[First published on Pulse Ghana, 11 July 2016. Within hours of publication the Tories’ home secretary Theresa May had been confirmed as Britain’s next prime minister, despite – or because of – her monstrous treatment of migrants in post. Media Diversified has more. ]
If a week is a long time in politics, the fortnight since Britain’s razor-thin vote to leave the European Union could fill a history book. Although as Twitter commentators nervously joked, it’d be the kind of history book ending with detailed descriptions of troop movements.
It’s a historic moment for Britons exercising their democratic rights, as our state media keeps telling us with a certain desperate cheeriness. But ironically the Conservative government which proposed this referendum is now too afraid of angering the forty-eight percent of voters who wanted to stay in the EU to actually begin the process. The air is so toxic that within days the Prime Minister David Cameron, the Leave campaign’s leader Boris Johnson MP and the UK Independence Party’s leader Nigel Farage all quit their posts in the craven hope that we’ll have forgotten all about it by our next general election.
But we won’t forget. As I told Stacey Knott in the latest Pulse Ghana podcast, the decision to leave the EU will shape a generation: a generation which sees European funding disappear from community programmes and vital infrastructure like flood defences; which sees inflation, tax hikes and tariffs on European imports push food prices further beyond household incomes; told over and over again by our politicians and press that immigrants (and the children of immigrants, and anyone who cares about immigrants) are to blame.
Certainly some people – in Ghana’s ex-pat community, even – voted to leave on other grounds, say, the distant prospect of trade deals for Ghana’s exporters as the UK returns cap-in-hand to its former colonies. But primarily the Leave and Remain campaigns sold white British voters a racist paranoid fantasy that leaving the European Union would return Britain to the halcyon days of empire, when brown people were courteous enough to enrich our economy without actually coming here and expecting a share of it.
The Leave camp’s UK Independence Party capped off years of less-than-subtle rhetoric with images of snaking queues of people with tobacco-coloured skin and dusty clothes, emblazoned with the words “BREAKING POINT”. Meanwhile Remainers in both the Conservative government and Labour opposition insisted that immigration ‘controls’ could and would be pursued in a new round of negotiations with the EU’s other member states. With a few notable exceptions, our parliamentarians, pundits and newspaper owners overwhelmingly framed the European Union as either the cause of or solution to our migrant crisis, rarely questioning the assumption of a crisis at all.
That poisonous rhetoric has seen our culture of casual racism reach a new fever pitch, with our upper-crust shocked and appalled to find that bigots don’t bother with the niceties of birthplace, nationality or legal status. Second-generation Brit Stephanie Yeboah was one of thousands to suffer Brexit-fuelled abuse – in her case, a crowd chanting “make Britain white again” – within hours of the result. London’s police force has been receiving reports of hate crimes at a rate of one every twenty minutes. And the latest frontrunner for the Prime Minister’s job, former home secretary Theresa May, is best known for deploying billboards to ethnically diverse neighbourhoods with the warning “GO HOME OR FACE ARREST”.
It’s a Commonwealth in name – but if you believe the headlines, Ghana’s sons and daughters have nothing in common with us and no share in our wealth. It’s a lie of course, but too big to fight with facts alone any longer. We can only hope that in the years to come, those who remain within Britain’s borders find enough support from their friends, families, communities and white allies to weather the breaking storm.
LINKS TO SOURCES:
further beyond household incomes
images of snaking queues of people
the Conservative government
a few notable exceptions
one of thousands to suffer Brexit-fuelled abuse
a crowd chanting “make Britain white again”
receiving reports of hate crimes
Some creepy funnies via cardboardmoose on tumblr:
- thatcher is dead. you saw them put her in the ground, you remember, you know. but you turn on bbc parliament and there she is, sitting between cameron and osborne. she turns to the camera and bares her teeth. it is not a smile.
- you try to eat a bacon sandwich, but it falls from your hands. you spill a cup of tea down your front. your voice is different somehow. your brother–did you always have a brother?–no longer speaks to you. you look in the mirror and see dark hair and an awkward smile. you start to scream, but it is too late.
- the queen is speaking, and you do not understand. no-one in the house of lords seems concerned as the words writhe from her mouth. blood drips from their ears, but still they smile and nod. you try to turn…
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To round out the “obnoxious git who’s still trying to pull off the same beard-and-tight-jeans look he had ten years ago” demographic, here’s what will probably be my one and only 2015 UK general election post.
It’s abundantly clear from the parliamentary records and their own manifesto that voting Labour is essentially giving them a mandate to carry out fundamentally identical policies as the Tories (mass surveillance, profiteering wars abroad, arms sales to oppressive and often genocidal regimes, xenophobic immigration policies, racist policing, doling out taxpayer funds to private contractors and PFI schemes, driving down benefits still further at the cost of human lives and dignity, etc. etc.), but with less of an outcry from the Daily Mirror.
It’s also abundantly clear from the Greens’ record on Brighton’s city council that they’re pretty much okay with being capitalists who’d like more bike lanes. So if that’s enough for you, then hurray I guess.
Meanwhile real politics are the things that are going on every day, election or no: people working together on campaigns, community groups and shared resources to try and build the foundations of a revolutionary and halfway fucking decent society, rather than picking over the carcass of the current one.
Even though I’m a journalist myself, I don’t want any part in this Je Suis Charlie shit. Because while journalists shouldn’t have to live in fear of violence because of this week’s attack, Muslim people across Europe shouldn’t have to live in fear of violence because of the racist attitudes that Charlie Hebdo and other media outlets have been cultivating for years.
Not all violence is carried out in a hail of bullets – although there’s been plenty of that kind directed at Muslim communities too: arsons and stabbings and nail bombs and all the rest of it from white supremacists. But there’s also the silent, secret violence that makes race and ethnicity the tipping point in a hundred million decisions every day to deny someone housing, or financial aid, or the legal protections of an improved immigration status, or a job, or to follow someone around a shop, or put them up against a wall and frisk them. Little by little, that destroys lives and outright kills people too, but in a way that doesn’t warrant lurid headlines and front-page graphics. That’s the violence that Charlie Hebdo revels in: cartoons that depict Boko Haram’s hostages demanding child benefits. Because they’re Muslim, you see, so ____.
A dozen people are dead who didn’t deserve to die. Leave the mourning to their families and friends, or mourn their deaths as ordinary people. But fuck Charlie Hebdo.
It’s been three months now since my exit from the Morning Star*, and the pageviews have slowed again to their customary trickle. So if this relaunch-slash-mini-manifesto comes across as self-important, it’s because it really is more for myself than anything else. I’ve had some time away from journalism as a job, and I’m feeling the better for it. But journalism has never been just a job, any more than sex is just exercise. Like sex, it invites tittering and scandal in polite society that quickly turns to unbridled fear and revulsion when taken to its proper conclusion. And, like sex, most of the time the only way to gauge whether someone’s motivated by intense desires or rampant narcissism is to watch how they do it. Here’s how I want to do it from now on: with the hate in my heart roiling right here on the surface, the heat of my anger honing my edge. Scrupulous research, for sure. Caveats where warranted, as ever. But with the naked anger that’s a natural reaction to talking about the woman and her baby who starved to death in a Westminster flat two years ago because our seething obsession with borders and numbers and checkpoints and stamps and barbarians at the gates got in the way of making sure someone’s child got fed while they lay ravaged by fucking HIV – a thing that you and I would do in a heartbeat for anyone we knew, but which doesn’t happen because the people who run this and every other country under capitalism simply do not think that the lives and deaths and agonies of people like her, or her baby, or you or I are as important as Them winning, whether it’s polls or profits. It’s as simple as that. So that’s the position I want to start from with my work from now on. I’m writing about this stuff not because it pays the rent (although by Christ I hope it does); I’m writing about these things because it matters, because we can’t let them keep winning. We can’t let them keep winning because it’s not a fucking game.
But if it’s not a fucking game, then there’s also no room for the kind of blind-eye bullshit that accompanies a jolly-hockey-sticks point-scoring mentality. It means no room for hypocrisy and apologia within the left on issues of race, of sexual orientation and gender, of ableism, of discrimination and violence against women.
I care enough to hate. My hate is right there for all the world to see, and my hate is pure.
The last time I saw Eddie he was an intern at the Nation in the late 1980s or early 1990s. Round the corner from the Nation when it was on Fifth and 13th st in Manhattan was Zinno’s restaurant and amid a pleasant lunch with JoAnWypijewski, my own intern Richie McKerrow and Eddie, I asked the future leader what I asked all interns as a matter of form, ‘Eddie, is your hate pure?’ … It was a good way of assaying interns. The feisty ones would respond excitedly, ‘Yes, my hate is pure.’ I put the question to Eddie Miliband. He gaped at me in shock like Gussie Fink-Nottle watching one of his newts vanish down the plug hole in his bath. ‘I…I… don’t hate anyone, Alex,’ he stammered. It’s all you need to know. English capitalism will be safe in his hands, assuming he ever grasps the levers of what passes for power in 10 Downing Street. It is very hard to imagine him as prime minister. He’s forever Fink-Nottle to me.
*During which they’ve failed to substantiate any of the claims about a pending further investigation of my conduct. So either it was your classic case of smear tactics to distract from their revealed role in suppressing abuse allegations, or they’re chairing the goddamned Chilcot Inquiry. Text your answers to [REDACTED].
TRIGGER WARNING: GORE
It’s Remembrance Day, and David Cameron , Ed Miliband and all the rest of Respectable Society are in the midst of some fifty million quid worth of festivities “like the Diamond Jubilee celebrations” (Cameron’s words).
Here are some images from Verdun that Cameron and his ilk will be trying very hard not to remember.
A hellscape where for a kilometre and a half in every direction the shells and mustard gas have shattered every tree to splinters, seared away every seed of grass and churned the earth to mud. No colours remain but brown slurry and black smoke and red streaks of blood and gore where a pack horse has been hit by the blast and its innards smeared over the area. Much of the trench network has been obliterated by shells, leaving craters thirty feet wide which are then blasted with still more shells over and over again until they are no longer bowls but weird, disorienting gouges in the earth. The rain mingles with the mustard gas residue and pools in the bottom of these craters, poisoning the earth and anyone desperate enough to drink from them. Many drink anyway: it has been so long since water arrived from the supply lines. You cower, soaked and shivering, in this fetid ooze because raising yourself up would mean death or injury by bullets or flying shrapnel – perhaps even skewered by a jagged shard of bone hurtling through the air from another blast. The mutilated corpses of soldiers – often partial or pulverised beyond recognition, perhaps your own childhood friends who customarily serve in the same unit – have rolled down the slopes of each crater and come to rest in the water, becoming bloated and rotten and giving the water a greasy texture along with the stench of death. Abandoning this crater for the next would be suicide and the next holds just as many corpses. So many corpses. In many places the living squat or lay atop a carpet of their forebears: their boots sinking into the putrefied bodies, a freezing slush of filth welling up around them. There is nowhere for you to go. All you can do is lay here among the dead and wait to see if you will join them. Your clothes have been clogged with shit and piss for more than a week, but you cannot see it under the mud and the smell is masked at all times by the stink of rotting corpses. And all the while the lice feed on you as you watch the maggots feed on your friends.
You and a million more will strew your guts across this ground because the generals involved explicitly seek to kill as many people as possible in order to demoralise and destabilise each others’ homelands until their enemies’ entire society -ultimately, Germany’s – fell apart: a tactic they called “bleeding” or “attrition”, but known more commonly to us today as “terrorism”. The primary objective was never to seize control of Verdun, or the Somme, or Ypres, or anywhere else. Death and suffering and fear and grief and loss were objectives in themselves.
The class that dreamed up Verdun, and its mouthpieces like Cameron today, will always see the ordinary people of any nation as tools to be used – even when that use is merely to be butchered for political ends. Remember that.
The Morning Star have launched a disciplinary procedure, even though I don’t work for them. Not a smear at all, mind you.Posted: August 11, 2014
I’ve just received a breathtaking letter signed by the head of the Morning Star’s management committee, Bob Oram. I don’t have a scan to hand but it’s some pretty spectacular stuff, all under the scary heading of “Investigation into Matters under our Disciplinary Procedure”.
Apparently on Friday – just hours after Zoe Stavri published my account of how the Morning Star’s senior staff threatened to sack me for covering domestic violence allegations involving a senior union official – the Morning Star decided to stage a further disciplinary procedure against me while acknowledging that I no longer actually work for them:
Gross breach of trust and confidence
Bringing the Morning Star into disrepute
I recognise that you are in your final day of employment and will not be available for interview but I wanted to give you this opportunity to offer explanation or comment on the allegations.”
As the documents I published last week show, the disciplinary procedure over my attempts to cover the Hedley allegations ended with my being given a final written warning with any further perceived breaches resulting in an immediate summary dismissal. So even if you go by the screwball logic Mr Oram’s employing here, their disciplinary procedure demands that they should have sacked me on the spot on Friday rather than drafting this tawdry little threat. There’s no reason – even a stupid reason – for them to carry out this little jig unless the intent is to then publish whatever their kangaroo court comes up with as the clumsiest smear tactic imaginable.
Incidentally, who is Bob Oram? Well, this is how he describes himself on Twitter:
Chair Morning Star Management Committee. Member Cuba Solidarity Executive. Works for, and proud member of campaigning and organising transport union RMT
No conflict of interest there, then!
And no, I have no intention of legitimising this nonsense with a response. I only wish they’d turn their attention instead to the paper’s longstanding policy of suppressing favoured figures’ “personal controversy” even where there are allegations of violence against women.