Created: Wednesday, 11 June 2014 10:23
Fight Racism! Fight Imperialism! 239 June/July 2014
Syria and the fight against imperialism
I’ve been fortunate to find FRFI and to feel welcomed by a community of likeminded comrades an ocean away from my cage. That being said, I found the recent article by Toby Harbertson (FRFI 238) antithetical to my socialist ideology.
Comrade Harbertson rightly identifies the Syrian ‘rebels’ as being primarily supported by the very imperialists to whom I will forever be opposed. I also agree that any true socialist/communist should work in any way possible to support and defend Brothers and Sisters of the Kurdish PYG.
However, when it comes to Syria (as in most proxy wars) the enemy of my enemy is not always my friend as Comrade Harbertson suggests. Syria is, for all intents and purposes, a dynastic monarchy led by one generation to the next by the Assad family – what kind of revolutionary cheers for a monarch? And a Baathist monarch at that! Have you no sense of history? In the 1960s the largest Communist Party in the Arab world was the Iraqi Communist Party (ICP). Within 20 years, leaders throughout the region – Hussein in Iraq, Nimeini in Sudan, Suharto in Indonesia and Assad (Sr) in Syria, would execute and imprison tens of thousands of communists in a purge of the ideology itself. Now, years later we as communists are supposed to feel joy because one group of imperialist oppressors is successfully killing another group of imperialist oppressors? And make no mistake Vladimir Putin is just as much an imperialist dog as Barack Obama. I fail to see the way in which a victory for either of these belligerent, militaristic empires does anything to further Our cause. I refuse to succumb to delusional nostalgia simply because the Hammer and Sickle once graced the flag of Russia (USSR). Stalinism (aka Putinism) is not communism and anyone who confuses the two has obviously never read Marx, Lenin or Engels.
In Syria I simply don’t see a side to cheer for. Do we cheer for Amerikkka, with its ever expanding military/economic empire? Do we cheer for Putin, who essentially runs Russia like a crime syndicate? Should we be happy when missiles from Russian helicopters blow the faces off of innocents or should we save our glee for the victims of western weaponry? I hope western ‘interests’ fail in Syria right alongside Putin’s interests. I wish there was a party of the people in Syria, but there isn’t and for Comrade Harbertson to pen such a biased article under the page heading ‘Fight imperialism’ is just surreal.
D J TAYLOR #179983
287 Bilton Road,
PO Box 665, Somers, CT 06071, USA
P.S. After you published my letter in the April/May edition I received letters from some FRFI readers – these were most welcomed. Unfortunately I also received a few rejection notices from the pigs here at Northern because prisoners tried to write to me. I’m not allowed to receive letters which are recognisable as having come from other prisoners. I did receive one postcard from a prisoner named Charles Bronson @ HMP Wakefield but my attempt to respond was intercepted by staff. I don’t know if you are familiar with any of the prisoners who wrote to me but if so please extend my gratitude.
Reply from Toby Harbertson
Thanks to D J Taylor for his considered response to my article. Letters and contributions that raise important issues for socialists are always welcome in our newspaper.
Comrade Taylor argues that it is wrong for communists to take sides between US/British imperialism on the one hand and Russia’s oligarchy on the other. Essentially he argues that the correct standpoint is ‘a plague on both your houses’. While we appreciate all anti-imperialist sentiments, we argue that opposing imperialism in practice is a concrete question for each communist or socialist movement. We have no illusions about Russia’s determination to defend its own interests against the dominant imperialist powers above anything else. FRFI does not cheer for Assad but we recognise the right of Syria to defend itself against external aggression. How can we be most effective in opposition to imperialism and in solidarity with the working class internationally? The answer to this is by building a movement that strenuously opposes British and US imperialism in the ‘belly of the beast’. Building a movement against British imperialism is our most effective contribution in solidarity with the struggle of the oppressed in Syria. The defeat of imperialism in the Middle East will be concrete encouragement to anti-imperialist, socialist and communist forces everywhere.
Defend social housing activist!
On 16 May FRFI attended a picket of Highbury Magistrates Court in north London called by the Kilburn Unemployed Workers Group in support of John Tymon. John is a supporter of Football against Apartheid and regularly attends the Victory to the Intifada demonstrations outside Marks & Spencer in London with his ‘Gooners against Apartheid’ banner.
John is also active in the defence of social housing rights and with others has successfully organised to prevent bailiffs from evicting local people. On 10 April John and others were protesting against the eviction of a vulnerable young man for whom Camden Council has a duty of care. No fewer than 40 police descended violently on the defenders; John was knocked unconscious and remained lying on the garden path for 20 minutes before being taken to hospital by ambulance. From there he was smuggled into a police van, taken to a police station and charged with ‘intentionally obstructing a High Court bailiff’. The case was postponed until October and there is hope that the illegality of the arrest is such that charges against John will be dropped. For more details see kilburnunemployed.blogspot.com.
Solidarity to all who are organising in defence of social housing and against social cleansing.
No evictions, no JSA sanctions
An unemployed man in his sixties faces eviction from his Southwark home after his benefits were sanctioned for nearly a year. In March 2013. Mark Roberts was turned away from a job interview day at the local supermarket, on the basis that there were too many applicants. His local Peckham Jobcentre Plus then stopped his benefits because he had not ‘secured a job interview’. Peckham jobcentre imposes the highest rate of JSA sanctions in London.
Mark wasn’t told he needed to re-apply for housing benefit, or told he could be entitled to a discretionary hardship payment. He spent ten months on sanctions, dependent on friends for food, and fell into massive arrears on his rent as well as fuel bills. He still has £400 rent arrears.
Because of this his housing association, Wandle Housing, is seeking his eviction and Mark will be appearing at Lambeth County Court on 30 May. South London RCG will be joining other local social justice activists to demonstrate against the massive injustice being perpetrated not just against Mark but against thousands of other claimants.
Please join us to show your solidarity from 9.30-11am, Friday 30 May, Lambeth County Court House, Cleaver St, London SE11 4DZ (5-10 minutes walk from Kennington tube).
Grim reality behind the glitz of the Glasgow Games
This summer sees Glasgow hosting the Commonwealth Games, with an athletes’ village being built in the east end of the city. As the red carpet is rolled out, Glasgow’s Labour council will do its best to sweep the city’s poverty under it, with thousands facing welfare sanctions, work capability assessments, or bedroom tax arrears, while the cream of the British Empire descends upon the city for the spectacle that is the Games. Dalmarnock, one of the poorest neighbourhoods in Glasgow, was wiped off the map to make way for the athletes’ village and the multimillion-pound Velodrome, with the claim that the village will remain as housing for the public, the supposed legacy of the games. However with prices starting at £95,000 none of the former residents of Dalmarnock can afford one of these ‘legacy’ homes. The finest example of the ironic juxtaposition of the Games is in Glasgow Central station where, under the clock counting down to the start of the Games, there is a food bank.
Resist ATOS trauma
I recently underwent an ATOS assessment as part of my eligibility for sickness benefit – I have suffered from severe depression since I was a child. My depression is part of a recurring medical condition. Last time I was employed, I had a mental breakdown. This is a pattern.
My appointment was at 11 am. I arrived with my father about 20 minutes early, having a panic attack. I was instructed to sit in a waiting room without being given a time for when I would be seen. By this point, I was crying and hyperventilating. I was kept waiting for an hour and a half. Another man in the waiting room had been there nearly two hours.
The assessment itself is disturbingly bureaucratic. The doctor read questions from a screen mechanically. At points I was reduced to tears. The doctor never paused, but simply asked the question again. Many of the questions were rephrased in order to catch me out. The entire assessment, from entry to the building until its conclusion, is designed as a form of trauma. I await results.
Not one party has said that they will do away with these assessments, or the profit creamed from them. Capita looks set to take the contract from ATOS, but the formula will not change. However, there is anger, bubbling just under the surface. While I was waiting, every conversation I overheard was furious and indignant. We are not passive victims and we will resist. The first soviet in Ireland was the Monaghan asylum in 1919. Here’s hoping.
Life means life in Germany
I write to you from the deepest dungeon in Germany and wish to thank all the comrades who make it possible for prisoners to read the inspiring issues of FRFI.
Today I want to inform readers about a new judgment in Germany: at the end of March the local high court in Karlsruhe decided that Mr N, who was arrested in January 1962, has no right to be freed.
Back then, he shot two people dead. He has now been behind bars for over 52 years. It looks like he is going to become the longest serving prisoner in Europe. The inhuman and degrading system will not temper justice with mercy.
Mr N and I have spent a lot of time together on the prison exercise yard; he is an old but still lively man who loves life. It is a terrible shame that he will not be allowed to die a free man.
c/o JVA (SV), Hermann Herder Strasse 8, 79104 Freiburg, Germany