:: Monday, January 31, 2005 ::

Red Blogs and the Blue Brazil

Title stolen from the brilliant book 'Black Diamonds and the Blue Brazil' by Ronald Ferguson which is about the town of Cowdenbeath during the miners strike, following the fortunes of the striking miners and the local football team Cowdenbeath FC. Despite being a supporter of their arch-rivals Dunfermline Athletic (the 'townies', although this is a bit like saying Andorra is the arch-rival of Spain) this is a great book, read it if you can find a copy anywhere (link goes to Word Power books in Edinburgh who have it.)

Anyway the reason I mention this is to list a few new blogs starting with Kircaldy and Cowdenbeath Votes by the prolific doctorvee, a Gordon Brown monitoring blog.

Secondly we have Joe Middleton's Republican SNP Weblog. Well, maybe he should change the description as the SNP have just turfed him out. No room for Republican socialists in that party. They also proscribed the Scottish Republican Socialist Movement for good measure.

Speaking of nats, there is also Independence, by Stuart Dickson. I wondered when there would be a decent SNP blog, well now there is. He seems to have missed me in his list of Scottish political blogs, what an oversight!

Finally and perhaps most interestingly of all we have Alan McCombes: For Socialism & Independence. I haven't commented on the SSP conveners election yet. To call it a leadership contest is taboo in the party, partly because the convener actually has no actual powers beyond being a 'public face' of the party. This is of course actually a very big power, and can effectively decide how the party reacts to issues on a day to day basis. Alan's rival is Lothians MSP Colin Fox (see the SCRAP campaign for his current prescription charges bill). I have worked closely with both Alan and Colin over the years and know them both well. They both have strengths and weaknesses like any other politician.

So I don't know how I'm going to vote. I will say that I was surprised by the Sunday Herald's description of Colin as the clear favourite. I would have placed Alan as the favourite, jeez miss a couple of meetings and you get completely out of touch.

:: Alister | 11:59 am | save this page to del.icio.us Save This Page | permalink⊕ | | (3) comments

:: Sunday, January 30, 2005 ::

Kissinger on Iraq

That most brutal and cynical of realpolitik politicians, Henry Kissinger comes up with a realistic view of the elections in Iraq. The danger he points to is the Shia fear of becoming second class citizens in a Shia dominated state (some obvious parallels with the north of Ireland there.) The second thing he points to is the chance of a second Iran emerging and the alienation of the Sunni dominated Arab states.

Results, Not Timetables, Matter in Iraq (washingtonpost.com): "If a democratic process is to unify Iraq peacefully, a great deal depends on how the Shiite majority defines majority rule.

So far the subtle Shiite leaders, hardened by having survived decades of Saddam Hussein's tyranny, have been ambiguous about their goals. They have insisted on early elections -- indeed, the date of Jan. 30 was established on the basis of a near-ultimatum by the most eminent Shiite leader, Grand Ayatollah Ali Sistani. The Shiites have also urged voting procedures based on national candidate lists, which work against federal and regional political institutions. Recent Shiite pronouncements have affirmed the goal of a secular state but have left open the interpretation of majority rule. An absolutist application of majority rule would make it difficult to achieve political legitimacy. The Kurdish minority and the Sunni portion of the country would be in permanent opposition.

Western democracy developed in homogeneous societies; minorities found majority rule acceptable because they had a prospect of becoming majorities, and majorities were restrained in the exercise of their power by their temporary status and by judicially enforced minority guarantees. Such an equation does not operate where minority status is permanently established by religious affiliation and compounded by ethnic differences and decades of brutal dictatorship. Majority rule in such circumstances is perceived as an alternative version of the oppression of the weak by the powerful. In multiethnic societies, minority rights must be protected by structural and constitutional safeguards. Federalism mitigates the scope for potential arbitrariness of the numerical majority and defines autonomy on a specific range of issues.

The reaction to intransigent Sunni brutality and the relative Shiite quiet must not tempt us into identifying Iraqi legitimacy with unchecked Shiite rule. The American experience with Shiite theocracy in Iran since 1979 does not inspire confidence in our ability to forecast Shiite evolution or the prospects of a Shiite-dominated bloc extending to the Mediterranean. A thoughtful American policy will not mortgage itself to one side in a religious conflict fervently conducted for 1,000 years."

:: Alister | 11:52 am | save this page to del.icio.us Save This Page | permalink⊕ | | (0) comments

:: Friday, January 28, 2005 ::

Iraq and a hard place

ZNet |Iraq | Second Reply To Alex Callinicos

Gilbert Achcar's debate with Alex Callinicos continues. They are discussing some very important issues, namely the Iraqi elections and the question of the resistance. Gilbert raises the point that the left previously called for elections in Iraq. Additionally the resistance is a very diverse bunch, including elements of Sunni sectarianism and Shia extremism.

But let me move on. You believe that the armed actions in Iraq are more effective than the mass movement of the Shias. I beg to differ, as they say in aristocratic English. If Washington only faced an armed insurgency among the Sunnis (20% of the population) and had the support of the Shias (60%) as well as the Kurds (another 20%), do you seriously think that it wouldn't be able to crush the insurgents -- even if that meant several Fallujas or worse? On the other hand, even if there were no armed insurgency at all in Iraq, isn't it obvious that Washington and London would have all the trouble in the world keeping their troops there in the face of mass demonstrations of the population to get them out? Just imagine how much easier your task in Britain would be, and the task of the whole antiwar movement in the US and worldwide -- and how much more effective the movement would be -- if Iraq had been experiencing mass demonstrations to kick the troops out, like those that toppled the Shah of Iran or, again, those Sistani called in January 2004, rather than indiscriminate killings and beheadings.

On the whole I agree with him here, a political leadership is what is missing in Iraq, with the actions of the organised working class being the most important section of any mass opposition.

:: Alister | 6:48 pm | save this page to del.icio.us Save This Page | permalink⊕ | | (0) comments

G8 to Boost Police Overtime

As the BBC reports, a ring of steel will be placed around holyrood palace and the Scottish Parliament in July when the G8 summit comes to visit. Actually the summit will be in Gleneagles - an amazingly posh hotel - but presumably the authorities think we are too lazy to go all the way there to cause trouble.

The European Social Forum's 'Call of the Assembly of Social Movements' commits organisations to come to Scotland to protest the G8, but it will be interesting to see just how many people actually make the trip. From England I would expect quite a few but from further afield I think we are talking about token delegations. This is doubtless part of the reason the summit is being held here. So European friends, prove me wrong.

The G8 Alternatives has been set up to coordinate opposition. It plans a number of events to protest the G8, none of which involves Bono or Bill Gates. There will also be an anti-poverty demo in Edinburgh on sunday 2nd July organised by NGO's around the Make Poverty History campaign.

:: Alister | 10:52 am | save this page to del.icio.us Save This Page | permalink⊕ | | (0) comments

:: Thursday, January 27, 2005 ::


An interview I did with a French magazine can be found in Socialisme International no. 11. This group were once part of the SWP's international network but broke with them and became a tendency in the LCR. And now the new French section of the IST is also in the LCR. The SI group have a number of interesting articles on the question of islamophobia and the debate around the banning of the hijab in France, if you are francophone.

:: Alister | 11:08 am | save this page to del.icio.us Save This Page | permalink⊕ | | (0) comments

:: Sunday, January 23, 2005 ::

Valparaí­so Graf

Valparaiso Graf, originally uploaded by alister.

Back on the case. This is from the amazing city of Valparaí­so in Chile.

:: Alister | 2:22 pm | save this page to del.icio.us Save This Page | permalink⊕ | | (3) comments