Wednesday, 29 July 2009

No War but Class War - July update

On the 20th July, workers occupied the Vestas wind turbine factory on the Isle of Wight - the only such factory in the UK. This direct action, organised with the aid of Workers' Climate Action, is in protest at the factory workers' imminent redundancy, announced on the same day that Energy and Climate Change secretary Ed Miliband anounced "that Britain will become a world leader in low-carbon technology and manufacturing" by "pledging as many as 400,000 green jobs by 2015." As Peter Hunt, a safety administrator at the Vestas factory, put it;
If the Government was as committed to wind power as it claims, why is it acting so slowly to improve the planning process? We need a central planning body to overcome the not-in-my-back-yard groups who are blocking British wind farms. But if it comes, it will be too late for us.
Now in its ninth day, we learn that the occupation has overcome one of its biggest potential hurdle after a legal attempt to get the workers evicted failed. According to the Guardian, "adjourning the hearing until Tuesday, the judge, Graham White, said papers had not been properly served on individuals occupying the property." Judge White is quoted as saying, "I see no evidence of any threat of violence to property or person by reason of the individuals who are occupying the property remaining there" and is apparently "distinctly uncomfortable" with Vestas' attepmpts to "get around the rules."

The mood of defiance is summed up by the writers of the "Save Vestas" blog;
We live to fight another day – next Tuesday, to be precise. More days to build the solidarity! Send messages to, sign the petitions on the 10 Downing Street site and the FoE site, visit the plant, organise a protest in your town, follow Miliband!
At the same time, in Pyeongtaek, South Korea, the occupation of the Ssangyong car factory has been ongoing for over a month. Libcom has been offering regular updates on the situation, which arose in response to the mass sacking of 2,600 of the 7,100 staff there. The latest report demonstrates the dire situation the workers face;
The strikers in the factory have continued to demand a non-militarized area in the factory to resume the promised negotiations. Management has not responded; the company continues to be under court receivership, because of the litigation of its creditors. Because of the court's authority over the situation, management is able to use this as an excuse to refuse negotiations. The Korean state and the Shanghai Automotive Industry Corporation (SAIC), which owns 51% of the company, while being responsible for resolution also refuse to treat it as a labor dispute.
But still they fight on. As Adam, over at Dreaming Neon Black, says in the latest Workers Fightback update, "occupiers are now in engaged in hand-to-hand combat with riot cops, and have vowed to "...fight to the death, to live as real human beings.""

In Greece, Libcom is also reporting on continued violence and struggle, but of a different nature. The fascist uprising in Greece has now reached endemic proportions in tandem with a brutal crackdown by the state against immigrants whilst the anarchists resisting this aggression have faced severe repercussions.
During the past week both Radio Revolt, a pirate anarchist radio station housed in an abandoned train wagon within premises of the Aristotelian University of Salonica, and Europe’s largest squat, Fabrica Yfanet, came under fascist arson attack.
The train wagon of Radio Revolt, was attacked with three Molotov cocktails in the night of Tuesday 21/07 by parastate fascist elements publicly condoned by the Ministry of Public Order currently run by an ex-junta persecutor. Radio Revolt continued to broadcast with only 3 hours stoppage. On Saturday 25/07 Fabrica Yfanet’s main gate was attacked by a gas-canister device. The fire was extinguished by member soft hw squat as well as neighbours, while police forces that unusually arrived to the scene only minutes after the attack engaged squatters and neighbours in fascist verbal abuse clearly sympathising with the attack. Fabrica Yfanet is a centre of manifold political activities and receives widespread support amongst the city’s youth and progressives.
Meanwhile in Athens, on the early morning of Tuesday 28/7, a squad of Golden Dawn members marched from the offices of the neonazi party near Omonoia square down Menandrou street in military formation, attacked black men and women uninhibited by the strong police presence in the area. The nazi scum chanted “today niggers die” while returning to their Agios Panteleimonas lair.
Arson attacks against anarchist antiauthoritarian and libertarian squats have been a repeated pattern in the last year, and is considered to be part of the Greek state’s massive counterinsurgency efforts to quench the rising social movement against the more and more dictatorial rule of the government which has been manning its civil service with ever more junta-related individuals. Parastate elements’ anti-squat activity has repeatedly led to massive solidarity marches, rendering the strategy rather counterintuitive, proving once again the readiness of the Greek state to exercise brute force, and its inability to reason even to its own interest.
Characteristic of the new blind fascism of the Greek state is the unprecedented act of censorship exercised against a short animated film by the well known leftist director Costa-Gavras, who is a nail in the eye of the Greek PM for having filmed “Z”, the story of the assassination of left-wing MP Grigoris Lambrakis by parastate thugs under orders of the PM’s uncle in the mid 1960s. Gavras’ animation commissioned by the Ministry of Culture was meant to play at the new Acropolis museum, until the Ministry obliged to curtail scenes portraying Greek Orthodox priests vandalising the Parthenon after orders by the Church. Costa-Gavras has condemned the act as a return to the darkest days of the country. The Greek Orthodox Church remains the largest land-owner in the country and an integral part of the State mechanism, waging considerable control in many policies, particularly relating to education.
Despite the rising white-terror and the mid-summer vacations, the social antagonistic movement is stepping up its response to the state-fascist collaboration and racist bigotry.
In South Africa, the massive social rebellion I reported on in my last article continues apace. On Tuesday, as reported by BBC News, "residents barricaded a road with burning tyres during a protest against poor living conditions in the area" and "the crowd stoned a local municipal office after realising it was closed due to the municipal workers' strike, which has entered its second day."In response, "police had to use rubber bullets to disperse the violent crowd. A police officer was seriously injured when a stone was thrown at him during their protest," according to a police spokesperson. In response to the municipal strike, Zuma's administration could only "condemn" workers' behaviour, ignoring such realities as the fact that "Workers say they are unable to make a living from their current wages because of high food prices."

The BBC and other outlets continue to refer to "service delivery protests," ignoring the fact that these uprisings are not just about the delivery of services but the utter failure of the ruling ANC to drag the poorest out of the dire situation they were encased in by the apartheid system.

Also worth a mention is the spate of "bossnappings" by French factory workers protesting layoffs and costcuttings, and the Chinese steel workers who beat Chen Guojun, the general manager of Jianlong Steel Holding Company, to death during demonstrations against the takeover of their company.

Across the world, workers are waking up to the fate that awaits them under the corporate capitalist system and taking matters into their own hands. This is not the controlled action of the giant reformist trade unions, who betray workers at least as much as they help them, but of ordinary people at a grassroots level. And as long as the injustice continues, so will the resistance.

Saturday, 25 July 2009

Mass rebellion in South Africa

Currently, though woefully underreported by the western mass media, the poor of South Africa are rebelling against the state and the governing African National Congress (ANC). One of the few outlets to cover it, the BBC has stated that those involved in the uprising are "are a reminder of the impatience felt in the most deprived areas of the country" and "will be looking to Mr Zuma to root out the corruption and nepotism which have prevented service delivery being expanded throughout South Africa."

However, of course, there is much more to it than that. This isn't simply "impatience," the implication being that what the ANC are doing is good, but they're not doing it fast enough. What South Africa faces, like Greece and elsewhere, is the open rebellion of the poorest elements of society.

The following article is an opinion piece by Richard Pithouse in the South African daily newspaper Business Day, reposted here because it offers a thorough and thoughtful analysis of the situation;

Burning message to the state in the fire of poor’s rebellion

Richard Pithouse, Published: 2009/07/23 06:30:32 AM

DU NOON, Diepsloot, Dinokana, Khayelitsha, KwaZakhele, Masiphumelele, Lindelani, Piet Retief and Samora Machel. We are back, after a brief lull during the election, to road blockades, burnt-out police cars and the whole sorry mess of tear gas, stun grenades and mass arrests. Already this month, a girl has been shot in the head in KwaZakhele, three men have been shot dead in Piet Retief, and a man from Khayelitsha is in a critical condition.

There are many countries where a single death at the hands of the police can tear apart the contract by which the people accept the authority of the state. But this is not Greece. Here the lives of the black poor count for something between very little and nothing. When the fate of protesters killed or wounded by the police makes it into the elite public sphere, they are generally not even named.

The African National Congress (ANC) has responded to the new surge in popular protest with the same patrician incomprehension under Jacob Zuma as it did under Thabo Mbeki . It has not understood that people do not take to the streets against a police force as habitually brutal as ours without good cause. Government statements about the virtues of law and order, empty rhetoric about its willingness to engage, and threats to ensure zero tolerance of “anarchy” only compound the distance between the state and the faction of its people engaged in open rebellion.

Any state confronted with popular defiance has two choices — repression or engagement. If it wishes to avoid shooting its people as an ordinary administrative matter, the first step towards engaging with popular defiance is to understand the dissonance between popular experience and popular morality that puts people at odds with the state.

A key barrier towards elite understanding of the five-year hydra-like urban rebellion is that protests are more or less uniformly labelled as “service delivery protests”. This label is well suited to those elites who are attracted to the technocratic fantasy of a smooth and post-political developmental space in which experts engineer rational development solutions from above. Once all protests are automatically understood to be about a demand for “service delivery” they can be safely understood as a demand for more efficiency from the current development model rather than any kind of challenge to that model. Of course, many protests have been organised around demands for services within the current development paradigm and so there certainly are instances in which the term has value. But the reason why the automatic use of the term “service delivery protest” obscures more than it illuminates is that protests are a direct challenge to the post-apartheid development model.

Disputes around housing are the chief cause of popular friction with the state. The state tends to reduce the urban crisis, of which the housing shortage is one symptom, to a simple question of a housing backlog and to measure progress via the number of houses or “housing opportunities” it “delivers” . But one of the most common reasons for protests is outright rejection of forced removals from well-located shacks to peripheral housing developments or “transit camps”. Another is the denial or active removal of basic services from shack settlements to persuade people to accept relocation. Moreover, to make its targets for “housing delivery” more manageable, the state often, against its own law and policy, provides houses only for shack owners, resulting in shack renters being illegally left homeless when “development comes”.

It is therefore hardly helpful to assume that protests against forced removals and housing developments that leave people homeless are a demand for more efficient “delivery”. On the contrary, these protests are much more fruitfully understood as a demand for a more inclusive mode of development, in the double sense of including poor people in the cities and of including all poor people in development projects.

If the state actually engaged with any seriousness with the people to whom it has promised to “deliver services”, these kinds of problems could be resolved. But the reality is that the state very often imposes development projects on people without any kind of meaningful engagement. One reason for this is the pressure to meet “delivery targets” quickly — a pressure that was greatly worsened by the ludicrous and dangerously denialist fantasy of former housing minister Lindiwe Sisulu that shacks could be “eradicated by 2014”.

Another reason why the state systematically fails to engage with poor people is that when it does negotiate, it tends to substitute ward councillors and their committees, as well as local branch executive committees of the ANC, for the communities actually affected by development projects. But the fact is that in many wards the councillors and local party elites represent the interests of local elites, who often have very different interests to poor communities. Moreover, it’s entirely typical for these local elites to seize control of key aspects of development projects, such as the awarding of tenders and the allocation of houses, for their own political and pecuniary gain. It is not at all unusual for ward councillors and allied local elites to threaten their grassroots critics with violence. Ward councillors are often able to order the local police to arrest critics on spurious charges.

It is hardly surprising that ward councillors are a key target of popular protests.

Once a community has realised that their local councillor is hostile to their interests, there are often no viable alternatives for engaging with the state. Attempts at making use of official public participation channels generally fail to get any further than a solid wall of bureaucratic contempt in which everyone is permanently in a meeting. Polite demands for attention are frequently responded to as if they were outrageous. Outright contempt of the “know your place” variety is common. In the unlikely event that representatives from a poor community are able to access a politician higher up than their ward councillor, they are most likely to be sent back to their councillor. There is a very real sense in which we have already developed a sort of caste system in which the poor are simply unworthy of engaging with politicians on the basis of equality.

If development was negotiated directly, openly and honestly with the people who it affects rather than with consultants bent on technocratic solutions, and ward councillors bent on personal and political advantage, things would take a little longer but their outcomes would be far more inclusive and far more to people’s liking. If the ANC is serious about democracy, it should aim to subordinate the local state to the inevitably time-consuming, complex and contested mediation of the poor communities that need it most, rather than the often predatory aspirations of local political elites.

The heart of the moral economy behind the protest is a firm conviction that the poor are people who also count in our society. For some, this means that every citizen counts and one way of realising this is by turning on people seen as non-citizens. For others, everyone, documented or not, counts. But for as long as the state, in its actual practices, does not affirm the dignity of poor people by consulting them about their own future and including them in the material development of our collective future, the rebellion will continue.

And long may it do so.

As the BBC reports, "fifteen years after the ANC won its first election, more than one million South Africans still live in shacks, many without access to electricity or running water." The end of apartheid was surely a great moment for South Africa, but such a monumental change brings with it a whole plethora of new problems, and in those 15 years the ANC has demonstrated that they are unable to face up to them. Like all those who stride to power with the promise to be a vanguard for the impoverished masses, they have fallen prey to nepotism and corruption and betrayed those they supposedly represent. They deserve this rebellion as much as the National Party who oversaw apartheid deserved theirs.

Tuesday, 21 July 2009

Peter Tierney faces court date for assaulting anti-fascists

In April, I reported on an attack perpetrated by Merseyside BNP activists Steve Greenhalgh and Peter Tierney, which took place in Liverpool City Centre on St George's Day. Greenhalgh and Tierney used an upended table and a folded camera tripod respectively as weapons against anti-fascists who had routed their leafleting with counter-leafleting in and around their location.

Despite Tierney's lies, which got one anti-fascist arrested for "assaulting" him, he was ultimately taken into custody and released on bail. The arrested anti-fascist was also bailed, but only after being held in the same station as Tierney and subsequently followed home by a car full of BNP activists threatening "we know where you live, we’re going to fucking kill you."

On Monday, Tierney answered his police bail at St Anne's Street police station. The bail conditions for both Tierney and the victim he claimed to be his assailant included a ban on entering the City Centre, and those conditions were reasserted. Tierney is set to face trial at the Liverpool Magistrates Court on the 5th of August and, as the Merseyside BNP blog reports, BNP activists "will be holding a 2nd Demo outside of the Magistrates Court as he attends." Their intent is to show that they "will not be intimidated and bullied by the state" who have "set a dangerous precedent that decent members of the public CAN NOT defend themselves against attackers." They are in fact demonstrating that their party stands in defence of savage violence by those who grab weapons when faced with non-violent opposition.

As of yet, no counter-demonstration has been arranged to face the fascist contingent outside the courthouse. Even if, as in countless prior Liverpool demonstrations, their numbers barely scrape fifty, they need to be opposed. Merseyside anti-fascists need to show that we will not accept fascist violence under the transparent pretext of "self-defence" against the non-violent, and Tierney needs to learn that the opposition and dissent he so hates will not simply fade away because he picks up a weapon.

Update: 24/07/2009

In response to Tierney's arrest, the main BNP website posted up a story claiming that he is the victim of "continued police harassment against himself and the party in that city" and launched the following appeal via its mailing list;
BNP hero persecuted:
YOUR chance to stand up for Peter Tierney!

Peter Tierney is a dedicated BNP super-activist who has endured arrest and harassment at the hands of the Merseyside Police. Nevertheless, he has always remained steadfast for the cause. Each time that the Merseyside Gestapo has tried to frame him, they have been forced to drop the charges. Now they are at their dirty tricks once again!
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.
Peter was bailed to appear at Liverpool police station yesterday and to his astonishment he was charged with 'assault!' Everyone has the right to self-defence and Peter is no exception. This is perhaps one of the worst politically motivated outrages of recent times. Peter, a local businessman in Liverpool, was attacked by a gang of thugs while engaging in lawful, democratic activities and he now faces the prospect of prison for daring to defend himself!
We must and will stand by Peter, regardless of the cost - the BNP looks after all its members. It is time for Operation Fightback to get involved! We are calling on all our subscribers to email or phone the Crown Prosecution Service and demand to know why Peter Tierney has been charged for 'assault' when it was clearly self-defence:
- To view a complaints email template click here

- Tel: 0207 796 8500 (calls may be recorded)

The misinformation provided in the bulletin is obvious, but most contemptible is the BNP's hope that they can subvert the course of justice by bombarding the Crown Prosecution Service with the crank calls of countless armchair fascists. Also worrying is that the pitifully poor numbers the party can muster within Liverpool for his court date are likely to be bolstered by fascists bussed-in from elsewhere on the back of this appeal.

In response, Liverpool Antifascists are calling on every dedicated opponent of fascism to turn out in opposition on the morning of his arraignment;
Wednesday August 5th
Outside Dale St. Magistrates Court, Liverpool

The fascist British National Party have called on their members to support Peter Tierney, BNP lowlife and local ‘businessman’, who is on trial on August 5th. Tierney is charged with assault, following an attack on an anti-fascist protester in April.

Let’s show the BNP that we won’t tolerate their racism and violence in Liverpool or anywhere else.

Tell your friends and let’s have a really big turnout on August 5th.

Liverpool Anti-Fascists:
The BNP must know that they cannot use intimidation tactics to evade justice, and they cannot bully antifascists into silence. ¡No Parasan!

Saturday, 18 July 2009

Casuals United: the next generation of British fascists

Recently, on my Facebook account, I received some rather bizarre threats. This in itself is nothing new, as I receive rambling threats from neo-Nazi goons on a semi-regular basis, usually threatening to put me on Redwatch or some similar action. That putting my face on an internet site won't be too daunting a prospect for somebody who uses Facebook in the first place is a concept that seems utterly lost on some people.

However, the threats I'm referring to here were of a somewhat different flavour. After a brief exchange on a Facebook discussion board for the activist group No Borders, wherein I suggested that somebody claiming that the UK was 20% too overcrowded had "pulled the figures out your arse," I received the following message;

you've insulted a member of Hur al'Ayn
Between You and Sakinah Malik

Sakinah Malik
17 July at 00:19
please take it back, on the board. you have to speak to us as you would if were speaking in person.
yours sincerely
Although bemused, I thought nothing of it until I received a similar response on the No Borders group, to which I responded that "I'll speak to anyone however I please, that's one of the beauties of free speech, so please don't fucking PM me about this trifling shit again cause I'll ignore it." To which I received the following reply from a like-minded Facebook troll;

OK here's another PM
Between You and Lady Terror

Lady Terror
17 July at 16:44
I'm not a troll, I'm a member of the Hur al-Ayn and you should show people a bit more respect. you're only being rude coz ur 200 miles away behind a keyboard. Apaologise to Charlotte or face the consequences.
Aside from the obvious irony of somebody calling themselves "Lady Terror" and claiming to be of the "Hur al-Ayn" (Maidens of Paradise, the Islamic "72 virgins") whilst simultaneously insisting that they are not a troll, there is also somehing sinister in the phrase "or face the consequences." Sure enough, a member of Lancaster Unity who was also a member of the No Borders group alerted me to a group titled "Uk[sic] Casuals United;"

On which I have my own particular claim to fame;

The "Charlie Wadia" in question is the one whom "Sakinah Malik" and "Lady Terror" were "defending" by sending me personal messages and weak threats.

This group was set up after a similar group, "Hooligan Central," was hijacked. I wrote about this earlier incarnation in the article "Riots in Luton and media apologism for fascist violence," about the fascist ties and thuggish antics of the groups who marched through Luton in opposition to earlier Muslim demonstrations at an armed forces homecoming parade. The Casuals United homepage confirms that "Casuals from around the UK started coming together in protest at these hatemongers, and the way the police arrested two people who were rightly outraged by their disgusting protest" but insist that they are "non political, non racist, non violent protest groups."

However, the fact that their stated purpose is to "
stop the enemy within," namely "these people, whos [sic] agenda is to dominate Britain, and make it an Islamic State," and the "politically correct traitors ... who have brought us to this terrible state of affairs," says otherwise. Such rhetoric is transparently fascist in origin, as are the doctrinal precepts which underlie it. This is not to mention, of course, that posting up the details of opponents - I am not the only one to receive such treatment on that particular group - has obvious echoes of sites such as Redwatch.

Groups such as Casuals United, and the affiliated English Defence League, represent a new strain of fascism. They are as virulent as traditional groups such as the BNP, the National Front, or the Orange Lodge, and antifascists need to organise physical resistance to them as they try to bring fascist violence back to our streets.

Thursday, 16 July 2009

The British Crime Survey and the recession's impact on the working class

Today sees the publication of the 2008/09 British Crime Survey (BCS). The report has revealed that although "the number of murders and manslaughters has dropped by 17% to a 20-year low of 648," a fact that headlined BBC News coverage, "theft has risen in the last year, with domestic burglary up by 1% and shoplifting rising by 10%."

According to the BCS's own summary, "crime as measured by the BCS shows no change compared with the 2007/08 BCS with no change in most crime types," but "people tend to have less negative perceptions about crime in their local area than nationally" whilst "in general those who read ‘popular’ newspapers are more likely to think crime has risen nationally than readers of ‘broadsheet’ newspapers." The reasoning behind such a difference in perception is evident even from a quick glance at newspaper headlines on this story. The Independent says that "killings hit 20-year low," with the Guardian and Times following a similar line with "murder rate lowest in 20 years," and "murder rate at 20-year low" respectively. Meanwhile, the Telegraph announces "burglaries likely to rise for first time in six years because of recession-fuelled crime wave." The Daily Mail follows suit with "Credit crunch crime wave: Theft, burglaries and fraud rise on the back of record unemployment" and the Daily Express story that "burglaries and pickpocketing rocket" is near-identical.

Coverage by the liberal papers, then, conforms to the view promoted by Home Secretary Alan Johnson;
Figures show that the reductions in crime are being maintained and the risk of being a victim is still historically low. Encouragingly, violent crime continues to fall with homicide figures now lower than they have been for a decade and attempted murder also falling. Overall, violent crime with injury is down seven per cent and there has been a five per cent fall in recorded robberies, now at its lowest level since 2002.


Although figures show signs of some acquisitive crimes increasing, the Government is determined to keep these crimes down by continued investment in preventative measures, tough, targeted policing and historically high numbers of police officers.
Whilst the viewpoint promoted by the more conservative press can be summarised by the comments of Shadow Home Secretary Chris Grayling;
It looks like the Government is trying to cover up the scale of the problem we face with knife crime, little wonder given its policies have failed to get to grips with the challenge.

Massaging the figures on knife crime twice in two years is just an insult to the families of those who have been tragically murdered in knife attacks and who are campaigning for real action to get knives off our streets.

Even ministers now accept they are being complacent about our law and order problems.

Essentially, the "debate" boils down to those who think that New Labour's crime strategy is "tough" enough, occasionally perhaps a little over zealous, versus those who deem the approach "too soft." Even aside from the fact that the possibility that crime policies are in fact too "tough," and that authoritarianism in government is counterproductive in curbing criminal behaviour, is off the agenda, this narrow question fails to address deeper issues.

With regards to the present climate, the effect of the recession on crime levels needs to be examined in greater depth. Each article, of course, mentions the possibility of a causal link in passing, but fails to grasp the opportunity to explore further. Even the Mail, which actually drew attention to this fact in its headline, offered only that "the figures represent a chilling reminder of fears expressed by then Home Secretary Jacqui Smith last year about a recession crimewave" and the suggestion that this "highlights the need for more bobbies on the beat."

What is missing, however, is any attention towards remedying this root cause of an increase in crime. As BBC News reports that "UK unemployment rose by a record 281,000 to 2.38 million in the three months to May," alternative news outlets are covering the discontent and disaffection felt by workers across the UK and, indeed, the world.

Libcom reports that "Long-term trends show that BCS crime rose steadily from 1981 through to the early 1990s, peaking in 1995. Crime then fell, making 1995 a significant turning point.more than 12,000 postal workers are to strike on Friday in a row over jobs, pay and services," as well as a wide array of other actions such as the "unofficial and unlawful" postal strikes in Scotland earlier in the month, a second round of oil refinery walkouts, and tube strikes. The organisation Free SOAS Cleaners has arisen in response to the seizing and attempted deportations of cleaners at the School of Oriental and African Studies. Further examples abound.

The conclusions to be drawn from this are obvious, especially when longer term crime trends are taken into account. The BCS report tells us that "Long-term trends show that BCS crime rose steadily from 1981 through to the early 1990s, peaking in 1995. Crime then fell, making 1995 a significant turning point." "The risk of becoming a victim of crime has risen from 22% to 23% in the last year, having fallen from 40% in 1995." The period from 1981 to 1995, of course, equates to the succesive Thatcher and Major eras, when the British government was firmly committed to the "free" market or, more accurately, unregulated capitalism for the poor and state-socialism with an inflated welfare state for the rich. The societal effects, whereby unemployment soared and the atomisation of individuals caused by massive poverty and desperation saw a radical increase in crime. And nobody could accuse the Thatcher government of being "too soft."

We now risk heading towards a similar situation, as the token concessions offered by Blair to assuage the people and mask his overall continuation of Thatcherism fall apart under the collapse of capitalism's neo-liberal incarnation. But whilst dominant sectors argue over strategic points and address symptoms rather than causes, the working class are now faced with a prime opportunity. If we take it we can, through concerted and radical direct action, seize the agenda from the ruling class.

If we don't, then we might as well just wait for history to repeat itself. Again.

Wednesday, 15 July 2009

On the war crimes of the Israeli Defence Force

Today activists published a report containing "Fifty-four testimonies of Israeli combat soldiers who participated in Operation Cast Lead," the December invasion of the Gaza Strip by the Israeli Defence Force (IDF). Breaking the Silence is "an organization of veteran Israeli soldiers that collects testimonies of soldiers who served in the Occupied Territories during the Second Intifadah," whose declared aim is to "voices the experiences of those soldiers, in order to force Israeli society to address the reality which it created."

This follows on from the 2nd July report by Amnesty International entitled "Operation Cast Lead: 22 Days of Death and Destruction." The report asserted that the hundreds of civilian deaths in the during the invasion "cannot simply be dismissed as 'collateral damage' incidental to otherwise lawful attacks - or as mistakes," and describes the "wanton and deliberate" destruction of homes, schools and businesses that "could not be justified on the grounds of military necessity."

The new report backs up these assertions with utterly damning testimony. This is what one soldier had to say on the practice of using human shields;
Sometimes the force would enter while placing rifle barrels on a civilian's shoulder, advancing into a house and using him as a human shield. Commanders said these were the instructions and we had to do it… Anyway, at the concluding debriefing, he (the unit commander) said he didn't know about these things, and the guys, commanders who had been there the first week, said they saw civilians being assigned to break walls and enter with rifle barrels on their shoulders. He said he didn't know this and would look into it. I think nothing substantial had been done about it, I'm also in touch with one of the officers there at present and I don't know if an investigation was made and nothing was found or that nothing was cleared up. Several weeks later, the story came out in the paper about these exact incidents, where they were given hammers to break walls, in our area, this I can say with certainty.
Breaking the Silence themselves, in summing up the report, assert "that the soldiers were not given directives stating the goal of the operation and, as one soldier testifies, "there was not much said about the issue of innocent civilians."" "The soldiers tell in their testimonies how this unwritten message, which came from brigade, battalion, and company commanders in morale-building conversations before entering Gaza, translated into zero patience for the life of enemy civilians," according to Israeli lawyer Michael Sfard, introducing the report. Certainly, the atmosphere of frenzy that such a culture generates is confirmed by the soldiers themselves;
Fire power was insane. We went in and the booms were just mad. The minute we got to our starting line, we simply began to fire at suspect places. You see a house, a window, shoot at the window. You don't see a terrorist there? Fire at the window. In urban warfare, anyone is your enemy. No innocents.
The immediate response from the Israeli government was, as expected, confrontational and insensitive to the basic fact, as Sfard points out, that "violations of the laws of war are liable to be war crimes."Haaretz quotes Defence Minister Ehud Barak as follows;
Public criticism of the IDF is inappropriate. Any criticism, information or reservations about the army's conduct should be addressed to me as the Defense Minister of the State of Israel and to the Israeli government which instructed the IDF to reinstate peace and security in southern Israel.
A spokesman for the IDF responded in a similar vein, saying that "the IDF regrets the fact that a human rights organization would again present to the country and the world a report containing anonymous, generalized testimony without checking the details or their reliability, and without giving the IDF, as a matter of minimal fairness, the opportunity to check the matters and respond to them before publication." The refusal to address the specific charges and greater concern for public relations than human rights speaks for itself.

The Jerusalem Post adds the news that Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu fired "the opening shot of a battle Jerusalem has decided to wage with NGOs it deems biased against Israel" by critcising "a recent Human Rights Watch (HRW) fundraising delegation to Saudi Arabia as evidence the organization has lost its "moral compass."" However, as Sarah Leah Whitson, director of HRW's Middle East and North Africa Division, pointed out, "there was a need to distinguish between a government and its people, and to conflate the two was "misguided at best."" The Post reports her rebuttal that "her organization did not take money from any governments around the world, but did solicit funds from individuals and foundations worldwide." However, this explanation did not placate the government, with one senior official quoted as saying;

We will make a greater effort in the future to go through their reports with a fine-tooth comb, expose the inconsistencies and their problematic use of questionable data. We discovered during the Gaza operation and the Second Lebanon War that these organizations come in with a very strong agenda, and because they claim to have some kind of halo around them, they receive a status that they don't deserve.
Such deliberate obfuscation of the central issue, human rights violations by the IDF and the Israeli government, again speaks for itself. Indeed, it is hard to escape the accusation of "bias" and "slander" without unquestioningly accepting the word of the Israeli government, a move utterly unjustified by historical precedent. In the wake of this report, the "concessionary" nature of Netanyahu's speech last month, where he supposedly "endorsed a Palestinian state beside Israel for the first time," is shown up as empty rhetoric. We are still awaiting news on how this affects Barack Obama's "more even-handed approach" to the region.

The introduction to the Amnesty report cites Fathiya Mousa, whose parents and siblings were killed in an Israeli air strike while sitting in their yard;
Until now we don’t understand why. We want peace; and we want an investigation; we want to know why me and my sisters have been orphaned. Why did they kill our parents, our family?
The question is a valid one, and it should not go unanswered.

Saturday, 11 July 2009

Afghanistan is an error of more than just strategy

Yesterday, the front page of every single national newspaper in Britain announced that 8 soldiers have been killed in Afghanistan in just 24 hours. This loss of life brings the British death toll in the country to 184, overtaking the toll in Iraq.

The Independent declared the Friday on which this happened as "the most deadly 24 hours of the Afghan campaign," declaring that the Government must "face questions about the way it has responded to the call from military commanders to send reinforcements to Afghanistan." The Daily Mail said that this was "our darkest day in the war on the taliban" and emphasised the "pressure growing" on the Government "over the mounting death toll and shortages of equipment."

The other papers reflected similar sentiments, whilst on news broadcasts and in the comment pages debate continues to rage over strategic factors and whether the cost - to us, as invaders - is worth paying. Gordon Brown has reiterated that although it has recently been "extraordinarily difficult," the "current operations are succeeding in their objectives" and although "there are some who have questioned our strategy, I continue to believe our strategy is the right one." His sentiments were echoed by David Miliband, who has insisted that the cost of pulling out was that Afghanistan became an "incubator for terrorism" and that the army was fighting for "the future of Britain." Tim Collins and Major General Julian Thompson were given op-ed space to express similar sentiments.

Meanwhile, Peter Hitchens sums up the contrary argument against what he calls a "futile, ill-run and ultimately doomed operation." The reasons that "the nation is turning against the war" are the "appalling rate of loss" to the British Army, the fact that the Government has "no idea what they are doing there" in the first place, and that "the operation has no real aim, apart from a pitiful desire to suck up to Washington DC." Other critics tone down the bellicose retoric, but hold to the basic preconception that there is a fundamental error of strategy or that the war is ultimately unwinnable.

That the war, from its outset, was an illegal act of aggression remains utterly off the agenda.

Across the entire "spectrum" of media opinion, the basic doctrinal precepts - that British and American goals are "democracy," "freedom," and "security" - go unquestioned. That the original precept for the war - catching Osama bin Laden and the 9/11 planners - fell by the wayside even before the war began is written off as inconvenient and consigned to the memory-hole. In October 2001, the Taliban offered to turn over bin Laden to the United States. Their demands were that the bombing of Afghanistan stop and that evidence of his guilt was produced. According to the Guardian report from that date, "President George Bush rejected as "non-negotiable" an offer by the Taliban to discuss turning over Osama bin Laden if the United States ended the bombing in Afghanistan."

Moreover, any notion of "loss" or "mourning" other than our own is an alien concept. British casualties in the war thus far amount to 184, yet the United Nations announced in February that 2008 saw the highest number of civilian deaths since the Taliban were ousted, with 2,118 dead in that year alone, 39% attributable to "pro-government forces." Such facts pass almost without comment in the mainstream, where "losses" and "casualties" are defined strictly as those sustained by "our" side.

A pertinent example of this standard arose even before the ground invasion began. On 16th September 2001, the New York Times reported that "Washington has also demanded [from Pakistan] a cutoff of fuel supplies...and the elimination of truck convoys that provide much of the food and other supplies to Afghanistan's civilian population." The result - exacerbated by the September 27th decision to "seal off the country's 1,400-mile border with Afghanistan" - was the death and suffering of enormous numbers of Afghans, many already on the brink of starvation, trapped in the brutal dominion of the Taliban. The main concern of the articles was that Pakistan "carefully avoided any specific commitment to provide the United States with military assistance" and the "frenzied attacks" on "the abandoned American Embassy" by protesters. No laments, in the American or British press, on this "darkest" and "most deadly" period in the conflict.

Even now, eight years later, the reality of the horror and suffering caused by the American and British war passes without serious comment. Undoubtedly, the Taliban regime was a brutaldemonstration of the worst excesses of militant Islam. That it remained so before 9/11, when the West was willing to deal with them in the hopes of a pipeline deal providing us with strategic natural resources, is forgotten. Also dismissed for its inconvenience to prevailing doctrine is that the Northern Alliance, mobilised by the US in the run-up to the war and since instaled in government, is at least as bad. Joost Hilterman, executive director of the arms division at Human Rights Watch, describes their 1992-1995 stead in power as "the worst in Afghanistan's history." The present government's reinstatement of the harsh sexual morality enforced in the 1976 penal code, and the attempts - averted only after massive international outcry - to legalise marital rape and execute religious converts, as well as the continued incarceration of Sayed Pervez Kambaksh, testify to the validity of this assesment.

Undoubtedly, any and all loss of life in war is tragic, and one cannot for a single second blame the families and friends of these latest dead soldiers for their grief. However, that it takes the death of these "worthy victims" for mainstream commentators to call the war into question, whilst thousands of "unworthy" Afghan civilians pass into statistical history without comment or lament, and whilst the crimes committed by the US and UK from the outset of the war are passed over, is utterly unconscionable.

Contrary to the doctrine promoted by the state, we are not in Afghanistan fighting for "freedom" or "democracy," and "combatting terrorism" went off the agenda at almost the first instance. Our achievements in the region are the installation of a government friendly to Western corporate interests, whilst the ordinary citizens of Afghanistan endure a brutal war between two terrorist forces deliberately fostered by us, one now out of favour for reasons that should not need stating.

This basic fact should put questions of "strategy" and "objectives" in their proper perspective.

Wednesday, 8 July 2009

Social housing and immigration: the continuing lies of the right

It has long been asserted by the conservative and fascist end of the immigration debate that immigrants and asylum seekers are "jumping the queue" for social housing and are favoured over native Britons. Yesterday, a report compiled by the Institute for Public Policy Research (IPPR) for the Equalities and Human Rights Commission (EHRC) found the precise opposite. As the report itself explains;
Analysis of social housing allocation policies showed no evidence that social housing allocation favours foreign migrants over UK citizens. But there is a small amount of evidence which suggests that they may, unintentionally, discriminate against ethnic minority communities who may also have less understanding than white groups, of their housing rights and housing allocation.
Of course, those who had long asserted the opposite weren't quick to admit that they were wrong. The Daily Mail, long the champion of overt distrust of immigrant communities, reported the news by stating that "one in ten state-subsidised homes is occupied by an immigrant family, according to the first estimate of the impact of immigration on social housing." Although this is ostensibly true, it sidesteps the fact that the premise they have fed on for so long - "queue jumping" - was a false one. The Mail coverage offered a single dismissive line to the fact that "the report insisted that there is no prejudice against the existing population in the decisions over who gets increasingly scarce homes," but no further comment, nor acknowledgement of error, was deemed necessary on the central premise of the report they were writing about.

The BNP, meanwhile, does make an attempt at debating the central issue rather than pretending that it is inconsequential. However, the party fails to avoid their usual fallbacks of non-sequiturs, ad hominems, and outright distortion. Once we get
past the usual totalitarian accusations of "anti-white" and "anti-British," and the assumption that "Labour Party-affiliated" is an automatic disqualifier of debate, the party states the following;
A report entitled “Britain’s Immigrants, An economic profile”, produced by the IPPR in September 2007 for Class Films and Channel 4 Dispatches, shows that huge numbers of immigrants living in Britain are in social housing, contrary to the EHRC’s claims.
The report cited above does indeed show that "80% of Somalis, 49% of Turks, 41% of Bangladeshis, 39% of Ghanaians, 35% of Jamaicans, 33% of Iranians, 29% of Nigerians, 21% of Ugandans, 20% of Zimbabweans, 15% of Filipinos, 15% of Pakistanis, 14% of Sri Lankans, 12% of Kenyans, and 9% of Chinese immigrants live in public housing." However, like the Mail, the BNP is focusing on something which appears negative but, in fact, doesn't have any bearing on the report's central premise - namely, that there is "no evidence that social housing allocation favours foreign migrants over UK citizens." Also, with regard to the above figures, the 2007 report's conclusions from the evidence are as important as the figures themselves;
Of those groups that are more likely to be living in social housing than the UK-born, many are eligible on the grounds that they are naturalised British citizens or, in the case of the Somali and Turkish-born, recognised refugees.


It is essential to look beyond the statistics to look at the reasons for groups’ differential contributions. The relatively low rankings of Somalis, for example, may be down to the fact that many newcomers came to the UK as asylum seekers (and probably did not have the right to work while their claim was/is being processed), may not speak English, have few easily transferable skills, and have been housed in deprived areas. Similarly, at the other end of the rankings, Americans may be doing very well because they are mostly elite business people and professionals who are often here to work for short periods. It is therefore important to consider the reasons why migrants are here before we decide whether to judge their contribution solely in economic terms.


Several groups seem to be struggling to improve economic outcomes across generations. Children of Bangladeshi, Pakistani, Turkish and Somali ethnicity achieve below-average results in British schools. This is perhaps because these groups tend to be concentrated in relatively deprived areas which have under-performing schools, making it difficult for them to break out of cycles of under-performance (Bhattacharyya et al 2003). Poor educational performance may also be related to the fact that parents from these groups tend to be more concentrated in lower social classes than immigrants from other countries, since research indicates that social class is a key determinant of educational development and performance (Gillborn and Mirza 2000, McCallum and Demie 2001, Hansen and Joshi 2007).
Thus, we must take into consideration not just the "economic terms" and "country of origin," but also their migration status and "social class." For example, amongst Somalis, "many newcomers came to the UK as asylum seekers (and probably did not have the right to work while their claim was/is being processed), may not speak English, have few easily transferable skills, and have been housed in deprived areas" and that "these groups tend to be concentrated in relatively deprived areas which have under-performing schools, making it difficult for them to break out of cycles of under-performance," making initial conclusions of "queue jumping" erroneous.

Social housing is allocated on need rather than on who gets to the office first, as is expected in a fair system, and thus putting "british people first" actually would be queue jumping. However, the BNP try to argue the exact opposite conclusion, saying that as "social housing is allocated on the basis of ‘need’ and specifically the size of the family which is seeking accommodation" immigrants with large families "will automatically ‘queue jump’ for social housing over indigenous British people who have fewer or no children" and those with no income (often because they are denied the right to work) "will also automatically ‘queue jump’ these groups over those who are working." This is akin to arguing that somebody who enters A&E with a gunshot wound and is treated instantly has "queue-jumped" over somebody waiting to be treated for a broken wrist and requires no further comment.

The BNP end with the following;
Finally, the most compelling argument against the false EHRC claims lies in the fact that the Prime Minister, Gordon Brown, has seen fit to announce a ‘policy change’ in social housing to give preference to local populations over immigrants. Effectively Mr Brown was admitting that the previous policy was to discriminate against British people in favour of immigrants - otherwise why the need for the policy change?
But, as amply demonstrated many times over, this move by Gordon Brown is easily explained in terms of a propaganda model. Debate on immigration in the mainstream media - reflecting elite circles - is limited to a very specific framework.

At the conservative end of the spectrum, the position is that immigration controls are "too soft" and that migration is a "threat" or "invasion" that must be "curbed" and "controlled" so that it serves our needs but doesn't "erode our culture" or "destroy our way of life." The fascist position is merely the logical extension of this stance. At the liberal end of the spectrum, meanwhile, we hear that immigration is neccesary, and multiculturalism is to be celebrated because we are "enriched" by such "diversity." Though, of course, it must be "managed" to fit our "skills gaps," because immigrants do the jobs that the native working class “do not want” or are “too lazy” to do, and their lower price benefits the economy and thus us all.

Thus, we must celebrate the "multiculturalism" that allows the immigrant workforce to be exploited at low cost and high profit whilst being cautious of the "invasion" by locking up asylum seekers in immigrant prisons and foisting a system of brutality upon the wretched displaced of the world. The liberal position sees big business "enriched" by a "diverse" workforce whilst the conservative stance uses the "threat" of an immigration "invasion" to divide the working class along racial and national lines so they are unable to do anything about it.

Gordon Brown's pledge, then, to "reform social housing allocation - enabling local authorities to give more priority to local people whose names have been on waiting lists for far too long" fits neatly into such a propaganda framework. Far from "admitting that the previous policy was to discriminate against British people in favour of immigrants," Brown was playing to the fear of such a policy for political gain.

As long as the opposite is believed however, then the propaganda model will continue to set the terms of debate - unwittingly aided by the lies of fascists promoting their own hateful agenda. If that is the case, then the real issues behind immigration - the brutal system of border controls and immigrant prisons, the lack of neccesary infrastructure in local communities, the division of the working class on racial lines, and that this division allows for corporate exploitation of migrant groups to undercut native groups - will never be resolved.

Monday, 6 July 2009

"Pain free" public spending cuts are nothing of the sort

The Chancellor of the Exchequer, Alastair Darling, has warned public sector workers that "the cold blast of recession is going to hit their pay packets," as the Independent phrased it. Civil Servants cannot be "sheltered from its effects" and "just as we have to be fair to the private sector," we have "got to be fair to people who work for the public sector" by making them pick up the tab for the government's debt. This follows on from remarks made by the chief executive of the Audit Commission, Steve Bundred, in the Observer;
Let's dismiss the notion that spending on health and education will be protected. There are good reasons why they won't and shouldn't. One is that, at a time when inflation is likely to be between 2% and 3%, a pain-free way of cutting public spending would be to freeze public sector pay, or at least impose severe pay restraint. This is especially true if real wages in the private sector are still falling. Health and education will not be immune from pay restraint, partly for reasons of fairness to others, partly because the NHS is the world's third largest employer, and also because ministers will correctly assume that as public sector workers have done well over the past decade, they will tolerate some modest real reduction in earnings.
The "correct assumption" that public sector workers "will tolerate some modest real reduction in earnings" was quickly proven incorrect. The response to the proposals by Bundred and Darling, from public service union Unison, was unequivocal;
Freezing public sector pay during the recession is not the way to steer people through it. Let's be clear, the recession was caused by bankers and speculators and the lack of regulation.

Yet, low paid public sector workers, who will be helping communities deal with the fall-out, are being asked to pay the price – it’s just not on. At the same time city bonuses are making a comeback with figures that most people can't even dream of earning in a whole lifetime. That is wrong.

We all want to see a bit of fairness injected into the system. How about cracking down on the tax evaders and making the rich pay their fair share, rather than always targeting the low paid workers?
Discussion of the basic standard of "targeting the low paid workers" is quickly evaded by the media and the dominant sectors it serves through the myth, as voiced by Bundred in his comment, that "public sector workers have done well over the past decade." To cite the most frequent cliches, civil servants are "sheltered from the real world" with "generous pay offers," "gold-plated, index-linked pensions" and "do-nothing jobs."

Daniel Hannan, in his now-famous YouTube tirade against Gordon Brown, spoke of "for ever squeezing the productive bit of the economy in order to fund an unprecedented engorgement of the unproductive bit." The "unproductive bit," of course, being the public sector - the nurses, doctors, teachers, refuse collectors, and firefighters who provide valuable public services to our communities, and the HM Revenue & Customs staff who collect the tax money that keeps them doing so. The PCS union has helpfully collated the facts that show exactly how "engorged" and "generous" public sector earnings are;

The facts

Civil and public servants are amongst the lowest paid in the public sector and wider economy. They have seen their pay cut in real terms with large numbers suffering pay freezes in the lead up to the recession.

The notion that civil and public servants have enjoyed and continue to enjoy bumper pay rises is false. PCS members like other low paid workers elsewhere continue to bear the brunt of the recession in terms of pay.

Facts and figures

  • Civil servants average earnings growth has lagged behind other sectors for 10 years.
  • Over 100,000, almost 20% are paid less than £15,000 a year.
  • In the culture sector the vast majority of staff earn between £12-£17,000 a year
  • Nearly half of the civil service or approximately 250,000 people earn less than £20,000 a year.
  • More than half the civil service earn less than the national average UK salary which is over £23,000.
  • Coastguard watch assistants who assist in co-ordinating search and rescue earn just above the minimum wage.
  • In the last three years pay in the civil service has increased by 6% whilst the cost of living has increased by 12.8%. Fuel and lighting rose by 35% last year, fares and travel went up by 10.2% and food costs rose by 10%.
  • Approximately 40,000 people working for the Department for Work and Pensions, which includes job centres and benefit offices received no pay rise at all.
  • Apparent differences in average earnings between public and private sector in the annual survey of hours and earnings is explained by structural changes in the public sector such as the transfer of lower paid support roles to the private sector resulting from patterns of privatisation.
These facts, of course, are inconvenient to pro-corporate right-wing dogmatism, and thus is quietly sidestepped. It is also notable that rich MPs and MEPs engorged on expenses, such as Hannan, always seem to escape being labelled as "unproductive" areas "sheltered from the real world" which actually do present a "pain-free way of cutting public spending." One could also cite the billions of pounds poured into two illegal wars of aggression or the bail-out of those who caused the recession and necessitated "pain-free spending cuts," as just two examples of genuinely "unproductive" public spending.

But, as ever, convenient myths that serve the interests of domestic elites prevail over basic facts. And, as ever, it is the poor and working class who will suffer.

Thursday, 2 July 2009

Queer activists cannot see this 40-year landmark as the finish line

On 28th June 1969, just over 40 years ago, police raided the Stonewall Inn in Greenwich Village, New York. This Mafia-owned bar was a welcome hangout for homosexuals, drag queens, transgender people, hustlers, and homeless youth, which was precisely the reason for the raid. However, the raid was the immediate catalyst for the Stonewall riots which kick-started the gay rights movement in the US and worldwide.

Today, it would appear to many, that movement has secured victory. Civil partnerships, an equal age of consent to heterosexuals, and other milestones certainly make it appear that the ultimate goal of Stonewall has been reached. However, such an appearence is a false one.

First and foremost, the stark fact is that - beyond the United States, Western Europe, and "the West" generally, LGBT rights are close to non-existent. Amnesty International highlights the full extent of the problem;
All people should be able to enjoy all the human rights described in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. Yet millions of people across the globe face execution, imprisonment, torture, violence and discrimination because of their sexual orientation or gender identity. The range of abuses is limitless:
  • women raped to “cure” their lesbianism, sometimes at the behest of their parents;
  • individuals prosecuted because their private and consensual relationship is deemed to be a social danger;
  • loss of custody of their children;
  • individuals beaten by police;
  • attacked, sometimes killed, on the street – a victim of a “hate crime”;
  • regular subjection to verbal abuse;
  • bullying at school;
  • denial of employment, housing or health services;
  • denial of asylum when they do manage to flee abuse;
  • raped and otherwise tortured in detention;
  • threatened for campaigning for their human rights;
  • driven to suicide;
  • executed by the state.
Human rights abuses based on sexual orientation or gender identity include the violation of the rights of the child; the infliction of torture and cruel, inhuman and degrading treatment; arbitrary detention on grounds of identity or beliefs; the restriction of freedom of association and basic rights of due process.
To give a couple of pertinent examples of this, in May this year Peter Tatchell - a prominent Queer-Rights activist and member of direct action group OutRage! - was assaulted and arrested during a Gay Pride rally in Russia, not the first time he has faced such treatment there. In Iran, as publicised by the case of Mehdi Kazemi - who claimed asylum in the UK after Iranian authorities executed his boyfriend - homosexuals are murdered by the state in the most brutal manner, namely hanging on a rope winched up by a crane. Further examples abound in Saudi Arabia, Yemen, Afghanistan, Jamaica, and elsewhere - particularly across Africa, the Middle East, and the Carribean.

Even in the "liberal" West, however, where LGBT rights are unquestionably farther advanced than anywhere else in the world, the struggle is not yet over. As we learn that, according to Pink News, "the Delhi High Court today ruled that a ban on gay sex between adults violates India's constitution" and "the health ministry has called for the ban to be scrapped, saying it hampered efforts to fight the spread of HIV/AIDS in the country," we also find out that "a gay bar in Fort Worth, Texas, was raided on the 40th anniversary of the Stonewall riots." Despite the police statement that "the bars were raided as part of 'alcohol beverage code inspections'," there are "various accounts" of abuse and harrasment and "it is thought that one of those arrested is in hospital with a fractured skull."

In Britain, the Daily Mail has reported with expected disdain that "David Cameron has issued an extraordinary apology on behalf of the Conservative Party for legislation banning the promotion of homosexuality in schools." Referring to Section 28 of the Local Government Act 1988, they offered overwhelming coverage to the fact that he was "attacked last night by traditionalists on the Right of his party." "Former party chairman Lord Tebbit said he suspected the apology had been driven by 'focus group findings'." The paper continues to insist that "Section 28 was introduced by Margaret Thatcher's government in response to evidence of Left-wing councils promoting gay relationships in schools" despite the inherent absurdity in the idea of "promoting" homosexuality.

It was, of course, the Mail at the forefront of the virulently heterosexist campaign that saw Section 28 introduced. The non-sequitur that non-discriminatory policies amount to "promotion" and "indoctrination" being a typical subterfuge of such apologists for discrimination. That such attitudes still pervade today, as can be seen in the backlash against perceived (and not-necessarily real) "political correctness," and the utterly insane idea that not discriminating against minorities somehow equates to discriminating against the majority, demonstrates that the struggle is far from over.

You cannot force people to change their minds or legislate away bigotry, despite what the most egalitarian of liberals would like to think. However, by continually pushing the boundaries and challenging perceived norms, you can keep debate on "controversial" subjects such as homosexuality alive and encourage people to think twice about their own perceptions.

The plight of LBGT people across the globe certainly serves to put the situation in the West into perspective. However, if we allow this fact to make us complacent, and thus allow conservative and regressive elements to roll back basic freedoms, then we are betraying ourselves as well as the suffering peoples of the world. Only by continually and vocally opposing any and all discrimination in our own society can we hope to raise consciousness enough to force it into actions of solidarity and support with those who face far worse.