Letters to the Canary: censoring Palestinian children, lots of Labour, and Russia

Letters to the Canary
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The Canary is excited to share the latest edition of our letters page. This is where we publish people’s responses to the news, politics, or anything else they want to get off their chest. We’ve now opened the letters page up so anyone can submit a contribution. As always, if you’d like to subscribe to the Canary – starting from just £1 a month – to continue to support truly radical and independent media, then you can do that here:

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This week’s letters

This week we have some thoughts on Westminster and Chelsea hospital removing children’s artwork, a veritable buffet of thoughts on the Labour Party (after the Canary said it’s no longer talking about it anymore), and musings on getting reliable information about Russia. 

Censoring Palestinian children’s artwork?

According to the press – from across the spectrum – Westminster and Chelsea hospital have taken down artwork designed by children in two UN schools in Gaza. This is because UK Lawyers for Israel thought it ‘would make Jewish patients feel vulnerable’.

At the same time, gangs of Israeli settlers, aided and abetted by Israeli forces, have been setting fire to and demolishing the homes and small holdings of ordinary Palestinians: men, women, and children. Apparently that is not likely to make the Palestinians feel vulnerable at all.

The fact that it is a hospital in London, funded by public services, paid for therefore by us, makes it a scandal. Is the person/persons who gave in to such a demand paid for out of NHS funds or by the Israeli government? If they are paid by us, then as an employer we should demand that they put them up again.

No children’s artwork – of whatever creed, class, nation, sex, sexual orientation or ability should be taken down at the insistence of a foreign power. Where would it stop? They have already altered the face of British politics, are they starting on the fabric of society now?

Read on...

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The above is not a racist rant. I would feel just as aggrieved if somebody was demanding that the artwork of Israeli, or Saudi, Jedi or Martian children was taken down. It is just not acceptable.

Eileen QW, via email

Labour: forever a front for the ruling class?

Dear Canary comrades,

For what it’s worth, the Labour Party has never been there for working class people. It is just another front for the gentry/titled class, for the corporates, and ruling-class power. Labour has always been wrapped up in tokenistic gestures to encourage activists and working-class individuals into wasting time voting. Sir Keir Starmer is indeed a titled man: not even genuine about his role, as in reality he is a reinforcer of belief in the system and non-existent change/reform within it.
They always tend to backtrack on, or avoid supporting, grassroots struggles, and if they are around it is to manipulate us into wasting energy canvassing and promoting their party, instead of creating truly independent, working-class self-organisation and resistance – AKA independent from the political system and party political con persons.

Let’s not forget, ‘our’ state, and both left and right of the establishment, like us to get caught with cultural amnesia and a kind of revisionism that displaces our historical memory of past struggles. The Labour Party is a divisive party that interned workers from the Spanish Civil war who had been fighting against fascism, the bosses, and Franco. We should not forget their betrayal of the working class in Iraq with the Labour Party’s support for corporate massacre there, and elsewhere, alongside the American Neo Cons and financial mafia-established central banks. The social democratic Corbyn project was always bound to fail, due to the naivety around the nature of the beast they were dealing with: hardcore establishment elements that control the party members, or push out dissenting elements through purges; spooks, neo-liberalists, and ardent liberal royalist elements and other contradictions that should show us that this organisation is a fig-leaf for the state and corporate interests.

It was Labour mayor, Marvin Reece, and a Labour Council that went after the Colston Four and who also allow people to be sent to prison for long stretches after recent demonstrations (Kill The Bill etc). It is also under them that gentrification has accelerated, with rents as high as £2,000 a month in both Easton and St Paul’s. It is them that have exploited local culture that has come up from the streets, while closing youth centres and resources in our communities. It is them that invited the speculators to carve-up the city and cash in, something which has pushed out, and is tearing apart, working-class communities here, once again.

Party politics has failed working-class communities constantly. It’s time to shed the baggage of the Labour Party (and any other party-political swindles) and its influence over us once and for all, and maybe concentrate on matters more relevant to our communities – such as hunger, eviction, the historic displacement of working-class people from the land, and now the workplace. Automation, engineered by corporate and scientific power, is displacing us from any real means of production and autonomy, whilst leaving us under pressure for survival – AKA Universal credit slavery, and “bullshit jobs” as David Graeber and others have said in the past.

The politics of the Labour Party have always been tokenistic. Tokenism must not replace real struggle.

Kris, via email

Labour is dead, long live…?

Labour is dead! Long live socialism. We need to stop Starmer, as Labour under him has shown it no longer supports the left of politics. We need a replacement party, a party of truth and peace. In fact if I ever dared dream or thought of starting a party/movement, it probably would be called the Truth Party, where members would have to show a devotion to telling the truth and a passion for peace not only in the UK, but worldwide. So, enter stage left Jeremy Corbyn! He would be welcome to join the party – and probably lead it.

It would need to stand away from big businesses and justify their existence. By only being funded by parliament, the party would need to be additionally resourced by subscriptions from members, and support from trade unions. In return, it would need to give its parliamentary support to working-class people.

It probably sounds familiar.

That’s because it happened once before – it’s how the Labour Party came into existence. Right now, Starmer is trying to make a second Conservative Party out of Labour. When the public next vote, if they vote Labour it will bring about huge problems for the NHS and trade unions. Starmer is not thinking of helping these, but destroying them. The voting public need to understand they are voting Conservative if they vote for this Labour Party under Starmer. When we next put that X in a box, we need to be aware of just who Labour now are.

David Palmer, via email

Starmer: Mission Implausible?

Starmer’s recent speech revealing his ‘economic mission‘ on Monday 27 February raises more questions than it answers, at different levels – some at the level of rhetoric, some on basic defects.

Firstly and on rhetoric, it is easy to get overwhelming support if you throw out, or encourage to leave, all those who disagree with you – and intimidate into silence many of those critics who remain.

Secondly, “secure the highest sustained growth in the G7” is just boastful. You can top a league table by beating all your opponents over a season, you can beat the others one to one and their performance is directly dependent to yours. This pledge, sorry mission, is different. The performance of say Italy or France is independent of yours and, even if Britain grows well, they may be able to take advantages of opportunities not open to you and grow faster – you have no way of depressing their rate of growth so you win.

But there are far deeper problems. Growth always comes at an environmental cost. While the mission on carbon neutrality is welcome, marrying that with growth will be a scale of challenge that the speech does not contemplate. However, the environmental impact is wider than that. Growth without considering impact on biodiversity is as destructive as ignoring carbon emissions. Detaching growth from extractivism is a further unacknowledged challenge. Improving Britain at the expense of many countries in the Global South is narrow-minded politics. Indeed, the absence of any international perspective in the mission is alarming.

The problems facing people in Britain are in large part problems of poverty and inequality. Not dealing with these beyond some vague notion of doing Gove-esque levelling-up better is gross dereliction. Inequality in Britain is structural, not an aberration, and a programme for government must have this at its core.

Starmer’s missionary position, on his back and hoping for satisfaction, is not what we need from a Labour leadership.

Mike Cushman, via email

Reliable information about Russia

I first started trying to find objective sources about Russia in around 2015, a few months after the UK general election. Even though I don’t share the views of Russia Today’s editor and their articles which focus on the UK far right, I found their documentaries about Russia useful. They and other Russian media, which receives some level of government support, are now blocked in the UK.

When I travelled to Russia a few times, I noticed patterns in reporting. I didn’t know Russian well enough to read sources in Russian. So, I followed some mainstream media such as BBC journalists either in Russia or elsewhere, and mostly UK/EU who were often ex BBC, FT or similar. Their technical production such as use of cameras and some interviews were good. However, they often focused on colonial stereotypes. They tended to live in Moscow, St Petersburg and seemed to have very narrow circles. This is because when they did interviews in more rural areas of Russia, they focused on poverty porn (Adam Curtis for example) and anything that was not working well – as if nothing had changed since 1990s. I have had conversations with people who are ex-BBC now, living back in UK and working independently because of UK state interference.

In the UK there are a number of Russians, Brits, and Americans who fleeced Russia courtesy of Boris Yeltsin and now fund anti-Russian activities, views and publications. Occasionally the media above focus on this but generally agree with their views. For example, Pushkin House sometimes has some great cultural exhibitions. However, they and others receive political donations and as a result their book competition always features anti-Russian government views from both the panel and UK writers. Any media in the UK, or UK media in Russia, rarely feature good news stories about how Russians are building their own businesses, improving their environment etc. UK academics who specialise in research about different aspects of Russian society respond and often debunk their claims, but they are not given any mainstream media attention.

There are over 150 ethnic groups in Russia. There were 18 known about just on a small island where I volunteered a few years ago – but they are rarely mentioned in by the UK. No one I spoke to had heard of the word Brexit or knew anything about it. Different cultures feature in Russian mainstream media. However, if they are mentioned in UK media, it is usually through colonial stereotypes: Buryat populations (who are often Buddhists) are cruel Mongols (the Pope mentioned words like this recently); Russians don’t know about the world because of Soviet censorship (they have access to the internet and also using VPN if needed to access more information), or the FSB is around every corner verifying their every move.  In Russian, there are 46 regions, 22 republics with their own constitutions and legislature, nine frontiers, four autonomous areas and one autonomous region which is Jewish.

Instead of trying to censor good ideas from Russia about making positive changes, these should be shared and barriers broken down.

Nicola Avery, via email

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