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Samizdata, derived from Samizdat /n. - a system of clandestine publication of banned literature in the USSR [Russ.,= self-publishing house]

I do not usually recommend that you read the publications of the Socialist Workers Party

The Socialist Workers Party (Glad you asked, comrade: apostrophes are a bourgeois affectation!) are a bunch of Trotskyist goblins with admittedly good organisational skills. Back in 2011 I reminisced about how you could turn up at any demonstration for any left wing cause in Britain over the last forty years and find that their lank-haired activists had been there handing out posters since 4 a.m.:

Three quarters of the posters, and almost all of the printed ones, were produced by the Socialist Workers Party. Busy little bees, they were. They still are: it is an astonishing fact that this tiny and fissiparous Trotskyist sect has twice dominated massive popular protest movements in my lifetime; the Anti-Nazi League / Rock against Racism movement of the 80s and the Stop The War Coalition of 2001-2008. Sorry, 2001-present, only they stop wars much more quietly now that Mr Obama is president. They were also big in CND.

Their literary output is not usually enticing. But I would recommend you read this press release of theirs while you still can.

Press release: Facebook shuts down major left wing group in Britain

January 22, 2021

Press release: Facebook shuts down major left wing group in Britain

For immediate release.

Facebook has shut down the accounts of one of the biggest left wing organisations in Britain, the Socialist Workers Party (SWP) (1). The Socialist Workers Party Facebook page – as well as account of local pages – have been removed from Facebook with no explanation given. Those targeted say it amounts to a silencing of political activists.

Facebook took the action on Friday, shutting down the Socialist Workers Party page and removing dozens of leading SWP activists from the platform.

The SWP Facebook page regularly posts in support of Palestine, Black Lives Matter and against Boris Johnson’s Covid policies. It also hosts dozens of online events every week that activists across the country take part in.

The SWP say they have been silenced for speaking out on these issues and that the action taken by Facebook amounts to an attack on political activists to organise. They are demanding to be reinstated immediately.

Bye, bye Swappers. You were a presence in British politics for nearly half a century, British as damson jam from Jeremy Corbyn’s allotment. And now you are gone from one platform, just like that, and soon you will be gone from the others.

Incidentally, that nine year old post of mine contained a link to this Guardian story:

Student protester jailed for throwing fire extinguisher:

A student who admitted throwing a fire extinguisher from the roof of a central London building during the student fees protests has been jailed.

Edward Woollard, 18, from Hampshire, was among protesters who broke into the Tory party headquarters and emerged on the roof on 10 November.

He was jailed for two years and eight months after admitting at an earlier hearing to committing violent disorder.

Police said his actions “could have resulted in catastrophic injury”.

The student, who hoped to be the first member of his family to go on to higher education, was filmed throwing an empty metal fire extinguisher from the seventh-floor of 30 Millbank as hundreds of people gathered in a courtyard below.

The canister narrowly missed a line of police officers attempting to protect the looted and vandalised building from further damage on a day when 66 people were arrested.

And so it could. Mere chance that it didn’t. Yet John McDonnell MP, later to become Shadow Chancellor, thought Woollard was hard done by.

  • Shadow Chancellor John McDonnell has faced criticism for allegedly supporting student Edward Woollard, who was jailed for throwing a fire extinguisher off a roof during student riots
  • Uncovered: John McDonnell Praises 2010 Riots

    Look at Niall Kilmartin’s post of January 15th. That and other accounts of the death of Officer Brian Sicknick from injuries sustained at the riot at the US capitol provide an interesting comparison.

  • The arsonist warns of the danger of fire

    The Times reports,

    The European Union is not immune to “the danger to democracy” unleashed by Donald Trump and must “rein in” the internet to prevent the spread of conspiracy theories and misinformation, Ursula von der Leyen said yesterday.

    Shades of Ben Tre. Or of a mirror-universe version of the most recent episode of Star Trek Discovery: “That Hope Danger Is You”.

    “In Europe, too, there are people who feel disadvantaged and are very angry,” she said. “There are people who subscribe to rampant conspiracy theories, which are often a confused mixture of completely absurd fantasies. And, of course, we too see this hate and contempt for our democracy spreading unfiltered through social media to millions of people.”

    She said that “we may not succeed in convincing everyone” to abandon conspiracy theories, such as those of QAnon, through rational debate, and signalled that regulation and censorship of the internet was needed. “There is one thing that we politicians can, and must, do: we must make sure that messages of hate and fake news can no longer be spread unchecked, since, in a world in which polarising opinions are most likely to be heard, it is a short step from perverse conspiracy theories to the death of police officers,” she said. “Unfortunately, the storming of Capitol Hill showed us just how true that is.”

    The speech showed the growing willingness within the EU to directly regulate or censor content circulated on internet platforms rather than leaving decisions, such as banning Mr Trump, to private companies. The EU is discussing new digital policies that would have major implications for Apple, Google, Amazon, Facebook and Twitter, including greater privacy and antitrust regulation as well as control over content.

    “We must impose democratic limits on the untrammelled and uncontrolled political power of the internet giants,” Mrs Von der Leyen said. “We want it laid down clearly that internet companies take responsibility for the content they disseminate.”

    I could be persuaded that internet companies should have to decide whether they are platforms or publishers, rather than the present system of allowing them whichever status benefits the US Democratic party this week. However this is not a move to limit the untrammelled and uncontrolled political power of the internet giants. They’ll love it. It is a move to limit and trammel further the already slight power to influence politics held by ordinary people.

    The “UK affairs” tag has been added to this post solely so I can add this to my list of reasons to be glad that the UK has left the European Union.

    Samizdata quote of the day

    So with regulation. Don’t change it, abolish the very idea of regulating vast swathes of the economy. Don’t reduce the state all over, kill parts of the state.

    Tim Worstall

    Strange goings on in Scottish politics

    First Minister Nicola Sturgeon ought to be riding high. The Mirror reports, “Nicola Sturgeon’s coronavirus handling has won over swathe of voters with support for Scottish independence hitting 57 PER CENT, poll finds”. There have been something like seventeen polls in a row showing majority support for independence. For myself, I would be enormously sad to see Scotland leave the UK, but that is not the point of this post.

    The point is to ask what the hell is really going on? Something must be. Go to the leading pro-Independence blog Wings Over Scotland and the message from the bloggers and the commenters is one of fury with Sturgeon and despair over the prospects of independence. Compared to 2014 it is a different world.

    I do understand the outline of the events that led to the convening of the Committee on the Scottish Government Handling of Harassment Complaints, and which have led the Herald to report,

    ALEX Salmond has cast further doubt on appearing in person before the Holyrood inquiry into his legal fight with the Scottish Government in an escalating war of words with its convener. The former First Minister’s lawyer said his client feared that telling the whole truth to MSPs under oath would leave him “in jeopardy of criminal prosecution”.

    What stumps me is how it comes about that the reporting by Scottish newspapers (most of whom are anti-independence) seems to support Nicola Sturgeon and speak as if independence is all but inevitable while the leading pro-independence blogs seem sure her resignation and disgrace are imminent and that she has put back the prospects of independence by years. What is not being said? Who is not saying it?

    The second most popular pro-Independence blog is probably the far left Bella Caledonia. Or maybe it isn’t any more – much can change in six years and much has. In 2014 Wings and Bella were in lockstep, fighting for the same goal. Now they oppose each other bitterly.

    All the more surprising, then, to read a guest post on Wings, to find myself moved by its patent honesty, then to get to the end of the post and find (a) that it was by someone who until a year or so ago was one of the leading lights of Bella, and (b) that someone is Robin McAlpine. He is the left wing authoritarian (I do not completely repeat myself; there are some points where the two circles on the Venn diagram do not overlap) who wrote an Orwellian piece for Bella called “Real Freedom Sounds Like Many Voices” in which he proposed to institute a system for newspapers like that which supports the BBC: there would be a compulsory newspaper subscription payable by all Scots (the supposed sweetener for this was that the newspapers so funded would be “free” – as in free of charge, not politically free), a handful of approved newspapers would be given government franchises, and, in his own words, “this would require that titles other than the franchised ones would be banned.” Mr McAlpine’s “Real Freedom” post dates from 2013. I wrote my Samizdata piece about it in 2017 when it looked as if Bella Caledonia might have collapsed. I wanted to preserve the memory of just how authoritarian Mr McAlpine’s views were.

    The piece dated 14 January 2021 by Mr McAlpine that so surprised and moved me is called “The Integrity of a Nation”. It begins,

    This time almost exactly two years ago I sat in a cafe close to Holyrood in a state of what I can only call shock. The enormity of what I’d just heard was sinking in; over the preceding nearly three hours I’d been introduced to all the gory detail of the plot against Alex Salmond. The last two years has at times been surreal for me as a result.

    Added later: For me, the key part of Robin McAlpine’s post was this:

    I believe that it started when a complaints procedure was created and designed to target a specific individual and pushed through over strong objections from the UK civil service.

    In a position of power, you should never create laws or procedures for a purpose related to the pursuit of an individual; it represents a gross misuse of those powers.

    Emphasis added. The manipulation of the law to target political opponents should concern anyone. The “specific individual” is of course Alex Salmond. He is not a nice man. His own defence lawyer does not think much of him. But there is a hell of a difference between having wandering hands and being a rapist. The prosecution had every chance to prove him a rapist and could not do it. A mostly female jury at the height of the #MeToo movement found him innocent of all thirteen charges. Before anyone chimes in, yes, one of them was “not proven” – that is still an acquittal. What a spectacular failure. Almost as if the case should never have been brought at all. Perhaps this failure resulted from the plague of memory loss that has afflicted many of Scotland’s top civil servants, Nicola Sturgeon herself, and her husband Peter Murrell, who happens to be Chief Executive of the SNP yet displays Biden-like levels of incuriosity regarding meetings of burning importance to that party that take place in his own house. For details see his Wikipedia page, though what it says now may not last the hour.

    REVEALED!

    Revealed: Tory MPs and commentators who joined banned app Parler

    Without the vaccine, what would countries have done?

    (A repeat of a comment I posted to a Facebook page. I have added a fresh comment at the bottom of this article.)

    A troubling thought for many is what would the present – and other – governments have done without a credible vaccine? (I leave aside the specifics of the Pfizer/Oxford etc outcomes for the moment.) Suppose nothing was on the horizon. What, to take the UK example, would Mr Johnson and his colleagues have done in this situation? Lockdowns for a further six months, then a pinch of liberty in mid-summer in time for Ascot, Wimbledon and Le Mans (in my case, beer in hand) before we go back to our manacled, shriveled existence? Another year? Two? Three? Maybe redefine lockdowns into some “reset” terminology so that going out to the pub is just accepted as a vanished custom?

    For example, I have heard it said that “shielding” is not viable, because, er, reasons. Apparently, shielding only works with great test and trace and well, the less said about that the better. So if shielding is not viable – as the government and is defenders claim – a world without vaccines would be intolerably bleak. At some point in this scenario you might expect a significant upsurge in social protest, coinciding with rising inflation, failed government bond sales, a run on the pound, maybe calls for exchange controls and for more rationing. A repeat of the 1970s economic scenario, but without flared jeans and Roxy Music.

    It is worth thinking about what would happen without a vaccine. I’d like to see a politician, particularly Mr Johnson, put on the spot about this. Because to be frank I don’t think he or his colleagues would have the foggiest notion.

    (One person who thinks that regardless of policy, we are in this mess for almost two years or so is Stephen Davies, of the Institute of Economic Affairs. For all his radical classical liberalism, he has stated that the lockdown policy we have had on and off has been largely inevitable given the failings of track and trace and the initial failings to hit the virus early.)

    Up like a rocket, down like a stick: a Covid tale from the BBC

    2.3 million people have listened to Matron Laura Duffel’s alarming account of a system overwhelmed:

    2:00 PM, Jan 1, 2021.

    BBC Radio 5 Live
    @bbc5live

    “It was minimally affecting children in the first wave… we now have a whole ward of children here.”

    Laura Duffel, a matron in a London Hospital, tells Adrian Chiles about the Covid situation in hospitals.

    The tweet in reply sent at 8:21 PM, Jan 2, 2021 by Professor Russell Viner, President of the Royal College of Paediatrics and Child Health saying, “As of now we are not seeing significant pressure from Covid-19 in paediatrics across the UK” has garnered less interest, though that may change. It includes a link to this article on the BBC website:

    Doctors have sought to reassure parents that there has been no increase in the severity of Covid-19 cases among children because of the new variant.

    The Royal College of Paediatrics and Child Health (RCPCH) said children’s wards are not seeing any “significant pressure” from Covid-19.

    It comes after London hospital matron Laura Duffel told BBC Radio 5 Live that wards were full of children with coronavirus.

    Doctors have denied this is the case.

    Professor Russell Viner, president of the RCPCH, said: “Children’s wards are usually busy in winter. As of now we are not seeing significant pressure from Covid-19 in paediatrics across the UK.

    “As cases in the community rise there will be a small increase in the number of children we see with Covid-19, but the overwhelming majority of children and young people have no symptoms or very mild illness only.

    “The new variant appears to affect all ages and, as yet, we are not seeing any greater severity amongst children and young people.”

    Dr Ronny Cheung, a consultant paediatrician at Evelina Children’s Hospital, in London, added: “I’ve been the on-call consultant in a London children’s hospital this week. Covid is rife in hospitals, but not among children – and that is corroborated by my colleagues across London.”

    Prof Calum Semple said that he spoke to colleagues on intensive care units and “not one of them has seen a surge in sick children coming into critical care and we’re not hearing of a rise in cases in the wards either”.

    “We’re not seeing a different spectrum of disease in children, certainly we’re not seeing a surge in cases,” Prof Semple told BBC Radio 4’s PM programme.

    Dr Liz Whittaker, a consultant paediatrician at St Mary’s Hospital London, said “only small numbers” of children who test positive for Covid develop severe disease and these are “within expected levels” at the moment.

    “I continue to worry for my elders, not my kids,” Dr Whittaker added.

    Meanwhile, Dr Lee Hudson, from Great Ormond Street Hospital, said that none of his paediatric colleagues at hospital across London were reporting higher rates of sick children because of Covid but said that parents should never be afraid to seek medical help if they are worried about their children.

    The Daily Mail says, “Ms Duffel is a vocal campaigner for nurses who has appeared on Good Morning Britain on a number of occasions”.

    Edit: Having seen some of the comments made against Ms Duffel on Twitter, I want to add that I very much doubt she intended to misinform people. It is far more likely that she saw a local spike in children getting Covid-19 and mentally leapt to generalise it because oncoming catastrophe fitted her model of the world.

    Now that the EU is sorted, time to focus on opposing state overreach in Westminster

    The next political war is at hand, but for tonight at least…

    Enraged is not a good way to end the year

    So I will post this without comment:

    The New York Times Helped a Vindictive Teen Destroy a Classmate Who Uttered a Racial Slur When She Was 15

    May better times lie ahead for all reading this. It is a relief that Brexit is done. Boris’s deal is far from ideal, but there were times during the last four years when I would have counted us lucky to get the referendum vote honoured at all.

    Happy New Year!

    No true Gael

    This sentence was written by a graduate student of Celtic and Scottish Studies at the University of Edinburgh:

    Persecution of the Gaels only intensified in 1688 with the ascension of William of Orange to throne of the United Kingdom. It was under William’s regime that government forces of the UK orchestrated the massacre of the MacDonalds at Glencoe, and that occupying British soldiers erected Fort William in the Highlands in order to better subdue the region’s Gaelic inhabitants.

    I am sure that several Samizdata readers will spot the historical error, but that ain’t the half of it.

    It came from the second of a series of four posts (1, 2, 3, 4) under the heading “Gaelic Promotion as Social Justice” by Adam Dahmer, published in the Scottish Nationalist website Bella Caledonia.

    Here is an extract from Part 4: Promoting Gaelic as an Anti-Racist Action

    “So, in conclusion, I say to those who insist that promoting a British language in Britain is racist that I agree with them – but only if the language in question is English. The English language is, and has been for at least 300 years, a language of whiteness, empire, settler colonialism, and cultural genocide – not only in Britain, but throughout the world. English was the language of Indian Removal and Black slavery in North America; the military conquest, occupation, and resource depletion of much of Africa and Asia; and the murder, rape, and cultural degradation of the indigenous peoples of Australia and Oceania. ‘English-language-only’ was the explicit policy of the soul-destroying compulsory state schools to which indigenous people in every conquered land of the British and American Empires – including the occupied Scottish Highlands – were forced to send their children in order that they be divested of their ancestral cultures.

    “The promotion of Scottish Gaelic in Scotland is therefore not at all comparable to the promotion of English in Scotland. The former is an example of social justice activism, whereas the latter – if undertaken to the exclusion of the promotion of other languages – only furthers imperialism and cultural assimilation. Therefore, while the suggestion that Scottish children should be taught English in school and be encouraged to speak English on the playground ought to meet with grave misgivings and thoughtful caution, the idea that the same children should learn and speak Gaelic should be entirely uncontroversial – especially if the children in question are, in fact, Gaels. To deny the Gaels the right to use and propagate their own language in the country in which they live and in which that language originated – a country which was, historically speaking, wrested from them through coercion, and which was largely built on lands stolen from them by the state – is to actively will their destruction as a people, and to callously and unconscionably deny them the justice they are due. Conversely, to stand up for Gaelic and Gaelic speakers in Scotland is to strike a blow against global English-language hegemony and white supremacy – not only for the Gaels, but on behalf of minoritized communities throughout the world.”

    Bella is a left wing site whose readers are sympathetic to “social justice”. The comments to Part 1 of Mr Dahmer’s four-part essay were admiring, but became steadily less so for Parts 2 and 3, and were mostly scornful by the time we got to Part 4, from which I quote above.

    Much of the hostility from commenters arose because Mr Dahmer tries to have it both ways when it comes to defining who qualifies as a Gael. In Part 4 he is in anti-racist mode and proclaims that language is what counts and race has nothing to do with it:

    …not all Gaels are white. Membership in the community of Gaelic identity has historically depended not on genetics or blood-quantum, but on being raised by Gaels in a Gaelic community. The child of a Gael, if raised with Gaelic traditions, is a Gael – whether born or adopted, and whatever the colour of their skin.

    But that is spoilt by his having spent most of Part 1 saying that certain races have the right to forbid others to learn their languages:

    Believers in social justice judge, rightly, that the Black community ‘owns’ those hairstyles, and can therefore decide who gets to wear them; just as members of the American Indian community have proprietary rights over their traditional regalia and any depictions, however caricatured, of their own bodies.”) The same logic applies equally well to all cultural artifacts, including languages, that make minoritized communities distinctive. If you belong to a cultural group which has been historically discriminated against, then you have a right to curate how members of more historically dominant cultures use your cultural artifacts, including the way you communicate.

    After all that it was a surprise to learn that Mr Dahmer is from Kentucky. But it’s OK, he’s got a hall pass. In his LinkedIn profile he says, “I hope to help build a community of Scottish Gaelic speakers in Kentucky that will produce Gaelic-language-dominant households by 2050 and Kentucky-born fluent native speakers of Gaelic by 2060.”

    I would be very happy if that happened. I am not holding my breath. I see no evidence that Mr Dahmer’s proposed strategy to bring Scots Gaelic back to life in either Kentucky or Scotland differs from the failing strategies being followed in Ireland, or in Wales or New Zealand.

    The irony is that at one point Mr Dahmer does come close to thinking outside the paradigm that Gaelic will be saved by getting civil servants to translate the labels on the insides of the lids of council wheelie bins. In the passage I quoted at the beginning of this post, he said,

    ‘English-language-only’ was the explicit policy of the soul-destroying compulsory state schools to which indigenous people in every conquered land of the British and American Empires – including the occupied Scottish Highlands – were forced to send their children in order that they be divested of their ancestral cultures.

    (Not just the conquered, old boy. Most of the conquerors’ kids got the same treatment.)

    For a moment I thought he might be about to suggest that since compulsory state schools destroy souls and minority languages, we might consider no longer having compulsory state schools. It was a vain hope. All he wants to do is to arrange for his faction to decide the curriculum.

    It’s a dirty job but someone has to do it

    Chorus of dissent after police stop carol singers in car park

    Police have been criticised for disbanding an outdoor fundraising performance by carol singers in a quiet village.

    Four patrol cars swooped on the socially-distanced “mini-concert” in Woodborough, Nottinghamshire, on Sunday.

    The county is in Tier 3, where carol singing is allowed, and organisers said the event had followed coronavirus guidelines. However, officers said that about 40 people had gathered, making others feel “worried and unsafe”.

    Anyone might feel worried and unsafe when confronted with this:

    Five members of the Woodborough Songbirds were being pulled through the village on a 15m-long trailer decorated with fairy lights when officers arrived. They had planned to sing in six areas in a “Christmas tour”, raising money for the Nottingham Hospitals Charity.

    Five “songbirds”. Only four patrol cars. Lesser men and women might have been daunted by that grim arithmetic, but not Nottinghamshire Police.

    “They will now start to understand what leaving the EU really means…”

    I had been assured that the reason so many unfortunate lorry drivers were stranded in Kent unable to cross the Channel was that President Macron of France had closed the border for fear of a new strain of Covid. But who I am I to argue with Guy Verhofstadt, until recently the Chair of the EU’s Brexit Steering Group, who tweets,

    We forgot what borders look like.
    Some thought they would remain open with or without the EU.
    They will now start to understand what leaving the EU really means…

    In other news:

    Brexit trade deal expected within hours – the Guardian.

    Brexit deal now imminent – EU sources – the Irish Independent.

    Brexit deal ‘done’ with Boris Johnson planning a statement tonight – the New European.

    Update: Brexit deal ‘agreed,’ two senior EU diplomats tell DW – German broadcaster Deutsche Welle.