Tuesday, 26 January 2010

Manchester Burns supper

Over 60 people packed into the Chorlton Irish Association Club, on Sunday 24th January, to celebrate the life and work of Robert Burns. People of all ages sat down to anjoy a meal of haggis, tatties and neaps accompanied by a jot of whiskey, although many guests took advantage of the bar and bought themselves a pint of guinness, perhaps a more appropriate drink for the venue.

Lively performances of Burns's classics followed clearly demonstrating that many people had been rehearsing their pieces, even so several members of the audience got up and recalled their favourite Burns pieces off by heart. Many of those who got up on the stage talked a little about Burns, his political ideas and what he might have said about the situation today. In this way, together with a Communist party and Cuba Solidarity Campaign stalls, the radical politics of the event was maintained.

Music was provided by the fantastic Bourbon St Preachers(http://www.myspace.com/bourbonstreetpreachers), who even managed to inspire a spot of dancing. The event was very successful, proceeds from the raffe and donations raised over 400 hundred pounds for the Morning Star's fighting fund. Any radicals in manchester cannot miss next year's event, to come together and sing Burns's words:

For a' that an' a' that
It's coming yet for a' that
That man to man, the world o'er
Shall brithers be for a' that

Saturday, 16 January 2010

Now that history appears to have absolved opposition to the war in Iraq; where is the same standard for the current war in Afghanistan?

The Chilcot inquiry into the Iraq war is to resume at the end of January, the biggest event will be the grilling of Tony Blair, which has proved to be so popular that the inquiry team is launching a ballot for members of the public wishing to attend. A statement from inquiry officials confirmed that a third of seats are being reserved for families of British soldiers who died in Iraq. Blair caused controversy by stating that he would have invaded Iraq whether Saddam had weapons of Mass destruction or not. Alastair Campbell, Tony Blair's former communications director and chief spin-doctor, stated that Tony Blair wrote to President George W Bush in 2002, saying that "Britain would be there" to support Washington militarily in an attack on Iraq. Campbell defended the government's ‘dodgy’ dossier and denied that claims such as Iraq’s 45 minute weapons of mass destruction capability has been "sexed up". The questioning by the crème de la crème of Britain’s establishment will refer to classified government records; in the typical ‘war on terror’ spirit of transparency these will not be published.
Media coverage of the inquiry has been very critical of those who still defend the case for the invasion of Iraq. Reading the newspaper’s portrayal of opinions against the war being ‘common sense’, you could be forgiven for asking who in the press was actually in favour of the war. We need to refresh our memory and remind ourselves of how the mainstream media covered the invasion of Iraq. Looking back it is apparent that the press recorded the invasion and subsequent occupation of Iraq in much the same way it is currently covering the war in Afghanistan.
Generally, the media’s performance could be seen to have legitimised the war by neglecting to question the, often dubious, arguments for the invasion. By and large, the more negative results of the war, such as the refugee crisis and general lawlessness, were underreported. Journalists were unable to detach themselves from military and government sources. Reports from journalists embedded within military units were problematic in this sense.
One criticism of media coverage of the Iraq war has been the coverage of life for civilians in Iraq. At a semantic level, civilian casualties were famously termed ‘collateral damage’. Much as torture was framed as ‘abuse’, and the term ‘foreign fighters’ was used solely to refer to resistance within Iraq and not the invading armies. The suffering of ordinary Iraqi civilians was downplayed by the media. A Lancet study into the number of Iraqi civilian deaths published in October 2004 produced shocking results. The catastrophic invasion resulted in a civilian death toll that outnumbered “the combined effects of Saddam Hussein and sanctions” due to both direct (as a result of combat) and indirect factors associated with lawlessness and lack of infrastructure. However, deaths of civilians remained largely ignored, it barely registered in media reports, and then generally only if it could be attributed to insurgents. The vast majority of footage of Iraqi civilians that made the headlines back in London, were enthusiastic responses that welcomed the occupation, they was little coverage of Iraqi’s voicing their opposition to the invasion. The media coverage of Operation Phantom Fury, that broke the siege of Fallujah in November 2004, provided an explicitly one-sided account. Beatings carried out on doctors and the attacks on ambulances by US forces were ignored. Newspaper’s explained that the offensive had shut down a major propaganda weapon for the militants, referring to Fallujah General Hospital. An objective account would have mentioned that US occupation forces refused to allow the Red Crescent access to Fallujah, or at least pointed out that attacking hospitals and using white phosphorous contravenes the Geneva Convention. However, it seems that the press rarely holds contravention of the Geneva Convention against Britain, the USA or its allies, in the same way that it does the enemies of imperialism. This practise most recently displayed during the Israeli invasion of Gaza, where atrocities committed by Israeli troops were justified by the handful of rocket attacks on Israeli civilians. While negative aspects of the war, such as the story of torture at Abu Ghraib, were broke by the mainstream media, it soon disappeared and the continuation of the practise of torturing prisoners was barely mentioned.
The central two lies that were the main justification for invading Iraq was the completely unfounded claim that Saddam Husain was linked to Al-Qaeda and the presence in Iraq of weapons of mass destructions (WMDs). Television audiences were told that Saddam Husain not only had knowledge of the terrorist attacks in America on the 11th September 2001, but that he had directly participated in aiding the perpetrators of that atrocity. The fact that Saddam Husain was considered too secular by Al-Qaeda escaped most news reports. Readers of newspapers were informed that Iraq had chemical, biological and even a programme to construct nuclear weaponry. Leading news organisations placed such great emphasis upon these two claims in the face of available information to the contrary that The New York Times and the Washington Post, two prestigious newspapers, later issued apologies to their readers for “having gotten so caught up in the inner workings of power in an administration determined to go to war that they lost focus on other values and other views”. While the US press was certainly more ‘gung ho’ in its reporting of the invasion of Iraq, the British press remained overwhelming pro-war. While the Daily Mirror newspaper and BBC were very critical of the decision by the British government to join the war. Once the war started, anti-war reporting, representative of public opinion, proved to be short lived. British news networks reproduced, rather than questioned, claims about weapons of mass destruction. The anti-war movement also began to suffer after the outbreak of combat operations, as the media fell back to a ‘back the troops’ position, press attention declined, and became increasingly unsympathetic.
Theories of the media during war include Lance Bennett’s indexing hypothesis. Bennett outlined his contention that journalists simply allow foreign policy elites to draw up the agenda, and frame stories of international issues to suit their own conclusions. This is, in part, “a result of ‘transactional’ or ‘symbiotic’ relations between journalists and officials” Another communications scholar, Daniel, C. Hallin, analysed media coverage of the Vietnam War, in order to investigate the concept of the ‘Vietnam Effect’ that television footage of the conflict contributed to the conflict’s unpopularity. Hallin found that initially media coverage had been generally favourable towards the United States intervention, later, the media become more critical of aspects of the war, but never directed confronted whether the USA should have invaded Vietnam. Hallin stated that the media’s criticism of the employment of certain tactics were confined to the ‘sphere of legitimate controversy’ and merely reflected elite dissensus back in Washington. These theories certainly correspond somewhat with the media coverage of the war in Iraq, in that it rarely left the ‘sphere of legitimate controversy’. Journalists ventured procedural criticism, discussing tactical mistakes instead of questioning the whole basis of the war at a substantive level. Despite the ‘negative’ reports and images of carnage coming out of Iraq following the invasion, the relationship between the media and the government did not change. Essentially, the press indexed media coverage to elite debate that occurred in Washington, regurgitation replaced independent investigation and there was little objective questioning of the principal motivation behind the invasion. It was reported in much the same way that German press reported the battle of Stalingrad in the Nazi era. Criticism was limited to tactical choices, debate centred on what strategy we should adopt in the occupation of Iraq rather than whether we should have invaded Iraq in the first place.

New coverage of the Chilcot inquiry conveniently fails to acknowledge the manner in which the press covered the war in Iraq. Despite the negative picture being painted of the Iraq war, we cannot forget that similar reporting, is whitewashing the same levels of devastation created by the occupation of Afghanistan. Just as coverage of the Iraq invasion failed to report the negative aspects of the occupation, contemporary coverage of the occupation of Afghanistan ignores stories such as the heroin epidemic that has accompanied the dramatic rise in the production of opium since 2001.

Spirit of the Old Game; the growing resistance to corporate football

Football clubs existed as an extension of their local communities; they were formed by churches, pubs and other community organizations. Football was a working man’s game, producing charismatic figures such as Brian Clough and Bill Shankly, times it seems have changed.
Like much of Post-Thatcher British society, the soul of English football has been replaced by an obsessive worship of money. The commodification of football has turned the sport into entertainment, its fans into consumers. While the market has provided top quality standards to the English league, there has been a heavy price to pay. We are told that competition within capitalist society is healthy and creates winners, unfortunately it also creates losers. The role finance plays in the game has left many football clubs up to their necks in debt, top flight clubs such as Leeds United have hurtled down the leagues due to the sale of the clubs' assets key players.
Unleashing market forces upon the game, with sizable returns from TV contracts, merchandise and ticket prices, has resulting in colossal weekly wages for premiership footballers. Despite this, some individuals, nodding to their backgrounds, have attempted to do more with their wealth than buy fast cars, property portfolio’s and holiday homes in Dubai. For instance, Alex Ferguson, a former Clyde shipyards shop steward, has donated substantial sums of money to the labour party. Perhaps more impressively, Javier Zanetti, form Inter Milan captain, managed to persuade Inter Milan to donate thousands of Euros to the Zapatista guerillas in Mexico. Zanetti even talked his club into giving away the money from fines for late arrival or using mobile phones to help rebuild after the village of Zinacantán, after it got attacked by government forces. While individuals cannot change society on their own, they can be useful in mobilizing their communities. For instance, Diego Maradona’s admiration for Fidel Castro and declared anti-imperialist politics, derived from his experience of growing up in poverty, is useful in bringing progressive politics to the mass of Latin America.
Marx described the process whereby as the bourgeoisie develops the forces of production, it also develops the very force that will overthrow capitalism. What the bourgeoisie, therefore, produces, above all, are its own grave-diggers. Well, in football terms, the more the directors develop boxes, business seats, and overpriced season tickets, the more it will create angry football fans, pissed off with the state of the contemporary game. The shared identity of football fans can result in organisation that campaign for progressive reform of the whole structure of the game.
There is a rich tradition of politics being mixed up with football, although the mixture of neo-Nazism and hooliganism is a particularly ugly side of it. In Britain, this manner of organisation of the far-right in football has been witnessed most recently with the association of UK Casuals United with the English Defense League. While groups such as Lazio's Irriducibili, and Real Madrid’s Ultras Sur are rooted within this fascist tradition, the far-right by no means have a monopoly over such organisations.
There is a wide range of ultra groups that adopt a leftist ideology that is represented by their chants and iconography. This stance reflects the traditional politics of the working class districts where the supporters live. The most famous example of leftist ultras is the special relationship between Livorno's Brigate Autonome Livornesi, Olympique de Marseilles Curva-Massilia and AEK Athens's Original 2. The political rhetoric displayed by these groups is often dismissed as posturing; however, some of these organisations do have an impact. NK Zagreb's Bijeli anđeli have challenged the violent fascism prevalent among Croatian football fans by opposed all forms of discrimination and adopting an anti-hooliganism stance.
Ultra groups, together with the vast majority of football fans, view what you could call the modern game with hostility. The price of tickets, drive toward all-seater stadiums and the buying and selling of players for ridiculous amounts of money are common grievances. This attitude towards the modern game represents the potential basis for the politicisation of football fans against commercialism both within football and in broader society. The opposition to the role that money plays in the modern game and the flagrant manner in which wealth is displayed has been on show in stadiums across the world. Banners stating "Contro Il Calcio Moderno" (Against modern football) in Italy or "Love Football, Hate Business" in Britain.
This increasing commercialisation of football has inspired more firm action in the rise of fan-owned clubs. SV Austria Salzburg fans re-established the team in response to the takeover of SV Austria Salzburg by the Red Bull company. The club was renamed Red Bull Salzburg and its traditional colours of violet and white were changed to red and white and its emblem incorporated two Red Bulls. In Britain this process has taken off. FC United of Manchester was formed in response to the hostile takeover of Manchester United by the American businessman Malcolm Glazer. FC United of Manchester is run democratically as an Industrial and provident society, the club accepts sponsorship but does not allow sponsors' logos to be displayed on the team's shirts. AFC Wimbledon was founded by supporters of Wimbledon Football Club in response to the relocation and renaming of the club. In 2003, the Football Association had agreed to allow Wimbledon F.C. to relocate 56 miles north to Milton Keynes in Buckinghamshire. In 2004 the club was renamed Milton Keynes Dons Football Club. However, the Football Supporters Federation, an organization that campaigns for increased fan representation on clubs' boards and the reintroduction of safe standing areas, boycotted the new club. In response Milton Keynes Dons Football Club handed over the trophies and memorabilia of Wimbledon F.C. to the London Borough of Merton and ended its claim to the history of Wimbledon F.C. AFC Wimbledon is run by the Dons Trust, an Industrial and provident society, who have a majority share in the club.
“The socialism I believe in,” said the legendary Liverpool FC manager Bill Shankly, “is everybody working for the same goal and everybody having a share in the rewards. That’s how I see football, that’s how I see life.”The strength of the man’s character lives on it seems, when confronted with new American owners, Tom Hicks and George Gillett, a group of Liverpool FC fans formed a group called the spirit of Shankly. The group claims to be the country’s first ever football supporters union. One stated short term aim of the group is “to hold whoever owns the football club to account”, the ultimate aim being “the supporter ownership of Liverpool Football Club”. The group took a big part in the recent resignation of Tom Hicks Junior from the Board of Liverpool FC, after the son of one of the American owners abused a fan.
Back in the day, figures such as Brian Clough, who was also chairman of the Anti-Nazi League, appeared on miners' picket lines. Clough, a committed socialist, was approached by the Labour Party to stand as a Parliamentary candidate in General Elections, although he declined. By no means so characters like this no longer exist; I am sure that all progressive football fans would like to see more players like Cristiano Lucarelli, the communist striker for Livorno. Not only is his goal celebration a dual clenched-fist salute, but his ringtone is Bandiera Rossa. Antics, such as getting cautioned for pulling up his team shirt to display the face of Che Guevara, represent somewhat of the old spirit of the game. Lucarelli is a product of his upbringing in Italy’s red belt. His popularity with the crowd goes further than his playing ability, in Lucarelli’s words “We [Livorno] get no favors from the referees because we are Communists!”
The rise of fan’s organisations that campaign against the excesses of the modern game and advocate more say for fans in the running of the clubs that they love embodies a shift in attitudes. Fans are angry about the commodification of football. Progressive football fans need to engage with this sentiment to ensure that this criticism of the modern game continues to advocate cooperative solutions. There is nothing to stop this resentment over modern game from being transferred to opposition to capitalism. If money is ruining football and the remedy is fan-ownership of clubs, this must lead to the conclusion that greed is ruing our country and the only antidote is the democratic ownership of the economy.

Wednesday, 6 January 2010

CUBA- world's number one terrorist?

So Washington has imposed extra security on people traveling from certain countries, big deal. Sounds fairly reasonable, standard War on Terror posturing. Except for one tiny detail.....CUBA INCLUDED AS A SPONSOR OF TERRORISM?!?!?

Cuban foreign minister Bruno Parilla declared that this was "outrageous”."Have you guys seen the other countries on the list? They are all a bunch of Muslims, except us. I mean come on – that is like beating up a Sikh guy because he wears a turban. Its so unfair.” The list of countries, in addition to Cuba, include Afghanistan, Algeria, Iraq, Iran, Lebanon, Libya, Nigeria, Pakistan, Saudi Arabia, Somalia, Sudan, Syria and Yemen. “I mean if they were going to include us, then they should have at least thrown in North Korea, but to lump us together with these crazy Muslim countries is such a low blow. I don’t see Cubans running around America blowing up planes and talking about taking over the world.”

“This is so lame” added the Parilla, “just throwing us on the list as the token ‘non-Muslim’ country to make it look like they are not targeting just the crazy Muslim countries is not fair to the people of Cuba.”

Come on now, the USA has circlated some pretty far fetched lies about Havana, Cuba is a massive exporter of drugs, Castro eats babies, you know pretty standard stuff.

The USA has pointed to instances when Cuba had assisted terrorists in the past. When you ask? When Cuba helped the ANC to rid South Africa of Apartheid. Okay so perhaps back then when Britain and the USA supported the Racist, white regime against Nelson Mandela and his band of 'terrorists', Cuba was technically a sponsor of terrorism. But these days Britain and the USA try to portray themselves as anti-racist and call Mandela a freedom fighter. If this is the case, get Cuba off that list. Some of us were under the impression that 'change' was what the Presidential election was fought on.

But sponsors terrorism? Unlike our completely 'objective' press, I think we should question the American's decision. Let's examine the issue of terrorism in Cuba.

Lets look at people like Orlando Bosch, CIA operative who blew up Cubana Flight 455 and killed all of the 75 people on board, including 24 members of the 1975 national Cuban Fencing team that had just won all the gold medals in the Central American and Caribbean Championship; most of these were teenagers. Many Guyanese passengers were also murdered included two medical students aged 18 and 19 years old.

The first Bush administration pardoned Orlando Bosch in 1992 and he now lives in Miami. When questioned about the 1976 bombing carried out by the terrorist organisation that he founded, Bosch declared, "you have to fight violence with violence. At times you cannot avoid hurting innocent people."

Another CIA operative, involved in the bombing of Cubana Flight 455, Luis Posada Carriles took part in the Bay of Pigs invasion of Cuba and went on to work with death squads in fascist military dictatorships across Latin America.

Luis Posada Carriles has also admitted to the string of 1997 bombings of tourist hotels in Havana, which resulted in the death of an Italian tourist. When asked about the bombing that killed the Italian tourist, in a taped interview with the New York Times in 1998, Posada remarked, "It is sad that someone is dead, but we can't stop. That Italian was sitting in the wrong place at the wrong time." He added, "I sleep like a baby."

The fact is that the US and it's fascist Miami exile allies have consistantly carried out terrorist attacks on the Cuban people since the revolution. As well as over 600 attempts at killing Fidel Castro, they have carried out thousands of acts of terrorism, sabotage, biological and chemical warfare that has killed thousands of innocent people.

What ever you may think about the certain governments, murdering innocent people is wrong. The USA is the most hypocritical country on this planet, responsible for more acts of terrorism than the 'axis of evil' combined. Despite their so called 'war on terror', the USA remains the number one terrorist nation on Earth. This was displayed when the USA imprisoned the Miami 5, a group of Cubans who risked their lifes to carry out surveillance on the terrorists operating out of Miami. When these heros gave this information to the USA, they were imprisoned. That was in 1998, and the wifes and children of those men have not seen them since.

Lets not be too harsh on the USA, as the banning of some thought provoking Russia Today postered showed (http://www.socialistunity.com/?p=5074), they live in a a little bubble where the USA is the defender of freedom and the rest of the world are terrorists.

But in Britain, shouldn't our objective media be asking these questions?

I guess that the only upside to this tragic decision is that some people around the world will see this decision for what it is. Hopefully a few will question imperialism and read about the Cuban Revolution, perhaps they will realise that socialism is not the evil that they got taught in school. (a couple might even join the Communist Party!)

Monday, 4 January 2010

Alan Johnson-hypocrite

Just heard that the home secretary said he would ban the isam4uk march through Wootton Bassett. Johnson said: "The idea that anyone would stage this kind of demonstration in Wootton Bassett fills me with revulsion.

"The people behind this stunt seek only to incite hatred and discord.The procession is not actually about the people of Wootton Bassett and it never was about them. If the Wiltshire Police and local authority feel that a procession of this kind has the potential to cause public disorder and seek my consent to a banning order, then I would have no hesitation in supporting that request."

Hang on a minute. The English Defense League's marches were largely opposed by local people, police forces and councils. The EDL's certainly had the potential to cause public disorder and were based on hatred and discord.

Yet Alan Johnson refused to ban the EDL marches, in the face of the opinions of local people, the local police and local councils. Does he really think that a handful of religious fundamentalists are worse than hundreds of violent fascists.

Our beloved home secretary is nothing short of shameful. Banning both the EDL and the Isam4UK marches would at least be consistent. But it appears the Home Secretary has one set of standards for white people and another for muslims.

What a hypocrite!

Combating sinophobia...

With the great anti-Chinese crusade showing no signs of stopping, a rare bit of balance came to the British media in the form of an article for the Scotsman(http://sonsofmalcolm.blogspot.com/2010/01/scottish-newspaper-points-out-british.html).
Entitled 'Britain stands on shaky ground when attacking Chinese justice', the article outlines some of the hypocrisy of the condemnation of China.

Whatever your views on the death penalty or questions surrounding the mental health... you have to agree that the media went a little bit overboard on its criticism.

It is interesting to see the ways in which ruling class propaganda manages to slip its way into 'objective' reporting. For instance, articles concerning the olympics made political attacks on China, would this same standard have been applied to an olympics held in for instance the USA? Would our coverage of the Olympics also attack the USA for the wars in Middle East?

I highly doubt it.

If you read the news it becomes apparent that China is personally responsible for global warming, poverty in the third world....etc.

Do most people buy this? If do they really think that Britain and the USA are completely blameless liberal saviours of the planet, who are fighting the Yellow peril?

Scary times