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Batley Grammar: Two More Members of Staff Suspended.

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The Left and Labour Movement Should Defend Secular Freedom.

LBC:

Two more members of staff at Batley Grammar School have been suspended, it has been reported.

The school had apologised and suspended a teacher pending an investigation following a protest over the cartoon of the Prophet Muhammad being shown in a class last week.

The picture had been used as part of a religious studies lesson, and the teacher involved has since been suspended and gone into hiding with his partner and four children.

It has since emerged two other teachers have also been suspended although this information was not made available to the public.

According to Mail Online, one ‘school source’ said: “Two other teachers are also being investigated but the school has been trying to keep it secret because they don’t want attention being drawn to the fact that this went beyond the actions of one person.”

It is understood they were aware the material was going to be used, but were not in class when it was shown.

LBC continues:

Batley Multi Academy Trust said in statement on Wednesday that an inquiry panel would begin work within a fortnight and said: “We understand everyone will want clarity as soon as possible.”

It said: “We’re grateful for the constructive engagement with all our stakeholders over the last few days with regard to Batley Grammar, one of the schools within our trust.

“We believe the right way forward is for an independent investigation to review the context in which the materials (which caused offence) were used, and to make recommendations in relation to the Religious Studies curriculum so that the appropriate lessons can be learned and action taken, where necessary.”

This Blog does not usually recommend the Weekly Worker, still less ‘Eddie Ford’, although it is well known that many of our section of left contributed to its pages in the past, but one of the best articles on the issues raised is in this week’s edition, (extracts)

Blasphemy laws old and new

Outraged, the local mosque mobilised its supporters, forcing the school to adopt remote learning. Mohammed Hussain of the Batley-based ‘Purpose of Life’ group – a registered charity – declared that the teacher “has insulted two billion Muslims on the planet” and “we cannot stand for that”, sharing the teacher’s name on social media with a letter condemning him. Taking it upon himself to speak for the entire ‘Muslim community’, as so often happens, he went on to state: “We do feel that, if this had been something that offended the LGBT community or something that was anti-Semitic, he would’ve been sacked on the spot.” For Hussain, the teacher’s resignation “should be forthcoming immediately.”

Similar sentiments can be heard from the protestors. One of them was quoted in various media outlets as saying the western world “is at a loss in understanding the reaction” from the Muslim community, as they are “required to stand up when prophet Mohammed is insulted, and when all the prophets are insulted, including all the prophets of the Old Testament, including Jesus” – the British “Muslim community” everywhere needs to review the materials being taught in their children’s schools. Showing images of Mohammed, we are told, should be as unacceptable as using the word ‘nigger’. Just beyond the pale.

This begins with something on everybody’s mind.

The very first thing to say is that this is an extremely serious matter. In October last year Samuel Paty, a school teacher in Paris, was horrifically beheaded after he too showed Charlie Hebdo cartoons during a class about free expression. In that sense, very similar to Batley. It is widely reported that the teacher there, who loved his “fantastic job”, is now in fear for his life – as are his family. He was whisked away from his home on “police advice” after receiving constant death threats. He is unlikely to return to Batley, let alone his job.

Secondly, we should support the immediate reinstatement of the suspended teacher – the lesson was precisely designed, presumably, to elicit critical thinking and philosophical inquiry. In which case, why not show the cartoon? Teachers should be free to show cartoons, pictures or quote texts that are relevant to the subject. After all, how can you conduct a lesson on blasphemy otherwise? Thirdly, Kibble was totally wrong to make his wretched apology – it will only encourage a climate of censorship.

There are wider issues, as religious figures push for the banning of views they dislike.

Many of those protesting outside Batley grammar school, and beyond, want the UK to resurrect its blasphemy laws. The common-law offences of “blasphemy” and “blasphemous libel” were formally abolished in England and Wales in 2008 after an amendment was passed to the Criminal Justice and Immigration Act 2008.1 

And in Scotland the blasphemy law was only formally abolished this month after the new Hate Crime Bill passed its final parliamentary vote. There is now a new offence of “stirring up hatred” on religious grounds, meaning that Scots could be subject to prosecution if their behaviour is deemed “threatening or abusive”.2 As a consequence, the threshold for prosecution for “stirring up hatred” on religious grounds remains lower than in England and Wales – inevitably having a chilling effect on freedom of expression north of the border. This only leaves Northern Ireland, where blasphemy continues to be an offence under the common law, despite an attempt in the House of Lords to abolish it in 2009.

”””

This Blog covered the SWP line. This is a excellent answer.

According to the SWP, there is “a big difference between ridiculing a religion such as the establishment-backed Church of England and mocking the beliefs of the poor and oppressed” – apparently Islam is above analytical criticism, sceptical questioning, let alone biting humour, and can never be the belief of the rich and powerful. Ignorance in the extreme. Religions are almost always cross-class phenomena. The Church of England unites Elizabeth Windsor and Justin Welby with the worthy poor who huddle in church every Sunday. Roman Catholicism is the religion of Francis I, a bloatedly rich bureaucracy, and huge numbers throughout the Americas, Europe and Africa. The same with Islam. Sunni Islam unites the Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques, the fabulously rich king of Saudi Arabia, with millions throughout the world. The same goes for Shia Islam, the Mormons and Judaism. Vicars, priests, imams and rabbis form a privileged middle class with a material interest in maintaining their hold over their congregations and fuelling hostility to secularism and anything that smacks of criticism.

There are countries with state churches, like England. But more widely it is not just the wealth of the pious religious bourgeoisie behind institutions of faith, right to their most extreme forms. Political Islamism enjoys the financial and political support of capitalist dictatorships, from Saudi Arabia to the Islamic Republic of Iran.

The conclusion is absolutely spot on.

We do not want to unnecessarily offend religious people like modern-day zealots from the League of Militant Godless.5 Rather, we want to be freely able to use Marxism to investigate the truths and untruths of religion. Religion is profoundly human – bearing all the characteristics and contradictions of class society. In that sense, as Marx argued, religion is an encyclopaedia of humanity’s complex history.

Lest we forget, this is what actually existing Blasphemy laws are like,

Junaid Hafeez, a university lecturer in Pakistan, had been imprisoned for six years when he was sentenced to death in December 2019. The charge: blasphemy, specifically insulting Prophet Muhammad (P.B.H.) on Facebook.

Pakistan has the world’s second strictest blasphemy laws after Iran, according to the U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom.

Hafeez, whose death sentence is under appeal, is one of about 1,500 Pakistanis charged with blasphemy, or sacrilegious speech, over the last three decades. No executions have taken place.

But since 1990 70 people have been murdered by mobs and vigilantes who accused them of insulting Islam. Several people who defend the accused have been killed, too, including one of Hafeez’s lawyers and two high-level politicians who publicly opposed the death sentence of Asia Bibi, a Christian woman convicted for verbally insulting Prophet Muhammad. Though Bibi was acquitted in 2019, she fled Pakistan.

Opinion: Is Pakistan’s blasphemy law a result of the ulema-state alliance?

Written by Andrew Coates

April 2, 2021 at 11:33 am

Left Fragmentation Part 3: Trade Union and Socialist Coalition Launches Rival to Labour in May Elections.

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Another Left Splinter.

 

TUSC is a coalition with an all-Britain steering committee comprised of representatives from its constituent organisations alongside leading trade unionists, sitting in a personal capacity. The current constituent organisations are the RMT transport workers’ union, represented on the steering committee since 2012; the Socialist Party, a co-founder of TUSC in 2010; and the Resistance Movement, established in 2019 by, amongst others, the ex-Labour MP Chris Williamson.

Trade Union and Socialist Coalition (TUSC).

The Socialist Party, SP,  is best known as one the splinters that emerged from the Militant Tendency – the others of an size being Socialist Appeal (following the major anti-Militant expulsions bust up in 1992 they stayed inside the Labour Party), and Socialist Alternative (a more recent split, which is part of the Committee for a Workers’ International in which the SP was the leading fore). There is also a faction within the PCS Trade Union, Socialist View, which had connections with the party.

Socialist Party leaders, such as Peter Taaffe (General Secretary 1997–2020) considered that the Labour Party had become a bourgeois party, and had to be opposed electorally. But, “When Jeremy was Labour leader there was an opportunity to transform Labour into a mass workers’ party. ” ‘Jeremy’ and his ‘project’ did not do this. “his was not done, allowing Starmer to take the leadership with the party machine, MPs, and structures ready and waiting to do his pro-capitalist will. Given that missed opportunity, a struggle for working-class political representation will not now succeed within the confines of the Labour Party.” “Today, in an era of profound capitalist crisis, the working class needs its own voice more than ever before. A party, not a project, is the way forward.” ( Socialism Today, issue 245, February 2021)

One can only guess who would be the leading cadre in this party.

Both the Socialist Party and the Rail and Maritime Transport union (RMT) campaigned for Brexit and cast their support behind the Leave campaign. TUSC promoted Paul Embery’s Trade Unionists Against the EU front whch had got financial backing from hard right businessman Arron Banks. Far from helping the labour movement, or fulfilling prophecies that the North Sea would turn to socialist lemonade,  this helped the Bosses’ Brexit and prepared the way for the Johnson electoral strategy of Getting Brexit Done..

 

 

Chris Williamson, whose Resistance Movement is, an observer member,  did not attend. This suggests that there may well be problems with the man whose reputation as a left-wing politician may exceed Lord Voldemort’s.

Williamson did make a recent appearance elsewhere, not long ago, promoted by the anti-Labour Skwawkbox alt-news site.

If Williamson is yet to tweet on the event,  Resist sent somebody.

 

 

Sadiq Khan is a target in London.

 

Pitching to Corbyn…

We await Corbyn’s response,

Summary of previous electoral campaigns (Wikipedia).

2015 local elections

TUSC renewed its promise to field the largest left-of-Labour challenge in the parliamentary and local authority elections. It bolstered its 2014 local election candidacy count by 70, bringing the total to 650. As it also fielded 135 PPCs, in every major town and city in England, Wales, and Scotland, TUSC subsequently exceeded the overall number of candidates to satisfy the BBC’s fair coverage threshold, qualifying it for distribution of election material via the Royal Mail, as well as time on the major networks for the airing of a Party Election Broadcast.[56]

TUSC gained no seats (and, in one ward, no votes) and lost three anti-cuts councillors in Leicester and Hull. They retain one affiliated councillor each in Warrington, Walsall and Hull, and two in Southampton.[57]

2016 local elections

Following the 2016 elections, TUSC had three councillors in Southampton under the banner of Coxford Putting People First,[58] Kevin Bennett having lost his seat in Warrington;[59] Hull Red Labour and Walsall Democratic Labour also lost their remaining seats.

2018 local elections

Following the 2018 elections, TUSC retained at least one affiliated councillor in Coxford, Southampton, following the re-election (as Independent – Putting People First) of TUSC national steering committee member Keith Morrell.[60] Two other former Putting People First councillors also retain their seats as Independents, but the group has since dissolved.[61] Morrell resigned in 2019.[62]

@Neo-LIberal’ Labour meanwhile has launched this:

 

 

Written by Andrew Coates

February 8, 2021 at 1:09 pm

Left Out. Gabriel Pogrund and Patrick Maguire. A Review from the Left.

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Left Out by Gabriel Pogrund and Patrick Maguire

 

Left Out: The Inside Story of Labour Under Corbyn by Gabriel Pogrund and Patrick Maguire  Bodley Head. 2020.

Yesterday three Labour MPs, Beth Winter, Nadia Whittome and Olivia Blake quit  junior roles on Keir Starmer’s front bench after they broke the whip to vote against the Overseas Operation Bill condemned by Jeremy Corbyn. A total of 18 Labour MPs voted against the legislation. Over the weekend at a fringe meeting on Labour Connected by Stop the War the former Labour leader warned against a new cold war between an aggressive Trump and China. There was no mention of the attack on Hong Kong Democrats or the oppression of the Uyghurs. It would seem that the Labour left has returned to political terrain it knows well: opposition to real and potential abuses of human rights by the UK military on mission overseas, and ambiguous posturing about global politics that ignores human rights abuses by countries that are targeted by the US.

Readers of Inside Left expect the “inside story” of Corbyn’s leadership of the Labour Party. They get it, although that has not stopped some complaining about the “sniggering gossip-column vibe.” (Mike Phipps) Politics is about people, and others will relish information about life inside Team Corbyn, from LOTO (the Leader’s Office) “on the warpath” against Margaret Hodge after she called the Labour leader an “anti-Semite and a racist”, to McDonnell (rightly, as often the case, in this reviewer’s opinion) “gripped by an almost biblical anger at the decision to proceed with action against Hodge”. (Page 117)

The rise, and “crumbling” of Executive Director of the Leader’s Office,  Murphy’s “empire” and the end of the ‘cult of Karie’, might also seize readers’ attention, if only they could keep a hold on the shifting cast of players. Seumas Milne, the ‘Great Milne’, wafting in and out, is caught with an expression adopted at length by his comrade Andrew Murray, dismissing the issue of Brexit as “culture wars”, ignoring, as a pro-Brexit euro-sceptic, that Labour’s 2017 surge had been fuelled by anti-Brexit supporters. (Page 70)

Deputy Leader, Tom Watson, who fell from grace in the eyes of most people for his role in whipping up moral panic about the fantasist accusations of Carl Beech a secret ring of paedophiles,  does not shine, He emerges as  a singularly ineffective, but damaging, leader of factionalist opposition, powered by self-righteous  hysteria,  to Corbyn and the left.

Corbyn, Anti-Semitism and Love.

The book revolves around Jeremy Corbyn. “Power was not something he pursued” (Page 359). “Corbyn had never wanted to be leader of the Labour Party But, in the wake of 2017, he had come to like the idea of being prime minister His was a mission waged on behalf of the hundreds of thousands of people who have invests their hopes in him in the vain belief that politics might change” Yet “Corbyn had failed himself” (Page 357)

On anti-Semitism “the failure was his.” “In the face of accusations of racism he too often emphasised with himself.” (Page 358). Those who thought of the conflict between the Palestinians and Israel in terms of 1970s struggles for national liberation were given leeway, letting in their wake people with distinctly prejudiced views on ‘Zionism’ expresses, at length, their opinions. Left Out does not, as in its wider picture, cover the factional forces at work, from Jewish Voice for Labour to Labour Against the Witch-hunt.

It seemed to some of us that they were perusing the objective of making Labour an explicit supporter of the struggle against Israeli statehood in any form. It quickly looked as if they were prepared to indulge a degree of rhetoric against ‘Zionism’ that could often  blindside many Jewish people and the wider public.  Pogrund and Maguire state that accusations of anti-Semitism “struck at the very core of his sense of self.” (Page 321). Those of us who know some of the people involved in these bitter disputes are more than a little surprised that this came as a revelation to the campaigner for Palestinian rights, as if he had studiously ignored some of the more extreme voices, shouting loudly  in his close neighbourhood for many years.

Amongst many incidents in other areas, the clash involving Corbyn’s new private secretary Iram Chamberlin, whose Westminster Security clearance had been challenged in dubious conditions is striking.  Corbyn’s response to demands for an explanation about her presence at a MI5 Briefing, where she asked about their work on far-right extremism and Islamophobia, was “one of boyish innocence, likened by one witness to the young Jesus at the Temple” . (Page 154) Chamberlin was summarily pushed out, but Murphy’s long-term position had been undermined.

The Redeemer is, it is said, a popular figure in many circles. Keith Kahn-Harris (The problem of love in Corbyn’s Labour Party: Reflections on Left Out) in a widely read review, suggests, that “love was always the problem”. People poured out their emotions on Corbyn, and those with the greatest affection and awareness of his best qualities were not likely to be persuaded by those who devoted their time to hatred of the Labour Leader.

Brexit.

But  political problems, above all the Brexit problem, was not going to be solved by love. “The Project’s weakness, and its internal divisions, be they the distrust of Murphy’s combative stile, the deep resentment that festered among junior staff in LOTO, or John McDonnell’s freelance excursions on Brexit, all flowed directly from Corbyn’s own” Page 359). Or as Steve Bush’s review (Why Corbynism Failed)  puts it, the Leader “manages to combine indecision, stubbornness, and an unwillingness to deliver bad news in one fantastic package”

The “centrifugal forces” of Brexit, the daily dramas in the House of Commons,  were piled onto those concerned about their own potential loses to anti-Brexit parties, like the Liberal Democrats or Greens  and those who were chiefly concerned about the popularity for withdrawal from what they perceived to be their core constituency, the Red Wall. But underneath were divisions within the Project over what was right to further any transformative socialist governing agenda.  One one side were left-wing internationalists opposed to the Hard Right Brexit Project, who saw in the European political space a place to build alliances with other lefts for a root and branch change to the mechanisms of the EU,  On the other side were those who welcomed the opportunity to break free from the EU the better to take the British Road to Socialism.

Left Out offers a detailed account of what happened in the 2018 Labour Conference at which Keir Starmer emerged as a leading figure in the anti-Brexit, pro-Referendum camp. The backdrop the People’s Vote campaign  as well as the presence of the ‘Corbynite’ pro-European left, Another Europe is Possible (AEIP) is covered, and the bitterness Corbynista ultras from Momentum and Team Corbyn showed towards them. It indicates the strong support for Second Referendum motions from Labour constituencies, resolutions which were drawn up by the radical left Another Europe is Possible as well as the People’s Vote campaign (this writer was a participant).

What the book does not illustrate is the way in which hundreds of thousands of people took to the streets from 2018 to October 2019 on the issue. What it does not suggest is the obvious point that for people in Team Corbyn, used to having the streets filled with protests from their side, on issues such as the War against Iraq, and anti-Austerity were shaken by a movement that only the (numerically small) left of AEIP took part in. The supporters of Lexit, a ‘left’ Brexit, did not respond with their own demonstrations for a ‘People’s Brexit’.

This division, with a part of the radical left, whose positon on Europe can be traced back to the 1980s Socialist Society, Internationalist Marxist  groups and a wider section of  democratic socialists, on a different side to others behind the Project, has not gone away. McDonnell knew that he had to pick a side. He chose well. And if there is one message that rings throughout Left Out it is that the Shadow Chancellor, as well as other figures such as Andrew Fisher, tried to build the Project on serious ground – I would cite, for example, the hard work on issues that matter such a tax reform and an end to fiscal crookery – trying not to get bogged down in the chaos of the Team by reaching outwards.

Corbynist Futures.

Corbynism, the Project, and its electoral failure needs an account with a  wider framework than offered by Left Out, an “outside Corbyn’s Labour“. Yet the book offers important signposts about  the reasons for defeat in the misfunctioning Team Corbyn.

Those who had encouraged the illusion that Brexit was a progressive step, or just a merited kicking for the ‘neo-liberal’ EU can now see somebody who had promised to “Get Brexit Done’ in charge. Others will be happy to rediscover Corbyn the campaigner on international issues back. As the introductory paragraph to this review indicates, indeed it is, weighed down with ambiguity.

 

Andrew Coates.

Written by Andrew Coates

September 24, 2020 at 12:51 pm