Monday, 27 May 2019

Writer's Block - Struggling Under the Cloud of Corbyn

Since June 2017, I have felt disconnected from the UK poetry scene. My own area is becoming more extreme politically, and this is often reflected in the poetry arena. At one time I simply tolerated all political expression in the name of free speech, but over the last couple of years it's got to the stage where the world of open mics and readings feels a one-sided environment, so I don't enjoy many events and tend to stay away.

On the morning of 9th June 2017, I am dumbfounded that so many British voters have chosen to endorse a party led by a man who had befriended terrorists, and whose political machine is engineered by self-confessed Stalinists. I know that many did so in spite of Jeremy Corbyn, some individual candidates having even gone so far as to have disowned their party leader.  But more of a kick in the stomach is the endless reel of triumphant social media posts from friends, many from within the world of poetry, celebrating Labour's almost-victory and citing Corbyn as their reason for voting - splashing grinning selfies, or, worse, supposedly profound philosophical quotes and statements in celebration of their hero's unexpected surge.  Friends who had previously scoffed at the Labour Party's current brand of politics have become, stretched on the unrelenting rack of peer pressure, devoted fans.

Over the succeeding months, swathes of society, including many people who had seemed middle-of-the-road, grow increasingly commited to the Hard Left, and are seemingly indifferent to the alienation of the Jewish community.  Trying to agree to differ, I find myself frozen out by several Corbyn Converts, my reservations met with derision.  An editor ceases to reply to my letters. My observations on online groups are met with scorn. A poet I know produces a tweet mocking concerns over Corbyn's stance on terrorists. Other poets use Theresa May's decision to unite with the DUP as a platform for suggesting fears over Corbyn's friendships with terrorists are unfounded, as if professional cooperation, born of political necessity, with a hard right but democratically legitimate political party is comparable to an obscure backbencher going out of his way to invite rabid Jew-haters who impose the death penalty for homosexuality, and whose publicly, proudly, expressed wish is the obliteration of "the Jews," and the world's only Jewish state, to Parliament. All of this is done with apparent sincerity and moral certitude.
At a reading in late 2017, the conversation between poems turns to Antisemitism in the Labour Party - specifially, how news of this might be dismissed as mere smears.  When I offer my own view, I am greeted by a sour expression, a tut, and an abrupt turn away, my words too true, and the truths I offer too disturbing to the ears of one octogenarian Corbynite, indisposed to hear a single word of criticism levelled at the Dear Leader.

Slowly, the poetry circuit grows more and more homogenous in its Corbynmania. A book is published in his honour.  Mild-eyed, allotmenteering Guardian readers, and quaint former-fencesitters, now explode with gushing admiration for the Magic Grandpa, while the more media-savvy post pictures of Corbyn riding unicorns, or mocked up as a Star Wars hero. One poet I once worked with posts that Corbyn is "a groovy Socialist grandad." Some take to Twitter, where they post foul-mouthed blasts of support; others hear my concerns with thinly veiled boredom. At a reading in Manchester, a man whines out a badly written poem dripping in cliche, and seeming to last for about three and a half hours, devoted to lionizing Corbyn in rhyming couplets; his party are routinely praised at open mics.  Often I try to pluck up the courage to redress the balance and deliver some counterblast against, say, Corbyn's denial of the ethnic cleansing in Kosovo, or his being paid by the Iranian regime which hangs men for the "crime" of being gay.  Instead, I sink into my seat time after time, and swish a flat drink around my glass. Never one to avoid a poet's work due to their politics, I nonetheless find myself less and less interested in the products of any brain fixated on such a divisive crusade as that being wrought by Corbyn and his fanatical associates - including those who encourage violence against politicians with whom they disagree. Not wishing to deflate anybody else's free expression, I let the saccharine sycophancy wash over me, again and again, until finally I have enough and, not wanting to be associated with it, bow out of the scene.

I hear of similar problems overseas. A poet in los Angeles tells me how, at reading after reading, multiple poets will stand up and rubbish the idea of Antisemitism - alleging that in today's society it no longer exists, accusing those who suffer it of fabrication. I have stopped appearing at poetry readings, she says.  Safety must come first.  I agree - but the tragedy is as symbolic as it is personal.  And it is a story I have heard again and again, in different variations.  As extremism increases, across the world of poetry, good, valuable voices are being slowly lost, as, like some demented gardener, the tide of political purity goes weeding out the differently opinionated, the diverse, the Jewish. I think back to events I've attended over the previous few years, where comperes literally called for those of particular political persuasions to leave, or when I sat in shock as speakers urged the audience to boycott specific venues or events because people performing there have previously appeared in Israel. Such racism is no longer restricted to dodgy pubs and dark chatrooms.  It has been given implied license via the rise of Corbyn's mob, and shows no sign of abating.

Absence can dull the sting of disaffection, and after a year or so of restricted activity, due in no small part to a wish for privacy following the loss of my father, I make short strides back into my former hinterlands. Attempting to recalibrate my poetic ventures, I head onto social media, creating facebook pages on which to promote the literary initiatives I have been quietly plotting. Briefly thinking of adding friends, I aim instinctively for the profiles of poets, only to discover a tidal wave of bile and unsubstantiated claims, all politically motivated, spewed on the pages of people I had previously liked, admired, trusted.  Some of the most alarming were:

Re-postings of discredited allegations about the funding of political parties - specifically, claiming that Change UK were being paid "by Israel."

A post rubbishing the apparent use of chemical weapons by Syria's President Assad, insisting that the impression of his wrongdoing might be regarded purely as an American plot.

Accusations that reports - and thousands of videos and photographs - of Venezualan protests agaist that country's autocratic, and Corbyn-supported, leader, were faked.

The assertion that Zionism goes against the tenets of Judaism - from someone with no connections to Jewishness or Judaism whatsoever.

Repetitions of proven lies about the Israeli-Palestinian issue, with at least one case of invoking the Blood Libel.

Around this time, I become aware of a push by the local Liberal Democrats to draw attention to a Labour councillor who has shared Holocaust-denying facebook posts, and others of a similarly stomach-churning nature, and find that this man is about to be invested as our area's Mayor. I contact the Lib Dems, and we re-boot their campaign, this time it is successful and the Labour Party rescind the Mayoral nomination (though retain the councillor's services and include him in promotional party videos), but on confiding in Corbyn-supporting poet friends, I find their response is a collective shrugging of the shoulders. Only one shows concern, and in all other cases I find that yet again the emails dry up, the texts disintegrate, the empathy is nonexistent.

I ought not to have been surpised at this cold-shouldering. Such people stood proudly by their leader throughout the scandal of Wreathgate - when he was pictured holding a commemorative wreath for Jew-killing terrorists - a revelation which would shake the foundations of any normal person's faith, but seemed to matter not a jot to the loud-mouthed marchers, student activists, self-satisfied poets, celebs desperate to be relevant, dated rock stars or even the achingly plain "everyday folk" who had flocked to worship at the Church of Corbyn, often without being able to articulate quite why.  I don't believe one should abandon strongly-held beliefs purely due to the attitudes of others. But for me, news of EU nationals attacked in London in the aftermath of the EU Referendum was a more than sufficient final straw to jolt me from my former pro-Leave stance. No matter the pro's and cons, I reasoned, no position on the EU is worth the causing, however inadvertent, of pain and fear to others.  I don't expect every Brexiteer to follow suit, but we ought at least to reflect on how the promotion of goals which seem innocent to us, might affect the lives and safety of others. Such considerations seem to play no part in the minds of Corbyn's fans.  We had only three months to choose a side in the Referendum.  They have had more thn three years to do due diligence on Corbyn. However, the first signs that the cult may have at last begun to crumble emerge this week, with poor reults for Labour in the European elections. No sooner has the Brexit penny begun to finally drop for them also, than some of those who had deified the curmudgeonly Corbyn as "the first politician I've ever believed in," are throwing their toys out of the pram, and can be seen today proclaiming online that "Corbyn Must Go!" and echoing half-hearted calls from some of the party leader's beleagured internal foes for a second Referendum. Predictably, the result is mounting venom, and the imminent internicine struggles are not going to be pretty, as thousands of embittered people begin to turn on one another, leaving the rest of us, who foresaw this grotesque eventuality years ago, bewildered and repelled.   

Meanwhile, my own position remains one of isolation.  The natural response to such political turmoil is political poetry, but I can't write this, and so spend hours staring blankly at the laptop screen, the days drifting by.  All enthusiasm for normal pleasures and interests is sucked out of me, and I am in the Calder Valley in body, but not in mind, or spirit.  Nor will any vestige of normality be miraculously resumed when Corbyn inevitably resigns.  To pin our discontent on the career of one individual is inaccurate and unfair: an entire new political culture has been created similar in part to its anti-Western Soviet forerunners but embodying also many new-fangled attributes born of support for violent movements, hatred for the state of Israel, intolerance of constructive criticism, and a willingness to throw inconvenient minorities under the bus in order to help their leader into Number 10.

Tuesday, 14 May 2019

A Poem about Coughing

Currently suffering what I would gladly bet is the single worst sore throat ever endured in the entire history of humanity, I am taking refuge in a number of remedies, some old favourites, some kindly suggested by others, and trying to shake off the lag of lack of sleep, brought about by endless rounds of coughing.


At present my throat feels as if I had recently swallowed a bag of burning nails, and in the midst of these otolaryngological horrors, my mind is not especially attuned to the writing of poetry.  However, I have dug out an as-yet unpublished laryngeal lament from a year or so ago, dedicated not so much to the wider scourge of sore throats, but to the simple, old-fashioned cough.  It pretty much sums up all I have to say on this contentious subject, and I submit it below in solidarity with all others choking under the yoke of microbial misery:


COUGH

Scurrying hubbub
of rough, gritty bugs,
gruff grubs, bristle-barbed,
scraping chin's interior
with fluff-stuffed bushy brushes,
scratching skin and writhing
in a wriggling din of tickling -
noxious mob microbial!
Grisly gang, gut-tugging -
croak-provoking crew
of beserk bordotella,
and belligerent, beserker germs!


Bacterial brigade, withdraw your troops,
retreat into the recess of the throat's
dark tunnels, fade into a vortex
of syrups, dissolve like salt in snow -
most mendacious mouth-mauler,
irksome irritant, throbbing, throat-throttling thug - 

I've tried to be polite but look:
for pity's sake, just sling yer 'ook!

Travelling Late - Two Poems About Uncomfortable Train Journeys

Over the past few weeks, I've had reason to commute home from Leeds. This in its self is nothing new - indeed, more hours of mine have been spent on trains, and quite a few of them heading in and out of Leeds City Station - than almost anywhere else on earth. Travelling to or from the city of one's birth is always a reflective experience.  About ten years ago, at a time when I was again living in that city, I wrote this poem drawing on my thoughts on an outbound journey:

 OUTBOUND

The old bridge with its large iron rails like big brackets
deep enough to hide between is gone.

My grandma’s flats are still stacked up
like rows of soldiers trenched and battle scarred.

Gentrification hasn’t reached this far
but further on through city streets the station beckons me -

and across the tracks shuttling northwards or to London
and its otherworldly newness, it’s panorama meets the eye:

glossy offices and clocks, rockeries of hills, a weedy rail-side
lurching out to slip roads and the motorway,

industrial estates, and the dictatorial brow of Leeds Parish Church,
bearing on us like the glare of some Victorian Headmaster.

The city  glowers at me from behind, in all directions,
and even straight ahead there are reflections.




The poem above describes an afternoon or early evening journey.  More recently, my interactions with the station have been nocturnal, often on the later trains out of the city.  This, as ever, has been a demoralizing experience, and often quite a dangerous one.  Saturday trains are not much fun these days, and by the time it gets to five or six o' clock you can be sure that every carriage will be stuffed to the brim with bellicose drinkers, determined to prove they are enjoying themselves.  The guards stay away, the conductors give them a wide berth and remain secluded in their cabins - strongly implying that payment for travel is voluntary.  As the night wears on, the greater the hubbub and the more uncivilised the train becomes.  Without exception, the worst offenders - the noisiest, most obnoxious of all - are those within the 50-65 age bracket.   The young, either priced out of partying, or possessed of better manners, are scarcely present, and where they are, rarely compete with their belligerent seniors in terms of yobbishness. The emergence of this newly predominant, thrusting class of drinker has not come about overnight.  These middle-aged delinquents and elderly Hell-raisers did not suddenly wake up one morning and decide to wreak havoc on the nation's trains.  They are, rather, the remnants of their own younger generation's city-going boozers. The same folk who, twenty or thirty years ago, propped up the bars of Yates' and The Feast and Firkin, never stopped, so that those who once painted the town red with Lambrini and Skol, are now simply painting it grey.


As the train juts into Leeds, it is filled with abrasive packs of short-shirted blokes hoarsely bellowing out-of-tune chants, communicating in strange, monosyllabic and monotonous dialects unknown to human tongue.  Like British Donald Trumps, confidence inflated by that bombastic narcissist's ascent to power and the fake legitimacy this ascribes to a Stone Age code of conduct that had, for a time, seemed buried in the recent past, they hold court, with burning red faces and bulging checked shirts.  With roaring football chants and desperate grins, they ache for the illusion of belonging and contentment, shrieking and guffawing sadly and with thinly concealed bitterness, as if as much to persuade themselves as anybody else that this brief escape from the flatness of their lives really has served to fill the holes within them.  Leaving town, and burrowing into the dim-lit decay of Armley, Bramley, miles of estates punctuated by scrubland and the deserted bathos of empty car-parks and abandoned forecourts, the trains are even rowdier - wobbling stages for the final acts of grotesque comedies played out by lonely, fat and balding bigots embodying every embarrassment of Britain's past, scared and uncertain of its future.  These drunken trundles back to the terraced eternities of Wortley or the battered backstreets of Bradford, are their only chance to shine - time capsules where casual racism is the norm, where sexist jibes and language banished from the modern workplace might be met with furious but warm-spirited ripostes from equally inebriated middle-aged women.  These tired purveyors of old jokes, and their brash female counterparts, seething with venemous tongues and unleashing tirades of invective as the bottled-up frustrations of the decades come tumbling, spluttering and cursing from their mouths, rule the roost - subject all and sundry to their transportational imperialism, and no doubt in the morning, deadened with hangovers, have completely forgotten the vast majority of what was said and done.  They will join workplace jeers about "disruptive teenagers" or "bloody immigrants,"  drowning once more in the myopic muddle of Daily Mails and the maudlin logic of the tap room.

A couple of years ago I wrote the poem below, and its content could easily be applied to my more recent experiences of the late train out of Leeds.


LATE TRAIN OUT OF LEEDS

Night-encircled spidergram
of steel, wires, concrete gangplanks
stretched between rails
which look like strips of DNA,

this box of blackness
jazzily sashed
with electric light
rumbles, rocks, erupts
into riots of testosterone,
walkways throttled by stampeding feet,
and in a jungled brawling of discord
revisits Babel on a city's spew -
bulbous lubbers
stumbling on board,
stinking of KFC,
bellies full of booze,
trap-tongued,
as if whatever thoughts
coagulating in those thick, brick brains
can only dribble out in grunted spit or beery guffaws.

All meaning has been neutered,
individual opinion shredded,
on this swamp of a train
where every man's reduced
to slumped and muggle-headed
slanging bouts, 

each carriage drips in death's greased grime
as the stench of cheap-fried flesh
permeates like disease.


As we stumble, judder out of town
through scrawls of streetlamps,
beetle abyss-bound
into a morbid vortex of thick black,
a midnight etched in threads of passing trains
as bars of light meet bars of light
and fizzle fleetingly through windows
framing dark expanses of post-urban waste,
empty pitches,
dim-lit stations,
cemeteries whose thin grey graves are filed
like tax returns or love letters,
a cold and lonely coffin of a world
within whose shadowy, ill-lit peace
I begin to slowly feel at home.




Congratulations, Simon

I'm not that interested in the Poet Laureatship concept but must say I support the appointment of Simon Armitage to the role - indeed it is one I have been predicting for years!  His poetry manages to be accessible yet expertly crafted, often nuanced and yet quietly relevant, and few practitioners have brought poetry into communities as inclusively & successfully as Simon Armitage.  I think his work has exactly the right balance of accessible appeal and a background in community arts for the job, with a quality and distinctiveness to his writing which distinguishes him from simply issue-driven poets.  Two alternative front-runners for the role would, in my estimation, have been Lemn Sissay and Kate Tempet - however, Armitage is more of a known name beyond poetry and I can see either or both of these poets maybe getting the role down the line.

I met Simon Armitage twice in the late 1990's, and my "claim to fame" is having been present when he was comissioned to write the thousand-line, book-length poem Killing Time for the Millennium Dome - my former English teacher was the woman who commissioned him - but my defining memory is of a reading in Leeds just before Christmas, 1999, at the long-since defunct Borders bookshop.  The disjointed excerpts seemed a travelogue of sociology - society as monster, gobbling its voracious way through news cycles of wars, greed, famines, and environmental entropy, with a section refering to a recently famous hot air balloon expedition:

We could do worse,
couldn't we, than balloon? Could do worse than peel
            the skin from the soul
and dither and drift in the miles of airspace between heaven
            and Earth, could do worse
than quit the sink estates and the island tax-havens,
            look down cartographically
on town and country, golf blight and deforestation,
            the veins and arteries of roads,
the blood-clots of traffic lights and service stations.
            Could do worse, surely,
than clink glasses, balloonist to balloonist, mid-air,
            over invisible borders,
over East Timor, Rwanda, Eritrea,
            catch the breeze
and exchange personal gifts as tokens of good fortune,
            thrown basket to basket. 


Behind him, the black December sky was pricked by the glitter of Christmas decorations, and the window loomed down onto the city streets as if we were ourselves aloft in the balloon, looking over a world aching to be healed, and the moment seemed to distill, in its summing up of a thousand years of history, the brief and now all-but forgotten sense of resolution - world weary but optimistic - shyly, audiaciously, daring to emerge as a kind of collective hopefulness as the old century - and indeed Millennium - merged into the new. The emotion was palpable, the intimacy between reader and audience cementing a tangible unity.  I left the bookshop with the profound conviction that as we soared towards a dizzying new age, humanity, to coin the cliche of innumerable school reports, "could do better"- and that we would.

I wonder what direction Simon Armitage's work will take now that he is Laureate?  Given his much documented love of popular music and background in community literary endeavours, I can imagine we may be seeing quite a few link-ups between those areas and poetry, in live settings.  And as he is based in Yorkshire, this can only be a good thing in terms of exposure for the region.

One of my favourite works of Simon Armitage is his 2012 Stanza Stones anthology - produced for the Ilkley Literary Festival and featuring a plethora of poems by teenagers and based on a project in which poems were carved onto rocks among the dramatic landscapes of the South Pennines.  Being a South Pennines resident, I was delighted to notice that one of Armitage's contributions gives praise to that most unsung, and ever-present, heroes of our district - the rain.  It is hardly surprising, as the poet hails from Marsden, near Huddersfield, one of the rainiest parts of Britain. He has lived in Huddersfield for many years, and it was in that understated Yorkshire town that I was myself living at the time of the Killing Time reading.  Several of us would crowd into a cafe in the town's Byram Arcade, eager for a glimpse of one of the UK's most notable poets - but never catching one. At the time I was struck by how soaking wet Huddersfield was - in the winter of 2000, the town recorded a downfall of 99mm, compared to only 33 in Leeds - but having lived in nearby Sowerby Bridge for over 7 years, I can now wholly endorse and celebrate Armitage's cloud-pollen, / grain of the heavens, just as I celebrate this timely and exciting new appointment.

From Rain 

Be glad
of thse freshwater tears,
each pearled droplet
some salty old sea-bullet
air-lifted out of the waves,
then laundered and sieved,
recast as a soft bead
and returned.

Thursday, 2 May 2019

Potential PM Praises Antisemitic Book

If the last few years or so have taught us a couple of things, it is surely that the phrase "life-long anti-racist" will never quite have the same ring to it again, and that nothing should surprise us from the Labour Party.   However, on first seeing news of that party's latest scandal trickling over Twitter late last night, I genuinely thought it must be the result of some sort bizarre misunderstanding. But it turned out to be true: the Labour leader, Jeremy Corbyn, had been found to have been the author of a foreword to a 2011 reprint of the 1902 book Imperialism, by the economist John Atkinson Hobson - a book he describes as "brilliant," and "a great tome," yet one whose central argument is underpinned by antisemitism.  I confess I had never read Hobson before this sorry affair - nor, I imagine, had many of the book's (or Corbyn's) supporters or detractors - but the reading I have done since has left me sick to my stomach.  Though, considering that this is a man who happily took £20,000 to present programmes on Iranian State tv (whose regime was pledging to annihilate the world's only Jewish state and hanging people for the crime of being gay) and the calibre of people he has openly supported in the past, it should hardly have come as a surprise that the Labour leader would endorse this book.

The initial responses from the JC fanbase were typically sycophantic and evasive, and almost all to the effect that, although he praised the book, and provided its foreword, Jeremy had probably not actually read it, or understood it, and in all probability knew nothing of its author's views.  This ridiculous defence soon collapsed with the further revelation that he had, in fact, presented a talk on the book for the London Socialist Historians group in December 2010.

Of course, there is an argument that the prejudiced attitudes of yesteryear might be perceived within the context of their time, a claim for which I have some time - but this ignores that Corbyn, far from holding the economists of the early 20th Century to a lower moral standard than today's, can be highly critical of colonial attitudes when it suits. He cites Hobson's railing against the commercial interest that fuel the role of the popular press with imperial might that then lead on to racist cariacatures of African and Asian peoples...and argues that the way in which the British press portrayed Gandhi in the 1930's, or Kenyatta in the 1950's, or, indeed, Argentina's soldiers and sailors in the 1980's, shows that the tricks have not changed dramatically. But his concern ebbs away when the cariacature in question pertains to men of a single and peculiar race, who have behind them many centuries of financial experience (and are) in a unique position to manipulate the policy of nations.

This antisemitic tone leads into an even more blatant slab of cliche, reading almost like something out of the Victor Orban book of conspiracy theories:

Does anyone seriously suppose that  a great war could be undertaken by any European state, or a state loan subscribed, if the house of Rothschild and its connections set their face against it?

Those who defend Corbyn by pleading that his foreword does not imply agreement with all the author's views miss the point.  There seems to be some (willing?) confusion as to why the foreword is so troubling.  The problem is not in celebrating the writings, or extolling the ideas, of an economist who also happened to be an antisemite, but in specifically endorsing a text whose central arguments appear to be defined by it.

There is a tiresome discussion which does the rounds in poetry circles every now and then, usually when poets have run out of other things to talk about, in which they furrow their brows and bite their nails over the rights and wrongs of enjoying poetry written by people who weren't very nice.
Its an unpopular view these days, especially in academic circles, where textual objectivity is taken almost as an article of faith, and the existence of authors almost seen as an inconvenience, but I am prone to intepret a text with at least one eye on the significance of the author's life and background. I find it can be refreshing and interesting to sample the different worldviews of diverse ranges of people.  This does not imply endorsement or agreement. 
There is a world of difference between, for example, providing a scholarly analysis into, a celebration, or indeed a foreword to, the works of TS Eliot, whose poetry in so far as it was influenced by his politics, betrays this influence elliptically or subconsciously, or even that of a poet such as unrepentant antisemite Ezra Pound, and choosing to ignore or acknowledge the unpleasant attitudes these poets, and endorsing a work which itself promotes antisemitism.  I would find it impossible to provide any sort of sympathetic, or even objective, analysis of a book of poems by, for sake of argument, Nick Griffin.  I should feel categorically unable to lend my time in any way to boosting the ego, bank balance or intellectual esteem of such a racist.  However, it would still be possible to argue the case for doing so provided the reviewer were satisfied that the poetry in question did not promote the kind of political message with which its author was usually associated.  As unpalatable as I would consider such an excercise to be, it may be posited that author and text were separate, seperated, entities.  What would be morally indefensible would be a promotion of a book of poems whose theme and message purported hate, especially if failing to draw attention to any offending passages - since it is impossible to do so without, by definition, promoting that hate, given that it serves as the bedrock of the book's thematic hub.  The views of an economist who believes in a worldwide, warmongering conspiracy engineered by one particular race, cannot but be shaped by this warped belief.

I am aghast that some intelligent people seem unable to grasp this. Those taking to twitter to demand that, if we are to condemn Corbyn for endorsing Hobson's hate, we must remove Oliver Twist from schools for its depiction of a Jew, or the whataboutery merchants pointing out that figures from the Left, Right and Centre have referenced Hobson and quoted from his works, seem to be deliberately avoiding the fact that Corbyn's foreword does not seek to contextualize the economist, or to distance himself from Hobson's unpleasant views. As I have stated, I have some time for the idea of accepting the views of an author within historical context.  Corbyn does not - his foreword for Hobson explicitly draws critical attention to contemporaneous stereotyping. 
The language Hobson uses to describe the Jews (the above quotations are taken from a chapter entitled The Economic Parasites of Imperialism) is troubling, and it is not suprising that the President of the Board of Deputies of British Jews has written to Jeremy Corbyn to request an explanation as to why he would endorse it. His party are under investigation by the Equality and Human Rights Commission, the only party to have been so other than the openly fascist BNP.  I am among those for whom the Labour Party, even when I did not vote for them (the last time I did was 2015), were generally considered as a bastion against racism, and a general force for good. My own father was briefly a party member in the 60's.  But the last few years have altered everything.  Even in my own back yard, antisemitism from the party has reared its head - culminating in the forced resignation of a mayoral candidate who had posted antisemitic conspiracy theories blaming Israel for 9/11, accusing "the Rothschilds" of backing ISIS, and denying the Holocaust.  Elements of the local poetry circuit have become a kind of extended Corbyn fan club, leaving me feeling disconnected and unwelcome in my own town. It is, however, surely wrong to pin this phenomenon squarely on one man - it is an endemic, party-specific problem, and one which shows no sign of abating.