction.Sharp's achievements are indisputable.  Sharp's legacy as a collector and promoter of folksongs and dances would echo throughout the music community in a number of ways. His labor laid the groundwork for a revival of Morris dancing and he would influence English art composers Ralph Vaughan Williams, Gustav Holst and George Butterworth.
The EFDS's dance courses alone must have encouraged thousands of people to take an interest in folk dance.and Sharp's collection of folk songs is still consulted by folk singers today.Folk music as a result is certainly not dead, it is living and breathing and keeps developing and that’s what makes it so vibrant. I conclude with this wonderful short documentary that further explores what has been written about above.

Sweet Was Those Notes , The Songs of Somerset - The Singers

Tuesday, 15 November 2022



Love's dream
Caresses my skin
Igniting the torch
That shines from within.

Delicate whispers
Softly spoken words
Pull on the heartstrings
Of two paradise birds.

We take to the air
Fluttering our wings
Over wheatsheaves and barley
And streams with hot springs.

Sweetness becomes us
Singing our tune
Blissfully flying
In full feathered plume.

Sunday, 13 November 2022

Goodbye to The Mighty Thunder Rider Nik Turner ( 26 August 1940 – 10 November 2022 )


It was with immense sadness that I heard on Friday that legendary English multi-instrumentalist space  best known as a member of space-rock pioneers Hawkwind, Nik Turner  had passed, I was literally in tears at the time. Alas have not has time to write about until today,  apart from on social media that is.
Nik's Facebook page announced the news : “We are deeply saddened to announce the passing of Nik Turner – The Mighty Thunder Rider, who passed away peacefully at home on Thursday evening. He has moved onto the next phase of his Cosmic Journey, guided by the love of his family, friends and fans. Watch this space for his arrangements.” Nik was 82
The Might Thunder Rider, space gypsy, was a true  musical inspiration, who I've been a huge admirer of since my teenage years, to the present, who I've had the pleasure of dancing with on stage,who I've been fortunate over the years to see perform over the years more than any other musician,With Nik I have also had the pleasure of deep conversations about jazz, all sort of things, who I would consider a friend of such warmth and kindness . a free spirited angel in fact, with a heart full of love. Once when rather out of it at a wake for another friend he handed me a tambourine and asked me to play along with him even though I'm musically inept. Whenever I encountered him over the years with a twinkle in his eye would give  me a wry wink and a smile. He will be truly missed,
Born Nicholas Robert Turner in Oxford on August 26 1940, Nik moved to the seaside town of Margate as a teenager. Nik a former Chatham House student, trained in engineering at the University of Kent, and left Margate for one voyage with the  Merchant Navy. He then travelled around Europe picking up menial jobs, and while with a travelling music circus in 1967, he became friends with Dave Brock.
In Berlin, he developed an interest in free jazz, which inspired him to pick back up the clarinet and saxophone in the hopes of applying the genre’s ethos to rock ‘n’ roll.In 1969 when he began working as a roadie for a new band comprising Dave Brock, Mick Slattery and John Harrison. Turner and fellow roadie Michael "Dik Mik" Davies were soon promoted to band members, and the quintet adopted the name Group X, and ultimately Hawkwind. Nik became an integral part of the lineup,  pulling in friends such as ,poet Robert Calvert and graphic design genius Barney Bubbles, and involved the band in community and charity projects, sometimes to the chagrin of the others,
Taking copious amounts of different mind altering drugs, Hawkwinds lyrics combined high fantasy, psychedelica and occult wierdness,live or studio , to listen attentively to Hawkwind is to enter a trancelike state, Brock has spoken about wanting to create the aural equivalent of an acid  trip,you definitely hear that. Combined with mind blowing visuals . their gigs  were certainly far out,  tinged with darkness, and anarchistic sensibilities, they animated the provincial underground  and  became a rallying point for  freaks and heads everywhere.,
Nik would co-write songs such as “Brainstorm” and “Master Of The Universe,” appearing on Hawkwind’s first seven albums, including “Hawkwind” (1970), “Doremi Fasol Latido” (1972) and “In Search of Space” (1971) before getting kicked out in 1976 for routinely playing over his bandmates. He briefly rejoined Hawkwind from 1982-1984.Personally the band were never quite the same without his mercurial presence, his outlandish costumes, his improvised sax and flute playing and general wild man persona. became iconic representations of the band. He was the “wind” in Hawkwind for the course-setting part of their existence – without him even the ensemble’s greatest album ' Warrior on the edge of time. would have sounded much less adventurous and had much duller character.
As one of the earliest psychedelic space-rock groups, Hawkwind was also Lemmy'’s band for four years, before winding up in Motörhead. When recalling auditioning for Hawkwind at an open-air concert in 1971 at Powis Square in Notting Hill Gatein, Kilmister remembered hoping to land a slot as Hawkwind’s second guitarist. Instead, the band’s bassist didn’t show up and Kilmister was thrown on stage with Turner. Never having played bass in his life, the sax player told him, “Make some noises in E. This is called ‘You Shouldn’t Do That.' 
Nik was name checked by Jimi Hendrix at the 1970 Isle of Wight Festival who dedicated Foxy Lady to “the cat right there with the silver face”

Nik was also a friend and collaborator with UK Sci-Fi Legend Michael Moorcock. who would write  Hawkwinds rather terryfying Sonic Attack.
Nik's tenure with Hawkwind was just the beginning of his journey to the outer reaches of the rock music universe though as he would go on to release an astoundingly adventurous and diverse catalog of solo albums as well.
Between his two Hawkwind stints. Nik, founded the brilliant  psychedelic-punk hybrid band Inner City Unit, which released four albums between 1980 and 1985, followed by the great  Nik Turner's Fabulous All Stars a saxophone and Hammond organ driven jazz and rhythm and blues band.His collaborations with everyone from UK Subs  guitarist Nicky Garratt to The Doors guitarist Robby Krieger to Todd Rundgren along with Steve Hillage of Gong, Amon Dull founder John Weinzierl, Die Krupps leader Jürgen Engler , Sham 39 frontman Jimmy Pursey, Psychic TV's Genesis P Orridge, rhe Astronauts, the Blue Horses,Paradise 9,  Sendelica, Youth and so many more along with his expanding creative energy brought new generations of music fans into his audience
Between his two Hawkwind stints, Nik also vacationed in Egypt in 1977 and recorded himself playing flute in the King's Chamber of the Great Pyramid of Giza. These recordings were later incorporated into a full album, recorded with a plethora of musicians under the moniker Sphynx. The resulting album, Xitintoday, was released in 1978 and featured lyrics Turner had adapted from the Egyptian Book of the Dead. Many of the Sphynx musicians also appeared on the 1978 protest single "Nuclear Waste," featuring lead vocals from Sting.
Nik's death marks the end of an era for one of the most innovative , versatile and influential musicians in rock history. Nik Turner will be remembered as a true pioneer whose contributions helped to shape the sound of Hawkwind and countless other artists who followed in their wake.A man who never sold out, a counter cultural legend.
Nik a true man of the people in 1985 relocated to West Wales, to a fairly rural, isolated area near Whitland.where he  lived and breathed music and immersed himself in nature, A sweet free spirited individual with a myriad of interests he was one of the key architects of psychedelia and a key presence on the music community.and a regular visitor to my hometown of Cardigan . A pivotal member of the UK Counter Culture through the ’60s to the present day.Nik also played at the first ever Glastonbury Festival in 1970 – erecting a pyramid stage that became the inspiration for the current main stage . He was also instrumental in moulding and cultivating the modern free party and festival scene, including Stonehenge and Glastonbury Festival, where he onboarded Joe Rush and the Mutoud Waste Company art collective. Nik was recognised for his contribution along side Andrew Kerr  marking t the ‘Spirit of ‘71” at Glastonbury. 
Nik played many Glastofests, both inside and outside at the alternative 'fringe' festivals with his own bands and friends' bands on as many stages as possible, all-night with everyone welcome on stage, really wild. And circus shows with all his kids and members of the Tibetan Ukrainian Mountain Troupe.As well as putting up his stage at the Stonehenge Alternative Festival and playing on that with loads of bands, every year, when that was happening.
In 2001, Nik formed Hawkestra for a gig in London, and then toured as Other musicians using the Hawkwind name at the time took legal action to prohibit Turner from trading under the name Hawkwind, a case which Turner lost.
As well as contributing to the profound influence that his band Hawjwind has had on rock and punk with its focus on community and grassroots movements—including its many benefit shows and long-standing support of England's free festivals, Turner may also be the first saxophonist to effectively bring free jazz to rock music.
Arguably, no one embodied intrepid spirit of space rock more perfectly than Nik Turner,his influence spanned decades and he continued to play live up until the last few years guesting with many bands, including Dark Sun and Space Mirrors, and with his own band Space Ritual.The veteran clearly didn’t want to stop, it was never on his agenda, and Turner’s latter-day slew of records – including the brilliant "Space Gypsy"" from 2013,"Space Fusion Odyssey" from 2015, 2017’s  "Life in Space" and "The Final Frontier"" from 2019 and 2021's wonderful collaboration with my local psychedelic musical heroes Sendelica "I Do What I like" is a proof of that.
I last encountered Nik only a few weeks ago at Japanese, psychedelic band Acid Mother;s Temple gig at the wonderful Cellar bar here in Cardigan,sitting next to the loudspeakers his face beaming with joy and light. Nik's  death marks the end of an era.The world already feels a little darker without him here, my thoughts go out to all his family and friends.Safe travelling Nik what an incredible trip you had, keep soaring high, blessed be RIP.
A Poem for Nik Turner
The Mighty Thunder Rider, space gypsy
Soaring into the vast sky
Floating freely where space is deep
His cosmic saxophone blowing notes
Releasing celestial tunes from the universe 
Of peace, love and anarchy
Amplifying with magic and devotion
/From planet earth we catch the light.

A selection of  Nik's musical greatness

Brainstorm - Hawkwind
Masters of the Universe - Hawkwind
Born to Go- Hawkwind
Watching the Grass Grow - Hawkwind

Ghost Dance- Hawkwind

Blood and Bone - Inner City Unit

Space Invaders - Inner City Unit

 Epitaph for the Hippies featuring Captain Sensible - Inner City Unit 
Nik Turner and the Fabulous All Stars p So What

Nik Turner - Fallen Angel

Nik Turner- Walking in the Sky