Call to the democratic Left on the events in Catalonia

October 5, 2017 at 5:07 pm (Civil liberties, class collaboration, democracy, Europe, Human rights, nationalism, populism, posted by JD, spain)

From Open Democracy

A group of social scientists working at various universities and citizens in Spain and abroad

4 October 2017

Join us in raising a collective voice from the left, against the abuse of democracy both by the Catalan government and the Spanish government.

Protesters gather in front of the Spanish National Police headquarters during a general strike in Catalonia (03 October 2017)
Above: Barcelona protest at Guardia Civil and Policia National violence

The appalling scenes of police violence that took place on 1 October in Catalonia along with the most baffling disrespect for democratic procedures and democratic substance that preceded them a month ago in the Catalan Parliament urges us to raise a collective voice.

This voice belongs to the democratic, non-aligned left, a left whose expression we have been longing for. While this voice unequivocally and strongly condemns the authoritarian violence endorsed by the central government, it sternly and democratically resists nationalistic discourse. We refuse to accept this binary as the choice we must face. Pluralism and debate cannot be eliminated in the name of democracy for the following reasons:

1) Europe has gone through enough nationalistic wars and has, we hope, learned enough from the oppression it has variously exerted inside and outside the continent, to be able to resist the appeals of the nationalistic siren calls of the XXI century. Masking the rejection of income redistribution and the neglect of social injustice, as well as the erasure of the diverse origins and languages on Catalan territory, with ethno-nationalist colours will not do.

2) The Catalan independence movement is, mostly, a middle-class movement whose leaders, across all the spectrum of the right-wing led alliance, are far from being oppressed. Their voice is not subaltern and has been loudly heard while neglecting, obliterating and silencing all kinds of dissent including from the left. We should not let their cries prevent other voices.

3) The self-cancellation of democracy – announcing the possibility of a unilateral declaration of independence without a majority, as was done today by the leader of the Catalan nationalistic movement – is not only a matter of legality but of downright illegitimacy. No matter how strong a movement is, no matter how loud, as long as it is a minority, it is not a majority. The mocking of democratic procedures is not a game that comes at a small price; it will not do.

We write this because we stand with all those defending civil and political rights, and with subaltern grassroots movements opposed to the advances of neo-liberalism in all its forms. We do not condemn civil disobedience when all democratic possibilities have been exhausted. Nor do we oppose referendums provided that conditions of legitimacy are respected. But we are not prepared to accept this referendum as part of a democratic struggle against oppression.

Join us in raising a collective voice from the left, against the abuse of democracy both by the Catalan government and the Spanish government.

—-

Nathalie Karagiannis, Peter Wagner, Marie Angueira Cebria, Johann Arnason, Caroline Brew, Selene Camargo Correa, Rebeca Carpi Martín, Gerard Delanty, Jean de Munck, Juan Carlos Gavara de Cara, Lola Diaz, Juan Diez Medrano, Luisa Fernandez, Johan Heilbron, Oliver Hochadel, Andreas Kalyvas, Yannis Karagiannis, Dimitris Leontzakos, Manuel Lisandro Castillo, Elia Marzal Yetano, Lourdes Mèndez, U.B. Morgan, Claus Offe, Rommy Morales Olivares, William Outhwaite, Susana Narotzky, Montserrat Pareja Eastaway, Carlos Pérez González, Ana Pérez Pérez, Rosa Pérez Pérez, Rosa María Pérez Pérez, Angelo Pichierri, José Maria Mateo Rello, Ana Maria Rodríguez López, Arturo Rodriguez Morató, Samuel Sadian, Will Shank, Eugenia Siapera, Bo Stråth, Leonor Valencia, Carlos Valera, Daniela Vicherat Mattar, Myrsini Zorba

H/t: Tendance Coatesy

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Trump: adding ignorant insult to Puerto Rico’s injuries

October 2, 2017 at 12:42 pm (climate change, environment, Human rights, Latin America, posted by JD, tragedy, Trump, United States)

Comment: Danny Katch

Left: Trump on the golf course; right: Flooding in Puerto Rico

PUERTO RICO is facing a triple disaster that includes the worst the world has to offer in the early 21st century.

An unprecedented sequence of powerful hurricanes fueled by climate change. An infrastructure that was already degraded by years of debt and austerity imposed by hedge fund vultures and colonial overlords in Washington. And now a White House inhabited by a racist modern-day Nero who fiddles on Twitter while 3.4 million U.S. citizens drown.

Millions of people–with and without family on the island–are condemning Trump’s response and scrambling to mobilize help, which the richest and most powerful government in the world should already have been providing.

But we need to make sure that, even as people do whatever they can during the immediate life-threatening crisis, we’re building political alternatives to disaster number four, already on the horizon: The long-term plans in government and on Wall Street to take advantage of this crisis to permanently steal Puerto Rico’s remaining resources from its people.

Hurricane Maria–which struck Puerto Rico head-on less than two weeks after the Hurricane Irma wreaked havoc, knocking out power to 1 million people–has caused a stunning amount of damage in Puerto Rico.

According to FEMA’s update on September 30, only one hospital on the island is fully operational, 59 are partially operational, and four are closed. Just 10 percent of the island has cell phone service, less than half the island has drinking water, and only nine out of 52 wastewater treatment plants are operational.

And, of course, the entire electrical grid is still down, forcing the island to rely on fuel-based generators. Fuel is being rotated to make sure the functioning hospitals have continuous power. Read the rest of this entry »

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Trans activists versus radical feminists: abandonment of freedom for ‘ressentiment’

September 28, 2017 at 7:46 pm (Feminism, Free Speech, gay, homophobia, Human rights, identity politics, LGBT, liberation, Marxism, philosophy, posted by JD)

Comrade Camila Bassi on a dispute that has recently emerged:

The following is a full recording of and written extracts from my book chapter, “On Identity Politics, Ressentiment, and the Evacuation of Human Emancipation”, in Nocella and Juergensmeyer (eds.) Fighting Academic Repression and Neoliberal Education (Peter Lang Publishing).

My chapter and its podcast examine a neoliberal wave of identity politics in the form of intersectionality and privilege theory. I argue that it is a repression of self by self, which precludes connection, bypasses freedom, and generates ressentiment. I explore a specific case study of the political deadlock between a current of radical feminists and a current of transgender and transsexual activists, which has played out on social media and across university campuses.

Freedom has become dangerously lost in the contradiction of identity politics. As Brown (1995: 65) observes:

“politicized identities generated out of liberal, disciplinary societies, insofar as they are premised on exclusion from a universal ideal, require that ideal, as well as their exclusion from it, for their own continuing existence as identities.”

Brown (1995: 66) develops Nietzsche’s concept of ressentiment to explain how the desired impulse of politicized identity to “inscribe in the law and other political registers its historical and present pain” forecloses “an imagined future of power to make itself”. What one has instead of freedom then is the production of ressentiment:

Ressentiment in this context is a triple achievement: it produces an affect (rage, righteousness) that overwhelms the hurt; it produces a culprit responsible for the hurt; and it produces a site of revenge to displace the hurt (a place to inflict hurt as the sufferer has been hurt).” (Brown, 1995: 68)

We are left with an effort to anaesthetize and to externalize what is unendurable.

The radical feminist and trans activist deadlock is the privilege production of impasse, and a symptom of acute political distress in which freedom has been abandoned for ressentiment.

The chasm Marx identifies between human beings as, on the one hand, citizens of a universal political community and, on the other hand, private, alienated, egoistic individuals of a civil society, is reflected in the contradiction of a neoliberal wave of identity politics considered and critiqued in my chapter and its podcast.

Our journey back to the dream of freedom requires us making a case for supplanting a politics of “I am” – which closes down identity, and fixes it within a social and moral hierarchy – with a politics of “I want this for us” (Brown, 1995: 75 [my emphasis]). If we fail to help make this happen, we will remain locked in a history that has “weight but no trajectory, mass but no coherence, force but no direction,” thus stagnated in a “war without ends or end” (Brown, 1995: 71).

(See also my earlier blog post, The evacuation of human emancipation, identity politics, and ‘ressentiment’)

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Labour conference: Brexit and freedom of movement not to be voted on

September 25, 2017 at 1:11 pm (Anti-Racism, Civil liberties, Europe, Human rights, immigration, internationalism, labour party, Migrants, posted by JD, reformism, solidarity)

By Pete Radcliff, Broxtowe Momentum

Big disappointment that freedom of movement was not discussed at Party conference. Conferences should be about debating differences not only giving predictable 99 percent near universal acclamations.

All the indications are that freedom of movement would have safely won if it had been debated.

Before the priority vote, a 1,000-strong demo took place outside conference largely organised by Lib Dems and Greens. I would guess at least 20-30 percent of demonstrators were migrant workers. There are a great number on the South coast. These people and their friends are seriously concerned about the mixed messages from the Party.

I was loudly selling Clarion to the demonstrators with its free movement front cover and many articles on the Labour Campaign for Freedom of Movement. There was excitement when I told them that we might get freedom of movement debated and passed at Labour conference.

I had a great response. Demonstrators were forcing on me ten pound note contributions – that doesn’t often happen!

The lessons of Labour’s success in the recent general election is that our policies need to be simple and clear. No ‘ifs’, no ‘buts’.

We will see what the NEC statement says today. I fear those migrant workers will scratch their heads, if they even read it.

Labour’s needs to say clearly, as Corbyn said last year, that immigration is NOT a problem. Capitalism, exploitation are.

Solidarity with migrant workers. Fight on for freedom of movement.

Let us know what you think? Write a reply? Btl comments welcome here at Shiraz and at theclarionmag@gmail.com

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Trump spurs athletes into action

September 25, 2017 at 8:11 am (Asshole, civil rights, Human rights, nationalism, populism, posted by JD, protest, Racism, solidarity, spoofs, Trump, United States)

From the US SocialistWorker.org, September 25, 2017:

On Sunday, players for teams throughout the NFL took a knee during the National Anthem or otherwise showed their disdain for Donald Trump’s bigoted and ignorant remarks about protesting athletes and the game of football. In his column for TheNation.com, Dave Zirin dissects Trump’s comments to reveal just how divisive and narcissistic he is.

Members of the Baltimore Ravens kneel in protest during the National Anthem

Members of the Baltimore Ravens kneel in protest during the National Anthem

IT’S EXHAUSTING to have a president who gets angrier at outspoken Black athletes than at Nazis. It’s exhausting how shameless he is about his bigotry and his toxicity. This is a president who never played football. He never served in the armed forces. He frets over what conclusions we draw from the size of his hands. His skin is thinner than the gossamer wings of a butterfly. He is the epitome of a bullying but frail brand of masculinity. He belongs in a psychological textbook as a case study, not in the White House. Look at Trump’s comments–in their entirety–about the current state of the National Football League, from his speech at a campaign rally in Huntsville, Alabama:

Wouldn’t you love to see one of these NFL owners, when somebody disrespects our flag, to say, “Get that son of a bitch off the field right now, out, he’s fired. He’s FIRED!” You know, some owner is gonna do that. He’s gonna say, “That guy disrespects our flag; he’s fired.” And that owner, they don’t know it. They don’t know it. They’re friends of mine, many of them. They don’t know it. They’ll be the most popular person, for a week. They’ll be the most popular person in this country.

Then, the very week that the autopsy of 27-year-old former New England Patriot Aaron Hernandez went public, which found he had stage three Chronic Traumatic Encephalopathy, Trump claimed that the game was too soft. He said:

Today if you hit too hard–15 yards! Throw him out of the game! They had that last week. I watched for a couple of minutes. Two guys, just really, beautiful tackle. Boom, 15 yards! The referee gets on television–his wife is sitting at home, she’s so proud of him. They’re ruining the game! They’re ruining the game. That’s what they want to do. They want to hit. They want to hit! It is hurting the game.

This is Trump, the violent fantasist who dreams of a physical supremacy he never achieved, and has then spent his life expressing this insecurity and hostility through boardroom bullying and, of course, sexually predatory behavior. He has lived his life in thrall to toxic masculinity, but lacked the ability to prove this “manhood” on the football field, and then dodged the armed forces, never attempting to prove his “manhood” on the battlefield. He has chosen instead to spend a lifetime tearing down the people who have dared stand in his path, and the women who dared to say “no.” Call it irony, call it divine coincidence, but it’s stunning that the day Trump publicly yearns for the time when football fulfilled his vicarious desires of physical domination, Education Secretary Betsy DeVos on September 22 scrapped a key part of government policy on campus sexual assault. It’s so on the nose, a screenwriter would reject the scenario.

– – – – – – – – – – – – – – – –

BUT TRUMP’S speech wasn’t over. His radar, always firmly attuned to the worst impulses of his audience, turned his attention again back to Black players who protest, and he said:

But do you know what’s hurting the game more than that? When people like yourselves turn on the television and you see those players taking the knee when they’re playing our great national anthem. The only thing you could do better is, if you see it, even if it’s one player, leave the stadium. I guarantee things will stop. Things will stop. Just pick up and leave. Pick up and leave. Not the same game anymore, anyway.

SOME COULD argue that this is just a case of a divisive autocrat going after obvious targets of racial animus and of a base that doesn’t care if nuclear Armageddon looms, as long as they get their culture war–while Trump’s party gets its tax cuts for billionaires. But whether Trump realizes it or not, there is something else at play. These athletes are doing a lot more than sitting or kneeling or raising a fist during the anthem. They are offering up an alternative model for unity, justice and even manhood. They are showing that what makes an adult is whom you can help, not whom you can cuss, and certainly not whom you can destroy for shameless and divisive political gain. Look at the work that’s been done by Michael Bennett, Colin Kaepernick, Malcolm Jenkins, the Charlottesville scholarships just funded by Chris Long…the list goes on and on of NFL players attempting to use their platform to highlight a different path for healing this country. The anthem protest is just a means to that end, an effort to highlight the gap between the promises that the flag represents and the lived experience of too many people in this country.

This is a model of politics–as well as manhood–that threatens Trump’s entire agenda of poisonous, divisive narcissism. Look at the outpouring of comments by NFL players following Trump’s remarks. None of them have sunk to his level. Instead, they share the tone of Seahawk Richard Sherman who said, “The behavior of the President is unacceptable and needs to be addressed. If you do not Condemn this divisive Rhetoric you are Condoning it!!” The cornerback, who is not even 30 years old, is showcasing more adulthood then the 70-year-old president. This is the new reality. And Sherman is absolutely correct. To be silent in the face of this destructive person is to condone his actions. That’s not an option. This president is a child bully, and bullies are emboldened by our silence.

First published at TheNation.com.

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Roald Dahl: wonderful storyteller, vile human being

September 13, 2017 at 1:06 pm (anti-semitism, children, conspiracy theories, culture, Free Speech, Human rights, islamism, literature, posted by JD, Racism)

By Stephen Knight at  Godless Spellchecker’s Blog

ROALD DAHL FAILED ON FREE SPEECH AND THREW SALMAN RUSHDIE TO THE MOB

September 13th marks the birthday of the late and great children’s author Roald Dahl. In celebration of his prolific storytelling, the day has also been dubbed ‘Roald Dahl Day’.

Dahl’s exceptional storytelling was a huge part of my childhood. I adored his hilarious tales which were perfectly complemented by the illustrations of Quentin Blake. That’s what makes my loss of respect for him as an adult all that more regrettable. If you want to keep your rosy, Dahl infused childhood in tact, you may wish to go away now.

You may remember, or at least know of the fallout that continues to pursue Salman Rushdie to this day after he published a work of fiction in 1988 titled ‘The Satanic Verses’.

The book dealt partly with the life of Islam’s prophet, Muhammad. This didn’t go down well in the Muslim world, leading to then supreme leader of Iran, Ayatollah Khomeini, issuing a Fatwa for Rushdie’s death.

Rushdie requires police protection and had to live for 8 years in a safe house. Fortunately, he has avoided harm so far. Others haven’t been so lucky, namely a number of people attempting to translate his book into their native language.

History will look back at those who threw Salman Rushdie under the bus during this time rather unfavourably. Indeed, if Charlie Hebdo reminded us of one thing, it’s that the moral confusion of the left has remained alive and well since the Rushdie Affair. For some reason, it seems an even more egregious transgression when coming from those that write for a living themselves.

Unfortunately, Roald Dahl was quite vocal in his belief that Rushdie’s writing was the problem, rather than the fascist mob who wished him dead for a work of fiction.

‘In a letter to The Times of London, Dahl called Rushdie “a dangerous opportunist,” saying he “must have been totally aware of the deep and violent feelings his book would stir up among devout Muslims. In other words, he knew exactly what he was doing and cannot plead otherwise. This kind of sensationalism does indeed get an indifferent book on to the top of the best-seller list, — but to my mind it is a cheap way of doing it.” The author of dark children’s books and stories for adults (who himself once had police protection after getting death threats) also advocated self-censorship. It “puts a severe strain on the very power principle that the writer has an absolute right to say what he likes,” he wrote. “In a civilized world we all have a moral obligation to apply a modicum of censorship to our own work in order to reinforce this principle of free speech.”

And for a childhood destroying bonus round, a ‘dash’ of anti-Semitism from Dahl:

‘There is a trait in the Jewish character that does provoke animosity; maybe it’s a kind of lack of generosity towards non-Jews. I mean there is always a reason why anti-anything crops up anywhere; even a stinker like Hitler didn’t just pick on them for no reason.

Of course, the work of Dahl should be celebrated and judged on its own merits, but I also think it’s important to remind people which side of the argument he was on during this vital test of principles.

Stephen Knight is host of The #GSPodcast. You can listen to The Godless Spellchecker Podcast here, and support it by becoming a patron here.

  • JD adds: more on Dahl’s anti-Semitism, here

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Brexit bonfire of workers’ rights

September 12, 2017 at 9:36 am (Anti-Racism, campaigning, Civil liberties, Europe, Human rights, immigration, Migrants, posted by JD, scotland, solidarity, TUC, unions, workers)

 


Published in the Morning Star, Saturday 9th Sep 2017
As Brexit moves closer to Brexit, protecting workers’ rights must be foremost in our minds, says LARRY FLANAGAN

AS THE reality of Brexit moves ever closer, concern continues to grow within the trade union movement about the implications for employee rights.

With many of the rights and protections afforded to workers in this country deriving from EU legislation, questions arise about what will change once the UK is no longer bound by European directives.

Little comfort is gained from Tory government claims that its European Union (Withdrawal) Bill will seamlessly repeal EU laws and replace them with new versions which will become incorporated into UK statute.

Recent experience of other prominent attempts to simultaneously “repeal and replace” major pieces of legislation suggests that the loss of binding EU commitments will place many aspects of employment law at risk, subject to the political whims of government.

Post-Brexit, important gains in employee rights — such as health and safety protections, rights for temporary workers and paid maternity and paternity leave — are ripe for attack by right-wing politicians.

Britain has not always been at the forefront of initiatives to improve employment protections, particularly in comparison with the rest of Europe, so it is difficult to see an emboldened political right suddenly changing tack once EU safeguards are removed.

Britain has long had some of the most obstructive anti-trade union laws in Europe, and the obstacles facing unions grew even more daunting with the Tory government’s 2016 Trade Union Reform Act.

This highly restrictive Act, disingenuously portrayed by the right as a progressive piece of reform, is a politically motivated attack on the ability of employees to campaign through their unions.

In the context of Brexit and the Westminster government’s attack on trade unions through the Trade Union Act, it is essential that unions organise and that members are fully informed and engaged in the work of their own union.

The Educational Institute of Scotland will shortly launch a ballot on the renewal of its political fund — another restrictive aspect of British trade union law that obliges all unions which wish to campaign, on any political issue, to operate a distinct fund for the purpose and to ballot on its retention every 10 years.

Given the current political climate, union campaigning is perhaps more important than at any time this century so it is vital that the EIS, and other unions, maintain this political campaigning role. One slightly unexpected positive of the government’s Trade Union Act is that it has placed a spotlight on the value of unions, led by an active membership base, in protecting employee rights.

Although the government’s intent was to weaken union effectiveness, the legislation has provided a jolt and reminded members of the importance of being active in their union.

A key issue for the movement must be the rights of people from other EU countries who have chosen to come to live and work in Britain.

These continue to be at risk as a result of Brexit, despite some attempts to assuage concerns on this issue.

It is deeply distressing that many people who have chosen to make Britain their home, and who have made a positive contribution to many aspects of society, are being treated as pawns in political posturing and Brexit-induced haggling.

The fact is that many of these workers are fulfilling vital roles in our society and in our economy, including in our public services such as health and education, and do not deserve to be treated in this way by our government and demonised as they are by many in the tabloid media.

From the perspective of Scotland, migration is essential to the future economic prosperity of the country.

This year’s Trade Union Congress provides an important forum for unions and members to work together to stand up for employee rights, and to send a message that we will continue to fight for our members in the run-up to Brexit and beyond.

  • Larry Flanagan is general secretary of Scotland’s largest teaching union, the Educational Institute of Scotland (EIS).

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Musicians must be free to travel in Europe

September 11, 2017 at 7:40 am (Anti-Racism, Civil liberties, culture, Europe, Human rights, internationalism, music, posted by JD, unions, workers)


published in the Morning Star

Saturday 9th Sept 2017

Freedom of movement in Europe is a vital concern for performers who tour, writes HORACE TRUBRIDGE


THE fact that most unions here at the TUC Conference have put forward motions on Brexit shows just how important the issue of leaving the EU is to workers.

At the Musicians’ Union (MU), we have some very specific concerns that go right to the heart of what our members do and how they work.

Most professional musicians and performers rely on touring and travelling as part of their careers. Many of the MU’s 30,000 members work in Europe either on a freelance basis with orchestras, touring as an individual or group or working for theatre producers or orchestras on touring productions.

Some performers can be working in several different European countries over the course of a few days, and gigs or tours are sometimes arranged at very short notice, so the possible introduction of work permissions and/or visas for British performers touring and working in Europe could be extremely detrimental. Individuals without representation or financial backing are likely to struggle the most with the extra costs and admin that this might entail.

The vote to leave the EU is already having an impact in this area: the European Union Baroque Orchestra has already left the UK for Antwerp, in part due to concerns over restricted freedom of movement for working musicians.

In a post-Brexit Europe will a European festival find it easier to give the gig to a French band rather than a British band? That is my fear.

The MU is campaigning for reciprocal free movement for musicians and performers across the EU’s 27 member states, in the form of an exemption from visa and work permit rules for performers.

Over the past couple of months, we have been asking MPs and peers to sign up to a pledge — to ensure that professional musicians and performers continue to be able to travel easily across Europe post-Brexit for time-limited activities such as touring and performing with minimum administrative burdens.

To date, more than 80 MPs and peers have signed up to our pledge and we will be working with them to help ensure that musicians continue to be able to do their jobs post-Brexit.

Of course freedom of movement is not the only concern that we have associated with Brexit. The majority of copyright law that protects performers’ rights is enshrined in European law, and although we have had assurances that the government does not intend to reduce copyright protections post-Brexit, there are as yet no guarantees on that front.

Equally, the arts currently receive a great deal of funding from the EU. The loss of European Social Funds for arts organisations is going to hit particularly hard.

There are a number of regional music organisations that have been sustained by European Social Funding (ESF) that will see that money cease with very little chance of the shortfall being picked up by local authorities or central government.

During 2014-2020, the ESF and European Regional Development Fund were due to invest around €11.8 billion across the UK. How much of that money we will still receive remains to be seen.

The MU was vehemently against Brexit right from the start, not just for the reasons I have listed so far, but because Brexit threatens the whole culture of our country.

Music, and the performing arts more generally, rely on exchange of ideas and interaction between performers of different nationalities. Music flourishes in an open world with no borders — not a closed-off island that looks inward on itself.

Many of our members are themselves European citizens who have chosen to base themselves in Britain. They contribute massively to the culture and the economic success of our country. What does the future hold for them?

I haven’t even touched on the more general concerns about workers’ rights that we share with our brothers and sisters from other unions; concerns which I am sure will be discussed at length over the course of this conference.

The future looks bleak. And at the MU we would dearly love to see more MPs fighting against what most seem to have accepted as an inevitability. But musicians have faced many great challenges in the past, and we will meet this one just the same. My only hope is that we are able to reach an agreement that does not leave musicians, and the culture of our country, poorer.

  • Horace Trubridge is general secretary of the Musicians’ Union.

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Defend Reza Shahabi and all detained Iranian trade unionists

September 10, 2017 at 2:46 pm (Human rights, Iran, LabourStart, posted by JD, solidarity, thuggery, unions, workers)

The following report is based upon information received from the Shahrokh Zamani Action Campaign, dating from 31 August 2017. Presumably, the situation will now be even worse:

After 24 days on hunger strike Reza Shahabi’s health is deteriorating. His condition is now said to be serious.

Reza Shahabi, a member of the Executive Committee of the Trade Union of the Tehran and Suburbs Vahed Bus Company, was ordered to return to prison on August 8th. According to a report by this trade union, Mr Shahabi began his hunger strike protest on August 8th as he entered Rejai Shahr prison in Karaj. He is protesting about the legality of his case and prison conditions.

On August 12th the Trade Union of the Tehran and Suburbs Vahed Bus Company issued a statement regarding the return of Reza Shahabi to prison, saying that the Tehran Prosecutor’s Office acted against the law in not considering Reza’s medical leave as part of serving his sentence and also building a made-up case against him while he was in prison. As a result this labour activist has been sentenced to a further year in prison: “Even though medical leave is counted as part of a prison term, the Prosecutor’s Office is considering this jailed toiling worker’s five months’ medical leave, which had been approved by the medical authorities previously, as absence. In addition, while serving his prison term, through building a made-up case, the court sentenced Shahabi to a further year’s imprisonment to follow immediately after the previous conviction and Shahabi must be held in prison for another year and five months, until January 8th 2019.”

Reza Shahabi is now said to be suffering from numbness in various parts of his body. According to reports, in recent days, due to the increased physical and psychological pressures of the hunger strike, he is losing, or has lost, sensitivity in his left side. This problem is more pronounced in the fingers of his left hand.

According to the prison infirmary, where Mr Shahabi was examined during recent days, his loss of sensitivity needs to be examined by a specialist. Rejai Shahr prison neither has any doctor with this specialism nor have any steps been taken to take him to a health centre outside the prison.

Reza Shahabi is part of a large number of political prisoners in Rejai Shahr who are on hunger strike as a protest against conditions inside this notorious jail. Other hunger strikes whose health is deteriorating include: Saeed Masouri, Saeed Shirzad, Shahin Zoghitabar, Reza Akbari Mofared, Abolghasem Fouladvand, Hassan Sadeghi, Mohammad Nazari, Payam Shakiba, Mohammad Banazadeh, Amir Khizi and Mohammad Ali (Pirouz) Mansouri.

Already many labour organisations have supported Reza Shahabi and demanded his release. These include five French trade unions and confederations: Confédération générale du travail (CGT), Confédération Française Démocratique du Travail (CFDT), Union Nationale des Syndicats Autonomes (UNSA), Solidaires Unitaires Démocratiques (SUD) and Fédération Syndicale Unitaire (FSU).

The International Federation of Transport Workers (ITF) has also demanded that Reza Shahabi and Ebrahim Madadi, a fellow Vahed activist, be released.

Free all jailed workers and labour activists now!

Shahrokh Zamani Action Campaign
31 August 2017

Source: Harana News Agency and Trade Union of the Tehran and Suburbs Vahed Bus Company

Add your name to Labourstart‘s campaign, here

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Open letter to the deluded pro-Brexit “left”

September 7, 2017 at 12:48 pm (Anti-Racism, Civil liberties, CPB, Europe, ex-SWP, Human rights, immigration, Jim D, left, Migrants, populism, Racism, rights, Socialist Party, stalinism, SWP, Tory scum)

p46 - Potential measures
Above: the leaked Tory plans

Open letter to the deluded pro-Brexit “left”

Yes, I mean you lot at the Morning Star/CPB, SWP, Counterfire and Socialist Party:

I take it for granted that as self-proclaimed leftists, you are knee-jerk anti-racists and internationalists opposed to anything that tends to divide, rather than unite, our class.

And yet you called for a Leave vote in the referendum, and continue to back Brexit! In the case of the Morning Star/CPB, you oppose continued membership of the single market and customs union – in other words you want a “hard” Brexit!

To its shame, the Morning Star continues with this folly, publishing Daily Mail-style editorials that more or less explicitly back David Davis against the “intransigent” Michel Barnier and the “EU bosses in Brussels, Bonn and Frankfurt.”

Some of us tried to warn you about the Pandora’s box of xenophobia and racism that you were opening. Yet even when the Leave vote was immediately followed by a sharp increase in racist attacks and incidents (in fact, hate crime in general, such as attacks on gays), you wilfully closed your eyes and stuffed your ears, mouthing shameful banalities and evasions like “there was racism on both sides” and “racism didn’t begin on June 23rd.”

Well, yesterday we caught a glimpse of what the Tories have planned for EU citizens in Britain, or coming to Britain.

The plans are not yet official government policy, but all the signs are that they soon will be. The leaked document is explicit about ending a rights based approach. EU citizens arriving after Brexit would have to show passports, not ID cards; they would have to apply for short term two year visas for low skilled jobs; they would be prevented from bringing over extended family members and be subject to an income threshold (£18,600 per year) even to bring a spouse.

Employers, landlords, banks and others would have to carry out checks on paper-work. The hostility towards immigrants Theresa May deliberately stirred up as Home Secretary would intensify, and rub off on all “foreigners” and ethnic minorities, whether from the EU or not. British-born people of colour would inevitably find it more difficult to obtain work and accommodation.

As immigration lawyer  Colin Yeo  has commented: ‘The first and most obvious [result] is that the plans would make the UK a far less attractive destination for migrants. This is of course the whole point. The Home Office is protectionist by nature and worries only about security. The economy, consequent tax take, international relations and “soft power” international standing are considered worth the sacrifice. But what would happen to the sectors of the economy dependent on migrant labour, such as agriculture, food processing and hospitality? Are the public ready for a huge recession, massive job losses and reduced funding for public services and infrastructure?’

Andrew Coates, who knows a thing or two about France, has noted that ‘the scheme is a policy of National Preference, close to the demand of the far-right Front National, for jobs to go to first of all to UK Nationals.’

Deluded comrades: how are you now going to explain yourselves and your craven role as foot soldiers for the carnival of reaction that is Brexit? Your original  arguments and justifications for your pro-Leave stance during the referendum varied from the bizarre (after Farage and Johnson – us!) through the deluded (vote Leave to oppose racism!) to the frankly egregious (immigration controls are a form of closed shop!).

There was only ever one argument in favour of Brexit that made any sense from a socialist perspective: that EU membership would prevent a left wing government from implementing nationalisations and other forms of state intervention into the economy.

This urban myth has been perpetuated by left-reformist anti-Europeans and by Tory anti-interventionists for the last forty years.

But it’s wrong, at least according Article 345 of the Treaty of the Functioning of the EU of 1958, which states: ‘The Treaties shall in no way prejudice the rules in Member States governing the system of property ownership.’ This Article remains in force and makes a nonsense of the claim that existing EU legislation prohibits the kind of nationalisation, or other economic intervention, being advocated by Jeremy Corbyn.

But even if it did, is anyone seriously suggesting that if Corbyn gets elected on a manifesto that includes public ownership, he would not be able to implement it if we remained in the EU? Nonsense. As the pro-Brexit right continually reminded us during the referendum campaign, Britain is the fifth largest economy in the world, and (unlike Greece) would have little difficulty in forcing the EU to accept a Corbyn government’s right to introduce such relatively minor reforms as taking key industries and services into public ownership. Anyone who’s ever taken a train in France or Germany knows this.

But, for the sake of argument, let’s say you’re right and I’m wrong: what is the benefit for a social democratic Corbyn-style government, of voluntarily leaving the EU, rather than pushing ahead with its programme regardless, and (in effect) daring the EU to kick the UK out? That’s a question I’ve asked many times in debates with you lot, and to which I have never received a coherent reply.

As the reactionary, anti-working class and essentially racist nature of Brexit becomes more and more obvious, I cannot believe that anyone who calls themselves a socialist, is not appalled. It’s probably too much to ask the self-absorbed, self-deluded, ultra-sectarian groups that comprise the pro-Brexit “left” to simply admit that you’ve got it wrong, and reverse your disastrous policy on EU membership. That kind of intellectual honesty is not part of your culture. But I think internationalists and anti-racists do have the right to demand that you make it clear that you support free movement, oppose a “hard” Brexit and support the maximum possible degree of co-operation and integration between British and European people (and, in particular, workers via their organisations) in or out of the EU.

Is that too much to ask, comrades?

JD

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