the Disillusioned kid: March 2005
| Email | Home | Linkage | Profile |

Thursday, March 31, 2005

My First Animal Rights Post

On Tuesday the annual slaughter of seal pups for their fur began off Canada's Atlantic Coast. By the end of this year's "hunt" those involved hope to have killed 319,517 seals. All in the name of "fashion". It goes without saying that even this level of brutality pales into insignificance alongside that of the factory farming methods which provide so many of us with meat on a daily basis. This, however, takes nothing away from a cull which has quite rightly horrified the world. Those of you wanting to do something should go here and might want to consider sauntering along here afterwards.

Monday, March 28, 2005

Bye Bye Karimov?

The uprising against and succesful overthrow of the Kyrgyz President Askar Akayev is a further demonstration of the potential of people power. That message hasn't been lost on opposition groups in neighbouring Uzbekistan, nor apparently on the ruling kleptocracy of Islam Karimov.

On Friday, the Erk (Freedom) and Ozod Dehqonlar (Free Peasants) Parties held a joint meeting with local human right groups at which they welcomed Askayev's ousting. In a joint statement they asserted, "We are sure that the process of democratic reforms that started in Kyrgyzstan will highly influence all parts of Central Asia." Nigora Khidoyatova, a leader of the Ozod Dehqonlar Party told an interviewer, "The Kyrgyz example has shown everyone how easily and quickly it can be done."

I haven't yet been able to find any articles on Karimov's response to events in Kyrgyzstan. IRIN News report that Uzbekistan's foreign ministry appealed to both sides to resolve the conflict in "a peaceful way, without any outside interference". Uzbek media is heavily censored and said nothing about events in its neighbour until the foreign ministry statement on Tuesday. This censorship was apparently so effective that even Uzbeks living near the border were unaware of the turmoil in cities only a few miles away, although the Uzbek government has tightened the country's borders and is apparently particulaly concerned about the densly populated city of Andijan which lies near the border and has been the site of protests by female traders angry about new rules restricting their trade.

It is highly unlikely that Karimov is particulalry keen on developments in Kyrgyzstan. He was vocally dismissive of the "Orange Revolution" in Ukraine which swept the incumbent Prime Minister Viktor Yanukovych from power. He warned dissidents in Uzbekistan and those abroad who might seek to support them "that everything should be on the basis of law and we will rein in those who move outside the framework of law," noting further, "We have the necessary force for that." At this juncture you'll excuse my laziness as I quote my comments from the time: "In case anybody hasn't been paying attention, necessary force goes quite a bit further than a slap across the wrist as Samandar Umarov discovered to his cost."

His brutal, kleptocratic regime is deeply unpopular throughout Uzbekistan and he knows it. We can only hope that his time is almost at an end. Nobody's going to miss him.

Sunday, March 27, 2005

X Marketh The Spot

Obviously deciding who you vote for come the General Election is the most important political decision you will ever make. Don't let anybody tell you any different.

Saturday, March 26, 2005

Three Strikes And Your Out?

With so much of the focus of coverage on Iraq on attacks by insurgents (although in truth only a fraction of these are ever reported on in the west) and the actions of the occupying forces a huge amount of what's going on in Iraq is unknown to most of us. Did you know for instance that there has been a wave of strikes across the country by the incipient trade union movement? I didn't think so. This is potentially important, not only because much of it is directed against attempts to privatise Iraqi utilities for the benefit of western corporations, but because trade unions could play an important role in building a genuinely free and democratic Iraq.

As I've suggested before, this is not to say that we should support Iraqi unions unquestioningly. Some members of the leadership, notably that of the Iraqi Federation of Trade Unions (IFTU, not to be confused with the GFTU nor for that matter the GIFTU), have thrown their hat in with the occupation, often contrary to the wishes of their members. IFTU foreign representative Abdullah Musin, for instance, was instrumental in ensuring that a motion demanding the immediate withdrawl of British troops was defeated at last year's Labour Party conference. The unfortunately ambiguous response of the Stop the War Coalition (the largely self-appointed representatives of the anti-war movement) to this and the murder of IFTU member Hadi Salih has allowed some (most prominently Labour Friends of Iraq) to use working-class solidarity as a stick with which to beat the anti-occupation movement.

Despite all of this I am convinced that solidarity with Iraqi workers (not to mention other groups within "civil society" such as those campaigning for women's rights) is important for anybody concerned about the country's plight. Like so many of the things I consider important (see also vision, Europe, domestic politics) I have not given it nearly as much attention here as it deserves.

Friday, March 25, 2005

Blogging in the Free World

One of my anarchist friends has set up a blog intriguingly entitled Sleep of Reason which will apparently focus on vision (that is what we want, rather than why the status quo is bad) something I concede I've been quite weak on. Why not pay him a visit?

Speak Truth to Power

Mauritian socialist group Lalit (the website is available here, but was down at the time of writing) have a new email petition about the Chagos Archipelago. They - and I - encourage people to sign it. Simply follow these simple instructions and Bob's you aunty:
Step 1: Read the petition [which I haven't reprinted in order to save space, but which should be available here - Dk]
Step 2: Select and copy all the text after the dotted line [OK, I haven't included the dotted line, but I trust you're all capable of working out what you need to do - Dk] below
Step 3: Create a new mail message on your Internet mail
Step 4: Paste the text you have just copied onto the new mail message
Step 5: Fill in your name and address at the end [you are strongly encouraged to do this in full in order that your message is taken seriously - Dk]
Step 6: Then you just have to cut & paste the email addresses into the "TO..." line in your mail message, and fill in the subject: "PETITION TO CLOSE MILITARY BASE ON DIEGO GARCIA"
Step 7: Press SEND
The message reads thus:


To: The Hon. J. Dennis Hastert: Speaker of the House of Representatives, US Congress
The Hon. Ted Stevens: Chair (President Pro Tempore) of the US Senate.
The Rt Hon Peter Hain MP: Office of the Leader of the House of Commons, UK
The Hon. Premnath Ramnah: Speaker of the National Assembly, Republic of Mauritius

We, the undersigned, call on the House of Representatives of the USA, the Senate of the USA, the Parliament of Great Britain and the National Assembly of Mauritius, to work to ensure:

1. The immediate decolonization of Diego Garcia and the Chagos Archipelago through the disbanding of the illegitimate "British Indian Ocean Territories"; the cancellation of the Orders in Council that prohibit the return of Chagossians to their native islands; the re-unification according to international law and the UN Charter, of the Republic of Mauritius that was dismembered as an illegal condition to Independence in 1968.

2. An immediate halt to ever using Diego Garcia for B-52's or other military apparatus to attack other countries (whether Afghanistan, Iraq or any other land) and the complete closing down of the United States military base on Diego Garcia; the organization of an ecological clean-up; a public undertaking that no other base be set up elsewhere to replace this one; the conversion of part of the base into a non-military Tsunami Warning Station for the Indian Ocean, and part into a UNESCO World Heritage Site around a vast ecological project to regenerate the coral and the lagoons.

3. That an immediate visit by the Red Cross and respected journalists be organized, so that independent investigations can be conducted into the persistent allegations that there have been and/or are Guantanamo-style prisoners being held or "rendered" on or near Diego Garcia.

4. The immediate right of return, as well as full reparations and compensation for damages, from the US and UK governments to all Chagossians forcibly removed between 1965 and 1973.

NAME: .......... .
ORGANISATION (if any): ..........
CITY /TOWN: ......
COUNTY/ STATE : ........
COUNTRY : .....
So? What are you waiting for?

Our Man in Blackburn

How did I miss this one?

Via the Socialist Worker I've discovered that Craig Murray - the former British Ambassador to Uzbekistan forced from his job after he criticised the brutal human rights record of the Karimov regime (see here, here and here) - is to stand as an MP in Blackburn against the Foreign Secretary Jack Straw. Apparently he announced his decision back in February, has set up a website, which is rudimentary, but worth a gander and will have a column in the G2 section of the Grauniad every Thursday.

The idea of "celebrities" standing as independent candidates seems to be the in thing this year with both Reg Keys who's son was killed in Iraq and MI5 agent turned whistleblower David Shayler planning to stand against Blair in his Sedgefield constituency in protest against the war in Iraq (although Keys hopes to encourage Shayler to step down). Personally I wonder if this is the best way to channel people's efforts and anger against the Blair regime, but I would still be more than happy to see Blair and Straw (and hopefully the rest of them) get a good kicking from the electorate.

Thursday, March 24, 2005

Real Straight Bananas

The demonstration in London last Saturday can broadly be considered a success insofar as it brought between 50-100,000 people onto the streets and attracted at least a modicum of media attention. Obviously it didn't stop the war or end the occupation of Iraq, but then nobody seriously suggested that it would. All of that aside there is one aspect of the demonstration which leaves a bad taste in the mouth, but which was largely unknown amongst the participants: the question of Europe.

The decision to organise demonstrations on March 19 was made during the European Social Forum in London last November, during the Assembly of Social Movements. Originally it had been agreed that the demonstration would tackle both the issue of the war and the European Constitution in light of the meeting of the European Council in Brussels from March 22-23. The statement of the Assembly reads:
On March 22 and 23 the European Council meets in Brussels. March 20 2005 marks the second anniversary of the start of the war against Iraq. We call for national mobilisations in all European countries. We call for a central demonstration in Brussels on March 19 against war, racism and against a neoliberal Europe, against privatisation, against the Bolkenstein project and against the attacks on working time; for a Europe of rights and solidarity between the peoples. We call all the social movements and the European trade union movements to take to the streets on this day.
Somewhere along the way, however, the other issues dropped by the wayside, apparently because the British left consider the question of Europe unimportant, uninteresting or both. Indeed it is unlikely that more than a handful of those on the march were aware that the question of Europe had ever been broached.

In light of all this and the general disinterest towards the European project amongst most (but not all) British activists, I found myself nodding along with this piece from Apostate Windbag (via Dead Men Left). With the ongoing attack against workers by Europe, the approaching referenda on the Euro and the European Constitution and Britain's forthcoming presidency of the Union later this year, it is to be hoped that this disinterest doesn't last much longer.

Thieving Gypos?

The last few weeks has seen travellers targetted by the tabloid press and an increasingly populist (if not exactly popular) Conservative Party. There is much which could be said about this persecution and the fact that what problems there are actually largely the product of government policies, many of them implemented during Michael Howard's watch. That, however, isn't what I want to focus on here. Instead I hope this post will offer a brief - but important - history lesson and help to contextualise modern treatment of travellers.

Nazi treatment of the Jews is well known and almost universally regarded as worse than contemptible. The treatment of of the Roma people's is a tragedy with which people have less familiarity. Like the Jews, many Roma were massacred by the Nazis, an effort they have describe as the Porajmos (also Porrajmos) literally Devouring. While there is some dispute about the numbers killed, Wikipedia puts the figure at beween 200 and 800,000.

The Nazis attempt to exterminate the Roma was driven by the same racial ideology as the Holocaust, which sought "racial purity." Like the Jews the Roma were herded into the ghettoes including the infamous Warsaw Ghetto. On Nvember 15, 1943 Himmler ordered that Gypsies and "part-Gypsies" were to be put "on the same level as Jews and placed in concentration camps." In fact, Wikipedia suggests that in some case Roma may have been treated even worse than the Jews:
According to testimonies of Jewish and Nazi witnesses, Gypsies sent to the death camps often suffered even worse than Jews. In some instances, the Nazis were so appalled by the sight of Roma arriving in the transports that they would not even let them in the gates of the camps for selection and simply murdered them by the railway platforms. In one remarkable instance, the victims were so terrified that they would be killed on the spot that they actually stormed the gates of the death camp, demanding to be allowed in—they were promptly led to the gas chambers, all the while believing that they would find sanctuary there.
The intention of this brief excursus is not to suggest that Michael Howard is the same as the Nazis, nor to underplay the very real suffering inflicted on millions of Jews. Rather it is to remind people of the depravities which can potentially result from the targetting of ethnic groups.

Those interested in finding out more about the plight of travellers today should check out the European Roma Rights Centre. Oh, and whatever you do don't buy the Sun.

A group of Romani prisoners, awaiting instructions from their German captors, sit in an open area near the fence in the Belzec concentration camp.

A Gypsy couple at the Belzec concentration camp.

Busy Bill

In a compelling article on British involvement in Colombia John Pilger makes an interesting observation about Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs Bill Rammell "the junior Foreign Office minister responsible, it seems, for most of the planet":
Busy Bill was in Pyongyang not long ago, telling the North Koreans it was just not right for them to have nuclear weapons. That his own government was armed to the teeth with nuclear weapons was, of course, irrelevant. Prior to that, Busy Bill was telling me, in an interview at the Foreign Office, that the Chagos Islands in the Indian Ocean, whose entire population had been brutally and illegally expelled from their homeland by British governments, could not possibly return because they would be at mortal risk from the ?rising sea?. When the tsunami struck on Boxing Day, it spared the Chagos ? as the Americans knew it would: that is why they colluded with the British to kick the inhabitants out and build a vast military base in what the US Navy calls ?the superb, secure and outstanding environmental conditions? on Diego Garcia, the principal island.
There's a considerable element of truth to this depiction and it has intrigued me for sometime that Rammell seems to be responsible for the mismanagement of so many of the issues which I am interested in. In fact, looking at his FCO homepage it's clear that his mandate is even more extensive than Pilger suggests:
Responsibility for: Afghanistan; Russia, South Caucasus and Central Asia; United Nations; Conflict Prevention; East Asia (China, Japan, North Korea, South Korea and Mongolia); Drugs and International Crime; Oceania (Australia and New Zealand) and South Pacific; Latin America and Caribbean; Overseas Territories; Sustainable Development; Human Rights; Energy security; Environment and climate change; FCO administration (except human resources); London 2012 Olympic bid; Commons Cover: Middle East.
Note that this also includes Uzbekistan (under the "Russia, South Caucasus and Central Asia" rubric), another recurring interest of this blog.

Given Rammell's mishandling of the Chagos situation (recall his visit to Mauritius in January for evidence of this) I can't say discovering just how much he's responsible for is going to make me sleep any more comfortably at night. World War III here we come!

Wednesday, March 23, 2005

Identity Politics

Andrew Anthony had some interesting thoughts on anti-racism and identity in yesterday's Guardian, which I think merit careful consideration. One of my great concerns is that at least some aspects of modern anti-racism are actually counterproductive. This is not to deny that racism is a very real problem in modern British society, it certainly is. The important question is how we deal with this problem. I don't claim to have all the answers, although I do think polyculturalism, which emphasises the complex reality of people's cultural backgrounds (which contrary to the claims of the purists constitute a mish-mash of influences from various migrations and interactions), can play a useful role here. So to, at least potentially, can a class based analysis emphasising that the interests of those from the same class are much more closely tied up than those of a worker and their boss (for instance) even where they are members of the same race.

Tuesday, March 22, 2005

1,000 Broken Mirrors

The issue of domestic violence is a massive problem within British society. Because it so often takes place behind closed doors however, it is easy to ignore, to brush under the carpet, to dismiss as a "private" matter. This is simply not good enough, however. Quite apart from the costs domestic violence imposes on the economy (£23 billion a year) it claims the lives of two women each and every week. A neccesary first step towards dealing with this problem is to acknowledge the reality of it. The survey by children's charity NSPCC released yesterday (and reported in the Guardian) offers an insight into this grim reality.

When we thing of domestic violence we tend to associate it with adults, particularly amongst married couples. The survey, however, shows that it is a massive problem even amongst teenagers:
16% of teenage girls have been hit by a boyfriend.
4% regularly! A further 15% have been pushed. Over two thirds of the girls hit then stayed with their boyfriends, and a fifth ignored the abuse altogether. 27% of girls who have been hit by a boyfriend have seen their parents hit each other.

43% think it is acceptable for a boyfriend to get aggressive.
6% said it is OK for a guy to hit his girlfriend and 2% "understand" a boy forcing his girlfriend to have sex in certain circumstances. But shockingly, over 40% of all girls said they would "consider giving a boy a second chance" if he hit them.

Two thirds of those who said it was ok for a boy to hit his girlfriend think cheating on a boy gives him the right to get aggressive with his girlfriend.
Other reasons that make it acceptable include: "if she's flirting with someone else" (a quarter think that makes it OK), or if "she's been screaming at him" (over a half). 5% say it's acceptable if she's "dressed outrageously".

6% have been forced to have sex by a boyfriend - a third forgave him and stayed with him.
This suggests that those of us concerned about the issues have a mountain to climb.

Anyone interested in the issues surrounding domestic violence and violence against women more generally should check out Women's Aid and/or Amnesty International.

This all goes someway to discrediting the arguments popular amongst many of my friends that feminism has won or is somehow irrelevant in the modern world. Quite the opposite is true in fact. No doubt there have been many victories over the last century, but women in the UK remain the victims of a vastly disproportionate level of gender based violence, continue to earn less than men, generally continue to do the majority of housework and face increasing attacks on their reproductive rights. All quite apart from the much worse situation in large parts of the world.

Monday, March 21, 2005

First Farce Then Tragedy...

Does this sound familiar?
It was a culture of routine beatings, starvation, killings (the hanged represent only a small fraction of those who died in British custody during the Emergency) and torture of the most grotesque kinds. Alsatian dogs were used to terrify prisoners and then ‘maul’ them. There are other similarities with Abu Ghraib: various indignities were devised using human faeces; men were forced to sodomise one another. They also had sand, pepper and water stuffed in their anuses. One apparently had his testicles cut off, and was then made to eat them. ‘Things got a little out of hand,’ one (macho European) witness told Elkins, referring to another incident. ‘By the time we cut his balls off he had no ears, and his eyeball, the right one, I think, was hanging out of its socket. Too bad, he died before we got much out of him.’ Women were gang-raped, had their nipples squeezed with pliers, and vermin and hot eggs thrust into their vaginas. Children were butchered and their body parts paraded around on spears.
Iraq? Afghanistan? No, British controlled Kenya during the 1950s. Not that many people in the UK today even those critical of the country's foreign policy would be aware of this. Nor for that matter a whole host of other crimes commited by the British government and its agents over the years which, as Mark Curtis notes, are numerous and have had serious consequences:
I have calculated that Britain is complicit in the deaths of around 10 million people since 1945, in conflicts or covert operations where Britain has played a direct role or where it has strongly supported aggression by allies, especially the US. Declassified government files reveal a whole series of largely unknown British policies, for example British support for the 1963 killings in Iraq that brought Saddam’s Ba’ath party to power and the British arming of Baghdad regimes’ brutal aggression against the Kurds throughout the 1960s
All of which underlines why projects such as this are so important.

Sunday, March 20, 2005

The Anarchist Travelling Circuit

I've been unusually busy over the last few days, what with selflessly turning up to this event last Saturday; going to see this little gem at the cinema on Sunday; organising - and speaking at - a meeting with these guys on Monday; arguing with the cops who arrested several of my friends and stole their bikes (for "evidence" you understand) in Derby on Thursday; and making my way down to London yesterday. In fact, by the end of it all I was far too tired to go to this last night, which is a shame. All in all a very productive week, not that you'd know it looking at this thing. I'll try harder next week...

Thursday, March 17, 2005

Watching the Watchers

One of the things that troubles me about much of the British "left" (for want of a better term) is the emphasis put on the crimes of the US. No doubt these are very real, serious, worthy of attention and - given the power of the world's sole superpower - potentially a threat to our very survival. Nonetheless I think there is a danger that we ignore the very real crimes of our own government, something we have a greater ability to influence and therefore a greater moral culpability in. Many activists I know could recount an extensive list of US attrocities, but know little about the British repression of the Mau Mau in Kenya or the expulsion of the Chagossians.

Fortunately this problem is not complete and a site has been set up by activists concerned about this very problem. Entitled UK Watch it seem to follow the model of the massively succesful but US based Z-Net, from which I think it draws inspiration and with which it may have links. I was particularly interested to see that they had reprinted my article on potential strategies for ending the occupation of Iraq, which is very nice of them. They also have articles on a whole range of issues. In short, it looks pretty good. Go check it out.

Wednesday, March 16, 2005

Queen Fascist Shocker!

The Queen became embroiled in controversy yesterday as she met Italian Foregin Minister Gianfranci Gianfranco Fini, the leader of the "post-fascist" The National Alliance (Alleanza Nazionale, AN). The post-fascist signifier is in truth fairly meaningless. The AN grew out of the Italian Social Movement (Movimento Sociale Italiano, MSI) which was established in 1946 by supporters of the executed Benito Mussolini. Essentially the MSI helf and meeting in 1995 and decided it wasn't going to be fascist anymore (I'm simplifying slightly, but not much). As you might expect, such a shift in ideology doesn't go very deep. The party held a demonstration widely seen as anti-semitic in 1999 and members of the party in Fiumicino near Rome called for a square to be named after fascist leader Ettore Muti. More recently the party has raised money to supporter former West Ham player Paulo Di Canio after he was fined for a fascist salute during a game in January.

It shouldn't come as any great surprise to see the Royal Family hob-nobbing with a Fascist shit like Fini. Prince Phillip's reactionary, racist views about... Well, everybody, are well know and who could forget Prince Harry's choice of fancy dress costume (or his decision to go to a 'natives and colonials' party in the first place)? Beyond these superficial comparisons, there is a long history of affinity between "the Firm" (as the family are known) and Fascism. The former King Edward VIII, who became the Duke of Windsor after abdicating in 1936, told an interviewer in 1970, "I never thought Hitler was such a bad chap," while Baron Gunther von Reibnitz, the father of Princess Michael of Kent, was a member of the Nazi party and an honorary member of the SS. (Parenthetical aside: Does anybody have any idea what somebody would have had to do to become an "honorary member" of the SS?). Perhaps the most interesting example is the Queen Mother, regarded by many as a stalwart in the fight against German Fascism. In fact she was an advocate of appeasment and a Hitler sympathiser and it has been suggested that she was so bigotted and prejudiced that she had to be prevented from giving interviews until she (finally) popped her clogs.

Friday, March 11, 2005

Chav War

I doubt it will come as much of a surprise if I tell you that there are a lot of things which piss me off: the war in Iraq, racism, violence against women, the inequities of the global economic system, the treatment of the Chagossians and chart music. It wouldn't be difficult to think of more. Over the last year or so I've written about a lot of these things here. One thing I haven't mentioned is the "chavs". So here goes.

For those of you who don't know what a chav is, Wikipedia defines the word as
a derogatory slang term currently in popular usage throughout England. It refers to a subculture negatively-stereotyped as being uneducated, uncultured and prone to antisocial or immoral behavior. The label is typically (although not exclusively) applied to teenagers and young adults of white working class or lower-middle class origin. A male chav is sometimes referred to as a chavster and a female as a chavette, although chav is typically used to refer to both sexes
Related terms apparently include barry boy (East Anglia), ned (Scottish), scally (Liverpudlian), scrote, scuffer (West Oxfordshire), spide (Northern Irish), and yob (or yobbo backslang for "boy").

I draw your attention to this phenomenon because chav hating has become increasingly trendy amongst many of the people I hang around with, even some ostensibly progressive types. To get an idea about the kind of sentiments people express check out this site which makes mine look almost positive...

Those of you unfortunate enough to know me, will be aware that I am about as far as one can be from the paradigmatic chav. Nevertheless I have a real problem with the wholly derogatory way in which the term is used. As I mentioned above, chav hatred seems to be particularly concentrated amongst the middle-classes. This should hardly be surprising. chavs are onverhwlmingly working-class. It is my opinion that most of the hatred directed towards them os fuelled by nothing more than good, old-fashioned classism.

This is acceptable only because of the extensive efforts to deny the continuing relevance of class in modern British society. Imagine if people openly expressed similar sentiments about black people or muslims or even gays.

"But wait," I can here some of you call, "Aren't we all middle-class now?" Which can only be responded to by a curt, "No." Even if you don't accept a Marxian interpretation of class focusing on relationship to the means of production, it is clear we live in a starkly inegalitarian society. Inequality has got worse since Blair ascended to power in 1997, flashy policies be damned.

Tuesday, March 08, 2005

What Day is it?

Today (March 8 for the benefit of the tardy) is International Women's Day and the sixth Global Women's Strike. I can't think of anything profound to say, so go check out the links instead.

Monday, March 07, 2005

The De Facto State?

I haven't dealt with the question of Northern Ireland here very much (at all?) for a number of reasons. Most pressingly because I don't know nearly as much about it as I should. Nonetheless I think it is an important issue for activists in the UK. In part, because it is a good example of the brutality of which the British State is capable (witness the shooting of demonstrators, collusion with Unionist death squads and internment) only a few tens of miles from the mainland. It also highlights the moral complexities of resisting that brutality. It is easy to bandy around militant-sounding slogans declaring your "support" for this or that national liberation movement when they are fighting thousands of miles away. It's much harder to justify such simplistic sloganeering when the consequences of the resistance you are supporting is so close to home.

Anyway, the key focus of this post is the "people's revolt" (to borrow the Grauniad's description) against the IRA gang who murdered Robert McCartney. The murder took place in January in the fiercely Republican Short Strand area (which I think is in Belfast). The details of the murder are difficult to divulge from conflicting reports (which don't even agree on whether it took place inside or outside the pub), but the thrust seems to be that McCartney, a father of two was killed by a gang of IRA members including the leader of their Belfast Brigades and was left, with friend Brendan Devine bleeding in the street. IRA men cleaned up the scene and threatened witnesses who were too frightened even to call an ambulance. Subsequent inquiries by the police have been fruitless with people who had been drinking in the pub claiming to have seen nothing.

The real reason that the story is interesting, however, is not the tragic murder itself, but the response amongst the community. Angered by the cover-up surrounding his death, McCartney's sisters and fiancee Bridgeen O'Hagans led a candlelight vigil five days after his death and were joined by 600 local residents. A month later, a protest rally drew 1,000 people.

It is difficult to gauge from the reports (which are again inconsistent) the exact sentiment of those engaged in these events. This report, from the Women's section of the Guardian on Thursdays, implies that the protests are in part a rebellion against the IRA, perhaps even Republicanism more generally, pointing, for instance, to the emergence of anti IRA graffiti. This report, however, which appeared on the Guardian's front page on Monday suggests that the protest is more focused, targeting primarily the excesses of a movement which the participants still support. The article refers to civil rights leader Eamon McCann who, in a speech, "recognised the contribution of paramilitaries to the struggle for equal rights and said the McCartney campaign was not against any party." Nonetheless he warned that "unless there was a people's revolt against this obvious injustice, a 'dark shadow would be cast backwards' over the whole civil rights movement."

Whatever the reality, it is clear that people are angry about ongoing "criminality" (this being the apparent euphemism for such acts in post-Good Friday Northern Ireland) perpetrated by paramilitaries within their own communities. Beowulf offers an interesting "libertarian socialist analysis" of the problem, concluding that the IRA has become a "de facto state":
The IRA has rolled back the state and replaced it with something worse: a stateless army who keep their position through violence, intimidation and the tacit resignation of working class Catholics. Libertarians should see the IRA as an example of how power can corrupt and warp an organisation and how the state can reassert itself in many different forms.
I disagree with Beowulf's implication that the IRA has to all intents and purposes become a state, primarily because I seem to have a different definition of statehood to him, but I think that there is little doubt about the accuracy of his general thrust.

This poses a difficult question for anyone who believes in radical social change: what do you do with the people who've been doing the fighting when the war/revolution ends? In fact, the problem even applies to the official army, who to be frank have an atrocious record of looking after their former soldiers (who have an awful record of domestic violence, amongst other things). Pacifist avoid the question by suggesting that change could and should be achieved entirely non-violently. Clearly this is an ongoing debate, which merits far more time and space than I am going to dedicate to it now, but I will simply say that I remain unconvinced that there are any examples of genuinely non-violent national liberation movements which have been successful (the Indian example is much more complex than is often claimed). Those who support the right to armed resistance of oppressed peoples generally have little if anything to say on this point. Which, as the McCartney example shows, is potentially a very big problem.

Sunday, March 06, 2005

Licking the Lickspittle

Europhobia helpfully pointed me in the direction (via Bloggerheads and the new Observer Blog) of a list from Hansard (the official record of Parliament, available in full here) of how MPs voted on the so-called Prevention of Terrorism Bill (which scraped through the Commons vote with a majority of only fourteen, but still faces difficulties as it moves onto the Lords).

My democratic representative apparently didn't vote, whatever that means. If yours did you might want to think about telling him or her what you think about the way they voted. If they voted against, why not write them a nice letter? If they voted for the bill you might care to pay them a visit, perhaps you could even take them some food to show your 'appreciation'.

Thursday, March 03, 2005

Plans For World Domination Continue Apace...

Those nice people at the Socialist Unity Network (what do you mean it's an oxymoron?!) have been kind enough to reprint my (slightly pretentiously titled) 'Open Letter to the Anti-Occupation Movement'. Why not go and pay them a visit?

Wednesday, March 02, 2005

Making a Killing

The Grauniad on Monday carried a report which revealed that "HSBC today reported 2004 profits of $17.6bn (£9.1bn), a record for a UK bank". Now in and of itself this isn't that interesting. In fact, I'd go so far as to say it's quite dull. Perhaps even very dull. Nonetheless, I took the time to read the whole report to see if it made any mention of the company's interest in Iraq. Corporate Watch note, "Together with Standard Chartered (1 Aldermanbury Sq, London) one of the three foreign banks to have been granted a licence to operate in Iraq. HSBC also owns 46.5% of the British Arab Commercial Bank which is looking to collect $100 million from Iraq," and point readers in the direction of this encounter with a top advisor to the company. Surprise, surprise the bastion of the 'anti-war press' says nothing about any of this.

That's not to say there wasn't anything of interest there. The report also pointed to impressive profits for Shell (£9.3bn in 2004, despite having announced in January of that year that they had overstated their reserves). Why is this interesting? Because Shell is another company moving into the Iraqi quagmire in the hopes of making a killing. In May of last year they announced that they intend "to establish a material and enduring presence in Iraq."

Now I'm not suggesting that Iraq has been a major factor in these companies' success over the last year. In fact, the situation on the ground might suggest that quite the opposite is true. What I am trying to point out is the mountain the anti-war movement has to climb if it wants to influence the war profiteerers, in my opinion an crucial task for anyone concerned about Iraqi self-determination.

Tuesday, March 01, 2005

Compare and Contrast

While researching the previous post I stumbled across an interesting pairing of articles on the UK Chagos Support Association website. They presented two very different accounts of Bill Rammell's visit to the Chagossian community in Mauritius. The first the official FCO press release and the second the report by the Chagos Refugee Group. The differences are telling.

The saga of the Chagos Islands continues...

You may recall that Bill Rammell agreed in November that a contingent of the islanders would be able to return to the island from which they were exiled in the late 60s and early 70s in order to to visit their relatives graves. This was greeted at the time by a certain degree of cynicism by many, including myself. Similar promises had been made - and broken - before. It was not a great surprise then to discover in January that Rammell was now claiming that the trip could not take place, apparently because the Mauritian government were preventing the UK government from contracting the boat they wanted. This announcement was made during a meeting with representatives of the Chagossian community and Olivier Bancoult of the Chagos Refugee Group was able to come to the minister's aid so to speak, informing him that they had a boat.

That was the latest I had heard until today, when an email on the Student Friends of Chagos list alerted me to this article in which Rammell sets out the current state of affairs:
After the Mauritian Government cancelled in January the booking of the ship, Trochetia, which the UK government had intended to use for the visit, it had proved impossible to identify a suitable alternative ship for an April visit as originally planned.

FCO officials identified a suitable vessel to charter for the visit for September at the close of the cyclone season. But before a booking was confirmed, I wanted to seek the views of Mr Bancoult and his Group.

I confirmed that I am prepared to look at any alternative vessels that Mr Bancoult could suggest.

I have also asked Mr Bancoult to explore with Anthony Godson, British High Commissioner to Mauritius tomorrow the best possible dates and the proposed conditions for the visit, so that it can be firmed up quickly.
Who knows if this will actually amount to anything. It is certainly to be hoped for.

Frankly the whole affair is quite sickening. The islands the Chagossians want to visit are not just somewhere they'd like to go for sightseeing. They are there homes. Homes they were forced from by the British government. They have a right not just to be , but to live there and the British government have a duty to facilitate that. That this is unlikely to happen anytime soon doesn't change the fact that it's right.

Return of the Bastard Son

I trust you all remember Christian Voice? The organisation, which might best be described as the bastard child of Mary Whitehouse and John Ashcroft, were not best pleased when the BBC decided to air Jerry Springer: The Opera and proceeded to barrage the Corporation with a series of protests and a wave of (predominantly automated) emails. Despite the fact that their campaign is unlikely to have done anything but increase interest in the show, the nutjobs who run the organisation have now decided to try and prevent the show going on tour.

It's worth interjecting here that I think those people who claim that freedom of speech is an absolute right are mistaken. Any rights system is neccesarily not axiomatic, that is it will inevitably have contradictions. My right to freedom of speech may in some circumstances conflict with your right to privacy (I can't, for instance, barge into your house, cover the walls with posters extolling the merits of this or that movement and pontificating on the need for a revolution). Similarly my freedom of speech may need to be restricted where it potentially conflicts with my right to life (continuing the analogy above, I would hope that you wouldn't be allowed to incite people to kill me for barging into your house). Nonetheless freedom of speech is an invaluable right and should only be restricted in very limited circumstances. That somebody might be a bit offended isn't in my opinion a good enough reason. Particulalry when those who are offended are nutters like Christian Voice.

Just for the sake of completeness and so that nobody can accuse me of being selective in my targetting, the protests by sections of the Sikh community, which led to the cancellation of Behzti, were similarly stupid. The apparent spread of religious intolerance is a worrying trend, but I'm remain hopeful that it is limited to a relatively small group of extremists. If I'm wrong then we've got a real problem.

Side Projects

Carnival of Anarchy
The Peace Pipe
UK Watch Blog


Against the Current
Culture hits and gendered bits
Daniel Randall
In The Water
Mike Wood
On The Barricades
Pizarro's Sword
Space Cat Rocket Ship
Surveillant Assemblage
TashCamUK FotoPage
The Naked Lunch
The Peace Pipe
The World of the Dynamite Lady


Anarchoblogs Blog
Arte & Lingua
Barker in Valencia
Blood & Treasure
Bombs and Shields
Born at the Crest of the Empire
Chase me ladies...
Chicken Yoghurt
Craig Murray
Dead Men Left
Disreputable Lazy Aliens
Empire Notes
Friends of Al Jazeera
Global Guerillas
Guerillas in the Midst
I Blame the Patriachy
Informed Comment
Janine Booth
Lenin's Tomb
Life of Riley Blog
Media Watch Watch
Neil Shakespeare
NO2ID NewsBlog
One Hump or Two?
Otto's Random Thoughts
Pitch In For Uzbekistan
Run over by the truth
Solidarity With Iraqi Workers
Shut Up You Fat Whiner!
Sudan: Passion of the Present
Talk Politics
The Anthropik Network
The Daily (Maybe)
The Devil's Kitchen
The Disillusioned
The f-word
The Head Heeb
The Killing Train
The Revenge of Winston Smith
The Socialist Unity Blog
The Wicked Truth
Theory of Power
Things I Don't Have Time For
This (Fresh) Gringo
This Is My Truth
Thumping the Tub
Time The Dreaded Enemy
UK Watch Blog
UK Poli Blogs
Under The Same Sun
What Fresh Hell Is This?
Where is Raed? (RIP)
Who Are You to Accuse Me?
Words and Rocks
Z-Net Blog


Asbo Community Space
Eastside Climate Action
Faslane 365
No Borders
Nottingham Student Peace Movement
Refugee Forum
Stop the War
Sumac Centre
The Demo Project

Ivory Towers

Anarchist Studies Network
Centre for the Study of Social and Global Justice
Postanarchism Clearinghouse


Anarchist FAQ
Chagos Discussion List
Chagos Support Forums
Electronic Intifada
Future of Iraq Portal
Index of Political Blogs
Indymedia UK
Iraq Occupation Focus
Refuser Solidarity Network
Socialist Unity Network
The New Standard
UK Chagos Support Association
UK Watch
Weekly Worker

The Progressive Blog Alliance

Register here to join the PBA.