:: Thursday, March 30, 2006 ::

The Price We Have To Pay

Last night's Newsnight featured a brilliant film about Iraq Veterans Against the War who were marching to New Orleans. You can still see the clip online. Take a look, it is powerful stuff. It is included in their podcast too.

The BBC blurb:

"We have a powerful film this evening. We follow a group of former US soldiers who have returned from Iraq deeply affected by the experience.

As they march across America to protest against the war they reveal their own experiences of the conflict, make some disturbing allegations about military practices in Iraq and reflect on how it feels to come home.

We'll discuss some of the issues raised with the former Judge Advocate General for the US Army who is also a decorated combat veteran."

The soldiers made some pretty damning allegations, namely that civilians were randomly targeted by soldiers, that they were advised to bring shovels or AK's and leave them beside the body if they shot the wrong guy, they could then say they were planting bombs or firing. The General of course said these were isolated incidents, not verified etc etc.

Get it direct from the source at BringThemHomeNow.org. And read the blog here. Plus there is a nice tune here, Charlie Anderson's The Price We Have To Pay. Good to see Stan Goff is involved there.

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Strike One

Lots of video from the Public Sector strike as it went down in Edinburgh here. What with this and what is happening in France, does anyone else get the feeling that things are getting better?

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:: Wednesday, March 29, 2006 ::

Waiting for the Great Leap Forward

Must admit that I haven't listened to a lot of Billy Bragg recently. Sometimes that's just how it goes, you get a bit burned out with some artists. But I have been enjoying hearing some of the tracks from his new box set. Oh, and by the way, he is not coming to the Edinburgh Mayday. Apparently this is because he is playing soon at the Usher Hall and they put a clause in his contract which states he cannot play another gig in Edinburgh for 28 days before his gig. Shame. But there is some good stuff lined up as a replacement. Stay tuned.

Anyway, there is a track from Mr Bragg at the Guardian, a new song about Rachel Corrie, who was killed by an Isreali bulldozer in Palestine.

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:: Tuesday, March 28, 2006 ::

Confessions of a Liquidationist

For the first time in 21 years I find myself not being a member of a small Marxist group, as the ISM platform in the SSP voted to dissolve.

It doesn't feel too bad actually, kind of liberating in a way. The ISM's enemies have cranked out rather bilious statements which they probably wrote some time ago, but frankly when they can prove themselves capable of putting the interests of the class before the interests of their own sects, then I might be prepared to listen. I'm not holding my breath.

Frontline magazine will continue as an independent publication, not tied to any platform. I hope and expect that this will mean improved content, format and readership. Already there has been some interest. In the short term we will put out the next issue probably in the same way as before. But then we will need to have a new structure in place to decide the democratic control of the journal. A cooperative is one possibility. Certainly I don't see Frontline being the property of any one platform.

The ISM achieved a hell of a lot. It formed the SSP and laid the basis for an unprecedented cooperation between the socialist left in Scotland, and the most successful election results for the left since the 1930's. It also broke with the dogmatic and sectarian mind-set that had dominated the left, particularly 'Trotskyist' groups for decades. We encouraged free thinking and new ideas.

Ultimately the ISM ran its course, with its activists quite correctly putting their energies into building the SSP. ISM members were no longer a homogenous group and different views on issues such as feminism emerged over the last couple of years.

Rather than a dissolution I think it would be more accurate to see this as a re-alignment. I expect that pro-party elements in the SSP will see the need to work together in an open and democratic network to safeguard the future of the party.

As a postscript let me leave you with Red Pepper editor Hilary Wainwright who in an article on Znet, takes up the never-ending cycle of initiatives for a new left party in England with some observations on recent attempts. It is instructive that for her the SSP continues to be a model.

ZNet |Politics | Who Will Speak For Us?: "The point here is the importance of building a structured movement as a foundation for electoral initiatives. The Scottish Socialist Party, after all, was built on the rock of such a structured movement. Four years of the Scottish Socialist Movement and then the Socialist Alliance preceded and prepared for the formation of the Scottish Socialist Party and has no doubt given it the resilience to overcome recent problems in its leadership. A further lesson from the past is the uneven nature of local resistance and political alternatives and the importance of building and learning from this rather than pursuing a single national strategy from London. The left in the UK has always varied enormously, according to the history of local political economies, traditions and personalities. The Independent Labour Party was founded in Bradford, not London. The centralised nature of the British state, mirrored in the power structures of the Labour Party, has disguised this uneven reality and national alliances of the left have not sufficiently nurtured innovative local initiatives. What is needed is a form of organisation that can allow for autonomy, co-ordination and learning from experience."

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:: Monday, March 27, 2006 ::

Workers not Criminals

women with placards, originally uploaded by polizeros.

I blogged the big protests in Chicago a couple of weeks ago, which were against the proposed anti-immigrant legislation in the US.

Now even these huge protests have been dwarfed by a demo of up to a million in the streets of Los Angeles. The latino communities of California took to the streets to make their feeling known. Banners read 'workers not criminals', 'we make your country better, this is how you reward us' and 'we can die in your wars but not live in your country'.

The real power of the hispanic communities in America is awakening.

More here: Politics in the Zeros.

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:: Friday, March 24, 2006 ::

Reve General

Ace French photographer Joël Volson has some brilliant pics of the most recent demos in France. The movement has escalated with young school students leading the way and joining up with workers, as well as the University students.

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Cultivating Coca is a Right

So says the banner in the background. Evo Morales would probably agree. The Bolivian President visited Chile. Great photoset by chilefotojp on flickr.

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:: Wednesday, March 22, 2006 ::

The Fire Last Time

Timely articles on the 1968 revolt in France up now on the Marxist Internet Archive.

End de Gaulle’s Repression! (Editorial)
“The Struggle Continues!” by Alain Krivine
First Lesson of the Revolutionary Upsurge in France; statement of the United Secretariat of the Fourth International
The French Student Revolt, by Mary-Alice Waters
[All articles from the July-August 1968 issue of International Socialist Review]
[Thanks to Andrew Pollack]

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:: Tuesday, March 21, 2006 ::

En Greve

BrickWindow.JPG, originally uploaded by un_cola.

Looks like the General Strike in France is on.

There is an English language blog on the struggle against the CPE in France here.

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:: Monday, March 20, 2006 ::

Cylon Running

Suicide bombers striking without warning, killing dozens.

A terrorised populace driven to paranoia.

A President whose military strategy is driven by religious visions.

An armed forces who routinely use torture.

A government prepared to go to any lengths to stop their political rivals.

Army leaders seizing power in a military coup.

Yes, I've just watched Season One of Battlestar Galactica. Good, isn't it?

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:: Sunday, March 19, 2006 ::

I Love Paris in the Springtime

IMG_0163, originally uploaded by leyaya.

Paris has erupted once again, this time workers and students protesting.

CNN reports: "The protests have provided a useful rallying point for left- wing parties and unions who were set to meet on Monday to decide on their course of action.

"We've got to continue our mobilisation ... The prime minister is like a pyromaniac who has set fire to the valley and then withdraws to the hill to watch," said Jean-Claude Mailly, secretary general of the Workers Force union.

Unions and the left were in favour of a general strike on March 23, said Olivier Besancenot, a popular young Trotskyite leader."

There is a flickr pool with photos from the demos (some quite spectacular).

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More Ivor Cutler Links

More things Cutler. The Perfumed Garden has a nice John Peel session and a link to lots more info on at ivorcutler.org.

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:: Thursday, March 16, 2006 ::

V for Very Rubbish

Oh dear. If even Jonathan Ross doesn't like it, it must be bad. Sadly I can see myself forking over some of my hard-earned anyway.

"Nothing, but nothing, works. For a start, Hugo Weaving is given an impossible task in playing a hero who spends the entire film behind a full face mask, and is therefore incapable of visual expression. It's a notion which is perfectly acceptable in a comic book, and deadly on film.

As the heroine, Natalie Portman just isn't up to the task, failing in even the most basic requirements of the role, such as providing a consistent and credible accent. Around her, a cast of notable and familiar talents such as John Hurt and Stephen Ray stand little chance amid the wreckage of the Wachowski siblings' dismal script and its particularly poor dialogue.

And unlike so many fantasy adventure films, the visuals don't offer any compensation for the shortcomings of the screenplay. Despite postponing the release date from last November to allow more time for post-production work, the film looks cheap and lacks any sense of time or place.

Throw in Matrix veteran James McTeigue's flat direction and you have a woeful, depressing failure. If it had been called V for Vasectomy I could scarcely have found it a less enjoyable experience, so please don't let your curiosity get the better of you when it arrives down your way."

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:: Wednesday, March 15, 2006 ::

Life in a Scotch Parliament

Motion to the Scottish Parliament

S2M-4072 Pauline McNeill: "I am concerned for you to enjoy yourself within the limits of British decency" - Death of Ivor Cutler—That
the Parliament expresses its deep sadness and regret at the death of
poet, singer, songwriter and storyteller, Ivor Cutler, who was born and
bred in Glasgow; extends its condolences to his surviving family and
friends; notes the profound influence that Cutler had on fellow Scots,
Billy Connolly and members of the band, Franz Ferdinand, as well as
Bertrand Russell, The Beatles and John Peel, and recognises the
outstanding contribution which he made to his art and Scottish culture
through his unique insight and wit.

Supported by: Michael Matheson, Richard Baker, Alex Johnstone,
Jackie Baillie, Dr Elaine Murray, Eleanor Scott, Christine May, Mr
Andrew Arbuckle, Mrs Mary Mulligan, Shiona Baird, Mr Frank McAveety,
Trish Godman, Roseanna Cunningham, Brian Adam, Mr Jamie Stone, Tommy
Sheridan, Rosie Kane, Mr Jim Wallace, Sarah Boyack, Patrick Harvie, Ms
Rosemary Byrne, Fiona Hyslop, Helen Eadie, Maureen Macmillan, Scott
Barrie, Karen Gillon, Colin Fox, Robin Harper, Mr Brian Monteith,
Bristow Muldoon, Alex Neil, Nora Radcliffe*, Des McNulty*

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A Very British Coup

img091, originally uploaded by Ben Sutherland.

The Guardian has a new mega-blog 'comment is free' with lots of commentators all in one place.

Seems that they are really setting the pace when it comes to old media meeting new media.

One interesting piece by Jonathan Freedland today looks at something I have talked about a couple of times, most recently in the context of the V for Vendetta film and its concept of a fascist Britain. The subject is the plot against Harold Wilson by rogue elements of the British state in the 1970's. There will be a TV documentary on ITV tomorrow about it.

"As Peter Wright confirmed in his book Spycatcher, Wilson was the victim of a protracted, illegal campaign of destabilisation by a rogue element in the security services. Prompted by CIA fears that Wilson was a Soviet agent - put in place after the KGB had, the spooks believed, poisoned Hugh Gaitskell, the previous Labour leader - these MI5 men burgled the homes of the prime minister's aides, bugged their phones and spread black, anti-Wilson propaganda throughout the media. They tried to pin all kinds of nonsense on him: that his devoted political secretary, Marcia Williams, posed a threat to national security; that he was a closet IRA sympathiser.

Such talk stoked up an establishment already trembling at what it saw as Britain's inexorable slide towards anarchy, if not communist rule. Institutions were collapsing, inflation was rising, tax was at a near-mythic top rate of 98%, and Britain was losing the last outposts of empire. Above all, the trade unions, riddled with leftists and Soviet sympathisers, seemed to have the nation under their thumb. "It was no longer a green and pleasant land, England," recalls retired Major Alexander Greenwood, Colonel Blimp made flesh.

The great and the good feared that the country was out of control, and that Wilson lacked either the will or the desire to stand firm. Retired intelligence officers gathered with military brass and plotted a coup d'etat. They would seize Heathrow airport, the BBC and Buckingham Palace. Lord Mountbatten would be the strongman, acting as interim prime minister. The Queen would read a statement urging the public to support the armed forces, because the government was no longer able to keep order.

It sounds fantastic, almost comic. But watch Greenwood talk of setting up his own private army in 1974-75. Listen to the former intelligence officer Brian Crozier admit his lobbying of the army, how they "seriously considered the possibility of a military takeover". Watch the archive footage of troop manoeuvres at Heathrow, billed as a routine exercise but about which Wilson was never informed - and which he interpreted as a show of strength, a warning, even a rehearsal for a coup. Listen to the voice of Wilson, who five weeks after resigning summoned two BBC journalists to tell them, secretly, of the plot."

Far fetched? Think of the dismissal of the Gough Whitlam government in Australia by 'Her Majesty's representative, or the defense of Pinochet by Thatcherite Tories when he was arrested in London.

Our liberties exist only as long as we are ready to defend them.

Harold Wilson statue in Huddersfield, image courtesy of Ben Sutherland on Flickr

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:: Sunday, March 12, 2006 ::

100 000 Immigrant Workers Protest in Chicago

There has been a huge protest of immigrant workers in Chicago. They were protesting proposed legislation which would criminalise anyone 'aiding' immigrant workers from priests to employers. Reports are that hundreds of workers walked out of factories and workplaces to join the protest.

The irony is that the US, like Britain and many countries is dependent on cheap immigrant labour.

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:: Thursday, March 09, 2006 ::

RIP Ivor Cutler

Independent Online Edition > Obituaries: "From the mid-1990s on he was largely retired, but, far from mellowing in later life, he seemed to grow ever more eccentric, going shopping in central London wearing pink flamingo shorts and a selection of curious hats and loud ties, accosting complete strangers in the street asking them if they wrote poetry ('You'd be amazed how many people did') and randomly handing out stickers bearing cryptic messages like 'Funny smell', 'Let me out' and 'To remove this label take it off'."

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Check out this site for an amazing video of a rare TV appearance by legendary Chilean singer Victor Jara. I have heard some tracks from this Peruvian TV appearance but never seen the complete video. Victor was an amazing writer and singer...like a political Nick Drake. He was the cornerstone of the Chilean 'new song' movement and a prominent supporter of the Popular Unity government of Salvador Allende. He was brutally killed in Santiago Stadium following the military coup of Pinochet. His hands were broken first. The video is at the bottom on the left of the page linked.

Thanks to Magnus on the 'spotters for the link and the picture above is from wonderful Chilean photographer Marcelo Montecino and shows Victor Jara in the last march in support of the Popular Unity government, Santiago, Chile, Sept. 4, 73. The coup came on September 11th 1973.

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I Am Sparty Blog

One of the more interesting writers on the left is Dave Osler, and he has a blog up and running. Regular private eye readers will get the joke in the blog's title. Interesting article on the myriad regroupment efforts of the English left here.

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:: Wednesday, March 08, 2006 ::

Happy International Women's Day!

feminist, originally uploaded by Sam Richards.

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:: Sunday, March 05, 2006 ::

Colin Fox

Colin Fox, originally uploaded by alister.

SSP national convener Colin Fox addresses the SSP Conference 2006, in Dundee Caird Hall.

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:: Thursday, March 02, 2006 ::

Theory and Practice

theory_Practice_Revolution, originally uploaded by Sam Richards.

You don't see things like this no more. Mucho Mas Maoist pics from Sam Richards on Flickr. And Hoxhaist and all things anti-revisionist.

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:: Wednesday, March 01, 2006 ::

The Bloody Circus

Clowning Around 005, originally uploaded by cactusbones.

Another three UK troops were killed in Iraq yesterday bringing the total to 103. Interesting then to see what soldiers think about the war themselves.

An poll released today. Serving US military personnel were polled about Iraq.

"An overwhelming majority of 72% of American troops serving in Iraq think the U.S. should exit the country within the next year, and nearly one in four say the troops should leave immediately, a new Le Moyne College/Zogby International survey shows.

The poll, conducted in conjunction with Le Moyne College’s Center for Peace and Global Studies, showed that 29% of the respondents, serving in various branches of the armed forces, said the U.S. should leave Iraq “immediately,” while another 22% said they should leave in the next six months. Another 21% said troops should be out between six and 12 months, while 23% said they should stay “as long as they are needed.”

There is also a clear distinction between 'professional' military units and those part times who the occupation forces are reliant on. This will be reflected even more strongly with people at home who face the call up.

Different branches had quite different sentiments on the question, the poll shows. While 89% of reserves and 82% of those in the National Guard said the U.S. should leave Iraq within a year, 58% of Marines think so. Seven in ten of those in the regular Army thought the U.S. should leave Iraq in the next year. Moreover, about three-quarters of those in National Guard and Reserve units favor withdrawal within six months, just 15% of Marines felt that way. About half of those in the regular Army favored withdrawal from Iraq in the next six months."

Somewhat shockingly however, the poll shows that 90% of troops believe that the invasion was a result of Iraq's involvement in 9/11. This despite Bush's backdown from this position. Some lesson there about the power of propaganda, the lies which tie the "changing world" after 9/11 with the invasion of Iraq.

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