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Monday, 27 July 2009

Harry Patch

Harry Patch, the last British soldier left alive to have fought on the Western Front died on Saturday aged 111. Soon after the invasion of Iraq the British prime minister, tried to use Patch as a photo opportunity. Patch told Blair that "politicians who took us to war should have been given the guns and told to settle their differences themselves, instead of organising nothing better than legalised mass murder".

Wednesday, 15 July 2009

Nick Davies and the House of Commons Committee on Culture

Yesterday, Nick Davies of the Guardian appeared before the House of Commons Committee on Culture. During his testimony Davies produced previously unseen documents that showed that senior figures at the News of the World were involved in the mobile phone-hacking of several individuals. This included the paper’s chief reporter, Neville Thurlbeck, being named as receiving the typed-up transcript of 35 messages which Glenn Mulcaire had hacked from the telephones of Gordon Taylor, chief executive of the PFA and Jo Armstrong, a legal adviser at the PFA.

A second document reveals that assistant editor, Greg Miskiw, offered Mulcaire a bonus of £7,000 if he delivers a specific story about Gordon Taylor.

Both these documents had been seized by the police during the original investigation. It is therefore hard to understand why Thurlbeck, Miskiw and Mulcaire were not prosecuted for phone-hacking. It is this evidence that resulted in Taylor and Armstrong being paid over a £1 million in an out of court settlement.

The main objective should now be to get the police to re-open the case against News Corporation journalists.

Monday, 13 July 2009

Rupert Murdoch and the Corruption of the Metropolitan Police.

News Corporation has at last replied to the allegations made in the Guardian. They have now admitted that they did pay Gordon Taylor and two other men, over £1 million over the hacking into mobile phones. This seems very generous of them as they have also said that journalists working for the organization have not hacked into anybody’s phones other than that involving Clive Goodman and the royal family.

This admission also shows that Les Hinton, the chairman of News International, lied when he told a parliamentary committee that he had carried out a full investigation into the case and he was convinced that Goodman had been acting alone. The same goes for Sir Christopher Meyer, chairman of the Press Complaints Commission, when he claimed that his investigation showed that other News of the World journalists were not involved in phone hacking.

It has also been revealed that Stuart Kuttner, the managing editor of the News of the World, approved all payments to Glenn Mulcaire, the private detective used in phone hacking. He resigned last week, however, News Corporation is claiming that this has nothing to do with phone hacking.

The real struggle over the next few weeks will be to get the High Court to the unsealing of the documents that were used to establish that the News of the World did illegally hack into Gordon Taylor’s phone. Even when the sealing of documents that prove illegal activity has taken place, courts are reluctant to act in these cases. It seems that police cover-ups have to be protected at all costs. After all, we cannot be allowed to know that we have a corrupt police-force.

The House of Commons Select Committee will try to get the police to release all the evidence they have on how News Corporation journalists obtained information by hacking into people’s phones. Apparently, parliament does not have the power to do this and as it will reveal police corruption, they are unlikely to approve this request.

One suggestion is the police were blackmailed into restricting their investigation into phone-hacking. It would not be surprising to discover that journalists working for News Corporation hold on senior figures at the Metropolitan Police.

Dick Cheney and CIA Assassination Program

It was reported over the weekend that the CIA director, Leon Panetta, has told the congressional intelligence committees that he has discovered a CIA secret operation that was being run by Dick Cheney. Panetta discovered that information about this program was withheld from Congress. So far, details of this illegal program has not yet been released to the public. However, rumours are suggesting that it might be linked to Seymour Hersh’s claim that Cheney oversaw an “executive assassination ring”.

Is this the reason that Don Bohning/CIA took objection to my article on Operation 40 where I argued that the CIA developed an assassination program in the early 1960s? An assassination program that Carl Jenkins and Chi Chi Quintero confessed had been used on John Kennedy. Maybe the CIA fear that this story will increase interest in previous assassination programs.

Friday, 10 July 2009

Rupert Murdoch and the Corruption of the British Media

In 1969 Rupert Murdoch purchased The Sun newspaper in 1969. He turned it into a trashy tabloid and it was not long before it had become the best-selling daily newspaper in Britain. Later that year he purchased the News of the World, Britain’s largest selling newspaper.

The two newspapers advocated extreme right-wing policies over the next ten years and played an important role in the election of Margaret Thatcher in 1979. He continued to support Thatcher in her decision to create mass unemployment by reducing spending on the public sector. This policy also undermined the power of the trade-unions. This enabled the Tories to pass anti-trade union legislation that helped Murdoch win his fight with the print unions.

In 1981 Murdoch purchased The Times and the Sunday Times. He also created News Corporation that controlled all his media interests. This includes film and television companies such as Sky and Fox and a large number of newspapers and magazines in the United States and various other countries. It has been claimed that he is the most important political influence in the western world.

In the late 1990s it became clear that the British public had turned against the right-wing Tory government. In the 1997 general election, the Murdoch press supported the Labour Party. This would have come as no surprise to those that had watched Murdoch’s behaviour in Australia. He had supported their Labour Party in the past. However, when they gained power with his support, they turned into a right-wing authoritarian government.

The same thing happened in Britain. After he won the 1997 election, Tony Blair abandoned his left-wing agenda and showed himself to be a Thatcherite. According to Lance Price, who worked for the Labour government, Blair would always consult Murdoch before introducing any new policy.

Murdoch was also a great supporter of the illegal invasion of Iraq. Every one of his 179 newspapers also supported this policy. He claimed at the time that the invasion would result in lower oil prices and an increase in stock market shares. His newspapers also played an important role in persuading the public that Iraq had WMD.

When Blair became unpopular with the British public he joined the plot to get Gordon Brown made the new prime minister without an election. Brown had been under the control of Murdoch for many years. However, after six months it became clear that Brown would lose the next election and so Murdoch’s newspaper’s began to support David Cameron.

Murdoch seemed untouchable. All leading politicians were too frightened to take him on. They knew he would use the whole of his media empire against them if they did that. Then something happened yesterday that might give us the opportunity to remove this terrible influence on British life.

The story begins in 2006 when members of the royal household complained that they believed that their mobile phones had been hacked into. The anti-terror police investigated the case as they feared it might be connected to a Muslim terrorist group. A few months later, Clive Goodman, a journalist working for the News of the World, and Glenn Mulcaire, a private detective, were arrested. Mulcaire confessed to hacking into the royal family’s mobile phones to listen to their voice-mail and that he had been paid to do this by Goodman.

In January 2007, Goodman was sentenced to four months in prison and Mulcaire got six months. Andy Coulson resigned as editor of the News of the World. He claimed that he knew nothing about this phone hacking. Anyone with any experience of newspapers knew that Coulson was lying. No editor would ever publish a potential libellous story without knowing the source of the story. Goodman was portrayed as a rogue reporter.

Les Hinton, the chairman of News International, appeared before a parliamentary committee and told MPs he had carried out a full investigation into the case and he was convinced that Goodman had been acting alone. The Press Complaints Commission also claimed they could find no evidence that Coulson knew anything about these illegal activities. Although he was strangely not interviewed by the PCC.

On July 9, 2007, David Cameron appointed Andy Coulson as Conservative Party Director of Communications on a salary of £450,000 a year. Why? Maybe because he is the man who knows all the secrets of the politicians.

The police supported this view that Coulson did not know anything by not bringing anymore prosecutions against News of the World reporters. However, we now know that the police did have a great deal of information about large-scale phone-hacking by Murdoch’s journalists. For example, Glenn Mulcaire had been paid £2,000 a month as a retainer fee for News Corporation. Evidence suggests he had been working for 37 different journalists. Mulcaire’s work had resulted in several scoops including those against the socialist politician, Tommy Sheridan, David Beckham (Rebecca Loos) and Sven-Goran Eriksson (Faria Alam).

Why did the police not follow up cases against these 37 journalists? How much did Murdoch pay to the police to stop these prosecutions?

The problem is that some policemen earn extra money by selling information to the press and other interested parties. One of them tipped off Gordon Taylor, the chief executive of the Professional Footballer’s Association, that his phone had been hacked by Glenn Mulcaire. He therefore decided to sue News Corporation. In September, 2007, News Corporation paid Taylor and two of his football contacts, over a £1 million in a case that was held in secret. The people involved promised not to reveal details of the case. The High Court then joined in the conspiracy by sealing the evidence obtained from the police.

Someone, we don’t know who, tipped off Nick Davies, a reporter, about what had happened and the story appeared in yesterday’s Guardian. Rupert Murdoch immediately announced he knew nothing about this £1 million payout. This surely can be proved to be a lie.

The Guardian also provided a list of some of the people whose phones were hacked by Mulcaire. This included several cabinet ministers, including John Prescott, the former deputy prime-minister. This obviously has implications for national security. However, Prescott insists he was never told by the police that attempts had been made to hack his phone.

The most amazing response was from the police. Assistant Commissioner John Yates, quickly issued a statement that the police were unwilling to reopen the investigation into the case. Yates was of course the man who led the investigation into the corruption of Tony Blair and decided that he should not be prosecuted for any offences. I wonder how much money he was paid to reach this conclusion? How much was he paid for yesterday’s statement.

Other than the Guardian and the BBC, the rest of the media are doing what they can to ignore this story. One former editor of the Sun claimed yesterday that the whole story is a “socialist conspiracy”. The reason that even non-Murdoch papers are ignoring the story, is that they have also relied on illegal phone-hacking to get their stories and are worried where all this will lead. How many journalists will end up in prison for these offences? That is why it is important that we use the internet to expose this story.

Wednesday, 8 July 2009

John Smith Clarke

John Smith Clarke was another socialist who refused to support the Stalin Purges. The thirteenth of fourteen children, he was born in Scotland in 1885. His father worked in a circus and Clarke spent much of his early life living in gypsy encampments. After receiving little schooling he joined the circus as a horse bareback rider. At the age of seventeen he was working as a lion tamer. According to Gordon Munro: "He received the first of many injuries a few days later when a hurt lion attacked him when he entered the cage to help it."

In 1902 several political activists left the Social Democratic Federation (SDF), an organization led by H.L. Hyndman, to form the Glasgow Socialist Society. Eventually, most of the members of the SDF in Scotland joined this new group. In August 1903 it was renamed the Socialist Labour Party (SLP). The organization that had been inspired by the writings of Daniel De Leon, the man who helped establish the International Workers of the World (IWW) and the Socialist Labor Party in the United States. Clarke, who had been converted to socialism, joined the SLP. Leaders of the group included Willie Paul, Jack Murphy, Arthur McManus, Neil MacLean, James Connally, John MacLean and Tom Bell.

Clarke eventually became joint editor of the SLP journal, The Socialist, with Willie Paul, Tom Bell and Arthur McManus. In 1906 he began to organize the transport of weapons to revolutionary socialists in Russia. The operation lasted until the discovery of a cache at Blyth in Northumberland.

John Clarke was opposed to Britain's involvement in the First World War. The historian, Nicola Rippon, has argued that "Clarke was not a pacifist, believing that the only armed struggle should be between the world's working classes and their capitalist employers."

Clarke joined Alice Wheeldon, Willie Paul and Arthur McManus, in establishing a network in Derby to help those conscientious objectors on the run or in jail. This included Alice's son, William Wheeldon, who was secretly living with his sister, Winnie Mason, in Southampton. According to Nicola Rippon Clarke "spent most of the war hiding in Mr Turner's farm at Arleston, now part of Sinfin on the southern outskirts of the town."

In 1919 John Clarke joined forces with Albert Young and Tom Anderson to publish a pamphlet entitled The Red Army - Revolutionary Poems. The following year he travelled to Moscow to attend the Communist International with William Gallacher as a delegate from the Clyde Workers' Committee. He met Lenin and other Bolshevik leaders but was not impressed by their style of government.

In April 1920 Tom Bell, Willie Gallacher, Arthur McManus, Harry Pollitt, Rajani Palme Dutt, Helen Crawfurd, A. J. Cook, Albert Inkpin, Arthur Horner, J. T. Murphy, John R. Campbell, Bob Stewart, Robin Page Arnot and Willie Paul joined forces to establish the Communist Party of Great Britain (CPGB). McManus was elected as the party's first chairman and Bell and Pollitt became the party's first full-time workers. John Clarke, refused to accept the power of the Bolshevik in the formation of policy, and did not join the CPGB.

Clarke now became active in the Independent Labour Party (ILP) where he developed a close relationship with James Maxton. In 1928 Clarke published Marxism and History. Clarke became a councillor in Glasgow and in 1929 he was elected as MP for Maryhill in 1929. In the General Election the Labour Party won 288 seats, making it the largest party in the House of Commons. Ramsay MacDonald became Prime Minister again, but as before, he still had to rely on the support of the Liberals to hold onto power.

The election of the Labour Government coincided with an economic depression and Ramsay MacDonald was faced with the problem of growing unemployment. MacDonald asked Sir George May, to form a committee to look into Britain's economic problem. When the May Committee produced its report in July, 1931, it suggested that the government should reduce its expenditure by £97,000,000, including a £67,000,000 cut in unemployment benefits. MacDonald, and his Chancellor of the Exchequer, Philip Snowden, accepted the report but when the matter was discussed by the Cabinet, the majority voted against the measures suggested by May.

MacDonald was angry that his Cabinet had voted against him and decided to resign. When he saw George V that night, he was persuaded to head a new coalition government that would include Conservative and Liberal leaders as well as Labour ministers. Most of the Labour Cabinet totally rejected the idea and only three, Philip Snowden, Jimmy Thomas and John Sankey agreed to join the new government.

Ramsay MacDonald was determined to continue and his National Government introduced the measures that had been rejected by the previous Labour Cabinet. Labour MPs were furious with what had happened and MacDonald was expelled from the Labour Party.

In October, MacDonald called an election. The 1931 General Election was a disaster for the Labour Party with only 46 members winning their seats. Clarke also lost his seat in Maryhill. MacDonald, now had 556 pro-National Government MPs and had no difficulty pursuing the policies suggested by Sir George May. However, disowned by his own party, he was now a prisoner of the Conservative Party, and in 1935 he was gently eased from power.

John Clarke returned to journalism and in 1936 his book An Encyclopaedia of Glasgow was published. As Gordon Munro has pointed out: "This contained items on the streets, buildings and historical places of the city which he served as a councillor for 15 years and in which he remained for the rest of his life."

A second edition of his earlier book Marxism and History was to be published by the National Council of Labour Colleges but his refusal to remove Leon Trotsky and Nikolay Bukharin from his original bibliography as demanded by leaders of the Communist Party of Great Britain meant that it was never published.

John Smith Clarke died on 30th January 1959.

Tuesday, 7 July 2009

Wales and the Spanish Civil War

A truly great documentary, “Wales and the Spanish Civil War”:

Monday, 6 July 2009

Lewis Jones and Will Paynter: The Story of two Welsh Communists.

Lewis Jones (b.1897) and Will Paynter (b. 1903) were two Welsh miners who were members of the Communist Party of Great Britain. Both men suffered from victimization after their involvement in the 1926 General Strike. This resulted in them both playing active roles in the National Unemployed Workers' Movement (NUWM).

Jones eventually became the Welsh organiser of the NUWM. He toured the country making speeches and Douglas Hyde was one of those who was converted to communism after hearing him speak in Bristol. Hywel Francis argues that Jones "was even capable of holding an audience of over a thousand people for two and a half with his lecture" on the "Social Significance of Sin".

Billy Griffiths, a fellow member of the Communist Party of Great Britain, later claimed: "His main quality I think was love of people and compassion, it superseded everything else. I have seen Lewis... sitting down listening to two old people telling him about their troubles, and tears running down his cheeks. That's the kind of man he was, he felt it, it was for him more than logic... You see it was more important than the politics, [it] was the humanism and compassion... it was this that people loved about him."

In 1935 Jones was sent by the CPGB to attend the Seventh World Congress of the Communist International in Moscow. Jones rejected the "cult of personality" and refused to join in the standing ovation when Joseph Stalin entered the hall. Jones was sent home in disgrace and was later disciplined by the CPGB.

Paynter on the other hand was willing to go along with the policy handed-down from Moscow. In July 1936 Paynter was appointed as Communist Party of Great Britain organizer for Wales.

Both Jones and Paynter were involved in the recruitment of men to fight for the International Brigades in the Spanish Civil War. In March 1937 he was sent to Spain to look after the interests of the British Battalion. Paynter's main task was to provide political and emotional support for those members of the Communist Party of Great Britain fighting in Spain. As he pointed out in My Generation (1972): "The penalty for desertion is harsh in any army, especially in wartime. Together with representatives of the American battalions, whose problems were similar to ours, we pressed the Brigade command to set up a centre where those whose morale had fallen could be rehabilitated. We emphasized, too, that military weakness in supporting organizations had contributed to the problem. Eventually the command agreed and a camp was created where men in the same plight were brought together from the various battalions in an effort to rehabilitate them."

Lewis Jones was considered the most important recruitment sergeant in the CPGB. It was later reported that there were "170 volunteers from Wales, and 116 of them came from the mining industry, around 25 per cent of them union officials at pit level... The average age was over thirty and 18 per cent of the Welsh volunteers were married." The South Wales miners provided the largest regional occupational group in the British Battalion.

Jones eventually became disillusioned by the waste of life that was taking place. Lewis continued to campaign for funds but he refused to continue to recruit men to fight in the British Battalion. He told his friend Billy Griffiths that he no longer had the right to "get the young boys to go there and die."

Arthur Horner, the President of the South Wales Miners' Federation and fellow member of the Communist Party of Great Britain, suggested that Jones wrote about his experiences in the form of a novel. Cwmardy was published in 1937. It is claimed by Hywel Francis that the main character in the novel is based on Will Paynter.

On 27th January 1939 he addressed 30 meetings supporting the fight against fascism in Spain. That night he died of a heart-attack. Some of his friends later claimed that he died of a broken-heart because he knew that the International Brigades were heading for defeat.

Lewis Jones' second novel, We Live, was unfinished. It is believed that his partner, Mavis Llewellyn, wrote the last two chapters, "A Party Decision" and "A Letter from Spain". The book was published later that year.

In 1938 the Communist Party of Great Britain joined forces with the Independent Labour Party to campaign on a broad programme of action against "fascism, reaction and war".
This unity was destroyed by the decision of Joseph Stalin to sign the Soviet-Nazi Pact with Adolf Hitler. The CPGB loyally supported the actions of Stalin. This resulted in the rest of the left turning against the CPGB. Douglas Hyde recalls in his autobiography, I Believed (1951): "We prepared ourselves for persecution and we got it. Sellers of the Daily Worker, women as well as men, were spat upon and assaulted on the streets; canvassing, they had doors slammed in their faces, even chamber-pots emptied on their heads from upstairs windows."

Harry Pollitt, the General Secretary of the CPGB, remained loyal to Joseph Stalin until September 1939 when he welcomed the British declaration of war on Nazi Germany. Pollitt was supported by John R. Campbell and William Gallacher, but Rajani Palme Dutt and William Rust followed the Soviet line. Pollitt was forced to resign as General Secretary and he was replaced by Dutt and Rust took over Campbell's job as editor of the Daily Worker.

Paynter, who had been elected as the miner's agent for Rhymney Valley in August 1939, did not get involved in this dispute and instead concentrated on union matters. He remained active in the CPGB and in October 1951 Paynter became President of the South Wales Miners' Federation.

During the 20th Party Congress in February, 1956, Nikita Khrushchev launched an attack on the rule of Joseph Stalin. He condemned the Great Purge and accused Joseph Stalin of abusing his power. He announced a change in policy and gave orders for the Soviet Union's political prisoners to be released. Khrushchev's de-Stalinzation policy encouraged people living in Eastern Europe to believe that he was willing to give them more independence from the Soviet Union. In Hungary the prime minister Imre Nagy removed state control of the mass media and encouraged public discussion on political and economic reform. Nagy also released anti-communists from prison and talked about holding free elections and withdrawing Hungary from the Warsaw Pact. Khrushchev became increasingly concerned about these developments and on 4th November 1956 he sent the Red Army into Hungary.

During the Hungarian Uprising an estimated 20,000 people were killed. Imre Nagy was arrested and replaced by the Soviet loyalist, Janos Kadar. About a third of the CPGB's members resigned over this issue but Paynter remained in the party. He later recalled: "I was very often the subject of attack from newspapers, the medium through which so many people derive their opinions. The worst experience came during the Hungarian uprising, when it became risky for me to go into my local pub where I had been going for years because this hostility against me threatened to become violent."

Arthur Horner retired as president of the National Union of Mineworkers in 1959. Paynter replaced Horner in the union's top job. Paynter remained a loyal member of the Communist Party of Great Britain and unlike some leading figures in the party, refused to speak out against the Warsaw Pact intervention in Czechoslovakia in 1968.

Will Paynter retired from his post as president of the National Union of Mineworkers in 1969. He left the CPGB soon afterwards. However, this had nothing to do with what had happened during the Prague Spring: "This was not a sudden decision but was in accordance with a family understanding decided on many years before... Attempts to force me to take a decision provoke the opposite reaction in me. Nor could I take such a step either then or now, knowing that it would be used to support unprincipled attacks on the Communist Party. I despise ex-communists who lend themselves to such attacks."

In his autobiography published in 1972 Paynter reflected on the loyal support he gave the CPGB. "It seems obvious now that the party gave too much weight to the assessment of the Russian party leaders, a disposition that unfortunately did not end with that experience. However, this is a judgment based on hindsight."

In reality, all members of the CPGB could see what was happening. However, Paynter decided to turn a blind-eye to what has happening in return for the financial and political advantages that he received for his loyalty.

Thursday, 2 July 2009

Norman Conquest

Some resources on the Norman Conquest:

Junk Food Conspiracy

David Kessler, the former head of the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA), has warned that food manufacturers have employed food scientists to successfully develop snacks, cereals and ready made meals that act on the "reward centres of the brain" in the same way as tobacco. Kessler argues that "we have created a world where food is designed to make you want to eat more of it.... for millions of people, modern food is simply impossible to resist."

Kessler takes the example of sugar in food: "As more sugar is added, food becomes more pleasurable until we reach the bliss point, after which it becomes too sweet and the pleasure drops off." The same also happens with fat and salt. At this point the desire for that food is suppressed. However, this can be overcome by creating the right combination of ingredients.

In his book, The End of Overeating" Kessler provides evidence that food scientists, are using precise combinations of fat, sugar, salt and additives to make certain foods addictive. This is described as "excessive activation". What happens is that these foods trigger the release of neurotransmitters in the brain's pleasure centres. Research at Yale University showed that over 50% of obese people are prone to "excessive activation".

I live close to a shopping parade. Over the last few years shops have struggled to survive on this parade. The main problem is that there are not enough local people willing to use these shops. Recently, KFC opened a shop on the parade. It does not matter what time of day that I pass this shop, there is a long queue of very large people getting their fix of KFC. It is like a scene from "The Twilight Zone".