www.chinaview.cn 2009-06-30 08:35:42 by Xinhua writer Zhao Wei
SHANGHAI, June 30 (Xinhua) -- Blue bricks, black tiles and European-style carvings -- all the trappings of a standard colonial home in 1920s in Shanghai.
When Chen Yi, later to be the first mayor of Shanghai in the People's Republic of China, conquered the city as the head of the Communist forces in May 1949, he found the house surrounded by farmland.
For Chen, the building was of particular importance: it had housed the July 1921 meeting of first 13 national delegates of the Communist Party of China (CPC).
Sixty years on, it is a museum to commemorate the birth of the Party and the starting point of the New China and, eventually, the world's third largest economy.
The museum is now enveloped in the lights of the fashionable and up-market Xintiandi (New World) shopping and entertainment district.
The cradle of China's socialist system is surrounded by the "capitalist decadence" that its founders would have disdained.
BIRTHPLACE OF NEW CHINA
The CPC is now the world's largest ruling party with more than 70 million members, but just 13 people representing about 50 members in total from all over China met at the home of Li Hanjun, in Shanghai on July 23, 1921. They included Mao Zedong, the first paramount leader of the New China 28 years later.
Inside the 18-sq-m hall where the meeting was held, the historic setting is recreated: a large round table surrounded by about a dozen round stools; on the table are a glass vase, ceramic teacups, an ashtray and a match-box.
In the next room, a first edition of the Chinese-version Manifesto of the Communist Party, and the original English typewriter of Li Dazhao, one of the first CPC leaders, are exhibited.
In September 1952 the site was opened to Party members. In 1968, it was opened to non-Party-member visitors and has since served as an "education base" for millions.
Most of the visitors were workers, peasant farmers, students and soldiers in the Cultural Revolution years. They regarded grey clothing and plain living as standards of socialism.
"The narrow perspective on socialism and capitalism has modified as China has changed significantly. After 30 years of opening-up and reform, the number of visitors from abroad has increased 10-fold. The site provides a window to understand China now and the CPC," says Ni Xingxiang, president of the Memorial for the Site of the First National Congress of the CPC.
The site received 350,000 visitors from home and abroad in 2008,or 1,000 on average each day, says Ni.
So far this year, more than 80,000 individuals, including 8,000from abroad, visited the museum. Forty years ago, the norm was group visits arranged by CPC organizations.
Escorted by his son, Zhang Youshan, a 73-year-old retired worker, is visiting the museum after traveling from the northeastern city of Fushun.
Zhang Hui, the son, says his father joined the Party just before retirement, but had long wished to see the Party's birthplace.
Zhao Ling, 60, a native of Shanghai, was "resettled" to a farm in Anhui Province during the Cultural Revolution. After she retired from a bank in the eastern province, she returned to Shanghai to live with her two daughters. As a youth, she visited the Party birthplace as a compulsory "political assignment", but this visit, accompanying her daughters, is for pleasure. She looks forward to window-shopping at neighboring Xintiandi.
"It's a place for young people to spend money. It's exciting," she says.
Tang Runxin, a college student from Hong Kong, is on an occupational training course in Shanghai. She appreciates the architectural conservation.
She will visit Xintiandi too. "It has investment from Hong Kong. Some of my schoolmates from Hong Kong wish to find a good job there."
Qiu Yeming, born at the start of China's opening drive in 1978,has worked as a guide at the museum since graduating from the broadcasting department of Shanghai Theatre Academy in 2004. He is the most senior guide and an instructor for about 60 young volunteers.
Wax statues, which reproduce the scene of the CPC's first national meeting, are the favorite exhibits, especially for young people, says Qiu.
College students, some are in pursuit of Party membership, want to know how the police learned of the Communist meeting, then illegal, being held there and the relationships between leaders at the time, Qiu says.
Some young people born in the 1980s and teenagers born in the 1990s see Mao Zedong a great person with a "mysterious air," says Qiu.
"Being a guide is not easy. We not only need to learn the commentary by heart, but also to accumulate useful information and knowledge."
Qiu's job has few perks, so it is difficult for him and his wife, who often complains, to withstand the temptations outside the museum.
"But I hold my ground and my parents are proud of me," he says.
He works part-time as a wedding MC. "Our museum president knows about my part-time job, and does not oppose it."
A NEW WORLD
Xintiandi, literally "new world", embodies "temptation" in Qiu's eyes.
The complex houses up-market bars, cafes, teahouses, restaurants of Chinese, French, American, German, English and Japanese styles, art galleries, and luxury fashion shops, all private businesses. A bottle of foreign alcohol can cost more than the monthly income of the average local resident. The talk revolves around stock markets in and outside China.
It's similar to the Shanghai of the 1930s, which was seen as full of "corrupt capitalist elements".
Ye Ruyan, marketing manager with Brown Sugar, a live music bar at the north end of Xintiandi, says the owners wanted the bar at the heart of new Shanghai's fashionable center. "Usually our bar receives 300 visitors at least on Friday or Saturday nights," Ye reckons.
Zhou Yongping, assistant to the president of Shui On Group, the Hong Kong investor in Xintiandi, says services at and around the complex yielded 1.36 billion yuan (199 million U.S. dollars) in taxes to the municipal authorities last year.
Ni Xingxiang sees no contradictions between this maturing culture of commerce and the founding goals of the CPC. "The purpose of generations of CPC leaders is to enable people to live better lives."
(Xinhua reporters Wu Yu and Xu Xiaoqing contributed to this story)
China's state-run news agency, Xinhua, is to provide English-language news broadcasts on supermarkets screens across Europe this week as part of Beijing's attempt to show a more favourable view of China to the outside world.
By Peter Foster in Beijing Published: 1:28PM BST 29 Jun 2009 DAILY TELEGRAPH
The broadcasts, consisting of brief news items and lifestyle features, are part of a massive public investment programme by the Chinese government aimed at projecting 'soft power' at a time when China is playing an increasingly important role in world affairs.
The programmes will be produced at Xinhua's studios in Beijing by a dedicated staff of 40 and sold to websites, companies and news agencies around the world, the agency said. Supermarkets in Brussels are reported to be among those that will be airing the broadcasts.
"China has recognised the importance of soft power, and through the medium of television and the internet the Chinese government aims to strengthen its influence internationally," Mr Chen said.
Xinhua has not divulged which organisations have signed up for the Xinhua broadcasts prior to the July 1 launch date, or what benefits supermarket chains would reap from agreeing to show the content, but the organisation said it had ambitions plans for the future.
"It's still unclear exactly how many countries and outlets will carry our English news, but we hope to expand these channels greatly with more broadcast partners by the end of the year," Mr Chen added.
According to reports in the Chinese media, the government has earmarked between £2.7 billion and £4 billion to expand China's media footprint overseas, with the long-term goal of rivaling global news networks like CNN, BBC and Qatar's Al-Jazeera for influence.
The announcement is one of a raft of outward-looking media projects currently being backed by China's ruling Communist Party.
The People's Daily, the Party's official newspaper, has announced plans to expand its coverage while China's state broadcaster, CCTV, has said it will revamp its news broadcasts for the first time in a decade.
At the same time, China Daily, the country's nationwide English-language daily newspaper, began overseas circulation this year while in April, Global Times, an affiliate of People's Daily, launched an English-language edition.
Although China has massive financial resources at its disposal, media analysts remain skeptical that China can win the hearts and minds of viewers abroad when it continues to place such draconian restrictions on media freedom at home.
Yu Guoming, the deputy dean of the Journalism Department at Beijing's Renmin University, said that the broadcasts were intended to help the Western world understand China better, reducing widely-held prejudices against his country.
However he cautioned that money alone could not buy credibility in an international media environment where transparency was at a premium and viewers were highly sophisticated in the way they consumed content.
"China has the ability to found the news channel as CNN or Al Jazeera Broadcast. It is not hard for China to invest," he said. "But in terms of news culture, I think there are still a lot of things for China to learn. It needs to be improved steps by step."
By Caleb T. Maupin Published Jun 29, 2009 6:13 AM - WORKERS WORLD
On June 16, 1976, the apartheid regime of South Africa faced the heroic Soweto Uprising.
Students in Soweto, a section of Johannesburg, marched peacefully against the imposition of the colonial language in the segregated Black schools. This language was an insult to the colonized population, on top of the horrific terror they faced in their everyday lives.
The police opened fire on the march. Among the first people killed in this barrage of repression was a student named Hector Pieterson. He was only 13 years old when he was killed for marching against South Africa’s racist, U.S.-backed regime. His fellow students carried his corpse; the image was immortalized in a world-famous photograph.
People from across South Africa came to support the ensuing rebellion of the students. The student revolutionaries and their allies bombed and set fire to symbols of oppression, and fought the state forces in the streets.
Hoping to squash the struggle for freedom, the oppressors responded brutally. Helicopters randomly fired machine guns into crowds. Corpses lay in piles around the Soweto police station.
Revolutionaries symbolically destroyed this police station during the aftermath of the rebellion.
U.S. Secretary of State Henry Kissinger canceled a scheduled appearance in South Africa. The imperialists he represented did not wish to highlight their support for mass murder.
A mass memorial for the victims was banned. At first, the South African regime attempted to claim that only 23 people had been killed. Now, most agree that the death toll most likely exceeded 600, possibly reaching 1,000.
Mass struggles, both armed and unarmed, defeated the apartheid regime. Divestment campaigns were carried out on campuses. Mass demonstrations were held throughout the world.
Longshore workers in the U.S. refused to unload ships from South Africa. Socialist countries supplied aid to the resistance. Cuba sent its own soldiers to fight the apartheid regime’s armies in Angola.
The African National Congress is now the strongest political party in the country. Nelson Mandela, the imprisoned leader of the resistance movement, served as president of the country for five years after the downfall of apartheid.
June 16 is now “Youth Day” in South Africa, to honor the student rebels in a country where apartheid is no more. When it fell—thanks to heroic struggles of the people—the Soweto student rebel slogan “Amandla!” (“Power to the people!”) was heard throughout the world.
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At last, a book on China’s growth that doesn’t paint migrant workers as pathetic victims but rather as aspirational individuals who now have far more choices than marrying the village idiot. by Neil Davenport
Nothing seems to arouse so much hostility and confusion amongst veteran liberals and left-wingers as China’s burgeoning economic growth and power.
Many seem capable of seeing only the downsides of Chinese growth. They express concern about the exploitation of migrant workers in China’s city factories. They worry about the effect China’s growth will have on climate change and they protest bitterly against China’s modernisation of Tibet. Defending China’s development today is considered to be misanthropic and adolescent.
In truth, applauding China’s economic development – while still criticising the Chinese regime’s authoritarianism – rests on a very straightforward but important point: China’s development benefits the people of China. That’s right, it benefits them. Although many aspects of China’s industrial growth involve hardship and pain, it still leads to a far better life than that experienced by generations of Chinese people who lived off the land. Indeed, millions of young Chinese people have already voted with their feet and have moved to the big industrial cities.
This is the main argument put forward by American-Chinese writer, Leslie T Chang, in Factory Girls: Voices from the Heart of Modern China. It’s a firsthand account of what it is like to be a young Chinese woman migrating from village to city, from field to factory. And it tells a heart-soaring, inspirational story along the way. Rather than narrowly focusing on 12-hour factory shifts and mind-numbing toil, the book also captures the process of social and individual change in China with compassion and insight. Unlike the one-eyed anti-globalisation campaigners who deem modernity as reprehensible, Chang illuminates the humanising qualities that a dynamic division of labour brings. Above all else, Chang links the emancipation of these young girls – from patriarchal village life, from domestic boredom - with their arrival in the factory and the office.
Chang often cites a phrase that young Chinese migrants use to describe their decision to leave home and enter the city: ‘chuqu’ – ‘to go out’, as in ‘there was nothing to do at home, so I went out’. Describing Min, who left home at 16 to work in a factory, Chang says ‘she should have been scared. All that she knew was that she was free.’ Elsewhere, Chang says ‘to come out from home and work in a factory is the hardest thing they have ever done. It is also an adventure. What keeps them in the city is not fear but pride: to return home early is to admit defeat. To go out and stay out – chuqu – is to change your fate.’
“Chang delights at the rapid pace of change that invigorates Chinese society and individuals”
In the West, rural romantics are commonplace these days, and none of them will say just how stultifying and tedious rustic life can be – especially for the young. The Chinese girls Chang writes about might be working long shifts for a pittance, and they might be sharing a room with a dozen other girls, but they are also ‘having the time of their lives’. Chang writes: ‘Once you had friends, life in the factory could be fun. On rare evenings off, the three girls would skip dinner and go roller-skating then return to watch a late movie at the factory. As autumn turned into winter, the cold in the unheated dorms kept the girls awake at nights. Min dragged her friends into the yard to play badminton until they were warm enough to fall asleep.’
One of the progressive aspects of the factory system is that it brings thousands of people together in the same place. The work is frequently dull and the pay rotten, but the excitement of working alongside others offers some form of compensation. Indeed, it was precisely when women in America and Britain entered factories during the Second World War that traditional ideas of ‘a woman’s place’ were challenged. In Ben Hamper’s Rivethead, an autobiographical account of his time as a car assembly worker at Ford in Michigan, he points out that rural folk would happily travel two hours to work on the line. For them, the social aspect of work had a magnetic pull, and even the shabbiest of local bars seemed cosmopolitan and exciting compared to Hicksville. It is the same for these young Chinese girls – they see city life as an adventure and an opportunity. They have more choice than simply marrying the village idiot.
Throughout Factory Girls, Chang reports on how ambitious these young workers are. They attempt to learn English in their spare time. They join courses to improve their employment opportunities. They read and write fervently, even after a 12-hour shift. For them, this is all part of an important step away from rural China with all of its limitations and ignorance. Chang delights at the rapid pace of change that invigorates Chinese society and individuals. Recounting the story of a young girl who loses her ID and picks up another one, Chang says it’s appropriate because, through the process of urbanisation, the young woman has become ‘transformed, literally a different person’. She also notes that these 17-year-old girls usually become truly transformed and toughened up when they’ve confronted a factory boss about wages and working conditions.
Yet for many Western liberal leftists, such experiences only confirm how problematic and worrying development in China is. They lament the degrading and dangerous aspects of manual work in China (as if dangerous work had never existed before). As is so often the case, these arguments reveal more about Western preoccupations than they do about the experience of life in China today. Indeed, rather than seeing productive work as both necessary and transformative, non-Chinese observers seem capable of perceiving it only as psychologically damaging and harmful. It is no doubt alarming to delicate Western sensibilities that 16- and 17-year-old girls leave home in China ‘unsupervised’ to live and work in big cities. But in contrast, Chang admires these young girl’s guts and salutes their aversion to risk.
In this respect, the exciting developments in China only reveal how fearful and diminished Western attitudes have become. The decline of a work ethic in Britain and America, and a fear of urbanisation and proletarianisation, has become the myopic calling card of the political class and posh radicals. Having projected a falsely one-sided narrative back on to the history of Western industrialisation – environmental degradation, exploitation, etc – such commentators and activists now want to do the same with Chinese industrialisation, too. But the last thing China needs is to import such cultural attitudes, which could seriously undermine its commitment to growth and material prosperity. “Non-Chinese observers seem incapable of perceiving productive work as anything but harmful ”
Of course, as soon as anyone praises the increased productivity of China, they are accused of being right-wing or champions of a global neo-liberal agenda. But bandying around unpopular political labels is a poor substitute for properly explaining what’s happening in China or why aspects of it should be welcomed. Contemporary anti-capitalism has become a kind of dogma that is used to shout down anyone who thinks development can have a positive impact. For all their supposed ‘people not profits’ outlook, it is people who would lose out if the shallow anti-capitalists of today got their way. Their starting point is always a shrill and narcissistic objection to the profit system (and a dubiously argued one at that) rather than any appreciation of what is in the best material interests of people living in developing nations. For genuine progressives, seeking improvements in people’s living standards should take priority over some eternal ‘principle’ based on environmentalism, human rights or even what passes for anti-capitalism these days.
This was a yardstick that Karl Marx and Friedrich Engels employed when analysing the movement of society. Marx and Engels may have famously critiqued capitalism and slammed its social and economic limitations, but they also recognised its ability to improve people’s lives. They identified how the market system created a social division of labour, thus enabling more goods to be produced in a shorter time. This is what’s meant by progress. In The Communist Manifesto, they point out how ‘the bourgeoisie, in its reign of barely a hundred years, has created more massive and colossal productive powers than have all previous generations put together. Subjection of nature’s forces to man, machinery, application of chemistry to agriculture and industry, steam navigation, railways, electric telegraphs, clearing of whole continents for cultivation, canalisation of rivers, whole populations conjured out of the ground – what earlier century had even an intimation that such productive powers slept in the womb of social labour?’
For Marx and Engels, the growth of productivity and the forces of production were central to creating a more advanced society that would ultimately benefit people. The Russian revolutionary Leon Trotsky also applied the same yardstick when measuring social progress in any society. That is why he said that the Bolsheviks were, in the fields of mechanisation, ‘disciples of the United States’ which also wanted to build a society that outstripped Ford’s achievements. When examining China, a progressive place to start is to analyse how their social system could improve people’s material living standards even further.
It is undoubtedly the case that the Chinese working classes are exploited and suffer from poor working and living conditions. And any measures they take to improve wages and working conditions should be welcomed and supported. And yet, how the Chinese working class begins to emerge with a collective identity also raises broader questions about the lack of social solidarity in China. Without any sense of social solidarity at a day-to-day level, it is difficult to imagine how a new collective response to economic hardship could emerge.
This is a point that Chang explores in a variety of ways when assessing current barriers to Chinese growth. First of all, it is not the case that Chinese workers, managers and bureaucrats have an ideological commitment to atomised individualism. Rather, that individualism is a consequence of the autarkic character of the Stalinist command economy that China modelled itself on in the 1950s. The inability to create a proper social division of labour meant that people responded to shortages through atomistic self-sufficiency. The problem facing Chinese society today is that, leaving aside the spontaneous workings of the market, there is an absence of ideas or beliefs that can bind people together. In place of such social glue, there is a lot of quack ‘scientism’ babble and quantifiable ‘goals’, which tend to permeate all areas of Chinese life. And as Chang has discovered, this can actually work against the smooth running of the economy rather than assist it. “A progressive place to start an analysis of China is how their social system could improve people’s material living standards even further”
Chang describes a teaching method called ‘assembly line English’, which attempts to teach English as if the students are on an assembly line. Parts of the brain are apparently activated so that they can memorise more words. Chang rightly says that the pioneer of this particular snake-oil educational venture ‘reduced the whole universe to a string of chemical formulas’. Instead Chang identifies the lack of organic bonds between students, the absence of social glue, which acted as the real barrier to learning a language fluently. After reading Factory Girls, one gets the impression that every aspect of Chinese society, even intimate relationships, has been reduced to a string of facts or goals by so-called scientific experts. Whereas many writers on China identify only the problems that they are preoccupied with – the environment, human rights, etc – Chang expertly examines a problem that is specific to Chinese society and its future development.
Factory Girls is also a personal journey for the author. Growing up in America, she kept her distance from ‘the old country’ and ‘resisted its pull’ for as long as possible. But the opening up of China in the 1990s, and its impressive dynamism and development since, aroused her interest in her family’s country and roots. What is clear in the historical chapters is just how crucially important Chinese independence and national self-determination was, and is, for the people of China. The country might lack solidarity-based beliefs, but a sense of pride at being able to determine their own fate, free from external interference, pushes China onward and upward. Left-wingers who advocate NGO interference to deal with human rights or environmental issues effectively want to relegate China to a pre-1940s stage of development. Have these activists no sense of history, or no sense of shame?
This is why a book like Factory Girls really matters. By portraying how Chinese people are actually living their lives, as opposed to talking about how they should be living their lives, Chang provides a clear and dynamic portrait of Chinese society and the individuals undergoing transformation. The conclusion to be drawn from Factory Girls is not that development is dangerous but that its humanising reach cannot come quickly enough for millions of Chinese people. There is nothing misanthropic or childish or apologetic in advocating that. Neil Davenport is a writer and politics lecturer based in London. He blogs at The Midnight Bell.
Factory Girls: Voices from the Heart of Modern China by Leslie T Chang is published by Picador. (Buy this book from Amazon(UK).)
Publication: China Brief Volume: 9 Issue: 13June 24, 2009
By: Willy Lam
While the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) must have heaved a sigh of relief over the relatively uneventful 20th anniversary of the June 4, 1989 crackdown, central party authorities are adopting extra measures to defuse tension between local officials and the masses. Widespread anger at the callousness, corruption and other misdemeanors of cadres, particularly those at the level of counties and below, is deemed a main factor behind the tens of thousands of riots and protests that occur every year. The latest such disaster, where some 10,000 peasants from Shishou town, Hubei Province clashed last week with police due to the latter’s alleged cover-up of the suspicious death of a local resident, has followed upon the heels of similar incidents in Hainan, Guizhou and Yunnan the past year. In all these cases, law officers and other grassroots personnel offered protection to the rich and powerful instead of helping citizens who were victimized by corrupt cadres or triad elements (Reuters, June 21; Ming Pao [Hong Kong], June 22; Outlook Weekly [Beijing] January 6). Starting in the spring, the CCP Organization Department (CCPOD) and other high-level departments have launched an unprecedentedly large-scale campaign to “retrain” grassroots-level personnel ranging from civil servants to police officers and judges. The goal is apparently to nurture a new generation of officials who are “both red and expert,” meaning that they are politically correct, morally above-board and professionally competent.
In early summer, the CCPOD dispatched around 10,000 inspectors to local-level administrations to check on the livelihood of peasants as well as the “governance capability” of grassroots officials. As Organization Chief and Politburo member Li Yuanchao indicated, CCPOD cadres must “have a better grip on the situation and a deeper understanding of the grassroots.” While Beijing has not disclosed the number of corrupt or incompetent cadres who have been sacked, it seems clear that these CCPOD “plenipotentiaries” are eager to flush out the bad apples. More significantly, Li has passed along his mentor, President Hu Jintao’s concern for propagating officials who can better handle the increasingly complex “social contradictions” at the level of villages, towns and counties. This was behind the decision earlier this year to send several thousand county chiefs for short- and long-term programs at Central Party School centers in Beijing, Shanghai and Jinggangshan, Jiangxi Province. The CCPOD has also boosted the number of fresh college graduates who are being recruited as cunguan, or “village cadres.” In Yunnan Province alone, more than 60,000 college graduates are vying for 10,000 cunguan positions. Henan Province Party Secretary Xu Guangchun indicated last month that it might be a good idea for universities to offer more courses on different aspects of village-level administration so that graduates can seek a rewarding career as cunguan (Xinhua News Agency, June 4; People’s Daily, January 9; China Youth Daily, June 5; Collegenews.cn, May 17).
Even more unusual is the simultaneous training of grassroots police and prison officers, presecutors, judges, as well as cadres working in the disciplinary inspection committees of counties and other local governments. In China, the Central Commission for Disciplinary Inspection (CCDI), which is headed by Politburo Standing Committee member He Guoqiang, is the highest anti-graft agency. The CCDI has branches in all provinces, cities and counties. For example, 3,080 county-level police officers have just finished refresher classes in the Beijing headquarters of the Ministry of Public Security. Apart from boning up on the law and latest developments in information technology, the senior cops took courses on “the construction of harmonious relationship between the police and the people.” Similarly, judges and judicial personnel based in intermediate and lower-level courts will, starting in July, undertake a year-long program at legal and administrative institutes in the capital. The slogan of this gargantuan re-education campaign is: “the people’s judges must work for the people” (People’s Daily, June 5; Xinhua News Agency, June 8).
Owing to the ever-increasing cases of confrontation—and sometimes outright battles—between the police and disadvantaged groups such as poor peasants, the re-education of public security officers has drawn the most attention from the Chinese media. Police chiefs have waxed eloquent on the fact that their staff should have acquired “five major capabilities” after their half-year training in Beijing. These include the ability “to build up harmonious ties with masses”; “to implement the law in a rational, peaceful, civilized and regulated manner”; “to strengthen and improve ways to provide guidance to the media”; “to raise IT standards and to boost their capacity to put [theories] into practice at local levels”; and “to better prevent and adequately handle emergency incidents.” According to Minister of Public Security Meng Jianzhu, who is personally in charge of the training, “police officers should avoid being carried away and becoming emotional when facing complicated situations.” Meng, also a State Councillor, added that “police should avoid using excessively strong language or employing undue force” in tackling suspects (CCTV news, February 27; Xinhua News Agency, February 19).
In a similar vein, the President of the Supreme People’s Court (SPC) Wang Shengjun expressed confidence that more training will boost the political as well as professional standards of the nation’s judges. In the past couple of years, the reputation of the judicial system has been dented by corruption scandals involving senior judges such as former SPC vice president Huang Songyou. Huang, together with a number of associates, was detained late last year for allegedly accepting millions of yuan worth of bribes and kickbacks. In a recent speech on the “construction of judicial human resources,” Wang noted that judicial personnel must be imbued with the spirit of “running the courts with seriousness, boosting the credibility of and popular support for the courts, and strengthening the courts with science and technology.” “We must have a corps of judicial staff who is politically reliable, professionally up to scratch, devoted to the people, as well as fair and uncorrupt,” he added (Chinacourt.org, April 29; Xinhua News Agency, June 17).
While training of this unprecedented magnitude is a step forward for boosting administrative effectiveness, there are doubts as to whether the lofty objectives envisaged by the likes of Politburo member Li or Chief Judge Wang can be realized. One problem is that excessive premium seems to have been placed on “redness” as opposed to “expertise.” Take for example, the pronouncements of Vice President Xi Jinping, who, as President of the Central Party School, is a key mastermind behind the nationwide re-education exercise. In speeches on criteria for promoting cadres, Xi has reiterated that “while we emphasize that cadres must pass muster in both morality and [professional] competence, morality comes first” (People’s Daily, June 12; Xinhua News Agency, March 30). In his admonishments for judges, Chief Justice Wang has invariably urged them to follow this hierarchy of values: “giving top priority to the [Communist] Party’s enterprise, the people’s interests and [the sanctity of] the Constitution and the law.” “Let’s diligently build up a corps of high-quality judicial personnel that can reassure the Party and let the people be satisfied” (Xinhua News Agency, April 29). Loyalty to the party, then, is clearly considered by the CCP to be more important than the officials’ professional standards as well as their ability to meet the demands of the populace.
Moreover, at least a good part of the re-education campaign is centered on baowen, or “safeguarding stability”—codeword for defusing challenges to the CCP—rather than promoting good governance as such. During the training of the 3,000-odd police officers, senior instructors repeated President Hu’s mantra for what party leaders consider to be a trouble-prone 2009: “We must ensure economic growth, safeguard the people’s livelihood, and preserve stability.” Another favorite slogan cited during courses for grassroots cops was that of State Councillor Meng: “A minor incident should be solved within the village; even a major incident should be tackled within [the parameters of] towns and townships. Do not let [social] contradictions go all the way up to the central authorities” (China.com.cn, February 26; Yangcheng Evening Post [Guangdong], February 18). In other words, what central authorities are looking for in local-level officials are superb fire-fighting skills rather than exceptional dedication to or capability for public service.
Moroever, training or re-training cannot be a substitute for the wholesale professionalization of the Chinese cadre and civil service. The State Council or Central Government has, since the start of the reform era, been generous with capital projects, particularly the building of infrastructure ranging from highways and railways to industrial parks. For example, much of the 4 trillion yuan (about $570 billion) that Premier Wen Jiabao approved last November for resuscitating the economy has been earmarked for infrastructure improvement. Yet, relatively little government expenditure has gone into boosting professional education. A recent report by the Ministry of Land and Natural Resources, which has also embarked on a massive re-training of its staff, revealed that only 12 percent of its 122,000 grassroots officials have professional qualifications in fields such as land surveying or mining administration, and each of the ministry’s 25,000 local-level offices boasts less than one professional staff (People’s Daily, June 21).
The insufficient weight given to professionalism is evident even in the critical field of justice. While more than 300,000 students are studying in China’s 634 law schools, a sizable number of courts and prosecutors’ offices, particularly those in the central and western provinces, have had difficulties hiring qualified personnel. In a much-noted speech earlier this year, Politburo Standing Committee Member Zhou Yongkang pointed out that to make up for the shortfall of qualified legal personnel in the heartland regions, relevant judicial departments can recruit reliable high school graduates among soldiers or People’s Armed Police officers—and then send them to a selected number of legal institutions for special intensive training. Particularly for police, prosecutors and judges serving in trouble-prone spots in Tibet and Xinjiang, more emphasis seems to be placed on their ability to toe Beijing’s line than either professional qualification or competence (Xinhua News Agency, February 1; Beijing Evening Post, March 9; Xinhua News Agency, June 5).
On October 1, the CCP authorities will be hosting a big party, including a gargantuan military parade at Tiananmen Square, to celebrate the 60th birthday of the People’s Republic of China. Ensuring that no “destabilizing factors” such as peasant riots will mar national spectacles of this nature—which are deemed essential to boosting nationalism and bolstering the party’s legitimacy—is one factor behind the Hu-Wen leadership’s anxiety to improve the political rectitude and crisis-management skills of civil servants. Yet, while training programs that prioritize values such as prolonging the CCP’s mandate of heaven or “nipping factors of instability in the bud” could buy the administration some time, it is unlikely that they will effectively eradicate endemic corruption and misrule at the party's grassroots.
Pyongyang, June 24 (KCNA) -- The Korean people still bear a deep grudge against the crimes of the U.S. imperialists, the provoker and criminal of the Korean war (June 25, 1950-July 27, 1953) though more than 50 years have passed since the war.
The U.S. imperialists who decided to take the DPRK as the first target of attack for realizing the wild dream of world domination after their illegal occupation of south Korea worked out a plan for the Korean war and made all preparations for it.
They desperately armed the south Korean puppet army with modern war means and raised its war capabilities to use it as the shock force for the war of aggression against the DPRK.
According to an official document released by the U.S. Congress, they handed over more than 145,000 rifles, some 2,000 machine guns and submachine guns, over 2,000 pieces of various calibers, 4,900-odd vehicles, 79 warships and others to the south Korean puppet army in 1949 alone.
The number of the south Korean puppet troops who were armed with such war equipment and means and trained in the American way reached more than 100,000 as of September 1949.
The U.S. imperialists deployed most of the south Korean puppet army on the front along the 38th parallel and incessantly perpetrated armed provocations against the DPRK.
They built or expanded airfields, harbors, roads and others in south Korea in an extensive way. At the same time, they worked out a prearranged plan to conceal the armed aggression after the outbreak of the Korean war in an attempt to shift the responsibility for the war provocation on the DPRK.
As seen above, the Korean war was a war of aggression started by the U.S. imperialists with full preparation.
The U.S. magazine Life disclosed the fact that it was the first since the beginning of history that the Korean war had been fully prepared before its start.
The historical facts evidently show that the U.S. imperialists are the provoker of the Korean war and the heinous enemy who imposed dreadful holocaust upon the Korean people.
Nevertheless, they, who resorted to every conceivable trick to shift the responsibility for the outbreak of the Korean war to the DPRK while distorting the history, are running amuck to provoke another Korean war today.
The United Nations Security Council, at the instigation of the U.S., adopted a "resolution on sanctions" against the DPRK on June 12, taking issue with its second nuclear test.
This is another foul product of the U.S.-led international oppression to disarm the DPRK and to suffocate it economically for forcing the Korean people to give up their idea and system.
If the U.S. imperialists start another war, ignorant of the ignominious defeat they had sustained in the past Korean war, the army and people of Korea will determinedly answer "sanctions" with retaliation and "confrontation" with all-out confrontation, the counter-measure based on the Songun idea, wipe out the aggressors on the globe once and for all and achieve the cause of national reunification without fail.
U.S. Chiefly to Blame for Disturbing Peace and Security
Pyongyang, June 24 (KCNA) -- Last year the United States' military spending accounted for 42 percent of the world-wide military spending and thus topped the world list of military spending, according to a recent annual report released by the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute of Sweden.
Rodong Sinmun Wednesday observes in a signed commentary in this regard:
This goes to prove that the U.S. is the country with the biggest military spending in the world and a "champion" in arms expansion. It is chiefly to blame for seriously threatening and disturbing global peace and security.
The present U.S. administration is loudmouthed about "changes" and "multilateral cooperative diplomacy" but is as keen on the arms build-up as the Bush administration which put spurs to it under the pretext of "war on terrorism".
In case of the U.S. the increased military expenditure precisely means arms build-up and it is aimed to escalate the military actions for aggression. It is the strategic aim and invariable ambition of the U.S. to dominate the world by dint of military force.
The U.S. imperialists' reckless moves for increasing military spending and arms build-up are aimed to establish an unchallenged military edge and realize the ambition for world domination.
The U.S. reckless moves for increasing military spending amount to acts against peace as they fan up the world-wide arms race and military confrontation and strain the international situation.
The U.S. is working hard to escalate the offensive of military pressure against the DPRK, regarding it as a thorn in its flesh, as it is advancing under the uplifted banner of independence and socialism.
They are getting evermore desperate in their moves to pose a nuclear threat to the DPRK and start a nuclear war against it, while clamoring about the provision of a "nuclear umbrella" to south Korea and Japan.
The DPRK was entirely right when it took measures to bolster up its nuclear deterrent for self-defence to cope with these moves.
Under the present serious situation where arms race is escalated and peace is seriously disturbed, the DPRK is left with no option but to further bolster up its war deterrent under the banner of Songun in order to protect the right of the country and the nation to exist and its sovereignty and security.
U.S. Urged to Draw Lesson from Its Defeat in Korean War
Pyongyang, June 24 (KCNA) -- The armed provocations perpetrated by the U.S. imperialists in areas along the 38th parallel were premeditated military actions to ignite an all-out war in the light of their scale, persistency and repetition, etc. and a prelude to the Korean war. The U.S. imperialists were the arch criminals who masterminded these provocations and with no rhetoric can they cover up the criminal nature of those actions.
Rodong Sinmun Wednesday says this in a signed article.
It cites facts to prove that the U.S. imperialists which had been greedy for the Korean Peninsula since long time ago occupied south Korea after the second World War, established a system of "military rule" and worked hard to provoke a war in a bid to dominate the whole of Korea.
The article goes on:
The aim sought by the U.S. imperialists in perpetrating ceaseless armed provocations against the northern half of Korea in areas along the 38th parallel was to help the south Korean puppet army build actual combat capability so that it might be used as bullet-shields for them during the war of aggression against the north, weaken the defence by the Korean security forces stationed there and spy on the military forces of the north and their deployment. Through these acts they also sought the aim to aggravate the situation in an effort to create conditions favorable for launching a war and go over to an all-out war when their ceaseless armed provocations prove successful.
The U.S. imperialists started the Korean war while going busy with armed provocations against the DPRK at that time but drank a bitter cup of defeat. Instead of drawing a lesson from it, they are getting frantic with the moves to provoke the second Korean war, obsessed with their ambition for aggression of Korea, the article notes, and warns:
If the U.S. imperialists misjudge the strength and will of the DPRK's army and people and ignite a new war at any cost, they will suffer a more disgraceful defeat than what they did during the Korean war in the 1950s.
U.S. Urged to Roll Back Its Hostile Policy towards DPRK as Early as Possible
Pyongyang, June 24 (KCNA) -- The U.S. keeps frantically kicking up rackets of "sanctions" and "pressure" against the DPRK, terming its launch of a satellite for peaceful purposes and nuclear activities for self-defence as a "violation" and "threat to peace." This has pushed the situation in the Korean Peninsula to such a pass that a war may break out any moment.
Rodong Sinmun Wednesday observes this in a signed article.
It goes on:
This is a clear revelation of the U.S. anachronistic and criminal hostile policy towards the DPRK as it is obstructing the reconciliation, unity and reunification of the Korean nation and seeks to ignite a war of aggression against it.
The U.S. hostile policy towards the DPRK is the one of national split and anti-reunification confrontation as it is designed to keep Korea divided into two and stoke mistrust and confrontation between the north and the south.
The U.S. forces landed in south Korea under the pretext of "disarming" the defeated Japanese army, prompted by the criminal scenario to turn south Korea into its colony and strategic stronghold and, on this basis, to put under its control Northeast Asia including the whole of Korea.
It is the sinister intention of the U.S. to invade the DPRK, keeping south Korea under its domination for an indefinite period and using it as its advanced base. The U.S. remains unchanged in its policy towards the DPRK aimed at antagonizing it and seizing it by force of arms.
The U.S. ever-more undisguised scenario to invade the DPRK found a vivid manifestation in the facts that it is escalating its rackets of international "sanctions" and "pressure" upon the DPRK, malignantly slandering its launch of a satellite and nuclear activities for self-defence and made a promise to provide "a nuclear umbrella" to the south Korean authorities in "contingency" on the Korean Peninsula, hinting at its start of a nuclear war.
It has become more apparent than ever before that lasting peace on the Korean Peninsula would be unthinkable without putting an end to the U.S. hostile policy towards the DPRK and its moves to isolate and suffocate the latter.
The U.S. had better roll back as early as possible its hostile policy towards the DPRK, the leftover of the outdated era of confrontation, which runs counter to the trend of the times towards peace and reunification, concludes the article.
Imperialists do not embrace true revolutionary movements
The eyes of the world have focused on Iran since the June 12 presidential election. The turnout was exceptionally high, with 42 million people, 85 percent of the electorate, going to the polls. Incumbent president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad was declared the winner with 63 percent of the vote. Ahmadinejad's chief rival, Mir Hossein Mousavi, declared himself the winner and called the announced results fraudulent. Iran has since been the scene of large daily protests.
A landslide victory by Ahmadinejad was not improbable. An op-ed piece by Ken Ballen and Patrick Doherty published in the June 15 Washington Post states that the election results conform to their pre-election polling.
"Our nationwide public opinion survey of Iranians three weeks before the vote showed Ahmadinejad leading by a more than 2 to 1 margin—greater than his actual apparent margin of victory in Friday's election," Ballen and Doherty asserted.
The survey of 1,001 respondents, conducted by phone between May 11 and May 20, had a margin of error of 3.1 percentage points. The study was funded by the Rockefeller Brothers Fund. Neither the Fund nor the Washington Post could be accused of having a pro-Ahmadinejad bias.
Of course, we are not in a position to know if fraud took place and to what extent. Nor can one be sure whether one or both sides engaged in some level of voter fraud. Voter fraud is rather widespread in the United States and both the Democratic and Republican parties have engaged in it. If the allegations of the opposition in Iran were true, this would have had to be voter fraud on a huge and massive scale. Interestingly, the opposition only seeks an annulment of the election rather than a recount of the disputed votes.
In bourgeois elections, the citizenry is offered a choice between candidates that are acceptable to ruling class interests. In Iran's elections, as in those of other countries, the candidates running for president were all acceptable options to the regime. All four had a long history of holding key posts. Ahmadinejad was the incumbent president; Mousavi was the prime minister of Iran in the first decade of the revolution; Mahdi Karroubi was a two-term head of Majliss (Iran's Parliament); and Mohsen Reza'i was a long-serving commander of the Revolutionary Guard Corps.
The array of the class forces lined up behind the candidates is far more important than the electoral details. Mousavi's social base is primarily among the upper and middle class elements, professionals, people with a higher education and students. Ahmadinejad's social base, on the other hand, is primarily among the lower sectors of the middle class, the urban poor and most people of all classes in the provinces and rural areas. A cursory glance at the photos of the demonstrators on both sides confirms this class composition.
The class character of the conflict is more obvious when we look at the key issues in the elections. Mousavi and the other candidates have accused Ahmadinejad of economic mismanagement and inflationary policiesbuying votes by giving "handouts" to poor and large state-funded projects in the provinces. These "handouts," ongoing during Ahmadinejad’s four-year tenure, consisted of substantial increases in state employees' salaries and pensions, cash benefits to the needy and other forms of benefits including expanding healthcare. In a May 15 speech Mousavi attacked these programs, saying: "Distribution of money and opportunities as alms is hardly an instrument of growth and development." (Irantracker.org, May 13)
Ahmadinejad's "adventurous" foreign policy has been another key election issue. His foreign policy has consisted of an uncompromising stance against the United States on the nuclear energy issue, outspoken opposition to the racist state of Israel, steadfast support for liberation movements in Palestine and Lebanon and expanding friendly relations with revolutionary and progressive governments around the globe, including those of Cuba, Venezuela and Bolivia.
As noted in the June 21 Associated Press article titled "Israeli president [Peres] applauds Iran street protesters," the Israeli ruling establishment is openly hoping for the victory of what they call "the revolution" in Iran. The June 22 Jerusalem Post features an article on how the pro-U.S. regimes in the Arab world echo Peres sentiments, which begins: “Many Arab governments, including the Palestinian Authority, are quietly hoping that the latest crisis in Iran will mark the beginning of the end of the radical regime of the ayatollahs and President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad.”
Ahmadinejad is certainly no representative of the working class. The only true working-class orientation is a socialist orientation; moving in the direction of eliminating private ownership of the means of production by the capitalist class. But within the confines of capitalist relations, Ahmadinejad's political line represents more income and benefits for the poor.
Anti-government protests embraced by imperialism
The post-election events have made the stakes much higher than a simple presidential election and a choice between candidates. Between June 13 and June 19, hundreds of thousands , some reports say millions, have demonstrated in Tehran demanding the annulment of the June 12 elections. There were other smaller demonstrations during the week in other major cities. While people of all classes with various grievances have joined the demonstrations, the central political thrust of the protests has a righward trajectory, in regard to both domestic and international issues. The dominant composition of the protests has been middle class and the privileged sectors of society.
Imperialist media sources, to which many Iranians, particularly the more privileged sectors, have access through satellite TV, played a key organizing role. BBC Farsi and Voice of America, continuously broadcasting into Iran, did their part in announcing the time and place of planned demonstrations. They also provided live coverage by interviewing people who used their cell phones to call and transmit images.
The Islamic Republic has attempted to jam these broadcasts with some success. Still, demonstrators rely on many other sources, including counter-revolutionary monarchist channels based in Los Angeles that do their best to broadcast information, and misinformation, to increase the size and intensity of the demonstrations.
During some of the street protests, buses were burned, buildings were vandalized and destroyed, large fires were made in the streets and rocks were thrown at the police. The millions of dollars of U.S. funding for "promoting democracy" in Iran were put to use. Among the demonstrators were agents and provocateurs whose specific purpose was to wreak havoc and cause maximum destruction. Iranian TV channels aired interviews with captured agents of the MKO, the imperialist supported terrorist organization, who acknowledged having been instructed to set gas stations on fire and destroy buildings. During the first week, repression of the demonstrations was limited, as evident from the number of demonstrators and the relatively low instances of state violence.
On June 19, Ayatollah Khamenei, the central leader, made an important speech at the Friday prayers, attended by hundreds of thousands of supporters. Khamenei announced that the specific complaints of the three losing candidates would be fully reviewed and the ballots of the disputed boxes would be recounted. This was followed by a June 20 announcement that, as a confidence building measure, a randomly selected 10 percent of the ballots would be recounted and the results announced. Khamenei also warned that unpermitted demonstrations that had been allowed in the week following the elections would now be dealt with legally and forcefully.
On the next day, anti-government protesters attempted to demonstrate in central Tehran. Western sources put the number of people at 3,000. But this time, the police in riot gear met would-be demonstrators with force, using water cannons, tear gas and batons. This turned into a violent confrontation. Iranian TV showed police being beaten by demonstrators. Western media sources showed footage of the police attacking the demonstrators. The street clashes caused at least 10 deaths, bringing the total number of people killed since the elections to 17.
On the day of this writing, June 21, there were no reports of significant protests in Tehran or elsewhere.
With typical arrogance, imperialist powers have directly intervened in the internal affairs of Iran, a sovereign country. President Obama has called "on the Iranian government to stop all violent and unjust actions against its own people." On June 19, the U.S. House voted 405-1 to condemn the crackdown on protest rallies. The Senate passed a similar resolution. The House resolution openly backs anti-government demonstrators, supporting "all Iranian citizens who embrace the values of freedom, human rights, civil liberties and rule of law."
Some imperialist leaders, including French President Sarkozy, have openly called the Iranian elections fraudulent, with no evidence to back their claim. George W. Bush stole the 2000 presidential elections after being fraudulently declared the winner in the state of Florida by five appointed-for-life millionaires who sit on the U.S. Supreme Court. Gore won the popular balloting by more than a half-million votes. But the great "Democracies" did not intervene. The U.S. elections were considered an internal matter.
Diplomatic norms of behavior like refraining from commenting on and interfering with other countries' internal matters do not apply to the relationship between imperialist and oppressed countries, particularly ones that take an independent course. Imperialists see it as their prerogative to preach democracy and human rights even while brutally occupying other countries against the will of the occupied people. Ironically, but not coincidentally, two of those coutries—Iraq and Afghanistan—share long borders with Iran.
Some liberal and progressive forces in the United States, as well as some that claim to be leftists, have echoed the U.S. Congress and the whole imperialist establishment, expressing full support for the demonstrators. Some have even declared the demonstrations as the start of a new revolution in Iran.
Not a new revolutionary movement
There are no examples in history when a true revolutionary movement has been embraced and supported by all the imperialist governments in the world. There have been occasions when an imperialist government temporarily forges an arrangement with a communist or national liberation movement or even a socialist government that is fighting the same "enemy." There are examples of this in both the first and second World Wars. When the entire imperialist world lines up to support a protest movement that seeks to topple a government that has already been targeted for "regime change," one can be sure that they know that this so-called revolution is in fact a movement to the right.
Imperialism is about subjugating the people around the globe to steal their resources. Why would all the imperialists defend a revolutionary movement? Are there any examples in history when a revolutionary movement has been led by privileged layers of society against the poor and working people? The point of a revolution is to eliminate inequitable social relations. How could the privileged classes in any society lead a "revolutionary" movement that seeks to reduce and cutback the benefits and services of poor and working people? That is Mousavi’s program! And that program has an appeal to the privileged classes who have been in the streets.
Street demonstrations do not constitute revolutionary movements. In today's imperialist-dominated world, the character of true revolutionary movements in oppressed countries is either socialist or nationalist, depending on whether the working class or the national bourgeoisie leads them. In either case, the revolutionary movement aspires to free the country of imperialist dominance, protect the country's resources and win independence.
Counter-revolutionary movements move in the opposite direction, aspiring to move the country towards an imperialist-friendly regime that implements neoliberal economic policies and restores or increases the privileges of the propertied classes.
Mousavi, the main losing candidate in Iran's elections, is no imperialist pawn. The demonstrations since the elections have not really been about Mousavi, as openly acknowledged by many demonstrators and their supporters. The demonstrations have become the rallying point for elements in Iranian society, mostly from the privileged classes, against the Islamic Republic regime and in favor of a pro-west, capitalist regime. If the demonstrations manage to destabilize and ultimately topple the Islamic Republic, the result will definitely not be a pro-worker, independent regime.
The political character of the anti-regime movement, no matter how many people have demonstrated, is not a left opposition to the Islamic Republic regime; it is a right opposition. U.S. and British imperialism hope that a victory of this movement would result in the counter-revolutionary overthrow of the anti-colonial 1979 revolution. That is why all the imperialist countries are unanimous in their support for the demonstrators, some stated overtly and some in more subtle ways. The character of the movement against the regime is similar to those of the U.S.-orchestrated color revolutions in Georgia and Ukraine, and the counter-revolutionary student protests against the progressive Chavez regime in Venezuela.
The task of revolutionaries and progressives in the United States is to condemn imperialist intervention in Iran and support the right of self determination for the Iranian people. U.S. Hands Off Iran!
U.S. imperialism and its Middle East client states carried out heavy-handed interventions in the June 7 Lebanese elections and Hezbollah’s electoral ally in the Christian community there suffered some setbacks. However, the resistance forces were able to maintain the strength they have shown since 2006, when they repelled Israeli military forces that had carried out a murderous and destructive invasion and bombing campaign against Lebanon.
The election underlined the serious internal political tension that has been ongoing since 2006, which can be characterized as one of dual power. Since the war, Lebanon has been divided in a perilous balance of forces. The government’s forces are lined up with Western imperialism. The Hezbollah-led resistance, with a popular-based guerrilla force, has the support of the masses throughout the region.
U.S. strategists know how important Hezbollah’s example is to the region. Vice President Joseph Biden visited Lebanon two weeks before the vote and threatened to cut aid to that country if the Hezbollah-led opposition made significant gains in parliamentary voting. “We will evaluate the shape of our assistance programs,” Biden warned, “based on the composition of the new government and the policies it advocates.” (Los Angeles Times, May 22)
The reactionary U.S. client state of Saudi Arabia also threatened to cut off funds needed by the Lebanese if the pro-U.S. grouping was pushed out of office.
Hezbollah itself has stated that it does not aim to take control of the Lebanese government, as this would put it in the position of responsibility for all of Lebanese society while the imperialists and their regional clients choked off the economy. Even if it led the government, the real economic and much of the military power would be out of Hezbollah and its allies’ hands.
In addition, especially since this winter’s devastating attack by Israel on Gaza, some Lebanese fear that if Hezbollah’s position in the government is stronger it will make an Israeli attack more likely. Though the Lebanese were able to beat back the 2006 Israeli aggression, Israeli bombing did enormous damage to the infrastructure and killed some 1,500 people.
Right wing ‘buys’ votes
To prevent the opposition alliance from even making gains—let alone taking a majority—the government forces also used their superior funding to buy votes. They flew pro-government voters back home from the Lebanese diaspora and, in addition, spent an average of $800 a vote.
All that should be taken into account in analyzing the June 7 national election results. It is important to separate the actual results from the hype in the U.S. corporate media. While an important Hezbollah ally from the Christian community—the coalition led by Michel Aoun—lost votes and seats in the election, the popular support for the anti-imperialist resistance remains strong.
Hezbollah, which represents the Shiite Muslim community—about half of the population of Lebanon—successfully led the guerrilla resistance to Israel’s 2006 invasion. It still has the best-motivated and efficient militia in Lebanon.
The U.S.-backed government coalition won 71 out of 128 seats in Parliament, a gain of one over the last election four years ago. The opposition alliance, in which Hezbollah participates, won the other 57 seats. This left the split in Parliament about the same as before.
Resistance has popular support
Hezbollah ran in alliance with the smaller Amal party in 11 Shiite areas, winning all 11 seats and getting 92 percent of the votes there. It got an almost unanimous vote in the South of Lebanon, where everyone knows it is only Hezbollah and some smaller allies that defend them from an Israeli attack.
The opposition coalition as a whole won more than 55 percent of the popular vote countrywide. The U.S.-backed coalition won only 45 percent, but wound up with 55 percent of the seats.
Lebanon’s election laws divide voting results by religious affiliation based on an out-of-date census that severely distorts real proportional representation. That is why it is possible to have such a big difference between the popular vote breakdown and the number of seats.
Lebanon is not the only country whose voting laws distort the popular results. In the U.S., for example, the Electoral College method of electing the president gives greater weight to rural voters in sparsely populated states, so that in 2000 George W. Bush won the election even though John Kerry led in the popular vote.
Of the 128 seats in Lebanon’s Parliament, half are reserved for Christians and half for Muslims. These seats are divided within each community, so that, for example, Sunnis and Shiites each get 27 seats, the Druse receive eight and two seats go to the Allevites. On the Christian side, the Maronites get 34 seats, the Orthodox 14, the Catholics eight, the Armenians six and the remaining two go to other Christian minorities.
Difference of one vote
As of now, the opposition coalition is demanding representation in the new government to reflect its popular-vote victory, despite its losing one seat in Parliament.
Despite the interference in the election, Hezbollah quickly conceded. In a later statement, however, the resistance conceded nothing to the U.S. “The U.S. is annoyed by the level of popular support for the Resistance and its choices,” Hezbollah said. “That’s why it resuscitated its unfair classifications of Hezbollah and invalid accusations against it of terrorism and anti-democracy.”
Condemning U.S. intervention, Hezbollah concluded its statement by noting: “The performance of Hezbollah and the Lebanese opposition and their position after the election outcome is a model for Washington and those who claim democracy in the world to follow and to learn from.” (Al Manar, June 9)
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Video shows surveillance protesters bundled to ground by police• Women arrested for challenging officer with no badge number • Footage shows arresting officers binding Fit Watch pair's feet • IPCC to receive video as concerns grow over police tactics
Paul Lewis guardian.co.uk, Sunday 21 June 2009 16.50 BST
Watch the video of the protesters' arrest Link to this video http://www.guardian.co.uk/environment/video/2009/jun/21/fit-watch-kingsnorth-arrests
Two female protesters who challenged police officers for not displaying their badge numbers were bundled to the ground, arrested and held in prison for four days, according to an official complaint lodged today.
The incident was caught on camera, and footage shows officers standing on the women's feet and applying pressure to their necks immediately after the women attempted to photograph a fellow officer who had refused to give his badge number.
The images are likely to fuel concern over the policing of protests, which is already subject to a review by the national police inspectorate and two parliamentary inquiries after the G20 demonstrations and the death of Ian Tomlinson.
Val Swain, 43, and Emily Apple, 33, both mothers with young children, believe they were deliberately targeted for arrest at last year's climate camp demonstration in Kent because they campaign for Fit Watch, a protest group that opposes police surveillance at demonstrations.
The pair were remanded to a women's prison for four days and released only after the demonstration against the Kingsnorth power station had finished. They believe their treatment is symptomatic of the increasingly aggressive approach taken by police at political demonstrations.
Their arrests were captured on police surveillance footage obtained by the Guardian and submitted today to the Independent Police Complaints Commission.
Fit Watch activists are opposed to police forward intelligence teams (Fits), the mobile surveillance units that monitor campaigners at demonstrations and meetings. Campaigners affiliated to the group film surveillance officers in action and upload their details to a website.
They also use banners and placards to block the view of police surveillance cameras, which they claim are used to harass and intimidate protesters and gather information for police databases.
The women were quickly identified as members of the group when they appeared at the camp on 8 August last year.
The footage shows them standing near officers from West Yorkshire police, at least four of whom were not showing their badge numbers. A police surveillance unit began filming their interactions with the officers and captured the moment that Apple engaged an officer who was refusing to divulge his badge number.
After the officer's repeated refusals, Apple asked Swain to photograph him. "I'd like a picture of this officer so I can make a complaint," she said. "It's West Yorkshire police – no number."
Moments later, Swain and Apple were wrestled to the ground and placed in stress positions. They were told had been arrested on assault and obstruction charges.
During her arrest, Swain was wrapped with restraint belts before being carried into a police van. An officer placed his hand around Apple's neck, apparently lifting her head for the police surveillance cameras.
A third Fit Watch campaigner, Geoff Cornock, 52, was also arrested and bailed the following day. Charges were later dropped against all three, whose joint complaint to the IPCC alleges that they were unlawfully arrested and detained.
In a statement, Kent police said it recognised people had made complaints but could not comment on individual cases as there was a judicial review under way.
THE INDEPENDENT Associated Press Monday, 22 June 2009
North Korea reminded the US today that it has nuclear weapons and warned it will strike back if attacked, as a US destroyer continued to trail a North Korean cargo ship suspected of carrying illicit weapons.
The Kang Nam, previously involved in weapons shipments, is the first vessel monitored under new UN sanctions adopted after the North's nuclear test last month. It could become a test case for interception of North Korean ships at sea — something Pyongyang has said it would consider an act of war.
President Barack Obama said the US is ready to cope with "any contingencies" amid reports the North appears to be preparing for a long-range missile test planned sometime around 4 July, the Independence Day holiday. Defense Secretary Robert Gates has ordered additional protections for Hawaii as a precaution.
The UN sanctions — punishment for an underground nuclear test North Korea conducted on 25 May — firm up an earlier arms embargo against North Korea and authorize ship searches in an attempt to thwart the regime's nuclear and ballistic missile ambitions.
The Kang Nam appeared headed to Burma via Singapore, the South Korean news network YTN reported yesterday, citing an unidentified intelligence source in South Korea.
Burma's military government, which faces an arms embargo from the United States and the European Union, reportedly has bought weapons from the North in the past.
Today, North Korea's main Rodong Sinmun newspaper called it "nonsense" to say the country is a threat to the US The paper also warned it is prepared to strike back if attacked.
"As long as our country has become a proud nuclear power, the US should take a correct look at whom it is dealing with," its said in commentary. "It would be a grave mistake for the US to think it can remain unhurt if it ignites the fuse of war on the Korean peninsula."
The Rodong Sinmun also denounced Obama's recent pledge to defend and protect South Korea — even promising to keep Seoul "under the U.S. nuclear umbrella" — as an attempt to attack the North with atomic bombs.
North Korea calls its nuclear programme a deterrent against the US, which Pyongyang accuses of plotting an attack. The US, which has 28,500 troops in South Korea, has said it has no such intentions and no nuclear weapons on the peninsula.
But Obama said the US is prepared for any North Korean provocation.
"This administration — and our military — is fully prepared for any contingencies," Obama said on Friday during an interview with CBS News' "The Early Show" to be broadcast Monday.
"I don't want to speculate on hypotheticals," Obama said. "But I want ... to give assurances to the American people that the t's are crossed and the i's are dotted in terms of what might happen."
Washington is considering sending former US Secretary of State Henry Kissinger to China to persuade Beijing to enforce the UN sanctions against the North, Seoul's Chosun Ilbo newspaper said Monday, citing an unidentified high-level diplomatic source.
South Korea's Foreign Ministry said it could not confirm the report.
A CROSS-PARTY campaign to oppose the extradition of former Official IRA leader Seán Garland to the United States was officially launched in Dublin yesterday.
Campaigners hope US president Barack Obama will “look with compassion” on Mr Garland’s case. The US alleges Mr Garland is involved in a major counterfeiting operation involving North Korea and the Russian mafia since the early 1990s.
The 75-year-old, who lives in Co Meath with his wife May and is in ill health, appeared in the High Court last month and was remanded on bail pending a hearing next month.
Almost 30 politicians from Fine Gael, Fianna Fáil, Labour and Sinn Féin, along with some Independents have pledged support.
PUP leader Dawn Purvis, Sinn Féin leader Gerry Adams and senior UUP member Chris McGimpsey have also pledged support, along with prominent trade unionists including president of Siptu Jack O’Connor and writers, actors, barristers and academics.
Presbyterian minister Rev Chris Hudson, a former trade union official and founder member of the Peace Train organisation, is chairman of the support committee. Mr Hudson said yesterday he was involved in the campaign because of Mr Garland’s dedicated support of peace.
“It is not necessary to hold the same political world view as another person to recognise them as someone of integrity,” he said.
“It would be an immoral act for Seán Garland to be extradited to the US when you consider his contribution to peace and a better understanding – that surely has to count for something.”
He said he personally believed Mr Garland was innocent of the charges, but could not go in to details because of the impending court case.
It was “not too much of an ask” to request the US to withdraw from proceedings, he said. Mr Garland was part of the tapestry of the peace process of which the US were also a part and it would serve no purpose to extradite him.
“We live in a new era with President Obama in the United States and we would hope he would look with compassion on Seán Garland and remove this warrant for his extradition,” Mr Hudson said.
Fianna Fáil TD Chris Andrews said the application for extradition had been a vindictive act by the Bush administration. “Seán should be left alone to get on with his life in the twilight of his years.”
Jack O’Connor said he did not see what contribution to human progress or to the progress of the American or Irish people it would make to “crucify an elderly man who is suffering from a multiplicity of illnesses”.
Labour TD Joanna Tuffy said she was motivated to support the campaign by admiration for Mr Garland, but there was also a very strong case to be made on humanitarian grounds that the proceedings should be withdrawn.
Former senator Eddie Bohan said Mr Garland would not last two months in jail. “It’s tantamount to murder,” he said.
Senator Eoghan Harris said the charges against Mr Garland were “murky”, but at bottom they were very vague and unsubstantiated allegations.
“When you put on to the weighing scales Seán Garland’s entire life as a campaigner against crimes against the person, against the ending of political assassinations on all sides of this island, when you put that on the weighing scales, I think that is why people are here, because the moral weight of the situation is behind Seán Garland.”
As the UVF and UDA make moves to decommission their weapons Deborah McAleese looks back at some of their worst atrocities
The main loyalist paramilitary groups, borne out of violent opposition to a united Ireland, are the Ulster Defence Association (UDA) and the Ulster Volunteer Force (UVF).
The organisations originated in the 1960s and 1970s as vigilante groups in Protestant areas but swiftly developed into terrorist organisations.
The UDA remained a legal organisation until 1992 when the then Secretary of State Sir Patrick Mayhew proscribed it as it became increasingly clear to security forces that its members were carrying out killings but using the name of Ulster Freedom Fighters (UFF) as a cover.
The UFF's campaign of violence began in the early 1970s, under the leadership of the UDA's first commander Andy Tyrie, and continued throughout the Troubles. The peak of the UFF's armed campaign took place in the early 1990s under Johnny Adair's ruthless leadership of the Lower Shankill 2nd Battalion, C Company.
One of the most high profile UDA attacks came in October 1993, when two UFF men attacked the Rising Sun restaurant in the predominantly Catholic village of Greysteel, County Londonderry, where 200 people were celebrating Halloween. The killers entered the restaurant, shouted “Trick or treat!” and opened fire.
Eight people, including two Protestants, were killed and 19 wounded in what became known as the Greysteel massacre. The UDA/UFF claimed the attack was in retaliation to the IRA's Shankill Road bombing which killed nine people, a week earlier.
The group was part of the Combined Loyalist Military Command ceasefire announced in 1994. The ceasefire was breached in 1998 when the UFF carried out three killings following the murder of loyalist leader Billy Wright in the Maze prison.
The killings shook the peace process and resulted in the historic meeting between then Secretary of State Mo Mowlam and UFF/UDA leaders in prison.
During the Troubles in Northern Ireland, the UVF murdered more than 500 people.
Its campaign also claimed the lives of 33 people in bomb attacks in Dublin and Monaghan in 1974.
The UVF was formed in 1966 to combat what it saw as a rise in Irish nationalism centred on the 50th anniversary of the 1916 Easter Rising.
As the violence in Northern Ireland began to escalate in the early 1970s the UVF's attacks became more random and lethal. In December 1971 15 Catholic civilians were murdered during the bombing of McGurk’s Bar in the New Lodge area of Belfast. This was the UVF’s first major atrocity.
The attack was initially blamed on republican paramilitaries but the UVF later admitted responsibility.
In 1974 the Dublin and Monaghan bombings was the worst loyalist attack in the Republic, claiming 33 lives.
The bombs were detonated at the height of the evening rush hour; a bus drivers strike meant there were more pedestrians than usual on the streets.
The organisation carried out further attacks throughout the 1970s.
These included the “Miami Showband killings” of July 31, 1975, when three members of a showband from the Republic of Ireland were killed having been stopped at a fake British Army checkpoint on the border between Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland.
Two members of the group survived the attack and later testified against those responsible. Two UVF members were accidentally killed by their own bomb while carrying out this attack. Two of those later convicted were also members of the UDR.
From late 1975 to mid 1977, a subset of the UVF dubbed the Shankill Butchers carried out a string of brutal sectarian murders of Catholic civilians.
The Shankill Butchers were a Belfast UVF gang so called because they tortured and killed some of their victims with weapons such as knives, cleavers and axes.
They were led by Lenny Murphy who was described as a psychopath and a sadist. His gang was involved in up to 30 killings but earned greatest notoriety for the murders of seven Catholics who were abducted at random, mainly in north Belfast, before being subjected to savage and prolonged attacks.
In one killing an attempt was made to decapitate a man while in another the victim had almost all his teeth ripped out with pliers.
Several members of the gang were jailed in 1979 after one of their victims survived and identified them to the police.
Murphy was murdered by the IRA in 1982.
In the 1980s, the UVF’s capacity for murder was greatly reduced by a series of police informers.
The organisation joined the Combined Loyalist Military Command and indicated its acceptance of moves towards peace. However, the year leading up to the loyalist ceasefire, which took place shortly after the Provisional IRA ceasefire, saw some of the worst sectarian killings carried out by loyalists during the Troubles.
The UVF's last major atrocity on June 18, 1994, was similar to its first — an indiscriminate attack on a pub. UVF gunmen walked into a small pub in the Co Down village of Loughinisland where local residents were watching the Republic of Ireland play Italy in the World Cup.
They opened fire killing six Catholic men. Among them was 87-year-old Barney Green, one of the oldest victims of the Troubles.
Witnesses said the gunmen ran laughing to their getaway car.
By Brian Rowan Friday, 19 June 2009 Greater clarity is expected today on the historic first decommissioning acts by the UVF and UDA.
Chief Constable Sir Hugh Orde mentioned both organisations yesterday when describing the significant arms moves by the mainstream loyalist groups which was first revealed by the Belfast Telegraph.
And Sir Hugh’s assessment supports information coming from paramilitary sources that not just the UVF, but also the more disparate UDA has made a start to decommissioning.
Loyalists say that UDA move was at the beginning of this week – on Tuesday.
This has not been confirmed, but there are hints that something could be said soon – possibly later today.
According to loyalist sources there |is a difference in the decommissioning acts by the two main paramilitary |organisations. While the UDA move is described as a start, UVF decommissioning is put in a much more significant context.
“In one go, finished,” a source told this newspaper – in a comment clearly suggesting that the loyalist group has |decommissioned the vast bulk of |its arsenal. That assessment of UVF decommissioning is supported by another loyalist source.
If this is confirmed in the progress |report expected from General John de Chastelain no later than August, it will represent a significant initiative on |the part of the so-called Brigade |Command headed by its Shankill leader John Graham.
Across the loyalist paramilitary organisations there is now what looks like an engagement in a structured decommissioning process. If they have not already moved, the Red Hand Commando and the splinter UDA faction in south-east Antrim are expected to do so soon.
Late on Wednesday night, one source used the description of one of those groups sitting at an amber light – ready to go on decommissioning.
It is still not clear when General de Chastelain and his team will emerge to speak or whether the loyalist groups will issue early statements ahead of the IICD’s planned August report to the British and Irish governments.
After yesterday’s breaking news, |a priority for the different paramilitary leaderships will be to brief their various members.
The Belfast Telegraph understands that a government official contacted loyalists yesterday morning to alert them that this newspaper was about to run the story of decommissioning.
Information on the arms move had been restricted to a small number |at a senior level in the paramilitary |organisations.
Responding to yesterday’s news, the Progressive Unionist Party leader Dawn Purvis said: “If this is the case then it has to welcomed by everyone. I said sometime ago that this was another piece in the jigsaw – (needed) to complete the peace process.”
Asked had she spoken to the UVF leadership, she said: “I am aware as others are that all the loyalist paramilitary organisations have been involved in discussions with the IICD for a |number of months now.
“If those discussions have proved successful then let’s hear what the IICD has to say.”
The first thing to make clear about the Iranian election is that the U.S. and other imperialist states have no right to intervene. The media here are now filled with moralizing, even racist scolding of Iran over the election results. Who are they to act so hoity-toity? Remember George W. Bush’s open theft of the 2000 election in Florida?
And then there are the self-righteous European imperialists. Only 43 percent of the people voted in the recent EU elections. Compared to that, Iran’s 82 percent vote makes it a vibrant capitalist democracy.
The second thing is that absolutely no evidence has been dredged up of significant electoral fraud. Iranian President Ahmadinejad’s 62.6 percent total is completely consistent with his 2005 vote total of 61.7 percent. It is also consistent with the only election poll taken. Ken Ballen and Patrick Doherty polled a thousand Iranians and predicted a two-to-one win for Ahmadinejad. (Washington Post, June 15)
Given that the Iranian economy is continuing to grow, despite the world capitalist contraction, it’s reasonable that a majority would vote for the incumbent.
The vote breakdown by neighborhood, as provided by the official election authorities, is also consistent with political reality. Ahmadinejad lost in Teheran City, a bourgeois stronghold. He was weakest in the wealthier northern part of the capital. But he swept the rural areas and did well among the urban poor.
All the Iranian candidates—and here we will discuss just the president and his nearest rival, Mir Hossein Mousavi—are part of the Islamic Republic’s ruling circle of politicians. It would be surprising if any deviated far from generally acceptable politics in Iran. That means capitalist economic development and projecting Iranian power in the region. And maintaining some independence from the imperialists—not easy if your economy is integrated with the world capitalist market.
Ahmadinejad is closely identified with militant support for the mass-based resistance movements in Palestine and Lebanon, and also with the determined public defense of Iran’s nuclear power program. With a high vote for him, the Iranians thumb their noses at the imperialists. This also explains the strong hostility from the U.S. ruling class.
In Iran, the reelected president is also considered a populist who will fight for economic concessions to Iran’s poor—which explains his strong popularity outside the middle-class and wealthy districts.
Mousavi was first seen as a reformer who might relax cultural and social restrictions and give more leeway to organize for rights. He got some support from women’s organizations, labor and even some progressive circles. By the end of the campaign, however, Mousavi was obviously allied with the power broker and former President Ali Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani, whom Ahmadinejad defeated handily in the 2005 election.
All reports—even from anti-Ahmadinejad sources here—describe the Mousavi-Rafsanjani followers as the wealthier, college-educated Iranians who dwell in the cities.
Rafsanjani, who still holds a position of power in the regime, is identified with the wealthiest sector of Iranian society, with privatizing industries, with a more conciliatory approach to imperialism. Mousavi is now linked to him, and it’s their grouping that the imperialists either want to win or want to cause enough internal trouble to weaken the government. In the end, what the imperialists want is to reverse the Iranian revolution and get back control over its rich resources.
But 2009 is not 1953, when the CIA overthrew Prime Minister Mossadegh and installed the Shah. The Iranian people have benefitted enormously from their revolution and cannot easily be turned back. Articles copyright 1995-2009 Workers World. Verbatim copying and distribution of this entire article is permitted in any medium without royalty provided this notice is preserved.
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