Monthly Archives: September 2008

Letter to the Wall Street Journal from the Ambassador for Equador

Equador has just had a referendum with around 70% supporting a socialist-leaning administration. (see report from Granma below), Frustrated by Wall Street Journal jibes about the country Equador’s Ambassador to the US has written to the Wall Street Journal. The offensive term used was “Banana Republic”.
At such a time seems to me that Wall Street needs to review its attitude just as services to the World Economy are in need of a makeover.

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At last something’s moving

It’s taken the Tories, who are holding their conference here in Birmingham, to announce plans for a high speed rail link from Scotland, through Manchester and Leeds as well as Brum, to London, then on to Paris and Brussels. This would make a third runway at Heathrow unnecessary and cut a substantial number of flights.
There have been mutterings for some time now but nothing substantial has emerged. Dozy New Labour, who after a long delay, have finally come up with a revamp of New Street Station. This does something for passengers using New Street, but nothing for rail capacity so on its own won’t add up to much apart from cosmetics.
The Tories need to redeem their credibility on transport in Birmingham. Since they came to power propped up by the Liberal Democrats in 2004 they have moved backwards. The planned Metro has been delayed, possibly terminally, first by a very costly and unnecessary investigation into an underground system with no plan B in place. Earlier work on tackling congestion has been severely compromised.

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Dealing with political toxic waste

The progress of creating a bailout of billions makes gripping reading as Republicans try to keep their heads below the parapet. The Democrats have become an indispensable part – presumably the Republicans think that if they’re seen as responsible if it goes pear-shaped. The encouraging thing is that so many people have been communicating their feelings so they can’t be ignored. Consequentially the deal which Paulson drew up originally looked like bailing out those largely responsible for the mess in the first place.

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Williams and Sentamu speak out

Even if belatedly it’s good to see those entrusted with higher office in the land speak out on the unspeakable. So both Canterbury and York Archbishops have waded into the fray on the practices which have hastened our economies into the inevitable crisis of free markets and unregulated profiteering. Both men are known for their personal beliefs, but all to rarely does it come through in the headlines. John Sentamu was well known to us in Birmingham and is full of surprises. I didn’t realise that he had allowed himself to be blindfolded and taken to an unknown destination to meet with the armed gangs who frequent our streets. He dropped by parachute for a cause dear to his heart, and his ordination as Archbishop of York displayed his continuing attachment to Africa. We have come to understand he will say it like it is.
The church’s power has been curtailed long since and like the monarchy appeals to our conservatism. We can’t do without the comforts of something familiar as a child is attached to it’s teddy bear. It’s not something for the grown up world or economics and politics. Dare speak out and the vicars are told to shut up and attend to religion.

Big fish eat little fish

The economic crisis seems to have left politicians clueless. Empty rhetoric at the Labour Party Conference from the gloomy Chancellor, with the absence of any clear strategy to deal with a financial system open to exploitation by those charged with its control. “We have a Manifesto commitment to not increasing taxes” he says. Well that’s a relief anyway since the population as a whole is having to pay for everything else regardless of ability to pay extra.
So here the government is a big fish, but the economic giants, the private sector, calls the tune. Can’t tax the wealthy because the will leave the City and move to Frankfurt or some place else. What hope do we have when there’s not an intermediary batting on our side. Getting rid of New Labour and replacing it with a Tory alternative won’t help us. As we note time and time again the Lib Dems in Birmingham are allowing the Tories power here.
I read with interest a view of what went wrong with Thabo Mbeki’s tenure in South Africa. He had come to power after working alongside Nelson Mandela, but once in power himself he cut an isolated figure. His view on Aids is well known, but his involvement in arms deals was less so. At least I know of BAe’s work in Saudi Arabia and Tanzania, but hadn’t picked up arms sales to South Africa. Here too rulers susceptible to the arms dealers’ smooth talk and lubrication methods paid off once more. They sold expensive and unnecessary arms to a country with no apparent threat to itself.

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Crisis Deepens and the Poor Pay the Price

The following is from Ian Johnson of the Socialist Labour Party who makes a case for a socialist response to the current crisis of capitalism. All the major parties offer, including the New Labour Government, is more of the same. They think the very same forces that have landed us in the crisis are the ones that can solve the problem. How likely is that?
Crisis Deepens and the Poor Pay the Price
The deepening financial crisis gripping the capitalism system has already seen a swathe of banks and financial institutions go to the wall or be taken over or merged.
The list already contains household names of US and British finance and more will be added.
Moreover the interventions of the US Federal Reserve Board and the UK’s Bank of England carry with it the real threat of state bankruptcy.
Politicians and economists may belatedly throw up their hands in mock horror at the unregulated and unrestrained activities of the parasites of finance capital, yet they were all very well aware of what was going on long ago. Nevertheless, while these institutions were generating obscene amounts of profit for the few, at the expense of the majority of the population, they were content to say nothing. Only now, when the reckless speculation, criminal incompetence and sheer orgy of greed threatens to bring the entire global financial system crashing down do they murmur any criticism.
It is only three months ago that the Sunday Times ran a headline that boasted “Rich Get Richer under New Labour” and only last year that the City of London paid itself over £14 billion in bonuses alone. However there is no mention by our politicians and bourgeois economists that any of this amount should now be returned. On the contrary, the Brown government has told the working class, the very victims of the financial rogues, that they must accept below inflation pay rises, and that they must economise on their food purchases and be prepared for ‘difficult times’.
Moreover, what no British or US mainstream politician is mentioning is that the financial speculators and hedge funds have also played a crucial role in driving up basic commodity prices, including food items, that has resulted, according to the United Nations World Food Programme “in plunging more than 100 million people on every continent into hunger. This is the new face of hunger – the millions of people who were not in the urgent hunger category six months ago but now are”. (WFP 22nd April 2008).
This occurred when, because of the approaching turmoil, the speculators moved out of the property, credit and debt markets and into food and raw materials, without a second thought for the catastrophic outcome this would mean for millions of the world’s poor.
Yet it is not these millions who the US and UK governments are now rushing to help; on the contrary, like the loyal servants of capitalism that they are, they are hurrying to assist the very financial institutions responsible for this increasing poverty and hunger.
The following came to me from Ian Johnson of the Socialist Labour Party. For me it puts the current crisis of capitalism in context with New Labour vying with the other parties for the affections of the rich – getting richer- and powerful. It’s a crisis which has happened largely through speculation and greed. The solution? All we can see is more of the same. A speaker at a meeting I attended yesterday spoke of the nationalisation of failing banks and mortgage lenders as reminiscent of fascism in Germany in the 1930s.
Furthermore, the deepening financial chaos will only serve to spur on the Labour government’s privatisation plans and their attacks on welfare, pensions, health and education, as they attempt to impose the full effects of the crisis onto the backs of workers. It is their belief that every penny spent on unemployment and incapacity benefits, on pensions and on health, is a drain on profits.
Only the introduction of socialist policies can counter this unfolding nightmare and that means building the SLP into a Party capable of government. That is the task ahead.

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Maintaining dignity as markets crash around you

Cuba’s response to the U.S. offer of help in assessing damage done by two storms was firm but polite. What a marked contrast to the unprincipled dealings going on in the US as the administration takes over substantial ownership of insurance giant AIG.
My friend was wearing a Man United t-shirt emblazoned with this sponsor’s initials. We wondered if he was up-to-date, or whether he really existed under this banner!
In UK we’re now seeing how it’s all being done, the Independent printing articles with explicit details. What it describes is worse than hard porn, yet dealing with hedge funds remains a legal sport which if not responsible certainly helped HBOS on its way down as it had Northern Rock. Individuals not only make their millions, billions – now trillions are mentioned while the ordinary citizen – nay consumer in modern parlance – contributes to their limitless desires. A deal was done between Lloyds-TSB and HBOS at a party in one of the most luxurious town houses around, we are told.

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Frightening Scenario of Gujarat

Professor B.D. Desai visited us in U.K. last year as a guest of the Asian Rationalist Society (Britain). We visited Professors John Rex and Mohammed Anwar at Warwick University, Ranjit Sondhi at Heart of Birmingham teaching PCT, the Social Science Department at Birmingham University and Professor Desai gave talks to well-attended meetings in Birmingham and Derby. He sent the following account of the current situation in Gujarat where he describes the Muslim communities having to bear the brunt of the backlash following terrorist attacks. While these may have been done in the name of Muslims it has become an excuse to terrorise and scapegoat the Muslim community bringing back frightening memories of Germany in the 1930s.
Frightening Scenario of Gujarat. Babubhai Desai, Surat
A very serious situation prevails in Gujarat since the blasts in July 2008. The print and the electronic media carry headlines about the arrest and so called confessions and statements of the witnesses. The media carries a bias against the Muslims in general. Nobody is worried about the consequences of generating hate campaign against the Muslims which constitute a substantial section of the society. The entire community ,as it were, has been driven to the wall. Less than half a percent is supposed to have been involved in the criminal acts but an atmosphere has been created as if the entire community is criminal!
Let guilty be Punished
Let it be made clear ,that such acts of terror need to be wholly condemned, killing of the innocents be never underrated. The guilty must be booked and be awarded the harshest punishment they deserve. Nobody has a right to take law in their hands and disturb communal peace and law and order.
A grave situation has arisen as a result of the way Indian state in general and Gujarat in particular has reacted to these unfortunate developments.
A myth has been systematically built up ,over the years ,that India is the land of the Hindus and that they are being reduced to minority by the vote bank politics.The fact is Hindus enjoy obvious dominance in positions of power, economy and cultural/educational institutions, they are being indoctrinated by radical Hindu parties like the BJP, to see themselves as under attack by aggressive, monotheistic religions, especially Islam, which is invariably framed as a terrorist religion, pampered minority by the secular state in order to garner votes. That the Muslims constitute a pampered minority is a most pernicious myth that has been swallowed by many educated Hindus who should know better. The evidence, in fact, points to the exact opposite. Muslims in Gujarat, and for that matter in India, are at the bottom of the heap according to many key indicators of wealth and literacy which has been detailed in the Justice Sachar Committee report. There has been no significant increase in the population growth either. This has been the sad position of Muslims in spite of the so called pampering of Muslims by the Congress party that has been in power for over major parts of years since Independence. There has been a growing suspicion of the Indian state claiming to be secular. Minority religions in India – Islam/Christianity/Sikhism – do not see the Indian state as respecting their legitimate religious demands. Muslims are angry at the destruction of the mosque in Ayodhya and the Gujarat state’s complicity in violence in 2002. Sikhs still carry deep wounds that years of harsh anti terrorism measures have left behind. Hindus in turn accuse the Indian state of not being Hindu enough and pampering the minorities for political purposes.
Victims of mutual hatred
This background should give us the clue why things are as they are today. This has generated anger in both the communities. Muslims are angry at the way the state has been behaving with them, Hindus are angry at the Muslims because no party has ever given them secular ideas, as against this, media education has painted them in a bad light all these years. This ANGER is rooted wrongly and unless it is uprooted enough this unfortunate developments will continue dividing the Indian society widely.
Anger is the root of all terrorism . Once peaceful Muslim groups tended to become radical due to internal anger over domestic grievances, such as treatment of Muslims in Gujarat. There is an increase in the flow of new recruits of Muslims to radical organizations, .Thus formerly peaceful Muslims now tend to get radicalized. The Indian Muslim community is alarmed at this development and have, rightly, begun to condemn terrorists acts taking place in India.( the habit of suspicion is so strong that the Hindus are not taking this seriously enough ) Actually this has led to a split in the SIMI between those advocating terrorism and those advocating peaceful political means of dissent. Radicalization has always been there among Muslims in Gujarat since 1969 riots, but what is comparatively of recent origin is extreme militancy since since 2002 genocide in Gujarat.
SO HERE IS A SITUATION WHERE BOTH THE COMMUNITIES ARE PLACED AGAINST EACH OTHER NOURISHING STRONG SUSPICIONS.There is a vicious circle of hatred unless this is removed communal virus will continue to take its toll.
The Rural Scene is no different
The rural scene is no different. Though Gujarat has a long history of peaceful existence of various communities and a rich syncretic culture, the systematic communalization of the rural Gujarat has been underway especially since the BJP came to power in the state. Even the SC and ST sections who are part of the victims of Hindu’s ire and anti propaganda have fallen prey to the communal virus.There are certain villages with signboards telling that this is a PURE village meaning, there are no Muslims!
Human Rights
The middle class psyche of Gujarat wants the state to be of a totally homogenized one. Any attempts by the sober or the secular people to rethink has been fiercely opposed. Human rights activists are being ridiculed in the media. Any indirect sympathy will result into opposition, as if it is a crime to show sympathy for the underdog. NON VIOLANNT RESISTANCE AGAINST OPPRESSION IS THE ONLY WAY OUT.A movement should be generated in solidarity with concerned people of the country to destroy the communal poison.
Role of the Congress
In Gujarat the Congress has done precious little to win the confidence of the Muslims. Between the BJP and the Congress, it is the Congress that should be blamed for the present situation as it had promised to remain Secular, the Muslims trusted and gave votes but the Congress betrayed.. The genocide of 2002 was a glaring example when the Congress fared poorly.. The BJP did not raise false hopes, instead it preferred to remain pro – Hindu openly. For fear of losing , the Congress did not give tickets to Muslims, perhaps except one, and today, there is not a single Muslim MLA in the Gujarat assembly. The commitment of the Congress is skin deep , and tolerated only for tactical purposes.
It is said that the Congress party has been pampering the minority at the cost of the majority. Had the Congress been following pro minority policy the socio economic condition of the Muslims should have been much better than what it is today. The Justice Sachar committee report has provided the shocking data of the economic condition of thje minority in India.
The SIMI organization was banned since the BJP was in power.. When the police could not provide enough evidence of their supposedly anti national activity, the Judge of the Tribunal ordered to lift the ban wrongfully imposed on SIMI. As the allegation goes , if the Congress had been for the minority the Centre would not have recommended reimposition of the ban within 24 hours.
Once again if the Congress had been for the minority , Justice Shree Krishna Commission report should have been implemented seriously at least during Congress rule in Maharashtra. Shree Bal Thackaray of the Shiv Sena has openly urged the Hindu Youths to be ready to become human bombs to fight out the minority “threats. The so called pro minority Congress has hardly done anything in the matter. The so called secular Congress is wary of taking legal actions against communal forces for fear of losing votes of the majority Hindus.

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Cuba after Gustav and Ike

Granma has published a description with photographs of the aftermath of two hurricanes, Gustav and Ike, which have devastated parts of Cuba along with the neighbouring Haiti and other Caribbean islands. Now Ike has arrived in Texas seriously affecting oil production.
Already rebuilding is underway in Cuba: Gustav’s powerful winds were followed by Ike’s floodwaters, halting recovery efforts. According to Marbel Piloto Hernández, a member of the Party Bureau in Pinar del Rio, in the days following the first hurricane, more than 3,000 homes were repaired and 1,500 temporary facilities created. Electricity had been restored to 70% of the province. “Now we are assessing the damage, work is beginning again, but with more efforts than before,” she said.
And it is true that activities have resumed with more impetus. That was confirmed by the tenacity of the 800 electrical line workers and 200 construction workers from other provinces who returned to work after the floods. The housing repair brigades created in neighborhoods are also evidence of that. Jorge Luis Izquierdo and Juan Fernández, two men with skin burned by the sun after repairing so many roofs, are part of one of those brigades. And they proudly demonstrate the new roofs that Ike was not able to rip away.

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“Cuba will come through”

The Cubans have reacted to a message from the U.S. offering to send an assessment team to see the damage caused by two hurricanes. The offer was politely declined saying that Cuba had its own experts capable of doing that. It would be helpful though if essential building materials and electrical equipment could be allowed through the blockade.
Fidel Castro writes about the situation in his customary matter-of-fact way about how existing infrastructure aided people through the devastation and how it is planned to rebuild in a way that resists storm damage. By the installation of underground cables for example.

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