Seconds Out, Round Two!

March 30, 2007 at 6:35 am (Anti-Racism, Free Speech, left, SWP, voltairespriest)

Of course, not everyone on YouTube likes the SWP. As this video clearly demonstrates. You’d almost think the author had something against them.

(Hat-Tip: Will from the Drink Soaked Trots in the comments)

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Britain deports Darfur victims

March 29, 2007 at 12:03 pm (Anti-Racism, Civil liberties, Jim D)

For the past two years The Home Office – working closely with the Sudanese authorities –  has been deporting Darfuri asylum seekers back to Khartoum. According to the Aegis Trust, a “concerted round-up now appears to be underway”. This is despite warnings from the UN and human rights organisations about the risk of death and/or torture facing the refugees on their return. So much for Blair’s speech denouncing the behaviour of the Khartoum government, and calling for action.

Today the Guardian publishes details (to be shown tonight on Channel 4 News, beginning at 7pm) of the torture of Sadiq Adem Osman, deported to Khartoum in February after his application for asylum in the UK was turned down.

“They just beat me everywhere. My whole body was numb so I couldn’t feel anything anymore. I was completely soaked in blood, and the room was covered with my faeces and urine. I was expecting to die. I never thought I would be alive now”, he told Channel 4.

Mr Osman fled Darfur in 2004 after his village was attacked by the Janjaweed and his mother and brother were killed.

The hypocrisy of the Home Office and the British government is simply a disgrace. Write to your MP; join up with the organisations opposing deportations (here and here): this scandal must be stopped.

(Hat tip for the Aegis Trust link: Adam Le Bor at Harry’s Place)

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Does Ahmedinejad Want War?

March 28, 2007 at 2:47 pm (left, TWP)

Given all of the sabre-rattling going on between the US/UK and Iran you think that the president of Iran would tread a little more carefully. I cannot see any reason why his government would be holding the UK personnel unless it was wilfully trying to provoke a war with the US and UK. Sure everyone knows that every country has the right to hold another country to account for any incursions on its sovereignty, but surely holding these people for as long as they have been held is not doing anything to win adherents to their cause. Further, not even under conditions of conventional warfare would this behaviour be allowed.

Why is Ahmedinejad seeking to start a war sooner rather than later? Surely this goes against the image painted by a number of folks on the left who claim that Iran is a persecuted and innocent nation who is standing up to world imperialism. To me it shows rather clearly that Ahmedinejad is a warmonger who props up the false rhetoric about the “clash of civilisations” and actually wants to draw the imperialist powers into conflict. In a mirror image of the fanatical Bush, he sees himself as leading this war.

Of course the imperialist powers are loving every minute of it as he plays right into their hands and their rhetoric about the “clash of civilisations”. I once got a fierce response on my blog for claiming that Ahmedinejad and Iran’s current regime has “imperialist ambitions”. Given their behaviour over the course of the last week can anyone convince me that I’m wrong?

Further, once the war with Iran starts in earnest I think we will have some serious analysis to do so as not to fall into the trap of supporting one fanatic’s administration over another. Dual defeatism anyone?

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March 28, 2007 at 10:41 am (left, voltairespriest, whiskey, whisky, wild man)

Photo Sharing and Video Hosting at Photobucket La Lutta Continua… see campaign report on Stroppy’s blog. I’m trying at present to confirm rumours that JohnG is planning to start a semi-clandestine “SWPers4Jim” organisation which will spread the word of Denham through the ranks of angry students everywhere. Watch this space for further commentary.

In other news, Jim has apparently received the endorsement of previously unknown sections of the 9/11 Truth movement. However we’re told that Michael Meacher claims this is all a big conspiracy. We rang the CIA but they refused to confirm or deny that Jim is one of their star assets working under deep cover conditions. You’ll know for sure as soon as we do.

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And who said student politics was stupid?

March 28, 2007 at 9:54 am (NUS, Respect, students, SWP, voltairespriest)

Some people laugh at SWP students. Can’t imagine why.

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Judge not a man by his words, but by his actions

March 26, 2007 at 10:44 pm (puritan, tesco, voltairespriest, whiskey, whisky, wild man)

Photo Sharing and Video Hosting at PhotobucketYeah, you’ve all heard about Jim Denham. The hard drinking ladies’ man, the revolutionary, the man who would roar his defiance at a battalion of Chetniks charging at him with bayonets fastened.

But present him with an old lady and a petition trying to ban Tesco’s from selling booze, and he melts like a spun sugar sculpture in an oven. You may recall that Jim rather shame-facedly mentioned his capitulation before said old lady when she presented him with a Tory-inspired petition to stop (horror of horrors) his putative local supermarket from selling intoxicating beverages. “Of course it won’t mean anything, Volty”, he assured me.

And yet, today we learned that he and his band of Tory/Temperance brothers have won, and the sacred dryness of his local area will be maintained. Nice one, Jim!

Ah well, I guess he has to suffer the consequences of his actions – it’s like a half hour walk to his local offie.

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Slavery: anger, horror, sadness: yes! An apology? Why?

March 25, 2007 at 5:56 pm (Anti-Racism, Human rights, Jim D, left, Livingstone, Racism, Slavery)

The build-up to today’s bicentenary of the British parliament’s “abolition” of  the slave trade (but not slavery itself) has been an overwhelmingly positive thing. The BBC has played a particularly good role, with a host of excellent TV and radio programmes portraying the horror and  barbarism of the slave trade and explaining why black people still feel scarred by it to this day (a very good Radio 4 play on Saturday afternoon, featuring comedian Lenny Henry, drove this home in a powerful, non-didactic way). Simon Schama’s BBC 2 TV programme ‘Rough Crossings’, this Friday (about the slaves who fought for the British in the American war of independence, and how the Brits eventually betrayed them in Sierra Leone) , was also a convincing vindication of the licence fee.

Sure, we could have done with a little less emphasis on Christian do-gooders like William Wilberforce (a thoroughly reactionary figure, apart from his opposition to slavery), and rather more upon people like Toussaint L’Ouverture and the other slave rebels, who laid  their lives on the line by confronting slavery in the only way left open to them as self-respecting human beings.

Certainly, right-wing shits like the Guardian‘s  loathsome islolationist Simon Jenkins, bleating about how “This week Britain celebrates the feast of the empty gesture…the BBC has gone potty. Tony Blair will presumably find a black person and say ‘I feel your pain'”, should be treated with the contempt they deserve. But on one issue – and one issue only – the likes of Jenkins have a point: this solemn and massively important commemoration has very nearly been hijacked by the ridiculous posturings of those demanding an “apology”: predictably, the ever-opportunist Mayor of London has been at the forefront of those seeking to demean and divert this commemoration by raising this ultimate excercise in gesture politics. Livingstone (or rather, his scribe), says “Germany apologised for the Holocaust. We must for the slave trade”. That argument ignores one rather obvious fact: when Germany apologised for the Holocaust, adult Germans had participated in, or at least passively witnessed, what had happened. Their apology meant something real. To apologise for something that you are not personally responsible for, is to insult the intelligence of the person or persons you are “apologising” to. In the case of that arch-opportunist and poseur Livingstone, the suspicion is unaviodable that his “apology” on behalf of London, was in reality, mere pandering to ethnic and cultural constituencies that deliver him votes.

Amazingly, that buffoon Prescott struck a more appropriate and relevant note, when he told the Guardian (March 23 2007): ” We need to get the proper history told, including the good, the bad and (the) dreadful. For instance, we need to recall that parliament for the best part of a century facilitated slavery. It did not just have an overnight intellectual conversion. Public opinion made the change and forced the change on parliament. We have fed it into our minds that a Christian from Hull, William Wilberforce, came along and changed the law in 1807. It was remarkable, but the real change came from working people.

“It is one of the reasons why I would like us to pick a date every year. The legacy of this 200th anniversary should be a permanent date when we ask whether there is more we could do, so that every year, like Holocaust (Remebrance Day), we remind people of the horrors. Each year we should think about it and commemorate and rededicate ourselves to helping people on which such horrors were committed”. For once, I’m not going to take the piss out of Precott’s syntax.

But a real, meaningful tribute to the victims of the “other” holocaust would be to join the fight against modern-day slavery and super-exploitation, by joining No Sweat and/or Labour Behind the Label: campaigning against modern-day slavery is worth a million empty apologies.

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Respect? It’s about… respect, right?

March 25, 2007 at 3:31 pm (left, Respect, socialism, SWP, voltairespriest)

Photo Sharing and Video Hosting at PhotobucketSay what you like about the Communist Party of Great Britain and their scandal-sheet the Weekly Worker, but they sure do have a gift for sniffing out interesting types who happen to also be Respect local election candidates. This week, it’s the turn of former Lib Dem from Sunderland, Tafazzal Hussein. Peter Manson interviews the local businessman, who left the Lib Dems earlier this year and joined Respect on March 11th. What isn’t entirely clear, however, is why he did so.

Hussein clearly is anti-war on Iraq – but then (at least in terms of formal parliamentary votes) so were the Lib Dems. It does seem odd for someone to leave the most solidly anti-war of the mainstream parties and join a fringe group like Respect, purely because of his stance on the war.  So Manson presses him to state what else he likes about Respect, and gets the answer that it “…respects everybody. They believe everyone should have the right to live in dignity”. Which clarifies nothing much really, given that every prominent member of every political party outside the far right would fall over themselves to agree with that statement. Indeed, when pressed further, it appears that Hussein doesn’t actually know what the letters in Respect’s name are each supposed to stand for. In fact, it isn’t really clear that he knows much about the party at all. He’s interested in car parking, and in continuing to act as a “community representative”, but doesn’t seem to nail his colours to the mast on much more than that. A local Lib Dem activist mentioned in the article appears somewhat baffled as to why he left.

So the interesting question is not why the poor chap’s involved in local politics – that’s his right, whatever the CPGB might think of him. The interesting question is on what political basis he’s supposed to co-exist in the same party as the SWP? At least on the evidence of this article, the man appears to have not a lot in the way of ideological politics at all, still less any kind of worked-out socialist view of the world.

Of course, the SWP do appear to be losing their grip on Respect in other parts of the country, as demonstrated by their expulsion of former Birmingham full timer Ger Francis and the defeat of prospective local authority candidate Helen Salmon by Yasir Idris in Moseley and King’s Heath ward within that city. Furthermore, by the next general election the party may possibly have lost its figurehead, if George Galloway carries through on his pledge not to stand again in Bethnal Green and Bow (and does not seek another constituency). That would presumably leave Salma Yaqoob, the party’s only other figure of any national stature, as the putative leader.

Is it possible that we might in the coming year see Respect go from strength to strength in electoral terms, whilst simultaneously pulling away from those in the SWP whose brainchild it was? I wouldn’t bet against it. If so, I suppose it might be a lesson learned, but then it would also be a lesson richly deserved.

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Demonstration for Kareem Amer

March 25, 2007 at 8:56 am (Civil liberties, Free Speech, Human rights, voltairespriest)

Those of you with semi-coherent memories will remember that this blog supports the Free Kareem Coalition, which stands in protest against the imprisonment of Egyptian blogger Kareem Amer, sentenced to four years in jail by an Egyptian court for saying what he thought about Islam and about Hosni Mubarak. Amongst these “incitements”, incidentally, were a pledge to defend Muslim women against discrimination, criticisms of Al-Azhar University, and the description of Mubarak as a “symbol of Tyranny”.  But to be honest, it doesn’t matter specifically what he said. No matter what he wrote on those subjects, he should have the right to say it without fear of imprisonment.

And now it would seem that Reporters Without Borders have decided to take up his cause in practical fashion.  Here’s a video of a guerilla-style demonstration that they had, at the recent Paris World Tourism Trade Fair. There were even some bloggers on it (which goes to show we’re not all saddos who write in lieu of acting). Well done, lads and lasses.

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Darfur and slavery

March 24, 2007 at 6:59 pm (Jim D)

Today’s  Independent (UK daily newspaper) publishes an open letter from some intellectuals on the fiftieth anniversary of the founding of the European Union (as it now calls itself). For once, Harold Pinter puts his name to something worthwhile:

“To the leaders of the 27 nations of the EU,

How dare we Europeans celebrate  this weekend while on a continent some few miles south of us the most defenceless, dispossessed and weak are murdered in Sudan?

“Has the European Union – born of atrocity to unite against further atrocity – no word to utter, no principle to act , no action to take, in order to prevent these massacres in Darfur? Is the cowardliness over Srebrenica to be repeated? If so, what do we celebrate?

“The thin skin of our political join?

“The futile posturings of our political class?

“The impotent nullities of our bureaucracies?

“The Europe which allowed Auschwitz and failed in Bosnia must not tolerate the murder in Darfur: Europe is more than a network of the political classes, more than a first world economic club and a bureaucratic excrescence. It is an inherited culture which sustains our shared belief in the value and dignity of the human being. In the name of that common culture and those shared values, we call upon the 27 leaders to impose immediately the most stringent sanctions upon the leaders of the Sudanese regime.

“Forbid them from our shores, our health service and our luxury goods. Freeze their assets in our banks and move immediately to involve other concerned countries.

“We must not once again betray our European civilisation by watching and waiting while another civilisation in Africa is destroyed.

“Let this action be our our gift to ourselves and proof of ourselves. And when it is done let us celebrate together with pride”.

Signed by: Umberto Eco, Dario Fo, Gunter Grass, Jurgen Habermas, Vaclav Havel, Seamus  Heaney, Bernard Henri-Levy, Harold Pinter, Franca Rame, Tom Stoppard.

The letter was timed to co-incide with the fiftieth anniversary of the creation of what is now the European Union: but it could as well have been timed to co-incide with the commemorations presently taking place in Britain to mark the “abolition” of the slave trade in 1807 (although, in fact, British-held slaves in the Caribbean and Mauritius were not emancipated until 1833).

The present-day international scandal of Darfur harks back to the barbarity and genocide of the  17th, 18th and 19th Century slave trade, because the present-day, Islamist government of Sudan is amongst the most blatent and shameless promoters of slavery in the world today. Some 8,000 people are presently believed to be living in slavery in Sudan.

Irshad Manji, in her 2004 book The Trouble With Islam, writes:

“Put simply, is Islam’s scripture also vague or conflicted about other human rights issues, such as slavery? If so, do twenty-first-century Muslims have the room to make twenty-first-century choices? I thought of Sudan and later read about the extent of its slave trade. In Khartoum, a ‘Taliban-like Muslim regime is waging a self-declared jihad’ on Christians, Animists and non-Arab Muslims. That’s according to Charles  Jacobs, president of the American Anti-Slavery Group and director of the Sudan Campaign. Jacobs observes that ‘Khartoum’s onslought has rekindled the trade in black slaves, halted (mostly) a century ago by the British abolitionists…(A)fter the men are slaughtered, the women, girls, and boys are gang-raped – or they have their throats slit for resisisting. The terrorised survivors are marched northwards and disributed to Arab masters, the women to become concubines, the girls domestics, the boys goatherders'”.

So let’s commemorate the 200th anniversary of the (very limited) “abolition” of slavery, by pledging to get rid of it once and for all in today’s world: and we could start with Darfur.



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