Wednesday, February 20, 2008
Monday, February 18, 2008
(written in December 2007 before the 18 Feb 2008 declaration of indepenence)
If you want to get the moral measure of the so-called “international community” look at what they claim to be their successes.
The other day I heard James Rubin, a senior state department official under Bill Clinton, saying on the radio that the US would regain its international credibility when it repeated the humanitarian triumph that it had achieved in Kosovo in 1999. I nearly threw up.
Kosovo is a province of Serbia. The majority of the population are now Albanians, but Kosovo retains an important place in Serbian nationalist ideology. It was by playing on these associations that Serbian president Slobodan Milosevic launched the programme of expansionism that helped precipitate the Balkan wars of the 1990s.
The last episode of these wars was fought in Kosovo in the spring of 1999. By then a vicious, but small scale counterinsurgency campaign was being waged by the Serb-controlled Yugolsav army (JNA) against the guerrillas of the Kosovo Liberation Army (KLA) demanding national independence.
Clinton and his European allies, headed by Tony Blair, mounted a bombing campaign against Serbia. Milosevic reacted by ordering the JNA to expel hundreds of thousands of Albanians but eventually had to abandon control of Kosovo to the United Nations (UN) and Nato. Under the Russian‑brokered deal that ended the war, Kosovo remained legally part of Serbia.
Now Kosovo is back in the news. Its Albanian-dominated government is threatening unilaterally to declare independence from Serbia. This plan has the support of George Bush’s administration and of the big European powers.
Last weekend’s European Union summit decided to send 1,800 police, judges, customs officials and prosecutors to Kosovo to help “stabilise” it after independence. They will join the 16,000 Nato troops of KFOR (Kosovo Force).
The recently elected prime minister of Kosovo is Hashim Thaçi. He was one of the leaders of the KLA, which during the 1999 war worked with Nato helping to target its bombing raids. He was widely criticised for the crime that flourished during the few months that he effectively ran Kosovo after the Serbian withdrawal.
In response to the crime wave, and to widespread atrocities against Kosovo’s Serb minority, the UN adopted a policy of “standards before status”. In other words, Kosovo had to achieve functioning democratic institutions – the rule of law, freedom of movement, the return and reintegration of Serbs and other minorities, dialogue with the Serbian government in Belgrade – before there could be any agreement of its international status.
This policy has now been abandoned. The business analyst Oskar Lindström wrote in a letter to the Financial Times back in May:
“Bombings and assassinations of political opponents (and UN staff) are common… Clearly, an independent Kosovo looks more likely to become a failed state, ethnically cleansed of all its minorities, than the democratic multicultural model state that the US and Britain claim.”
The EU mission is probably intended in part to restrain Thaçi and the thugs around him, as well as to deter Serbia from any military moves. But even with the 1,600 reinforcements being held in reserve by Nato, the Western presence is too weak to be able to defend the Serb enclaves from the ex‑KLA warlords who run Kosovo.
Meanwhile, Western support for Kosovan independence is likely to worsen relations with Russia. Vladimir Putin’s government has said it will veto Kosovan independence at the UN security council, and Western officials are worried about Russian retaliation elsewhere. For example, the US client regime in Georgia fears that the Russian government may use the Kosovo precedent to recognise Abkhazia and South Ossetia, two Russian-backed separatist enclaves in Georgia.
To sum up, the US and the EU are rushing to back a regime run by nationalist gangsters whose independence may destabilise a region that was torn apart by war less than a decade ago. This is the “good governance” they are constantly preaching to the rest of the world.
by Munyaradzi Gwisai, International Socialist Organisation, Zimbabwe
The Zimbabwe People’s Convention met last week. It was attended by nearly 4,000 delegates from civic groups, trade unions, the Zimbabwe Social Forum and the left.
Hopefully this event will be compared to the 1999 Working People’s Convention, which led to the founding of the Movement for Democratic Change (MDC).
The MDC became the main opposition to Robert Mugabe’s regime, but it is increasingly conservative – accepting the West’s neoliberal agenda.
Up until September 2007 all opposition groups agreed that there could not be a fair election without a new constitution. Then in September, the two competing MDC groups that now exist reached an agreement with the ruling Zanu-PF party to accept a slight amendment to the constitution.
Civil society was chilled to the marrow. Many felt the MDC had abandoned them.
They demanded talks with MDC leaders. The People’s Convention was planned as a report back on this process, but the MDC refused to shift.
So the convention became dominated by debates on what to do next. This discussion was the basis for a People’s Charter.
The International Socialist Organisation was involved in drafting the section on the economy. The key element was to oppose the neoliberal agenda.
Mugabe has called elections for 29 March. The convention passed a resolution not to accept any election without a people-driven constitution.
However, wealthy NGOs and trade unions that support the MDC tried to get the convention to accept that even if the elections were illegitimate people should still vote as a protest. There was enormous pressure to support this.
Hundreds of delegates took over the hall in protest, singing and demanding mass action as the way forward.
A compromise was agreed. The convention decided not to issue advice on voting in illegitimate elections. Individual organisations will make their own decisions.
We agreed to organise a national demonstration before the March elections.
The People’s Convention sets the foundations for a people-driven alternative solution to the crisis of Zimbabwe. This is a huge opportunity.
Thursday, February 14, 2008
Socialist Worker USA - February 15, 2008 | Page 2
BARACK OBAMA is edging ahead of the one-time “inevitable” Democratic presidential nominee, Hillary Clinton--on the strength of a campaign that has tapped into mass discontent with the status quo and the desire for a genuine and fundamental alternative.
In the caucuses and primaries after Super Tuesday, Obama went eight for eight, winning by a resounding margin in every case. Adding in the results before February 5 and the split decision on Super Tuesday itself, a majority of media estimates had Obama with a slight, though definite, lead in overall convention delegates.
More striking than details like the delegate count, however, is the intense excitement generated by Obama's campaign--most obviously among African Americans and young voters who are turning out for the primaries in record numbers, but now reaching across the different categories of the electorate.
If you look more closely at his actual positions and proposals, Obama is firmly within the moderate mainstream of the Democratic Party and largely indistinguishable from Clinton. But the resonance he has found for his calls for “change” has set him apart.
Increasingly, Obama's campaign has sought to portray itself as a movement, building from the grassroots.
As Los Angeles Times columnist Rosa Brooks pointed out, “Obama aired a 30-second Super Bowl ad that drew unabashedly on the iconography of the American left...[offering] images of rallies and protest marches, of poverty and environmental destruction, of the devastation of war and of beaming, hopeful, multiracial crowds...
“Whatever the causes, Americans seem eager to reclaim a spirit of idealism that many thought ended with the 1960s, to embrace a heritage that acknowledges conflict and struggle, but also hope and progress.
“Obama's Super Bowl ad represented a gamble: a bet that the symbolism of past social movements is now more likely to give Americans a thrill than a chill. And the matter-of-factness with which his ad was greeted--and Obama's electoral success so far--suggest that his campaign correctly read the national mood.”
Brooks is right, and there's more to the point she makes. By pressing on the idea that ordinary people, rather than political leaders, have made the difference in history, the Obama campaign is legitimizing ideas of struggle and grassroots mobilization--something missing from U.S. politics for many decades.
Coming after the cynicism and demoralization bred by years of stagnating living standards for working-class people and the political dominance of the Republican right, this is a breath of fresh air.
Plus, there is the historic significance of Obama's campaign--that an African American could quite possibly become president of a country that was founded on slavery, and where an apartheid system reigned across the U.S. South a few generations ago.
At the same time, it is important to remember that Obama is not a radical. He is dressing his campaign with the trappings of social movements of the past, but his goal is not actually to build a new movement, but rather to win an election.
If he does get the nomination, Obama will be the representative of a political party that has always put the interests of the business and political elite first, before the demands of the majority in society--and his own record shows no sign that he would defy this history, whatever his rhetoric on the campaign trail.
Anyone committed to fighting for change today should see how Obama's campaign has raised hopes and expectations. People are becoming convinced of that most basic sentiment at the heart of all the great struggles of the past: that what we do matters--and that could mean more in the future than the candidate trying to employ this sentiment to gain votes.
But there is another lesson to be drawn from all the social struggles invoked by Obama's campaign--the civil rights movement, the fight for women's suffrage, the struggle for unions. Their strength rested on the willingness to remain independent and mobilize for justice, no matter what president was sitting in the White House.
- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -
SO WHAT happens now?
Clinton can't be counted out by any means. Still, her strategy seems increasingly desperate: hold on through Obama's victories in this month's primaries; hope that her current opinion-poll lead holds up in Ohio and Texas, the biggest states voting on March 4; and use a victory then to get party leaders to put pressure on Obama to accept Clinton as the winner and give up on the race.
But even if Clinton does win Ohio and Texas, it's likely that Obama will still be ahead in “pledged delegates”--that is, delegates to the August national convention awarded on the basis of the candidates' share of the vote in the actual primaries and caucuses.
At that point, Clinton's claim that she should be the nominee would rely on her edge among the “superdelegates”--the nearly 800 party leaders who have been given a vote at the convention based on their holding office now or in the past, or their position within the party apparatus.
Under this set-up, the convention vote of, for example, Georgia's U.S. Rep. John Lewis, a superdelegate who supports Clinton, will count for as much as a pledged delegate from Georgia won by Obama--each of which represents the preferences of more than 10,000 Georgia voters in the February 5 primary.
As Donna Brazile, the former campaign manager for Al Gore in 2000, put it, “One person, one vote? Forget about it. Some votes are worth more than others.”
Still, pro-Clinton party leaders would have a hard time winning on this basis alone. For one thing, the legitimacy of the Democratic Party would be called into question. If party big-wigs were seen as ramming through the nomination, it would undermine the enthusiastic support during the primaries for both Obama and Clinton, perhaps to the extent of jeopardizing the more-than-likely Democratic victory in November.
Also, despite his rhetoric, Obama is far from a radical outsider in the Democratic Party. He has plenty of support among party leaders, including Sens. Ted Kennedy and John Kerry, and former Senate Majority Leader Tom Daschle--all superdelegates themselves. To some degree, Obama's campaign has become a rallying point for factions of the Democratic establishment that are tired of the Clintons and their supporters running the party apparatus for the last two decades.
The superdelegates are bound to no one, so if Obama continues to have the edge in upcoming primaries, the majority of superdelegates who have yet to declare themselves for either candidate could go to him, erasing Clinton's advantage--for that matter, the superdelegates currently pledged to Clinton could switch sides.
But there is a flip side to this: If Obama calculates that he can't overcome Clinton's superdelegate advantage, he is far more likely to give in and accept her nomination--perhaps in return for the vice presidential nomination or some other accommodation--than try to challenge the party rules by mobilizing pressure from his base.
The related question is how low the Clinton team could sink as the convention approaches. They've already used dirty tricks--like Bill Clinton's race-baiting before the South Carolina primary in an effort to marginalize Obama as “the Black candidate,” or the string of supporters who found some reason to refer to the ancient history of Obama's drug use.
The Clintons aren't used to losing and won't concede defeat unless they think they've tried every avenue--whether it's the high road or the low.
- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -
DESPITE THEIR differing styles and rhetoric, Clinton and Obama are much closer to each other politically--and even to the Republicans they promise to oppose--than they are to the mass of people who are voting for them in the hopes that they will bring fundamental changes to Washington when they take over the White House.
But Election 2008 is important in a wider sense--it has provided further evidence of the mass popular rejection of George Bush and his Republican agenda, and it has raised the hopes of millions of people for something new.
Those hopes will be important in the struggles of the future--after the election and before it, too--to fight for a real alternative to a world of war, poverty and injustice.
Wednesday, February 13, 2008
By Josephine Asher
Controversial expat Australian journalist John Pilger says Sorry Day is an event "without substance" geared towards white Australians, not indigenous people.
Pilger — who has made documentaries campaigning against the unfair treatment of indigenous Australians — told ninemsn Australians should boycott Sorry Day if they were serious about improving conditions for indigenous people.
"The 'sorry' is without much substance unless it is backed by an honest and massive rehabilitation campaign of all resources available to Aboriginal people," he said.
"Tears will be shed and there will be much emotion, but it will be over by next week."
He said Australia needed to sign a treaty, overhaul land rights, improve health benefits and implement comprehensive anti-poverty programs.
Pilger also criticised the government for not apologising at least a generation ago.
"Australia has treated its indigenous people worse than any other developed country," he said.
"Aboriginal people have been betrayed by every government since the Whitlam government."
He called on ordinary Australians not to celebrate Sorry Day unless they were going to take action on indigenous issues.
"To understand it they need to look at themselves and realise it's down to them to pressure their government to end the disgrace," he said.
"The whole 'sorry' thing is really to satisfy the white population, not the black population."
Pilger will unveil the world's largest poem in Sydney today to launch The Night Words Festival — a three-day celebration of rhythm and verse at the Sydney Opera House described as a "cosmopolitan corroborree".
The Public's Poem, displayed on a huge notebook almost five metres high, is a collection of one-line contributions from 400 young, old, native and new Australians compiled on Australia Day.
Pilger contributed this line: "Until whites give back to black their nationhood, they can never claim their own, no matter how many flags they fly."
Indigenous activists: ‘Sorry’ not enough, compensation now!
9 February 2008
In the lead up to the February 12 Indigenous rights convergence in Canberra, Green Left Weekly gathered statements from Indigenous activists around Australia. At the fore of people’s minds was the Northern Territory intervention, PM Kevin Rudd’s scheduled apology to the Stolen Generations and the issue of compensating those affected by that policy.
“The Aboriginal movement has not experienced this level of unity since the 1970s. The destruction being caused by the intervention is becoming clearer, suicide rates have increased in the NT for example. From left-wing to conservative, our people recognise the need to stand against the racist intervention. We are expecting thousands to converge on Canberra.”
Mitch, Aboriginal activist, Alice Springs
“Kevin Rudd has said his apology will contain an affirmation never to repeat past wrongs, but this is precisely what his government is doing rolling out Howard’s intervention. He is continuing the genocidal policy of the Stolen Generations and the Howard years.
“We are back to ’flour, tea and tobacco days’, being forced to work and jump through hoops for ration vouchers. Centrelink is not providing proper services for remote communities so there has been a mass exodus of our young people. My brothers have been forced into town to look for work.”
Barbara Shaw, Mt Nancy town camp, Alice Springs
“Centrelink is never organised to get our food vouchers in on time. We went the last long weekend without food. Kevin Rudd says this intervention is to help children but I have many young mouths to feed and the welfare quarantine makes this so much harder. I am a self-determined person concerned for my people, why should I be controlled by a government department? Today [February 7] we leave for Canberra to demand change.”
Michael Mansell, legal director, Tasmanian Aboriginal Centre, Hobart
“The Rudd government claims to have exhausted consultation over the apology [which] really means Aboriginal people were told there would not be compensation and the final wording was entirely up to the government. It wasn’t negotiation: it was the Government telling people what was to happen.
“When the apology is given, it is widely believed there will not be a reference to genocide and there will be a lot of emphasis on the good intentions of administrators, officials and missionaries.
“It is more likely to look like an apology to those who did the moving than those removed.
“It is a pity the Coalition could not come to terms with history. To argue ’stolen’ should not be used indicates a shallow understanding of historical fact. Should we say the children were ’borrowed’ instead of stolen?
“The refusal to compensate undermines the claims of sincerity about the apology. How can a prime minister be sincere about what happened to the Stolen Generations but still leave them to suffer the consequences of being taken? It does not make sense.”
Nicole Watson, academic, Junbunna Indigenous House of Learning University of Technology Sydney
“I think that the proposed review of the intervention should be brought forward. While members of the task force have been at pains to convince us that the intervention has been a success, they cannot provide any evidence to prove that the intervention is producing positive outcomes. Only a rigorous and independent evaluation can do this.
“The government must commit itself to a dialogue with Indigenous people about the issue of compensation. In a society where we have a third party insurance scheme for victims of motor vehicle accidents and criminal injuries compensation schemes, the issue of compensation is hardly controversial. Furthermore, it is inhumane to force individuals who have already suffered great pain to endure the rigors of court processes.
“A national compensation scheme should be established. An apology in the absence of compensation is an exercise in pragmatism rather than nation building. It also demonstrates a lack of foresight because the issue of compensation is not going to disappear after February 13.”
Sam Watson, Murri activist and Socialist Alliance member, Brisbane
[On the NT intervention and the possibility of a extending it to Queensland.]
“Howard’s core strategy for the NT intervention was to suspend the NT Land Rights legislation and gain control of the land. At the same time as soldiers and tanks were moving in, the legislation was suspended for five years. Meanwhile, Australia was pushing the export of uranium — around 75% of which is in the NT.
“The Rudd government has been in power [for] three months, and the intervention is still in place. [Indigenous affairs minister] Jenny Macklin met with Queensland= premier Anna Bligh to discuss extending the intervention to Queensland. The Queensland Aboriginal leadership have a message to Bligh and Macklin: don’t even think it, don’t even try it — or there will be blood on the streets.
“Howard used the Little Children are Sacred report as a pretext for the intervention, accusing virtually every Aboriginal man in remote communities of being a paedophile. Yet only a handful of investigations have occurred, and only a handful of actual charges laid.”
[On the Stolen Generations, compensation, and Rudd’s apology.]
“When Rudd apologises, he must lay out pathways for stolen generation peoples to receive adequate compensation. The Canadian government has allocated [funds] for the victims of the Residential Homes era — the Canadian version of the Stolen Generations. Tasmania and Victoria [have] offered significant sums of money to Stolen Generations victims as compensation.
A key recommendation of the Bringing Them Home report was that compensation must be paid. In this day and age, it is basic justice that victims of violent crimes receive compensation through the courts.
Without compensation, Rudd’s apology won’t buy a loaf of bread or a handful of dirt.”
[On the February 12 convergence and beyond for Aboriginal rights.]
“Under Howard, the Aboriginal political leadership largely lost its edge. Under the surface, Aboriginal political cadres have been organising and regrouping. February 12 will be a coming out of the political spearhead of Black Australia.”
From: Comment & Analysis, Green Left Weekly issue #739 13 February 2008.
Lara Pullin, SA member ACT branch:
Intervention has to go. Sorry means nothing without an end to the NT intervention.
Other governments around the world are using the Australian intervention as a model of how to attack their Indigenous people.
People are not going to accept just “sorry”. They want a sorry that means something, a sorry that includes the “c” word that nobody seems to be able to get out, a sorry that does not divide people. We are not going to be divided like that.
It’s long overdue, it needs to be done but the main thing I am concerned about is to make sure that they get compensated though nothing will take away the trauma and pain they’ve gone through.
Natasha Moore, member SA Perth branch:
I think it is a start. By apologizing he’s acknowledging and recognizing the Indigenous people as the first people on this land. I think it will be part of a healing process so other Australians and Aboriginal people can come together and form alliances and partnerships on issues facing communities in the various cities around Australia.
I think it is just a stepping stone to getting more Indigenous issues addressed.
For the Stolen Generations, I feel for them. It has been a long time coming and governments have not acknowledges them for being stolen from their families and placed in institutions or foster homes. For them it is very important for those words to be said by our government but I also think it is only the start of a much bigger process that needs to happen.
Sam Watson, SA national spokesperson on Indigenous affairs:
We are sending a pretty clear message to Mr Rudd and his government: Don’t say sorry say sovereignty.
He can say sorry tomorrow and certainly there will be a huge number of senior people and elders in the chamber to receive his apology but people will also have to note that inside this Parliament of Australia there is not one single Aboriginal person.in the House or the Senate. So, again Aboriginal people are hostage to a political system in which we have no control and in which we have no real representation or capacity to influence or exert any pressure.
Lindi Dietzel, SA Geelong branch member:
I hope it is not hollow and I hope that it gives an answer for a lot of people who have a lot of grief. It is a great place to start but let’s see. We’ll watch this place
Monday, February 11, 2008
President Hugo Chavez warned he would halt oil supplies to the United States if it continued to attack Venezuela as he said it had done with an Exxon Mobil lawsuit freezing assets of the OPEC nation. The anti-imperialist president also said such US aggression could cause world oil prices to spike to $200 a barrel.
Washington has distanced itself from the Exxon legal offensive in which the largest US company won international court orders freezing up to $US12 billion ($A13.5 billion) of the state oil company PDVSA's assets. "If you freeze us, if you really manage to freeze us, if you damage us, then we will hurt you. Do you know how? We are not going to send oil to the United States," Chavez said on his weekly TV show.
"Take note, Mr Bush, Mr Danger."
Chavez has frequently issued conditional threats to stop shipments to its biggest oil customer, but has maintained supplies despite clashing with the Bush administration over everything from crude prices to free trade to democracy.
Exxon Mobil has gone after the assets of PDVSA in US, British and Dutch courts as it challenges the nationalisation of a multibillion dollar oil project by Chavez's government last year. A British court has issued an injunction "freezing" as much as $US12 billion ($A13.45 billion) in assets.
"The outlaws of Exxon Mobil will never again rob us," Chavez said, accusing the Irving, Texas-based oil major of acting in concert with "the imperialist government of the United States" and of being part of corporate "worldwide mafias."
Sunday, February 10, 2008
WGA Presidents Letter
February 09, 2008
We have a tentative deal.
It is an agreement that protects a future in which the Internet becomes the primary means of both content creation and delivery. It creates formulas for revenue-based residuals in new media, provides access to deals and financial data to help us evaluate and enforce those formulas, and establishes the principle that, "When they get paid, we get paid."
Specific terms of the agreement are described in the summary on our website and will be further discussed at our Saturday membership meetings on both coasts. At those meetings we will also discuss how we will proceed regarding ratification of this agreement and lifting the restraining order that ends the strike.
Less than six months ago, the AMPTP wanted to enact profit-based residuals, defer all Internet compensation in favor of a study, forever eliminate "distributor's gross" valuations, and enforce 39 pages of rollbacks to compensation, pension and health benefits, reacquisition, and separated rights. Today, thanks to three months of physical resolve, determination, and perseverance, we have a contract that includes WGA jurisdiction and separated rights in new media, residuals for Internet reuse, enforcement and auditing tools, expansion of fair market value and distributor's gross language, improvements to other traditional elements of the MBA, and no rollbacks.
Over these three difficult months, we shut down production of nearly all scripted content in TV and film and had a serious impact on the business of our employers in ways they did not expect and were hard pressed to deflect. Nevertheless, an ongoing struggle against seven, multinational media conglomerates, no matter how successful, is exhausting, taking an enormous personal toll on our members and countless others. As such, we believe that continuing to strike now will not bring sufficient gains to outweigh the potential risks and that the time has come to accept this contract and settle the strike.
Much has been achieved, and while this agreement is neither perfect nor perhaps all that we deserve for the countless hours of hard work and sacrifice, our strike has been a success. We activated, engaged, and involved the membership of our Guilds with a solidarity that has never before occurred. We developed a captains system and a communications structure that used the Internet to build bonds within our membership and beyond. We earned the backing of other unions and their members worldwide, the respect of elected leaders and politicians throughout the nation, and the overwhelming support of fans and the general public. Our thanks to all of them, and to the staffs at both Guilds who have worked so long and patiently to help us all.
There is much yet to be done and we intend to use all the techniques and relationships we've developed in this strike to make it happen. We must support our brothers and sisters in SAG who, as their contract expires in less than five months, will be facing many of the same
challenges we have just endured. We must further pursue new relationships we have established in Washington and in state and local governments so that we can maintain leverage against the consolidated multinational conglomerates with whom we bargain. We must be vigilant in monitoring the deals that are made in new media so that in the years ahead we can enforce and expand our contract. We must fight to get decent working conditions and benefits for writers of reality TV, animation, and any other genre in which writers do not have a WGA contract.
Writers Guild of America, East
Patric M. Verrone
Writers Guild of America, West
Saturday, February 09, 2008
"Gaza needs food not bombs!" echoed through the streets of Auckland as 30 people joined a lively picket in solidarity with the people of Gaza today in the city centre. Organised by Students for Justice in Palestine, GPJA and Socialist Worker, it attracted huge support from passers by.
John Minto from GPJA condemned the collective punishment policy that the Israeli government was inflicting on the people of Gaza comparing it with the Bantustans of Apartheid South Africa. Joe Carolan from SW celebrated the people power revolt that ripped down the Apartheid Wall, comparing it to the revolt in Berlin in 1989, and warned that if Egypt's dictator Mubarrak used troops and riot cops to reseal Gaza's border, the revolt would spread into Egypt. Egypt is the second highest recipient of US military aid after Israel. Sahar Ghulkor from SJP thanked people for demonstrating their solidarity with Gaza with very little notice, and extolled us to build for two forthcoming days of action on march 1st and march 15th. March 1st will see a radical theatre group build an Apartheid wall and Israeli military checkpoint outside of Auckland's US consulate, and March 15th promises to be one of the largest anti war mobilisations in the city in years, building support for (a) an end to the occupation of Iraq, (b) solidarity with the people of Gaza and Palestine and (c) the withdrawal of all NZ troops from Afghanistan.
Thursday, February 07, 2008
|Written by Eamonn McCann|
| Wednesday, 06 February 2008 |
Ask not what you can do for the peace process, but what the peace process can do for you. That’s the way Hillary Clinton looks at Ireland. When her husband was top tom-cat in Washington, some of us argued that it was insulting to women to depict her as a gangster’s moll: she was a made-up member of the Mob. Now she’s bidding to become capa di tutti capi.
In the process, she has distorted beyond recognition any role she ever played in the North. Marcella Bombardieri of the Boston Globe describes her “telling and retelling one particularly moving story about bringing together Catholic and Protestant women in Northern Ireland...
“ Clinton said she had hosted a meeting of enemies in the conflict. They had never been in the same room before, and ‘no one thought this was going to be a very good idea.’
Clinton goes on: “A Catholic woman shared her daily fears that her husband wouldn't come home at night. Across the table, a Protestant woman described the same worry about her son.
What happened in Belfast was that Clinton had attended a meeting organised by the Northern Ireland Office of well-known (and well-known to one another) full-time community organisers. The tearful tale of her bringing enemies together across the divide is lies.
The yarn wasn’t presented as a vague reminiscence. It was a nicely-structured, detailed story, part of her standard campaign presentation. “More than an isolated stump speech snippet, her Northern Ireland story speaks to the larger issue of whether her travels around the world as first lady qualify as serious diplomacy. That experience is a crucial element of her argument that she is the most qualified presidential candidate.”
The deft distortion is implicitly offered as a model for the engagement with a troubled world, soothing ancient enmities, bringing peace---a very attractive message for an anxious US electorate.
The notion is widespread in Ireland, too, that we “owe” the Clintons for their role in “our” peace process. The concrete action constantly referred to is Bill Clinton giving Gerry Adams a US visa back in 1994.
This did help speed the IRA ceasefire seven months later by enabling the Provos ’ leaders to convince their rank-and-file that there was something tantalising on offer if they changed their ways. Give up the guns and we’ll be well-got in the White House, was the message.
This was a major factor in ensuring that when the Republican Movement abandoned the path of armed struggle, it veered to the right and not to the left. Hence the wholesale embrace of neo-liberalism in government in the North.
This has been the most specific and identifiable effect on Northern politics of the involvement of the Clintons .
Tuesday, February 05, 2008
Monday, February 04, 2008
Friday, February 01, 2008
The first problem was that I was not a member of MySpace, which informed me that I needed to login to send a message to another member. Although every woman and her dog seems to have a MySpace site these days, until today I had resisted because MySpace is owned by corporate media baron Rupert Murdoch. Instead I have an old school html homepage hosted by a local Internet Service Provider in Aotearoa, and post my writing here on Indymedia rather than handing control of my personal information and articles to a corporate-owned blog host.
However, since Luminate's page lacked an email address, I buckled under, and signed up for a MySpace user account. This allowed me to compose my message, only to discover that I couldn't send a message to another member without being an approved node in their network. In the end I resorted to contacting one of the organizers directly through an email address on her own homepage, but many potential correspondents would have become frustrated and given up long before.
Like most mainstream media organisations and indeed most 'free' services on the web, social networking sites like MySpace, Bebo, Facebook, Orkut and Friendster are for-profit enterprises selling their users attention spans to advertisers. In order to garner more eyeball time, social networking sites create online gated communities in which people can only communicate and share information with others using the same site. Imagine you could only send email to people using the same email host as you. This defeats the key reason for having an internet - to allow for open communication across an unlimited number of independent systems.
The same problem can be seen with instant messaging (IM) networks like MSN Messenger, Yahoo Messenger and ICQ. These systems are designed so that users can only chat with others using the same software and servers, closed systems controlled by corporate owners. Imagine using a free cell phone which could only call other cell phones made by the same company, using only their network.
Luckily in the case of IM, an alternative has emerged. The Jabber protocol allows anyone to run an IM server or write chat programs which can connect to them. Google has made their Gtalk IM system Jabber-compatible and other corporate interests like the owners of the Wengo system have followed suit. However, the protocol remains a common good controlled by a community of interested developers and users, rather than an intellectual property owned and controlled by the likes of Microsoft.
In the early days of the web, users had a single homepage, containing whatever information about themselves they wanted to share. Due to the gated nature of sites like MySpace, unless we can convince everyone we know to agree on one site, we end up having to put our personal information into a separate profile on each of the networking sites we need to use. To change one piece of information, we have to login to multiple sites and change each profile. Is this really progress?
On the other hand, sites like MySpace do have a certain appeal to users. The users need no knowledge of code or servers to set up their own web presence and regularly add content. Most importantly they offer a way to share thoughts, ideas and information across a network of people that develops in a way analogous to the neural networks that form among the neurons in the brain - potentially a new form of social intelligence which is much more adaptive than the regimented, heirarchical social systems of corporations and nation-states.
It is probably pragmatic to make some use of these services at this time, just as we used free corporate services like Yahoo before we had the option of using independently-run services like RiseUp.net. However, in the long term I believe we need to create the online equivalent of intentional communities, as an alternative to corporate-controlled gated ones like MySpace.
So what would a free and open social networking system look like? Firstly, it would allow sharing of communication and content between an unlimited number of separate servers run by different groups. It would be compatible with free software/ open source software. It may well be made up of a cluster of separate services. For example a site could specialize in hosting people's profiles, and make that information available in an open format that could be accessed by other sites, which in turn might specialize in hosting blogs, image galleries, video etc. It might make use of an open ID protocol, that allows people to sign up once and use the same username and password to log into each of these different sites.
Most importantly it could provide a way for people to organize themselves more efficiently than the corporate managers and government officials currently trying to do their organizing for them. This potential of the internet, as demonstrated in the use of net-based communication tools in the mobilization of protesters against globalization since the late 90s, threatens the myth that complex societies need heirarchy and centralization of power to get things done. This may be the motive behind the rise of the gated social networking trend and a good reason for activists to involve themselves in building alternatives.
Speaking to the media as he lodged a complaint with the Ministry of Labor last Friday, Chirino said his sacking was arbitrary and without prior warning. He pointed out that although his wages were suspended on November 30 he did not receive notification of his dismissal until December 28.
"This act of discrimination that violates my constitutional right to work," he added.
Chirino explained that he was covered by a clause in the PDVSA collective contract, which gives additional protection against sacking to workers who earn no more than three times the minimum wage, however he said the PDVSA management increased his wage prior to his sacking in order to remove these protections.
Chirino, who has worked for PDVSA since March 2003, said, "I gambled my life defending the principal industry and president Chavez from the attack of the coup plotting opposition and imperialism," during the oil industry lockout (Dec 2002- Jan 2003).
From 2006 Chirino worked in the Department of Social Control of SISDEM (System of Democratization of Employment), in PDVSA. However, he alleged that he has been the victim of marginalization and discrimination within PDVSA for two years, and that he has been denied the usual salary increases and bonuses. The reason for this persecution, "corresponds to my categorical opposition to bureaucratic and corrupt practices in the industry and my intransigent defense of worker's rights," he said.
Chirino claimed the decision to fire him was primarily based on his opposition to President Chavez's proposed constitutional reforms together with pressure from the Ministry of Labor and the Bolivarian Socialist Force of Workers (FSBT), which he described as a "bureaucratic union current."
Chirino lost significant support in the trade union movement last year, including from within his own trade union current C-CURA, due to his opposition to the constitutional reforms (which he described as "class collaborationist") and a proposal he made to fuse with sectors of the largely discredited, right-wing opposition aligned trade union federation, the CTV.
Despite Chirino's opposition, the vast majority of the rank and file workers in C-CURA also voted to join the new United Socialist Party of Venezuela and in September, twenty-four unions aligned to C-CURA in Zulia sent Chirinos an open letter criticizing his position on the reforms and the PSUV.
In a statement on October 22 a number of other union leaders from C-CURA, including Stalin Pérez Borges, National Coordinator of the UNT and Ismael Hernández, Coordinator of the UNT Carabobo (both identified with the MAREA Socialista current within C-CURA and the PSUV), also distanced themselves from Chirino's position on the reforms and criticized his comments on the CTV.
Hernandez said that Chirino's comments were often mistakenly believed to be to be the views of C-CURA. However, he clarified, "Chirino's declarations reflect his personal opinion...but not the majority of C-CURA. In our current there has been no instance or national assembly where a majority has voted in favor of the proposed resolutions on these issues."
Perez Borges also said he was radically opposed to any fusion with the CTV, which "depends 100% on imperialist support."
However, in another statement today, Perez Borges, Hernandez, and a number of other union leaders, on behalf of the MAREA Socialista current expressed their solidarity with Chirino. "Independently of the fact that we don't share some of the political positions that Orlando Chirino has defended in recent times, we defend his right to express himself, his right to work and to be recognized and respected as a trade union leader in our country," they wrote.
"It is evident that the decision to dismiss him is unacceptable as well being illegal and is the result of pressure, rumors, and intolerance that characterizes the Bolivarian Socialist Force of Workers, who are using their position in the Ministry of Labor to conspire in PDVSA for the unjust dismissal of this comrade," the statement continued.
The statement called for the direct intervention of Chavez into the matter to ensure that Chirino is reinstated. MAREA Socialista also said they would initiate a campaign alongside Chirino for his reinstatement. Chirino is also calling for international expressions of support.
Tony Staunton: expelled from Unison for reading a leaflet
Should a leading activist with decades of service to the movement be expelled for downloading a leftwing leaflet on a union computer? That is the principle handed down in the Unison union last week.
The final expulsion of union activist Tony Staunton has angered many union members.
Tony had his appeal against his expulsion rejected, and the original sentence was confirmed.
He has been a trade unionist and political activist in the region for nearly 30 years. He is popular not only on the left but among very wide layers of the union movement.
Tony has also been a candidate in European and general elections for Respect.
He was the secretary of Plymouth trades council for nearly a decade. He also held numerous Unison positions.
The union has been unable to find any Unison member to speak against Tony during the 15 months of the disciplinary proceedings.
Some 25 supporters held a lobby of the first day of the appeal in Plymouth.
Tony was cleared of charges of false claiming of expenses and use of photocopiers for personal or political purposes.
The local Plymouth Unison branch and the trades council have stood in Tony’s support and branch secretaries of seven trade unions in Plymouth wrote in his defence.
But Tony’s outspoken campaigning and criticism of New Labour’s policies of privatisation and destruction of the welfare state have won him enemies in sections of the union leadership.
Tony was due to stand for election to Unison’s national executive, challenging the current chair of Unison’s national Labour Link when he was suspended and barred from standing.
The expulsion has raised fears that the Unison bureaucracy is increasingly anxious to impose the centralised domination of officers loyal to New Labour.
Tony was suspended from office following a raid by regional officials on the Plymouth Unison office in November 2006.
He was charged with misappropriation and use of union resources for factional and party political purposes, and expelled in July 2007.
A key issue during the hearing against Tony was whether the compilation of emails using a Unison computer constituted the use of union resources for party political purposes.
The identification of a Microsoft Word document with an article written by Socialist Worker editor Chris Bambery, alongside emails from members of Unison’s national executive, was enough to conclude misappropriation of union resources for party political purposes.
Tony argued that the document was raw material he had used for a union newsletter article about the proposed pensions deal in local government.
Incredibly, the article from Socialist Worker was used to prove, on balance of probability, that Tony had been using branch resources for party purposes.
The entire contents of branch computers with more than eight years of files – assembled from three generations of Unison equipment accessible by all Unison representatives – were searched for any content that referred to left wing organisations or parties.
Finally, the single Word document, plus a downloaded leaflet for a local SWP public meeting and the banner heading from the national Respect website were the complete exhibits offered as evidence of use of Unison computers for party political purposes.
In conclusion, Unison’s presenting officer for the prosecution advised the panel that even one party political document on a Unison computer could compromise the union’s legal status, and was sufficient for expulsion.
Throughout the union movement, certainly in Unison, activists send emails or download documents from left wing parties, the Labour Party, the Lib Dems, the SNP or Plaid Cymru.
Union officials certainly use Unison equipment for Labour Party purposes without filling in a form that this should be charged to the political fund.
It is as if the government suddenly decided that everyone who had been driving over 10mph on a motorway should be charged – but then only arrested leftwingers.
The ownership of computers and a mobile phone bought for Tony through his 12 years of voluntary service as elected branch officer in Devon and Plymouth continue to be contested.
With a variety of documents from both sides either confirming transfer of ownership or Unison’s continued possession, only a legal judgement can finally resolve the dispute.
Tony admitted that he and his children had used the computers, permanently based in his family home, in the belief, confirmed by the branch treasurer, that they had been gifted to him.
He had offered to hand the computers over if personal information could be deleted, but the investigation stated that any deleted files or tampering would be proof of guilt.
Unison gives no guidance on the proper use of mobile phones and computers by lay activists.
This expulsion raises important political questions.
The wording of some charges identified that membership or involvement with the leftwing grouping in Unison, the United Left, constituted a breach of democracy in Unison guidelines.
If that is the case, the decision to expel Tony paves the way for further political attacks from Unison’s leadership on any organised attempt to challenge the union’s current support for Gordon Brown.
Tony is fighting for reinstatement and has formally complained to the certification officer for alleged victimisation.
Messages of support to Tony.Staunton@Blueyonder.co.uk