Friday, 27 November 2009

Poland clamps down on communist symbols


By MONIKA SCISLOWSKA (AP) – 9 hours ago

WARSAW, Poland — Poland's president has approved legislation that allows for people to be fined or even imprisoned for possessing or buying communist symbols, two decades after communist rule ended.

The new law says that people who posses, purchase or spread items or recordings containing communist symbols could be fined or be imprisoned for up two years.

The new law has drawn criticism from left-wing lawmakers and other observers who say it is ill-defined and will be hard to implement. The law does not list the banned symbols and it also exempts from punishment their use for artistic, educational or collectors' purposes.

The legislation was initiated by Law and Justice, a right-wing opposition party that President Lech Kaczynski helped found and which has sought to purge Poland of the legacy of four decades of communist rule. The law was also supported by the governing Civic Platform party.

The law expands on legislation that already made it a crime to promote Nazism or other totalitarian systems. Communist symbols, however, were not specifically named in the earlier legislation.

A Law and Justice senator, Zbigniew Romaszewski, said the law was needed because the atrocities committed by communist regimes are being forgotten, allowing the flourishing of businesses that sell images of Soviet leaders, state symbols like the hammer and sickle and the red star.

"Communism should be treated just like Nazism," Romaszewski, who promoted the legislation, told The Associated Press.

"The numbers of their victims are comparable, taking into consideration the famine in Ukraine under Stalin and deportations to Siberia" that caused tens of millions of deaths, including Poles, he said. "We in Poland lived between these two extreme systems and we know what they were."

Communism was imposed on Poland after World War II and overthrown peacefully in 1989.

Marcin Krol, a prominent historian and philosopher with Warsaw University, said he believes scientific research or widely accessible information about the communist era would be more effective in keeping alive the memories of communist crimes.

He said the law would be hard to implement, given the imprecise definition of communism and the numerous exemptions it grants.

"The cruelty of that reality should be clearly described to the wide public, but banning and punishing seems artificial and ineffective," Krol said.

Copyright © 2009 The Associated Press. All rights reserved.

Saturday, 21 November 2009

Anti-fascist fighter shot dead in Moscow

The young man died from head wounds after being shot during a clash with ultra-nationalists in eastern Moscow on Monday evening.

It is reported that he was the informal leader of a committee called Collective Action and is the sixth anti-fascist to be killed in the capital since 2006.

A spokeswoman from the committee identified the victim as 26-year-old Ivan Khutorskoy during an interview with a Moscow-based radio station.

Mr Khutorskoy's role in the group included organising security at anti-fascist rock concerts and he also ran free-style fighting tournaments.

He was nicknamed "Bonebreaker" and had reportedly taken part in street battles with Russian nationalists.

This was not the first time Mr Khutorskoy had been attacked by nationalists.

It is thought he had survived attacks involving a knife, a baseball bat and a screwdriver on three previous occasions.

Fascist gangs have become a growing problem in Russia in recent years and as a result anti-fascist youth groups have raised their profiles.

The fascist gangs typically target non-Slavic migrants and people they perceive as anti-Russian.

Confrontations in Moscow have become increasingly common and violent.

Experts have linked the killing to the arrests earlier this month of two nationalists suspected of the high-profile shooting of human rights lawyer Stanislav Markelov and journalist Anastasia Baburova in January.

Antiracists and far-right youths battle in Moscow

MOSCOW — A simmering confrontation between far-right youths and ant-racist activists has erupted into Moscow's streets after the fatal shooting of an anti-racist activist known as the Bonebreaker.

The violence stems from deep animus between two aggressive camps with starkly different visions of Russia's future — neo-Nazi skinheads who rank in the tens of thousands and militant anti-racist groups that call themselves Antifa, short for anti-fascist.

Former punk rocker Ivan Khutorskoi, 26, provided security for meetings of antifascists. He also was known for organizing underground bare-knuckle boxing matches among them, and taking part in violent attacks on ultranationalists.

Khutorskoi was gunned down in his apartment building on the city's outskirts Monday night. A day later, dozens of masked men pelted the headquarters of the pro-Kremlin youth group Young Russia with stones, trash and steel rods, Young Russia's leader said.

Kremlin critics say Russia's leadership created Young Russia and similar youth organizations to keep its political opponents in check and provide support, and sometimes muscle, on the streets. Anti-racist groups claim they have close ties with the ultranationalists they call fascists or Nazis.

Nobody was hurt in the attack late Tuesday on the office of Young Russia. But its message, delivered first with projectiles and then over the Internet, seemed clear.

"If no one but us tries to stop Nazis and those who provide cover for them, we will act by all means necessary," blogger Anarcho Punk wrote Wednesday. Other anti-racist bloggers said the attack was retaliation for what they claimed were the group's links to Russian neo-Nazis. They "dedicated" the assault to their leader, Khutorskoi — an outsized figure and a role model among antifascists, who say he had survived three previous assassination attempts. He was shot twice in the back of the head near the door to his apartment on Moscow's eastern outskirts, police said.

Khutorskoi sometimes provided security at press conferences of Stanislav Markelov, a human rights lawyer hated by ultranationalists — but not at the one last January after which Markelov and a journalist were fatally shot on the street.

Antifa groups have been rapidly adding to their ranks in Russia in recent years, said Galina Kozhevnikova, the director of Sova, a respected independent hate-crime watchdog monitoring group. She said their ideology attracts leftist-minded youth and people concerned about persistent hate crimes and xenophobia in today's Russia.

"The army of ultranationalists is definitely bigger, as the movement is much older," Kozhevnikova said.

Pro-Kremlin youth groups like Young Russia are also a significant force. Experts believe their emergence was a Kremlin response to the 2004 Orange Revolution in Ukraine, where youth groups played a key role in street protests that ushered a pro-Western presidential candidate to power.

Young Russia is known for street rallies and pranks against anti-Kremlin politicians. The group has also been involved in attacks on anti-government protesters and opposition youth activists.

Young Russia's leader, Maxim Mishchenko, said about 80 masked men attacked the office in central Moscow. A 22-year old attacker was seized by Young Russia activists and handed over to police, he said.

Anti-fascist bloggers claimed Mishchenko, a Russian parliament member with Prime Minister Vladimir Putin's United Russia party, has close ties with Russky Obraz, a radical ultranationalist group that antiracists claim was behind Khutorskoi's killing.

Mishchenko denied the allegations, calling them "as absolute lie."

A spokesman for Russky Obraz, Yevgeny Valayev, told The Associated Press that the group had "no Kremlin-appointed supervisors" but had cooperated with Mishchenko on several initiatives, including an extreme nationalist march in Moscow early this month.

Copyright © 2009 The Associated Press. All rights reserved.

Monday, 16 November 2009

‘Not Here’: English Defence League humiliated in Glasgow

‘Not Here’

Police officers far outnumber the marchers from the Scottish Defence League in Cambridge Street Photographs: Mark Mainz and Ross Gilmore

Published on 15 Nov 2009 SUNDAY HERALD

Thousands turn out to deliver message to fascists

Standing precariously on a bin as thousands of people swarmed into George Square banging drums and chanting, anti-racist campaigner Aamer Anwar yesterday proclaimed a victory for the people of Glasgow over “racism, fascism and the Scottish Defence League (SDL)”.

His celebration followed a day in which the far-right group’s threat to march on Glasgow Central Mosque came to nothing, as police penned its members into a pub before bussing them to various spots on the periphery of the city, extinguishing the chances of a conflict before it had the chance to ignite. There were a few minor skirmishes in and around the city centre between the tiny SDL contingent and rival demonstrators, who were out in their thousands. Five people were arrested.

Although both sides claimed to have achieved their aims, the sheer numbers that mustered under the banner of Scotland United, a broad-spectrum alliance of political parties, trade unions and civil society groups, demonstrated that most of Glasgow has little truck with the “anti-Islamic” policies of the SDL and its English counterpart.

Mr Anwar, speaking at the head of a thousand protesters as they marched into George Square, said: “Just over 100 members of the Scottish and English Defence Leagues came to Glasgow today, skulked in a pub and were then bussed off away from the city centre. We proved that the only group that the people of Glasgow would tolerate on their streets were Scotland United. I would call this a victory.”

We have enough problems in this city without them stirring up hatred. They have no place here Daniel O’Donnell, SNP member
The SDL, announced plans to march in Glasgow several months ago after the English Defence League (EDL) attracted hundreds, and sometimes thousands, of supporters to rallies in cities including Leeds, Manchester and Birmingham.

The groups formed to protest exclusively against what they view as Islamic extremism, and claim to be a new political movement which has dispensed with the racist policies of far-right parties like the British National Party (BNP).

But critics, such as Mr Anwar, claim they are nothing but “a violent wing of the British National Party”.

Yesterday, the first protest in a day of political action in Glasgow took place at St Enoch Square at 10am.

Organised independently of Scotland United, the demonstration was made up of socialists, left-wing students and anti-fascists, who gathered outside the underground station before marching up Buchanan Street, chanting “Nazi scum off our streets” and “we’re black, white, Asian and we’re Jews”.

Daniel O’Donnell, a 61-year-old member of the Scottish National Party and veteran of anti-fascist protests, said: “Far-right and fascist movements have got more publicity now than I remember them ever having before, particularly after the BNP were allowed to speak on Question Time.

“The Scottish Defence League claims to be different from the BNP, but on paper, say critics, they look the same.

“This is not about showing the SDL who’s boss,” said O’Donnell, “but showing them that they are not welcome in Glasgow. We have enough problems in this city without them stirring up hatred. They have no place here.”

This splinter protest was organised by people who backed the aims of Scotland United but felt a bulwark against the Defence League was needed early in the day. Scotland United’s Glasgow Green rally was not until noon, which gave the SDL all morning to march the streets.

Sam Beaton, a 21-year-old student, said he and his fellow protesters had gathered to make sure the SDL demonstrators knew there would be someone to stand up against them if they took to the streets of Glasgow.

He said: “We’re mobilising here against the SDL, to make sure there is an anti-fascist presence in the town centre all morning. We have to be prepared for them, even if they decide to use violence. We’re not scared because we are a bigger, broader movement than them. They will not cause the same trouble they did in Leeds and Manchester.”

An hour after the protest started in St Enoch Square, the SDL gave out information about its meeting point on a phone number it had advertised on internet bulletin boards. Its members had organised the demonstration in secrecy on Facebook, other social networking sites and online discussion forums, withholding their exact plans from police and the city council.

The Sunday Herald was at the meeting point, a small pub in the city centre called The Cambridge where around 150 activists gathered, although police claimed there were only 70. Some covered their faces with scarves as they chanted and waved banners in the street.

Several key members of the SDL and EDL had been stopped on their way to the pub and some claimed to have been visited by officers from Strathclyde Police and banned from the city centre for the day.

Hundreds of police had formed a cordon around the pub, refusing to let anyone in or out. Inside,the leader of the SDL, who would only give his name as Don, attacked the anti-fascist protesters, claiming they were “spouting tired old rubbish” by labelling the SDL Nazis or racists.

Don said: “As soon as you say anything you’re labelled a racist, a Nazi, a fascist or a knuckle-dragging skinhead. We’re none of those things. We just want to highlight the Islamification of the country and show people that some, not all, young Muslims are having hate and militancy preached to them.

“People say that this sort of thing doesn’t happen in Scotland, but it is. I bet they didn’t think someone would try to blow up Glasgow Airport. We don’t want young Muslim schoolboys to be radicalised, go away to train and then come back to blow up the city.”

In The Cambridge, there was a febrile atmosphere. The curtains were closed but the bar stayed open, serving pints to the SDL contingent, who mostly resembled old-school skinheads, replete with tattoos. They were loath to give their names, and insisted we took no photos.

One member from the Airdrie branch said: “We’re just here to protest against extremist Islam and Republican terrorists, who have tried to take over our country for 40 years and failed. We’re not racist, we’re not Nazis and we’re not the BNP. I’ve got black friends and Muslim friends – race doesn’t bother me.”

He added: “Our great-grandfathers fought and fell against the Nazis in two world wars. It’s a slur on our grand-fathers to call us Nazis.”

There was a brief stand-off as the anti-racist protesters from St Enoch Square marched near the pub, after using the SDL’s phone line to find out its location. They rallied for a few minutes before heading down to Glasgow Green to the mainstream Scotland United event to listen to the speakers.

After being penned into the bar from 11am until about 12.30pm, police briefly allowed the SDL members out to protest, giving them the opportunity to chant slogans like “no surrender to the IRA” or sing Rule Britannia.

Police tolerated their protest for barely 20 minutes before packing them off in a bus. They were dumped at the Red Lion, a pub on Paisley Road West, and warned that anyone who tried to go back into town would be arrested.

The SDL’s original plans to march on Glasgow Central Mosque were thwarted at the point of application. Glasgow’s policy on marches is “somewhere between Northern Ireland and England” said a city council source, with special legislation designed to manage Orange marches. This means that while a static demonstration requires no permission from the council or police, any moving procession needs to be given the go-ahead by the authorities.

However, the SDL’s application for a moving procession was made using only the first name, Donald. The council’s request for more information was rejected. When the SDL was warned that its members would not be allowed to use the streets to protest, it replied that they would be happy to use the pavement – something a council source said would still be illegal.

At the same time as the SDL’s brief protest, the Scotland United rally at Glasgow Green heard speakers including Health Secretary Nicola Sturgeon, Scottish Tory leader Annabel Goldie, Labour MP Mohammed Sarwar and the Rev Ian Galloway from the Church of Scotland.

They praised Scotland’s multiculturalism and slammed the SDL, with Mr Sarwar labelling its members “nuts”.

He said: “The message from here is loud and clear: BNP, Scottish Defence League, English Defence League are not allowed to march on the streets of

Glasgow. Scotland is united against these thugs and fascists.

“I want to congratulate Glasgow City Council for rejecting the application from these nuts to march on the streets. I am proud to be a

Glaswegian and a Scot, because we are different. There were confrontations in Birmingham, Manchester and Leeds, but we are having a peaceful rally. People in England and Europe can learn a lot from us.”

In a rousing speech, Ms Sturgeon said: “I’m proud to be standing shoulder to shoulder with Scotland’s Muslim communities, with all of Scotland’s communities. We are a diverse county, a multicultural county and that is what makes us strong. We are proud to defend that multiculturalism every single day or whenever it is put under attack.”

Ahead of the Scotland United event Osama Saeed, chairman of the Scottish Islamic Foundation, said that the only people missing from the coalition were Muslim elders themselves. There had been frantic wrangling behind the scenes as Mr Saeed and Mr Anwar tried to persuade mosque elders to take part.

Mr Saeed said: “The people running mosque don’t get involved in anything and tend to be very reclusive – this is another manifestation of it. A lot of them are immigrants and don’t see themselves as part of society, not the prominent actors they could and should be. It requires a huge change of mindset.”

After the Scotland United rally had finished, some 3500 people marched through the city towards George Square, where a minute’s silence was observed for the victims of racist killings in Scotland, including Indian naval officer Kunal Mohanty and Pollokshields teenager Kriss Donald.

Afterwards, Aamar Anwar claimed his coalition had inflicted a “humiliating defeat on the Nazi defence league”, but Don, the organiser of the SDL protest yesterday, gave one final warning: “He may say it’s a victory, but it’s hollow, because we’re not going nowhere. The next victory will be ours. We will stage demonstration after demonstration after demonstration. Today has gone well. We’ve had a peaceful protest, we’ve not hurt anybody. We’ve had the real victory today and won many more supporters. It’s been a big day for us.”

But not all SDL members agreed with Don. On the group’s Facebook site, even supporters were questioning the success of the Glasgow demonstration. In a post called Demo Today, one SDL member wrote: “I’m embarressed (sic).”

Another wrote: “People were literally laughing at us like we were clowns.” He added: “What demo in Glasgow? People were too scared to leave the pub. What a f******* shambles wae people laughing at us?”, while another claimed: “It was an absolute shambles. ‘SDL’ is utter pish.”

Saturday, 7 November 2009

Armed tradition on the British left

Thursday 05 November 2009
Keith Flett

Looking back over the history of the British labour movement for the last couple of hundred years and more, the idea of an armed tradition is perhaps not what immediately comes to mind.

The English civil war certainly did involve arms and was very bloody indeed, but that was 350 years ago.

In recent times, the left has had to occupy itself with opposing the armed activities of its own state across the globe and demanding peace and nuclear disarmament.

Yet there is an armed tradition.

The last armed battle on English soil was at Bossenden Wood in Kent on May 31 1838. But this involved millenarians who believed that the end of the world was near.

The final armed confrontation on British soil took place in the centre of Newport, south Wales, 170 years ago on November 4 1839.

Funnily enough, the state is generally not keen to encourage the idea that armed revolts against it are a good thing. Until very recently, the events in Newport on that wet November day have had a bad historical press.

It has been argued that the Chartists who organised the uprising were ill-prepared, muddled in ideas and strategy and easily defeated by the British army.

But careful consideration of some of the evidence, which is now available online at, suggests that other conclusions are possible.

Of course, we can't claim that Newport was a success for our side. It remains a significant defeat.

The issue is how close the rising went to being the reverse - a victory that led to a wider revolt.

The Chartist movement focused on political representation for working people and tried a variety of means to achieve it, from petitions and demonstrations to general strikes and, as at Newport, armed risings.

Those involved at Newport, many of whom were miners in the crucible of the development of 19th century British capitalism, no doubt had other economic demands as well.

History books tell us that the weather in the valleys around Newport in November 1839, as the Chartists gathered in three separate locations to march on the town, was wet.

So those marching would have been cold and bedraggled. One might venture that they were almost certainly used to it.

The leaders of the march, Frost, Williams and Jones, were experienced leaders.

Other leaders such as John Rees, also known as Jack the Fifer, had military training. Rees had fought with the Texan People's Army at the Alamo in 1835.

It is likely then, that some of the leaders had previous experience of what they would have to do to secure control of Newport and send the signal for a national Chartist rising.

At the same time, it is difficult to discern if what was attempted was a political conspiracy or a genuine popular uprising. Malcolm Chase in his new history of Chartism tends to take the former view.

The British state certainly took the affair seriously.

Whether the Chartists who marched to the Westgate Hotel in Newport just before 9am on November 4 knew it or not, inside were soldiers from the crack 45th Infantry - the same regiment that had smashed Bossenden Wood a year before.

At least 22 Chartists were killed in the fighting and 50 seriously injured. Had greater military and political control been exerted in preparation, matters might have turned out rather differently.

Tuesday, 3 November 2009

Dalai Lama's grand niece joins Communist Party of China 2009-11-03 21:34:47 Print

LANZHOU, Nov. 3 (Xinhua) -- A grand niece of the 14th Dalai Lama told Xinhua on Tuesday that she had joined the Communist Party of China (CPC).

"I'm proud to join the CPC," said 35-year-old Deying Drolma, grand niece of the Dalai Lama and now a soldier of the People's Liberation Army (PLA). She took her oath to be a member of the CPC on June 26.

"My grandmother Khyi Losel is a cousin of the Dalai Lama. When he fled to India in 1959, he asked her and her family to go with him but she refused. She told us we shall never betray our motherland," said Deying Drolma.

Deying Drolma wrote her first two applications to join the CPC in 1995 and 1998, but didn't submit them out of concerns of her "special relationship" with the Dalai Lama, she said.

"Last year and this year, I filed two more applications to the Party as I felt myself a qualified candidate." And she was accepted.

Deying Drolma joined the PLA after she graduated from high school in December 1993.

"When I was a child, I often saw PLA doctors who traveled a lot and underwent great difficulties to relieve herdsmen in Tibet from diseases," said Deying Drolma. "I was touched and have decided to become a PLA soldier ever since then."

Editor: Wang Guanqun

Sunday, 1 November 2009

Scargill’s socialist fire still burns brightly

By Victor Gordon
Saturday, 31 October 2009

Firebrand former miners’ union leader Arthur Scargill proved in Belfast last night that age had not diluted his views on industrial action.

The former National Union of Mineworkers President — speaking to the UNITE Union on a three-meeting tour of Ireland — recalled how the union’s strike brought down Ted Heath’s Conservative Government in 1974 and claimed that Margaret Thatcher’s tactics destroyed the mining industry and damaged the trade union movement.

Scargill — now 71 — showed he had no regrets over his controversial years as head of the NUM, claiming that 25 years ago the Tory Government declared war on the NUM and that New Labour was “worse”.

“We forced a General Election in 1974 and the Tories never forgave us,” he claimed. “The Thatcher Government brought in legislation to ensnare the trade union movement and if that meant the destruction of the coal mining industry their attitude was ‘so be it’.”

He told the meetings that he was under surveillance by MI5. “They even bugged me and my officials in a chip shop as part of a series of snoops that made John Le Carre seem like a Peter Pan writer,” he said.

“Not only did they close pits, but they destroyed villages, ruined a whole culture and pushed people into crime and drugs. And if the Tories were bad, New Labour was worse, as its leadship continued and accelerated the process.”

Mr Scargill was addressing the Belfast UNITE meeting at its offices on the Antrim Road where regional co-ordinating officer Eugene McClone said it was important to realise how the trade union movement was subjected to such abuse at the time.

“Arthur Scargill’s was a fight worth taking on. If he had won, it would have meant so much to the trade union movement. But all sorts of legislation was introduced to oppose him and it is important that unions realise the opposition that he faced. We’re delighted to welcome him,” he said.

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