Monday, 29 November 2010

Is a war looming on the Korean Peninsula?

Poster: "Long live the victory of the Korean People’s Army and the Chinese People’s Volunteers Army" (1951)

Source: Global Times [08:07 November 29 2010]
The tension on the Korean Peninsula soared to a new level with the US aircraft carrier George Washington set to join a Yellow Sea military drill. If a new clash erupts with a US aircraft carrier involved, a final scenario will be much harder to predict.

Despite the strong rhetoric, none of the countries involved in the confrontation are truly prepared to fight an all out war.

North Korea does not have the capability to beat South Korea and the US, while South Korea does not have the will to see the peninsula engulfed in a military clash. Barely emerging from the Iraqi war nightmare, another war without a clear ending is the last thing the US needs.

Keeping this in mind, the three countries should stop trying to intimidate the other side with strong-arm tactics. China pushed for emergency talks yesterday, trying to cool down the tense situation. Whatever the response, China's attitude is in earnest and the initiative should be taken to get the parties involved back to the negotiation table in Beijing.

Strategic intimidation has to be renounced. Within the US and South Korea, the official stance from the governments and strong public sentiment can affect each other. Many wars have been fought because public sentiment mistakenly influenced government policy.

In Northeast Asia, peace and stability are of the greatest concern, however, it is often pushed aside by minor but vocal hard line opinions. Peace comes second to election rhetoric and media noise. Advocacy for rationality and mutual compromise, on the contrary, would cause political risk and often be dubbed as traitorous.
Experience from the last decade suggests that hawkish policies rarely work out in Northeast Asia. Short-term political gains often incur long-term damage that has to be repaired by the entire region. The erratic policies are also often dumped with a change in administrations.

The accumulation of tension on the Korean Peninsula has now reached a dangerous breaking point. The two Koreas, and also the entire region, must be cautious.
War is not welcome, yet it is approaching and the danger is being bizarrely tolerated. What is happening is not a game. No one can guarantee the situation will not turn into a real war.

Saturday, 27 November 2010

Pearse Doherty Elected as TD for Donegal South West | Sinn Féin

Pearse Doherty Elected as TD for Donegal South West | Sinn Féin


Pearse Doherty Elected as TD for Donegal South WestSinn Féin's Pearse Doherty takes the Donegal South West by-election seat. Official results of 1st count are as follows: Sinn Fein 13,719; Fianna Fail 7,344; Fine Gael 6,424; Labour 3,366; Indo 3,438.

Well done Pearse

Wednesday, 24 November 2010

Riot police get brutal with students - Morning Star

Riot police get brutal with students / Britain / Home - Morning Star

Wednesday 24 November 2010
by Lizzie Cocker

Thousands of school and university students turned out on the streets of London today to voice their anger at the Con-Dem coalition's vicious assault on Britain's education system.

Following their embarrassment earlier this month, when thousands of students beseiged and invaded Tory HQ, riot police reacted against peaceful protesters with a brutal containment strategy, corralling crowds in Whitehall for several hours.

The University of London Union's Carnival of Resistance, which began with a few hundred people, swelled to over 5,000 as it passed Trafalgar Square - ignoring Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg's plea for students to call off the protests.

The procession was expected to end with a rally in Trafalgar Square but the bulk of students broke away from the official route, weaving through traffic to end up on Whitehall.

Reading University lecturer Hannah Sawtell, who joined the march in support of students, said that young people had a right to be angry.

With plans to introduce £9,000 a year tuition fees and and brutal cuts to university budgets which are causing services such as crèches to close she said that she "definitely wouldn't have been able to go to university now.

"I was a single mum and, at the time, I got 80 per cent of my childcare paid for plus money to live on plus help with loans. And when I was a student it was only a grand a year to go to university."

Samba bands, drum and bass and hip-hop sound systems kept the atmosphere upbeat at first as students shouted "Tory scum here we come" and "No ifs no buts, no education cuts."

But then riot police and officers on horses threw a cordon around protesters, known as "kettling" and on a number of occasions police lines surged into students unprovoked.

Protesters were forced to push away barriers erected for road maintenance to create more space and avoid being trampled. Those who tried to escape the kettled area were violently pushed back by police.

Angry students responded by throwing smoke bombs and lightweight placard sticks, lighting bonfires and, at one point, a police van which was left in the middle of the sea of students was spray painted and smashed.

Labour MP John McDonnell said: "There was no violence whatsoever but the police surged and pushed them into a tight corner, putting people in danger of being hurt. It was a peaceful and good-humoured march and the police should have respected that but now they have provoked anger."

Forward Intelligence Teams from the Metropolitan Police could also be seen taking photographs of students and a number of arrests were made. these teams are notorious for taking photographs of protesters once they have been kettled, and creating files on them as "domestic extremists" even though they have committed no offence.

Earlier in the day police monitoring group Fitwatch had offered activists legal observer training before the ULU procession set off to ensure an increased level of protection for protesters from the pervasive police presence

Student protests: school's out across the UK as children take to the streets

• Tens of thousands of students protest around country
• Only significant violence occurs in central London
• Capital's police 'kettle' children late into evening

* Peter Walker, Paul Lewis, Matthew Taylor and Patrick Wintour
*, Wednesday 24 November 2010 20.49 GMT
* Article history

Second day of London student protests - Students clash with police as several thousand are 'kettled' in Whitehall, where fires and parties break out. WARNING: This video contains strong language Link to this video

Tens of thousands of students and school pupils walked out of class, marched, and occupied buildings around the country in the second day of mass action within a fortnight to protest at education cuts and higher tuition fees.

Amid more than a dozen protests, estimated by some to involve up to 130,000 students, there were isolated incidents of violence and skirmishes with police, mostly in central London.

The police tactic of penning students into a so-called kettle near Parliament Square for several hours caused anger, but appeared to contain the disorder.

One exception came as night fell, when police mounted on horses charged at about 1,000 students gathered near Trafalgar Square. The protesters ran through the area, with officers following. Students then hurled chairs and traffic cones into the road as bemused tourists looked on. At least two bus windows were smashed and shops were also attacked.

The coalition government condemned the protests, saying they were being hijacked by extremist groups. The education secretary, Michael Gove, gave a notably combative response, urging the media not to give the violent minority "the oxygen of publicity", a resonant phrase associated closely with Margaret Thatcher's efforts in the 1980s to deny the IRA television coverage.

Gove said the government would not waver, adding: "I respond to arguments, I do not respond to violence."

In contrast, Nick Clegg, the deputy prime minister, whose pre-election pledge to oppose increased tuition fees has made him the focus of student anger, spoke of his "massive regret" in having to rescind the promise.

"I regret of course that I can't keep the promise that I made because – just as in life – sometimes you are not fully in control of all the things you need to deliver those pledges," he told one of several angry callers to BBC Radio 2's Jeremy Vine Show. "Of course I massively regret finding myself in this situation."

But he said that the fact the Liberal Democrats had been forced into a coalition, and that the country's finances were worse than they had anticipated, meant they had to accept "compromise".

Asked about his reaction to footage, earlier in the week, of students hanging him in effigy, Clegg said: "I'm developing a thick skin."

In a further sign of the developing pressure on the government's cuts programme, Len McCluskey, the new leader of Unite, Britain's biggest trade union, put himself and his union at the forefront of "an alliance of resistance". In an interview in the Guardian, McCluskey says: "There is an anger building up the likes of which we have not seen in our country since the poll tax."

The biggest single protest was in London, where about 5,000 people – many of them noticeably younger than those who took part in the previous mass protest on 10 November – spent hours kettled" in Whitehall as officers sought to prevent a repeat of the chaotic scenes when protesters burst through police lines to storm the Conservative party headquarters. Thousands more marched elsewhere around the country while others staged sit-ins at university buildings.

About 3,000 higher education students and school pupils gathered to protest in central Manchester, where there were four arrests, and a similar number gathered in Liverpool. A crowd of around 2,000 people protested in Sheffield, with about 1,000 doing so in Leeds and 3,000 in Brighton. There were scuffles in Cambridge as crowds attempted to storm the university's Senate House.

A total of 17 people were treated for injuries in London. Of them, 13 needed hospital treatment, including two police officers, one with a broken arm. Police said 32 people had been arrested. One 19-year-old art student was pictured trying to stop masked marchers attacking the van. "We're going to be portrayed badly in the media," she shouted at them. "We're just wrecking a police van."

After being forced to apologise for the mayhem two weeks ago when fewer than 250 police were unable to marshal a crowd of more than 50,000, Scotland Yard sent almost four times as many officers onto the streets and quickly penned marchers into a section of streets. Late last night some parents arrived at the police cordon pleading for their children to be released. The worst violence erupted after 6pm as officers let the marchers leave.

Saturday, 20 November 2010

The Suffragettes, Black Friday and Two Types of Window Smashing

The photograph the government tried to hide. Suffragette Ada Wright collapses through police violence on Black Friday

Thursday, 18 November 2010 05:00
Written by Katherine Connelly

‘The argument of the broken window pane is the most valuable argument in modern politics’, declared suffragette leader Emmeline Pankhurst.

A hundred years ago today (on Friday 18th November 1910) a suffragette deputation to the House of Commons met with a six hour onslaught of police brutality resulting in a the Suffragettes beginning a huge window smashing campaign in protest.

The attack was so horrendous, the Suffragettes remembered the day it happened as ‘Black Friday’.

Today, when the government and right-wing press are declaring moral outrage at the smashing of a window in the Milbank Tower, many activists have been looking back to the inspiring examples of suffragette direct action.

The anniversary of Black Friday gives us an opportunity to ask why the Suffragettes attacked property and whether the tactic helped the movement.
Black Friday, police violence and the cover-up

On 18th November 1910 the Women’s Social and Political Union (WSPU), the main militant suffragette organisation, had called a ‘Women’s Parliament’ to challenge the legitimacy of the Westminster Parliament which excluded all women.

They had recently discovered that the Prime Minister, Herbert Asquith, who was deeply hostile to women’s suffrage, had announced that no more time would be given to a Bill which would give the vote to some women.

In response the ‘Women’s Parliament’ sent a deputation of 300 women to the House of Commons where they were met with ranks of police. For six hours women were batoned, beaten, punched, thrown to the ground, kicked on the floor and had their faces rubbed against railings in full view of the House of Commons. There were also widespread reports of police sexually abusing the demonstrators. They repeatedly pinched and twisted their breasts, lifted their skirts, groping and assaulting the women for hours.

The true cost of Black Friday would only be known some time after the event. At least two women died as a result of their injuries that day. Another woman who had been badly treated by the police and was arrested for stone throwing a few days later died after being released from prison on Christmas Day 1910 – she was Emmeline Pankhurst’s sister, Mary Clarke.

The cover-up followed swiftly after. When the Daily Mirror published a photograph of suffragette Ada Wright lying collapsed on the ground, her hands clutching her face, the government tried to stop the newspaper being sold and ordered the negatives to be destroyed.

To add further shame to the government’s record, the Home Secretary, one Winston Churchill, refused to permit a Government inquiry into the events of Black Friday.

From the introduction of the Bill that Asquith sabotaged until Black Friday the WSPU had called a ‘truce’ on militancy. Now that truce was well and truly over as the WSPU launched a campaign of window smashing.
Black Friday – A turning point

Suffragette struggling with the police on Black Friday

Suffragette struggling with the police on Black Friday
The window smashing campaign and the suffragette attacks on property were in part a tactical response to police violence. Why let yourself be hurt and abused for hours before being arrested on a demonstration when you could shorten the whole process by smashing a window and obtaining instant arrest?

It was also a political statement. The suffragettes were exposing that the government cared more about a pane of glass than a woman’s life (force feeding for hunger striking suffragette prisoners had been introduced in 1909) or a woman’s political rights. If property was the government’s priority, then property was a target.

However, it was also part of a move away from the collective action and mass mobilisations that had characterised the early years of the militant suffragette movement. Christabel Pankhurst, one the of the leading figures in the WSPU, had become completely dismissive of the capacity of working-class women to fight for their rights. She now looked to heroic individuals or influential (generally rich) women to win the struggle.

Her sister Sylvia Pankhurst, a socialist suffragette, later recalled that Christabel felt ‘a working women’s movement was of no value: working women were the weakest portion of the sex: how could it be otherwise? Their lives were too hard, their education too meagre to equip them for the struggle’. [1]

It was not, however, the end to all suffragette demonstrations although they changed in character considerably. In June 1911 the WSPU organised a Coronation Procession in honour of the new King. The modern equivalent would be the anti-cuts protestors of last week suddenly deciding to celebrate Prince William’s already-tedious engagement!

Meanwhile, Christabel Pankhurst ensured that suffragettes kept their distance from the new social movements that were emerging. 1910 also marked the beginning of the Great Unrest – a huge wave of strike action which included women workers and which terrified the government. If the WSPU had wanted to co-operate with this new movement it is very likely their combined strength would have forced the government to concede.

The East London suffragettes around Sylvia Pankhurst did attempt to link up with the new movements, working with socialists and attending the May Day rally as suffragettes alongside huge numbers of East End workers. In the end it would be Sylvia’s attempts to unite with other progressive movements that would see her forced out of the WSPU by Christabel who was unable to tolerate Sylvia’s appearance on a platform alongside Irish trade unionist Jim Larkin at a meeting protesting at the employers’ lock-out of workers in Dublin.
Militancy from below

Was direct action, then, inevitably incompatible with collective action? In fact window breaking emerged as a response to the government’s failure to listen to mass action.

In 1908 the government challenged the suffragettes to prove that votes for women had popular support. When the suffragettes organised one of the biggest demonstrations ever seen at that time in Hyde Park the government refused to alter its position. It was immediately after this, and an earlier bout of police violence, that the suffragettes threw their first stones - through the windows of 10 Downing Street.

Much of the direct action undertaken by suffragettes was pioneered by militants since described as ‘freelance’[2] – they acted without the permission or foreknowledge of the WSPU’s more conservative leaders. These women were often closer to socialist ideas than their leadership.

Mary Leigh was one of the first two window smashing suffragettes. She was a working-class woman with a deep commitment to militancy, and she was one of the first suffragettes to endure forcible feeding. She was also a socialist who worked with Sylvia in the East End campaigns and publicly spoke out against the WSPU leadership’s support for the British state in the First World War.

Her closest friend was Emily Davison – who committed the most famous militant act of all – disrupting the Derby Day race by running in front of the King’s horse, an action that, in collision with the horse, cost her her life. She too was sympathetic to socialist ideas and was involved with the newly-formed Workers Educational Association (WEA).

Sylvia Pankhurst herself was amongst the most militant of the suffragettes, suffering repeated imprisonments where she undertook hunger, thirst, sleep and rest strikes.

There were many other suffragettes with socialist sympathies who, like these examples, were at the forefront of the struggle, undertaking some of the most famous militant actions. For them, however, the individual acts of vandalism or sacrifice were part of a wider struggle against a system that not only excluded women from its political institutions but also oppressed working-class people and indulged in unjustifiable wars.

Suffragette militancy continues to inspire today. The broken pane at Milbank Tower has brought the suffragettes charging back into political debate. Activists insisting that smashing education is far worse than smashing a window are right when they point out that the Suffragettes did not win the vote by asking politely or avoiding windows. However, there were two traditions of militancy. One began to substitute individual heroism for a mass movement and moved away from wider questions of equality in society. Its focus became increasingly narrow and began to reflect the politics of the richer women who Christabel sought to lead it.

The other tradition is the tradition that Sylvia Pankhurst stood in. Militancy was a part of the movement, not in opposition to it. They used militancy to capture peoples’ imagination and to pull them into a wider struggle against oppression everywhere. That is the tradition that can help us build the resistance today.

[1] E.S. Pankhurst, The Suffragette Movement An Intimate Account of Persons and Ideals (London: Virago Press Limited, 1977 – first published 1931), p.517

[2] See L. Stanley and A. Morley, The Life and Death of Emily Wilding Davison (London: The Women’s Press, 1988)

The photograph the government tried to hide. Suffragette Ada Wright collapses through police violence on Black Friday

Friday, 19 November 2010

The tasks ahead for revolutionaries and socialists


Published Nov 18, 2010 9:42 PM
Larry Holmes

The following talk was given Nov. 13 at the Workers World Party national conference by Larry Holmes, a member of the Secretariat of Workers World Party and a leader of the Bail Out the People Movement.

I want to turn to the central premise of our discussion today — that is, our analysis that capitalism has reached a tipping point, that it has entered a new, permanent crisis that is beyond reform. Reforms are being taken away in front of our eyes. Capitalism does not have the ability to recover itself in any way that is meaningful to the social needs of the working class.

This is not a controversial thesis in our view. Certainly it should be subject to critique; it should be debated.

What is controversial is that there are not enough revolutionary Marxists who are talking about it. That is the controversy; that is the problem. We are not contending that the analysis is a simple one. It is not new. It is an application of Marxism to the present situation.

Productive forces of the world have reached such an incredible height that they are no longer compatible with capitalism. They have outgrown what has become a barbaric system that is just holding things down. The world, its people and all life are hostage to it.

This is very important. Understanding this is understanding what we have to look forward to — what our global class is going to look forward to.

There is one crisis after another, perpetual crisis, crashes, depression, deflation, inflation, bubbles, a crash of this system, a crash of that industry, and at the same time the constant effort to restructure, downsize and steal from the working class as a way to compensate for what capitalism is not getting — because it does not have any new markets on which to dump its overproduced commodities.

Even what the capitalists are trying to do to the workers, under the excuse of reducing the deficit, is a form of restructuring. You don’t need more Social Security. You need to work longer, and let us take everything away to sustain anyone who is not productive — retirees, the poor, the disabled. It is another form of capitalist restructuring, just like downsizing with new, lower wage levels.

This is not common knowledge in the working class for many, many reasons. Perhaps the biggest reason is the bourgeoisie is very gifted in concealing it, with their culture of lying and denial, deception and hiding the suffering, and telling workers what they want in order to manipulate them toward one or the other imperialist parties.

Some of the confusion is because workers are not accustomed to looking at the system. Their reaction is to look at their own situation and the situation of their families and their local situation. Understandably so.

Our working class here is not trained to look at the system, just as they are trained to be passive. This was the problem in the elections. They had no reason to come out and fight for any candidate. So the Tea Party and the money behind them did their thing.

If there had been a referendum on a Works Progress Administration program — where everybody gets a job — there would have been a different turnout. But the election wasn’t about that.

It was a set-up. In time workers will gain this consciousness — in their own natural and uneven way — based on exhausting all possibilities before choosing the struggle. And we will be part of that.

Taking the struggle to a higher level

We have to look at our consciousness. We are not above the workers. We are not elitist. But in order for us to be helpful, our consciousness has to be higher. Or else we have nothing to offer.

We have a higher political consciousness and a sense of history, especially recent history. We know the big problem is an ideological one.

A generation ago capitalism declared victory over socialism. “It is the end of history,” remember that? “We won. There is no alternative to capitalism.” Capitalist triumphalism, I think they called it. “So get used to it.” This is what has been spoon-fed to everyone. It has had a big impact on the working class and on its organizations — a demoralizing impact.

The question for us is: What do we do about it now?

We know we need to be with the struggles. There are going to be many, many struggles — more than we can imagine or even cover — all of a defensive character. Save this school. Save that pension. Save this group of workers from being laid off. Right now, it’s mostly the public workers. We must be part of all these struggles and help them, and help the working class to devise both the program and strategy to fight back.

We must be part of the anti-war struggle — the struggle to defend our comrades who have been targeted by the FBI — because it is them today and you know who it is tomorrow.

We are not arguing that we should move away from these ongoing struggles. We cannot merely relegate ourselves to taking up the many, many local struggles and trying to connect to them as best we can. That is insufficient.

Our job is not just to be there and to tail the working class. It is to illuminate the road ahead as best we can.

Right now it means we have to open a campaign about abolishing capitalism and reviving the struggle for world socialism. If we don’t, a lot is at stake.

Think about it. What are we to do as things get worse and questions begin to arise: Is this it? Is all life on the planet stuck in this capitalist crisis and going down like the Titanic? What an unimaginably depressing thought! Though you can be sure that will occur in the minds of many, especially the youth.

We have to say no. But we’ve got to find an exciting way to say it. Why? If it wasn’t a problem, if it was known, we wouldn’t have to think about it. But it is not known, so we have to try to do something exciting to rectify the problem.

That is the motivation for our campaign to abolish capitalism and revive the struggle for world socialism. If we don’t do it — if we are silent — then it is surrendering to capitalist ideology. It is a surrender to bourgeois racism and war and all their lies. That is unacceptable.

I think we can learn from the Tea Party. They are paid for by the ruling class, and they are very sharp on their class interest. We have not even called for a campaign to abolish capitalism, and they are already afraid of us.

There is a reason a lot of their stuff is socialist baiting. It is a preemptive strike. They see the handwriting on the wall. They know where conditions can lead.

The battle for ideas

We should be no less sharp than our class enemies in relation to our class interests when it comes to the ideological challenge. It is important for the political movement.

Those who some of us consider the vanguard — again, not some elite, but those based on their consciousness, having dedicated themselves to serve the struggle, to serve the revolution — where are they on this question? Are they discussing the capitalist economy or are their heads and minds all submerged understandably in the mass work that is already overpowering them, that is too much for them and that is liable to be more so as things get worse?

That is not an acceptable situation for those who consider themselves political activists, communists, socialists, militants — however they characterize themselves. We have a responsibility to the vanguard and potential vanguard elements, as individuals and as organizations, to make sure they are ideologically strong. They are the first layer to bring this discussion to about the need to have a campaign to abolish capitalism and raise the fight for world socialism.

It is not an abstraction in the day-to-day workers’ struggle; it has direct impact. Think about it. Capitalist ideas are insidious and everywhere. You don’t see them, but they are there, working their terrible, poisonous influence.

That’s true even on the question of whether workers should strike and what should be the goal of their strike. If you are told by the capitalists that we have to work together to be competitive against the city next door or some other country like South Korea or India or China, what is a worker to think when the question of fighting to prevent the bosses from taking something away is posed? How can we fight when we are supposed to cooperate with them and when giving up what we are asked to give up is part of that cooperation? It doesn’t make sense. Especially since the capitalists say this is the only system and it’s the end of the world.

If the capitalists are right, every other worker is either directly or potentially my competitor, my enemy. Think about what that does to solidarity. Think about how it generates racism, how it becomes an excuse for war. It is not an abstraction. Think about it. If we are trying to agitate for a general strike in this country — and believe me, the way things are going that is going to be on the radar screen. We should be talking about it with a lot of our comrades in other organizations.

This working class has got to learn how to defend itself. That is number one. How can you conceive of a general strike — which means solidarity, coordinated action on a mass level of workers in many localities and states, working in different industries — when you are told that working together is completely against the idea of competing successfully?

This affects the workers’ morale. Think about the deficit. What an amazing fantasy that they try to sell the working class that somehow in this country and in this world with unimaginable wealth, there is not enough for Social Security. And there is not enough to take care of those who are in need because they are disabled. There is not enough to provide for every need and comfort, so we have to cut your pension. It is such a crock. But it is swallowed because that is what we are told. But it is not the workers’ deficit; it is a capitalist system’s deficit. You can’t get there unless you are moving in an anti-capitalist direction — unless you are opposing the norms of capitalism.

It must be a world struggle, too. I say renew, reawaken the world struggle for socialism. The crisis is a world crisis. Our class is a world class.

You think they have been trying to divide us based on where we happen to be. That is going to be exacerbated in the immediate future. You are going to hear a lot of that from Democrats and Republicans. Mostly against China but against India and other emerging economies. Some of the union leadership is ready to buy in to it and divert the class struggle into some ridiculous struggle that has no meaning for one working class country against another working class country, worker against worker.

This is where things are going. That’s why this has to be a world struggle. True internationalists understand that the outcome of any struggle anywhere affects the struggle everywhere. And if you wear Che’s face on your shirt, unless you understand internationalism, you should take the shirt off because he understood this. He was the foremost internationalist of our time. So much so he couldn’t stay in one place.

The G-20 summit should be correctly called the summit of rich people and their puppets. Actually, in addition to the G-20 countries, there were 120 of the biggest bankers and corporate executives there who were really calling the shots. What are they doing? Our whole life, our future is in their hands, and they are fighting over who is going to get this or that market in which to push their overproduced commodities. At the same time our workers are being fired so those bankers and executives will have greater profits.

It is as if capitalism was a disease in a very advanced stage in our body, and instead of our organs working together in cooperation for the health of the whole body, the organs are fighting each other — trying to steal nutrition, trying to pull some enzyme, doing all kinds of crazy stuff that winds up with the body breaking down. That is what capitalism is right now.

Putting theory into practice

We have got to open up a campaign. We don’t have the details, but that is what is being discussed here and with other groups beyond this meeting. It has got to be a real campaign. The campaign to abolish capitalism and renew the world struggle for socialism has to be propagandistic, but it has to be more than that.

There have to be big events associated with it — big rallies, big meetings both inside and outside. It should be close to the real struggle, not apart from it.

There need to be international events. We haven’t forgotten our call for socialists to unite. Some people have called us naïve. “Oh, the socialist movement is so fragmented and so at each other’s throats that you can’t take it seriously.” That may be true. But if you are a revolutionary and you have what it takes to envision revolution and a new world, you should have what it takes to call for unity among socialists, especially among those who may have more in common than not. If you can’t do that, how can you expect anyone to take you seriously?

Finally, this campaign to abolish capitalism and revive the struggle for world socialism needs to be integrated into the mass struggle, not only on the local and national level, but on the international level.

Some of the most important days in the last 10 years — we didn’t stop the war against Iraq, but that doesn’t take away from what happened — Feb. 15 and 16, 2003, were days when groups with lots of differences — social democrats, communists, pacifists, the whole realm of different ideologies — brought out millions of people around the world to say no to war. We’ve got to do that for jobs. We’ve got to do that to stop foreclosures. We’ve got to do that to abolish capitalism.

We must have a concrete program that goes along with a campaign to abolish capitalism and bring back socialism on a world level. We must have concrete demands — social rights to a home, a job, health care and education, all the things you need to live. I tell you this struggle is necessary. It will help our class. It will help radicals. It will help everybody. It will give us a hand up in this economic crisis. Our job now is to figure out, if it is the right thing, who to ask to join us and how to proceed. Socialism or death!

Articles copyright 1995-2010 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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Thursday, 18 November 2010

Bolivia's army declares itself Socialist and Anti-Imperialist

November 18, 2010 | 1:45 pm

The commanding general of Bolivia's army has declared the Andean nation's forces "socialist," "anti-capitalist," and "anti-imperialist," positions that were immediately echoed by President Evo Morales, Bolivia's first indigenous president.

Gen. Antonio Cueto made the statements Sunday at a ceremony marking the army's 200th anniversary. Cueto said Bolivia's 2009 constitution allows the army to "emerge as a socialist, communitarian institution," according to the EFE news agency (links in Spanish).

"We declare ourselves anti-imperialist because in Bolivia there can exist no external power imposing itself," Cueto said. "We also declare ourselves anti-capitalist because this system is destroying Mother Earth."

Morales, who attended the ceremony using crutches because of recent knee surgery, agreed, saying, "History proves that the army was born with an anti-imperialist position because it's been combating the European empire since 1810." (Link in Spanish.)

Cueto also said Bolivia would never allow a foreign military to establish bases within its territory, making an indirect reference to a stalled plan in Colombia to allow the U.S. armed forces to use bases there. Cueto's words drew criticism and rebuke from former military leaders, reported La Razon, a daily in Bolivia (link in Spanish). One former commander and current opposition senator said the general was taking a partisan position, and therefore was in violation of the Constitution.

The chief of Bolivia's national police, meanwhile, said this week that his agency would remain "apolitical," EFE reported.
-- Daniel Hernandez in Mexico City

Tuesday, 16 November 2010

Met closes down anti-police blog 'Fitwatch'

Riot police and student demonstrators outside Millbank Riot police and student demonstrators outside Millbank in London. Photograph: Kirsty Wigglesworth/AP


Police force suspension of website that offered advice to students involved in last week's rioting

* Paul Lewis
* The Guardian, Tuesday 16 November 2010

Scotland Yard has forced the closure of an anti-police blog which was being used to disseminate advice to protesters pictured at the student fees demonstration.

The website Fitwatch was suspended after the its hosting company received contact from C011, the Metropolitan's public order branch, stating that the blog was "being used to undertake criminal activities".

The move appears to have taken place after a blog posted on the website gave guidance to students who feared they might be arrested for their involvement in the occupation of the Millbank office complex, which houses the Tory party headquarters.

A largely peaceful march against the proposed increase in tuition fees turned violent on Wednesday when a minority of the 50,000 students targeted Millbank.

Around 200 entered the building and some accessed the roof. During a period of rioting, windows and furniture were smashed and, in the most serious act of violence, a fire extinguisher was thrown towards police from the roof.

The Fitwatch blogpost, which last night had reappeared on several other websites, recommended that students "get rid" of clothes they wore at the demonstration and change their appearance.

"Perhaps now is a good time for a makeover," said the post. "Get a haircut and colour, grow a beard, wear glasses. It isn't a guarantee, but may help throw them off the scent."

Hours later, the Met's "e-crime unit" informed Fitwatch's website hosting service – – that the blog was being used to attempt to pervert the course of justice by providing guidance to "offenders".

"We hereby request [you] de-host this website for a minimum period of 12 months," it said in a letter seen by the Guardian. "The website is providing explicit advice to offenders following a major demonstration in central London.

"The demonstration was marred by violence and several subjects have already been arrested, with a major police operation under way to identify and arrest further offenders."

The letter stated that authority to close "the website and IP address" had been given by Will Hodgeson, an acting detective inspector at C011.

The Telegraph and the rightwing blogger Guido Fawkes both launched campaigns last week to identify student protesters, posting photographs of activists they suggested had been involved in criminal activity.

Criticising the campaign as "an irresponsible and frenzied 'shop-a-student'" initiative, Fitwatch yesterday issued its own advice to students who might be "worried" that they would become suspects because of their involvement in the demonstration.

The guidance ranged from suggesting that students contact a lawyer or stay away from demonstrations for a while, to advising them to get rid of clothes they were wearing at the protests, as well as spray cans and "dodgy texts/photos on your phone".

The post added: "The police often use the psychological pressure of knowing they have your picture to persuade you to 'come forward'. Unless you have a very pressing reason to do otherwise, let them come and find you, if they know who you are."

Fitwatch was set up in 2007 by protesters seeking to oppose what they saw as objectionable surveillance tactics used by Forward Intelligence Teams (FITs), who use cameras to monitor political activists.

The site has proved controversial among public order police officers, who found their own names, badge numbers and photos uploaded on the internet as an act of retaliation.

The Fitwatch website was hosted by Emily Apple, 34, who said last night that closure amounted to "political intimidation". "It seems convenient that they have taken it down now," she said, referring to recent anti-police blogposts on the site.

"Nothing in that post [giving guidance to student protesters] has not been said before on our blog or on other sites."

Val Swain, 44, another Fitwatch campaigner, said the post had been been a direct response to what she called the Telegraph's "rogues' gallery" and was never intended to divulge information that was not already "well known".

She added: "It was tantamount in my view to a lawyer saying to their client: you can say 'no comment' in the police interview."

Wednesday, 10 November 2010

Students attack Tory HQ: Anti-Cuts Resistance - Starting as we mean to go on. Take the class war back to the enemy.

Statement from Not A Dinner Party on the student Siege of Tory HQ at Millbank Tower.


Six months in to the ConDem government and their open declaration of war on the poor, the disabled, the working class and indeed everyone who isn't responsible for the crisis of finance capitalism (ie imperialism) and the first major protest in London ends up exactly where it should, with thousands of students laying siege to the tory Party HQ. The best possible start to what has to be a sustained campaign of militant resistance to what in reality is a very weak and divided government, but one with the arrogance of being formed directly and unapologeticly from the most priviliged and callous section of the ruling-class, people who beleive it is their birth right to rule and their ancestral right to privilige at the expense of all else.

Todays action is a lesson is the direction the anti-cuts movement has to take if it is to be successful. While the tories are hell-bent on taking us back to the 80s excesses of Thatcherism, we cannot afford to repeat the mistakes that the Left and the Labour Movement made then. Waiting for Labour is of course out of the question. The ConDem regime is after all continuing a program that was initiated and laid out by the last government. Labour's only concern is not that the tories are going too far, but that they are doing it too fast. So far there has barely been a peep out of the Labour Party and nor will there be. But you can bet they will be falling over themselves to denounce any and all effective militant resistance to the cuts.

And nor can we follow the same lefty routine of marching from A-B inb town centres, demonstrations and rallies that do nothing but annoy weekend shoppers and are completely ignored by both the media and of course by the government - safety valves for an innefectual and impotant "Left".

This struggle needs to take on board the example of the protests that have rocked Greece and France. And it needs to learn from our enemies. Over the last year the fascist English Defence League has built a mass street movement that can mobilise thousands - and done so largely through utuilising social-media specifically Facebook. Using such sources the far-right have been able to very successfully spread their message, organise at short notice and make contacts and develop new networks amongst tens of thousands - and that influnce extends well beyond those singed up on their Facebook pages - the rumours and claims they put out spread like a virus and are picked up and repeated by millions. There is no reason at all why militant progressives cannot utilise similar methods.

In the early months and years of the Blair New Labour administration, another section of the Right, this time essentially the extra-parliamentary wing of the tory party, mobilised tens of thousands through the Countryside Alliance, not just in demonstrations and protests but also in motorway blockades. Likewise the rightist Fuel Tax Protests effectively shut down the country's fuel distribution network with illegal blockades of fuel refinaries, storage facilities and motorways, and maintained huge public support even while petrol stations ran dry, shop shelves emptied and schools and hospitals were threatened with closure.

These actions were most often illegal. 18 years of the Thatcher offensive against the organised working class left the trade union movement crippled by laws that effectively outlawed any effective industrial struggle or shows of solidarity. Not only did New Labour not rescind these laws, they added to them with the most draconian "anti-terror" legislation that has essentially given the state the legal means to criminalise and shut down any form of protest. But this has not deterred the Right. It did not deter the Countryside Alliance, the anti-Fuel Tax protesters and it certainly hasnt hinderd the EDL. But you will be hard pressed to find any Union leader (with one or two possible exceptions) who would for a second ever contemplate risking sequestration, crippling fines and imprisonment for calling for and leading any effective fightback.

So it is a given that really any form of protest, no matter how seemingly innocent or mundane, is "illegal" now. And it is also a given that the old methods of protest have failed. They didnt stop Thatcher in the 1980s - the only "traditonal" force that came close was the Miners - and the price of their defeat was their complete destruction, as a Union, as an industry and as a community. And if two million marching through London couldnt influence a Labour government to think twice about engaging in an illegal war, then what makes anyone beleive any number marching, whistleing, dancing, wearing costunmes, banging srums and shrieking the same old tired slogans, will have any influence on a tory government that regards such people as the scum of the earth anyway?

The one victory we did have was over the Poll Tax, it was an attack on ordinary people every bit as callous and cynical as what we are seeing now. And the protest succeeded because it went outside and beyond the usual forms. It involved ordinary people who organised themselves and based their action on what they felt was possible and effective in the area they were and with the numbers they had. While most people know of the legendary Battle Of Trafalgar Square of 1990, something that will most likely be eclipsed inthe coming struggle, what most people who werent around at the time dont know of is the hundreds of protests that took place outside scores of town halls often involving thousands of people, and very often ending with council chambers being stormed. Bailiffs offices were trashed, Conservative Clubs attacked and for the first time in years, there was a sense of panic amongst the politicians and a real sense that would could win amongst the people. Millions refused to pay, the Poll Tax was dropped and Thatcher forced from office.

But this government, for all of its Thatcherite arrogance and contempt, is actually very weak and very divided. It can be beaten. But the struggle needs to get "personal". Would 1 thousand people marching through a town centre make any impact? How about a thousand people marching on the constituency office of the local tory or Liberal Party? A thousand marching on the surgery of a MP? A thousand marching on the home of a MP? A thousand taking over the council chamber when they annouce their cuts.

There is no doubt that the anger and militancy of todays protest has sent a ripple of shock and anxiety through many amongst the enemy tonight. After only 6 months in power, and the first major protest in London against their policies, they have already witnessed a minor taste of the real, deep and growing anger that is ready to explode.

And by taking their anger directly to the HQ of the enemy they wil have acheived more than a hundred town centre marches from park A to park B to listen to Union and Labour hypocrites proclaim platitudes and promises they have no means or intention to fulfill.

If this government inlficts pain and fear - then those responsible, those who enforce it and support it, from top to bottom, must be made to understand just what pain and fear really means.

Political Response to Economic Crisis in Ireland

Political Response to Economic Crisis in Ireland

Sinn Féin offers a better way

By Nicky Dempsey

Sinn Féin has published its response to the Dublin government’s threatened plans to cut public spending once more in its Budget for 2011, There Is A Better Way. The Fianna Fail/ Green coalition in government has outlined planned further cuts totalling €6bn in both capital and current spending, including welfare payments to the poor. This would bring the total level of ‘fiscal tightening’ to €20.6bn since the end of 2008, which is now equivalent to 13.1% of GDP. For comparison the British government’s current plans – among the most draconian of any major European country- amount to 9.2% of GDP.

The Sinn Féin response stands in stark contrast to the bourgeois parties across Europe who have used the recession and ensuing fiscal crisis to launch an attack on the social welfare gains built up since WWII. The SF policy has three key components. First, is to shift the burden of taxation from the poor to a rich in a series of measures including higher income and wealth taxes for higher earners and the rich. Secondly, reform of the tax system in what the party calls a ‘financial stimulus’ to redistribute incomes towards the poor and low-paid. But the largest component of the policy is a €7.5bn government investment package in infrastructure and other areas such as early childcare, which is estimated to create 160,000 jobs. This would go some way to addressing the collapse in investment which more than accounts for the entirety of the Irish recession.

The other major parties in Ireland have all signed up to the policies of the Dublin government in the South while Sinn Féin is the only party to consistently oppose the same agenda of the British government in the North of Ireland. In Dublin, the FF-led government had been hoping to co-opt the other parties, Fine Gael and Labour, into explicitly supporting their further attacks on the living standards of workers and the poor. Given that both actually propose very similar measures (with Labour simply calling for a ‘rebalancing’ of the measures towards tax increases), there was actually the basis for a de facto grand 4-party coalition, including the junior coalition partners the Greens.

However, FF’s slump in the polls, down to 18% in one poll in October, from 41.6% in the 2007 general election, made the nominal opposition parties more cautious. The caution turned to outright hostility for purely electoral considerations as the government has been forced by High Court order to hold a long-postponed by-election in Donegal, with others to follow in the New Year. The legal case was itself a victory for Sinn Féin, with the other parties content to allow the government to continue in office despite dwindling parliamentary and popular support. The consequence is that the government is likely to fall early next year and may well call an early general election. Neither Fine Gael nor Labour saw any electoral advantage in propping up Fianna Fail, even while they agree on the substance of further cuts.

Saving The Nation

Fianna Fail, which styles itself ‘The Republican Party’, made the appeal to other parties to support its Budget on the grounds that a failure to act would lead to a ‘loss of sovereignty’ as the ECB/EU/IMF are waiting in the wings to impose further, even more drastic cuts. In fact the government’s own policy now makes this outcome more than possible. Financing through the bond markets is no longer possible as long-term interest rates approach 8%, compared to just over 2% for Germany. While the ‘austerity’ policy has led to a collapse in economic activity and a widening of the public sector deficit, a uniquely generous bailout of bank bondholders means that respected commentators believe the cost to taxpayers will be approximately €76bn, more than 8 times the size of cuts threatened in this December’s Budget and equivalent to €17,000 for every woman, man and child in the State.

The effect of the guarantee is to provide an enormous transfer of taxpayer funds to bail out primarily German, British and French banks, the main holders of debt in Irish banks. While the EU and ECB have insisted on this when burdening Greek workers and the poor with increased debts, the Dublin government initiated this policy itself. The only conceivable explanation is that by bailing out the bondholders, the latter will not foreclose on the banks and their property speculator customers. These two groups, bankers and property speculators, are the political core of the Fianna Fail alliance, even though for historical reasons, its electoral support derived from urban workers.

This subservience to European finance is the flip-side to the government’s prostrate position before the interests of US industrial and commercial capital. This is codified in the lowest corporate tax rate in the OECD area, 12.5% compared to 39% for the US and Japan, 30% for Germany, as well the indulgence of myriad schemes, which reduce the effective rate of tax to below 2%.

The policy response to the crisis, to enrich these foreign capitals by depleting the resources of the workers and the poor failed to reckon on the finite level of the latter, and the voracious appetites of the former. Usually, in a Western European economy of the standard type, the domestic bourgeoisie, crushed by the impositions on its own activities and the damage done to its domestic markets would rise up and remove such a government. But Ireland is not a standard type of Western European economy. While one quarter of the country remains a direct colony of Britain, the remainder retains the distorted social structure of the recent colony. Most especially, outside of the dominant layers in banking and property speculation, the bulk of the Irish bourgeois class is comprised of globally insignificant capitals, with owners of fast food outlets, bookmakers and publicans to the fore in IBEC, the main employers’ federation. There are literally only a handful of Irish-owned companies that compete in global markets.

So, when in 2009, policy in the advanced capitalist countries was focused on measures to boost domestic demand, tax breaks, employmentsubsidies and so on to ensure the survival of indigenous capitalism, no such measures were adopted by the Dublin government. Lacking any significant capitalists that compete in world markets, there was no purpose to such a policy and the first resort was to attack wages and social welfare spending. This has only now become popular elsewhere once the survival of domestic capitals has been ensured.

This is why the Sinn Féin policy is so significant. Perhaps uniquely in Western Europe, the party has adopted a policy of increased investment which can only be conducted by state or state-linked bodies (in this case, the National Pension Reserve Fund). And, uniquely in Western Europe, this is not a programme that entails saving sections of big capital. As elsewhere it would require an enduring leadership role for the state in the economy. But it would immediately lead to the state becoming the dominant force in the domestic economy, albeit one that would require a new partnership with foreign capital, on both a more productive and equal footing.

The policy is also gaining ground. A string of popular campaigning organisations, such as Social Justice Ireland and Community Platform have tentatively moved in the same direction, while the Irish Congress of Trade Unions has adopted pro-investment stance, but contradictorily pins its hopes on the government persuading the private sector to initiate the investments. No doubt these contradictions will be resolved in course of the struggles over the next period.

Monday, 8 November 2010

Fall of ex-minister exposes Labour’s fascist election strategy

By Yvonne Ridley

So, former British Government minister Phil Woolas has finally been rumbled for playing the race and religion cards in a political game which has fuelled Islamaphobia in the UK.

Two high court judges have ordered that his election as MP for Oldham East and Saddleworth is “void”. Woolas was brought before the court on accusations of stirring up racial hatred and seizing on anti-Muslim sentiment in Oldham by claiming that his rival endorsed a Muslim campaign to remove him.

His campaign aimed to “make white folks angry” at his opponent, the Liberal Democrat’s Elwyn Watkins, as part of a desperate bid to retain his seat in the run up to the May 2010 general election. Whipping up hysteria and rhetoric that could make him a Tea Party candidate in America, Woolas is now barred from the House of Commons and ordered to pay £5,000 and costs to Mr. Watkins.

He says he will seek a judicial review but it’s not looking good -- as he stands there exposed for what he is, Labour has put a barge pole’s distance between themselves and the disgraced politician. The Westminster Village is said to be reeling in a state of shock… but why? I exposed the political scumbag way back on February 18 2008. Actually, my exact words to describe the government minister at the time were “an odious, rancid, little creep.”

This is what I wrote: “One of the biggest Islamophobes sitting in Government is Phil Woolas, who deserves further scrutiny in this column. He was the minister for race relations in the autumn of 2006 when he intervened in the row over the classroom assistant Aisha Azmi by calling for her to be fired. Aisha was the girl who work a nikab over her face whenever a male colleague entered the room, but by the time he and the media had finished you would have thought Aisha spent her entire teaching days in a full face veil. This is the MP who during the last General Election stamped the Union Jack emblem on his campaign literature and highlighted 'anti-white racism' as a vital issue in his Oldham constituency. His mates told him it was political suicide and that he would lose his marginal seat but in fact his votes increased and sent the anoraks in Labour’s spin machine into statistical overdrive. They realized then they didn’t need to try and win back the disaffected Muslims who ditched Labour over Iraq and Afghanistan. So instead of trying to bring them back into the fold, these cynical politicians opted instead to stir up racial tension as a means of appealing directly to the white working-class vote”.

The full column is here: -can-only-demand-to-be-treated-as-an-equal-if-you- act-like-one-5.html

The Woolas shock election victory after the disastrous Iraq war was achieved by using the race and religion card -- his politics of hate was a winning formula and Tony Blair’s backroom strategists loved it… once they’d recovered from the shock, for the truth is they had written off Woolas as a political casualty of the 2003 war since he was based in a marginal constituency with a large Muslim community.

The actions of Woolas triggered a new New Labour strategy which sought to encourage columns and online blogs written by aggressive secularists and so-called progressives to make Islam-bashing trendy. It was a poison which began creeping in to newspaper and magazine columns as well.

Those driven by racism also joined in the fun seeing Islamophobia as the last legitimate refuge to peddle their race-fueled hate. Phil Woolas was the man responsible for making Islamaphobia a national sport and while I'm sure he will be repulsed by the activities of the British National Party and the English Defense League they thrived in this atmosphere.

There were a few notable exceptions within the party including London Mayor Ken Livingstone who refused to enter in to political Muslim-baiting and at one point some sections of the media turned on him damaging his own political campaign in the English capital.

Meanwhile in the last General Election Labour ruthlessly deployed the politics of fascism to win popular votes and approval. Using the ‘Woolas’ model they placed the politics of religious identity at the centre of public debate, in the same opportunist way that Jorg Haider's Freedom Party did in Austria and Pim Fortuyn's List Party had previously done in Holland. Geert Wilders went on to take the hate to new levels. The fire of Islamaphobia rages across Europe today. Control orders, the use of secret evidence, tougher anti-terror laws -- all aimed at the Muslim communities -- came to define the Labour government's role in the ill-conceived War on Terror.

This incendiary atmosphere of growing Islamophobic intolerance continued to be ignited by the actions of the then Government minister on Race, Phil Woolas, who cynically drove the bandwagon through Muslim communities at every available opportunity.

He created hysterical headlines about ""Muslim inbreeding"" with his comments about the health risks of cousin marriages among Pakistanis. The way he spoke about the issue was as though some Frankenstein-like creatures were filling the baby wards in maternity hospitals around Oldham, Bradford, Burnley and Birmingham.

Tony Blair and Gordon Brown, both stirred the political pot of religion and racism, the latter wading in to Jack Straw’s nikab row with gusto. It seems every Labour minister was scrambling over the backs of others to attack Islam and Muslims.

Meanwhile, the enemies of Islam are still circling in politics and the media. They are trying to force Muslims to adopt an Islam which is servile to the West, a designer Islam that can be picked up and taken off like a pair of Jimmy Choos. What have they got to fear from Muslims in Britain who simply want to uphold family values which were once held so dear in British communities before binge drinking, promiscuity and pill-popping became so commonplace? There is no reason why Muslims can not contribute positively to Britain and elsewhere in the West without diluting their faith. It is not asked of other communities so why single Muslims out for special treatment?

The Commons Speaker, John Bercow will now have to decide whether to wait for further legal proceedings or immediately call a by-election for Oldham East and Saddleworth. The political power is now back with the people of that constituency -- good people of faith and no faith.

I would urge each and every one of them to vote, and vote for the politician who best suits their ideals… someone who is prepared to serve the people and not manipulate voters by trading on fear and hatred.

Hopefully the downfall of Woolas will serve as a salutary warning to all of those who indulged in the fascist politics of race, religion and fear.

Friday, 5 November 2010

Two trends in world politics

Friday, 05 November 2010

By Jane West


The recent results of the elections in Brazil and the USA highlight two divergent trends in world politics. Trends in the countries dominated by imperialism continue to go to or remain on the left. Since the outbreak of the international financial crisis political trends within the imperialist countries have moved to the right.

In the ‘developing’ world the overall trend remains on the left, not just electorally, but in the willingness to stand up to the demands of imperialism on a number of fronts. The victory for Dilma Rousseff in the second round of the Brazilian elections compounded the defeat for the right in the elections to the Brazilian Congress and State legislatures. In the latter elections the PT and its coalition partners increased their representation, including taking firm control of the Senate for the first time. Within the coalition the electoral advance was predominantly for the PT and the left of the coalition, with the more centre left partners doing less well or falling back.

In Latin America, the Brazilian electoral outcome follows the success for Evo Morales’ Movement Towards Socialism in the Bolivian regional elections in April this year and stablisation of support for a left of centre coalition in Argentina. In Venezuela, the Chavista leadership of the revolution met a setback in the September legislative elections, but a more coherent economic policy, learning from its ties with China, lack of which lay behind this setback, can turn this around. Overall, despite the coup overthrowing Zeleya in Honduras, the US has not been able to overturn the dominance of the left in the region.

In the Middle East, Israel has suffered from an increasing political isolation primarily driven by the heroic resistance of the Palestinians of Gaza and the unpopularity internationally of Israel’s 2008/09 war on Gaza. Of particular importance is the clear break of Turkey from its long term alliance with Israel. This reached a flashpoint in Israel’s assault on the aid to Gaza flotilla earlier this year. The condemnation of the Israeli attack on the flotilla meant Egypt had little choice about letting the most recent aid convoy through to Gaza. The Abbas leadership of the PLO will be further undermined by the current round of ‘peace talks’ with an Israeli leadership which has no intention of making any meaningful concession to the Palestinians. This will be a prolonged struggle but the recent political shifts are against Israel. Developments in Turkey also have consequences for the US attempt to confront Iran.

In Asia China has continued to resist US demands that it undertake economic suicide via a sharp revaluation of its currency. Since allowing ‘flexibility’ in China’s exchange rate with the dollar earlier this year the RMB has moved up only marginally. China’s economic growth in the 3rd quarter of 2010 was 9.6%, the fastest of any major economy in the world and far outstripping the US.

China’s economic growth is not only benefitting the Chinese people but is beginning to have a real impact in the semi-colonial world as trade and economic cooperation with China gives a practical economic alternative to subordination to the US – something the USSR was never able to offer. China’s investment in Africa has helped lift the continent out of its long economic depression and China has become the number one trading partner of Brazil and other semi-colonial countries. South African president Zuma recently made an extended trip to China and is clearly making alliance with China a key part of South Africa’s economic development.

Echoing points made by Zuma himself during the trade mission to China in August, South African Trade Minister Rob Davies told The Financial Times, for example, that China's expanding presence in Africa ‘can only be a good thing’ because it will increase competition for resources and influence in the continent. ‘We don't have to sign on the dotted line whatever is shoved under our noses any longer,’ he told the FT, ‘We now have alternatives and that's to our benefit.’

US attempts to encircle China politically and militarily were given a boost earlier in the year with clear attempts by Russia to move closer to the West, reflected in the ‘deal’ which delivered Russian support for new sanctions on Iran, in return for changes in US ‘missile defence’ plans in Eastern Europe. This helped pressure China into supporting the Iran sanctions’ motion at the UN.

But on other issues closer to home, China has flexed its muscles in standing up to the US - roundly rejecting the US’s proposal to become a ‘neutral’ 3rd party mediator in China’s disputes with Japan over the Diaoyu islands, and US claim that the South China Sea was somehow in a US’s sphere of ‘leadership’ in Asia.

In short in the semi-colonial countries, while there have been individual defeats, at present the tide continues to be at least moderately to the left.

Trends within the imperialist countries are however running in the opposite direction. Very serious resistance has been waged by the French working class to the attacks on the welfare state in that country. Resistance continues in Greece. But these are the exceptions.

The most evident outcome of this is the US mid-term congressional elections, which were a major success for the right. But these follow on from the electoral successes of the right in the UK and Germany. In Japan a new even more hawkish Liberal Democrat Party (LDP) is clearly preparing its return to power.

In the US the initial response to the financial crisis saw a progressive outcome and shift to the left, reflected in the high level of mobilisation around Obama’s election campaign. But the failure of the Obama presidency to take effective measures on the economic crisis, more precisely its supine capitulation to Wall Street on all issues except health care, has thrown the US population back to the right.

In foreign policy the failure to take decisive steps to pull out of Afghanistan, continuing sabre-rattling against Iran, passivity in the face of Israeli aggression coupled with an incapacity to break out of the deadlock in US politics that opposes all state intervention in the economy, means Obama’s first two years have shown essential continuity with the Bush presidency. In short Obama has delivered ‘guns but no butter’. Under those circumstances the right finds itself newly invigorated only two years after its polices lead to foreign policy disasters in Iraq and Afghanistan and the greatest crisis of the US economy since the 1930s.

Failing to effectively campaign for support for an investment boost led by the state, the US administration has had to fall back on a further round of monetary measures with a second quantitative easing (QE2). This will have little effect on the US economy although it will help create monetary problems in a whole series of semi-colonial economies due to the outflow of ‘hot money’. The only beneficial effect of this is that it is shifting the focus, even of US allies, away from the alleged ‘undervalued RMB’ to the real issue of the weakness of the US economy and economic chaos which US monetary policy threatens to create in various areas of the world economy.

The mid-terms have deepened the problems for Obama, and strengthened the tendencies in US politics which seek to deepen the attacks on the working class, while seeking to make up for the US’s declining economic clout by lashing out on the military front. Alongside this has been the rise of unpleasant racist currents of a type that have become familiar in European politics.

Given the continued weight and gradual further development of the left in the semi-colonial world, and the shift to the right inside the imperialist countries, intensified confrontations between imperialism and the population of the semi-colonial countries is inevitable in the coming years. However, unlike the two decades after World War II, from 1945-1968, which saw a rise of struggle in the colonial countries accompanied by prosperity in the imperialist states this time progressive struggles in the colonial world are going to be accompanied by harsh austerity within the imperialist states.

Within the imperialist countries the chief duty of socialists, therefore, is to seek to block new aggressive moves of imperialism aimed against the semi-colonial countries while combining this with the struggles against capitalist ‘austerity’ measures, and right wing currents flowing from them.

Monday, 1 November 2010

Brazil's first female president vows to 'honour' Lula's economic legacy

President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva (left) and Brazilian President elect Dilma Rousseff as they celebrate her victory at Alvorada Palace Photo: AFP

Brazil's first female president has pledged to continue with the economic policies that have produced rapid growth under President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva and to 'honour his legacy'.

By Robin Yapp, Sao Paulo
Published: 4:46PM GMT 01 Nov 2010

Brazil's first female president has pledged to continue with the economic policies that have produced rapid growth under President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva and to 'honour his legacy'.

Dilma Rousseff, who was chosen by President Lula as the candidate of his Workers' Party, was elected on Sunday night with 56 per cent of the vote compared to 44 per cent for Jose Serra.

In her victory speech in the capital Brasilia, Ms Rousseff, 62, offered "special thanks" to the man who she will replace on January 1, 2011 at the end of his two terms in power.

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"I will know how to honour his legacy," she told cheering supporters. "I will know how to consolidate and go forward with his work."

Ms Rousseff, a former Marxist guerrilla who was jailed and tortured in the 1970s under Brazil's military dictatorship, warned that Brazil could not rely on developed economies to help it grow after the global financial crisis.

But she sought to qualm fears that she could increase public spending and risk a return to high inflation by saying that the Brazilian people would not accept "governments who spend above what is sustainable".

"We will take care of our economy with all responsibility," Ms Rousseff said.

Brazil's GDP is likely to grow by 7.6 per cent this year, falling to 4.5 per cent next year, according to figures released by the country's Central Bank on Monday.

The country's Bovespa stock exchange rose in early trading, indicating that investors were not taking flight at the defeat for Mr Serra, of the centrist Brazilian Social Democracy Party (PSDB).

Ms Rousseff also vowed to make equality for women her first priority and to continue with the social programmes aimed at eradicating poverty introduced under President Lula.

"I would like very much today for fathers and mothers of daughters to look in their eyes and tell them: 'Yes, a woman can,'" she said.

Ms Rousseff will lead a 10-party alliance brought together by the negotiating skills of President Lula, whom has approval ratings of around 80 per cent.

But much of the Brazilian media see the election result as an endorsement of President Lula's reign rather than a sign that Ms Rousseff, who has never before held elected office, is viewed by voters as the best person to lead the country.

The front page headline of the newspaper O Estado de Sao Paulo called the result simply "The Victory of Lula".

The weekly political magazine Veja asked on its last front cover before the election: "He is leaving the presidency but will the presidency leave him?" Many political analysts believe the outgoing president could seek a return to power in 2014 if Ms Rousseff fails to throw off her reputation as a stern technocrat and develop into a political leader.

Professor Mark Jones, of the department of political science at Rice University in Texas, said: "I am certain that he will work behind the scenes to assist Dilma Rousseff's presidency. If her presidency is mediocre or unsuccessful then it would not surprise me if Lula stepped in to run for office again."

Professor Jones suggested that the outgoing president could also be a candidate to replace Nestor Kirchner, the former president of Argentina who died last week, as General Secretary of the Union of South American Nations.

Ms Rousseff is now due to rest for a few days before flying to Mozambique with President Lula on Saturday. They will then go on to South Korea for G20 meetings.

Woman stabbed Labour MP over his Iraq war vote, court hears

Roshonara Choudhry twice stabbed Stephen Timms in stomach as 'revenge for the people of Iraq', Old Bailey told
* Vikram Dodd, crime correspondent
*, Monday 1 November 2010 14.40 GMT

A former Labour minister was stabbed twice in his stomach by a woman who wanted to kill him as "revenge" for his voting for the Iraq war, a court today heard.

Roshonara Choudhry, 21, "smiled" just before she plunged the knife into Stephen Timms MP, in an attempted killing for political reasons. The Old Bailey jury was told she is not mentally ill and was calm after the attack.

Choudhry had gone to Timms's east London constituency surgery on 14 May 2010, intent on stabbing him to death, the court heard. Weeks before, she had bought two new knives, one to stab him with, the other as back-up in case the first knife broke during the attack. Timms was stabbed twice in the abdomen, and his attacker, who was one of his constituents, had to be pulled off him. The MP for East Ham has made a full recovery.

The court heard that Choudhry had confessed all to police, telling detectives: "I was not going to stop until somebody made me." Interviewed hours after the attack, Choudhry told police: "I was trying to kill him." When the interviewing officer, detective inspector Simon Dobinson, asked why, she replied: "Because he wanted to invade Iraq." Asked what that would achieve, she said: "Punishment." She later added: "I was hoping to get revenge for the people of Iraq."

She said she chose to stab Timms in the stomach because she lacked strength and that part of the body was soft, to get the knife in.

Choudhry, who was not in court, is accused of attempted murder and two charges of having an offensive weapon.

Jeremy Dein QC, defending, said she did not recognise the jurisdiction of the court and did not wish her lawyers to challenge evidence put before the jury. She would not be attending her trial.

Timms told the Old Bailey he thought Choudhry was coming to shake hands and he even stood up as she approached the desk where he sat. As she offered out one hand, she used the other to stab him, the court heard.

He said Choudhry had made an appointment for his Friday afternoon constituency surgery, and asked to see him rather than an assistant. The MP told the jury: "She didn't go and sit down as she continued to come towards me where I was standing to greet her. I thought she must have been coming to shake my hand. She made as if she was coming to do that. She looked friendly. She was smiling, if I emember rightly.

"I was a little puzzled because a Muslim woman dressed in that way wouldn't normally be willing to shake a man's hand, still less to take the initiative to do so, but that is what she was doing. She lunged at me with her right hand."

Timms pointed at his stomach to show the jury where the knife had gone in. He said: "I think I knew that I had been stabbed, although I didn't feel anything and I can't recall actually seeing a knife, but I think I said 'She has a knife' or words to that effect. I attempted to push away the second lunge but was not successful."

Opening the prosecution, William Boyce QC said Choudhry had made "very full admissions" to police about what she had done. He said Choudhry would not give evidence, and her barrister would not be inviting the jury to acquit her. Boyce added: "Nor is there any question she is suffering from mental illness: she is not."

Mr Justice Cooke said the evidence would be concluded today and he would sum up tomorrow before sending the jury out to consider their verdicts.