CPGB-ML » Posts in 'civil liberties and protest' category

No cooperation with war crimes: step up the campaign

The following motion is being submitted by the CPGB-ML to the upcoming Stop the War national conference.

We believe that the proposed programme of action is both necessary and achieveable. We therefore call on all anti-imperialists and anti-war campaigners to give it the widest possible circulation in order to generate discussion and to mobilise support for this important work.

Individually, we may be powerless, but together, we do have the power to stop imperialism’s criminal wars.

CPGB-ML resolution to StW conference, October 2010

This conference notes the passing last year of a motion calling on the coalition “to do all in its power to promote a movement of industrial, political and military non-cooperation with all of imperialism’s aggressive war preparations and activities among British working people“.

Since that resolution was passed, many important developments have taken place, which on the one hand make this work more urgent, and on the other have created an atmosphere that is more receptive to our message.

Conference notes the attack on those condemning war crimes that was embodied in the draconian sentences handed down to the Gaza protestors. Congress further notes that these sentences were aimed not only at discouraging muslim youth from political activism, but also at dividing the anti-war and Palestine solidarity movements along racial lines, and branding Palestine solidarity as a ‘muslim’ issue.

Conference condemns the murder by Israeli commandos of nine solidarity activists aboard the Gaza Freedom Flotilla in May, despite the fact that the UN had called for the ships to be allowed to pass. Conference notes the UN’s recent findings that these murders were illegal – another war crime to add to the many being committed daily against the Palestinian people.

Conference further notes that in the atmosphere of international outrage that followed these murders, even Israeli-friendly politicians such as Cameron and Hague were forced to make statements condemning both the murders and the siege on Gaza.

Conference reaffirms its support for all those who have taken the lead in active non-cooperation over the past year, in particular for Joe Glenton, for the EDO Decommissioners, for the Gaza protestors, and for the many British participants in siege-busting missions by land and sea to Gaza.

Conference notes that the landmark acquittal in the case of the Decommissioners can only facilitate more actions of this kind, since it not only sets a legal precedent, but is a reflection of the general sense of disgust against Israeli war crimes in particular.

Conference reaffirms its belief that the majority of people in Britain are opposed to British imperialism’s wars, and considers that the time is ripe to make active non-cooperation a central theme of our work. Conference therefore calls on the incoming steering committee to take the line of non-cooperation into as many arenas as possible, including:

  1. Putting on a fundraising concert to draw attention to the Gaza prisoners’ plight and to raise money towards a campaign to overturn their convictions.
  2. Approaching Joe Glenton to take part in a national speaking tour against cooperation with the Afghan war.
  3. Giving full backing, including maximum possible publicity, to all those groups or individuals, whether affiliated to the Coalition or not, who, like the EDO Decommissioners, the Raytheon activists and Joe Glenton, are targeted by the state for refusing to cooperate with, or for actively attempting to prevent, the illegal wars and bombings waged and backed by British imperialism.
  4. Stepping up the campaign outside army recruitment centres and at army recruitment stalls in schools, colleges and universities, drawing attention to the war crimes committed by the British armed forces in Iraq and Afghanistan.
  5. Launching a full campaign inside the unions to draw attention to British, US and Israeli war crimes, with the aim of passing in each of them, and then at the TUC, motions condemning those crimes and calling on workers to refuse to cooperate in their commission, whether it be by making or moving munitions or other equipment, writing or broadcasting propaganda, or helping in any other way to smooth the path of the war machine.
  6. Following the excellent example set by PSC (eg, the campaign to draw attention to pro-Israeli propaganda in Panorama) and Media Lens (eg, alerts drawing attention to the media’s cover-up of war crimes committed in Fallujah) and working with these and others to draw in as many members and supporters as possible to an ongoing campaign to hold the media to account for their pivotal role in apologising for, covering up and normalising British, US and Israeli war crimes.
  7. Continuing and increasing the work already done to make Britain a place where war criminals, whether US, British or Israeli, can get no peace, through holding protests, through citizens’ arrests and through all other available channels, including using local, national and international courts to file charges and draw attention to their crimes.

Analysis: A great day for Derry; not a bad day for the British army either

Banners bearing portraits of Bloody Sunday victims are carried to the Guildhall in Derry, where relatives were able to read the first copies of the Saville report, 15 June 2010

Banners bearing portraits of Bloody Sunday victims are carried to the Guildhall in Derry, where relatives were able to read the first copies of the Saville report, 15 June 2010

By Eammon McCann via Sunday Tribune

Derry is still dizzy from the eruption of joy which greeted the Saville report’s recognition on Tuesday that all of the Bloody Sunday wounded and dead were unarmed civilians gunned down by British paratroopers for no good or legitimate reason.

But the report is not flawless. When it comes to the allocation of blame to the soldiers, it follows a pattern of convicting the lower orders while exculpating the higher command, and dismissing the possibility of political leaders having been even passively complicit in the events.

The individual paras who fired the shots that killed or wounded civil rights marchers are damned for the roles they played.

Additionally, Lieutenant Colonel Derek Wilford, commander of the First Battalion of the Parachute Regiment, is singled out for obloquy. It was his disobedience of orders, says Saville, which put the paras into position to carry out the killing. Had he followed orders, the massacre would never have happened. Thus, an undisciplined battalion commander and a small squad of kill-crazy foot-soldiers did it all.

The effect is to insulate the rest of the British army from blame. The report was brilliant for the Bloody Sunday families. It wasn’t a bad result for the British army either.

David Cameron might have found it more difficult to disown those involved in the atrocity so forthrightly had Saville included in his list of culprits, say, Major General Robert Ford, Commander of Land Forces, Northern Ireland, at the time, or General Sir Michael Jackson, second-in-command to Wilford on the day, later army chief of staff and Nato commander in Kosovo.

Ford, second in seniority in the North only to the General Officer Commanding, commissioned the Bloody Sunday battle plan, Operation Forecast, and ordered the paras to Derry to carry it out.

In the weeks before Bloody Sunday he had made plain his frustration at the failure of Derry-based regiments to bring the Bogside no-go area to heel.

In a document published by the inquiry dated 7 January 1972, Ford declared himself “disturbed” by the attitude of army and police chiefs in Derry, and added: “I am coming to the conclusion that the minimum force necessary to achieve a restoration of law and order is to shoot selected ringleaders amongst the DYH (Derry Young Hooligans).”

Ford took the decision to deploy the paras six days before Bloody Sunday, overruling a message the same day from Derry commander, Brigadier Pat MacLellan, indicating that he and local police chief Frank Lagan believed that any direct confrontation with the civil rights marchers should be avoided. Ford held to the plan in face of strongly-expressed opposition from other senior Derry-based officers.

On the day, although with no operational role, he travelled to Derry and took up position at the edge of the Bogside, shouting “Go on the paras!” as they ran past him through a barbed-wire barricade towards the Rossville Street killing ground.

Saville suggests that Wilford allowed his soldiers in the Bogside to exceed MacLellan’s orders “not to fight a running battle”.

But nowhere in the report is it considered whether Wilford and the paras might have believed or suspected that MacLellan’s orders need not be regarded in all the circumstances as binding. The possibility that Ford’s decisions in advance, and comportment on the day, played a part in the way matters developed is brusquely dismissed: Ford “neither knew nor had reason to know at any stage that his decision would or was likely to result in soldiers firing unjustifiably on that day,” Saville declares in chapter four of his report’s first volume.

In the same chapter, Saville insulates political and military leaders generally from blame: “It was also submitted that in dealing with the security situation in Northern Ireland generally, the authorities (the United Kingdom and Northern Ireland governments and the army) tolerated if not encouraged the use of unjustified lethal force; and that this was the cause or a contributory cause of what happened on Bloody Sunday. We found no evidence of such toleration or encouragement.”

This is remarkable. Numerous incidents over the previous year might have suggested toleration if not encouragement of unjustified force. The most egregious had happened six months before Bloody Sunday when the First Paras were involved in killing 11 unarmed civilians over three days in Ballymurphy in west Belfast.

Newspapers of the period, particularly nationalist newspapers, were carrying regular complaints, many of them plausible, of unjustified and sometimes lethal violence by soldiers against civilians.

Toleration of this behaviour might have been inferred from, for example, the fact that no inquiry had been held into the Ballymurphy massacre, nor any soldier disciplined, nor any statement issued expressing regret.

Saville’s dismissal of the suggestion of a “culture of tolerance” would be unremarkable if by “evidence” he meant testimony to the inquiry. He had at an early stage declined to examine prior events in the North on the reasonable ground that to subject the Ballymurphy incident, for example, to the same level of scrutiny as Bloody Sunday would have made the tribunal’s task impossible. But this makes the statement that, “We found no evidence…” puzzling: the tribunal had decided not to gather such evidence.

Many who read through the body of the report will be puzzled, too, by Saville’s acceptance of the explanation eventually offered by Jackson of his role in compiling the “shot-list” which formed the basis of the initial cover-up of the killings.

Jackson had provided the tribunal with a detailed account of his movements and involvement in the Bloody Sunday events and took the witness stand in London in April 2003.

Nowhere in his statement or his April evidence did he refer to compiling the shot-list or other documents giving a version of what had happened. His role emerged the following month during evidence from Major Ted Loden who described how, late in the afternoon of Bloody Sunday, he took statements from the shooters and plotted map references showing the trajectory of their shots.

However, when a number of documents including the original of the shot-list, were then produced, the list turned out to be not in Loden’s handwriting but in the handwriting of the now chief of staff of the British army.

Loden was asked how this could have come about. “Well, I cannot answer that question,” came the reply.

None of the shots described conformed to any of the shots which evidence indicated had actually been fired.

Some trajectories took bullets through buildings to hit their targets. All the targets were identified as gunmen or as nail or petrol bombers.

The other documents in the chief of staff’s hand were personal accounts of the day’s events by Wilford, the three para company commanders present and the battalion intelligence officer.

Recalled to the stand in October, Jackson explained that he had entirely forgotten these documents but had recovered a “vague memory” after they had been put to Loden.

It had earlier slipped his mind that he had produced, by his own hand, within hours of the massacre, a detailed version of Bloody Sunday in which no British soldier did anything wrong and their victims were all to blame for their own injuries or deaths.

Under questioning, Jackson was badly hampered by poor memory. More than 20 times he used phrases such as, “I cannot remember”, “do not recall”, “I have only a very vague memory”.

Saville resolves one contradiction by accepting both Loden’s original claim that he had written out the shot-list and Jackson’s subsequent explanation that he must have copied Loden’s script verbatim, although he could offer no explanation as to why he might have done this, nor could he recall who had asked or ordered him to do so. Loden’s own list has never been found.

In volume eight of the report, Saville rejects suggestions from the families’ lawyers that “the list played some part in a cover-up to conceal the emerging truth that some innocent civilians had been shot and killed by soldiers of 1 Para, although it is not explained exactly how this conspiracy is said to have worked”. He accepts Jackson’s claim that compiling the documents would simply have been standard operational procedure (which he’d forgotten about).

In their statements to the inquiry, none of the soldiers whose shots were included on the list recalled being interviewed by either Loden or Jackson about their firing.

Having suggested it was not clear how a cover-up based on the documents might have worked, Saville goes on to say that, “the list did play a role in the army’s explanations of what occurred on the day”.

He cites an interview on BBC radio at 1am the day after Bloody Sunday in which the army’s head of information policy in the North, Maurice Tugwell, used the list as his basis for explaining the “shooting engagements”.

Elsewhere, he finds that “information from the list was used by Lord Balniel, the Minister of State for Defence, in the House of Commons on 1 February 1972, when he defended the actions of the soldiers”.

Saville seems not to have considered the possibility that this was how a conspiracy might have worked.

Many in high positions in Britain will have been relieved to find that Jackson bore no blame for the Bloody Sunday events. The response of the families and their supporters to Saville’s report has been understandably and properly euphoric. Whether other finding of the tribunal will stand the test of time is less certain.

Flash: Remaining two EDO decommissioners found not guilty

News just in is that the last two defendants in the EDO decommissioners trial have been found not guilty at Hove crown court.

Congratulations to all those involved in the campaign to stop EDO. Let others learn from their example. No cooperation with British, US or Israeli war crimes! Free Palestine!

Victory for the EDO decommissioners – the accusers not the accused: resisting war crimes is not a crime!

Five of the seven defendants in the EDO decommissioners trial in Brighton have been found not guilty of conspiracy to cause criminal damage by unanimous verdict given yesterday.

Clearly under pressure from the growing public anger against Israeli attrocities and British complicity, the judge directed the jury to remember the suffering of the Palestinians during the massacre, and pointed out to them that legal channels to oppose EDO-MBM had been exhausted.

The remaining two defendants await their verdict, which is likely to be decided on Friday by the jury at Hove crown court.

The defendants were on trial for decommissioning the EDO-MBM arms factory in Brighton during last year’s attack on Gaza by Israel. Six activists entered the factory on 17 January 2009 to sabotage the production of essential component parts for bomb release mechanisms in F16 fighter planes used by the Israeli ‘Defence’ Force.

The action caused over £300,000 worth of damaged and, most importantly, disrupted the supply chain of the Israeli war machine.

The defendants took the stand as the accusers not the accused, admitting they had deliberately sabotaged the factory in order to prevent Israeli war crimes from continuing in Gaza. As the trial proceeded, EDO-MBM was exposed as being complicit in these crimes through supplying parts for the F16 fighter jets.

This result follows the acquittal at the beginning of June of nine women for their part in the protests at the Raytheon armaments factory in Derry in January 2009, and the victory in 2008 of the Raytheon 9, who occupied the Derry plant during Israel’s attack on Lebanon in 2006.

Meanwhile, however, a large number of young people, mostly muslim, who demonstrated in London against the Israeli attacks on Gaza in 2008/9, have been handed down outrageous and draconian sentences simply for showing their opposition to Israeli war crimes.

And Joe Glenton remains in prison after being court-martialled for his heroic and principled refusal to return to the illegal war in Afghanistan.

Full support needs to be given to the campaigns to free Joe and the Gaza protestors. We must show that such acts of intimidation will not deter our opposition to war crimes or stop the growing Palestine solidarity movement.

The vindication of the action taken by the EDO decommissioners is a victory for the anti-war and Palestine solidarity movements.

Free Joe Glenton; jail the warmongers!
Free the Gaza protestors; jail the warmongers!
No cooperation with war crimes!

SEE ALSO:
Smash-EDO decommissioners vindicated as Brighton crown court agrees that Israel was committing war crimes in Gaza
decommissioners.co.uk

The Saville report is a victory for the Irish people, and one more small step on the road to a united Ireland

Issued by: CPGB-ML
Issued on: 18 June 2010

With the release, on 15 June 2010, of the report by the Saville Inquiry into the events of Bloody Sunday in Derry on 30 January 1972, the British state has finally been forced to admit what the Irish people, and people throughout the world, have known for the last 38 years, namely that all the dead and injured were completely innocent and that the killings by the British Army’s parachute regiment that day were “unjustified and unjustifiable”.

Speaking in Derry as the report was released, Sinn Fein President, Gerry Adams MP, said:

“Today is a day for the families of those killed and those injured on Bloody Sunday.

“They have campaigned for 38 years for the truth and for justice. They have campaigned for the British government to end their policy of cover-up and concealment.

“The facts of what happened on Bloody Sunday are clear – the British Paras came to Derry and murdered 14 civil-rights marchers and injured 13 others. They were unarmed, they posed no threat and they were completely innocent.

“Today, Saville has put the lies of Widgery [a whitewash enquiry into the events ordered by the British government in their immediate aftermath] into the dustbin of history, and with it the cover-up which was authorised at the highest levels within the British establishment and lasted for almost four decades.”

The Communist Party of Great Britain (Marxist-Leninist), which upholds the right of the Irish people to self-determination and stands for an end to partition and the unification of Ireland, joins with the families who lost their loved ones on that fateful day, with the working-class people of Derry, and with their republican leadership, in celebrating the momentous victory they have scored.

It is unprecedented for a British prime minister to have to stand up in the House of Commons and engage in a humiliating act of contrition for the bloody crimes of imperialism’s armed forces. We do not doubt that the words stuck in Cameron’s throat, but they brought joy to our hearts and to those of class-conscious British workers.

Writing in the Guardian, Comrade Gerry Adams poignantly described the atmosphere as the report was released:

Representatives of all the families spoke. One by one they declared their relative, their brother, their father, their uncle, ‘innocent!’

Their remarks were interrupted by loud applause. People cried and cheered. Clenched fists stabbed the air. Not the clenched fists of young radicals. These were elderly Derry grannies and granddads. Elderly widows. Middle-aged siblings.” (’Bloody Sunday is the defining story of the British army in Ireland’, 16 June 2010)

The above title of Adams’ article was a direct response to Prime Minister Cameron’s feeble attempt at face-saving, claiming that: “Bloody Sunday is not the defining story of the service the British Army gave in northern Ireland.”

All this is part of an attempt by the British state to cut its losses. Forced to admit blame, at the same time, it would have us believe that this was but one unfortunate incident, the responsibility of one regiment and of one conveniently dead commanding officer. In other words, the British state is continuing to lie through its teeth.

As Tony Doherty, whose father was one of those murdered on Bloody Sunday, told the 15 June crowd in Derry: “The Parachute Regiment are the frontline assassins for Britain’s political and military elite.” (Quoted in Adams, op cit)

Serving to underline the point, relatives of the Ballymurphy 11 joined the Bloody Sunday relatives at the head of the march. The Ballymurphy 11, ten men, including a local priest, and a mother of eight children, were murdered in that area of West Belfast by the same parachute regiment, in the 36 hours after the British state introduced internment without trial in August 1971, six months before Bloody Sunday. Their struggle for justice continues and we pledge it our full support.

Likewise, Sinn Fein Deputy Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin, speaking in the Dáil (the Irish parliament), called on the Irish government to “press the British government to comply with the unanimous all-party motion adopted by the Dáil nearly two years ago, which called on the British government to release to an international investigation all facts it possesses on the Dublin and Monaghan bombings of 17 May 1974″.

Thirty-three people were killed and nearly 300 wounded in these car bombs, which were much later conveniently claimed by the Ulster Volunteer Force (UVF) loyalist terror gang, but which are widely believed to have occurred with at least the connivance of British intelligence.

Comrade Ó Caoláin went on to rightly state: “The final act of justice will be when every remaining soldier of the British Army is at last withdrawn from the six counties.”

Far from being the exception that Cameron implied, Bloody Sunday is not merely the defining story of the British army in Ireland, but also its defining story throughout the world, be it of the Amritsar Massacre in 1919 (for which Shaheed Udham Singh finally took vengeance in 1940), or in countless places in the post-World War II period alone, from Korea, Cyprus, Malaya (where British soldiers posed grinning for photos holding the severed heads of captured suspected guerrillas), Kenya (where the British army retains a reputation for mass, systemic rape to this day) and Aden (where British soldiers awarded themselves ‘golliwog’ labels for killing innocent civilians), through the Malvinas and the Balkans, to the contemporary wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.

We should entertain no illusions that the Saville Report somehow represents the British state turning over a new leaf. Just this month, former Labour defence minister Adam Ingram was forced to admit that he misled parliament (generally considered a far more heinous offence than butchering oppressed people!) over the hooding and ‘inhumane treatment’ of Iraqi detainees.

This emerged from the inquiry into the death of Iraqi hotel receptionist, Baha Mousa, tortured and beaten to death by the British army in Basra in September 2003. Documents disclosed by the inquiry set up into his death show that Ingram was copied on a memo revealing that Baha Mousa was hooded for a total of nearly 24 hours during 36 hours in British military custody before he died. Nine months later, Ingram claimed that hooding was only used while detainees were being transported for security reasons.

A report in the Morning Star noted:

The former minister also told the inquiry that he was not aware of three-decade-old prohibitions on the hooding of prisoners until 2004.

The ban on hooding, the use of stress positions and other degrading treatment was issued in 1972 by then prime minister Edward Heath after abuses of detainees in Northern Ireland.

But all these measures were routinely used by British forces in Basra and elsewhere in Iraq, even after specific instructions not to do so.

“Mr Ingram, a former Northern Ireland security minister, said that he was not aware of the ‘Heath ruling’ until it was referred to in a May 2004 document.” (’Ex-minister Ingram misled us on Iraq abuse’, 2 June 2010)

How correct Karl Marx was when he observed that, “English reaction has its roots in Ireland“.

Our party proudly calls for victory to the Iraqi and Afghan resistance, precisely so that the countless Baha Mousas do not, like the brave people of Derry, have to wait 38 years for justice and vindication.

What the British state has reluctantly conceded after nearly four decades was always as clear as daylight. As the Communist Party of China wrote at the time:
Why don’t you show any respect … for the just wishes of the Northern Irish people to have their democratic rights, since you always talk about respecting ‘the wishes of the people’? You have made a hullabaloo about a ‘civilised solution’, but why have you acted so barbarously in slaughtering the Northern Irish demonstrators and why are you continually sending troops and police to carry out armed suppression on a larger scale? … The bloody suppression of the Northern Irish people by the British government once again reveals its so-called ‘civilisation’.” (’Firmly support the Northern Irish people’s just struggle’, People’s Daily, 8 February 1972)

British imperialism’s belated acknowledgement of the dreadful crime it committed in Derry on 30 January 1972 may be attributed to two factors above all:
• To the courage, dignity, strength and resilience of the bereaved families; and
• To the tenacious struggle waged by the republican movement and the nationalist community, principally the armed struggle waged by the IRA, that finally opened the door to a political process that is slowly but surely going in the direction of a united Ireland.

British imperialism, like all reactionary forces, despises the weak and fears the strong. Its preferred modus operandi when oppressed people rise up is to drown them in blood, ride out the ensuing political storm, if there is one, and continue raking in the loot.

The risen Irish people denied them that option. As an ITN journalist observed, the IRA made the British army pay a high price for Bloody Sunday in the ensuing years, with more than 600 dead and many more wounded.

The victory of the Bloody Sunday relatives comes at a difficult time for British imperialism, with, as we have noted above, imperialist wars being fought in Iraq and, especially at the present time, Afghanistan, as well as with the savage economic crisis raising the spectre of possible unrest at home.

With the mawkish ‘welcome’ afforded the steady stream of coffins as they pass through the town of Wootton Bassett, military parades in such working class towns as Barking, and the attempts to criminalise militant protests by sections of the muslim community to such displays, we need to hammer home the point that participation in an imperialist war does not make you a hero. It makes you a criminal.

The real heroes are those like the Bloody Sunday families, the Afghan resistance, Military Families Against the War, and soldiers like Joe Glenton, who would rather serve time than fight in an unjust war.

In saluting and paying tribute to the Bloody Sunday families, the people of Derry, the republican movement, and the risen Irish people on their significant victory, the CPGB-ML commits itself to playing its part in the ongoing struggle to realise a free, sovereign and united Ireland and to see the day when British troops are no longer able to rampage in Ireland, Iraq, Afghanistan or any other country.

In the words of Bobby Sands: “Our revenge will be the laughter of our children.

Time to expose Labour’s racism at home and abroad

Bectu members received the following email from their union today:

I am writing to let you know about EXPOSE, a new campaign of media workers and students – journalists, technicians, designers, musicians and actors – that is dedicated to exposing the British National Party as the racists, homophobes, anti-Semites, women-haters and fascists that they are.

BECTU are working with our colleagues from the NUJ to support the launch of ‘EXPOSE’, a campaigning group set up to provide well-researched information and background briefings for reporters, news editors and others in our industry in order to challenge the BNP’s statements and spokespersons, and the racism and criminality at the heart of their organisation.

Below is how one member responded:

It’s not the BNP, but the Labour party that needs exposing. Everyone knows what the BNP is about. And it is Labour’s racism that has created the conditions in which the BNP has grown and thrived.

Labour has dehumanised and massacred millions of innocent people in the Middle East. Labour has demonised British muslims. Labour has built concentration camps for immigrants. Labour has brought in ‘anti-terror’ legislation that it uses against peaceful demonstrators and the entire muslim community. Labour has dismantled British civil liberties. Labour has given billions to the failed banks, while encouraging working people to believe that it is immigrants who are to blame for the lack of health care, child care, education, jobs, pensions and houses. Labour continues to use anti-trade union legislation to crush working peoples’ attempts at resistance to cuts in their pay and conditions.

All these things have helped the BNP to grow. Labour has the blood of millions on its hands and yet our unions try to tell us that voting Labour is the only option if we want to ‘keep the Tories out’ or ‘keep the BNP out’. This campaign has less to do with exposing the BNP, who are already fairly well exposed, than with trying to save the electoral chances of the current government of Labour war criminals. Meanwhile, the side effect is that you will give lots of publicity to the BNP!

The fact is that the capitalists are more than happy for people who feel abandoned by and disillusioned with Labour to turn to the BNP, since the BNP further encourages racism and division between working people. This division is the very thing that keeps workers weak and at the mercy of big corporations and the state. As far as the capitalists are concerned, the BNP is a perfectly acceptable ‘alternative’ vote, since it doesn’t threaten their ability to continue to plunder and exploit at home or abroad. They see it merely as a safety valve in times of economic crisis, when people are becoming more militantly disaffected.

But, despite all the publicity it receives, and the recruiting work that the Labour party and corporate media does for it, the BNP is not currently anywhere near to power. The real threat to working people right now is the Labour party. And the best way to explain that, and to keep people away from the BNP too, is to ditch Labour and become part of a real workers’ movement against the failed system of capitalism and for socialism - the only system that is capable of abolishing all forms of inequality and putting workers’ interests and needs first.

With the bank crisis fresh in people’s minds and the prospect of a fresh assault on workers’ jobs, houses, pay and pensions after the election, no matter which party of capital wins, there has never been a better time to get involved in the real struggle for workers’ rights: the anti-capitalist, anti-imperialist struggle for socialism. On the other hand, there is no better way to reveal our uselessness than to go flogging the same old dead horse of trying to bring people back into the Labour party fold, and tie them to the system that has created all the problems we see today: economic meltdown, a gap of 100 times between Britain’s richest and poorest, criminal genocidal wars, stealth privitisation of essential services, spiralling unemployment, racist and anti-immigrant hysteria, the increasing criminalisation of protest, etc.

As media workers, we should be looking a bit closer to home in our battle to fight all this. The propaganda that fuels support for criminal wars and anti-terror and anti-immigrant legislation and demonisation couldn’t be put out without our members’ cooperation. Journalists write this rubbish to order. Technicians print and broadcast it. How about a campaign to stop helping the capitalists to make us complicit in their crimes?

Resolution adopted at Stop the War Coalition Conference

The following resolution, submitted by the CPGB-ML, was overwhelmingly adopted by the national conference of the Stop the War Coalition, held on 25 April 2009.

No cooperation with war crimes

This conference condemns Britain’s continued involvement in the occupation of Iraq and Afghanistan and calls for the immediate recall of all British troops from both these countries.

While the City of London’s financial elite sought to benefit by joining arms with the US to seize Iraq’s oil wealth and manipulate her domestic and foreign policy to their advantage, this conference affirms that the entire bloody debacle has always been contrary to the interests of the vast majority of British workers, who have consistently demonstrated their opposition to this modern-day Anglo-American colonial crusade.

Since 2004, more than 1.5 million wholly innocent Iraqi men, women and children have been slaughtered as a result of the illegal invasion and occupation of their country. This can only be termed genocide. In addition, more than 4 million Iraqis have been displaced from their homes as internal and external refugees, and the resultant dislocation of Iraq’s cultural, political and economic life is near total.

In Afghanistan, tens of thousands of people have been murdered, and the country’s infrastructure smashed to pieces as a result of the Anglo-American oil monopolies’ quest to control the routes of projected pipelines.

This conference notes with shame the fact that ‘our own’ British imperialist Labour government has been a key player in planning and perpetrating these heinous war crimes against the Iraqi and Afghan peoples.

Conference notes that many British workers were browbeaten, by a compliant political and media establishment, into accepting these wars on entirely false premises (Afghan responsibility for the 11 September attacks, Blair’s ‘45 minute’ claim about Iraqi WMD, etc) that sought to paint Afghanistan and Iraq, rather than Anglo-American imperialism, as the aggressors. Thus the necessary ground was laid to send British and US soldiers (workers in uniform) to do the bankers’, oil magnates’ and armament manufacturers’ dirty work.

This conference believes that war fought to enforce subjection and servitude upon another nation is morally abhorrent; to fight and die in such a cause is demoralising, corrupting and meaningless.

This conference realises that, although individually powerless, collectively, British workers do have the power to stop the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq, since the government and corporations cannot fight them without us.

This conference therefore resolves that the coalition will do all in its power to promote a movement of industrial, political and military non-cooperation with all of imperialism’s aggressive war preparations and activities among British working people.

Union mobilisation remains key to the success of such a policy, and this conference instructs the incoming Stop the War steering committee to campaign vigorously among trade unions to encourage them to adopt a practical policy encouraging their members to do everything not to support illegal wars or occupations, directly or indirectly; and to render every support to members victimised for taking this principled stand.

This conference welcomes the magnificent examples set by such signal actions as:

  • 2002/3: FBU strike action immediately preceding the invasion of Iraq, which threatened the entire enterprise.
  • Jan 2003: Fifteen Aslef train drivers refused to move arms from Glasgow factories to Glen Douglas base on Scotland’s west coast (which remains Nato’s largest European arsenal, and from where they were bound for the Gulf).
  • 9 Aug 2006: Protesters occupied the Derry offices of Raytheon when Israel invaded Lebanon, to “prevent the commissioning of war crimes by the Israeli armed forces using weapons supplied by Raytheon”.
  • May Day 2008: tens of thousands of US west coast dockers defied court injunctions to strike in protest against US wars in Afghanistan and Iraq, despite the decision of the International Longshore & Warehouse Union (ILWU) leadership to withhold official sponsorship for the strike.
  • Dec 2008: Smash EDO demonstrators occupied and disabled production at Brighton-based missile-delivery system manufacturer EDO (recently acquired by Armament Giant ITT) during Israel’s massacre of Gazans.
  • Feb 2009: Norwegian Train drivers staged a national stoppage to protest the Israeli massacre in Gaza.
  • Resolutions asking Bectu media workers to resist the transmission of imperialist war propaganda will be considered at the union’s forthcoming congress.

Six-year-olds fingerprinted by Britain

Via The Guardian

Under the banner of the EU, and without parliament’s consent, the Home Office is taking data from children entering the UK.

Two months ago, the UK Borders Agency began fingerprinting foreign
children over six years old, from outside the European Economic Area and resident in Britain. At the time Jacqui Smith was congratulated for her tough line on issuing identity cards to foreign residents and no one, not even parliament, noticed that the biometric requirements applied to children of six. And parliament didn’t know because it was never asked to approve the policy.

Nowhere in the world are you more powerless than at a border. As a foreigner you also enjoy far fewer rights than locals. Do you think these children or their parents dare to speak up against the bureaucracy of the UK Borders Agency? In fact, no one has called the Borders Agency to account. Home Office officials I have talked to outside the agency were shocked that official government policy is now to fingerprint children.

When asked why (question 226407), the Home Office itself offers a much more solid defence: that the EU requires it. What it does not admit is that the British government is almost alone in pushing the EU to ensure that the age when fingerprinting can start is so low. Home Office officials pushed the EU to establish a standard age of six, despite opposition within other European governments. The next time you hear a government official support the EU, it is not just because it is a vehicle for “peace, prosperity and freedom”, but also because it is a vehicle to push through policies that the UK government would prefer not to pursue through the legislature at home.

The Bush administration rejected the contemplation of fingerprinting children, even within the controversial US-VISIT program that fingerprints visitors to the United States. The Department of Homeland Security is prohibited from fingerprinting children under 14, though it may well consider lowering it.

The Bush administration and the UK government have both pushed bad
policies through international bodies over the last eight years. The UN was compelled by the UK and the US to adopt shared standards to monitor foreigners and travellers around the world. In turn, when the government wanted to justify ID cards, it pointed to the international obligations to adopt biometric passports. When it collects information about British citizens’ travel habits, it will use “international standards” as a justification.

The bitter irony is that when the Bush administration tried to do exactly what these international standards propose – through collecting all travel information and other data about individuals to develop a risk score that they cannot correct – there was international condemnation. When the UK government wants to push exactly the same measures, and in fact collect even more data than the US, there is absolute silence because everyone in Britain thinks the UK government is just following international obligations.

Even if the Obama administration reverses course on treating entire populations as suspected criminals, the UK government will continue to hawk bad surveillance policy. Yet some of its most invasive practices and plans will never be reviewed by parliament. Just as Britons are powerless at the border of another country, they are also powerless within their own country.

Paradoxically, the European parliament pushed back against the European governments’ attempts to lower the fingerprinting age of citizens for their passports to six years old. Instead, the European parliament gained a “victory” recently by getting the standard raised to 12. So now the EU is requiring that teenagers across the EU be fingerprinted for their passports. Indeed, the UK government will now probably argue that it has to follow suit. The government has promised, however, that ID cards (which are based on passports, which are in turn based on EU “obligations”) would only be issued to people aged 16 or over. Will that pledge hold? Or will the fact that foreign residents in Britain have been forced to accept it and international standards, of course, be used as an excuse to issue children with compulsory ID?

Storm of student protest over Gaza gathers force

Via The Guardian.

A group of 15 students are sitting at the back of the lecture theatre. Some are wearing scarves associated with the Palestinian movement, others hold the Palestinian flag. They are silent, apart from the few words one of them utters at the beginning of the lecture explaining why they are there: as part of a symbolic silent protest to show solidarity with the people of Gaza.

On the walls are photos of the conflict, showing men carrying blood-splattered children and posters calling for the massacre in Gaza to stop. In the corner of the room is a pile of sleeping bags and a table stacked with bottled water and cartons of fruit juice.

Over the last week, a storm of student protests has gathered over 16 universities across England, suggesting that students are awakening from the political apathy of which they are often accused. It’s enough to bring a tear to the eye of ageing sixties radicals.

Starting at the School of Oriental and African Studies, occupations in protest at events in Gaza spread to King’s College London and the London School of Economics (LSE), then out of the capital to Sussex, Warwick, Newcastle, Oxford, Essex, Birmingham, Leeds, Manchester and Manchester Metropolitan, Bristol, Nottingham, Salford, and Kingston.

At Sussex, students have occupied the arts lecture theatre 24 hours a day sincea meeting with a controversial British Palestinian academic, Azzam Tamimi, on Tuesday night.

Simon Englert, 19, a second-year English literature and drama student from Belgium, is a member of the Palestinian Solidarity Campaign on campus and one of the instigators of the 100-strong occupation. “It’s important for Universities to take a stand on this. We are told in history about the central role that students play in defending causes. So that is what we are doing today,” he says. “We invited LSE students along to our meeting and they helped to inspire this action.”

“The action has brought together socialists, Islamists and even students from the green movement who realise the detrimental effects of war on the environment,” says Gwen Wilkinson, a first-year psychology student from Newport.

A handful of Jewish students are involved in the protest, including Englert. “I don’t want to make a big thing about it,” he says, “but Israel doesn’t speak for the world’s Jewish community.”

The occupiers have issued the university with six demands including the issuing of a statement condemning the “atrocities perpetrated by Israel in the Gaza Strip” and calling on it to disinvest from “companies complicit in human rights abuses”. At night they are using the internet facilities in the lecture hall to contact groups in the West Bank and are hoping to get through to Gaza.

Eleanor, 20, a first-year English and history student, has signed their petition. Although she says many students are attracted to Sussex by its radical history, she is reluctant to get involved in the occupation. “There are two sides to the story and Hamas were firing rockets into Israel,” she says.

And the occupation has passed some students by entirely. May Lam, a second-year media studies student rushing from the library, says: “I don’t even have time to do my own thing. It’s remote, in another country and there’s nothing I can do about it. There are so many problems here in the UK with a recession.”

At the LSE, veteran campaigner and politician Tony Benn told students: “I don’t believe in protesting, because that looks like you’ve lost the battle and don’t like it. I believe in making demands. This is more important than you realise at the moment, but when people get together and do something, that’s when history is changed.”

The numbers involved are a tiny proportion of the 2.5 million-strong UK student body, but they appear to speak for many more, and to have caught a wider mood. So far the protests have been peaceful and treated gently by the authorities, though some Jewish students have complained they feel threatened.

King’s students see the university occupations as a resurgence of the kind of action that took place during the anti-apartheid movement of the 1980s.

The zenith of British student political activism in the 1960s does not warrant a mention now, not even the protest by LSE students against Ian Smith’s regime in Rhodesia (now Zimbabwe), let alone those in 1968. Presumably for today’s students, many of whom were born in the early 1990s, the sixties are ancient history.

Unlike the anti-apartheid protesters, today’s students have the power of the internet at their disposal. They have put it to good use, publicising their campaigns through social-networking sites, making regular updates on blogs, and supporting one another through emailed messages of solidarity.

All the occupying students have issued similar demands: a statement from their vice-chancellor condemning the Israeli bombing of Gaza; severing university investment or links with companies supplying equipment used in the conflict; sending surplus computers and books to students in Gaza; scholarships for Gazan students – and no repercussions for their activism.

King’s students also want the university to remove the honorary degree it bestowed on Israel’s president, Shimon Peres, last November. In Oxford, students occupying the historic Clarendon building called on Balliol College to cancel a lecture series in Peres’s honour.

University officials have on the whole agreed to help students fundraise and send equipment to Gaza, but vice-chancellors have carefully sidestepped demands to issue political statements condemning Israel’s conduct.

So far, four of the occupying student groups have claimed victory: at the School of Oriental and African Studies and the University of Essex (after two days), and at Oxford (after just 10 hours), and the LSE. At the LSE, the student sit-in lasted a week but ended peacefully when the director, Sir Howard Davies, agreed to meet most of the students’ demands.

In a statement, he said he understood the students’ concerns and that the suffering of civilians in Gaza was “painful to observe”. But he refused to issue an official university condemnation of the conflict or to publish regular financial statements spelling out the university’s investment in companies involved in supplying arms to Palestine and Israel.

Michael Deas, a third-year environmental policy student involved in the LSE occupation, said students were “delighted” with the outcome. “It’s a real victory for student activism, particularly forcing the director into making a statement,” he said. Police evicted protesting students at the University of Birmingham after 12 hours.

In recent months, student activists have not limited themselves to sit-in protests over Gaza. They have boycotted careers fairs over university links with companies of which they disapprove – distributing badges, draping banners over displays and even dumping bags of coal to make their point.

The ongoing Palestinian-Israeli conflict has driven hundreds of students to act. But they still a tiny minority. Officials at Warwick – where students have demanded an end to links with BAE, GE Aviation, MBDA, Qinetiq and Rolls Royce – pointed out last week that more than 1,000 students had attended a careers fair where those companies were represented. Careerists, it seems, outnumber the idealists.

London clashes: Protesters tell of fear and panic

From today’s Guardian.

Demonstrators yesterday told how they feared they were going to die after riot police charged hundreds of people in an underground tunnel in London, which led to stampedes and panic.

The clashes came after protesters from Saturday’s march against Israel’s attack on Gaza tried to cross London to continue their demonstration.

Scotland Yard was criticised for the level of violence used by its officers and its tactics against hundreds of people ordered into an underpass as they tried to walk from Trafalgar Square to Israel’s embassy in west London.

People told of being trapped under each other and of hearing screams of fear as police charged the crowds three times in the confined space of the Piccadilly underpass on the edge of Hyde Park.

Scotland Yard said riot police charged after they were attacked and that their tactics were proportionate. People trapped in the tunnel said the police were not attacked.

Among several people injured was Asil Alrashidi, 23, a bank worker from Langley, Berkshire. She said she feared she and her sister would die after they were trapped in a crush of people as a stampede broke out when protesters panicked amid repeated charges by baton-wielding riot police.

She said she suffered bruising after being knocked to the floor. “I was petrified,” she said. “The riot police were charging and pushing people, hitting them with their batons. I was trapped with people coming at us. They were falling on us, trampling us.

“There was screaming and shouting, I thought I was going to die. I was holding my sister, our hands were separating and I could hear her screaming my name. I think there were 20 to 30 people on top of me.”

Chris Ninehams, chief steward for the march, organised by the Stop the War Coalition, said the level of police violence was unprecedented.

Scotland Yard said in a statement: “Officers made a 10-metre advance into the crowd to regain control of the protest, using recognised and proportionate tactics.”