Curing the Pig, by Eliza Granville

Episode 5

The Quixotesque misadventures of unreconstructed Marcher Morgan Jones-Jones, who has probably not heard of the suffragettes let alone second- and third-wave feminists.

Rosie had laughed long and hard when Morgan claimed he worshipped his mother. In those days, he was trying to impress her with every bit of ammunition at his disposal, including posing as New Man with Hero tendencies, never realising that she was a psychology student and listening hard. It didn’t take much to work out that he was terrified of his Mam. With reason, though, with reason. What a battle-axe, vixen, tyrant, dictator,termagant! In short, a Mam to be proud of.Even with her human shish kebab failings, Boudica had nothing on her. Mam gave her men hell if they stepped out of line. She was probably the sort of good wife the ducking stool in Leominster museum, twenty miles or so up the road, had been invented for. Women in those days kept their lips buttoned in public. Anything else was cured by submergence in the river Lugg.

Maybe things would have been different if Morgan had been a daughter, but things being as they were, the only living creatures Mam cared about were the cats. Her girls. She worshipped them. They tolerated her. A natural born skinflint, she and Dai practically existed on fresh air whilst those hoity-toity felines lived off the fat of the land – smoked salmon, freshly-landed trout, buttered chicken livers, even caviar on selling a litter of purebred kittens. Only female cats were tolerated however. There were quite a few cat traps about the place for filthy marauding toms. And if she caught any it was off to the vet with them, to be done. Never mind asking the owners first.

Not that she didn’t keep her own gelding iron handy. She threatened Dai with it once a week, just to be on the safe side. Morgan, too, especially if she caught him with the wrong look on his face watching under-clad girls on television, and once when he dared smuggle in a Playboy comic. O my God, the carry-on then. She even threatened him with it through his bedroom door one night when the bed was creaking and she suspected solitary goings-on. How she kept two strapping big chaps like that under control is a mystery to be celebrated. Mam had only reached five foot one in her prime and she’d been shrinking earthwards ever since.

There were strict house rules. Only certain chairs could be utilised. All nose blowing had to take place outside. Nails were to be cut on Saturday evenings and at no other time. There was a strict ration of two sheets of hard lavatory paper a day. Best of all, Mam had painted a red mark on the bath. Run tepid water above the line and there was the devil to pay. It wasn’t just that though. To keep proper order, she was forced to chide them day in, day out. Sit up. Stand straight. Have you washed that neck? Call that combing your hair? You look as if you’ve been pulled through a hedge backwards. We’ll have none of your backchat here, thank you. Have you got nits? No? Then stop scratching. You’re not going out looking like that are you? It’s enough to make a cat laugh. Have you been today? Stop sniffing. Put your hand in front when you cough. Stop yawning. Sit straight. Don’t let me catch you raising your eyes to heaven when I offer my opinion. How dare you grin behind your hand when I talk to you?

She was frightening enough when she ranted about Hell – keep on doing that and you’ll end up in the Other Place. Ah, the Other Place. You know where I mean. But she put the fear of God Almighty into young Morgan by claiming that she listened to him talking in his sleep.

Old habits don’t die. They hibernate. Given the right conditions they’ll speedily reassert themselves. Let Slimmer of the Year loose in a chocolate factory and, given time, the Fat Woman compressed inside will reach out and grab with both hands no matter what. And as of old, Man of the World Morgan, six foot three in his toeless socks, built like a brick shithouse, sidled timidly through the back door, after spending a full five minutes wiping his shoes on the succession of dirt-trap mats. By now the cats were all busily washing their behinds, an unsubtle feline insult; the only satisfactory riposte being a furtive kick up the arse, later, when he caught them unawares.

Mam was still muttering over the range. She’d seen him all right, but pretended to jump violently, clutching at her allegedly palpitating heart, the minute he spoke. In spite of the roaring Aga, and curdled steam hanging like tropical cloud, the atmosphere in the kitchen was frosty. If his spirits had plummeted before, they were flat-lining now. Fat chance of any welcome here – nevertheless he approached his mother with theatrical cheerfulness.

“How are you, Mam?” He tentatively offered slightly wilted flowers, even attempted to kiss her cheek, something he was usually only required to do in appreciation of meagre birthday and Christmas gifts. “You’re looking well.”

“Ah.” One bony elbow jerked up to halt his progress. “What are you doing here?” She sniffed suspiciously. “What’s that bad egg smell? What’s that all over your trousers? When was the last time they got an iron over them? Are those blackheads on your nose? That shirt collar looks a bit grey. And whoever cut your hair?”

His tongue turned to lead. Fifteen years disappeared in as many seconds, reducing him to an over-sized gangling adolescent, shifting from foot to foot, a young rooster perched precariously on a barn roof hoping for a full-bloodied crow but only managing a squawk. Nervously clearing his throat, he tackled the first question.

“Didn’t you get my letter?” Morgan haltingly explained, again, about his redundancy.

Mam wasn’t listening. He could tell by the way she rummaged for a pot-lick to scrape dollops of some noxious-looking compound from one pan to another, screwing up her face as she tasted, adding pinches of this and sprinkles of that, lizard’s leg and howlet’s wing, pursing her lips when she achieved dubious perfection.

“Fingers in the till, was it?” she shrilled, with her back towards him.

“No, Mam – of course not.” Sweat gathered to trickle down his ribs and vertebrae like icy digits fingering keyboards. His mouth was dry. Desperate to be seen as a good boy, he tried shifting blame onto the new boss. This proved a mistake. With her deep, abiding suspicion of all men, in all places, and at all times, Mam immediately took the side of Ms Kurswell, poor soul, only trying to get on in the world, and what a world. Another thought occurred to her. Not original, but it set off a train of accusations that had worn well over the years.

“You bin trying it on? Interfering with her?” A slight pause followed as she searched for the current term and triumphantly produced it. “Sexual arrasserment, that’s it. I’ll give you not keeping your paws to yourself.” She turned on him, giving him the special Mother Look, arms akimbo, lips sucked in, her eyes narrowed to mean little predatory slits. “Men! They’re all filthy animals, dirty beasts with one-track minds, only after we-all-know-what and bone idle, too. Women do most of the work in this world. Men would sit on their backsides doing bugger all day and night if we let them.”

Morgan sighed. He looked at the dipping, heaving flagstone floor. He studied the pot-bellied chimneybreast with its manky fox brush, the horse brasses on their cracked leather harness, and row upon row of red and blue rosettes celebrating cow, sheep, and cat perfection. Finally, he glanced up at the two great oak beams straddling the ceiling and remembered thinking how like splendidly spread thighs they were. Bringing to mind that fevered teenage imagery made his lips twitch and Mam noticed.

“Oh, yes, my lad, you can raise your eyes to heaven. You can smirk. I’ll make you laugh on the other side of your face in a minute, just see if I don’t. Let me tell you this, the world wouldn’t be in half the mess it is if women had the running of it.”

“God help us,” muttered Morgan, but not quietly enough. Mam’s deafness was selective. Straining up on tip-bunion she clouted him. He reeled. Amazing what a punch a four-foot-eleven midget could pack.

The cats, still lavishing attention on their nether ends, stopped dead. Twitching thirteen tails in disapproval, they measured the mood change through their upward-pointing aerial hind legs and scrammed. Mam advanced, flipping a tea-towel and gibbering highly personal insults. Trying to sneak an occasional word in edgeways, Goliath slowly retreated to his accustomed chimney corner followed by a skilfully wielded wooden spoon. Glasses off, head down, the intervening years might as well have been a figment of his imagination. He’d been here so many times before. Welcome home, Morgan. Your role’s endured; nothing’s changed.

By now, Mam had worked herself up good and proper. She’d never needed much of an excuse. With her, PMT set in early, finished late, reared its harridan head mid-cycle, paused for a real mad go at the Change, then started again full time, with the pre- changed to post- as it were. Already her cheeks were blotched purple. Spittle flecked her lips. Her eyes glared. A flurry of blows descended on Morgan’s head and back. When the spoon splintered in despair, she grabbed a cast iron skillet and brought that down on his shoulders. The handle was greasy: the pan slipped through her fingers and cracked clean in half against the hearth.

“Now look what you’ve been and gone and made me do!”

“Sorry, Mam,” Morgan heard himself whimper.

It wasn’t enough. Not by a long way. Her eyes ranged along the work surface, assessing the offensive weapon potential of the remaining kitchen utensils. Morgan began edging towards the door. Start now, and he could be in Dover by midnight. Get on the first ferry to anywhere. Keep going. Damned if he’d ever come back.

Two sharp raps on the kitchen window stopped them both in their tracks. A monstrously distorted hobgoblin face materialised, winking and leering as it pressed hard against the steamed-up glass. But for its earthy brownness and the ingrained dirt in the landscape of cross-hatched wrinkles it might have been one of the most hideous of the stone gargoyles, flapped down on leathery wings from its perch above the church gutters. The creature gestured vigorously at something behind itself, grinning horribly to reveal jagged stumps of tobacco-brown teeth. Mam ignored the vision. To achieve this to full effect she had to stamp, fists clenched, to the other end of the kitchen. Morgan straightened cautiously, grateful for the diversion.

“Dad’s trying to tell you something.”

“Don’t take any notice of the senile old fool.” Mam seemed to have decided in favour of the steak tenderiser. Staring meaningfully at her over-sized, cuckoo-laid son, she paused, weighing it in her hand. Morgan’s eyes flicked, Wimbledon fashion, between her and the bizarre performance by his father, who’d made for the midden in front of the cowshed. With dung-laden cattle bedding up past his knees, Dai executed a brief jig, checking that plenty of muck adhered to his boots. Apparently satisfied, he unzipped his moleskins, unbuttoned his longjohns, and pulled out a yard of shirt tail before catching hold of the clay-encrusted Mercher. Dai disappeared from view as he made for the back door. A minute later he stamped heavily through the scullery and into the kitchen, his face a beatifically innocent mask, puffing and blowing and dragging his feet so that a thick trail of filthy straw was deposited on Mam’s spotless floor. She spun round, a whirling dervish of apoplectic fury howling a two-minute warning while Dai quickly yanked forward the stiff-legged, resisting dog – tail between its legs, whining in protest – and positioned the wretched animal in front of his body.

“Get outside with them boots, you dirty bugger.” Mam’s fists became wiry claws twisting an imaginary neck.

“I only—” Dai beamed, a cock-eyed, gap-toothed, elderly baby anxious to please.

“You done that deliberate. Take that daft grin off your face. Do your clothes up decent, you senile old bugger or I’ll have you put away. And take that stinking animal out with you. You know I don’t allow dogs in my house. Go on. Get out. Out. Out. OUT.”

Dai didn’t move. Mam’s eyes bulged dangerously. She lunged at her husband with the meat tenderiser while Morgan continued to skulk in his corner. The dog howled and bared its teeth, cringing and spotting the floor with urine as it frantically pulled towards the scullery. Dai held tight to collar and a handful of mud-caked ruff as Mam took a run at him, smartly sidestepping at the last moment while muttering something unintelligible.

“What was that?”

“I said: Oh, well, if you don’t want to know—”

“Don’t want to know what?”

“Thing is—” Dai made a great production of wiping his nose on a relatively clean patch of shirt tail. The noise that issued from Mam’s throat was nearer a growl than anything. She hopped up on a chair, raised the meat tenderiser and held it poised six inches from his skull. “All right, woman, all right. I was only trying to tell you that my Venus has pushed her gate open again. Don’t know how she works it out.” He nodded at Morgan. “Welcome home, son, such as it is. Real intelligent, pigs are. Folk don’t give them credit for half—”

“Where is it?” Mam hissed, between clenched teeth.

She.” Dai’s tone was reproachful. “Venus was named after the goddess. Pigs were worshipped in the old days. Jupiter was suckled by a sow. I got that out of a little book from the church bring-and-buy sale. Aw, get off me, woman. Hold your horses. I was just coming to it, wasn’t I? She must have opened it with her snout.” Dai’s arm came up to field off a second blow. Mercher seized his chance, rolling his eyes he skidded across the floor, nosed open the door and made for the comparative safety of the skeletal wooden barrel which was all he’d ever known by way of a kennel. “All right, let me alone – Venus has been and got in the garden.”

With a bloodcurdling shriek, Mam rocketed outside in her slippers and pinny. Dai’s grin widened. He brushed himself down, tucked himself in, zipped up, discarded the gormless expression, and assumed a look of near malevolent determination. Morgan might as well not have been there. He watched in fear and trembling of what would happen next as his father happily tap-danced off a bit more muck, spreading it around and kicking some underneath the dresser where the smell would stand a chance of developing its full potential.

That done, Dai pottered round the kitchen, sampling this and that, anything forbidden: a handful of raisins, a spoonful of brown sugar, another of strawberry jam, two hooked fingers full from the bottom of the beef dripping jar, a packet of special reserve chocolate digestives, one raw onion, half a pound of cheese, and the last slice of pork pie which he wrapped in a cabbage leaf. He hawked and spat thoughtfully into the chutney pan, giving the contents a good stir. His son’s presence was only acknowledged when Dai flicked a single nervous glance towards the door on unearthing Mam’s plump purse from the dishcloth drawer. Then he grinned conspiratorially as he emptied the entire contents into the cheese and onion pocket.

“Bit of beer money, that’s all. Well, well, well, back at last, son. Knew you’d see sense in the end. England’s no place for a man – full of whores and Nancy-boys. Warned you, didn’t I?”

“No, Dad.”

“Ah, well.” Dai noisily shifted the catarrh further up his nasal passages. “Better grab yourself some bait, son. We’ll get nought but tongue pie for the rest of the day. Venus is going through your Mam’s garden like a dingle bat. Might as well go and watch the fun.”

Fingering his rapidly swelling bruises, Morgan followed his father out into the yard where the seasonal dirge continued, rising and falling, breaking like waves against the farmhouse walls. Humming a snatch of The Dambusters, Dai paused to secure Mercher by means of a chain fastened to the iron hoops of the disintegrating barrel. Half a dozen cats jeered from the stone jetties of the disused dovecot. A thin wind had risen, lifting and slamming back the corrugated tin roofs of the sheds like slow handclaps, out of time. Lacking buttons, Dai tied up his jacket with a strand of turquoise baler twine. The rain had given up for a while and, in spite of the cold, a few rays of sunshine now broke from behind the clouds, illuminating the scene and giving it a swollen, peasant quality worthy of Bruegel.

Most flowers were useless fripperies in Mam’s eyes. Could you eat them? You could not. No point to them then, unless, that is, they were foreign, unpronounceable and enviable. She had no use for logic. While the front garden was best described as a conservation area – butterflies and goldfinches thrive on thistles and nettles – for God-only-knew how many years, the kitchen garden had been her shrine, her act of supreme creativity, her place of perfect order. Never a weed was allowed to raise its head more than a centimetre above the thickly manured soil. Once, long ago, Dai had been permitted entry to turn over the neglected hard clay. Since that day, no feet but hers had trodden the cinder paths. All winter, every winter, she brooded over catalogues, pondering the choicest varieties, the heaviest yielders, and the best way to extend the growing season. One of Morgan’s earliest memories was of getting slapped around the legs with a rolled-up copy of Sutton’s Seeds. Little from the cornucopia ever reached the family table. On the principle that serving up petits pois, lolla rossa, or indeed anything of top quality to her menfolk was tantamount to casting pearls before swine, most produce was sold at the farm gate. The family got by on misshapes, mutations, and outside leaves, plus anything free gleaned from the countryside. Including such delicacies as hop tips, which weren’t bad, and young fern curls, which resembled nothing so much as furry green caterpillars and induced spectacular vomiting.

One of the worst periods Morgan could remember was when Mam worked through a 1917 book, a jumble-sale acquisition, entitled The Wild Foods of Great Britain: Where to Find Them and How to Cook Them.Born from the food scarcity of the First World War, this tiny volume provided her with recipes for cooking everything from badgers (smoking their hams over birchwood fires) to young rats (stuffed with sweet herbs and breadcrumbs), grasshoppers (thighs only, fried in butter), butterfly larvae (incorporated intoomelettes), and every variety of snot-ridden garden mollusc (soup: twenty-four slugs produced a pint).

The experiments seemed to go on forever. In the end Morgan got so thin that the school nurse sent a letter home. But it was the time involved in hunting down these epicurean bargains that finished it for Mam – her garden started to suffer – coupled with the misogynist flavour of the text. Under the index entry ‘Cooks, female’ she discovered the following statement: ‘The reason why female cooks are such conspicuous failures is they are not capable of giving adequate attention to the business of cooking.’ That was it – into the fire for L. C. R. Cameron – back to brush-pollinating melons for her.

In a rare moment of attempted male bonding, Dai and Morgan once tried to work out her income from the well-stocked acre. Clearly, her activities were lucrative. In a land inhabited by farming folk intent on raising kale, potatoes, mangel-wurzels, and bigger and better strains of leek, her band of loyal customers were apparently prepared to pay whatever inflated price Mam demanded for her aggressively organic produce. Now Morgan trembled and gnawed his nails to see the garden full of Rhode Island Reds gratefully scuffling up the loam, accompanied by a ton of mud-spattered, contentedly grunting prize sow using its broad snout to ridge and furrow.

Mam grabbed an armful of pea sticks and screamed profanities while flailing the sow’s back in a vain attempt to get it off the strawberry patch. Dai thoughtfully peeled the onion and made himself a sandwich with two chocolate digestives and the cheese. He took alternative bites.

Suddenly the pea sticks stung. Venus took off at high speed with an outraged squeal, sprinting down the rows, nipping off whole lettuce heads as she went. At the first crunch of cinders under trotter she about-turned, grumbling and lowering the massive, bristly chins for a defiant charge through the Brussels sprouts. Mam was close behind whacking the large pink rear with the flat of a spade. Hens scattered. Feathers flew. The dog was up on its hind legs, yipping and choking as it yanked on the chain, desperate with excitement. As the screams, squeals, clucks, moans, yelps and curses rose to a cacophonic climax, Dai collapsed against the open gate, helpless with laughter until, his bladder no longer what it had been, he retired briefly to water the rhubarb.

“Goddess, see,” he managed to wheeze out, after a few false starts.

“What?” Morgan stared, appalled. What had he come back to? How the hell was he ever going to get the peace needed to produce his masterpieces in this loony bin?

“Venus. That’s Gwener, in the Welsh. Aphrodite. Read all about her in the Reader’s Digest, like I said. See, before all this lovey-dovey twaddle them Romans saddled her with, she was goddess of kitchen gardens.”


“So she’s doing Mam an honour really.”

“I doubt she’ll see it that way,” Morgan shouted above the steadily rising din. “Aren’t you going to do anything, Dad?”

“Well,” Dai pushed back his greasy cap and scratched his head, “could let Mercher have a go. Don’t suppose it’d do much good, mind. He’s bad enough with the sheep. Past it, see. About as much good as a sundial in a cellar really.”

He clapped his hands over his ears at a particularly high-pitched scream. Venus had discovered the asparagus bed, the high altar of the garden. Conscious of her antecedents she sought out the precious ten-year-old crowns that were her due, enthusiastically rooting them up like truffles, nipping off the coarse fern stalks, and savouring the succulent morsels with a series of appreciative snorts despite the rain of blows being delivered to her broad backside.

“Do something,” shrieked Mam, galloping towards them. Dai cheered. In retaliation, his wife did what she’d been threatening to do for years. Picking up a mattock she took an almighty swing at Dai’s head with the handle. There was a nasty dull thud.

“Bugger hell,” said Dai, turning towards Morgan. “The old bitch has finally finished me off.” He keeled over in slow motion, still grinning as he fell. Right on cue, Mercher began to howl.

“Oh, my God. Oh, my God. Oh, my God.” Morgan stood rooted to the spot. Nobody would believe his tiny Mam did that. He’d be blamed. They’d call it patricide – the ultimate crime. It was that woman, that Kurswell cow. She was a witch. Her curse was working.

“Don’t just stand there gawking, you idiot,” screeched the Widow Mam, not sparing her husband a second glance. “Help me get this filthy lump of pig-sty beef out of my garden.”


“NOW.” Seizing hold of the sow’s tail, she began to pull. Venus shot forward, straight across the parsnips and through the blackened stick-bean vines, dragging her tormentor after her. Mam doggedly hung on, alternately cursing Morgan and calling on God and all His angels to help her because her fool of a son wouldn’t.

It started to rain again. To pour – in fact, now it was the sky’s turn to open its bladder and let rip. Within minutes the yard was awash. Even Mercher was silenced and stood, head down, wet and skinny as a giant rat.

The spell broke. Morgan was galvanised into action. Letting out something approaching a war whoop, he sprinted after the battling pair. Venus glanced back at the sound, observed two opponents and realised that desperate measures were called for. With a nightmare shattering of glass, she charged in one closed end of the greenhouse and out through the other. Mam was suddenly silent. Time stood still. Then a hen started shrieking as if an especially large egg was pulling its insides out. Seconds later, the pig reappeared, ambling down the path between the blackcurrant bushes, slowly ingesting the wildly protesting, and still very much alive, fowl.

By moving his head a fraction, Morgan could see his Mam wedged across the greenhouse door. Never, in his entire life, could he remember her being quiet for so long. She was dead. He knew. He could feel it. Any minute now the world would end. They had come to the time when Celtic oaths became redundant. Today the sky would fall.

He went on staring. The rain went on pissing down.

Some time later, the yard gate creaked open. In through the gap edged Pritchard-Evans the Limp, a wall-eyed, stunted, bow-legged apology for a Welshman, a neighbour that nobody in their right mind needed, looking for something for nothing, clutching a handle-less willow basket and a handful of very small change.

“How do, Morgan, lad? Good to see you back. Have the missus got any cracked eggs today?” He was almost on top of Dai before he saw him. Then he stopped dead, his disparately focused eyes sizing up the situation. “Oh, good Lord, what they been up to now?”

Morgan opened his mouth and closed it again. He gestured helplessly towards the flowery hump of Mam’s pinny. Pritchard-Evans darted here and there, feeling in vain for pulses, and then skedaddled inside to call the doctor, temporarily forgetting the alleged walking difficulties that had kept him in benefits for the last fifteen years. When he returned the corners of his mouth were neatly turned down, but his hands gave him away, rubbing themselves together with suppressed glee. What a carry-on. Something told him he’d be drinking free for months on this story in the DeLacey Arms.

Pritchard-Evans glanced at Morgan, then at the two corpses. “We can’t leave them lying there, boyo. You know pigs. They’ll eat anything.”

He was right. Venus was already tentatively snuffling over the one brown tartan slipper that still encased Mam’s foot. Between them they carried Mam and Dai into the farmhouse, laying them side by side on the kitchen table with the harvest festival of chutney ingredients massed around their feet.

“Dear, dear.” Pritchard-Evans shook his head and attempted to straighten out Dai’s demented grin. It proved impossible. With an apologetic shrug, he covered the old man’s face with a clean tea towel. After a moment’s reflection he decided to repeat the process with Mam and her Gorgon bared teeth. “Some tea, I think.” It arrived strong and black, with six sugars and medicinal brandy instead of milk. The result was cool but stimulating. Pritchard-Evans patted Morgan’s shoulders. “There’s a thing to come home to. What happened here, boyo? You want to talk about it?”

“No.” Morgan took a deep gulp from the heavily chipped Pink Panther mug that had been his from the age of seven, when Mam had ‘rescued’ it from someone else’s dustbin. “No. But please get those bloody moggies out of here.”

“I’ll have a try, boyo, but they’re a law unto themselves, cats.”

One by one the cats had slunk back, prowling the floor and hissing, yowling unease, lashing their tails and sharpening vengeful claws on the table legs. Pritchard-Evans was worse than useless, hobbling round shouting: “Shoo! Shoo!” and waving his arms. A ferociously black member of the tribe jumped up to lie against Mam’s still warm body. Morgan felt nausea rise like stagnant canal water washing against lock gates. He calmed himself with more tea: half and half this time, then reversed the pouring order, opting for mostly brandy with a splash of tea. The shock slowly wore off.

He felt numb. Empty. No sadness yet. No grief. Not even a twinge of self-pity. Picturing Mam holding on to the pig’s tail brought bubbles of hysteria rising to fill the vacuum. Morgan quashed them, terrified of the consequences of laughter in this makeshift mortuary and, to keep them at bay, worked on his hatred of all things feline. Narrowing his eyes he outstared each of the cats in turn. It was his turn to perform a banishing ritual.

“You can all sod off. This is my house now and buggered if I’m feeding a gang of cats.” Plenty of rodents round the yard, flocks of crows…and small helpless creatures in the woods and fields. Let them try living off the land for a change. It only took a fortnight for a domestic cat to turn feral. They wouldn’t look so aristocratic with matted fur and empty bellies. Pinned to the back of the pantry door Morgan discovered a sheet of paper listing the pampered creatures’ dietary preferences. He tore it down.

“Listen to me Hemwinkle Haborym Llsiau’r Drindod, Hemwinkle Haborym Gwyddfid, Hamwinkle Haborymed Pleun Eira, Hemwinkle Haborym Blodeuyn, Hemwinkle Haborym Llygad y dydd, Hemwrinkle Haborym Lili’r dyffrynnoedd, Hemswinkle Harborym Cenhinen Bedr, Hemwinkle Haborym Rhosyn, Hemwinkle Haborym Cariad, Hemtwinkle Haborym Croeso haf, Hemmedwinkle Haborym Eirinen wianog, Hemwinkle bastard Haborhymn Blodyn cigliw, Hemwanker bloody Haborym Cannwyll llygad, otherwise all known as Cat. Or Mog. Or Squashed-Turd-face. I hereby give you notice to quit. Avant thee foul fiends. I banish you from this place.” Morgan giggled and sat down with a thump.

The cats yawned.

Morgan closed his eyes for a minute and a faint whisper seemed to run round the walls. Mam’s voice, in one of her better moods, reciting a favourite poem:

Hemlock, juice of aconite,
Poplar leaves and roots bind tight.
Watercress and add to oil
Baby’s fat and let it boil.
Bat’s blood, belladonna too
Will kill off all who bother you.

“What? What?” He woke from a wild brief dream in which his Mam was laying-out herself and Dai on the front lawn along with the bodies of all the cats, Venus, and several of the villagers who had crossed his mother and met with sudden and inexplicable deaths. Confronted by Mam’s muddy slipper and lisle-stocking encased foot alongside Dai’s filthy wellington boots, all pointing skywards to the great hereafter, he pinched himself hard, convinced he was still in a shallower level of dream state. The pinch made him yelp. Shit, this was real.

Eliza Granville embarked on a legal career before abandoning it in favour of a Bohemian lifestyle. After coming to her senses some years later, she returned to university – BA & MA University of Plymouth, PhD Aberystwyth University – and began writing in earnest. Her stories can be found in UK, US, and SA magazines, and in anthologies. Of several novels published, the most recent are her Holocaust novel Gretel and the Dark (Hamish Hamilton) and Once Upon a Time in Paris (CentreHouse Press). Granville has long been interested in myths, legends, fairy-tales, and in her writing has combined these tropes with her close study of the post-Enlightenment feminist struggle – all these facets euphorically alive in Curing the Pig.

War on wokies

Is “our” culture in peril?

By Paul Halas

The right wing press doesn’t pull its punches: an army of do-gooders, snowflakes and lefty killjoys are out to rob us of our freedoms and force us to abandon our cherished traditions. Our history is being re-written, monuments are being torn down, our favourite books, films and TV programmes are being censored. Comedians daren’t tell jokes any more, inclusivity has hijacked the airwaves.

They seem to be everywhere now – gaggles of painfully-sincere, well-meaning folk cavorting in support of some cause or other, unwashed-looking people daubing buildings with paint or sitting and blocking thoroughfares, and all manner of other nuisances. Even to many of us on the left, some highly worthy forms of expression can come across as pretty ridiculous. Pan pipes for peace, macrame against the cuts.

May Day, 1920 (Clement Moran)
Raised consciousness or silly and out of touch?

When people start singing at the end of demonstrations I’ve often thought how effective it is at clearing the streets. Wokeism isn’t to everybody’s taste, but is it a threat to our national culture?

If our national culture is under threat, maybe we need to reflect on what that culture is and how it evolved…. and what parts of that culture are in urgent need of further evolution. For a start, the UK’s national culture is predominantly white. (And that goes for the rest of Europe as well, and the countries taken over by white people. Britishness has its own individual flavour, but it has a great deal in common with the other European cultures – especially those with a colonialist past.)

In recent years the UK has begun to embrace multiculturalism and made a start at owning some of its past. And even the progress that has been made is met with resistance from large sections of the media, and the population at large… Which isn’t surprising when you look at hundreds of years of “our” cultural history.

Art, entertainment, literature and more recently cinema and TV all reflect a society’s values and also shape them. And our cultural values have an awful lot of baggage – racist baggage, class based baggage and misogynist baggage.

Racism and the assumed superiority of Europeans goes back to the Crusades and probably considerably before. We come across it in Shakespeare. If Othello wasn’t an outright racist play, it certainly was about racism, and The Merchant of Venice was overtly antisemitic. (It’s a moot point that nearly all productions of Othello until very recently involved white actors in blackface.)

Thomas Keene in Othello 1884 Poster - Vikipedi:Seçkin resimler/Eğlence, kültür ve yaşam tarzı/Tiyatro - Vikipedi
Blackface production

Concurrent with Shakespeare was the birth of the East India Company. Envious of the Dutch and Portuguese, who were raking in fortunes via the spice trade in the “East Indes”, the British and French set up their own East India companies in order to grab a slice of the pie. I find the British East India Company fascinating. It was the first example of modern multinational corporate capitalism – a trading company formed on modern lines with a board of directors and shareholders, which grew into a ruthless colonial power – and set a template for exploitation on a truly massive scale.

While British enterprises had joined in the lucrative slave trade between Sub-Saharan Africa and the New World, and had quickly come to regard their “cargo” as less than human in order to be able to carry out that shamefully inhuman business, the first European traders to set up shop in India tended to regard the Indians they dealt with on a much more equal footing. That was hardly surprising, as the Mughal Empire far surpassed its European counterparts in wealth, power, opulence and learning. Indeed, the Europeans were regarded as somewhat uncouth and lacking in manners. “…A handful of traders who have not yet learned to wash their bottoms.” The Europeans were tolerated, however, because the trade they brought was mutually beneficial.

Through chicanery, good fortune, military prowess, brutal repression, treachery and sheer ruthlessness the British East India Company gradually became a force to be reckoned with, and in time the dominant force in India. To begin with the main source of discrimination between all the players was class rather than ethnicity. Europeans deferred to powerful Indians and vice versa. Intermarriage was common (although it’s doubtful whether many European women married Indian men).

The East India Company. A shift in the balance of power

Without doubt the expansion of the East India Company’s power was driven by commercial greed, but what had started as a trading venture turned into out and out colonialism, and, realising how wealthy and powerful the company had become, the British government muscled in and gradually took over. The Raj was born. Indians increasingly laboured for British overlords rather than Indians – and of course that made them inferiors. The caste system was nothing new in India, but now the top caste was all white, and the humblest of colonists considered themselves superior to anyone with brown skin. The remaining Indian potentates and maharajas were now mere puppets. Intermarriage was forbidden; miscegenation took place behind locked doors. As so often through history, the implementation of racism came about through exploitation and money-making.


It’s impossible to underestimate the extent to which colonialism has shaped British culture. And that goes for the various cousins across the Channel. Our wealth grew from it, people went to the colonies to make their fortunes, it contributed enormously to our sense of self-importance. The subjugation of other peoples was painted as philanthropy, the theft of their wealth and resources was bringing development and civilisation, the obliteration of their religions and cultures was our sacred duty. You might have laboured in a factory in Manchester or stoked the boiler of a new-fangled steamship, you might have been the bottom of the heap but at least you weren’t black. And you could always prove your worth by taking the Queen’s shilling and joining in the carnage.

What was painted as heroism was frequently genocide.

Racism, snobbism and misogyny are deeply entrenched in British and the white world’s culture. As a baby boomer I’ve seen these traits perpetuated through every decade that I’ve lived through, and although we’re starting to acknowledge and admit to them a little more nowadays they’re still part of our cultural fabric.

One of the more demeaning parts of the prejudice engrained in society is the use of stereotypes. They’ve been a constant.

With the Chinese Labour Corps. NCO. "Don't yer know er own bloomin' number yet?" Chinaman (proudly). "One - seven - six."
In humorous magazines
Punch Magazine’s affectionate view of the Irish
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In advertising
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In political publications
In pulp magazines
Image result for Casablanca Movie
In much loved movies
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In sitcoms that should be forgotten
In sitcoms that should be dead and buried

As well as demeaning and patronising people of colour, our culture also strove to keep women in their place.

Buy the right bread to keep your man

The lower orders had to be kept in line too. And anyone who didn’t conform – vegetarians, teetotallers, intellectuals, left-wingers…

H M Bateman’s brilliant observations were usually about snobbism – but they were also usually very snobbish

My own field, comics, has not been immune. Comics I have grown up with and loved have been guilty of some pretty crass stereotyping. Two in particular spring to mind.

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Tintin. Herge evolved a bit in later life. Even so…
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I always adored Asterix comics, and while much of the humour derived from affectionate stereotyping this crosses a line

Most of this imagery is pretty old, but it’s part of the white world’s legacy; maybe more mine than younger generations’, but if anyone believes we’ve outgrown such primitive attitudes they should think again. Our culture, our media, our education have all been fuelled by such attitudes. We have become multicultural – but there can be few people from families that immigrated to Europe at some point who haven’t been made painfully aware of our cultural failings. There may no longer be signs on doors saying no dogs, no Irish, no blacks, but we haven’t eradicated snobbism, we haven’t eradicated inequality, we haven’t eradicated misogyny and we certainly haven’t eradicated racism. Just ask the young English footballers who failed to score their penalty kicks in the Euro final last year.

As a society we are evolving, or sections of society are. But there’s a large rump who remain entrenched in the old attitudes. The consumers of right wing news, the Daily Express readers, those who believe the BBC is dangerously left wing. Those who think colonialism was a good thing and that exploitation by the rich and powerful somehow benefits us all. Having been a political activist I’ve locked swords with them countless times on letters pages, at street stalls and on doorsteps. We have a long way to go.

So, getting back to the subject of wokeism, and whether or not it’s imperilling our culture, I’d say I bloody well hope so. Let’s keep the good – John Betjeman, larks ascending, parish churches, the Mersey Beat, cream teas, J M Turner… – but let’s not kid ourselves that we don’t still have a toxic legacy to address. So when it comes to clog dancers against climate change, or foot massaging to save the rainforests, or basket weaving for world understanding, I’ll do my best to swallow my cynicism and be supportive. They’re on the side of the angels. War is being waged on wokies, and we have to support them or the dark side wins.

Paul Halas’s escape from 1970s hippidom was the discovery that he could invent stories. He spent forty years contributing to various Disney magazines and books, as well as a variety of non-Disney comics, books and animated films. His retirement from commercial writing coincided with Jeremy Corbyn becoming the Labour Party leader, which led to five years’ political activism. He left the party two years ago with a heavy heart.

Letters from Paul Robeson

Paul Robeson in The Emperor Jones

Selected by Dominic Tweedie from:

Paul Robeson Speaks: Writings, Speeches, Interviews, 1918-1974

Paul Robeson was a superstar in the USA in the 1930’s and 40’s despite the fact that he was African American. In 1915 he was twice an All American football star and while playing for the NFL got his law degree summa cum laude. Robeson was a key figure in the Harlem Renaissance putting on songs and shows. In his career he recorded almost 300 songs.

We fight in many ways. From my experience, I think it’s got to be a militant fight. One has to square off with the enemy once in a while.

Paul Robeson

He went to the UK in 1922 and built up his reputation there performing in Showboat and other productions. He played Othello in three Royal Shakespeare Company productions. Robeson also played Toussaint Louverture in a play by C. L. R. James. Toussaint Louverture defeated the armies of Napoleon, Nelson in winning freedom for the slaves of Haiti. Robeson’s version of Othello ran for 295 performances. He started acting in films and became a famous movie star in the 30’s.

In the UK he became aware of the suffering of people in the British colonies, of the injustices of the Spanish Civil War and of the difficult situation of the British working class and all this made him draw closer to socialism and communism.

Paul Robeson had been outstanding in almost every single way a human can be outstanding

Robeson returned to the USA in 1939 and immediately got involved in the Civil Rights movement and he also got involved with socialist and communist causes including solidarity with the USSR in the face of the Nazi invasion.

At the end of the war the FBI put Robeson on its list of subversives and Senator McCarthy accused him of socialist and communist sympathies. He refused to deny his principles and as a result his passport was taken from him and a concerted campaign began to reduce him to obscurity.

Imagine all sections of our people in the United States, their organizational and programmatic differences set aside, joining together in a great and compelling action…

Paul Robeson

It succeeded. Despite the fact that Paul Robeson had been outstanding in almost every single way a human can be outstanding: he was a sports star, an academic star, a superstar singer, a film-star, a Shakespearean actor and he was a representative of the Council on African Affairs. Paul Robeson, according to his wife and children and his friends, was a mensch. Who in recent history can compare with Paul Robeson?

Paul Robeson as Othello, Getty images

Paul Robeson’s name was erased from US culture memory as if he had committed a terrible crime. In fact, the candle of his memory was only conserved by socialists all over the world. In the 1970’s or 80’s or 90’s, you could ask an educated progressive citizen of the USA who Paul Robeson was and they had no idea. Now, with the new ‘Woke’ generations of Bernie supporters and Black Lives Matter the situation is slowly changing. More and more people are remembering who Paul Robeson was. As they should. Of course the liberals try to extract the sting from figures like Mandela and Paul Robeson. They reinvent them as harmless idealists, but both Mandela and Robeson were angry revolutionaries.

Paul Robeson deserves to be remembered and his words deserve to live on in memory without being layered over and re-contextualised by reactionary liberal hogwash.

Phil Hall


An Open Letter to Jackie Robinson*
By Philip S. Foner, Quartet Books, 1978 Pages 342-347

Paul Robeson, “Here’s My Story,” Freedom, April 1953

I notice in a recent issue of “Our World” magazine that some folks think you’re too outspoken. Certainly not many of our folks share that view. They think like you that the Yankees, making many a “buck” off Harlem, might have had a few of our ball players just like Brooklyn. In fact I know you’ve seen where a couple of real brave fellows, the Turgerson brothers, think it’s about time we continued our breaking in to the Southern leagues – Arkansas and Mississippi included.

I am happy, Jackie, to have been in the fight for real democracy in sport years ago. I was proud to stand with Judge Landis in 1946 and, at his invitation, address the major league owners, demanding that the bars against Negroes in baseball be dropped. I know from my experience as a pro football player that the fans would not only take us – but like us. That’s now been proven many times over.

Maybe these protests around you, Jackie, explain a lot of things about people trying to shut up those of us who speak out in many other fields.

You read in the paper every day about “doings” in Africa. These things are very important to us. A free Africa – a continent of 200 millions of folks like us and related to us – can do a lot to change things here.

In South Africa black folks are challenging Malan, a kind of super Ku Kluxer. These Africans are refusing to obey Jim Crow laws. They want some freedom like we do, and they’re willing to suffer and sacrifice for it. Malan and a lot of powerful American investors would like to shut them up and lock them up.

Well, I’m very proud that these African brothers and sisters of ours play my records as they march in their parades. A good part of my time is spent in the work of the Council on African Affairs, supervised by Dr. Alphaeus Hunton, and expert on Africa and son of the great YMCA leader, the late William Hunton. Co-chairman of the Council is Dr. W.E.B. Du Bois, one of the greatest Americans who ever lived. We raise funds for Africans and bring information to Americans about the conditions in Africa – conditions to be compared with, but worse than, those in Mississippi and Alabama.

We bring the truth about Kenya, for example – about a man like Kenyatta, leader of the Kikuyu, a proud African people of centuries of culture. He’s a highly educated man, with many more degrees than we have, Jackie. He’s getting seven years in jail because he wants his people to be free. And there are Americans of African descent who are today on trial, fugitives, or dead (!) because they fought in their own way for their people to be free. Kenyatta’s sentence calls to mind Ben Davis, Henry Winston, James Jackson, Claudia Jones, Pettis Perry and yes, Harry Moore.

And it seems and still seems unthinkable to me that colored or working folks anywhere would continue to rush to die for those who own most of stocks and bonds, under the guise of false patriotism.

Paul Robeson

What goes here, Jackie? Well, I’ll tell you. The same kind of people who don’t want you to point up injustices to your folks, the same people who think you ought to stay in your “place,” the same people who want to shut you up – want to shut up any one of us who speaks out for our full equality, for all of our rights.

That’s the heart of what I said in Paris in 1949, for example. As a matter of fact he night before I got to Paris 2,000 representatives of colored colonial peoples from all over the world (most of them students in English universities) asked me and Dr. Dadoo, leader of the Indian population in South Africa, to greet the Congress of Peace in Paris in their name.

These future leaders of their countries were from Nigeria, Gold Coast, South Africa, Kenya, Java, Indonesia, India, Jamaica, Trinidad, Barbados, the Philippines, Japan, Burma, and other lands. They were shapers of the future in the Eastern and colonial world and they asked us to say to this Congress representing about 800 million of the world’s 2,000 million that they and their countries wanted peace, no war with anybody. They said they certainly did not want war with the Soviet Union and China because these countries had come out of conditions similar to their own. But the Soviet Union and China were now free of the so-called “free western” imperialist powers. They were countries which had proved that colonial countries could get free, that colored peoples were as good as any other.

All these students made it clear that they felt that the nations who wanted war wanted it in order to head off struggles of colonial peoples, as in Indo-China, Malaya, Africa and Korea, for freedom. For example, if you could stat a war in Africa the authorities could clamp down completely with war measures. (It’s bad enough now!)

The students felt that peace was absolutely needed in order for their peoples to progress. And certainly, they said they saw no need to die for foreign firms which had come in and taken their land, rubber, cocoa, gold, diamonds, copper and other riches.
And I had to agree that it seemed to me that the same held good in these United States. There was and is no need to talk of war against any nation. We Afro-Americans need peace to continue the struggle for our full rights. And there is no need for any of our American youth to be used as cannon and bomb fodder anywhere in the world.

So I was and am for an immediate cease fire in Korea and for peace. And it seems and still seems unthinkable to me that colored or working folks anywhere would continue to rush to die for those who own most of stocks and bonds, under the guise of false patriotism.

I was born and raised in America, Jackie – on the East Coast as you were on the West. I’m a product of American institutions, as you. My father was a slave and my folks worked cotton and tobacco, and still do in Eastern North Carolina. I’ll always have the right to speak out, yes, shout at the top of my voice for full freedom for my people here, in the West Indies, in Africa – and for our real allies, actual and potential, millions of poor white workers who will never be free until we are free.

And, Jackie, the success of a few of us is no final answer. It helps, but this alone can’t free all of us. Your child, my grandchildren, won’t be free until our millions, especially in the South, have full opportunity and full human dignity. We fight in many ways. From my experience, I think it’s got to be a militant fight. One has to square off with the enemy once in a while.

Thanks for the recognition that I am a great ex-athlete. In the recent record books the All-American team of 1918 and the nationally-picked team of 1917 have only ten players – my name is omitted. And also thanks for the expression of your opinion that I’m certainly a great singer and actor. A lot of people in the world think so and would like to hear me. But I can’t get a passport. And here in my own America millions would like to hear me. But I can’t get auditoriums to sing or act in. And I’m sometimes picketed by the American Legion and other Jim Crow outfits. I have some records in the market but have difficulty getting shops to take them.

People who “beef” at those of us who speak out, Jackie, are afraid of us. Well, let them be afraid. I’m continuing to speak out, and I hope you will, too. And our folks and many others like them all over the world will make it – and soon!
Believe me, Jackie.

Jackie Robinson was the “first black Major League Baseball (MLB) player of the modern era”. Like Paul Robeson in American football, and Jesse Owens in athletics, Robinson broke through the colour bar to become a top athlete in his discipline, baseball.

Paul Robeson Urges Support for Jailed Leaders and Freedom Struggles in Kenya and South Africa

Statement issued by Paul Robeson, Chairman of the Council on African Affairs, New York, April 13, 1953 – Paul Robeson Archives, German Democratic Republic.
We Americans of African descent are fighting for our full rights as citizens, and must keep fighting until we achieve these rights. In this fight it will be well to remember that as American citizens we have interests and responsibilities abroad, as well as at home.
Our Government is very interested and active, and very busy, in Europe, Asia and Africa. We as black and brown people are especially interested in what our Government is doing in Asia and Africa, because Asians and Africans are Colored People like ourselves. In Africa our Government is actually supporting and doing business with the white colonialists, not the African people. It is suppoting Malan in South Africa and the British in Kenya and Rhodesia.

We Colored Americans will especially want to support our African brothers and sisters in South Africa who are now being jailed by the Malan Government for peacefully resisting segregation and discrimination. We will especially want to support our African Brothers and sisters in Kenya who are being tried and imprisoned for insisting upon the return of their land.

We know that sending leaders to prison who fight for our just demands does not in any way solve our problem, but rather increases our resentment, thereby aggravating the problem. We know that trying to send to prison respected and responsible leaders like Dr. W. E. B. Du Bois and William Patterson; sending men and women like Benjamin Davis, Claudia Jones, and Jomo Kenyatta to prison; and murdering men like Harry T. Moore, will only serve to unite Americans of African descent and the African people.
Imagine all sections of our people in the United States, their organizational and programmatic differences set aside, joining together in a great and compelling action to put a STOP to Jim Crowism in all its forms everywhere in this land, and to further the struggle for land reform in the deep South. Think how such an action would stir the whole of America and the whole world. Think what support we would receive from the colored peoples and advanced white peoples of the world, – literally hundreds of millions, – strengthening in untold measure the struggle for freedom and peace.
Let us protest the jailing of the black leaders in Kenya. Let us call upon our Government this week to stop helping the Ku Kluxer Malan and help the South African people who are marching irresistibly toward freedom. Let our voices be heard in thousands of telegrams and letters to the President in Washington and to Ralphe Bunche at the United Nations in New York City.

Paul Robeson defends the Council on African Affairs

The Real Issue in the Case of the Council on African Affairs
Statement issued April 24, 1953, by Paul Robeson, Chairman, on behalf of the Council on African Affairs, concerning the Justice Department’s order for that organization to register under the McCarran Act – Paul Robeson Archives, Berlin, German Democratic Republic

The consistent job of the Council on African Affairs through the years since its establishment in 1937 has been to provide accurate information on the conditions and struggles of the peoples of Africa and to support their efforts towards total liberation. In recent months the Council has endeavoured to rally American assistance for the desperate fight of black and brown South Africans against Malan’s fascist oppression, and for the Africans of Kenya whose struggle for land and survival the British seek to crush with the most ruthless and inhuman punitive measures.

For such work as this the Council, I am proud to say, has received many expressions of gratitude and appreciation from African leaders. It would appear, therefore, that in branding the Councils as “subversive” and ordering it to register under the notorious McCarran Act, U.S. authorities are at the same time branding as “subversive” all the millions of Africans who are today determined to be free of the stigma of colonialism and white supremacy domination.

This attack upon the Council represents an attempt to frighten and silence all those Americans, particularly the Negro people, who are in any way critical of U.S. policies in Africa.

Those policies are directed towards establishment of military bases in Africa without consultation with or the consent of the people in the so-called strategic areas. They aim at the extraction of the maximum quantities of uranium, manganese, copper, bauxite and scores of other African raw materials for U.S. war stock-piles and industry. They entail U.S. financial and diplomatic support for the Malan regime and for the European bosses of Africa in order to maintain the white supremacy 

status quo (as in our own Dixiecrat South) and “security” for the expanding American investments in Africa.

All this may be found explicitly or implicitly stated in numerous statements of administration leaders and in such documents as “The Overseas Territories in the Mutual Security Program” issued last year by the Mutual Security Administration. These policies and practices are a matter of official U.S. record, and not simply “Communist propaganda,” as is alleged.

The Council on African Affairs opposes these policies because they are detrimental to the interests of both Africans and Americans. The Government in its charge against the Council dodges the real issue of the right of American citizens to criticize the policies of the state and poses instead a wholly false issue. Is it “subversive” not to approve of our Government’s action of condoning and abetting the oppression of our brothers and sisters in Africa and other lands?

It is a matter of shame that at the recent meeting of the U.N. General Assembly it was our own country, the United States, which voted with the European colonial powers against resolutions in the interest of the people of Africa, – resolutions which were supported by the majority of the U.N., including India and the other Asian-Middle Eastern-African member states, Poland, Czechoslovakia, and the Soviet Union.
The real issue in our case is the right of advocacy and support for the freedom of Africa’s enslaved millions, – including the descendants of Africa who have yet to achieve their full liberty and rights here in the United States.

The Council on African Affairs will continue to carry forward its work and will fight all efforts to restrict its usefulness to the cause of African freedom by means of the unconstitutional and un-American McCarran Act. 

Is socialism a partial solution to discrimination?

Jayanban Desai leading the protest at Grunwick, 1976 to 1978

Is the solution to racism, misogyny and prejudice a nicer capitalism or do we need a more profound transformation of society?

What do we do when a right winger like Priti Patel claims that she is fighting prejudice? Do we acknowledge this and support her as a woman who has suffered deeply from two types of discrimination? Or do we see her as a class enemy and defender of the status quo?

What is the position of women in Cuba? How much racism is there in Cuba? How much discrimination is there? Did the Cuban revolution get rid of prejudice in Cuban society? Did it make women more equal? Did it stop prejudice against people with a darker skin? Did the situation improve in all socialist countries for women?

I would argue that, in large measure, the Cuban revolution was successful in tackling the problems of discrimination, though discrimination remained, especially homophobia. Socialism did benefit women. It did give them a huge amount of equality in comparison with other similar Latin American countries.

A revolution in 2021 would be far more effective in tacking homophobia, for example than a revolution carried out in 1959.

You could imagine that any future transformation (revolution?) in one of our societies would now take into account the need to tackle all forms of discrimination and prejudice. A revolution in 2021 would be far more effective in tacking homophobia, for example than a revolution carried out in 1959.

So, in large measure, the logical conclusion is that a socialist revolution would solve an important part of the puzzle that is sexism and racism. It would bring an enormous measure of economic and practical equality. Along with an economic revolution comes a deep change in cultural attitudes.

For example, Mexico’s indigenous heritage was almost completely ignored by the modernising capitalist government of Porfirio Diaz, but after the Mexican revolution nearly all Mexico’s heroes, heroes like Benito Juarez, were deeply rooted in Mexican culture. Mexico became proud of its indigenous heritage and embarrassed by the fact of the Spanish conquest.

We are obliged to fully support the Black British struggle that is intersectional, and that is also for socialism; the feminist struggle that is intersectional and that is also for socialism; the struggle for LGBT rights that is intersectional and also for a socialist transformation.

But, as Stephanie Julia Urdang argued as long ago as 1973, it is only when the people discriminated against take an active part in the overall struggle against oppression that the problem is dealt with more effectively in the new society that is created.

Still, you look at the revolutions in Mozambique and Angola and what used to be Guinea Bissau now and you have to conclude that what was really more effective in reducing discrimination was the transformation of Cuban society into a socialist society and the people who fought for the Cuban revolution, supported by their women, were mainly men.

we must ally ourselves with [people who suffer discrimination] completely and understand them support them if we ourselves are not members of their group. They in turn, we expect, will not oppose the struggle against capitalism.

So, as my comrade, James Tweedie (former International Editor of the Morning Star) points out: anyone who is really serious about getting rid of the problems of discrimination will also be really serious about transforming our society into a democratic socialist society – a communist society in the best sense of that word.

Women and black and LGBT people, refugees and other persecuted sections of the population lead the struggle against their oppression, and we must ally ourselves with them completely and understand them support them if we ourselves are not members of their group. They in turn, we expect, will not oppose the struggle against capitalism.

Of course Angela Davis has criticised bourgeois feminism for this precise reason. Bourgeois black British oppose the removal of capitalism. Bourgeois LGBT people oppose the transformation of society into a more just society.

And all of our struggle for a new socialist society must take place within a broad alliance with the majority working class, the foundation of any future positive transformation of society.

Now this makes it complicated for socialists. How do we deal with oppressed people who side with the oppressor, especially when we belong to one of those groups? At some point, don’t they too become our enemy? Isn’t Priti Patel the enemy?

And all of our struggle for a new socialist society must take place within a broad alliance with the majority working class, the foundation of any future positive transformation of society.

It was C. L. R. James who said that the black working class in Britain and the USA were the leaders of the working class in the UK and USA

Five black British men went down to protect young black activists from right wingers in a demonstration in London and one of the five ended up saving a white working class counter demonstrator from injury. This is highly symbolic.

It was C. L. R. James who said that the black working class in Britain and the USA were the leaders of the working class in the UK and USA because they were the ones who suffered its exploitation and oppression the most, and the ones who understood its nature the best.

The solution to prejudice is not a nicer capitalism. It is not more of the same. The solution requires a profound socialist transformation of society and that struggle has to be in a broad alliance based on the working class, but it will probably be lead by the people who suffer exploitation and prejudice the most.

Phil Hall is a college lecturer. He is a committed socialist and humanitarian. Phil was born in South Africa where his parents were in the ANC. There, his mother was imprisoned and his father was the first journalist from a national paper to be banned. Phil grew up in East Africa and settled in Kingston-upon-Thames. He has also lived and worked in the Ukraine, Spain, Mexico, Saudi Arabia and Abu Dhabi. Phil has blogged for the Guardian, the Morning Star and several other publications and he has written stories for The London Magazine. He started Ars Notoria in May 2020.

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