The Obvious Song

November 30, 2012 at 8:30 pm (Rosie B, song)

Britain faces ice and cold until Christmas thanks to the same type of weather system which caused the “big freeze” three years ago, forecasters predict.

Only one song for this:

Ella Fitzgerald & Louis Jordan’s version is a bit too brisk and slick.

I prefer this version.  The pace is right.

There’s much more character in Bob Dorough’s voice – he does sound like an old hand at seduction.  His voice has really been around the block.

Blossom Dearie’s performance is wonderfully  ingenuous.  Her girlish voice is just right for this song.

The pair of them get across the song’s humour.

A nice, colourful tribute video as well.

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Respect at the byelections: no “earthquake”, no-one impressed

November 30, 2012 at 2:22 pm (Andrew Coates, anti-semitism, communalism, democracy, elections, Galloway, gloating, reblogged, Respect, wankers)

From Coatsey:

On the eve of the election this appeared on the Respect Site.

We are on the edge of a political earthquake in British politics. In polling conducted at the weekend, the Respect candidate in the Rotherham by-election, Yvonne Ridley, has the lead over Labour. Labour has panicked and launched a vicious and negative campaign of dirty tricks against Respect but this has been sidelined by our magnificent positive campaign with the Respect battle bus, advertizing truck and campaign groups in every ward.

Polling conducted in the Croydon North by-election suggests that Lee Jasper, the Respect candidate, is now neck and neck with the Labour Party to win the constituency.

This is what happened (including the Middlesbrough by-election),

“Labour has won three by-elections, holding Croydon North, Middlesbrough and Rotherham parliamentary seats.

It increased its share of the vote in all three seats, but its majority was down in Rotherham, where the previous MP had quit over expenses claims.

The UK Independence Party came second in Middlesbrough and Rotherham, and finished third in Croydon North.”

How did Respect fare?

Rotherham by-election, 29 November 2012
Party Candidate Votes % ±%
Labour Sarah Champion 9,866 46.25 +1.62
UKIP Jane Collins 4,648 21.79 +15.87
BNP Marlene Guest 1,804 8.46 -1.96
Respect Yvonne Ridley 1,778 8.34
Conservative Simon Wilson 1,157 5.42 -11.32
English Democrats David Wildgoose 703 3.30
Independent Simon Copley 582 2.73 -3.58
Liberal Democrat Michael Beckett 451 2.11 -13.87
Trade Unionist & Socialist Ralph Dyson 261 1.22
Independent Paul Dickson 51 0.24
no description Clint Bristow 29 0.14
Majority 10,462 27.89
Turnout 21,330 33.89
Croydon North by-election, 2012
Party Candidate Votes % ±%
Labour Steve Reed 15,892 64.7 +8.7
Conservative Andrew Stranack 4,137 16.8 -7.3
UKIP Winston McKenzie 1,400 5.7 +4.0
Liberal Democrat Marisha Ray 860 3.5 -10.5
Green Shasha Khan 855 3.5 +1.5
Respect Lee Jasper 707 2.9 +2.4
Christian Peoples Stephen Hammond 192 0.8 N/A
National Front Richard Edmonds 161 0.7 N/A
Communist Ben Stevenson 119 0.5 +0.2
Monster Raving Loony John Cartwright 110 0.4 N/A
Nine Eleven Was An Inside Job Simon Lane 66 0.3 N/A
Young People’s Party Robin Smith 63 0.3 N/A
Majority
Rejected ballots
Turnout 26

Labour won.

This is a good thing.

That is despite (as Toby says) the fact that the Labour winners in Rotherham and Croydon are part of the hidebound right-wing of the party.

It is still an anti-Coalition result.

The sensation of these elections is of course the UKIP vote.

These ‘fascists in blazers’ are the weevils of the British politics.

What for the left?

TUSC (261,  1,22 % in Rotherham and 277, 1,6% in Middlesbrough) and the Communist Party (119 votes)  did not do well at all.

Ridley’s votes (1,778, 8, 3,4%)  are  far too many for any socialist to rejoice about.

Somebody who says this, ““[Respect] is a Zionist-free party… if there was any Zionism in the Respect Party they would be hunted down and kicked out. We have no time for Zionists.” She explained that government support “goes towards that disgusting little watchdog of America that is festering in the Middle East”. She went on to attack the Tories and Lib Dems, saying that all the mainstream parties are “riddled with Zionists”” represents forces that have no part in the labour movement.

Still one cannot but smile as ‘Rapper Jasper’s’ result: a lost deposit.

And at the pitiful attempts to draw comfort from their result by Respect supporters (wonder how long this link will last before these ‘democrats’ take it down).

The obvious fact is that Respect have drawn from the old (and now unused) Liberal Democrats’ by-election strategy: publish boosting made-up door-step reports and ‘polls’ just before an election.

And the truly magnificent score of the Rotherham Liberal Democrats (2,11% below an Independent, 2,73%) brings a spring to the step.

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Ukip on a roll – thanks to Rotherham Children’s Services

November 29, 2012 at 7:33 am (elections, Jim D, labour party, political groups, politics, populism, Racism)

ukip

Fruit-cakes, loonies and closet racists, mostly.” I don’t often agree with David Cameron, but his 2006 description of Ukip pretty well hit the nail on the head. It’s a vile, reactionary outfit led by a posturing demagogue. Unfortunately, it’s presently on something of a roll, due to the unpopularity of the government, the continuing ineffectiveness of Labour and its crude appeal to the worst prejudices of its chosen constituency (the white lumpenproletariat and disaffected petty bourgeoise).

But if, as seems likely, Ukip does well in  Rotherham today it will be for one reason above all others: the incredibly stupid, inept, arrogant and bureaucratic decision of Rotherham council’s Children’s Services to remove three children from their foster parents simply because of the couple’s membership of Ukip.

Ukip is a reactionary organisation, but it’s not the BNP or the EDL. It is possible to be a member of an organisation with racist policies without being personally racist. By all accounts the couple are decent, caring people and experienced foster parents. They have been  approved as suitable people under the (rightly) rigorous tests imposed on everyone wishing to foster children. But Rotherham Children’s Services took the children away and more or less called the couple racists because of their membership of Ukip.  What a coup for that loudmouthed opportunist Farage: it seemed to confirm everything he says about bureaucratic elites obsessed by ‘political correctness’ and petty regulations, and the fact that even he can’t blame Europe for this balls-up is neither here nor there as far as public perceptions go.

The dreadful, but all too predictable, combination of arrogance and incoherence demonstrated in radio interviews by Joyce Thacker, head of Rotherham’s Children and Young People’s Services, has only served to make matters worse.

There are three byelections taking place today (Croydon North and Middlesborough as well as Rotherham), and in all of them reactionary fringe parties led by demagogues seem poised to do well.  Indeed, in Rotherham at least, Ukip and Galloway’s Respect have formed a de facto alliance against Labour.

Serious socialists in all three constituencies should vote Labour today (despite the presence of  left wing candidates in Rotherham and Middlesborough) and by rights, Labour should romp home in all three. But there are worrying signs that the populist right in the form of Ukip – or even Respect – may spring some nasty surprises when the votes are counted.

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Egypt: Juan Cole on the protests against Morsi’s “temporary dictatorship”

November 28, 2012 at 7:38 pm (Civil liberties, democracy, Egypt, Human rights, islamism, Middle East, reblogged, secularism)

As usual, excellent comment and analysis from Juan Cole, though I personally do not agree with his opposition to the possibility of Morsi being removed by “crowd action” – JD

Egypt Polarized as 200,000 Tahrir demonstrators and Crowds in other Cities protest Morsi’s “Temporary Dictatorship”

Posted on 28/11/2012 by Juan Cole at Informed Comment.

On Wednesday morning, in the wake of a huge demonstration downtown Cairo, the crowds assembled in Tahrir Square faced tear gas barrages whenever they moved out of the center of the square. Some 36 persons were wounded in Port Said in clashes Wednesday between anti-government forces and the Muslim Brotherhood. The fight began when three Ultras (soccer fanatics) of the Green Eagle soccer club in the city were attacked when they passed near the Muslim Brotherhood HQ.

Liberals, leftists, nationalists, Muslims, Christians, trade unions, professionals, movie stars, lawyers and judges united on Tuesday throughout Egypt to deploy a whole range of protest techniques against last Thursday’s Executive Order of President Muhammad Morsi of the Muslim Brotherhood, which put him above all judicial authority. Some clashes broke out with Morsi followers, and some 76 were injured.

The crowd at the downtown Tahrir Square was estimated by some newspapers at 200,000, among the largest demonstrations held since the fall of Hosni Mubarak in February, 2011. It is worrisome that many in the crowd have started to demand ‘the fall of the regime’ and the ‘departure of Morsi.’ Since he is an elected leader, it would be undemocratic for him to be unseated by crowd action, and the danger that the Muslim Brotherhood might be radicalized by losing the fruits of both of its electoral victories is great.

The spokesman for the Egyptian military Pointedly underlined that the army is there to defend the interests of the nation and that its sole loyalty is to the people. He did not say anything about protecting the government, raising the question of where the army’s loyalty might lie if the political polarization worsens.

Performing artists had their own column in the march in Cairo.
Journalists and attorneys were organized by their guilds to participate. Even a group of judges marched, single file, into Tahrir Square. Cairo’s courts were closed and on strike for the third day running in protest against the insult of the president’s decree. A huge procession walked from the slum of Shubra to Tahrir Square Tuesday, joined by Muhammad Elbaradei (former head of the IAEA). About half of the densely packed population of Shubra is Christian, and as a working class district its parties include the Free Egyptians, the Social Democratic Egyptian Party, the Popular Coalition, and the Revolutionary Socialist Movement. Unfortunately, they are good at mobilizing for marches and rallies, but not good at winning elections. They insisted on the abrogation of Morsi’s Executive Order.

Among the demands of the protesters was that the Constituent Assembly writing the constitution be reconstituted. It had begun with 100 members, but 22 have withdrawn, along with 7 reserve members, and the remaining 78 are disproportionately loyal to the Muslim Brotherhood, raising fears that the constitution will be overly religious in character.

Reuters has a video report on Tuesday’s massive country-wide rallies:

There were similar demonstrations, some of them quite large, in other cities, including Alexandria, where crowds invaded the HQ of the FJP and tossed papers out the window.  In the Delta city of Mansoura, 25 were hurt when an angry crowd set fire to part of the HQ of the Freedom and Justice Party, the civil wing of the Muslim Brotherhood.  In al-Mahalla just north of Cairo, a working-class city of factories, 50 were injured in clashes between protesters and the Muslim Brotherhood.  Euronews reports:

Morsi’s claim of extra-judicial power struck many Egyptians as a creeping dictatorship, and there are fears that the Brotherhood was plotting to bring back the dissolved parliament of fall, 2011, which was dominated by members of the Brotherhood party, Freedom and Justice, and by hard line Salafi fundamentalists.  With the presidency and parliament and an established principle that both were beyond the authority of the judiciary, the Brotherhood could hope to rule Egypt as a virtual one-party state, succeeding the one-party dominance of Hosni Mubarak’s National Democratic party.

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Israel/Palestine: divorcing couple or conjoined twins?

November 27, 2012 at 9:44 am (Guest post, islamism, israel, Middle East, palestine, Pink Prosecco)

Guest post by Pink Prosecco

Matt Hill, writing in the Telegraph, compares Israel and Palestine to a married couple trying to finalise a divorce settlement.

But it might also be possible to see them as conjoined twins, for whom life together is intolerable, but whose separation poses risks.  From one perspective, supporting the Palestinian statehood bid at the UN represents a threat, a unilateral move which leaves the many complex questions which can only be resolved by negotiation dangerously unresolved.  For such commentators, the bid might be compared with cutting the children of my analogy apart with a single fatal stroke rather than embarking on a long, painstaking operation.  This hostile attitude is exemplified by an uncompromising piece in the Jerusalem Post by Moshe Dann:

“Palestinianism, the basis of the Arab/Muslim war against Zionism, the State of Israel as the national historic homeland of the Jewish People, is part of a broad Islamist revolution throughout the world against non-Muslim infidels.

“Understanding the mission of Islamism explains why efforts to impose a Palestinian state, the ‘two-state’ proposal and the ‘peace process’ are doomed to fail. Palestinians don’t want a state alongside Israel, but one that replaces Israel. The primary goal of Palestinian nationalism is to wipe out the State of Israel, not to permit its existence.”

Clearly there is some truth in these assertions.  For some Palestinians only a one state solution is acceptable.  But the Palestine Papers would seem to show that Moshe Dann underplays a genuine willingness to negotiate, even though this readiness to make necessary compromises is viewed askance by many Palestinians – and particularly by their most ardent friends abroad.  Gaza hardly gets a mention in Dann’s article, yet there is a stark difference between the methods of Hamas and those of the PA. This article offers a telling illustration of some of those differences.

Hussein Ibish takes a very different view from Dann’s – and one which seems more balanced.  Now, even BBC Watch couldn’t find much to fault with Ibish’s contemptuous take on Hamas:

“Its recent reckless conflict with Israel cost over 150 Palestinian lives, mostly civilians and many children, and hundreds of millions of dollars in damage.”

But he sees the PA in a quite different light, and points out how, because of the need to avoid being seen to lose face, its weak and beleaguered leadership have experienced genuine difficulties in trying to return to the negotiating table. Ibish offers some judicious advice:

“The PLO, if it must go ahead with an initiative at the U.N. in the coming days, should make it as non-confrontational as possible. It should provide reassurances about not seeking, at this stage, to join additional U.N. agencies or the International Criminal Court. And it should seek as much European support as it can muster.”

…and also a real note of hope that the stalled peace process just might be kick started:

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“Abbas has said that after the U.N. resolution, he is prepared to return to negotiations with Israel without preconditions. This means, at last, dropping the settlement freeze demand. This is an important potential starting place for the indispensable rapprochement between Ramallah and Washington.”

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Abbas clearly needs the cachet of a diplomatic victory before he can start to make concessions – it would be nice to think that the fillip of the dropped settlement freeze demand might, in turn, get Israel back to the negotiating table.  Perhaps, returning to my conjoined twins analogy, the UN statehood bid could be seen, less as a rushed operation doomed to destroy both children, more simply as the journey to the hospital, the first necessary step before the real work can begin.

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Labor Action archive now available

November 27, 2012 at 1:43 am (history, Jim D, Marxism, trotskyism, United States)

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Shachtman (rt) with Trotsky & Frida Kahlo in Mexico, 1937

From ‘Traven':

A major milestone for the Left Opposition Digitization Project for the MIA: the complete run of Labor Action, the newspaper of the Workers Party (U.S.) and Independent Socialist League from 1940 through the Autum of 1958. Writers for this paper included, among others, Max Shachtman,  James T. Farrell, C.L.R. James, Raya Dunayevskaya, Hal Draper, and Irving Howe. The 19 years of Labor Action represents approx. 1,000 issues published, over half of which are full broadsheet in size. Presented in beautifully digitaly optimized PDFs, the work was a joint project between the Riazanov Library Project and the Holt Labor Libary. We encourage the free and widespread distribution of this historic archive.

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10,000 march to save Lewisham A&E

November 26, 2012 at 5:24 pm (Cuts, health service, London, protest)

Cathy and Jill report :

At least 10,000 people marched on Saturday (24 November) through central Lewisham, in terrible weather, to stop the closure of the A&E, maternity and other departments at the local hospital.

Local, mostly working class people appear to have reached a  tipping point on what services they are prepared to see go in the so called ‘austerity cuts’. We don’t recall being on a similar demonstration since the miners strike – ie. a local demo where local working class people were by far the dominant force (there were many differences too, like the lack of trade union banners and consciousness).
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We gave out thousands of leaflets about the campaign  with people pushing and queuing to get one – fleeting chats imply that many, many people want to be involved and some longer chats clearly indicated that the A&E closure was forcing them to voice their anger and frustration about what the Tories are doing to them/us more generally.
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It was easily the biggest demonstration Lewisham has seen since the “Battle for New Cross” in 1977 and one of the biggest in the UK against local NHS cuts for many years.

This was very much a demonstration of the local community but will have drawn in people from around south London who also face cuts in their NHS services proposed by government-appointed Special Administrator after South London Heath Care Trust went bust.

The root of the problem is the massive, long-term payments a neighbouring Trust has had to fork out to PFI contrators. Everyone in south London and not just Lewisham are set to pay the price. Unless we stop the NHS bosses and the government who have devised cuts so that they can continue to pay out to the PFI profiteers.

This demonstration was fantastic start, but there is not much time. Anyone wishing to get involved in the campaign to discuss and work out how to take further effective action and link up around London should come to the next public meeting.

7pm, Wednesday 28 November, Broadway Theatre, Catford

And the next action:

6pm, Tuesday 4 December Converge on Kershaw (the special adminstator) Calabash Centre, George Lane, SE6

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Attack on Spurs fans shows anti-semitism is alive and well

November 25, 2012 at 12:21 am (anti-semitism, Guardian, israel, Jim D, Middle East, palestine, sport, Steve Bell, thuggery)

Anti-semitism is the only form of racism that sections of the the left and liberal/left seem willing to contextualise, excuse, “understand,” downplay or even deny altogether. It’s one of the most pervasive leftist urban myths that the charge of anti-semitism is usually raised as a ploy by “Zionists” in order to deflect criticism of Israel.

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When the Guardian recently published a cartoon (above) by Steve Bell  that (I believe, inadvertently) recycled a classic anti-semitic trope, and Mark Gardner of the Community Security Trust wrote a very measured letter pointing this out, the response from Graun letter-writers was all too predictable: “Mark Gardner plays the dog-eared antisemitism card” wrote Edward Pearce, “(it’s) the old trick of pretending all criticism of the Israeli government is antisemitic” wrote Mike Scott while one Steve Smart dismissed Gardner’s letter as”preposterous” and people with such concerns as “zealots.”
Whatever you think of the Bell cartoon, can you imagine the charge of racism being dismisssed in such terms by liberals in any other context? Bell’s own response was particularly disappointing.

Well, smug Guardian readers and cartoonists who refuse to recognise anti-semitism as a real issue, may like to consider what happened in Rome on Thursday, when a group of Tottenham Hotspur fans were attacked by a masked gang armed with knives, knuckle-dusters and batons, shouting “Jews!” Whether or not any of the victims were, in fact, Jewish is neither here nor there: Spurs is a club that traditionally has a large Jewish following and has come to symbolise the London Jewish community. The question of whether the attackers,  Italian football hooligans, had any serious political motivation, is also largely academic. In the tribal world of a certain kind of soccer fan, apolitical abuse and semi-political communalism merge into one and the same thing. At the game itself, Lazio fans chanted “Juden Tottenham” and unfurled a “Free Palestine” banner. Similar scenes of Jew-baiting (and the same banner? See video below) were seen at a women’s match in Edinburgh this June when Israel played Scotland. The Jew-baiting was at least partially organised by the Scottish Palestine Solidarity Campaign and lovingly reported at the Socialist Unity website.

The saddest part of all this is that it does nothing to help the just cause of the Palestinians, but certainly helps alienate and antagonise Jews everywhere. Genteel Guardianistas on the one hand, and football supporters who regard the situation in the Middle East as merely an excuse for tribalism and hooliganism on the other, are both singing from the same anti-semitic hymn sheet.

[As we were saying: 'What is left anti-semitism?']

[Jonathan Freedland -in the Graun ! - denounces those who treat the Israel/Palestine conflict as though it's  a football match]

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Stan Greig: jazz and blues piano master

November 24, 2012 at 3:18 pm (jazz, Jim D, The blues)

Stanley Mackay Greig, 12 Aug 1930 – 18 Nov 2012

Stan Greig had been ill with Parkinson’s for many years, so his passing was not altogether unexpected. But it still comes as a tremendous loss to the traditional and mainstream jazz scene in Britain and internationally.

Stan started out on piano and drums in Edinburgh in the early 1950’s, playing with clarinettist Sandy Brown and trumpeter Al Fairweather, both of whom became long-term musical associates and personal friends of his. They admired (and modelled their playing upon) the music of Louis Armstrong, King Oliver and Johnny Dodds from the 1920’s, and although all three would soon broaden their musical horizons, none of them ever completely lost those early influences.

When Stan moved down to London he began working with Ken Colyer’s New Orleans-style band and then Humphrey Lyttelton’s rather more forward-looking outfit, in both cases as a drummer. It’s Stan who’s brushing away behind Johnny Parker’s piano on Humph’s 1956 boogie woogie hit Bad Penny Blues. One can only speculate about how Stan felt about his role on that record, given that his true forte, even then, was as a pianist (and a boogie specialist at that). When Stan was called up in the Suez crisis, Humph replaced him with the more modern drummer Eddie Taylor.  On his return,  Humph (by his own account) went through agonies in terms of loyalties, using both drummers in turn for a while before Stan solved the problem for him and left the band, joining Acker Bilk. He can be seen, shuffling from the piano to the drums and back again, with Acker’s band in this clip (below) from the 1962 film It’s Trad, Dad!:

Some years later (in the 1980’s) Stan re-joined Humph’s band, this time on piano and it was during this period that I had the tremendous pleasure and privilege of playing with him on a couple of memorable (for me, at least) occasions. The trombonist in that band, Pete Strange, told me that he thought Humph felt he “owed” Stan because of what had happened in the fifties.

Stan was a great player in quite a wide range of styles, but really excelled at boogie woogie, a style that can sound hackneyed and repetative. But not when Stan played:

Good obit from Peter Vacher in the Graun, here

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Petition for the release of Greek trade unionists

November 23, 2012 at 10:50 pm (capitalist crisis, democracy, Europe, Greece, Jim D, protest, solidarity, unions, workers, youth)

From comrades in Greece:

Please, sign the following petition:
http://www.ipetitions.com/petition/agwnas/

On November 16th 2012 the police arrested three unionists accusing them of
participating in the protests against the German deputy labor minister,
Fuchtel, in Thessaloniki the day before. Two of the arrestees are municipal workers and the
third one is a primary-school teacher – known figure of the Left and the
Labour movement as well as an elected member of the teacher’s Union Board.
The teacher was arrested within the premises of his school and in front of
his pupils. All three, were sent to court the day after. According to the
prosecutor’s decision the process was closed for the public. The solidarity
mobilization for the three arrestees was massive and the trial has been
postponed for December 19th. One day later, during the demonstrations for
the commemoration of the people’s revolt against the dictatorship in 1973,
sixteen young people were arrested when the police invaded the University
in a brutal way.

This is a petition in support of the three unionists and the sixteen young
people, who are prosecuted because of their participation in the
mobilizations in Thessaloniki against the visiting German deputy labor
minister, Fuchtel, and the demonstration for the commemoration of the
people’s revolt against the dictatorship in 1973. The following statement
was announced in the three unionists’ trial, on Monday 19 November.

*this petition has already been signed by thousands including:
Manolis Glezos, significant figure of the Left since the 2nd World War,
Bitsakis Eftichis, distinguished university professor,
the elected members of Parliament for SYRIZA Panagiotis Lafazanis and Nikos
Voutsis,
Alekos Alavanos, known figure of the Left in Greece
Dimitris Kaltsonis, left-wing academic, theorist and writer
and Aggelos Chagios and Dimitris Desylas, members of the Front of the Greek
Anti-Capitalist Left (ANTARSYA) *

PEOPLE HAVE THE RIGHT TO FIGHT
On November 17th 2012, thirty-nine years after the Greek people revolted
against the military junta (dictatorship) demanding bread, education, and
freedom, the arrest and forced trial of three union activists in
Thessaloniki, with the hypocritical and unsubstantiated criminal charges of
“illegal violence” as well as the similar treatment of sixteen youth
arrested inside the University after the demonstrations for the
commemorations of the events in the Polytechnic School in Athens,
constitute an insult to our historical memory.

We want to stress the serious responsibility of the government which, in an
attempt to implement at all costs its anti-popular politics, assumes the
responsibility of an open anti-democratic political assault, targeting
those political liberties achieved through struggle and bloodshed. The
constant heightening of state repression, police abuse, torture of
protesters at the Central Police Headquarters in Athens, employers’ terror
in workplaces, racist pogroms, and state support of Nazi and fascist gangs
make up the “arsenal” they use against the popular workers movement in an
attempt to subjugate them.

People’s right to fight remains non-negotiable, particularly at a time when
civil rights, democracy and people’s rule are at gunpoint. The fact that
the arrests followed almost immediately after German Chancellor Merkel’s
statements about “violence in Greece” is revealing. Was such the eagerness
and subservience to please our partners-lenders-prosecutors?

We invite all political forces, unions, organizations and other
stakeholders to mobilize immediately towards a common coordinated struggle
to subvert the terrorization of workers’ struggles that is reminiscent of
the darkest times of this country’s history.

WE DEMAND THAT ALL ARRESTED UNION ACTIVISTS AND YOUTH ARE SET FREE AND THAT
THEIR UNACCEPTABLE PROSECUTION CEASES

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