LETTERS - FRFI 266 Oct/Nov 2018

Say no to IHRA!

Newcastle said its word: No! The young communist in its soul shouted, because many in Newcastle’s council were trying to criminalise any support for Palestine by adopting the ‘International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance’ definition of antisemitism.

The Revolutionary Communist Group (RCG) interrupted the council meeting in a revolutionary classical way: ‘How dare you challenge our freedom of speech,’ a comrade shouted while holding the Palestinian flag higher than any debate got.

‘Free Palestine!’ they shouted. One was pushed to the ground, but his eyes were looking high to the same Palestinian flag that had just toured his city. The flag was very peaceful and very powerful.

By heart they knew what they believe in is unshakeable. When the Left was not acting right but moving right, RCG stood firm and fought. These revolutionaries know things are not straightforward. But they made it clear they are willing to keep on fighting for their right of freedom of speech and for their solidarity with the Palestinian people.

I learnt something today. I think more of us should say more of ‘no’ sometimes, and more of ‘yes’ to that young voice in us. We can also join the RCG.

A Palestinian activist in Newcastle


Tunisia: an ongoing struggle for equality

National Women’s Day was officially marked on 13 August in the Republic of Tunisia, with hundreds attending an organised demonstration that took place in Bourguiba Avenue in Tunis. This comes in support of a new proposition by the country’s president Beji Caid Essebsi to reform inheritance laws that allow male relatives twice the share of female relatives. The proposal has sparked division amongst the political elite dominated by the pro-European secularist party Nidaa Tounes and the reactionary Islamist forces of the Ennahda party who have been in power since 2014.

The women’s day demonstration, organised by Bochra Belhaj Hmida, saw the participation of various progressive forces including the Tunisian Popular Front (a left-wing coalition) and multiple feminist groups. It is a symbol of the Tunisian people’s insuppressible struggle for freedom, equality and democracy. The issue concerning the inheritance reform is to be debated in the Tunisian parliament by 2019.

Nevertheless, the Ennahda party (who control 69 out of the 217 seats) and its supporters have rejected the proposal for reform, with president Essebsi backtracking by stating that ‘equal inheritance won’t be mandatory, but rather optional for families’, putting into question the political elites’ commitment to change. This points to the simple fact that the interests of the ruling parties do not align with those of the people, and they instead aim to remain in power either by fuelling religious fundamentalism within the poorest sections of the working class or through opportunism in using progressive ideals to bolster support for upcoming elections.

The Tunisian economy is undergoing an austerity programme  introduced by the liberal and conservative establishment and enforced by the IMF, which has made life more challenging for the already vulnerable working class as welfare benefits and public services are gradually getting cut. Prime minister Youssef Chahed stating that ‘2018 was the last year of suffering for Tunisia’ added insult to injury. The struggle has been building up since the 2011 revolution and the people’s anger was demonstrated in the recent municipal election with only a 33.7% voter turnout and suspicion of irregularities that limited the Popular Front’s participation in some regions. Experts project that as long as the political atmosphere in the nation remains unchanged, voter participation will continue to decline.

Issues such as gender equality and austerity have allowed mass movements to rise and organise against the current establishment. Though the future of Tunisia may be riddled with uncertainty, what is likely to occur is the development and emergence of a new wave of opposition driven by the Tunisian youth and working class that may lead the country into a brighter future.

Rafik Salim


Repression against journalists in Ukraine

In Ukraine lawlessness is going on and terrible repressions are being carried out against opposition journalists. All these gross violations of democratic norms have recently been strongly condemned by authoritative international organisations.

In February the UN published its 21st report on the state of human rights in Ukraine for the period from August to November 2017. In particular, the report cites shocking stories of torture, executions and sexual violence and many examples of infringement of freedom of speech and the rights of ethnic minorities.

The UN report notes the resonant case of Dmitry Vasilets and Yevgeny Timonin, who were sentenced to nine years in prison on charges of allegedly ‘aiding terrorism’ for setting up a Youtube channel and a serious concern is the lack of responsibility for crimes against journalists. Little progress has been made in the investigation of recent attacks on media workers, the UN report says, or the murders of journalists Oles Buzina in 2015 and Pavel Sheremet in 2016.

According to the UN, foreign journalists covering the conflict in the east are labeled ‘propagandists’, which is the reason for their deportation from Ukraine. Three journalists from the Russian Federation and two from Spain were arrested, interrogated and deported in connection with their reports. The UN recalled that any restriction on freedom of opinion and expression, if applicable, should be commensurate with the legitimate aim pursued. It noted with alarm the broad interpretation and application of the provisions of the Criminal Code relating to terrorism in the cases initiated by the Ukrainian security police against media workers, journalists and bloggers.

In addition, a report by Amnesty International in February 2018 stated that critics of the government, journalists and non-profit organisations had become subject to increasing pressure from the authorities and ultra-right groups which – under the pretext of protection from Russian aggression – have embarked on the path of infringing freedom of speech and freedom of association: as Amnesty put it, ‘opposition media are considered Kremlin agents’. They cite one case of attempted arson against editorial staff at the opposition television station Inter TV.

Since 2014, during the reign of current president Poroshenko, 12 journalists have been killed and 40 convictions for social network posts were made. People convicted over internet posts have been punished not for calls to overthrow power or for xenophobia, but simply for expressing personal views. In just 6 months in 2017 there were 122 cases of repression against journalists.

Beness Aijo

Communist Party of the Donetsk People’s Republic

Grim British prisons

I am writing to add a point about the blame apportioned to prison officers as regards the ongoing crisis in the system (see ‘Chief Inspector says prison conditions worse than ever’ FRFI 265). It was my misfortune to encounter a jolly wee crew of these characters on the top deck of a bus from Arbroath. Grossly manspreading and loudly mansplaining, they joked about how the homeless were in reality only after a couple of quid for alcoholic Buckfast. Passing the Celtic shop in Dundee, the ‘Fenian’ outlet prompted mocking comments about that description being racist. In fact, as studies have shown, prisoners of Irish antecedent are well over-represented in Scottish jails to this day.

More grimly, you can watch Irish activist and former prisoner Stephen Murney describing his experiences at the hands of prison officers in ‘British jails in the Occupied Six Counties’; he powerfully illustrates and condemns the current practice of strip-searching as effectively sexual assault of men and women at the hands of prison officers. (www.youtube.com/watch?v=o5yiQJeMSmY).

Murney was speaking on a public panel which included the interned ‘Hooded Men’, who were tortured by the British Army in the late 1970s. The campaign in support of the ‘Hooded Men’ was struck a major blow on 11 September 2018 when the European Court of Human Rights declared for the second time that their being subjected to hooding, white noise and stress positions, deprived of sleep, food and water, physically assaulted, subject to death threats and being taken up in army helicopters and threatened with being thrown out, amounted to ‘inhuman and degrading treatment’ but not to torture.

Meanwhile, the latest Minister of State with responsibility for prisons, Rory Stewart OBE, is proposing military training for governors and management as an answer to the crisis. Ex-British Army Black Watch officer Stewart (who was a member of the Labour Party in his early years), was previously a private tutor to the royal princes; his father was a British colonial governor who openly expressed contempt for any democratic process or control. Stewart has notoriously advocated forcing prisoners – amongst them his own regimental veterans – to clean up rubbish-strewn yards. When real social justice arrives, he and his imperialist class and their brainless stooges are going to be well occupied tidying up a world that they have looted and destroyed over the centuries.

We can expect only a further direct militarisation of prison control beyond the disasters that G4S is overseeing right now. Which means only more violence against the majority. This is indeed how the ruling class ultimately rules.

Michael MacGregor



Letter from a former prisoner

I have been released from prison. My current circumstances are still very limiting. I would like to thank FRFI and everyone else that has supported me during my imprisonment.

Yours gratefully,



Fight Racism! Fight Imperialism! 266 October/November 2018


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