Bloggers come under legal attack from litigious Tory

Using the law! (Apologies for the title of this post.)

Johanna Kaschke was a member of the Labour party and in the running to be the party’s candidate to run against George Galloway at the next election.

But, she jumped ship to join Respect, Galloway’s party.

Hence much comment by Labour bloggers – and then, legal action by Ms Kaschke.

Johanna Kaschke is now a true-blue Tory, convinced that the Brown administration is ushering a new Communist era for Britain. I’m not kidding.

Blogger Alex Hilton is now facing legal action by Ms Kaschke, he writes:

Comrades,As you may know, I sold Labourhome in July, though I still run it and with no interference from the new owner.

However, last year, someone started a defamation action against me over a Labourhome article and the expenses are bourne by me, they were not transferred to Progressive Media, the new owner.

So far this legal case has cost me £4,022 and it is still on-going. This is my plea to Labourhome readers for contributions towards my legal costs.

 

I can’t tell you too much about the case because I don’t want to annoy the court. But this is what I am comfortable telling you. 

  1. An active Labourhome user wrote a piece about the past of a Labour member who had defected to Respect. That person has since joined the Conservative Party.
  2. The Labourhome user is also being sued by this particular Tory, who is a litigant in person and has no lawyer.
  3. The offended person contact me about the piece, which I immediately deleted. I offered the front and centre spot on Labourhome to the offended person for their right of reply or to write something else of their own choice. My offer was declined.
  4. Because of my actions, my lawyer says I have an absolute defence under Section One of the Defamation Act. I also have other defence strategies available, one of which is the possibility that the article was not defamatory, thought this is still being explored.
  5. Because the complainant is a litigant in person, this case has been more complicated than normal and I have actually received a total of four writs before it got tidied up into one action. This is partly why this defence is so expensive.
  6. Despite the likelihood that I will probably win this case, I do not have a strong prospect of recouping my costs, at least in a reasonable timescale. I don’t have the five-figure sum the complainant wants as a settlement. 

I would be very very grateful if readers would consider donating any sum towards my legal costs. I built Labourhome two and a half years ago as an open forum for Labour supporters because I believed it was needed. I’m in court because of the freedom of this forum and I can tell you the whole situation is pretty depressing.Any contribution will be gratefully received. If you don’t have any money but would like to help, please email a link to this plea for help to others who might be able to help.

Thank you so much,

Alex Hilton
07985 384 859
alexhilton@gmail.com

Though I don’t agree with Alex all that much (certainly not when he’s calling Jon Cruddas “the Labour politician most reminiscent of Oswald Mosley” – obviously he’s mistaken him with Phil Woolas!) but he needs to be defended from this vexatious legal action. Another Labour blogger, David Osler, is also facing legal action from Ms Kaschke.

I’m saying nothing – and that’s a bad thing.

Advertisements

George Galloway calls for Woolies rescue

The government has nationalised most of the banking sector – for the sake of the bankers – and word is that the Lord of Darkness is drawing up a list of companies too big to fail.

Far from being a lame duck, Woolies has been badly-managed and is laden with debt. This is not the fault of its workers, however. Some thirty thousand – and many more who work for suppliers – face being made redundant in the new year, something which will only make the recession worse as the government will be paying benefits to more people unable to find work as the economy contracts.

George Galloway, Respect MP for Bethnal Green and Bow writes:

Woolworths would have celebrated a century of trading in this country next year. It has survived two world wars, the Great Depression and the oil shocks of the 1970s. But it has finally succumbed to this terrible credit crunch.

Woolworths is one of the first shops I ever remember going to. Although it has changed somehwat since I was a child, it still provides cheap goods, from sweets and toys, to kids’ clothing, DVDs and CDs, kitchen hardware and other useful items, predominantly to those on lower incomes.

Just as importantly it employs 30,000 people nationwide, including a significant number in Tower Hamlets in the Bethnal Green Road store in my constituency, where we are already feeling the adverse effects of the meltdown in the banking sector.

In my view, Woolworths ought to be on Business Secretary Lord Mandelson’s list of companies which the government should intervene to save, as a matter of urgency. It’s on sale for just a £1 and, although there would be additional costs to keep it as a going concern, the government could turn it into a people’s Woolies, employing local people, buying from local producers and ensuring it provided the services and goods local people on low incomes need. The alternative is to allow the vultures to pick it apart for their own profit.

The government has been moving in the right direction in response to the credit crunch but not nearly fast or far enough. Now it needs to bite the bullet and take Woolies into public ownership to show it really does mean to try and stop the worst effects ot this mother of all recessions.

Galloway asks police to investigate Osborne

Forget Jonathan Ross and Russell Brand for a moment, and concentrate on another obnoxious pair: Gideon George Osborne and Peter Mandelson…

Respect MP George Galloway has today written to Sir Ian Blair (copy of letter below) asking him to investigate the possibility that shadow chancellor George Osborne has breached the law governing political donations in his admitted Corfu confab with Nathaniel Rothschild and others about how a Russian billionaire could help fund the Conservative Party.

Galloway expressed surprise that the authorities had been slow to take action on this matter and wondered if it was because those concerned constituted “what was left of the British establishment, albeit wintering in Corfu”.

In his letter to Sir Ian Blair, Galloway makes the point that in the “cash for honours” inquiry Scotland Yard waded in comprehensively, including interviewing the then Prime Minister under caution.

Galloway said today, “When I was suspended from Parliament last year I said that being lectured by the current House of Commons on the ethics of political fundraising was like being told to sit up straight by the hunchback of Notre Dame or taking lessons on good taste from Donald Trump.

“The Tory toff who made the complaint about me and the bicycling baronet Sir George Young who disposed of it have both been silent on the old Etonian Mr Osborne’s really quite transparent attempt to raise funds for the Tory party from a Russian oligarch who was clearly not permitted under the law to give the funds.”

Text of letter to Sir Ian Blair:

Sir Ian Blair
Commissioner, Metropolitan Police
Metropolitan Police Service
New Scotland Yard
Broadway
London
SW1H 0BG

29 October 2008

Dear Sir Ian,

I write on the subject of Gideon George Osborne MP and his admitted discussions in Corfu with Mr Nathaniel Rothschild and others on funding of the Conservative Party. It seems to me that these discussions may well have constituted an offence under the Political Parties, Elections and Referendums Act 2000 Section 61 (Evasion of restrictions on donations) (1) paragraph b, in which it explicitly states that a person commits an offence “if he knowingly does any act in furtherance of any arrangement which facilitates or is likely to facilitate whether by means of any concealment or disguise or otherwise the making of donations to a registered party by any person or body other than a permissible donor.”

On Mr Osborne’s own admission he did so discuss with Mr Rothschild and others means by which funds provided by the Russian billionaire oligarch Oleg Deripaska (an impermissible donor to a British registered political party in every sense) could be channelled into the Conservative Party in evasion of the rules governing donations.

I am puzzled why what the Prime Minister described as “the appropriate authorities” have not yet acted on this matter. Is it because Mr Osborne and his wealthy friends constitute what remains of the “British establishment”, albeit wintering in Corfu. After all, Scotland Yard moved in comprehensively in other such cases, including, in the matter of allegations of “cash for honours”, interviewing the former Prime Minister under caution.

I am therefore writing to you to request that you institute police inquiries into the conduct of George Osborne on the basis that, prima facie, the 2000 Act has been breached giving rise to a criminal offence.

Yours sincerely,

George Galloway MP

Respect for the Shell strikers

From the website:

Respect MP George Galloway has today offered full support to the Shell tanker drivers, members of the Unite union, who have begun a four day strike.

“No one takes the decision to strike lightly,” he said. “Anyone who’s ever lost a day’s pay by taking industrial action will know what the tanker drivers have gone through to reach this point.

“Their strike deserves the support of working people across Britain, whose pay is being held down below the true rate of inflation. Instead of macho posturing, as he’s doing over our civil liberties, Gordon Brown would be better off ensuring fair pay for the tanker drivers, who after all work in an industry that is making record profits from the price of oil.”

Galloway has written to the Unite union and to tanker drivers offering support from Respect.

Message of support:

The billionaire-owned press and politicians from all the establishment parties seem to think that workers who transport fuel don’t have to pay for it at the pump or through soaring prices for food and domestic heating.

Of course you do. And like the rest of us you are fleeced by the robber barons of the oil industry, only for you it’s twice over.

I and Respect know you have not decided to strike lightly. You are fully justified in taking action to achieve long overdue pay increases – which are needed now to keep pace with inflation. The Bank of England has acknowledged that it is not the pay of working people that is driving inflation. Rather it is the greed of companies such as Shell who are profiteering from the price of oil.

In any sane society you would have decent pay, pensioners would not be frightened to turn the heating on in winter for fear of the bills, and our scarce natural resources would be husbanded carefully to meet the needs of everyone on the planet and future generations.

Instead, we’ve got obscene profits alongside rising prices, repossessions, job insecurity and stress.

It’s not only the whole trade union movement who should back you. It is everyone who is hit by the rising cost of a loaf of bread or a packet of rice; the majority of people in Britain who spend most of their income on food and fuel. The lorry owners have something to fall back on. Those who work for a living have nothing except their ability to stand together for the common good.

In pursuing this entirely justified action for decent pay you are not only helping yourselves and your families; you are providing an example for everyone else. If you win, the teachers in your children’s schools might feel emboldened to take further action for decent pay and proper funding for education; others might fight for the pay & resources that will stop vital staff from leaving our public services.

The zealots of failed free market economics say that this will lead to a wage-price spiral. Well it won’t do if the government stepped in to control prices, to prevent profiteering, just as we did in previous national emergencies, just as we did during the Second World War.

This government says we should lock people up for 42 days on the grounds of national security. If they were sincere about that, they’d be banging up the saboteurs who run the oil and gas companies. But all the establishment parties are happy for us to be held hostage by the corporations.

Respect doesn’t agree. And we support you 100 percent.

In solidarity,
George Galloway MP

The Green Party has also backed the action by tanker drivers:

principal speaker Caroline Lucas MEP has pledged the party’s support for the pay claim of the Shell contract drivers […] She also reiterated the Greens’ policy to levy a windfall tax on oil profits to pay for investment to lower fuel bills. […]

“The drivers have our unreserved support in their pay claim. As the demand for oil outstrips supply, Shell profits have soared to £14billion a year – they can afford to pay fair wages. Instead, they choose to squeeze workers for everything they can get.

“It’s about time oil corporations were held to account. They are the winners from the fuel crisis. As pensioners struggle to keep warm, workers have their wages driven down and people worldwide fall victim to deadly floods, storms and droughts, the oil bosses pat each other on the back and award themselves another bonus.

“Shell should stump up, pay their hauliers properly right now, and end this strike. Then they should expect a windfall tax on their enormous profits, gained at the expense of ordinary people. We need warm homes, proper public transport and efficient freight transfer, and the oil profiteers should be paying for it.”

Sacked for opposing health service cuts

[Friday]

 A shocking story, a stunning display of solidarity:

More than 150 health workers in Manchester started continuous strike action today in support of a UNISON activist sacked for speaking out against health cuts.

Community psychiatric nurse Karen Reissman was sacked last week following a disciplinary hearing at which Manchester Mental Health Trust found her guilty of bringing it into disrepute.

UNISON is appealing the decision.

A member of UNISON’s national health executive and chair of her branch, Ms Reissman has been a vocal critic of government health policies and local health cuts.

UNISON says the trust’s treatment of Ms Reissman was intended to gag her and intimidate other stewards, and is a direct attack on the union.

It has pledged to vigorously defend members’ rights to speak out without fear of persecution.

Support for Ms Reissman has been flooding in from around the country since she was first suspended on 15 June – the same day she received a letter offering her a promotion.

There have been a number of public meetings calling for her reinstatement. And health workers covering all inpatient, hospital and community psychiatric services across the city of Manchester have been holding a rolling programme of strikes in her defence since August.

George Galloway, the Respect MP, has issued the following statement of support:

“The sacking of Karen Reissmann is an utter scandal that cannot be allowed to stand. She is a dedicated public servants who was sacked merely for speaking to the press in support of those she cares for and her workmates. I will be working with others in parliament to raise her case and to generate support for the action her fellow health workers are taking to win her reinstatement. Every trade unionist and everyone who puts people before profit should rally in support of Karen. I’ll be raising this issue in the media as well, which has a vested interest in ensuring that people can give interviews freely.

“I shared a platform with Karen in Manchester on Tuesday night. Anyone who has heard her speak knows she is a dedicated nurse and committed trade unionist. We need more psychiatric nurses like Karen. And we need more health service trade unionists like her – standing up not only for her members but crucially for those she looks after, some of the most vulnerable in society, those who have been driven to despair by a world in which profit rules and the devil take the hindmost.

“I know Respect members and representatives will be joining with others to raise solidarity for Karen and her striking colleagues. We must do all in our power to ensure she is reinstated.”

John McDonnell, leftwing Labour MP, has also spoken in support of the strike and has sought to raise Karen’s sacking in parliament:

Her sacking is an absolute disgrace. Karen is a community mental health nurse and a member of the Unison National Executive. Who benefits from her sacking? Certainly not the community she serves who rely on public service workers such as Karen who are prepared to defend the services they provide against cuts.

Splitting headache over Respect

[Sunday]

 I’ve not posted for the last week because of technical problems. Bloody computers. I had planned to write something on the Respect affair, but alas, I’ve not had the time. Note that a new site, Respect Renewal is up, see the Socialist Unity blog for all the gory details.

There now follows a critique of the whole Respect project by the Socialist Party:

Respect in crisis – what lessons for socialists?

The transformation of Labour into a thoroughgoing party of big-business has left the working class effectively disenfranchised. The Socialist Party has been calling for the trade unions to stop funding Labour and for the creation of a new mass party of the working class for over a decade.

Unfortunately, in that time there have been a number of false starts on the road to a new party. These include the Socialist Labour Party, the Socialist Alliance and, more recently, the Scottish Socialist Party. The latest formation to hit severe problems is Respect, which is currently heading rapidly towards a split between the two main forces who founded it in 2004 – George Galloway MP, on the one side, and the Socialist Workers’ Party (SWP) on the other. Inevitably, particularly given Galloway’s election as an MP for Respect in 2005, the crisis will lead to disappointment amongst those layers who welcomed Galloway’s election, and will be used by New Labour supporters, and those who believe Labour can be reclaimed, to argue that it is impossible to build a new formation to the left of New Labour.

Potential for a new mass workers’ party

The Socialist Party entirely refutes this. Since 1997 New Labour has lost more than half its membership and over four million predominantly working-class voters. They have stopped voting for New Labour, and in most cases stopped voting at all, because they rightly see all three main parties as virtually identical, offering up an unrelenting diet of cuts and privatisation. Never before in history has there been such a vast gulf between the mainstream political parties and the mass of the population – the overwhelming majority of whom stand far to the left of the mainstream parties.

At the same time, workers who enter struggle are increasingly demanding that their union disaffiliate from New Labour. It is not a coincidence that it is unions who have been involved in important strikes – the fire-fighters union, the FBU, and the railway workers union, the RMT – that have been the first to stop funding New Labour. And, after New Labour’s brutal treatment of the postal workers, there is now the possibility that rank-and-file postal workers will follow the FBU in campaigning for the breaking of the Labour link, pushing the pro-Labour leaders of the union aside. If a new broad workers’ party already existed, it could quickly win the active support of these layers of workers. In the absence of such a party, the process will be more complicated. Nonetheless, it shows the objective need and the potential for such a party.

The situation today has many similarities to the circumstances that led to the foundation of the Labour Party over one hundred years ago. Unwilling to any longer accept the capitalist Liberal party, trade unionists and socialists fought for their own independent working class voice. However, the process which led to the foundation of the Labour Party, in which Marxists played an important role, was not quick, simple or straightforward. It took place over twenty years and included, just as today, many false starts.

Socialist Party discussed with Respect

The Socialist Party discussed with the leaders of Respect at the time of its foundation in 2004 and again in 2006. However, we concluded that we could not join Respect because we felt that the mistaken political approach and methods of its leadership would mean – unless there was a change of direction – that Respect would not be a step on the road to a new mass workers’ party, but rather would complicate the process towards the development of such a party. In the current faction fight within Respect, both sides can make “correct” criticisms of the other, but unfortunately, this does not necessarily mean that they have actually learnt the lessons of the Respect experience.

There are a number of prerequisites in order for a new party, or pre-party formation, to be a positive step towards a mass political force representing the working class. Firstly, it must be able to actively involve significant sections of workers and young people entering struggle. If, as we argued for at the time, George Galloway had launched the call for a new party from the platform of the massive, two million strong, anti-war demonstration on 15 February 2003, it could have been an important step towards such a party. Unfortunately, Respect was launched after the peak of the anti-war movement, and was seen by its leadership primarily as an electoral vehicle rather than a genuine attempt to build a new broad, class-struggle based party. It has attempted to take short-cuts to win electoral support and is now suffering the consequences.

Respect not filled vacuum

Respect has never claimed more than 4,000 members and has clearly not come close to filling the huge vacuum to the left of Labour. However, this has not stopped it taking an extremely arrogant approach towards groups of workers moving towards independent political representation. Respect, for example, has recently demanded that the RMT do not contest the London Assembly Elections because Respect is standing. The starting point for socialists should be to welcome the RMT’s discussion on putting up a trade union-based, anti-cuts, anti-privatisation slate in the elections. The Respect leaderships approach, by contrast, could slow down or prevent potentially important steps towards a new workers’ party.

The leadership of Respect has taken a similarly high-handed approach within its own ranks. As the failure of Arthur Scargill’s Socialist Labour Party (SLP) in the mid 1990s demonstrated, a bureaucratic top-down approach repels the new generation of activists who, given their experience of the establishment parties, have an understandable suspicion of parties. For any new broad formation to be successful it is crucial it has an open, welcoming and federal approach. Federalism was adopted by the early Labour Party, enabling it to bring together many different organisations and trends, preserving the rights of all to organise and argue for their particular points of view. Unfortunately, Respect, despite calling itself a coalition, has a centralised structure which bears no resemblance to a coalition or federation.

Until recently the SWP and George Galloway formed a bloc within Respect, with the SWP using their weight of numbers to force through whatever policy they thought fit. This meant, for example, that the entire membership of the national council and the overwhelming majority of decisions on election campaigns and candidates were effectively decided by the SWP.

On specific issues, for example the call for Respect MPs to take a workers’ wage, the SWP have used their numbers to try to prevent criticism of Galloway, who argues that MPs should be paid twice as much as their existing salaries of £47,000 per year, plus expenses. Socialist Party public representatives have always taken a workers’ wage, and we would argue for a new party to adopt this policy. This does not mean that it is necessarily wrong to work together with individuals, like George Galloway, who do not support this demand, but it was a major error for the SWP to try to prevent a discussion on this and other issues.

Socialist banner lowered

The leadership of the SWP are now arguing that they are being pushed out of Respect because they are socialists. Galloway is adding to the impression that the SWP are ‘too left wing’ by attacking them as ‘Leninists’. In reality, the undemocratic methods of the SWP bear no resemblance to genuine Leninism. And, unfortunately, it is the SWP that led the way in arguing that Respect should lower its socialist banner. At the founding convention of Respect, Lindsey German, of the SWP, argued that the Socialist Alliance had failed because it was too explicitly socialist and that Respect would succeed by being ‘broader’ (i.e. less explicitly socialist). This argument was mistaken, as the Socialist Party has been able to show repeatedly. For example, in the 2004 euro-election in Ireland, Joe Higgins received 5.5% of the first preference votes across the whole of Dublin on a clear socialist programme. This is broadly comparable to the vote Lindsey German received in the 2004 London Mayoral Elections, of just under 5%.

Nonetheless the Socialist Party would welcome a new mass workers’ party, or significant step towards one, even if its membership didn’t initially adopt a fully-rounded out socialist programme. Provided a new mass party was rooted in struggle, had a democratic and federal approach, and stood clearly against cuts, privatisation and war, it would represent a step forward. However, as socialists we would argue within such a party for it to stand for socialism, as the only means to permanently and completely end cuts, privatisation and war. The vast majority of Respect’s members, however, are longstanding socialists, who argued for Respect not to be ‘too socialist’ because they hoped to ‘broaden’ Respect’s electoral appeal.

In fact, far from broadening Respect’s appeal, its leadership’s approach has narrowed it. A new mass left formation cannot be built on one issue, or by appealing to just one section of the working class. Respect has concentrated in the main on one section of society, the Muslim community, which it is important to win, but Respect has largely failed to reach out to other sections of the working class. Today, the SWP are criticising Galloway on this issue, even suggesting he has a ‘communalist’ approach, but they have supported Respect’s strategy up until now.

For socialists, the programme we put forward should always be aimed at raising the confidence and combativity of the working class. This means doing everything possible to encourage the unity of the working class. For example, that is why our sister organisation in Northern Ireland has always fought for unity of the Catholic and Protestant working class.

In Britain today, the reactionary policies of New Labour are fostering division. This makes it all the more important that socialists attempt to overcome these divisions rather than exacerbate them.

Where now?

Most non-SWP activists within Respect appear to be opposing the SWP in the current split. The National Council of Respect has put a motion to Respect’s conference in opposition to the SWP. It states that they “welcome the discussion” on standing in the London Assembly elections inside the RMT and will “offer the best possible conditions to the RMT for a joint slate”. It would be to be welcomed if at least part of Respect retreated from its previous, sectarian position on this issue, but not if this is part of a general move to the right. In addition, if they are serious about reaching out to the RMT, in the current situation, and given the importance of a national trade union beginning to take steps towards independent workers’ representation, Respect should be prepared to go further and support the RMT if they do decide to initiate a trade union led, anti-cuts, anti-privatisation slate.

The resolution goes on to say that they will try:

“To discuss with the RMT, the Labour left, the CPB and others the possibility of a jointly organised conference to extend the discussion on a solution to the crisis of Labour representation.”

Potentially, such a conference might be useful, but only if organised on an open and democratic basis and if there are forces within it clearly arguing the case for breaking the trade union link with Labour and founding a new mass workers’ party. Neither wing of Respect has up until now supported breaking the Labour link, but the argument for doing so is growing with every passing day. Galloway has even previously suggested that Respect’s role might be to force New Labour to the left. Today, even key figures on the Labour left, such as John McDonnell MP, are concluding that “the old strategy” of reclaiming Labour is now “largely over”. However, McDonnell does not as yet have a worked out alternative, beyond supporting single issue campaigns.

To be productive, a conference must not just be a Respect rally but a genuine discussion on the way forward involving all serious forces. Given the Socialist Party’s longstanding campaign on this issue, and our significant base in the trade unions (we currently have 22 elected members of trade union NECs), it is not a good sign that neither we nor the Campaign for a New Workers’ Party, which we initiated and now has over 3,000 supporters, are mentioned as organisations to be approached.

British govt wants negotiations with Taliban

[Tuesday]

This story by Louise Nousratpour is from yesterday’s Morning Star (see also the Guardian and the take of Lenin the blogger).

THE Brown government admitted on Monday that it could not win “hearts and minds” in Afghanistan through military means and must start negotiating with the Taliban.

Ministers have consistently refused calls to negotiate with the Taliban, which has always signalled its willingness to talk, as a matter of “principle” – claiming repeatedly that “we do not negotiate with terrorists.”

Last year, then chancellor Gordon Brown declared that Britain was engaged in a struggle “between justice and evil” on which there could be no compromise.

But, in an apparent U-turn, Britain has now decided to back a strategy which will focus on winning so-called “moderate” Taliban leaders over to join the puppet Afghan government of Hamid Karzai.

Stop the War Coalition convener Lindsey German said: “This confirms exactly what we have always said – that Britain cannot win in Afghanistan and must negotiate with the people who represent large sections of Afghans.

“That is what they want to do through this new strategy and they are doing the same in Iraq.

“If Britain and the US are now willing to talk to the Talibanis in Afghanistan and the Ba’athists in Iraq to win the ‘moderates’ over to their side, one must wonder why they didn’t take this approach before going to war with those countries,” Ms German said.

“The occupiers must now come clean and admit that they can play no role in the future of Iraq or Afghanistan and should leave.”

Communist Party of Britain general secretary Rob Griffiths said that the measure was just the latest in a series of “fairy tales” about Britain’s involvement in Afghanistan which had been exposed as “lies and deceptions.”

He added: “The only progressive role Britain and the US can play is to get out and let the Afghan people determine their own future.”

Respect MP George Galloway added: “This is an indication of the bankruptcy of Gordon Brown’s policy of sending more young servicemen to the war-torn country.

“It also shows that the occupation in Afghanistan is losing in the face of growing popular resistance – there is no doubt about that.”