Monthly Archives: May 2008

Obama and the “special relationship”

A report of a phone link with US citizens in UK spoke of the “special relationship”, beloved by Blair with Bush and continued by Brown despite protestations that things needed to change. Evidently Obama thinks (like we all do) that Britain got little change out of supporting the US in Iraq. Blair wanted UK to be a bridge between Europe and US. The trouble with that, someone observed, is that “bridges are walked over”.

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Some words of wisdom for Barack Obama, but is he listening?

Fidel Castro continues to comment on world affairs from a Cuban perspective. Below is an article he wrote about Barack Obama’s speech to Cuban Americans in which he vows to continue the blockade. Castro asks some pertinent questions in the light of a growing world crisis in global warming, in food shortages (the “globalisation of the empty stomach”) and so on. In short what is there to choose between the presidential hopefuls other than trimming the sails of the empire?
Castro is mild in his criticism while Obama does not concern himself with the great damage being brought about on Cuban people, and indeed many others in Latin America who wish to see progress in equality, education and health which Cuba has done so much more herself, in spite of draconian and intensifying impositions, and exported to South American and African countries.

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Israeli settlers and army started to expand illegal settlement on Bil’in land

News from residents of Bil’in
Monday May 26, 2008
Israeli settlers under the protection of the Israeli army started on Monday morning to install homes on lands that belong to villagers from Bil’in, located near the central West Bank city of Ramallah. See video.
Iyad Burnat, of the local committee against the wall and settlement construction, said that villagers noticed the construction since early morning on Monday. Villagers tried to reach their land in order to stop the settlers but Israeli troops prevented them from crossing the wall.
A group of men from the village were staying over night in there land managed to come close to the trucks installing the mobile homes of the settlers and stopped them by standing infornt of them, Burnat stated. He added that the men will continue to block the trucks way in an attempt to stop the destruction of the villagers lands.
In 2007 the villagers of Bil’in won an Israeli high court of Justice decision to remove the Israeli wall that separates the village from its land and move it away. The Israeli army refused to comply with the order for “security reasons.”
The court ruling also forbids the settlers from expanding the settlement of Mitetyaho Mizrah which is built on the village land. Today settlers came and installed six mobile homes on the villagers’ land in a clear sign that they are going to expand their settlement, Burnat said.
Burnat demanded more involvement form the Palestinian Authority and he asked for the freeze of negotiations with Israel since Israel refuses to respect any agreements with the Palestinians.
Last November the Palestinian-Israeli peace talks were revived by the U.S on the basis of the Road Map peace plan. According to the Road Map plan Israel must stop all settlement activity in the West Bank.
The villagers of Bil’in have been conducting weekly nonviolent protests against the Israeli wall and settlements for a little over three years. Burnat told IMEMC that the villagers of Bil’in will continue their resistance and the legal work in the Israeli court system.
For more information:
The Bilin Friends of freedom and Justice -society
Tel: 972 547 847 942

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Sense and nonsense at the Hay Festival

How did I miss Cherie Booth having a go at Alastair Campbell? I stayed over at Fownhope, a village just the other side of Hereford from Hay-on-Wye where the book festival was in full swing. The Observer thought that such trivia was worth reporting but not the SLP’s much more serious alternative.The Green Man was a bit pricey given the take-it-or-leave-it service given. One thing’s for sure I wasn’t on the look out for yet more crap from the celebrities associated with New Labour and their disastrous progress supporting corporate capitalism to the detriment of the well being of our planet, rather some more productive and progressive thinking. Former President Jimmy Carter’s input on Sunday looked more promising with trenchant views on Europe’s failure to counter the daily attacks on Palestinians by the Israeli Government and settlers. Since it was puring rain on Sunday and this was £50 a head, I made for home instead.
This came about meeting comrades from the Socialist Labour Party. Liz Screen of the Welsh SLP did a magnificent job organising the day’s activities culminating in a rallying call by Arthur Scargill. The first speaker spoke about how his job as a youth support officer was on the way out as local authorities close down their youth services and outsource them to chap and untried private providers. The government’s agenda is reduced to getting our youth off the streets with police continually harassing any hanging around in groups whether their intentions were malign or not – usually not.
My mind went back to Cuba and the day we were taken to the Pioneer’s HQ just outside Havana. I have seen Pioneers before in Khrushchev’s Russia where they put on puppet show with a villainous capitalist taking a trip to the moon, and in Budapest where they ran a railway (still in use today). The splendid buildings for the Pioneers in Cuba were always visited by Fidel Castro on his birthday to show his support for the young of Cuba indicating their stake in building the country and sustaining the revolution. The scout and guide movements in Britain are now something out of a past which dwelt on the glories of empire, not an appropriate basis for making young people of today feel at home in modern Britain. Perhaps we ought to build movements around socialist principles.
A film was shown during the afternoon about a group of people, many of them young, demonstrating outside an arms factory near Brighton. Police were on hand to enforce orders served on the group by a security guard from the company. Why they felt it necessary to back the company was not clear, particularly when the matter came to court and the enforcement orders were overturned by the judge.

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New Labour has gone further right than Thatcher

Was it ever possible to hold on to New Labour? It’s leaders and officials have sold out in every direction as far as socialism is concerned and support right wing causes in other countries struggling against poverty and injustice. George Monbiot in today’s Guardian (20/5/2008) provides a list of statistics to show why New Labour should never be supported by any on the left of British politics.
Visiting Cuba provided a refreshing view about the achievement of a cohesive society. No it isn’t perfect and Cubans will be the first to admit that is so. As far as we could see ordinary people supported the continuing revolution. While Cuba cannot claim to be a rich country its people appear well fed and healthy. There have been dramatic falls in serious illnesses and there is an effective vaccination programme in place. A series of posters thank three people they say have helped them start, continue and consolidate their revolution: Battista, Reagan and George W. Bush. “Thank you cretin” they say to all three. People who spoke about Castro referred to his humanity. In the years after the collapse of the Soviet bloc Cuba was hungry and Fidel’s leadership helped bring them through. Today a continuing and intensifying blockade by the U.S. inflicts damage, but this does not stop the Cubans providing people with good eduction and health systems. As far as health is concerned Cuba is able to assist other countries with health care programmes which in turn brings the country support.

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Death of Pauline Campbell

As I sifted through mail on my return from Cuba I read with deep sadness of the death of Pauline Campbell. I understand her body was found beside her beloved daughter Sarah’s grave. Pauline had written to me while I was away to tell me of the inquest on Sheena Kotecha who died in the “care” of the prison services at the same time a s Sarah died in 2004.
—– Original Message —–
Sent: Tuesday, May 06, 2008 8:17 PM
Subject: Re: * Criminal trial abandoned as CPS comes under fire *
Well done Pauline. Greetings from Cuba. I have come to a conference and this seems to be a world that sees things rather more humanely than what we’re gatting at home a t the moment. Best wishes, John
To: John [in Cuba]: You certainly do get around, John. Many thanks for your message. I despair at the lack of humanity over here, and sometimes wonder if things will ever get any better. But people have to keep on trying. Regards, Pauline
In fact among the e-mail was the following entry on the latest climbdown by the Crown Prosecution Service when they dropped charges against her after protests against the deaths of women in custody. It was dated 11th May only a few days before her death. Pauline also linked up with the Mikey Powell campaign and commented on the outcome of the inquest into his death when once again there was no accountability.

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Havana Diary

The fourth and final day of the conference on Marxism in the 21st Century held at the modern and spacious Palacio de Conventiones. Trees and fountains intrude into the interior while outside flora and fauna surround the grand architecture which houses many of the embassies, though not from the USA. Their former embassy has a forest of black flags flying.
The centre of gravity here is South America and most of the business is conducted in Spanish. simultaneous translations take place unless the speakers speed up with anguished reactions from the harassed translators. Much is familiar as Marx, Engels and Lenin’s work is repeated. However there has been discussion on how Che Guevara introduced a much different economic system moving away from market socialism which he thought would inevitably bring about a return to capitalism. Evidently Mao was impressed by Che’s ideas.
As for China now an American speaker (there are some, although they risk fines and/or imprisonment for coming to Cuba) saw it as a capitalist economy stressing this to be a common view. A Chinese contributor thought that we weren’t using the right terminology to discuss China’s attempts to assert herself in the midst of an onslaught of criticism on human rights and other matters. It wasn’t made clear how the struggle for socialism was being conducted compared to many examples from Cuba and descriptions of events in other South American countries, notably Venezuela, where there are many examples of the wish to counter US domination and bring in humane values.
It is this aspect when it breaks through the ,ore technical theorising, which appeal. It is refreshing to see conscious and sustained attempts to bring about a different world order other than the dominant one bent on self-destruction which puts markets and profits at the centre using human beings as pawns in its game plan.
This weekend we will be going to other parts of the island and have the opportunity of meeting Cuban people who have lived through all or part of the Cuban revolution now about to celebrate its 50th anniversary. There is certainly a lot of history here. There is a large hotel representing the art deco of the twenties where so many celebrities came. Furniture and artifacts are all in keeping with the style. The colonial architecture which abounds is truly remarkable. I’m looking forward to the rest of our stay with immense pleasure.

Immediate and urgent action is required for Palestine

Message from the Palestine Solidarity Campaign
Please see the press release below and write/telephone your MP and contact the media about the meetings of donors and the Quartet this Friday. Please make the following points:
* Financial support alone is completely insufficient. A political solution must be found that delivers justice for Palestinians. The Israeli government is violating international law with impunity and must end its illegal occupation.
* Israel is continuing to build settlements after Annapolis and its policies, including checkpoints, Israel-only roads and the Apartheid Wall, are creating bantustans in the West Bank and strangling the Palestinian economy. Its illegal blockade on Gaza has created an horrific humanitarian crisis.
* Donors have previously funded vital infrastructure including schools and medical facilities that have subsequently been destroyed by the Israeli government. Surely the solution is not to appeal for more funding but for the international community to ensure that the Israeli government is brought to task for this destruction.
* Donors must show political will and bring pressure to bear on the Israeli government.
Many thanks

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May Day

One comrade came along with a box of sweets saying “it’s May Day, let’s celebrate”. All this was overlooked in the scramble for votes in the local election campaign. Well there was a celebration organised in Wolverhampton but not one in Birmingham ’til Saturday 3rd. May Day has been erased from the calendar by – who else “New Labour”. Maybe the voters will appreciate the significance of the peoples’ celebration by voting for a socialist candidate, here and in London. Wow.
We trudged round the streets on foot banging on doors. Everyone we spoke to was responsive and listened to us going on about privatisation, nodding agreement. Most signed our petition in support of the City Council’s workforce going on strike. Seemed promising. The other thing is as we battled against wind and rain there wasn’t a sign of activity from the five other candidates in the weeks running up to V day. Just leaflets from Labour, Tories, and Lib-Dems. No activity from BNP (thank goodness) or Greens. Our leaflet by all accounts was a good one. Should be it cost a bomb and I designed it on my Apple Mac. My goodness rather easier to do than on the PC. Most people were really worried about City Hospital and the prospect of being taken to Sandwell Hospital with no easily accessible bus service from this neck of the woods (i.e. Handsworth Wood). Not much said about Academies, but I don’t think the significance of these has been grasped. The point about Creationism seemed lost. Perhaps there are a lot of Creationists out there a driving force for the Neocons in the US.
We went round the polling stations. All my days in Labour we placed number takers at the key polling stations. Today there was no sign of anyone. It was late in the morning when we heard a loudspeaker announcing the Labour candidate, Gurdial Singh Atwal in his gas guzzling 4 x 4. As I walked past him he invite me to join him. “You’re doing it the easy way” I retorted. In his years of being in the Labour Party and building up Labour support in this ward he was nowhere to be seen. Oh sorry he did come out with me in the car on the loud speaker but doesn’t know what feet are for.
From the early eighties I and others were out in
The other matter we drew attention to was the proposed changes to regulations from the Indian Subcontinent, and a big error here because it will apparently affect people from other parts of the Commonwealth notably the Caribbean. Right of stay of visitors reduced from 6 to 3 months and a charge of £1,000 per visitor. Family cohesion? As far as marriages are concerned you have will have to be 21 before your partner can come. This won’t apply to the new cheap labour force from Eastern Europe. Division and resentment is being piled on us with New Labour again heading the pack.
So what did the voters make of all this. Quite a few said nothing with around 28% turn out so everyone’s vote was reduced. Gurdial Singh got back in as before with the religious vote. Policies and track record mean nothing.
The big problem is that people are continuing to vote against their own interests as they continue to back New Labour, the Tories or Lib-Dems (no different to Tories in Brum)

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