Sunday, March 31, 2013

Snow and Bad Wind at the Guildhall: Bedroom Tax Demo, Yesterday.

“No attempt at ethical or social seduction can eradicate from my heart a deep burning hatred for the Tory Party . . . So far as I am concerned they are lower than vermin" - Aneurin Bevan.

The Bedroom Tax demonstration on the steps of the Guildhall in Northampton was like a Fellini-esque parade of political has-beens and hopefuls, main-chancers, radicals, honest testifiers and spectator freaks. I came away from it feeling naked and exposed because I wasn't any of those things; and more convinced than I'd been before I attended that we didn't have a hope in hell of opposing this tax or anything else, not in Northampton anyway.

Norman Adams, local organiser, local legend, was there. Paul Crofts was there too. In the Eighties Paul was the head of the Wellingborough Communists and an acquaintance of my mother's. I went to a party at the multi-cultural centre in town with Mum and the Communists once to celebrate the anniversary of the French Revolution. Won a Charles Aznavour album and a bottle of wine in a raffle and gave the Aznavour to a woman sitting in front of me; she thought I was very generous.

In addition to those guys I saw Dave Green, who chaired a union meeting I attended to listen to Dawn Primarolo's boy talk about setting up community groups affiliated to the union. Norman got the devil in him that night and slammed the guy about his mother's associations with Tony Blair. That got under his hundred and fifty quid suit.

At the demo there was Tony Clarke also, setting up behind a big Green Party banner with other local members, and people from the Socialist Workers, and at least one Labour councillor I identified, who I overheard saying, "If any member of the Liberal Democrats turns up for this today they have no shame, no shame." Sally Keeble, former Labour MP for Northampton, booted out by the electorate and now, inexplicably, selected to run again in 2015, was down on the pavement with a few young activists. I'd never seen her in the flesh before and I was surprised how short she was.

Norman told me he hadn't intended for the demo to turn into a party political affair. "It's about right and wrong, not party politics," he said. The others had blown that noble idea out of the water. It seemed like they saw it as a great chance to pick up a few stray votes and get their picture in the Chron. The political equivalent of going to the right nightclubs when you want to be famous.

But there was a lot of impassioned, if generally vague, talk about unity from the six or seven speechmakers who followed Norman, all of them  talking through a megaphone as the snow fell on our heads and the steady urban hum of cars and shoppers carried on around us. I realised when I came away, though, that nobody seemed to have agreed anything.

There had been talk, at the start, about taking names, direct action to stop bailiffs from evicting people who couldn't pay the tax, but there didn't seem to have been any specific agreement about how these things, as necessary as they are, would be organised. Maybe it's because almost everybody there knew each other already and the communication network is already in place. I hope so. But what about the folks who'd just come along, if there were any?

It didn't look like there were lots of newcomers, to be fair. Actually, the speechifiers and the photographers probably outnumbered those who'd just come along to shout and clap and show their dissatisfaction with the Borough Council. And sadly, that's usually the way. Most people only get mad enough to turn out in the cold if the policy being protested against affects them. Look at how "political" people were when the poll tax was foisted on the country. Where had most of them been in the preceding ten years?

Norman Adams really cares. That guy would lay down his life for something he believed in. I think Tony Clarke cares too. He will take his conviction back into the Guildhall and make a profound nuisance of himself, regardless of the consequences. But what will Labour do, held back by the lillywhite leadership of Ed Milliband? They were there yesterday, making fine speeches, but they can't really be counted on to oppose the tax in any meaningful way.

Will Milliband want his MPs linking arms with Socialist Workers or Occupiers  across the doorways of council houses to prevent meathead bailiffs from crossing them and dragging out the blind, the sick, the frail, the disabled, the scared, the poor? Do people attracted to the Labour Party these days even have the balls to put their bodies on the line? And, which is possibly more to the point, do I?

I want to think I do, but sometimes I suspect I'm all mouth. A political gobshite. A laptop Lenin. Do I have the guts actually to take a risk? I've thought about it, and I really don't know. When I saw the riot police coming at the student demo I went so quickly in the opposite direction any photograph taken would have shown just a blur. And I'm supposed to be one of the caring ones.

There are times - when the machinery of the State becomes truly wicked, as it is today - that peaceful civil disobedience is the only effective, honest way to do right. Everything else is just bad wind wafting around the ears of the dying. An exercise of conscience for the bathroom mirror.

History will judge, I suppose, whether we did any good by airing our principles like bedding on the line. In the meantime the evictions will begin next week.

Tuesday, March 19, 2013

You Keep Your Killers & Your Sterilisers Of Women, I'm Off

The fliers for the Chinese art exhibition are appearing all around Northampton University this morning. I saw one as soon as I walked in to start doing some research for the fourth chapter of my dissertation.

Well, fine. We all go to Hell our own way and they have made their choice. Collaboration with the bloody occupier of Tibet, whose murderous behaviour, and whose attempted erasure of Tibetan culture and religion, runs so far back in recent history it even predates the birth of this cranky grey-haired old blogger.

I would post stats around the building about the number of people who've died under Chinese occupation but the last time I did that someone ripped them down. They have shown clearly whose side they're on.

So I have made a decision, albeit a rather neutered one. I'm going to the toilet, putting my bag over my shoulder and I'm going home; and I'm not coming back while the exhibition runs, which is roughly for the rest of my time here.

I only have a week and a half of classes left anyway, so it's not such a big deal. I'll just worker harder at home. And if I can hold my nose tightly enough I will return, like a thief in the night, to do my presentation next week and sit my exams.

 But I refuse to be in this building, using their resources, when the hierarchy of the university is working hand-in-glove with the representatives of a government that kills, maims and sterilises to further its imperialist programme.

Sunday, March 17, 2013

These Walls Run With The Blood Of Tibet (2)

Reproduction of my post at the Facebook page of the local newspaper, the Chronicle and Echo, shared here just in case they remove it. There goes the degree.

The exhibition at Northampton University this March and April of artworks by the Naxi people of China will undoubtedly be fascinating, but it raises ethical problems about engagement with countries whose human rights record has been condemned persisten...tly and comprehensively by international monitors. This is especially so in the case of the present exhibition because representatives of the Chi......nese government have been invited to attend. More than a hundred people have self-immolated in Tibet in recent years to protest the Chinese occupation of their country, in addition to the hundreds of thousands who have perished in uprisings in the six decades since China's invasion. Reports of forced sterilisation of Tibetan women also persist. It is true that His Holiness the Dalai Lama and the Tibetan Government-in-Exile pursue a policy of constructive engagement with China, desiring only autonomy under Chinese rule, and consequently they probably wouldn't have a problem with the exhibition; but they are by no means reflective of the entire body of public opinion among the Tibetan people. The Tibetan Youth Congress and National Congress both want nothing less than full independence for their country, and many campaign groups call for a complete boycott of Chinese goods, businesses and cultural exchange. Whether this is or isn't reasonable depends on what a famous British politician once called your "moral compass" but I believe it's something that should be widely known at the very least. At the moment we only hear the voices of the coloniser and not the colonised. Perhaps the university, which has an exceptional postcolonial module for English students, will host an exhibition of Tibetan art or a human rights conference in the near future to redress the balance somewhat for this long-suffering, gentle people.

Saturday, March 16, 2013

These Walls Run With The Blood Of Tibet

I just had an email from The University of Northampton:

C H I N A ’ S

The University of Northampton, School of The Arts are proud to be showcasing traditional and contemporary artworks of the Naxi, ethnic minority people of China.

This exhibition focuses on the visual identity of the Naxi ethnic minority people from Yunnan province in China. Through traditional processes; carving, painting and drawing we share an understanding of the historical value of promoting and preserving the Naxi culture with its unique pictograph based scripts.

The School of The Arts is working in conjunction with the Communication University of China and the Lijiang Government to raise awareness of this unique culture.  You may already have seen the coverage of this project on the ITV news, and the level of interest has resulted in the creation of a professional documentary covering the experiences of a team of staff and student from Northampton who visited Lijiang October 2012. 

We are now honoured to welcome as our guests the Naxi artists whose work we are hosting, together with representatives from the City of Lijiang, guests from the Chinese embassy, and representatives of the Chinese and UK media.

Northampton University really does like its pals in the merciless Chinese Communist dictatorship, doesn't it? My exasperated reply was:

Dear --------,

I hope while we are entertaining guests from the Chinese Embassy someone from the University of Northampton mentions China's appalling human rights record and raises at least a polite objection about its brutal sixty-year occupation of Tibet, which has resulted in hundreds of thousands of deaths, the forced sterilisation of Tibetan women, the plunder of Tibet's natural resources and the attempted erasure of the Tibetan language and religion. These are matters of fact rather than opinion and I would find it extremely troubling if a university which instructs against the evils of colonialism and the oppression of women chose to ignore them.


Bruce Hodder

BA English 3rd Year.

When I think about the naked tango Northampton has been doing with China since I got here (and probably long before), I feel like throwing my postcolonial dissertation in the river at the bottom of my road. Because the actions of the university grading my work render them completely unqualified to have an opinion on it.

Frantz Fanon would be turning in his grave.

Tuesday, March 12, 2013

Collaboration Cyber-Nation

Photo: Grazie alle centinaia di persone che hanno sottoscritto la petizione a Lord Allan Facebook ha finalmente sbloccato il nostro account.
Rimane il fatto che Facebook ha rimosso ,con il pretesto della “istigazione all’autolesionismo”,tutte le immagini delle immolazioni in Tibet e chiunque continuerà  a pubblicarle subirà il blocco temporaneo o ,peggio, definitivo dell’account.
Per questa ragione dobbiamo continuare a denunciare questa forma di censura che completa e integra il lavoro dei censori cinesi .

Facebook continues to censor images of self-immolations in Tibet on the frankly ludicrous grounds that they are an incitement to self-harm. No, they are the only form of protest available to a gentle, peace-loving people who have lived under brutal Chinese occupation for sixty years and whom Western politicians, businesses, academic institutions and ordinary citizens have callously abandoned. Get real, Facebook, and stop doing the work of the murdering Chinese Government for them.