Selma, Alabama, 1965

March 8, 2015 at 8:15 pm (Anti-Racism, cinema, civil rights, posted by JD, Racism, solidarity, the cops, United States)

They wouldn’t let nobody turn them around

From the US Socialist Worker (ISO) website (nothing to do with the UK SW):

Marlene Martin tells the story of a landmark struggle of the civil rights movement that has been brought to life, fifty years on, in a new and justly celebrated movie.

THE STRUGGLE in Selma, Alabama, in 1965 was a pivotal moment in the civil rights movement. A new film Selma takes up a three-month period from this battle, beginning with Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. winning the Nobel Peace Prize and ending with the successful 50-mile march from Selma to Montgomery, which preceded the signing of the Voting Rights Act of 1965, one of two main pieces of federal civil rights legislation that dismantled legal segregation.

Prior to 1965, activists in the South had been working hard for many years trying to register Blacks to vote. The Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (SNCC) that formed after the wave of lunch counter sit-ins in early 1960 had made voting rights a main aspect of its work. SNCC had been in Selma, working with Black activists, helping to develop leadership, holding meetings and helping to organize people to register.

Amelia Boynton, a prominent local activist was frustrated with the slow pace of progress in Selma. So she reached out to Martin Luther King and his Southern Christian Leadership Conference (SCLC). King answered the call, and SCLC brought its resources into the struggle in Selma.

Review: Movies

Selma, directed by Ava DuVernay, written by Paul Webb, starring David Oyelowo, Tom Wilkinson, Carmen Ejogo and Tim Roth.

The film focuses on three attempted marches from Selma to the capital of Montgomery, to confront racist Gov. George Wallace. The first time, marchers tried to cross the Edmund Pettus Bridge in Selma, and they were beaten, whipped and denied passage in an orgy of violence known as Bloody Sunday. The Edmund Pettus Bridge is named after a Confederate general and Grand Dragon of the Klu Klux Klan.

In the film, this scene is intense. You feel as though you are on the bridge alongside the other activists, in a fog of thick tear gas. Then, all of a sudden, you see a horse coming forward and someone struck with a police billy club.

A few days later, with King at the head of it, activists attempt to cross the bridge again. This time, the troopers stood back to let the demonstrators pass. Whether King sensed a trap and was afraid of impending violence, or was concerned about violating a federal order not to cross before a coming hearing, King turned the march around. He lost respect among activists in SNCC and in the movement generally for this decision.

The third attempt happened several days later after a federal judge’s order cleared away all obstacles. Federal law enforcement agents were on hand for protection, and 300 marchers were allowed to march to Montgomery.

The movie is magnificent. It is filmed beautifully–many of the scenes are close-ups, with low lighting and actors speaking in soft voices, giving the filmgoer the sense of eavesdropping on conversations. The acting is superb, too.

But most importantly, the film captures the gut-wrenching sense of the human feeling of what it is like to be deprived of a basic human right just because you are Black, and what it takes to gather the courage and strength to challenge the oppressor. Director Ava DuVernay said people might understand the civil rights movement period intellectually, but she wanted people to feel it and make it “part of their DNA.” And she succeeds.

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Ferguson protests: Justice denied yet again

November 25, 2014 at 6:20 pm (Anti-Racism, civil rights, posted by JD, protest, Racism, the cops, United States)

This report comes from the (US) International Socialist Organisation and is the best coverage of the Ferguson protests I’ve yet been able to find:

A grand jury wouldn’t indict Mike Brown’s killer, but the angry protests in Ferguson and beyond show the struggle will go on. Nicole Colson and Alan Maass report.

Mike Brown (Elcardo Anthony)

Above: Mike Brown

DARREN WILSON has gotten away with murder–and the American injustice system sent the message once again that Black lives don’t matter.

It was long after dark on November 24 when St. Louis County Prosecuting Attorney Robert McCulloch marched to the microphone and announced that a grand jury had refused to indict the Ferguson, Missouri, police officer on any charge at all for killing 18-year-old Mike Brown on August 9.

This was the result that millions of people expected, but it was shocking anyway: A white cop who shot more than a dozen bullets at an unarmed African American teenager, killing him, was not only off the hook, but was being portrayed as a victim.

After days of rising tensions as the long-awaited grand jury decision didn’t come, people in Ferguson and around the country erupted in bitter protest. Even while Barack Obama followed McCulloch onto the airwaves to make his own statement urging peace, police fired their first volleys of tear gas and smoke grenades in Ferguson.

The media bemoaned the “violence” in Ferguson when a police car was wrecked and local businesses set on fire–without the slightest recognition of the violence that African Americans living in a city like Ferguson endure on a daily basis, directly at the hands of racist police and indirectly as a result of endemic poverty and unemployment.

Tory Russell, the co-founder of Hands Up United, responded firmly when asked in a CNN interview if he was “urging calm” after the decision. Russell replied, “I am urging calm. I’m urging calm for the police officers to not pepper spray me, tear gas me, mace me and shoot rubber bullets…People need to urge the police to be calm. Stop hurting kids, stop traumatizing our communities.”

The media vultures had their cameras trained on Ferguson, but there were angry demonstrations around the country after the grand jury decision was announced. In Chicago, hundreds of protesters took over Lake Shore Drive. In Oakland, Calif., in the largest protest in the Bay Area, the hastily organized solidarity demonstration drew more than 1,000 people who marched through downtown and later blockaded Interstate 580, one of the major routes through the city. Nearly a thousand turned out to Times Square.

There will be more protests today and in the days to come. We need to make sure everyone who was outraged by Mike Brown’s murder and inspired by the rebellion in Ferguson against racism and police violence raises their voices and sends a message: We won’t forget Mike Brown–and our struggle for justice will continue.

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Where to get news from Turkey

June 12, 2013 at 10:07 am (Civil liberties, democracy, islamism, Jim D, protest, secularism, solidarity, the cops, thuggery, turkey, voltairespriest, youth)

‘Voltaire’s Priest’, who founded Shiraz Socialist back in 2006, is exceptionally well informed about Turkish politics and has a number of Turkish contacts. Sadly, he’s no longer involved with the blog, but we’re still friends. I contacted him yesterday for advice about sources of information on the fast-developing crisis in Turkey, and Erdogan’s brutal clampdown on protesters…

Above: riot police in Taksim Square yesterday

…he recommended the mainstream liberal- secular Hurriyet Daily News (English language version here), and a fascinating blog called Istanbul and Beyond:

Here’s a flavour:

I must be careful of words—the old cliches don’t work anymore. Freedom, democracy, liberty, tolerance—the wrong people have used them for the wrong things for so many years. Sometimes with good intentions, sometimes with bad. My ears hurt to hear them.

So let me paint a picture.
Gezi Park, Taksim Square—The heart of Istanbul. To the left of the stairs that lead to the park, the Kurds dance the Halay in an everwidening circle. The Kurdish flag flies and the radio blasts guerilla songs. A crowd moves past them—‘Turkey for the Turks’ Kemalists most likely with red star and crescent banners emblazened with Atatürk’s face. They chant ‘We are soldiers of Mustafa Kemal!’ Down the path a little bit, they will come across a group of gay men marching in the other direction chanting, ‘We are NOBODY’S soldiers.’ They are hamming it up big time. Between the two converging groups you find a tent for the Turkish Socialist Party—old school hardliners, and another tent of middle-aged Armenian churchladies distributing cookies. Down in the main square, some Black Sea people dance the wild horon.
A few weeks ago, things would have been very different. The Kurds and Kemalists would have been fighting in the streets; the gay men harassed or jeered, maybe by the Black Sea boys, the Armenians would have been trying to keep a low profile and everyone would have beeb watching what they said—as afraid of each other, even, as they are of the government. But in Gezi Park this weekend they are all here, speaking out, without fear or censure. They don’t necessarily like each other—make no mistake about that–but they tolerate each other, they leave each other alone.
The media calls it a carnival or a festival or a party. But it’s much more organized than that—a funhouse reflection of a state. And together our protesters have created a miniature city within a city that reflects the dream of Martin Luther King—however ephemeral, however tenuous, however fast the army of police and marauders approach, people feel ‘free at last’.
Together, these disparate groups have built a ‘Museum of the Revolution’ pasting pictures of the police attacks and subsequent resistance in the abandoned trailer of the construction crew’s foreman. They have transformed the overturned and looted cars of the civil police into day-glo platforms of free speech—everyone grabs a spray can and writes what they think. And, in a first for Turkey, they write it with no fear or hesitation.
They’ve created a ‘Market of the Uprising’ where they distribute drinks for free. They set up a ‘children’s studio’ where kids get messy with tempera paints and create whatever they hell picture they want on huge sheets of white paper, emerging from their efforts covered in color.
They have trash teams that do clean up of the grounds and somehow have managed to publish two newspapers ‘Tomorrow’ and ‘The Future’ which they distribute among the hundreds of thousands of people who come to visit every day. They’ve set up a television station (online of course), a radio station, several different websites in a multiplicity of languages. They’ve created a ‘Parliament’ where different people come and debate each other and a moderator turns off their microphone whenever they get aggressive or insulting.
Now let me give you a bit of what Erdoğan’s AKP has in mind for these people—in case you couldn’t guess from the continuing brutal police attacks and arrests in Antakya, Ankara, Eskişehir and Izmir. Or from the tortures of detainees here in Istanbul (

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Hillsborough: a ruling class cover-up

September 15, 2012 at 6:53 pm (AWL, cops, corruption, Cross-post, Human rights, Murdoch, solidarity, the cops, Tory scum, workers)

By David Kirk (Workers Liberty)

justice for the 96

After 23 years of struggle the Justice for 96 Campaign have forced out the truth about the 1989 Hillsborough disaster and the deliberate cover up and smear campaign by the ruling class to shift the blame to the fans. The report of the investigation by the Hillsborough Independent Panel has not only vindicated the campaign by the victims’ families: it has made plain the cover up was much more widespread and calculated then even they realised.

This was a entirely avoidable and also entirely predictable illegal killing. From the 70s onwards fans, journalists and managers had been pointing out the dangers of tightly penning in fans on crumbling terraces. There had been plenty of previous disaster and near disasters that should have been heeded. However most football club owners were more bothered about maximising paying customers and spending the least possible money on safety or renovation. The police and the government treated fans with contempt; they were a “public order issue” to be penned in and treated as cattle.

Just before 3pm on 15 April 1989 South Yorkshire Police started forcing far too many Liverpool fans into one particular section of the Lepping’s Lane end of the Sheffield football ground. Because of the cages and barriers a crush quickly developed. Instead of responding to the fans cries for help the police treated the crush as “crowd trouble” and literally beat back fans trying to climb out.

Ambulances were kept out of the ground  by the police who were still insisted it was hooliganism even as the fatalities became apparent. Only one ambulance crew defied the order and drove on to the pitch.

This latest Hillsborough investigation argues that up to 41 of the deaths may have been avoided if the police response to the crush had been prompt.

Within hours of the disaster the cover up and smear campaign began. The local leader of the Police Federation, senior police officers and a local Tory MP met to decide the official line. That line was to blame the Liverpool fans themselves.

Rupert Murdoch’s Sun newspaper repeated these lies saying fans had urinated on the dead and dying, that ambulance workers had been attacked, the dead people had been looted. They also said fans had been drunk and violent. The lies were printed under the headline, “The Truth”. The Hillsborough Panel have proved these stories to be sick fabrications.

The campaign for justice and truth throughout has had to take on the police, the rightwing press and both Labour and Tory governments. Even though an earler inquiry and report, the Taylor Report, led to vastly improved safety in football grounds, the police made sure that the real truth did not come out. Over 100 police officers statements were changed to avoid evidence of police culpability.

The Tory press and party’s contempt for the people of Liverpool was well known. Liverpool’s trade unionists were too militant, their politics too socialist. So when the Labour government was elected in 1997 there was hope for justice. However these hopes like so many others were dashed by New Labour.

Through years of demonstrations, campaigning in the press, through the unions and through Labour Party branches the campaigners kept the issue to the fore. This still did not stop the smears and accusations of self pity coming from the right, including from Boris Johnson.

Now the apologies are coming thick and fast. The campaign will continue to demand police officers are brought to account and that the inquest be re-opened.

Hillsborough, along with the cases of Stephen Lawrence, John Charles De Menzenies and Iain Tomlinson, remind us how far the ruling class will go to cover up police brutality and incompetence. The families’ campaign also remind us how vital it is despite all the smears and obstacles to continue the struggle for truth and justice.

Justice for the 96!

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The Marikana massacre: a turning point?

September 1, 2012 at 10:22 am (africa, Human rights, Jim D, protest, reblogged, socialism, stalinism, terror, the cops, thuggery, trotskyism, unions, women)

This article was written before the shocking decision to charge the 270 striking miners with the murder of their 34 colleagues – using the apartheid-era “common purpose” law.

Nevertheless, it seems to be a well-informed account of what happened at Marikana and a compelling analysis of the historic significance of this massacre for South Africa as a whole, the ANC, and for the workers’ movement in particular. It is a crisis that will not go away.

The author, Martin Legassick, is a veteran South African Trotskyist and historian. It is re-blogged from Facts for Working People

The massacre of 34, and almost certainly more, striking mineworkers at Marikana (together with more than 80 injured) on 16 August has sent waves of shock and anger across South Africa, rippling around the world. It could prove a decisive turning-point in our country’s post-apartheid history. A recent report also states that autopsies reveal that most of the workers killed at Marikana were shot in the back. That is, they were escaping. A further blow to the initial police story that they fired because they were being attacked by an armed mob.

Marikana is a town situated in barren veld, dry brown grass in the winter, with occasional rocky outcrops (kopjes, hillocks). The Lonmin-owned mines – there are three, Karee, West and East Platinum – are situated on the outskirts of the town. Alongside two of them is a settlement of zinc-walled shacks festooned with lines of washing called Enkanini where most of the mineworkers live.
Towering over the shack settlement are the surface buildings of the mine, together with a huge electricity sub-station, with giant power pylons marching across the veld. This is the mineral-energy complex (MEC) which has dominated the South African economy since the 1890s, basing itself on the exploitation of cheap black migrant labour. But now platinum has replaced gold as the core of it. South Africa produces three-quarters of the world’s platinum (used for catalytic converters in cars and for jewellery) and has dropped from first to fifth in production of gold. The underground workers at Marikana are still predominantly from the Eastern Cape, the area most ravaged by the apartheid migrant labour system. One third are contract workers, employed by labour-brokers for the mines, with lower wages and no medical, pension, etc benefits.
Platinum rockdrillers work underground in temperatures of 40-45 degrees celsius, in cramped, damp, poorly ventilated areas where rocks fall daily. They risk death every time they go down the shafts. At Marikana 3000 mineworkers were and are striking for a wage increase from R4000 to R12, 500 a month.
The juxtaposition of the MEC with Enkanini, where outside toilets are shared among 50 people, where there are a few taps that will only trickle water, where raw sewage spreading disease leaks from burst pipes, and children scavenge on rubbish dumps, symptomatises the huge inequalities in South African society today. (More details on living conditions can be found in “Communities in the Platinum Minefields: Policy Gap 6” at Inequality has increased since 1994 under the post-apartheid ANC government. CEO’s earn millions of Rands in salaries and bonuses while nearly one third of our people live on R432 rand a month or less. The top three managers at Lonmin earned R44, 6 million in 2011 (Sunday Independent, 26/8/2012). Since 1994 blacks have been brought on board by white capital in a deal with the government – and engage in conspicuous consumption. Cyril Ramaphosa, former general secretary of the National Union of Mineworkers (NUM), who is now a director of Lonmin, recently bought a rare buffalo for R18 million, a fact contemptuously highlighted by Marikana workers when he donated R2 million for their funeral expenses. Unemployment in South Africa, realistically, is 35-40% and higher among women and youth – the highest in the world.
The media have highlighted police shooting automatic weapons at striking mineworkers running towards them from the rocky kopje where they were camped, and bodies falling to the ground dead. The police had erected a line of razor wire, with a 5-metre gap in it, through which some mineworkers were attempting to return to Enkanini to escape teargas and water cannon directed at them from behind.
But researchers from the University of Johannesburg (not journalists, to their shame) have revealed that the main killing did not take place there. Most strikers had dispersed in the opposite direction from Enkanini, trying to escape the police. At a kopje situated behind the hill-camp there are remnants of pools of blood. Police markers in yellow paint on this “killing kopje’ show where corpses were removed: there are labels with letters at least up to ‘J’. Shots were fired from helicopters to kill other escaping workers, and some strikers, mineworkers report, were crushed by police Nyalas (armoured vehicles). Within days the whole area was swept clean by police of rubber bullets, bullet casings and tear-gas canisters. Only patches of burned grass are visible, the remains of police fires used to obscure evidence of deaths.
There are still workers missing, unaccounted for in official body counts. The death toll is almost certainly higher than 34.
The cumulative evidence is that this was not panicky police firing at workers they believed were about to attack them armed with machetes and sticks. Why otherwise leave a narrow gap in the razor wire? Why kill workers running away from the police lines? It was premeditated murder by a militarized police force to crush the strike, which must have been ordered from higher up the chain of command.
Because of the global capitalist crisis, with a slump in demand for new cars, the price of platinum has been falling, squeezing Lonmin’s high profits. Lonmin refused to negotiate with the striking mineworkers, and instead threatened mass dismissals, a favorite weapon of mining bosses. They were losing 2500 ounces of platinum output a day, amounting to more than $3,5 million. It was in Lonmin’s interest to smash the strike. A platinum CEO is quoted as saying that if the R12,500 demand was won “the entire platinum mining sector will be forced to shut down.” (New Age, 20/8/2012)
But the massacre has rebounded in their face. It has reinforced the anger and determination of the Marikana mineworkers to continue striking. “We will die rather than give up our demand”, said one at a protest meeting in Johannesburg on 22 August. Moreover since the massacre workers at Royal BaFokeng Platinum and Anglo American Platinum have joined the strike. A general strike in the platinum industry is not ruled out.
The police chief, Riah Phiyega, visited police in Marikana in the days before the massacre. On the day of the massacre a police spokesperson declared “Today is unfortunately D-day” (Business Report, 17/8/2012). After the killings Phiyega said “It was the right thing to do” (The Star, 20/8/2012). The ANC government is implicated in these murders – in defence of white mining capital.
The massacre is in fact part of a pattern of ANC-police orchestrated violence against social protest, for example against Abahlali baseMjondolo in Kennedy Road, Durban in 2008-9 and in Umlazi recently, and which has resulted in the killing of Tebego Mkhoza in Harrismith, of Monica Ngcobo in Umlazi, of Andries Tatane in Ficksburg and SAMWU leader Petros Msiza last year, to name but a few.
Certainly the massacre has severely damaged the moral authority that the ANC inherited from the liberation struggle. Since 16 August President Zuma has gone out of his way to distance himself from the killings. He has deplored the tragedy, visited the site six days later – to a cool reception from the mineworkers – declared a week of mourning and established a commission of enquiry. He is hoping to restore the image of the ANC and of himself before he has to face re-election at an ANC conference in Mangaung in December. The commission has five months to report – which he hopes will cover up discussion of the events until after Mangaung. “Wait for the report before making a judgement” will be the watchword of the ANC and its allies in the next months.
Suspicious of the official commission, the mineworkers have called for an independent commission of enquiry, and the dropping of charges against 259 workers who have been arrested. “The same person who gave the order to shoot is the one who appointed the commission”, said a worker (Business Day, 23/8/2012).
Expelled former ANC Youth League president, the populist Julius Malema, has taken advantage of the massacre to visit Marikana, denounce Zuma, and give assistance to the dead mineworkers’ families. Also all leaders of the parliamentary opposition went as a delegation to a meeting in Marikana on 20 August to offer condolences – like flies hovering around a dead body. At the same meeting a procession of twenty or more priests each sought to claim the loudhailer.
The media have claimed that the violence was precipitated by rivalry between the NUM and the Association of Mineworkers and Construction Union (AMCU). This is nonsense. When the Marikana rockdrillers went on strike they wanted to negotiate directly with management, not to have any union represent them. This was made absolutely clear at post-massacre meetings in Marikana, and at the protest meeting on 22 August.
The strike was violent. In the week before the massacre ten people died, six mineworkers, two mine security guards, and two policemen.
Historically the National Union of Mineworkers, born in the struggle against apartheid, has represented mineworkers. It has a proud history of struggle, including the 1987 mineworkers strike, led by Cyril Ramaphosa. But since 1994 it has increasingly colluded with the bosses. At Lonmin it had a two-year wage agreement for 8-10% annual increases.
When the rockdrillers struck for more than doubled wages, NUM tried to prevent them. The strikers assert that the NUM was responsible for the death of two of them early in the strike. Two days before the massacre NUM general secretary, Frans Baleni, stated of the strikers, “This is a criminal element” (Business Report, 15/8/2012). Since the massacre Baleni has claimed it was “regrettable” but he has not condemned the police, only “dark forces misleading the workers” (see the video on the NUM website). Baleni earns 77,000 rand a month, more than 10 times what the rockdrillers earn. NUM members in Marikana have torn up and thrown away their T-shirts. At the Johannesburg protest meeting on 22 August an NUM speaker was shouted down by Marikana mineworkers.
The beneficiary is the AMCU, which before the strike had only 7000 members at Karee, a part of the Marikana mine where workers did not strike. (Its membership there was drawn in by a disaffected NUM branch leader after a strike last year.) Now workers from West and East Platinum are joining AMCU.
AMCU was formed after 1999 when its present president, Joseph Mathunjwa was dismissed by a coal mine in Mpumalanga and reinstated because of worker protest, but then faced a disciplinary hearing from NUM for ‘bringing the union into disrepute’. He was expelled by the NUM (whose general secretary, ironically, was then Gwede Mantashe, now general secretary of the ANC) and formed AMCU.
Today AMCU claims a membership of some 30,000. It represents workers at coal, chrome and platinum mines in Mpumalanga, and coal mines in KwaZulu-Natal. It has members at chrome and platinum mines in Limpopo, and is recruiting at the iron ore and manganese mines around Kathu and Hotazel in the Northern Cape. It has focused on vulnerable contract workers. In February-March this year it gained membership in a six-week strike of 4300 workers (in which four people died) at the huge Impala Platinum in Rustenburg, a 14-shaft mining complex with 30,000 workers. At this stage it is unclear whether it can build solid organization for platinum workers, or merely indulge in populist rhetoric.
AMCU is affiliated to the National Council of Trade Unions (NACTU), rival union federation to the Congress of South African Trade Unions (COSATU), both of them also born in the struggle against apartheid. COSATU, however, is allied with the ANC and partly compromised by its relationship to government.
The platinum strikes and the massacre take place on the eve of COSATU’s 11th congress to be held on 17-19 September. COSATU has long differed with the ANC on economic policy, and in the recent period has been racked by internal differences over this and over whether or not Zuma should have a second term as ANC president and hence, in the 2014 elections, as likely president of the country. COSATU’s president, Sdumo Dlamini, supported by the NUM and the National Health and Allied Workers’ Union (NEHAWU) supports Zuma. General secretary Zwelenzima Vavi, together with the National Union of Metalworkers of South Africa (NUMSA) and the South African Municipal Workers Union (SAMWU), is less keen on Zuma’s re-election. Other unions are divided.
Vavi’s political report to the Congress writes of “total state dysfunction” (concerning the failure of the ANC government to provide textbooks to Limpopo schools) and states there is “growing social distance between the leadership and the rank and file” of the ANC. (Mail and Guardian, 10-16/8/2012)
At its June Congress NUMSA passed resolutions on nationalization of industry and declared “that nationalization of the Reserve Bank, mines, land, strategic and monopoly industries without compensation must take place with speed, if we are to avoid sliding into anarchy and violence as a result of the cruel impact of … poverty, unemployment and extreme inequalities in South Africa today.” Under workers’ control and management, this policy could rapidly end inequality and poverty in South Africa.
(Malema and the ANCYL also favour nationalization of the mines, but this is interpreted as a desire to enrich predatory black businessmen who could sell their assets to the state).
NUM is less keen on nationalization. “We are for nationalisation, but not a nationalisation that creates chaos,” said an NUM spokesperson recently. In a June document NUM criticized “populist demagoguery… calling for nationalisation as the solution to… challenges” such as socio-economic conditions and failures by the mining industry to adhere to transformation or mining charter requirements (miningmx, 19/8/2012).
Vavi in his political report also drew attention to “a growing distance between leaders and members” within COSATU unions (Mail and Guardian, 10-16/8/2012)– which applies to the NUM, for example. Recently the NUM general secretary in a private meeting with Vavi warned him to cease his “one-man crusade” or face being unseated at the COSATU Congress.
Now the shock-waves of the massacre will reverberate through the congress. The differences could be magnified, and some observers even predict that COSATU could split either at or after the congress. Both factions of the COSATU leadership, however, are threatened by the erosion of the NUM and the growth of AMCU and other unions attracting disgruntled COSATU members.
A COSATU statement (23/8/2012) speaks of “a co-ordinated political strategy to use intimidation and violence, manipulated by disgruntled former union leaders, in a drive to create breakaway ‘unions’ and divide and weaken the trade union movement.” It says the COSATU Congress will “have to discuss how we can defeat this attempt to divide and weaken the workers, how we can … cut the ground from under the feet of these bogus breakaway ‘unions’ and their political and financial backers.” The threat to workers’ unity is a powerful stick with which to temporarily re-unite the factions in COSATU. This strategy will be backed by the South African Communist Party, which is influential within COSATU. In reality, of course, it is the NUM leadership who are dividing the working class, through their failure to represent the workers adequately, causing them to leave the union.
Were COSATU to split, were AMCU and other dissident unions to link up with this split, favourable conditions would be created for the launching of a mass workers’ party on a left-wing programme that could challenge the ANC for power. It would represent a combination of splits in traditional workers’ organisations and the emergence of new organisations. But this is not the most likely immediate scenario.
The consequences for Zuma at Mangaung are as yet unpredictable. They depend on how reaction to the massacre unfolds in the next months. Already it is reported that members of the ANC national executive are incensed at Zuma (Sundayt Times, 26/8/2012).Unless the ANC can manage the situation successfully, the waves of shock and anger could catalyse the beginning of the end of ANC rule. Certainly nothing will ever be the same again.
Martin Legassick is active in housing issues in the Western Cape and a member of the Democratic Left Front, an anti-capitalist united front. He visited Marikana in the aftermath of the massacre.

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The EDL provocation today: The biggest winner was the state.

September 3, 2011 at 10:00 pm (anti-fascism, Anti-Racism, AWL, Jim D, London, the cops)


By an East London anti-fascist on the Workers Liberty website

At the very best estimate, the scoreline for the events of 3 September in East London could be written up as 0-0 between anti-racists and the English Defence League. The biggest unambiguous winner was the state.

Although a clear and complete picture is yet to emerge, the day’s broad storyline is as follows: in the morning, EDL activists “mustered” near King’s Cross, gathering in pubs on the Caledonian Road as soon as they opened. After assembling there, they were escorted by the police through the tube system to Moorgate. It appears this was done in full collusion with London Underground management, despite the best efforts of some activists in the tube workers’ union RMT (see separate comment below). After piling out at Moorgate, the EDL were marched by police to a rally point by Aldgate station, meaning that they were effectively able to have a march (a noisy, lively march with flags, placards and chanting) as well as a lively rally at which their leading figures, including Stephen Yaxley-Lennon, spoke. Anti-fascist scouts attending the rally estimate that EDL numbers reached 1,000. They were then marched out of Aldgate, over Tower Bridge (giving them an excellent photo opportunity on a historic English landmark) and back onto their coaches.

Anti-racists held an assembly on Whitechapel, near the East London Mosque. It featured mostly bland speeches from the great-and-the-good of Tower Hamlets’ political and religious establishment, although did include some welcome points from trade union figures about the need to link the fight against racism to a working-class fight against cuts. One wonders how Tower Hamlets’ cuts-happy councillors and Mayor, with whom the SWP/UAF entered into an uneasy and unprincipled alliance to organise the “counter-demo”, took to such remarks.

Although initially small and made up largely of the existing left, the anti-fascist protest’s numbers were later swelled by several hundred local (mainly Asian) youth. The protest moved down to Aldgate East station (effectively defying the Home Secretary’s ban on political marches) so that all that lay between anti-fascists and the EDL’s rally were a few hundred yards of road. The problem was that the road was occupied by an immense number of riot police.

They were the real winners in today’s events. They put thousands of personnel on the streets of Tower Hamlets and were their usual community-friendly selves, hassling and stopping-and-searching people (who never seemed to be white, for some reason) seemingly on a whim. The EDL were prevented from crossing the borough boundary into Tower Hamlets by the tight policing of their rally, but were still able to hold their action (the size of which was worrying) in the multicultural East End thanks to police assistance and facilitation.

The police were enormously successful in preventing anti-fascists from getting anywhere near the EDLers themselves, meaning that the racists have been able to march in and out of the East End, holding a lively rally in between, without encountering any serious visible or organised opposition. Any triumphalist claims that the EDL has been “humiliated” because they did not manage to actually cross the borough boundary are unhelpful; certainly it is positive that they did not achieve their stated aim of marching into Tower Hamlets or past the East London Mosque, but the police can claim far more “credit” for that than the anti-fascist movement can.

The entire day had a kind of grim inevitability. The presence of thousands upon thousands of riot police on our streets, particularly when they are hassling Asian kids, and especially when they are actively facilitating large racist demonstrations, is absolutely nothing to celebrate.

Later in the day, there were rumours that local youth had damaged an EDL coach on its way out of Tower Hamlets, leading to a brief police clampdown that saw much of Mile End Road cordoned off. Certainly, those local residents have distinguished themselves and proved that their political instincts and courage far outstrips that of their official political and religious “representatives”, as well as the leaders of the mainstream anti-fascist campaigns.

The EDL will easily be able to spin the days events into a victory for them; equivalent spin from our side is not needed. What is needed is a serious examination of why our movement was unable to prevent 1,000 organised racists marching into East London and holding a spirited rally. Part of the answer to that question lies in the insistence of both wings of “official” anti-fascism (the Hope Not Hate campaign and the SWP-run Unite Against Fascism) of building unprincipled alliances with, and sowing illusions in, the political and religious establishment and, ultimately, in the state.

A mass anti-fascist movement organised on the basis of direct-action tactics and working-class politics could’ve have the strategic creativity to avoid police kettles and actually confront the racists on the streets of East London. It could also provide political answers to the social conditions that allow organisations like the EDL to grow.

Everyone who came out onto the streets of Tower Hamlets today was, undoubtedly, a sincere anti-racist. They deserve congratulation and commendation for not staying at home and hoping the day would pass off without incident. But the “victory” we won by keeping the EDL out of Tower Hamlets feels very hollow when the leadership of our movement – whether consciously or otherwise – remains reliant on the state to fight our battles for us.

Those who wish to see the development of an independent working-class anti-fascist movement must meet urgently to discuss today’s experience, and others, and organise to ensure that the next time 1,000 racists march into a multicultural area, with the full facilitation of the police, they do not do so without directly encountering the highest possible level of opposition.

A tube worker writes:

“I was at Moorgate station saying they should close it, but management chose to keep it open and the police chose to help the EDL travel in preference to other passengers. I even saw an EDLer make threatening gestures to an Asian man on the platform from inside a train before the doors opened, and despite being aware of it, the police still allowed the train to open its doors and let them out onto the very same platform where the man was standing.

We cannot rely on the authorities to protect us from racists. It would have been great if there had been hundreds of anti-racists there to “greet” the EDL, but they were a mile or two away listening to speeches and music. Our movement has to get its act together.”

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Banning the EDL in Tower Hamlets: a victory for common sense and decency?

August 28, 2011 at 10:31 pm (anti-fascism, Anti-Racism, Champagne Charlie, Civil liberties, class, cops, law, London, the cops, unions, workers)

Hope Not Hate’s Nick Lowles was in no doubt when the news came through on 25 August:

“I’m writing to you to share some great news. This afternoon the Metropolitan Police requested a ban  on the Englsh Defence League march in Towert Hamlets (on 3 September) because of fears that this would whip up tensions in the area and ignite trouble. It seems almost certain that the Home Secretary will agree to the ban.

“This should be welcomed. Whilst the EDL might still decide to hold a static protest they will not now be able to march through  residential areas and, most importanatly, march past the East London mosque. A static protest will be far easier to police and it will probably discourage a lot of EDL supporters from travelling.

“This is a victory for common sense. The EDL wanted to use the march to cause trouble and they probably would have been successful. They have now been foiled…”

We’ve got the banRead the rest here.

My reaction, at first blush, was to rejoice along with Nick Lowles. The EDL are a bunch of nasty, racist, far-right hooligans whose sole raison d’être is to intimidate ethic minorities (especially Asian Muslims), and  generally spread hatred, fear and division. Surely a ban has got to be good news for ethnic minorities and for all the progressive forces (including the South East Regional TUC, Unite, the NUT and various councillors and community groups ) who’ve been calling for it?

But veteran SWP’er Pete Gillard on the United Left discussion list, raised some problems:

“The ban is on all demonstrations (other than funerals and traditional marches) across 5 London boroughs for a month.

“I’m not sure what sort of victory that is. So if the Royal London Hospital announces more cuts next week, health workers won’t be able to demonstrate until October.

“The police are not using their selective powers under the (Public Order) Act to ban specific sorts of demonstrations. Their request for the Home Secretary to ban all marches is an attack on our right to organise.

“Just Imagine if the EDL announce that they plan to march in Manchester a weerk before the TUC demo at the Tory Party Conference. Would we be happy if our demo was banned at the same time as that of the EDL?

“The nature of the banning shows just how dangerous it is to ask a Tory Home Secretary to ban marches under a Tory law.

“The Labour opposition at the time put down an amendment at the second reading of the Bill: ‘This House declines to give a Second Reading to a Bill which, at a time when serious crime has increased by 40 per cent under this Government and the crime clear-up rate has markedly declined, contains no proposals which are likely to be effective in preventing disorder, while diverting scare police resources from fighting crime and at the same time seriously undermining traditional civil liberties.’

“I agree that the use of the Act in this way does seriously undermine civil liberties.”

The AWL’s Elaine Jones, also on the United Left discussion list, put it more bluntly:

“Banning the EDL march will do no good.

“The most recent example is the banning of a planned EDL march through Telford on 13 August. The Home Secretary, Teresa May, banned the march but the EDL staged a static protest in its place. The ‘ban’ did not stop the EDL from congregating, nor did it stop confrontations between the racists and their opponents. Several arrests were made.

“When the EDL was banned from marching in Bradford, their members were bussed into town and forces into a fenced-off car park. These tactics did nothing to stop ‘disorder’.’ Not only did members of the EDL throw rocks, stones and gas cannisters out of their ‘pen’, but a number of them broke out of the enclosure. This advance was only stopped by the quick responses of the local community and anti-racists, who used physical force to repel them.

“The Wellington area of Telford and the city of Bradford are very different places to inner city Tower Hamlets. Wellington and Bradford can be ‘policed’ to such an extent that the risk of violence is diminished. This is not so in large, inner city areas. 

“One last example: the EDL were permitted  a static demonstration in the centre of Manchester in October 2009. What happened? The police erected a steel fence around part of Piccadilly Gardens in the centre of the city. However, rather than being ‘bussed in’ to the protest site, members of the EDL marched from various parts of the city centre (from their assembly points in local pubs). The EDL marched regardless.

“Asking the state to ban the EDL from marching does nothing to prevent disorder and the risk of racist violence. In inner-city areas  a ban is particularly ineffective. If the EDL wants to march through Tower Hamlets, the police will not stop them. In fact, there is a risk of more than one march to the ‘static protest’ point.

“We should be opposed to the granting of any powers to the state to regulate, infringe upon or prevent political activity – they will use any powers at their disposal against our organisations. this is particularly important to say at the moment when the overriding ‘popular’ dynamic in the aftermath of the riots flows in favour of ‘law and order.’ There is already mass popular sentiment in favour of policing powers and granting new powers to deal with ‘trouble makers.’

“Against the calls to ban the EDL march, the growing ‘law and order’ tendency and the untrustworthy powers of the state we should organise for working class self-defence and mobilise the trade  union movement against the far right.”

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The establishment thought they could carry on laughing at the poor on Jeremy Kyle for ever. It turns out they couldn’t

August 9, 2011 at 2:58 pm (James Bloodworth, poverty, riots, socialism, the cops, youth)

By James Bloodworth; cross-posted from ‘Obliged to Offend’

The political reaction to the riots has already begun, with Cameron flying back
from his holidays amidst increasingly enthusiastic talk of the military being
deployed on British streets. Last night the rioting spread out of London and
erupted in Birmingham, Nottingham, and if reports are to be believed, Bradford.
The reaction of the media and politicians thus far has been a demonstrable sense
of not knowing how to react. As one Tweeter put it: “Simply repeating that the
looting is ‘pure criminality’ is like telling us the sky’s blue. We know that.
Why are our youngsters pure criminals?”.

It is a thoroughly dispiriting
sight to see large swathes of London engulfed in flames. Widespread looting is
taking place and the police everywhere appear overwhelmed by the sheer numbers
involved. To make a slightly fatuous comparison, it brings back memories of the
school playground on those once-a-year occasions when a sort of mass
disobedience erupted, the very psychological stability of the crowd
disintegrating as events unfolded.

Jody McIntyre has been sacked
from his position on the Independent for allegedly “inciting violence,” after a
Tweet encouraging the rioters; calls are being made to shut down London’s mobile
phone networks and target those using social networking sites to plan more
unrest; and the Etonions leading the country have been forced to fly back from
their European villas. I think I failed to mention that the stock market is in
freefall, too.

The response of the establishment thus far has been to
close ranks. Both Labour and the Conservatives are speaking in a unified voice
in a desire to attach themselves to the groundswell of reaction that is surely
on its way. Old Labourites who have accepted the “inevitability” of the
free-market can be heard dismissing the grievances of the rioters as “not
genuine,” rendering true the cliché that what was in the past “a response to
injustice” is always in the present “totally unacceptable”.

The reaction
of most comfortably-off people has been to dismiss the violent scenes as the
result of an over-indulged poor, giddy on benefits, feral and spoiling for
violence. This impression of the underclass, if you wish to call it that, is
acquired from television shows such as Jeremy Kyle and the reactionary press. In
reality, most people rarely come in to contact with those languishing on
Britain’s inner city council estates.

One ex-police officer on
television today remarked that the rioters appeared to be motivated by, not so
much a cause, as sheer, naked greed. The “greed is good” mantra is about the
only thing that has trickled down to the
very bottom of society in recent years. As Sean Matgamma points out:

“The deprived young people…have come out on the streets to fight
those they see as their enemy, the police, and to grab a little instant
prosperity…They live in a society where great robbers and swindlers are
admired whether or not they are legal, semi-legal or downright criminal. Where
they enrich themselves without any regard for other people.”

It seems quite likely that within a few days the talk will
move from reaction to offensive, spurred on, if I can say it without causing
confusion, by the forces of reaction. The law-and-order brigade is already
making itself visible in the guise of talking heads on the BBC news. The rioting
will give them the excuse to offer simplistic yet satisfying solutions to the
more complex problems of widespread poverty and the resulting hopelessness.
There are already reports of black people in London who are wearing new trainers
being stopped and asked for receipts, with the threat of arrest hanging over
their heads if they don’t provide them.

There is a lot of class hatred
swilling around right now; and however unpleasant the looting and destruction of
livelihoods is, the truth is that the hatred and spite directed for many years
at the underclass is being reflected back at so-called civilised society in the
crooked mirror of deprived estates up and down the country.

And therein
lies the establishment’s mistake: They thought they could go on laughing at the
poor on Jeremy Kyle for ever. As it turns out, they couldn’t

The Guardian has published a complete list of all the action, here. H/t: Roger

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Workers Liberty statement on the riots

August 9, 2011 at 7:35 am (AWL, Cuts, Jim D, police, socialism, the cops, youth)

By Ed Maltby 8 August.

The police murder of Mark Duggan, which has acted as the spark for huge riots across London and now in other cities, is not an isolated incident – barbaric as it was. Violence in custody, predominantly against black people, is routine. Deaths in custody, under restraint, or in raids, are obscenely widespread and regular. Stop and search is used as a daily form of humiliation. Police brutality against demonstrations and any form of political dissidence has increased. We demand the disarming of the police, an end to stop and search, the disbanding of special riot police units like the TSG, and of political police units, and for greater democratic oversight and control of the police – not the cynical insult which is the IPCC.

But the riots are not just about police violence.

The Labour Representation Committee has released the following statement:

“In March Haringey Council approved cuts of £84 million from a total budget of £273 million. There was a savage 75% cut to the Youth Service budget, including: closing the youth centres; Connexions careers advice service for young people reduced by 75%; and the children’s centre service reduced. Haringey has one of the highest numbers of children living in severe poverty, and unemployment in the borough is among the highest in the UK. In London as a whole, youth unemployment is at 23%.

“On Thursday 4 August a local man was shot dead by police. The circumstances of the death are still not clear, but – similarly to many previous cases – it appears the version of events fed to the media by the Metropolitan Police is a tissue of lies. The Independent Police Complaints Commission has opened an investigation, but given their histories of cover-ups no one can have faith in either the Metropolitan Police or the IPCC. On Saturday 6 August a peaceful demonstration marched from the Broadwater Farm estate to the local police station to demand answers.

“In Haringey, you are three times as likely to be stopped and searched if you are black; and over two-thirds of those stopped are under 25.

“Young people are suffering the brunt of the economic crisis, the cuts and, in many parts of the country, police harassment. The student protests in November and December 2010 highlighted the growing frustration and anger among Britain’s youth.

“It is in this context of unemployment, public sector cuts, and police violence and harassment that the riots on the 6/7 August must be understood.

“Some will used the riots and looting to call for further police powers, but instead the police need to be made more accountable to the communities they serve – and held to account when they kill. The IPCC has clearly proved itself unfit for this purpose…”

As the working-class youth of London, Birmingham, Liverpool, Leeds have been subjected to every humiliation the New Labour and then Tory-Liberal governments could think of, already deep wells of alienation and despair have grown deeper still. The police have made themselves the symbols of those attacks, and in many cases, have carried them out directly. We shouldn’t be surprised either at the outburst of anger, or that the police are the targets.

Neither can we be surprised that among young people subjected to such deprivation, in a society that rubs consumerism in their faces while making them poor, some will loot shops – and we understand that not only “luxury” goods have been taken, but also food and nappies. But what is their looting compared to that practiced by bosses who cut jobs, loot whole firms or whole regions, or force people to work for less than a living wage in order to enrich themselves? What is the thuggery of young men smashing up shops in a rage, compared to the thuggery of a police force that metes out random violence and racist humiliation in their communities?

Socialists should not moralise about the rioting – and in a confrontation between working-class black youth and the police, socialists should not have to ask which side they are on. But the riots have terrified many people, and left others homeless. Burning homes and shops will further depress poor areas, and give the Tories confidence to push forward with a reactionary crackdown. There have been attacks on firefighters and medical personnel. It is not a question of moralising. These things divide and weaken the working class, when it needs unity and strength to fight back.

An organised, political response would be a thousand times more effective than the undirected – and sometimes misdirected – explosions of anger of the last few days. But what organisations exist that could channel that anger? The blame for the lack of a more effective form of organisation must be laid at the door of the labour movement. The labour movement has a responsibility towards these communities. But we see a litany of failures; from years of social partnership, the shutting down of any real Labour Party youth movement, the sluggish, conservative attitude of unions to organising and fighting in low-paid, insecure jobs, to the failure of the labour movement and the left to create a dynamic, fighting movement that could attract – or be anything other than totally invisible to! – young people. Tonight, Labour politicians have rushed to echo the Tories and simply condemn the rioters. This is not surprising, but it is a total disgrace.

If we had a dynamic, aggressive, democratic labour movement, which could organise and inspire young people, through a political movement which could mobilise around concrete, ambitious demands and dispel the feeling of disenfranchisement and despair that characterises the desperate actions of the rioters, then we would have seen a different kind of social explosion. Socialists must redouble our efforts to make that happen. Workers’ Liberty invites activists to work with us to build such a labour movement, and help lay the groundwork for an uprising powered by hope, not despair – which could win genuine human liberation.

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Tottenham riots: Dave gets it right

August 7, 2011 at 6:55 pm (anarchism, Jim D, the cops, youth)

Dave says:

THE last time Tottenham burned, the local Labour Party was quick to takes sides. ‘The police were to blame for what happened,’ announced council leader and later MP Bernie Grant. ‘And what they got was a bloody good hiding’.

By contrast, current Westminster representative David Lammy has been quick to distance himself not only from last night’s disturbances, but from the events of 1985 as well. The comparison between the two stances illustrates just how far Labour has travelled over the last 26 years.

Over the next few days, condemnation will be heard from across the mainstream political spectrum. So it is worth asking such basic questions as ‘why did this happen?’

For the stupid right, it was an outbreak of thuggery, plain and simple. For Telegraph blogger Nile Gardiner – a Washington-based foreign affairs analyst, no less – the underlying problem is that the Coalition has ‘not gone far enough in reining in the deficit, and has not been forceful enough on issues like crime’.

Let me run that past you again. The proximate cause of the unrest was the action of the Metropolitan Police in shooting a man dead. Just how ‘forceful’ does Gardiner want the cops to be?

At the other extreme, past experience shows that sections of the far left regard riots as good things in and of themselves. ‘FANTASTIC TOTTENHAM – BRUTAL MURDERING MET COPS GET WHAT WAS COMING TO THEM’, proclaims obviously breathless Ian Bone.

‘Have not seen a riot like this with so much hatred, property damage and lasting into daylight since Toxteth 1981 … At last the working class have re-entered the arena. BIGTIME. THE REDISTRIBUTION OF WEALTH IN TORY BRITAIN HAS BEGUN!’

You just can’t beat a bit of good old fashioned property damage, can you? The insurance industry will of course reimburse the chain retailers for the looted plasma televisions. Let’s hope the burnt out small shopkeepers were similarly well covered. But the impact of the riot on an already depressed local economy is hardly going to be positive.

I am not a Washington-based foreign affairs analyst, or one of Britain’s best-known anarchists, come to that. My home in N16 is about two miles down the road from N17, in a broadly similar area, and I have lived in inner city north London for most of my life.

I can see the poverty and the dereliction from the window of the room in which I am typing this. I can see the racist policing, the homeless alkies, the untreated schizophrenics, the wheelchair-bound beggars, the street violence and the gang culture on an average trip to the shopping centre.

All of this goes on just a short bus ride away from the fabulous wealth of the City, which is where I work, and where million pound bonuses continue to be dished out with the same regularity as P45s are handed to low-paid shopworkers. I’m all in favour of beginning the redistribution of wealth in Tory Britain, but I’d rather start it with the hedge fund boys than the local Asian convenience store.

The argument will go that the way to change this state of affairs is through the democratic process rather than the petrol bomb. But such is the degree of disconnect between all the major parties and the street that the chances of positive engagement are next to zero. There is instead the recourse of riot.

The depressing thing is that nothing has changed since the violence in Brixton, Toxteth, Handsworth and, of course, Tottenham, that scarred the Thatcher years. New Labour had 13 years in which to address the multiple problems of areas that consistently return Labour MPs. Despite some useful initiatives, its essential commitment  to neoliberalism meant that it was unable to do so effectively.

Now we are back with a Tory-led Coalition determined to enact policies that will make matters worse. As a result, the Met last night got yet another bloody good hiding. Isn’t that enough to bring about a serious rethink? Maybe we should phrase it more diplomatically than Bernie did, but the least Labour could do is to make the case.

NB: Dave lives in neighbouring  N16

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