Friday, January 30, 2009

Cuba: 50 years of victory

By Andy Brooks

Solidarity and cultural events big and small are taking place up and down the country to mark the 50th anniversary of the Cuban revolution. Many are part of the festival organised by Cuba50, the umbrella committee supported by the Cuban Ministry of Culture, Cuban Embassy, Cuba Solidarity Campaign and a number of unions, tourist and business interests. Others like last week’s solidarity meeting in the House of Commons are being organised by progressive organisations like Third World Solidarity (TWS).
Third World Solidarity is no stranger to the Pakistani community in Britain or New Worker supporters in London. The driving force is its Chair, Mushtaq Lasharie, a Labour councillor in Kensington, and TWS has sponsored impressive solidarity events throughout the year since its foundation in 1986.
Last Tuesday was no exception with glittering panel of guest speakers that included the ambassadors of Cuba and Venezuela, veteran Labour politician Tony Benn, the famed American novelist and commentator Gore Vidal and, of course, Mushtaq Lasharie himself.
Ably chaired by Labour MP Dave Anderson speaker after speaker spoke of their impressions of the Cuban revolution and its lesson for today. Tony Benn said the Cuban revolution was one of the most important events of the 20th century because it was a direct attack on the US “Monroe Doctrine” which regarded the whole of Latin America as their own backyard. It gave the people of Cuba the opportunity to develop the full creative spirit of the Cuban people. Inspire by Fidel, they were led by Fidel, Benn said but the achievement was that of the Cuban people themselves.
Speaker after speaker paid their own tributes to Cuba’s new life on the day Barack Obama had been sworn in as President of the United States in Washington DC and this was the cue for Gore Vidal, who gave a scathing commentary on American political life over the period that largely spanned his own 80-odd years. Fidel had seen out all his enemies: the Kennedy brothers, Lyndon Johnson and the two Bush’s .But Vidal was mildly optimistic about Barack Obama saying he hoped the new president would restore the American constitution and American civil rights.
Gore Vidal visited Cuba in 2007 and he said “I came to Cuba with my broken knee to help break 40 years of embargo” – a call echoed by the 150 or so who packed the parliamentary committee room in Westminster.
The American man of letters who is wheel-chair bound called his assistant, a former US naval officer, to speak about “Veterans against the War” and the anti-war movement that is growing in the United States. Though “Veterans against the War” has only 2,000 members’ opposition to the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan amongst the officers and the rank-and-file was put at around 50 per cent and growing.
And that was the point Mushtaq Lasharie stressed in his call for solidarity with all the struggling peoples of the world, whether they be in Cuba, Iraq, Afghanistan or the streets of Gaza.

Third World Solidarity can be contacted by writing to : The Secretary, TWS, 303 Testerton Walk London W11 1WG

Thursday, January 29, 2009

Holocaust Memorial Day

AMBASSADORS, religious leaders, war veterans, local dignitaries, an MP, a union leader, communists and other progressives gathered last Tuesday at the Soviet War Memorial in Geraldine Mary Harmsworth Park, next to the Imperial War Museum, to mark the international day of remembrance for the victims of the Nazi Holocaust.
The event began with a short religious service led by Rabbi the Reverend Alan Greenblatt who stressed the theme of this year’s Holocaust Memorial Day: “Stand up to hatred”.
And he recited the Jewish prayer of remembrance for the dead.
This was followed by a wreath-laying ceremony at the Soviet War Memorial. Those who laid flowers included: Southwark Mayor Councillor Eliza Mann, Russian Ambassador Yury Fedotov, Southwark MP Simon Hughes and Philip Matthews of the Soviet Memorial Trust Fund.
Ambassadors and attachés from Azerbaijan, Belarus, Kyrgyzstan, Ukraine and Uzbekistan also laid flowers. As usual the North Russia Arctic Convoys Club laid flowers, as did the local British Legion, the RAF-Russia Association and many others.

The New Communist Party flowers were laid by Robert Laurie; Phil Brand laid flowers for the Communist Party of Britain.

Thursday, January 22, 2009

Anger at Heathrow decision

THE CIVIL Service union PCS last week expressed anger at Government decision to go ahead with a third runway at Heathrow.
Other unions, Unite and GMB, welcomed the decision because it would provide construction jobs to build the airport extension and then more permanent jobs to staff it.
But PCS believes that a third runway would have a devastating environmental impact with the airport becoming the biggest source of carbon emissions in the country, as well as breaching European Union safety levels for nitrogen dioxide.
PCS believes there are viable alternatives to expanding Heathrow which have not been considered by the Government and pointed to research by authoritative sources, including the Sustainable Development Commission, which casts doubt upon the economic benefits of Heathrow expansion given the current downturn.
The union says research conducted recently by the Campaign for Better Transport shows that businesses in Britain do not need bigger airports.
A combination of high speed rail, better facilities at stations for business travellers and improved teleconferencing would serve the needs of business just as well.
Commenting on the announcement, PCS assistant general secretary Chris Baugh said: “A third runway at Heathrow must be opposed. It will create more noise and pollution and will mean the government won’t be able to meet the targets in the historic Climate Change Act passed in Parliament only last year.
“Over 1,000 people who live in the area will also be removed from their homes. The Government should instead produce a new transport strategy for the UK focussed upon a publicly owned high speed rail network that will create jobs and contribute to the transition to a low carbon economy and the fight against climate change.”

Friday, January 16, 2009

100,000 in London demand Gaza ceasefire

by Daphne Liddle

AROUND 100,000 protesters braved sub-zero temperatures and blistering winds last Saturday to take part in the biggest public demonstration for several years to express anger and anguish at the continuing slaughter of the people of Gaza by the invading Israeli war machine.
It was the second Saturday in a row that saw a massive demonstration on this issue in London, while other demonstrations continued in major cities throughout the world, along with local vigils and other protests.
The New Communist Central Committee banner was present among thousands of others from Palestine Solidarity, Stop the War, CND, dozens of Muslim organisations. There were also trade union and many trades council banners.
The protest began with a rally in Hyde Park, addressed by a long list of speakers, including Andrew Murray, who chairs Stop the War, Azzam Tamimi, director of Islamic Political Thought, George Galloway MP, Martin Linton MP, who founded Labour Friends of Palestine, jazz singer Annie Lennox, actor Lauren Booth, Children’s Poet laureate Michael Rosen, activist Bianca Jagger and the Reverend Garth Hewitt, canon at St George’s Cathedral in Jerusalem.
As the march flooded into Kensington High Street in order to lobby the Israeli Embassy police divided the march into sections and penned them separately into various pens, surrounded by steel barriers and ranks of riot police.
The marchers were then held in this way for almost two hours, unable to come or go and very cold, tired and in some discomfort, while riot police tried to provoke them into rioting. This was a tough time for elderly or very young demonstrators but for all their efforts to antagonise Asian youths in these penned enclosures, there was very little violent response – a few of the light wooden sticks used to hold up placards were thrown and some protesters brought old shoes they had brought for the purpose at the Israeli embassy.
At one stage police charged demonstrators, knocking some to the ground and injuring veteran campaigner Ray Davies from South Wales.
In the following mêlée the windows of a branch of Starbuck’s were broken.
Many noted that this seemed to be a return to the confrontational policing tactics of the 1980s which disappeared from London during the mayorship of Ken Livingstone.
Tory Mayor Boris Johnson last summer made a point of forcing the resignation of Metropolitan Police Chief Sir Ian Blair, who had worked closely with Livingstone. hackers
Immediately before the demonstration the website of Stop the War Coalition was forced to shut down after it was attacked by hackers.
A spokesperson said: “It’s a well-known tactic. The same thing happened to us before our anti-Iraq war protests in 2003. “We obviously can’t prove any connection but the timing would suggest that it’s a supporter of Israel. In fact, someone told me there is a firm in Israel which specialises in that sort of thing.
“At the same time that our website was under attack, a number of videos went up on YouTube which claimed the demonstration had been cancelled. Someone posted notices on our Facebook groups saying the same thing.”
Meanwhile the TUC has launched an emergency financial appeal through its TUC Aid organisation to assist the humanitarian effort in Gaza.
In the occupied north of Ireland there was a mass march against the massacres in Gaza organised by the Irish Congress of Trades Unions (ICTU) despite objections from the Democratic Unionist Party, which supports Israel.
A parade planned by the Ireland Palestine Solidarity Campaign and Trade Union Friends of Ireland has been cancelled.

Thursday, January 08, 2009

Gaza massacre sparks world-wide protests

by Daphne Liddle

THOUSANDS of people gathered last Saturday in the wintry sunshine on London’s Embankment to join the rapidly-organised protest against the one-week-old Israeli onslaught on Gaza, which had turned from bombing raids to ground invasion on the Friday night.
The 50,000-strong protest was organised jointly by the Palestine Solidarity Campaign, Stop the War coalition, the Muslim Council of Britain, CND and other groups as one of dozens of similar demonstrations. Another 30 marches were held on the same day in Britain. Two thousand protesters joined a rally in Manchester. In Portsmouth, nearly 500 people took to the streets and some 300 marched in Bristol. Hundreds turned out in Cardiff.
Police said there were about 500 demonstrators in Glasgow and 600 in Edinburgh, although organisers said there were more like 2,000 protesters in each city.
Marches were held in France, Germany, Greece, Ireland, Italy, The Netherlands, Spain, Turkey and many other countries.
Israeli Arabs held a protest march, Kuwaitis also took to the streets, a day after bigger Middle East rallies, and peaceful pro- and anti-Israel protests were held in New York.
In Paris, police said more than 21,000 demonstrators, many wearing Palestinian keffiyeh headscarves, marched through the city centre chanting slogans such as “Israel murderer” and waving banners demanding an end to the air attacks.
There were many union banners on the London march and union leaders had urged their members to join it.
Many protesters paused along the route as they passed Downing Street to hurl old shoes at the security barricades there in solidarity with Iraqi journalist Muntadar al Zeidi, who had thrown his shoes at George Bush in a news conference in Baghdad in December.
Someone threw a firework, causing a lot of noise but no damage but police were unnerved by it.
The march was led by veteran campaigner Tony Benn, George Galloway MP, jazz singer Annie Lennox, activist Bianca Jagger and comedian Alexei Sayle.
At a news conference before the rally Dr Daud Abdullah of the Muslim Council of Britain said he found it “incomprehensible” that the British government, and the US, did not approve a Security Council vote calling for an immediate ceasefire.
Lennox said that TV footage of the attacks, which, at that stage, had killed more than 400 people, had left her “shaken to the core”.
Alexei Sayle said Jewish people in the public eye should stress this was “not being done in our name”. Later, addressing the rally in Trafalgar Square, he said Israel has an idea it was being noble but was using the “psychology of the murderer” to explain the attacks.
Meanwhile, Labour MP John McDonnell, who leads the Labour Representation Committee, accused the Government of “standing by” and demanded that Parliament was recalled to discuss urgent action on the crisis.
Former Mayor of London Ken Livingstone called for the European Union and Britain to withdraw their ambassadors from Israel to signal disapproval with the “slaughter and systematic murder of innocent Arabs”.
Respect MP George Galloway suggested Israel’s attacks would create a new generation of radicals around the world. “We will be very, very lucky if the explosions taking place in Gaza today don’t blow up in our own face at some time in the future,” he said. disproportionate
Bianca Jagger condemned the attack by Hamas against innocent Israeli citizens, but called for the international community to guarantee the immediate halt of the “disproportionate, unlawful use of force by Israel”.
She added: “I would like to make an appeal to President-elect Obama to speak up. People throughout the world were hopeful when he was elected and we must appeal to him to ask for the immediate cessation of the bombardment of the civilian population in the Gaza Strip.”
After the rally around 5,000 demonstrators left the Square heading to the Israeli Embassy to continue the protests that had taken place there every evening since the bombing began.
As they made their way there were chaotic scenes when protesters entered an underpass. According to eyewitness reports, police in riot gear began hitting and stamping on protesters, leaving several wounded with head injuries. complaint
Organisers said they would make an official complaint to Scotland Yard after claiming that riot police charged into people during the protest. Eyewitnesses claimed that a number of people, including children, were thrown to the ground in an underpass at Hyde Park at the end of the demonstration.
Progressive political leaders around the world have condemned Israel’s brutality. Sinn Féin President Gerry Adams last Monday called on the International community to focus diplomatic efforts on persuading Israel to cease hostilities in Gaza.
Adams said: “The Israeli ground offensive in Gaza, while widely anticipated, will be greeted with horror around the world. The latest development marks a further escalation of the onslaught endured by the people of Gaza for the past week.
“The United Nations has advised that there is a growing shortage of basic foodstuffs and fresh water because of damage to the infrastructure in Gaza.
“This is nothing short of a humanitarian crisis. More than 400 people have already been killed while hospitals are struggling to cope with the more than 2,000 injured. The combined efforts of the international community, including that of the Irish Government and the EU, must now be bent towards resolving the situation in Gaza. All diplomatic efforts must be focused on persuading the Israeli Government to cease its operations in Gaza and end hostilities.”
Malaysia’s former Prime Minister, Mahathir Mohamad has blamed the United States for backing Israeli military aggression against Palestinians in Gaza, saying it makes the US “much more guilty than even the Israelis”.
Mahathir Mohamad, long known for his anti-West views, on Monday said that no matter how clever or powerful Israel was it would not be able to carry out the offensive without US support.
“The backing by the US gives it encouragement to do all these things which I think ordinary Americans would not like to see them do,” Mahathir said in an interview with Al Jazeera.
“Israelis believe if they go to war there is this big brother that is going to come with the weapons, with the money, so they don’t care what the world thinks.”
The Indian government also condemned the Israeli aggression. “The Government of India condemns the on-going incursion into Gaza by Israeli ground and other forces. It urges an immediate end to military action by all concerned,” External Affairs Ministry spokesman Vishnu Prakash said in New Delhi.
He said the suffering of civilians in the region must end.
India has also announced an aid of US$ one million for the civilian victims of the action in Gaza.
There will be another national demonstration this Saturday, 10th January – Assemble Hyde Park: March to Israeli Embassy High St Kensington, London. There are also daily protests on 5th to 9th January, 5.30pm-7.00 pm Israeli Embassy, High St, Kensington, London.
And there will be a march through Cardiff on Friday 9th January assembling at 2pm on the green opposite City Hall and a vigil at the Nye Bevan statue from 12 noon to 1pm every Tuesday until the massacres stop.