The wonderful Jewish ‘heritage’ of Mario Balotelli

June 29, 2012 at 6:57 pm (Anti-Racism, Europe, good people, Italy, Jim D, multiculturalism, sport, strange situations)

We’re not noted for our sports coverage here at Shiraz (though we did, briefly, have a football correspondent), but the following report from The Times of Israel, was just too good to ignore:

The improbable Jewish ‘heritage’ of Italy’s Ghana-born goal-scoring eccentric

Mario Balotelli, the black Italian soccer star whose goals have fired Italy into the final of the Euro 2012 soccer championships on Sunday, was raised by a Jewish Italian foster mother from the age of three.

Italy's goal-scorer Mario Balotelli hugs his Jewish foster mother Silvia after Thursday's victory over Germany at Euro 2012. (via Twitter)

The eccentric, talented, headline-making forward, who was born Mario Barwuah to immigrants from Ghana in Palermo, rushed over to embrace his foster mother, Silvia Balotelli, after Thursday’s win over Germany, which was secured by two Balotelli goals, had given Italy a place in Sunday’s final against Spain.

Balotelli in action against England in Euro 2012 (photo credit: CC-BY-SA-Илья Хохлов/Wikipmedia Commons)

Along with other members of the Italian team, Balotelli had visited Auschwitz earlier this month before the start of the tournament, which is being co-hosted by Poland, and he was reportedly the player most affected by the visit.

According to a Radio Netherlands report earlier this week, Balotelli sat down alone on the train tracks at the death camp, staring silently ahead. “A while later, he tells his team-mates about a box of letters that his Jewish adoptive mother kept underneath her bed. He had never told anyone.”

Some neo-Nazi groups, in Italy and beyond, who had already been abusing the player because he is black, are now also targeting him for his Jewish “ancestry.” One racist on an extremist web-site, Stormfront, wrote recently: “Balotelli’s black and he’s Jewish. He should play for Israel, not Italy.”

Balotelli, 21, was one of four children born to Christian parents Thomas and Rose Barwuah, immigrants from Ghana. He suffered with life-threatening health issues, requiring frequent intestinal surgery, and his poor health put a heavy strain on his already impoverished family. After they sought state assistance following a move to Milan, the authorities suggested he be placed into foster care, according to the Radio Netherlands report, which is partly based on his biological parents’ account:

“That’s how Mario Barwuah came into contact with the Balotellis” — Francesco and Silvia – ”a white family who lived in a villa in a small nearby village. At first, he stayed at the Balotellis during the week and returned to his family on weekends. But after a while things changed. Mario started to treat his (biological) parents with indifference. Ultimately, he took his weekday family’s surname.”

When he became successful as a soccer player, his biological parents sought to re-enter his life, but Balotelli rejected them as “glory hunters.”

Despite his unpromising health and complex family background, Balotelli proved to be a soccer prodigy, becoming the youngest player ever to play in Italy’s third division, at age 15, and ultimately impressing as a player for top Italian side Inter Milan. He then moved to England’s Manchester City, with whom he won the Premier League title this past season.

At the same time, he has been a figure of controversy, ridicule and affection over the years — sporting eccentric hair-styles, once having his UK home set on fire by errant fireworks, and being sent off intermittently for undisciplined behavior on the field.

At the Euro championships, however, he has been one of the players of the tournament. As regards racist abuse, his coach Cesare Prandelli said this week: “This is a social problem. If Mario gets any problem, I’ll hug him on the pitch.”

Prandelli has had his difficulties with Balotelli too, dropping him from one of the tournament’s earlier games, but his performance against Germany seems certain to ensure he’ll play in the final.

The player described the victory against Germany as “the most wonderful night of my life so far,” adding, “but I hope Sunday is even better.”

Dedicating his goals to “my mother,” who had come from Italy to watch him play, Balotelli said: ”At the end of the game when I went to my mother, that was the best moment. I told her these goals were for her. I waited a long time for this moment, especially as my mother is not young anymore and can’t travel far, so I had to make her happy when she came all the way here. My father will be in Kiev for the final too.”

P.S: Damn! I’ve just noticed that ‘That Place’ has beaten me to the story by a whisker…

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Ideas for Freedom this weekend, London

June 29, 2012 at 5:24 am (AWL, capitalist crisis, internationalism, Jim D, liberation, political groups, socialism, trotskyism, unions)

I’ll be there and I see that Osler’s speaking on Sunday. Two late additions to the agenda: Dmitris Tzanakopoulos, the official UK representative of Syriza, will be speaking in the Saturday opening session, and on the Saturday lunchtime John Cunningham, secretary of the Spanish Miners’ Solidarity Committee, will be leading a discussion on the Spanish miners’ battle.


Friday 29 June-1 July
The Saturday and Sunday of the event are at Highgate Newtown Community Centre, 25 Bertram St, London N19 5DQ . For the Friday venue see below.

Free accommodation and creche, cheap food. To book accommodation or creche places, or for any queries, ring 07796 690 874 or email

Ideas for Freedom is an event which combines a serious, thoughtful approach to socialist ideas with a commitment to activism in the workers’, student, feminist and other movements. We emphasise accessibility, self- and mutual education and free debate. For a report and pictures of IFF 2011, see here.

As the capitalist crisis deepens and a variety of anticapitalist ideas take shape, this year’s Ideas for Freedom will focus on understanding what capitalism is and what kind of anticapitalist politics are necessary to fight and overthrow it.


For the full agenda, click here.
Facebook event here

On FRIDAY 29 JUNE, Ideas for Freedom opens with
7pm @ the Exmouth Arms, Starcross Street, Euston, London NW1 2HR
1972-2012: How can workers fight and win?

This year is the 40th anniversary of the magnificent working-class struggles of 1972, which prepared the way for the downfall of Edward Heath’s Tory government. We will be celebrating ’72, but also discussing the lessons of recent struggles in which workers have fought back and won. What are the lessons of the 1970s for our struggles now?
Speakers: Pete Radcliff, who took part in the successful mass picket at Saltley Gate; Jean Lane, Unison rep in the victorious anti-cuts dispute at Central Foundation Girls School; and Jayesh Patel, driver and RMT activist involved in successful anti-victimisation disputes (including his own)
Facebook event for Friday night


Weekend tickets brought before the event (online here) are £26 waged, £17 low-waged/HE students, £6 unwaged/FE/school students. At the event £28, £19, £7.

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Diamond Bob and the Barclays gang

June 28, 2012 at 5:36 pm (banks, capitalism, crime, Jim D, parasites, profiteers)

 I’m worried about Bob Diamond.

Barclays‘ new boss first came to my attention in January when he told MPs that the “period of remorse and apology for banks … needs to be over”. I didn’t like that, partly because I hadn’t really noticed any period of remorse and apology, unless you count “I’m sorry our various scams didn’t work” as an apology; and partly because it’s not for him to say. If you’re really sorry for something, you should just keep being sorry. It’s for others to decide when you can be let off the hook. If you’re the first to be asking whether you’ve apologised enough, then you haven’t David Mitchell, The Observer, 18 Dec 2011

From the FSA:

Barclays fined £59.5 million for significant failings in relation to LIBOR and EURIBOR

Newspaper Image

27 Jun 2012

The Financial Services Authority (FSA) has today fined Barclays Bank Plc (Barclays) £59.5 million for misconduct relating to the London Interbank Offered Rate (LIBOR) and the Euro Interbank Offered Rate (EURIBOR). This is the largest fine ever imposed by the FSA.

Barclays’ breaches of the FSA’s requirements encompassed a number of issues, involved a significant number of employees and occurred over a number of years. Barclays’ misconduct included:

  • making submissions which formed part of the LIBOR and EURIBOR setting process that took into account requests from Barclays’ interest rate derivatives traders. These traders were motivated by profit and sought to benefit Barclays’ trading positions;
  • seeking to influence the EURIBOR submissions of other banks contributing to the rate setting process; and
  • reducing its LIBOR submissions during the financial crisis as a result of senior management’s concerns over negative media comment.

In addition, Barclays failed to have adequate systems and controls in place relating to its LIBOR and EURIBOR submissions processes until June 2010 and failed to review its systems and controls at a number of appropriate points.

Barclays also failed to deal with issues relating to its LIBOR submissions when these were escalated to Barclays’ Investment Banking compliance function in 2007 and 2008.

Tracey McDermott, acting director of enforcement and financial crime, said:

“Barclays’ misconduct was serious, widespread and extended over a number of years. The integrity of benchmark reference rates such as LIBOR and EURIBOR is of fundamental importance to both UK and international financial markets. Firms making submissions must not use those submissions as tools to promote their own interests.”

“Making submissions to try to benefit trading positions is wholly unacceptable. This was possible because Barclays failed to ensure it had proper controls in place. Barclays’ behaviour threatened the integrity of the rates with the risk of serious harm to other market participants.”

“The FSA continues to pursue a number of other significant cross-border investigations in this area and the action we have taken against Barclays should leave firms in no doubt about the serious consequences of this type of failure.”

The BBA is currently undertaking a review of the way LIBOR is set and will publish its findings shortly. The FSA, along with the other tripartite authorities, is working to support market-led reviews of existing arrangements, with the goal of ensuring such arrangements continue to command the confidence of all stakeholders.

Barclays co-operated fully during the FSA’s investigation and agreed to settle at an early stage. The firm qualified for a 30% discount under the FSA’s settlement discount scheme. Without the discount the fine would have been £85 million.

This was a significant cross-border investigation and the FSA would like to thank the U.S. Commodity Futures Trading Commission (CFTC), the U.S. Department of Justice (DoJ) (together with the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI)) and the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) for their co-operation.

The CFTC brought attempted manipulation and false reporting charges against Barclays for similar failings, which the bank agreed to settle. The CFTC imposed a penalty of US$200 million. In addition, as part of an agreement with the DOJ, Barclays admitted to its misconduct and agreed to pay a penalty of US$160 million.

Notes for editors

  1. The Final Notice for Barclays Bank Plc.
  2. LIBOR and the EURIBOR are benchmark reference rates that indicate the interest rate that banks charge when lending to each other. They are fundamental to the operation of both UK and international financial markets, including markets in interest rate derivatives contracts.
  3. LIBOR and EURIBOR are used to determine payments made under both over the counter (OTC) interest rate derivatives contracts and exchange traded interest rate contracts by a wide range of counterparties including small businesses, large financial institutions and public authorities. Benchmark reference rates such as LIBOR and EURIBOR also affect payments made under a wide range of other contracts including loans and mortgages. The integrity of benchmark reference rates such as LIBOR and EURIBOR is therefore of fundamental importance to both UK and international financial markets.
  4. LIBOR is published on behalf of the British Bankers’ Association (BBA) and EURIBOR is published on behalf of the European Banking Federation (EBF). LIBOR and EURIBOR are calculated as averages from submissions made by a number of banks selected by the BBA or EBF. There are different panels of banks that contribute submissions for each currency in which LIBOR is published, and for EURIBOR.
  5. LIBOR and EURIBOR are by far the most prevalent benchmark reference rates used in euro, US dollar and sterling OTC interest rate derivatives contracts and exchange traded interest rate contracts. The notional amount outstanding of OTC interest rate derivatives contracts in the first half of 2011 has been estimated at 554 trillion US dollars. The total value of volume of short term interest rate contracts traded on LIFFE in London in 2011 was 477 trillion euro including over 241 trillion euro relating to the three month EURIBOR futures contract (the fourth largest interest rate futures contract by volume in the world).
  6. Until February 2011 the US dollar LIBOR panel consisted of 16 banks and the rate calculation for each maturity excluded the highest four and lowest four submissions. An average of the remaining eight submissions was taken to produce the final published LIBOR.
  7. Throughout the Relevant Period, the EURIBOR panel consisted of at least 40 banks and in each maturity the rate calculation excluded the highest 15% and lowest 15% of all the submissions collated. A rounded average of the remaining submissions was taken to produce the final published EURIBOR.
  8. The FSA Enforcement Conference 2012 – ‘Credible deterrence: Here to stay’ takes place on Monday, 2 July, 2012.
  9. The FSA regulates the financial services industry and has four objectives under the Financial Services and Markets Act 2000: maintaining market confidence; securing the appropriate degree of protection for consumers; fighting financial crime; and contributing to the protection and enhancement of the stability of the UK financial system.
  10. The FSA will be replaced by the Financial Conduct Authority and Prudential Regulation Authority in 2013. The Financial Services Bill currently undergoing parliamentary scrutiny is expected to receive Royal Assent by the end of 2012


Peston’s Picks here


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Clampdown on Iranian workers

June 27, 2012 at 7:32 am (Civil liberties, Eric Lee, Human rights, internationalism, Iran, Jim D, solidarity, unions, workers)

From the (Iranian) Coordinating Committee to Help Form Workers’ Organizations, via LabourStart:

« URGENT ACTION: Reza Shahabi given 6 years sentence.  Massive clampdown on Iranian labour activists »

Mahmoud Saleh and 59 activists arrested On Friday 15th June at noon, 60 members of the Coordinating Committee to Help Form Workers’ Organizations and a number of labour activists were arrested by agents of Karaj city.

According to the latest news, Mitra Homayooni, Vafa Ghaderi, Reyhaneh Ansari, Khaled Hosseini, Mahmoud Salehi, Saeed Moghaddam, Cyrus Fathi, Ghaleb Hosseini, Mohammad Abdipour, Jalal Hosseini, Alireza Asgari, Masoud Salimpour, Abbas Andriyany, Sediq Amjadi, Fattah Soleimani, Maziar Mehrpour, Mhommad Molanai, Vahed Seyyedeh, Jalil Sharifian, Sediq Khosravi, Yusuf Ab Kharabad, Faramarz Fetrat Nejad, Jalil Mohammadi, Nezam Sadeghi, Afshin Nadimi, Hussain Pilooti, Rahman Ebrahim Zadeh, Abbas Hashem Poor are among the detainees. (If new names appear, they will be added to the list).

The detainees were transferred to Rajai Shahr prison in Karaj and until now no further news is available. We, members of the Coordinating Committee to Help Form Workers’ Organizations, condemn the arrest of the members and other workers activists. We demand the immediate release of all workers activist. We expect all workers activists and organizations to protest against these arrestments.

Further news will be announced later

– Coordinating Committee to Help Form Workers’ organizations

UPDATE: As of 16 June, nine still remain in the custody of the intelligence office. Others including Salehi have been released. They are believed to be:- Cyrus Fathi, Alireza Asqari, Jalil Mohammadi, Saeed Marzban, Masood Salim Pour, Maziar Mehrpour, Reyhaneh Ansari, Faramarz Fetrat Nejad and Mitra Homayouni.

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Clive James lives!

June 25, 2012 at 8:38 pm (comedy, good people, Guardian, intellectuals, Jim D, literature, secularism)

“And so,” Charlie Brooker, “I think it is a good idea to speak about the good writers and good people who are left, as quickly as we can, while they are still among us.”

And it is a good idea – so good, indeed, that we should lose no time in in doing something constructive about it -like, for instance taking Charlie Brooker on Clive James in today’s Graun, as our text. I can offer nothing better, so simply reproduce it here (below).  Brooker (in an uncharacteristically straight piece), speaks for all us smart-arses who think we can turn a witty or apposite turn of phrase, but who are, in practice, not in the same league as the antipodian master wordsmith and thinker:

Clive James

Thank God for Clive James

Reports of the writer’s failing health were greatly exaggerated. Tributes flowed nevertheless. By Charlie Brooker:

Last week I got a bit of a shock when I saw a series of tweets full of praise and admiration for Clive James. Usually when a famous name trends on Twitter, it means the famous body attached to it has either died or done something scandalous, and the tone of the messages makes it easy to tell which is which: it’s a world of goodies and baddies, of bouquets and bollockings. One day someone’s going to die in the middle of a scandal and really catch everyone on the hop. It’s something I used to live in fear of when writing TV reviews: even though my articles appeared on a Saturday, my deadline was the previous Tuesday, which meant as soon as I filed my copy there was a four day window of uncertainty during which the people I was merrily slagging off that week might have been busy killing themselves or getting run over by trucks, thereby transforming themselves into tragic saints. And then, just as the wave of public sympathy crests, I pop up to say they’ve got a face like a butcher’s perineum and the mental agility of a cork in a milk bowl. I don’t even know what that last simile means, but it’s the sort of thing I say.

But Clive James wasn’t dead or mired in scandal: he was ill. He is ill. And he’d given an interview to Radio 4 in which, among other things, he spoke about his illness in moving and characteristically erudite terms. “I’m getting near the end,” he said. “I’m a man who is approaching his terminus.”

The interview hadn’t been broadcast at the time: these lines were included in a couple of brief news stories about it (I say “news stories”, I mean “press releases”). Written down, it seems like a starkly bleak and morose thing to say; spoken aloud in the actual recording, it comes across as a reflective part of a warm, flowing, conversational whole. But the print version was the one many people encountered first, and, assuming he was near death, took to Twitter to speak of their admiration of Clive James, and to wish him well.

I was one of them. There can’t be many writers of my generation who haven’t been heavily influenced by Clive James. In fact, as a former TV critic turned TV presenter myself, you could argue I’ve engaged in the sincerest (or most shameless) form of flattery by apeing his career, or at least part of it. Sadly for the poor bastards who have to scrape their eyeballs across my output – which right now means you – I am no Clive James. He has a way of gliding through sentences, effortlessly ironing a series of complex points into a single easily-navigable line, illuminating here and cogitating there, before leading you face-first into an unexpected punchline that makes your brain yelp with delight. He can swallow images whole and regurgitate them later as hallucinogenic caricatures that somehow make more sense than the real thing. He famously described Arnold Schwarzenegger as looking like “a brown condom full of walnuts”. That’s just brilliant. Every TV column I ever wrote consists of me trying and failing to write anything as explosively funny as that, for 650 words.

That Schwarzenegger gag seems to have slightly haunted him, actually. In 2007 he told an Australian TV station it made him “nervous” because he had no idea how he thought of it.

“I know all about the mechanical aspects of writing and what order to put phrases in and the rhythm of a sentence and how to construct it,” he said. “I know all that; I could practically do diagrams – but I don’t know where the phrases come from. That ability to make a phrase is probably the essence of what I do, and I don’t know where it comes from, and there’s no guarantee it will be there in the morning.”

Which possibly explains why his stuff reads so effortlessly. The best bits simply fly into his mind without his face ever seeing them coming.

So. Anyway. The media-centric wing of Twitter was filling to the brim with this kind of sentiment when happily, after about 30 minutes, a spokeswoman arrived to point out that Clive James is still very much alive, is “in fact in reasonable shape”, and is “looking forward to years of working”. At which point the tributes died down a little, not because they weren’t heartfelt, but because they suddenly looked a tad presumptuous.

But it’s nice to think Clive James got to read a series of warm tributes while he’s still very much with us. Too often we speak warmly of people who influenced us when it’s too late for them to hear us. These days the custom for social-media addicts is to issue a sad 140-character epitaph accompanied by a link to a YouTube clip of one of their finest moments. Much more fruitful, if not very British, to gush at them while they’re still in the room. Not every day, that would be nauseating. But now and then. Hence the uncharacteristic and frankly mortifying level of gush I’m displaying right now. Thank you, Clive James; thank you.

Jim Denham adds: James remains a true and honourable child of the sixties and the enlightenment. One of his finest hours in recent years has been the taking apart of the anti-enlightenment shyster, liar and bullshitter, Pankaj Mishra, here.

As usual: game, set and match to James.

Some of James’ recent poetry can be found at Standpoint.

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Egypt’s election dead end (from ‘Socialist Worker’)

June 24, 2012 at 8:31 pm (Egypt, elections, islamism, Jim D, Middle East, secularism, SWP)

Socialist Worker has been hosting a debate on the Egyptian presidential election.

 In view of today’s announcement of a narrow victory for the Muslim Brotherhood’s candidate Mursi (or Morsi), this debate is of vital importance. Interestingly, the opening contribution from Alan Maass (below) argues for an abstention between Mursi and the candidate of the old regime, Shafiq. Maass explicitly criticises the (British) SWP’s Egyption group, the Revolutionary Socialists (RS) for advocating a vote (albeit “critical”) for the Brotherhood.  Other contibutions, disagreeing with Maass, have followed, and he has written a further piece, replying to his critics, making for a lively and informative debate. Links to all the contributions can be found immediately below the main article. 

A “lively and informative debate” in Socialist Worker (?!?) I hear you cry in disbelief.  I should have explained: this is the US Socialist Worker, paper of the American International Socialists, who may or may not  still be linked with the British SWP.

Analysis: Alan Maass
Egypt’s election dead end

Alan Maass analyzes Egypt’s presidential vote–and the response of the left to a runoff that offers no choice for those who want to see the revolution’s goals advanced.

May 31, 2012

Presidential candidates Ahmed Shafiq (left) and Mohamed Morsi

Presidential candidates Ahmed Shafiq (left) and Mohamed Morsi

EGYPT’S PRESIDENTIAL election has produced a runoff between Mohamed Morsi, the candidate of the Muslim Brotherhood, and Ahmed Shafiq, the last prime minister under Hosni Mubarak and an open representative of the old regime that was shaken to its roots by the mass rebellion that brought down Mubarak in February 2011.

The results are a grave disappointment to supporters of the January 25 revolution. Shafiq is the face of the Mubarak security apparatus that so many millions of Egyptians rose up against. During his brief time as prime minister, he is believed to have helped organize the bloody Battle of the Camel last year, when thousands of pro-Mubarak thugs attacked the mass demonstrations in Tahrir Square.

Shafiq’s main promise during the campaign was to bring security back to the streets within 24 hours of coming to power. That vow is universally and rightly understood to mean that he would unleash the military–which is already guilty of murderous crimes against protesters in the post-Mubarak period–to crush all dissent.

For this reason, some on the Egyptian left are supporting a vote for Morsi of the Muslim Brotherhood in the runoff election–as a lesser evil to Shafiq.

But the Brotherhood can’t be relied on to defend democracy if it wins the presidency. While harshly repressed under Mubarak, it vacillated during the 2011 rebellion against the dictatorship. Its members often played a leading role–for example, in defending Tahrir Square against Shafiq’s thugs–but the organization was very slow to participate at all in the demonstrations.

Moreover, since Mubarak’s fall, the Brotherhood has collaborated often with Egypt’s military rulers, the Supreme Council of the Armed Forces (SCAF)–crucially, in opposing ongoing demonstrations when the military escalated its attacks on democracy protests. Within months of Mubarak’s resignation, Egyptian activists were describing the Brotherhood as seeking to become the “political arm” of the military rulers.

The Brotherhood has had its own conflicts with the military, and the positions of its leaders aren’t always embraced by its supporters at the rank-and-file level. But at important points, the Brotherhood’s opposition to left forces has bolstered the position of the military.

– – – – – – – – – – – – – – – –

BOTH MORSI and Shafiq were late in entering the campaign–Morsi was a replacement for another Muslim Brotherhood candidate who was disqualified from the election, and Shafiq himself was initially disqualified because of his connections to the Mubarak regime, but won an appeal to the election commission. The two candidates did poorly in polls until the final weeks before the vote.

But in the end, both of them blew past the frontrunner for most of the campaign, Amr Moussa, a former foreign minister under Mubarak and secretary-general of the Arab League until last year. Moussa was viewed by many as a candidate of the old regime, but with a more acceptable face, since he claimed to have differed with Mubarak. Moussa finished a dismal fifth–showing that supporters of the counter-revolution were strongly behind Shafiq instead.

The two other leading candidates, Hamdeen Sabahi and Abdel Moneim Aboul Fotouh, were associated with the continuation of the revolution, and together, they got nearly 40 percent of the vote, far more than Morsi and Shafiq got individually.

Sabahi was a long-time opponent of Mubarak, jailed 17 times for dissent against the regime. He took part in the mass protests of the January 25 revolution from the first day. As the candidate of the Nasserist Dignity Party, he finished with 20.7 percent of the vote, well ahead of what previous opinion polls predicted for him. According to the official returns, Sabahi won the vote in Egypt’s major cities of Cairo and Alexandria, and he did well in working-class areas.

Aboul Fotouh is also a longtime dissident. He is a former leader of the Muslim Brotherhood who was expelled after he announced he would run for president, in spite of the Brotherhood’s previous promise not to field a presidential candidate. He was viewed as the moderate Islamist candidate in the election, with liberal positions on social issues, and supportive of the ongoing democracy protests.

Sahabi may well have won enough votes to make the runoff. He finished less than 700,000 votes short of Shafiq, and there are charges of widespread fraud, including an allegation made by a police officer that Shafiq got 900,000 votes from soldiers illegally assigned ballots by the Interior Ministry. But Egypt’s election commission ratified the outcome of the first round of elections without hearing a single appeal–a further sign that the regime is backing Shafiq by any and all means.

The turnout for the election–the first presidential vote in the post-Mubarak period–was unexpectedly low, at just 46.4 percent of eligible voters, according to the final totals. This was short of the overall 54 percent turnout in parliamentary elections held over a six-week period from late November to mid-January.

Neither the turnout nor the top finishers in the first round of presidential voting reflects the spirit of last year’s January 25 revolution, which depended on a mass mobilization demanding freedom and an end to autocratic rule.

Instead, they show that the military and economic power structure which was shaken by Mubarak’s fall has regained initiative and confidence–and that the Muslim Brotherhood still commands the support of millions, despite its compromises with the old regime in return for a share of the power and profits in Egypt.

– – – – – – – – – – – – – – – –

THE LEAD-UP to the second round of the voting, set for June 16-17, will be tumultuous.

Millions of Egyptians fully recognize that Shafiq is the candidate of the counterrevolution, with a clear goal of rolling back everything gained with the downfall of Mubarak. As Egyptian journalist and socialist Mostafa Ali noted in an interview before the vote, Shafiq’s rise reflected the increased confidence of Mubarak’s old ruling party and remnants of the old regime. “The forces of the counterrevolution believe the revolutionary moment has passed by,” Ali said, “and they’re organizing like mad in support of Shafiq.”

Shafiq was also bitterly opposed in the first round. On the day he cast his own ballot at a polling station on the outskirts of Cairo, he was confronted by an angry crowd who pelted him with stones and shoes. Among the demonstrators were relatives of protesters killed in the January 25 Revolution, who carried pictures of their martyred loved ones.

Hours after the election commission officially recognized Shafiq as one of the two candidates to advance to the runoff, protesters attacked the candidate’s campaign headquarters in Cairo, breaking into the building and setting fire to it. Other democracy activists gathered in Tahrir Square, as well as in Alexandria.

No one should underestimate the threat that Shafiq would represent if he came to power as president. Many Egyptians no doubt plan to vote for Morsi, as a defense of the revolution, despite their differences with him–because they detest the prospect of an apparatchik of the old regime winning back power.

But at the same time, others are furious that their only other choice in the runoff is Morsi. “I can’t support Shafiq, and I can’t support Morsi,” one protester at the demonstration at Shafiq’s headquarters told a reporter.

Sabahi, the left’s leading candidate in the first round, is calling for a boycott of the runoff and “for creating a revolutionary civil national bloc that works on achieving the January 25 revolution’s goals.” His Dignity Party announced in a statement: “The party rejects the notion of the Muslim Brotherhood dominating the country’s legislative bodies. And it also rejects the notion of handing power over to remnants of the old [Mubarak] regime.”

At the start of the week, eight liberal and leftist parties held a meeting to announce the formation of a “united front” of organizations that would refuse to support either candidate in the runoff. The meeting was attended by presidential candidates Amr Moussa and Khaled Ali, a human rights lawyer who was the most radical of the 11 people on the ballot in the first round.

Surprisingly, Egypt’s Revolutionary Socialists (RS) issued a statement that implicitly supports a vote for Morsi in the second round of the election, while calling on the Muslim Brotherhood to meet a series of demands, including accepting Sabahi and Aboul Fotouh as co-vice presidents; choosing a prime minister from outside the Brotherhood’s ranks; dropping its own proposal for labor legislation in favor of a law that guarantees union freedoms; and agreeing to a constitution with guarantees of numerous rights and liberties.

The statement raises many troubling questions. For one thing, the RS has explicitly described the Muslim Brotherhood as having “an interest in sharing power and wealth with the old regime without making fundamental or radical changes to its social and economic policies, or disturbing its vested interests and international affiliations,” in the words of one of the group’s statements.

As for its demands on the Brotherhood, what if the Brotherhood–universally acknowledged as the largest political organization in the country–doesn’t meet them, as seems most likely? The RS has already effectively called for a vote for Morsi in order to defeat Shafiq.

– – – – – – – – – – – – – – – –

TO BE sure, Shafiq is the candidate of the counter-revolution, and he has to be exposed as such and confronted with protests, just as people took to the streets earlier this week when his spot in the runoff was confirmed.

But it’s quite another thing for socialists to call for a lesser-evil vote for the candidate of the Muslim Brotherhood, an avowedly pro-capitalist organization committed to Islamist politics.

The Brotherhood doesn’t oppose the hated neoliberal economic policies of the old Mubarak regime and the current military rulers. Indeed, in some ways, it is an even more enthusiastic supporter of free market policies–its criticisms have been limited to the endemic corruption of the old order. The Brotherhood has even agreed to negotiations with the International Monetary Fund on the same conditions as the old regime.

When it comes to unions and strikes by Egyptian workers, the Brotherhood and the SCAF have spoken out as one against them. Workers provided the final push that shoved out Mubarak with a wave of strikes in February 2011, but the Brotherhood quickly called for the walkouts to end, in the name of saving the Egyptian economy–the identical line of the military rulers and Egypt’s capitalists.

Also, of course, the Muslim Brotherhood is committed to political Islamism and is conservative, on the whole, on many social issues. Morsi, for example, is viewed as a representative of the right wing of the Brotherhood. He has spoken in favor of barring women and non-Muslims from Egypt’s presidency. More radical Salafist groups are guilty of deadly terrorist attacks against Egypt’s main non-Muslim minority, Coptic Christians.

Shafiq and other representatives of the old regime have used anti-Islam scaremongering, in the presidential campaign and long before it, to win support against the Brotherhood. They, of course, have no interest at all in guaranteeing equal rights for Copts and women, or standing up for unions.

But while the Islamophobia of the military rulers should be challenged, no one should close their eyes to the Brotherhood’s actual politics. And just as more extreme Salafist organizations benefited from the Brotherhood’s win in parliamentary elections, a further extension of the Brotherhood’s political power would give them greater prominence.

Perhaps most important of all, the Brotherhood has again and again proved unwilling to defend the revolution when the military council lashed out at protesters demanding democratic rights and an end to repression. On the contrary, it has often denounced demonstrators facing the wrath of the regime as “counterrevolutionary”–providing a cover for the SCAF to escalate its violence against activists.

As the RS wrote in a statement issued January 25 of this year on the one-year anniversary of the start of the revolution, one image captured the relationship between the Brotherhood and the SCAF. It was:

the picture of Lt. Gen. Sami Anan [deputy chairman of the SCAF]–his hands stained with the blood of hundreds of martyrs and thousands of injured–in a historic embrace with the Muslim Brotherhood’s Muhammad Mursi and Saad al-Qahtani, demonstrating that both sides’ fear of the third force (the masses who have an interest in deepening the revolution on a political and social level) is much greater than their differences over how to divide the political spoils between them.

Socialists have always challenged the logic of “lesser evilism”–not out of concern for dogmatic purity, but because of the very real danger that the lesser evil often paves the way for the greater evil. In this case, as in many others in the past, there is nothing to stop Morsi and the Brotherhood, after winning the runoff as the “lesser evil,” from reaching an accommodation with the “greater evil.”

The Brotherhood has a firm ruling majority in parliament, and potentially, control of the presidency. But how would Morsi assert control over the armed forces? It seems completely plausible that the Brotherhood would rely on a representative of the old apparatus–if not Shafiq, then someone very much like him.

Egypt’s presidential election has starkly revealed the threat to democracy, in the form of Ahmed Shafiq. But the movement won’t be defended by supporting a party that has embraced neoliberalism and authoritarian politics in its agreements with the military. The key will be independent working class organization that can respond to all threats, in whatever form.

What else to read

Socialist Worker is hosting a discussion about the critical second round of Egypt’s presidential election. The article that served as a starting point for debate is:

Alan Maass
Egypt’s election dead end

Articles written in response or about the election generally include:

Mostafa Ali
A reply on Egypt’s election

Bill Crane
Abstaining would be a disaster

Alan Maass
The debate about Egypt’s election

Check back to the SW site for more contributions in the coming days.

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London bus strike solid

June 23, 2012 at 4:33 am (Jim D, London, solidarity, Unite the union, workers)

Britain’s largest union, Unite warned of further strike action as bus workers in over 70 garages across the capital went on strike Friday over a refusal by bus operators and Transport for London (TfL) to award an Olympic payment. Strike action was solid across 17 London bus operators, as Unite members mounted picket lines across the capital bringing buses to a standstill and causing widespread disruption. Unite warned that further strike action would be bigger as it vowed to appeal an ‘anti-democratic’ court injunction preventing bus workers in three companies taking part in Friday’s action. Bus workers are furious at TfL’s and the bus operators’ continued refusal to bring them in line with every other London transport worker and reward them for the massive increase in workload during the Olympics.

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Scottish PSC: “a bit anti-Jewish”

June 21, 2012 at 5:10 pm (anti-semitism, conspiracy theories, Cross-post, history, israel, palestine, scotland, sport, stalinism)

By Dale Street (cross-posted from Workers Liberty)

Why do some people think that campaigning in solidarity with the Palestinians is “a bit anti-Jewish”? This is the question (supposedly) addressed by an article in the spring newsletter of the Scottish Palestine Solidarity Campaign (SPSC).

Of course, we can and should support Palestinian rights without being at all anti-Jewish. But there are many reasons why some people think that the dominant form of what passes for Palestinian solidarity is “a bit anti-Jewish” (or maybe rather more than just “a bit”).

Some people may have found it “a bit anti-Jewish”, for example, when the SPSC marked Holocaust Memorial Day by reading extracts from a play (“Perdition”) which claimed that the Holocaust was made possible by Zionist collaboration with the Nazis.

Commemorating another Holocaust Memorial Day by giving a platform to a pro-Hamas supporter of suicide bombings who has advocated that Israeli Jews should “go back to Germany” (Azzam Tamimi) might have struck some people as “a bit anti-Jewish” as well.

Expressions used by the SPSC’s media officer might also be seen by some people as being “a bit anti-Jewish”:

“Israel is a hydra-headed monster, arrayed against this monster are the forces of human progress. As soon as the scales fall from the eyes of international Jewry with regard to the racist and fascist ideology that is Zionism, the world will begin to emerge from the iron heel of war and brutality in the Middle East.”

And then there is the SPSC’s spirited defence last year of one of its members, charged and found guilty of racially motivated breach of the peace after abusing a Jewish student. (His appeal, heard earlier this year, was thrown out in less than a minute.) This too might seem “a bit anti-Jewish” to some people.

Other reasons why what passes for ‘Palestinian solidarity’ might be deemed “a bit anti-Jewish” include: incorporating traditional anti-semitic tropes into criticisms of Israel; judging Israel by standards not applied to other countries; forming alliances with anti-semitic organisations; and refusing to recognise national rights for Israeli Jews.

But none of the above is dealt with in the article in the PSC newsletter – despite the fact that these represent the actual substance (or some of it, at least) of the charge of anti-semitism which is raised against a certain form of ‘Palestinian solidarity’.

Instead, but all too predictably, readers of the article are treated to a particularly crass version of a Zionist conspiracy theory (i.e. in order to rebut the charge of anti-semitism, the writer employs a traditional anti-semitic trope).

“Those who accuse us of anti-semitism can be divided into roughly two groups,” explains the writer.

“One is calculating and prepared to use any lies to further their own interests,” he continues, “the Israeli elite benefit from favoured relations with the EU and billions of dollars in aid from the USA.” In other words, and more succinctly: rich Jews.

Included in this group are “many Israeli politicians (who) are well aware of the effect on someone’s career of being labelled an anti-semite and exploit this fact ruthlessly whenever they can.”

Anti-semitism, by this logic, is not a real phenomenon. It is a false accusation made in bad faith by “the Israeli elite” and “many Israeli politicians” in order to promote their own interests and stifle criticism of Israel.

The other group “who accuse us of anti-semitism” are “mainly Jews brought up on scare stories about how non-Jews are, by definition, anti-Jewish and ready at a moment’s notice to turn on their Jewish neighbours.”

“The complexity of history,” the writer continues, without a trace of irony, “is blacked out by the Zionist censor’s pen.”

“Who knows,” for example, “the story of the Jew Leon Trotsky, elected to represent Russian workers in St. Petersburg in 1905, despite the Tsar’s deliberate strategy of organising police-led massacres of Jews?”

Yes indeed! Every non-Jewish primary school pupil in Glasgow knows “the story of the Jew Leon Trotsky.” Only the Jewish ones, left in ignorance by a few strokes of the “Zionist censor’s pen”, are unaware of the 1905 St. Petersburg Soviet!

Even by the SPSC’s own standards, this is a dire level of argument: somewhere in the world there is a Board of Zionist Censors, controlling everything read by Jews in order to ensure that they do not discover “the complexity of history”.

Thus, one group of Jews raises the accusation of anti-semitism out of malice, and the other out of ignorance. It’s as simple as that!

Suggestions that advocates of ‘Palestinian solidarity’ could be tainted by anti-semitism are also dismissed as insulting to the anti-fascist heroes of ‘Palestinian solidarity’ campaigning:

“We are the ones who have successfully challenged right-wing revisions of the Holocaust which attempt to question the number killed or the very existence of the extermination programme. … We stand on the shoulders of the generations who organised and fought for a better world before us.”

But what of ‘left-wing’ revisions of the Holocaust, in which the latter is portrayed as a joint Zionist-Nazi endeavour, which Zionists exploited (“ruthlessly”, as the SPSC writer would put it) in order to establish Israel? The SPSC is not only silent about that form of revisionism, but actually propagates it.

But all this is of no account to the SPSC.

Having dismissed to its own satisfaction accusations of anti-semitism as lacking in substance, it can now continue with its vital building of ‘Palestinian solidarity’.

After last Saturday’s Israel-Scotland Women’s Euro qualifying game (cue chant: “Without guns, you’re rubbish”), the SPSC has launched a retrospective campaign against Glasgow’s Kingswood Bowling Club:

“Human rights activists and BDS activists only discovered through the pages of the ultra-Zionist ‘Jewish Telegraph’, and after the event, that an Israeli bowling team had played against a Scottish team at Kingswood Bowling Club in Glasgow last week.”

“Please call or text the secretary or e-mail him and tell him courteously that you object to Kingswood Bowling Club hosting an Israeli team at the same time that Israel denies Palestinians enough water to maintain crops.”

Anyone wanting to know what a Zionist, and presumably therefore “ruthless”, bowling team looks like can click here.

John Wight addressing anti-war (sic.) rally in July 2006

The SPSC’s John Wight: a Nazi-quoting antisemite.

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The hilarious Jimmy Carr

June 20, 2012 at 5:21 pm (Asshole, Beyond parody, capitalism, celebrity, comedy, Jim D, tax)

You’ve just got to laugh, eh?

“In a series of covertly recorded meetings, K2’s providers did not divulge his name but boasted that ‘a top-level comedian’ had used the K2 scheme for a number of years. ‘How much is the highest amount you think we’ve got going through this solution?’ Roy Lynass of Peak Performance Accountants, asked businessmen in March. ‘£3.3 million. That’s actually a well-known comedian.

“‘He’s got his own company, it’s making about £4-£4.5 million. He pays himself £100,000 salary and puts through £3.3 million'”The Times, June 19 2012.

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Bog paper

June 20, 2012 at 12:49 am (apologists and collaborators, Asshole, Champagne Charlie, SWP)

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