The trouble with Corbyn

I’ve voiced concerns about Jeremy Corbyn a lot of late, especially since seeing him at the Pyramid Stage at this year’s Glastonbury Festival where I saw a crowd cheering on someone who I think is setting people up for an almighty fall. I’ve never been able to fully pin down just quite what the problem with Corbyn is outwith of the fact he’s not what he pretends to be and Labour are still a party mired in policies of austerity and a faux radicalism that just tweaks round the edges while keeping the establishment machine in place.

Alan Bissett manages to articulate everything I couldn’t in this video from the excellent Phantom Power. It’s an excellent, and damning, critique of Labour and especially Jeremy Corbyn in relation to Scotland and is essential viewing.

Fighting Nazis in the 21st century

In the US right now there’s a load of actual real Nazis meeting and marching in Charlottesville with actual real life armed militia marching with them. It is by any stretch of the imagination an ostentatious display by white supremacists that’s resulted in one anti-Nazi protester being killed so far. I say ‘so far’ because I’m astonished more people haven’t been killed.

Terms like ‘alt-right’ are essentially meaningless. They’re Nazis. Call them that. Groups like the National Vanguard are just Nazis and here’s where we have to stop agonising about how to deal with them. We don’t tolerate them. We fight them, and we don’t sit around like some of the ‘radical’ left agonising about whether violence is wrong or how much guilt we should have for the situaton getting here. We know Donald Trump encourages these people and has made it easier for them to grow in his short time so far as president and we know good people have died while the far-right grow and become empowered, and this is what we’ve got to remember: Trump has empowered them, just as Brexit & it’s cheerleaders like Nigel Farage have over here.

At this point people should read Umberto Eco’s essay titled Ur-Fascism, because we’re living in the age where it has finally become real again and not something of Eco’s childhood. What we’re seeing in the US and UK is Eco’s Ur-Fascism, and that scares me that we’ve let it get to a point where we need to fight not just a bunch of National Front arseholes, but vast swathes of the country who are turning to a form of fascism that is endorsed by those in power.

Back in the early 90’s the NF tried to make one last push to start the race war they were wanting. Groups like the Anti Nazi League stopped them because black, white, whatever race, religion, background united to fight them; often literally. I myself carry scars from those fights back in the days when I lived in Nottingham and we’d have to stand our ground against them. We beat them. Sadly the job now is harder and it won’t help if people aren’t prepared to perhaps get their hands a bit dirty because I look at pictures like the one below and think the young folk surrounded by actual armed Nazis are among the bravest people I’ve seen.

Those people standing in the middle of a crowd are amazing.That’s who we need to be in the days.months and years to come because sitting in Byres Road cafes worrying about the structrual problems of racism isn’t going to stop the prick with a Union Jack tattooed on his arm from beating up Asian shopkeepers. Let’s be blunt, we’re in a fight and the time for polite discussion is gone.

And the problem is the same over here in the UK. We know Neo Nazis pose a larger threat than Islamists because this is what the authorities tells us, but it barely gets reported outwith of the odd mention. If we don’t actually stop this by fighting the Nazis where we can, and making an argument for a multicultural, progressive society (and those on the left leaping on the Brexit bandwagon to get Labour into power aren’t helping one bit) we’re fucked. So lets take it back to basics, unite, argue, fight and win together and remember, punching Nazis is good for the soul.

Brexit is an act of self-harm imposed on us by arseholes

A Yougov poll released today is quite simply proof that people have lost their tiny little minds.

So imagine you’re a 20-something in a tenuous employment situation and you come home and tell mum and dad your job has been moved to say, Frankfurt, because of Brexit. Your folks will turn round and tell your that it’s worth it which is by any stretch of the imagination, fucking insane yet we’re at the ”we’ve got to do this and fuck the young‘ phase of something that’s going to hurt bad, and worse, with free movement of EU citizens ending soon we’re going to lose hundreds of thousands of skilled workers which for some is a good thing as they’ve ‘flooded’ the market in the UK ‘wholesale’.

You may think that rhetoric from the Tories and UKIP (and you’d be totally right) but this is increasingly what we’re hearing from Labour who’ve given up on any sort of solidarity with workers regardless of birthplace and now seem to be moving into an extremism worthy of the SWP as  as phrases like ‘scab labour’ is used to define immigrant workers in articles posted, and then quickly deleted from Labour sites.as Labour firmly set foot in the fantasy that is Brexit with the idea that Corbyn can pick and choose what he wants (just likes May and Farage say) and (just like May and Farage have been told) that such things as having the benefits of the single market without accepting the four freedoms is impossible, but hey, here’s a Guardian article pushing that bullshit for the faithful. And oh the Labour and Tory position puts the Northern Irish peace process at risk but hey, we’re in a world now where excruciating damage is a good thing…

With things falling apart and the Scottish Independence movement tearing itself apart as to who can look the most cool and ideologically pure in that annoyingly middle class way certain Glasgow University students like to posture, it seems that a front against the lunacy of Brexit within the UK is currently invisible.

So I look to the Irish who with simple clarity have made it clear they want none of the UK’s infectious rage-fuleled idiocy and where they stand. If I were you I’d scour the family tree and see if you can grab yourself an Irish passport because we’re on a sinking ship being cheered on by people who think the economic and social equivalent of cutting your legs off is a good thing.

The myth of Labour’s radicalism

There’s been a load of discussion in Scotland about commentator and pro-independence left wing activist Cat Boyd’s comments about why she ”voted for Corbyn” due to his socialist credentials and how she preferred him to May.

The problem is that Corbyn doesn’t present a ‘big political change’. Corbyn presents a tweak to the existing system, and with Brexit, backs a policy which will ensure the weakest in society pays for it. I agree with Boyd (who I normally find to be at least an interesting commentator) in that Corbyn is preferable to May, but I disagree with the rest of her reasoning, and I do think she’s provided the establishment she rails against with a useful example to harm the independence movement.

But this is a problem with those who support left wing ideologically pure politics. They’ll see Labour being ‘radical’ but in fact, the ideas Corbyn presented are perfectly reasonable socially democratic ideas. The problem is that as someone who has worked within the system for several decades, Corbyn isn’t proposing changing the system except with Brexit where he, and the Tories, advocate leaving under a cloud (Labour’s vaunted internationalism clearly doesn’t extend to EU citizens) to rewrite the UK in their image. We now have a situation where the Corbyn supporting left now speak like Brexiters they sneered at prior to April, and we’re being dragged off the edge of a cliff for what? The chance that we might, perhaps, possibly, maybe see Corbyn in power and for Scotland to get maybe control of something Labour have spent years fighting to deny Scotland control of?

The fact is the system is broken. The British state is a state with blood on its hands and we’ll never know how much because the state ensures it always covers it’s tracks be it Operation Legacy, or a compliant UK media that paints the British state as an always benevolent one. And here’s another point, were Corbyn truly radical he’d be pushing to tear all this down but instead we’re promised another ‘discussion’ as frankly, all Labour want is your vote and to have the idea of radicalism as it manages your expectations from being of the left, to now supporting ideas that are making the wealthy cream themselves because Brexit will involve swingeing cuts be it May or Corbyn in power. True, it’ll be less painful under Corbyn only if you consider Labour figures and people like Owen Jones putting on their sad faces when they’re talking of job losses and families broken up, but hey, for the many right? We’ve got your vote sucker!

And here’s my problem with anyone wanting independence voting Labour. You’re supporting all this. I agree Corbyn is the lesser worse option for the UK, but you’re still voting for a party that’s spent nearly four years comparing you to Nazis, calling you a virus, filth and worse who only want your vote. They won’t give a fuck about you and we know that Labour are there to keep Scotland in check because that’s their job. How can you reconcile your position as of the ‘radical left’ by voting for a party that fights to keep the systems you’ve been fighting to break??

It’s illogical and while the SNP and Greens aren’t also as radical as they seem, both support ending the British state, which is as radical a policy as you’ll get in the UK in 2017. So if you want to go back to the days of Labour forming a government once a generation, promising jam aplenty, before the Tories come back in then great. Vote Labour. You’ll never, ever get independence and you’ll doom the most vulnerable to perjury when Brexit kicks in hard and any escape route is closed off.I’m all for sticking to principles but having seen fellow left wingers adopt messiah’s so often, I’m used to seeing crushing disappointment when people realise they’ve been had. I’m just now at the point where both personally for myself, and for those generations coming after me and yet to be born that I can’t live with the idea that we were denied self-determination and the end of the British state because of people being attracted by shiny things and rhetoric.

We do need a more inclusive vision for independence that brings people in from all political opinions but voting Labour isn’t going to achieve that. All you’ll do is empower a party that at the core only wants power for power’s sake. That won’t help the working class will it?

The covuluted position of Owen Jones and the English left in regards Brexit

Former Prime Minister Tony Blair has spoken again on Brexit and although he’s talking bollocks in regards the EU changing it’s line on freedom of movement, he’s right when he says that Labour’s somewhat pro-Brexit line under Jeremy Corbyn could well come back and bite it hard. Up pops Owen Jones to Tweet this…

Now Corbyn’s position is a ”jobs first Brexit” and we can get ‘the same access to the Single Market” we get now. This is bullshit. Corbyn knows this is bullshit because we can see the EU’s red lines and realise very quickly the idea the UK can pick and choose what it wants. I recommend this excellent piece from Byline to see exactly the state of play and once you digest it realise that Corbyn’s position on Brexit is as shaky as Farage, Johnson and Theresa May because the EU have made this point clear:

Cherry-picking of the Single Market and a sector-by-sector participation in the Single Market has been excluded by the European Council guidelines. The Union has also stressed that its four freedoms (people, goods, services and capital) will remain indivisible.

No ‘jobs first Brexit’ is coming. We can’t get what we want regarding Single Market access. We will not get anything like we have now. This isn’t going to happen because we can read the EU’s position in black and white so Theresa May knows this and so does Jeremy Corbyn. They’ll stick to their lines because they’re trying to win votes but both positions will end up with the most vulnerable picking up the cheque for either person’s plan.

Now, you’d expect a journalist like Owen Jones to not just know this, but tell his followers and readers this but he doesn’t. Now this is either because he doesn’t know the EU’s position (which makes him just a wee bit crap at this journalism malarky) or he does know and is holding back this information because it’ll hurt Labour’s chances of being elected and Corbyn becoming PM which is dangerously failing to hold power to account as he puts part first. See, it won’t be the well off that pays for Brexit; it’ll be the poor, the vulnerable, the disabled, the weakest in society. The people who can’t leave, or ride out the next 10-20 years as the UK rewrites itself in either a Tory or Labour image.

Jones knows Corbyn’s massive renationalisation plans can’t work with EU membership, but there’s no chance of Labour being a ‘party of social justice’ when people are being laid off in droves because we’ve left the EU and we’ve got austerity that makes what we have now seem like good times. You can’t have a ‘kinder, gentler politics’ either when your entire position revolves around accepting that people’s fear and xenophobic hatred of immigrants is more important than jobs or social justice, but when the party you support comes first, anything goes. Even if it involves you turning your personal politics til this point all over the place in order to support your party’s damaging position.

I despise Blair. He should be in prison, but he does raise some good point but Jones is so locked in the bizarre hubris Labour have been in since they lost another election that suddenly he adopts a position that I’m sure he’d have attacked a few months ago had say, Nigel Farage or Boris Johnson adopted it.

To be clear then. There is no ‘soft’, ‘hard’, ‘jobs first’ or even a ‘red, white and blue’ Brexit. There’s only going to be one that hurts and we’re now trying to see if we have a government, or a potential party of government, fighting to make that pain as negligible as possible but the Tory and Labour position is to wheel out the line ‘the will of the people’ because both are too shit scared or ideologically driven (or both) to present the idea that Brexit is insanely damaging and the UK deserves a say in what type of Brexit we’ll get come spring 2019. But no, both Labour and Tory are not being honest here and neither are people like Owen Jones who is putting party ahead of what is going to help the most vulnerable.

And this is the thing that annoys me about the English left. In Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland the left has, more or less, united to fight Brexit and try as much as possible to protect devolution. In England, folk like Owen are willing to sell our rights, jobs and futures out if it means his party wins votes and frankly, I’m done with the cynicism of some on the left in England. We need to make the case for immigration, integration and something better than what we have not for the sake of whatever party we support, but because it’ll be for the good of all of us.

But nah, blind support seems to win the day here and that’s terrifying.

How the UK welfare state tries to break you

There’s an item today about how Universal Credit is leaving people in poverty and debt due to it being so badly ran out that it’s leaving people without money for weeks. The system is designed to put people into debt; that’s the issue.

Today I called the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) to tell them I’m signing off as I start work on Monday. Imagine my shock to be told ‘actually, we’re cutting off your Employment and Support Allowance (ESA), sorry, but if you want to appeal or apply for another benefit you can”. Which is utterly bloody useless. I’m starting a new job Monday, and to get the week (they stopped my ESA from the 3rd July) I’m due would involve me taking time off and dealing with a whole world of stress and quite simply, I’d rather go skint for a month than have to spend anymore time speaking to anyone from the DWP. 

However I’m fairly lucky. I’m only going to lose a week, and frankly, I’ll make that up via work or via selling comics, but imagine if you had no savings, you’re seriously ill and suddenly you’re told ‘nope, no more money for you. You can work’? You’ll be driven towards poverty. You’ll have to use food banks. You’ll maybe have to borrow money which means perhaps using a company which your MP is a shareholder of. The entire system designed to keep people going is now designed as a way to mice people for everything and then when it’s had that, strip you of anything else.

See when government says unemployment figures are decreasing what they actually mean that people claiming are decreasing because the system is designed to get people off claiming one way or another. I’m still recovering from a stroke and cancer yet some civil servant has decided without speaking directly to me or my doctors that I’m fit to work.Again, I’m going back to work but on my terms, not because some wee prick has a quota to hit this week but people are right now having to face days, weeks, even months with no income and a system designed to demonise and that at it’s core, hates you.

This system is not sustainable, nor does it do what it was supposed to do. It is a system that quite literally pushes people to the edge and beyond.  All I can say is try not to be sick or unemployed if you can because you won’t have the space to recover, or to do what you need to do before bureaucracy kicks in and you’re heading down the food bank…

The Brief History of the British Comic Convention part one: It all comes from Birmingham

The British comic convention today is a myriad of cosplayers of all ages and you can travel the UK attending a large convention in cities from Aberdeen to Exeter as the comic medium enjoys the coverage and exposure that many of us over the age of 30 could only have dreamed about in the past. Yet it wasn’t always like this. Everything starts somewhere and the British comic convention starts back in 1968 where the first British comic convention took place from the 30 August to the 2nd September in the Midland Hotel in Birmingham.

More information on the con can be found here, but needless to say that if you want a zero point for what becomes the British comics industry and scene today then late summer 1968 in a hotel in Birmingham. Attendees included Mike Lake, Nick Landau, Jim Baikie, Steve Moore, with a stupidly young Alan Moore listed as a supporting member (early comic conventions ran with the SF convention model before diverging later on) who all changed comics in the UK in a number of different ways.

Dez Skinn goes into fantastic detail of the con on his site, with fascinating snippets like DC Comics giving pages of Neal Adams and Steve Ditko art to be given away as prizes in the fancy dress competition, which I strongly doubt neither Adams or Ditko knew anything about. Skinn’s site is also a fantastic resource on subsequent conventions throughout the 70’s as the 70’s Comicon moved from Sheffield, to London and around. It’s also worth noting that we’re not talking of a mass audience here. We’re talking of a few hundred attendees with maybe at most, a few thousand active fans outwith of people casually buying comics and leaving at that rather than take it that extra yard by searching out other fans. At a time when comics in the UK were seen as a childish, laughable pastime it isn’t hard to see why it actually took a bit of guts to stick your head up over the trenches and admit you loved comics.

At this time as well the comics scene we know today was being formed out of the primordial goo. Many of the names mentioned in Skinn’s excellent history went on to become either established creators, or in the case of Nick Landau, an essential cog in the industry.Magazine like Comic Media News were the internet of their day as they played a part in helping build the industry in the UK.

Sadly Dez Skinn’s history ends in the late 70’s and the promised continuation has so far, not appeared but by the late 70’s the scene was firmly established and ready to move into the 1980’s where the UK comic convention arguably enjoyed a Golden Age. If you’d like to add to this blog to expand it then please feel free to do just that in the comments below.

Next up, the 1980’s and UKCAC…