Thursday, August 30, 2007

Chile- Workers Protests met by Batons and Tear Gas

Over 400 protesting Trade Unionists were arrested in Santiago as a huge trade union mobilisation against the neo-liberal policies of the 'centrist-left' government, was met by strong arm tactics from the police.
The protest was called by Chile's largest trade union, Unified Workers Congress (CUT )
demanded better working conditions for employees against the backdrop of increased buoyancy in the Chilean economy, generated by high world copper prices. Teachers and health workers along with students and members of the Communist Party and left members of the Socialist parties participated in the demonstrations.The worst clashes occurred as marchers tried to approach the government palace, La Moneda, where protesters were prevented from assembling .
Chile, which has one of the strongest economies in Latin America still suffers from high unemployment and increasing poverty. Ten percent of the population in Chile holds 47 percent of the country's wealth, the United Nations Development Programme has said.
President Bachelet's government has faced a large number of protests in the past six months with Chileans regularly taking to the streets to demonstrate against high unemployment, the education system and poor public transport.The protest follows a series of huge strikes in recent weeks in the country's mining, forestry and agriculture sectors.
Bachelet, has brought about a massive split in the country's socialist movement over her embracing of 'neo-liberal' economic policies in an attempt to maintain her coalition government with their right wing coalition partners.
Chile, with 15 million inhabitants, is the world's biggest producer and exporter of copper, ahead of the U.S. and Australia. The economy expanded 6.1 percent in the second quarter fueled by higher investment, domestic consumption and exports. Copper prices rose 16.7 percent this year. 'When you press a balloon, sooner or later it explodes, and in this case the people are the balloon,'' said Luis Perez, a 32 year-old employee at a law office in Santiago, after joining the protest. ``The country has money in its pockets but it doesn't help poor people.''
With state revenue benefiting from the two-year surge in copper prices, the government should be spending more, said Roberto Daza, a 41-year-old taxi driver in Santiago.
``We have a terrible health system, hospitals are crammed with patients,'' he said. ``Chile has lot of resources from higher copper revenue that should be distributed more equitably among the people,'' he said. Codelco, owned by the Chilean government and the world's largest copper producer, said on Aug. 14 that it added a record $4.67 billion in profits and taxes to government coffers in the first half of the year.
BBC footage of the events in Santiago can be seen here.....

Tuesday, August 28, 2007

Greek Fires- Land Speculators in the Frame..?

Communist Party of Greece (KKE) General Secretary Aleka Papariga on Monday rejected theories that the destructive fires that have engulfed Greece and claimed 63 lives in the past days constitute an "asymmetrical threat" and pinned the blame on land policy.
During a press conference, Papariga reported the conclusion of KKE's Political Bureau that the government's attempt to present the tragedy in terms of "new order imperialist dogma of asymmetrical threats" sought to "terrorise the people so as to divert their reaction in the wrong direction, both during the electoral contest and afterward".
Regarding the cause of the fires, she said that these had not arisen suddenly but were created over many years by a series of reactionary laws and measures taken by the governments of the ruling New Democracy and main opposition PASOK parties.
According to Papariga, the road to the present inferno was opened by a policy that commercialised forests, rewarded land grabbers, undermined prevention and created huge deficits in equipment and facilities for fire-fighting and forest protection services, culminating in the revision of the Constitution and especially article 24 for the protection of forests.
"We are faced with an organised plan, whether this existed beforehand or arose on the way," Papariga claimed, adding that the profits from arson primarily benefited large economic interests whose "appetite is opened by land commercialisation".
She also turned her fire on the government for failing to put up an effective, organised response that might have mitigated the repercussions of the disaster, through prevention and forest protection measures.
Regarding PASOK, she said the main opposition of seeking only to cover up its own responsibility and to benefit from the justified popular displeasure at the polls, while she lambasted the left-wing Coalition of the Radical Left (SYRIZA) for "failing to display political autonomy" during the crisis and supporting PASOK.
Listing KKE's proposals for the aftermath of the fires, Papariga called for a full and in-depth listing of the destruction wrought and the areas burnt, without any changes in land use, full compensation to farmers for lost crops and livestock, one year's exemption from insurance contributions and taxes and a freeze on loan payments, full compensation for burnt homes and farm infrastructure, detailed and binding plans for reforestation, free housing for fire victims in nearby hotels, immediate hiring for vacant positions in the fire brigade, forestry services and national health service with permanent rather than seasonal staff and work to limit subsequent damage from erosion, flooding etc.


Monday, August 27, 2007

Jackie Kay's Loving Communist Home in Glasgow...

BBC Radio 4's interesting 'The House I grew Up In' has featured a number of interesting personalities, and uses their memories of their childhood home, allowing the listener to better understand a persons formative influences. Apart from the fact that many childhood memories of the 1950's and 1960's are common to many, its interesting to hear the varying experiences of each guest. The Scottish writer Jackie Kay was born in Edinburgh, Scotland in 1961 to a Scottish mother and a Nigerian father. She and her brother were adopted by a white couple at birth and they were brought up in Glasgow, her adoptive parents were both active and committed Communists, her mother being at one point Secretary of Scottish CND. Jackie recalls with some affection a train journey to Moscow for a World Peace Congress. Although Jackie did not stay long in the Young Communist League, she makes it clear that the culture and politics of her adoptive parents had a profound and nurturing affect on her writing. Her first collection of poetry, The Adoption Papers (1991),deals with an adopted child's search for a cultural identity and are told through three different voices: an adoptive mother, a birth mother and a daughter. The collection won a Scottish Arts Council Book Award, the Saltire Society Scottish First Book of the Year Award and a commendation by the Forward Poetry Prize judges in 1992. The poems in Other Lovers (1993) explore the role and power of language, inspired and influenced by the history of Afro-Caribbean people, the story of a search for identity grounded in the experience of slavery. The collection includes a sequence of poems about the blues-singer Bessie Smith. Off Colour (1998) explores themes of sickness, health and disease through personal experience and metaphor. Her poems have appeared in many anthologies, and she has written widely for stage and television.
  • This broadcast can be listened to again, however for some reason the 'listen again' facility is not linked on the programme's webpage. If you want to hear Jackie Kay's memories you have to go to the full list of 'Listen Again' options,
  • Look under 'H' for 'House I Grew up in' and click.

Saturday, August 25, 2007

Its the Great Red Jukebox...!

Its a pleasure browsing through the veritable cornucopia of interesting musical resources available on the intriguing 'Soviet Music' website
Of particular interest is the huge choice of international progressive music contained in the 'Internationale' section, expecting at best a handful of standards, it was delightful to find that the recordings on offer were both wide ranging and in many cases completely impossible to find elsewhere.Some recordings which may be of interest to readers include the following, A Las Barricadas ! A spanish song from the times of the Spanish Civil war,

Others may be intrigued to listen to Paul Robeson's recording of an English translation of the Soviet National Anthem
The great Italian Partisan song 'Bella Ciao' is also one that many will be delighted to hear again,
The stirring music and lyrics of Eisler and Brecht in the 'United Front' Song 'Einheitslied'
The Irish classic recording of 'Labour's Call'
Those active in the fight against Apartheid will welcome the chance to listen to the great ANC anthem 'N Kosi Sikelele Africa'
The struggle in Latin America and in particular Chile is represented by a great recording of 'Venceremos' by Inti Illimani
Some will also recall hearing the great Chinese song 'The East is Red' and welcome the chance to hear it again
As well as many interesting but less well known tracks such as 'Stalingrado' an Italian song about the battle of Stalingrad
Another intriguing aspect of the site is the large collection of soviet era posters, and texts and recordings of speeches. The introductory comments by the site's creator for foreign visitors are also interesting,

"The music submitted on this site - is an evident sample of a totally new culture, which completely differs from all that, with what Hollywood and MTV supply us so much. This culture, being free from the cult of money , platitude, violence and sex, was urged to not indulge low bents of a human soul but to help the person to become culturally enriched and to grow above himself. Cheerful and optimistically by its nature, the Soviet music was spreading a cult of friendship, collectivism, mutual assistance and respect to the working people....These songs are a monument to our not too distant past, during which USSR tried to build a new socialist society. It was an interesting time, a time not only of terror and the Gulags, but of "The Great Projects", enthusiasm, victories, and faith in a "bright future for all of humanity."......"Please don't be hasty to abuse this site with harsh words and then go off to a favourite porn site. No one attempts to bind you with his/her views or persuasions. This site only serves as a reminder of a past epoch, of a country, which independently and heroically attempted to build a "bright future". This site reminds us, as well, of its people."
Well, thanks for access to this great site my friend , and for the sentiments expressed in the above comments which eloquently express why the culture and music found on this site is worth visiting. Optimistic? definitely, naive? quite possibly, irrelevant? absolutely not, so long as mankind aspires to a world free from exploitation this music will possess an abundance of urgency and relevance for us all.


I had a puzzling conversation with a male comrade a little while ago. We were talking about my relatively newly acquired single status and he was intent upon finding a new man for me, apparently in the belief that this would improve my life. By new man I mean a man new to me not a “new man”. I said this would not be easy as meeting an unattached man with reasonable politics and with whom there was a mutual attraction, let alone love, at my middling years seemed a fairly remote possibility. He looked at me as if I was from another planet (maybe men are from Mars & women from Venus?). He wanted to know what politics had to do with it. (Own up – who just started humming Tina Turner?)
Now this is a man of similar age to myself who has spent all his adult life immersed in politics and a good few years in jail through those political activities. In other words, his political beliefs are central to him and have shaped his life in a way that many of us have never experienced. I tried to explain that politics were in my bones and so intrinsically a part of me that I couldn’t conceive of having any sort of deep & meaningful relationship with someone with whom I couldn’t share that part of me. I stressed that they wouldn’t have to have the same views or be as involved as I am, but they would need to have some political insight somewhere in the same area of the political spectrum. He just couldn’t get it. He couldn’t see the relevance of political activism to a personal relationship.
I talked to another, much younger, male comrade about this. He agreed with me, and this led to a conversation on how men and women activists connected to their Significant Others politically. Thinking back over my thirty-odd years of political activity, I realise that I have known many male activists with partners who were not remotely interested in politics, but very, very few women whose partners were not at least interested, if not active. Of those women whose partners were not political, I can’t think of one whose relationship lasted if their political activity did. Either they dropped out of activity or their SO dropped out of their lives. This seems to apply to same sex couples too.
Is it that men compartmentalise their lives while women try to integrate all aspects of theirs? Do men give less of themselves in relationships than women or just expect less? Do women see political activity as just something their man does outside the home, like fishing, or train spotting or going to the match every week, rather than as something that constitutes part of who they are? Is it generational? Do we women just want too much in seeking to be able to share who we are in our core with our SO? Yes, I know that reads like a script of “Sex & the City” but they are genuine questions.
Maybe women are unrealistic in wanting to share the whole of their integrated lives, hopes, dreams, beliefs with a SO, but I’d rather continue to believe that’s possible (however remotely) than settle for less.
One more question. Does the left demand a level of commitment from its activists that male partners will not tolerate, but women will?

Tuesday, August 21, 2007

A Snapshot in Time.....

Burgos 1938, the Monastary outside Burgos in the heart of Franco occupied Spain was used by the Fascists as a prison camp for arrested volunteers from the International Brigades. This picture is of a group of these prisoners, Frank Ryan the Irish Republican who was an officer in the British and Irish battalion (XVth International Brigade) is the tall man second from the left in the front row, I believe given the group captured with Ryan that it is very likely that the late Maurice Levitas, and George Wheeler are in the photo too. It is also likely that Bob Doyle, still thankfully very much amongst us is there somewhere too.. I visited this place a few years ago with Don Watson, and it is now primarily a tourist attraction. The priest who was conducting tours agreed to show us the area where the prisoners were held, and there we were conducted to the courtyard where in all likelihood this photo was taken, it still was recognisable from the descriptions of Burgos given to us by IB veterans such as Maurice Levitas. Maurice recounted to me on numerous occasions that he received appalling treatment there at the hands of his Fascist captors, as well as suffering the indignity of having to undergo pseudo-scientific skull measurements from so called 'experts' visiting from Nazi Germany, who were, sinisterly, particularly interested in Jewish Communists.

Saturday, August 18, 2007

Pots, Kettles, and the Colour Black...

The Bush administration is preparing to declare that Iran's Revolutionary Guard is a 'terrorist' organization, if imposed, the declaration would suggest another twist in the more confrontational turn in US governments approach to Iran, and would be the first time that the United States has added the armed forces of any sovereign government to its list of terrorist organizations. Putting the Revolutionary Guard on the foreign terrorist list would serve at least two purposes for the US : to pacify, for a while, administration hawks who are pushing for possible military action, and to further press America’s allies to ratchet up sanctions against Iran in the Security Council.
Is'nt there something deeply ironic in this news? Is it possible that such a declaration may prompt impartial observers into considering whether the Bush administration possesses sufficient moral authority to apply this epithet to any element of a sovereign states defence forces, regardless of how quasi-autonomous of the Iranian state proper they appear to be?
The eminent American historian Howard Zinn
has called the times we live in an 'age of irony'. In his book 'Terrorism and War' ( Chapter 3, A Peaceful Nation?, pp.50-56 Seven Stories Press 2002) he considers the history of the USA in terms of their claim to be a 'peaceful nation' a claim which George W Bush made when he announced the commencement of bombing in Afghanistan.
"You can't tell the Native Americans we were a peaceful nation as we moved across the continent and engaged in hundreds of wars against the Indians. The United States engaged in at least twenty military interventions in the Caribbean in the first twenty years of the last century. And then from World War II through today, we've had an endless succession of wars and military interventions.
Just five years after the end of the most disastrous war in world history, after World War II, we are at war in Korea. And then almost immediately we are helping the French in Indochina, supplying 80 percent of their military equipment, and soon we are involved in Southeast Asia. We are bombing not only Vietnam but Cambodia and Laos.
In the 1950s, we are also involved in covert operations, overthrowing the governments of Iran and Guatemala. And almost as soon as we get involved in Vietnam, we are sending military troops into the Dominican Republic. In that period, we are also giving enormous amounts of aid to the government of Indonesia, helping the dictator Suharto carry on an internal war against the opposition, in the course of which several hundred thousand people are killed. Then the U.S. government, starting in 1975, provides critical support to Indonesia's brutal campaign to subdue the people of East Timor, in which hundreds of thousands of people are killed.
In the 1980s, when Reagan comes into office, we begin a covert war throughout Central America, in El Salvador, Honduras, Costa Rica, and especially in Nicaragua, creating the counterrevolutionary force, the Contras, whom Reagan called "freedom fighters."
In 1978, even before the Russians were in Afghanistan, we are covertly sending arms to the rebel forces in Afghanistan, the mujahedeen. Some of these people turned out later to be the Taliban, the people who suddenly are our enemy. The national security adviser to Carter, Zbigniew Brzezinski, boasted that he knew U.S. aid would "induce a Soviet military intervention" in Afghanistan. In fact, this happened, provoking a war that lasted ten years.[44] The war was devastating to the people of Afghanistan and left the country in ruins. The moment it was over, the United States immediately moved out. The people that we supported, the fundamentalists, took power in Afghanistan and established their regime.
Almost as soon as George Bush Sr. came into office, in 1989, he launched a war against Panama, which left perhaps several thousand dead. Two years later, we were at war in the Gulf, using the invasion of Kuwait as an excuse to intensify our military presence in that area and to station troops in Saudi Arabia, which then became one of the major offenses for Osama bin Laden and other Saudi Arabian nationalists. Then in the Clinton administration we were bombing Afghanistan, Sudan, Yugoslavia, and Iraq again.
So for Bush to call us "a peaceful nation" means forgetting an enormous amount of history. Now, maybe that history is too much for Bush to take in, but even a small part of it would be enough to suggest that we have not been a peaceful nation. In fact, it is safe to say that since World War II, there has not been a more warlike nation in the world than the United States. "

With this weight of involvment in sponsoring wars, invasions, and dirty tricks against numerous sovereign states, United States governments in general and the Bush administration in particulat should steer well clear of flinging accusations at other governments. That is not to say that the Revolutionary Guard in Iran are a bunch of choirboys, far from it. Yet when the USA deems them to be 'terrorists' the impact of this accusation is sullied somewhat by the murky and unsavoury track record of the accuser. To point out this inconsistency is not 'anti-american' , in fact it is the strong desire of all right thinking people that the Government of the United States returns to the principles upon which that great nation was founded.
As Republican Congressman for Texas Ron Paul puts it in his book ' A Foreign Policy of Freedom'
"I believe our founding fathers had it right when they argued for peace and commerce between nations, and against entangling political and military alliances. In other words, noninterventionism....Noninterventionism is not isolationism. Nonintervention simply means America does not interfere militarily, financially, or covertly in the internal affairs of other nations. It does not mean that we isolate ourselves; on the contrary, our founders advocated open trade, travel, communication, and diplomacy with other nations "
If the USA returned to these founders principles in the conduct of its foreign policy, then it would be going a considerable way to repairing the immense damage, that has , sadly, been done to its international standing in recent years. A restoration of the United States moral authority would permit it to make declarations concerning world affairs, which would attract the respect this nation deserves, putting an end to the mealy mouthed hypocricy as exemplified by this recent statement concerning the Iranian Revolutionary Guard.

Thursday, August 16, 2007

Remembering...the 'Red' Elvis...Dean Reed

Today being the 30th anniversary of the death of Elvis Presley, there is a huge amount of media attention on the life and legacy of 'The King' , for example,

Elvis Presley's status is now approaching that of a deity, and there are some who would even subscribe to the view that the Presley phenomenon is morphing into a quasi-religious status as the years go by.
All this discussion of Elvis Presley set me to thinking about the singer they used to refer to as 'Red Elvis', Dean Reed was a hugely popular figure in the rock and folk scene in the socialist countries in the 1970s and 1980's, now 20 years after his tragic suicide Dean Reed's life is being re-examined in a documentary which will open in Germany later this month, clips of which can be seen on You Tube here
I recall being rather sceptical when other young people in the DDR enthused about Reed's music, but in fact I was quite impressed when I actually heard some of his singing.After his dream of stardom in the US in the 1960s failed, Reed turned to Latin America, where his records sold well and he began to be seen as an all-American hero. He toured Chile, Brazil, Bolivia and Argentina and embraced Marxism. He recorded a song called "Our Summer Romance," while on a tour of South America. That song soared up the charts there . In fact in Latin America he would become more well known than Elvis. He settled in Argentina.In Argentina he became involved leftist politics. He opposed nuclear weapons, and performed free shows in barrios, and prisons. He was deported in 1966.His records sold millions, even though many critics said he could not sing.
In 1971 he made the German Democratic Republic his home. The government gave him a lakeside residence for which he paid a peppercorn rent, and in return Reed visited schools, factories and workers' clubs where he sang his pro-Marxist protest songs. Things turned sour for Reed later on in his life. In 1986 at the height of the 1980's Cold War Reed conducted a television interview on CBS's '60 minutes' programme, he defended the Soviet intervention in Afghanistan and the Berlin Wall , which angered many in the US, including family and friends. Following the interview, despite the fact that he never renounced his US citizenship and continued to pay his taxes to Uncle Sam, Reed received large amounts of hate mail from enraged US right wingers. Letters which not only accused him of being a traitor, but also a mediocre performer who could never expect to have the same fame or popularity in his own country as he had in the Socialist countries .Tragically six weeks after his appearance on US TV , Reed was found dead in a lake near his home, near East Berlin . Though it was officially ruled an accidental drowning, his friends in Germany suspect his death was a suicide.
Reed still enjoys a huge following in many parts of the world, especially in the countries where he enjoyed most popularity during his lifetime, this can be seen by the enthusiasm still evident in fans websites, one excellent example being 'The Dean Reed website' which is a project created by Dean Reed friends from all over the world.
Also to get some idea of the following that Dean Reed still enjoys in the former USSR it is interesting to read this google translated version of one of his fan-sites, remembering that its a computer translation of course!

Wednesday, August 15, 2007

Ryanair' s O'Leary- Just Acting the Maggot?

Has Ryanair boss Michael O'Leary had a sincerity by-pass? That's a thought that springs to mind as we are forced to watch his latest publicity stunt surrounding the Shannon debacle.
Ryanair Chief Executive Michael O'Leary told a press conference in Shannon that the company would be willing, if requested by the
Government, to use its 25% shareholding in Aer Lingus to retain Shannon- Heathrow link. Mr O'Leary said alternatively the Government could ask Ryanair to abstain from voting. This would give the Irish Government and the Employee Share Ownership Trust (ESOT) staff grouping , which has a 12.5% stake in Aer Lingus, a majority at the EGM.That could allow them to save the Shannon-Heathrow services.Mr O'Leary claimed that all that was now needed to save the Aer Lingus Heathrow flights was for the Government to vote in favour of the motion at the EGM.

Here is Michael's latest supposed persona, just a guy who is 'concerned' to see Aer Lingus giving up a profitable Heathrow slots from Shannon , and who will apparently in a thoroughly publicly spirited manner ally with his sworn enemies of government and trade unions to 'persuade' Aer Lingus to reverse their decision to switch their Shannon slots to Belfast. Sorry Michael, it appears that you once again must think we are all pig ignorant lame brains, and thats where your 'cunning plan' goes wrong. Its obvious that the Michael O'Leary we all know and loath could'nt give a flying scratch card for the Shannon and mid-West region or the interests of Aer Lingus.

So what are Michael O'Leary's motives in making this 'magic wand' offer? On the sad personal psychological front Michael just likes to be seen as 'clever' and a people's champion all at once, this is largely due to his resoundingly hollow personality, which needs to be filled up with some sort of attention which he lovingly believes to be adulation and approval.

Another aspect is that he is in a permanent state of raw indignation with Government's who refuse to allow him to do what he wants, the Irish government's latest outrage against his plans for the world, is that they and the equally loathed European Commission wondered whether Ryanair taking over Aer Lingus would be a good thing for competition.,,2112804,00.html

So he is out to embarrass the Irish government in a retaliatory counter-blow , he wants them to squirm as he shows what nasties Berties mob really are.
O’Leary’s sincerity around his 'offer' is best demonstrated by the fact that his letters proposing the move are wrapped up in his usual shrill invective, accusing the Irish government and Martin Cullen in particular of lying, for using the claim that a Ryanair-owned Aer Lingus would dump Shannon-Heathrow to argue against their Aer Lingus bid, to the European Commission (which also thwarted it).

Other more rational business motives could be that Ryanair just want Aer Lingus out of Aldergrove (Belfast) to keep its Belfast London routes more lucrative? Perhaps Aer Lingus in turn are looking for an all-Ireland monopoly on connections to long-haul flights, a business that Ryanair has little interest, in at the moment. Furthermore it seems that the conditions of service for Aer Lingus flight crews transferred to Belfast fall far below the contracts once in operation in Shannon, hence the proposed strike action next week, Are Aer Lingus now out-Ryaning Ryanair in terms of staff conditions of service ? Lastly was it really envisaged when Aer Lingus got its Heathrow slots as the Republic of Ireland’s flag carrier, that these could be transferred outside the Republic of Ireland?
This whole sorry state of affairs arises directly as a consequence of privatisation, when the government surrenders control of a crucial infrastructural component, then the consequence is that the newly 'liberated' free market player acts in a way which damages the regional economy of the Shannon-Mid West Region. The free market does not always generate the most rational or optimal outcome, and government's should retain a strategic veto at the very least when such decisions have consequences for a vulnerable regional economy. Shannon and the mid-west is heavily dependent on inward investment from US and European multinationals, for which ready access to long-haul flights is essential. Furthermore a narrowing of access to the region from Heathrow will have negative impact on this uniquely beautiful regions appeal as a high value-added transcontinental tourism destination.
It is ironic that the most enthusiastic free-marketeer in the airline industry, is now proposing to thwart Aer Lingus in its market driven abandonment of Shannon, which is why Michael O'Leary's public posturing is so transparently bogus.

Tuesday, August 14, 2007

Your Life in His Hands... by Venus

Gabriel writes, I am pleased to introduce our readers to Venus, she too is an unrepentant red and is also resident here in Ireland, Venus will be adding her own inimical take on the world from her own uniquely 'unrepentant' angle in future - Welcome on Board V.

A bogus academic report on the IQs of various US presidents has been in circulation since 2001. According to its assessment the highest IQ belongs to Bill Clinton at 182 closely followed by Jimmy Carter at 176 (this one is apparently true). At the other end of the scale is the current incumbent, the hapless Dubya with a score of 91. The content of this piece of satire has now passed into the realm of the urban myth as a generally believed truth, which begs a few questions. How did the US people re-elect a man so widely held to be below average intelligence? (The first election was a whole other story so let’s forgive them that). Could it be that intelligence is not an issue in US voting behaviour? On the other hand it could be that the US electorate simply treat IQ scores with the scepticism they deserve and have decided that these culturally biased tests simply show one thing – how well people score on IQ tests.
My brother in the US whose IQ has been measured at 148, also has the social skills of a 2-year-old and an almost total inability to maintain relationships with his wives, children or siblings. He did however vote for Dubya and remains a fervent supporter. I rest my case...

Saturday, August 11, 2007

Hurrah for the Fearless Senator Eoghan Harris!

Imagine .........a community forum event held in staunchly Unionist East Belfast, in this imaginary crowded hall are dozens of victims of the troubles from within the Unionist community many of them naturally still grieving over the loss of loved ones.
Widows of RUC officers, sons and daughters of bomb victims, relations of the victims of war, still suffering its dreadful aftermath , raw and still concerned that the recent Democratic Unionist Party move towards a power sharing government with Sinn Féin perhaps represents a profound betrayal of their loved ones.
On the platform is an English man , a newly created member of the House of Lords, Lord Tweedy of Fleet, a journalist who has been in his time, variously, a Marxist, a Tory, and even for a while a Liberal. Now appointed to the House of Lords, by a grateful Prime Minister for his rousing call on peak-time TV for his benefactors re-election as Prime Minister of the United Kingdom .
The audience applause as he begins his address soon turns to shocked silence as he turns on his compatriots and lectures to them that their tendency to what he calls "Unionist victimhood" will only '"hold back the healing process in the North" forgetting that throughout the worst of the 'troubles' he had observed the war from the relative safety of various Fleet Street newspaper office chairs.

Lord Tweedy said pursuit of Unionist grievances over issues like 'unsolved murders' would hold back the peace process and accused his Loyalist audience of being 'out of tune with the rest of the UK '.

“That cultivation of victimhood is not going to bring any peace to this country....“The people of Britain would likely as not regard you as extremely odd people. You appear to have moral problems with the 'Unionist victimhood. ”

There would, of course, be a storm of outraged reaction to such crass insensitivity from a jumped up journo posing as a man of substance. In all likelihood the many defenders of fair play for the Unionist community in the media of the 26 Counties, Ruth Dudley Edwards and Capt. Kevin Myers et al would call for an apology to the victims of Republican violence from the hapless Lord . In all likelihood the most vituperative and viscious of castigations of Lord Tweedy's arrogant and crass insensitivity, would flow in a fluent venomous torrent from the pen of newly created Senator Eoghan Harris in his column in Sir Antony O'Reilly's Sunday Independent, for Senator Eoghan Harris has a sharp eye for injustice and ill treatment of the weak and powerless at the hands of the strong and powerful .

For a potted biography of the fearless Senator Harris

To read what Senator Harris ACTUALLY said when HE was in Belfast go to....

Friday, August 10, 2007

SALUD ! to Moe Fishman (1915-2007)

*There is now a heart-warming You Tube video of Moe speaking at the 2006 Veterans for Peace Convention.....see

Peter N Carroll writes courtesy of the Abraham Lincoln Brigade Association (ALBA)
Colour Photo showing Moe with German Comrades from the Ernst Thallman Battalion.
Left photo- International Brigade Column at the Battle of Brunete

"Mosess “Moe” Fishman(1915-2007)the seemingly indestructible Moe Fishman, the public face of the Veterans of the Abraham Lincoln Brigade (VALB) for more than half a century, died of pancreatic cancer on August 6, 2007 in New York. He was 92.Born in New York on September 28, 1915, Fishman left school during the Depression and became a laundry worker and truck driver. He participated in unionizing his fellow workers and found a commitment to social justice issues as a member of the Young Communist League. When war broke out in Spain, Fishman volunteered to fight, but was rejected for lack of military experience. However, his skill as a truck driver was needed and a second application for service was accepted—with the proviso that he recruit ten other volunteers. Fishman quickly found the men, though none actually showed up. The recruiters took him anyway. He arrived in Spain in April 1937 and trained as a foot soldier in the George Washington battalion. He was wounded during the battle of Brunete, his first action. He spent a year in convalescence in Spain; the injury left him with a lifelong limp.Back home in New York, Fishman stayed in touch with humanitarian aid organizations providing assistance for the civilian refugees of the Spanish Civil War. While working in the warehouse of the Joint Anti-Fascist Refugee Committee, he studied to become a licensed radio operator. After serving in the Merchant Marines during World War II, Fishman resumed his work for the Committee. In 1946 the JAFRC was targeted by the House Committee on Un-American Activities (HUAC) for alleged subversive activities. Soon after, HUAC set its sights on the VALB, which was promptly included on the Attorney General’s list of subversive organizations.When Congress passed the McCarran Act in 1950, obliging all organizations on this list to register with the federal government and creating heavy penalties for leaders who refused to cooperate, the entire executive committee of the VALB resigned. In its place, two Lincoln veterans stepped forward: Milton Wolff became the National Commander; Moe Fishman became the Executive Secretary/Treasurer. Fishman served the organization in an executive capacity for the rest of his life, more than a half century of dedicated service.Fishman and Wolff led the VALB defense before the Subversive Activities Control Board in 1954. After their efforts failed, they pursued the appeals process that led to a favorable court ruling in the 1970s, declaring the Attorney General’s list and the SACB’s rulings unconstitutional.Through it all, Fishman kept the VALB organization running, never allowing the vets to forget that “our main purpose in life is our anti-Franco activity.” He helped produce dozens of four-page issues of /The Volunteer/; rallied support for individual defense trials; participated in anti-Franco protests; and summoning a campaign to aid Spanish political prisoners. There were times when he felt like a one-man band. “I’m the organization,” he said with little exaggeration for a 1962 article that appeared in /Esquire/. “If there’s something to decide, I talk it over with the guys and then decide what I’m going to do. Cockeyed, but that’s the way it is.”To raise funds for the prisoners and their families, the reconstituted VALB held its first reunion in a decade in 1957, an annual ceremonial gathering that continues now under the auspices of the Abraham Lincoln Brigade Archives. As more veterans reached retirement age and returned to the VALB in the 1970s, Moe remained a constant in the organization’s activities. He participated in panels and conferences, spoke to students in high schools and colleges around the country, and traveled to international meetings about the Spanish Civil War. He patiently listened to often hostile questions and yet offered clearly recited answers. His memory for names and historical details was remarkable. He seldom allowed a speaker to get away with a comment with which he disagreed.For years, seemingly forever, Moe Fishman stood at the center of a halo that surrounded the Americans who fought in the Spanish Civil War. In just one month this spring, he appeared on Pacifica’s Democracy Now program, greeted guests at the opening night of the exhibition “Facing Fascism,” spoke to a high school class on New York’s west side, and shared a podium with Harry Belafonte. He relished the spotlight and used it well. Lean, well-dressed in suit and tie, dark eyebrows and brown mustache offset by a full gray head of hair, he carried the vitality of a young man’s cause into his old age. Each year at the annual reunion, it was his voice that announced recent deaths and called the roll of the surviving veterans in attendance.His silence brings the end of an era."
USA;- Abraham Lincoln Brigade Association Website
Britain and Ireland ;-International Brigade Memorial Trust

Thursday, August 9, 2007

Advertising Men as Ineffectual and Dumb.

Its been many years since dozens of attractive women followed the man smoking St Bruno pipe tobacco like entranced automatons as he self confidently strolled down the street. Nowadays the St Bruno man is consigned to history, his grandson is depicted as ineffectual and weak, regularly outwitted and outplayed by his scarily together girlfriend or wife.
That is the reality of advertising on TV and Radio today and it is beginning to be noticed and commented upon at last...
“Men are now commonly portrayed as either bumbling idiots or as one-dimensional sexual interests of predatory females,” says Jennifer English, consumer planning director at Initiative, a media-buying company. "

The Old El Paso advert, which features a burrito-making man being ridiculed by his girlfriend as she chats on the phone to her friend is one example. According to Jennifer English many of these adverts originate in Britain and don't play well in the Irish market.

“They are probably intended as a backlash against the kind of laddish behaviour which was prevalent in the UK during the 1990s but which we never really experienced here.”

The creative teams behind the Old El Paso ad, and numerous similar executions where the male protagonist either buys the wrong detergent or can’t organise decent car insurance, are tapping into what they perceive as a prevalent mindset among women.

Further perceptive comment on this subject is provided by Julie Anne Bailie, creative director at McCann-Erickson Belfast, who believes that the derogatory treatment of men in advertising is gathering momentum.
“It has been very clear for several years now that the depiction of men in advertising increasingly sees him as ridiculous or incompetent and it has come about as a result of the changing role of men in society.”

She produces road safety adverts for the National Safety Council, and has conducted extensive research into male attitudes.
“Young men in particular are confused about their real role in life. Their view is that women are taking over everything and about the only place they have retained control is behind the wheel of a car.”
As the parent of three sons in their late teens I have noticed that the adverts referred to, do seem to be presenting a pretty bleak perception of their worth in the world today, and this concerns me, since it contributes towards a view that they seem to share with their mates that they are probably not very good at too much, and certainly lack the confidence to dare to succeed, they generally view girls as being generally 'better' than them in many ways . Also the fear of derision for failure is frightening, these ads have not created this situation but they do not help.
Firstly, the role of men has changed in modern advanced societies due to the change in the economy, globalisation has decimated the old traditional manufacturing occupations in the old capitalist world , occupations which were once the preserve of so many man.

Secondly, this change in the modern western economies from secondary and primary economic activity (manufacturing and mining for example) towards tertiary activities such as service provision and retailing has resulted in advanced capitalism drawing on the labour of women more . Most women in Ireland are now either in full or part time employment. This has provided women with a far greater degree of economic power and social status, as well it must be said, with an awful lot of stress.

Thirdly, modern capitalism is driven by an insatiable need to sell us more and more products, so adverts which boost the self esteem of the most likely purchaser (women) and gives her a 'feel good factor' through humour directed at hapless males makes sense. Also there is the eminent good sense of avoiding causing offence to women viewers. Women watching TV and listening to radio are very alert to hints of 'sexism', they have been educated for the past two decades to pick up on any smidgeon of chauvinist attitudes, and are now programmed in a pavlovian learned reaction to react strongly to any vestiges of this 'old thinking' . Better to offend apathetic and passive males than to bring down the fury of a thousand emails from touchy women, who cling on to their 'feminism' as the last vestige of a dimly remembered radical youth.

Many young men feel alienated, they are the denizens of fiercely competitive peer groups where it is considered 'wussy' to express feelings or even appear challenged by anything at all. Many relationships between young Irish men are superficial and drenched in bonds of alcohol and the ubiquitous sentiment 'sher I'm grand'....'how're you?'...'sher grand, never better, how's the craic?" etc etc.

Most young men are of course, genuinely at ease and supremely unaffected by the uncertainties concerning the role of men in modern society,I also suspect that many of Ireland's young men will remain supremely molly-coddled by their Mammy's and their Mammy-like partners in a way which would be considered ludicrously quaint in Britain. Yet there is something amiss with a significant percentage of our young men is'nt there?

Over 500 people take their own lives in Ireland every year, a figure that has increased four-fold since the 1970. Fully 50% of the deaths are under the age of 30 and are overwhelmingly of young males. Young male adults — the suicide numbers are overwhelmingly male by a ratio of 19-1 — have far more complex lives nowadays with far more pressure to succeed than there was in other generations.
The National Safety Council says that the principal causes of death on the roads are excessive or inappropriate speed, drink-driving, not wearing seatbelts, driver fatigue or a combination of these factors. These potentially suicidal failings are most often found among young male drivers.

Perhaps we need to think more about our young men, and care needs to be taken when depicting them in a way which further reinforces their tendency towards irresponsibility, and their susceptibility to emotional confusion or even despair.

Tuesday, August 7, 2007

Ron Brown RIP

When John Donne famously wrote 'ask not for whom the bell tolls, it tolls for thee' he was suggesting the humane insight that the death of any one of our human race diminishes us all to some degree.It is best then to celebrate the contribution made by the deceased than to dwell on his or her shortcomings. The late Ron Brown former Labour MP for Leith was one such character, he possessed many of the weaknesses and flaws we all can possess, and frankly a substantial amount of his later political difficulties arose from his over indulgence in the demon drink, sadly he died of liver failure at the ridiculously young age (these days) of 69.

Ron Brown for me will be remembered as one of those very few courageous socialists in Britain who realised that whilst one may have questions about the precise nature of the "Afghan Revolution" back in the late 1970's , it was infinitely preferable to the alternatives being armed and supported by the USA, and the "House of Saud".

Soviet support to the beleagured Afghan revolutionary government was always going to be characterised as an 'invasion' by the reactionaries and imperialists, but the condemnations from the Left were particularly shameful, the revisionist leadership of the Communist Party of Great Britain (CPGB) condemned it, and virtually all of the Trotskyist Left did, with the honourable exception of the Spartacist League, whose headline 'Hail Red Army' in their paper will remain with me as a memory for ever. The Alliance for Workers Liberty (AWL) now a scourge of the Left's appeasement of radical islamic fundamentalism , was then strongly condemnatory of the Soviet aid to the beleagured Afghan progressives. I recall Leading AWL luminary Jim Denham, of the excellent Shiraz Socialist blog being almost Daily Telegraph reader-like in his pompous derision of the Sparts as they attempted to sell their "Hail Red Army" paper to him one evening in the Mermaid bar in the University of Birmingham Guild of Students.

Ron was to become pilloried as "Afghan Ron" by the parliamentary Labour Party, because of his support for the Afghan government against the Mujahideen...Remember those brave fighters in the mountains of Afghanistan taking on the might of the "Soviet Empire" armed only with flintlock muskets and......'Stinger' surface to air missiles? Ron Brown made the very valid point that whatever one's view of the credentials of the Afghan pro-soviet government in power assisted by the USSR, it was infinitely preferable to what the mujahideen had in store for Afghanistan, and as it would transpire, the world. Lurking as a young leader amongst the Afghan mujahideen was Osama Bin Laden, and many of the fighters around him in Afghanistan would become the founders of Al Qaeda.

Of course neither Ron, nor I and the other communists who supported the Afghan revolution knew fully what was coming down the road, culminating in the Twin Towers atrocity of the 11th September 2001. What we did know was that the fundamentalists trying to bring down the Afghan government were, raping and lynching any female school teachers they encountered, (flaying alive any male teachers they captured). They were also barbarically committed to returning Afganistan to a kind of illiterate medieval feudal theocracy, in which the atrocity of female circumcision (cliterectomy to the less squeamish amongst you) would be mandatory .

This and the other quite apparent 'policies' of the Mujahideen was fervently supported by the West and most of the so called 'Left' dutifully followed suit choosing to overlook the more unsavoury aspects of these anti-soviet 'heroes' , and thoroughly carried away on a wave of anti-soviet sentiment and a teary eyed romantic idea of gallant little 'David's' taking on the Soviet 'Goliath' .

Ron Brown to his eternal credit was not one of these, he warned many times on platforms throughout the UK and elsewhere that what the USSR and the Afghan government of the time were fighting, was something quite new and uniquely menacing, which if it triumphed in Afghanistan would provide a base for its spread elsewhere. I remember Ron Brown being pilloried for having the temerity to call the Afghan mujahideen 'terrorists'. Ron Brown may have made some personal and political blunders in his later years, but his stance on Afghanistan, once a source of ridicule, can now be viewed as courageous and remarkably perceptive. Condolences to all the Brown family, the socialist movement has lost a remarkable comrade.

Anyone who doubts that the arming of the Afghan mujahideen by the USA was not a fore-runner to the extremism of Al Qaeda need only look at this clip of Afgan mujahideen bring down a Soviet helicopter with a US Stinger Missile, once the helicopter is hit listen to the blood thirsty screams of "Allahu Akbar", a chilling fore-runner of things to come.

Theres also an excellent Russian tribute to the Soviet soldiers who fought in Afghanistan on

Wednesday, August 1, 2007

'Hurrah for Our Boys'....(families not welcome)

It is one of the most enduring conundrums of the British class system, that allows the average British soldier to be lauded as a hero by the overwhelmingly right wing middle classes when in service in the interests of the British crown, whilst being suddenly consigned back to the ranks of the great unwashed once wounded. Much better to be a dead hero in the minds of many Daily Mail reading patriots than to offend the eye and the sensibilities of folk by being wounded, or even worse disfigured in some way. Now in an attempt to facilitate the families of British servicemen grievously wounded in Iraq SSAFA have sought planning permission to upgrade a large house in a leafy suburb in Surrey to provide accomodation for the families of wounded soldiers visiting the nearby rehabilitation centre.

The patriotic residents of this true-blue patch of Southern England have responded with a storm of objections to the proposal to provide accomodation to the families. This little story speaks volumes about the hypocrisy of a certain style of British patriot , who with their union jacks in hand cheer on 'our boys' in Iraq or elsewhere, but heaven forbid that they might have to rub shoulders with the wives and families of the resultant wounded soldiers......
In the end, whatever the reasons advanced to oppose the SSAFA planning permission I am sure that its the prospect of baseball capped track suit clad 'chav' relatives of wounded squaddies strolling in and out of their street which is exercising these particularly charmless residents.
Was'nt it Disraeli who coined the phrase 'Two Nations' to describe Britain, how true and how sad.