Go and see Vamos Cuba! But don't buy a programme!

vamos cuba

Vamos Cuba! Peacock Theatre, Portugal Street, Holborn, WC2A 2HT, London

24 October - 11 November 2017 Tickets from £15

Go and see Vamos Cuba! The dancing is enthralling, fluid, mind-blowing; the spectacle amazing, and the whole evening unmissable!

Choreographer Nilda Guerra has set the piece in Havana Airport, where a flight to Miami is delayed (we speculated that this is due to Trump reversing Obama’s relaxations on travel between the US and Cuba) and all sorts of dramas are played out between the delayed passengers and airport staff. We watch the soured relationship between the captain and a stewardess and the incipient love affair between the airport janitor and a stranded passenger, plus lots of other leit motif pieces (such as the vicar who is a pickpocket) – in fact everywhere you look there is a story and you could probably watch this performance every night and find something different you’d not noticed before.

 

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Shy Radicals – a manifesto for the quiet revolution

shyrad radicals

Shy Radicals: the antisystemic politics of the militant introvert by Hamja Ahsan, published by Bookworks, 2017, £9.95

Shy Radicals is a ‘what if?’ book. What if everyone who suffers from anxiety, depression or agoraphobia, all those with diagnoses of autism or Aspergers’ syndrome, and everyone who is simply shy or socially awkward and has ever suffered for it, banded together and employed methods of political struggle to turn themselves into a liberation movement?

 

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Review: Being Sebastian 

Contact Theatre, Manchester, 27 September 2017

In these times of capitalist commercialism, theatre is rarely accessible to working class and oppressed people. Even performances of plays written by socialists like Brecht or Oscar Wilde are co-opted by the market, pricing the poorest out of the action and forcing independent writers and performers to eke out a living in unfunded community locations. But every now and then the sugar-coated stylings of the West End are challenged in creative terms by realist visions exposing the horrors of the system. Being Sebastian, a solo play written and performed by the talented Mancunian Sean Cernow, is a display of the bitingly grim reality at the heart of the British prison regime.

 

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The true banner of capitalism: 'sterilise the weak, abuse the poor, exploit the dependent'

Throughout Scandinavia, in France, the USA, Switzerland and in many other leading Capitalist nations, a vicious policy of 'eugenesia' has been promoted over the last 50 years. Its stated aim – nurturing the strong and cleansing the weak ('racial improvement') – is to ensure the health necessary to capitalistically exploitable labour whilst ridding society of its 'useless', 'burdensome' population. Deliberate inhumanity. With the development of 'genetic engineering' and with science held under lock and key by profiteering industry, the abuses perpetrated by capitalism on women, the poor and the sick can only become more insidious.

Racial 'purification' and 'cleansing' has always been a tool of the most reactionary and vicious regimes, but as the revelations in August 1997 of the forced sterilisation of at least 73,000 thousand women throughout Scandinavia (60,000 in Sweden, 11,000 in Denmark, over 1,000 in Finland and over 1,000 in Norway) from 1935 to 1976 show, such ideas are endemic in modern 'democratic', bourgeois societies.

 

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One to miss

Revolution: Russian Art 1917-1932

Royal Academy of Arts, 11 February – 17 April, £16

(Gallery guide £2.50)

Designated ‘a thrilling, chilling show’ by the Financial Times, the gallery guide to Revolution: Russian Art 1917-1932 correctly notes:

‘The freedom and euphoria of the Revolution produced some of the most remarkable talents in art, theatre, music literature and architecture.’

The next sentence, however, is a clue to the politics of the exhibition:

 

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Necessary trouble - The rising tide of organised resistance in the United States

Necessary Trouble Americans in Revolt Sarah Jaffe

Necessary Trouble: Americans in Revolt

Sarah Jaffe, Nation Books, New York, 2016, 352pp, ISBN 978-1-5685-8536-9 (hardcover) ISBN 978-1-5685-8537-6 (ebook)

Sarah Jaffe’s Necessary Trouble provides the fullest account yet of the social movements that have arisen in the US since the financial crash of 2008. The author travelled widely across the states to speak to a huge variety of people in revolt, including members of Black Lives Matter, Occupy Wall Street, OUR Walmart (Organisation United for Respect at Walmart), Fight for $15 (minimum wage) and the victims of environmental degradation, toxic energy corporations and extreme weather events like Hurricane Sandy. She even spoke to members of the Tea Party.

 

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The George Jackson Brigade and organising behind bars – book review of Lumpen by Ed Mead

‘The first duty of a captured revolutionary is to escape; barring that, the second is to transform the prisons from instruments of repression into schools of liberation and revolution.’ (p205)

Lumpen is the autobiography of former US prisoner Ed Mead, who served 18 years for his part in a 1976 bank robbery committed by the George Jackson Brigade (GJB). GJB was an armed propaganda unit named after political prisoner George Jackson who was murdered by guards in San Quentin prison in 1971, which was active in Seattle in the mid-1970s. 

The book takes us through Ed’s life in extensive detail, with the first 100 pages dedicated to his growing up in California, Washington State, Alaska and elsewhere in the US, as his poor white family moved to find work.  His life was harsh and gritty but it was not this which politicised him as, despite some sympathy for the even poorer indigenous Alaskans, his horizons were limited to survival and the pursuit of accessible pleasures.  

What changed his consciousness was prison. Imprisoned initially for various petty crimes, which escalated in seriousness, he became a ‘jailhouse lawyer’ filing appeal writs and other complaints both for himself and, as he grew more successful, for others. However, even this was in the first instance simply a more complex survival tactic until, while serving five years in the United States Penitentiary at McNeil Island, he came into contact with political prisoners, incarcerated for a wide range of activities relating in some way or other to the Vietnam War.

Ed explains how some of these political prisoners filed a writ against the federal prison system entitled ‘The Genocide Complaint‘, which ‘detailed the destructive nature of prisons for both inmates and their families and presented alternatives that would be possible under socialism’. Ed and the other jailhouse lawyers laughed at this legal suit which could never succeed but he quickly realised then that legal success was not the main aim and that the complaint was a mobilising tool for ‘organizing support for prisoners on the street’. (p138) 

A work strike followed in the prison, during which ‘hundreds of people (including actress Jane Fonda and folk singer Pete Seeger) demonstrated on the Steilacoom dock in support of the striking prisoners’ and the prisoners inside set fires and threw paint-bombs. (p141) 

In this atmosphere Ed began to read political literature. First anarchism, which he swiftly dismissed: ‘Anarchists, I discovered, could never be more than liberals (even when they’re armed liberals) as their philosophy itself is just a form of liberalism’ (p143).  Then, first through reading Trotskyist publications, then The Communist Manifesto and other works by Marx and Engels, followed by Lenin and Mao, he and a fellow prisoner following a similar path became convinced Marxist-Leninists.   Of course, ‘this process did not take place all at once… this wasn’t like finding Jesus!  - but rather a lengthy and painstaking study that was coupled with what we believed was sound political practice.  It was a process that took several years, and even today I’m still seeking to understand the complexities of Marxist theory.’ (p144) 

Released from prison in 1972 and convinced that the revolution would take place in the US within five years, Ed immediately became involved in political organising, with a focus on prisoner solidarity, but also in response to the continuing war in Vietnam, as well as to police brutality and racism. There was a palpable sense of political urgency in which ‘the same old marching in circles wasn’t going to get the job done’ (p173).  From showpiece use of incendiary devices as part of public demonstrations, Ed and a group of comrades moved on to an actual solidarity bombing of a racist white construction company in solidarity with the struggle of Seattle black workers’ union the United Construction Workers.

GJB then came into being as a small group of armed revolutionaries, inspired that ‘Fidel Castro started the Cuban revolution by landing on the shores of Cuba…with only twenty-six men, and that with only a nine-person Armed Propaganda Unit, Ho Chi Minh had built a Vietnamese movement that ousted the Japanese, the French and finally the American imperialists’. Many similar groups were springing up across the US at the time and GJB hoped that ‘these units would multiply, eventually joining together to help smash the existing State and sweep the bourgeoisie from power.’ (p186) 

Easy as it now may be to look on this as hopeless naivety, we should remember that in the late 1960s and early 1970s the US state itself did seriously fear that revolution would sweep it from power, prompting it to set in motion massive surveillance, undercover operations and overt terror in order to smash organisations like the Black Panther Party.

GJB, however, was not under surveillance and managed to carry out a significant number of bombings. Although these were always claimed by the brigade, the police did not know who its members were, and might never have done so had it not been for the bank raid, which was carried out to gain funds for more bombings, and which ended in the death of one activist and the imprisonment of Ed and his comrade on the spot, followed by three others who were subsequently rounded up. Even straight after the robbery, the police thought they had arrested some criminals, and might have continued thinking this, had GJB not issued a political statement; this was done with the express purpose of letting the public know that Bruce Seidel, who was shot dead during the raid, was ‘not a criminal but a revolutionary…’ (p205)

Ed was sentenced to a complicated combination of state and federal punishments, including two consecutive life sentences, but began serving them still fully confident that either the revolution would liberate him or he would escape.  In the meantime, he set his mind to organising within prison and spent the whole of what turned out in the end to be an 18-year term behind bars, doing so using all the means at his disposal.

Although Lumpen gives us an inspirational look at the possibilities of political organising behind bars, it does not romanticise imprisonment or prisoners. A substantial part of the activity which Ed and his comrades were involved in during the first part of his sentence related to preventing prisoner-on-prisoner rape via education, agitation and direct action, and the book contains frequent descriptions of the need to be armed and vigilant at all times, especially as ‘reactionary prisoners are always the administration’s first line of defence’ (p305). 

The book contains lots of detail about work-strikes and prison protests, some more successful than others. Throughout his time in prison Ed took every opportunity to organise with others, whether those opportunities appeared to be directly revolutionary or ostensibly liberal. Although the prison system in which he was incarcerated was brutal and he spent years in segregation units or being transported to federal prisons in distant parts of the country, including the notorious USP Marion, prior to its total lockdown, there were always opportunities to do something to confront the system.

In addition to detail of what was actually organised, there is plenty of discussion about how best this should be done. The book’s 12th chapter ‘Big Red Redux & Marion’ contains detailed analysis of the ‘four main organizing trends in the nation’s prisons, represented by four different organizations’. It is not possible to repeat all this here but the chapter, and indeed the book, is useful reading for anyone organising around the prison struggle, even in today’s much less revolutionary and far more heavily policed circumstances. And some of the questions dealt with relate not just to prison struggle, but to political work in general, with a later chapter addressing the question ‘should I be working to build cadre or a mass organization?’  (p298), as well as that of whether we ‘talk about communism and socialism in our organizing work’ or refrain from doing so ‘because that alienates people’. Ed’s view is that ‘to pull our punches on this is to underestimate and devalue people’s intelligence. They need to see the goal we are fighting to achieve at every step along the way. They need to understand how a more sane social order could be organized and how it would be of benefit to all of humanity’ (p305).

He wrote to and for numerous political publications, as well as producing his own Red Dragon newsletter, using whatever internal or external typing, copying and distributing mechanisms were available. In addition Ed corresponded with a copious number of activists, supporters and organisations around the world, including between 1990 and his release in 1993, with Fight Racism! Fight Imperialism!

Lumpen concludes in the present day, with an account of Ed’s involvement in solidarity activity around the 2015 California and Georgia prison protests. The author, now 73 and suffering from advanced lung cancer,  ends on a positive note, encouraging prison readers to become class conscious and all of us to study Marxism – ‘the science of Revolution – of global class war’.

This book is easy reading but is not short and at times there is perhaps a bit too much detail for those not already well-versed in the subject matter.   It is strongly recommended to anyone with an interest in US political struggles of 1970s or prison solidarity at any time. 

Lumpen – the autobiography of Ed Mead

Kersplebedeb Publishing https://www.leftwingbooks.net/

Published 2015, 360 pages, ISBN: 978-1-894946-78-0, Price $US20 

Nicki Jameson

 

Review: Out of the Box

out of the box

Out of the Box by Leroy Smith, published 2016, ISBN 978-09955520-0-5

Short of assassinating the monarch, shooting a police officer is about the most risky crime to commit. Do so and every single law enforcement agent will be on your case. And the pursuit of such suspects will extend far beyond these shores. In 1993, Leroy Smith found out just how true this is. He shot and wounded two police officers in Brixton, south London and fled to the USA. Two years on he was arrested by a Swat Team in Connecticut and after a spell in Bridport Correctional Centre, a high security state jail, he was returned to England and sentenced to 25 years’ imprisonment.

Smith spent the whole of his prison sentence on Category A in the high security prison estate. Now free, he has written Out of the Box, a brutally honest story of the making of a criminal, in which he pulls no punches, nor makes excuses. He says that he is putting his story out in the hope that other underprivileged young black men will not follow the path he did.

Like many serving time in an unjust system, where black, ethnic minority and poor prisoners are massively over represented and where racism regularly displays its ugly face, Smith became politicised in prison. He educated himself by conversing with political prisoners, supplemented by ‘ten years of watching Newsnight every night, and lots of other news stations…as well as reading non-mainstream newspapers like Fight Racism! Fight Imperialism!

 

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We are not all Daniel Blake

I Daniel Dlake

Ken Loach’s new film, I, Daniel Blake, paints an intimate picture of the brutality of Britain’s sanction-driven benefits system. The plot hinges upon the human consequences of Employment and Support Allowance (ESA) ‘fit for work’ judgements, and Jobseeker’s sanctions. By focusing upon a small cast of characters, Loach succeeds in portraying the sheer barbarity of poverty in Britain. I, Daniel Blake is a powerful argument for human dignity; depicting Newcastle’s jobcentres, food banks and run-down industrial estates as theatres of cruelty.

Between January and June 2016, a total of 165,013 Jobseeker’s Allowance (JSA) claimants were referred for a sanction. 81,195 (49.2%) of these referrals resulted in sanctions. Over the same period 7,034 ESA claimants were sanctioned and deprived of their income. An October 2016 study published by Oxford University – ‘The impact of benefit sanctioning on food insecurity’ – clearly demonstrates the relationship between benefit sanctions and the use of food banks. It demonstrates that after the application of one million benefit sanctions in 2013, reliance upon food banks tripled. Trussell Trust statistics reveal that 21% of all referrals to their food banks are due to benefit sanctions.

 

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'Black Panthers: Vanguard of the Revolution': Revolutionary movement against racism and imperialism

• Black Panthers: Vanguard of the Revolution, directed by Stanley Nelson, 2015, 1 hour 55 minutes

The Black Panther Party for Self Defence has been interpreted in vastly different ways – from a racist hate group, as it is typically portrayed in the liberal media, to an indispensable blueprint for revolutionary organisation in an imperialist country. The Panthers were formed in Oakland, California, in 1966, to defend the African American community from constant attacks by the US state. They recognised that US imperialism was at the core of the destruction of their community. They saw the need for anti-imperialism and revolutionary socialism in order to fight for real change. The party was highly organised, armed for self-defence against the police and dedicated to class struggle. Working class unity is dangerous for the ruling class and the Panthers’ demonstration that they could provide for the poor, in a way that capitalism could not, meant they had to be destroyed. In 1968 they were described by FBI director J Edgar Hoover as ‘the greatest threat to the internal security of the country’. In the end, after an orchestrated campaign of state aggression, the organisation was destroyed.

 

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United We Stand

In November, at the Bussey Building in Peckham, south-east London, the play United We Stand by Neil Gore was produced, directed by Louise Townsend. The cast of writer Neil Gore and William Fox take on multiple roles, but primarily they portray the Shrewsbury pickets Ricky Tomlinson and Des Warren during the 1972 builders strike. It is performed on a set of scaffolding bars which is adorned by strike posters.  A projector shows footage of Tory prime minister Edward Heath, the 1972 Miners' strike, and working class resistance against the 1971 Industrial Relations Act. Heath's term in office was a fiasco for the capitalist class; a seven-week Miners' strike in January-February 1972 was a victory for the NUM, and in July 1972 the Pentonville 5 were imprisoned for defying the Industrial Relations Act which was followed by a near-general strike.

In the early 1970s building workers faced dangerous working conditions, and poor wages. Warren says 'life and limb are cheap on the building sites'. Between 1970-73 there were 242,000 registered industrial injuries but the highest fine paid by an employer was £300 for two deaths. In 1972 'casualisation' was rife in the building industry, where it was known as 'the Lump.' The Lump Labour Scheme institutionalised casual cash-paid daily labour without any employment rights. Building workers were a dispersed force, little unified because of the diverse and transitory nature of their trades, unionisation was weak, and thus they were a section of the working class generally ignored by the labour aristocracy who controlled the trade union movement.

 

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Strangeways protester Alan Lord tells his story

• Life in Strangeways: from riot to redemption, my 32 years behind bars,

Alan Lord with Anita Armstrong, £7.99, John Blake Publishing, 2015

In 1981, aged 20, Alan Lord was sentenced to life imprisonment for murder, following a bungled robbery. Following his release in 2013, Alan has written this autobiography, chronicling his life before prison, years of incarceration, participation in the 1990 uprising at Strangeways prison in Manchester, and eventual path to freedom.

This book is an easy read but not easy reading, graphically detailing beating after beating by violent, racist prison staff: ‘I sometimes regretted my actions in fighting the regime, but I was stubborn to a fault. I could have kept my head down like most inmates do, but it’s just not me. I wanted to make it clear from the start that they could have it the easy way, by treating me with respect as a human being, or the hard way. I always had it in my head that one day I’d beat the system and come out the better man.’ (p37)

Throughout his sentence Alan maintained a strict regime of physical training and Spartan living; on arrival at every new prison – and there were many moves – he would throw out the furniture, bleach the floor and lay a sheet on the floor. In this way he slept every night of his sentence on the ground.

 

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Review: Brand takes the side of the oppressed

Revolution- Russell Brand, Random House 2014, 372pp, £20

Russell Brand rocketed to public attention far beyond his usual fan base after a BBC Newsnight interview with Jeremy Paxman during which he called for ‘no vote’ at elections. Brand’s personal life and his politics came under immediate and hostile attention from media commenters. There was outrage that an argument for a ‘no vote’ position should be presented on a major BBC platform. However, as Brand himself says in Revolution, he is neither leading nor following: ‘I think it unlikely that people aren’t voting because I told them not to; it is more likely that they’re not voting because they are subject to the same conditions that led me not to vote. The realisation that it’s bloody hopeless’ (p78).

For successive general elections Fight Racism! Fight Imperialism! has adopted the slogan Don’t Vote! Organise!, sharing Brand’s view that none of the parties standing for election represent what is needed for the poorest people, the vast majority of the world. Moreover, the election machine itself feeds into a discredited pretence of democracy which sidelines and kills off real political engagement. At the last British General Election in 2010, the turnout of registered electors (which excludes prisoners and homeless people) was 65.09%. The turnout in the May 2014 European elections was 35.05% of those eligible. These figures signify a deep and widespread contempt for career politicians and distrust of their electoral promises and institutions. Growing anger about rapidly increasing poverty, privatisation of the public sector and cuts in public spending is deepened by the charade of parliamentary politics. As Brand says, exploitation has now ‘reached a pitch where the disenfranchised and exploited can look to a culpable minority with vengeful eyes’ (p79).

 

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Assata: an autobiography

Assata Shakur, (first published 1988), reprinted by Zed Books July 2014, £8.99pbk, 416pp ISBN: 9781783601783

‘No oppressed people ever won their freedom, by hoping their oppressors would change their minds’ Assata Shakur

This book promises an ‘intensely personal and political autobiography’ and ‘a major contribution to the history of black liberation’, and it more than delivers on its promise. This account of the life of Assata Shakur, in her own words, gives us a completely different view of this brave, strong and proud woman so often simply described as the ‘most wanted’ US terrorist.

Black communist Angela Davis has written a brief foreword to this new edition of Assata Shakur’s autobiography along with Shakur’s lawyer Lennox Hinds. The book is enriched by both for different reasons. Angela Davis offers a straightforward account of some of the activities in the 1970s surrounding Assata Shakur. Along with her views on institutional racism this places the book firmly in a political context. A detailed account of one of her own experiences of police racism, abuse of police powers and police intimidation sets the tone, immediately making it clear that this book is not just another story, but one of definite political importance.

Lennox Hinds, as a black lawyer, teacher and student of history, elaborates on the legal cases against Shakur, detailing the inaccuracies of evidence, and the painstaking lengths the state will, can and did go to in order to prosecute black activists who were deemed politically dangerous. He sifts through the masses of evidence to pick out the important facts from many acquittals and her single conviction, raising the question immediately of her innocence and the state’s desperation to contain the black liberation movement at any cost. He describes her story as a struggle for self-determination and for freedom. These forewords prepare you for the intense, personal and moving story of a political activist, black woman, mother, lover and revolutionary, who to this day remains the worst-treated female prisoner in the US prison system.

The book is gripping from the first paragraph, beginning with Shakur’s memories of the shooting on the New Jersey turnpike, in which she is left critically wounded. The first chapter details her hospital ordeal, where instead of receiving decent treatment for her gunshot wounds, Shakur is instead forced to withstand violence, interrogation and systematic abuse as she determinedly fights to stay alive.

The following chapters skip between two timelines, the first from that moment at the turnpike onwards, the other from her childhood up to that point, showing clearly the conditions and racism that drove her actions towards that moment. It is a very personal account written with great honesty.

Her life is detailed simply and without pretention. The book takes you on a journey of the life of a working-class black woman in the US and describes the racism that permeated every sphere of her life. She describes simply but powerfully that journey down a political route, drawing out the issues at the heart of racism and the imperialist US state.

It explores the prison system, the state and institutions like the police and legal system, posing questions on ethnicity, freedom, economic enslavement and justice. This is therefore just a good read and an interesting life of a revolutionary, but has an overtly political message. It leads the reader to the questions that Assata herself faced in her political awakening, as she describes herself as having originally held an anti-communist position formed by the propaganda surrounding her as she grew up. Over time she becomes more and more politically aware and her position changes when questioning the motives of the Vietnam War with other black activists.

This book does not just engage the reader to realise the legal system’s flaws and its institutional racism, or the state’s power, but paints a picture of police brutality, inequality, state control and political repression with every passage leading you to question more and more the charges against Assata and the picture of a violent terrorist that the media would have you believe. By highlighting the lengths the state went to to ensure a conviction and paint her as guilty in the eyes of the public through mass media manipulation.

Every activist living in an imperialist country should read this this book, not just for its lessons on the nature of the state but also on how to organise against it. It inspires the reader to change society, as you see how despite all the hardship and persecution this revolutionary woman remains hopeful that change is possible through the collective action of the people. As she says, ‘a wall is just a wall, it can be broken’.

The book wraps up this inspiring woman in socialist Cuba, where she escaped to and now lives in political exile. She describes Cuba not in an idealist way, ignoring racism or sexism there; but acknowledging it exists, and critically observing it. In 1996, FRFI interviewed Assata Shakur in Havana and she explained how socialism made it possible to tackle racism, sexism and other forms of discrimination:

‘When I came to Cuba I didn’t know what to expect. I had no idea. It was clear that a revolution was not a magic wand that you wave and all of a sudden everything is transformed. The first lesson I learned was that a revolution is a process, so I was not that shocked to find sexism had not totally disappeared in Cuba, nor had racism, but that although they had not totally disappeared, the revolution was totally committed to struggling against racism and sexism in all their forms. That was and continues to be very important to me. It would be pure fantasy to think that all the ills, such as racism, classism or sexism, could be dealt with in 30 years. But what is realistic is that it is much easier and much more possible to struggle against those ills in a country which is dedicated to social justice and to eliminating injustice.’ (see full interview at www.tinyurl.com/q6qltsu)

She therefore describes Cuba however as ‘the most progressive place on the planet’ because it actually does have the means and the will to tackle these issues and not ignore or hide them.

It is amazing to think that through all the pain, heartache of separation from her family, loss of loved ones and memories of years of abuse, that she is now is somewhere she considers a progressive home finally safe from the persecution of the US institutions; there is a place in the sun, where there is hope for everyone, and its name is Cuba.

Hands off Assata Shakur!

By D Spencer

 

Pan-Africanism and Communism/ FRFI 238 Apr/May 2014

Fight Racism! Fight Imperialism! 238 April/May 2014

Pan-Africanism and Communism: The Communist International, Africa and the Diaspora, 1919-1939

Hakim Adi, Africa World Press, Trenton, 2013, 444pp, £28.99.

At 5am on 3 October 1935 Mussolini’s fascist army marched across the Mareb River into Abyssinia (modern Ethiopia), opening a war that would see Africa’s oldest independent country turned into an Italian colony. The invasion sparked mass protests across the globe, in many places led by the International Trade Union Committee of Negro Workers (ITUCNW), a member organisation of the Communist International (Comintern) which for several years had fought to organise and unify ‘the wide mass of Negro workers on the basis of the class struggle’. In this book, the fruit of a decade of research, historian Hakim Adi provides a detailed exploration of the origins, politics and role played by the ITUCNW and Comintern in the anti-racist and anti-colonial struggles of black people throughout the early 20th century.

 

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Look back in anger / FRFI 238 Apr/May 2014

Fight Racism! Fight Imperialism! 238 April/May 2014

Look Back in Anger – the miners’ strike in Nottinghamshire, 30 years on

Harry Paterson, Five Leaves Press 2014, 288 pages, £9.99

Harry Paterson’s book is written with class consciousness and engagement. It has a political shrewdness which distinguishes it from some of the more sentimentalised accounts of the struggle of 1984-85. A focus on the Notts miners, in an area where a better-off workforce largely refused to back the strike, evokes the passions and anguish of this huge industrial and political battle. The defeat of the miners, despite their courage, signified a huge blow for the British working class as a whole.

In Nottinghamshire the majority of miners scabbed on the strike. One important reason for this was the Area Incentives Scheme (AIS), promoted by the National Coal Board (NCB) with the deliberate aim of sowing divisions between miners. This scheme was pushed through under the Labour government in 1977, against the wishes of two thirds of miners, but it had the support of right wing NUM (National Union of Mineworkers) president Joe Gormley. The militant Arthur Scargill replaced Gormley in 1982, too late to stop the AIS. Crucially, many miners in the most productive coalfields, such as Notts and South Derbyshire, supported the AIS as it could raise their incomes above the mass of miners in Britain (a short-sighted view, given Thatcher's later plans to shut most pits, including in Notts).

The Tory government of Margaret Thatcher, elected in 1979, set about destroying much of Britain’s industrial base. Ultra-right-wing director ‘Sir’ Ian McGregor was first appointed to smash the British steel industry, reduced in the early 1980s from 166,000 jobs to just 71,000. Before McGregor’s appointment as coal board chief in March 1983, the miners had repelled an early threat of pit closures in 1981. By late 1983 an overtime ban was enforced all over the British coalfields, to reduce stocks in anticipation of a fight for jobs. Even the Notts area supported this ban until almost the end of the strike.

The strike began suddenly in March 1984, when the NCB made an official announcement to close 20 pits, with 20,000 job losses. An early disappointment however was the ballot against strike action in Notts, promoted by right-wing union activists such as Clarke and Liptrott who had links with the British state. Significantly the NCB did not announce any pit closures in Notts until after the strike was defeated. Paterson recalls the visits of Yorkshire pickets to Notts and their astonishment at their high living standards, often living in substantial private houses of a kind not seen in most mining areas. A minority of Notts miners did strike, including about 2,000 until the very end. Paterson’s father-in-law was a striker and picket, and his wife joined Women Against Pit Closures. Women became even more important to the struggle after harsh laws banned their husbands from picketing. The Notts ‘NUM loyalists’ were like partisans fighting behind enemy lines, with their home county sealed off by cops operating checkpoints.

Wider working class support is a crucial factor in any strike. As the government moved to cut welfare payments from miners’ families, which Paterson notes had been planned before the strike began, the question of their subsistence was raised. Donations came from sympathetic unions, such as the firefighters and railworkers and from street collections in working class areas. These were often done by miners’ wives, as in Notts, and by leftist political groups. The author recalls a mostly generous response to these, except in areas like Notts where opinions were influenced by the working miners.

Solidarity strike action could have won the dispute easily, given the possibility of paralysing the capitalist economy. Opportunities were lost, such as the dockers strike in July 1984, when their leaders quickly agreed a temporary deal with a government secretly committed to smashing their union. A basic pact with the railworkers banned the movement of coal by scab labour to build up stocks. The government responded by organising private lorries to carry it. Paterson shows why there couldn’t be a much wider general strike, as had happened in 1926. In 1926 the miners were betrayed by the TUC and left to fight alone and in 1984 the same forces were responsible for the lack of anything broader. The TUC had earlier pledged to oppose the new anti-union laws which outlawed solidarity strikes, by any means necessary, but in 1984, faced with further laws enacted by Tory minister Norman Tebbit, the TUC and the largest unions backed down through fear of having their funds ‘sequestrated’. Widespread support for the miners among the working class meant that TUC treachery had to be disguised with verbal solidarity and cash payments. Neil Kinnock’s Labour Party also played a key role in destroying the strike. Like the TUC’s Norman Willis, Kinnock complained about miners using violence, while faking sympathy for their cause.

Paterson refers in detail to the media distortion of the struggle. The biggest flashpoint was at Orgreave, a coking plant in Yorkshire, where 95 pickets were arrested in July 1984. The BBC showed miners stoning the cops, who were then shown ‘defending’ themselves – the exact opposite of what actually took place. The Daily Mirror became openly hostile to the miners after it was bought by the Robert Maxwell, a man with MI5, MI6 and Mossad links. Media interest switched off after the struggle ended in March 1985 – the decimation of jobs was not newsworthy. In 1984 there were 228,440 NUM members, but by 1994, when the Coal Industry Act paved the way for privatisation, only a few thousand mining jobs remained. Not even the ‘privileged’ Notts miners had been spared.

In concluding his book, Paterson details new information that has come to light since the struggle. This confirms what Scargill and other activists said at the time – the Tories had a secret closure plan; Thatcher did intervene to increase cops’ harassment on picket lines; she did plan to involve the army and declare a state of emergency; and the government was seriously worried about a miners’ victory, especially during the July 1984 dock strike. As Paterson puts it, ‘Arthur Scargill, the most maligned and vilified trade union leader in British history, had been right all along and his nemesis, Margaret Thatcher, had consistently lied and misled both Parliament and the public before, during and after the strike.’

Martin Hope

 

Dead Prez interview with Fight Racism! Fight Imperialism!

After a storming performance in Manchester on 10 February 2014, revolutionary US rappers Dead Prez met with young supporters of Fight Racism! Fight Imperialism!

M1 and Sticman answered questions about their radical political approach, touching on ideas about racism, capitalism, socialism and the need for solidarity with the people of Palestine. In the first instalment of our interview, Dead Prez discuss how they became interested in political action.

 

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Justice for the Cuban 5!

What lies across the water, Stephen Kimber, Fernwood Publishing 2013, Can$19.95

Stephen Kimber’s remarkable work is both a forensic expose of anti-communist terrorism and the definitive guide to the story of the Cuban Five. With in-depth analysis of the activities and motivations of many key players in US-Cuban relations over the last 50 years and a detective-thriller writing style it is both highly readable and politically explosive.

In September 1998, five Cuban intelligence agents – Gerardo Hernandez, Ramon Labañino, Antonio Guerrero, Fernando Gonzalez and Rene Gonzalez – were arrested in Miami. The story of the necessity of their presence on US soil, infiltrating terrorist networks amongst the febrile world of Miami’s rightwing Cuban exile groups, reveals a hidden history of CIA-assisted intrigue. Their trial and the conditions of their imprisonment demonstrate the ruthlessness of the imperialist state and the thinness of the veneer of fairness that covers its oppressive ‘justice’ system.

Kimber reveals the existence of a widespread terrorist conspiracy among Cuban exile organisations. For every successful murderous plot such as the 1976 Cubana Airlines bombing, which killed 73 civilian passengers, or the 1997 Havana hotel bombings, there are many more abortive or less spectacular attacks. Kimber exposes not just the involvement of the key figures of anti-communist terrorism, the real-life movie villains Luis Posada Carriles and Orlando Bosch, but also the clear trail of money and support for them from supposedly ‘mainstream’, US government-friendly organisations such as the Cuban American National Foundation.

 

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Brushing away the cobwebs of bourgeois democracy/FRFI 235 Oct/Nov 2013

Fight Racism! Fight Imperialism! 235 October/November 2013

Cuba and its neighbours: democracy in motion,

Arnold August, Zed Books 2013, £16.99

In Cuba and its neighbours: democracy in motion, Canadian journalist Arnold August demolishes the bourgeois propaganda that socialist Cuba is somehow ‘undemocratic’ by examining the very idea of what we mean by democracy.

The first part of this comparative study, ‘Cobwebs around democracy’, is an analysis of the US system. August exposes the deceptive character of the US two-party system as a cover for what he describes as an ‘oligarchic’ state but we would call imperialist. Using Barack Obama as a case study, he shows how a cautious ‘benefit of the doubt’ attitude towards Obama by Latin America faded in the face of a military coup in Honduras, perpetrated with US backing. August points out that ‘a new face’ changed nothing in US relations with Cuba: ‘His role, based on the illusion created regarding the two-party system, was to change tactics because they had failed to reach the same goal of regime change.’

August argues that Obama recreates the chimera of the American Dream at home, while promoting war abroad. The two-party system ‘constitutes the lifeline of maintaining the status quo and averting a crisis in the US political system.’ August shows that this system excludes up to half the voting age population, including convicted felons – the majority black – and those without official papers, such as many Latino immigrants. Thus large numbers of the most oppressed sections in US society are disenfranchised.

In contrast, August shows how the participatory democracies of Bolivia, Ecuador and particularly Venezuela are transforming the lives of the poor. In his examination of the Bolivarian Revolution’s transition towards ‘21st century socialism’, August describes the ‘missions’, inspired by Cuba, that bring social change into the barrios, incorporating ‘Venezuelans into a growing, parallel, state-sponsored economy that competes with the traditional private sector and ultimately seeks to supplant it’. He shows how the country’s constitution was drafted by the people themselves, and writes: ‘This participatory experience contrasts significantly with how the US constitution came into being: exclusivity based on the protection of the unlimited accumulation of private property.’ He does not brush aside the challenges of attempting to develop such an explicitly socialist democracy when capitalist relations are still the dominant mode of economic activity, but says because of the development of popular power, ‘The elections are…a vehicle that drives the Revolution, and the grassroots are the fuel. Participatory democracy is a daily way of life for a growing number of people.’

August shows how in both Bolivia and Ecuador a similar, although less developed, process has taken place. Bolivia’s Movement towards Socialism (MAS) mobilised more than 80% of the population, including campesinos and indigenous groups, for the 2005 elections; its constituent assembly represented a significant move towards developing participatory democracy in the country. Led by Evo Morales, the new government enabled one million Bolivians to escape poverty in six years. Morales’ election signified an end to the ‘apartheid that had marginalised the majority of the indigenous population since the Spanish conquest’. However, as August says, ‘the future of Bolivia’s fledgling participatory democracy depends on the capacity of MAS and its leadership to resist pressures and interference from the right-wing, tied to US interests’. He points out, too, that such democracy is not static but constantly evolving.

In Ecuador too, August shows, there has also been successful movement for the rights of the most oppressed sections of society, including the enshrining of indigenous peoples’ rights and the stipulation that the natural resources of the country are the patrimony of the people.

August rounds up part one by analysing the progressive Latin American alliances of ALBA and CELAC and their key role in opposing US imperialism by building co-operation amongst member countriesagainst ‘US centrism’ and its attempts to impose its own limited concept of democracy on the continent.

Cuba

The bulk of the book deals with the democratic system in socialist Cuba. As well as a detailed explanation of how the electoral process itself functions at municipal, provincial and national level, with all Cubans automatically registered to vote at the age of 16, what is most valuable is his exploration of how the state functions between and alongside the formal electoral process. August shows how since the Revolution the system has been through a consistent process of renewal: he describes the rectification campaign of the 1980s against bureaucracy and corruption which renewed the relationship between the people and the state, and looks at the changes that followed the collapse of the Soviet Union in the 1990s.

Particularly interesting are the local gatherings in 2007 that followed a key speech by then Vice President Raul Castro, in which he detailed economic and social concerns of the people and welcomed everyone to ‘the daily battle’ – to discuss ‘difficulties, successes, strong and weak points in the revolutionary process’ in their workplaces and educational centres, which were then presented to local Committees for the Defence of the Revolution. It was this process of popular power through national debate that led, for example, to the distribution of uncultivated land rent-free to individuals to increase food production and lower prices.

The Congress of the Cuban Communist Party took on board the proposals of these national debates, leading to a final drawing up of 313 guidelines. The measures addressed every area of life and are described in detail in the book. The fact that this revolutionary renewal was possible is because, as August says, ‘there is…a dialectic bond between the leadership and the people. A continual, reciprocal, bottom-up and top-down process takes place.’ August praises this creative and flexible process, although warns that the outcome of the changes is yet to be determined.

August writes as an academic rather than as a socialist, and there are places in the book where one could take issue with him. But overall, Cuba and its neighbours provides meticulously-researched ammunition for all those fighting in defence of a socialist system of participatory, working class democracy and exposes the bourgeois democracy defended by the United States as a sham.

Nazia Mukti

 

Marx in Soho - a play by Howard Zinn

Directed by Comrade Sergio Amigo with Daniel Kelly as Karl 

Wednesday to Sundays till 13 October
The Calder Bookshop and Theatre, 51 The Cut, London SE1 8LF
www.calderbookshop.com

Tickets £10 (£8 concessions) To reserve a ticket call 020 7620 2900
or email This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

Also two nights at The Marx Memorial Library
Tuesday 22 and Wednesday 23 October 7pm
37A Clerkenwell Green, London, Greater London EC1R 0DU

Howard Zinn’s play has Marx fighting in heaven for the right to return to Soho (unfortunately he ends up in New York Soho rather than his old London haunts) and prove that his ideas are not dead but still relevant in the 21st century. ‘Why must they declare me dead, again and again?’ He is allowed only an hour on earth and a wonderful hour of theatre it is.

 

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Celia Sanchez and the Cuban Revolution

Review: One day in December: Celia Sanchez and the Cuban Revolution by Nancy Stout

Monthly Review Press, New York, 2013, 457 pages. ISBN: 978-1-58367-317-1

Nancy Stout has treated the reader to an exhilarating biography of Celia Sanchez, recording her vital contribution to the revolutionary struggle and the socialist state in Cuba. This is long overdue. While many supporters of the Cuban Revolution will have heard about Celia and her close relationship with Fidel Castro, few will have understood or appreciated the role she played. Celia’s great political and revolutionary strength lay in her organisational capacity, as well as her sacrifice and commitment. As novelist Alice Walker says in her foreword, the book offers: ‘A clear vision of what balanced female leadership can be; and, even more to the point, what a truly egalitarian revolutionary leadership of female and male partners might look like.’

 

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The Queen vs Trenton Oldfield – A prison diary

[Published by Myrdle Court Press, 2013]

On 7 April 2012, Trenton Oldfield disrupted the Oxford vs Cambridge University Boat Race in the River Thames in protest against elitism, inequality and government cuts and surveillance. He was arrested and initially charged under Section 5 of the Public Order Act, which does not carry a custodial sentence. Following a politically instigated CPS review, this was then changed to ‘causing a public nuisance’, for which he was sentenced on 19 October 2012 to six months’ imprisonment. He served a month and a half of this in Wormwood Scrubs prison in London, before being released on Home Detention Curfew electronic tagging. Trenton – an Australian who has lived in London for ten years – is now fighting an attempt by the British Home Office to make him leave the country on the basis that his presence here is ‘not conducive to the public good’.

 

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Gangsterismo: The United States, Cuba and the Mafia: 1933 to 1966

By Jack Colhoun, OR Books, New York, 2013, 361 pages, £17.

Paperback ISBN 978-1-935928-89-8. Ebook ISBN 978-1-935928-90-4

www.orbooks.com/catalog/Gangsterismo

Jack Colhoun is a journalist and archive researcher with a distinguished record of investigating US foreign policy in Vietnam, Cambodia and the Middle East and publicising the impact of special interest lobbies on domestic politics like the Obama Healthcare legislation. He was the leader of the draft and military resistance registers exiled in Canada during the Vietnam War.

 

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Ken Loach and The Spirit of ’45

In this period when the living standards of the working class in Britain are being attacked, there is a rise in the call for new organisations and strategies to take a stand against the ruling class. FRFI is as committed as any in this country to the desperate need for a new movement to take a stand against the privatisation and destruction of the welfare state, the control of the corporations and the banks and the increasing poverty that have gained speed over the last 20 years under Labour and ConDem governments alike. It is not possible, however, to build resistance to the regime of austerity launched by the capitalist class without an honest political understanding of the forces at work against the people. This must include an honest record of the role of the British trade union movement and the Labour Party and their historic collusion with the state.

 

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Review: Refugees, capitalism and the British state: implications for social workers, volunteers and activists

Review: Refugees, capitalism and the British state: implications for social workers, volunteers and activistsReview: Refugees, capitalism and the British state: implications for social workers, volunteers and activists, Tom Vickers, Ashgate Publishing, Surrey, 2012, £55 (website price £49.50)*

www.ashgate.com

This is a book that delivers what is promised in the title and much, much more. Tom Vickers combines a detailed overview of current immigration policy at the legal and managerial levels, as it has emerged from successive British governments, with a Marxist understanding of the state. Refugees, capitalism and the British state is a work of direct significance to workers in the field of refugee experience and to all those who wish to understand the origins and significance of immigration in the context of the globalised power and financial structures of today.

 

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Hip hop rebellion is alive and kicking – October 2012

Review:            The Coup, Jackson's Pit, Oldham, 26 October

                        Immortal Technique, Manchester Academy 2, 28 October

We are living in a time of unstoppable capitalist crisis. The crisis has sent shockwaves through the finance capitals of the world in Europe and the US, as imperialist politicians, bankers and corporations gamble and rob in order to save their sinking ship. Millions of people around the world are being forced into dire poverty as ruling classes bring in austerity measures to cut spending on welfare, and unleash savage warfare on the peoples of already impoverished and oppressed countries. In times like these, signs of resistance are emerging and in music, the voices of resistance are getting louder. FRFI attended two political hip hop gigs in Manchester, featuring US artists The Coup and Immortal Technique.

 

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Black Bolshevik. Autobiography of an Afro-American Communist

Fight Racism! Fight Imperialism! No 4 May/June 1980

black_bolshevikHarry Haywood. Liberator Press, Chicago, Illinois. 1978.

This is a big book by a big man. Born in 1898, the son of slaves, Harry Haywood was for 36 years a member of the Communist Party of the United States of America, the CPUSA. The history in this book, the history of a lifetime’s struggles, the history of the CPUSA is the history of 20th century America.

It was in the 1890's that American imperialism really took off. The Philippines, Cuba, Puerto Rica, much of South America and most Caribbean countries were conquered by American imperialism within a decade. When Harry Haywood speaks of imperialism he knows exactly what it means. The looting and stealing of the wealth of other countries, the political control by force of other countries, and the deliberate restriction and prevention of the economic development of national economies is the character of US (as well as British) imperialism.

US imperialism abroad was also carried on within the US. Just as imperialism oppresses external nations, so it keeps the black Americans, and other minority groups, in a position of special oppression. In the Southern States black people were excluded from basic democratic rights by the Jim Crow system, dating from the Hayes-Tilden Gentlemen's Agreement of 1877. This baldly stated that no black person has any rights that need be recognised by white persons. In the industrial North of America, black labour was excluded from the trade unions, from the more skilled jobs, from housing, and pushed into ghettos. Black people were used as a pool of reserve labour - to be hired last and fired first, and brought in to break strikes. This was US imperialism on the home front. Many of the laws which were used to specifically oppress and exclude black people have been thrown out. This gain was won by the heroic struggles of the black masses in the 1920s and 1930s and again in the 1960s. But the legal victories which cost so many lives and so many years of struggle are only a limited gain, like the independence of a country from Britain or the US which is independent in name only because it is still dominated by Western capitalism. American black people know that this legal equality is a pretence. The reality was shown by the ghetto rebellions, 24 in 1964, 38 in 1966 and in 1967 128 and in 1968 131.

 

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Communist, internationalist and fighter for women’s rights: the legacy of Sylvia Pankhurst /FRFI 226 April/May 2012

Fight Racism! Fight Imperialism 226 April/May 2012

Communist, internationalist and fighter for women’s rights: the legacy of Sylvia PankhurstSylvia Pankhurst: Everything is possible

Produced by WORLDWrite,

directed by Ceri Dingle and Viv Regan, 2011

www.worldwrite.org.uk/sylviapankhurst/ DVD: £20, plus p+p

 

‘To British manhood: comrades, how much longer will you be willing to fight, work and pay for the war which the British capitalists are making on the working people of other countries?’ (Sylvia Pankhurst, Workers’ Dreadnought, May 1920)

 

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Charles Dickens (1812-1870) a nationalist treasure

Fight Racism! Fight Imperialism 226 April/May 2012

charles dickens e1487098571626 500x263

Even in this bicentenary year when media corporations are investing a lot of money, talent and time into celebrations of the great writer with events, films and television shows, the name of Dickens summons up feelings of unease when growing austerity and class divisions mark these years. The term ‘Dickensian’ still implies dire poverty, slum conditions and child labour which, however modified, are all present in Britain today.

The reputation of Dickens the man has undergone a reassessment recently following the publication of several new biographies and studies of the writer and his circle, including fellow novelist Wilkie Collins (The Woman in White), his wife Catherine and his mistress, the actress Ellen Ternan. New research shows that he was a man with many of the peculiarities and flaws that he gives his great cast of characters, over 400 in all, who feature in his novels. His relationships with women were particularly intense and his treatment of his wife, who was banished from the family home and her ten children, and Dickens’s public statement on this in The Times newspaper in 1857, have all the sensational elements of one of the author’s own plots.

 

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Building solidarity with Palestine / FRFI 225 Feb/Mar 2012

Fight Racism! Fight Imperialism! 225 February/March 2012

Gaza: Symbol of Resistance, ed Joyce Chediac, World View Forum 2011, $15.55. The full text is also available at gazaresistancebook.com

Targeting Israeli Apartheid: A Boycott Divestment and Sanction Handbook can be downloaded as a pdf or bought for £10 at www.corporatewatch.org/?lid=4103

On 29 December 2011, Benny Gantz, Chief of Staff of the Israeli Defence Force (IDF), marked the third anniversary of Operation Cast Lead, describing the massacre as ‘an excellent operation’ during which the IDF operated in ‘a determined, decisive and offensive manner against terrorists in the Gaza Strip’. He warned that ‘sooner or later, there will be no escape from conducting [another] significant operation’.

Gaza: Symbol of Resistance, edited by Joyce Chediac, covers events in Gaza between 2006 and 2010 as reported in US newspaper Workers World, and serves as an excellent introduction for anyone new to the issue, as well as providing essential facts for activists. It starts with the 2005-06 elections in Gaza – ‘among the most heavily monitored ever by international observers’ – in which the people chose the ‘wrong’ party, electing Hamas with 73% of the vote. The consequence was a campaign by the US and Israel to destroy Hamas and punish the Palestinians by imposing a siege on Gaza, the prelude to Operation Cast Lead. The book explains that even with 1,455 Palestinians killed, and thousands injured, Hamas’ organisation remained intact after the invasion, with Gaza ‘bloodied, but unbowed’.

Chediac argues the vital importance of Gazan resistance and the Palestinian struggle for national liberation. ‘Support for Gaza is not charity... it is mutual solidarity with the heroic Palestinian struggle against the common enemy.’ As the capitalist crisis deepens and repression against the working class increases worldwide, resistance has to be anti-imperialist: ‘The workers have begun fighting defensive battles and can identify with the defensive struggle of the Palestinians.’

Gaza: Symbol of Resistance focuses on US imperialism’s support for the repression of the people of Gaza; a recent Corporatewatch report addresses British imperialism’s role. Targeting Israeli Apartheid calls itself a ‘boycott, divestment, and sanctions [BDS] handbook’. Corporatewatch says that ‘the direct action of ordinary people is vital for the success of the Palestinian struggle’. Examining the connections between the Israeli economy and Britain, the report illustrates the impact that an effective BDS campaign can have on Israel’s $55bn export market, citing a survey which reports that 21% of 90 Israeli exporters questioned had experienced a fall in demand due to boycotts in Britain and Scandinavia.

The Israeli economy is dominated by a small number of holdings companies which control huge amounts of Israeli capital. The banking sector plays a crucial role in maintaining the Israeli state, with foreign banks allowing it access to bond markets, and Corporatewatch shows how the favourable loans and mortgage rates offered by Israeli banks are fuelling the expansion of illegal settlements. British banks are at the forefront: both HSBC and Barclays run branches in Israel, with Barclays having ‘significant investments’ in eight Israeli companies ‘complicit in Israeli militarism, colonisation and apartheid’.

British arms companies make a significant amount of money from sales to Israel and enable its continuing military domination. For example, BAE Systems, Britain’s biggest arms company, supplies Israel with navigation systems for F-16 jets which continue to bomb Gaza. The report describes the complicity of British state: its ‘policy on arming Israel in the last 10 years has been simple: to allow as much as possible, the unfettered export of weapons components bound for Israel from British companies and, in the face of growing public opposition and resistance, to create the false impression that arms exports are subject to strict controls’.

‘All major UK retailers sell Israeli goods, and most sell produce from illegal Israeli settlements’: the links between Tesco, Sainsbury’s, Co-op, and Waitrose and Israeli apartheid make them targets for BDS campaigns. Then there is Marks & Spencer’s political and economic support for Zionism: it continues to sell huge amounts of fresh produce from Israel, including dates from Israeli company Hadiklaim which are grown in the settlements and packaged as M&S own-brand. M&S has been the target of a sustained campaign by supporters of FRFI as the biggest British corporate sponsor of Israel. Together, these two new books provide an invaluable resource for building a movement against Zionism and its imperialist backers. They are both recommended.

Isolate Israel! Freedom for Palestine!

Toby Harbertson

 

Occupy Wall St: from the horse’s mouth – book review

occupy

Occupying Wall Street by Writers for the 99%

OR Books, February 2012, paperback £10/$15 ISBN 978-1-935928-68-3/ e-book £7/$10 ISBN 978-1-935928-64-5

This is a book about Occupy Wall Street (OWS) by participants, not outside reporters. It therefore gives an inside view of the protest, by some of its supporters. It recounts all the major milestones on the timeline of the New York protest and describes the major incidents of police harassment. It describes in detail the procedures for conducting a General Assembly and identifies the various working groups and components (library, medic tent etc) which are core to the occupation. It is a useful handbook for anyone who wants to set up another Occupy protest, with all the templates included.

 

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