Monday, 30 November 2009

Stitch up

So the USA has recognised the new honduran president, who was 'elected' in the face of brutal political repression of supporters of the legitimate president.

At the time of the coup, I assumed that US people of the ground had to be involved, as they were present at the army bases, but I didn't think that the coup had the backing of the White House. Now I realise I must have been wrong, judging from Washington's reaction.

Thank god once more for President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva of Brazil, who has vowed not to move President Zelaya from the Brazillian embassy.

We have also recently witnessed a torrent of abuse from the Guardian, acusing Cuba of human rights abuses, with no referance to the human rights abuses committed by America at Guantanamo Bay, or the effects to the US blockade. Rob Miller, secretary of the Cuba Solidarity Campaign has written a great reply that puts the right-wing little Cold-war warrior back in his place.

Is anyone in the mainstream press going to highlight the hypocracy of the United States?

Tuesday, 24 November 2009

de Menezes' family settles their son's case


Jean Charles de Menezes' family has settled for a £100,000 Met payout.

Jean happened to be in the wrong place at the wrong time, and he was shot dead for it. Jean was followed by several plainclothes police officers as he left his flat for several minutes, he boarded a bus, as did his pursuers. Jean got to Brixton station, but as it was closed he rang a workmate saying he was going to be late and again boarded a bus. This is obviously the behaviour of a terrorist, as the police,satisfied that they had their man, decided to go after the man who "had Mongolian eyes". "Code red" was given and the police were authorised to prevent Jean from getting on a train at Stockwell tube station.

Contrary to reports that came out at the time, de Menezes used his Oyster card and did not jump over the barrier. Jean got onto a train, no warning was given, one eye-witness said that de Menezes appeared calm as police guns were thrust onto his head.

Two officers fired a total of eleven shots according to the number of empty shells found on the floor afterwards. de Menezes was shot seven times in the head and once in the shoulder, he died at the scene. The shots were fired over a thirty second period.

The murder of the Brazilian electrician represented everything that was wrong with the paranoid post-9/11 atmosphere that Tony Blair's government created. It is New Labour's hands that are covered in de Menezes blood.

Settled for only £100,000.

Sounds a terribly low amount considering it is the price of a life. You would have thought that if an innocent member of your family had been executed by the police, you would want to sue for millions, but it is a bit better than the £15,000 that the Met offered immediately after the murder in July of 2005. The money will certainly go a lot further in Brazil i guess.

This closure seems a very unsatisfying end to what was, at the end of the day, a murder. Along with the poor little girl killed when an RAF plane dropped a box of leaflets on her and the bomb that ripped through a wedding convoy in Iraqi, the murder of de Menezes was just another terrible byproduct of the ridiculous war on terror.

Sunday, 22 November 2009

Lib-Lab?

A new poll for the Observer indicates a that the next general election will result in a hung parliament. Labour has narrowed the Tories lead to only 6 points, according to a Ipsos Mori poll of 1,006 people, the Tories are on 37%, Labour on 31% and the Lib Dems on 17%.

This begs the question, what government would have in the event of a hung parliament?
The Liberal Democrats have certainly moved to the right in recent years, but they would never be able to get a coalition with the tories past their membership, could they?

The best possiblity would certainly be a Lib Dem-Labour coalition, this formation could be seen to represent a united centre-left, that could avoid, to some extent, the brutality of a tory government. We could infer that the conditions for a Lib Dem-labour cooperation would be the implementation of proportional representation, further constitutional reform, perhaps the reversal of some anti-terror legislation?


In the tradition of that great Yeovil M.P Paddy Ashdown, there is somewhat of an overlap between liberals and New Labour. Certainly most liberals I have ever met would be happier in government with Labour, than the Tories. Back in 1997, Paddy Ashdown and Tony Blair established the 'Joint Cabinet Committee' (JCC) which was used to discuss the implementation of the two parties' shared priorities for constitutional reform; its remit was later expanded to include other issues on which Blair and Ashdown saw scope for co-operation between the two parties. Although this never came to anything, perhaps in the shadow of a tory government this could be a possibility.

But what is the reality of this actually happening?

Former Liberal Democrat leader Ming Campbell has stated:
"If Armageddon happened and we were faced with a Tory government, then the argument for increased co-operation with the centre left might not be a matter of choice, but a matter of compulsion."

In the background of Cameron's links to Anti-European, Neo-Nazi, homophobe, climate change deniers, liberals will naturally be drawn closer to Labour. I think that a Lib Dem-labour coalition is certainly not only a possibility that could occur, but would be miles preferable to a Tory government.

Personally, I still hope that Labour is able to win alone, but this kind of coalition is certainly a distinct possibility.

Sunday, 15 November 2009

Morning Star on the BBC!


A comrade told me that the Morning Star was shown on BBC 24's newspaper round up, that mainly focused on the BA situation. This appears to be confirmed by tomorrow's fighting fund:

http://www.morningstaronline.co.uk/index.php/news/content/view/full/5909


A fantastic achievement. Our 'Daily Miracle' is a constant source of ispiration to so many in the labour movement and progressive politics. It is our paper and we really do have to support it, because if it goes, it would take generations for it to come back.

Congratulations to everyone who works at William Rust House!

Long live the Morning Star!

Friday, 13 November 2009

At last something to celebrate

Well done Scottish Labour in Glasgow North East!

A great result that displays not only the appeal of Labour in its core constituencies, but also due to the fact that Gordon Brown was campaigning there, it proves Gordon is not the electoral liability that certain people want to convey to the nation.

However, the turnout was pathetic at 33 percent, this clearly displays the people of Glasgow North East's regard for mainstream bourgeois politicians. This was the primary reason (along with a lot of campaigning) for the good result for the BNP which was 1,013, only a few votes off the tories and 17 below the required amount to save their deposit.

The number of Left candidates was farcical, nevertheless, Sheridan still managed to beat the Lib Dems, it is always funny to see them wiped off the map.

Overall, a good result for Labour, hopefully it displays that Cameron's lies have yet to win over the people of Glasgow.

Results:

LAB - 12,231
SNP- 4,120
CON - 1075
BNP - 1013
SOL - 794
LIB-DEM - 474
GREEN - 332
SSP - 152
SLP - 47

Wednesday, 11 November 2009

Keir Hardie; The man and his gospel





Delegates at the 2008 Labour conference voted Keir Hardie Labour’s “greatest Hero”, but who was this figure? What advice could he provide for today’s Labour movement?

James Keir Hardie was born illegitimately to a servant from Lanarkshire, Scotland on the 15th August, 1856. Hardie grow up in extreme poverty and went to work as a baker's delivery boy for twelve hours a day when he was just eight years old, his family’s only wage-earner. When he was ten years old, after caring for his dying brother all night, he arrived late at work and was sacked and fined a week’s wages. At the age of 11 he became a miner. Hardie helped to establish a union at his colliery and in 1880 led the first ever strike of Lanarkshire miners (for which he was given the sack). He later become the secretary of the Scottish Miners' Federation and began publishing a newspaper called The Miner which he used to educate his fellow miners politically. Despite being raised as an atheist, Hardie was converted to Christianity in 1897. He later stated that his political views came not from theoretical books, or even his own experiences, but from the teaching of Jesus and the principles set forth in the Sermon on the Mount.

Like many trade unionists at the time, Hardie initially supported the Liberal Party but he became disillusioned after the government of William Gladstone. Hardie began to advocate socialism and came to the conclusion that the ‘Lib-Lab’ approach of trade unionists supporting the Liberal party was inadequate as the working-class needed its own political party. In 1888, he stood as the Independent Labour candidate for the constituency of Mid-Lanark (and came last in the poll). But Hardie persevered and was elected to represent West Ham South constituency in 1892. Hardie became the country's first socialist M.P. and created a sensation by entering Parliament wearing a cloth cap and tweed suit. In parliament Hardie became a figure despised by the British establishment. He read out the names of the hundreds of miner’s that were regularly killed due to the shortcuts that bosses took to make yet more money. Hardie argued for policies that Tom Paine had declared in Rights of Man in 1791, that the rich must be taxed in order to redistribute money to the poor.
In an effort to bring together the various trade unions, socialist and progressive groups together, a meeting in 1900 established the Labour representation committee, an organisation that later become the Labour party. In the same year Hardie was elected MP for Merthyr Tydfil. He negotiated a deal with the leaders of the Liberal Party that the two parties would not stand against each other in thirty constituencies in the next election. Thus securing the Labour party’s independence.


Hardie travelled to India, where he made speeches against the institutional racism of the British administration, he encouraged Indian self-rule in order stop the British Empire from exploiting India’s natural resources. Similar speeches in favour of Equal rights for non-white South Africans encouraged the King and the bourgeois press to attack Hardie as a seditious troublemaker. Likewise, action in favour of rights for women drew similar criticism, Yet Hardie’s close relationship with Emmeline and Sylvia Pankhurst, along with his ecological views, signify how, in many ways, Hardie was ahead of his time.

In a country like Britain, with its history of moderation and respect for constitutional, democracy, the ballot is certainly more effective in bringing about social reform than the barricade. Hardie argued that “Socialism does not create the class struggle, it does not even accentuate it, it only recognises it. This is then broad generalisation of Marx which pedants have distorted out of all recognition, and elevated into a sectarian dogma under the name of the ‘Class War’." Hardie argued that socialism was not superseded by social reform under bourgeois government; he rejected the sectarian posturing of the Social Democratic Federation, who chose to oppose anything that was not the immediate full implementation of socialism overnight. In this vein, Hardie supported the social reforms of Lloyd George’s ‘People’s budget’, yet this backing was never uncritical. Hardie opposed the 1911 National insurance bill as it intended to exact contributions by means of the hated poll tax, that had led peasants to revolt against the King in 1381. Keir Hardie argued that the new party should be named the Labour party, without any reference to ‘socialist’ in order to avoid the party becoming one of many small dogmatic sects. This constructive approach allowed the Labour party not only to bring issues such as old age pensions, health and unemployment relief to a parliament that was dominated by the day to day issues of running the King’s empire, but to reverse the anti-union judgements such as that made during the Taff Vale case. Hardie’s philosophy held that the pursuit of complete socialism does not rule out the pursuit of partial socialism. In fact, it is only through campaigns of social reform that an alliance of socialists, trades unionists and middle-class sympathisers can be built into a movement that can viably buld the foundations of a socialist society.

In the years running up to the First World War, Keir Hardie threw himself into the anti-war campaign, Shaking off bourgeois attacks that labelled him ‘pro-German’ he travelled across Europe urging socialist leaders to call a general strike in the event of war. Following a gruelling schedule of meetings, speeches and protests, the outbreak of war represented a sharp deterioration in Hardie’s ill health. However, Hardie’s faith in humanity never faltered and on the 24 December 1914, British and German soldiers spontaneously climbed out of their trenches to play football and sing ‘Silent Night’ with one another.
Hardie spend much of his relatively short life isolated, lonely and often ridiculed. Yet it was his strong maverick character that enabled him to bring together so many different groups and forge a new political party. Hardie managed to steer the Labour movement away from the influence of both the dogma of anarcho-syndicalism and inward facing Marxist sects. And at the same time, Hardie built a truly independent Labour party, that no longer had to compromise it’s principles in a subservient relationship with the Liberal party.

Hardie’s appeal came from his distinctive mixture of religious derived principles, pragmatic, non-sectarian approach and firm grounding in the traditions of our indigenous radical past. From the peasant’s revolt to the levellers, Tom Paine and the chartists, Hardie believed that every movement of the people in our country for the last thousand years has ultimately sought to create the mythical, socialist commonwealth of ‘Merrie England’. In Serfdom to Socialism (1907), Hardie wrote “This generation has grown up ignorant of the fact that socialism is as old as the human race. When civilization dawned upon the world, primitive man was living his rude Communistic life, sharing all things in common with every member of the tribe. Later when the race lived in villages, man, the communist, moved about among the communal flocks and herds on communal land. The peoples who have carved their names most deeply on the tables of human story all set out on their conquering career as Communists, and their downward path begins with the day when they finally turned away from it and began to gather personal possessions. When the old civilizations were putrefying, the still small voice of Jesus the Communist stole over the earth like a soft refreshing breeze carrying healing wherever it went.”

In today’s culture of greed, where the relentless pursuit of personal wealth is not only encouraged but celebrated, even a Labour government announces that there is nothing morally wrong with being ‘filthy rich’. Hardie, drawing heavily on his religious discourse, considered his day to be an age of the worship of Mammon; to stand up against this, Hardie stated that “Socialism proposes to dethrone the brute god Mammon and to lift humanity into its place”. Hardie celebrated the radicals of his day, who had widely democratized Britain’s political system, and he urged the Labour movement to extend this emancipatory move by democratizing the economy. James Keir Hardie is widely seen as legendary figure, the father of Britain’s Labour movement. The significance of this is illustrated on the banner of the Chopwell Lodge of the National Union of Miners, which displays the portrait of Keir Hardie next to that of Marx and Lenin. The hammer and sickle of the Communist party alongside the ‘spade, torch and hoe’ of the Labour party, representing the unity of socialist, trade unionist and progressive components of force that Keir Hardie assembled all those years ago. At a time when the New Labour clique have infringed upon Labour’s founding principles of peace, equality and morality, the example of Keir Hardie informs today’s radicals how to construct an alliance that will push history in a progressive direction.

Tuesday, 10 November 2009

Lets get the facts right....


Knowing your people's history is an essential tool for progressive activists in terms of learning the lessons of the past and informing the political work that you intend to carry out tomorrow. However, the contemporary attitude of much of the left in Britain towards, amongst other issues, the Soviet Union, GDR and other socialist nations demonstrates the pervasiveness of what can only be described as a Trotskyite version of history that has a damaging effect upon new generations of left-wing activists.

At this cold time of year in 1936, Nazi Germany and Fascist Italy recognized Franco as the legitimate head of Spain's government. The extent to which many young people have swallowed, literally hook, line and sinker, the trotskyite version of events of the Spanish Civil War never ceases to amaze me. More people need to outline misunderstandings about the conflict and, perhaps more importantly, try to identify the provenance of these lies.

The basic slogan that you will get told is:

'The Stalinists (trotskyite word meaning communist)deliberately lost the war and betrayed the Revolution'

This lie will no doubt be backed up by the 'facts' that:

1) All the best weapons were given out only to Communist controlled forces
2) The Communists murdered the true revolutionaries in Barcelona in cold blood
3) The Communists sabotaged the revolution because they did't want socialism

The best way to combat anyone uttering these fallacies, is to replace their misconceptions with stone cold truth. The only country in the world that provided any real assistance to the Republic was the Soviet Union. This came in the form of hundreds of aircraft, artillery, tanks, trucks,armored cars and thousands of machine guns, rifles, shells, cartridges, tons of ammunition. Of particular importance were the T-26 tank and the Polikarpov I-16 fighter airplane, known as the Mosca. These were accompanied by thousands of personnel, mainly tacticans, tank crew and pilots.

There has been an accusation that these weapons only went to fronts where the Communists and Socialists were in control, this is true, yet the reason for this was not Treachery, but the presence of nationalist offensives. The POUM and CNT controlled lines in Aragon were so unactive that many commentators descibed the boredom of life in the trenches, this lead these forces to concentrate on building a revolutionary society in this area.

However, the people in Extremadura, Andalucia and Madrid could not afford to waste time with such speculation due to the unrelentless advances of Franco's Army of Africa and Hitler's Condor Legion in these areas. In these areas people concentrated on the main issue of defeating the fascists, the most effective way of achieving this, in terms of unity of forces and prospect for global sympathy was to fight for the Republic. In these sections, the brutal execution of progressives, the cries of orphaned children and screams of raped women were persuasive in uniting the republican forces around the political argument that stressed making the defeat of the fascists as the main aim.

While the majority of the Republican forces agreed that the only way to defeat the fascists was to establish a unified command, whereby centralised leadership would provide a more effective military campaign and increase industrial production. Fighting to defend bourgious democracy was the only way further international support could be drawn, this would unite liberals, social democrats, communists and socialists. Murdering priests, raping nuns, buring religous items and enforcing land redistribution only led to isolating the Republic. Communist policy did not intend to betray socialism, it was the only policy that could have enabled the republic to win, and it stood in direct contrast with the ultra-left posturing of the POUM.

Those who supported the prioritization of fighting the revolution began to stockpile weapons as they feared repercussion from the Liberal-Socialist-Communist leadership. Overzealous activists from both camps began to engage in unconstructive acts of agression against each other that went far beyond petty bickering. The situation had deteriorated to such an extent that, in 1937, the leaders of the anarchist CNT and socialist UGT trade unions agreed not to hold a May Day demonstration for fears of clashes. Nevertheless, the POUM declared that their supporters should 'begin the struggle for working class power', and urged that they should have 'arms at the ready'. The Government ordered all stockpiles of arms in Barcelona to be given up and attempted to take control of Barcelona's central telephone exchange. CNT members then ignored their leaders and joined the POUM uprising equipped with weapons that had been held back from the front. The Republican, Socialist and Communist government leadership then ordered the army in to restore order.

I hope that this can counter the lies that are spread about the Communists in the Spanish Civil War, that have been spread by George Orwells 'Homage to Catalonia' and Ken Loach's 'land and freedom'. Both the book and the film is more a piece of propaganda that attempts to blame the Communist party for all the left's failures, they are false accounts that are based around trotskyist propaganda, and are not representations that display the true experience of the civil war.

This view of the Spanish Civil War does not only have no basis what so ever in fact, it is a complete disgrace to the memories of those brave people who gave their lives to fight against Franco. It is a falsification that, much like the debate centering around the GDR, correlates with Ruling class ideology more than it does with real progressive ideas.

Anyone who is interested in the real picture should check out the international brigade memorial trust's website and hear about Spain from truly heroic people. (http://www.international-brigades.org.uk)

Monday, 9 November 2009

Finally some balance on the GDR


For those out there who fail to adhere to ruling class version of history, sorry the story tale repeated in the news, concerning the German Democratic Republic (GDR), Bruni de la Motte's guardian piece came as a welcome bit of proper journalism, in a sea of ideologically charged, Cold-War propaganda.

Don't get me wrong there were many problems with the GDR, and these problems only fed the one-sided stories that persit to this day. The lack of political freedoms, freedom to travel and cowardly shooting of those attempting to cross the wall were a mistake and ultimately lead to the collapse of the country.

However, much like the Soviet Union, the GDR was relatively un-developed, it was born in the midst of war and constantly faced sabotage at the face of imperialism. These issues lead to the breaking of the laws of socialist democracy, often with terrible results, these issues also lead to unfair, one-sided critism from Cold-war warrior journos.

This ruling class ideology persists today and prevents contemporary journalists from mentioning several points;

1) The GDR came into being during the cold war. It was never the intention of the Soviet Union, which liberated eastern Germany from nazi dictatorship, to set up a separate state. Moscow intended that Germany should be united along the lines of Austria, which adopted military and diplomatic neutrality. This was demonstrated by Moscow allowing Berlin to be split into different areas of influence, hardly the moves of a state that intends to 'conquer' Germany.

It was the West that split Germany, when it set up the Federal Republic of Germany (FRG) East Germany was not an example of the USSR extending its 'empire'.

2)Denazification in the East was systematically carried out, whereas, in the West former Nazi Party members were allowed to continue in the FRG as government ministers, teachers, judges, prosecutors, military officers and diplomats.

3)The FRG could not be described as a being a bastion of democracy, the Communist party was banned and Communists faced widespread repression.

As I have said, the restrictions on personal liberties, while they can be explained within that certain context, cannot and shouldn't be defended. Nonetheless, the great advances in jobs, housing, sport and the arts, support for anti-colonial movements...etc should not be left out of the picture.

These acheivements have been left out because they demonstrate how a government can make advances in equality and security for ordinary people, how governement could stand up to imperialism.

The fact that the media have not reported a balanced picture of the GDR represents the fear of socialism that persists in the aftermath of the 'end of history'.

Does our media keep up its principled opposition to walls? Do they keep up the same one-sided criticism of the apartheid wall in israel? Do they fuck!

(Read the article at http://www.guardian.co.uk/commentisfree/2009/nov/08/1989-berlin-wall )

Sunday, 1 November 2009

Which way forward for the Progressive movement?



Against the backdrop of unemployment, the rising tide of fascism and the strike action by the posties, we must face the elephant in the room, which direction must the left take now?

In many ways the movement is divided in terms of attitudes towards tactics. This division causes paralysis and acts as an obstacle to unified action. Together with this, especially in regards to anti-fascism, is the disorientated manner in which progressives approach subjects that concern the very conception of what it means to be British, about our identity and traditions. This two issues are deeply intertwined and are often the core reasons for division on the left at this point in time.

After recently visiting the battle of Cable street mural in East London with my brother, these two issues struck me.

Firstly, the battle of Cable Street is only one chapter from a whole library of British folklore. This indigenous labour movement history is a much neglected, but powerful weapon for progressives to use. However, several local residents of the street that we asked had no clue as to what we were talking about. When we found the mural, there were no signs to tell a bit of the history behind the image.

Stressing the need to come to grips with our radical past could be simply dismissed as a cliche. Many figures have indentified this as a problem with leftwing politics in Britain, but have often been attacked for this, Billy Bragg's excellent 'Progressive Patriot' springs to mind. Nevertheless, it is an important issue that needs to be worked on.

Popular political figures like Tony Benn are incredibly good at stressing the role of the Tolpuddle Martyrs, the Chartists etc.. But these days, the need to celebrate these heros and use this platform to encourage the general public to make connections between the solution these historical figures advocated to the problems of their day and the solutions that progressives offer to contemporary issues is a huge gap in the tactics of the progressive movement that desperately needs to be filled.

This problem is reflected in the anti-fascist movement. There is a world of difference between the tactics of groups such as Hope Not Hate, who argue that the BNP directly contravenes Britain's values of tolerance and moderation. Hope Not Hate point to our grandparents fight against Hitler to display that the BNP's professed patriotism is a sham. This tactic is effective in persuading the general public to make links between British traditions and past history and the arguments that the anti-fascists are making. In short, if we can demonstrate that events, such as the battle of Cable street, tie into a shared sense of Britishness and the experience or living in Britain, then we will always beat the fascists.

It is often said that socialists and Communists in France find it a lot easier to fuse a radical political stance with waving the drapeau tricolore and singing La Marseillaise. This is due to the revolutionary foundations of that country, as a result it is easier to make revolutionary arguements and still appear to be within the national political tradition. This is a more difficult task in britain, especially in England, where the nation's historical experience appears to be bound to Monarchy and Empire.

Within the anti-fascist movement, more headstrong anti-fascist activists are perceived to prefer to isolate rather than engage with communities. Some of these activists are likely to blockade roads, jeer houses that hang the Union Jack, or shout 'Nazi' at working class males who happen to have a short haircut. This is clearly the wrong approach, and enables the BNP to label anti-fascists as somehow not just un-British, but anti-British with 'alien' values.

In much the same way as we need to stress the indigenous foundations of our radical politics, we need to adopt tactics that are more likely to appear to be compatible with the general public's conception of Britishness. Cutting across the solutions to all the major issues facing us has to be the People's charter. The People's Charter's format is designed to be inclusive, associations with the Chartists are encouraged to persuade the progressive majority in Britain to stand up and reject the Neo-Liberal idealogical framework that mainstream political debate has been working in the last thirty years.

The People's Charter offers an alternative that is lacking in the approach of Hope Not Hate, I.E. 'Vote for anyone, but not BNP'. The manner in which the People's Charter avoids the Ultra Leftist posturing that is so easy for fascists to dub 'alien' to british values.

I urge anyone who has not already done so to sign the People's Charter and publicise it to your friends, family and workmates.

(P.S. All progressive bloggers are urged to include a Picture-link to the People's charter website at http://www.thepeoplescharter.com/)