Thursday 3 August 2017

The Elderly Interrailer

So here I am on my annual summer holiday on a TGV train between Paris and Bordeaux. This is something I have been meaning to do for years, to revisit an Interrail journey that I first did when I was 16 or 17, it is so long ago now I can`t even remember how old I was.  That journey really changed my life and had a role on how I was going to go on and view the world.  In those days, in the early 70s, foreign travel was nowhere as common place as it is today and even if Brits did go abroad it was normally for a week or so to the English enclaves of the Costa Del Sol so even if they were travelling "overseas" they could still get those British cultural staples of warm brown beer and fish and chips. Particularly for a lad like me, uneducated, from the South Wales Valleys and not from a particularly affluent background European​ travel was almost unheard of.  My older brother had visited Paris a few years earlier but that was seen as almost unspeakably exotic and bohemian. Looking back though these mists of time i am still somewhat baffled as to what motivated me to want to go on that journey. Advertising played its part as I remember there was a damp billposter  under a railway arch near my house which told of this fairly newly established scheme called interrail which provided cheap international rail travel for those under 26 in Europe and Morocco. MOROCCO FFS!!!! If Paris had seemed unspeakably sophisticated to me you can imagine how Morocco sounded.

Fair play to my parents I didn't have to hassle them that much to stump up the cash for me to go on my first interrail trip.  To be honest i think they saw it as an opportunity to get away from my local environment for a while as I was going off the rails a bit and also I managed to get two of my friends to say they would come with me so although  know they did struggle to finance it I think they thought they would be letting me down if they didn't. In the end although it didn't really help with me going off the rails for a while it was a seminal event in my growing up.  It took me out of my comfort zone of my own cosy environment and made me aware there were other ways of doing things, other ways of viewing the world and our way at home was not simply the only or even the best way.

I am only a few days into my trip but I already feel the spectacles of the 'other' altering the way I view things back at home. Reading my Facebook, Twitter and news feeds from back in the UK it strikes as a country obsessed with brexit and that not moved on one iota from where we were at during or even before the referendum. The leavers are adamant that they won the referendum fare and square and that we are going to leave no matter what.  The remainers on the other hand argue that the referendum argument was won on lies and anyway it was only "advisory" and should be simply ignored.  To me to be honest neither of these arguments sounds credible.  I don't know what the solution is to this mess the UK finds itself in but whichever way you look at it the country is split 50/50 and any solution needs to take both sides with it which neither of those previous arguments does. Believe it or not here in Europe people don't care about Brexit, they have other things in their lives and it hardly makes the news at all. Britain is in a crisis of its own making and only Britain can get itself out of it. To be perfectly frank I have gone past caring as I am disillusioned by the behaviour of both sides.  Although I am convinced the UK will be poorer on many levels through brexit I think I personally I will survive (although I will probably lose my job) but that is something I can live with. So, whatever side you are on just stop adopting a dog in a manger attitude and think how we can all move on from where we find ourselves at the moment.

Saturday 18 February 2017

Keyboard warriors of the world unite

A Brave New World?

Last week I attended a  talk in Swansea given by a gentleman called Mike Klein on digital activism. Mike who hails from the States but who now, very sensibly in my opinion, has made Swansea his home is the former presidential campaign manager for Congressman Dennis Kucinich. I have to admit to being a little sceptical about this whole digital activism thing prior to this talk but Mike gave me plenty of food for thought some of which I hope to share with you here.

Anybody recognise this?

Although this is a bit of a generalisation in the past life was more homogenised and centralised. People tended to live and work in one place, often for much of their lives and would get their news and information from a few sources as well: what was said at work, through the BBC and maybe the church. Today however we live in a very different world where people throughout their career often move from job to job and where populations are a lot more geographically mobile and where we are bombarded with information and views from many additional sources such as the plethora of television channels and social media platforms. In this multicultural, multifaith, multi voiced brave new world it would seem reasonable to argue that traditional forms of social and political activism need to be rethought.

In the past ten years, particularly since the launch of the IPhone in 2007, there has been a massive change in the way we use and interact with the media. In 2016 71% of the UK population owned mobile phones, up from 39% just four years earlier and among under 35 year olds the figure in over 90% and as of 2015 the smartphone is the most popular way to access the internet   Research has shown that more than a third of all adults (34%) use their smartphone within five minutes of waking up, a figure that rises to almost half (49%) of those aged 18-24.

A386 anyone

It would seem that the traditional model of people catching up on what is happening in the world by switching on their radio or television in the morning or reading the newspaper on the way to work is rapidly being replaced by people switching on their mobile phones and accessing their social media accounts. Any political or social movement that fails to engage with this change is at risk of going the same way as traditional newspapers seem to be going.

Love him or loathe him, and no prizes for guessing which one I do, but President Donald Trump has utilised this change in the media to great effect. Just 7% of the US population use Twitter although nearly 90% are aware of it and although I don't have hard statistics to hand I am pretty sure I am on safe ground to argue that the percentage that have read a Trump Tweet is also around the 90% mark as his Tweets are often faithfully reprinted word for word in various other forms of media.  I'll ask you to reflect yourself; now you may or maynot be on Twitter but it's a pretty fair bet that you at some point have read a Donald Trump tweet. Twitter has given him to opportunity to bypass the traditional filters and spin associated with more traditional forms of media and talk directly to the people and whatever you think of that it has worked, he made it to be president even against the odds.

Labour and The Left in general are not in a good place at the moment, there is no denying it but it would also seem true that we are bound to lose the next war if we use the same weaponry, tactics and strategy as we used to lose the last one.  Times they are a changing and while there is still a place for the old door to door door knocking and face to face interaction (for as Mike pointed out in his talk quoting that clansman of mine Tip O'Neill "all politics is local") the day of the keyboard warrior is now upon us and getting our message out there using these new forms of media is more important than ever otherwise we will become left behind and be seen as out of touch, particularly by the young who are our hope for the future.

Thursday 2 February 2017

Brexit bill: Damned if you do, damned if you don’t

Again I feel motivated to write this blog through some of what I feel is the unmitigated tosh that I have read and heard over yesterday’s vote on the Brexit bill and particularly the comments from certain sectors condemning Jeremy Corbyn’s three line whip on Parliamentary Labour Party members to vote in support of the bill.

Now let me get one thing clear at the start of this blog; I am a committed and ardent remainer.  In my opinion the simple in/ out referendum should never have been held, in many ways in itself it was an affront to democracy. The issue of whether the UK should or shouldn’t remain a member of the European Union is an extremely complex and nuanced one and one that simply could not have been effectively addressed by a simple in/ out referendum and certainly not by a referendum which in the end, let’s be honest here, was not about the EU but became about immigration and feelings of alienation from the political class. Again don’t get me wrong here, I do have serious misgivings about the EU, Just look at my earlier blogpost from June 2013 “A Blue Flag With Yellow Stars” and I am fully cognisant of the “Lexit” argument as to why we should leave the cosy, neo Liberal Capitalist club. Ultimately however the reason that I am an ardent remainer is that when you take all the pro and con arguments into consideration a Tory engineered Brexit, I am convinced, will leave the poorer people of the UK and Wales in particular worse off and I cannot see any benefit to the UK that will offset that.

OK so I have nailed my colours to the mast; I am a committed remainer, albeit a conflicted one. That said I am fully aware that we lost the vote and it is no good pretending otherwise which it seems to me some other remainers want to. This then brings me to the conundrum that Labour and Jeremy Corbyn are facing at the moment. To me it seems they are between a rock and a hard place. Labour campaigned for remain, don’t let anybody tell you different; but the vote was lost to the Leave camp. So now what are Labour to do? Ignore the views of the electorate of this country, many of whom are Labour voters and do all they can to block the Brexit process. It seems to be in doing this the Party will stimulate a political backlash from people who feel that their views, which they believe in passionately, are being discounted as unimportant. The other option which Labour seem to be pursuing and which seems far more pragmatic to me is to accept the vote has been lost and to put in process an approach which seeks to negotiate the best possible outcome to Brexit for the majority of people in this country.  

To be honest I despair when I see 47 Labour MPs have voted against the Party directive. Surely if the events of the past eighteen months for Labour have taught us anything is a disunited party is not appealing to the voters and that members of the Parliamentary Labour Party should show a bit more humility in respecting the views of their constituency members and supporters.  While I can maybe understand it for those MPs who represent areas that strongly voted remain but when you see the likes of Owen Smith and Chris Bryant who represent constituencies that voted strongly to leave vote against their Party and their constituents it beggars belief that they cannot see that this falls right into the hands of UKIP and their ilk who accuse Labour of becoming a party of the metropolitan elite that no longer represents the views of the working people of the UK.

OK these are not good times for Labour and I am not going to cast blame in any one direction other than to say that we all need to take a hard damn look at ourselves. Those that decry and blame Corbyn and accuse the party of selling out on the Brexit cause, rather than just moaning and complaining tell us your plans of how we move forward from this difficult situation and do what Labour says it will always do, take everyone with us and leave no one behind.

Monday 16 January 2017

The maximum wage: Why it matters.

I have been moved to write this blog following some of the comments I have seen on Twitter and elsewhere following Jeremy Corbyn raising the prospect of a maximum wage and the Oxfam report on global inequality as some people seem to think that in a so called civilised society that vast inequality is somehow inevitable and even desirable and certainly not something that needs to be addressed.

In their ground-breaking book The Spirit Level: Why More Equal Societies Almost Always Do Better (Wilkinson and Pickett, 2009), the authors highlight the "pernicious effects that inequality has on societies: eroding trust, increasing anxiety and illness, (and) encouraging excessive consumption".

They, and other academics argue on the basis of strong evidence within and between countries, that health inequalities mirror income inequalities and that inequality is in itself a determinant of ill health. As a consequence some academics, such as Professor Danny Dorling, argue that we should be addressing maximum pay in private and public sectors and reducing the ratio between those on the lowest and highest pay. Such responses were recently mirrored by a suggestion by Jeremy Corbyn, leader of the Labour Party, that the UK should explore the possibility of introducing a maximum wage. The mere suggestion of this policy seemed to stimulate some to apoplectic rage as if entitlement to the wealth of Solomon was some sort of inalienable human right.

Since the early 1980s, economic inequality in the UK has grown astronomically. The richest 10 per cent of households now own 40 per cent of the UK’s wealth. This is 850 times the wealth of the bottom 10 per cent. If income distribution was the same as it was in 1977, the bottom fifth would get £2,000 a year more, the top fifth £8,000 less. Given this growth in economic inequality, it is perhaps unsurprising to see a similar growth in inequality in health outcomes. Although life expectancy is generally increasing in the UK, as it has done for the past 100 years, inequalities between the rich and poor is widening.

Analysis by The Equality Trust has found that in the last 20 years alone, the gap in life expectancy for those in different local authority areas has increased 41 per cent for men and 73 per cent for women. This most glaring of inequalities manifests itself in the most basic of inequalities i. e. that of living a long or short life. For instance male life expectancy in East Dorset is 8.9 years longer than those in Blackpool. The gap is just as dramatic for women where those in Purbeck live over 7 years longer than those in Manchester.

Even more alarming are the differences in healthy life expectancy (the number of years likely to be lived in good health) as these inequalities are even more marked. For instance there is now an 18 year difference between women living in Richmond (72 yrs) and those in Tower Hamlets (54 yrs): two communities that are only 15 miles away from each other.

These are just the inequalities in the UK I am sure that I don't need to do a detailed break down of   the inequalities that exist globally but suffice to say that the longest life expectancy in the world is Monaco on 89.52 years while the shortest is Sierra Leone at 50.1 years.  Inequality is killing us in droves and surely, as a species ingenious enough to put people on the moon, we can at least attempt to come up with a solution to this blight on the human race and not lambast those who raise the subject as "communists" that subscribe to the "politics of envy".

There is no more basic inequality than being alive or dead and if we are going to accept the frankly obscene inequality that sees eight  men being richer than the combined wealth of half the world then we must also accept that in doing so we are going to condemn vast swathes of humanity to unnecessary suffering, sickness and an early death. The choice is ours.

Monday 17 October 2016

Saving the best bits of the curate’s egg? : The Legacy of Communities First

I feel compelled to write this blog after the semi surprise announcement last week by the minister Carl Sargeant that the Welsh Government’s flagship talking poverty programme Communities First (CF) is to be “rethought”.  At the time of writing what is actually meant by this term is far from clear and therein lies one of the problems to the community development / tackling poverty agenda in Wales. Although CF is fifteen years old, which in community regeneration project years is positively ancient, in recent years it has been beset by uncertainty as to it future and it has been a creaking gate of a programme which has not been conducive to its robustness.

During its fifteen years it has undergone various incarnations and at its most basic it moved from its original model and ethos of being a community led initiative that recognised the complexity of what community development means at a grass roots level to being, particularly in the past few years, a more traditional community focussed initiative pursuing distinct targets often under the direction of the local authority.

As someone who has been involved in CF in some shape or form since its inception I am of the opinion that not all these developments in the last few years of the initiative have been for the best.  The innovative approach of Communities First when it was first formulated is that it recognised that often it is the people who live in poor communities who have a unique insight into formulation solutions to the problems they face. As CF “evolved” however it increasingly moved from this innovative approach to one more dominated by local authorities and a traditional model dominated and led by professionals.  That said considering this change of focus CF has continued to deliver, at times, innovative and effective initiatives and projects that really made a difference to people’s lives in some of our poorest communities.

Particularly of late staff have had to work with a high degree of uncertainty in relation to the future and form of the CF programme.  In the past year all staff have been on a one year contract due to come to an end on the 31st march 2017. This uncertainty is something that has dogged the programme since its inception. CF workers have become used to uncertainty as to the future of their contracts and last minute announcements as to the future and changes in the programme.  All these factors have not been conducive to the programme achieving its full potential.

Communities First has also had to endure being a favourite political football for the Welsh political class. The programme has always been a flagship project of Labour and as such and due to the budget directed toward it it has always been a prime focus of criticism from the Conservatives and to a lesser extent Plaid Cymru.  Interestingly though although CF has been a focus for this criticism from the opposing political parties they have neither offered or suggested any real innovative alternatives. 

No one can say that CF has been a runaway success.  Understandably as it has been trying to tackle poverty in some of the most disadvantaged areas of Western Europe that have had a very long history of trying to survive on the outer periphery  on the industrialised areas of the UK.  There have been various evaluations of the programme over the year some good some not so good but in the general consensus is that the programme is a bit of a curate’s egg, good in parts.

The recent announcement by the Welsh Minister as to the rethinking of the programme has led to some very poor reporting in the Welsh media (no surprise there then) and some less than informed statements from our elected representatives. In this report from BBC Wales the use of the word “dropped” gives the impression that all the work of the programme is to simply cease.  Rather than mention the many success of the programme the report chooses to focus on an instance of fraud in one CF area. The most glaring example of a misinformed analysis of the programme’s impact comes from Mark Isherwood the Welsh Conservative’s spokesman who argues that as the CF areas are still suffering poverty then obviously the programme is not “fit for purpose”   Considering the programme has spend approximately £30 Million a year for the whole of Wales it is a bit much to expect that that relatively small amount of funding can be expected to tackle the deep and most fundamental repercussions of global economic forces. Additionally that this statement was to come from a representative of the Conservative party who have been responsible for subjecting the area and local residents to negative forces that have compounded the areas poverty such as the bedroom tax and the so called benefit reforms which again has reduced the amount of money which is coming in to the area. So although the years of Coalition and Conservative party rule have not improved the levels of poverty in the area this spokesperson chooses to blame the CF programme.
So Communities First is to be no more, so be it, nothing lasts for ever.  As I said earlier while CF has achieved some really great things at the same time it has been a bit of a curate’s egg of a programme often because of factors that are beyond the control of those who work on, plan and instigate the programme. What is crucial as we move forward though is that the achievements are built on and not lost. During this upcoming period of consultation and reflection as put forward by the minister it is essential we identify what those achievements are.  To my mind one resource we should recognise is the CF workforce and infrastructure.  We have fifteen years development of a workforce who know their communities intimately and knows what works and what doesn’t.  Empowerment has been key word in the minister’s statement in relation to the future of Communities First I would suggest a powerful method of achieving that empowerment at community level is to use that resources of the CF workforce who know what empowerment really means. As a first step what that workforce needs to achieve those aims is some certainty and a clear plan over a significant period of time so they can make these plans a reality. This uncertainty has hamstrung the programme in the past and let us ensure that the same mistakes are not made in the future.

Sunday 16 October 2016

I remember the disaster at Aberfan as if it were yesterday.

From @sandycraigart

As we come up to the 50th anniversary of that terrible, terrible tragedy I thought I would put down some of my own thoughts and recollections. I grew up very close to the village of Aberfan and over the years the memories of the events of that day have come back to me at times incredibly vividly and at times incredibly painfully.  To this day I am sometimes amazed of how those memories overwhelm me sometimes for no apparent reason even though it is now a long time ago. Recently somebody asked me about my experiences and although at first I was quite happy to talk about it I quickly found it brought me close to tears.

The disaster happened on Friday 21st October 1966.  I remember it was the last Friday before the half term holidays.  I was nine years old, the same age as most of the children who were to die. I was at school that day at Caedraw about three miles away from the Pantglas school where the vast majority of the deaths were to occur. At the time I was doing a school meteorology project and I was studiously keeping a diary of the daily weather. As is often the case in The Valleys in late October we had had days and days of continual monochrome rain which was making my diary quite boring and repetitive and it was that rain that was to cause the flood of misery. The morning of the disaster was bitterly cold and misty, as a portent as to what was to follow the morning mist clung to the sides of the valleys as a shroud clings  to the furrows of the body of a corpse.

The disaster happened early in the morning just after morning prayers. In those days all schools used to have an assembly followed by prayers so it was the same for us in Caedraw as it would have been for the kids in Pantglas. I was sat at my desk near the window and I vividly remember the news hitting the town of Merthyr as if it were yesterday.  It was as if you could palpably feel the impact of the news on the town and the community. Although at that time we didn’t know what had happened we knew something had happened.  You could hear sirens going off all over the town and ambulance, fire and police all racing down the valley. In those days, before most people had telephones, there used to be an air raid type siren that was used to summon the reserve firemen. The ringing of ambulance, police and fire bells together with the drone of that air raid type fire siren is an enduring memory of mine of that fateful morning

By the time morning playtime came teachers were running about obviously agitated and we were beginning to hear that something had happened in Aberfan.  The first thing we heard was that a wall had fallen down at the school on top of some kids. It didn’t take much longer for us to hear what had happened but still at this time the extent of the disaster and the loss of life was beyond us.

For those of you who didn’t know South Wales at this time it is hard to explain how much coal tips were part of our everyday existence. They were everywhere, by the sides of schools, by the sides of churches.  They dominated the local landscape and in no way were they seen as a danger. As I had grown up in the area I thought everywhere had tips like we did.  As children tips were where we used to play, ride our bikes over them like scramblers or one of my favourite games was to slide down them on an old piece of lino or oil cloth as we used to call it at the time. Tips were such a ubiquitous part of our everyday being I reckon I was about 13 before I realised they were not part of the natural environment.
Miners helping with the rescue with the tips of Aberfan in the background

By the end of school we were very much aware that something very serious had happened in Aberfan but still the full extent of the loss of life was not clear, but at nine years old grasping the true extent of such horrors is not easy.  In those heady days when fear of everything did not stalk every corner of parenthood as it seems to do today as a nine year old I was allowed to walk the mile or so from school to my home crossing a number of busy roads unaccompanied. On my way home the roads were already filling with traffic going down to Aberfan as people sought to help in any way they could. When I got home my father had set off on foot to see if he could help, lots of people did the same that day. Miners walked over the mountain from Penrhiwceiber  to try to help as did the miners from the nearby Merthyr Vale colliery but all to no avail as nobody was pulled out alive after  11.00 just two hours after tip had engulfed the school. As a matter of fact one of the last people to be pulled out alive was Jeff Edwards who was later to become a friend of mine and mayor of Merthyr.

Jeff being rescued

That night I went out to play with my mates as usual and I remember the roads of Merthyr being completely blocked as people tried to get to the village. There was a strange sense of desperation in the air as everybody wanted to help but there was no way they could.  In the mid 1960s cars were not as plentiful as they are today so to see such a huge traffic jam, particularly in Merthyr, was unheard of.  When I got home my father had retuned and although he had been unable to help as there had already been too many people there already he was obviously shaken and very subdued.

It was the aftermath of the disaster which was I think to give me personally the biggest trauma and was to show the British Establishment at its very worse.  The way the people of Aberfan were treated disgusted me then as a nine year old and still does to this day.  Our so called wonderful Queen took eight days before she decided she could be bothered to visit, which left a lasting resentment among many local people to the institution of the monarchy. Almost straight away the National Coal Board tried to wriggle out of their responsibility for causing the disaster and would eventually only pay £500 compensation for the death of each child. Those whose houses were destroyed in the disaster were rehoused in caravans through the cold, cold winter and where they were left to suffer their grief at losing homes and loved ones. £150,000 from the disaster fund, which was donated by mainly working people from all over the world, was used by the NCB to remove the remains of the coal tip and the rest of the mess left by the disaster this money was finally repaid in 1997 but did not take in to account the full interest and inflation rates and many feel £1.5 Million should have been repaid this was finally repaid in 2007 by the Welsh Government.  

Just take some time to think about all of this for one minute.  Think about how much wealth the coal mines of South Wales provided for this country.  How that coal was used to build the worldwide industry and empire that The Queen and her ancestors lorded it over and in thanks for that they were told that their children’s lives were worth £500 and if you lost your home as well just get in a shed and get on with it, that’s good enough for you. The people of Wales, the UK and the rest of the world showed great compassion, solidarity and generosity to the people of Aberfan with donations, gifts and messages of support flowing in from all over the world. In contrast the British Establishment in the form of The Government, The National Coal Board and the Monarchy closed ranks to ensure that as little damage as possible was inflicted on their interests in spite of the fact of the great debt that they owed to the mining communities of South Wales. At the very least the Queen should have let the survivors live in Buckingham Palace and the National Coal Board should have given them free coal to heat it.  It was to be less than twenty years later that these same mining communities were to be deemed the “enemy within” by another Establishment figure who viewed the mining  communities of South Wales with distain.

 I sometimes think if just one percent of the wealth the was produced by the communities of South Wales that supported the development of the British Empire came back into the Valleys we wouldn’t have suffered the misery of events like Aberfan the continuing poverty and the ongoing exclusion and poverty that continues to blight this area to this day. It has been interesting in the recent reporting of the anniversary of Aberfan that it has become evident that not many younger people know of the story. Obviously it is not something taught in schools.  I believe it is possible to learn great lessons from history particularly about what a nation holds dear and what its real values are, therein lies the reason that our young people are not told the true story of Aberfan.

Cofiwch Aberfan

Friday 12 August 2016

I say, I say, I say,when is a Trotskyite not a Trotskyite? When they are an ordinary Labour party supporter.

Following on from my blog last Friday this week I have heard the word Trotskyite all over the news and social media. Supposedly educated people have been using it as shorthand for the worst bogeyman of rampant left wing supporters of Corbyn determined to take the party and country in to oblivion.  On last night’s Channel 4 news Michael Crick and Cathy Newman were goading Corbyn supporters to say on air that they were real life “trots”, which to be honest was somewhat reminiscent of McCarthyite era witch hunts.  All this is part of the overall poor quality of debate that there is around the Labour party leadership hustings.  People on both sides are lazily entrenching themselves in over simplistic caricatures of those they disagree with and what should be lively and enriching political debate is descending in to smears and personal attacks.


Let us look at this term Trotskyite. What does it mean? Surely you don’t need a Ph.D in philosophy to understand that the word denotes someone who follows the ideas of Leon Trotsky  (1879 – 1940).  Now I won’t bore you here with an online treatise  as to the ideas of this important and influential political philosopher (who just for the record I don’t agree with but I am interested in what he had to say). However, at their most basic Trotsky believed in a one party state and the need for the global spread of communism.  Now putting it as simply as that is that what all these people who are being called “Trots” believe in? Are all those people who are attending public rallies which Owen Smith sought to characterise as “Momentum” rallies, do you think that is what they want to see in this country?

This is the man himself Trotsky whose name is often taken in vain

To return to the rally I attended in Swansea last week, which was the subject of my last blog.  Now I have been active in community and grass roots political organising in the South Wales area since the early 1970s.  During that time I have worked alongside anarchists, evangelical Christians, socialists, Labour party members, Catholics, Jews, Communists, Liberal Democrats and many many others of various other political and philosophical persuasions (Can’t honestly think of many Tories though, but there have been a few) I might not have agreed with their religious or political persuasion but they were good people who wanted to see an improvement in society and to be honest that is good enough for me.  When I attended the rally last Friday I knew many in the room and had known them for many years.  They were teachers, social workers, nurses, the unemployed, community development workers, the sick, office workers, steel workers, miners and business people. Over the years some of them might have been in various political or religious groupings as by the very fact they were at this rally they were proclaiming the were people who believed in something, whatever that might be.  I’ll tell you what they weren’t though, and that is “Trotskyite” and to characterise them as such is quite simply wrong.