Category Archives: Socialism

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.”

 

Striking The Right Note On Brexit & Article 50

We reproduce a blog article on the recent High Court ruling on Brexit and Article 50 from the South Essex Heckler, an independent group of working class activists in the south-east of England. We believe that this article strikes exactly the right note on this issue and are happy to endorse its point of view.

A little reminder about our position…

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After A High Court ruling on Thursday 3rd November which stated that parliamentary approval is needed before Article 50 can be triggered to start the process of Brexit, the right wing, Eurosceptic section of the media has gone into a bit of a meltdown, as you can see from the above image. The court ruling is the culmination of a case brought by Gina Miller who is an investment manager and is married to a hedge fund boss. It appears to be setting off a full blown constitutional crisis with rival factions of the ruling elite tearing into each other and the prospect of a general election in 2017 becoming more likely as reported here: High Court Brexit ruling could force Theresa May to call election in 2017

We think that given how charged things have become after this ruling with the rhetoric on both sides reaching fever pitch, it’s timely to yet again state what our position on the situation is:

Let’s be clear, in reality, the EU referendum was a ‘choice’ about which faction of the ruling elite we ‘want’ to have running our lives for the benefit of big business. The point is we don’t want our lives to be run by either Brussels or Westminster if we end up being seen as nothing more than production units to be exploited and discarded at will. While the politics of the referendum and its aftermath is undoubtedly a fascinating spectacle, let’s not be deceived that it was anything other than a false choice between two shite options.

We hope that makes things unequivocally clear… We have no brief for either Brussels or Westminster who as far as we’re concerned, are two cheeks of the same arse. We take a third position (yes it is possible!) that two factions of the ruling elite tearing into each other, with the inevitable chaos that will follow, offers a unique opportunity to start the process of bringing both down together and fight for a more just, equal, sane and sustainable world.

As an aside, we’d like to draw your attention to the front cover of the Sun and it’s reference to ‘loaded foreigners’ (made in relation to Gina Miller). If whoever wrote this has an issue with ‘loaded foreigners’, perhaps they would like to direct their anger at another ‘loaded foreigner’ who has an undue influence on life in Britain, namely one Rupert Murdoch, the owner of The Sun…

To conclude, in the eyes of quite a few Brexiters in the UK, taking a third position of a pox on both Remainers and Leavers will mark us out as ‘traitors’… We’re well aware that in the febrile climate that’s being whipped up by the rags depicted in the image above, being marked out as ‘traitors’ carries a degree of risk. Well, if that’s the price we pay for sticking our heads above the parapet and telling it like it is, then so be it…

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.

Labour Leadership Election: Time To Fight The Tories

 

Local politics has in large part become another system of management. Councilors, Members of the Scottish Parliament and Assembly Members (in Wales & NI) manage the funds that they are allocated by central government and work within the guidelines laid down to them by the Tories. There is little possibility of ‘fighting’ municipalities providing a lead against the cuts as there was in the 1980’s. Local government has been largely stripped of any real powers and the psyche of those involved in politics appears to have switched entirely into a middle-management mode. Our contributor Klaus Stoertebeker provides a couple of examples of where Labour is in power which suggests that the ‘new dawn’ envisaged by many on the left after the re-election of Jeremy Corbyn as Labour leader might be short-lived.

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By Klaus Stoertebeker

Before anybody gets too excited by the re-election of Jeremy Corbyn as leader of the Labour Party, consider these two examples of the Labour Party in power at a local level:

Political control in Greater Manchester and Bristol is wielded by the labour party. What else do those areas with a combined population of nearly 4 million have in common? The political masters in both are attempting to implement cuts in budgets and services and to reduce their workforce.

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In Greater Manchester this involves bullying, blackmailing and threatening Firefighters with the imposition of a new (inferior) contract of employment. You know, imposing contracts, just like the Tories are with the junior doctors.

In Bristol the Council and its shiny new Labour Mayor are about to cut around 1,000 jobs with the consequent impacts on services.
In both cases Labour politicians are invoking the hoary old alibi that they ‘have to do it’ because the government is making them. They often add that it’s better that they implement the cuts because they will be more ‘humane’ about it than other parties would be.  A more humane blow of the axe? Feck off!

Well, they have a choice; fight the government, or attack their workers and the people who rely on their services. Their choice is clear, it is the latter. Cowardly betrayal doesn’t even begin to describe their actions. They think we are the line of least resistance, but we have to show them that there will be a fight and that there will be a high price to pay for that betrayal.

So Labour Party, wherever and whenever and for as long as you attack the working class as you are in Bristol, Greater Manchester and elsewhere, I will continue to attack the political positions and practice of the Labour Party.

Until or unless this shit stops and you get the bottle of Poplar or Clay Cross in the local authorities you control and defy the government and the law, I don’t care who your leader is… don’t knock on my door for anything other than a fecking row.

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The Olympic Legacy: Sporting Leg-Ends, Spivs & Gentrification

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By Phil Thornton

Well, the circus has packed up for another 4 years. Maybe it was fitting that West Ham’s first league home game at their new ‘Olympic’ stadium (bought and paid for by the ‘Great British Public’ TM) came as a reminder of all those ‘legacy’ promises that were spun in order to justify the obscene costs of the London 2012 Games.

“Legacy” – it’s one of the words of the new millennium. Everyone’s after a legacy from political failures like Tony Blair and Barak Obama to global institutions like FIFA and the World Bank.

When the much lauded opening ceremony for London 2012 was taking place, I was sat in a tapas bar on the Costa del Sol watching it with the sound turned off. Now praised as some kind of glorious reimagining of British cultural, scientific and social triumphs , all I saw was a surreal, Lionel Bart-esque imperialist wet dream. The Queen! With James Bond!! How very er, British!

Underneath all the showbiz however was the familiar story of land grabbing, social engineering, corporate greed and political sophistry. I was also reading Iain Sinclair’s ‘Ghost Milk’ at the time which put all the 2012 hype into its true historical context. Here’s Sinclair writing in 2008, four years before the London games began about what was already happening to that much romanticised area of the East End where the Hammers now plough their trade.

StratfordWestfieldTo question all this at the time or even now is to be branded a ‘naysayer’, a ‘cynic’, a ‘Doing Britain Down-er’ and anyone that opposes such magnificent projects is an enemy of ‘progress’ but what kind of progress is it, if progress at all? These vast theme parks, like the Millennium Dome before it, sold on similar promises, soon become nothing more than corporate entertainment centres with terrible transport systems and windswept concourses.

Soccer - West Ham United Takeover - Upton ParkWest Ham owners, David Gold and David Sullivan won’t be moaning however. They now have a buck shee super-stadium and won’t even have to stump up the running costs for most of it. This places them at a considerable financial advantage to other clubs both in London and elsewhere who have to spend large parts of their revenues on stadium costs.

What’s the betting that Gold and Sullivan end up selling large chunks of the Irons off to ‘investors’ keen to take a punt on a project that’s too big to fail. Where is the legacy in all this for those kids living in the shadow of the new stadium, or those businesses now left without a customer base in Green Street?

Just as Manchester City’s move from Maine Road to Eastlands left an already impoverished area, Moss Side, even more bereft, so West Ham’s move will have a lasting legacy on the population of E13. Yet at least City pay £4 million a year in rent to use the former Commonwealth Games stadium plus all overheads. West Ham’s deal not only upset other clubs, notably Spurs and Orient who had their eyes on the ground but also may fall foul of European ‘state aid’ laws, y’know those pesky ‘level playing field’ rules those Brussels types were always imposing on us.

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Legacy doesn’t always work out in the way those who seek it planned. Blair was looking around for a legacy and thought he’d found one with Iraq. That backfired but hey, he’s still milking that cash cow for all it’s worth, so what’s a legacy worth these days? Obama thought he’d found one with Health Care but, that piece of ‘communism’ is still twitching in the morgue and The First Black President presides over a nation whose law enforcement and judiciary kills and incarcerates its black population in frighteningly disproportionate numbers. No you can’t mate!

The word legacy actually means “an amount of money or property left to someone in a will.” It’s not about some demagogue associating themselves with a piece of legislation or a bloody conflict, it’s not about creaming off contracts or gifting a stadium to a bunch of millionaire businessmen. If it wasn’t yours in the first place, how can you pass it on?

Abstract legacies will no doubt justify Team GB’s record medal haul at Rio 2016. They were ‘inspired’ by the successes of 2012, and maybe some were, and maybe money talks and bullshit walks, and maybe asking what it’s all about anyway, is just being a joyless loser. Keep those flags flying, keep those medals and honours coming, keep the myth intact; ‘we’re all in it together’ folks.