Batasuna banned

FRFI 169 October / November 2002

On 26 August the Spanish Parliament approved the banning of Batasuna, the party leading the Basque movement for self-determination. The outlawing of a democratic opposition party in this way is unprecedented in recent European history and its full consequences are not yet clear. Batasuna has 900 elected representatives on local councils and one member of the European Parliament.

The legal framework for the action is set out in a new ‘Law of Political Parties’, which was brought in on 27 June, and which is explicitly designed to render the Basque organisation illegal. Over the next few weeks the social democrats (PSOE) and neo-liberal conservatives (PP) submitted a petition to the Supreme Court targeting Batasuna for ‘not condemning acts of terrorism’ and for providing tacit support to an armed group (ETA). Batasuna appealed against the restrictive law, but Judge Baltasar Garzon upheld the government’s position, ordering the immediate closure of all party facilities and the end of all activities.


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Batasuna fights banning

FRFI 171 February / March 2003

Batasuna, the Basque nationalist coalition, faces a two-year ban, with the possibility of it being extended to August 2007. The ban proscribes all Batasuna activity and members face prosecution as ‘supporters of terrorism’.

The nationalist left-wing party was banned on August 2002 under the Law of Parties [new legislation on political parties] introduced by the conservative government of José Maria Aznar (as reported in FRFI 169). Since then Batasuna and the grassroots movement involved with it have organised civil protests and are taking legal steps to challenge the ban.


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Turmoil in Georgia - Shevardnadze overthrown

FRFI 176 December 2003 / January 2004

On 23 November the former darling of the West, President Eduard Shevardnadze of Georgia was forced to resign after three weeks of mass protests against his re-election in a rigged ballot. Tens of thousands of demonstrators had taken to the streets of Tbilisi and on 22 November stormed the parliament building, unopposed by the army or police. Parliamentary speaker Nino Burdzhanadze is now acting president and hopes to hold presidential and parliamentary elections within 45 days.

Shevardnadze became well known as the Soviet foreign minister who with Gorbachev led the USSR to collapse and counter-revolution. Following the break up of the Soviet Union he returned to his native Georgia to become president in 1992. However Georgia, like other former Soviet republics, was too weak to exist independently and became the plaything of foreign powers. Under Shevardnadze Georgia became dependent on US imperialism which provided the country with $1bn over the last ten years, second only to Israel in per capita aid. Despite this, Georgia fell into ruin as the economy collapsed, electricity supplies frequently failed and the country’s once famously fertile agriculture declined. Where socialism had promoted co-operation between the different nationalities within the country, capitalism promoted conflict. Civil war broke out in the early 1990s and Georgia disintegrated, as the national autonomous regions of Abkhazia and South Ossetia effectively split from Tbilisi under warlords with the encouragement of Russian expansionism. The pro-Russian government of the Adjaria region responded by closing its borders with the rest of Georgia so cutting off rail links to the country’s main port Batumi. Following Washington’s declaration of the War on Terrorism, US military forces arrived in Georgia and set up base.


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European Social Forum – playground for opportunists

The concept of a European Social Forum grew out of the first Social Forum in Porto Alegre, Brazil in 2000, which aimed to bring together people interested in collectively voicing their opposition to the ideology represented by imperialists, neo-liberals and proponents of capitalism at the annual World Economic Forum. The third ESF took place in London in October this year.

The slogan of the ESF is ‘Another world is possible’ – of that there is no doubt. From a world without poverty, illiteracy, torture, racism, sexism, homophobia, war, environmental destruction, towards one with social justice, human rights, democracy and ecological responsibility. A world run in the interests of humans not profit – a socialist world.
Up to 20,000 people attended the London ESF, participating in a wide range of meetings and activities. The real lessons of the event, however, are not ones that will be learned from any of the speakers, but from studying the way in which the ‘left’ trade unions and the ubiquitous and iniquitous Socialist Workers Party (SWP) sabotaged support for real struggles and tried to cover up for collaborators with imperialist warmongering.


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Massacre in Uzbekistan

The White House’s instant response to news of the deaths of over 500 people killed by Uzbek troops in Andijan on 13 May was that they included ‘Islamic terrorists’. It took the BBC a few more days to discover that those resisting the Karimov regime were ‘Islamic militants’. This is consistent with a policy of support for this most vicious government, excusing everything it does for it is a member of ‘the coalition of the willing’. Uzbekistan is a strategic ally with a large US military airbase used in 2001 to bomb Afghanistan. It has oil and gas reserves and is adjacent to existing and proposed oil pipelines from the Caspian Basin and Middle East to China and the Indian Ocean. Uzbekistan borders Afghanistan and is less than one hour’s flight to Iran and China for US war planes. That is why the torture regime of Uzbekistan is supported by the US and British governments in their battle for global supremacy.

Just three days before the slaughter in Andijan President Bush was in Georgia praising a ‘beacon of liberty in the region and the world…a free and democratic Georgia’. And what is more, ‘You increased your troop commitment in Iraq five-fold’. US Secretary of Defence Rumsfeld, former Secretary of State Powell and numerous congressional delegations have visited Uzbekistan. None ever called for freedom and democracy in Uzbekistan. The United Nations says there is ‘widespread systematic torture’ in Uzbekistan. The US is the Karimov regime’s chief financial backer.


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European Union: not so cordiale

Last year Prime Minister Blair and President Chirac celebrated the centenary of the Entente Cordiale, an agreement settling disputes over colonial possessions and paving the way to Franco-British co-operation in the lead-up to the First World War. A year on and the celebrations are for Britain’s triumphs at Trafalgar (1805), Waterloo (1815) and, to cap it all, Singapore (2005), where London triumphed over Paris for the 2012 Olympics. It was all too much for President Chirac to stomach; he sneered at English cooking, insulted the haggis and remarked that the Olympic committee could ‘trust France’, implying that Perfidious Albion was untrustworthy. TREVOR RAYNE reports.

This descent into national stereotyping might be mildly amusing if it were not for the very unfunny ruling classes that it serves. With European capitalism in crisis its ruling classes are tempted to retreat from pan-European collaboration to national chauvinism. In the context of rivalry with the dominant US ruling class this is unsustainable.

The French voted No to the European Union constitutional treaty on 29 May, followed by the Dutch No on 1 June. The British government then said it would defer a referendum. Chirac had campaigned for a Yes vote. The Labour government breathed a sigh of relief at the No votes, pleased at not having to choose between a consolidated EU and a less integrated alliance favoured by the US. Blair was happy not to campaign for a Yes vote which he would most likely lose.


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Georgia global tensions erupt

The Georgian attack on South Ossetia and Russia’s military response demonstrate that we are in a period of intensifying inter-imperialist rivalry. As in the 19th century’s Great Game, played out primarily between Britain and Russia over central Asia, old and new powers now contest an area stretching from Eastern Europe and the Caucasus to the borders of China. Control over this region and its oil and gas supplies are critical to the US ruling class’s attempt to achieve global supremacy. Domination of this region should ensure that Western Europe, the Middle East and the Far East are made dependent upon it. By occupying Georgia, Russia’s new rulers have shown their intent to resist and reverse the US encroachment into the territories of the former Soviet Union. It is a serious blow to the US ruling class’s project and comes amidst a series of reversals of the US and British oil multinationals’ plans for the region. TREVOR RAYNE reports.


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