The Sanderson Tapes #2 (AUDIO)

Crowds gather for a candlelit vigil in solidarity with Emil Habib (Gateshead, 1992)

By Ben Pensant

What makes murderers kill? It’s a question that’s perplexed psychologists, intellectuals, and duffel-coat clad militants for aeons, none more so than South African socialist and honorary Geordie Bob Sanderson, who took a break from fighting fascism and sexual harassment charges to search for the answer on a crisp summer night in 1992. And it was on that day, from the cider-sodden function room of the Cumberland Arms, Byker, that this darling of the north-east Marxist scene succeeded where so many academics had failed. Tellingly, the answers he found remain as pertinent today as they were back then: Western imperialism. Patriarchy. The Jews. Always the Jews.

It was quite a night. Little did we know when we entered the venue and handed over our twelve pound subs that we were about to embark on a mission to save a damaged young Muslim whose path in life had taken him from the mean streets of Gaza, to the glitz and glamour of Wall Street, to the unremitting horror of San Chris Quentin. Sadly, Emil Habib would soon become another victim of systemic racism: executed for supposedly unspeakable crimes and smeared as a ‘serial killer’ by bigoted hacks simply because he kidnapped, murdered, and barbecued several people. All of which was a huge kick in the teeth to Bob, who spent weeks planning a candlelit vigil for unlucky Emil, fighting tooth and nail to influence the American judicial system from a rain-lashed car-park in Bensham.

See, it wasn’t just murderers in berets or balaclavas who received Bob’s full-blooded support. No, he stood up for oppressed maniacs of all colours, creeds, and cannibalistic perversions. And as you’ll hear, he was well ahead of the game when it came to blaming Islamophobia for turning peaceful immigrants into depraved mass murderers.

So as Israel once again flexes its genocidal muscles, what better time to wind back the clock and listen to a principled leftist speak with great authority about a country he’s never been to and a conflict he knows sod all about. This seminal speech also serves as a timely reminder of what can be achieved by true progressives when they put their enormous heads together, a stark contrast with the Labour Party’s dismal showing in last week’s local elections, which grimly demonstrated how low the party has sunk since binning the kind, gentle socialist who steered them to two defeats in a row.

For my part this marks something of a return to my passion project, having only recently resumed the mammoth task of curating the Sanderson archive after spending the last six months evading Covid by hiding under my bed. Thankfully, I was able to once again dive into the treasure trove of cassette recordings stored in my childhood home after my mother kindly agreed to carry her 15-stone frame up a flimsy ladder to deep-clean the loft. That she did so while battling cancer only emphasised her dedication to preserving Bob’s remarkable memory. (Though if you’re reading, mam, perhaps next time when you finish you could take your snotty, blood-stained hankies with you? Dunno if you’ve noticed but we’re in the middle of a pandemic. Just sayin’.)

So put your feet up, pour yourself a mung bean smoothie, and step back in time to the brutal wasteland of Major’s Britain. I hear there’s a man of principle trying to save a young Muslim’s life. And by pressing ‘play’ he might just save yours too.

Recorded and edited by John Egdell and Michael Atkinson.

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