Guest post by Pink Prosecco
There was an interesting piece in yesterday’s Jerusalem Post. Apparently a unilateral withdrawal from the West Bank is being seriously considered by at least some elements in the Israeli government.
Ehud Barak is the main supporter of such a move. Opponents include Strategic Affairs Minister Moshe Ya’alon:
“Anyone raising the possibility of unilateral steps is preventing Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas from returning to the negotiating table because it confirms the belief that if they just wait, Israel will fold and give in,” Ya’alon said.
But – although one might reasonably hope that such a withdrawal could lead to improvements in the day to day lives of some Palestinians – this would hardly amount to ‘giving in’.
There is no indication that settlements would be given up, for example, and I think it can safely be assumed that the withdrawal will not extend to East Jerusalem. But – it’s an intriguing development.
I have no idea who ‘Syria Freedom Forever’ are or who the author of this open letter is. I strongly suspect that we’d disagree on many issues. But this is a thoughtful and devastating critique of ‘Stop the War”s line on Syria from someone who is “a sympathiser of the work and activism of the STWC”:
Open letter to the Stop the War Coalition (STWC), or real solidarity is needed!
By Syria Freedom Forever - سوريا الحرية للأبد
On 15 March 2012, the Syrian revolution “celebrated” its first year with more killings and repression. The death at this date toll in the regime crackdown has exceeded 10,000 martyrs, while there are more than 35,000 injured, over 65,000 missing and more than 212,000 prisoners. The regime’s repression has continued since then.
The determination of the Syrians in their struggle against this criminal dictatorship is nevertheless doubted by some left-wing currents around the world, and even among some comrades in the Stop the War Coalition who have even been relaying the Syrian regime propaganda.
This is why I am writing this open letter! I agree with them on the issue of refusing foreign military intervention, but I feel that their lack of support to the Syrian popular movement and its struggle for freedom, social justice and true independence is a huge mistake, not to say anything else.
I acknowledge the important role played by STWC in opposing imperialist wars in the Middle East — from Afghanistan in 2001, Iraq in 2003, Lebanon 2006, Palestine 2009, to threats of war against Iran and Syria today.
I am concerned that a section of the leadership has fallen for the conspiracy theory of the Syrian regime. They repeat regime propaganda that describes our revolution as a conspiracy by Western imperialists and its allies led by Saudi Arabia and Qatar, which are opposed to the “anti-imperialist and pro-resistance” Syrian regime.
The coalition has opposed the various wars that are claimed to be part of the “War on Terror”. It has organised large demonstrations calling for the invading troops to leave Iraq, for the UK to halt reductions in the civil liberties of its citizens — including the right to protest and a free trial — and for a reduction in racism in the UK. I salute the work of STWC, and acknowledge it.
In relation to Syria, I agree on the need to oppose to foreign military intervention, but from all sides. This mean not only condemning the foreign interventions of the West and its regional allies, but also the foreign interventions of Russia and Iran directly assisting the regime in its repression.
I agree with the STWC to oppose the imperialist’ agenda of their government, but that does not mean to describe the Syrian uprising as a western imperialist conspiracy. It is possible to oppose foreign intervention and bring support to the popular movement.
Furthermore I believe the principle stand of the StW should remain “no to foreign military intervention and the right of Syrian people to determine their own future.” This has to be the basis on which all those opposed to imperialism can work together. The Coalition must not become the voice of the regime, as this would undermine the unity of all those who, whatever other disagreements, want to pull together to stop the drive to war, intervention and interference.
Sami Ramadani, who is a member of STW steering committee, has declared and written numerous times (http://stopwar.org.uk/index.php/usa-war-on-terror/1402-sami-ramadani-why-i-will-join-the-no-to-nato-protest-on-19-may and http://stopwar.org.uk/index.php/middle-east-and-north-africa/1376-syria-and-the-broken-arab-spring) that the revolution has been taken over by the West and regional allies against the anti imperialist Syrian regime. He adds that today “It is clear that the current alternative to the Syrian dictators, in the absence of a strong unified democratic movement, is bloody sectarian strife, orchestrated by a motley collection of sectarian forces, mercenaries and former regime figures, such as Paris-based billionaire and former vice-president Abdulhalim Khaddam and Saudi-based billionaire and Bashar’s uncle, Rifa’at al-Assad.” The Syrian regime has a similar speech: I or the Chaos!
According to Ramadani, (http://www.socialistworker.co.uk/art.php?id=27876)“We have to recognise that the imperialist-backed Arab counter-revolution has, in the short term, regained the initiative and is on the offensive” in the Syrian revolution. In his opinion “The Qatari-owned, poisonously sectarian Al Jazeera and Western media distort events in Syria. Close examination shows that, as in Libya, pro-Nato factions have captured the initiative. These factions are dominant in the Syrian National Council (SNC) and the Free Syrian Army (FSA)”.
He also describes the following way the Syrian revolutionary process: “The FSA was founded in and is logistically backed by Turkey, a Nato member. Lebanon’s US-French-Israeli allies, pro-US Iraqi forces, Jordan, Libyan terrorists and Nato Special Forces are all assisting counter-revolution in Syria. Shaken by the uprisings, Qatari and Saudi sheiks provide funding for sectarian Muslim Brotherhood leaders and Salafi clerics. They target minorities in an attempt to fragment Syria and plunge the country into sectarian civil war”. It is the regime which has targeted minorities and any Syrian citizens opposing its rule.
He ends with this sentence: “Most of the left and anti-imperialist democrats in Syria are keenly aware of this”. This last sentence, as the whole analysis, is actually not true as most of the leftists, anti imperialists democrats current are today in the street of Syria or in exile struggling against the authoritarian regime.
He reiterated all this in a conference on April 4 in a conference in ULU, London.
The Iraqi Democrats Against Occupation (formerly Iraqi Democrats Against War and Sanctions) is an Iraqi political organisation originally founded to oppose United States-sponsored economic sanctions. It has now turned its focus to the current occupation of Iraq, calling for the immediate withdrawal of all foreign troops and the institution of a democratic government.
In STWC, they want to denounce the Syrian revolution. Sabah Jawad in his speech on a STWC demonstration on 29 January in front the US embassy opposed foreign interventions but did not say a word in support of the Syrian popular movement in its struggle against Assad dictatorship.
Worse still, Sabah Jawad started to imply that Saudi Arabia and Qatar were the ones controlling the movement and they had sectarian interests in addition to put an end to the “resistant” Syrian regime.
The famous George Galloway has also been a source of debate. He has declared in 2005 Assad as ‘the last Arab ruler’, and in July 2011 “Bashar Assad wants reform and change, to realize the aspirations of his people,” he said in the interview, which was quoted in the official Syrian news agency Sana. “They are trying to pressure Syria and President Assad because of the good things that he did, such as supporting Palestinian and Lebanese resistance and rejecting to surrender to Israel.”
Beginning of 2012, he started to change slightly his speeches by criticizing the Syrian regime for its repression, saying that Bachar Al assad has to leave, and said there are sections of Syrian people who have legitimate demands. He nevertheless still spend more time speaking about the conspiracy against the “anti imperialist” Syrian regimes from western governments and its regional allies which are now controlling the popular movement according to him.
George Galloway also accuses of the opposition if being sectarian and to frighten the minorities in Syria. He drew many times attention to the fact that people in the opposition are shouting ‘Allah Akbar!’. So according to him we have to be careful.
The Syrian popular movement
The Syrian revolution is a popular and national uprising, bringing together all the communities across the country. The slogans of the demonstrators such as “We are all Syrians, we are united” are repeated constantly. In many demonstrations we have seen banners saying “No to sectarianism”. The movement has united people, just as Egyptians and Tunisians united during their revolutions. No unity is possible under a dictatorship, which has developed a strategy of fomenting fear between sects. The popular movement in Syria is struggling for social solidarity that transcends sectarian and ethnic divisions.
In addition to being completely undemocratic, Syria is also far from being an anti-imperialist state struggling against the US and Israel, as its rulers claim. Imperialist powers are actually not interested in the fall of Assad regime — which has avoided direct confrontation with Israel for nearly four decades, while repressing radical and progressive parties and popular movements. United States and NATO officials have actually said that the North Atlantic alliance has no intention of intervening militarily to quell violence in Syria on May 21 2012.
The Palestinian refugees of Syria have increasingly been participating in the revolution among their Syrians brothers and sisters. They have suffered from the regime’s repression, with more than 40 martyrs and hundreds arrested by security forces. Palestinians in the occupied territories and in 48 territories or Historic Palestine have organised many demonstrations and actions in support of the struggle of the Syrian people.
It is the Syrian people who have pressured the regime to support resistance in the past. It is the Syrian population who welcomed Palestinian, Lebanese and Iraqi refugees when their countries were attacked and occupied by imperialist powers. A victory for the Syrian Revolution will open a new resistance front against the imperialist powers, while its defeat will strengthen them.
The SNC is not representative of the Syrian people and support for it inside Syria is decreasing every day. Defections are happening slowly inside the SNC and ex-members are condemning its links with foreign powers. The SNC has been the target of protesters and of various groups struggling on the ground.
Many other groups are present in Syria and are struggling against the regime, including the National Coordination Committee for Democratic Change (a group inside the country, gathering together nationalists, leftists and Kurds), and the Watan Coalition gathering around 17 leftist political groups and organization, including the Syrian revolutionary left. Kurdish activists are also very present in the revolutionary process.
The main organizers of demonstrations, civil disobedience and campaign of strikes are nevertheless the coordination committees inside the country such as the Local Coordination Committees (LCCs), grassroots activist networks helping organize and document protests (including through a daily newsletter for the international and Arabic media), the General Commission of the Syrian Revolution, Communist coordination committees and other local youth committees inside Syria such as rally “hashad” and “helem”. They are the real force of resistance and we found representatives of all the various sects in it. This is why they have been the main targets of the regime since the beginning of the uprising.
This latter reaffirms the importance a genuine anti imperialists struggle and a real struggle for the Palestinian cause, and not hypocritical rhetoric like the regime.
Position of the Syrian and Lebanese revolutionary left
The position of the revolutionary left in Syria and Lebanon has been the following: Yes to the victory of the revolution! No to foreign intervention! This includes Western governments’ one side, and Iran and Russian on the other.
As a sympathiser of the work and activism of the STWC, I demand and suggest the organisation to stand therefore before its principles: no to foreign military intervention and yes to the right of Syrian people to determine their own future. This means in other words to support the struggle of the Syrian People against a criminal dictatorship, which has launched a war on its people regardless of their sects, while condemning foreign interventions from all sides in Syria. To allow people adopting the official discourse of the regime to narrate the events in Syria go against the principles of STWC and weaken the coalition. In addition I personally consider this behaviour as an insult to the Syrian people and their struggle to build a new Syria.
Victory to the Syrian Revolution and glory for our martyrs
Left-wing playwright Howard Brenton puts the particular case in a letter to the Graun:
I was sad to see the letter (30 March) from many eminent theatre workers – including David Calder, Mark Rylance, Harriet Walter, Roger Lloyd Pack, Cherie Lunghi and Jonathan Miller – asking Shakespeare’s Globe to withdraw the invitation to Israel’s Habima theatre to perform The Merchant of Venice in its Globe to Globe festival this coming May. I think it’s wrong-headed – could the signatories think again?
They argue that, by inviting the Habima, the Globe is showing support for the illegal settlements in the Palestinian occupied territories. But by inviting the National Theatre of China to perform Richard III, is the Globe also showing support for the occupation of Tibet?
The Habima’s touring in the territories is sickening. Its staff are deeply divided about it. The arts become so twisted and torn about in a conflict as terrible as that between Israel and Palestine, used as a fig leaf for propaganda. Yet sometimes above the shouts of demagogues a true voice can be heard, even from the stage of an enemy.
I trust the Globe’s international spirit and openness with which it has put together this amazingly diverse season of world theatre. For it to withdraw one of the invitations to the 37 companies – some with very questionable state affiliations – would be a disgraceful act of censorship.
Denounce, don’t censor; argue, don’t ban. I have long supported the cause of Palestinian freedom. But I am distressed to see British actors trying to stop Jewish actors perform on a London stage.
Howard Brenton London
Workers Liberty puts the general case against the ‘BDS’ campaign and the (usually unspoken) politics underlying it:
The boycott, divestment, and sanctions (BDS) campaign has become the dominant frame for viewing the Israel-Palestine conflict in recent years and Omar Barghouti has been its most high-profile exponent. His book Boycott, Divestment, Sanctions: The Global Struggle for Palestinian Rights (Haymarket Books) demonstrates the real political confusion behind BDS and why socialists should oppose it.
The BDS campaign dates from 9 July 2005, when a gathering of 170 Palestinian organisations, including unions and civil society groups demanded boycott, divestment, and sanctions against Israel. BDS makes three demands on Israel:
• ending the occupation and colonisation of all Arab lands [occupied in 1967] and dismantling the wall;
• recognising the fundamental rights of the Arab-Palestinian citizens of Israel to full equality;
• respecting, protecting and promoting the rights of Palestinians refugees to return to their homes and properties.
These are often dressed in the garb of UN resolutions. The first two demands are completely reasonable for any democrat or socialist. However there are fundamental problems with the demand for the right of return.
First and foremost, it is a slippery formula, evasive about who it applies to — is it simply those displaced in 1948 or all Palestinians, does it mean the same place they were living then, or simply immigration into a new Palestinian state? Ultimately the demand is incoherent with regard to the political basis of a democratic solution to Israeli-Palestinian relations. The BDS campaign publicly fudges the question of the political solution. Officially “the BDS movement as such does not adopt any special political formula and steers away from the one-state-versus-two-states debate”.
However Barghouti is quite explicit about his view. He states: “I have for over twenty-five years consistently supported the secular democratic unitary state solution in historic Palestine”. He laments that now “there is no political party in Palestine now or among Palestinians in exile calling for a secular, democratic state solution”. His politics are the PLO’s, frozen in 1987.
Barghouti is also unequivocally opposed to a two states solution. He says: “The two-state solution is not only impossible to achieve now — Israel has made it an absolute pipe dream that cannot happen — but also, crucially, an immoral solution. At best it would address some of the rights of Palestinians in the occupied West Bank and Gaza, a mere one-third of the Palestinian people”.
But in a moment of candour, he reveals that the political basis of BDS is not compatible with two states either. He wrote: “You cannot practically reconcile the right of return for refugees with a negotiated two-state solution”. There it is in black and white: support BDS and you are tied to a single state solution.
Barghouti offers an impoverished version of self-determination. He moralises that “A call signed by more than 170 Palestinian political parties, unions, nongovernmental organisations, and networks, representing the entire spectrum of Palestinian civil society… cannot be ‘counterproductive’ unless Palestinians are not rational or intelligent enough to know or articulate what is in their best interest”.
He also says no Palestinian party stands for a single state — but there is no need to defer to that opinion! So 170 organisations call for boycott; but no-one is for his real objective — a secular, democratic state. Too bad for the Palestinians — they can be trusted with the means, but not the end. He reduces Palestinian oppression to racial rather than national terms, hence all the rhetoric about apartheid.
On the other side, Barghouti simply denies that Israeli Jews have any right to self determination at all. He cannot conceptualise them as a nation, therefore their self determination is not even discussed. He sugar-coats his “solution”, saying he wants “a secular democratic state where nobody is thrown into the sea, nobody is sent back to Poland, and nobody is left suffering in refugee camps”.
Yet there is no explicit criticism of Hamas in the book. He simply dismisses the problem of Hamas’ politics altogether: “It’s irrelevant whether or not Hamas accepts Israel’s so-called right to exist as a Jewish state (read: an apartheid state) or accepts the ’67 borders …”.
With the single state solution, whether secular or Islamic, neither the Palestinians nor the Israelis get to exercise their own, self-defined, self-determination.
Barghouti’s failure to engage with the right of Israeli Jews to self-determination is clear from his contempt for the Israeli left. “…most of what passes as ‘left’ in Israel are Zionist parties and groups that make some far-right parties in Europe look as moral as Mother Teresa”. And “The so-called peace groups in Israel largely work to improve Israeli oppression against the Palestinians, rather than eliminate it, with their chief objective being the guarantee of Israel’s future as a ‘Jewish’ — that is, exclusivist — state. The most radical Israeli ‘Zionist-left’ figures and groups are still Zionist, adhering to the racist principles of Zionism that treat the indigenous Palestinians as lesser humans who are the obstacle or a ‘demographic threat’…”
Barghouti explicitly defames those who argue that the logic of the right of return would be the elimination of the state of Israel: “the only true fighters for peace in Israel are those who support our three fundamental rights: the right of return for Palestinian refugees; full equality for the Palestinian citizens of Israel and ending the occupation and colonial rule”.
Laughably, Barghouti states that the BDS movement “does not subscribe to drawing up lists to decide who is a good Israeli and who is not based on some arbitrary political criteria”. Yet this is precisely what he does. He narrows progressive Israelis to only those who support BDS – eliminating for example the refuseniks, the peace movement, the unions and various writers. All the rest are branded with inverted commas.
Barghouti is quite upfront that BDS ultimately means ostracising everything Israeli. The campaign is “working to expel Israel and its complicit institutions from international and interstate academic, cultural, sporting… environmental, financial, trade, and other forums.” He soft-soaps that “groups that for tactical reasons support only a subset of BDS, or a targeted boycott of specific products or organisations in Israel, or supporting Israel, are still our partners. Boycott is not a one-size-fits-all type of process.”
He distinguishes between advocating such a targeted boycott as a tactic, leading to the ultimate goal of boycotting all Israeli goods and services, and advocating such a targeted boycott as the ultimate strategy. While the former “may be necessary in some countries as a convenient and practical tool to raise awareness and promote debate about colonial and apartheid regime, the latter, despite its lure, would be in direct contradiction with the stated objectives of the Palestinian boycott movement”.
For Barghouti the boycott of settlement goods alone is not sufficient. At a practical level “Israel has made it extremely difficult to differentiate between settlement and other Israeli products, simply because the majority of parent companies are based inside Israel or because colony-based companies have official addresses there”.
Politically “even if distinguishing between produce of settlements and produce of Israel were possible, activists who on principle — rather than out of convenience — advocate a boycott of only the former may argue that they are merely objecting to the Israeli military occupation and colonisation of 1967 and have no further problems with Israel”.
Finally, there is a moral problem with accepting these “two grave… violations of human rights and international law as givens”.
BDS may seem in the ascendant for now. It may make progress in places, on the back of the Israeli state’s next atrocity. But BDS needs to be fought politically, because it stands in the path of two states, the only consistently democratic solution to the Israel-Palestine conflict.
BDS is ultimately a pessimistic approach. It put the agency for change outside of the region. It wants civil society, which includes not only NGOs and unions but bourgeois governments and business internationally, to make things right for the Palestinians. There is another road. The Palestinian workers in alliance with Israeli workers fighting for a two state democratic solution to the national question, is the force that could deliver peace and much more besides.
Lest we forget:
Tony Blair is godfather to Rupert Murdoch’s daughter
Tony Blair is godfather to one of Rupert Murdoch’s young children, it has emerged in an interview with the media tycoon’s wife Wendi.
Blair and [Alastair] Campbell took to heart the advice of the Australian prime minister, Paul Keating, on how to deal with Murdoch: “He’s a big bad bastard, and the only way you can deal with him is to make sure he thinks you can be a big bad bastard too. You can do deals with him, without ever saying a deal is done. But the only thing he cares about is his business and the only language he respects is strength.”
Blair and his team believed they had achieved exactly that. A deal had been done, although with nothing in writing. If Murdoch were left to pursue his business interests in peace he would give Labour a fair wind.
In the footnotes to his book, Price, who worked at No 10 as Campbell’s deputy, attributes that final sentence to “private information”.
I’ve just visited the Stop The War website, looking for a comment on this:
Nothing about the Houla child massacre. Lots of weird and wonderful stuff from all manner of conspiracy theorists and a right-wing nutter and 9/11 “troofer” who thinks Israel is the most repressive nation on earth.
But on Syria, there was this, from December 2011:
There is a clear danger of yet another war in the Middle East. The United States and Britain are turning their attention to Syria, with the intention of engineering regime change in their favour.
Stop the War Coalition fully supports the right of the peoples in all the countries of the Middle East to determine their own future and assert democratic rights. We are therefore implacably opposed to any external intervention, especially military intervention, in Syria.
In relation to Syria, any military intervention will most likely be even more destructive and costly than it was in Libya. It will increase Arab and Muslim alienation from the western powers. Most Syrian people, while demanding democratic rights, would oppose any such interference.
Public opinion in Britain would not support any further military adventures of the type seen in Iraq, Afghanistan or Libya, especially at a time when government austerity policies pose a growing threat to living standards.
NATO is already manoeuvring to weaken Syria through sanctions, which have never been an alternative to war as much as a prelude to it, acclimatising public opinion to the “inevitability” of war. It is also interfering politically, trying to ensure that the Assad regime is replaced by one with a pro-western orientation, rather than one based on those forces which have struggled for years to create a democratic and anti-imperialist alternative.
Stop the War Coalition believes the Syrian people should assert their own democratic rights and determine their own system of government without the kind of external interference which has proved so disastrous in Iraq and Afghanistan, and looks like working no better in Libya. We therefore oppose any foreign attempts to create an unrepresentative “government-in-exile”, which would have no purpose beyond further legitimising the case for military intervention.
World opinion, as expressed at the United Nations, is also clearly against any interference in Syria, with China, Russia, India and Brazil among those opposed. The US and Britain are therefore looking once more to the Arab League, and in this case Turkey, to provide a cover for their war policy. However, the world will not get fooled again after the experience of Libya, where a supposed intervention “to save civilians” developed into a regime change war which cost at least 30,000 lives.
Stop the War Coalition therefore opposes all foreign military intervention in Syria.
These people really are loathsome, isolationist scum, aren’t they?
P.S: I see the Graun has augmented its inhouse team of pro-Assad apologists (Steele, Milne, etc) with the professional Assad lackey Patrick Seale.
Sadly, Englebert Humperdinck came second to last in the Eurovision Song Contest, leading some to suggest that ballads by ‘old-style’ male singers are a thing of the past. I think not: Englebert’s song was, in truth, not very good. Compare it with this bittersweet masterpiece (of denial) by Hoagy Carmichael, sung by that old master Tony Bennett, accompanied by the (relatively) young master of the piano, Bill Charlap. For once, the lyrics are really worth listening to:
I am reliably informed that these letters are genuine, and the authors prominent members of the BDS campaign.
For once I have some sympathy with the editors of the Morning Star…
LETTERS, Wednesday 23 May
The Israel boycott should extend to Star’s daily quiz
I often wonder why so many of its readers find the Morning Star so exasperating.
Despite its condemnation of zionists it yet finds space to include an item in its daily quiz about Israel’s national bird.
Is the Star not aware there’s a cultural boycott going on?
And then, despite it’s condemnation of the Bahrain Grand Prix and rightly so, it then goes on to tell us who won.
For goodness sake comrades, get your act together.
The Morning Star has always been the newspaper you could rely on to support the cause of the Palestinians, so why of all the birds in the world did you choose the Israeli national bird to include in your quiz?
Maybe you don’t support the methods chosen by the International Solidarity Movement of BDS to assist the Palestinians in their struggle for freedom and justice – a demand that came from them originally.
This includes any reference to their wildlife.
P.S: what is it with Stalinists and birds?
H-t: Patrick F (and Anton for the Youtube clip).
Why isn’t there yet an international campaign to support this anti-fascist hero?
Dr. Shakeel Afridi helped get rid of one of the world’s most dangerous terrorists. Now, he is imprisoned for preventing the loss of more innocent lives. We must do something about this!
Amir Mir in Islamabad reports how a physician became a CIA mole and helped locate the most wanted man in the world.
Dr Shakil Afridi, the Pakistani physician who helped the Central Intelligence Agency track down and kill Al Qaeda chief Osama bin Laden, has literally become the first individual to have been sentenced in Pakistan for aiding the killing of the world’s most wanted fugitive terrorist.
The sentence was handed down on May 23 under the tribal justice system following a summary trial on treason charges. As Dr Afridi was found guilty of the charges, he was punished with 33 years rigorous imprisonment besides a fine of Rs 320,000.
The doctor has been punished under the Pakistan Penal Code articles 121, 123, 123-1 and 124 while section 11 of the Frontier Crime Regulation, known as a draconian law, was also applied in his case.
Dr Afridi has been sentenced under penal code clauses related to offences against the State, conspiracy or attempt to wage war against Pakistan, concealing with intent designs to wage war against the State and on charges of working against the country’s sovereignty.
Dr Afridi was neither present in court nor given a chance to defend himself. Under the Khyber Agency’s tribal system of “justice” he did not have access to a lawyer.
P.S: what an absolutely vile, contemptible piece of shit is Robert Fisk.
Some good news for the Chinese working class: Hu Mingjun is about to be released.
But with so much of the contemporary “left” noticeably keen on China (either as the inevitable future world superpower, or as the only realistic alternative to Western ‘neo-liberal’ capitalism), it’s important to remember that it is a highly repressive, anti-working class state-capitalist regime. The following is from
Hu was one of the leaders of the Sichuan provincial branch of the banned China Democratic Party. He was detained by police in early 2001 after offering to help striking workers at the Dazhou Steel Mill in Sichuan. Around 1,000 workers at the plant had earlier organised a mass protest demanding the payment of overdue wages.
Hu was initially charged with “incitement to subvert state power” but the charges were subsequently increased to “subversion.” Hu was sentenced to 11 years’ imprisonment by the Dazhou Intermediate People’s Court in May 2002.
Hu’s mother told Human Rights in China that after his detention, the family heard nothing from the authorities until months after his trial. She said, “We did not know that he had been sentenced to 11 years until August or September 2002, when the police brought the verdict to his father in a hospital room to get his signature. His father said, ‘I won’t be able to see my son again.’ He passed away a few months later.” She said that Hu Mingjun was suffering from frequent chest pains and nausea, and would faint from the smell of cigarette smoke. According to her, when Hu applied for permission to get a check-up in a hospital outside the prison, it took two or three years before he got the approval. The exam showed that his left ventricle was enlarged and he has needed medications ever since.
Hu was one several activists sentenced to long prison terms in the early 2000s for their role in helping workers seek redress for rights violations during the mass restructuring of state-owned enterprises at the time.
By Eric Lee (cross-posted from Workers Liberty)
As PCS convenes this week (23-24 May) in Brighton for their annual conference, delegates will be be expected to vote on a wide range of issues, including some international ones.
Buried deep in the more than 200 pages of conference documents is this sentence: “Conference … instructs the NEC to … [c]all on trade unions around the world to review and sever all ties with the Histadrut.”
This the only reference to the Histadrut in the entire document – and there is no explanation to PCS delegates what the Histadrut actually is. Delegates presumably know that the Histadrut is something evil, and that unions in other countries would almost certainly welcome the PCS call for the them to “review and sever” ties with Israel’s national trade union centre.
There is no indication in the resolution that there is anything remotely controversial about this.
If the resolution passes, and if the PCS NEC actually does go about telling unions around the world to break with the Histadrut, they may be in for a rather unpleasant surprise.
Let’s start with the two global union federations that the PCS proudly affiliates to — Public Services International and UNI Global Union.
Both have Histadrut affiliates as members and both publicised the Histadrut’s recent general strike.
PCS is also affiliated to the TUC, which in turn is part of the International Trade Union Confederation — which not only has the Histadrut as a member, but which elected Histadrut chairman Ofer Eini as one of its vice presidents. I think it’s unlikely that PSI, UNI or the ITUC will be particularly welcoming to the PCS call to toss the Histadrut out.
A week before PCS convened in Brighton, representatives of nearly 400 trade unions in the food and agriculture sector met in Geneva for the world congress of the International Union of Food workers (IUF). The Histadrut representative addressed the congress twice. The first time, she spoke about precarious work — a key priority of trade unions around the globe. When she mentioned that the Histadrut had secured a collective bargaining agreement with a local subsidiary of catering giant Sodexo, her speech was interrupted with applause. During the closing session, she spoke again — this time following speakers from Egypt, Bahrain, Tunisia, Algeria and Palestine. She welcomed the new Palestinian affiliate to the IUF and asked unions to help build up links between Palestinian and Israeli unions — and was once again applauded. When elections were held to choose the IUF’s new Executive Committee, a representative of Histadrut was re-elected.
No one at the IUF congress called for the Histadrut to be expelled from the organisation. No one rose to leave the hall when the Histadrut representative spoke. No one heckled or booed her speeches.
And I repeat: in the hall were representatives of the newly-independent unions from the countries of the “Arab Spring” — including the Palestinian agricultural workers union. None of them mentioned the Histadrut in their speeches. There was only one reference that I heard to Israel, and that was a sentence or two from the Palestinian delegate about how difficult the occupation of the West Bank was for workers — a valid point. But not a word of criticism of the Histadrut.
Even the South African unions, some of which have been outspokenly anti-Israel, had not a word to say on the subject. Nor did the British trade unions, some of which have said some very critical things in the past about Histadrut.
Something very odd is going on in the British labour movement.
Unison, for example, sent a delegation to Israel and Palestine and asked everyone — Palestinians, left-wing Israelis, and others — whether British unions should sever relations with the Histadrut. And every single one of them said “no”. The Palestine General Federation of Trade Unions (PGFTU) was adamant on this point. They don’t agree with everything the Histadrut says or does — but they are convinced that only by engaging with it can one influence it. The report of the Unison delegation was approved by the union’s NEC, but then Unison went on to call for a boycott of the Histadrut. In spite of what its own delegation learned.
The fact is that British trade unionists are deeply ignorant about the Histadrut. Many of them believe that Histadrut doesn’t have Arab members, for example. This ignorance drives them to adopt resolutions whose only effect is to isolate British unions from the mainstream of the international trade union movement, which has much more realistic and informed view.
When representatives of PCS start telling “trade unions around the world” what to do about the Histadrut, they may find themselves compelled instead to listen and to learn. Maybe they would even reconsider their view.