Wednesday, 31 July 2019

Britains richest man: Frack off !

Residents in the south Yorkshire village of Woodsett are currently raising money to oppose shale gas exploration proposals by US petrochemical giant Ineos, largely owned by the UK’s richest man, and Brexiteer the billionaire Sir Jim Ratcliffe.
Ratcliffe  has described shale gas as a “saviour“ of the UK economy. He is known for his aggressive pursuit of industrial assets in the UK, including the Grangemouth petrochemical plant and refinery, Forties pipeline, and fracking licenses. [2], [3], [4], [5] Ratcliffe confessed to moving his operations to the tax-haven of Geneva, Switzerland, with some parts of INEOS’ business now returned to the UK.He forced the closure of the Grangemouth refinery in 2013 after a dispute with trade unions over working conditions and pension payments.
 Ratcliffe wrote a comment piece for the Daily Telegraph reflecting on the Grangemouth industrial dispute, in which he says of trade unions:It is misplaced for unions in Britain to think that we are the enemy. We are not. It is not necessary, nor appropriate, to sow dissent and misrepresent employees or constantly to threaten industrial action. "
Ineos does not restrict themselves to getting up the noses of their workers They have also taken out a national injunction against protestors, making it a highly risky business even to stand outside an Ineos plant brandishing a cardboard Frack Off sign.
Ineos currently has a UK petroleum exploration and development licence (PEDL) for a field outside Woodsetts, which allows it to pursue a range of oil and gas exploration activities, subject to necessary drilling and development consents and planning permission.
Matthew Wilkinson, from Woodsetts Against Fracking, said houses in Berne Square backed on to Ineos’s site: “It would be clearly visible from their homes. You could throw a ball and probably get very close to the well pad.”
A few weeks ago Ineos submitted an application to erect a 270-metre-long fence as an “acoustic sound barrier” to shield the estate, which has already been dubbed the “Great Wall of Ineos”.
Wilkinson said the fence would make residents feel trapped. “If somebody sticks a huge wall up outside your house, which it pretty much is, you’re going to feel enclosed.
“The ‘Great Wall of Ineos’ will act like nothing more than a prison wall to the most vulnerable people in our village, obscuring their views, reducing their light and causing stress.”
The Conservative government is in favour of fracking and has made it difficult for local councils to deny planning permission to energy firms hoping to frack for shale gas. To turn down a fracking application, councillors must cite concerns over traffic, noise or environmental impact, rather than an ideological objection to the process of fracking. Councillors in Rotherham have so far though twice refused planning permission for the well, citing concerns mentioned above .Denying Ineos for the second time in September .councillors voiced concern about the proximity to Berne Square, which provides housing for people who are elderly or ill.
Fracking is the process of extracting gas or oil from rocks trapped thousands of metres underground, by drilling into the rocks and breaking them up with water and chemicals at high pressure.Those in favour of fracking say that we are addicted to fossil fuel and should  not make a fuss about the consequences, that fracking will increase jobs, reduce energy bills and reduce reliance on imported oil and gas. Those against say, this is not about consumer demand, it’s about profits  and our reliance on fossil fuels is short sighted, the practice is terrible for the environment and the number of jobs generated has been grossly over exaggerated and the Government should focus on renewable energy.
Sir Jim, has dismissed many of the concerns about fracking, calling many protest groups ' ignorant' and criticising the Government for listening to a "noisy miniscule  minority and insisting his company has made significant breakthroughs  on expanding the recycling of plastic.
However support for shale gas has sunk to a new low, as cracks appear in the industry.In a government survey on energy, published last Thursday, 6 February, public support for fracking has sunk to a record low. The survey, carried out quarterly for the Department of Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy, found that 13% supported fracking while 35% opposed fracking. The government survey also revealed 77% of people want renewable energy; the most common reason being the loss or destruction of the natural environment, followed by the risk of earthquakes and tremors. Fracking also presents  immediate risks to human health and contamination of drinking water by toxic chemicals released during the fracking process. This combined with respiratory problems that flare up in the vicinity around fracking sites, from wheezing and coughing and breathlessness, to potentially life-threatening issues like asthma. Further, there are serious issues with noise, stress, and sleep deprivation, leading to rises in incidence of heart disease, depression, and even linked to learning difficulties in children. As a result many are calling for fracking to be banned once and for all.
Ineos has repeatedly come under fire for its carbon footprint, which it has historically refused to disclose, while some have suggested the group may be one of Britain's largest polluters.“It seems reasonable to assume that Ineos' emissions amount to millions, if not tens of millions of CO2 every year,” a Christian Aid spokesman said.“Yet despite the company's vast scale, it manages to keep an extremely low profile, releasing only snippets of information about its emissions of greenhouse gases.
Documents released under a freedom of information act request revealed Ineos was also leading a push to use Brexit as an opportunity to exempt the chemical sector entirely from climate change policy costs, The Guardian reported.
Protestors recently targeted  the chemical giant at the cycling Tour de Yorkshire after Ineos became the sponsor of a British cycling team, that had previously been called Team Sky, and follows a £110m investment with Olympian sailor Ben Ainsle in the American Cup Yacht race, which  many believe simply amounts to a form of greenwashing, in an attempt to deflect criticism of the company's  damaging environmental record and polluting activities by backing high profile eco friendly causes. Environmental  groups have been quick to link Ratcliffe's spending to wider controversies about his business interests, from concerns about the real impact of fracking to the over extension of the plastics  market. Craig Bennett, chief executive of Friends of the Earth, has described the acceptance of Ineos sponsorship as "wholly inappropriate"..
The villagers of Woodsett are fighting back in what campaigners are describing as a case of “David v Goliath”.and have crowdfunded £10,000 to pay a lawyer to help them oppose the application by Ineos to carry out test core drilling on a field just outside their village. They have recently recieved fresh hope as Ineos' planning appeal for drilling has been delayed until 2020. I would urge people to  support them in their fight against climate criminals Ineos , as they destroy our environment and fuel climate change in their thirst for profit.

 Crowdjustice website for Woodsetts Against Fracking

Monday, 29 July 2019

Martin Luther King, Jr. - We've learned to fly the air like birds...

On August 28, 1963 at the Lincoln Memorial in Washington, D.C.  Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.  took the stand and began his famous “I have a dream speech” with the following words:

 “I am happy to join with you today in what will go down in history as the greatest demonstration for freedom in the history of our nation.”

By the time King was assassinated on April 4, 1968, he had left us all with his universal message of peace, freedom , justice and the dignity of being human. His words many years later continue to touch, move and inspire and are so relevant to the times we  currently live in. Dr. King’s vision went far beyond garnering equal rights for his own racial group. His experience of oppression and suffering led him to identify with all who suffer from systems and structures that exclude them. In his Nobel Prize acceptance speech, Dr. King used the metaphor of a “World House” to remind us that we all inhabit the same fragile planet and that the way we live together will either make the house more habitable or destroy it altogether. He went on to say

 "Every man lives in two realms, the internal and the external. The internal is that realm of spiritual ends expressed in art, literature, morals, and religion. The external is that complex of devices, techniques, mechanisms, and instrumentalities by means of which we live. Our problem today is that we have allowed the internal to become lost in the external. We have allowed the means by which we live to outdistance the ends for which we live. So much of modern life can be summarized in that arresting dictum of the poet Thoreau: ‘Improved means to an unimproved end.’ This is the serious predicament, the deep and haunting problem confronting modern man. If we are to survive today, our moral and spiritual ‘lag’ must be eliminated. Enlarged material powers spell enlarged peril if there is not proportionate growth of the soul."

Our survival depends on solving these problems", King said, adding that "The solution of these problems is in turn dependent upon man squaring his moral progress with his scientific progress, and learning the practical art of living in harmony."

 Let our quest for peace and justice long continue,


Wednesday, 24 July 2019

Defusing the timebomb ( for Alexander Boris de Pfeffel Johnson)

Some say he's all but won
for others a fly in the ointment
causing ripples of despair
as choruses of desperation
search for some way out of here
in the face of incredulous days
no room for jubilation
as idiocracy given keys of power.

There's a difference between
austerity and robbery
the undemocratic process
that is not shown on the news
where they carpet bomb us with bullshit,
regurgitated soundbites that do not calm
do not expose the truth for all to see
that exist in the shadows of our being.

As divisions cracks are fostered
a snake charmer releases bag of tricks
time to shape new spectacles
end illusion, ignite passionate fire
create a new parliament for the people
built on circuits of love
where veracity in the end
will be what is left standing.

The hungry and those hardest hit
the broken and abandoned
with nothing left to lose.
will take on the mantle of power
no longer needing to run or beg
cancelling out abominations
the mists of their tomorrows
glimmering with hope.         

Monday, 22 July 2019

Boris Johnson as British Prime minister !!

This week following a month long contest will see a group  of 160,000 largely old white male lunatics,who are likely to have voted for the Brexit party in the EU elections electing  one Alexander de Pfeffel Johnson to be the oafish new British Prime Minister on behalf of vested interests and his quest to destroy democratic values. It is such a cheery thought to wake up to and is certainly an odd way for a country to choose its next prime minister and seems like a sick joke, and certainly gives us all room for concern..
Although Johnson's image is carefully constructed, to give him the appearance of a harmless, amiable, loveable  buffoon, his life of privilege is real, as a product of Britain's most famous private school, Eton College which marks  him, by most peoples definition, a member of the gilded elite. An individual with a chaotic private life, gross incompetance and ineptitude, as seen in the case of Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe,who also has a habit of bending facts,who has lied through life, has lied his way though politics, with an egomania beyond control, such a nasty piece of work who will stop at nothing, from racist crass offensive rabble rousing to promising the moon on a stick, in order to get what he wants. A man who should not be trusted to open the Downing Street door, let alone given the keys, he is simply not fit for office, the mind truly boggles at the thought of this prospect.
Yet there are still those that fall for the idea that this self-serving chancer  is a  liberal despite his embrace of nationalism and targeting of Islamic women, with his toxic rhetoric,while appeasing Americas very own racist President,  who in terms of policy in the depressing leadership campaign has seen him pushing for tax cuts to the rich, he pledged to increase the threshold for paying the 40% rate from £50,000 to £80,000, coercing a large swathe of the Tory membership who will be voting for him, at a cost of 9 billion a year. He said in declaring his canditature, "We should be cutting corporation tax and other business taxes."
Even the Financial Times  felt obliged to editoralise that such policies were  "irresponsible" at a time of growing social discontent."Surveys show that after a near decade of austerity most Britons would rather the government raised taxes and spent the proceeds on better services than cut them further."Johnson also talked of desiring unity having done so much to widen division by leading this country blindly into its current morass. Johnson is also seeking to ensure closer ties with the US, with the promise of of a new free trade deal with Washington  post Brexit, under conditions in which the major EU powers are at odds with US imperialism over policies of trade war and confrontation with China, Russia and Iran, that can only intensify divisions between the UK and Brussels. Under his tenure it would also see the scrapping of environmental regulations, the ever deeper erosion of workers rights and a political climate in which racism, homophobia and every reactionary prejudice can be freely expressed. At end of the day its just a political game of power to Johnson, one that could blow up in his face, and that could seriously backfire on him and the rest of his acolytes.
Because Johnson is such a polarizing figure in UK politics that for many voters, they  don't just dislike Johnson but absolutely loathe him. For all his charm, it wears decidedly thin, with his long history of causing offence whenever he happens to opens his mouth.
Chosen by a tiny, unrepresentative minority, he will certainly have no mandate from the people for his racist, hard right policies.,Yet we could see that Boris becomes the shortest serving Conservative prime minister, because he might not even have a majority by the time he is announced as the next PM, and if there is a general election later this  year with the UK still not having left the UK and Brexit remains unsolved, polls are predicting a Tory bloodbath, as people come to their senses with the nation  booting Johnson and the rest of the Torys out of power, and confining them to the dustbins of electoral history, where they truly deserve to reside. I can only live in hope.

Earlier thoughts

Friday, 19 July 2019

Living utopia (Vivir la utopia) - Unique documentary on Anarchists in the Spanish Revolution (1936)

On a day like this, 83 years ago, a sequence of events occurred , that would lead to the Spanish Revolution . A moment in time that has come to represent the defining struggle of the age: a clash between not just between the opposing political ideologies of socialism and fascism, but between civilization and barbarism, good and evil.
 In 1931 with the proclamation of a Republic a Socialist-Republican Government was formed in Spain, which had the support of many revolutionary forces active in Spain.It had a commitment to the seperation of the church and the state, and a commitment to international peace, modern systems of education, land reform, and more equal roles for both men and women. By 1936 the Spanish Republic had recently been revived by the election of a moderately liberal government after 5 years of tension and retrenchment. A new popular front alliance of all anti-fascist parties had swept the country the previous year.
However on the night of 18th July, 1936 the army mutinied with their generals  and launched a coup against the people. They bought in foreign legionairres and colonial troops and under General Franco proclaimed a military takeover. A bitter struggle had begun.
Executions without trial were common place, Franco had the support of the aristocracy,the army, the landlords, the bankers, and the Church hierararchy and a clique of corrupt politicians went over to the conspirators the rest backed the Republic.The left wing of the popular front was determined to resist the Generals and resolved to distribute arms and weapons to newly formed militias. By the morning of 19th July truckloads of rifles from  the Ministry of War were on their way to the headquarters of the Socialist and Anarchist trade unions for distribution to their members. A few weeks later  a government emerged more than capable of defending the Republic against the Generals. It was the first Republican Government to have full Socialist, Communist and Anarchist support. However Franco had both Italian and German fascist support, with both their finance and intervention. The fascists defended a common view of the past, while the republican coalition though, had widely different visions of the future.
But the people rose, millions of people around the world felt passionately that rapidly advancing fascism must be halted in Spain; and more than 35,000 volunteers from dozens of other countries went to help defend the Spanish Republic, forces of red and black fought back united against fascism. In the countryside, peasants took control of the land, redistributing large estates and, in many places, collectivizing the land and setting up communes and a civil war  was waged, the workers immediately set up barricades and within hours the rising had been defeated. Arms were seized and given to workers who were dispatched to other areas to prevent risings. Madrid was also saved because of the heroism and initiative of the workers. Hearing of what had happened in Barcelona they had stormed the main army base in the city. Workers' militias were established. Workplaces were taken over and for ten months after July 1936, the people held power. Taking over the factories and the running of the whole of society. They organised workers’ committees  in enterprises and streets. They believed that they had power and fought to defend and extend it.The revolution that Spain was experiencing did not go unnoticed by visitors. George Orwell, who arrived to fight as a volunteer in a column raised by the POUM, a dissident Marxist party allied to the anarchists, describes his impressions upon reaching Barcelona:
"This was the first time that I found myself in a city where the working class was in control... The anarchists were virtually in control of Catalonia and the revolution was striding ahead... Activities of a servile nature had disappeared. No one said 'Senor' or 'Don', nor even 'usted'. Everybody was called 'comrade' and 'tu'; and said 'Salud!' instead of 'buenos dias'.
Barcelona was the nerve centre of the revolution in urban Spain. With the CNT and the FAI at the head of the antifascist militias committee, Catalonia underwent one of the most radical transformations in its history, affecting every aspect of its political, social and economic life. 80% of firms had been collectivised and all services were being run by the workers themselves. These changes were to be legalised by the Generalidad in October 1936.
But in a series of tragic events  they were sadly defeated aided by the British government who had agreed to a policy of 'non-intervention'  along with the help of fascist Italy and Nazi Germany. It was a brutal conflict that polarised Spain, pitting the Left against the Right, the anti-clericals against the Church, the unions against the landed classes and the Republicans against the Monarchists. It was a bloody war which saw, in the space of just three years, the murder and execution of 350,000 people, not forgetting all those who died from malnutrition, starvation, and war-engendered disease. It was also a conflict that became internationalised, becoming a battleground for the forces of Fascism and Communism as Europe itself geared up for war.
By April 1939, all of Spain was under fascist control and Franco declared a victory .Solidifying his power with a brutal dictatorship by oppressing and systematically killing any political opposition. General Franco's military regime remained in power until his death in 1975 depriving  Spain of freedom for several decades afterwards, the wound inflicted still resonates.
Over 40,000 other selfless men and women fought side by side for the ideas of liberty and social justice, solidarity and mutual aid from 53 different nationalities. Rallying to the republican cause.
For many it was not just a war to defeat the fascists it was the beginning of a new society. A revolution in fact, unfortunately revolutions do not succeed when the people are divided. There are many lessons to be learnt from this struggle, a struggle that continues to do this day.
The film above "Vivir la Utopia" (Living Utopia) is a unique 1997 feature-length documentary by Juan Gamero (Spanish with English subtitles) which chronicles the origins and evolution of the Spanish anarchist movement and its important role during the Spanish Revolution (1936-1939). The largest anarchist community of its kind in Europe at the time, millions of peasants and urban workers successfully established a society based on equality, mutual aid, participatory democracy and self-organization – all without a central state or government. This fascinating yet largely unknown non hierarchical sociopolitical experiment was eventually destroyed by forces from inside and outside the country. Featuring rare archival footage and interviews with surviving participants, Living Utopia is considered to be one of the most important documentaries on the subject and what it lacks in high-brow cinematic quality it makes up for with the passion of the people whose story it tells. By telling the stories of these social pioneers, the film emphasizes on the social changes and the political developments that have resulted in the rise of Franco and the Spanish Civil War. Extensive interviews with the old laborers and anarchist members are beautifully combined with black and white footage from the era of the revolution. Many years later people  are still looking for another world, a living utopia, Emma Goldman  once said  'To the daring belongs the future... when we run out of dreams, we die... .

Thursday, 18 July 2019

Summer of Love

In conditions of splendour across the land
finding passion, following its hungry shout,
soaring through the trees and breeze
as we play hide and seek
under the fiery sun
sharing our love
for woman, spirit, man.

Climbing fissions of desire
beyond the cruelty of life
under the influence, defying gravity
seeking hands of human friendship
that resurrect lifes limbo
drawn to positive forces
painting pictures anew.

Under turpentine clouds
sizzling and shimmering
lifting us to a future
where we can keep seeking
the same water of  life
kissed by the sun
feeling the warmth of its embrace.

Swimming among tides of change
sunshine taking us to horizons of love
flowing with  devotion
allowing dreams to expand
unleashing awakening yearnings
as evening releases harmony
a blanket of stars to catch our breath.

Sunday, 14 July 2019

Truth can set you free : this is my version.


( mee-dee- uh)


An institution largely controlled by rich people, in order to convince poor people to blame other poor people for problems created by rich people.
Constantly manipulating, perpetuating myths, that allow the poor to be blamed for their poverty, that allows the rest of society to avoid taking any responsibility.Allows dangerous policies to be imposed on whole sections of society without the full consequences from being examined. Through a systematic misrepresentation of the poorest in society. Offering us a constant stream of propoganda, disinformation and lies. This is turn, influences the way people see the world, and as a result, the media is a key by which the general population comes to accept, and support things. It also enables people to adopt a worldview that is pessimistic, desensitised and fatalistic. Increasingly the focus lies on sensationalism and entertainment that leads to the overuse of soundbites, that tend to be repeated indefinitely.
Bias in the media is a global phenomenon and as the media grows in power, the political and economic interests of news outlets and the ones who control it have grown as well, which has its impact on the opinons of those that are easily influenced. Sections of  of Britain’s biggest papers, release racism, transphobia and homophobia also operate insidiously under the guise of “free speech”, “open platforms” and “rational debate”. We saw this when Newsnight asked whether alt-right figurehead Tommy Robinson was dangerous or just “a man raising concerns that others ignore”; and it reared its head  recently  when Question Time mused on whether it was “morally right” that “five-year-old children” learn about the existence of queer people. These debates are often set up in a way that is unrepresentative or makes an equal footing impossible – like a panel that is skewed towards racists or transphobic people, with only one black person or one trans woman to represent. Also according to research by YouGov, from a few years ago, the British media definitely has a skew to the right, the study covering 7 European countries  found that people’s perceptions of right-wing bias were most pronounced in the UK. The study, involved 8,358 people showed that UK citizens were the most likely to think that the press is too negative about immigration.
Overall 26 per cent of the survey respondents said that UK newspapers, radio and TV was “too right-wing” as opposed to 17 per cent who said it was “too left-wing.” The study focused on five topics: immigration, housing, health, economics and crime. It certainly was grim reading. And it certainly seems to hae got far worse since this report initially came out.
The great Noam Chomsky has helped develop a detailed and sophisticated analyse of how the wealthy and powerful use the media to propogandise in their own interests behind a mask of objective reporting. More of which you can read about in a book he wrote with Edward Herman called Manufacturing Consent : The Political Economy of the Mass Media. It is noted however that mainstream media journalism has fallen precipitously in the minds of the public in recent years. 

Manufacturing Consent - Noam Chomsky and the media

In the last decade or so, with the growth of the internet, alternative news websites, social media sites like facebook and twitter, it has made it easier to encounter a range of voices that together can often give a fuller picture of a story and reveal gaps in knowledge and  can at least have the capacity to challenge certain agendas  and narrives of unrelenting bias. People have begun to finally realise that they they are being misled, manipulated and lied to and have started to resent it. Unlike the corporate mainstream media, this blog does not rely on well paid journalists, or the reliance and dependence on the concerns of advertisers, but tries to remain truly independent in spirit. Trying to release a point of view that is not distorted in favor of state corporate interests.
It is clear that the establishment though is still afraid of free voices, that try to  push for social change. Voices that hopefully can and will continue to hold the powers to be held to account. Beyond the daily inane machinations of the mainstream media,  that refuse to serve and maintain the status-quo. 
We should all  try and seek to report the truth , providing fair and comprehensive accounts of events and issues, counter narratives to what we are peddled daily. If we continue to fail to report the truth , and consider story's from every angle, we fail the public and one another. This at end of day,,is only my point of view and I am sure their are those out there who will find my words an irrelevence, a mere distraction, in the larger scheme of things. We all have our different versions of reality, different  opinions  that can at least help people see and interpret things differently.Even if you don’t think you have great leverage to change things, you need to talk about bias where you see it, and the media organisations you see that are failing us.
I hope to keep on releasing my free expression, the truth as I see it, a truth that sets me free, oh plus the usual mixture of my own poetical musings and thoughtful willful distraction.

Friday, 12 July 2019

Wildness - Henry David Thoreau.

"We do not ride on the railroad, it rides upon us"

Organic radical thinker Henry David Thoreau was born today on July 12 1817

He promoted a simple natural way of life and spoke out against modern civilization and the violence of the state.and spoke out against modern civilization  and the violence of the state, his ideas thankfully  still permeate all our seasons, who reminded us that when unjust laws are made wee should bot hesitate to break them. His essay  from 1848, Civil disobedience stands as a classic statement o principled resistance, and is a beautiful manifesto of much needed intent, that appeals to to  people of individual conscience to resist political authority .

I will end with this wonderful quote from him which was written in 1851, long may Thoreau's legacy grow

"We need the tonic of wildness, to wade sometimes in marshes where
the bittern and the meadow-hen lurk, and hear the booming of the snipe;
to smell the whispering sedge where only some wilder and more
solitary fowl builds her nest, and the mink crawls with its belly close
to the ground. At the same time that we are earnest to explore
and learn all things, we require that all things be mysterious and
unwexplorable, that land and sea be infinitely wild, unsurveyed
and unfathomed by us because unfathomable. We can never have enough
of nature. We must be refreshed by the sight of inexhaustible vigor,
vast and titanic features, the sea-coast with its wrecks, the
wilderness with its living and its decaying trees, the thunder cloud,
and the rain which lasts three weeks and produces freshets.
We need to witness our own limits transgressed, and some life
pasturing freely where we never wander."

FROM - Walden, 1894.

Thursday, 11 July 2019

Far right extremist Tommy Robinson sent to prison, for contempt of court

Far right extremist Tommy Robinson, the 36-year-old founder of the anti-immigration, anti-Muslim English Defence League (EDL), whose real name is Stephen Yaxley-Lennon, who has 11 previous convictions for violence. assault, drug and public order offenses, mortgage fraud and using another person's passport to travel to the US  has been convicted and jailed for contempt of court over a video he broadcast on social media which featured defendants in a criminal trial.
Prejudicing a trial is a natural consequence when there is an offence of contempt of court committed. When an individual interferes with the court’s constitutional role in the course of justice, they may influence the jury’s verdict, rendering such a verdict unfair and compromising the trial as a whole.
Judge  Dame Victoria Sharp sentenced him to 19 weeks, less 138 days for time served for a previous offence. A sentence  simply not long enough for some. Passing sentence, she said: "We are in no doubt that the custody threshold is crossed in this case, in particular having regard to the common law contempt that the respondent committed."Nothing less than a custodial penalty would properly reflect the gravity of the conduct we have identified."
 Dame Victoria continued: "The respondent (Robinson) cannot be given credit for pleading guilty. He has lied about a number of matters and sought to portray himself as the victim of unfairness and oppression."This does not increase his sentence, but it does mean that there can be no reduction for an admission of guilt."In May 2017 Robinson was given a three-month suspended at Canterbury Crown Court.
Nick Lowles, chief executive of HOPE not hate, said: “Stephen Lennon put at risk the trial of men accused of horrendous crimes with his live streaming antics. He doesn’t care about the victims of grooming, he only cares about himself. He now faces yet another stint behind bars.
“So far this year, he’s been humiliated at the ballot box, kicked off social media platforms for hate speech, jailed for contempt, and it’s only July.”
Robinson had arrived arrogantly late  in court with his legal team  and arch provocatur  Katie Hopkins in tow, wearing a black T-shirt emblazoned with the words "convicted of journalism", on the front and “Britain = North Korea” on the back, which if it was the case, well he would not have been granted the honour of a trial, he would have simply dissapeared, Ever  the opportunist he also wore a badge reading "I support soldiers A-Z" , that has recently become a rallying call to the far right,.despite the grey areas and the continual injustices that permeate on all sides.
Outside  the court Robinsons supporters booed as news of his sentence filtered through, with violent protests erupting as his supporters threw cans at the police while chanting "We love you Tommy". A group the made their way to Parliment's Carriage Gates to continue their protest, blocking thee roads around Parliament Square.
Personally my heart does not bleed for Robinson one bit, a  fosterer of hatred and division, who only recently, in much  irony, despite his vitriol against refugees and asylum seekers, worried that jail might not be an experience he enjoys, he hypocritically  appealed directly to  Donald Trump to grant him political asylum, whilst continuing to deny safe haven for others. Robinson and his fellow far-right supporters are aware that a sense of victimhood is a powerful tool for attracting support and encouraging collective action. In his biography, Enemy of the State, he actually acknowledges the importance of being seen as the victim "going to gang up on me and that I would come off as the victim … it was exactly as I wanted it to go”
Robinson  and his supporters are adept at playing the victim, time and  time again, but as he and his followers continue  with  their antagonistic discourse, and obvious hatred to other people differing opinions, let this judgement at least be welcomed. I do not though for one moment think it will halter one bit their hateful discourse, who will at end of day, use  Robinsons punishment  as a torch for their rallying call of hatred and division, that we must continually challenge.

Wednesday, 10 July 2019

Palestine +100: Stories from a century after the Nakba

The Nakba or Day of Catastrophe,saw the displacement of more than 700,000 people following the Israeli War of Independence, and saw the massacre of civilians, and the razing to the ground of hundreds of Palestinian villages. Against their will, the Nakba divided the Palestinian people between Palestine and diaspora, betwee Gaza and the West Bank, between those who hold a refugee identification card and who don't. Seventy years on, more than 5.5 million refugees are scattered all over the Middle East and the world, and are still waiting to exercise their internationally recognized right to return.
Following Comma Press’popular Iraq + 100, which asked Iraqi writers what the country will look like a century after the 2003 invasion, Palestine + 100 is  a new anthology from them posing a question to contemporary Palestinian writers: what might your home city look like in the year 2048, exactly 100 years after the Nakba. How might that war reach across a century of repair and rebirth, and affect the state of the country its politics, its religion, its language, its culture and how might Palestine have finally escaped it, and found its own peace, a hundred years down the line? As well as being an exercise in escaping the politics of the present in a country which some have called the largest prison in the world , this  necessary anthology is an opportunity to showcase contemporary Arabic writers offering their own spin on science fiction and fantasy.The stories  cover a range of approaches from SF noir, to nightmarish dystopia, to high-tech farce these stories use the blank canvas of the future to reimagine the Palestinian experience today. Along the way, we encounter drone swarms, digital uprisings, time-bending VR, peace treaties that span parallel universes, and even a Palestinian superhero, in probably the first anthology of science fiction from Palestine ever. Featuring stories from a range of writers, including: Talal Abu Shawish, Liana Badr, Selma Dabbagh, Samir El-Youssef, Anwar Hamed, Mazen Maarouf, Ahmed Masoud, Nayrouz Qarmout, and Rawan Yaghi.The voices contained within  demnd to be heard.
Translated from the Arabic by Raph Cormack, Mohamed Ghalaieny, Andrew Leber, Thoraya El-Rayyes, Yasmine Seale and Jonathan Wright.
Winner of a PEN Translates Award:
Comma Press is a not-for-profit publishing initiative dedicated to promoting new writing, with an emphasis on the short story. It is committed to a spirit of risk-taking and challenging publishing, free of the commercial pressures on mainstream houses. In April 2012, Comma became one of the Arts Council's new National Portfolio Organisations (NPOs). The collection will not be available until July the 25th. More details below.

Monday, 8 July 2019

Beds of roses

Finding no sanctuary in my sleep
Nightmares roaring in my head,
Scenes of desolation and devastation
Certainly no bed of roses.

In war ravaged countries
The rattling call of injustice,
A cauldron of death and despair
No respite or any beds of roses.

Amid the poverty and desperation
Where people grieve for their dead,
The ever flowing tide of human misery
For the children, no beds of roses..

Anguished eyes gaze, frail hands reach out
Barren lands flooding with tears overflowing,
Global silence decapacitating hope
as the night calls, no bed of roses.,

While humanity turns away and abandons
Another dawn exudes deaths mephitic odour,
How can we fail to speak out, not be silent
Reach out, cultivate fertile beds of roses,.

An injury to one is an injury to all
A collective thorn of pain and misery,
We can cover our eyes, be indifferent
Or help those in need, offer beds of roses.

From the heartache, filled with cries
We can send messages to the politicians,
The gift of solidarity to those that deserve
And when wars cease, beds of roses will grow.

Saturday, 6 July 2019

The Matchmakers Strike of 1888

                                 The Strike Committee of the Matchmakers Union

In the late 19th century Londons' East End was known for it's serious deprivation,,overpopulated by depressing living conditions, sweated industries, poverty and disease.
In 1850  the  Quakers William Bryant and Frances May established Bryant & May  to sell matches. At first they imported the matches from Lundstrom’s in Sweden, but as demand outstripped supply, they decided to produce their own, and set up a factory in Bow, in London, producing hundreds of millions of matches each day. It was also the largest employer of women in East London, with a staff of over 2,000 women and girls. Many of the poor, uneducated, and unskilled women they employed had come from Ireland following the potato famine. They lived in abject poverty, in filthy housing unfit for human habitation and were often subject to prolonged hours of backbreaking work making matches.

Despite their public reputation as philanthropists and Quakers, the factory owners subjected their wokers to awful conditions, their product was ironically called "safety matches" but they were far from safe for the women who made them. The matchmakers faced a life of hard toil for very little reward, earning a pittance while the company's shareholders recieved dividends of over 29%. Outraged by these exploitive conditions, crusading  socialist journalist Annie Besant. having heard a complaint against  Bryant & May at a Fabian Society meeting – resolved to investigate conditions in the factory for herself.When Besant went to speak to the factory girls in Bow, she was appalled by what she found. Low pay and long hours were quite ubiquitous, but the Bryant & May workers were treated without compassion and often endured physical abuse and extortionate fines as punishment for shoddy work. Matchstick manufacture came with particular health implications, and Bryant & May did nothing to alleviate the effects of ‘phossy jaw’, a form of bone cancer caused by the cheap white  phosphorous that they used, causing yellowing of the skin and hair loss. The whole side of the face turned  green and then black, discharging foul smelling pus and finally death. Additionally the condition caused jaw and tooth aches and swelling of the gums. The only treatment was the disfiguring cutting away of the affected areas. More expensive red phosphorous carried much lower risks to the women  but the company refused to use it.

By 1888, resentment had been building for some years,in 1882 Mr Bryant, wishing to curry favour with the then present Prime Minister Mr Gladstone, arranged to have a statue erected of him in front of St Mary's church. Nothing wrong with this you might think until you learn that to pay for it he deducted a certain amount each week from his workers wages. When it was unveiled the matchgirls demonstrated by throwing stones, but this had little effect on Bryant & May that was to come six years later when the women down tools and walked out.
It was Annie Besant’s exposure of the terrible conditions at the Bryant and May factory, after hearing a speech by Clemantine Black, at a Fabian society meeting on the subject of Female Labour, in which she described  the twelve-hour days and the inhumane, as well as dangerous working conditions at the Bryant & May factory that really brought matters to a head. It led to Besant’s article in her socialist publication  The Link on 23rd June 1888 entitled White Slavery in London which pulled no punches, depicting Bryant and May as a tyrannical employer and calling for ‘a special  circle in the Inferno for those who live on this misery, and suck wealth out of the starvation of helpless girls’, and went on to describe how the match girls, some as young as thirteen worked from 6am to 6pm with just two short breaks. From their meagre wages her readers were told the women had to house, feed and clothe themselves, the wages were further decreased if they left a match on the bench and by the cost of paint, brushes and other equipment they needed to do their work. Then apart from the likelihood of developing 'phossy jaw' there were there dangers of losing a finger or even a hand in unguarded machinery. Besant called the factory "a prison-house" describing the match girls as "white wage slaves" and "oppressed"

Management were furious at the workforce for the revelations, and reacted by attempting to force the workers to sign a statement that they were happy with their working conditions. When a group of women refused to sign, the organisers of this action were sacked and  three women whom they suspected of leaking information were fired.  Outraged, 1,400 employees rose up in protest, including girls as young as 12. on 5th July 1888, 1400 girls and women  walked out of the Bryant and May match factory in Bow, London and the next day some 200 of them marched from Mile End to Bouverie Street, Annie Besant’s office, to ask for her support. While Annie wasn’t an advocate of strike action, she did agree to help them organise a Strike Committee.The firm first tried to force the women to condemn Besant. They refused, smuggling out a warning note:  ‘Dear Lady, they have been trying to get the poor girls to say it is all lies that has been printed and to sign a paper…we will not sign…’
They stayed out for two weeks: as there was no union to provide strike pay, the Match Girls went door to door raising money in support of their cause, whilst Annie Besant and other members of the Fabian Society started an emergency fund to distribute to striking workers. A Strike Committee was formed and rallied support from the Press, and some MPs. William Stad, the editor of the Pall Mall Gazette, Henry Hyde Champion of the Labour Elector and Catherine Booth  of the Salvation Army,  joined Besant in her campaign for better working conditions in the factory. However, other newspapers such as the Times, blamed Besant and other socialist agitators for the dispute, but in reality it was the brutal conditions that  bred militancy within rather than it being imported in from outside.
Bryant & May tried to break the strike by threatening to move the factory to Norway or to import blacklegs from Glasgow. The managing director, Frederick Bryant, was already using his influence on the press. His first statement was widely carried. 'His (sic) employees were liars. Relations with them were very friendly until they had been duped by socialist outsiders. He paid wages above the level of his competitors. He did not use fines. Working conditions were excellent...He would sue Mrs Besant for libel'.
'Mrs Besant' would not be intimidated. The next issue of The Link invited Bryant to sue. Much better, she asserted, to sue her than to sack defenceless poor women.She took a group of 50 workers to Parliament. The women catalogued their grievances before a group of MPs, and, afterwards, 'outside the House they linked arms and marched three abreast along the Embankment...' Besant's propagandist style was bold and effective and she had a fine eye for the importance of organisation. She addressed the problem of finance. An appeal was launched in The Link. Every contribution was listed from the pounds of middle class sympathisers to the pennies of the workers. Large marches and rallies were organised in Regents Park in the West End as well as Victoria Park and Mile End Waste in the east. 

The strike committee called for support from the London Trades Council, the most prominent labour organisations of the day,who responded positively, donating £20 to the strike fund and offering to act as mediators between the strikers and the employer. The London Trades Council, along with the Strike Committee of eight Match girls, met with the Bryant & May Directors to put their case. Such was the negative publicity, directed  by middle class activist Annie Besant, it overwhelmed the owners of the factory, By 17th July, their demands were met and terms agreed in principle, the company announced that it was willing to re-employ  the dismissed women and bring an end to the fines system, the Strike Committee put the proposals to the rest of the girls and they enthusiastically approved and returned to work in triumph. The Quaker reputation as good employers was tarnished by this strike: whatever the reasons, Bryant and May had not taken the care of their employees that people expected of Quakers. Disappointingly, though, it wasn’t until 1906 – almost 20 years later – that white phosphorous was made illegal.Partly because of Annie's journalism and mainly because of the remarkable courage of the factory women , the Bryant & May dispute was the first strike by unorganised worker to have garnered widespread publicity, with public sympathy and support being enormous. One of the Matchgirls' most enduring successes  was to secure Bryant & May's agreement for them to form a union. The inaugural meeting of the new Union of Women Match Makes took place at Stepney Meeting Hall on 27th July and 12 women were elected and it became the largest female union in the country. Clementina Black from the Women's Trade Union League gave advice on rules, subscriptions and elections. Annie Besant was elected the first secretary. With money left over from the strike fund, plus some money raised from a benefit at the Princess Theatre, enough money was raised to enable the union to acquire permanent premises.
By the end of the year, the union changed its rules and name. It became the Matchmakers Union, open to men and women, and the following year sent its first delegate to the Trade Union Congress.
The Matchmakers Union ceased to exist in 1903,  but this strike in 1888 was unprecedented and changed the character of organised labour, it was a landmark victory in working-class history. A  history lesson that should be taught in our schools As such, it was a vital moment for both female empowerment and the increasing momentum of the workers’ cause. The strike had a significance that is difficult to put into words. In its physical scale it was unremarkable for the period,  but its significance for the future of the British trade union movement was colossal, since the strike redefined the very nature of trade unionism, and because of its success helped to inspire the formation of unions all over the country, and  helped give birth to our modern-day general unions and laid down the foundations of the rights of women workers. A story  that has inspired activists ever since, a symbol of what can be achieved when people bond together in solidarity, that has seen plays and musicals  being written about the triumph of the Matchwomen, which saw Bryant & May dogged by the notorious association until it stopped trading in 1979.
The match girls’ success gave the working class a new awareness of their power, and unions sprang up in industries where unskilled workers had previously remained unorganized, as these new unions sprang up in the years that followed, new leaders of the working class emerged, people like Tom Mann, Will Thorne, John Burns and Ben Tillett and one year after the strike in 1889  it would see a sharp upturn in strikes, most notably the Great Dock Strike involving workers from across the Docklands area,confident that if the match girls could succeed, then so could they.
In 1892, philosopher and social scientist Friedrich Engels highlighted this new mass movement as the most important sign of the times:
That immense haunt of human misery [the East End] is no longer the stagnant pool it was six years ago. It has shaken off its torpid despair, it has returned to life, and has become the home of what is called the ‘new unionism’, that is to say, of the organisation of the great mass of ‘unskilled’ workers. This organisation may to a great extent adopt the forms of the old unions of ‘skilled’ workers, but it is essentially different in character.
“The old unions preserve the tradition of the times when they were founded, and look upon the wages system as a once for all established, final fact, which they can at best modify in the interests of their members. The new unions were founded at a time when the faith of the eternity of the wages system was severely shaken; their founders and promoters were socialists either consciously or by feeling; the masses, whose adhesion gave them strength, were rough, neglected, looked down upon by the working class aristocracy; but they had this immense advantage, that [em]their minds were virgin soil[/em], entirely free from the inherited ‘respectable’ bourgeois prejudices which hampered the brains of the better situated ‘old’ unionists.
“And thus we see these new unions taking the lead of the working-class movement generally and more and more taking in tow the rich and proud ‘old’ unions.” (F Engels, Preface to the English edition of The Condition of the Working Class in England, 1892)
The TUC (Trade Union Congress) commented that the match girls strike is not just of historic interest. " It is an absolutely critical example of how after decades of low struggle and disappointment a militant movement can revive. Its genesis could come from the most unpredictable and apparently unpromising source."
The TUC  went on to suggest that todays, call centre personnel, supermarket till staff and other poorly paid workers could use the matchmakers example as a springboard for improving their own working conditions. Women in their defiance, continue to challenge health inequality and those who seek to oppress and exploit them not only nationally, but also globally. Women in their droves are standing up for other women, and are no longer willing to accept poor health outcomes as an inevitability of their oppressed lives. Years after the matchmakers strike the flame against injustice is still kept very much alive,  burning bright.

Further reading
A match to fire the Thames by Ann Stafford. Hodder and Stoughton, 1961.

Matchgirls strike 1888: the struggle against sweated labour in London's East End by Reg Beer. National Museum of Labour History, 1979.

 “It Just Went Like Tinder; the Mass Movement and New Unionism in Britain 1889: a Socialist History.” John Charlton, Redwords, 1999.

Striking a Light: The Bryant and May Matchwomen and their Place in History by Louise Raw (2011)Bloomsbury

British women trade unionists on strike at Bryant &May, 1888 

Friday, 5 July 2019

Happy Birthday NHS: We must keep fighting for it.

Nye Bevans legacy came into the world 71 years ago this morning, then Minister of Health in Attlee’s post-war government, when he opened Park Hospital in Manchester at a time of rationing and shortages, when we were nearly bankrupt, a jewel  that the war generation left us with, a proud legacy, for us to all to continue to share.For the first-time doctors, nurses, opticians, dentists and pharmacists all worked under one organisation. It was a ray of hope in that bleak time, and it remains one today. The creation of the NHS in 1948 was the product of years of hard work and a motivation from various figures who felt the current healthcare system was insufficient and needed to be revolutionised..
Born in 1948 to a post-war Britain amidst the rubble of war,and a skeptical medical profession, the NHS has had its ups and downs over the years. However, its role and importance as a symbol of our Britishness and intense pride in being able to provide universal care, free at the point of delivery, has remained throughout, out of the belief that healthcare should be available to all, regardless of wealth,with health and care as priorities – not profit, .these ideals remains one of the NHS’s core principles.

Aneurin Bevan, Minister of Health, on the first day of the National Health Service, 5 July 1948 at Park Hospital, Davyhulme, near Manchester. 

These ideas can be traced back to the early 1900s with the Minority Report of the Royal Commission on the Poor Law in 1909. The report was headed by the socialist Beatrice Webb who argued that a new system was needed to replace the antiquated ideas of the Poor Law which was still in existence from the times of the workhouses in the Victorian era. Those who were involved in the report believed it was a narrow-minded approach from those in charge to expect those in poverty to be entirely accountable for themselves. Despite the strong arguments provided in the report, it still proved unsuccessful and many ideas were disregarded by the new Liberal government.
Nevertheless, more and more people were beginning to speak out and be proactive, including Dr Benjamin Moore, a Liverpool physician who had great foresight and a pioneering vision of the future in healthcare. His ideas were written in “The Dawn of the Health Age” and he was probably one of the first to use the phrase ‘National Health Service’. His ideas led him to create the State Medical Service Association which held its first meeting in 1912. It would be another thirty years before his ideas would feature in the Beveridge Plan for the NHS.
Before the creation of the NHS or anything like it, when someone found themselves needing a doctor or to use medical facilities, patients were generally expected to pay for those treatments. In some cases local authorities ran hospitals for the local ratepayers, an approach originating with the Poor Law. By 1929 the Local Government Act amounted to local authorities running services which provided medical treatment for everyone. On 1st April 1930 the London County Council then took over responsibility for around 140 hospitals, medical schools and other institutions after the abolition of the Metropolitan Asylums Board. By the time the Second World War broke out, the London Council was running the largest public service of its kind for healthcare.
Today, we have a lot to thank the NHS for; from the introduction of polio and diphtheria vaccinations to all under 15-year olds to the success of smoking cessation services and cancer screening services, the NHS has been instrumental in many of the medical achievements the UK has seen over the last 71 years.a shinig example of what separates us from the US. It offered for the first time a free healthcare system for all, and has since  played a vital role in caring for all aspects of our nations health. It has been the envy of the world ever since. My own father served it well for nigh on 40 years.Remember we paid for it, so it is owned by us, it is our precious commodity, it must survive, we must tear the vultures hands from it.
It wouldn’t be possible to run a 7-day NHS, caring for millions of people day-in-day-out without the hard work and dedication of its staff. Despite all the adversity that’s thrown at them: poor pay, bursary cuts, hospital parking fines and staff shortages to name a few; they continue to become stronger and relentlessly deliver fantastic healthcare to the nation .Recent tragic events that have taken place in London, Manchester and Grenfell Tower have once again highlighted the strength, professionalism , dedication and bravery of our healthcare staff. It is truly inspiring to see how amazing the staff handled the awful situation and it was a testament to every healthcare worker throughout the UK. They  are a credit to our nation and we couldn’t be more proud.
The NHS  here in Wales employs close to 72,000 staff which makes it Wales’ biggest employer. I can never forget the compassion they gave to my dear departed, the staff always managing to keep her spirits high, never once showing any dereliction of care.Dedicated, compassionate staff  are under increased pressure, leading to low moral. Recent figures have emerged that 2/4s of hospitals have been warned about dangerous staff shortages.
As the Tory's and their rotten hearts seek to dismantle it,  we should not forget Nye's words who said ' It will last as long as their are folk with enough faith to fight for it. We  cannot reach the day again where people make a profit out of our sickness.On its birthday we should also join the call for fair pay for all NHS staff - scrap the cap ,Public sector pay has been capped for too long. This is despite rising inflation and increased living costs. Workers in the UK are on average £1200 worse off a year than in 2008. It's not OK that NHS staff like nurses are resorting to food banks to get by
We are now standing at a precipice: the NHS has been severely damaged by underfunding and privatisation .But remember we paid for it, so it is owned by us, it is our precious commodity, it must survive, we must tear the vultures hands from it. Recently Jeremy**** the Tory party wannabee had the gall to suggest he'd saed the NHS when he was health secretary.Mr **** said he’d “fought to improve patient safety and deliver the cash boost that will secure our NHS for the future” before he was moved to his current role as Foreign Secretary. Lets nor forget that NHS campaigners and professionals who were heavily critical of Mr **** when he was in charge of healthcare.  Junior doctors were involved a four year dispute with him over pay and conditions, which included unprecedented walkouts. As the Tory's and their rotten hearts seek to dismantle our beloved NHS we should not forget Nye's words who said ' It will last as long as their are folk with enough faith to fight for it.' We  cannot reach the day again where people make a profit out of our sickness . The NHS is a shining example of how a caring society can create  good and safe care based on social solidarity., making such a great contribution towards social and health equality.  A beacon to the world. And the greatest example of Socialism in action and the basic decency and fairness of our labour movement.
Thank you to all of those who have worked and who are still working tirelessly to provide the best care to over 64 million people in the UK. The last 72 years wouldn’t have been possible without them. It is currently tthough in real danger, under attack from those that want to privatise it, run it down and fragment it now more than ever and we can't allow this to happen.With American putocrats turning their eyes on the NHS,it's more important than ever to that we continue to defend it with all we've got. It is not now or any day for sale. Today, and everyday, we must keep fighting to protect this most special institution and the people working within it.

Wednesday, 3 July 2019

Franz Kafka - Magical realist (3/7/1883 -3/6/24)

Franz Kafka - " Don't bend, don't water it down, don't try to make it logical, don't edit your own soul  according to the fashion.  Rather, follow your most intense obsessions mercilessly. "

Franz Kafka one of my favourite authors and one of the most influential writers of the 20th century was a Jewish Czech writer who was born in Praque on July 3, 1883 who died at the age of 40, in 1924, of TB largely unpublished and unknown, but not after having written some of the most extraordinary works of all time. After his death with the posthumous publication of his novels, letters and diaries he rose to international fame as a literary genius, one of the founding fathers of magic realism and the modern novel.
He is now considered the most influential profoundly misunderstood writers of our time. His most famous works are two unfinished novels, The Trial and  The Castle and the short story The Metamorphosis,(Die Verwandlung) an eerie tale of a man who finds himelf changed into a giant insect. This shocking and beautifully told novella is widely acclaimed for its greatness.Written before the holocaust, a literary sighting of the terror that we can create and the beasts we can so easily become.
His family was of German culture  but as they belonged to the ghetto, they were excluded from realtionships with the German minority in Praque.Tragedy shaped the Kafka home. Franz’s two younger brothers, George and Heinrich, died in infancy by the time Kafka was 6, leaving the boy the only son in a family that included three daughters (all of whom would later die in Nazi death camps or a Polish ghetto).
Kafka had a difficult relationship with both of his parents. His mother, Julie, was a devoted homemaker who lacked the intellectual depth to understand her son’s dreams to become a writer. Kafka’s father, Hermann, had a forceful personality that often overwhelmed the Kafka home. He was a success in business, making his living retailing men’s and women’s clothes. His father ruled the family with great authority, who has been  described as a huge ill-tempered domestic tyrant, who on many occasions directed his anger towards his son and was disrespectful towards his escape into literature.  This led to Franz becoming an extremely sensitive adult, with a delicate personality.
He finished secondary school and entered the Deutsche Karl-Ferdinands-Universität in 1901, studying first chemistry and then law .While in his first year of university, Kafka became friends with Max Brod. They remained friends for Kafka's entire life. Brod encouraged Kafka's love of reading, and introduced him to some of the influences on his later work, including Dostoyevsky, Goethe, and Gogol.
In 1906, Kafka earned his Doctor of Law degree and began his professional career. Though he wanted to be writing, Kafka worked foran insurance agency, fpr 14 years, the Worker’s Accident Institute of Bohemia from 30 August 1908  to his early retirement  on 1 July 1922, in a relatively undemanding job that left him time to write. Kafka had tried to join the military to fight in World War I, but he was denied due to his poor health.
He was not an ordinary person, it is generally agreed that Kafka suffered from clinical depression and social anxiety throughout his entire life, and also suffered from migraines, insomnia, constipation, boils, and other ailments, all usually brought on by excessive stresses and strains, he was different, living in a state of anxious solitude, which resulted in him turning into a tormented genius. "I need solitude for my writing " the author said, but "not like a hermit - that wouldn't be enough but like a dead man." His writings stem from his battle with tuberculosis, complicated by neurosis and psychosomatic disorders associated with organic disease. On all accounts  Kafka seemed to be a well established and elegant figure, respected and liked by his circle of associates, he tried to keep private just how nervous he felt, and only revealed this to his director (at the Worker’s Accident Institute of Bohemia) when he had to ask for an extended leave with pay.
His complicated love life did not make his lifee  any easier for him, despite his complcations, he was a bit of a ladies man. But his personal life  raged with complications. His inhibitions and insecurities plagued his relationships. Twice he was engaged to marry his girlfriend, Felice Bauer, before the two finally went their separate ways in 1917.
He was also an admirer of the anarchist Peter Kropotkin, and was drawn into the world of libertarian socialism.Kafka’s opposition to established society became apparent when, as an adolescent, he declared himself a socialist as well as an atheist. Throughout his adult life he expressed qualified sympathies for the socialists, he attended meetings of Czech anarchists (before World War I). Even then he was essentially passive and politically unengaged. As a Jew, Kafka was isolated from the German community in Prague, but, as a modern intellectual, he was also alienated from his own Jewish heritage. He was sympathetic to Czech political and cultural aspirations but his identification with German culture kept even these sympathies subdued. Thus, social isolation and rootlessness contributed to Kafka’s lifelong personal unhappiness.
Kafkas strange stories, appeal to me a lot, earning their own adjective, Kafkaesque, to describe an aspect of social reality and political science  that tends to be overlooked. With his libertarian sensibility, Kafka succeeded in capturing the oppressive and absurd nature of the bureacratic nightmare, the opacity, the impenettatable and incomprehensive character of the rules of the state hierarchy as they are  seen from below and outside, which  destroys the mind and body and numbs the soul. Despite his perverse search of guilt to expiate , he did not surrender. In front of the omnipresence of evil and falsity he took refuge in words as an antidote to despair. Kafka’s heroes search for truth in a world of alienation, irrationality and injustice. They submit and endure and try to explain the inexplicable.
Kafka later would fall in love with Dora Dymant (Diamant), who shared his Jewish roots and a preference for socialism. Amidst Kafka’s increasingly dire health, the two fell in love and lived together in Berlin. Their relationship largely centered on Kafka’s illnesses. For many years, even before he contracted tuberculosis, Kafka had not been well. Constantly strained and stressed, he suffered from migraines, boils, depression, anxiety and insomnia. He died in Kierling, Austria, on June 3, 1924. He was buried beside his parents in Prague’s New Jewish Cemetery in Olsanske.
Plagued by self-doubt, Kafka burned a huge amount of his writing, it's estimated that he burned more than 90% of what he wrote and, aware that his fragile health was failing, he asked his best friend Max Brod, who was to be his literary executor, to destroy any unfinished manuscripts on his death, unread. Fortunately for the world, Brod published it instead.
The Trial, written in 1914, was published in 1925. It tells the bizarre story of a man named Josef K., who works at a bank. He is arrested on his 30th birthday but he is never told what for. He is released and told to wait for his trial. It drags on for two years and Josef never knows what he is charged with. On his 32nd birthday, two men show up at him home and take him away. They stab him in the heart and he dies.
The Castle, which Kafka started in 1922, was unfinished when the author died in 1924. It was published by Max Brod after Kafka's death. It tells the story of a man named only K. who comes to a village. The village is ruled by a castle beside it, though no one is completely sure what the castle does. K.'s right to be in the village is questioned and then revoked when K. is about to die.
Sadly a lot of his work still  chimes with the world today as the world again  descends into fear and madness. Many years after his death his works act like guidebooks to the very dark feelings most of us know only to well , concerned with powerlessness, self-disgust and anxiety. This literary genius turned the stuff of nightmares however, into redemptive, consoling art. Kafka taught us, truth always ends as it begins, in the inexplicable, can any hope for a better future exist? It is this sense of despair and pessimism , and in his letters, Kafka writes of listening to “the frightened voices from within”, as it is these fears that form a path to truth. Everybody should read some Kafka.

Will Self's Kafka journey: A Praque walking tour. 

Tuesday, 2 July 2019

Activists shut down UK-based Israeli owned arms and security factories ‘in solidarity with Palestinian people’

Pro-Palestinian activists have  for the second day occupied the roof of Israel owned Elbit Ferranti arms   factories in Oldham, in solidarity and in a peaceful protest of UK complicity in Israel’s human rights violations. vowing to stay up there “as long as it takes” to impose a two-way arms embargo between the UK and Israel so that “no more death can be inflicted on the Palestinian people”.
The activists from Manchester Palestine Action and the International Solidarity Movement, scaled the roof of the four storey building at 5 am yesterday morning, carrying banners with them that they draped from the roof edge of the five storey buildingn front of the building which read “UK Stop Arming Israel” and "Israel is killing protestors eery week," They were joined by placard- and banner-carrying activists at the front gates of the factory who chanted: “brick by brick, wall by wall, Israeli apartheid is going to fall”.
The campaigners acted in commemoration of the five-year anniversary of Operation Protective Edge (OPE). Israel attacked Gaza in July 2014 and killed over 2,200 Palestinians, primarily civilians; Israeli forces suffered 73 casualties,  primarily soldiers.
The group say that over the last five years the UK has raised their arms sales to Israel and are calling for an arms embargo and the closure of all Elbit factories in the UK. A group of activists also entered the new, hi-tech, Discovery Industrial Park in  Sandwich,Kent and headed towards Elbit’s, purpose-built Instro Precision factory, spraying painted slogans. They blockaded both of the gates to the factory and scaled a shipping container ,forcing the factory to close.

Elbit  Systems is the largest privately owned Israeli arms manufacturer and is one of the largest exporter of drones in the world, bought the formerly British-owned Ferranti Technologies for £15 million in 2007. Elbit unmanned aircraft systems (aka drones) have been used extensively against Palestinians.
Elbit produces 85% of all drones (Unmanned Aerial Vehicles, UAV) used by the Israeli army, including the Hermes 450 and 900 drones which Israeli forces can equip with two air to ground missiles, or targeting systems to mark a target for other aircraft to attack.
Amnesty International reported in 2009 that Israeli drones were identified as taking part in attacks that killed Palestinian civilians in Gaza. A confidential Israeli military police report leaked to The Intercept showed how the Israeli operators of a Hermes 450 were responsible for killing four Palestinian children, cousins aged 10-11, playing on a beach during Operation Protective Edge. They killed one child with the first missile fired, and then fired a second missile to kill the remaining three.
The company prides itself in testing their products "in the field"  This testing amounts to the targeted killings of Palestinians, including many children, and to the extensie destruction of civil infrastructure in Gaza.  A company also  sordidly famous for providing cluster munitions banned by international law, and white phosphorus shells, both used against Palestinian civilian populations - a use also condemned by international law. Comments made by members of the Israeli military industrial complex lend weight to this claim. A brigadier general in the Israeli Army said at a convention on border control technology in Texas, “We have learned lots from Gaza,” he said. “It’s a great laboratory.”
Avner Benzaken, head of the Israeli army’s technology and logistics division, explaining the benefits of the occupation of Palestinian land, was reported as saying in Der Spiegel:
“If I develop a product and want to test it in the field, I only have to go five or 10 kilometres from my base and I can look and see what is happening with the equipment… I get feedback, so it makes the development process faster and much more efficient.”
After the 2014 OPE assault on Gaza, the term “combat-proven” was reported as being added to a military vehicle jointly manufactured by Elbit. During the first month of OPE in Gaza, Elbit’s shares increased by 6.1%.
There are many reports of the crashing of Elbit’s Skylark UAV during intelligence gathering operations in Gaza. The anxiety-inducing buzzing of Israeli military UAVs has become a permanent soundtrack to the lives of Palestinians in Gaza. The company has been one of the main providers of the electronic detection fence system to the Apartheid Wall in the occupied West Bank. Elbit, in cooperation with the Israeli military, developed a tunnel detection system installed as part of the matrix of technologies used to keep around 2 million Palestinians besieged in the open air prison that is the Gaza Strip.
Elbit Systems bought Israeli Military Industries (IMI) in 2018 for $495 million, which makes them the owner of the sole supplier of small-calibre ammunition to the Israeli army. Over the past year and a half, Israeli snipers have killed over 180 Palestinian protesters in the Great Return March in Gaza, including press, medics, disabled people and 57 children, yet the UK has approved some £14 million worth of arms sales during this period, according to the group.Israel’s military might, maintained by its arms trade with foreign governments like the UK, is a key factor in sustaining a much larger system of injustice and perpetual violence against the Palestinian people. That’s why justice campaigners here in the UK are increasing energy in their work to end the UK’s complicity in Israel’s abuse of Palestinian rights.
In 2017 the Campaign Against Arms Trade reported that the UK issued £221 million worth of arms licenses to defence companies exporting to Israel which makes Israel the eighth largest UK arms market, a huge increase on the previous year’s figure of £86m, itself a substantial rise on the £20m worth of arms licensed in 2015. In total, over the past five years, Israel has bought more than £350m worth of UK military hardware. The licences include categories of arms used in Israel’s attacks, such as sniper rifles, grenade launchers, surveillance drones and other equipment. While UK export controls are meant to prohibit the export of items that can be used in violation of human rights abroad, the UK Government insists it is confident that exports to Israel are not, while simultaneously claiming that it doesn’t track items after they’ve been sold. While a range of human rights organisations, the UN and even the International Criminal Court have expressed concern, the UK Government is digging in its heels and refusing to conduct any due diligence. As part of the wider Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions campaign, Palestine solidarity activists have called for the UK to end its extensive collaboration with the Israeli weapons industry and to institute a two-way arms embargo, at the same time, a range of human rights organisations, the UN and even the International Criminal Court have expressed concern, the UK Government unsurprisingly, the government has refused to listen, instead has not only taken no action, but has also made no effort to make Israel accountable for its increasing crimes and has thus been complicit in profitng off not only the desruction and death of innocent lives, but the intentional field testng of weaapons designed to terrify an entire populace.It’s not surprising then that campaigners are stepping up their efforts to stop ‘business as usual’ for the UK-Israel arms trade and they’re targeting different points in the chain of complicity.
There are many reports of the crashing of Elbit’s Skylark UAV during intelligence gathering operations in Gaza. The anxiety-inducing buzzing of Israeli military UAVs has become a permanent soundtrack to the lives of Palestinians in Gaza. The company has been one of the main providers of the electronic detection fence system to the Apartheid Wall in the occupied West Bank. Elbit, in cooperation with the Israeli military, developed a tunnel detection system installed as part of the matrix of technologies used to keep around 2 million Palestinians besieged in the open air prison that is the Gaza Strip. The company prides itself in testing their products "in the field" This testing amounts to the targeted killings of Palestinians, including many children, and to the extensie destruction of civil infrastructure in Gaza.
Elbit Systems has four subsidiaries in the UK; UAV Engines, Instro Precision, Ferranti Technologies and Elite KL. All have faced protests and in recent years. The Elbit-owned UAV Engines factory in Shenstone, Staffordshire, has been repeatedly targeted by activists, including protests, roof top occupations, and blockades at its gates, and was closed for nearly three days when it was similarly occupied in 2014 because it profits directly from the continual surveillance, control and violent repression of the Palestinian people.
The end of 2018 at least seemed to have marked a new turning point for the unscrupulous investments of banking and financial companies in the arms manufacturer Elbit Systems being excluded from pension and investment funds around the world over the company’s involvement in supplying surveillance systems and other technology to Israel’s Separation Wall and settlements in the West Bank. Elbit has also supplied surveillance technology for use along the US-Mexico’s border. In December 2018, following a campaign by a coalition of British NGOs against its investments, HSBC decided to divest from Elbit Systems due to its involvement in the production and commercialization of cluster munitions.
The recent action against Elbit has seen local residents rallying round in support with lots of interest from local school students, who can see the roof from their school , with some of the neighbouring residents   coming out to respect the minute's silence that was held last night at the gate of the factory - together with those on the roof.
See pictures and a short video n (you can look at twitter feed whether or not you have a twitter account. )
or on facebook
As a key company in the Israeli arms industry, the presence of Elbit’s factories in the UK should not go unchallenged. By targeting the factories,  campaigners are protesting the normalisation of militarism both in the UK and in Palestine. The Palestinian call for Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions is clear that a suspension of ‘business as usual’ with Israel is necessary to achieve justice for Palestine, and campaigners are answering this call. Those who profiteer from suffering, violence and human rights violations like Elbit ,acting immoraly and in contravention of international law, should not be allowed to continue with business as usual. It is simply deplorable that Elbit can  still operate their four factories in the UK, where they manufacture their weapons with such impunity. and enables the Israeli military to maintain its brutal  oppression ad occupation of the Palestinians.
Solidarity and respect  with the roof top activists, and to those that endorse the call of Palestinian civil society to impose a two-way military embargo on Israel and to all those that continue to support  the legitimate fundamental rights of the Palestinian people.