Wednesday 17 December 2014

Hope for Cuba

The cost of the illegal blockade to the Cuban economy has run to over a trillion dollars, making life hard for many on the island. So it is great news that Castro and Obama has managed to come up with a deal that signals the end of this act of economic war. On a more personal level, the release of the remaining members of the Miami 5 is hugely welcomed, albeit after decades of inhuman treatment at the hands of the US government.

So what has brought on this apparently sudden change of heart? The cynic in me would say that Obama is thinking about his legacy, and that it won't make too much of an impact on Hilary Clinton's chances of winning for the Democrats next time round.

It could be that reason that the US government gave for the blockade (that Cuba sponsored terrorism) was increasingly known to be ludicrous, and it was beginning to make US policy makers look completely stupid.

Whatever the reason, the lifting of the blockade could hopefully relieve some of the pressures on the Cuban people, and help the nation continue it's proud example of socialism. Its record on healthcare, agronomic development, education and international solidarity (Cuba was the first nation to send doctors in large numbers to ebola struck West Africa ) are second to none. For a small country it has always managed to punch above it's weight.

I recently watched 'Che' pt 1, the film based on Guevara's memoirs about the rise of revolutionary Cuba. It is a nation forged by revolutionaries who fought off US backed oppression, and managed to win against all the odds. Over 50 years later, it has never been defeated, not by attempted invasions, terrorist attacks, assassination attempts on Castro and other Cuban leaders, economic sabotage or the fall of the socialist bloc. Cuba remains one of the proudest achievements of human endeavour. There is an alternative model to capitalism - and it can produce excellent results in education, in healthcare and produce a fairer redistribution of wealth.

Cuba is not without its problems - it is neither socialist heaven nor the hell that the capitalist press like to claim. At least now it might be able to develop its own sovereign form of socialism free from the economic war that has been waged against it for over half a century

Tuesday 16 December 2014

From Beslan to Peshawar - the massacre of the innocents

It was September 2004 when 30 separatist fighters attacked a school in Beslan, Ossetia, killing 385 people, mostly children. Just over 10 years later, and we see another massacre of the innocents, this time in the much troubled city of Peshawar in Northern Pakistan.

It is hard to comprehend the mind of anyone who could do such a thing - to burst inside a school and shoot children and their teachers. But what we know from Beslan is that many of the murderers had seen their own friends and family killed in the Chechnyan war. Brutality breeds brutality.

Whilst condemning the violence of the terrorist, we cannot ignore the terror of the drone warfare that has been extensively used in the region, principally by the U.S.

Repeatedly, these drone attacks have killed many civilians including women and children - though it is almost impossible to tell how many. The US rarely hold their hands up when mistakes are made, even when independent observers say that weddings have been targeted in error. 

It is hard to do anything but weep for the mothers and fathers of such school tragedies. But the news of yet more bombing raids of areas held by the Taliban is not a solution. It is the violence meted out to the people in this region which has enabled the conditions for such an outrage to happen. More violence will not solve the situation but will exacerbate it.

Our hearts go out to the people of Afghanistan and Pakistan. Good Lord, strengthen the peacemakers of the region, and stop this endless cycle of violence. Let there be justice, but not revenge. If we allow the outrage of these deaths to cause yet more violence, then it is only the children in places like Beslan and Peshawar that suffer in the end.

Saturday 13 December 2014

A sad day for Scotland - Jim Murphy is a real thug

I first encountered Jim Murphy over 20 years ago. I got a phone call from him where he shouted at me for 10 minutes, telling me that I couldn't have two of the speakers that were due to be at a conference we were running in Bradford University. It was a conference on campaigning, and it was going to be a big one. I'd invited Jim because he was the NUS president, but before the phone call, I'd never spoken to him personally.

The two speakers who he disapproved of were from the campaign for free education. I knew them personally, knew they were good speakers and that their message was important. Jim saw them as a threat to 'Labour Students', who were moving in very right wing direction during the Blair leadership.

Murphy had sold the students out over the campaign for free education, and didn't want it pointed out. The way he swore and shouted at me, trying to bully me into changing the speakers was truly frightening.

I didn't back down, and the conference was a success - Murphy had threatened to 'destroy' the conference, and make sure no one came - but he failed. He even came himself to keep up appearances, and was as rude and obnoxious as expected.

The second time he deemed it important to ring me, was when the NUS failed to back our rent strike. He called me to tell me to call it off, as it couldn't win and was showing the student union movement in 'a bad light'.

We won the strike and set off a wave of strikes throughout the country. He never spoke to me again.

He was a thug them, and has proved himself to be a bruiser for Blair over the years. A smooth political operator, he's now the leader of the failing Labour group in Scotland.

He is one of the many reasons why many left wing activists like myself end up staying clear of the Labour Party - how does it allow such nasty folk to rise to the top? My prayers are with the Scottish Labour Party. They deserved better than this.

Tuesday 9 December 2014

Torture is a crime against humanity

The Senate Select Committee on Intelligence report on torture comes as no surprise to many. The US has always used and promoted torture as a technique in times of war and in times peace. 'The School of the Americas' in the US has consistently been a place where torture techniques are passed on to the military students from right wing governments from across the world, and especially Latin America.

The US government abusing human rights is not new. It did not start after 9/11. The CIA and the US military have been doing this for at least 40years.

There is only one way that I will believe Obama is 'turning a new leaf' and going beyond simply admitting 'mistakes have been made'. That is when those responsible for these crimes are prosecuted and brought to justice. Until then, it will be 'business as usual'.

The report by the committee is 6000 pages, but will never be released, just a summary was allowed out in the public domain. This is not a promising sign that anything has really changed or that justice will be done

The worst thing is, it is entirely ineffective. It has never revealed any intelligence of worth, and has generated such hatred of the US that groups like ISIS are thriving wherever the US military have been able to do their dirty work.

It is simple. Torture is a crime. It does not work. It is counter-productive.

At we mustn't be naïve enough to think that Britain doesn't have blood on it hands also. So join Amnesty International, and lets make sure we hold all our governments to account for their crimes against humanity.