Ahlan°° Min°° Maghreb°°

July 31, 2006 at 7:57 pm (Uncategorized)

Hello from Morocco!!!

I hope all are well…

I wanted to add some points about the reaction I am seeing over here… People are getting exposed to loadsa horrific images of civilian casualities in Lebanon and Gaza, over the many Arab satelite TV channels… They are seeing stuff I would never see on UK TV… like the attack on Qana… I was eating my brekky to images of countless corpses of bloodied children being lifted out of the wrecked buildings, their parents heart ravaged with absolute horror and grief. Also the images of Children crying, who have witnessed their parents, aunts, cousins dying or injured… Let alone a group of disabled people who were trying to shelter, some lived, others did not… all these people could not escape, due to having no means of transport.

I am usually resiliant to such things.. but I was crying and very emotional, along with members of my family who were also watching the same coverage… I don’t think it was just because of the moment of identifying with how it must be and feeling the loss…but it was also out of frustration and hopelessness. So little is being done to stop this carnage and the needless deaths of civilians. The refusal to discuss a ceasefire or to call for negotiations. Even with the 48 hour let down.. is a lie… a representative from Oxfam and BBC journalists were still hearing shelling.

The feeling here is quite fearce… Even national celebrationso f the Throne have been cancelled in respect of the death and war going on in the ME. I don’t think I can put into words the stuff I have been hearing from people.. maybe I will talk about it once I am back in the UK.

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Why I don’t trust the PSC

July 30, 2006 at 10:19 pm (Uncategorized)

Yesterday (Saturday 29th July) I went on a march, in Birmingham (UK), in protest against Israel’s actions in Lebanon and Gaza. The event was organised by the Palestine Solidarity Campaign (PSC), about whom I have previously expressed doubts on this blog. Nevertheless, I felt it essential to protest at Israel’s brutal and disproportionate collective punishment of innocent Lebonese men, women and children.

My experience of previous pro-Palestinian rallies and demos has not been good. Those of them organised by the “Stop the War Coalition” (ie: the SWP and their new friends, the Muslim Brotherhood), have not been exactly pro-Palestinian, so much as anti-Israeli. At first, I was pleasantly surprised by the Birmingham event. For a start it was clearly organised by the PSC, with the SWP/Respect/Muslim Association of Britain/Muslim Brotherhood, nowhere to be seen: excellent!

The rally before the march was good: a Palestinian PSC speaker condemned Israel, saying “If you want to fight Hisbullah, then go after Hisbullah, not the people of Lebanon!” The same speaker called unequivocally for an immediate end to *all* attacks on civilians, whether Lebonese, Palestinian or Israeli. I had no hesitation in applauding this man’s speech.

Then Richard Burden MP (Labour: Birmingham Northfield) spoke, making many of the same points as the Palestinian guy who’d preceded him, but adding ” We all want a two state solution”. The crowd (about 200 of us) applauded, but I thought “actually, most of the organisers of this rally do *not* support a two states solution, Richard – whether you know that or not”.

My old sparring-partner Sue Blackwell spoke and, to be honest, I can’t recall exactly what she said; but – precisely because I can’t remember what she said- it can’t have been all that bad.

Then, just before we were about to set off on our march around the City Centre, a bunch of characters turned up, headed by a mullah in full Khomeinite gear – the full regalia of an Iranian clerical fascist. Behind him were about 50 young men carrying Hizbullah flags, pictures of Hassan Nasrallah and the Ayatola Khomeini, and carrying placards with the slogan “Israel’s dream: the world’s nightmare”.

A lot of people on the demo were clearly upset by the clerical fascists, and a female Yemeni work colleague of mine was hard at work telling people to ignore them. I was standing in the company of a group of Iranian political refugees, who were horrified by the picture of Khomeini, and some of them very nearly left the demo there and then. One of the Iranians identified the Mullah as an agent of the regime (why do they need agents, when they’ve got the SWP at their beck and call?).

But even so, I said to myself, you cannot blame the PSC for these interlopers. The PSC organisers were clearly not in a position to turn the Khomeneites away, and all they (the PSC)could do was to deny the fascists a platform and attempt to drown out their chants.

Except that leading Birmingham PSC’er Chris Khamis gave the mullah a microphone, and held the megaphone whilst he (the mullah) spouted his anti-semitic filth.

I was proud to be on a protest against Israel’s brutality in Lebanon and Gaza. but I didn’t like the company I was keeping.

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British MP and women activists deported from Israel

July 30, 2006 at 9:54 pm (Uncategorized)

And no, it wasn’t George Galloway.

According to this news story, Lynne Jones, Labour MP for Birmingham Selly Oak, Yvonne Washbourne, President of Birmingham Trades Council, and Salma Iqbal of Respect (the article calls her a “Councillor” – actually this isn’t true, she did not win the seat she stood in at this year’s local elections), have been deported from Israel after arriving at Tel Aviv airport en route to Ramallah. They were to pay a visit and do some work building links with women’s groups in Palestine. Again, this really shows just how paranoid the Israeli state has become.

I’ve met two of the three people on that delegation, one being the long-standing trade unionist Washbourne (at the time of writing the BBC article has her name wrong, calling her “Washbrook”), and the other being the left-wing Labour MP Jones. Both are utterly decent, and the idea that they could possibly constitute any threat to Israeli security, is a nonsense. I also have no doubt that the same is true of Iqbal, whom I have not met personally, but who gives one no reason whatsoever to suspect her of any sinister intent. So, in the absence of any legitimate security concerns, one is led towards the conclusion that the deportations can only have been either the product of paranoia or political motivation.

Either way, it’s the wrong thing to have done. And given the rate at which Israel is currently losing international credibility, it’s also utterly stupid.

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Why The Hell Not?

July 30, 2006 at 1:10 pm (Uncategorized)

Just when I was beginning to give up hope on Texas, a state with a proud tradition for political characters, home of Sam Rayburn and Lyndon Johnson, but a state that has declined to such a degree that its most recent political alumni are Kay Bailey Hutchison and Rick Perry. If you haven’t heard of them, it’s probably not your fault – these anonymous Bushites are, respectively, Junior Senator for, and Governor of, the Lone Star State. It seemed, as elsewhere in the South, that the right wing get out the vote machine was going to make Texas a shoo-in for the GOP. Johnson, Rayburn and Lloyd Bentsen are long gone, and the Democrats have not won a state-wide office since 1994. Their nominee this time (a one-term congressman from Houston called Chris Bell), appears to have the charisma of a wet lettuce, and would be better suited to working in an accountant’s office, than he is to running for state-wide office. The GOP dominates the socially conservative state, and the evangelical churches turn out its vote as reliably as the rising of the sun.

Step forward, Kinky Friedman.

This year, cigar-chomping, beer-swilling author and musician Richard.S. “Kinky” Friedman has declared as an independent candidate for state Governor, challenging Perry in his re-election bid. Initially derided as a joke candidate, he has already defied expectations by getting on the ballot, in spite of Texas’ byzantine electoral laws which require an independent candidate to gather a large number of signatures by nominations deadline (45,540 this year) – from voters who have not already voted in either the GOP or Democratic primaries. Friedman turned in 169,574 valid signatures, of which over 80% were valid: more than three times the required amont.

Now, nobody’s pretending that this guy’s a socialist, or even a very orthodox liberal (he’s probably the only candidate running anywhere in the USA that seems to support both gay marriage and school prayer). But viewed from the outside, it looks like he’s the sort of person who just might break the GOP monopoly. His appeal over and above rigid conservative orthodoxies can be seen from the arguments he uses for his more liberal views – for instance on gay marriage, he’s in favour because “they have as much right to be miserable as the rest of us” – and the ruthless mockery of the GOP establishment’s politicisation of religion in his “Kinkytoon” campaign ads, is just delicious to behold.

And besides, any man whose campaign slogan is “Why The Hell Not?”, just can’t be all bad.

Good luck, Kinky.

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Another victory for the book-burners?

July 29, 2006 at 8:48 pm (Uncategorized)

It started with the fatwa against Salman Rushdie in 1989 and has been gaining momentum ever since: the idea that if you are offended by a book, play, film or whatever, and you then whip up a sufficiently vigorous campaign to get the book (or whatever) banned, you will probably succeed in at least some of your aims.

I for one didn’t appreciate at the time, the importance of the Satanic Verses business, or how significant the weak-kneed response of sections of the liberal-‘left’ intelligentsia would prove to be, in setting a precedent and encouraging the enemies of free speech and free thought. While the majority of the majority of the literary/intellectual world gave some degree of support to Rushdie, a significant minority (notably Roald Dahl, John Le Carre and Germaine Greer) scabbed. ‘Mainstream’ politicians including Roy Hattersley and Norman Tebbitt took the opportunity to direct their fire at Rushdie, rather than those who threatened to kill him. The majority of tthe ‘left’, after initially supporting Rushdie, got cold feet and backed off.

The Satanic Verses was not, of course, withdrawn or banned. But a paperbeck edition was put on hold, booksellers took it down from display and – all in all – the bigots could claim at least a partial victory.

Apres nous les deluge: militant Islam exposed the weakness and decadence of the post -Chatterley trial liberal consensus in favour of free speech: inevitably, other religious, ethnic and communal groups followed suit. Since then we have witnessed the (ultimately successful) Christian fundamentalist campaign against Jerry Springer: the Opera, the closure of Gurpreet Bhatti’s play Behzti after Sikh “community leaders”and their supporters picketed Birmingham Rep, and the closure for “security reasons” of an exhibition of paintings by MF Hussain after protests by the so-called “Hindu Human Rights Group”. I would include in this list of shame the craven failure of the mainstream British media to publish the Danish “Mohammed” cartoons earlier this year, though I am aware that that is a somewhat more contentious example in the eyes of other contributors to this blog: I’ll discuss it later if anyone wants.

Anyway, now we have the splendidly named Campaign Against Monica Ali’s Film Brick Lane: they have succeeded in preventing the filming of scenes in Brick Lane itself and now intend to burn copies of the book at a rally in London tomorrow. The exact motivation of the campaign is not clear to me, but it seems to have something to do with the fact that Monica Ali’s father is a non-Sylheti Bangladeshi from Dhaka, and that Sylheti Bangladeshis (the vast majority in the UK) believe that Ali has insulted them in various unspecified ways. In fairness, it should be noted that quite a few Brick Lane Bengalis have come out against the campaign and even one of the campaign committee members, Lutfur Ali, says his aim is not so much to stop the filming, as “to sensitise the film-makers to our concerns” (Guardian, July 27). needless to say, very few of the campaigners have actually read the book (the Guardian found just one who had).

Once again the wretched Germaine Greer has weighed in against free speech, supporting the campaign against the film and sneering at Monica Ali as a “proto-Bengali writer with a Muslim name” (Guardian G2, July 24).

And once again it is an ethnic minority artist who is under attack from self-appointed, reactionary, male, “community leaders”. The least that monica Ali has the right to expect from the white liberal/’left’ intelligentsia is some elementary support: and not to be scabbed upon by the likes of Greer.

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Killing of workers in Iraq

July 29, 2006 at 2:59 pm (Uncategorized)

The Patriotic Union of Kurdistan (PUK) is one of the two major Kurdish parties in Iraq, and an assocaite organisation (observer status) of the Socialist International, the body whose full members include UK Labour, the French PS and German SPD. It has a significant number of elected MPs in the Iraqi Parliament. Its leader, Jalal Talabani, is the current President of Iraq.

However, the PUK has a history of gangsterism and repressive behaviour towards dissent in its own territories. And if you believe that it’s changed, you’d better think again.

This is the text of a recent Iraq Union Solidarity appeal:

This morning (27th July) the PUK killed 3 workers and injured 13 more at a factory in Tasloja in Sulaimaniya in Iraq. The workers only crime was to be taking part in a picket of a cement factory calling for an increase of wages. This is a clear infringement of democratic rights and basic freedom of expression. We the undersigned call on Trade Union Branches and human rights organisations to send messages to Jalal Talabani who was selected as president of Iraq in April, condemning this action.

Dashty Jamal IFIR

David Broder Convenor of Iraq Union Solidarity

Karen Johnson No Sweat

Appeals to: Mr. Jalal Talabani, President, Republic of Iraq, Convention Centre (Qasr al-Maaridh), Baghdad, Iraq

If you have a fax, please send appeals via the PUK offices abroad and ask them to be forwarded to President Talabani:- PUK office in United Kingdom: fax: +44 20 7 840 0630

– PUK office in United States: fax:+1 202 637 2723- PUK office in Germany: fax: +49 30 863 987 94

– PUK office in France: fax:+33 1 409 00282

– PUK office in Italy: fax:+39 06 50 37120 (if someone answers ask for the fax line)

– PUK office in the EU: fax:+31 703 895832 (if someone answers ask for the fax line)

– PUK office in Sweden: fax: +46 8 917693 (if someone answers ask for the fax line)

COPIES TO: International Federation of Iraqi Refugees – d.jamal@ntlworld.com, TEL: 07856 032991

I need add nothing more. Please register your protest and give the developing Iraqi labour movement all the assistance that you can.

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Why can’t y’all just get along?

July 27, 2006 at 11:06 pm (Uncategorized)

You know, I’ve been thinking about the Alliance for Workers’ Liberty and the Socialist Party.

Neither of them will thank me for saying this, but there’s no reason on this earth why they couldn’t share the same organisation.

Hear me out now, folks.

One of the real complaints that you always hear from people who consider themselves on the left, but who won’t join one left group or another, is that they are sick of seeing people refusing to work together because of ostensibly petty disagreements on specific issues. There’s then a corollary push-back from the left groups, who insist that the disagreement over the class nature of the (now non existent) Soviet Union is the biggest deal on this earth, and that besides, Comrade XYZ, the guru of ZXY group that they simply won’t join with, was always an arsehole, as was shown by his attitude on the Buggins’ Fishworks dispute of 1962. Whilst I do find the intra-left disputes tremendously amusing from an anorak point of view, I must confess that the non aligned are largely right on this one.

For instance. The AWL and the Socialist Party formally disagree on the issue of the Labour Party, for all sorts of historical reasons. Both in the 1980s saw the Labour Party as (to use Leninist terminology) a “bourgeois workers’ party”, which to translate to English, meant that they saw it as an organisation torn between bourgeois inclinations and a working class base, a terrain on which leftist organisations could fight to win class-conscious working people. The Socialist Party changed its view shortly after – in its previous incarnation as the Militant Tendency – it was booted out of the Labour Party. The AWL has also loosened its ties with Labour, but less so, and retains the same class analysis of the Labour Party that it previously held. The two organisations also disagree about particular issues, for instance specific union disputes.

Oh, and they disagree about the class nature of the Soviet Union as well. But then, senior figures within at least one of the two groups disagree amongst themselves about that. And besides, who gives a toss?

But… on every other major contemporary national or international issue that I can think of, not counting differences of public tone and tenor, they agree. About the wars in Iraq, Afghanistan and Lebanon. About the NHS. About the education system. About immigration and asylum. You name it.

I remember when I was a 19-year old student, a member of the AWL telling me that “if the SWP allowed us to organise openly within a joint organisation, and let us freely express our ideas in the public press, we’d join with it.” Or words to that effect. That’s the Alliance for Workers’ Liberty talking about the Socialist Workers’ Party.

So, AWL and SP, what the hell’s your excuse for not doing exactly that sort of merging, into one democratic, joint, socialist organisation? Or are your mutual historical antipathies more important to you, than the ideal of the left speaking to the people of the UK with one voice?

I’ll tell you one thing; if those old intra-left wars are more important to you, then neither one of you deserve to call yourselves decent advocates for working people in this country.

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Joint statement on ITF/ICFTU complaint to ILO regarding treatment of Tehran busworkers

July 26, 2006 at 10:27 am (Uncategorized)

Global unions launch UN complaint over Iranian repression

25 July 2006

Global union the ITF and international union body the ICFTU today made a formal complaint against Iran to the ILO (International Labour Organization) following the continued use of terror tactics against one of the ITF’s member unions there.

The union bodies today submitted a dossier detailing coninuing repression against the Syndicate of Workers of Tehran and Suburbs Bus Company (Sherkat-e Vahed) that is not just contrary to all norms of justice and human rights but is in direct contravention of the very principles to which the Islamic Republic of Iran signed up when it joined the ILO.

Since it was set up as an independent trade union in 2005 the Syndicate, which is affiliated to the ITF, has been subjected to an ongoing campaign of harassment, arrests and physical attacks. These include the continuing detention of the union’s President Mansoor Osanloo – see www.itfglobal.org/press-area/index.cfm/pressdetail/718/region/1/section/0/order/1
Guy Ryder, General Secretary of the ICFTU, commented: “The Iranian government is mistaken if it believes that a continued campaign of terrorising the Sherkat-e Vahed workers will stifle either their resolve to fight for the fundamental right to belong to a union of their choice, or the international trade union movement’s resolve to support them in that fight. We will continue raising the plight of these workers with all the relevant authorities and applying pressure wherever possible to convince the Iranian government to respect workers’ rights.”

Mac Urata, Secretary of the ITF’s Inland Transport Section, said: “The request by thousands of workers at the bus company that they be allowed the basic right to represent themselves has been answered by boots, batons and beatings. This union has become a beacon both inside Iran and beyond. Maybe that’s why the government and its puppet ‘Workers’ House’ organisations are so determined to stamp it out. Only they’re forgetting that the eyes of workers around the world are now on them, and we intend to keep exposing their terror tactics until Mansoor Osanloo is released and workers are allowed the freedom of assembly that Iran, through its very membership of the ILO, is sworn to uphold.”

For more information see also www.itfglobal.org/urban-transport/tehranbuses.cfm and www.itfglobal.org/news-online/index.cfm/newsdetail/746/region/1/section/0/order/1 A number of protest letters have been addressed to the Iranian authorities, and can be seen at http://www.icftu.org/list.asp?Order=Date&Type=Appeal&Country=IRN&Language=EN

Press contact details: For more information please contact Sam Dawson at the ITF or the ICFTU Press Department on tel: +32 2 224 0204 or +32 476 621 018, email: press@icftu.org

(This is a copy of the ITF and ICFTU’s statement – please give them, and the Tehran busworkers, any support that you can – VP)

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You couldn’t make it up

July 25, 2006 at 10:54 pm (Uncategorized)

For those in need of something to help them vomit, here’s that pinup of pencil-necked chickenhawks everywhere, Ann Coulter, on the current Israeli attacks on the Lebanon:

“Some have argued that Israel’s response is disproportionate, which is actually correct: It wasn’t nearly strong enough. I know this because there are parts of South Lebanon still standing.”

Wow, Ann. You really are a dirty stain on the crotch of politics, aren’t you?

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Welcome one, Welcome All!

July 25, 2006 at 10:34 pm (Uncategorized)

A belated hello to the two latest additions to the Shiraz team, Wanderslore and Larrycain!

Wanderslore is a former Marxist turned lefty Christian, with many a tale to tell about her time in the Militant Tendency in the 1980s. She’s apparently sympathetic to, but has not signed, the Euston Manifesto – see, I might blast you guys but I do give you a bite of the cherry too. And before anyone asks, no she’s not here just so’s we can say Shiraz has a member who’s more right-wing than Jim!

As with all of us, Wanderslore is here to amuse, entertain and infuriate you. She is, as she has said, a “virgin” blogger, so please be kind to her for, oooh, a couple of posts.

Larrycain is a former Socialist Party full timer who is still a regular feature of that party’s activity in one of its urban strongholds. Remarkably young for a Trotskyite “veteran”, he nevertheless knows more about Papua New Guinean Stalinist groups than any man should. An inveterate sectariana hunter and wit about town, his raconteurish ways will undoubtedly entrance the trainspotter tendency that I know exists amongst some of you, my dear and cherished readers.

It would seem that they’ve mind-melded already, posting simultaneous obituaries to Ted Grant (yes folks, you saw it here first – the new sport of synchronised obit writing!). An excellent team building exercise, if ever there was one.

Welcome one, welcome all!

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