Going, going, gone… the great sell-off of Britain’s public land

The New Enclosure: the appropriation of public land in neoliberal Britain

Brett Christophers, Verso 2018, hbk 362pp, £20

Since Margaret Thatcher came to power in 1979, almost 10% of the entire land mass of Britain has been transferred from public to private ownership. It has been the biggest privatisation in British history, swallowing up hospitals, airbases, forests, playing fields, leisure centres and town halls, as well as entire council housing estates.


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Remembering Eva Tichauer

Eva Tichauer

In remembrance of Eva Tichauer, who died in December 2018, we publish below a letter from Colette Levy and republish a review from FRFI no. 158, December 2000/January 2001 of Eva's book, I was no. 20832 at Auschwitz.

Dr Eva Tichauer died on 15 December 2018. She would have been 101 on 26 January 2019. There was no funeral; she had donated her body for research.

Eva was born in Berlin but came to France with her parents and brother in 1933.  She is for us, my twin sister and I, an unforgettable person. She marked our lives forever. We were inspired by her strength, her tragic past and her humanity.

She spent over three years in concentration camps, where she became a communist. Her book, written originally in French, I was number 20832 at Auschwitz bears witness to this time.  In 2000 I worked with [FRFI writer and editor] Nicki Jameson to translate the text into English.

My sister and I had a great affinity with Eva as we had also known Nazism against us, with the deportation and murder of our father, who was deported to Auschwitz in November 1942. He must have known Eva in Drancy, a transit camp near Paris. We, the children, had been hidden in a village, which was nearly burned out in August 1944 in the same way that Oradour-sur-Glane had been razed two months earlier.

Eva will always be among us. She belongs to our lives.  I had spent entire days with her, on several memorable holidays.  We feel deeply the loss of her voice and her sound opinions. 

Colette Levy

Activist against fascism

I was No. 20832 at Auschwitz

Eva Tichauer

Published by: Vallentine Mitchell, London, 2000 (1988), ISBN 08-53033-96-X

‘With their hooked canes, the SS on the left catch their victims by the neck…three-quarters of our workforce has disappeared…we see the trucks arrive, I count 17 of them…our comrades who we can hear screaming, know as well as we do that they are going to be gassed. They howl in the face of death. Have you ever heard human beings howling in the face of death?’ (Eva Tichauer)

Born in Berlin at the end of the second world war to Jewish socialists, Eva Tichauer emigrated to Paris in 1933 to escape the rise of Hitler and the German Nazis. In summer 1942, Eva and her mother were rounded up, detained for two months at Drancy and then herded into cattle wagons for a hard journey east to Birkenau, one of the Auschwitz concentration camps.

Split up from her mother, who was sent straight to the gas chamber, Eva recounts the horrors she endured for nearly three years until liberation by the Red Army. Several points are clear from Eva’s story. Firstly, the relentless brutality of the concentration camp system was designed to reduce human beings to beasts. As workers they were treated worse than slaves. Secondly, the German population, at least in some regions, was aware of what was happening in the concentration camps and that their inaction was tantamount to complicity.

Thirdly, the solidarity between the women in the camps was vital to their survival and enabled some communication with comrades outside, including the French resistance movement. Eva was politicised during her experience and became a member of the underground Communist Party of Raisko camp in 1944.

‘Today I still believe that if it had not been for Hitler, exile, war and deportation, I would have retained the idealistic position of German social democracy, just like my parents…I left behind for ever the salons where the world is changed with words; I placed myself on the side of the oppressed, the exploited.’

Eva is now a member of the Federation Nationale des Deportes Internes, Resistants et Patriots, fighting for peace, disarmament and the development of the third world. In a letter to FRFI, No. 121, October/November 1994, she wrote: ‘After liberation of the camps, we pledged “Never Again” and promised to fight together for a world of justice, of peace and of solidarity between peoples, for liberty and rights for all mankind. Half a century later we need to take up that torch again, if we are to maintain hope.’

FRFI no. 158, December 2000/January 2001


In Venezuela, democracy and living standards are under attack. But by whom?

Revolution & Counter-Revolution in Venezuela by Alison Bodine (Fire This Time)

Revolution & Counter-Revolution in Venezuela by Alison Bodine (Fire This Time)

178pp Battle of Ideas Press, 2018

US/CAN $10 or Europe €6.5

On 23 January 2019, a little-known Venezuelan MP, Juan Guaido, appointed himself as interim president of the country, in an attempt to replace the legitimate president Nicolas Maduro. Minutes later, the US government published a statement in support of Guaido. Soon after, a group of Latin American and European countries followed suit. The mainstream media corporations hailed him as a saviour for Venezuela. Britain, Germany, France and Spain declared that unless Venezuela held elections in eight days, they would recognise Guaido as president. What they all purposefully ignored, however, is that free and fair elections had taken place on 20 May 2018. Maduro won the most votes, and Juan Guaido’s party chose not to run. With this confusing sequence of events, it is necessary for us to understand Venezuela’s context, as reactionaries are hurriedly calling for a foreign 'humanitarian intervention', whatever that may be.


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The lies and distortions of the ‘liberal’ media: how The Guardian et al serve ruling class interests

Propaganda Blitz by David Edwards and David Cromwell

Review: Propaganda Blitz: How the corporate media distort reality by David Edwards and David Cromwell (Media Lens) 312pp Pluto Press 2018 £14.99

‘A generation ago, Venezuela’s capital was one of Latin America’s most thriving, glamorous cities; an oil-fuelled, tree-lined cauldron of culture that guidebooks hailed as a Mecca for foodies, night owls and art fans.’ Such was the opinion of Tom Phillips, The Guardian’s current Latin America correspondent on 18 December 2018. A generation is usually reckoned as 30 years. Just under 30 years ago, Caracas’s ‘foodies, night owls and art fans’, almost by definition privileged and wealthy, may have been further entertained by the violent suppression of the Caracazo in February 1989, when up to 2,000 people were massacred in Caracas as they protested against a devastating onslaught on their living conditions. The same political and social forces which lay behind the slaughter were behind the attempted coup against President Chavez in 2002, and, with the open support of US imperialism, are organising to overthrow President Maduro through a campaign of economic sabotage and political destabilisation. Gangs have targeted schools and hospitals, symbols of the achievement of the Bolivarian Revolution. But Phillips is not interested in this: he continually whitewashes the right-wing opposition as democrats, and uses them uncritically as sources. His articles on both Venezuela and Nicaragua are full of virulently reactionary nonsense, but because they appear in The Guardian, they acquire an apparent intellectual cachet.

What has occurred regularly in media coverage of Venezuela, and of Nicaragua over the last few months is what David Edwards and David Cromwell from Media Lens call a ‘propaganda blitz’, the title of their book. Such a blitz, they say, has a number of characteristics: it starts with allegations of some dramatic new evidence, which is then communicated usually with great moral outrage; academic or expert support for the evidence is cited, and anyone questioning this is condemned without reservation; and the blitz usually takes place with fortuitous timing (p1). While Edwards and Cromwell do not address the recent coverage of Nicaragua, it fits their notion of a propaganda blitz. There are allegations of state brutality against peaceful demonstrators, outrage because the victims are middle class and the supposed perpetrators are acting for a socially progressive government; anyone questioning the allegations is damned as an apologist for state terror (see Nicaragua: US determined to remove Ortega government, FRFI 265, August 2018 for the true story). The consequences of such coverage are utterly reactionary: when the fascistic US national security adviser John Bolton includes Nicaragua in a so-called ‘troika of terror’ and imposes sanctions, Phillips in The Guardian sanitises this as a mere ‘pushback’ rather than what it is: bullying aggression.

Edwards and Cromwell show that Guardian claims that it adheres to 'a progressive viewpoint rooted in the facts' are just flannel. Referring to the further claim of The Guardian that ‘comment is free, but facts are sacred’, they point out that facts require selection, and that such selection involves all sorts of judgement, adding ‘facts are not more “sacred” than comment, because facts are a form of comment’ (pxv, emphasis in the original). They show that The Guardian, along with other supposedly impartial and liberal sections of the media like The Independent and the BBC are mendacious, biased and completely untrustworthy when it comes to reporting the major issues of the time, because they decide the facts that are fit to be published, and the facts that should be ignored or downplayed.

These publications play a particular role in the ideological protection of corporate interests: they are not like the tabloids such as The Sun and the Daily Mail, or the broadsheet Telegraph, obvious mouthpieces of the billionaire interests that own them. But scratch the surface, and the self-same ruling class interests emerge: facts are selected to buttress a standpoint which in the end is no different from that of the more obviously reactionary sections of the media. As Edwards and Cromwell say: ‘The media are not conduits for news and views; they are global systems designed and evolved to highlight a certain type of news to impose a certain kind of view’ (pxvii, emphasis in the original). The authors set out ‘to expose the bias of even the best of the corporate “mainstream”’, and to do so, find they have to ‘supply numerous quotes from the most trusted and respected sources. That is why we focus more heavily on more “liberal” media like The Guardian, The Independent and the BBC’ (pxvii).

The great merit of this book is its meticulous documentation of this bias. Whether it is the character assassination of Russell Brand, Jeremy Corbyn or Hugo Chavez, the coverage of the Palestinian freedom struggle, or reporting the NATO onslaught on Libya, what emerges is a consistent picture. Journalists working in the liberal media select the facts that most suit the views of the corporate interests for which they work, and when they are called to account for their bias, respond with an arrogance and viciousness which so clearly expresses their affluent middle-class social position – their ‘job-for-life privileges’, as Edwards and Cromwell say (p125). Collectively these ‘enlightened’ journalists do no more than prepare the ground for reaction.

The ‘narcissistic’ Brand

Thus when Russell Brand’s book Revolution was published, the liberal media went into overdrive: here was someone who was politically beyond the pale. Brand’s book made many sensible observations – for instance that ‘Today, humanity faces a stark choice: save the planet and ditch capitalism, or save capitalism and ditch the planet’ (quoted p50). Leading Guardian columnists Suzanne Moore, Hadley Freeman, Tanya Gold and Martin Kettle, however, all weighed in: Brand was full of ‘sub-Chomskyian woo’ (Moore), what he lacks ‘aside from specifics and an ability of listen to people other than himself – is judgement’ (Freeman), he is accustomed as a narcissist ‘to drooling rooms of strangers’ (Gold), his ‘narcissistic anti-politics’ are part of a ‘juvenile culture’ (Kettle). Such views were as dismissive as those expressed by Boris Johnson in his extravagantly-paid Telegraph column, or the Observer’s hard-right columnist Nick Cohen, or indeed Max Hastings in the Daily Mail. It seems that many sledgehammers were required to crack the nut of Brand’s book – and the sledgehammers were wielded as willingly by supposed liberals as by open reactionaries.

And the ‘narcissistic’ Chavez

Anyone with a progressive record is fair game for these hired scribblers. Kettle has a thing about ‘narcissism’, ridiculing revolutionary President Hugo Chavez’s ‘strutting and narcissistic populism’ and mendaciously characterising him as ‘an abuser of human rights, a hoarder of power, and intimidator of opponents and a rejecter of international covenants and critics’ (p56). The BBC spoke of ‘Venezuela’s charismatic and controversial president’: as Edwards and Cromwell say, ‘it is impossible to imagine the BBC writing of “America’s controversial president, Barack Obama”. For the BBC, it simply does not register as in any way controversial that Obama bombed seven Muslim countries. That’s just what US presidents do’ (p57). For The Independent, facts do not matter: its Chavez obituary described the four-times-elected President simply as a ‘dictator’.

Corbyn – an unelectable leader

Of course the attacks on Brand and Chavez are as nothing compared to the blitz on Jeremy Corbyn when he was elected leader of the Labour Party in September 2015. The Guardian columnists were once again united against the threat he supposedly represented: Jonathan Friedland, Polly Toynbee, Suzanne Moore and Martin Kettle all joined columnists from The Times, The Independent, the Evening Standard laying into Corbyn. For the supposedly neutral BBC, Mark Mardell, presenter of ‘The world this weekend’, claimed during the 2017 election campaign that ‘one cynic told me expectations are so low, if Corbyn turns up and doesn’t soil himself, it’s a success’ (quoted pxv).  Then there was BBC Political Editor Laura Kuenssberg in an openly partisan attack on Corbyn’s stance on the use of nuclear weapons, almost demanding that he capitulate to her pressure and agree that he would be prepared to press the button (p29-30). Ludicrously, in receiving an award as ‘Journalist of the Year’, Kuenssberg proclaimed ‘I would die in a ditch for the impartiality of the BBC’ (cited p154). Staged attacks on Corbyn were reported as news, such as the occasion he was heckled at the London Gay Pride demonstration in June 2016 – it turned out the heckler was a Blairite PR professional. Corbyn was variously described as a stooge for Putin or the Iranian regime – and then of course as an anti-Semite or at least as someone who regarded anti-Semitism as acceptable. All these commentators prophesied disaster for Labour in the 2017 General Election, but they all got egg on their face as the Tories, far from achieving the expected landslide victory, just scraped home to form a minority government.


On Palestine, there is never any attempt by the liberal media to explain the Zionist strategy, frequently spelled out both by past and present Israeli leaders, to complete the expulsion of the Palestinian people from their historic lands in order to create a Greater Israel. Descriptions of violence characterise the Palestinians, and especially Hamas, as terrorists, with the Israeli state merely defending itself against such aggression. There is no attempt to explain the completely disproportionate scale of casualties and deaths in events such as Operation Cast Lead or Operation Protective Edge, the onslaughts on Gaza in 2008/09 and 2014 which took 3,500 Palestinian lives. Edwards and Cromwell give plenty of evidence as to the inherently aggressive character of the Israeli state – but what is clear is that its violence is never on the receiving end of moral outrage from the liberal press. That is reserved for the supposed anti-Semites who suddenly appeared in the Labour Party following Corbyn’s leadership victory in 2015. Edwards and Cromwell do not cover the full story of the relentless targeting of anti-Zionists as anti-Semites over the last three years or so, but do single out the Naz Shah episode. This, however, is an unfortunate example in that Shah did not have the courage to stand by what was a light-hearted demonstration of the close alliance between the Zionist and US imperialist states (see on this website Labour left crumbles in the face of Zionist attacks, May 2016, and Labour Party: no room for anti-Zionists, FRFI 264, June 2018).


On Libya, the corporate media provided unanimous support for the NATO onslaught. The spark for the moral outrage against the Gaddafi regime was an unsubstantiated allegation that he was planning a massacre of the population of Benghazi. The Guardian and its columnists all did their bit. The day after the bombing started in March 2011, Owen Jones declared ‘Let’s be clear. Other than a few nutters, we all want Gaddafi overthrown, dead or alive’ (quoted p9). Later, in October 2011, George Monbiot was to add ‘I feel the right thing has been happening for all the wrong reasons’ (ibid). This is the same Monbiot who in 2007 had written in The Guardian that ‘I believe Iran is trying to acquire the bomb’ at time when 16 US intelligence agencies said it wasn’t. Later still, in May 2017, the supposed radical Paul Mason opined that ‘David Cameron was right to take military action to stop Gaddafi massacring his own people during the Libyan uprising of 2011’  even though there was no evidence that Gaddafi either planned such a massacre or had the capacity to carry it out, a view that a House of Commons Foreign Affairs Committee report in September 2016 confirmed (p87-88).

Editorially, The Guardian promoted support for the war; its Simon Tisdall eulogised ‘And Libya was liberated at last.’ The then US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton was more brutally frank about the outcome: ‘We came. We saw. He died’. There is no accounting for the destruction of a country which had provided the highest standard of living in North Africa in the years before the war. The propaganda blitz provided a convenient cover for the Parliamentary Labour Party to support the war – only 12 voted against. The Foreign Affairs Committee report summed up the results of the onslaught as:  ‘political and economic collapse, inter-militia and inter-tribal warfare, humanitarian and migrant crises, widespread human rights violations, the spread of Gaddafi regime weapons across the region and the growth of Isil [IS] in north Africa’.


On Syria, Edwards and Cromwell say ‘After the lies of Serbia, Afghanistan, Iraq and Libya, we were to believe that this time the “humanitarian” concern issuing forth from “western capitals” was “genuine”’ (p99). Of course, this was not to be the case, as they show in their consideration of the atrocities in Houla, Ghouta and Idlib, the responsibility for which was in each case automatically assigned to the Assad regime. Each provided the occasion for a political offensive on both Assad and, conveniently, Russia as well.

In December 2012, The Guardian was already reporting claims that the Assad regime ‘is considering unleashing chemical weapons on opposition forces’; when the Gouta attack took place on 21 August 2013, it took The Guardian one day to pronounce that there was not ‘much doubt’ that the Assad regime was to blame. The same was to be true of the Idlib chemical weapons attack on 4 August 2017, to which the Trump administration responded with a volley of Tomahawk cruise missiles. While serious investigation revealed many flaws in the supposed evidence that the Assad regime was also responsible for this attack,  Owen Jones could write with certainty within two days of the event of ‘the gassing of little kids who suffered unbearable torture as they were murdered by the Assad regime’; Monbiot was equally definite, tweeting: ‘We can be 99% sure the chemical weapons attack came from the Syrian govt.’ (p112) No newspaper cited the doubts of former chief UN Weapons Inspector Scott Ritter or many others who had similar concerns as to the ‘evidence’ that the Western power presented, least of all Jones or Monbiot.

Once again making a mockery of supposed BBC impartiality, its World Affairs Editor John Simpson in August 2016 explicitly criticised President Obama’s reluctance to take direct military action against Syria saying ‘sitting on your hands watching Putin running away with the whole thing is the worst possible thing that Obama could have done, and I think it’s going to be a stain on his reputation permanently’ (cited p122). Paul Mason, at the time Channel 4 News Economic Editor, said that the US failure to bomb Syria in August 2013 had been a ‘Disaster’. Challenged by Edwards and Cromwell by his continual failure to respond to their criticism, Mason arrogantly replied ‘Believe it or not, I still have far more important things to do.’


On Yemen, however, there has been no corresponding sense of outrage demanding instant intervention. The Guardian reported uncritically the US view that Iran supplied missiles to the Houthi alliance which were then fired on Saudi Arabia in December 2017. It regularly describes the Houthi alliance as Iranian-supported even though there is no evidence of either this or of the arms supplies that the US and the Saudi alliance claims Iran has delivered. Indeed the notion that the Houthi alliance is just an Iranian proxy is just Saudi propaganda. A war that the Saudi state claimed would take a matter of weeks has now lasted for nearly five years, placing millions in danger of famine and triggering a record cholera epidemic. The human cost has been appalling, and is still under-reported by the BBC.

As Edwards and Cromwell say, when in October 2016 Shadow Foreign Secretary Emily Thornberry put forward a motion calling for an independent investigation into alleged violations of humanitarian law and for a suspension of support for the Saudi-led coalition forces, more than 100 Labour MPs failed to give it support, and it was lost by 90 votes. Former Labour MP, more accurately described as BAE Systems MP John Woodcock dismissed the motion as ‘gesture politics’. The authors quote Daily Mail writer Peter Oborne who correctly stated that the Parliamentary vote sent a green light to the Saudi state, and concluded that ‘The Yemen vote demonstrates something that has been apparent ever since the vote on 18 March 2003 to support the invasion of Iraq: the party of war holds a majority in the Commons. It comprises virtually all of the Conservative Party and the Blairite wing of the Labour Party.’

Privilege in the BBC and the Guardian

Edwards and Cromwell also cover the corporate media treatment of the NHS, the 2016 Scottish independence referendum and climate change, in particular the role of the BBC. They dissect its claims of impartiality, quoting Sarah O’Connell from BBC News saying ‘when you walk into a BBC newsroom you can see and hear the privilege. There are only a few genuinely working class voices. There are hardly any black faces at all’ (p144). John Simpson claimed in November 2014 that ‘The world (well, most of it) wants an active, effective America to act as its policeman, sorting out the problems smaller countries can’t face alone’ at a time when an international Gallup poll voted the US as the greatest threat to world peace by three times the next country (Pakistan).

Along with The Guardian, the BBC has been most exercised in building up the alleged threat from Russia. That there is such a threat is not called into question, despite the fact that Russia is only the 12th largest economy on the world, behind Germany, France and Britain, or that it is surrounded by US bases, or that its postures in relation to NATO have been entirely defensive. And there is never a mention of the way the Western imperialist powers rode roughshod over commitments they made to former Soviet Prime Minister Gorbachev that NATO would not expand its boundaries towards Russia. John Pilger notes that the BBC and The Guardian are amongst those who have ‘played a critical role in conditioning their viewers to accept a new and dangerous cold war’, adding that ‘all have represented events in Ukraine as a malign act by Russia when, in fact, the coup in Ukraine in 2014 was the work of the United States aided by Germany and NATO’ (cited p151).

Pilger, who writes a foreword for the book, observes: ‘Propaganda is most effective when our consent is engineered by those with a fine education – Oxford, Cambridge, Harvard, Columbia – and with careers on the BBC, The Guardian, the New York Times, the Washington Post’ (cited p153). The corporate interests which run The Guardian (see Confront the Guardian’s lies over Latin America on our website for details) means that there is no longer room for serious foreign affairs coverage. Now we have lifestyle foreign affairs: Tom Phillips’ article on Caracas was published in the Cities section of the paper which is sponsored by the Rockefeller Foundation. A generation ago, The Guardian had reporters like Victoria Brittain and Richard Gott who had a deep knowledge of the countries and issues they covered; more recently there has been Jonathan Cook, but his pro-Palestinian views are no longer acceptable, and John Pilger, whose column was axed in 2015. There is a premium placed on shallowness, on an ideological homogeneity expressing a common background of middle-class privilege. The result is that Guardian columnists say the same things about the same issues and so serve ruling class interests.

Propaganda Blitz is an extremely helpful source for fighting the pretensions of the ‘liberal’ media. Edwards and Cromwell run the Media Lens site (www.medialens.org) which constantly exposes the mendacity of the BBC and the Guardian; it is well worth following. It is unfortunate that there was not more room made in the book to address the reporting of events in Latin America where progressive developments are under siege whether in Venezuela, Nicaragua, Bolivia or Cuba. Phillips’s reporting needs especial attention, for, underneath the apparent concern for ‘ordinary’ people lies a deep contempt for the poor who cannot afford to be ‘foodies’, and a complete indifference to the fact that the forces for which he serves as an echo chamber will drown the people in blood if given a chance.

Robert Clough


Economic pipedreams for the politically timid

Economics for the Many

Economics for the Many

Edited John McDonnell

Verso 2018 229pp £12.99

Many books have already been published on Jeremy Corbyn’s election to the Labour Party leadership. Several of them have addressed what has been labelled Corbynomics, a set of economic ideas which, it is claimed, would rebalance the British economy to meet the needs of the many, rather than the few, to use an oft-repeated Corbynist mantra. Economics for the Many pulls together the opinions of 16 contributors, including no fewer than six professors, as well as sundry lecturers and research fellows and directors. Its significance is that it is edited by Shadow Chancellor John McDonnell, and that must give the ideas set out in the book some official status as far as the Labour leadership is concerned.


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Go and see Vamos Cuba! But don't buy a programme!

vamos cuba

Vamos Cuba! Peacock Theatre, Portugal Street, Holborn, WC2A 2HT, London

24 October - 11 November 2017 Tickets from £15

Go and see Vamos Cuba! The dancing is enthralling, fluid, mind-blowing; the spectacle amazing, and the whole evening unmissable!

Choreographer Nilda Guerra has set the piece in Havana Airport, where a flight to Miami is delayed (we speculated that this is due to Trump reversing Obama’s relaxations on travel between the US and Cuba) and all sorts of dramas are played out between the delayed passengers and airport staff. We watch the soured relationship between the captain and a stewardess and the incipient love affair between the airport janitor and a stranded passenger, plus lots of other leit motif pieces (such as the vicar who is a pickpocket) – in fact everywhere you look there is a story and you could probably watch this performance every night and find something different you’d not noticed before.


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Shy Radicals – a manifesto for the quiet revolution

shyrad radicals

Shy Radicals: the antisystemic politics of the militant introvert by Hamja Ahsan, published by Bookworks, 2017, £9.95

Shy Radicals is a ‘what if?’ book. What if everyone who suffers from anxiety, depression or agoraphobia, all those with diagnoses of autism or Aspergers’ syndrome, and everyone who is simply shy or socially awkward and has ever suffered for it, banded together and employed methods of political struggle to turn themselves into a liberation movement?


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Review: Being Sebastian 

Contact Theatre, Manchester, 27 September 2017

In these times of capitalist commercialism, theatre is rarely accessible to working class and oppressed people. Even performances of plays written by socialists like Brecht or Oscar Wilde are co-opted by the market, pricing the poorest out of the action and forcing independent writers and performers to eke out a living in unfunded community locations. But every now and then the sugar-coated stylings of the West End are challenged in creative terms by realist visions exposing the horrors of the system. Being Sebastian, a solo play written and performed by the talented Mancunian Sean Cernow, is a display of the bitingly grim reality at the heart of the British prison regime.


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The true banner of capitalism: 'sterilise the weak, abuse the poor, exploit the dependent'

Throughout Scandinavia, in France, the USA, Switzerland and in many other leading Capitalist nations, a vicious policy of 'eugenesia' has been promoted over the last 50 years. Its stated aim – nurturing the strong and cleansing the weak ('racial improvement') – is to ensure the health necessary to capitalistically exploitable labour whilst ridding society of its 'useless', 'burdensome' population. Deliberate inhumanity. With the development of 'genetic engineering' and with science held under lock and key by profiteering industry, the abuses perpetrated by capitalism on women, the poor and the sick can only become more insidious.

Racial 'purification' and 'cleansing' has always been a tool of the most reactionary and vicious regimes, but as the revelations in August 1997 of the forced sterilisation of at least 73,000 thousand women throughout Scandinavia (60,000 in Sweden, 11,000 in Denmark, over 1,000 in Finland and over 1,000 in Norway) from 1935 to 1976 show, such ideas are endemic in modern 'democratic', bourgeois societies.


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One to miss

Revolution: Russian Art 1917-1932

Royal Academy of Arts, 11 February – 17 April, £16

(Gallery guide £2.50)

Designated ‘a thrilling, chilling show’ by the Financial Times, the gallery guide to Revolution: Russian Art 1917-1932 correctly notes:

‘The freedom and euphoria of the Revolution produced some of the most remarkable talents in art, theatre, music literature and architecture.’

The next sentence, however, is a clue to the politics of the exhibition:


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Necessary trouble - The rising tide of organised resistance in the United States

Necessary Trouble Americans in Revolt Sarah Jaffe

Necessary Trouble: Americans in Revolt

Sarah Jaffe, Nation Books, New York, 2016, 352pp, ISBN 978-1-5685-8536-9 (hardcover) ISBN 978-1-5685-8537-6 (ebook)

Sarah Jaffe’s Necessary Trouble provides the fullest account yet of the social movements that have arisen in the US since the financial crash of 2008. The author travelled widely across the states to speak to a huge variety of people in revolt, including members of Black Lives Matter, Occupy Wall Street, OUR Walmart (Organisation United for Respect at Walmart), Fight for $15 (minimum wage) and the victims of environmental degradation, toxic energy corporations and extreme weather events like Hurricane Sandy. She even spoke to members of the Tea Party.


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The George Jackson Brigade and organising behind bars – book review of Lumpen by Ed Mead

‘The first duty of a captured revolutionary is to escape; barring that, the second is to transform the prisons from instruments of repression into schools of liberation and revolution.’ (p205)

Lumpen is the autobiography of former US prisoner Ed Mead, who served 18 years for his part in a 1976 bank robbery committed by the George Jackson Brigade (GJB). GJB was an armed propaganda unit named after political prisoner George Jackson who was murdered by guards in San Quentin prison in 1971, which was active in Seattle in the mid-1970s. 

The book takes us through Ed’s life in extensive detail, with the first 100 pages dedicated to his growing up in California, Washington State, Alaska and elsewhere in the US, as his poor white family moved to find work.  His life was harsh and gritty but it was not this which politicised him as, despite some sympathy for the even poorer indigenous Alaskans, his horizons were limited to survival and the pursuit of accessible pleasures.  


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Review: Out of the Box

out of the box

Out of the Box by Leroy Smith, published 2016, ISBN 978-09955520-0-5

Short of assassinating the monarch, shooting a police officer is about the most risky crime to commit. Do so and every single law enforcement agent will be on your case. And the pursuit of such suspects will extend far beyond these shores. In 1993, Leroy Smith found out just how true this is. He shot and wounded two police officers in Brixton, south London and fled to the USA. Two years on he was arrested by a Swat Team in Connecticut and after a spell in Bridport Correctional Centre, a high security state jail, he was returned to England and sentenced to 25 years’ imprisonment.

Smith spent the whole of his prison sentence on Category A in the high security prison estate. Now free, he has written Out of the Box, a brutally honest story of the making of a criminal, in which he pulls no punches, nor makes excuses. He says that he is putting his story out in the hope that other underprivileged young black men will not follow the path he did.

Like many serving time in an unjust system, where black, ethnic minority and poor prisoners are massively over represented and where racism regularly displays its ugly face, Smith became politicised in prison. He educated himself by conversing with political prisoners, supplemented by ‘ten years of watching Newsnight every night, and lots of other news stations…as well as reading non-mainstream newspapers like Fight Racism! Fight Imperialism!


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We are not all Daniel Blake

I Daniel Dlake

Ken Loach’s new film, I, Daniel Blake, paints an intimate picture of the brutality of Britain’s sanction-driven benefits system. The plot hinges upon the human consequences of Employment and Support Allowance (ESA) ‘fit for work’ judgements, and Jobseeker’s sanctions. By focusing upon a small cast of characters, Loach succeeds in portraying the sheer barbarity of poverty in Britain. I, Daniel Blake is a powerful argument for human dignity; depicting Newcastle’s jobcentres, food banks and run-down industrial estates as theatres of cruelty.

Between January and June 2016, a total of 165,013 Jobseeker’s Allowance (JSA) claimants were referred for a sanction. 81,195 (49.2%) of these referrals resulted in sanctions. Over the same period 7,034 ESA claimants were sanctioned and deprived of their income. An October 2016 study published by Oxford University – ‘The impact of benefit sanctioning on food insecurity’ – clearly demonstrates the relationship between benefit sanctions and the use of food banks. It demonstrates that after the application of one million benefit sanctions in 2013, reliance upon food banks tripled. Trussell Trust statistics reveal that 21% of all referrals to their food banks are due to benefit sanctions.


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'Black Panthers: Vanguard of the Revolution': Revolutionary movement against racism and imperialism

• Black Panthers: Vanguard of the Revolution, directed by Stanley Nelson, 2015, 1 hour 55 minutes

The Black Panther Party for Self Defence has been interpreted in vastly different ways – from a racist hate group, as it is typically portrayed in the liberal media, to an indispensable blueprint for revolutionary organisation in an imperialist country. The Panthers were formed in Oakland, California, in 1966, to defend the African American community from constant attacks by the US state. They recognised that US imperialism was at the core of the destruction of their community. They saw the need for anti-imperialism and revolutionary socialism in order to fight for real change. The party was highly organised, armed for self-defence against the police and dedicated to class struggle. Working class unity is dangerous for the ruling class and the Panthers’ demonstration that they could provide for the poor, in a way that capitalism could not, meant they had to be destroyed. In 1968 they were described by FBI director J Edgar Hoover as ‘the greatest threat to the internal security of the country’. In the end, after an orchestrated campaign of state aggression, the organisation was destroyed.


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United We Stand

In November, at the Bussey Building in Peckham, south-east London, the play United We Stand by Neil Gore was produced, directed by Louise Townsend. The cast of writer Neil Gore and William Fox take on multiple roles, but primarily they portray the Shrewsbury pickets Ricky Tomlinson and Des Warren during the 1972 builders strike. It is performed on a set of scaffolding bars which is adorned by strike posters.  A projector shows footage of Tory prime minister Edward Heath, the 1972 Miners' strike, and working class resistance against the 1971 Industrial Relations Act. Heath's term in office was a fiasco for the capitalist class; a seven-week Miners' strike in January-February 1972 was a victory for the NUM, and in July 1972 the Pentonville 5 were imprisoned for defying the Industrial Relations Act which was followed by a near-general strike.

In the early 1970s building workers faced dangerous working conditions, and poor wages. Warren says 'life and limb are cheap on the building sites'. Between 1970-73 there were 242,000 registered industrial injuries but the highest fine paid by an employer was £300 for two deaths. In 1972 'casualisation' was rife in the building industry, where it was known as 'the Lump.' The Lump Labour Scheme institutionalised casual cash-paid daily labour without any employment rights. Building workers were a dispersed force, little unified because of the diverse and transitory nature of their trades, unionisation was weak, and thus they were a section of the working class generally ignored by the labour aristocracy who controlled the trade union movement.


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Strangeways protester Alan Lord tells his story

• Life in Strangeways: from riot to redemption, my 32 years behind bars,

Alan Lord with Anita Armstrong, £7.99, John Blake Publishing, 2015

In 1981, aged 20, Alan Lord was sentenced to life imprisonment for murder, following a bungled robbery. Following his release in 2013, Alan has written this autobiography, chronicling his life before prison, years of incarceration, participation in the 1990 uprising at Strangeways prison in Manchester, and eventual path to freedom.

This book is an easy read but not easy reading, graphically detailing beating after beating by violent, racist prison staff: ‘I sometimes regretted my actions in fighting the regime, but I was stubborn to a fault. I could have kept my head down like most inmates do, but it’s just not me. I wanted to make it clear from the start that they could have it the easy way, by treating me with respect as a human being, or the hard way. I always had it in my head that one day I’d beat the system and come out the better man.’ (p37)

Throughout his sentence Alan maintained a strict regime of physical training and Spartan living; on arrival at every new prison – and there were many moves – he would throw out the furniture, bleach the floor and lay a sheet on the floor. In this way he slept every night of his sentence on the ground.


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Review: Brand takes the side of the oppressed

Revolution- Russell Brand, Random House 2014, 372pp, £20

Russell Brand rocketed to public attention far beyond his usual fan base after a BBC Newsnight interview with Jeremy Paxman during which he called for ‘no vote’ at elections. Brand’s personal life and his politics came under immediate and hostile attention from media commenters. There was outrage that an argument for a ‘no vote’ position should be presented on a major BBC platform. However, as Brand himself says in Revolution, he is neither leading nor following: ‘I think it unlikely that people aren’t voting because I told them not to; it is more likely that they’re not voting because they are subject to the same conditions that led me not to vote. The realisation that it’s bloody hopeless’ (p78).

For successive general elections Fight Racism! Fight Imperialism! has adopted the slogan Don’t Vote! Organise!, sharing Brand’s view that none of the parties standing for election represent what is needed for the poorest people, the vast majority of the world. Moreover, the election machine itself feeds into a discredited pretence of democracy which sidelines and kills off real political engagement. At the last British General Election in 2010, the turnout of registered electors (which excludes prisoners and homeless people) was 65.09%. The turnout in the May 2014 European elections was 35.05% of those eligible. These figures signify a deep and widespread contempt for career politicians and distrust of their electoral promises and institutions. Growing anger about rapidly increasing poverty, privatisation of the public sector and cuts in public spending is deepened by the charade of parliamentary politics. As Brand says, exploitation has now ‘reached a pitch where the disenfranchised and exploited can look to a culpable minority with vengeful eyes’ (p79).


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Assata: an autobiography

Assata Shakur, (first published 1988), reprinted by Zed Books July 2014, £8.99pbk, 416pp ISBN: 9781783601783

‘No oppressed people ever won their freedom, by hoping their oppressors would change their minds’ Assata Shakur

This book promises an ‘intensely personal and political autobiography’ and ‘a major contribution to the history of black liberation’, and it more than delivers on its promise. This account of the life of Assata Shakur, in her own words, gives us a completely different view of this brave, strong and proud woman so often simply described as the ‘most wanted’ US terrorist.

Black communist Angela Davis has written a brief foreword to this new edition of Assata Shakur’s autobiography along with Shakur’s lawyer Lennox Hinds. The book is enriched by both for different reasons. Angela Davis offers a straightforward account of some of the activities in the 1970s surrounding Assata Shakur. Along with her views on institutional racism this places the book firmly in a political context. A detailed account of one of her own experiences of police racism, abuse of police powers and police intimidation sets the tone, immediately making it clear that this book is not just another story, but one of definite political importance.


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Pan-Africanism and Communism

Fight Racism! Fight Imperialism! 238 April/May 2014

Pan-Africanism and Communism: The Communist International, Africa and the Diaspora, 1919-1939

Hakim Adi, Africa World Press, Trenton, 2013, 444pp, £28.99.

At 5am on 3 October 1935 Mussolini’s fascist army marched across the Mareb River into Abyssinia (modern Ethiopia), opening a war that would see Africa’s oldest independent country turned into an Italian colony. The invasion sparked mass protests across the globe, in many places led by the International Trade Union Committee of Negro Workers (ITUCNW), a member organisation of the Communist International (Comintern) which for several years had fought to organise and unify ‘the wide mass of Negro workers on the basis of the class struggle’. In this book, the fruit of a decade of research, historian Hakim Adi provides a detailed exploration of the origins, politics and role played by the ITUCNW and Comintern in the anti-racist and anti-colonial struggles of black people throughout the early 20th century.


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Look back in anger

Fight Racism! Fight Imperialism! 238 April/May 2014

Look Back in Anger – the miners’ strike in Nottinghamshire, 30 years on

Harry Paterson, Five Leaves Press 2014, 288 pages, £9.99

Harry Paterson’s book is written with class consciousness and engagement. It has a political shrewdness which distinguishes it from some of the more sentimentalised accounts of the struggle of 1984-85. A focus on the Notts miners, in an area where a better-off workforce largely refused to back the strike, evokes the passions and anguish of this huge industrial and political battle. The defeat of the miners, despite their courage, signified a huge blow for the British working class as a whole.

In Nottinghamshire the majority of miners scabbed on the strike. One important reason for this was the Area Incentives Scheme (AIS), promoted by the National Coal Board (NCB) with the deliberate aim of sowing divisions between miners. This scheme was pushed through under the Labour government in 1977, against the wishes of two thirds of miners, but it had the support of right wing NUM (National Union of Mineworkers) president Joe Gormley. The militant Arthur Scargill replaced Gormley in 1982, too late to stop the AIS. Crucially, many miners in the most productive coalfields, such as Notts and South Derbyshire, supported the AIS as it could raise their incomes above the mass of miners in Britain (a short-sighted view, given Thatcher's later plans to shut most pits, including in Notts).


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Dead Prez interview with Fight Racism! Fight Imperialism!

After a storming performance in Manchester on 10 February 2014, revolutionary US rappers Dead Prez met with young supporters of Fight Racism! Fight Imperialism!

M1 and Sticman answered questions about their radical political approach, touching on ideas about racism, capitalism, socialism and the need for solidarity with the people of Palestine. In the first instalment of our interview, Dead Prez discuss how they became interested in political action.


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Justice for the Cuban 5!

What lies across the water, Stephen Kimber, Fernwood Publishing 2013, Can$19.95

Stephen Kimber’s remarkable work is both a forensic expose of anti-communist terrorism and the definitive guide to the story of the Cuban Five. With in-depth analysis of the activities and motivations of many key players in US-Cuban relations over the last 50 years and a detective-thriller writing style it is both highly readable and politically explosive.

In September 1998, five Cuban intelligence agents – Gerardo Hernandez, Ramon Labañino, Antonio Guerrero, Fernando Gonzalez and Rene Gonzalez – were arrested in Miami. The story of the necessity of their presence on US soil, infiltrating terrorist networks amongst the febrile world of Miami’s rightwing Cuban exile groups, reveals a hidden history of CIA-assisted intrigue. Their trial and the conditions of their imprisonment demonstrate the ruthlessness of the imperialist state and the thinness of the veneer of fairness that covers its oppressive ‘justice’ system.

Kimber reveals the existence of a widespread terrorist conspiracy among Cuban exile organisations. For every successful murderous plot such as the 1976 Cubana Airlines bombing, which killed 73 civilian passengers, or the 1997 Havana hotel bombings, there are many more abortive or less spectacular attacks. Kimber exposes not just the involvement of the key figures of anti-communist terrorism, the real-life movie villains Luis Posada Carriles and Orlando Bosch, but also the clear trail of money and support for them from supposedly ‘mainstream’, US government-friendly organisations such as the Cuban American National Foundation.


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Brushing away the cobwebs of bourgeois democracy

Fight Racism! Fight Imperialism! 235 October/November 2013

Cuba and its neighbours: democracy in motion,

Arnold August, Zed Books 2013, £16.99

In Cuba and its neighbours: democracy in motion, Canadian journalist Arnold August demolishes the bourgeois propaganda that socialist Cuba is somehow ‘undemocratic’ by examining the very idea of what we mean by democracy.

The first part of this comparative study, ‘Cobwebs around democracy’, is an analysis of the US system. August exposes the deceptive character of the US two-party system as a cover for what he describes as an ‘oligarchic’ state but we would call imperialist. Using Barack Obama as a case study, he shows how a cautious ‘benefit of the doubt’ attitude towards Obama by Latin America faded in the face of a military coup in Honduras, perpetrated with US backing. August points out that ‘a new face’ changed nothing in US relations with Cuba: ‘His role, based on the illusion created regarding the two-party system, was to change tactics because they had failed to reach the same goal of regime change.’


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Marx in Soho - a play by Howard Zinn

Directed by Comrade Sergio Amigo with Daniel Kelly as Karl 

Wednesday to Sundays till 13 October
The Calder Bookshop and Theatre, 51 The Cut, London SE1 8LF

Tickets £10 (£8 concessions) To reserve a ticket call 020 7620 2900
or email This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

Also two nights at The Marx Memorial Library
Tuesday 22 and Wednesday 23 October 7pm
37A Clerkenwell Green, London, Greater London EC1R 0DU

Howard Zinn’s play has Marx fighting in heaven for the right to return to Soho (unfortunately he ends up in New York Soho rather than his old London haunts) and prove that his ideas are not dead but still relevant in the 21st century. ‘Why must they declare me dead, again and again?’ He is allowed only an hour on earth and a wonderful hour of theatre it is.


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Celia Sanchez and the Cuban Revolution

Review: One day in December: Celia Sanchez and the Cuban Revolution by Nancy Stout

Monthly Review Press, New York, 2013, 457 pages. ISBN: 978-1-58367-317-1

Nancy Stout has treated the reader to an exhilarating biography of Celia Sanchez, recording her vital contribution to the revolutionary struggle and the socialist state in Cuba. This is long overdue. While many supporters of the Cuban Revolution will have heard about Celia and her close relationship with Fidel Castro, few will have understood or appreciated the role she played. Celia’s great political and revolutionary strength lay in her organisational capacity, as well as her sacrifice and commitment. As novelist Alice Walker says in her foreword, the book offers: ‘A clear vision of what balanced female leadership can be; and, even more to the point, what a truly egalitarian revolutionary leadership of female and male partners might look like.’


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The Queen vs Trenton Oldfield – A prison diary

[Published by Myrdle Court Press, 2013]

On 7 April 2012, Trenton Oldfield disrupted the Oxford vs Cambridge University Boat Race in the River Thames in protest against elitism, inequality and government cuts and surveillance. He was arrested and initially charged under Section 5 of the Public Order Act, which does not carry a custodial sentence. Following a politically instigated CPS review, this was then changed to ‘causing a public nuisance’, for which he was sentenced on 19 October 2012 to six months’ imprisonment. He served a month and a half of this in Wormwood Scrubs prison in London, before being released on Home Detention Curfew electronic tagging. Trenton – an Australian who has lived in London for ten years – is now fighting an attempt by the British Home Office to make him leave the country on the basis that his presence here is ‘not conducive to the public good’.


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Gangsterismo: The United States, Cuba and the Mafia: 1933 to 1966

By Jack Colhoun, OR Books, New York, 2013, 361 pages, £17.

Paperback ISBN 978-1-935928-89-8. Ebook ISBN 978-1-935928-90-4


Jack Colhoun is a journalist and archive researcher with a distinguished record of investigating US foreign policy in Vietnam, Cambodia and the Middle East and publicising the impact of special interest lobbies on domestic politics like the Obama Healthcare legislation. He was the leader of the draft and military resistance registers exiled in Canada during the Vietnam War.


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Ken Loach and The Spirit of ’45

In this period when the living standards of the working class in Britain are being attacked, there is a rise in the call for new organisations and strategies to take a stand against the ruling class. FRFI is as committed as any in this country to the desperate need for a new movement to take a stand against the privatisation and destruction of the welfare state, the control of the corporations and the banks and the increasing poverty that have gained speed over the last 20 years under Labour and ConDem governments alike. It is not possible, however, to build resistance to the regime of austerity launched by the capitalist class without an honest political understanding of the forces at work against the people. This must include an honest record of the role of the British trade union movement and the Labour Party and their historic collusion with the state.


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Review: Refugees, capitalism and the British state: implications for social workers, volunteers and activists

Review: Refugees, capitalism and the British state: implications for social workers, volunteers and activistsReview: Refugees, capitalism and the British state: implications for social workers, volunteers and activists, Tom Vickers, Ashgate Publishing, Surrey, 2012, £55 (website price £49.50)*


This is a book that delivers what is promised in the title and much, much more. Tom Vickers combines a detailed overview of current immigration policy at the legal and managerial levels, as it has emerged from successive British governments, with a Marxist understanding of the state. Refugees, capitalism and the British state is a work of direct significance to workers in the field of refugee experience and to all those who wish to understand the origins and significance of immigration in the context of the globalised power and financial structures of today.


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Hip hop rebellion is alive and kicking – October 2012

Review:            The Coup, Jackson's Pit, Oldham, 26 October

                        Immortal Technique, Manchester Academy 2, 28 October

We are living in a time of unstoppable capitalist crisis. The crisis has sent shockwaves through the finance capitals of the world in Europe and the US, as imperialist politicians, bankers and corporations gamble and rob in order to save their sinking ship. Millions of people around the world are being forced into dire poverty as ruling classes bring in austerity measures to cut spending on welfare, and unleash savage warfare on the peoples of already impoverished and oppressed countries. In times like these, signs of resistance are emerging and in music, the voices of resistance are getting louder. FRFI attended two political hip hop gigs in Manchester, featuring US artists The Coup and Immortal Technique.


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