Monthly Archives: October 2009

“You couldn’t make it up” (3) Terrorism law used against protest

Just in…

“A hearing is pending in the Royal Courts of Justice, London, on Wed. 21st, October at 10.30am, at which Scottish & Southern Energy is applying for an injunction against Steve Acheson. The Injunction is being sought to prevent Steve from protesting at Fiddlers Ferry power station about his dismissal from the project because of the now notorious construction industry blacklist.

This injunction is under the Prevention of Terrorism Act & seeks to show that Steve, as the 1st respondent, & others unnamed [as second respondents], by their constant picketing of the site represent a threat to the energy supplies of this country.

The basis of the application is that by picketing the site he is committing a Trespass because he & others are on the Firm’s property; that having issued leaflets to workers on the site calling for ‘direct action’ he is ‘inciting’ the workforce to commit acts contrary to the national interest which may impact on energy supplies & that he has, at times, acted in a way that might have intimidated the workforce.

Their is no mention in the company’s deposition to the Court that he was formerly employed by them, nor that his picket represents a campaign against blacklisting.
If this goes ahead it will have consequencies for the whole trade union movement.
Blacklist Support Group will be protesting at the Royal Courts of Justice in The Strand from 9:30am in support of Steve Acheson.

Steve is a trade unionists NOT a terrorist
Blacklisting is a Human Rights Issue
Defend Trade Union Rights”

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The Communist Party and the General Election

There has been some speculation in the blogosphere on the role of the Communist Party of Britain in the successor initiative to NO2EU and standing candidates in the general election.

The article below is a report on last weekend’s meeting of the CPB Executive Commitee.

It appeared in today’s Morning Star. It also appears on the CPB website.

‘Time to resist ruling-class offensive,’ say communists Sunday 18 October 2009 Printable Email “Whichever government is elected at the next general election, the ruling class offensive will continue to unfold,” Communist Party general secretary Robert Griffiths told a special meeting of the party’s executive at the weekend.

“Big business and its politicians are determined to maximise monopoly profit, cut and privatise public services, undermine trade unionism and further restrict democratic rights to make workers and their families pay for getting Britain out of capitalism’s crisis,” he pointed out.

“But a Tory victory would deepen demoralisation within the working class and a Cameron government would go even further than new Labour in its reactionary policies,” Mr Griffiths argued.

“A Labour victory, on the other hand, might produce a government more amenable to mass pressure for policies such as those in the People’s Charter, enabling the labour movement to go on the offensive instead,” he said.

The Communist Party executive called for the formation of local grass-roots campaigns for the charter and its policies for public ownership, wealth redistribution, a greener economy and full employment, urging a big turnout for the People’s Charter conference in London on November 21.

“It is not too late to compel the Labour government to change course, ditch neoliberal policies and challenge big business profiteering in the interests of the mass of ordinary people,” Mr Griffiths insisted.

The special meeting also decided, with only one vote against, to pursue further discussions with a range of left and labour movement organisations to establish a general election coalition to fight leading new Labourites and the fascists, as well as the Tories.

“The struggle against reactionary ideas and policies in the labour movement, including in the Labour Party, needs to be sharpened, not compromised or avoided,” the CPB executive committee declared. Britain’s communists will also stand independent Communist Party candidates and take part in the Unity for Peace and Socialism alliance with domiciled communist and workers’ parties from overseas.

The special executive also urged active solidarity with the postal workers due to take national strike action on Thursday and Friday. It also called for protest letters and actions against the BBC for inviting BNP fascist leader Nick Griffin to appear on Question Time later this week.

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Shaming.

simon israel, channel 4 newsTwo reports in two days, and each absolutely shaming.

The first is on the Yarl’s Wood detention centre. It has appeared in some of the media and there was a report on it on Channel Four news last night. (links at end of article)

A report has been published in Child Abuse & Neglect: the International Journal by child care specialists who examined 24 children aged between three months and 17 years detained at Yarl’s Wood.

They found that 73% of the children had suffered significant emotional and behavioural problems since being detained. These included weight loss, sleep disturbance, nightmares and bed wetting.

not surprising as they had been effectively imprisoned, many having seen their parents taken away in hand cuffs. Some had been separated from their main carer including a 20 month year old baby.

This report was complied in 2006 and a follow up study urged. nothing has happened since.

The detention of children has continued despite calls by childrens’ charities and MPs for the practice to end. This year 470 children have been detained despite the fact that, as one of the report’s authors states there is “no clear evidence to indicate that detention is necessary in order to prevent families from absconding, more humane alternatives to current practice must be explored”

Yarl’s Wood is run for profit by Serco.

For those outside life maybe freer, but equally tough.

An article in today’s Guardian throws a little light on the life of asylum seeking family in Manchester.

It tells the story of Shakira and Farzana Begum. They somehow have to live on £92 a week benefits. This is 30% less  British claimants get. Shakira cannot wok even if she wanted to, as an asylum seeker she is forbidden to take paid employment.

Living on this kind of money makes life on long pathetic and shaming grind. Every decision about money becomes a desperate choice. The article is an searing indictment of the way people are forced to live in Britain  in 2009 and should be read by anyone with a social conscious.

It is a story that shames this country, as is the story of Yarl’s Wood.

But even more than that it is a story that shames the Labour Party. It is a party that is meant to stand for the poor and the oppressed. And it has been in power for twelve years.

What can be the excuse be? These are not policies inherited from the Tories. These are policies that they have implemented and in the process batted away criticism from charities and their own MPs.

Stories like these make that idea that Labour might still be the “People’s Party” sound like a sick joke.

To watch Simon Israel’s report on Channel 4 News click here.

To read the Guardian article on Shakira and Farzana click here

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The German Greens’ “Jamaica Coalition”

Distribution of seats in the Saarland Landtag (parliament)

Distribution of seats in the Saarland Landtag (parliament)

This blog has commented before on the rightward evolution of the German Greens.

It comes as no surprise therefore that in the German state of Saarland the Greens have now decided to form a so-called (after the parties respective colours) “Jamaica” coalition. It is forming an administration with the conservative Christian Democrats, and the free-market radicals of the liberal Free Democrats.

The politics of the Saarland, Germany’s smallest state, were shaken up in at the end of August the state’s parliament.

Both the tow main parties did badly. The CDU dropped 13 percentage points and the Social democrats dropped six.

The reason it hit the headlines though was the astounding breakthrough made by the Die Linke (“The Left”). It jumped 19 points to gain 21% of the vote. This of course the home state of Oskar Lafontaine, leader of Die Linke and former SPD candidate for Chancellor.

The free-market FDP gained four points. The Greens went up 0.3 of a point, winning just three seats.

But between the CDU on the right, and the SPD and Die Linke on the left, the Greens’ three seats made them the kingmakers.

Up until now the Greens have been seen as being on the “left” and have been in national government with the SPD.

As has been pointed out on this blog the Greens are a party who’s membership and base is thoroughly middle class (as Perry Anderson put it, the Greens have become the party of “bourgeois bohemians”). Its politics might seem left, but fundamentally they represent a break from ideas of class and their philosophy is a radical variant of liberalism.

This has meant that it is contradictory, and has tended to try and face both ways at once. But as with most of the European Green parties it has become ever more integrated into the system and have moved steadily to the right.

Saarland may be a small state but the future possibility of such a “Jamaica” coalition at a national level has been under discussion for a while in Germany. This is a step in that direction, as has been recognised by much of the German media.

Such as step would bet the final death-knell for the idea that the Greens are a party of the left.

The problem facing us in this country is the death of the Labour party as a party of the working class. The question arises of whether the Greens and their politics can make a contribution to the rebuilding of working class politics or whether they lead away from it, to a liberalism of the “left”. The warning from Germany needs to be taken seriously.

Links

Der Spiegel on the “Jamaica” coalition (in English)

Perry Anderson, A New Germany, New Left Review

A. Stevens, Are the Greens an Alternative? The Junius Blog

Survey of articles on the rise of Die Linke

A New Hope in Germany, analysis of the German election results

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“Everything must go!” Brown’s closing down sale

Crypto-communist and creator of The Tote: Winston Churchill

Crypto-communist and creator of The Tote: Winston Churchill

To follow up his conference speech in which he put “clear red water” between him and Cameron, Brown has decided to flog off another whole bunch of public assets.

Just to prove how much more in favour of the state he is than the Tories he is selling off the government’s 33% stake in Urenco, which supplies equipment to enrich uranium for the nuclear industry, the Dartford Crossing, the Channel Tunnel rail link, and a whole load of government land and property.

He will also be selling The Tote. This of course was created as a nationalised company in 1928 by the crypto-communist Winston Churchill.

Of course selling them off in the current depressed market means that whoever buys them will be getting them for a knock down price. So not at all like the privatisations of the 1980s!

And what beckons for the unfortuante workers of these firms? The same as has happened in every other privatised industry: “down-sizing”, wage cuts, the undermining of conditions and the strangling of trade union activity. How they must welcome being freed from the shackels of the state.

At least one trade union leader seems to want to do something about this. Bob Crow stated that “A recent poll showed that over 70% of the public oppose rail privatisation and the voters will be rightly angry at any move to knock down to the highest bidder the last major piece of the rail network still in public hands. This smacks of sheer desperation by the Labour government and dredges up memories of the darkest days of the Thatcherite privatisation mania.”

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The Great Game continues

Ukraine

An article in today’s Observer gives an interesting overview of relations between the USSR’s most important successor states: Russia and the Ukraine.

with the international financial system almost collapsing, a global recession, a new US president, continuing war on Palestine, and in Iraq and Afghanistan…

It is not surprising that attention has strayed once again from what is happening in the states of the former Soviet Union. For a few weeks last year the world was forced to sit up by the war in Georgia, and then lost interest again. Last week’s report on that war shared the blame around: Georgia started it but Russia over-reacted. It only stated the conclusion that most observers had already come to.

But then trying to understand what is happening there is still, in too many ways like trying to understand the riddle wrapped in an enigma that Churchill described.

The politics of the successor states, and their interrelations, continues t be a place of smoke and mirrors where no-one’s motives are entirely what they seem to be.

Certainly under Putin, and now under the Putin-Medvedev regime, Russia is reasserting itself. It is once again making sure that its writ runs in what is still referred to as the “near abroad”. And now Russia’s gaze is turning again to the Ukraine, the independence of which it acquiesced in as unstoppable, but never really accepted as legitimate.

And Ukraine seems to be ripening for the picking as it slides into ever deepening political and economic crisis.

Few in the Ukraine it seems would want a return to the Soviet Union.  But the ruling class of that country was fully integrated into that of the Soviet Union. A situation that has in some ways not changed since. The country’s different political forces are little more than fronts for groups of biznesmeny who are still entwined with the state.

The political gyrations of Yulia Tymoshenko are just one of t he more prominent examples of this phenomenon. A “self made” billionaire she has shifted from being pro-Russian, to anti-Russian firebrand of the Orange revolution to Russia’s favoured choice for the Ukrainian presidency.

This should come as no surprise. She is a native of the Dnieprpopetrovsk in the heavily industrialized, and mainly Russian speaking, east of the country. It is where she became the “gas princess” and one of the country’s “energy oligarchs”. Her business partners and collaborators read like a who’s who of the Ukrainian elite.

The region was the base of Leonid Kuchma. The former boss of the massive Yuzmash missile factory he was to become the president who’s corrupt and undemocratic regime was the target of public anger in the so-called Orange Revolution.

Dnieprpopetrovsk has been the seedbed not only of the much of today’s Ukrainian elite but of the Soviet Unions’ before that. Leonid Brezhnev was party boss of the region and the cronies he packed the CPSU’s Central Committee with were known as the Dnieprpopetrovsk Mafia.

Volodimir Sherbitsky, the Ukraine party boss was another of this gang. When Kuchma won the presidency, it was only the same old gang reclaiming what they thought was rightfully theirs.

Viktor Yanukovich, the defeated candidate in the election that had been fixed for him to win, is from the Donbass, the equally industrialized region next-door to Dnieprpopetrovsk. Another famous son of the region was Nikita Khrushchev, who was of course ousted by his fellow Ukrainian and protégé Leonid Brezhnev in 1964.

The intricacies of post-Soviet politics seem to fit Churchill’s description. But they are also a source of instability as Russia continues to try and reassert itself in what it believes to be its back yard, and in the face of opposition from local elites, distrusting populations and western powers who often each seem to be pursuing differing and contradictory agendas (for some of the complications of Germany’s relations with Russia you could read a previous post here).

Either way the region continues to be unstable and a violent clash between Russia and Ukraine is now being seriously discussed as a possibility in the future.

The ramifications of which the world will not be able to forget as quickly as last years brief war with Georgia.

This isn’t necessarily what the Observer says but the article is definitely worth a look. To read it click here.

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Christine Bucholz: Revolutionary in the Bundestag

christine-buchholz-webOne of the newly elected members of the Bundestag for Die Linke is Christine Buchholz.

She is a Die Linke acitivist in Hesse and is a supporter of Marx21, a network that was formerly the Linksruck orgasnisation, connected to the SWP in this country.

The success of Die Linke in the recent elections was stunning, but the fact that there are now revolutionary socialists (she was not the only one eleted  for Die  Linke) sitting in the national parliament  of Europe’s largest economy is of some signifcance in itself.

There is an interview with her in this week’s Socialist Worker. To read it click here

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