Category Archives: Internationalism

Politics also plays in the African Cup of Nations

By Francisco Centauro of Grada Roja

There are two faces to this beast; on the one hand the clamor that represents a continental tournament organized by FIFA, which brings together different countries in Africa to share the values that football transmits. On the other hand, also visible are the many factors that have led to the social and economic decline of the whole continent. In the 19th and 20th Centuries it was the shared experience of the imperialist yoke that gave the African nations the by-product of a fighting heritage. Now FIFA and those in political power in Africa try to provide cover for the continuing poverty and inequality of the continent with showcase tournaments. Nothing to see here, move along please…

The host country for the 2017 edition of the CAF Africa Cup of Nations is Gabon. Similar to Brazil at the last World Cup, a large percentage of the population of Gabon lives in dire poverty. The dissatisfaction at the amount of money invested in organizing the tournament permeates the population and has manifested itself in widespread discontent and protest on the streets.

The riots in Gabon commenced in the aftermath of the re-election of Ali Bongo of the Gabonese Democratic Party (PDG) whose victory is widely considered to be corrupt and fraudulent. Gabonese opposition candidate Jan Ping leads the protests and the social upheaval is ongoing, in spite of the African Nations Cup tournament. The capital Libreville, is the epicenter of both the sporting event and popular discontent. But the Cup must continue because the economic interests of the organizers in this era of commercialised soccer are a priority – they have match timetables to fill and profits to make, because ‘time is money’.

The first game of the Cup, on January 14, saw host Gabon play Guinea Bissau. Inside the stadium the encounter takes place with a certain normality, contrary to the scenes on the outside, where the population is immersed in episodes of violence, culminating in the protesters setting fire to the National Assembly as a sign of their discontent. Revolts, riots and mass arrests are the reality of the African Cup of Nations that is not reported by the mainstream media. It is obvious that, as in Brazil, the interests pursued by the government, the African Confederation and FIFA, is considered to be more important than responding to the demands of the protesters. No matter that public resources have been diverted to fund a lavish opening ceremony, the basic needs of the population can wait, because it is the priority of those in charge to show the world that Gabon is up to the task of organizing an event of this type. Most likely, after the tournament, stadiums will become abandoned properties, due to the inability of the government to finance their maintenance. Just look back and observe the countries that have hosted a tournament of similar character in other continents. In Brazil, those stadiums that were built after long days of exploitation and brutal effort for the workers, now lie abandoned. They remain as the silent witnesses of the socioeconomic consequences of being a World Cup host, Gabon will be no exception to this rule.

Looking beyond the facade of this tournament, it is important to celebrate the tradition of resistance that is demonstrated by the protests on the streets of Gabon. These protests recall the examples of struggle that led to the national liberation of several African countries, as well as the heroic characters who fought colonialism and achieved independence for their nations. Today these achievements are overshadowed by interventionism and betrayal.

So we remember Thomas Sankara and his legacy in the liberation of Burkina Faso, President Nasser’s Egypt, the Democratic Republic of Congo and the revolution of Patrice Lumumba. The many liberation struggles in southern and central Africa that saw the colonialists overthrown. And, of course, the Algerians as authentic warriors both on the pitch and on the barricades of the National Liberation Front. The revolution in Africa continues because, as has been proven by experience, national liberation in and of itself does not automatically lead to social liberation and freedom from poverty. Football and Politics remain intertwined and reflect the social context of the time and we will continue to report the political as well as the sporting.

This article first appeared in Spanish on the Grada Roja website.

Translated & Edited by Talman, with thanks to F.C. and Grada Roja

REVIEW: Dare Devil Rides to Jarama

Dare Devil Rides to Jarama dramatizes Clem “Daredevil” Beckett’s life and sacrifice during the Spanish Civil war, and celebrates the 80th anniversary of the creation of the International Brigades.

Clem Beckett lived briefly, but what he made of his 31 years on this earth is quite extraordinary. A proud working class lad born in Oldham in 1906, a blacksmith by trade turned speedway rider during the depression of the 1920s, he was quick to identify the damaging nature of capitalism, leading him to embrace solidarity, anti-fascism and revolutionary socialism. He never shunned fighting the good fight and when the biggest fight of all against fascism in Spain started, he joined the International Brigades and died in 1937 in the battle to stop Franco from reaching Madrid.

Daredevil Rides to Jarama is a wonderful piece of working class theatre, with a brilliant script and an incredibly clever way of using cheap props and lighting to convey time, place, situations and moods. A wooden panel at the back of the stage is a wall of death, a factory gate, a door to a lovenest, a cinema screen, a wall in Spain; some steps are a podium for a political speech and for an award ceremony, a writing table, and a workshop bench. There are no special effects. Musical instruments appear and are played to accompany the singing of fighting ballads. And you never realise how bare and simple the stage is because with just a few props, some poetry, some songs, lighting, and above all an extraordinarily well-crafted script and two seriously talented men create more magic and evoke more reality than you ever thought was possible with so little.

David Heywood brings back to life a brave, determined, compassionate, cheeky and sharp Clem Beckett and leaves everything he’s got on stage. He really empties the tank. Neil Gore, who wrote the play, is everybody else, from the greyhound stadium owner who exploits young riders’ inexperience on deliberately dangerous dirt tracks for sensational shows that cause injury and death, to the landowner who tries to keep ramblers off the land, and many other characters, including Christopher St John Sprigg (aka Cauldwell), the upper middle class writer and poet who became Clem’s unlikely partner and died with him on February 12, 1937 in the Jarama Valley.

Offering inspired, nuanced performances and a genuine connection with the audience, David and Neil are also the stage hands, as they operate the lights and reorganise the stage between the two acts. The play is an intellectual and emotional tour de force through a compassionate life of political commitment in the fight against capitalism and fascism. Clem’s is the story of one of the many heroic men and women who understood what was at stake in Spain and decided that the ultimate sacrifice was not too high a price to pay and joined the International Brigades to fight on the side of the Spanish resistance.

Catch it if you can from January.
http://www.townsendproductions.org.uk/home

For more information about Clem Beckett, go to http://spartacus-educational.com/SPbeckett.htm.

‘SILENT WHITE’ – HOW THE LEFT RACIALISED THE POLITICAL DEBATE

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By Independent Working Class Association

On Sunday night, one of our IWCA facebook page admins was accused – while defending the newly published article ‘Trump: consequence not cause – of implying the word ‘white’ although not stating it when referring to the working class. The term ‘white working class’ is not one that was coined by the IWCA, but there appears to be an attempt to deliberately ‘bad jacket’ us with responsibility for it. The aim, we presume, of those pushing the politics of identity, is to politically bracket us with the racist right.

Such revisionism and deliberate falsification appears to be all pervasive on the left these days. This morning a trades union friend of the IWCA unwittingly shared what he thought was a progressive account of an interview given to Truthout by Noam Chomsky. The interview was also reported by the supposedly leftist website of Telesurtv under the title: ‘Trump Won Because Democrats Abandoned the Working Class.’

One paragraph in the Telesurtv report read:

“The exit polls and post-election data show that the majority of Trump voters are “the angry and disaffected” white working people who “are victims of the neoliberal policies of the past generation,” Chomsky said.”

The Chomsky quote above, broken in the middle, made us suspicious, so we decided to check the source, Truthout, to read what he actually said.

And lo and behold, Chomsky did not refer to the working class or working people with the prefix ‘white’. The ‘silent white’ was inserted into the middle of a quote from him by whoever edited the piece and whose motive appears to have been to attribute it to the professor in order to further the identitarian agenda of a lunatic section of the middle-class left. In fact, Chomsky did not use or imply the phrase ‘white working people’ at all, it is a complete falsehood.

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The actual comment of Noam Chomsky to Truthout was:

“[Many of] the angry and disaffected are victims of the neoliberal policies of the past generation…”

So where did this ‘silent white’ come from?

It was middle-class liberals who invented the term ‘white working class’ in order to separate out the core of the working class from everyone else. Moreover it is the ‘working class’ and the idea of working class unity – not the ‘white’ bit – that repels them. Which is why, having colour coded one part of the class, you never find any reference to the Black, Asian or Latino working classes. They employ the substitute ‘community’ instead. A classification deliberately devoid of distinct political identity, the ‘community’ can be used as a political pawn to be moved around the board at will.

One of Anti-Fascist Action’s street fighting legends of the 1980’s and 1990’s was an American called C.J. who had been a youth member of the Black Panther Party (BPP), in relation to this point about community and class, he stated:

“There is no more a homogeneous Black community or Asian community than there is a homogeneous White community. The idea is a construct to divide the working class.”

 

Cable Street 1936 – ‘They shall not pass and they did not pass’

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By Independent Working Class Association (IWCA)

Today is the 80th anniversary of the Battle of Cable Street, where an attempted 3,000 strong march through the East End of London by the British Union of Fascists, under police protection, was forcibly prevented and broken up by thousands of fighting anti-fascists and upwards of one hundred thousand demonstrators. It remains the most significant single domestic episode in the history of British anti-fascism.

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Within the Communist Party itself, the leadership were hell bent on having a demonstration in support of the Spanish Republic at Trafalgar Square on the day, but rank and file pressure forced them to change plans at the eleventh hour to defend the East End.

Cable Street was not a spontaneous, apolitical revolt by salt-of-the-earth Londoners outraged at the presence of fascist provocateurs in their midst. The driving force was working class militants – largely, but by no means exclusively, within the Communist Party – armed with a class analysis, rooted in their own communities and often working against prevailing ‘left’ structures. Within the Communist Party itself, the leadership were hell bent on having a demonstration in support of the Spanish Republic at Trafalgar Square on the day, but rank and file pressure forced them to change plans at the eleventh hour to defend the East End. The Labour Party’s role in Cable Street is predictably shameful: its representatives at the time tried to persuade anti-fascists to stay away from the demo, and Herbert Morrison – then leader of London County Council, and Home Secretary four years later – afterwards condemned anti-fascists alongside fascists for causing the trouble, while praising the police for their actions.

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The Labour Party’s role in Cable Street is predictably shameful: its representatives at the time tried to persuade anti-fascists to stay away from the demo, and Herbert Morrison – then leader of London County Council, and Home Secretary four years later – afterwards condemned anti-fascists alongside fascists for causing the trouble, while praising the police for their actions.

Despite this, Labour are front and centre in today’s official Cable Street commemoration, along with their conservative ‘anti-fascist’ allies and non-political ethnic/religious grouplets: elements that oppose fascism not because it threatens the working class, but because it threatens the political status quo. One wonders what the activists of ’36 would make of this, or how the result might have turned out had the anti-fascist forces been so constituted back then.

L-R) Matteo Salvini – Italy’s Lega Nord; Harald Vilimsky, – Austria’s  Freedom Party (FPOe), Marine Le Pen – France’s National Front, Geert Wilders – Dutch Freedom Party (PVV); Gerolf Annemans – Belgium’s Flemish Vlaams Belang

Surveying the scene now, we see every possibility of Europe seeing the election of its first far-right head of state since 1945 in Austria in December, Marine Le Pen consistently leading the polling for the first round of the 2017 French Presidential election, UKIP eating into Labour’s core vote in England and Wales, the AfD as the biggest working class party in Berlin and the populist right climbing all over the furniture across northern, western and central Europe. The financial crash of 2008 and subsequent chronic economic crisis has stripped the political centre of its vestigial credibility, but it is the right who are filling the vacuum in working class political representation.

The antecedents of the IWCA – Anti-Fascist Action (AFA) – had as their mission statement ‘to oppose fascism physically and ideologically’. Cable Street was one of the inspirations for the physical struggle, a struggle that has been won – for now. If the current wave of populist nationalism is to be beaten back, the struggle now has to be political: no less than to reconstitute the working class as a political fighting force and the prime agent of radical political change, independent, democratic and beholden to no-one but itself. The challenge is considerable, but the risks of failing to meet it are clear.

Israel – The Apartheid State

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By Phil Thornton (Author of Casuals)

The Zionist regime of Israel despises the ‘apartheid’ description of their cruel oppression of the Palestinians.

This is the definition of apartheid:  “a policy or system of segregation or discrimination on grounds of race.”

Now, I don’t believe in using words such as ‘race’ as that term implies differences in humans that don’t actually exist, apart from in the warped minds of evolution deniers.

The Nazis believed in racial purity, as did the architects of apartheid in South Africa. The Zionists obviously believe that the Palestinians are ‘culturally’ different to them, not only in terms of religion and language but also ‘race.’

There are some who still believe in the ludicrous genealogies of the Bible right back to Adam and Eve or at least back to Shem, y’know Noah’s lad who founded the ‘Shemite’ race.

Such people still use these spurious and childish arguments to justify their ‘right’ to land and natural resources and to remove others from it and place them in what amount to huge open prisons.

Like the South Africans, they believe that they are intellectually, morally and culturally superior to these lower, savage races. They dress up their barbarity in cloaks of sophistry.

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They use words such as these:

“Because America and Israel, we share a common destiny, the destiny of promised lands that cherish freedom and offer hope. Israel is grateful for the support of American — of America’s people and of America’s presidents, from Harry Truman to Barack Obama.”

– Benjamin Netanyahu’s address to the US congress in 2015

‘Promised lands?’   Who promised them to you? Your God? Oh, OK then, crack on!

‘Cherish freedom and offer hope!’   You’d have to laugh at such nauseating lies if it wasn’t for the pathetic reality of the world’s richest state giving tacit approval for its client state’s (or is the other way around) illegal and disgusting treatment of the Palestinians.

Israel needs to be treated with similar contempt shown to the South African regime in the 70s and 80s. If the waving of a Palestinian flag at a football match in Glasgow can be regarded by Uefa as an illegal act then maybe it’s UEFA that needs to examine itself, not Celtic fans.

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Meanwhile, the campaign to ‘Match the fine for Palestine’ continues to build and is now standing at around £140,000 – a phenomenal sum of money raised by Celtic fans in solidarity with the Palestinian people, in aid of two very worthwhile charities working in the occupied territories. The original modest target of £15,000 set by the Green Brigade has been bettered almost ten times over! It is an unequivocal answer to the oligarchs who run the game that these football fans will not be silenced when it comes to matters of injustice, inequality, racism and apartheid.

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The beauty of Celtic fans’ solidarity with Palestine

In just 24 hours Celtic supporters have raised more than £50,000 for humanitarian projects in Palestine. This was their response to the threat of a UEFA fine for the club as a result of their display of Palestinian flags at the Champions League play-off match against Be’er Sheva. A demonstration of their understanding of the issues and a display of international solidarity with the people of Palestine.

By John Wight

The worldwide response to the stance that thousands of Celtic fans took in solidarity with the Palestinians during their Champions League tie with Israeli side, Hapoel Beer-Sheva, leaves no doubt that in the second decade of the 21st century internationalism remains more powerful than any number of Apache helicopter gunships, cruise missiles, and tanks when it comes to shaping the world. For the Palestinian people, living in a de facto open prison in Gaza and under the longest military occupation in modern history in the West Bank, the sight of Celtic fans flying and waving a flag that means more to them than life itself will have made their hearts soar, reminding them they do not stand alone in defiance of an oppressor dedicated to their subjugation, cultural annihilation and despair.

While no one is suggesting that a free Palestine is just around the corner, the growth in international support for this righteous objective, with the spread and growth of the international campaign of boycott, divestment, and sanctions against Israel, makes the status quo evermore untenable and unsustainable.

A people who find themselves living under occupation, subjected to a racist system of apartheid at the hands of a colonial power, can never be anything but politically aware. Under such conditions you don’t need a weatherman to tell which way the wind is blowing, and neither does it take a PhD in politics or economics to gain an understanding of the world. Thus the struggle waged by generations of Irishmen and women against British colonialism entrenched the worldview and core values that underpin Irish republicanism. A key plank of those values is the unshakeable belief that standing on the side of justice in the matter of oppression is more than a choice it’s an obligation and a duty. When it comes to the Palestinians this takes on added force when we consider the solidarity they have shown towards the Irish struggle in the past.

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One of the most moving documents I have ever encountered in my political life was a letter written by Palestinian political prisoners in tribute to Bobby Sands and the other hunger strikers upon Sands’ death. The letter was smuggled out of the Nafha prison in the Negev desert, where they were incarcerated, and arrived in the Falls Road soon after.

It reads:

To the families of the martyrs oppressed by the British ruling class. To the families of Bobby Sands and his martyred comrades.

We, revolutionaries of the Palestinian people who are under the terrorist rule of Zionism, write you this letter from the desert prison of Nafha.

We extend our salutes and solidarity with you in the confrontation against the oppressive terrorist rule enforced upon the Irish people by the British ruling elite.

We salute the heroic struggle of Bobby Sands and his comrades, for they have sacrificed the most valuable possession of any human being. They gave their lives for freedom.

From here in Nafha prison, where savage snakes and desert sands penetrate our cells, from here under the yoke of Zionist occupation, we stand alongside you. From behind our cell bars, we support you, your people and your revolutionaries who have chosen to confront death.

Since the Zionist occupation, our people have been living under the worst conditions. Our militants who have chosen the road of liberty and chosen to defend our land, people and dignity, have been suffering for many years. In the prisons, we are confronting Zionist oppression and their systematic application of torture. Sunlight does not enter our cell. Basic necessities are not provided. Yet we confront the Zionist hangmen, the enemies of life.

Many of our militant comrades have been martyred under torture by the fascists allowing them to bleed to death. Others have been martyred because Israeli prison administrators do not provide needed medical care.

The noble and just hunger strike is not in vain. In our struggle against the occupation of our homeland, for freedom from the new Nazis, it stands as a clear symbol of the historical challenge against the terrorists. Our people in Palestine and in the Zionist prisons are struggling as your people are struggling against the British monopolies and we will both continue until victory.

On behalf of the prisoners of Nafha, we support your struggle and cause of freedom against English domination, against Zionism and against fascism in the world.

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On Wednesday August 17, 2016, thousands of Celtic supporters answered this message of solidarity from Palestinian political prisoners in 1981 with a message of their own. They did so in the face of UEFA threats of disciplinary action against the club and a hefty fine. Celtic FC and its fans should be proud to pay any such fine, viewing it not as punishment but as an investment in their humanity. As Malcolm X said, “If you don’t stand for something you’ll fall for anything.”

The world now knows that in an age of cynicism and indifference to suffering, Celtic supporters most assuredly do stand for something.

Follow John on Twitter @ JohnWight1

You can see more of his writing at Medium, RT, Sputnik, and Counterpunch.

To make a donation to the #matchthefineforpalestine appeal click here