London Grenfell disaster, poetry, survivors meet


This video says about itself:

26 June 2017

‘Grenfell Tower, June, 2017’ is a poem written by Nigerian writer Ben Okri. To raise funds for relatives of victims of the Grenfell Tower fire, and for survivors.

Ben Okri and Deborah Levy are organising a writers’ event in London.

From the World Socialist Web Site in England:

Socialist Equality Party holds public meeting on Grenfell fire in London

By our reporter

21 August 2017

The Socialist Equality Party held a public meeting Saturday on the June 14 Grenfell Tower fire, titled, “Social Murder: A crime against the working class.”

Around 100 people attended at the Harrow Club, off Bramley Road, located in the shadow of the burnt-out tower, including a number of survivors, local residents and workers and youth from other parts of the capital and elsewhere.

Chairing the meeting, WSWS writer Robert Stevens explained that the SEP was “very aware that we are dealing with very emotional and sensitive issues today. People here and many others have lost loved ones and even saw them perish in a terrible fire.

“But it is our duty to discuss these questions—not in the manner of the cheap sensationalism of much of the media. We want to present the case for the prosecution of all those responsible for this appalling crime.”

SEP meeting on Grenfell Tower

To ensure that all felt free to speak, the SEP had denied a request from Sky News to film proceedings and told police officers who inquired that they were not welcome.

An attentive audience heard two reports.

The first, given by International Youth and Students for Social Equality member Thomas Scripps, was on the events leading up to and surrounding the tragedy.

The second, given by National Secretary Chris Marsden, was on the political implications of the fire and the perspective advanced by the Socialist Equality Party.

Scripps said, “The Grenfell Tower fire has impacted on every aspect of British life. So much so that it is possible to say that politics in this country can be divided into before and after Grenfell.”

It was the product of decisions taken “which all those involved knew were potentially life threatening, but which were carried out anyway because there was money to be made.”

Scripps demonstrated how the fire started in a floor flat before escalating out of control due to the entire tower being encased in flammable cladding, showing a widely viewed World Socialist Web Site video.

Grenfell Tower became a death trap as the result of the social cleansing policies imposed by Conservative-run Kensington and Chelsea Borough Council and its arms-length company that managed the block—the Kensington and Chelsea Tenant Management Organisation.

Scripps noted that “Kensington and Chelsea Council was so keen to destroy social housing and to give Grenfell a cosmetic facelift because it stands to make millions by doing so.

“It is Britain’s richest borough, with the highest house prices in London—an average of £1.37 million last year—and is the site of the most expensive street in the country, Victoria Road, average house price £8 million.”

“Grenfell has taken on the dimensions of a national disaster,” he explained, with hundreds of council-run tower blocks “similarly clad, including the Chalcots Estate in Swiss Cottage.”

“In addition, there are reports of fires involving cladding in the Middle East, Australia and elsewhere—pointing to the international dimensions of Grenfell. Indeed Grenfell was anticipated by blazes involving cladding in at least 20 major high rises all over the world.”

Expanding on this theme, Marsden said that Grenfell, “points to a common experience of the working class all over the world. In country after country, the super-rich get ever richer, while working people suffer an ever-steeper decline in their living conditions.”

He noted that just in the last few months the drive by the capitalist class for increased profits had led to tragedies that have taken the lives of hundreds of people in countries including Sri Lanka, Pakistan, India and Sierra Leone and described these terrible events.

Marsden continued, “Finally, in the richest country in the world, our American comrades have campaigned for years to expose how in Flint, Michigan, Rick Snyder, a multimillionaire Republican governor, and his Democratic state treasurer, Andy Dillon, switched the city’s water supply to untreated water from the polluted Flint River,” with devastating consequences.

Marsden played a World Socialist Web Site video on Flint which has been viewed nearly a million times on Facebook.

The term social murder, Marsden explained, was first coined by the co-founder of scientific socialism, Frederick Engels, in his book, The Condition of the Working Class in England, as long ago as 1845—at the very beginnings of industrial capitalism: “Yet no one today could describe Grenfell in better terms.”

Marsden declared, “The SEP urges all survivors, local-residents and workers everywhere to place no confidence in May’s rotten whitewash of an inquiry … . They must rely on themselves alone, on their social power.

“Workers must demand that all those guilty of social murder at Grenfell in both political and business circles are arrested, charged and put on trial.”

But for this to happen means building the SEP as the political leadership necessary to make it happen.

Following the reports there was a lively discussion period lasting around two hours. The meeting heard moving contributions from survivors of the fire, including Nick Burton, who managed to escape with his wife from the 19th floor, at 3:40 a.m.—thanks to the heroic action of firefighters. Sid-Ali Atmani, who managed to escape from the 15th floor, also spoke on his traumatic experience and his efforts to expose the official whitewash inquiry into the fire. Ali relayed the ongoing contempt with which survivors are being treated by the council and the powers-that-be.

The audience responded during and at the end of contributions with warm applause.

Jerry White, a leading member of the Socialist Equality Party in the United States, spoke during the discussion. What happened at Grenfell was a “crime” in which “lives were sacrificed due to financial and political decisions that benefited a tiny minority at the top.”

White explained how in Flint, thousands of working class residents of the US industrial Midwest city had their water supply poisoned. As with Grenfell, this was due to political and commercial decisions made—in the US by Republican and Democratic Party politicians in alliance with big business—motivated by the drive to cut costs and increase profit. This has already resulted in the deaths of at least 12 people.

Marsden explained in his summation that the government, local council and Metropolitan Police were involved in a “massive cover-up” over Grenfell. He said, “Grenfell has shown one thing and that is the enormous ingenuity, dedication and seriousness of the working class.” To applause he said, “This was a crisis in which people were failed by the official system and everything that happened here happened because of the actions of local residents.”

Marsden explained that the SEP will be holding a regular forum in the area at which residents can come together and discuss a way forward. The SEP would work to expose the government’s fraudulent inquiry into Grenfell: “We will counter their propaganda with the truth.”

… Over the next days, the WSWS will publish coverage of the meeting including interviews with those in attendance.

Passchendaele, World War I bloodbath of poets and other soldiers


Australian stretcher bearers trapped in mud, Battle of Ypres, 1917. Photo courtesy Australian War Memorial

From daily The Morning Star in Britain:

Passchendaele: ‘I could taste their blood in the air’

Tuesday 1st August 2017

BRITISH soldiers killed at Passchendaele were remembered yesterday on the centenary of the start of the WWI battle in Belgium.

More than half a million men from both sides were killed or injured in more than 100 days of fighting in the rain-sodden summer and autumn of 1917.

The Tyne Cot cemetery near the Belgian village is the largest Commonwealth burial ground in the world, with 11,971 servicemen buried and remembered there, 8,373 of whom are unidentified.

An account by Private Bert Ferns of the Lancashire Fusiliers, who fought in the battle, was read out by Fusilier Shaun Mclorie.

He said: “I staggered up the hill and then dropped over the slope into a sort of gully. It was here that I froze and became very frightened because a big shell had just burst and blown a group of lads to bits; there were bits of men all over the place, a terrible sight, men just blown to nothing.

“I just stood there. It was still and misty, and I could taste their blood in the air.”

This is a music video of a song from the British musical Oh! what a lovely war. About World War I. The lyrics are:

Forward Joe Soap‘s Army

Forward Joe Soap’s army, marching without fear,
With our old commander, safely in the rear.
He boasts and skites from morn till night,
And thinks he’s very brave,
But the men who really did the job are dead and in their grave.
Forward Joe Soap’s army, marching without fear,
With our old commander, safely in the rear.
Amen.

From the World Socialist Web Site, 31 July 2017:

At 3:50 on the morning of July 31, 1917, the allied troops of Great Britain and France begin the so-called Third Great Flanders Offensive, also known as the Third Battle of Ypres. …

It becomes a grueling battle of attrition and a terrible slaughter that continues through November. For months, the ruins of a single location are fought over. For the first time, aerial battles take place involving more than 100 fighter planes. Only with difficulty does the German military command manage to replace the divisions which are quickly disabled.

Outnumbered and outgunned, the Germans overcome their disadvantage by using mustard gas for the first time, the barbaric chemical agent that burns the airways and skin within seconds. Professor Adolf Julius Meyer, the creator of mustard gas, later boasts: “The effect of mustard gas in the Flanders battle of 1917 grew more and more and it was often the case that the enemy was happy if he was able to keep a quarter of his men unharmed.”

The fighting lasts through mid-November. The military objectives of the offensive are not achieved. The only result—a relocation of the front line by 8 kilometers—is paid for on the British side with approximately 50,000 killed; 38,000 missing in action; and 236,000 wounded. On the German side, approximately 46,000 are killed and missing while 281,000 are wounded and seriously ill.

The grave of Hedd Wyn at Artillery Wood Cemetery in Belgium

Also from the World Socialist Web Site, 31 July 2017:

Western Front, July 31: Two poets, Hedd Wyn and Francis Ledwidge, killed in action

Irish poet Francis Ledwidge and Welsh poet Hedd Wyn are both killed during the first day of the Third Battle of Ypres.

Ledwidge, born in 1887, was associated with the Gaelic revival movement prior to the war, and he was also active in trade union circles. He tried and failed to establish a local club of the Gaelic League, a literary and cultural organization that promoted the use of the Irish language and was associated with the development of nationalism at the beginning of the 20th century. He was more successful in creating a local branch of the Irish Volunteers in Slane, the organization formed in response to the creation of the Ulster Volunteers to ensure the implementation of home rule for Ireland. Though Ledwidge initially sided with the minority of the Irish Volunteers, which, on the outbreak of war, opposed participation in the British army, he soon shifted his position and joined the military in October 1914.

Ledwidge’s poetry was influenced by rural life. He also responded to the radicalism of the 1916 Easter Rising, writing in “O’Connell Street”:

“A Noble failure is not vain
But hath a victory of its own
A bright delectance from the slain
Is down the generations thrown.”

Wyn, born Ellis Humphry Evans in 1887, is also killed near Ypres. He adopted the name Hedd Wyn, meaning blessed peace in Welsh, in 1910. His poetry drew heavily on the influences of the Romantic era, including themes of nature and spirituality, although he has also written several war poems since the conflict broke out. Wyn initially opposed the war on Christian pacifist grounds. He was conscripted in 1916 and then arrested by the military police in early 1917 after overstaying a period of leave at home. Wyn posthumously won an award at the National Eisteddfod, a festival of poetry and music, for his poem Yr Arwr.

Some of Wyn’s works have been translated, including the poem Rhyfel (War), which begins,

“Why must I live in this grim age,
When, to a far horizon, God
Has ebbed away, and man, with rage,
Now wields the sceptre and the rod?”

Death and injuries at the battle of Passchendaele

From daily The Morning Star in Britain:

Passchendaele: They lied then, they lie now

Tuesday 1st August 2017

ONE hundred years ago today, Daily Chronicle war correspondent Philip Gibbs recorded events on the first day of the third battle of Ypres, otherwise known as Passchendaele.

An Irish soldier had gone over the top to attack the German lines in atrocious weather, glad to escape the “awful noise” of the field guns on the British side. He and his comrades had crossed blasted ground, where “trenches had disappeared, concrete emplacements had been overturned, breastworks had been flung like straws to the wind.”

Many of the so-called enemy had been buried alive along with their machine guns, trench mortars and bomb stores.

As Gibbs noted: “But there were other dead not touched by shell-fire, nor by any bullet. They had been killed by our gas attack which had gone before the battle. Rows of them lay clasping their gas-masks, and had not been quick enough before the vapour of death reached them.”

Over the following four months, half a million men and boys were killed or wounded in a series of brutal battles for five miles of Belgian mud.

In December 1917, Prime Minister David Lloyd George attended a private banquet where Gibbs recounted his experiences at the front in graphic, gory detail. The next day, Lloyd George confided to Guardian editor CP Scott the impact that this account would have on the home front: “If people really knew, the war would end tomorrow. But of course, they don’t know and can’t know.”

The press barons and state censors ensured that most civilians never did read the truth about the Great War between the ruling classes of the British, French, Russian and Italian empires on the one side and those of Germany and the Austro-Hungarian empire on the other.

As Lloyd George had gone on to say: “The correspondents don’t write and the censorship wouldn’t pass the truth. What they do send is not the war, but just a pretty picture of the war with everybody doing gallant deeds.

“The thing is horrible and beyond human nature to bear and I feel I can’t go on with this bloody business.”

But he and his successors did go on with this “bloody business,” not only in Europe but in Iraq, India, Malaya, Korea, Kenya, Aden, Cyprus, the Falklands and Afghanistan.

And still we are not told the truth. At yesterday’s commemorations, a procession of military figures, princes, politicians and priests concealed the real causes and motives of the 1914-18 slaughter in a cloud of guff.

They yapped about freedom, duty, courage, service and sacrifice — but uttered not a word about the war criminals who incited, organised and applauded one of the biggest and most pointless mass slaughters in history.

Fittingly, this was on the same day that the High Court threw out an attempt to hold Tony Blair, Jack Straw and Lord Goldsmith to account for waging the murderous war of aggression against Iraq in 2003.

Meanwhile in Ypres, ever ready to let slip the dogs of war, Defence Secretary Michael Fallon linked Passchendaele and the first world war to Britain’s present-day military commitments and alliances.

They are indeed connected, although not, as Fallon would have it, in some common, timeless struggle for freedom and democracy.

Rather, Britain’s foreign and military policy remains to make the world safe for big business profits, bringing troublesome peoples and governments to heel while monopoly capitalism exploits their human and natural resources.

We would best honour the victims of Passchendaele by redoubling our efforts to challenge British imperialism, its bloody interventions, its nuclear weapons of mass extermination and its servile Nato alliance with US imperialism.

From daily News Line in Britain:

Tuesday, 1 August 2017

Passchendaele – where imperialism murdered hundreds of thousands of British & German workers

THE BATTLE of Passchendaele saw 275,000 British soldiers, workers in uniform, killed or wounded alongside 220,000 German workers in uniform.

This was a great imperialist slaughter directed by Anglo-French and German imperialism to re-divide the world between themselves. The general staffs and the governments involved fought resolutely and determinedly down to the last worker in uniform in the struggle in which shell-shocked workers were executed for desertion or cowardice.

It was … the ruling classes of the planet determined to safeguard and expand their empires no matter how many workers’ lives this cost. The Second ‘socialist’ International collapsed at the start of the war and supported their own governments, displaying ultra-patriotism and an extreme willingness to sacrifice workers lives for the benefit of their particular empire.

There were exceptions however. In Britain, John Maclean, James Maxton and the Clydeside Workers Committee opposed the war. James Connolly did the same in Ireland. In Germany, the anti-imperialist war struggle was led by Karl Liebknecht and Rosa Luxenburg, with Liebknecht voting against war credits in the German parliament on December 2nd 1914.

He told the parliament: ‘I am voting against the War Credits Bill today for the following reasons. None of the peoples involved in this war wanted it, and it did not break out to promote their welfare – not in Germany or anywhere else. It is an imperialist war, a war to dominate the capitalist world market and secure for industrial and financial capital the possession of important territories for settlement.’

In the Russian socialist movement … Lenin saw the Great War as the prelude to the socialist revolution of the working class. He would not support the war of the Czarist autocracy and saw the war as a great opportunity for overthrowing Czarism, breaking up the Czarist Russian empire which he termed ‘the prison house of the nations’. …

In November 1918, the mutiny of the German navy at Kiel saw the red flag raised over the fleet and in fact ended the First World War. On November 3rd, the sailors in Kiel, joined by workers from the nearby city, detained their officers and took control of their ships. They also formed Elective Councils, their own ‘workers soviets’ that drafted the Kiel Mutineers list of demands, the first six points being;

1. The release of all inmates and political prisoners.
2. Complete freedom of speech and the press.
3. The abolition of mail censorship.
4. Appropriate treatment of crews by superiors.
5. No punishment for comrades returning to ships and barracks.
6. No launching of the fleet under any circumstances.

This is a music video of a song from the British musical Oh! what a lovely war. About World War I. It is a parody of What a Friend We Have in Jesus.

World War I propaganda in video games: here.

June in England, poem


This video says about itself:

Birdsong at dusk in England, nightingales, Hammerwood June 2013

At 30:00 we hear clearly the nightingale‘s classic call fading out eventually to just the owls. What other birds can you hear?

By Jeff Skinner in Britain:

Friday 30th June 2017

June

Jeff Skinner

Let this poem be a Sunday
morning – quiet light floods

the room; birds tuning up
in the trees run through

a scribbled libretto
of courtship and gossip.

Bring your coffee back to bed.
Today anything’s possible, nothing

irredeemable. Sun warms
the bones of the earth,

in mosques and parks
people gather;

no fire claims a life,
no terrorist owns a bridge.

Jeff Skinner’s poems have appeared in Stare’s Nest, Crowsfeet, Clear Poetry, Ground Poetry, The Open Mouse, Poetry News, and on a Guernsey bus. He was long listed in the Bridport competition in 2012 and shortlisted in the 2015 Wells Poetry Competition. He reads occasionally with Exeter Poets Uncut.

Norwegian publisher recycles Trump speeches as poetry


Norwegians demonstrating against Donald Trump in Oslo in January 2017. Photo: Vidar Ruud / NTB scanpix

From The Local in Norway:

Norwegians upcycle Trump speeches into poetry collection

12 May 2017

A Norwegian publisher who has released a collection of Donald Trump’s speeches repurposed as poetry says that the new book shows a different side to the US President.

“I know words… I have the best words,” Donald Trump once said in his superlative way.

Now those words by the new US president have been pulled together as a “collection of poetry” in Norway.

Who knew? Trump the poet?

“What Trump says is closer to poetry and fiction than to reality,” said the Norwegian man who created the collection, Chris Felt.

We’re appalled that his rhetoric which seems to have little thought or preparation behind it could have won an electoral campaign,” Felt told the newspaper Aftenposten.

The book’s tongue-in-cheek title is “Make poetry great again” — a play on Trump’s campaign slogan “Make America great again“.

The content is composed strictly from speeches, interviews and other statements that the 70-year-old has given over the years.

Among the choice bits turned to poems in the book are words about his daughter that Trump said around 10 years ago.

“I have said

if Ivanka

were not my daughter,

perhaps

I would be dating her”

Felt said the words may be “terribly macho, pitiful and confusing but when the quotations have space around them I see other facets of him”.

Reading Trump‘s words as poetry Felt said he felt in them “more despair, more insecurity and perhaps an inferiority complex“.

According to the publisher Kaggen, the first print run was 2,000 copies — one of which has been sent to Trump. Now the question is whether his penchant for superlatives will make it a “bestseller”.

Former Norwegian prime minister stopped by new US entry controls: here.