Posts Tagged ‘Civil War’

Andre Vltchek’s Pictures and Plea for Understanding for Syria

April 13, 2017

On Wednesday, Counterpunch contributor Andre Vltchek published some of the pictures and comments about Syria from Yayoi Segi, a foreigner, who has been living and working there for three years, and is passionate about the country and its people. Segi states

“Syria is not what the mainstream media wants us to believe it is. One has to see it, to understand. Seeing is believing! It is an extraordinarily exceptional country. All that we have been told about Syria and its people is a lie.”

She talks about how the Syrian people are decent, warm people trying to get on with their lives despite the horrors and inconveniences of the war. She is also impressed by their manners and respect for education and culture.

“Syrians are the most hospitable, gentle people. When we meet, we never talk about the war, the conflict. It is a tremendous civilization… They always talk about their life, the future. They discuss their poets and their thinkers. People in Syria are very well educated. They know what is going on, on our Planet. Despite what some parts of the world have done to them, they are extremely respectful and polite to everybody. I never heard them speaking ill of others. They appreciate that you come and work with them, and they are confident.”

She also remarks that all of the international conferences and debates about the situation in Syria have carried on without reference to the wishes or ideas of the Syrians themselves.

“There have been so many seminars, conferences and meetings on Syria, yet the Syrian people are very rarely invited. All these events are ‘about them’ but without even inviting them, and without listening to them.”

Segi works for the national education system, and describes the system’s resilience and high quality compared to other nations.

“On the education front, the system was one of the best in the region, before the crisis began. Now, despite more than 6 years of horrendous war, the system is still standing and strong. Syrians know exactly what they want, and they have the capacity to implement their aspirations. Like in Aleppo; after the victory, the government immediately moved in and began opening schools.”

Her photographs show the devastation caused by war. But they also show people enjoying themselves in cafes and restaurants, as well as one of the great medieval fortresses and a sculpture, which looks like it may well come from the ancient past. Several of the photos are of schoolchildren. These show a mixed class of little boys and girls, smiling and dressed in western style clothing. There’s also what looks like a crowd of sports fans – football? – heading towards a match, and a sign with spells out in coloured letters ‘I heart Damascus’.

There is much that Vltchek writes with which I disagree. He’s of Czech-Russian ancestry, and is a film maker specialising in the Developing World. His fierce attacks on western exploitation of the undeveloped world is well meant, but sometimes he goes too far in attacking the Developed World and the needs and desires of its ordinary citizens. It’s also struck me several times that he has a far too optimistic view of the Soviet past. Russia and the eastern bloc did make some truly vast, impressive achievements under Communism, but this was at the cost of a vicious political repression which under Stalin resulted in deportations, massacres and a system of forced labour, which claimed tens of millions of lives. The Soviet Union also dominated and exploited the satellite countries conquered by Stalin from the Nazis during World War II.

But Vltchek’s article is in this case exactly right, necessary and welcome. Syria is a repressive state. Even in the 1980s it had something like eight different secret police agencies. But under the Ba’ath party it is a modern, secular state, where Christians and Muslims live in peace. As for its education system, a few years ago the BBC screened a documentary about the Syrian school system, following the pupils in one particular school through a school day. At the end of the documentary the Beeb informed viewers how they could join a scheme that would link schools in this country with those in Syria.

As for the high regard for its poets and intellectuals, several of the books I’ve read on Islam and the Arabs have said that poetry has a very high status in the Arab world, to the point where newspapers may be written in a distinct, half-poetic style. As for its antiquities, you can still walk down the Street called Straight, mentioned in St. Paul’s Epistles in the Bible. The country has monuments from a succession of ancient civilisations, such as Palmyra, going all the way back to the Hebrew Bible/Old Testament. The tombs of some of the kings mentioned in the Bible have even been found.

It’s people are not monsters, and while Assad is a dictator, his government is surely better than the Islamist regime, which the rebels – al-Qaeda and ISIS – hope to impose. This would mean the destruction of ancient monuments, as has happened in Iraq and those parts of Syria, which fell under ISIS’ rule. Women’s rights would be attacked and withdrawn, the secular education system and rule of law swiftly dismantled. The country isn’t quite as tolerant in the religious sphere as it could be. From what I’ve heard on programmes about the country and its history on the Beeb, the Sunni Muslim majority is oppressed. But the Ba’ath party in Syria was founded as a secular, Arab nationalist party, which included both Christians and Muslims. If it is overthrown, the country’s tolerance of peoples of different sects and religions will also go, to be replaced by the type of vicious, genocidal persecution ISIS carried out in Iraq. Dan Snow’s programme on the country, broadcast by the Beeb, featured chilling footage of a foaming rant by an Islamist mullah calling for the genocide of the Alawis, the ruling Muslim sect. And as we’ve seen in Iraq, the Islamists not only persecute non-Muslims, they also viciously terrorise and butcher other Muslims for their religious beliefs. Historic mosques as well as Christian churches were destroyed and desecrated by ISIS in Iraq, and ordinary Muslims, whose only desire was to live in peace with their fellow Iraqis, were also murdered for not being what the Islamists considered proper Muslims.

I and many other bloggers have said repeatedly that the American regime and its western allies and lackeys aren’t interested in punishing Assad for his war crimes. This is all about geopolitics. It’s about making sure a Qatari oil pipeline goes through Syria, not one built by the Russians, and about removing a key ally of Russia and Iran. The American military-industrial complex has done its level best to overthrow secular Arab nationalist governments in the Middle East from the 1950s, as they were seen as being too close to Communism. Quite apart from the challenge they posed to western imperialism and its attempts to dominate and exploit the Middle East and its oil.

I therefore urge anyone, who has doubts about the justice of Trump’s attack on Syria, and the sabre-rattling of the western political class demanding regime change, to go and read Vltchek’s article and look at the pictures of Syria and its people. And look at the faces of the people, who will suffer if the oil lobby and the military-industrial complex have their way, and send American troops in. These are ordinary, decent people, who will be massacred by the hundreds of thousands, just like the people of Iraq.

The article’s at: http://www.counterpunch.org/2017/04/12/reflecting-on-syria/

Schools Display and Document Folder on the 1920s General Strike

March 13, 2017

The General Strike: Jackdaw No.l05, compiled by Richard Tames (London, New York and Toronto: Jackdaw Publications Ltd, Grossman Publishers Inc., and Clarke, Irwin and Company 1972)

I picked this up about 20 years ago in one of the bargain bookshops in Bristol’s Park Street. Jackdaw published a series of folders containing reproduction historical texts and explanatory posters and leaflets on variety of historical topics and events, including the Battle of Trafalgar, the slave trade, the voyages of Captain Cook, Joan of Arc, the Anglo-Boer War, the rise of Napoleon, Ned Kelley and Wordsworth. They also published another series of document folders on specifically Canadian themes, such as the Indians of Canada, the Fenians, Louis Riel, Cartier of Saint Malo, the 1867 confederation of Canada, the vote in Canada from 1791 to 1891, the Great Depression, Laurier, and Canada and the Civil War.

This particular folder is on the 1926 general strike, called by the TUC when the Samuel Commission, set up to report into the state of the mining industry, published its report. This recommended that the mines should be reorganised, but not nationalised, and although the miners were to get better working conditions and fringe benefits, they would have to take a pay cut. The folder included a poster giving a timeline of the strike and the events leading up to it, and photos of scenes from it, including volunteer constables practising self-defence, office girls travelling to work by lorry, the Conservative prime minister, Stanley Baldwin, and buses and train signal boxes staffed by volunteers. There’s also a Punch cartoon commenting on the end of the Strike. It also contains a leaflet explaining the various documents in the folder, along suggested projects about the issue and a short bibliography.

Poster and timeline of the Strike

Leaflet explaining the documents

The facsimile documents include

1. A leaflet arguing the Miner’s case.

2. Telegram from the Transport and General Workers’ Union to a local shop steward, calling for preparations for the strike.

3. Pages from the Daily Worker, the official paper of the T.U.C. during the Strike.

4. Notice from the Met calling for special constables.

5. Communist Party leaflet supporting the Strike.

6. Handbill giving the proposals of the Archbishop of Canterbury and the leaders of the Free Churches for an end to the Strike.

7. Handbill denouncing the strike as ‘The Great ‘Hold-Up’.
The accompanying pamphlet states that this was very far from the truth, and that it was a government lie that the T.U.C. were aiming at a revolution.

8. Emergency edition of the Daily Express.

9. Conservative PM Stanley Baldwin’s guarantee of employment to strike-breakers.

10. Contemporary Analysis of the causes of the Strike’s failure, from the Public Opinion.

11. The British Gazette, the government’s official paper, edited by Winston Churchill.

12. Anonymous letter from a striker recommending that the T.U.C. shut off the electricity.

13. Appeal for aid to Miner’s wives and dependents.

14. Protest leaflet against Baldwin’s ‘Blacklegs’ Charter’.

The General Strike was one of the great events of 20th century labour history, and its collapse was a terrible defeat that effectively ended revolutionary syndicalism and guild socialism as a major force in the labour movement. It left a legacy of bitterness that still persists in certain areas today.

The jackdaw seems to do a good job of presenting all sides of the issue, and the final section of the explanatory leaflet urges children to think for themselves about it. And one of the folder’s features that led me to buy it was the fact that it contained facsimile reproductions of some of the papers, flyers, letters and telegrams produced by the strikers arguing their case.

Looking through the folder’s contents it struck me that the strike and the issues it raised are still very much relevant in the 21 century, now almost a century after it broke it. It shows how much the Tories and the rich industrialists were determined to break the power of the unions, as well as the sheer hostility of the press. The Daily Express has always been a terrible right-wing rag, and was solidly Thatcherite and anti-union, anti-Labour in the 1980s. Since it was bought by Richard Desmond, apparently it’s become even more virulently right-wing and anti-immigrant – or just plain racist – than the Daily Heil.

The same determination to break their unions, and the miners in particular, was shown by Thatcher during the Miner’s Strike in the 1980s, again with the solid complicity of the media, including extremely biased and even falsified reporting from the BBC. It was her hostility to the miners and their power which partly led Thatcher to privatise and decimate the mining industry, along with the rest of Britain’s manufacturing sector. And these attitudes have persisted into the governments of Cameron and May, and have influenced Tony Blair and ‘Progress’ in the Labour party, who also bitterly hate the unions and anything that smacks of real working class socialism.

William Blum’s List of American Foreign Interventions: Part 2

February 15, 2017

Jamaica 1976
Various attempts to defeat Prime Minister Michael Manley.

Honduras 1980s
Arming, equipping, training and funding of Fascist government against dissidents, also supporting Contras in Nicaragua and Fascist forces in El Salvador and Guatemala.

Nicaragua
Civil War with the Contras against left-wing Sandinistas after the overthrow of the Somoza dictatorship.

Philippines 1970s-1990
Support of brutal dictatorship of Ferdinand Marcos

Seychelles 1979-81
Attempts to overthrow country’s leader, France Albert Rene, because he tried to turn his nation and the Indian Ocean into nuclear free zone.

Diego Garcia late 196-0s to Present
People of the largest of the Chagos islands forcibly relocated Mauritius and Seychelles so that Americans could build massive complex of military bases.

South Yemen, 1979-84
CIA backing of paramilitary forces during war between North and South Yemen, as South Yemen government appeared to be backed by Russia. In fact, the Russians backed North and South Yemen at different times.

South Korea
Support for military dictator, Chun Doo Hwan, in brutal suppression of workers’ and students’ uprising in Kwangju.

Chad 1981-2
Political manipulation of Chad government to force Libyan forces of Colonel Gaddafy to leave, aided Chadian forces in the Sudan to invade and overthrow Chadian government installing Hissen Habre as the ‘African General Pinochet’.

Grenada 1979-83
Operations against government of Maurice Bishop, and then invasion when Bishop government overthrown by ultra-leftist faction.

Suriname 1982-4
Abortive plot to overthrow Surinamese government for supporting Cuba.

Libya 1981-89
Attempts to overthrow Colonel Gaddafy.

Fiji 1987
Prime Minister Timoci Bavrada of the Labour Party overthrown as neutral in Cold War and wanted to make Fiji nuclear free zone.

Panama 1989
Overthrow of Manuel Noriega, long-term American ally in Central America for drug trafficking. The real reason to was intimidate Nicaragua, whose people were going to the elections two months later and stop them from voting for the Sandinistas.

Afghanistan 1979-92
Backing of Mujahideen rebels against Soviet-aligned government then Soviet forces.

El Salvador 1980-92
Backing of right-wing dictator and death squads in country’s civil war against dissidents, after first making sure the dissidents got nowhere through democratic means.

Haiti 1987-94
US government opposed reformist priest Jean-Bertrand Aristide, aiding Haiti government and its death squads against him. However, after he won the 1991, they were forced to allow him back in. They then extracted a promise from him that he would not aid poor at expense of the rich and would follow free trade economics. Kept army there for the rest of his term.

Bulgaria 1990-1
Massive campaign by the US through the National Endowment for Democracy and Agency for International Development to aid the Union of Democratic Forces against the Bulgarian Socialist Party, the successor to the Communists.

Albania 1991
Another campaign to keep the Communists out, in which the Americans supported the Democratic Party.

Somalia 1993
Attempts to kill Mohamed Aidid. The motive was probably less to feed the starving Somali people, and more likely because four oil companies wished to exploit the country and wanted to end the chaos there.

Iraq 1991-2003
American attempts to overthrow Saddam Hussein.

Colombia 1990s to Present
Aid by US to suppress left-wing guerillas.

Yugoslavia 1995-99
Campaigns against Serbia government during break up of the former Yugoslavia.

Ecuador 2000
Suppression of mass peaceful uprising by indigenous people of Quito, including trade unionists and junior military officers on orders from Washington, as this threatened neoliberalism.

Afghanistan 2001-to Present
Invasion and occupation of country after 9/11.

Venezuela 2001-4
Operations to oust Chavez.

Iraq 2003-to Present
Invasion and occupation.

Haiti 2004
President Aristide forced to resign by Americans because of his opposition to globalisation and the free market.

For much more information, see the chapter ‘A Concise History of United State Global Interventions, 1945 to the Present’ in William Blum’s Rogue State: A Guide to the World’s Only Superpower, pp. 162-220. I realise that many of the Communist regimes Washington sought to overthrow were hardly models of virtue themselves, and often responsible for horrific acts of repression. However, the US has also sought to overthrow liberal and Socialist governments for no better reason than that they sought to improve conditions for their own peoples against the wishes of the American multinationals. And the regimes Washington has backed have been truly horrific, particularly in Latin America.

So it’s actually a very good question whether America has ever really supported democracy, despite the passionate beliefs of its people and media, since the War.

Vox Political: Farage Annoyed that People Donating to Help Hope Not Hate Sue Him

December 21, 2016

Yesterday, the ant-racist, anti-religious extremism organisation, Hope Not Hate, announced that they wanted an apology from Nigel Farage after he libelled them when appeared on LBC radio. The former oberkipperfuehrer had stated that Hope Not Hate, and organisations like it, ‘masqueraded’ as being peaceful and lovely, ‘but actually pursue violent and very undemocratic means.’ Farage had been on the radio talking about the killing and deliberate injury by a terrorist of Pakistani extraction in Berlin yesterday. Apart from maligning Hope Not Hate, he’d also had a jab at Angela Merkel, saying that it, and further terrorist attacks, would be her legacy. When the widower of murdered MP Jo Cox, Brendan, warned him on Twitter that blaming politicians for the actions of extremists was a ‘slippery slope’, the politico 2000 AD lampooned as Bilious Barrage sneered that Mr Cox, ‘Would know more than me about extremists’.

Well yes, Bilious. He does. One murdered his wife, which I think gives him a particularly acute perspective on such matters.

Hope Not Hate followed their initial statement with the announcement that they were appealing for donations to help them sue Barrage.

According to the Independent, a ‘source close to Mr Farage’, has responded that “It’s quite funny, in an ironic way, that an organisation in receipt of a huge sum of money from the Jo Cox Fund is now crowd-sourcing an attempted legal action.”

Mike in his article points out this shows that Farage and his camp really don’t think that an organisation dedicated to protecting and strengthening individuals and communities from the politics of racial and religious hatred should receive money from the public. He also points out that the money from the Jo Cox fund is supposed to be used for fighting racism, not settling a libel dispute. And so it is entirely correct that the organisation should appeal to the public for their help.

He also makes the excellent point that Bilious and his National Comrades really don’t know when to shut up.

See: http://voxpoliticalonline.com/2016/12/21/people-are-lining-up-to-help-hope-not-hate-sue-nigel-farage/

Of course, despite the rather off-hand manner in which the ‘source close to Mr Farage’ describes it, as ‘funny, in an ironic way’, it seems to me that the Fuehrage is a bit miffed that people are responding to Hope Not Hate’s appeal. This is because there are very many people unimpressed with the way Brexit has harmed the country, damaging it economically at fragmenting it politically, and particularly with the way UKIP has been drumming up and exploiting racist and anti-immigrant feeling in Britain.

In fairness, some of the anti-Fascist organisations are extremely violent, and will start fights with the Nazi and Fascist groups, rather than the other way on. I have seen absolutely no evidence of Hope Not Hate advocating violence. Instead, much of their work seems to consist of events designed to bring communities together.

However, some of the speeches and writings that have come out of UKIP have been anything but lovely and peaceful. A few years ago, one the Kipper politicos in Wiltshire was forced to step down, because he had swallowed all the rubbish about Muslims outbreeding indigenous Europeans, and claimed that there would be a civil war between the two in the next few decades. This follows the claims of the anti-Muslim far right, including a video put up on YouTube. It’s hypocritical for Farage to claim that Hope Not Hate is against peace and democracy, when many of his party’s members have very strong anti-democratic and violent opinions on race and immigration themselves.

Daphne du Maurier Book on a Britain Dominated by America after Brexit

June 8, 2016

Yesterday, the I newspaper published a letter by a Michael Steed, discussing one of the lesser known works of the great Cornish writer, Daphne du Maurier. It was one that casts a very peculiar, and fascinating perspective over the Brexit campaign. It was about a Britain which had broken away from Europe, and formed a union with America, a political arrangement which was merely the constitutional disguise for an American occupation of these islands. Mr Steed wrote

Almost 50 years ago Daphne du Maurier wrote a novel, Rule Britannia, in which the UK elected a coalition government, and in a referendum on whether or not to stay in the EU the people voted to leave. The result was economic meltdown and the country forged a merger with the US to create a new country called USUK, with the President and Queen as joint heads of state, and created military, political and economic links with English-speaking nations to encircle Russia and its allies.

The new regime was enforced by what was, in effect, a military occupation of the UK by American forces, with rationing, roadblocks and martial law resulting in a civil war in the UK.

Now how much of that is going to happen, I wonder? (p. 14).

Du Maurier’s book is clearly a fantasy, but the Conservatives have, from time to time, urged Britain to form a union with the US. The last time they did so was in the 1920s. More recently, in the ’80s or ’90s there was a graphic novel about a Britain that had also forged a union with the US to become America’s 51st state. I think it was written by that indefatigable comics stalwart and champion of radical literature, Alan Moore. I’ve got a feeling that the story concerned industrial and political dissent in this future Britain during a presidential election.

And the Euro-sceptics and Brexiteers are keen for Britain to form closer links with the English-speaking world. One of the most vocal about this has been the Dorset Conservative MEP, Daniel Hannan, who has often appeared in posts over at Guy Debord’s Cat, where his appalling right-wing views and sheer lies have been dissected and refuted at length. Hannan hates the EU and the National Health Service, and has urged us to leave the European Union. He also has written at length about how we should also forge greater links with what he calls ‘the Anglosphere’ – the wider English-speaking world, like America, Canada, New Zealand and Australia. Part of his reason for doing so, one could guess, was not just nationalism and patriotism, but also a desire to contain and combat socialism and the Labour party through closer connections with the US.

Du Maurier’s book is clearly an exaggeration of possible trends written in the 1960s, but nevertheless it does have some basis in political fact, and the extreme attitudes of anti-Europeans like Hannan and Farage.

Hope Not Hate on Kipper Candidate Christopher Michael Baksa

May 4, 2016

It’s not just Renshaw and the Nazis of National Action and the Fascist Fringe that have been making viciously racist speeches and comments. Hope Not Hate also reports that Christopher Michael Baksa, the UKIP candidate for the Luddenfoot & Walsden ward in Calderdale has been making similarly disgusting comments on his Facebook page against Muslims. The organisation reports that amongst the rest of the racist rubbish, there’s a video posted by someone calling themselves Birmingham Crusader England, showing a fracas in Cardiff, which Baksa claims was the fault of ‘liberals’ and ‘migrants’. Except that it wasn’t. According to Hope Not Hate, the fight started when people started hurling abuse and drinks at a pro-Palestinian demonstration. Baksa’s page also contains some extremely vicious comments left by his readers directed as Muslims, demanding they leave Britain and predicting a civil war between Muslims and non-Muslims. As well as just plain, foul abuse.

See the article at: http://www.hopenothate.org.uk/ukip/foul-islamophobia-of-ukip-calderdale-candidate-christopher-michael-baksa-4871

Hopefully, tomorrow the good folk in Calderdale will vote against Baksa and his nonsense, and give their considered electoral support to anyone but him.