Pride Weekend, and why I wasn’t there

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Usually when the London Gay Pride parade and festival takes place, around the first weekend in July, I’m at the Wildest Cats In Town rock’n’roll weekender near Lowestoft. This year I didn’t go to the weekender, but neither did I feel inclined to join in any of the Pride celebrations. Neither did most of my gay/bi friends and acquaintances.

In the early days, Pride-type marches organized by the Gay Liberation Front were protest demonstrations demanding basic gay rights. At that time, despite the passing of the 1967 Sexual Offences Act supposingly legalizing homosexuality, most things gays today take for granted were still illegal. In fact almost every way of meeting or flirting with another gay man was illegal, and you also had to make sure you were both over 21, not in the armed forces, and if you planned to be intimate, that no other person was present on the premises. This even applied if you were lucky enough to live in a palace or a 30 room mansion. If your poor old granny was fast asleep in her bedroom in the West Wing and you took your gay lover to bed in a room in the East Wing, you were commiting a crime. Indeed my mother committed a crime by allowing my life-partner to move into her council flat and share a bedroom with me – we could have all ended up in court.

Nowadays we have won more LGBT (Lesbian Gay Bisexual and Transgender) rights than could ever have been imagined all those years ago. Gays can now get married (civil partnerships), divorced, even join the armed forces if they so wish. There are gay clubs where all sorts of activities take place on the premises. At one fetish club, when someone tried to take the club to court, it was the protestor who was fined and ordered to pay the court costs because the club was licensed for such way-out activities. Even Britain’s pornography laws have been liberalized, and now almost anything goes, whether gay or straight. There are, in fact, very few rights for gays to win in Britain.

OK, so we’ve got our gay rights, so we should go on the annual Pride parades to celebrate our lifestyle, so the argument goes. That’s fine, if you want to do this, and many do, so go ahead. But please behave yourselves and act in a responsible manner. My life-partner and I stopped going on these sort of parades nearly 20 years ago (he’s been dead for nearly 16 years) because of the few exhibitionists who insisted on shouting out obscenities in order to shock members of the public watching, which included little children. Others dressed or acted in an obscene fashion, for instance by wearing trousers which exposed the backside. Even going to and from Pride celebrations, some of these exhibitionists act in a disgusting manner on the public transport system, evidently because they feel strength in numbers and know there is little chance of them being arrested.

It is true Pride is the one day we feel this strength in numbers, and that might well give us the courage to walk with our partner hand-in-hand or give them a little kiss, activities which heterosexual couples take for granted. But in Pride-type events around the world, some gay exhibitionists go much further than this, committing obscene acts in full view of the public. Many of us don’t want to be associated with this kind of exhibitionism. It does us no favors, and can only turn members of the general public against us.

Heterosexuals don’t go on public demonstrations shouting out to all and sundry what they get up to in bed, or demonstrating it on the streets. We have won our gay rights, now let’s shut up about them and get on with enjoying them behind the closed doors of our homes, clubs, pubs, saunas or wherever. If we want to demonstrate for LGBT rights, we should be directing our protest at those countries and societies which have yet to embrace such notions. In some countries you can still be executed just for practising your gay sexuality.

Another reason I am reluctant to go on Pride marches: It is fine if you are with your life-partner, or even a short-term partner. Or with a group of gay friends. If, however, you are widowed or single, Pride marches can be a very lonely place to be. Nobody will talk to you or befriend you, and you’ll be surrounded by gay and lesbian couples holding hands and kissing, which will make you feel excluded and maybe lonely and depressed, even if you didn’t feel such emotions before you went on the Parade. The LGBT community is not renowned for reaching out to lonely people among their number, especially if they are older and perhaps widowed. Pride weekend, for such people, can be a very lonely place to be.

OK, I’ve been on lots of marches and demonstrations for all sorts of causes, and you tend to be alone on all of them. Nobody befriends single protestors on anti-war demonstrations for instance, so unless you’re lucky enough to meet up with some friends, that too can be a lonely experience. But at Pride we are supposed to be celebrating a gay community, and as described above, seeing happy LGBT couples holding hands, etc. can make single or widowed gays feel excluded, lonely and unhappy.

Then there are the festivals and special events put on thruout Pride weekends. Unless you fall into the LGBT mainstream who worships Kylie Monogue and other gay icons, loves boy bands and house/disco music, then these events hold little for you. In the early Pride celebrations there seemed to be more variety, my partner and I used to enjoy the wit of old-time cabaret artists like Lily Savage or Dockyard Doris. Now many of these have died or, as in the case of Lily/Paul O’Grady, moved on to TV. There are younger acts taking their place, but the emphasis at Pride festivals is on the kind of pop music which some of us have little interest in.

So how did I spend Pride weekend? Saturday I cooked a meal for me and my mother, who’s 92, and spent some time with her. Then I went to a reunion of ex-staff members in a pub near where I used to work. From there I went to Virginia Creepers, a rockabilly evening where, incidentally, I met up with two other gay rockabillies who also don’t appreciate the kind of entertainment laid on by the Pride organizers. I finally ended up in a gay club that night where the music was atrocious, but I didn’t go there to listen to the house music! Sunday I spent quietly at home watching TV, including bits of the Diana concert from Wembley.

So no Pride activities for me or most of my gay/bi friends. Those of you who just live for Pride, go ahead and enjoy yourselves, but please remember we are out to win over the general public, not to shock and alienate them. There were terrorist bombs in London and Glasgow over the weekend, which fortunately did not go off. The last thing we want is for gay clubs to be targeted again by extremists because of the obscene behavior on Pride marches by a few stupid exhibitionists.

On the contrary, the reaction we want to provoke is respect. I well remember walking with my partner, George, down Fifth Avenue in New York City on a Gay Pride parade where an old lady stood on the sidewalk waving a placard reading ‘Grandma for Gays’, with people cheering and clapping us from windows and balconies, and with a full-scale ticker-tape New York welcome raining down from the skyscrapers as we marched along. This is the kind of support we need to encourage from the general public in London, not disgust or violence because of the activities of a minority of exhibitionists.

Email to comrades in CPGB and other Socialist parties

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Comrades, I can definitely see the need for a new Marxist party, or some sort of new Socialist party which could unite leftwingers in the Labor Party and members of various other left and Marxist parties.

But as far as I can see nobody has gotten together and done a serious critical analysis of what went wrong with the 20th Century Socialist experiments in the Soviet Union and its allies in Eastern Europe, and how a new ruling bourgoisie was able to emerge. There is certainly no common conclusion.

Some factions blame the failure of Socialism in the Soviet bloc on Stalin, others on Gorbachov, or Yeltsin, or Trotsky. Nobody seems to have criticized Lenin or Marx themselves.

Comrades, we will get nowhere until we conduct an in-depth analysis, not fearing to revise the theories of Marx, Engels and Lenin themselves in the light of 20th Century experience.

I have conducted just such an analysis myself, as published in many articles on my website (The Unorthodox Website at www.btinternet.com/~tony.papard/). In particular the article on 21st Century Socialism – just called Socialism on the Home Page index. Other articles of interest are Confessions/Explanations of a Former Stalinist, Still Stealing From The Workers’ Wage Packets, Errors of the Socialist Era, Graveyards of Socialism, The Kronstadt Uprising in Defense of Soviet Power, Socialist Democracy and Democratic Socialism all on the above website.

Also there is a link from the home page to my newer weblog, which can be located at www.tonypapard.info/ Here, under the May 14th entry, is an article on Blair’s Legacy and a call in the final paragraph for a new Socialist party uniting Communists and former leftwing Labor Party members.

Please feel free to use any or all of these articles as a basis for discussions on what went wrong in the past, and how to develop Socialism in the 21st century.

In my view the partial failure and ultimate collapse of Socialism in the 20th century cannot be blamed on any one individual or group of individuals. In the final analysis I have come to the conclusion it was the apathy/political immaturity of the masses, which should have been foreseen by Marx, Engels and Lenin, which led to the power gained by the people in the Great October Socialist Revolution of 1917 being allowed to slip out of the hands of the masses and into a new ruling class.

There was a fundamental flaw in the system, so this would have happened, in my view, had Leon Trotsky or anybody else taken over from Lenin instead of Joseph Stalin. Indeed the rot in the system had already started during Lenin’s lifetime – see my article on the crushing of the Kronstadt rebellion, a crime in which both Lenin and Trotsky were heavily implicated.

Nobody is beyond criticism – we all made mistakes. Until we admit that, comrades, and learn from these mistakes, we will get nowhere fast.

Yours fraternally,

Tony Papard (ex-member of the Communist Party of Great Britain and Young Communist League in 1960s/1970s)

Joe Meek evening at NFT/Dali at Tate Modern

Last Thursday, June 14th, I met up with my friend Chris and we visited the new Dali exhibition at the Tate Modern. Be warned, you need several hours to view this properly, as it not only has many of his paintings, drawings, etc. but also full length films, which we didn’t have time to see. We did, however, see the recently completed color animation Destino, which Dali started to make with Walt Disney in the 1940s, and which contains typical Dali Surrealist images.

The Joe Meek evening was postponed from earlier in the year due to a power cut (the so-called Curse of Joe Meek!) It included some interesting clips, including a great color one of Screamin’ Lord Sutch performing ‘Jack The Ripper’. Not exactly pc nowadays, if it ever was, but great quality clip. ‘Live It Up’, a rather silly early 1960s movie featuring Joe Meek’s discovery and heartthrob, Heinz Burt (who was no better an actor than he was a singer), David Hemmings, and a young Steve Marriott among others. Gene Vincent has a cameo performance singing the forgettable ‘Temptation Baby’ whilst dressed in a cardigan, polishing a steam-roller (!) and singing apparently to a walking lampshade (judging from the hat she wore). An eminently forgettable film with a highly unlikely ‘plot’.

But the main feast of the evening was a great BBC ‘Arena’ documentary by Anthony Wall and others, many of whom were present to answer questions from the audience. Joe Meek was a complex character, a gay man who tragically ended up shooting himself and his landlady dead. He didn’t get the financial rewards he deserved for his innovating recording techniques (in his ‘studio’ in a flat in Holloway Road). But a few years after his death his estate was awarded royalties for ‘Telstar’, his biggest hit both sides of the Atlantic, which had been the subject of a court case.

A play/musical about Joe Meek was on the London stage a year or so ago, and there is talk of it being made into a movie. The play was excellent. I guess some things about Joe, and fellow gay impresario Larry Parnes, may never be known – such as how many of their ‘discoveries/boys’ succumbed to the casting couch in order to gain fame.

But a fascinating, if tragic, character, a great ‘Arena’ documentary, and a great afternoon out. I’m sure Salvadore Dali would have loved the Surrealism of Joe Meek’s life and death.

Busy, busy, busy…..

I had my second Retirement Party (at work) on Friday. I went in specially as my last working day was over a week earlier. There was a good turnout for me, loads of food (vegetarian outside the Conference Room, and a meat barbecue in the patio), and the Executive Deputy Secretary General of Amnesty International, Kate Gilmore, made a speech and presented me with some lovely gifts from AI and my colleagues. These included a DVD/VHS recorder/player, DVDs of really old TV shows from the 1950s and later, and a souvenir book signed by my colleagues with pictures of myself at work and at work parties on the front. Best of all was a picture of me with The Million Dollar Quartet, which I shall of course call The Million Dollar Quintet – Jerry Lee, Carl Perkins, Johnny Cash, Elvis Presley and Tony Papard!

I also got DVDs of me and my colleagues at AI. I haven’t had time to watch these yet, or the videos of my other Retirement Party which someone gave me. Nor have I had time to connect up the new DVD/VCR recorder/player or find out how to work it. Saturday I took my mother to visit a Greek-Cypriot cousin in Forest Hill. She gave us a nice lunch, and we sat in her beautiful garden, whilst she chose some photos of herself and friends/family from my father’s albums, which my brother rescued from his house in Cyprus. She’d never seen photos of herself at such a young age before. She will get them copied for the family. She invited me to join her in Cyprus in August and stay with her, and meet her mother and father again.

Sunday we had to be up early to travel to Gravesend for a boat trip up the Thames to Southend and back. It was a beautiful day, there was live music on the boat from Wee Willie Harris, Rockin’ Gerry Champion, Chas McDevitt, the City Ramblers, etc. We had several hours in Southend, and a nice meal on the pier. It was a very pleasant day.

Today I have a hospital appointment, but eventually I’ll get around to watching the DVDs/videos, and fixing up my new DVD recorder.

And I thought I’d have plenty of spare time in my Retirement. No way – I will be kept extremely busy. I go to my mother’s most days and cook for her, take her out, do shopping for both of us, etc. When not doing any of this, I have loads of things to work my way thru. Just sorting out the new DVD recorder will take a whole day at least.

Last Day of my Working Life

Today was the last day of my working life. It didn’t come as a great shock as I made my decision over a year ago, and it was a phased retirement. Starting 6 months ago I’d been gradually reducing my working week till I was only in one or two days a week.

I can’t say I’m sorry or sad. I’ve not been happy with my job, or my place of employment, for years. In fact things have just gotten worse and worse as time has gone on.

First my chosen career, that of Telex Operator, went down the drain, overtaken by newer technologies such as fax and email. This meant I was no longer using any of my keyboard skills. Then I was given work to do on the phone system, for which I showed neither any interest nor aptitude. The fact that training was totally inadequate did not help.

Then I was given Reception/Switchboard duties, despite the fact that I have no people skills whatsoever, frequently lose my temper, have a hearing problem, and again had no training on how to handle the public or difficult telephone callers, many with psychological problems.

Next the Amnesty International Mandate was scrapped, and ever since nobody has known what AI stood for, except the broad definition ‘human rights’. Under the old Mandate we worked for the release of prisoners of conscience in all countries, i.e. those who had been imprisoned because of their beliefs and who had not used violence to further them. Also we campaigned against unfair trials, torture and the death penalty. That was about it. Now AI is expected to campaign on all this plus so-called Economic and Social Rights. This is quite ironic considering in the days of the Cold War it was the Soviet Union and its allies who claimed to be protecting Economic and Social Rights (the right to work, to social security, an adequate pension, etc.) whilst AI was critical of these countries for their inadequacy in protecting the human rights described in our Mandate.

As if this isn’t bad enough, in order to campaign for clean water supplies, education rights, access to medical treatment, economic and social rights, etc. AI has cut back on its traditional area of campaigning under the old Mandate, where we had real influence. AI now has a list of countries it works on under the CAP (Country Action Programs), so any not on that list are ‘not a priority’. How do you tell someone who has relatives imprisoned for their beliefs in some country ‘Sorry, that country is not a priority for AI at the moment. We are too busy campaigning for clean water supplies elsewhere.’

It is not as if AI has the resources to do anything practical in any of these new areas it has taken on board – other NGOs such as Oxfam, War on Want, Shelter, etc. are able to do this. All AI can do is campaign – a voice in the wilderness nagging governments on what they ought to do, and which they can ignore as just a bunch of do-gooders spouting off.

Embarrassing governments by revealing they have people locked up for their beliefs, that they use torture, etc. was quite a different matter. It publicized things they didn’t want publicized, and therefore often brought results.

Then the International Secretariat spent millions on refurbishing their London headquarters, when many of us considered a big center in London was old hat, and if it was needed it would be better to move to a more accessible office and sell the old buildings which we had outgrown, and which were not near any tube or mainline station.

Finally, I was moved, with my colleagues, into the clinical new Reception, which I absolutely hated. We were totally isolated, since the staff now came in thru a separate entrance, and I felt I was in the Reception of a funeral parlor or something.  On the occasions when I was on my own on Reception, I never saw or talked to anyone apart from the visitors and telephone callers, quite a few of which were mentally disturbed individuals I simply did not have the training, qualifications nor the temperament to deal with.

So I have finally made my escape. I wish AI well in the future, but fear unless it goes back to its roots, making its main task campaigning for the release of prisoners of conscience and against torture, then it has lost its way and will gradually decline. The choice is AI’s and only its members can decide which way it is going to go.

I, meanwhile, intend to enjoy my retirement, do productive things, and spend some precious time with my mother, looking after her and taking her out. She is now 92, soon to be 93, and I am 62. We have earned this time together without the distraction of having to work for a living.

From my first job as a Work Study Clerk (working out bonuses) at a printers in Welwyn Garden City for £4.50 a week (or £4.10s0d as it then was) in 1961, thru working 6 years at CND head office as first an office boy/duplicator operator then accountant, to becoming an Overseas Telegraph Operator at Post Office Overseas Telegraphs, then a telex operator at various places, and finally a reluctant glorified Receptionist, I feel I have now earned my retirement after 46 years non-stop working for a living, plus another 11 years before that at school/college. After 57 years I can finally put my feet up and call my time my own.

Retirement Party

Tony and some of the performers

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It was a great nite at the Freemasons’ Arms, Covent Garden on Saturday (May 26th) for my Retirement and Brian Jessup’s birthday party.

The room was packed with rock’n’roll and music fans, including the infamous Woodies, plus my relations, friends and people from my work. There was a very good buffet early on, and a great atmosphere.

 MaryJean was unable to appear, but Wee Willie Harris stepped in to headline and put on a great show, dressed in his famous red drape with his name on the back. Other artists performing were Corliss Randall from New Orleans, Rockin’ Gerry Champion, Pete Baxter, John Hills, Ralph Edwards, Jaron and his brother Rolen, and other musicians.

 The great thing was how everybody enjoyed it and said what a fantastic night it was. Even my cousins and workmates were enjoying the music, despite the fact that an amp was missing and everything had to be fed thru John Hills guitar amp. This meant some of the vocals, including Keith’s announcements, were a bit muffled and indistinct at times.

But it was a fantastic retirement/birthday party, and I’d like to thank all my friends, everyone who came, the performers, Keith and all who worked to make the evening a great success. Thanks also for the many presents and cards I received.

A party like this only comes once in a lifetime, and it is one I shall always remember. But we do have jam sessions every month, so those who missed the a party should get themselves along to one of these at the Caxton Arms, The Highway, E1. Next one is June 29th.

Seven Ages of Rock

This is the title of a series of programs BBC TV is screening. The first one last night concentrated on Jimi Hendrix. Whilst it had some interesting clips, not least of Muddy Waters, Howlin’ Wolf and Little Richard, it is absolutely ludicrous to describe Hendrix as being in the first Age of Rock.

By my reckoning he is way, way back in the 5th Age of Rock. The first being the Louis Jordan/Sticks McGee/Fats Domino/Ike Turner era of the late 1940s/early 1950s. The second being the peak of popularity of rock’n’roll/rockabilly with white and black performers of the music, which swept the world. People like Bill Haley, Elvis Presley, Little Richard, Chuck Berry, Jerry Lee Lewis, Gene Vincent, Carl Perkins, Bo Diddley, Buddy Holly, Wanda Jackson, Brenda Lee, Eddie Cochran, etc. The third (best forgotten) Age of Rock was when the Establishment tried to tone it down and make it more ‘acceptable’ with what Jerry Lee refers to as the ‘flock of Bobbies’ – Bobby Vee, Bonny Vinton, Fabian and all those other squeaky clean, good looking All-American boys. This also coincided with the rock’n’roll dance crazes of the early 1960s which swept America – The Twist, The Mashed Potato, The Hully Gully, The Popeye, The Hitler – the names got weirder and weirder, but they were all basically watered down rock’n’roll.  Then came the 4th Age of Rock with the new-found popularity of the British beat groups – The Beatles, The Rolling Stones, The Who, etc. Jimi Hendrix was among the American artists who were a reaction to this British ‘invasion’ of the pop charts, and so is part of the 5th Age of Rock by my reckoning.

Yet they tried to make Hendrix out as some kind of revolutionary, when Bo Diddley was making innovative noises from his guitar over a decade before Hendrix arrived on the scene.

Typical of media articles and programs about Rock. The first two decades are nearly always overlooked, or just skimmed thru in passing. But it was these early pioneers of the 1940s and 1950s who truly shook up the music world, and cleared the likes of Patti Page, Alma Cogan, Denis Lotus, Pat Boone, etc. out of the charts forever. 

Colin Fry & Tony Stockwell at Fairfield Halls, Croydon

I was way up at the back of the balcony for this, and despite the microphones and my hearing aid turned up to full volume, I had difficulty hearing the proceedings.

However it was most interesting to see how Colin and Tony work before a ‘live’ audience. With TV you are never sure what has been edited out. Having seen them ‘live’ I can confirm they are very accurate with their messages, just occasionally the wrong person will initially ‘claim’ the message. Since there were probably thousands in the Fairfield Halls, this is understandable. Must be very difficult to work under such conditions.

The very first message Colin gave seemed to apply to me, but nobody could see my hand up way at the back of the balcony (I hesitated so was a bit late putting my hand up). The message was about an Edie or Edith who lived to a good old age and was in good health till she had a fall, when she deteriorated rapidly. Edie/Edith had a message about a kitchen which had been messed up, and a kitchen surface which had been scorched/damaged by a hot pan.  There had been attempts to cover up this damaged surface. And she said how glad she was that a dirty toolbox, or bag of tools, had been removed from the hallway.  Another member of the audience seemed to think this message was for her, and so it might have been. 

The fact remains my maternal grandmother was named Edith, my grandfather called her Ede or Edie, she lived till nearly 84, and was in relatively good health for her age till she fell in her kitchen whilst reaching for a saucepan on a shelf, broke her hip and deteriorated rapidly after that. She died 3 months later. My mother’s kitchen has been thoroughly messed up recently by workmen supposed to be renovating it, and I damaged and scorched the new kitchen surface by standing a hot pan on it, thinking it was heatproof like the previous kitchen surface. I covered the damaged part of the surface first with adhesive tape, and later with a table mat. The ‘dirty toolbox in the hallway’ is harder to place, but my mother states she was constantly having to step over the workmen’s toolboxes in the hallway, and everything was covered in a thick layer of dust over and over again as they renovated her kitchen. Of course this is the trouble with readings in front of an audience of thousands – several of them probably knew an Edith, but whether all the other factors applied to them as well, I can’t tell.  

 So in view of the difficulties hearing the proceedings, attracting attention, and the sheer confusion caused by such large numbers of people in the audience, I shall avoid such mass demonstrations of clairvoyance/clairaudience in future, but continue to watch the TV shows with a much smaller ‘live’ audience, and go to demonstrations of mediumship at local centers, even though many mediums appearing there are not as talented as Colin and Tony.

 I bought books by the two of these great mediums at the venue. I was delighted to see Colin had dedicated his book to his civil partner Mikey. Of course I sussed out, as soon as I saw them on TV, that Colin, Tony and myself were members of the same fraternity.

It certainly seems that many male mediums are gay, probably something to do with sensitivity to the psychic being more of a feminine trait. Whatever, Colin and Tony are two of the best.

Blair’s Legacy

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The Labor Party has had some dreadful rightwing leaders, but Tony Blair is by far the worst. He never seemed to belong to the Party – an out and out Thatcherite Tory who somehow infiltrated the labor movement. Socialism is totally alien to the man.

Most people say his legacy as Prime Minister will be the illegal Iraq war, which Blair took us into based on lies to please his friend, the rightwing idiotic President George W. Bush. This is certainly true, but the other legacy, that of the Blair Labor Party leadership, was the elimination of Clause IV of the Labor Party’s Constitution.

Part 4 of this Clause was printed on every Labor Party membership card, and read as follows:

‘To secure for the workers by hand or by brain the full fruits of their industry and the most equitable distribution thereof that may be possible upon the basis of the common ownership of the means of production, distribution, and exchange, and the best obtainable system of popular administration and control of each industry or service.’

This was the basic Constitution of a Marxist Party, who’s basis was Marxist Socialism, who’s anthem and symbol was the Marxist ‘Red Flag’. It is the Labor Party which I joined, and subsequently left for the Communist Party when I realized Harold Wilson and other Labor leaders had no intention of establishing Socialism in  Britain.

(The only difference between the long-term basic philosophy of the Labor and Communist Parties was that the latter believed the State would gradually wither away eventually and we would be left with a utopian self-governing Communist society in which there was no State, no police,  no armed forces, no money – just an abundance of goods and services. ‘From each according to their ability, to each according to their needs’. After the disastrous experience of Soviet-style Socialism, few people now believe such an ideal Communist society is ever achievable, except perhaps in small communes of similarly-minded idealists.)

I later rejoined the Labor Party, but soon left again when they abandoned their policy of unilateralism on The Bomb (i.e. when they decided Britain should keep its so-called ‘independent nuclear deterrent’, which, incidentally, is not independent and is not a deterrent. Falklands, Vietnam, Afghanistan, Iraq, 9/11, 7/7 – how have nuclear weapons deterred, or helped ‘win’, in any of these wars and incidents? It is merely a dangerous status symbol bought from the Americans in the form of Trident. Its use, or even threatened use, against innocent civilians, is a war crime which parallels, or even exceeds in scale, those of the Nazi concentration camps.)

Not wishing to be implicated in these war crimes, when Labor re-adopted The Bomb after years of rejecting it I left the Party again, and haven’t been a member of any since. Had I not left when they abandoned nuclear unilateralism, I would most certainly have resigned when they abolished the above paragraph in Clause IV of the Constitution, because it is the very basis of Socialism and the reason for the Labor Party’s existence.

Contrary to popular belief, the above Clause IV paragraph does not necessarily mean nationalization of every industry and service. Whilst this may be appropriate for some (such as the railways for instance), there are many other forms of common ownership, such as cooperatives and publicly owned companies competing in the market place. This kind of Market Socialism was practised very successfully in the former Yugoslav Federation, and is, I think, the Socialism for the 21st century. It keeps the fairness and common ownership and control of Socialism, and combines it with the competitiveness of the market place.

Tony Blair has followed Thatcherite policies thruout his leadership, privatizing one thing after another. Even after the total disaster of privatization of the national railway network, he and his colleagues (we can no longer call Labor Party members ‘comrades’) insisted on an equally disastrous privatization of the London Underground system.

What has happened to pensions and the NHS service under Blair has also been disastrous. With many pensioners destitute or relying on means-tested benefits after giving a lifetime of service to the country, and hospital wards closed and the NHS in constant crisis. The drugs companies, making huge profits out of death and illness, are a prime target for taking into common ownership. Research needs to be financed by the government, and drugs made available to the NHS at very low prices. Multi-national pharmaceutical companies should not be making money out of drugs, crippling our NHS, and denying life-saving treatment to those in need around the world, too poor to afford these expensive treatments. If this means ignoring international patents and producing cheap generic copies of drugs, then that is what governments around the world should be doing. The sooner the multi-national drug companies are put out of business and replaced by State-funded research and development in the world’s universities and State-run laboratories, the better.

In council housing, Blair has also followed Thatcherite policies. Virtually no new council housing stock is being built, and what there is is being sold off. Blair seems to want to get rid of council housing altogether. All council house sales should be stopped immediately, and new council houses built to replace those which have been sold off. Public housing at affordable rents is essential, otherwise we’ll end up with a country in which only millionaires can afford to live, with nowhere for the working class to live.

Blair’s one achievement, which he developed and progressed from John Major’s initiative, was the Northern Ireland Agreement. Otherwise his leadership has been a total disaster.

Since he has castrated the Labor Party members and their Annual Conference and made the tabloid press into the supreme decision making body of the Party, I see little hope of changing Blair’s policies in the future. Also he has surrounded himself with Thatcherite hacks, such as Gordon Brown, so the future does not appear any brighter.

Our best hope is for a split in the Labor Party, with the left wing and mass trade unions joining with Communists and others to form a new mass workers’ party based on real Socialism.

  

Visiting my distant past

Yesterday I took my mum to Bounds Green, where we lived 50 years ago. I actually knocked on the door of an old schoolfriend in Whittington Road, and met his mother, who still lives there. She put me in touch with Peter, my schoolfriend who is now a lorry driver living in Walthamstow. I’m inviting him to my Retirement Party, but unfortunately his wife said they’ll be away on holiday. Never mind, perhaps we can meet up some other time. Over 40 years since I last saw him.

 The area around Bounds Green/Bowes Park hadn’t changed that much, but seemed totally different to my mother and I. All the familiar shops in Myddelton Road had long gone, save for one Gents outfitters which had obviously been there for years, but which I didn’t remember. Bowes Park station wooden footbridge had long been demolished. Marlborough Road where we used to live was undergoing roadworks, but looked much the same, till you examined the houses close up.

 We’d never have recognized the house where we lived, #93, or the neighboring ones. They look totally different now the big privet hedges have gone, the stained glass in the front doors, and the tiled footpaths have been replaced. Could have been any Victorian house in England. Of course Kitty’s and Lamberts, where I bought sweets, had long gone in Whittington Road, as had the filthy pet shop with a water rat in a trough outside. In Myddelton Road Seagraves the butchers, the fishmongers, two bakers and the Home & Colonial had all gone. So not many memories were stirred there, though the actual buildings were intact.

The two main buildings of my old school, Bounds Green School, were still there. The Infants and the Junior/Senior school buildings. But the separate gymnasium, the toilet block, the playground shelters, the classroom prefabs, the playing fields and the old air raid shelters had all gone, to be replaced by new buildings.

 We then moved on to Broomfield Park, where I used to go regularly with my brother. Totally different! The playground where we spent hours on the Ocean Wave, swings, etc. had gone altogether. Broomfield House was under renovation and appeared to be gutted.

It was a nice trip down memory lane, best of all was making contact, albeit indirectly, with one of my best schoolfriends. I hope we do meet up again.