Chilean poet Pablo Neruda may have been murdered by the Pinochet dictatorship

November 11, 2017 at 5:55 pm (anti-fascism, assassination, Chile, culture, good people, Latin America, literature, murder, poetry)

Pablo Neruda
Above:  Neruda

By John Cunningham

Recent autopsies suggest that the death of the Chilean poet Pablo Neruda in 1973 was possibly caused by poisoning. This should surprise no-one even moderately acquainted with the dictatorship of General Augusto Pinochet. Neruda, arguably South America’s greatest poet and a staunch champion of the oppressed, was admitted to hospital at the time of Pinochet’s military coup which overthrew the left social-democratic government of Salvador Allende elected in 1971. 12 days later Neruda died of a heart attack – at least that was the official version. There have been rumours for many years that he was poisoned by agents of the Pinochet regime who wanted this opposition voice silenced forever. It is well-known that the Mexican government had offered Neruda asylum and even had a plane waiting for him at a nearby airport.

Neruda, the son of a railway worker, was born in 1904 and his first poem was published when he was only 13. In the mid-1930s he was forced to flee Chile after his vocal opposition to US exploitation of the Chilean economy. Ending up in Spain he joined the Republican movement returning to Chile only in 1943. He became a member of the Chilean Communist Party in 1945 but four years later he was again in disfavour with the authorities and he, once more, went into exile, returning in 1959. His poetic output was prolific and he was awarded the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1971.

Ignoring the orders of Pinochet thousands turned out for his funeral in what was the first public display of opposition to the dictatorship. His spirit and example live on in his poetry. He once wrote:

‘On our earth, before writing was invented, before the printing press was invented, poetry flourished. That is why we know that poetry is like bread; it should be shared by all, by scholars and by peasants, by all our vast, incredible, extraordinary family of humanity.’

An excellent introduction to his poetry is The Essential Neruda published by Bloodaxe (in a Spanish/English bi-lingual edition). To give readers a flavour of his verse here are a few lines from my favourite Neruda poem, ‘El pueblo/The people’:

I think that those who made so many things
Ought to be the owners of everything.
That those who make bread ought to eat.

That those in the mine should have light.
Enough now of grey men in chains!
Enough of the pale souls who have disappeared!
Not another man should pass except as ruler.
Not one woman without her diadem.
Gloves of gold for every hand.

Fruits of the sun for all the shadowy ones!

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US anti-fascist Spencer Sunshine: “I nearly died in Charlottesville”

August 16, 2017 at 3:16 am (anti-fascism, Anti-Racism, campaigning, posted by JD, Trump, United States)

Image result for charlottesville rally

Above: the killer drives his car into anti-fascists

By Spencer Sunshine

My account of being at the counter-protests in Charlottesville, Virginia against the Unite the Right rally on August 12, 2017.

“Fascist violence is not an anomaly. The movement itself is based on violence—the glorification of violence, the use of violent tactics as organizing tools, and the end goals of ethnic cleansing and genocide. There is no such thing as “peaceful ethnic cleansing,” as alt-right leader Spencer has advocated. It is White supremacy and antisemitism first, with hatred of Muslims, immigrants, LGBTQ people, feminists and leftists coming in at a close second.

The fascist Right and their allies united this weekend for what they hoped would be their big breakthrough. Before the march, AltRight.com, run by Spencer, posted, “People will talk about Charlottesville as a turning point. There will be a before Charlottesville and an after Charlottesville. Will you stand up for your history, your race and your way of life?”

For those opposed to fascism and far Right rhetoric and violence, there also needs to be a before and after. Just as fascists threaten so many groups, they provide us—Muslims, Jews, people of color, immigrants, LGBTQ people, feminists and progressives—an opportunity. Our common enemy allows us an opportunity to come together across our differences and work together, not just to oppose and contain their movement, but to do so based on a commitment to a vision of a cosmopolitan future based on respect and equality. I hope we seize this opportunity.”

Read the full story at Colorlines

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Charlottesville is a call to action against fascism

August 14, 2017 at 9:02 am (anti-fascism, Anti-Racism, civil rights, fascism, populism, posted by JD, Racism, solidarity, Trump, United States)

from the US SocialistWorker.org website (nothing to do with the UK SWP):

Katherine Nolde, Richard Capron and Scott McLemee round up on-the-spot reports from the deadly confrontation between the far right and anti-racists in a Virginia city.
August 14, 2017

Above: this is what Trump refused to condemn

THE FAR-right demonstration in Charlottesville, Virginia, on August 12–probably the largest public gathering of the racist “alt-right” ever–was clear evidence of the murderous forces nurtured and emboldened by Donald Trump over the past two years.

And it had deadly consequences: One anti-fascist protester was killed and more than two dozen injured when a neo-Nazi terrorist drove his car at high speed into a counterdemonstration led by left organizations, including the International Socialist Organization (ISO), Democratic Socialists of America and Industrial Workers of the World, among others.

Trump issued a weasel-worded condemnation of “hatred, bigotry and violence on many sides” that fooled no one–especially not the far right. “He refused to even mention anything to do with us,” one racist website gloated. “When reporters were screaming at him about White Nationalism he just walked out of the room.”

So the fascists see Trump as one of their own–and for good reason.

But the hate on display in Charlottesville–and promoted by the hatemonger-in-chief–is galvanizing people across the country.

News of the racist car attack was met by a wave of solidarity–within hours, there were vigils and protests in dozens of cities, followed by many more the next day, and plans for still more in the days to come. By the end of the weekend, people had taken a stand in solidarity with Charlottesville in hundreds of towns and cities.

These people who sent a message of defiance were not only repulsed by the hatred of the fascists and horrified by their violence, but they understand the need to confront this menace before it can inflict more suffering and take more lives.

Charlottesville showed the grave threat we face in the form of an emboldened far right. But it is also revealing the potential to mobilize a mass opposition to the hatemongers, whether they strut in the streets or in the Oval Office.

– – – – – – – – – – – – – – – –

THE THOUSANDS mobilizing against the Trump agenda in recent months are making it impossible for the far right to claim it represents more than a small part of the U.S. population.

When the Klan came to Charlottesville last month to protest the removal of a statue of Confederate general Robert E. Lee from a city park, they attracted around 50 supporters–and were outnumbered 20 times over by antiracists.

Humiliated by this, far-right groups announced another rally for August. The city granted a permit for this past Saturday in Emancipation Park to “Unite the Right” organizers–a last-minute legal attempt to deny the permit was stayed by a judge based on an appeal by the ACLU. Permits were also granted to counterdemonstrators to assemble a couple blocks away in Justice Park.

The far right came looking for a fight in Charlottesville, and they got started Friday night with a torchlight parade on the University of Virginia campus. Chanting “Heil Trump” and “You will not replace us”–sometimes changed to “Jews will not replace us”–some used their lighted torches to threaten the small numbers of antiracist protesters who confronted them on campus.

If the racists thought they would have the same overwhelming force on their side the next day, they were wrong. The fascists were outnumbered by their opponents, ranging from Antifa contingents and the radical left to more moderate antiracist organizations. But the antifascists’ advantage wasn’t as large as it could have been.

Groups from each side made pass-by marches within sight of one another Saturday morning, and there were isolated clashes, leading to an atmosphere of confusion and uncertainly.

When a group of ISO members approached the southwest entrance to Justice Park, the counterdemonstration site, they found a handful of young white men with automatic rifles and red bandanas tied around their necks standing watch. Momentary fear dissipated when the socialists were welcomed with cheers and handshakes–these were members of Redneck Revolt, a newly formed militant Southern self-defense group. Read the rest of this entry »

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Neo-Nazis and white supremacists in Charlottesville

August 13, 2017 at 8:30 pm (anti-fascism, Anti-Racism, civil rights, fascism, populism, posted by JD, solidarity, terror, Trump, United States)

Image result for charlottesville rally
Above: car drives into anti-fascists, killing one and injuring 19 (pic from Tendance Coatesy, which also carries reports and background information)

By Redneck Revolt at the It’s Going Down! website, Aug 13 2017

The situation on the ground in Charlottesville, Virginia, is still developing and unstable, but a few of our Redneck Revolt members on the ground took some time to provide the following reportback. We will continue to share updates as they’re available.

For those who are still unaware, this weekend has been the largest convergence of far-right and white nationalist/white supremacist organizations in recent US history. They have descended on Charlottesville, a town of approximately 48,000 people, as a response to the planned removal of a statue commemorating Confederate General Robert E. Lee. Earlier this year, self-described White Nationalist Richard Spencer led a torchlit march on the statue, with the intention of terrorizing locals who support the statue’s removal, particularly people of color.

This weekend, the stakes were raised at an event called “Unite the Right,” organized to tie together white supremacist groups across the spectrum. Participating groups and white supremacist personalities included Richard Spencer, Matthew Heimbach of the Traditionalist Worker’s Party, Baked Alaska, Based Stickman, Augustus Invictus, Mike Enoch, Proud Boys, the Ku Klux Klan, and Nazi groups.

Locals and members of surrounding communities gathered in Charlottesville to take a stand against the “Unite the Right” rally, and defend their town from white supremacist organizing. Five Redneck Revolt branches from nearby towns have been on the ground in Charlottesville since yesterday, and working closely with the SRA, BLM, and local organizers to develop plans to protect the local community.

Last night, Dr. Cornel West and several local faith leaders called for a prayer meeting at the St. Paul’s Memorial Church in Charlottesville. Armed Redneck Revolt members were on-hand to assist with security, when word was received that the 300+ white supremacists were marching with torches across the University of Virginia campus towards the church. Across the street from the church, the fascist march encountered several anti-fascist and student counter-protestors, and a skirmish erupted. Redneck Revolt members assisted with escorting folks from the church to their cars, and everyone was evacuated safely.

Today, with hundreds more white supremacists expected to converge on Charlottesville, our Redneck Revolt branches worked together with local organizers to create and secure a staging area at Justice Park, within a short distance of the planned Unite the Right rally location, Emancipation Park (formerly Lee Park). Approximately 20 Redneck Revolt members created a security perimeter around the park, most of them open-carrying tactical rifles.

Starting from early in the morning, there were eruptions of violence scattered throughout downtown Charlottesville, and around 11:30am, the governor of Virginia declared a state of emergency and ordered the police to cancel and evacuate the “Unite the Right” rally. National Guard and local police forces worked to contain the scattered violence, with little impact.

Throughout the day, the staging area at Justice Park was a safe haven for a wide range of protesters and other community members. Support teams provided food, water, medical support, and sanctuary, and groups such as the Quakers, Black Lives Matter, antifa groups, queer radical orgs, and the IWW moved in and out of Justice Park as needed to regroup and take care of each others’ injuries.

At many points during the day, groups of white supremacists approached Justice Park, but at each instance, Redneck Revolt members formed a unified skirmish line against them, and the white supremacists backed down. Most of the groups were not easily identified, but at separate points, contingents from Identity Europa and the Proud Boys were recognized. The groups that threatened the park yelled racial and homophobic slurs, and many yelled things specifically at the Redneck Revolt fire teams which indicated that they were familiar with our principles. Some of the groups that approached numbered as many as 40 people, but the security of Justice Park was never breached.

The worst moment of an entire weekend of white supremacist violence came when someone rammed their Dodge Charger into a large crowd of anti-racist protesters. A 32 year old woman was killed, and at least 19 others have been reported injured. The crash and screams were heard by the groups staged at Justice Park, and two Redneck Revolt members ran down the street and assisted in direct medical support.

There are ongoing security actions planned throughout the night, to protect groups or locations which are at a higher risk of being attacked by the fascists, and our Redneck Revolt members on the ground will continue to check in as they are able to. They are especially appreciative of the camaraderie of the SRA, and look forward to building stronger defense networks together.

For folks looking for ways to provide support, there are several fundraisers circulating for legal and medical funds for the anti-racist protesters. We have not been able to independently verify these funds yet, so we appreciate any locals who can vouch for them. These fundraisers have been shared on our national Facebook page, and we will add them to this reportback as they’re verified.


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Redneck revolt: “Guns are fine – racism is not”

July 21, 2017 at 1:13 pm (anti-fascism, Anti-Racism, populism, posted by JD, strange situations, Trump, United States, workers)

The Phoenix John Brown Gun Club sent a ‘community defense contingent’ to a Make America Great Again rally at the Arizona state capitol, image via Redneck Revolt‘s website.

By Rob Brigham at Raw Story

A well-armed organization of anti-racists are using gun culture to organize rural white voters against the administration of President Donald Trump.

“Redneck Revolt is a national network of community defense projects from a broad spread of political, religious, and cultural backgrounds. It is a pro-worker, anti-racist organization that focuses on working class liberation from the oppressive systems which dominate our lives,” the organization’s website states. “In states where it is legal to practice armed community defense, many branches choose to become John Brown Gun Clubs, training ourselves and our communities in defense and mutual aid.”

The name harkens back to the 1921 “Battle of Blair Mountain” when some 10,000 United Mine Workers of America staged the largest labor uprising in US history, with many miners wearing red bandanas around their necks. Over one million rounds of ammunition were fired before President Warren Harding sent in federal troops. Over sixty people died in the battle and almost 1,000 miners were arrested.

Such radical history is now being used to reach out to white working class voters.

“We use gun culture as a way to relate to people,” Redneck Revolt organizer Max Neely told Alternet. “Our basic message is: guns are fine, but racism is not.”

Guns culture provides the group with an organizing avenue.

“Redneck Revolt inserts themselves into overwhelmingly white spaces—NASCAR races, gun shows, flea markets in rural communities, and country music concerts—to offer a meaningful alternative to the white supremacist groups who often also recruit in those spaces,” Jared Ware of Shadowproof explained. “Redneck Revolt’s anti-racist, anti-capitalist message seems to be taking hold in communities across the United States. The organization had just 13 chapters in January but has nearly tripled its chapters nationally in the last 6 months. The group now has 34 different branches, 26 of which are in states that voted for Trump.”

“People need to be able to defend themselves. [We] live in a country in the world where people of color and LGBTQ people are routinely victimized and systematically victimized by the people who claim to be there for their defense,” a Pittsburgh, PA Redneck Revolt organizer named Shaun told Shadowproof. We provide free basic firearms training to pretty much everyone who needs it. We focus on trying to provide [self-defense training] when asked for [by] communities of color and LGBTQ folks.”

“White supremacy is essentially a fight to be the best treated dog in the kennel,” Shaun tells potential recruits. “It’s that way because a vastly small percentage of the population hordes access to resources and they’re able to do this because they’ve managed to get one half of the working class to turn against the other half in exchange for basically preferential treatment.”

Redneck Revolt seeks to change the calculation.

“I grew up playing in the woods, floating coolers of beer down a river, shooting off fireworks, just generally raising hell, all that kind of stuff,” Neely told Alternet. “Things most people would consider a part of redneck culture. We’re trying to acknowledge the ways we’ve made mistakes and bought into white supremacy and capitalism, but also give ourselves an environment in which it’s OK to celebrate redneck culture.”

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Simone Veil, courageous fighter, passes

June 30, 2017 at 5:38 pm (Andrew Coates, anti-fascism, Anti-Racism, Feminism, France, good people, Human rights, women)

Image result for simone veil

Andrew Coates writes:

Simone Veil, the revered French politician who survived the Nazi death camp at Auschwitz and defied institutional sexism to push through a law legalising abortion in France, has died on June 30th 2017. She was 89.

France 24:

A widely respected figure across the political divide, Veil was the first female leader of the European Parliament and the recipient of France’s highest distinctions, including a seat among the “Immortals” of the Académie française, the prestigious state-sponsored body overseeing the French language and usage. She was renowned for her endeavours to advance women’s rights and the gracious but steely resolve with which she overcame male resistance throughout a remarkable life scarred by personal tragedy.

As one of the more than 76,000 Jews deported from France during World War II, Veil appears on the Wall of Names at the Shoah Memorial in Paris, under her maiden name Simone Jacob. So do her father André, her mother Yvonne, her sister Madeleine and her brother Jean. Of the five, only Madeleine and Simone survived the ordeal, though Madeleine would die in a car crash just seven years after the war.

Simone was the youngest of four siblings, born in the French Riviera resort of Nice on July 13, 1927, in a family of non-practising Jews. Her father, an award-winning architect, had insisted her mother abandon her studies in chemistry after they married. Like most other Jews in France, he reluctantly obeyed orders once the Nazi-allied Vichy regime came to power in June 1940, registering his family on the infamous “Jewish file” – which would later help French police and the German Gestapo round up France’s Jews and deport them.

As French nationals living in the Italian occupation zone, the Jacob family avoided the first round-ups, which targeted foreign Jews, mainly in the northern half of France that was occupied by German troops. But they suffered the sting of anti-Semitic laws, which forced André Jacob out of work and led to Simone adopting the name Jacquier to conceal her origins.

The situation worsened after September 1943, when the Nazi occupiers swept all the way down to the Riviera. Simone, then aged 16, had only just passed her baccalaureate when she was arrested by two members of the SS on March 30, 1944. The Gestapo soon rounded up the rest of the family with the exception of Simone’s sister Denise, who had joined the Resistance in Lyon. Denise would later be detained and deported to the Ravensbruck concentration camp, from where she returned after the war.

[…]

Still only 17, Simone returned to France devastated by the loss of her parents and sister, but determined to pursue the career her mother had been denied. She studied law at the University of Paris and the Institut d’études politiques, where she met Antoine Veil (1926-2013), a future company manager and auditor. The couple married in October 1946, and would go on to have three sons, Jean, Nicolas, and Pierre-François.

Simone Veil began work as a lawyer before successfully passing the national examination to become a magistrate in 1956. She then took on a senior position at the National Penitentiary Administration, part of the Ministry of Justice, thereby securing a first platform to pursue a lifelong endeavour of advancing women’s rights. She notably strove to improve women’s conditions in French jails and, during the Algerian War of Independence, obtained the transfer to France of Algerian female prisoners amid reports of widespread abuse and rape.

Switching to the ministry’s department of civil affairs in 1964, Veil continued to push for gender parity in matters of parental control and adoption rights. A decade later, her appointment as health minister in the centre-right administration of President Valéry Giscard D’Estaing paved the way for her biggest political test. She first battled to ease access to contraception, then took on a hostile parliament to argue in favour of a woman’s right to have a legal abortion.

“No woman resorts to an abortion with a light heart. One only has to listen to them: it is always a tragedy,” Veil said in a now-famous opening address on November 26, 1974, before a National Assembly almost entirely composed of men. She added: “We can no longer shut our eyes to the 300,000 abortions that each year mutilate the women of this country, trample on its laws and humiliate or traumatise those who undergo them.”

After her hour-long address, the minister endured a torrent of abuse from members of her own centre-right coalition. One lawmaker claimed her law would “each year kill twice as many people as the Hiroshima bomb”. A second berated the Holocaust survivor for “choosing genocide”. Another still spoke of embryos “thrown into crematorium ovens”.

“I had no idea how much hatred I would stir,” Veil told French journalist Annick Cojean in 2004, reflecting on the vitriolic debate decades earlier. “There was so much hypocrisy in that chamber full of men, some of whom would secretly look for places where their mistresses could have an abortion.”

The bill was eventually passed, thanks to support from the left-wing opposition, though Veil had to withstand the affront of swastikas painted on her car and home. Today, the “loi Veil” enjoys overwhelming support in France, where few mainstream politicians dare to challenge it.

At the end of this fine tribute is written:

…she was elected to the Académie française, becoming only the sixth woman to join the prestigious “Immortals”, who preside over the French language. Her ceremonial sword was engraved with the motto of the French Republic (“Liberty, Equality, Fraternity”), that of the European Union (“United in diversity”), and the five digits tattooed on her forearm in the inferno of Auschwitz, which she never removed.

Libération:   Simone Veil, une femme debout.

 The extreme right hated Simone Veil, and still do,

This is a recent blog piece:

Un site d’extrême droite se réjouit de l’état de santé de Simone Veil

The French Communist Party leader Pierre Laurent saluted Simone Veil:

mone Veil fut une femme de courage, de conviction essentielle pr la liberté des femmes. Nous honorons sa mémoire.

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‘Prevent’: time for a rational discussion on the left

May 25, 2017 at 8:40 pm (anti-fascism, apologists and collaborators, Civil liberties, communalism, ex-SWP, fascism, Free Speech, islamism, Middle East, misogyny, SWP, terror)

Image result for picture Cage John Rees
Stalinoid ex-SWP’er John Rees flanked by pro-Taliban members of Cage: united in opposing Prevent

The Manchester outrage, and the reports that some local Muslims had warned the authorities of the perpetrator’s (and others’) extremism, raises the question of the left’s attitude towards ‘Prevent’. For too long Islamists and their apologists have got away with simply smearing Prevent as “islamophobic” and denounced all those (including secular Muslims) willing to work with it. This article from Labour List provides a starting point for a much-needed discussion:

In defence of Prevent: why Britain’s anti-radicalisation strategy must be reformed rather than scrapped

By Stephen Lambert

Prevent, part of the Government’s annual £40m counter terrorism strategy, seeks to challenge the impact of extremism and radicalisation by “encouraging debate” in local communities and schools.

It works through community safety partnerships led by local councils. Each police force has a specially trained Prevent officer who liaises with community groups and other public bodies. All teachers, social workers, doctors and councillors are trained to be on the lookout for signs of radical Islamic, far-right and extreme left-wing activity.

Since the latest rules came in four years ago there have been a number of appalling events leading to the loss of life on mainland Britain. The actions of a suicide bomber, motivated by hate, brought carnage to Manchester, killing 22 and maiming 59. It is the latest in a line of attacks. Our thoughts go out to the bereaved and injured. Two months ago a “lone actor” terrorist hit Westminster and murdered a police officer. Last summer the anti-racism campaigner, Jo Cox, was killed by a far-right white supremacist in her home town in Yorkshire. In 2013 the off-duty soldier Lee Rigby was killed by three jihadis in London.

According to the counter-terrorism think tank, the Quilliam Foundation, Britain is ‘”facing a shifting and increasing range of threats emanating from jihadist groups and individuals.’’

Islamic State or Daesh remains the principal threat on British soil “reinforced by the numbers of returned foreign terrorist fighters.’’

MI5 estimated that 850 people seen as a potential security threat are known to have taken part in the Syrian conflict, with half thought to have returned here. 

Lead anti-terrorist experts such as Rob Wainwright of Europol claim another worrying development is the “significant rise in nationalist, xenophobic, racist and anti-Semitic sentiments across the EU, each resulting in acts of far-right extremism.’’

Some 57 per cent of lone-actor foiled terrorism attempts in Britain have been carried out by right-wing extremists, the home office said.

The radical left believes Prevent is damaging trust in society. The duty has charged government officials, teachers, health professionals and councillors with monitoring people’s political and religious views. It has been suggested that Prevent has eroded civil liberties, demonised Muslims and bolstered religious discrimination.

True, hate crimes against Muslims soared by 70 per cent between 2011 and 2014. For Liam Byrne, who considered this in Black Flag Down, and former Conservative minister Sayeed Warsi, Prevent has contributed to a climate of intimidation amongst some ethnic groups. Muslims constitute 5 per cent of the population, yet official figures show that 67 per cent of those referred for suspected radicalisation in 2014, were Muslim.

Civil libertarians maintain that Prevent is not making our citizens safer. Rather it’s fostering an atmosphere of insecurity while stoking up Islamophobia at a time when the far-right is on the rise both in the UK and across Europe.

But scrapping Prevent as part of the overall Contest strategy is not the way forward. The stark reality is that Prevent, despite its imperfections, has helped to thwart the level of violent terrorism. Radical Islamism and the growth of the far-right threatens hard won freedoms, democratic values and institutions, liberty, the rule of law and national security.

Critics of Prevent have to been too quick to label it as some sort of spying operation. This is patently false. Prior to the collapse of the Berlin Wall in 1989, one in three of the hardline Communist-run East Germany’s populace were Stasi informants spying on their own neighbours.

Prevent, contrary to popular belief, is a voluntary programme, requiring parental consent. It takes in special branch, local  community partnerships such as Safe Newcastle, educational establishments, the fire service and youth offending teams. In most cases it is implemented with sensitivity without alienating any section of the community. Clearly the vast majority of Muslims in Britain are moderate, law-abiding citizens who reject violence. Across our core cities, including Newcastle, peace vigils are being held in response to the latest attack.

The shocking event at Manchester testifies to the terrible impact of terrorism. Most of it is home grown. It’s not imported from the EU. Andrew Parker, director-general of MI5, notes that more than 3,000 jihadi men and women, some in their teens, are being watched. At least 12 plots have been foiled in the last two years. The government, Andy Burnham and fair-minded people across the country fully support the decision to increase the number of MI5, MI6 and GCHQ operatives by another 1,900.

Of-course, strengthening surveillance is crucial. But the government needs to take steps to better engage Muslim groups in anti-radicalisation measures delivered through a multi-agency approach. Indications are that Amber Rudd, the home secretary, will carry out an in-depth review of Prevent to shed its toxic image amongst some sections of the Asian community.

One important way to tackle potential radicalisation is through learning and training. The government’s Fundamental British Values programme is being delivered in every school and college in England and Wales to promote the principles which underpin our liberal democracy – respect, tolerance, the rule of law and equality.

Many experienced teachers and youth workers are prepared to challenge the reactionary ideas of “youthful jihadi apologists” or far-right supporters of ultra-nationalist groups, like the BNP.

Urban colleges, as in Bradford, have been praised by Ofsted for their partnership work with police and the local Muslim community in challenging extremism. And Sadiq Khan, Labour’s mayor of London, pointed out that the Muslim community in other places needs to take ownership of the issue and engage more with Prevent.

Prevent’s work on the ground needs reform, as spelt out in Labour’s manifesto, but it must not be abandoned if we are to win the hearts and minds of Britain’s Muslim communities. Maintaining safe neighbourhoods remains a priority while violent extremism against vulnerable citizens must be defeated. And, of course, the perpetrators of these cowardly crimes must be brought to justice.

Stephen Lambert is director of Education4Democracy and a Newcastle councillor. He is a former chair of  Safe Newcastle.

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Fascism defeated in France

May 7, 2017 at 9:45 pm (anti-fascism, democracy, Europe, France, posted by JD)

Breaking news from the BBC: https://twitter.com/BBCBreaking?ref_src=twsrc%5Egoogle%7Ctwcamp%5Eserp%7Ctwgr%5Eauthor

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George Szirtes: The Immigrant at Port Selda

April 2, 2017 at 4:55 pm (anti-fascism, Anti-Racism, democracy, Europe, Human rights, identity politics, immigration, internationalism, literature, Migrants, poetry, populism, posted by JD, Racism, reactionay "anti-imperialism")

Picture by Clarissa Upchurch

George Szirtes was born in Hungary and emigrated to England with his parents—survivors of concentration and labor camps after the 1956 Budapest uprising.

George’s address to the recent symposium at Southampton University, ‘The legacy of Brexit and citizenship in times of uncertainty’  is posted here with his permission:

I must confess I have no qualification for speaking on this subject and am keenly aware of speaking to those who do. I can only speak in my character as an unwitting child refugee to these shores, a poet and translator, and as an occasional writer of articles in the press, on, among other things, the issue of Brexit: about the campaign itself, the impact of the campaign and its likely future impact.

On that last, of course, I can only speculate. We are not out yet, we don’t know anything about the terms of disengagement, and we have no clear idea of how this or that set of terms may impact our lives.

I did in fact campaign for Remain but my role and experience was very minor. In asking Leavers why they intended to vote as they did the two answers I repeatedly got were: ‘So they won’t tell us what to do any more,’ and, ‘Things were better before’. These words will be familiar to most people here and seemed to me to be perfectly rational responses to the two major arguments of the Leave campaign regarding sovereignty and free movement of people. The way those arguments were presented elicited precisely these responses.

As I have already said I am not qualified to address those questions because I am not an expert in any of the relevant areas and because I am, by birth, parti pris on one side of the question, in that I am a foreigner and therefore one of those factors in things somehow being better before my arrival.

I don’t want to caricature the Leave campaign. I don’t want to call those who voted differently from me stupid, or simple, or racist. Life is far more complicated and I did have some intelligent conversations with people who wanted to leave the EU, particularly those on the Chomskyite left of the political spectrum, whose arguments centred on globalisation, capitalism and high finance as expressed, occasionally, in terms of sovereignty.

I don’t want to caricature the Leave campaign but the day after the referendum there was an incident in Norwich, a city that had voted to remain in a region that had voted to leave, in which a small Romanian supermarket was firebombed. Students at the university from which I had retired immediately set up an appeal to raise £500. By the next morning it had raised over £20, 000, so the field was not altogether lost. Despite what we are continually told about the clear will of ‘the people’ there were enough people willing to raise money for a minor indirectly demonised enterprise.

I don’t think demonisation is too harsh a word, in that Leave rhetoric called forth certain demons, or rather that it quite consciously opened the trapdoors where such demons were hiding. It legitimised them. It called forth the firebombers. It called forth those who immediately set upon elderly widows of French and German birth who had lived in the country for decades and taunted them by asking when they were going home. It called forth the teenagers on the Manchester tram who demanded a black American get off it. It called forth the murderer of Jo Cox.

By the time that happened a certain madness had set in. All the Leavers rushed to distance themselves from the murder, of course. This was nothing to do with them. None of those xenophobic incidents, and there have been and continue to be plenty of others, had anything to do with them. It was nothing to do with their presentation of sinister foreigners in Brussels, and sinister gangs of Albanians hanging round Dover and Boston, or with the sinister cheap labour of mushroom pickers and chicken packers who were taking much-coveted jobs from true Brits. No! they protested. That was not what they meant. They had nothing to do with encouraging the taxi driver we met who had moved from Kings Lynn because there were too many Lithuanians and Poles there, foreigners whose rather marvellous supermarket down a side street was, as he put it, ‘taking the place over’.

Perhaps I could go back in time and take a more personal line in order to think about what it is that might make one properly British or, more problematically, a foreigner.

2
My family of four, along with some 200,000 others, that is one-fiftieth of the population, left Hungary in the months following the defeat of the 1956 Revolution. I am not entirely sure why we left. My parents had taken no part in the fighting and were unlikely to be arrested in its repercussions. My father, as the leader of a department within the Ministry of Building, would have been exposed in the revolution itself, as much as a Jew as a member of the apparatus, but I think he would have stayed. It was my mother who insisted we leave.

Why did she do so? I don’t think it was for ideological reasons. Neither my mother nor my father hoped to feel more comfortable among free-market liberal capitalists than in a restored post-Stalinist state. They were both of the left, my middle-class mother further to the left than my working-class father who actually worked in a ministry. Ideology would, if anything, have kept them at home. They lived quite well in the given context and weren’t economic migrants.

The truth is that my mother was afraid, not so much for herself as for us, her children. She had survived two concentration camps, my father had survived forced labour. They had history gnawing at their nerves. Neither of them could have demonstrated that their lives were in immediate danger. Instead they took the dangerous impromptu risk of walking out of the country at night in wholly arbitrary party of a dozen or so, across the Austrian border, arriving there with one suitcase of clothes and nothing more. At that stage I had just three words of English — A A Milne’s AND, BUT, SO as read in my bilingual copy of Now We Are Six. We also had a bilingual edition of Milne’s Winnie the Pooh. In this poem based on the memory of crossing the Hungarian-Austrian border by night, Milne’s characters — the owl and the ass in the hundred-acre wood — serve as forms of familiarity.

My father carries me across a field

My father carries me across a field.

It’s night and there are trenches filled with snow.

Thick mud. We’re careful to remain concealed

From something frightening I don’t yet know.

And then I walk and there is space between

The four of us. We go where we have to go.

Did I dream it all, this ghostly scene,

The hundred-acre wood where the owl blinked

And the ass spoke? Where I am cosy and clean

In bed, but we are floating, our arms linked

Over the landscape? My father moves ahead

Of me, like some strange, almost extinct

Species, and I follow him in dread

Across the field towards my own extinction.

Spirits everywhere are drifting over blasted

Terrain. The winter cold makes no distinction

Between them and us. My father looks round

And smiles then turns away. We have no function

In this place but keep moving, without sound,

Lost figures who leave only a blank page

Behind them, and the dark and frozen ground

They pass across as they might cross a stage.

We might well have been moving into extinction. My parents would never again be what they had been and what they might have become. Once in Austria the process of unbecoming became relatively easy. Refugee services were waiting for us, both in Austria and, a few days later in Britain, after we had been offered a flight there. Reception was efficient and kindly. We were regarded as victim-heroes of a failed but heroic Uprising against the Cold War enemy. Sentiment was with us.

So was our historical baggage. In Metro, the longest poem of my career, there are a couple of verses in which I try to sum up what we had left behind in Budapest. The physical city described in it stands in for history: the empire of the living becomes the empire of the dead.

[Metro 2 2/3]

The empire underground: the tunnelling

Begins. The earth gives up her worms and shards,

Old coins, components, ordnance, bone and glass,

Nails, muscle, hair, flesh, shrivelled bits of string,

Shoe leather, buttons, jewels, instruments.

And out of these come voices, words,

Stenches and scents,

And finally desire, pulled like a tooth.

It’s that or constancy that leads us down

To find a history which feels like truth.

That baggage of old coins, components, bits of lace and so forth is the kind of thing any refugee brings with them. It is an emblem of the real baggage of those who leave without much deliberation or calculation simply because of what appears as a pressing necessity. The children and teenagers in the jungle at Calais carry something similar. They bring their foreignness with them to squat in the mud of an alien port.

England was not our intended destination. That was Australia where my father had a cousin: we had no one in England. But Australia rejected us because of my mother’s health so we had to remain. Altogether some 28,000 Hungarians chose to remain in the UK.

What did we offer our kindly hosts?

My father had some English before we came. The rest of us — my mother, brother and I — had none. The English my father possessed made him useful in helping to process other refugees, which is what he did while we spent four months along with those others in various off-season boarding houses in or near Margate, attending English classes. My father interpreted for fellow refugees who were sent off to jobs in Wolverhampton or Luton or wherever their skill and experience would come in handy. My father’s particular skill lay in plumbing, heating and ventilation at managerial level so they found him a first job in London and, remarkably enough, enabled us to put down a deposit on a first house there. Starting from zero that was nothing short of a miracle, a remarkable act of generosity that was enough to make life-long anglophiles of us all. Meanwhile my mother, a press photographer, found work in a photographer’s studio and shop in Oxford Street.

Having settled in we set about assimilating. First of all we were to speak English, not Hungarian at home. We would never go back, very few people in the world spoke Hungarian so the language would be redundant and only slow down the rate at which we, the children, learned English and made a go of school. Budapest was no longer home. My father anglicised the pronunciation of his name to Surtees, as in the racing driver, even altering the spelling for strictly work purposes when visiting building sites to make life easier for foremen and site managers. His face and accent did not accord with the adopted name of course, and the accent was thick.

But it was a reasonable, relaxed ambience. By the time we began our English school careers there were other immigrant issues to think about. The Notting Hill Riots of 1958 for example and, ten years later, Enoch Powell’s ‘rivers of blood’ speech. Then, just four years after that, in the wake of Idi Amin, came the Ugandan Asians. We might have been foreign but at least we were white.

And because we were white and less conspicuous we did not experience the resentment that met West Indians or Asians. We took the mild if diffident benevolence of England for granted. We had melted in hadn’t we? And the country into which we had melted was a stable, powerful force in the world, a safe place, ever less powerful now perhaps, ever less imperial, but still safe.

In 1984 I returned to Hungary for the first time as an adult. And kept returning. In 1989 my family and I spent almost the whole year there watching the state fall apart. Ten years later, after several books I changed publishers for the second time and my work to that date was sorted into two distinct volumes: The Budapest File (2000) dealing with work that had a Hungarian interest (by which time I had written a good deal on that) and one titled An English Apocalypse (2001), that dealt with settling in England and simply being here. In this way my work — and self — was neatly divided for public consumption.

An English Apocalypse was chiefly written in Ireland while I was a fellow at TCD, Dublin, and contained many memories of the seventies but also registered what I sensed was a mounting crisis in English identity and self-confidence. There were five apocalypses at the end of the sequence. This is one of them.

Death by Deluge

I have seen roads come to a full stop in mid-

sentence as if their meaning had fallen off

the world. And this is what happened, what meaning did

that day in August. The North Sea had been rough

and rising and the bells of Dunwich rang

through all of Suffolk. One wipe of its cuff

down cliffs and in they went, leaving birds to hang

puzzled in the air, their nests gone. Enormous

tides ran from Southend to Cromer. They swung

north and south at once, as if with a clear purpose,

thrusting through Lincolnshire, and at a rush

drowning Sleaford, Newark, leaving no house

uncovered. Nothing remained of The Wash

but water. Peterborough, Ely, March, and Cambridge

were followed by Royston, Stevenage, the lush

grass of Shaw’s Corner. Not a single ridge

remained. The Thames Valley filled to the brim

and London Clay swallowed Wapping and Greenwich.

Then west, roaring and boiling. A rapid skim

of Hampshire and Dorset, then the peninsula:

Paignton, Plymouth, Lyme, Land’s End. A slim

line of high hills held out but all was water-colour,

the pure English medium, intended for sky, cloud, and sea.

Less earth than you could shift with a spatula.

Something important began in the seventies that more-or-less coincided with the time of Britain’s EU entry: a process that involved the fuel crisis, the three-day week, the winter of discontent, and the rise of Margaret Thatcher which was followed by the destruction of old mass industries that had sustained stable communities and provided social cohesion. Britain had become the sick man of Europe. And despite an economic recovery through the later eighties and nineties, the cohesion had vanished. The economic body was no longer sick, but the social soul was.

Somebody had to be blamed for all this and the EU was the easiest scapegoat. If Britain was falling apart by 2001 in the way An English Apocalypse suggested that can’t have been Britain’s fault, can it? Who took away our pounds and ounces, our twelve pence to the shilling and our pride? Our image of sinister, faceless foreign bureaucrats — so beloved by the right wing press — conjured our own long resentful demons. The foreigners kept coming. They were after our jobs, after our benefits, after our houses, changing our ways of life, the ground of our very being. These foreigners were not all the result of the EU’s free movement policy, more to do with globalisation beyond Europe, with the disasters of wars or famine, with Britain’s own colonial history.

The concerns associated with large numbers of immigrants were masked by what people — and increasingly the popular press — called ‘political correctness’ (Political Correctness Gone Mad) by which they meant the control of language and manners, and in some cases of law, of the means of even beginning to address the concerns. That was seen as repression and, in some ways, for the best of reasons, so it was.

What I am suggesting is that that which was successfully suppressed after Notting Hill in 1958 was inarticulate and still struggling for manoeuvre in 2016 when it finally found an outlet in the referendum campaign. The end of empire had found its cry. Hence the fury. Hence the demons.

Two or three years ago I was chairing a small literary festival in the small Norfolk town where we live. In order to publicise the event we decided to read poems in the marketplace on market day. That was fun. Somebody there decided to read John Betjeman’s A Subaltern’s Love Song, that begins: ‘Miss Joan Hunter Dunn, Miss Joan Hunter Dunn / furnished and burnished by Aldershot sun…’, a poem that wonderfully conjures an England of the 1930s. After the event the sweetest and nicest person on the committee said to me, ‘I don’t suppose you will ever fully understand that poem, George’.

Maybe he is right. Maybe, even to the nicest of men, a foreigner can never be truly of the atavistic tribe. That wouldn’t be peculiar to the English, of course: that is, I suspect, a general truth about specific historical moments when tribes come under pressure. Maybe the English tribe is ay such a point and has decided to wash its hand of foreigners. I started out by saying that I am not, for now, directly affected by Brexit and the tide of emotion it has loosed. But the conversation with the genuinely nice man who pointed out that I could never truly understand the heart of Englishness in the Betjeman poem — and he may be right, of course — is a salutary reminder that, in subtle ways, I remain a foreigner. Maybe the door to Brexit is the door out for some of us.

I will finish with a short poem titled Port Selda. There is a much loved popular poem by the Anglo-Welsh poet, Edward Thomas, titled ‘Adlestrop’ In Thomas’s poem of 1917, it is a sunny day during the war when his train makes a brief unscheduled stop at a tiny station, Adlestrop, by an empty platform where no one gets in or out. It seems quiet there until suddenly the poet hears “all the birds of Oxfordshire and Gloucestershire”. What we know, as readers, is that the poet himself was very soon to die in the war. For many people this poem this represents a sense of England at war, England as the elegiac quiet place sensed as if by accident.

My title, Port Selda is in fact the word Adlestrop spelled backwards. It is about the beauty of the country and the inevitability of rejection. Many of us are at Port Selda now.

The Immigrant at Port Selda

I got off at Port Selda and looked out for the harbour

but it was quiet, nothing smelled of the sea,

all I saw was a station by a well-kept arbour

with a notice pinned to a tree.

It said: Welcome to Port Selda, you who will never be

our collective unconscious nor of our race.

This is the one true genealogical tree

and this the notice you will not deface.

It was beautiful there. It was Friday in late

autumn and all the birds of the county sang

their hearts out. I noted down the date.

The sun was shining and the church-bells rang.

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Hungarian Right destroying and remaking history

February 20, 2017 at 1:31 pm (anti-fascism, history, Hungary, intellectuals, literature, Marxism, philosophy)

 Image result for picture Budapest statue of Georg Lukács

On 25 January the Metropolitan Council of Budapest decided (by 19 votes to 3) to remove the statue of the Marxist philosopher Georg Lukács from the 13th District and replace it with a statue of King Stephen, the founder of the Hungarian nation. The proposal was put by a member of the neo-fascist Jobbik Party, Marcell Tokody. Last year, despite opposition, Lukács’s house which has served as an open archive since his death in 1971 was closed by the authorities. The fate of the documents in the archive, many of which have yet to be translated in languages other than their original Hungarian or German, is unclear.

In the history of 20th century Marxism Lukács is a central figure. He is certainly not without his critics but some of his writings, particularly History and Class Consciousness, are seminal works of Marxism and have stood the test of time. We should not standby and allow the barbarians of the Hungarian right, and their odious leader Prime Minister Viktor Orbán, to destroy his legacy.

Please sign the petition:

www.petition24.com/protest_against_closing_down_the_lukacs_archive

John Cunningham

(the author of these few words lived in Hungary from 1991 to 2000 and is currently working on  a full length study of Lukács and his legacy)

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