Dare Devil Rides to Jarama dramatizes Clem “Daredevil” Beckett’s life and sacrifice during the Spanish Civil war, and celebrates the 80th anniversary of the creation of the International Brigades.
Clem Beckett lived briefly, but what he made of his 31 years on this earth is quite extraordinary. A proud working class lad born in Oldham in 1906, a blacksmith by trade turned speedway rider during the depression of the 1920s, he was quick to identify the damaging nature of capitalism, leading him to embrace solidarity, anti-fascism and revolutionary socialism. He never shunned fighting the good fight and when the biggest fight of all against fascism in Spain started, he joined the International Brigades and died in 1937 in the battle to stop Franco from reaching Madrid.
Daredevil Rides to Jarama is a wonderful piece of working class theatre, with a brilliant script and an incredibly clever way of using cheap props and lighting to convey time, place, situations and moods. A wooden panel at the back of the stage is a wall of death, a factory gate, a door to a lovenest, a cinema screen, a wall in Spain; some steps are a podium for a political speech and for an award ceremony, a writing table, and a workshop bench. There are no special effects. Musical instruments appear and are played to accompany the singing of fighting ballads. And you never realise how bare and simple the stage is because with just a few props, some poetry, some songs, lighting, and above all an extraordinarily well-crafted script and two seriously talented men create more magic and evoke more reality than you ever thought was possible with so little.
David Heywood brings back to life a brave, determined, compassionate, cheeky and sharp Clem Beckett and leaves everything he’s got on stage. He really empties the tank. Neil Gore, who wrote the play, is everybody else, from the greyhound stadium owner who exploits young riders’ inexperience on deliberately dangerous dirt tracks for sensational shows that cause injury and death, to the landowner who tries to keep ramblers off the land, and many other characters, including Christopher St John Sprigg (aka Cauldwell), the upper middle class writer and poet who became Clem’s unlikely partner and died with him on February 12, 1937 in the Jarama Valley.
Offering inspired, nuanced performances and a genuine connection with the audience, David and Neil are also the stage hands, as they operate the lights and reorganise the stage between the two acts. The play is an intellectual and emotional tour de force through a compassionate life of political commitment in the fight against capitalism and fascism. Clem’s is the story of one of the many heroic men and women who understood what was at stake in Spain and decided that the ultimate sacrifice was not too high a price to pay and joined the International Brigades to fight on the side of the Spanish resistance.
On Sunday night, one of our IWCA facebook page admins was accused – while defending the newly published article ‘Trump: consequence not cause‘ – of implying the word ‘white’ although not stating it when referring to the working class. The term ‘white working class’ is not one that was coined by the IWCA, but there appears to be an attempt to deliberately ‘bad jacket’ us with responsibility for it. The aim, we presume, of those pushing the politics of identity, is to politically bracket us with the racist right.
“The exit polls and post-election data show that the majority of Trump voters are “the angry and disaffected” white working people who “are victims of the neoliberal policies of the past generation,” Chomsky said.”
The Chomsky quote above, broken in the middle, made us suspicious, so we decided to check the source, Truthout, to read what he actually said.
And lo and behold, Chomsky did not refer to the working class or working people with the prefix ‘white’. The ‘silent white’ was inserted into the middle of a quote from him by whoever edited the piece and whose motive appears to have been to attribute it to the professor in order to further the identitarian agenda of a lunatic section of the middle-class left. In fact, Chomsky did not use or imply the phrase ‘white working people’ at all, it is a complete falsehood.
The actual comment of Noam Chomsky to Truthout was:
“[Many of] the angry and disaffected are victims of the neoliberal policies of the past generation…”
So where did this ‘silent white’ come from?
It was middle-class liberals who invented the term ‘white working class’ in order to separate out the core of the working class from everyone else. Moreover it is the ‘working class’ and the idea of working class unity – not the ‘white’ bit – that repels them. Which is why, having colour coded one part of the class, you never find any reference to the Black, Asian or Latino working classes. They employ the substitute ‘community’ instead. A classification deliberately devoid of distinct political identity, the ‘community’ can be used as a political pawn to be moved around the board at will.
One of Anti-Fascist Action’s street fighting legends of the 1980’s and 1990’s was an American called C.J. who had been a youth member of the Black Panther Party (BPP), in relation to this point about community and class, he stated:
“There is no more a homogeneous Black community or Asian community than there is a homogeneous White community. The idea is a construct to divide the working class.”
Today is the 80th anniversary of the Battle of Cable Street, where an attempted 3,000 strong march through the East End of London by the British Union of Fascists, under police protection, was forcibly prevented and broken up by thousands of fighting anti-fascists and upwards of one hundred thousand demonstrators. It remains the most significant single domestic episode in the history of British anti-fascism.
Within the Communist Party itself, the leadership were hell bent on having a demonstration in support of the Spanish Republic at Trafalgar Square on the day, but rank and file pressure forced them to change plans at the eleventh hour to defend the East End.
Cable Street was not a spontaneous, apolitical revolt by salt-of-the-earth Londoners outraged at the presence of fascist provocateurs in their midst. The driving force was working class militants – largely, but by no means exclusively, within the Communist Party – armed with a class analysis, rooted in their own communities and often working against prevailing ‘left’ structures. Within the Communist Party itself, the leadership were hell bent on having a demonstration in support of the Spanish Republic at Trafalgar Square on the day, but rank and file pressure forced them to change plans at the eleventh hour to defend the East End. The Labour Party’s role in Cable Street is predictably shameful: its representatives at the time tried to persuade anti-fascists to stay away from the demo, and Herbert Morrison – then leader of London County Council, and Home Secretary four years later – afterwards condemned anti-fascists alongside fascists for causing the trouble, while praising the police for their actions.
The Labour Party’s role in Cable Street is predictably shameful: its representatives at the time tried to persuade anti-fascists to stay away from the demo, and Herbert Morrison – then leader of London County Council, and Home Secretary four years later – afterwards condemned anti-fascists alongside fascists for causing the trouble, while praising the police for their actions.
Despite this, Labour are front and centre in today’s official Cable Street commemoration, along with their conservative ‘anti-fascist’ allies and non-political ethnic/religious grouplets: elements that oppose fascism not because it threatens the working class, but because it threatens the political status quo. One wonders what the activists of ’36 would make of this, or how the result might have turned out had the anti-fascist forces been so constituted back then.
Surveying the scene now, we see every possibility of Europe seeing the election of its first far-right head of state since 1945 in Austria in December, Marine Le Pen consistently leading the polling for the first round of the 2017 French Presidential election, UKIP eating into Labour’s core vote in England and Wales, the AfD as the biggest working class party in Berlin and the populist right climbing all over the furniture across northern, western and central Europe. The financial crash of 2008 and subsequent chronic economic crisis has stripped the political centre of its vestigial credibility, but it is the right who are filling the vacuum in working class political representation.
The antecedents of the IWCA – Anti-Fascist Action (AFA) – had as their mission statement ‘to oppose fascism physically and ideologically’. Cable Street was one of the inspirations for the physical struggle, a struggle that has been won – for now. If the current wave of populist nationalism is to be beaten back, the struggle now has to be political: no less than to reconstitute the working class as a political fighting force and the prime agent of radical political change, independent, democratic and beholden to no-one but itself. The challenge is considerable, but the risks of failing to meet it are clear.
Prior to last night’s match with Hapoel Beer Sheva a collective of Celtic fans and Palestinian activists in Glasgow called on fans to show our support for the Palestinian people and fly the flag for Palestine. Like many fans throughout the stadium, the Green Brigade answered this call. From our work with grassroots Palestinian groups in the West Bank and the refugee camps of Bethlehem, we know the positive impact international solidarity has on those living in the open prisons of the Occupied Territories. We also know that their suffering cannot be ignored by the international community and last night’s actions also sought to raise awareness of the Boycott, Divest, Sanctions (BDS) campaign which seeks to challenge the normalisation of the Israeli occupation.
Some have argued that football and politics do not mix, including European football’s discredited governing body. In Palestine, however, there is little dispute. The occupation has seen the Palestinian national stadium destroyed twice by Israeli bombs and footballers killed, maimed and imprisoned. In 2013 we were proud to welcome Mahmoud Sarsak, a Palestinian international footballer detained without crime or trial for three years in an Israeli prison, to Glasgow. Mahmoud had only recently been released from prison after a 96-day hunger strike and widespread international protest.
The BDS campaign builds on the success of earlier anti-apartheid campaigns. In the 1980s fans and citizens protested against South African sports teams and ultimately shamed the authorities into excluding apartheid South Africa from sporting activity. The late anti-apartheid hero Nelson Mandela, whose death was marked by a minute’s silence at European matches on UEFA’s instructions, famously remarked that ‘we know too well that our freedom is incomplete without the freedom of the Palestinians’.
Mandela was right, and like the wider Celtic support we will continue to fly the flag for Palestine.
The response we have had since last night has been overwhelming, with messages of support pouring in from our fellow fans, human rights organisations and the global Palestinian community. We would like to thank them sincerely for their backing and tonight re-iterate our support for justice and freedom in Palestine.
We also understand that a downmarket tabloid newspaper may tomorrow run a story suggesting our group in some way mislead Celtic plc and told them that we would not be displaying our support for Palestine. This is a complete fabrication and we condemn anyone who spreads smear stories attacking football fans to The Sun.
Boycott, Divestment, Sanctions (BDS) is a Palestinian-led movement for freedom, justice and equality. BDS upholds the simple principle that Palestinians are entitled to the same rights as the rest of humanity.
Israel is occupying and colonising Palestinian land, discriminating against Palestinian citizens of Israel and denying Palestinian refugees the right to return to their homes. Inspired by the South African anti-apartheid movement, the BDS call urges action to pressure Israel to comply with international law.
BDS is now a vibrant global movement made up of unions, academic associations, churches and grassroots movements across the world. Eleven years since its launch, BDS is having a major impact and is effectively challenging international support for Israeli apartheid and settler-colonialism.
For nearly seventy years, Israel has denied Palestinians their fundamental rights and has refused to comply with international law.
Israel maintains a regime of of settler colonialism, apartheid and occupation over the Palestinian people. This is only possible because of international support. Governments fail to hold Israel to account, while corporations and institutions across the world help Israel to oppress Palestinians.
Because those in power refuse to act to stop this injustice, Palestinian civil society has called for a global citizens’ response of solidarity with the Palestinian struggle for freedom, justice and equality.
Boycott, Divestment, Sanctions – it’s self-explanatory and it is the campaign that is supported and promoted internationally by the Palestinian liberation movement. Sinn Fein didn’t get an exemption to engage in talks with Netanyahu’s Likud party so their claims that they are working in solidarity with the Palestinians are disingenuous.
It’s apparent that Sinn Fein is a political party that is completely self-absorbed and which operates only in its own self-interest. It has continually used the so-called ‘peace process’ as a means of closing down political debate in the north of Ireland and as a means of enhancing its own inflated view of itself as an arbiter of peace in other conflicts.
In reality, Sinn Fein’s leadership have chosen a ‘side’; they’ve chosen the side of neo-liberalism against progressive liberation movements around the world. As if to prove their reliability and usefulness to the imperialist/colonialist powers their spokespeople and party apparatchiks tour the world’s hotspots preaching the gospel of ‘peace without liberation’ to the struggles of the Basques, the Colombians, the Tamils and the Palestinians, absurdly suggesting that they have a ‘one-size fits all’ solution to the complex problems of national and social liberation.
When Sinn Fein leaders refer to ‘conflict resolution’ it is code for the counter revolution that the party has presided over for the last two decades. It is the export of the counter revolutionary Trojan Horse of ‘conflict resolution’ that Sinn Fein is trying to sell to its former international partners in the liberation movements.
That they put their own self-interest – and the potential of economic contracts for the devolved ‘NornIron’ Assembly with the Israeli government and Israeli companies – before the liberation of the Palestinian people is an indication of just how low this party has now stooped and how much it has moved away from the struggle for genuine social, economic and national liberation.
Meanwhile the Palestinian political prisoner Bilal Kayed is on the 56th day of his hunger strike…
This article was written by a member of the Independent Working Class Association from the Blackbird Leys estate in Oxford. It outlines the fundamental anti-working class nature of the EU and the historic complicity of Tory and Labour politicians from both the Remain and Leave camps in the EU’s merciless rightward drift:
EU REFERENDUM IS A RED HERRING FOR THE WORKING CLASS
A plague on both their houses…
To a working class drained and exhausted by having been made to shoulder the weight and the cost of austerity and immigration (and being called bigoted and racist for its efforts), the ruling class is offering a choice between two very bad options, both of which will make life even harder for the working class. Because whoever wins will claim a mandate to carry on with their current identical agendas of privatisations and austerity (Boris Johnson and Michael Gove as defenders of the NHS? Please!). So even a victory for the Remain campaign would not be a victory for the status quo. This is a War of the Roses, the prize being whose friends get the rich pickings of privatisations (the Land Registry anyone?), academisation and anti-trade union legislation, with the working class being asked to pay for its consequences and validate the result.
Of course the EU is a cabal run by the Council (comprised of the heads of state) and unelected commissioners (with the European Parliament playing much the same role as the House of Lords) designed to serve the interests of multinationals at the expense of the workers in each member state. Nobody in their right mind can deny that. But the truth is that successive UK governments, far from being victims of these forces of darkness, have been the main actors in bringing about the most anti-working class policies that could be concocted that were then imposed on the whole Union. Here’s how the little scam they’ve been playing on us works:
1. We are watching the game, and suddenly there’s a scuffle, we follow the scuffle, and we don’t notice that the ball leaves the pitch; 2. A while later a ball is kicked back into the pitch, but it’s not the same ball that left it – and by the time we notice it’s weighted, it’s too late and we are told that now there is no other ball.
When the ball is smuggled out of the pitch, it’s taken to one or more of the four main transnational institutions of political and economic control: the World Trade Organisation, the World Bank, the International Monetary Fund and the EU. None of these have an elected decision-making body (the MEP’s that we elect have consultative powers), none of these have a transparent, democratically controlled system to address grievances. For example, any case of a country being sued by another country for breaching a WTO rule will be heard by a panel of 3-5 “experts” in Geneva. Their report can only be rejected by unanimous consensus and appeals be made only on points of law. The rules do not favour one country or another as such: they favour big business, and big business will use the countries with bigger muscles to enforce their will.
The famous “Banana Wars” of the 1990s are a case in point: the EU had given bananas from former Caribbean colonies protected access to the EU markets to stimulate their economy. Latin American producers, owned by giant US-based corporations, sued the EU because protective tariffs breach free trade principles. The WTO found against the EU, but the US were not satisfied with the changes the EU made, so they imposed retaliatory, non-WTO authorised 100% import duties (and got away with it) on a range of European products, some of which (on textiles) hit Scottish producers very hard (https://www.theguardian.com/world/1999/mar/05/eu.wto3).
The rules transnational institutions make can and are broken, but only by the mightiest and in favour of the interests they serve, yet none of us gave them the power to make those rules, so we can’t vote them out to change the rules. As one anti-globalisation campaigner once said, “Free trade? What is it? Show it to me.”
The UK is a major player in all four institutions. It is true that at the WTO, IMF and WB it negotiates as an EU member, not independently, but, for example, from 2004 to 2008 the Trade Commissioner negotiating on behalf the EU at the WTO etc. was none other than Peter Mandelson.
In all four bodies, all UK governments of the last 25 years at least have aggressively pursued policies and trade deals that hugely strengthened multinationals’ interests and undermined democracy in general and the working class in particular, together with workers’ rights, the environment and the fabric of civil society. Here are some of the most pernicious and far-reaching:
Structural Adjustment Programs, that required developing countries to privatise their public services in order to qualify for the cancellation of debt they had already repaid many times over; these strengthened the hand of multinationals that could later be played at home;
GATS (General Agreement on Trade in Services), that made it illegal for governments to impose “trade barriers” such as environmental and social safeguards, the obligation to train and employ local workers, the enforcement of workers’ rights including the right to organise through unions, democratic accountability, etc. – in practice, everything you would want to be protected by law, so when you hear “trade barriers”, reach for your wallet, as thieves are about – on companies interested in privatising public services. In practice, it stipulated that if a company wants to acquire a public service and run it for profit, it’s illegal for a government to stop them or favour companies that include protections amounting to “trade barriers” in their bid.
All EU directives about privatisation of public services, which are an application of GATS to EU member states, ranging from the “creation of a single market for postal services in the EU” (the operative term being market), to the Bolkenstein Directive. The Bolkenstein Directive is a diabolical and complicated piece of legislation created to ensure that a company providing a service in an EU country is automatically entitled to provide it in all other countries regardless of differences in standards and “trade barriers” between the country of origin and the host country. In its first draft it originally stated that when a company from one country provides a service in another country, the country of origin legislation applied, which would have resulted in a high-speed race to the bottom. Please note that the UK held the EU presidency at the time, and Tony Blair was pushing for the Directive to be adopted, and the Tories didn’t make a sound. However, there was some popular resistance in some countries (France, Germany, Italy, with the British trade unions spectacularly failing to campaign amongst their members and simply sending their bosses to Brussels) and the “country of origin principle” was removed. But it was not replaced with the “host country principle”, in a fudged, fiendish, final directive that therefore obfuscates the issue, doesn’t say which laws apply, and leaves it open to be battled out in courtrooms for lawyers to have a field day.
The UK negotiated an opt-out on the European Working Time Directive (the Directive meant to prevent employers from making workers work more than 48 hours a week). It is a standard clause in most UK contracts that you “agree” to opt out. The wording on www.gov.uk says, “You can choose to work more by opting out of the 48-hour week”, like it’s a freedom it negotiated for you, but doesn’t say that all overtime must be paid. It is of course true that in every country workers’ rights have been hard won by the organised working class but, truth be told, it has been EU regulations that have so far prevented successive UK governments from stripping off the last vestiges of them, and the UK employment law is the worst in Europe.
TTIP (the Transatlantic Trade & Investment Partnership), the next step from GATS being negotiated between the EU and the US, which is meant to allow multinationals to sue a government for “lost revenue” (???) if a government denies it permission or restricts its right to operate on its territory (through the imposition of “trade barriers”, of course), and CETA (which is the same as TTIP, but with Canada). Did you hear Cameron, Johnson or Gove or any of them (apart from, in fairness, the Green Party) denounce TTIP for the evil it is before it suited them for the purpose the referendum campaign?
It is fundamental to realise that all of the above trade deals and consequent policies, that ensured the transference of power from nation states and elected governments to multinationals and banks, were pushed for by all of the UK governments in the last 25 years: they were not imposed on the UK – they were pursued by the UK and imposed on other countries (such as the developing countries).
So that’s what happens to the ball when it leaves the pitch, and that’s why the ball that is kicked back on the pitch a bit later is never the same ball – it is one heavily weighted, and weighted against the working class and in favour of multinationals. And if somebody complained every time it happened, the UK government was able to play the victim and say its hands were tied by WTO/WB/IMF/EU regulations.
It is of course tempting to think that leaving the EU would at least remove one of the fig leaves the ruling class hides behind. Yet one look at the reality of the British economy (no manufacturing worth mentioning, a parasitic banking and financial sector, and a monstrously overblown, bloated housing market) explains why bilateral deals, like the disastrous one Osborne successfully negotiated with China a few months back and which would be the rule outside the EU, mean the sell-out of the UK in order to line the pockets of Osborne’s patrons and bleed the working class to death. It is true that Norway has been doing well outside the EU, but it was never inside and it hasn’t put its public services, infrastructure, power and working class through the mangle the way the UK has.
And let us not forget that, given that the UK still retains the £ pound and the power to set its own economic policy independently from the EU and the European Central Bank, the austerity that has been choking the working class was not imposed by the EU but is entirely of Osborne’s choosing. Again: did you hear Boris Johnson or Michael Gove complain against it?
So the truth is that the ruling class, in the UK and in the rest of the EU, doesn’t need the EU, not even its cover, to carry out its class war and this very dirty work. What is happening now is that, after blaming the EU for the muck on its hands for too long, a sector of the ruling class has seized the opportunity to exploit the other sector’s political miscalculation together with the anger of so many, and make another push to further their patrons’ and their own interests. The working class will not only gain nothing from either outcome, but will be subjected to a further squeeze whatever the outcome, when the portion of the ruling class that wins takes all.
Why I’m voting to leave the evil empire and why I think every worker should do the same.
By Steve Hedley, Senior Assistant General Secretary, Rail Maritime & Transport Union (RMT)
We in the RMT are a union of 80 000 workers that covers train workers, Tube workers, port workers and seafarers. We oppose racism in all its forms, we are for a peoples’ Europe and a peoples’ world; a socialist Europe and a socialist world.
You may have been forgiven for thinking that the right wing are the only people who are arguing for a British exit from the European Union. News reports concentrate almost exclusively on the Brexit campaign led in Britain by racists like Farage, and racists like Boris Johnson and the right wing of the Tory Party. We have no association with these people at all.
They are like a stopped clock which is only right twice a day, but for all the wrong reasons. We want to come out of the European Union because we want to protect the rights of workers.
If we look at the philosophical and political reasons why the European Union was formed we can see that it a capitalist entity, a completely ruthless trading block, in competition with other trading blocks, including developing countries.
As early as 1957 the European Treaty outlined the absolute necessity of the free movement of Capital, labour services and the pre-eminence of the free market economy within the borders of the signatory states. This completely rules out two of the fundamental bases of socialism i.e. the need for a planned economy and control over the movement of capital. To change this treaty all 28 current European states would have to unanimously agree the changes.
Of course, those in Britain arguing to remain in the EU will correctly point out that the Conservatives led by Thatcher [and after that, the Labour government under Blair] brought about privatisation in all the major utilities; gas, water, electricity, telecommunications and of course the railways. However, what the EU does is institutionalise these privatisations and does not allow nation states to reverse them.
Take the rail industry for example. The European Fourth Railway Package institutionalises privatisation and enshrines it in European law, which has precedence over the national law of member states.
The Fourth Rail Package in its own words seeks:
“Opening domestic passenger markets. The 4th railway package includes the proposal to open up domestic passenger railways to new entrants and services from December 2019. Companies would be able either to offer competing services, such as a new train service on a particular route, or to bid for public service rail contracts through tendering. The proposed changes would make competitive tendering mandatory for public service rail contracts in the EU.”
Even if we had a left-wing government elected in Britain tomorrow and Jeremy Corbyn was Prime Minister, he would not be allowed to renationalise the railways and stay in the European Union.
In our Maritime industry we have seen the obscene spectacle of Portuguese workers, our brothers and sisters, working in British ships in Southampton being paid less that £3 per hour, which is less than half the national minimum wage. This is completely legal under European law, which in the Viking Lavelle judgements stated that an employee can work in a foreign country and be paid the minimum wage of their home country [Portugal] and not the superior wage of the host country [Britain].
In essence this is what the EU is all about. It’s a bosses club, a rich capitalist institution that wants to destroy workers’ rights and workers’ terms and conditions. It seeks to open up markets to private capital that have previously been closed to it, precisely because they were state owned and run.
We welcome any worker from across Europe and indeed across the world. We have far more in common with workers from other European countries [and beyond Europe] than with our bosses. We want those workers paid on the same terms, conditions and pay as British workers.
Our opponents try to brand us as ‘racists’ because we demand that the workers of all nations should have equal rights. It is a slur and a lie. It’s part of the “Project Fear” campaign to intimidate workers – especially those from ethnic minorities in Britain – into voting to remain in the European Union.
The liberalisation package that the EU is demanding by 2020 is the reason that France is on strike at the minute. It is intended that this package will be applied in every European country. As in France, the need for capitalism to maximise its profits means deregulation, lengthening the working week, cutting pensions, introducing flexible working conditions [including zero hours contracts] for workers throughout Europe.
Multinationals are already taking advantage of those European laws which prevent free trade. We have the appalling example of an American company, Uber, registered in Holland, taking the Spanish government to the European court because, they say, their trade is being restricted.
The actions of Uber will become the template for every other multinational that wants to drive down terms and conditions. If a government tries to protect its workers, companies can take governments to the European Court. This will be further enshrined in the Transatlantic Trade & Investment Partnership (TTIP) agreement, which is now being negotiated in secret, behind our backs. The chief negotiator for Europe in the TTIP talks said plainly that she was not responsible to the European people, but was responsible to the unelected European commission.
I would like to end by saying that this year is an historic year for me as an Irishman. One hundred years ago, a few thousand Irish people rose up in 1916 and shook the chains of the British Empire. It is my fervent hope that in 2016, the peoples of France, Germany, Spain, Greece – and indeed all the peoples of Europe – will rise up against the dictatorship of the European Union.