Monday, July 31, 2006

Hezbollocks And Israbies

HezBollocks and IsRabies (26th July 2006)
A Class War Federation statement on the War in Lebanon

Class War is appalled at the carnage that is occurring in the Middle East. We are also disappointed but not surprised at what is being said about it, especially by some "progressive" organisations.

Lebanon is being turned into a grotesque war-games board as the real protagonists - The USA and Iran use their proxies to slug it out.

Neither the Israeli army nor Hezbollah give a flying fuck about 'their' civilians, except as bloody totems to hang in front of the cameras of the world's press in order to justify their own next atrocity.

The left have adopted two approaches.

Firstly, wholesale adoption of the Islamist agenda, cheerleading Hamas or Hezbollah without qualification or criticism. This 'Idiot anti-imperialism', the trademark of today's SWP, says my enemy's enemy is my friend and any criticism of them, no matter how mild, is 'racism, islamophobia, and Zionist pro American warmongering.'

The second approach is slightly more subtle - Hezbollah is fighting back, therefore we must support Hezbollah and the slogan 'we are all Hezbollah' is an act of basic solidarity with those who are fighting back against imperialism - the slogan is compared with the Parisian students who, when Danny Cohn-Bendit was attacked in the bourgeois press as a German Jew, marched through Paris chanting 'nous sommes tout les jiufs allemands!' (we are all German Jews).
This argument is crap - Hezbollah isn't a nationality or a racial epithet, it is a political party/militia, if the slogan really wanted to fit then the SWP should have handed out placards proclaiming 'WE ARE ALL SH'ITE'.

Lebanon has a radical history, albeit one distorted by the chains of Leninist communism, but this has been written out of the Brit left's history books in their rush to embrace Islamo-trottery.

A real working class alternative is desperately needed - one that recognises that there can be no peace whilst borders are drawn by reference to the Torah, and International policy is determined in Washington by consulting the Book of Revelations.

"Israelis living in Tiberuius fund the war, and contribute bodies to the war. It's not true to say they are wholly 'innocent'... "
- that quote is from an otherwise relatively sane leftist, and is a justification for every atrocity against civilians ever. It gives an idea just how much the left loses it when the question of Israel is raised.

The Israeli state oppresses the Palestinians, driving them into the hands of the fanatics of Hamas out of despair at the failure of the secular Palestinian left. In turn the suicide bombers provide for the Israeli state 'proof' of the murderous nature of the Palestinians and drives the Israeli public to support harsher and harsher measures against the 'terrorists'.

This is a self destructive spiral and must be broken.

The Israeli state is not shaken by katyushas or by suicide bombers - it is strengthened by them.

The last real challenge to the Israeli state was the Intifada, mass popular resistance on the streets of the west bank and Gaza, and amongst the 'Israeli Arab' population, this rose up from below from the streets and spread all across the middle east and north Africa as the Arab working class drew inspiration from the bravery of the Palestinian youth, and employed the same tactics to confront their own ruling classes. Inside Israel proper the intifada created real tensions within the army, as soldiers refused to be used to gun down children and sparked a massive peace movement amongst the general population.

The Oslo peace process was designed to derail the intifada and create from the PLO a police force to keep the unruly Palestinians in line.

All the arguments of the left revolve around one state/two state. All happily accept the artificial divisions created in the twentieth century by the very imperialists that they claim to oppose, and all ignore the actual people - Palestinian, Israeli, Lebanese, Druse, Syrian, Egyptian, Jordanian, Bedouin - who live there. Re-jigging the lines on a map will create new oppressions, new grievances and new horrors, and we as revolutionaries should have no part in assisting that.

We should stand shoulder to shoulder with those struggling against the oppressors of the Israeli state and the Palestinian bantustan. We fight against our 'own' rulers who attempt to use this slaughter to their own ends and use measly words 'condemning the violence' whilst writing out the receipts for the latest arms contract.

Any state solution is a continuation of the same bullshit.

No Borders
No States
No Gods
No War but the Class War

Saturday, July 22, 2006

criminal justice

Currently the police make some two million arrests each year.

In 2003-04 almost one million stop and searches were carried out.

And in England and Wales in 2004;

About quarter of a million police cautions, and nearly 64,000 penalty notices for disorder were issued,

There were more than two million prosecutions, with one and a half million convictions - usually for petty and trivial offences. The rate for television licence evasion conviction was 20 times that for sexual offences, and convictions for minor motoring offences were 18 times greater than for violence against the person,

100,000 prison sentences, 200,000 community sentences and one million fines were imposed.

The Prime Minister has stated that the criminal justice system is 'utterly useless for getting on top of 21st century crime.'

In response, the Home Secretary John Reid announced a 24-point criminal justice package designed to increase punishments and prison populations. In the face of record prison populations, 78,000 and rising, these provisions introduce a further 8,000 prison places and longer sentences. A Labour endorsement of Michael Howard's "prison works" policy.

The key question is, will these proposals reduce crime?

The Crime and Society Foundation (CSF) Report, 'Right for the wrong reasons: Making sense of criminal justice failure,' takes the view that it won't. It's main conclusions are that the reform of the criminal justice system and the reduction of crime are separate issues. Reform of criminal justice should not be confused with reducing crime. The role of the criminal justice system is to regulate certain types of crimes and criminals, not to resolve crime and make a safer society. Crime reduction demands the development of policies very different from those of the criminal justice system.

The report goes on to point out that the majority of the most serious and violent offences never end in successful conviction, and suggests that instead of attempting to increase the conviction rates, the social and economic causes of crime should be addressed. The real crime reduction challenge, it argues, does not lie within the criminal justice system, but social and economic change.

Richard Garside, the report's author, said: "Our levels of crime and victimisation reflect the way that we organise our society, not the relative toughness of our criminal justice system. The way to a safer and lower crime society lies in policies to reduce poverty, challenge sexism, and tackle concentrations of power. The criminal justice system is one of the least effective means of reducing and controlling crime."

Other reports echo the concerns relating to poverty and crime victims.

A previous CSF study revealed that the top 10% richest Britons are now 4% less likely to be murdered than in the early 1980s, but the poorest 10% are 39% more likely to end up as murder victims. It pointed to a link between rising murder rates and young men leaving school in the early 1980s, a time of mass unemployment. Stephen Dorling, the report author, said, 'The poorer the place you live in the more likely you are to be murdered. The rate of murder in Britain can be seen as a marker of social harm.'

The Institute for Public Policy Research reported that the residents of the most deprived areas are 2.5 times more likely to be mugged, and burgled than those living in the least deprived neighbourhoods. 59 per cent of children from ‘On Track’ areas were victims of crime in 2004, with more than 25 per cent of boys and 10 per cent of girls from deprived areas having been physically attacked.

The latest Home Office crime figures reinforce the link between deprivation and crime. In South Yorkshire there was a 35% rise in violent crime from 2004/5 to 2005/6 which contributed to a 16% increase in all crime. (11 of Doncaster's 23 council wards are amongst the 10% most deprived wards in the country).

The criminal justice system is geared to the construction and maintenance of social order. A government view confirmed by Jack Straw, who said that the purpose of the Home Office was to deal with ‘dysfunctional individuals – criminals, asylum seekers, people who do not wish to be subject to social control.’ Little wonder then that politicians look to criminal control mechanisms to tackle social problem, and unsurprising that they fail. It also explains why those ensnared within the criminal justice system are disproportionately from poor, marginalised and excluded populations.

As the Crime and Society Foundation report makes clear, 'if criminal justice tends to regulate rather than resolve social problems, it is likely to entrench rather than address the wider inequalities and imbalances that give rise to such problems.'

Friday, July 14, 2006

Discussing discrimination

the following two posts have been shamelessly lifted from fellow CWer pauls blog,
Following Peter Tatchell's speech (see below) there was a detailed discussion around discrimination, and in particular about how the left (and in particular the largest group on the UK left, the SWP) have tied themselves up in knots on the issue. Below I attempt to summarise debate, whilst making one or two comments of my own.
Several speakers pointed to the historical absurdity of the SWP, as a supposedly left wing organisation, getting into bed with Islamists. Maziar Behrooz has already documented the fate of the Iranian leftists who worked with Islamic organisations in Iran both pre and post the 1979 Islamic revolution - they were murdered, imprisoned or exiled as soon as the Islamists were securely in power.
A German comrade argued that the British left is too obsessed with "theories of imperialism" and so constantly finds the need to position itself according to what the US/UK governments are doing internationally. Whilst this has value, it was also pointed out that in the past the SWP's line of "Neither Washington Nor Moscow" was alot more credible than its current "Don't Attack Iran" - what is wrong, say, with "Neither Washington Nor Iran". I suspect however that my preferred line of "Neither Islam Nor Capital" would be a bit too strong for them!
Party TimeWhilst the "love-in" with Iran contradicts elements of the SWPs own history (one CPGB speaker made the point they said very different things on Iran in the early 80s to now) historically it is not particuarly perverse. The old CPGB managed to (wrongly) support the USSR and its satellites. In 1914 countless European socialists abandoned their principles to line up behind the first world war. The left is capable of huge blindspots when it comes to governments, particularly other peoples governments!
Being a CPGB meeting, several speakers took the opportunity to stress the need for a workers party, and that socialism comes through socialist organisations. Here I disagree - socialism, if it does come, will come through the working class, not political parties. This obsession with organisation and party permanently ties the CPGB to the trapeze act of constantly criticising the SWP, but wanting to be in their various fronts - Respect, Socialist Alliance etc - at the same time. Just as some people will stay in the Labour party no matter how far it moves to the right, some will forever shadow the SWP, no matter how absurd its behaviour.
Stating The Obvious? One interesting debate that flared was over censorship. Tatchell believes in using the law against those who incite violence or murder - a current concern is the lyrics of certain Jamaican musicians and their comments about killing homosexuals. He believes the state can and indeed must be pressed into protecting those who are victimised. Here both the anarchists and the CPGB members present disagreed, citing the dangers of giving the state more power. Indeed this applies to other sections of the establishment - calling on banks to shut down the BNPs bank accounts may have been a 'success', but the end result was the Alliance and Leicester also closing the Palestine Solidarity Campaign group's bank account. I do not believe the law and the state are the answers to our problems.
Debate closed about 7pm, and all still present adjourned to a nearby pub.
As an attack on Iran by the US/UK is likely, these issues will continue to be of importance. Should the US/UK decide that invading Iraq and occupying large parts of Afghanistan is quite enough for now, how we address issues around freedom of speech, using or not using the law, plus responding to repression in the Muslim world will remain as debates we must have.

Peter Tatchell On Discrimination

I used to dislike Peter Tatchell. I found him shrill and moralising, and thought "outing" counter-productive. Somewhere along the line though I changed my mind - a man who can pounce on Mike Tyson outside his gym in Memphis, denounce him as homophobic and actually convince him to state otherwise clearly has something going for him. Tatchell has principles, and actually believes in people working toghether to make the world a better place.
On 10 July I saw Tatchell speak on "Discrimination and the SWP" as part of the Marxism Fringe organised by the CPGB. Tatchell spoke for a good 45 minutes, which was followed by a similar length discussion. His basic position is that "the left" lacks any plan or strategy, and is instead reactive to events. Lacking relative, international values to unite around, single issue campaigns dominate. Traditional values have been abandoned - there has been next to no solidarity with imprisoned trades union leaders in Iran for example, yet massive worldwide agitation is being planned should the US attack or invade the Islamic republic.
The largest of the single issue campaigns recently has been the anti-war movement. Deeply unpleasant bedfellows have emerged - a representative of the Iraqi Al-Sadr Brigade spoke at the last major Stop The War Coalition march, whilst CND recently hosted the Iranian ambassador. At the SWP's Marxism 2006, the closing rally featured a speaker from the Muslim Brotherhood. The reactionary nature of all these characters can hardly be disputed - these are people and organisations with a long history of attacking trades unions, women and anyone else who does not fit into their narrow religious view of the world. Peter Tatchell sees this as opportunistic and unprincipled.
He is right.