The HOPE Not Hate community — you guys — are incredible. Yesterday, more than 36,000 people signed the pro-hope, anti-EDL letter published in today’s Daily Mirror. THANK YOU. (That number includes your name, Jim.)
But today is the day that counts. Today, there will be racist marches across Britain. We must, must make our voices louder than the ignorant hatemongers out on the streets. Their intolerant Britain is not our Britain. We are the many.
There are four things you can do right now to stand in solidarity with us. I’ve done them myself, and they take all of a few minutes. They matter. Will you do as many as you can?
1. Speak out on on Twitter
The EDL are marching today, but they don’t speak for Britain — or for me. Unite with us against hate: http://bit.ly/17aTVpX #WeAreTheMany
2. Speak out on Facebook
3. Stand in solidarity: change your Facebook or Twitter profile picture
First, right click the image below and choose “save as”.
4. Finally: please forward this email to as many people as possible!
You reached the end and did them all! You’re amazing — thank you.
This statement from Peter Tatchell first appeared at Harry’s Place, a site we don’t usually have much in common with. But in this case, it’s impossible to disagree:
The BNP & EDL claim to oppose Islamist extremist bigotry but in reality they generalise and abuse all Muslims. Many of their protests are menacing, even violent.
Islam is not the main problem. Islamist fundamentalism and violent jihad are what we should focus on opposing. It is important to make a clear distinction between Muslims and Islamist extremists. Don’t confuse the two. Unite to isolate the main threats: the Islamist far right and its BNP and EDL equivalents.
I support today’s Unite Against Fascism (UAF) counter-protest against the BNP. But UAF is not consistent. UAF commendably opposes the BNP and EDL but it is silent about Islamist fascists who promote anti-Semitism, homophobia, sexism and sectarian attacks on non-extremist Muslims.
This silence and inaction by the UAF is a shocking betrayal of Muslim people – abandoning them to the Islamist far right.
Islamist fascists want to overthrow democracy, establish a clerical dictatorship, suppress human rights and kill Muslims who don’t conform to their hard-line interpretation of Islam.
It is time the UAF campaigned against the Islamist far right, as well as against the EDL and BNP far right.
Model motion for union and Labour Party branches, drawn up by the AWL:
Unite against the EDL and Islamism: defend civil liberties
This ****** condemns:
1. The murder of off-duty soldier Lee Rigby in Woolwich on 22 May.
2. The reactionary politics of Islamism, in this case extreme, ultra-violent Islamism, which seems to have inspired the killing.
3. The ramping up of racist hostility towards Muslims, from abuse and harassment in the street to the firebombing of a mosque in Grimsby to demonstrations by the English Defence League and British National Party. According to the interfaith group Faith Matters, on 30 May there have been 201 anti-Muslim incidents since the murder, a 15-fold increase.
4. Possible attacks on civil liberties, including reviving the Communications Data Bill, which would allow police and security services access to all electronic communications.
1. That the main threat posed by Islamism is directed against working-class organisations, women, LGBT people, atheists and secularists, dissidents and critical-minded people in Muslim countries and some communities in the UK.
2. That acknowledging that British foreign policy has created conditions which help Islamists to grow should not mean failing to condemn Islamist politics.
3. That opposing the racist backlash and attacks on civil liberties must be top priorities for the labour movement.
4. That this is a wake up call – if the left and labour movement cannot build a force in working-class communities capable of appealing to the angry and dispossessed, then reactionary ideas like Islamism and nationalist racism will continue to spread.
1. To issue a statement based on this motion.
2. To support and publicise protests against the racist and fascist threat, and oppose attacks on civil liberties.
3. To contact local Muslim organisations and mosques to offer support in defence against racists and the far right.
Two items in today’s Graun in the aftermath of Woolwich. I’m not attaching too much significance to either – and in particular, I’m not trying to suggest that tea and custard creams are usually the way to deal with racists (see #2 below); but I found both these items intriguing and, in their different ways, strangely encouraging:
1/ Interview with Ingrid Loyau-Kennett
She’s the woman who jumped off her bus, initially with the intention of giving first aid to Lee Rigby, but who then found herself engaging in debate with the killers in order to prevent further mayhem. “It’s only you and there are many of us” she (now) famously told one of them.
The Graun interview shows her to be complex (Catholic, single parent) and in many ways admirable (many sensible opinions) …and a Tory:
Loyau-Kennett says she is “naturally rightwing”. She adds: “I don’t agree with the socialist thing where they praise everything rather than praising hard work. I’m proud that we are now represented by David Cameron rather than Gordon Brown. I voted for him.”
The killers should now face “severe punishment”, she says. “I will not waste any of my energy in hating, or even thinking further about these men. Yes, they deserve to be in jail because they killed a man who did a lot for society and who could have done a lot more in his life, and been an excellent father. The trouble with jail is that we have to pay for their keep. Will they stay in jail for ever? I don’t think so, because of the judicial system these days.”
Before her bus had arrived, one of the men had talked into an onlooker’s cameraphone, quoting “an eye for an eye” in an attempt to justify his actions. Loyau-Kennett believes the killers should face the same retribution.
“If it were possible, then, yes, they should die a painful death,” she says. “But we can’t do that, unfortunately. They wanted to behead someone, so they should face the same. If they want to do something like this, they should have gone to where the action is [in Afghanistan, etc]. That is cowardice. They were egotistical. They are like the men who drive round thinking they are king of the road. It’s just me, me, me. It’s that thing where young men are bored. They should be jailed for murder, just as I think people who drive when drunk and kill someone should be jailed for ever for murder. No television in jail. Nothing. They must pay for what they did. But will that happen in this era of so-called human rights?”
2/ Mosque offers tea to would-be protesters
All too predictably, the far-right have been cashing in, targeting individual Asians and Mosques. The EDL has been given a new lease of life, and members of the BNP and UKIP have mobilised to stir up hatred and racism. In Grimsby, petrol bombs were thrown into a Mosque and those inside, including children, were lucky to escape with their lives.
A Mosque in York was targeted…
(NB: the following is in today’s print edition of the Graun, but not the on-line version)
Around half a dozen people arrived for the protest. A St George’s flag was nailed to the wooden fence in front of the mosque. However, other members of the group accepted an invitation into the mosque, tensions were rapidly defused over tea and plates of custard creams, followed by an impromptu game of football.
Leanne Staven, who had come for the protest, said that she had not come to cause trouble but because “we need a voice”. “I think white British who have any concerns feel we can’t speak freely,” she said.
Mohammed el-Gomati, a York University lecturer, said: “There is the possibility of having a dialogue. Even the EDL who were having a shouting match started talking and we found out that we share and are prepared to agree that violent extremism is wrong. We have to start there.”
The fascists of the Taliban, and their appeasers like Imran Khan, have been defied and (hopefully) defeated by the people of Pakistan, led by the women. Those sections of the decadent western “left” (notably the SWP) who support such fascists in the sub-continent, should be ashamed.
Millions of voters turned out to cast their ballots in Pakistan’s historic election Saturday despite Taliban threats and a series of attacks in a few volatile areas. The poll marks Pakistan’s first-ever transition of civilian governments.
Braving Taliban threats and attacks, millions of Pakistanis turned out to vote today in a landmark election marking the first transition between civilian governments in the country’s 66-year history.
Polls opened amid tight security across Pakistan with voters lining up at polling stations in some of the main cities despite the searing heat and the omnipresent fear of attacks.
By midday, the country’s election commission said the voter turnout was 30% – an indication that the total turnout looked set to cross the 44% mark of the last general election in 2008. Voting was extended by an extra hour nationwide to allow people queuing at polling centers to cast their ballot, according to the AFP. In Pakistan’s largest city of Karachi, polling was extended by three hours in some constituencies because voting started late.
A series of gunfights and bomb attacks targeted party offices and polling stations in some of the volatile parts of this South Asian nation, killing at least 17 people.
In the tinderbox port city of Karachi, a bomb attack on the office of the (ANP) Awami National Party killed 11 people and wounded around 40 others. At least three other attacks – including gunfights – were reported across the city.
Gunmen killed two people outside a polling station in Baluchistan, the southwestern province where separatists oppose the election, and in the northwestern city of Peshawar, a bomb explosion killed at least one person and wounded 10 others, according to local police officials.
But the attacks failed to deter people from the polls as millions of Pakistanis, buoyed by a prospect of change and keenly aware of the historic nature of Saturday’s vote, cast their ballots to elect representatives to the National Assembly – or lower house – as well as provincial assemblies.
“This election is very significant,” said Mustafa Qadri, Pakistan researcher at Amnesty International. “Yes, there are many problems, but we should not dismiss this election – it’s a chance for Pakistan to deepen its democratic process and also for citizens to demonstrate they won’t be intimidated by groups like the Taliban into not exercising their right to choose their government.”
Violence has been a key problem in the run-up to Saturday’s vote, with the Taliban targeting three secular parties – including outgoing President Asif Ali Zardari’s PPP (Pakistan Peoples’ Party).
Security was tight across Pakistan, with the military deploying troops and additional security personnel at polling stations and counting centres amid Taliban threats to disrupt the vote.
In the most populous province of Punjab alone, 300,000 security officials – including 32,000 troops – have been deployed. Another 96,000 security forces have been posted in the Taliban stronghold regions in northwestern Pakistan.
Saturday’s vote came just days after former Pakistani Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani’s son, Ali Haider Gilani – a provincial assembly candidate – was kidnapped during an election rally in the central Pakistani city of Multan.
The kidnapping highlighted the relentless levels of violence in a country that’s no stranger to election-related bloodshed.
“It’s been a very, very brutal and very bloody campaign,” said FRANCE 24’s Rezaul Hasan, reporting from Islamabad days before the historic vote. “There are widespread reports that there could be attacks during the polling and the army has deployed hundreds of thousands of security personnel. But it still remains to be seen whether polling will be peaceful because the militants – the Taliban – have shown their ability to strike despite all the security measures that have been put in place.” Read the rest of this entry »
Letter to the Morning Star:
“I cannot continue to live and to be silent while the remnants of Polish Jewry, whose representative I am, are being murdered. My comrades in the Warsaw ghetto fell with arms in their hands in the last heroic battle. I was not permitted to fall like them, together with them, but I belong with them, to their mass grave. By my death, I wish to give expression to my most profound protest against the inaction in which the world watches and permits the destruction of the Jewish people” - “The Last Letter from the Bund Representative with the Polish National Council in Exile”.
From the Economist blog:
By GG, Jerusalem, Warsaw
THE 19th of April 1943, exactly 70 years ago, saw the first insurrection against the Nazis in occupied Europe: the Warsaw ghetto uprising. The event symbolises both Jewish courage and Jewish suffering. For Poland, its anniversary is also a resonant event in the country’s ongoing reconnection with its Jewish heritage and fight against anti-Semitism.
Last week, more than a hundred volunteers showed up to work on cleaning and restoring the dilapidated Jewish cemetery, perhaps the strongest visual testament to the fact that this city was once one of the largest Jewish centres in the world – and is no more. Almost none of them were Jewish. They told me they had come out of a sense of duty.
The event had been listed on a website devoted to the anniversary commemorations, which are extensive. From now until the May 16th when the Great Synagogue on Tłomackie Street was destroyed, marking the end of the uprising and effectively of all Jewish life in Warsaw, the city hosts ceremonies, exhibitions, concerts and lectures devoted to Poland’s Jewish heritage.
The new Museum of the History of Polish Jews is co-ordinating much of the proceedings. It has used the occasion to officially open as an educational centre even though its permanent exhibition is a year away from being ready evidently hoping its impressive architecture and cultural programme will trump the dubious symbolism of its emptiness.
The guest of honour is Simcha Rotem (Wikipedia entry here), nom de guerre ‘Kazik’. At 89, he is the only former member of the Jewish Combat Organisation (ŻOB) still in good enough health to make the trip. I met him in Israel, where he has lived since shortly after the war, last month. Though tired and in low spirits, he told our correspondent he had decided long ago that if he could possibly make it to this anniversary, he would, regardless of what kind of commemoration was planned for the sake of the memory of his comrades who are no longer alive.
Some of those comrades did live for years after the war though—thanks to Kazik. His is an astonishing story of courage and luck in hellish circumstances. As a 19-year-old, fair-haired ruffian from the Warsaw district of Czerniaków, Kazik did not look Jewish. For that reason the insurgent leader, Marek Edelman, chose him to go to the Aryan side and try to organise a rescue operation for the Jews trapped in the ghetto, already in flames.
After a week on the Aryan side, Kazik finally found two sewer workers who thanks to much goading with vodka in one hand and a pistol in the other, showed him an underground route back into the ghetto. Emerging on Zamenhofa street, he found nothing but smouldering ruins.
It’s at that point that Simcha Rotem’s testimony ends Claude Lanzmann’s epic documentary, Shoah: he believes he is the “last Jew” and has nothing left to do but wait for the Germans. But that is not what he did.
Returning to the sewers, he hears voices: a dozen or so fighters. They say there are more hiding elsewhere, and he tells them to gather and make their way through the sewers to a manhole under Prosta Street, just outside the ghetto.
Simcha Rotem to this day does not know exactly people he saved: “A few dozen. Do you think I had time to count them?” he exclaims. After meeting the group in the sewer, he had returned to the Aryan side and organised for two vans to pick up the survivors at dawn. Only one van arrived, at 10am, and its driver had to be held at gunpoint to prevent him from driving off while the Jews were coming out of the manhole.
After it seemed that no-one else was emerging from the manhole, Kazik told the van to move off. Against all the odds, the few dozen made it to safety the forests north of Warsaw. Yet some had remained underground. Simcha Rotem has had to live with the idea that perhaps he could have done better. But today he says he feels it was the only decision he could make in the circumstances: “The Germans were 100 metres away. It was broad daylight. It was now or never.”
Asked whether his memory of that moment is still vivid today, Simcha Rotem is almost offended: “It is not the sort of thing a person could forget”. His anger at the Nazis is still very much alive, too: “I regret in a way that we didn’t get revenge on the SS. Because they were not conscripts, they chose to do what they did. So they were murderers. And murderers should be hanged. They were not people, but animals walking upright.”
Fear that the world could forget the horror of the Holocaust, or that it could happen again, animates those who do remember it ever more as their numbers dwindle. Irena Boldok, who escaped from the Warsaw ghetto aged eight or nine, gives talks in schools and elsewhere as a member of the Children of the Holocaust association. She speaks gloomily about the experience: “some of them understand, not many. It’s hard to talk to fourteen-year-old kids. It is like a history lesson for them.”
According to the Polish psychologist Barbara Engelking, one reason the ghetto uprising did not happen sooner is that Jews in the Warsaw ghetto maintained the illusion that they might live: the death camps were simply beyond human imagination. With fewer and fewer survivors around to remind us of the horrors of the Holocaust, marking the anniversaries of its key events becomes an ever more important way of ensuring that we don’t forget something that was so unthinkable at the time.
Above: Di Canio and ’irriducibili’ Ultra Lazio friends
Subject: Durham Miners Demand Banner Back from Stadium of Light
Dave Hopper the General Secretary of the Durham Miners’ Association is writing to Sunderland Football Club to demand the return of the Wearmouth Miners’ Banner, which is on permanent display in the Stadium of Light, in protest at the decision to appoint the self-confessed fascist, Paolo Di Canio, as their head coach..Mr Hopper, who worked for 27 years as a miner at Wearmouth Colliery, the site on which the Stadium of Light now stands, described Di Canio’s appointment as an outrage and a betrayal of all those who fought and died fighting fascism..He said,“I like many thousands of miners have supported Sunderland from infancy and are passionate about football. But, there are principles which are much more important..“Our banner represents the Durham miners’ long struggle for the rights of the working class, rights which were annihilated by fascism in Germany, Italy, Spain and Chile..“We have a sacred obligation to the millions who were wiped out by Hitler, Mussolini and Franco to oppose fascism wherever and in whatever context this evil creed raises its head particularly at a time when working people are again being forced to pay for capitalism’s crisis as they were in Europe in the 1920s and 30s..
“The appointment of Di Canio is a disgrace and a betrayal of all who fought and died in the fight against fascism..“Everyone must speak out [to] oppose this outrage and call on Ellis Short and the Sunderland Board to reverse their decision.”.H/t: Dave HarkerSecretaryNorth East Shop Stewards’ Network
Vieux Farka Touré and the music of Mali: “spreading the news of what has happened to us and what is still happening”
From Chicago magazine:
By Kevin McKeough
Since the late, legendary Ali Farka Touré first brought the music of Mali to widespread attention in the mid-1980s, the western African nation’s musicians have beguiled listeners worldwide with their trance-inducing guitar patterns and Arabic flavored keening. Tragically, Mali has received more attention lately for the violent conflict in the country’s northern region, which encompasses part of the vast Sahara Desert. After Islamist extremists recently seized control of a large part of the area, including the storied city of Timbuktu, and committed numerous human rights violations, in January France sent soldiers into its former colony to drive out the militants. While the French military has retaken most of the area, the situation remains unstable both in northern Mali and in the south, where the country’s military has deposed two successive governments and reportedly is engaging in harsh repression.
Vieux Farka Touré, Ali Farka Touré’s son and a world music star in his own right, was performing Friday, Feb. 22, at the Old Town School of Folk Music. C Notes contacted Touré, who lives in the Malian capital, Bamako, to gain his perspective of the travails afflicting his country and how he and other Malian musicians are responding.
What are your thoughts about the Islamists’ invasion of northern Mali and France’s efforts to drive them out of the country? My thoughts are the same as everyone in Mali. The invasion of the Islamists was hell on earth. It was a nightmare unlike anything we have ever experienced. We are very grateful to President Hollande and the French for their intervention. For the moment at least they have saved our country.
How have these disruptions affected you personally? I am safe and my family is safe. But there is great uncertainty in Mali today. Nobody knows what we can expect in the next years, months or even days. So it is very bad for the spirit to be living in this kind of situation.
What’s your reaction to the Islamist invaders banning music in the areas they controlled? I was furious. It broke my heart like it did for everyone else. It was as though life itself was taken from us.
You were part of an all-star group of Malian musicians who recently recorded the song “Mali-ko” in response to the conflict. Please talk about the project and why you participated in it. Musicians in Mali play a very important role in society. We are like journalists, telling people what is happening. We are also responsible for speaking out when there are problems, and we are responsible for lifting the spirit of the nation. So that is why we made “Mali-ko.” Fatoumata [Diawara] organized everyone and we all spent some time hanging out in the studio and doing our little parts. It was a very nice project. I’m happy with the result and I’m happy that it got a lot of attention in the United States and in Europe.
Aside from the song, what role do you think musicians can play in responding to the situation in Mali? We can do what we are already doing—we are going everywhere we can around the world and spreading the news of what has happened to us and what is still happening. Equally, we must continue to entertain our people and keep them proud to be from Mali. For Malians, music is the greatest source of pride so we must work very hard to keep that pride alive. Right now it is not easy for people to be proud and have faith.
What do you think needs to be done in Mali? First and most importantly, we need to continue to drive out all the militants from our country. There is no future for Mali with terrorists living amongst us. Period. Also we must move quickly to engage in free and open elections to restore the faith and the legitimacy of our country in the eyes of the world and its people. These two things are the most critical at this time.
Your music resembles your father’s but has its own distinct quality. Can you talk about what you’re trying to do in the music, how and why you combine traditional and contemporary styles? With my music I try not to think very much about what I am doing. I just let myself be open to inspiration and it will take me where I need to go. So I am not thinking “for my next album I must do a song with reggae, or I must do an acoustic album because this will be good for my career” or anything like that. I think all artists are like lightning rods for inspiration and you must be open to it or it will not strike you. If you try to do something artistic it will not be as good as if you just let inspiration decide what you are doing. So my style is just based on what influences me and what inspires me.
For a country with a small population, Mali has produced a large number of internationally recognized musicians. Why do you think the country has so many excellent musicians? This is the mystery that everyone wants to understand. I do not know for sure why there are so many big international stars from Mali. But I know this: We take our music very, very seriously. It is at the core of our culture and it is the definition of Mali as a people. There is no Mali without Malian music. So I think this inspires many young people to try to become musicians. Maybe everywhere in the world has this kind of talent but there is not as strong a push for everyone to develop their talents in music. But honestly, I don’t know. We are lucky for this great richness of talent. That is for sure.
Kevin McKeough is a contributing music critic for Chicago magazine
See also ‘The Hendrix of the Sahara’
Adapted by JD from an article on the Workers Liberty website
For the next few days at least, the Russian city called Volgograd since 1961 will revert to its previous name: Stalingrad. Today is the 70th anniversary of the Red Army’s final victory over the German invaders, after a battle that had raged for six cruel winter months at the cost of nearly 2 million lives.
In London, a lavish “Victory at Stalingrad 70th Anniversary Night” is being organised by Philosophy Football (an enterprise run by former Communist Party activist Mark Perryman) and the Hope Not Hate anti-fascist group.
The keynote speaker will be Seumas Milne, associate editor of the Guardian and unreconstructed Stalinist hack (and cheer-leader for Islamist fascism -JD).
Stalingrad, between August 1942 and February 1943, was a turning point of World War Two. So were some British victories in North Africa, and US victories in the Pacific, around the same period.
More than those other victories, Stalingrad is still used to cast credit on the political leaders of the winning side, in particular Joseph Stalin himself and his marshal Georgi Zhukov.
At the time, as Antony Beevor reports in his book Stalingrad (by far the best popular account) : “The triumph of the Red Army boosted the status of the [Communist] Party member and attracted fellow-travellers in droves. Even conservatives could not avoid praising the heroism of the Red Army. In Britain, King George VI commissioned a Sword of Stalingrad to be forged for presentation to the city”.
The Trotskyists of the Workers’ Party USA wrote (Labor Action, 1 February 1943): “Many minds have lost their balance and many eyes have acquired an unusual degree of starriness as a result of the recent Russian military victories. People who had clearly seen, or had begun to see, the tyrannical and anti-labour character of the Stalin regime… are now allowing themselves to be hypnotised into passive acceptance of the Stalinist dictatorship, because the Russian soldiers fight with ability and heroism…
“It is not the Russian soldiers alone who have displayed heroism and enthusiasm. It is a depressing fact, but a fact nevertheless, that on many occasions the German soldiers have displayed the same qualities. And the Greeks, and the British, and the Americans, and many others. Yet who would dare say that the countries for which all those soldiers fight have engaged in just and progressive wars?…
“Because the Russian soldiers fight well, does that in any way change the fact that Stalin is one of the bloodiest dictators of modern history, that he is the grave-digger of the Russian Revolution and the aborter of many other revolutions? Does that change the fact that he is the murderer of the Old Bolsheviks… that he has enslaved the Russian workers, that he has deprived them of every possible liberty and democratic right?”
As Beevor states: “The newspaper reports which claimed that frontoviki (rank and file Russian soldiers) eagerly discussed the heroic leadership of Comrade Stalin in their trenches, and went into the attack with the battle cry ‘Za Stalina!’ (‘For Stalin’) were pure propaganda. Yury Belash, a soldier poet, once wrote a verse:
“To be honest about it —
in the trenches the last thing we thought about
Until later, maybe. The Russian command’s enforcement was brutal — it executed about 13,500 troops during the battle, for indiscipline — but at the height the soldiers’ life expectancy was so low, and their acceptance that they had to fight the anti-Slav racist Nazi-commanded army so full, that many reckoned they had little to lose.
“For a young Soviet citizen [newly conscripted to Stalingrad]. the most shocking experience was… the frank speaking of frontoviki on political subjects. Many expressed themselves in a way that prompted new arrivals to glance over their shoulders in alarm. They declared that life after the war should be different. The terrible existence for those who worked on collective farms and in factories must be improved, and the privileges of the nomenklatura restricted” (Beevor, p.288).
The Stalingrad victory, however, helped Stalin stabilise his regime, and soon to extend its model to the countries of Eastern Europe which came under the control of the Russian army as it pushed the German army into retreat.
The desperate courage and unimaginable sacrifices of Soviet soldiers and civilians in this terrible battle deserve to be remembered and honoured. But it would be an obscenity to use their momory to attempt to rehabilitate the prestige of Stalin – the brutal tyrant whose incompetence, complacency and alliance with Hitler between August 1939 and the invasion itself, came close to handing victory to the Nazis. As Nikolai Levichev of the left-liberal Just Russia party told the Guardian, Russia won the battle “despite rather than thanks to” the leadership of Stalin, whose errors multiplied the Soviet losses.