Saturday, 31 August 2013

Saturday Miscellany

Hypocrites over Syria:

The one-sided and totally misnamed Stop the War Coalition is holding a march against intervention in Syria today. In a statement issued this week the StWC complains:

The truth is that this latest plan is about intervening to reshape the Middle East in the strategic interests of the West.

What about Russian imperialism one has to ask? Without Russian intervention the Assad regime may even have fallen by now but as much as the StWC whine on the truth is Putin wishes to maintain a strategic naval base in Syria.  Marc Goldberg writing at Harry's Place:

The gathering of warships in close proximity to Israeli territorial waters continues and gives a frightening glimpse into the way that the Syrian civil war has succeeded in sucking in both regional and international powers. Thus far the US, Russian and French navies have a presence in the Eastern end of the Mediterranean. Our own Navy is looking rather shabby in comparison to supremely cutting edge quality of the warships sent by some of the Great Powers. Except for our diesel submarines of course, which may explain why the Russians have sent an anti-submarine vessel along with a missile cruiser into the region. They appear utterly determined to defend their base in the Syrian port of Tartu.

One has to ask why the Stop the War Campaign ignores Eastern Imperialism, remember China though not present in the region also stands by Syria.

British Syrians & Friends in Solidarity with the Syrian Revolution

Meanwhile some Syrian activists have been demonstrating against... the Stop the War Coalition. You can find their Face Book page here:

A few days ago I posted a video of George Galloway on Press TV talking about his "theory" that Israel gave the chemical weapons to al-Qaeda. He's been caught out.......


Following the raid on their headquarters in Keiv this week, FEMEN activists have launched protests outside Ukrainian embassies in Paris, Berlin, the Hague, Madrid and Brussels.

Further info: FEMEN

Trigger Warning: contains partial nudity.

Friday, 30 August 2013

On homophobia and racism

Cross-post from the National Secular Society 
by Terry Sanderson

On homophobia and racism

Two weeks ago the Archbishop of Canterbury was in Monterrey, Mexico where he delivered a sermon to the effect that Anglicanism is standing on a precipice and risks falling into a "ravine of intolerance".
Mr Welby said the Church had to steer a course between, on the one hand, compromising so much that it abandoned its "core beliefs" and, on the other, becoming so intolerant that it fractured completely.
He said the atmosphere in the Anglican Communion was rather like the English civil war: what the church was fighting about was "incomprehensible" to people outside it.
He revisited the same territory this week in a speech to a group of evangelical Christians when he told them that young people considered the Church's attitude to gay marriage as "cruel" and "wicked". Even young evangelicals thought so.
Yet he still maintains that he did the right thing in voting against gay marriage in the House of Lords. It's worth quoting him in detail:
"What I voted against was what seemed to me to be the rewriting the nature of marriage in a way that I have to say within the Christian tradition and within scripture and within our understanding is not the right way to deal with the very important issues that were attempted to be dealt with in that Bill.
"The Bill was clearly, quite rightly, trying to deal with issues of homophobia in our society.
"As I said at the time in the House of Lords, the Church has not been good at dealing with homophobia — it has at times, as gods' people, either implicitly or explicitly supported it and we have to be really, really repentant about that because it is utterly and totally wrong. But that doesn't mean that redefining marriage is the right way forward.
"That discussion is continuing and the Church is deeply and profoundly divided over the way forward on it.
"I am absolutely committed not to exclude people who have a different view from me, I am also absolutely committed to listening very carefully to them.
"If the same thing happened again I would vote the same way as I did then but I am continuing to think and listen very carefully as to how in our society today we respond to what is the most rapid cultural change in this area than there has been for a very long time.
"We have seen changes in the idea about sexuality, sexual behaviour. We have to face the fact that the vast majority of people under 35 not only think that what we're saying is incomprehensible but also think that we're plain wrong and wicked and equate it to racism and other forms of gross and atrocious injustice. We have to be real about that.
"I haven't got the answer one way or the other until my mind is clear on this. I'm not going to get into the trenches."
So, the Archbishop is facing up to the intractable problem that defeated his predecessor. A church that is, on the one hand, deeply and hatefully homophobic (in its African divisions at least) and increasingly liberal in its European and American branches. It's the irresistible force meeting the immovable object. Rowan Williams didn't have an answer, and neither does Justin Welby.
The reason? There is no answer that will satisfy all parties. The only solution is to split, something the bishops are desperate not to happen. The Church is weak enough as it is, but would be even weaker broken into ever smaller warring factions.
Justin Welby's dilemma is insoluble, but he does not make it better by saying on the one hand that he deplores homophobia and five minutes later practising it in the most disgraceful manner.
If you put yourself up as a moral arbiter, you had better be consistently moral yourself. Mr Welby hasn't got there yet.
And in a similar fashion, we must take to task the Runnymede Trust which has recently published a pamphletsaying that Muslims in Britain must not be stereotyped — in fact, to do so is "racist".
The pamphlet then goes on to indulge in the worst kind of stereotyping. Even its title "The New Muslims" immediately herds everyone who has come from a Muslim heritage into being "a Muslim". If you happen to live in an immigrant community that originates from a Muslim majority source then, according to the Runnymede Trust, you are a Muslim.
Imagine if they did the same with "Christians". Imagine if, because you are white and Anglo Saxon (and perhaps live in the Home Counties), you were immediately identified as a "Christian" and lumped into a category that they had chosen for you rather than one you had chosen for yourself.
The Runnymede Trust says that it is "racist" to imagine all Muslims are the same. That is true, and we have long recognised that Muslims originate from different cultures and ethnic backgrounds. The Somalis have little in common with the Pakistanis and the Sri Lankans share little common ground with the Bosnian Muslims.
But what if you come from one of these countries and you don't regard yourself as a Muslim? What if you have grown indifferent to the "faith" that your parents (or the Runnymede Trust) assigned to you? What if you feel actively hostile towards it, as some do?
Just like in the general population, there are people from Pakistan and Iran and other majority Muslim countries who simply aren't interested in religion.
I have seen only one small survey of "Muslims" which measured their mosque-going. It showed that about a third of those questioned never went to a mosque. This is not to say that they didn't regard themselves as "Muslims" — in the same way that people who never cross the threshold of a church can still regard themselves as Christians.
But there are many "indifferents" in both Christian and Muslim heritage cultures.
This is something the Runnymede Trust doesn't seem to recognise. But it is a message that Maryam Namazie and the Council of ex-Muslims in Britain has been trying to get out for years.
So, who are the real "racists" here? Those who genuinely judge a person on his or her individual qualities and merits or someone who can think only in terms of "Muslims" and "Christians"?
Terry Sanderson is the president of the National Secular Society.
Date for your Diary!

The Annual Secular Europe Campaign March and Rally 2013

Thursday, 29 August 2013

Tory Government witch hunt against the civil service

The coalition Governments offencive against the Civil Service (and other public sector) trade unions is well known but the latest news to emerge  is that top civil servant Sir Bob Kerslake is the subject of an attack by Francis Maude. The Times reports:

Sir Bob Kerslake, head of the Civil Service, is resisting pressure to step down from his post next month and make way for a full time replacement, possibly from the private sector.

He is said to have poor relations with Francis Maude, the Cabinet Office minister, and has lost the confidence of the Prime Minister, who has asked Sir Jeremy Heywood, the Cabinet Secretary to look for a replacement.

This comes at a time when the Civil Service is under unprecedented pressure to cut costs, reduce jobs and at the same time supposedly increase efficiency and performance. Over the last three years around 65,000 posts have gone and a further 35,000 are proposed by 2015.

Morale is already rock bottom amongst rank and file workers in the Civil Service as I can personally attest being one of them! News that further job losses are on the way are far from unexpected but how the Government expect the remaining staff to cope with ever increasing workloads is unexplained.

At the same time there is a clear steer from the Government to politicise the Civil Service. The Times reminds us that:

Under the second series of reforms published in July, ministers will be able to have extended private offices with more expert political advisers, but many want to go farther.

This takes place at a time when the rights of trade union reps have been drastically reduced and facilities to assist members have been reduced to the most basic level they can get away with under the law.

Simultaneously Eric Pickles has decided to attempt the end "check off" system (whereby union subscriptions are collected via the payroll) starting with his own Department for Communities and Local Government.

This is nothing to do with saving money (it costs a mere £300 per year) but yet a further attempt to weaken trade unions. 

The PCS union is contesting this punitive move in court which will cost the Government thousands of pounds in legal fees. 

You can still protest about this by going to:

You can also join the demonstration outside the Royal Courts of Justice on 3rd September between 9:30 and 10:30.

Defend Your Trade Unions!

Syria: Use of Chemical Weapons is Inexcusable - International Trade Union Confederation

Syria: Use of Chemical Weapons is Inexcusable

The ITUC is calling for the United Nations to complete a speedy and thorough investigation into the use of chemical weapons in Syria, as details of the death and injury toll from last Wednesday’s attack on the rebel-held Ghouta area emerge.

Local hospitals have informed Médecins Sans Frontières that around 3,600 people have been treated for apparent neurotoxic symptoms, and that 355 of them have died.

“This is the fourth, and most serious use of chemical weapons in the Syrian conflict. While the Assad regime delayed approval for the UN inspection visit, the UN team should try to establish the full facts of the deployment of these horrific weapons, including any indications as to who carried out the attack,” said ITUC General Secretary Sharan Burrow.

Assad’s forces subjected the area to heavy artillery bombardment in the days following the attack, reinforcing suspicion that it was responsible. Syria is one of only seven countries to have refused to sign the UN Chemical Weapons Convention.

“The international community must step up the quest for a political settlement to end the violence in Syria, and has to act urgently to stop any further use of these appalling weapons. The people responsible for these chemical attacks must be brought to justice,” said Burrow.

ITUC website:

Wednesday, 28 August 2013

Police raid FEMEN offices in Kiev


The feminist protest group FEMEN have had their office in Kiev raided by police following a so-called "tip off" that weapons and explosives were being stored on their premises. The police have "found" a hand gun and a grenade. The Independent reports:

Police in Kiev said explosives experts were sent to Femen’s headquarters in the city centre after an anonymous tip-off. Objects resembling a Second World War pistol and grenade were allegedly found during a search. Officers at the scene said they had also found leaflets showing profiles of Mr Putin and the primate of the Russian Orthodox Church, Patriarch Kirill, pictured in snipers’ cross-hairs.

The AFP news service adds:

Ukrainian feminist movement Femen said Wednesday it was moving out of its Kiev offices, alleging official wiretapping, a day after police said they discovered a cache of illegal weapons in a raid of its premises.
The group, known for its topless political protests, is facing a criminal probe for possession of illegal weapons after police searched its offices in central Kiev on Tuesday, but said its decision to move out was made earlier over alleged bugging.
The group is moving "for security reasons, since it is impossible to work there now: everything is being listened to," the head of the Ukrainian branch of the movement, Anna Hutsol, told AFP.
Police said they confiscated a TT handgun and a grenade from the group's offices, while Hutsol insisted that the group did not have any weapons and suggested they could have been planted in the office while activists were away.

Defend the FEMEN Activists

FEMEN have  issued a forthright response arguing that the weapons were planted by Russian/Ukrainian security services:

(translated from Russian by Google)

FEMEN  movement claims that the weapons found in the Office, it was planted as a result of the Ukrainian-Russian special operation carried out by security forces.

Yesterday Kyiv Office of FEMEN was stormed by policemen and under the pretext of "an anonymous bomb warning" led the FEMEN activists from the premises. It is important to note that the other inhabitants of the same House, police did not take even warn of a possible explosion.

Being alone in a room of FEMEN Office awhile, police placed heavy gun, explosives and printed photographic portraits of Putin and the Patriarch Cyril. After some time, inviting the activists FEMEN in the Office, police officers searched the premises of the theatre play, which resulted in the basis subjects were found.

Against FEMEN activists were immediately opened a criminal case under article 263 of "illegal possession of weapons" punishable by 2 to 5 years ' imprisonment. The Office activists were taken to the police station, where they were given written explanations and then were released pending a decision on custody.

Movement FEMEN accuses Russian and Ukrainian secret services conspiring and committing criminal action to bring activists FEMEN.

Crime committed by Ukrainian special services and law enforcement agencies, shows the marginal nature of the Ukrainian political situation.

Tuesday, 27 August 2013

Stop the badger cull now!

Latest News from the League Against Cruel Sports

The Badger Cull has begun

Sadly it seems that bank holiday Monday saw the beginning of the pilot badger culls. As reports come in it is believed that operations are under way in the Somerset cull zone in Exmoor and will likely begin in Gloucestershire this week.
We will keep you updated.

NFU Injunction Update

The League supported the Badger Trust in challenging an injunction made by the National Farmers' Union to restrict “persons unknown” from peacefully and lawfully protesting against the Government’s cull.  After hearing the argument by the Badger Trust a far more reasoned and balanced order was made.

The final  injunction has been amended from the draft and now states that -

  (1) PERSONS UNKNOWN, participating in unlawful activity designed to harass farmers, land owners and occupiers and/or otherwise interfere with badger cull pilot schemes.

This means that it only attaches to those engaging in unlawful protest. For more information the Badger Trust have released a clarification document on the injunction.

The trial culls which form part of the Government’s long term initiative to tackle the spread of bovine tuberculosis (bTB) will see a devastating 5,000 badgers killed using the method of controlled shooting over the next few weeks.

The League, as part of Team Badger are urgently calling on the Coalition Government to see sense and listen to science, ethics and public opinion which all come out against the badger cull. We will continue our campaign to see this cruel and unnecessary policy of culling badgers dropped – But, we need your help.

We need the public to express their absolute opposition to the badger cull so that even if the current pilot culls take place, at least we can stop them spreading to other areas. There are different ways to do this, and you can help by doing some (or all) of the following:
Current actions against the badger cull

  • Please contact your MP and urge them to sign EDM299 to stop the badger cull being rolled out across the country if they haven't already done so. 
  • Members of the public can sign the “Stop the badger cull” ePetition set up by Dr. Brian May, which has already collected more than 245,000 signatures. If it exceeds 260,000 signatures, it will be a record for this type of petition. Sign the petition now!   
  • Team Badger launched a Myth Busters” document on 5th June. This document, which is a culmination of work and research by Team Badger members refutes the top ten myths supporting the badger cull in England and explains why the cull is doomed to fail. Please share this document far and wide – View it here.   
  • Social Media – Every Monday between 11am and 1pm is #badgermonday on Twitter. So if you have a Twitter account please express your opposition to the cull by using the hashtag #badgermonday between 11 – 1pm. Also every Tuesday is #PetitionTuesday – Please share the link to the Badger Cull E-petition every Tuesday. 

What's happened to date

The Labour Party tabled an Opposition Day debate on the Government's plans for a badger cull. Parliament narrowly voted against Labour’s motion calling for the badger cull to be abandoned. 250 MPs voted in favour of the motion and 299 MPs voted against, a difference of just 49 votes, despite the Coalition Government instructing (known as whipping) its MPs to vote against the motion.
Earlier the same month, the National March Against the Badger Cull saw thousands take to the streets of London on 1st June to show their opposition to the cull. The march was organised by London Against the Cull and supported by the League and other animal welfare organisations.

Public meetings were also held in both Taunton (20th April) and Dorset (24th May), by Team Badger. Speakers included musician Brian May; Gavin Grant, Chief Executive of RSPCA; and Steve Jones, retired dairy farmer and leader of the “not in this farmer’s name” campaign.

Monday, 26 August 2013

The politics of hate - BDS style

Reports have emerged on Harry's Place and Shiraz Socialist about the vicious campaign against Malian musician Salif Keita run by the anti-Israel BDS campaign. In a statement he writes:

On behalf of Salif Keita and the Salif Keita Global Foundation, we would like to thank you for organizing a magnificent unifying music festival, and a visit of the albinism treatment center in Jerusalem. Unfortunately, Mr. Keita will not be able to attend either events because of the cancellation of his show at the Sacred Music Festival.
 Although, the show was cancelled, Mr. Keita (and his foundation for albinism) would like to convey his most sincere apologies to all concerned, such as the concert organizers, the Albinism Treatment Center and especially all his wonderful and diverse fans in Israel. The reason for the cancellation is not one which was made by Mr. Keita, but by his agents who were bombarded with hundreds of  threats, blackmail attempts, intimidation, social media harrassment and slander stating that Mr Keita was to perform in Israel, “not for peace, but for apartheid.”  
These threats were made by a group named BDS, who also threatened to keep increasing an anti-Salif Keita campaign, which they had already started on social media, and to work diligently at ruining the reputation and career that Mr. Keita has worked 40 years to achieve not only professionally, but for human rights and albinism.
 Of course, we do not agree with any of these tactics or false propaganda, but management’s concern is to protect the artist from being harmed personnally and professionally. Although, we love Israel and all his fans here, and the fantastic spirit of unity of the Sacred Music Festival, as well as the important work your hospital is doing for albinism, we did not agree with the scare tactics and bullying used by BDS;  therefore management decided to act cautiously when faced with an extremist group, as we believe BDS to be.
 In addition, Mr. Keita is not a politician who plays for governments, but a musician who performs for his fans who are of all faiths and origins in Jerusalem.  It is unfortunate that artists like him are threatened by this group who falsely claim to defend  human rights, when they should take their concerns to governments or ask for support of their cause in a lawful way, and not by endangering the freedom of expression of artists, or using harrassment and intimidation of artists who play for peace and for all people, in order to bring some kind of justice to the Palestinians they claim to represent.
This final statement is spot on. Shiraz Socialist sums up the BDS thus:

We have argued many times here at Shiraz, that the BDS campaign to boycott and “delegitimise” Israel is counterproductive, of no real use to the Palestinian people and generally more about hatred of Israel than about solidarity with the Palestinian people.

Ian Anderson of the band Jethro Tull faced the same problem back in 2010. His statement was not only forthright but seemed to end the extremist threats:

“Having performed concerts in the Middle East region many times over the last few years, I am well aware of the ethnic and religious tensions existing, not only in the countries concerned, but in the broader international diasporas representing the various groups and their interests.
Having long maintained the position that culture and the arts should be free of political and religious censorship and a distance kept between them, I took a decision in February of 2009 that any future concerts in Israel by me or Jethro Tull would result in charitable donations to bodies representing the development of peaceful co-existence between Muslims, Jews and Christians, and the fostering of better Palestinian/Israeli relations. A number of potential charitable beneficiaries have now been identified and are under consideration.
I speak only for my own share of concert profits here – I am not about to tell the rest of the musicians or crew what views they should hold or what to do with their remuneration. Nor do I feel pressured by human rights groups, national interests or any individuals to perform or not to perform in Israel or anywhere else. I make up my own mind in light of available facts, with my own experience and a sense of personal ethics.
To those who tell me I should “boycott” Israel (or, for that matter, Turkey or Lebanon), I can only point out that on my travels around the world I am continually reminded of atrocities carried out historically by many nations who are now our friends, and it serves to strengthen my resolve that some degree of peace and better understanding may result from my and other artists’ professional and humble efforts in such places. If I had the opportunity to perform today in Iran or North Korea, hell – I’d be there if I thought it would make a tiny positive net contribution to better relations.
It’s a long time since Pearl Harbor, Auschwitz, Hiroshima and the firestorm of Dresden and I hope that, one bright day sometime in the future, it will seem a long time since the blockading of the supply flotilla to Gaza and the bombing of Israeli citizens by Hamas and Hezbollah.
So, I decided many months ago not to profit from my work in this troubled region and hope that interested parties on all sides will understand and respect my decision and resolve. The details of recipients of my charitable donation will be posted for the benefit of the doubters, as usual, on this website later in the year.
The boycotters are simply promoting the politics of hate and using the methods of bullying to achieve their ends. They must be opposed!

Support these Campaigns:

Engage: the anti-racist campaign against anti-semitism

TULIP - trade unions linking Israel & Palestine:

Sunday, 25 August 2013

Fighting slavery in the 21st Century

According to the Sunday Times, the Home Secretary Theresa May is planning longer prison sentences for slave masters who bring immigrants into the country and force them to work. They will also be banned from running companies under a new anti-slavery law. Most people will be aware of human trafficking, particularly with regard to the sex-trade but what people will find surprising is that the law will have to be adjusted to stopping this barbaric trade in human beings.

Slavery was abolished by an act of Parliament in 1833, though there were a couple of territorial exceptions until ten years later in 1843. This was due to the work of the Anti-Slavery Society which was founded in 1823 and its most well known proponent was William Wilberforce. The rest as they say is history.

Except it isn't.

Slavery is not just an occasional problem in the UK, but remains a world-wide phenomenon. According to former Conservative MP Anthony Steen quoted in today's Sunday Times:

Trading in human beings is now the second most lucrative criminal activity in the world and a new slavery act is required to tackle this growing evil.

It should include accurate definitions of the many crimes related to human trafficking; clarification of the powers for prosecuting and punishing traffickers, better provision for ceasing criminal assets... better and more accessible compensation for victims; proper long term support and protection for adult victims and better care and security for child victims.


The Anti-Slavery campaign still exists and runs campaigns to this day:


Anti-Slavery International, founded in 1839, is the world's oldest international human rights organisation and the only charity in the United Kingdom to work exclusively against slavery. We work at local, national and international levels to eliminate all forms of slavery around the world by:

  • Supporting research to assess the scale of slavery in order to identify measures to end it;
  • Working with local organisations to raise public awareness of slavery;
  • Educating the public about the realities of slavery and campaigning for its end.
  • Lobbying governments and intergovernmental agencies to make slavery a priority issue and to develop and implement plans to eliminate slavery.
Please go to their website for further information: 

Saturday, 24 August 2013

The politics of "anti-imperialism" exposed

Not to be outdone by George Galloway's latest demented rantings about Israel handing over chemical weapons to al-Qaeda, now the arm-chair anti-imperialist John Wight of Socialist Unity has entered the fray with his latest apologia for the brutal Assad dictatorship in Syria.

While the rest of the world is mostly convinced of the guilt of the Baathist regime in Damascus and UN inspectors being refused access to investigate, Wight makes claims that "the allegations don't add up", though does not seek to blame Israel for a change as his usual wont for a scapegoat in the Middle East. He does however admit to a little speculation as this extract makes clear:

No matter how you look at it, and at this point speculation reigns, the distinct whiff of a set up surrounds the allegations made by the Syrian opposition that the government deployed what looks to have been sarin in and around the Damascus suburb of Ghouta as part of its ongoing military operation to crush the opposition forces holed up there. 

We are told this does require a serious investigation but:

But let’s not pretend: from the outset the US, Britain, and France – along with Saudi Arabia, Qatar, and Turkey in the region – have been open in their political, financial, and military support for the opposition and the toppling of the present Syrian government. It’s instructive that of all the western powers lined up against Assad, France.....has clearly already decided that the Syrian government is responsible and views this incident as an opportunity to garner support both at home and abroad for some kind of military intervention.

The West’s hegemonic objectives when it comes to the region as a whole involves removing Syria as one element in the axis of resistance to those objectives. This has been clear from the beginning. With Syria as a pole of resistance both to the West’s geopolitical objectives and Israeli military domination removed, Hezbollah, a second part of this axis of resistance, would be significantly weakened. The major stumbling block to complete western domination of the region and its resources is, of course, Iran, which would be left isolated if both its close allies, Syria and Hezbollah, were defeated and/or destroyed.

There the kernel of conspiracy raises its ugly head and Israel finally gets a mention. The resistance that is under threat is the one that seeks to destroy Israel. The twisted little sister of anti-imperialism, anti-Zionism is the main motivation of Wight, a "prominent activist" in the nasty little sect in and around the Scottish Palestine Solidarity Campaign.

According to the world view of these rabid anti-imperialists, Israel and its "settler" population (so called in order to de-humanise the Jewish population) are at the centre of "World Imperialism" and should it fall all international capitalism will falter. Absolute bollocks of course and an anti-Semites wet-dream.

Wight was also recently eulogising against the Gay Rights movement for daring to criticise homophobia in Russia led by one of his icons, Vladimir Putin. Socialist Unity is renowned (and not in a good way) for its slavishness towards the clerical fascists in Iran and elsewhere. Andy "Cardinal" Newman treats genocidal Islamist Yusuf Quardawi as a source of inspiration since he quotes him at length in his attacks on women's rights in the Muslim world as part of a campaign to witch-hunt secularists.

Logo of the Syrian Social Nationalist Party.svg

Wight is in odd company with his support for Assad. The Syrian regime gave a guided tour to Nick Griffin and other European Nazis recently.  But then he is not the only one who seems to live in an odd little world. One of his supporters "SteveH" chips in:

The Syrian opposition, no doubt under orders, are inventing yet another chemical weapons attack to justify a Western led attack on the country, the opposition have not been able to win the streets so call in the gangsters. The scary thing is it is likely that the Syrian opposition will think nothing of using chemical weapons and then blaming it on the Assad regime, such is their degeneracy.
The West is getting desperate in it’s attempt to enter yet another war in this so called age of austerity, and a nice little chemical weapons attack they reckon will tip the balance, and allow them to carry out carnage and high criminality while occupying the moral high ground!
We all know how evil the West is. Like SteveH I live in fear of Cameron's secret police kicking the front door down and marching me off to the far away British Gulag in the Outer Hebrides.

Wight and his mates at the laughably named Socialist Unity use the excuse that Jihadists are fighting the Assad regime:

..a polyglot opposition increasingly made up of thousands of foreign funded jihadists from outside the country.

Of course that's true, but if we had acted at the beginning then perhaps the people of Syria who originally started the rebellion wouldn't have the growing problem of Islamists trying to hi-jack their demands for democracy.

Anti-imperialism and anti-Zionism in particular are the refuge of political charlatans and bigots usually seeking to replace their own lack of influence and inadequacies in the world by latching on to the struggles of others. Others like Galloway simply use false and hateful rhetoric to further their own egos, careers and fortunes.

Such people are an obstacle to individual liberty, freedom and peace and should be cast aside with no further adieu. 

Friday, 23 August 2013

An alternative view on fracking

The environmental protests in Sussex over fracking have been in the news recently, in part due to the fact its' not the usual suspects taking up the cudgel, but the local middle classes. Though it has to be pointed out that the Green movement has joined in recently.

Friends of the Earth logo

The normal view from the environmentalists is summed up by Friends of the Earth thus:

To extract the gas, water and toxic chemicals are pumped underground under high pressure using a risky technique called fracking.
In the United States shale gas drilling has been linked to water and air pollution.
In the UK fracking triggered earthquakes at the test-drilling sites in Lancashire. Despite this, the Government has given the green light for fracking to continue.
FOE have produced the following briefing:

I was interested to see the following statement produced by Transition Dorking who take a somewhat slightly different view:

We have all learnt a new word recently – “fracking”. We have also seen that protestors, in nearby Sussex, and environmental groups are strongly opposed to fracking. We expected when we began looking into it that we too, as Transition Dorking, would be violently opposed. But we have come to a rather surprising, to us, conclusion.

Fracking is shorthand for ‘hydraulic fracturing’. It is a technology used in the oil industry for at least 5 decades, and involves pumping fluids and sand into the bottom of a gas (or oil) well. This creates small cracks or fractures in reservoir rock, generally lying 1 to 2 miles below ground, which allows gas to flow more readily increasing the production rate of the well.

We need to reduce energy consumption and dependency on fossil fuels. But, much as we might like to, we cannot switch overnight to using energy only from renewable sources such as wind or wave power. We will need to use a variety of different energy sources to manage this transition.  Energy sources have a range of environmental impacts. The ‘dirtiest’ soft coals and tar sands at one extreme release the most greenhouse gases, and sustainable wind, hydro and wave energy the least.
Shale gas produced by fracking is like other gases when burned as fuel, but the total environmental impact is high due to the energy consumed in the intensive drilling and complicated construction of the wells.  But the impact is lower than that of transporting gas in a liquid form from the Middle East; which is increasingly being used to replace declining North Sea gas supplies.

So if shale gas can be successfully, and safely, developed in the UK it could displace some much less clean energy alternatives – the imported liquid gas or coal fired power stations which will inevitably be needed in the short term while we increase wind, hydro and wave energy usage.
There is a danger that those with environmental concerns regard fracking as something that is always unacceptable. This is not a view that we can share. The issues around our use of energy are highly complex. Until we can rely wholly on renewable sources, our energy choices will always be about minimising the damage to the environment. It may well be that fracking is sometimes a less damaging choice than other options.

Personally I tend to go along with the latter providing there are stringent safeguards in place.

This is a debate that needs to be had. As much as I generally support the environmental campaigns run by Friends of the Earth and others, on this one I am not so certain.

What do you think?

Thursday, 22 August 2013

An indefatigable obstacle to peace in the Middle East.

The recent killing of hundreds of Syrian civilians in what is believed to be a major chemical weapons attack shocked the civilised world. The Assad regime has long been accused of deploying such weapons in their attempt to retain power and has denied such atrocities, but videos and pictures in the media seem to tell a quite different story.

Most of this has been covered in the media over the last few days but what needs addressing is the reaction of George Galloway MP on the Iranian Government backed Press TV.

George Galloway on Chemical Weapons in Syria

Hear his views on You Tube

Galloway is an absolute disgrace.

Who on earth is he trying to kid? The Israelis are putting weapons of mass destruction into the hands of Al-Qaeda? An organisation that seeks the destruction of the Jewish state, and impose an Islamist world dictatorship?

Total and utter nonsense, with questionable motives.

This is the same Galloway who saluted Assad's fellow Baathist dictator Saddam Hussein as " indefatigable" who went on to gas Kurdish civilians. 

Galloway is not fit to be an MP.


Update: I recently wrote about the growing split in Galloways Bradford Respect Party here.

It seems that the 5 dissident councillors have now quit according to this report from the local newspaper Telegraph and Argus

All five Respect councillors at Bradford Council have resigned from their party en masse in protest at the suspension of two of their members.
The dramatic move follows an internal row over MP George Galloway’s ambitions to become Mayor of London.
The councillors say they will not rejoin the party until the two suspended members, Ishtiaq Ahmed and Mohammad Shabbir, are “publicly exonerated and their suspensions revoked”.
In the meantime, the five say they will be continuing in their role as ward councillors, but as a group of independent politicians.


Wednesday, 21 August 2013

FEMEN breaks up with Tunisian activist


FEMEN confirms its break with the Tunisian activist Amina Tyler because of differences of opinion on tactics in the Islamic countries.

  After the success of the campaign FREE Amina and Tyler's release from prison FEMEN views the intermediate mission as depleted.

  FEMEN believes the charges of Amina are inspired by her and today's conformist surroundings, at least they are dishonest in relation to the efforts that have been made for her release.

  It is regrettable that islamist statements of Amina heard on the background of antiislamist revolution played out in Tunisia through, including Amina's sekstremist actions in the past.

 FEMEN calls for new heroines who are able to fight for their courage to shake the rotten foundation of Islamist world.

  Freedom for women of the East!

Go to: for further information.

Amina Sboui Quits Femen Over ‘Islamophobia’ and Asks about ‘Israeli’ Funding.

Cross-post from Tendance Coatsey

Amina: Worried About ‘Israeli’ Finance for Femen.
Amina then stated that she was worried about the finances of the organisation.
She expressed the view that she would not accept money from “America or Israel”.
Huffington Post.This morning on France-Inter the Tunisian Femen activist (imprisoned and still charged with outrage of public decency) explained why she had left the feminist group.
She highlighted her concerns about Femen’s ‘Islamophobia’.
Why did you decide to quit the Femen group?
I don’t know how the movement is financed. I asked Inna several times, but I didn’t get a clear answer. I don’t want to be in a movement supported by dubious money. What if it is financed by Israel? I want to know.
And then, I don’t want my name to be associated with an Islamophobic organization. I did not appreciate the action taken by the girls shouting “Amina Akbar, Femen Akbar” in front of the Tunisian embassy in France, or when they burned the black Tawhid flag in front of a mosque in Paris. These actions offended many Muslims and many of my friends. We must respect everyone’s religion.
But these actions were taken to support you while you were in prison. Why didn’t you consider them as such?
I thank them all for their support. Especially Joséphine, Marguerite and Pauline, who were also imprisoned. They took some good actions, but it wasn’t the case for all of them. They should have asked for my lawyer’s advice before taking some of these actions. This made my case even more difficult. Because of the protests I was charged with a new crime, “criminal conspiracy,” when I was in prison.
Have you informed the Femen group about you quitting the organization?
No. They are not going to like it, but that’s the way it is.
So, you decided to quit the organization, but you posted another topless photo just four days ago…
Yes, a topless photo of myself bearing a painted circled A, the anarchist symbol. It’s different.
Amina then announced her possible support for an Anarchist group Feminism Attack.
She declared that the “problème c’est tout le système” , the problem is the whole system (original – bizarrely translated in the English language Huffington Post as “I don’t like the system altogether”).
We strongly suspect this is the source of Amina’s ‘concern’ about the money behind Femen.
From what is known about their funding: the key player appears to be an individual named Jed Sunden. (6) Sunden is a Brooklyn-born American Jew who founded a major Ukrainian newspaper/media company; KP Media (which owned the Kyiv Post till 2008/2009 for example) , (7) and also is an active part of the Ukrainian jewish community. (8) Sunden was the man who‘discovered’ Femen and it was he who began to give them the oxygen of publicity (and notoriety) for their topless protesting in the Kyiv Post.
The anti-Semitic site (Semitic Controversies), continues,
This Jewish money and influence behind Femen seems to also be reflected in the organization’s public activities in so far as it protest against a vast number of things in different countries, including outraging Islamic opinion by performing topless stunts in North Africa and outside mosques in Europe. (13) This is in addition to Femen’s attacks on anything even remotely conservative as being‘patriarchal’ as well as their fairly crude hatred of religion writ large (and without qualification), but primarily of Christianity and Islam which they consider (as good third wave feminists) to be ‘evil patriarchal religions’ responsible for ‘innumerable atrocities against women’ as being intrinsically deeply oppressive towards the fairer sex.
There is plenty in the same vein from Russian racist sites, and the British ‘Stormfront‘.
This is a great shame.
Amina showed great bravery in protesting at sexism in Tunisia.
She still risks two years in Prison.
Amina betrayed not FEMEN but thousands of women who acted for her freedom during “Free Amina campaign” and because of who she is free now

Tuesday, 20 August 2013

Beating, tear gas and electric shocks: China reacts to environmental protest in Tibet

Press release from Free Tibet
Security forces in Tibet have responded with violence to a peaceful protest by thousands of Tibetans over mining in their local area. The incident is the latest of many clashes over mining in Tibet.
The protests began in Gedrong Zatoe county, central Tibet on 13 August as hundreds of Chinese workers arrived to start mining operations at three sites. Members of the local community converged at the sites and argued that the mine did not have a proper legal basis. They later erected large posters at the entrance to the site depicting Chinese President Xi Jinping and quoting a speech in which he talked of the importance to future generations of protecting the environment.
Photographs obtained by Free Tibet show security vehicles driving to the site and Paramilitary Armed Police (PAP) gathering at the scene. On August 16, after three days of stand-off between security forces and protesters, the PAP broke up the demonstration by firing tear gas into the crowd and beating them, including with electric prods. There are unconfirmed reports that 40 Tibetans were injured. An unknown number of protesters, both men and women, have been arrested and local community leader Kaitsa Soldor, who was reported to be among the leaders of the protest, has been missing since the incident.
Another protester is reported to have attempted suicide in protest. Sogpo Choedup, 27, was taken away by security forces and was hospitalised.
Mining is frequently the cause of protest in Tibet. In May, thousands resisted a Chinese company’s attempt to mine on a sacred site. In 2010, security forces fired on another mine protest. A central objection to the mining is that it is almost always undertaken by Chinese or multinational companies and that while the Tibetan environment suffers its effects, the economic benefits flow to non-Tibetan companies and workers. When a landslide killed more than 80 miners in the Tibet Autonomous Region in April, just two of those killed were reported to be Tibetan – the rest of the workers were Chinese immigrants.
Free Tibet Director Eleanor Byrne-Rosengren said:
“Every community has the right to determine how its land is used and environment protected. Tibetans care as deeply for their environment as anti-fracking protesters in the UK or Indonesians resisting logging care for theirs. Tibetans have repeatedly challenged Chinese authorities over this fundamental issue but they are denied the rights to protect their land or to protest when it is threatened. Yet again, the occupying Chinese state has resorted to brutal violence to defend its exploitation of Tibet’s natural resources and its devastation of Tibet’s natural environment.”

Photos can be found here:

Monday, 19 August 2013

The purges continue in the Socialist Workers Party

The summer months have seemingly brought a lull to the continuing conflict inside the Socialist Workers Party, until now it would seem. The leadership are preparing for another purge as this statement from an opposition member in Manchester SWP shows.

"Ian A" is apparently a leading member of the SWP's Unite trade union faction.

Statement on the removal of Ian A from Manchester SWP District Committee
On Tuesday 23 July a district meeting of SWP comrades in Manchester voted 30 - 17 with 2 abstentions in support of a slate removing Ian A from the District Committee.
The decision flies in the face of everything the Central Committee have said (which Amy Leather, one of two CC members present, underlined in her introduction to the meeting) about needing a united party to move forward and build the coming struggles.
The vote was taken in the absence of any real debate with no notice given that there would be a vote and with just two two-minute contributions allowed for each side. Some comrades had clearly organised to close down discussion. Many comrades were denied the opportunity to speak and, despite much protest, the Chair closed the meeting with 10 minutes to spare, going completely against our tradition of allowing important debates to run over time. Such behaviour besmirches our standing as a democratic centralist organisation. There is no precedent in over forty years of Manchester SWP district aggregates for such behaviour, behaviour which we have learned to expect from trade union bureaucrats but up till now has been unknown inside the SWP.
In what limited discussion there was, much was made of Ian’s involvement in the organisation of a “secret”, “permanent” faction.
We reject these descriptions. We, along with others in the district and nationally, have been involved in discussions with comrades who share concerns about where our organisation is heading. We will continue to meet and discuss, not permanently, but only until the problems at hand are resolved. We have not lied about this, and we will not apologise for this. As Ian says in his article Reflections of an Oppositionist1: “If you believed that the party was being seriously damaged by a group of comrades putting one man above the party’s political principles, would you keep quiet because of any set of rules? Would you really put the constitution above socialist principles? Would you want to be in a party of comrades that would?” It was also argued that Ian’s presence on the District Committee was disruptive, preventing it from working properly. This is simply the opposite of the truth. There are no examples of Ian disrupting the committee. On the contrary, his contributions have been consistently constructive.
The decision to remove Ian is a factional move by a group of comrades who are determined to drive out any opposition from the party. They do so in the hope that this will make the problems facing the party disappear. It will not. The problems facing the party – the loss of hundreds of members and the potential loss of hundreds more; the almost complete collapse of our student organisation; a massive loss of trust in the leadership of the party (from both within the party and without) – will not go away by cleansing the leading organs of the party of comrades who raise concerns. These problems will only be resolved by an honest admission of, and a concerted effort to fix, the mistakes that were made in the mishandling of allegations of rape and sexual harassment against a leading member, and a thorough accounting of why these mistakes were not corrected quickly and how this has led to the biggest crisis the SWP has ever faced.
Ian is a comrade who has devoted years of his life to building the SWP in Manchester, has served many years on our DC, and is a leading comrade nationally who has led four strikes in the last ten years at his private sector workplace. In removing Ian from the DC, comrades in Manchester have shown that they are willing to use the body as a factional tool to dampen down debate and criticism, rather than an instrument of class struggle.
This is a disgraceful degeneration of our politics. Our CC has made very much of their “interventionist” approach to leadership in recent months, and yet the CC members present had precisely nothing to say of the completely undemocratic mode of operating that we saw from some Manchester comrades.
We reaffirm our commitment to work with comrades to build the working class and revolutionary movement in Manchester and beyond. Sadly, some comrades in Manchester have shown that they hold their factional interests above those of the class. We write this statement in the hope that it will illuminate the damaging behaviour of some sections of the party and the terrible degeneration of the party’s politics and practice. We implore comrades to engage with the concerns held by many in the party, including ourselves, rather than use bureaucratic methods to try and shut down debate. This approach will not lead to a more united and healthy party. Quite the opposite.
Ian A Geoff B Chris E Rick L
(Geoff B and Rick L currently serve on Manchester’s DC. Chris E and Ian A were suspended from DC in an earlier vote, in their absence, without prior notification, based on a partial email trail of dubious origin that purported to show involvement in ‘factional’ activity. Chris E decided not to put his name forward for re-election.)
More to come no doubt!