Rick Heyse  - Radical Rants

Animal Welfare - Peace Activism - Environmental Protection - Social Justice - Workers Rights - Regionalism - Democracy  

A bit of a Bio

Born in Kent in 1962 I have lived in a number of places across the UK and the Channel Island of Guernsey. One place I lived, the Brooklands Estate in Jaywick, Essex, has been made famous as the most poverty stricken place in England and spawned exaggerated documentaries on benefit claimants. I was raised mainly by my mother, after the failure of her marriage to my father. Despite this and what I suppose was life on the breadline, I wanted for nothing and benefited from a close bonding with other family members, particularly my grandmother and Uncle Bill.

Whilst working in Guernsey in the mid to late 1980's I met my wife Helen. We have lived in Torbay since 1989 where we  have  raised our two sons. For many years I ran my own gardening business as well as writing garden columns for the Country Gardener and the Torbay Times. Socially I enjoy the great outdoors, motorcycling, football, rugby and motorsport. I have in my time even played Australian Rules Football. Spiritually I am a Unitarian and an open minded progressive Christian. I say 'spiritually' as I would describe myself as more spiritual than tied to any religious thought.

I have been around the political block for a number of years, and stood for election in the ward where I live in Paignton on four separate occasions (1990, 1991, 2011 and 2015). Sadly I was defeated on every occasion but still retain the record for the number of votes cast for a Green party candidate in the ward.

I would describe myself as 'radical' and gain much inspiration from England's radical forefathers such as John Ball, John Lilburne, Gerrard Winstanley, the Chartists and the Tolpuddle Martyrs. Although very much a green thinker, I am not your stereotype 'greenie'. I love motorsport for its entertainment value and the skill of the drivers and engineers. I'm also not a vegan or vegetarian. Some might say this is all very half hearted, but I would disagree. I want a greener world, one where we can all afford to be green. I want a world where there is compassion for animals, even where they may be part of the food chain. I want less traffic on our roads with viable, affordable alternatives - and yes I want cleaner and greener motorsport, hence why I love Formula E. 


My Political Journey

On our journey through life we all come upon significant moments. The day we meet our future love, the day we overcome a serious illness or the day something happens to change our view on things.  I suppose our relationship with politics is no different.  For some people this can be almost a biblical ‘Road to Damascus’ type moment. Although I wouldn’t say I have reached such a dramatic moment on my political journey, there have nevertheless been events and times that have shaped my political outlook.


The Rise of Thatcher
I suppose one of the first of these occasions came in the early 1980’s, a time when there was a real threat of nuclear war. Britain had a right wing Tory Government led by Margaret Thatcher, and the special relationship with America reached new levels with the election of Ronald Reagan on the other side of the Atlantic. In fact it was not just a ‘special relationship’, I would call it more of an infatuation.

Thatcher was known for her almost hostile, 'handbagging', though I suppose you could call it bullying manner. As for Reagan, he held the world’s largest arsenal. In fact I would say the world was in more danger from Reagan holding these weapons of mass destruction than if Saddam Hussein had actually had any a couple of decades later.

During this time I listened to the arguments of CND and became increasingly concerned that the world was on the brink of nuclear war, especially with two highly influential right wing leaders with their fingers poised over the button. We were closer to war than at any time since the Cuban missile crisis in the early 1960’s.

As well as becoming concerned at the threat of war I began to look more into the background of why the world’s superpowers were at each others throats. It soon became apparent after looking into this exactly what they would be willing to go to war and sacrifice millions of lives for, and that was sheer power. Basically the west wished to destroy communism as they saw it as a threat to the capitalist system. It was not based on any alleged human rights issues, as the west was supporting its own evil regimes, which I’m sad to say continues today.

There was also paranoia within the west that the Soviet Union and its Warsaw Pact allies wished to impose world domination, shrouding every country in the red flag of communism. Evidence does support these fears to a certain degree, with Soviet military involvement in Hungary in 1956 and Czechoslovakia in 1968. However these were internal conflicts within countries allied to the Warsaw Pact and therefore internal disputes within the Communist bloc. They were not invasions of the west, and if anything during the Cold War period the west was equally as guilty of trying to impose ‘puppet regimes’ across the globe as the Soviet’s. It was simply a power game on the international stage.

There was also paranoia within the Soviet Union, who probably feared a military invasion from the west more than we feared an onslaught from the Eastern Bloc. This was why they invested heavily in military hardware. The same can be said of North Korea today. However it became apparent after the fall of communism that the Soviet Union and its Eastern Bloc allies did not have the military capability to launch a successful invasion anyway, something western governments probably knew.

Anyway these military fears made me look at the wider picture and the risks involved in nuclear energy.  I looked into the consequences that would arise from an accident at a nuclear power plant and the long term storage of nuclear waste. I had in fact lived as a child only a couple of miles from an atomic power station at Dungeness in Kent, with the school I attended at Lydd almost on the plants doorstep. I again began to see how peoples lives were not being considered and that we faced a potential nuclear holocaust by either military or peaceful means. As we know in later years such nuclear holocausts never affected Dungeness, but Chernobyl.

Also during the 1980’s we saw Thatcher wage war on the trade unions and the working class in general. Such government imposed devastation of our industrial heartland had never been seen before. It can be argued that Thatcher did more damage to Britain’s manufacturing base than the Luftwaffe ever did during the Second World War.

One incident always remains in my mind, and that involves someone in a job centre in Kettering. The man probably in his late 40’s and was looking on the boards in the job centre for work the same as I was. As he looked around he began muttering to himself, which gradually became louder and louder before shouting ‘There’s fuck all here’. On exiting the job centre he tried to slam the glass door closed, only to become frustrated that it was one of those slow self closing hinges. As his efforts to slam the door failed he lashed out at it with his foot to release the frustration he felt and smashed the glass. I later found out he had been made redundant from the steel works in Corby where he had worked all his life and had spent over a year looking for work. It brought home to me the fact that people were being used as a commodity which could be hired and fired by bosses to increase profit.

This incident showed me how little respect the Tories had for working people. They had no consideration for the lives of ordinary folk, their families or whether they could place food on their tables. All they considered was money and how much their ruling class friends could retain by shutting down factories here and investing in the lands of cheap labour. It was around this time I helped out on a picket line at Golden Wonder in Corby and became a reader of the Morning Star.

 Another incident a few years later is another that always gets to me. It was just after the defeat of the mineworkers who now faced a bleak future thanks to the Tories and their friends in the media demonising the miners cause. I was on a ferry and I always remember the sight of piles of coal on the harbour as we docked on the continent. I was talking to a man, a former Kentish miner, and he said to me, ‘You see that coal? That’s from Poland, probably mined by 14 year old lads in a appalling conditions and its destined for England’ . In other words that coal represented the loss of his job. It also represented how low the capitalist system would sink to import coal mined under almost slave like conditions in Poland whilst making people redundant and destroying communities here in England. This to me was extremism – economic extremism. If anyone wishes to see the effects of this extremism I suggest they watch the drama ‘Our Friends in the North’ which charters the course of corruption in the police and politics, and the greed of the capitalist system through the eyes and experiences of a group of friends.


An Awakening to Racism
My political story continues back in the 80’s where I was unemployed in Northamptonshire. There was no work, the steel works had closed, the shoe factories were diminishing at an alarming rate and nobody had money to hire a young gardener. A lot of my friends were in tussles with the law at this time. They were not bad lads; in fact I would have trusted most of them with my life. But as the saying goes ‘The devil will find work for idle hands to do’. These lads were not idle, just bored with no prospect of work.

I could see a rut I was slowly slipping into and decided to try and find work in the Channel Island of Guernsey. I went there with an ex-girlfriend who fortunately found work behind a bar in a local hotel, whilst I picked up the phonebook and began to call local gardening companies. This might sound strange but this was my first experience of racism. I was phoning various companies and was asked if I was a Guernseyman. I think my south eastern (most people would call it London) accent was a bit of a giveaway but I answered ‘No’, and was told ‘Sorry we only take on Guernsey people’. I can understand them wishing to protect jobs for local people, but obviously this was discrimination.

I think until that point I was never really aware of racism. Okay so there was the National Front and the Anti Nazi League opposing them back in the 70’s and of course the Rock Against Racism concerts of the time. I could understand why some people turned to the more racist parties when spun lies by those parties and the media, or possibly a bad experience with someone from an ethnic minority background. Some may even fear the unknown, and turn to racist parties because their fear different cultures. I can understand this, and believe these fears and lies need addressing. But after making those phone calls, it made me realise what it must be like to belong to an ethnic minority and face racial discrimination and even violence. I simply had a couple of job applications turned down, whilst ethnic minorities faced far more serious discrimination, verbal and physical attacks. This was a real wake up call as to the evils of racism.

Eventually I did find work, and I also found out what an extremist island in a great many ways Guernsey was. Fortunately there was one publication of resistance, the Radical Island Press, otherwise known as the RIP. It was I suppose you can say it was of early eco-socialist direction, fighting for economic, environmental and social justice.


Opening the Green door
My time in Guernsey did strengthen my views on such things as racism, ecology and animal welfare, as well as social justice. Shortly after my return to England in 1989 I joined the newly established Torbay branch of the Green Party. I had considered joining the Labour Party, and obviously as a Morning Star reader even joining the Communist Party of Great Britain. However whilst both Labour (at the time) and the Communist’s were promoting social and economic justice, I felt they were somehow lacking in campaigning for environmental justice. The Liberal's were doing this, but I felt were abandoning their radical roots by merging with the right wing of the Labour Party (SDP). However, my concern for the environment was based on the fact, if the planet we live on cannot survive social and economic justice alone becomes immaterial.

To be honest I almost became a member of the Ecology party (which eventually changed its name to the Green Party) many years before. An uncle of mine was also very passionate about the environment and social justice and had brought my attention to the Ecology Party. Unfortunately where I lived at the time in Norfolk there was no nearby branch, and so I never joined. Today the Greens are a major force in Norfolk, so how times have changed!

When I joined the Greens they were about to surf the crest of a wave of popularity following a decent showing in the European elections. Sadly following this success, the right wing media did a complete hatchet job and launched a smear campaign against the party, something I consider to be the real reason why support slumped substantially in the years after these elections.

I represented the Greens in the St.Michael’s with Goodrington ward of Paigtnon in the local elections of 1990 and 91, polling decent figures of over 400 and 700 votes respectively. Following the 1990 results our election agent Jean Allier stated ‘The Greens have not won a seat this time, but we have arrived and we will be monitoring and watching others and will win in future’.

My campaigning during these elections and afterwards was based upon social and environmental issues. After all I was a Morning Star reader, therefore I had the concerns of ordinary working class people at heart as much as anything else.  Following two failed Liberal and Tory administrations at the Town Hall, people were beginning to look at the Greens locally as a real option. We even had a speaker at the anti-poll tax rally on Paignton Green. The local media also began to show an interest, and unfortunately one local Green official was quoted as stating he would like to increase fuel prices by 90p per gallon. For someone such as myself fighting on pro-working class, pro-environment ticket, this obviously dented the support I was building up. I think this was also a key moment in the demise of the local branch, as within a couple of years its main financial supporter and the majority of its members had gone. This was such a shame; after all we had fought almost every ward and a local council by-election and were building decent support. However it was an experience which demonstrated to me the dangers of impractical ecological extremist statements and thought within the party.


Anti Fascist Activity
With the demise of what was a very promising Green Party branch I began to help local anti-racist campaigns as well as playing a part in the ‘Coal not Dole’ protests. Racism was not a major problem in Torbay, yet it did have active racists seeking to establish a strong foothold. As I was living in Torquay I became a fan of Torquay Utd, and therefore this seemed an obvious place to prevent the influence of the far right. A group of committed anti-fascists met on a regular basis and carried out activities such as fly-posting and leafleting. With the help of this group I launched an anti-racist fanzine at Torquay Utd called ‘You Wot’. Though officialdom at United might have applauded our anti-racist message, I don’t think they were too happy about our revolutionary plans at the time for getting supporters representatives on the board! Today a number of clubs have supporters representatives on the board, so I suppose our ‘revolution’ did have an effect.

My anti-racist campaign was not easy and I received death threats via telephone calls and through the post, and even had two members of the BNP turn up on my doorstep. I even received one call saying they were going to come round burn down my house and rape my wife. Despite reporting these incidents to the police the threats continued, even after my wife became pregnant.


Trying to Awaken England
The next few years I spent away from politics, raising my young family, but still keeping abreast of things via the Morning Star. It was not until 2008 when I next became involved in politics; however this was more of an incursion of mine into a completely different political world, one which I seriously regret and regard as being a complete waste of time. This mission, for want of a better word, was to try and bring a sense of left wing values into those campaigning for an English Parliament and English independence, an area dominated by Tory views and those of the right.

So what made someone of a green and socialist background become involved in what some describe as 'English nationalist' politics? Why didn't I rejoin the Greens, the ongoing Liberals, the Communist Party - or even Labour? To be honest these are questions I still ask myself, as I abhor racial and pomp and ceremony nationalism and its imperialist and racist connections, albeit supportive of its more civic stance within parties such as Plaid Cymru, the SNP and Mebyon Kernow.

I think the reason why I never rejoined the Greens was I still felt a little aggrieved at the way the local Green Party branch had disintegrated and the short sightedness of the '90pence per gallon increase' statement which was made. The Greens were at the time hardly a voice of radical rebellion. I also saw a niche and a need for a more left wing, non-Tory direction in the English parliament cause and to deliver something closer to an English version of Plaid Cymru, the SNP or Mebyon Kernow. The political direction of the present English parties were not in that direction, even though some supporters were left and progressive leaning. I believed with the support of progressive members and supporters this could be changed and by appealing to other left leaning and progressive thinkers and voters who supported devolution for England, a new movement could be created.  

To be honest I thought it would be quite easy for me to become involved and help steer such groups towards a more leftward, progressive direction. I say this as unlike many on the left I do consider myself to be a patriot. However my patriotism is not based on pomp and ceremony or imperialism, but on radicals who have fought for the liberation of ordinary English people, such as Wat Tyler, John Bull, the Diggers, Chartists, Tolpuddle Martyrs and the Suffragettes. I suppose you would call this a radical, peoples based patriotism. 

I do believe in self determination of nations, and believe the future of these islands may be better with four independent nations (or five if the Cornish opt for independence) still working co-operatively as part of an Anglo-Celtic Confederation and with international co-operation. I also believe in regional devolution for Wessex and other traditional English regions.

I had some sympathy with the English cause and I am a committed believer in decentralisation. The devolution settlement was a complete fudge in my opinion as it delivered a parliament to Scotland and assemblies to Wales and Northern Ireland, whilst England, and indeed Cornwall were left out of the equation. As a result of this poorer areas of England and Cornwall have suffered, as the other nations can shout and claim with a louder voice.

I also shared some sympathies with how many feel about the European Union. Apart from employment and consumer  legislation and advances in environmental protection, the EU in its present structure has done little to benefit ordinary working people. In fact it is supporting the neo-liberal agenda of low wage economies and in doing so encouraging massive economic migration and exploitation of migrant workers. Personally I have nothing against movement of labour out of choice, but what is being encouraged is movement of labour out of necessity, which brings about calls of almost uncontrolled immigration from EU countries.

Therefore I thought I could argue for a left wing perspective on these issues, and help bring about a greener, more progressive version of the Scottish National Party here in England. So what went wrong?

To begin I am an internationalist and definitely not a racial nationalist, and therefore detested the ‘Little Englander’ mentality. It’s a mentality that England is far superior to anyone else, that seeks to abolish human rights and scapegoat foreigners . This is where their idea of patriotism is completely opposite to my own. Personally I find the imperialist sense of patriotism essentially offensive to my working class roots, as tens of thousands of ordinary people fought and died fighting in imperialist wars. I even found numerous people in this field of politics so narrow minded they were willing to sacrifice the NHS if it brought about an English Parliament! In fact some never even cared about the NHS. As a decentralist I also clashed with the views of many people who just wanted an English Parliament and no further decentralisation. Then there is the racial element, and a feeling amongst many that nearly all of this country’s woes are a direct result of immigration. This, as a committed anti-racist, I also find offensive. Finally, the majority - but by no means all - of those involved in this field of politics were either motivated by right wing Conservatism or racial extremism. Almost all detested the socialist or progressive argument or anything remotely to the left of the Tories and one prominent party official even told me he would support merger with the Tories if they were in favour of an English Parliament! The same Tories that had destroyed our industry. To me that was not very patriotic.

I did eventually stand as an English Radical (a party which was supposed to be based in the historical English radicals such as Wat Tyler, the Diggers, Tolpuddle Martyrs etc) in the local elections of 2011. I stood on what many would call a progressive leftist agenda campaigning mainly on local social justice issues and poling almost 4%. However I did have frustrations with what I viewed as the party's right wing stance nationally, especially when it was supposed to be based on English radicalism and Chartism. I realised my heart was not in fighting for a cause where people were not sympathetic to my views and where slurs were made against the left and progressives on an all too frequent basis. This was definitely not my political home and I was beginning to feel like a fish out of water. 

  In the end I would say my time spent trying to turn the English home rule cause in a more progressive direction was completely wasted.  I would compare it to banging my head against a brick wall, only on some occasions that would probably have been far less painful. There were some very good people with some very good ideas but I came to the conclusion self determination would be of no benefit under the negative influences of Tory capitalism and racism. Also at the end of the day liberating the people from economic exploitation is a priority, and simply swapping one national flag for another completely misses the point.


The Regionalist Road
One thing I did look more and more into during my time 'awakening England' was regionalism and the possibility of an Anglo-Celtic Confederation. With much talk of devolution, true regionalsim, that of devolving power to the traditional regions of England is often ignored. Devolution within England would result in an English National Assembly under a federal type of structure. It was a concept I developed and have been a protagonist of for a number of years. My support for regionalism and an Anglo-Celtic Confederation gained a following in Wessex and other regions of England and even within secession movements within the United States.


Community and Green re-engagement
My passion for community based politics was still strong and I decided to concentrate on local issues with the Community Association I was helping to establish in the St.Michael’s area of Paignton.

Around this time a local campaign emerged that threatened Paignton's Victoria Park, and I thought the local Greens might be interested in supporting this. As we worked together again I began to look at the Green Party more closely, and felt it was much better than the party I had left in the early 1990's. I gave the matter some thought and I decided, after a gap of approximately 20 years I would rejoin the party.
To be honest I had  begun to work closely with the Torbay branch of the Green Party since the elections and assisted them with a couple of campaigns. I had befriended the two Green candidates I had fought against in my ward in May's and it had become apparent green as well as red blood flowed through my veins.

But within the Greens there will always be what many call an extreme fluffy strain, as you would expect as the party is a broad church of green thinking. I did try and push for a more social justice stance within the local branch,  but when I suggested the NHS, it was decided objecting to branches being pruned from trees in Victoria Street was a more important issue.  Clearly there was regular clashes of opinion which made me feel very uncomfortable within the local party.


Trade Unions, Marx and Fightback
Having left the Greens after a very brief period, I helped establish the local Torbay Fightback group, to campaign on anti-austerity issues and offer a progressive, broad left, cross party platform to campaign for social, economic and environmental justice and animal welfare. I was also invited to join Torbay TUC as a GMB delegate and also a delegate to the Devon County Association of Trade Union Councils. Here I have worked alongside the excellent Paul Raybould and Barrie Wood, stalwarts of the trade union and wider labour movement and progressive in thought.

Politically I also decided to join the Communist Party of Britain (CPB). I had co-operated with local CPB members for a number of years anyway, I knew them and trusted them, and shared many of their views. Public perception of the Communist Party probably draws comparisons to the worst elements of life in the former Soviet Union. In reality however, the Communist Party of Britain is simply a genuine socialist party with some very decent, sincere people amongst its members - and not the sort that wish to drive thousands to the gulag!  I think also if people actually took time to read their manifesto (Britain's Road to Socialism) they would see for themselves what the party really stands for and probably agree with a lot of it.

Despite joining the communists, I would not call myself a devoted Marxist. Admittedly, Marx had some very good ideas, but I would not endorse every one of them. My attraction to communism is more an organic rather than a Marxist sense, based on looking at communities from our history which had a social-comunistic structure. The long term goal of a true communist society can be considered very progressive, but how we reach there or a more progressive society in general (if this is ever possible) is the key. That key has to be building a better society via co-operation and working with a wide range of left leaning progressives,  from elements in the Labour Party, other socialists, Liberal's and Greens. I do not feel the 'dictatorship of the proletariat'is necessarily a good thing either, and this has resulted in elitism and persecution in communist states throughout the world. The biggest problem I found with the Communist Party was the view the party comes first. This meant if I wished to represent the people of my ward in Paignton, it would have to be under the Communist banner, something those in Paignton that had asked me to stand would never accept.


Independent, Green and the Radical Centre
In 2015 I stood as an Independent candidate for Roundham with Hyde and polled 135 votes. I stood on an anti-austerity programme and one of social, enevironmental and economic justice. In fact I was the only genuine anti austerity candidate in the 2015 local elections in Torbay, something I am very proud of.

Since 2015 I have re-engaged once more with the Green Party but still remain quite radical and independently minded, and very supportive of an alliance of the progressive left and left of centre forces. This 'independent mindedness' has alienated me with many on the left, where my concerns about population, support for traditional regionalism, progressive patriotism and an English National Assembly has resulted in me being harranged by certain individuals. Their views and actions has been so vindictive and packed with lies it has made me distance and disassocaite myself from that brand and side of politics. It has taught me that some will always look for targets and victims amongst their own allies often in preference to fighting for a better world. Is this something we have not seen after so called revolutions and liberations throughout the world? For these reasons rather than seeing myself as someone on the left, I now see my politics coming from more of a radical and progressive centre.


My Stance
I am passionate about protecting the environment and animal welfare. I want an economy where the focus is not on big business, but on small traders and co-operatives. I believe in policies for ecology and a sustainable world, and not one where our planet is destroyed for profit and where living creatures suffer.  I long for world peace and an end to the arms trade and economic empires which cause wars and increase poverty. I support workers rights and legislation to protect consumers. I support trade unions, but oppose the six figure salaried career trade unionists. I want to see regionalism and decentralisation, not just in the UK but across Europe and the world. I want to see a new Europe, a people's Europe, one where there is true democracy and an alliance of nations and regions and not top down diktat to build global economic empires. Above all I want fairness for one and all and our planet.