Saturday, 31 October 2009

Why the Poppy Appeal "subvertising" needed to be done

On Thursday, under the headline "mark of disrespect," the Daily Mail carried news that "Anti-war protesters have vandalised billboards for the Royal British Legion's Poppy Appeal." They did this by changing the words "for their sake, wear a poppy" to "for their sake, prosecute Blair." Another reads "for their sake, bring them home."

A report on Indymedia UK demonstrates exactly how "the simple application of some red paper and letters cut from white paper, quickly transformed the appeal for the dead to an appeal for the living by an anonymous group armed only with PVA glue and a roller."
You will need:

Six sheets of red A4 paper (try Aldi for cheap colour paper)
Five sheets of white A4 (recycled obvisously, think of the planet)
A printer (inkjet or laser)
A craft knife
A cutting board
PVA glue (water it down 1:1) or wallpaper paste

Now create a landscape word document with the letters BR'INGEMHOME (no spaces) using Arial or Helvetica at about 535 point. You'll need to set your margins to a minimum to get two letters to a page. Note you'll need to put the apostrophe with the 'I' when you print in order to fit it all on five rather than six sheets. Before you print, set the font format to outline as this will save loads of ink.

While it is printing, get your six sheets of red paper and glue them together in landscape with about 1cm overlap. Your letter should now be printed so carefully cut out the letters. If you used Arial, cut the central horizontal of your two E's a little shorter byt about 4cm to make them more like the original.

Arrange the letters on the red paper in the correct order. Obvisouly you move the apostrophe back to it's correct position now so it reads BRING 'EM HOME. Pay attention to the spacing. Each letter should be about 2cm from the other and between words the spacing is a little less than the width of a letter. When you have it correct and nicely aligned on the paper, glue the letters down.

Let it dry and now roll the whole thing on so the letter side is inside the roll. Remember which end will come out first when unrolled and which way up it needs to be held.

Now get a few mates together. You'll want two or three people at the billboard - one to unroll, one to paste and one to hold shit for the others or help stabalise whatever you bring to stand on if required). You'll probably also want a couple more people 100 yards up and down the road to act as look outs. Come up with an approbriate way for your lookouts to communicate with you, perhaps whistles or walkie-talkies or perhaps even just a yell.

When pasting, it is good to glue both under the roll and over the top to help water proof your work.

That's it. Please also take a photo and upload it.






The Mail, however, was not impressed by this craftsmanship. Instead, it declared the work "vandalism" and quoted Debbie Smalley, mother of the deceased Private Damian Wright, as calling it "plain worng" and declaring that "whoever did it should be ashamed."

However, those who commented on the story were of a different opinion. To take just a few of the opinions on offer that favoured the actions;

I applaud this, and I did three tours in Iraq, two in Afghanistan with 45 Cdo RM - What is far more disrespectful is the attitude of the government who send our soldiers, poorly equipped, to fight in some made-up war for no good reason.

the people are right prosecute bliar but to deface the RBL poster seems a bit crase, but because this goverment do not listen to the people. people have to resort to desperate measures.

Whilst one would usually leap to condemn such an attack, for once it is justified and frankly, this is the poster the British Legion should be putting out.

If the link in peoples minds can be created that Bliar is responsible for the death and suffering, not just of our soldiers but civilians as well, then this vandalism is justified. When we see the poppy, let us realise that it can support and condemn with equal power.

Sorry, but as an ex Serviceman I do not consider it to be disrepectful to our troops, nor do I regard it as vandalism.

Many of our brave Servicemen and Women have been, and are being, killed because of lying politicians.

The least we can do to show our respect for the fallen is to honour their memory by giving them the Truth and Justice that has denied them for too long.

Anything less will render their sacrifice as a Bloody waste.

All of the comments quoted are extremely highly rated, whereas those condemning the action are very poorly rated. Given that the Daily Mail comments boards are dominated by right-wingers and conservatives, often even fascists, this is a powerful indication of just how far indignation over the war has spread.

Also revealing are the messages on the Army Rumour Service (ARRSE) message boards which show that many of ex- and currently serving soldiers agree with the sentiments expressed. The most articulate comment, also rebuffing the minority who agreed with the original post against "Anti-war t**ts" [sic], was this one;
Re: Legion Posters Defaced!!!!
Posted: Thu Oct 29, 2009 9:37 am
Author: Queensman Location: Tangier
Sorry, but I think it's brilliant! Inspired, even.

When I saw 'Legion poster defaced' I was already half on the Outrage bus ready to call for the unleashing of the hounds of hell...... But having seen the poster, first I laughed, then I nodded in agreement. Now I will make a copy and promulgate it as widely as I can.

I say these things as a member of the Royal British Legion, as a poppy collector etc etc.

I feel sorry for the family concerned, the last thing they'd want or need is to be bathed in limelight about all this - however, having lost a son because of the reprehensible Mr Bliar's duplicity, I wouldn't mind betting that they probably agree with the sentiment. If they don't, they should.

What will undoubtedly happen now is for all the 'easily offended' to completely over react and leap up and down and make an arrse of themselves as they did about that drunken prat who pished on a war memorial recently.
This positive reaction went largely unreported. The Daily Telegraph mirrored the Mail's stance, as did Kent Online, whilst the BBC contained coverage of the "mived reaction" to a 30-second video clip.

None of this should come as a surprise. Although a considerable segment of the public are against the war in Afghanistan, no significant portion of the decision-making sectors of society have yet turned against it as they did Iraq. Moreover, when they do, it will be for tactical reasons rather than ideological ones. That even those not well versed in the stance of the radical left are branding the war illegal sets a dangerous precedent. Demonstrating outrage over soldiers being poorly equipped to fight is acceptable discourse. Challenging the very motives and precedent of war and is not.

In line with the parameters of debate by established power, the mass media is trying to channel public outrage. Hence, the Mail recycles for another year the nonsense that "Poppy sellers from the Royal British Legion have been banned from shaking their collection tins in case they are seen as a 'public menace'." Likewise, the Telegraph report that "the Royal British Legion has been accused of offering “patronising” health and safety advice after warning poppy sellers to be careful when working in at night" is a deliberately anger-inducing non-story.

The tactic does not seem to be working. Whilst the press tells us to be angry that a pub landlay won't sell poppies, a YouGov survey finds that 62% of the public want British troops pulled out this year and 48% think that victory is impossible. As Indymedia UK point out;
You know something is amiss when even the top brass in the military seem on an almost weekly basis now are seen to be breaking the usual protocols and going on the record in the press to say that they cannot win the campaign in Afghanistan. Something is really amiss when you have soldiers going AWOL and joining anti war demonstrations in London!
There is a desperate campaign to turn the Poppy Appeal, whose funds are used to provide support for current and ex-service people, into a vehicle of outrage against the anti-war movement. It will not work. 222 British soldiers have died in the nine years since the illegal war of aggression was waged. The number of Afghan dead is in the thousands. Civilians and soldiers alike are turning in ever greater numbers in favour of withdrawal. The message was clear even before it was pasted onto the Royal British Legion posters.

For their sake, bring them home.

Thursday, 29 October 2009

Merseyside BNP's lies shatter at the trial of accused anti-fascist

On April 23rd, Peter Tierney and Steve Greenhalgh of the Merseyside BNP were among the thugs who attacked antifascist leafleters in Liverpool City Centre. Despite their claims of self-defence, assault charges against their chosen anti-fascist fall guy were dropped months ago as utterly untenable. Today, at the antifascist's trial, even the flimst criminal damage charges would not stick.

At the Dale Street Magistrates Court, Steve Greenhalgh and a couple of other fascists were already on site waiting for Peter Tierney when antifascists arrived. Tierney today faced a committal hearing so that his case can go to a jury trial at the Crown Court. More news on that will follow when it is available.

In the meantime, antifascists were not there for Tierney and his ramshackle crew. We were there to show solidarity with one of our own, originally falsely accused by Tierney of assaulting him back in April. According to the lie that appeared on the BNP mailing list in July;
On St George's Day, Peter was distributing leaflets in Liverpool with an elderly crowd of BNP activists. As they were leaving, a hate-filled mob of Communist UAF thugs turned up and physically attacked Peter and his fellow activists. The police then arrested Peter - for defending himself! Other BNP activists in the group that day were also attacked, including an 80-year-old pensioner.
However, since then the assault charges disappeared, with only a criminal damage charge - against a camera which continued to film after the alleged incident took place - in its stead. Greenhalgh was apparently not aware of this, "taunting" our comrade by saying (in reference to his wearing a suit) "you didn't look that respectable when you were assaulting someone."

As the antifascist himself pointed out, however, "last time I saw him, he was trying to attack me with an upturned stall table."

The roadshow of calamity that is organised fascism on Merseyside continued with the appearence of Tierney's brother Andrew, who immediately began taking pictures of those assembled. Of course, with the BNP's new "respectable" image this will have nothing to do with intimidation tactics, one can only wonder why Andrew might need lots of pictures of men.

When one of the crowd objected to having his picture taken and shoved the camera down Andrew, who almost looks like a bruiser, showed his true colours by whining that he had been "touched," "insulted," and "assaulted" by the antifascist in question. The police are, perhaps, lucky that they no longer need to employ fascists as strikebreakers anymore if that's what they're made of.

In court, the criminal damage charge against the accused antifascist was dropped, making all BNP claims to self-defence meaningless. A public order charge was upheld, the crime there being to say "get that fucking camera out of my face" and to cover the lens. In recognition that this was a response to fascist intimidation tactics, the charge of breaching public order under duress came with a small fine and no conditions.

We now await Merseyside BNP's claims of a police conspiracy when a jury trial convicts Peter Tierney of assault. Few beyond the ranks of fascists, I imagine, would see smashing someone's head in with a camera tripod as a justifiable "self-defence" against having your camera lens covered up because you were only filming people as an intimidation tactic.

Update: 30/10/09

As is to be expected, the Merseyside BNP blog has their own take on the affair, insisting that the final charge was that of "a major public order offence." We can see, given Andrew Tierney's fevered panic when an antifascist merely forced him to remove the camera from their face, why they might think so. However, it must be stated again that saying "switch that fucking camera off" and covering a lens with your hand is hardly "major" in anyone's books.

The group, throwing aside all pretence of respectability, also tried to "do a Redwatch" by publishing the antifascist in question's name and address. Given that, apart from antifascists checking up on their deranged opponents, only cranks and armchair warriors visit the site, his response was not one of fear but "ha ha" in text messages urging friends to "check the Merseyside BNP blog." Only Redwatch itself is a less-threatening "threat."

That the rest of the "article" looks to have been written by an angry, illiterate fantasist who makes things up as he goes along is all the further comment needed.

Tuesday, 27 October 2009

The environmental front of Israeli apartheid

Reposted from Amnesty International, why the Israeli occupation and oppression of the Palestinian people goes beyond military aggression and socio-economic apartheid to a theft of natural resources that is slowly murdering an entire people.

Amnesty International has accused Israel of denying Palestinians the right to access adequate water by maintaining total control over the shared water resources and pursuing discriminatory policies.

These unreasonably restrict the availability of water in the Occupied Palestinian Territories (OPT) and prevent the Palestinians developing an effective water infrastructure there.

“Israel allows the Palestinians access to only a fraction of the shared water resources, which lie mostly in the occupied West Bank, while the unlawful Israeli settlements there receive virtually unlimited supplies. In Gaza the Israeli blockade has made an already dire situation worse,” said Donatella Rovera, Amnesty International’s researcher on Israel and the OPT.

In a new extensive report, Amnesty International revealed the extent to which Israel’s discriminatory water policies and practices are denying Palestinians their right to access to water.

Israel uses more than 80 per cent of the water from the Mountain Aquifer, the main source of underground water in Israel and the OPT, while restricting Palestinian access to a mere 20 per cent.

The Mountain Aquifer is the only source for water for Palestinians in the West Bank, but only one of several for Israel, which also takes for itself all the water available from the Jordan River.

While Palestinian daily water consumption barely reaches 70 litres a day per person, Israeli daily consumption is more than 300 litres per day, four times as much.

In some rural communities Palestinians survive on barely 20 litres per day, the minimum amount recommended for domestic use in emergency situations.

Some 180,000-200,000 Palestinians living in rural communities have no access to running water and the Israeli army often prevents them from even collecting rainwater.

In contrast, Israeli settlers, who live in the West Bank in violation of international law, have intensive-irrigation farms, lush gardens and swimming pools.

Numbering about 450,000, the settlers use as much or more water than the Palestinian population of some 2.3 million.

In the Gaza Strip, 90 to 95 per cent of the water from its only water resource, the Coastal Aquifer, is contaminated and unfit for human consumption. Yet, Israel does not allow the transfer of water from the Mountain Aquifer in the West Bank to Gaza.

Stringent restrictions imposed in recent years by Israel on the entry into Gaza of material and equipment necessary for the development and repair of infrastructure have caused further deterioration of the water and sanitation situation in Gaza, which has reached crisis point.

To cope with water shortages and lack of network supplies many Palestinians have to purchase water, of often dubious quality, from mobile water tankers at a much higher price.

Others resort to water-saving measures which are detrimental to their and their families’ health and which hinder socio-economic development.

“Over more than 40 years of occupation, restrictions imposed by Israel on the Palestinians’ access to water have prevented the development of water infrastructure and facilities in the OPT, consequently denying hundreds of thousand of Palestinians the right to live a normal life, to have adequate food, housing, or health, and to economic development,” said Donatella Rovera.

Israel has appropriated large areas of the water-rich Palestinian land it occupies and barred Palestinians from accessing them.

It has also imposed a complex system of permits which the Palestinians must obtain from the Israeli army and other authorities in order to carry out water-related projects in the OPT. Applications for such permits are often rejected or subject to long delays.

Restrictions imposed by Israel on the movement of people and goods in the OPT further compound the difficulties Palestinians face when trying to carry out water and sanitation projects, or even just to distribute small quantities of water.

Water tankers are forced to take long detours to avoid Israeli military checkpoints and roads which are out of bounds to Palestinians, resulting in steep increases in the price of water.

In rural areas, Palestinian villagers are continuously struggling to find enough water for their basic needs, as the Israeli army often destroys their rainwater harvesting cisterns and confiscates their water tankers.

In comparison, irrigation sprinklers water the fields in the midday sun in nearby Israeli settlements, where much water is wasted as it evaporates before even reaching the ground.

In some Palestinian villages, because their access to water has been so severely restricted, farmers are unable to cultivate the land, or even to grow small amounts of food for their personal consumption or for animal fodder, and have thus been forced to reduce the size of their herds.

"Water is a basic need and a right, but for many Palestinians obtaining even poor-quality subsistence-level quantities of water has become a luxury that they can barely afford,” said Donatella Rovera.

"Israel must end its discriminatory policies, immediately lift all the restrictions it imposes on Palestinians’ access to water, and take responsibility for addressing the problems it created by allowing Palestinians a fair share of the shared water resources."

Monday, 26 October 2009

Rebuking the divisive myths of immigration

In Friday's Evening Standard, Andrew Neather wrote an article in which he claimed that "the deliberate policy of ministers from late 2000 until at least February last year, when the Government introduced a points-based system, was to open up the UK to mass migration." Although this sounds like the beginning of a BNP or Daily Mail diatribe, Neather goes on to describe the effects of this policy - "especially for middle-class Londoners" - as "highly positive."
It's not simply a question of foreign nannies, cleaners and gardeners - although frankly it's hard to see how the capital could function without them.
Their place certainly wouldn't be taken by unemployed BNP voters from Barking or Burnley - fascist au pair, anyone? Immigrants are everywhere and in all sorts of jobs, many of them skilled.
My family's east European former nannies, for example, are model migrants, going on to be a social worker and an accountant. They have integrated into London society.
But this wave of immigration has enriched us much more than that. A large part of London's attraction is its cosmopolitan nature.
It is so much more international now than, say, 15 years ago, and so much more heterogeneous than most of the provinces, that it's pretty much unimaginable for us to go back either to the past or the sticks.
The argument is a superficial one, defending immigration on the dubious grounds that it offers the middle classes a pool of easily-exploited labour without having to go near the dreadful and racist working classes. As with the argument "that mass immigration was the way that the Government was going to make the UK truly multicultural," the presumptions at the heart of Neather's article are nonsensical.

Britain was a multicultural country long before New Labour came to power. London, which was more populous in 1939 (with 8,615,245 residents) than 2007 (with 7,556,900), has been home to notable ethnic minority populations since the end of the 18th Century. Liverpool, meanwhile, is home to Britain's oldest black community, dating back to the 1730s, and the oldest Chinese community in Europe. Multiculturalism in the political sense, which mostly involves paying off "community leaders" for votes and passivity, is a new phenomenon, but Britain being multi ethnic is not.

However, the article has quickly been subsumed by the right, who have leapt upon it as a confirmation of their every belief.

In his column for the Sun, gleefully reposted by Tory "antifascists" Nothing British, Trevor Kavanagh ponders our future as "a troubled, divided and quarrelsome country with too few immigrants who really want to work and too many who wish to bring this country crashing to its knees through violence." Referring to Neather's article, he adds bitterly that "thanks to Tony Blair, Gordon Brown and Home Secretaries like Jack Straw, none of us had a damn thing to say about it."

Despite the fact that Neather admitted that his sense ministers sought "to rub the Right's nose in diversity and render their arguments out of date" "wasn't [the policy's] main purpose," that turn of phrase has been taken up in outrage. Hence, the Telegraph tells us that "the huge increases in migrants over the last decade were partly due to a politically motivated attempt by ministers to radically change the country and "rub the Right's nose in diversity."" From this, they tenuously postulated "a "conspiracy" within Government to impose mass immigration for "cynical" political reasons."

Likewise, the Daily Mail says that Labour's Cabinet Office report from 2000 "claimed mass immigration would make Britain more multicultural and allow Labour to portray the Tories as racists." They wheel out Andrew Green, perhaps the sole member of MigrationWatch UK and a stock Mail quote source, to insist that "mass immigration under this government was a deliberate policy concealed from the public, and especially from the white working class whose lives and neighbourhoods have been most affected."

Neather has denied all this in a new article for the Evening Standard, reiterating his stance as it was before the media twisted it into a sinister immigrant conspiracy;
Multiculturalism was not the primary point of the report or the speech. The main goal was to allow in more migrant workers at a point when - hard as it is to imagine now - the booming economy was running up against skills shortages.
But my sense from several discussions was there was also a subsidiary political purpose to it - boosting diversity and undermining the Right's opposition to multiculturalism.
I was not comfortable with that. But it wasn't the main point at issue.
Somehow this has become distorted by excitable Right-wing newspaper columnists into being a "plot" to make Britain multicultural.
His words are written in vain, the truth having long since been discarded as an obstacle to media coverage of immigration and asylum issues. Hence the news that "critics of Labour's more relaxed immigration policy seized on [Neather's] comments and called for a proper investigation," with Frank Field and Damien Green both adding their voices to the circus.

Neather's original concerns, and certainly the hysterical version produced by the media, are of course unfounded. Far from "open[ing] up the UK to mass migration," New Labour has made the border control system more rigid and oppressive than it ever was.

Under New Labour, Britain's gulag archipelago of immigrant prisons has grown to unprecedented levels. Until September last year, we violated the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child by continuing to detain 2,000 refugee children a year, a fact that drew continuing condemnation. That children of refugees were being born in prison and detained at birth only heightened the outrage.

At the same time, the welfare offered to a single asylum seeker (as they are not allowed to work or claim benefits) keeps them 30% below the official poverty line. Despite powerful objections from the medical profession, efused asylum seekers, undocumented migrant workers, victims of trafficking, and recipients of Section IV Support are denied access to primary care on the NHS. Trafficked women freed from sex slavery are deported back to where they were captured originally, often only to repeat the original nightmare. Refugees are returned to countries where they face torture and death [1, 2, 3, 4, 5]. These are just a few examples of the brutalities inherent in the British immigration system.

As No One is Illegal argue,
As well as being racist, controls are also inherently authoritarian. They can never be “fair” to those subject to them. As long as there are immigration laws, there will be people who fall foul of them and are crushed by them. Arguing that such destruction is “something we just have to live with” is to fall into another lethal category error. Those subject to control are human beings not vegetables or inanimate objects.
There is a broader issue at stake here as well. Across half the world, workers are rising up in rebellion against the capitalist system. There has, in the past few months, been a growing movement of strikes, occupations, and rebellions on a scale that hasn't been seen for a considerable amount of time. The high profile of the recent Royal Mail strike, whilst most other actions went on in relative obscurity, has brought the fact home to those in decision making sectors. Ten days ago, the Guardian published an editorial calling the recent strike actions "a harbinger of times to come," namely "a second winter of discontent." The Times and Telegraph followed suit over the past two days, each warning of further strikes to come.

The news of a supposed immigration "conspiracy," then, couldn't have been better timed. I don't harbour any illusions that the story was conjured up deliberately to meet the circumstances, as this flies in the face of a free-market propaganda model. However, it is well established that racial and national division is an effective tool of diminishing class consciousness for those in power. Had this particular "story" not arisen when it did, then no doubt a similar one would have presented itself in due time.

A divided working class, overtaken by reaction and defining societal problems on the basis of race or nationality, is a threat only to itself. Either we strengthen the position of established power or, faced with a situation otherwise ripe for popular revolution, we leave ourselves vulnerable to fascism. We must reject this trend at all costs if we want to see any effective and lasting change.

Sunday, 25 October 2009

Organising the military against militarism

Yesterday, tens of thousands of people marched in London in opposition to the war in Afghanistan. The Bring the Troops Home rally followed news that an opinion poll, conducted for Channel 4, found that two-thirds of British people want the troops to come home. An overwhelming 84% think that Britain is "losing" the war, with 48% believing that victory was "not possible."

Of course, there are concerns raised by such a poll. For example, that Britons were asked whether they thought we were winning and whether victory was possible. Although the result shows opposition to the war, it still fits within the framework of elite opinion in that the question of whether the war should have been waged at all is never considered. Nor is the fact that the war was an illegal act of aggression in violation of international law.

However, the news remain is still a positive indicator for the anti-war movement. Also important is that, according to BBC News, "soldiers and their families were with those gathered at Speaker's Corner in Hyde Park at the start of the march." The support of soldiers and their families for ending the war is utterly vital, as I wrote at the end of August. Most significant in this is the presence of Lance Corporal Joe Glenton, who faces court martial for refusing to return to Afghanistan.

His statement at the rally explains why he, and no doubt many other soldiers, have turned against the war;
When I went to Afghanistan I was proud to serve the Army and to serve my country, but before long I realised the government was using the Army for its own ends.

It is distressing to disobey orders, but when Britain follows America in continuing to wage war against one of the world's poorest countries I feel I have no choice.

Politicians have abused the trust of the Army and the soldiers who serve. That is why I am compelled and proud to march for Stop The War Coalition today.
Paul McQuirk was another veteran who turned against the war;
I just left the Army last month because I think it's ridiculous we are there. I think the government should stop pretending it's a just war and wasting the lives of our guys, and stop pretending it's a winnable war.
Glenton and McGuirk are just the first soldiers to turn against the venture in Afghanistan, and if we are to see more soldiers do the same then we need to make sure that their voices are heard. Soldiers need to know that they are not in Afghanistan fighting for freedom or democracy, that they are being used to serve the agenda and interests of the state, and that after they have served that purpose they will be abandoned. A great number of ex-soldiers face lives of homelessness and depression, and many commit suicide. Combat Stress, an organisation dedicated to the mental health of war veterans, lists the disorders that can affect ex-serice personnel;
  • PTSD
  • Clinical depression
  • Anxiety states
  • Adjustment disorders
  • Phobic disorders
  • Obsessive Compulsive Disorder
  • Bi-polar illness (manic depression)
  • Issues relating to past and present substance abuse/dependence (drug and alcohol)
  • Psychotic conditions in a non-acute phase
  • Issues relating to anger
Many of the veterans they treat suffer from more than one above disorder (co-morbidity), often complicated by relationship and home-life difficulties. Part of this is due to the drastic difference between military and civilian life, with many not being able to adjust. But it is also to do with the way the military treats its personnel, both during and after their tenure.

At Ease is a voluntary organisation which offers advice, support, and representation to soldiers and their families. As they point out, "members of the Forces do not enjoy employment protection or the right of Trade Union membership" and "the very closeness of relationships on which the Forces depend can impose severe limits on the individual or family whose needs differ from what their service provides for." As such, the organisation often finds itself in need by "those that find their personal needs or ambitions thwarted by the strict military regime in which everything is governed by the Queen’s Regulations."

One important piece of advice that At Ease offer is on Conscientious Objection, as "the Ministry of Defence invariably fails to inform members of the Armed Forces of their legal right to object to war, either before or after posting them to their new stations." In order to address this, they have published notes on the full, correct procedure for conscientious objection;
1. The first step in a declaration of conscientious objection is a written statement submitted to your Commanding Officer. This should be a truthful statement of your own beliefs, in your own words and be signed and dated. You should keep a copy.
2. You will be asked to submit written evidence. This usually consists of two written references from professional persons, such as a minister of religion or a solicitor. Your referees do not have to agree with your beliefs, but they should comment on your sincerity from their knowledge of you. Written evidence can take other forms such as written statements by other people who know you well, or a statement by yourself in the form of an affidavit sworn before a Justice of the Peace. Keep copies of this evidence with the date of submission.
3. You should request to be assigned non-combatant duties whilst your declaration on conscientious objection is being considered.
4. Your Commanding Officer, assisted by the Chaplain, will investigate your sincerity, usually by interviewing you.
5. Your Commanding Officer’s report, together with the report of the Chaplain, your own statement and the other written evidence, will be forwarded to your Divisional Commander. Your Commanding Officer will make a recommendation as to whether or not he considers that you should be discharged on grounds of conscience.
6. You should be interviewed again, and informed of the Divisional Commander’s decision. If your application has been turned down, you have the right to appeal to THE ADVISORY COMMITTEE ON CONSCIENTIOUS OBJECTION (ACCO).
7. The ACCO hearings are usually held in London. If posted overseas, you should be returned to the U.K. as soon as the date for your hearing is known.
8. The ACCO is an independent committee of civilians appointed by the Lord Chancellor, chaired by a lawyer. At the appeal hearing before the ACCO you will be asked questions about your beliefs and your Commanding Officer will be asked to give a report.
9. You may, if you wish, call witnesses, who may make a claim for travelling expenses but not loss of earnings.
10. You may, if you wish, have a legal representative, but legal aid is not available for this expense.
11. If you request to wear civilian clothes at this hearing, you should be allowed to do so.
12. You will not be told of the decision of the ACCO on the day of the hearing, because their advice has to be formally accepted by the Secretary of State’s representative.
It is vitally important, not only in ending this war, but in addressing the issue of the way soldiers themselves are treated, to ensure that this information is known as widely as possible. Though, of course, Glenton and McGuirk did the right think by absolutely refusing to fight regardless of the opinion of any committee, not all soldiers will be willing to do so. This procedure offers them another alternative, ignorance of which has perhaps kept a great many soldiers from refusing to fight.

Already, groups such as Military Families Against the War have been established in opposition to "a war that is based on lies." This needs to be built upon. Soldiers and their families are a part of the working class who, as much as anybody else, have to sell their labour in order to survive. That the best option available to them was to sell it to the military doesn't make them villains any more than, in the minds of jingoistic patriots, wearing military uniform makes them heroes. No, the most significant difference between them and anybody else is that their legal right to think for themselves is more severely limited, and that the situations they face can severely damage their mental state. This can drive them to attrocities whilst on duty or self-destruction once at home but both, like the war itself, stem from the policies and interests of those in power.

The way to escape this situation is not to condemn soldiers as villians. Nor is it to "Support Our Troops" and thus their physical or mental destruction. It is to bring them into the resistance so that we can all fight back against the repressive criminality of the state.

Saturday, 24 October 2009

South Korea's despicable treatment of migrant workers

On Wednesday, Amnesty International released a report entitled Disposable Labour: Rights of migrants workers in South Korea. In the report, Amnesty documented how migrant workers often work with heavy machinery and dangerous chemicals without sufficient training or protective equipment and are at greater risk of industrial accidents, including fatalities, and receive less pay compared to South Korean workers.

According to Asia-Pacific Deputy Programme Director Roseann Rife, "Migrant workers are vulnerable to abuse and exploitation largely because they cannot change jobs without their employer’s permission. Work conditions are sometimes so bad that they run away and consequently, lose their regular status and are then subject to arrest and deportation."

The 98-page document tells of how, "with the implementation of the Employment Permit System (EPS) in August 2004, the Republic of Korea (South Korea) became one of the first Asian countries to legally recognise the rights of migrant workers." Despite this, "five years into the EPS work scheme, migrant workers in South Korea continue to be at risk of human rights abuses and many of the exploitative practices that existed under the previous Industrial Trainee System (ITS) still persist under the EPS."

It highlights a number of problems, from lower wages and having to pay broker fees, to a tie to their employers that amounts to contractual slavery and a lack of training that makes them more vulnerable to industrial accidents. Gender discrimination is also an issue, as "many [women] are sexually assaulted or harassed by the management or their co-workers." One example on offer is particularly shocking;
Under the entertainment work scheme, several female E-6 workers, recruited as singers in the US military camp towns, have been trafficked by their employers and managers and live in slavery-like conditions. Upon arrival in South Korea, they discover that their job in reality is to serve and solicit drinks from US soldiers and at some establishments they are forced to have sex with their clients. With little recourse available to them, trafficked E-6 workers either remain in their jobs or run away. Those who run away are doubly victimised, first as trafficked women and then as “illegal” migrants under South Korean law.
Brutal government crackdowns on "illegal" workers, many of whom have that status simply for fleeing slavery-like employment conditions, are condemned in the document. As is the fact that "migrant workers, in particular those with irregular status, are not free to form and join trade unions of their choice," with the Seoul-Gyeonggi-Incheon Migrants’ Trade Union (MTU) denied legal status by the Ministry of Labour and subject to victimisation by immigration officials.

In response to these findings, Amnesty International is calling on the South Korean government to;
  • ensure that employers respect, protect and promote the rights of migrant workers through rigorous labour inspections so that the workplace is safe, training is provided and migrant workers are paid fairly and on time;
  • protect and promote the rights of all female migrant workers and stamp out sexual harassment and sexual exploitation;
  • allow irregular migrant workers to remain in South Korea while accessing justice and seeking compensation for abuses by employees;
  • ensure that during immigration raids, immigration authorities adhere to South Korean law requiring them to identify themselves, present a warrant, caution and inform migrant workers of their rights, and provide those under their custody prompt medical treatment when needed or requested.
But that is not all that is needed. As Wol-san Liem, International Solidarity Coordinator for the MTU wrote over a year ago;
While it is clear that the situation of migrant workers in South Korea is particular to the country's history, legal system and society, it should also be clear that there are many parallels between the struggles of migrants here and those of migrant/immigrants in the United States and indeed all around the world. The phenomenon of migration cannot be separated from the process of globalization in which we are all engulfed. Like in most other countries, the response to this reality in South Korea is one of policing borders, illegalizing people and exploiting them as a cheap labor force. The tragic fire in Yeosu and the repression against migrant workers' organizing, then, should not be seen as merely South Korean problems. Rather, they are representative of the human rights and labor rights abuses against migrant workers everywhere. The struggle to win protection of these rights is a global struggle, to which international solidarity- collective sharing of information, strategizing and action- must become a greater part.
The migrant workers of South Korea need international solidarity. Moreover, the news that at least two workers have been sentenced to prison terms for taking part in the Ssongyang Occupation highlights the fact that natve South Korean workers are hardly in a better position. The time has come for the two groups to unite and to fight back.

Friday, 23 October 2009

Question Time's service to established power

I have, as long as the furore has continued, refrained from comment on the decision to invite Nick Griffin onto Question Time. The reason for this revolved largely around the way in which the debate was framed. Whilst BNP supporters and those of a libertarian bent offered arguments in favour of the BNP's freedom of speech, and liberal and establishment anti-fascists spoke of the BBC pandering to racism, my feeling was that neither of these viewpoints was reflected in the decision to invite Griffin onto the show.

Watching it last night, that suspicion was largely confirmed.

The programme itself was entertaining, and for any critic of the British National Party offered a plentiful selection of foot-in-mouth moments from Griffin to fill several pamphlets. Indeed, the blogs of Lancaster Unity, Hope not Hate, and others are full with reports of Griffin squirming when faced with his own quotes, backpedalling on his own words, and repeatedly being exposed as a bigot on all levels.

Particularly entertaining was Bonnie Greer, whom the BNP website claimed was there to "fabricate black history and be paid for it." Her choice as the token "‘joker in the pack’ non-politician" was made in "an obvious attempt to stir up trouble," the party said, citing its own views as those of "observers." Greer was able to demolish Griffin with little effort on the night, berating the BNP's history of the British Isles and definition of indigenous people as "a joke," which "you should know, Nick, having a 2:2." In response, the best Griffin could offer was cringing thinly disguised with a "smile" and round of applause.

Jack Straw, too, was on fine form. From cutting through Griffin's evasions on the Holocaust with the promise that - as Justice Secretary - he would ensure there were no legal repercussions from explaining his position to an impassioned speech about non-white soldiers in the Second World War, he was extremely convincing in challenging BNP racism.

Beyond that, though, there was little of any worth on offer. Chris Hunhe, the Liberal Democrat home affairs spokesman, offered an argument on immigration that could have been an apology for the BNP, whilst the Conservative community cohesion spokeswoman Sayeeda Warsi failed to demonstrate where the Tories stand apart from the BNP on any issue besides race. That Jack Straw was forced to argue against Labour's immigration policy being too soft shows the level of absurdity that mainstream debate on this topic has reached.

Indeed, this episode of Question Time served as a prime example of the Propaganda Model of Media Control, particularly as it relates to fascism, in action. Nick Griffin was not invited onto the show in order to uphold the BBC's "responsibility of due impartiality." It had nothing whatsoever to do with freedom of speech across the political spectrum, lest we are about to see members of the Anarchist Federation on the panel, and it certainly wasn't about the BBC pandering to racism.

No, he was invited on specifically to flail and flop. In doing so, he and the BNP serve well their role, both as convenient foils for mainstream parties, and as part of the flak machine driving the political agenda rightward.

As long as we're pointing out the fact that the BNP are odious racists, we're ignoring the fact that New Labour have built up a state within a state of immigrant prisons, instituted exactly the scenario of hired thugs smashing in refugee doors and dragging them to forced deportation that the BNP desire, and in getting "tougher" have condemned untold numbers of "illegal" immigrants to life as enslaved non-persons on the black economy.

As long as we're arguing with the BNP over whether white or non-white communities get more, we're ignoring the fact that state multiculturalism has driven people into these utterly imaginary
"homogenous communities" in the first place, enforcing segregation in the name of "diversity." We're ignoring the fact that richer areas get greater funding and resources than poorer ones anyway, and that even without immigration the "strain on services" would still exist for the poor because we live in a society dominated by capital and motivated by profit, where those without capital either serve their purpose or are cast to the sidelines.

As long as we follow the BNP's mandate and define people along racial and national lines, we're distracted from the vicious class war being waged by the ruling class. Welfare has replaced the poorhouse, bankruptcy has replaced the debtor's prison, and the disparity is somewhat less visible to most, but the principle remains the same as it did in the era of Oliver Twist.

That is what we're ignoring as long as we're obsessing with the BNP, and that is precisely why those in power continue to obsess with them. An opposition to fascism that sees groups such as the BNP as the embodiment of pure evil, on the brink of absolute power, only serves to feed existing power structures. Only by offering a perspective that doesn't merely oppose their position but also the addresses very real grievances they twist in order to draw people to them can we build an anti-fascism that doesn't feed the state-corporate propaganda system.

Thursday, 22 October 2009

Offering anti-fascist and anti-Islamist resistance in London

When Islam for the UK, a front for the Islamist militant group Al-Muhajiroun, announced their intention to "March for Shariah," I called - both here and on Indymedia UK - for opposition to the march. As I said then, "there should be no racial or religious borders beyond which bigotry is immune to resistance" and "it must be met with opposition, not from the fascists of the far-right, but from those whose resistance is grounded in working-class unity, anti-fascism, and anti-capitalism."

In the meantime, the English Defence League (EDL) have announced that they will not be cancelling their Leeds protest on the same day in order to oppose the march. Their stated reasons are that, as they are "engaged in a public education campaign designed to inform people in all parts of the country about the dangers of Islamic extremism and sharia law," the EDL "will maintain its focus and pursue its own agenda with persistence and determination." This will facilitate "the long-term evolution of the EDL into a mainstream pressure group."

Although one might wonder what "educational" purpose the violence of past EDL demonstrations or chants such as "we hate Pakis more than you" might serve, the fact remains that the EDL will remain in Leeds on the day of the protest. However Paul Ray, the Christian fundamentalist head of the EDL: St George Division, has declared October 31st "Judgement Day." Along with football hooligan group Casuals United, will be on the streets to offer a nationalist opposition to Anjem Choudary and his organisation.

As such, it is beginning to look as though London will be overtaken by two rival organisations of reaction. Each will speak to different groups of disaffected and alienated young people, offering them a national and religious interpretation for the negatives in their lives. Hence, the schisms in the working class will grow, and organising effective resistance to the predatory class war waged by the rich becomes more difficult. This is precisely why I sent out my plea that "with an active, reactionary, and highly visible extremist presence on the streets of London that day, the left cannot be silent."

Here, I reiterate it once again.

There is hope. Yesterday, Inayat Bunglawala of ENGAGE made a similar plea in the Guardian. Noting that "both al-Muhajiroun and the EDL are clearly feeding off one another and appear intent on polarising relations between Muslims and non-Muslims," he "contacted the Metropolitan police to obtain permission for a counter-demo. I have no idea how many people will turn up if it goes ahead but I would hope that it won't be too difficult to surpass the numbers mustered by al-Muhajiroun."

This is hardly the radical, anti-authoritarian demonstration that I called for a week ago, but it does offer a starting point. Already, 128 people have signed up to a Facebook event which makes the same call. This does not in any way guarantee that 128 people will turn up anywhere, but it does allow people a jumping off point in lieu of the time for serious oranisation. There is now going to be a presence in London on October 31st that is neither the fascists of the English Defence League nor the Islamic militants of Islam for the UK/al-Muhajiroun.

As such I repeat my plea that the march "must be met with opposition, not from the fascists of the far-right, but from those whose resistance is grounded in working-class unity, anti-fascism, and anti-capitalism." If such an opposition does emerge, then it will not only be able to physically resist Choudary's fanatics, but will significantly defuse the potency of the EDL and Casuals United.

Wednesday, 21 October 2009

No War but Class War - October 2009

After the snap election called by the government last month, Greece gained a "socialist" government headed by George Papandreou. His first actions upon assuming office were to continue the vicious state repression against anarchists and workers in the country, which has only increased the sense of unrest and rebellion there.

It began, the day after the new government was sworn in, when "Minister for Protection of the Citizen" Michalis Chrysohoidis authorised a 1,000-strong invasion of the radical Exarchia district of Athens. Kathimerini justified the siege with reports that a "group of around 20 hooded youths went on the rampage in central Athens," citing unnamed "witnesses." A day later, it reported that Chrysohoidis sought "the reorganization of the anti-terrorist squad and the introduction of neighborhood policemen" in order to offer a police force that was "democratic and friendlier to the citizen." This, after "Police searched and questioned over 200 people, searched 16 automobiles, several motorbikes, and 26 cafes (there are many anarchist bars and cafes in the neighborhood), took 81 people to the police station, and arrested 8" in order to "repress the anarchists" and "establish police authority in Exarchia."

On the same day that Chrysohoidis spoke of the police being "friendlier to the citizen," Mohammad Atif Kamran died. OccupiedLondon tells us that "on the night of September 26 fifteen cops raided the house" of the 25-year old migrant, "shouting and beating him and his family." The local police station "became a torture chamber" where Kamran was "subjected to severe beatings (while tied hand and foot) and electrical shocks." His family didn't take him to a hospital as he was undocumented, whilst "his brother was pressured and misled into signing that Kamran had no bruises when he left the police station." In response, demonstraters occupied the Nikaia Town Hall "in a demonstration of rage for the recent assassination of 25-year old Pakistani migrant Mohammad Atif Kamran." Though the occupation ended two days ago, it was immediately reinstated in the university building of Propylea and resistance continues.

Meanwhile, workers struggles in the country escalated, with workers from Vodafone and Wind Telecom going on strike, and dockers at Peiraeus, the largest harbour of Greece, continuing a blockade "which has caused all sea-related commercial activities to freeze." It wasn't long before the blockade faced violence, and "serious clashes broke out on Thursday 15/10 morning between shipyard workers and riot police forces outside the Ministry of Labour and Social Solidarity, blocking the main road from Athens to Peiraeus." Although the government has claimed that "the use of police violence was necessary because the workers tried to occupy the ministry," in reality "the police attacked the workers with blast and flash grenades and tear gas" because they, unarmed, "refused to disperse and allow the minister [negotiating with unions] to leave the building."

In Iraq, the government is trying to enforce Saddam-era labour laws under which, according to the Trade Union Congress (TUC), "public sector workers are not officially allowed to join trade unions," only "the General Federation of Iraqi Workers (GFIW), is formally recognised," and "the authorities in Iraq continue to use a controversial decree (Order 8750 of 2005) which froze all trade union assets and financial accounts, making it almost impossible for unions to function effectively." Brendan Barber, General Scretary of the TUC, "wrote to Foreign Secretary David Miliband asking him to press the Government of Iraqi to drop this demand and instead put in place an ILO-compliant labour code that allows all workers the right to form, join - and have a say in the running of - trade unions." It remains to be seen, however, what will come of this, and a wider solidarity with Iraqi workers is desperately needed.

"Edinburgh Street cleaners have hit out at Council leaders’ claims that they are “set to give up their protest” in the long-running dispute over wages and conditions," according to Indymedia UK. "Hundreds of Council manual workers agreed at a mass meeting on 9th October to continue their work-to-rule and overtime ban to oppose wage cuts and changes in conditions."

A similar dispute in Liverpool ended with an improved pay offer, although nothing was done over the fact that the council were using Assist Streetcare to provide scab labour. With a similar situation in Edinburgh, and the council "still refusing to comply with Freedom of Information requests to reveal the sums being paid to Assist, Shank Waste Management and other companies," we need to hope that the Edinburgh workers can not only improve their own conditions but challenge the increasingly oppressive anti-worker attitudes of local councils.

In several hours, postal workers all across the country will join the struggle by beginning a nationwide strike. Whilst the BBC continues to repeat government claims that the dispute is "something of a tragic matter" and "wholly unjustified," with the workers so coldly ignoring a "last-gasp plea" to surrender to the destruction of their livelihoods, others are asking more important questions. The Socialist Equality Party questions the motives of the CWU, "which wants nothing more than a shabby compromise so that it can restore its relations with management," whilst condemning the "coordinated campaign to defeat their strike in defence of jobs and conditions."

The postal workers now appear to be the front line of "a political struggle against the Labour government, the Conservative opposition, and the financial aristocracy, which are seeking to impose the full cost of the failure of the capitalist profit system onto working people." This leaves much resting on the outcome of this dispute. But they are not the only ones fighting.

In Hartlepool, the Peterlee Mail reports that "workers at the Brenda Road plant of steel giants Corus have started a ballot for industrial action in the continuing dispute over pensions and bonuses," whilst Libcom tells us that construction workers "want Unite to be given official recognition at the Heerema site in Greenland Road" and have called "a wildcat strike ... with an estimated 200 workers standing outside the gates of the site."

Over in the Americas, as in Europe, workers are fighting back against the bosses. However, the plight of the Mexican Electrical Workers' Union tells us how much harder the fight can be in other countries. According to Labor Notes, "Federal Police seized the plants of the Central Light and Power Company of Mexico, which provides electricity to Mexico City and several states in central Mexico." the action came as "President Felipe Calderón announced that the company would be liquidated and all its approximately 45,000 workers fired, which would mean the destruction of the Mexican Electrical Workers Union (SME)" because "the union has been a leading force in organizing to oppose Calderón’s economic policies."

In response, the union "has asked for international solidarity in resisting the government liquidation of their company, the termination of the workers, and thus the destruction of the union." Labor Notes are asking that supporters write to President Felipe Calderón at, copying in

The magazine is also involved in setting up "troublemaker schools" with the aim of helping activists "learn tactics, skills, and strategies folks can use in their locals and workers centers right away: beating back concessions and employer attacks; defending immigrant members against raids; activating members on the shop floor and in the community." In this way, they hope to revitalise a labour movement "crippled by leaders’ cooperative response to employers in the early 1980s."

If successful, such an action could add considerable weight to organised labour by offering meaningful resistance to the lone global superpower. There is still much to be done, however, and to engage in navel gazing about future successes would only be a setback at this point. Instead, we must be welcoming such actions, showing solidarity with fellow workers as they stand against brutal oppression by state and capital, and continue to build upon the organisation and community that we already have.

Tuesday, 20 October 2009

Conservitive "anti-fascism" and a smack of hypocrisy in service to the state

Nothing British, is the newest "anti-fascist" campaign to enter political discourse. It is also, perhaps, the oddest, as it is a conservative organisation.

This isn't just reflected in their message - "there is nothing British about the BNP" - but also in their stance. Like liberal anti-fascists, Nothing British are a world away from the working class agenda of the radical left, and instead offer support to the state and the status quo. Unlike the liberals, this isn't just done by signing up an MP or two on the Hope not Hate bus, but by listing amongst their friends the organisations such as MigrationWatch and Balanced Migration. Their "Fresh Approach" to anti-fascism comes from a centre-right position that is "more Andy McNab than Lily Allen" and "more the Sun than the Guardian."

This is highly dangerous. The BNP are gaining ground because they are offering reaction to a disenfranchised working class, twisting the very real problems caused by global capitalism into racial and national issues in order to draw people to their camp. They gain strength from liberal anti-fascists pretending that the class problems do not exist, but also from conservative politicians, groups, and newspapers offering exactly the same slant on the issues as the BNP. Nothing British continues this right-wing tradition of "combatting" the far-right by offering exactly the same message that they do in a more "legitimate" package.

So it is with their latest campaign. On Tuesday, Nothing British launched "Operation Stolen Valour," and issued a report on "how the forces of extremism and racism are hi-jacking the good name of Britain's military, and what needs to be done to stop them."

The BNP, for their part, released a lengthy rebuttal by Nick Griffin on their website. It opened with the warning that "those Tory generals who today attacked the British National Party should remember that at the Nuremberg Trials, the politicians and generals accused of waging illegal aggressive wars were all charged — and hanged — together." Beyond the historical parable, which is actually more fitting than the usual grandiose nonsense such party diatribes offer, there are accusations of "disgusting Tory hypocrisy and [General Richard Dannett's] utter disregard for the ordinary British soldier."

Nick Griffin's response is a distraction from the issue of using soldiers for political purchase, which I will come to, but it does raise some interesting points. Though his party is promoting national interest over class interest, offering division in the name of race and nation, those behind the Nothing British report are doing exactly the same. "At the time [when Dannett was head of the Army], official army documents said that the nation must maintain ‘Armed Forces which are predominantly British and whose members reflect and share the culture and values of British society’." This was the justification for "instructions to limit the number of foreign recruits," which is "BNP policy, as endorsed by Sir Richard when Chief of Staff," even though "these same policies are now reprehensible in his eyes."

But what of the accusation that "almost everything the BNP does is somehow linked to the commemoration of fallen heroes, evokes the spirit of the Blitz, condemns the broken Covenant and gripes about foreign wars?"

Frankly, the accusation is true. Nothing British do notlie when they say that the party is engaged in "a deliberate strategy to exploit warm feelings felt towards the Armed Services by the British public" and "claim to represent the memory of Britain’s proud military past and good name of those who continue to defend our freedom." Pointing this out, however, does little to nothing for the cause of anti-fascism. Not only is it an accusation levelled at the BNP within their own framework of unquestioning nationalistic fervour and militarism, is is the "exposure" of an electoral tactic hardly limited to the far-right.

At the end of August, Gordon Brown "promised more support for UK troops in Afghanistan," in a visit to the country which the BBC's deputy political editor said was organised "to show not just his support for British troops," but also "to restate his case for war." Gordon Brown and New Labour, then, were "exploit[ing] warm feelings felt towards the Armed Services" in order to drum up support for continuing to drag out an illegal war of aggression. At the start of this month, David Cameron "promised to send more soldiers to in a bid to bring the war to a speedier end," declaring that "the first and gravest responsibility I will face is for our troops in Afghanistan and their families at home." He and the Conservatives, too, "exploit[ed] warm feelings felt towards the Armed Services" for political gain.

The accusation by Nothing British is, itself, an example of such a tactic. The whole report aims not just to dissect the BNP's tactic of using the military, but also to prove that the authors are the ones who "represent the memory of Britain’s proud military past and good name of those who continue to defend our freedom."

Such is the flaw of a group that claims, absurdly, that British "affection for the monarchy and our pride in the Empire meant we were never susceptible to the egotistical charms of fascism." This idea, based upon the nonsense of patriotic romanticism, is not the idea of an anti-fascist organisation but of servants of established power. In reality, it was the concerted efforts of working class activists to educate people about racism and physically organise against fascist groups that has kept the far-right at bay.

That tradition must continue. Anti-fascists must reject a stance that turns soldiers into idols, for it is precisely this idolatry that not only perpetuates nationalism but also solidifies support for the very wars in which these soldiers suffer and die. Moreover, it allows the state to silence all dissent against its actions with the accusation that the dissident does not properly "Support Our Troops."

To claim that there is "Nothing British about the BNP," whatever its truth, is to claim that "Britishness" has any meaning besides that demanded by social planners. To attack a group that perpetuates militaristic nationalism for not being patriotic and respectful of the military enough is to miss the point by a country mile.

Sunday, 18 October 2009

Scabs, bosses, and bureaucrats in the Royal Mail dispute

As I wrote a week ago, postal workers have voted for a national strike. The action is in opposition to Royal Mail's "modernisation" plans, including 50,000 job cuts and a pay freeze. Whilst workers battle against being hung out to dry by their employer during the worst economic crisis in decades, despite a company profit of £321 million, those doing the hanging have been rewarded for it with £10 million in bonuses.

Today, the BBC reported that Royal Mail is planning to hire up to 30,000 temporary staff to "deal with the backlog caused by the strikes as well as helping with the Christmas rush." As the BBC point out, "employing extra people to do the work of staff who are on strike is illegal under employment law." However, lax enforcement of employment laws that aren't beneficial to employers make this irrelevant, as proved by the use of scab labour in the Enterprise Liverpool dispute. Now Royal Mail is hiring the 30,000 temps - instead of the usual 15,000 - to "cut the impact" of strike action, and yet still this is "not about bringing in workers to do the work of striking staff" but "clear[ing] any backlogs."

The difference between hiring staff to do the work of strikers and hiring staff to clear the backlogs created by people being on strike is merely a semantic one. That it is sufficient to make this violation of employment law merely a footnote in the news says everything we need to know about the value of the working class to the state.

More importantly, hiring so many temps in order to deal with the backlog of the strike is an admission by Royal Mail that they cannot cope with the loss of roughly 60,000 people even for such a short time. Clearly, then, the proposed loss of 50,000 for good is utterly untenable.

As Communication Workers' Union (CWU) general secretary Billy Hayes notes, this is not about saving money or improving "efficiency" but "about a culture of management that seems to think in a democracy that the workforce have to do just what they're told." And, given the disasters that will follow for the company if it continues with its "modernisation" plans, it is an indictment of an undemocratic, top-down system of workplace management.

On Friday, the CWU learned that Royal Mail planned to strengthen this failed system in "a Royal Mail document which expose[d] that the company wants to sideline the union." "The internal Royal Mail document, called 'Dispute: Strategic Overview', says that Royal Mail is prepared to continue with non-agreement and makes threats about taking facility time away from CWU reps."

There are significant problems not only with the way the CWU have handled the strike, but also with the top-down, bureaucratic form of worker organisation they embody. As the World Socialist Web Site (WSWS) revealed at the start of the month, "the current conditions in the postal service are the direct result of the deal reached between the CWU and Royal Mail at the end of the 2007 national dispute" and the union "has repeatedly expressed its agreement to “modernisation.”" Thus, the postal workers would be better off breaking away from the union leadership to fight Royal Mail for terms favourable for them, not trade union bureaucrats. However, the Royal Mail's "strategic overview" is not an attack on a corrupt union that doesn't serve its members but on the very ability of workers to organise effectively.

Faced with such considerable hurdles, the prospects for victory look grim. But this means that organisers on the ground need to reconsider their perspective and fight to ensure that workers' interests are put before the concerns of bureaucracy or "greasing the wheels" in this dispute. It most certainly does not mean that they should call off industrial action. To do so would only serve an employer which is destroying a public service whilst holding its workers accountable for the same failures they are fighting against.

Friday, 16 October 2009

The impending implosion of the BNP

Yesterday, in perhaps the most bizarre turn in British politics for a while, the British National Party (BNP) announced that it will hold an "Emergency General Meeting" to "discuss the party’s membership criteria." In essence, this means that the BNP's whites-only membersip policy could well be scrapped.

Despite trying to claim that Griffin "outflanked" the Commission for Equality and Human Rights (CEHR), the news is essentially an acceptance of defeat. Although the court case which brought this about "could have been fought by the BNP, and probably won under current legislation" the costs "would have been prohibitive." This contradicts Nick Griffin's assertion in his Chairman's Update that "the British National Party doesn't throw in towels!" In the same message, he urges members "to ensure that we survive the next few months" by donating cash, as "the aim of our enemies is to destroy/financially neutralise us by Christmas."

Helpfully, as well as sending "an urgent donation," members can pay through the nose for "Gold" and "Life" memberships, and links to donations pages litter every page of the BNP website like the worst kind of spam. Unfortunately, despite claims that with this money Griffin will fight "Trevor Phillips and his fellow anti-British cretins" in their "attempt to destroy the BNP," the party has already thrown in the towel.

Despite a constant stream of sycophantic comments underneath the article on the CEHR case, many on the far-right are now utterly fed up of Griffin's cash-grabbing charade and are voicing their dissent quite openly. The Griffin Watch blog declares this "the final act of betrayal," whilst North West Nationalists brand Griffin "the wooden horse" bringing about "the end of the BNP." Furious debate rages on the subject on Stormfront, with comments by "Herbie14" demonstrating the general sway of opinion;
There’s been a massive banner on the BNP website for the last couple of weeks entitled “Countdown to October 15th”. It has a picture of Nick Griffin and Trevor Phillips with a boxing ring in the background.

A scrolling message reads “Our party is in grave peril. Your donation is our weapon.”

You click on the banner and are taken to a letter allegedly written by Nick Griffin, which is in fact written, as are all the begging letters and emails, by BNP “business guru” Jim Dowson. At the top of the page, the headline is "Let's Get Ready to Rumble!" There's the usual spiel about Waterloo, the Somme etc. and then at the end we have:

"The 'Equalities Commission' (CEHR) are at this very moment poised to destroy the party.

They and their political masters are already celebrating the demise of the BNP. They think we're on the ropes, backed into a corner. Maybe we are? But now we're coming out FIGHTING!

And for the last week people have been getting BNP emails saying, “4 days to go” and then the next day, “3 days to go” and so on, all with links to donate.

So given all this, one would be forgiven for imagining that the imagery involved, the boxing/fighting analogy, would suggest that the BNP was asking for people’s money as they were intending to, in some way, actually fight the CEHR case.

However, as it turns out, (quelle surprise) Griffin had no intention whatsoever of doing any form of fighting at all.

Quite simply, the BNP membership have been fleeced by Griffin and Dowson in a quite disgusting and cynical way. This whole fundraising session has been a massive confidence trick and is a quite possibly illegal fraud. If this doesn’t wake people up to the fact that the BNP is now simply a money-making exercise for Griffin and Dowson, I don’t know what will.
What we may well be witnessing, then, is the implosion of the British National Party. As the most prominent, united, and popular group in a far-right riven with disarray and disorder, they have for the past decade represented the biggest threat for anti-fascist campaigners. The party will not simply disappear overnight, given the amount of elected officials they have in local councils, on the London Assembly, and in Europe. However, if the party does splinter or even openly turn against Griffin, then the political landscape of fascism will change in untold ways. If it doesn't, the outcome of its slow and painful demise under a power-hungry and cash-grabbing Nick Griffin is equally unpredictable.

Either way, it is certainly something worth paying attention to.