Archive for the ‘International Affairs’ Category

Iraqi CP Opposes Anti-Democratic Changes

November 12, 2009

The following statement from the Iraqi CP is well worth reading. And disturbing, if not that great a shock.

Iraqi Communist Party: Unjust amendments to the election law
are real threat to democracy

The Political Bureau of the Central Committee of the Iraqi Communist Party issued a statement on 10th November 2009, exposing the unjust amendments to the election law that the Iraqi Parliament had passed a day earlier. The endorsement of the election law “and the grave measures it includes, constitute a fundamental retreat from democracy in our country and a real threat to its future,” the statement said. The party called on the Presidency of the Republic, which is in charge of ensuring adherence to the Constitution, to overturn articles 1 and 3 of the election law that was approved on 9th November 2009, and send them back to the Parliament to be amended so that the law is truly democratic.

The amendments to the law, passed by the Parliament after weeks of bickering among influential and dominant blocs, may have averted the consequences of postponing the elections (originally scheduled for 16th January 2010), and endorsed the “open list” system. But the party statement warned against the grave consequences of these totally undemocratic amendments and the gross violation of the rights of the Iraqi electorate.

“It seems as if the noisy verbal battles that accompanied the haggling during the past few weeks about linking the issue of Kirkuk to the election law were fabricated to cover up passing the above-mentioned measures with the votes of the MPs of dominant blocs, who were mobilized for the vote in an unprecedented manner.”

“The Parliament, in the first article of the law, cut down the number of compensatory seats, originally allocated to the lists that do not meet the electoral threshold at the provincial level but achieve it at the national level, from 45 in the original law to about 15 seats! And when we know that part of these seats will be allocated to quotas for some of the ethnic and religious minorities (8 seats), and for the deputies who would be elected by Iraqis living abroad who constitute more than 10 percent of Iraq’s population, we can see how this reduction is arbitrary and irresponsible. The seven or eight remaining seats will not be enough to cover even the votes abroad.”
“On the other hand, this reduction (of the number of compensatory seats) effectively usurps the right of the lists that achieve the national electoral threshold to gain representation in Parliament. This reveals the selfishness of most of the dominant blocs and their disregard of plurality and diversity in the Parliament, their quest to extend full control over Parliament and the whole of political power, monopolizing and carving it up among themselves, in contravention of democratic norms.”

“In Article 3 of the law, the big parliamentary blocs went much further in violating democracy and displaying blatant disregard for the voters. They have imposed, once again, giving the vacant seats to the top winning lists, rather than putting them – as obligated by democracy, logic and justice – at the disposal of the lists that attain the highest remaining votes. They have thus opened the door again to a repetition of the infamous experience in the provincial elections earlier this year, when the big blocs stole the votes of more than two and a quarter million people who had given their votes to other lists. This was used by those big blocs to grab additional seats in the provincial councils.”

“What arouses astonishment and indignation is that the dominant blocs are repeating the same behaviour (as in the provincial elections), despite all the manifestations of popular rejection, protests and condemnation, which such anti-democratic practice had met at the time. It is clear that they are doing the same thing today despite being fully aware that it contradicts the principles of the Constitution as well. They also do so in a predetermined manner and in defiance of the voters and their will, and of their constitutional right to choose whom they want to represent them in Parliament and other elected bodies.”

“The measures taken by the big blocs yesterday (9th November 2009) is a very serious phenomenon in the political and constitutional experience in our country, a heavy blow to the fledgling democracy, and an outright retreat from its course.

“This development runs against the expectation of national public opinion, which had been looking forward to a serious and positive move to rectify the deficiencies in the electoral law that had been in force until yesterday, in order to make it a democratic law that ensures wider participation of our people, especially the youth, a better embodiment of the principle of citizenship and the consolidation of national unity.

“It is our duty to warn against the immediate consequences of all this for the upcoming elections. It is well-known that the credibility of these elections could face a severe challenge due to the reluctance of a large proportion of voters, who are frustrated as a result of the policies of powerful blocs themselves, to go the ballot box. This probability is increasing today because the new law stipulates giving the vacant seats to the winning lists. The supporters of the other lists are wondering, and they are right to do so, what would be the point of their participation in the elections as long as their votes will go in the end, against their will, to the winning lists that they reject and do not want in any way to endorse.”

“For this reason too, as well as the points mentioned earlier, we call on the Presidency of the Republic, which is in charge of ensuring adherence to the Constitution, to overturn articles 1 and 3 of the election law that was approved yesterday, and to send them back to the Parliament in order to reconsider them and ensure they are grounded in a proper democratic context.”

“We also call upon the masses of our people and public opinion, civil society organizations and all those concerned for democracy and its future in Iraq, to reject the afore-mentioned articles and press for amending them so that law will be truly democratic, ensuring political pluralism and proper representation of all the Iraqi people.”

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International Solidarity for Coca Cola Workers and Seán Garland

October 27, 2009

greekcocacolademo

This post also appears over at Cedar Lounge Revolution.

The strike by Coca Cola workers over plans to sack 130 workers and outsource their jobs pits Irish workers against Coca Cola HBC Ireland Ltd, which is a subsidiary of the Greece-based Coca Cola HBC. Following a request from the International Department of The Workers’ Party, the Greek Communist Party (KKE) and the workers’ organisation PAME organised a protest in solidarity with the Irish workers at a recent shareholders’ meeting of Coca Cola HBC in Athens. The KKE has also been a strong supporter of Seán Garland, with a delegate from their international department who was present at the 2005 Ard Fheis when Seán was first arrested taking part in protests, and protests taking place in Athens within days. The KKE also raised the issue in the European Parliament.

Meanwhile, two musical giants have added their voice to the campaign against the extradition of Seán Garland, who is due to appear in court again tomorrow. The 90-year old folk music legend Pete Seeger has been active in left-wing politics since the 1930s. Like the Hollywood Ten, he refused to plead the fifth amendment against the McCarthyite House Un-American Activities Committee, and was subsequently convicted of contempt of Congress, a conviction subsequently overturned. Seeger opposed the Vietnam War, and was active in the US Civil Rights movement. He was one of those who helped popularise its anthem “We Shall Overcome”. His is a powerful voice to be added to the campaign against the extradition, and hopefully will help raise the profile of the issue in progressive circles and beyond in the United States. Christy Moore, who of course needs no introduction here, has also added his support to the campaign, another sign of his long-term commitment to progressive causes. Both of their signatures are signs that the injustice of attempting to extradite Seán Garland to the US is plain for all to see.

And the British branch of the Campaign to Stop the Extradition of Seán Garland is holding an awareness music and social night to raise the profile of the case in Britain. It will addressed by Councillor Ted Tynan of The Workers’ Party. It takes place in the Green Room in Lewisham High Street on Saturday October 31st at 8pm.

Internationalism is alive and well.

Communist Party of Greece Statement on Election Results

October 6, 2009

The Communist Party of Greece, the KKE, is a party for which I have a great deal of admiration. It is stitched into Greek society in a way that no similar party is – or has ever been – in these islands. Its election results were slightly down – it lost one seat – but it remains the leading force on the Greek hard left, with over 500,000 votes, 7.5% of the vote, and 21 seats in the Greek parliament. The difference between its influence and organisation and that of parties with similar support in these islands is instructive. The increase in its vote since the elections of 2004 – nearly doubling – is a lesson to us all. A great example of what a disciplined and organised revolutionary socialist party can achieve in all areas of life.

————————————————-

From: Communist Party of Greece, Monday, 05 October 2009

http://inter.kke.gr , mailto:cpg@int.kke.gr

==================================================

On the Results of Elections of October 4

With stronger persistence in order to comply to the peoples needs

On Sunday evening as the count of votes was still in progress, Aleka Papariga the General Secretary of the CC of KKE made the following statement:

“In our opinion the electoral result, which is marked by the heavy defeat of ND and the victory of PASOK, does not reflect the positive developments that took place in the people’s consciousness all these years, during the governance of ND and combined with the experience from the governance of PASOK. What we told to the people, namely that a storm, a wave of anti-popular measures is coming, will soon come true. KKE declares that it is all-ready to take more initiatives, to assume more responsibilities in order to create a current of unity among the people, that is the united front of workers, peasants, self-employed; a current of unity that will embrace those employees and those poor popular strata who voted for ND and those who gave the victory to PASOK.

Of course, the electoral result of KKE is not in accordance with the confirmed influence it exerts on the people as well as with its role and its stance towards the development of struggles. Furthermore, it is confirmed that the people’s indignation and discontent, even the positive developments in the people’s consciousness cannot reach the ballot-box and be dynamically expressed as long as the labor movement and the people’s movement in general is not in a state of regroupment and counterattack. Responsible for this are the leaderships in the local trade union organizations as well as in the great majority of Labour federations and Labour centers.

In our opinion, there is a change in the government but not in the policy of the government. The ship has changed its “captain” but not its route. As it stressed in the pre-electoral period, KKE will seek to abolish the demarcation lines among the people that divide employees, peasantry and self-employed between voters of ND, PASOK and other parties; it will work in order to strengthen and stress the real demarcation line which is: on the side of monopolies and plutocracy or on the side of people? This is especially important because we are in conditions of a crisis. The consequences of the crisis are under way, they have not been completed yet. At the same time, there is a European plan – also PASOK and ND plan- for the recovery of the economy, which means that reactionary measures for harder class exploitation are under way. Social security will be the first target of these measures. Nowadays, there is a need for the people to realize their power. People have not shown their power in the ballot-box. It will be proven that the main issue is not a strong, government but the readiness of the people to repel its aggressiveness that will intensify in the next few years.

We would like to thank the friends, the supporters of the Party, those who voted for KKE for the first time and there are many of them who managed to reach the ballot-box despite the intimidating dilemmas. We will get in contact with those who had decided to vote for KKE and at the last moment did not manage to take this courageous and essential step under the influence of the propaganda for a self-sufficient government.

KKE is stronger after this battle. Along with KNE it will be more self-demanding in order to respond to what the people expect from it: to be at the front line for the struggle for the rallying of forces, for the unity in the struggle, for the prevention of the worse that is coming and the struggle for some solutions that relief the people”.

Muslim Scare Story Spreads to Africa

September 21, 2009

I can just imagine the joy at the Daily Telegraph when they saw the recent statements from the new head of the Anglican church in Nigeria. He claims that Muslims are applying industrial techniques to procreation to vanquish Anglicanism.

That is the type of evangelism they are doing: mass-production, so if you have four wives, four children, sixteen children, very soon you will be a village.

This man should be embarassed. Especially when one of the criticisms of his church from pro-gay Anglicans was that they allowed polygamy. Oops.

US abandons Bush’s missile shield: real change in US foreign policy?

September 17, 2009

Good news announced by the Czech Prime Minister Jan Fischer that the US is dropping its provocative Bush-era plans for a European missile shield. The plans had caused a great deal of anger and tension in Russia, and fear among populations in central Europe. The BBC report, citing the Wall Street Journal, says that the logic being given by the US regime is an acceptance that Iran might not actually be planning to build a nuclear weapon at all. I suspect that the cost factor may also have been an important one. The US is talking about moving more towards regional anti-missile technology using existing technology such as ship-based interceptor missiles. Added to the fact that the US seems to be set for direct talks with the DPRK, and the easing of sanctions on Cuba, it could just be that President Obama is delivering the real change he promised. It does certainly look like Obama is radically altering the direction of US foreign policy in some areas.

However, we must bear in mind the expansion of the US military presence in Colombia, a move clearly aimed at intimidation of the populations electing progressive governments in the region. And also perhaps to force states like Venezuela to spend money that could be better spent elsewhere on weapons, with the lessons of the collapse of the USSR in mind. A great deal of the restrictions on Cuba remain, and in fact Obama signed the embargo into effect for another year, to justified Cuban criticism. Proof of a real change in US intentions could be given by Hilary Clinton striking down Condaleeza Rice’s extradition warrant for Seán Garland which was done primarily to frustrate moves towards better understanding on the Korean peninsula. Justice demands that the extradition request be dropped. Let’s hope that the Obama regime does so.

Oi! Heaney! NO!

September 13, 2009

I’ve just put this up over on Cedar Lounge Revolution, but I’m that annoyed that I’m putting it up here too.

Today’s Observer has a story reporting Seamus Heaney’s conviction that a no vote in the Lisbon Treaty would mean that the people of the Republic will have “lost ourselves in the modern world”. Now I’m not really sure what that is actually supposed to mean, so back to Heaney.

Heaney said the loss for Ireland from a “no” vote was “inestimable”. He said: “I was in Italy when the first referendum came in, and I was distressed for Ireland in Europe because of the kind of refusal of commitment after decades of benefit. It is inestimable, the loss of influence, status and trust that occurred with a ‘no’ vote: it is palpable and real.

Ah. So the fact that the Republic has benefited from membership of the EU in terms of structural funds and the like means that it should forever do whatever the people in Brussels want. Now, we may think that there is a democratic deficit in the EU, that important decisions about our futures are being made by unelected and appointed officials (many of whom are running from their incompetence or corruption at home), that the choices open to us have been circumscribed by undemocratic EU rules designed to benefit capitalism, and that the citizens of the states of the EU were with one exception denied an opportunity to vote on the Treaty by the political and bureaucratic elite of the EU. But that would be because we lack the necessary poetic vision to understand what is really at stake.

Europe was “more than a bureaucracy, it’s an ideal,” he said. “The word ‘Europe’ is one of the first cultural underpinnings to our lives in this part of the globe. It’s for Greece, Italy, Rome, England, France that I feel it.” He also dismissed claims that the Lisbon Treaty would end Irish sovereignty and see the republic absorbed into a European super-state.
Asked if Europe was as important for him culturally as it was economically, Heaney said: “I think it’s slightly more important, not only in terms of culture but in terms of credit, in terms of meaning.

So apparently European civilisation – thousands of years of philosophy, political thought, law, science, art, literature, technology, religion, and the rest – has been reduced to a proposed new set of rules on how to govern an amalgam of states in a mere part of Europe. If we reject it, then we reject our cultural inheritance. Nonsense. As I’m sure the greatest of the Russian poets Pushkin and others from that part of Europe would agree. Clearly our Nobel-winning poet needs refresher courses in basic geography and history.

A lesson in the basic principles of democracy – perhaps Europe’s greatest gift to the world – might also prove useful.

“The reasons for voting ‘no’ are manufactured, on the whole. And if it’s ‘no’ again, I think we have lost ourselves in the modern world.”

Did the No campaign manufacture the fact that those proposing this Treaty have openly admitted that their aim in doing so was to avoid having referenda that might cause them trouble in countries like France and Denmark? Did the No campaign make the decision to deny the citizens of Europe a free vote, a chance to decide for themselves? Whatever about the issues of this Treaty for the Republic of Ireland, is there a better reason for voting ‘NO’ than the fact that the people have been denied a say? If Heaney is so concerned about the peoples of Europe, perhaps he might have taken this into account when considering the whole topic. And spared us his sentimental, apolitical, not to say ignorant nonsense.

US restrictions on Cuba Eased

September 5, 2009

Good news that restrictions on the amount Cuban emigrants can send home and how long they can visit have been lifted. Aspects of the embargo remain in place however, but let’s hope that more progress will follow.

Muslim Europe: The Scare Story du jour

August 8, 2009

The day after I read this excellent article on the BBC website debunking an Islamicphobic YouTube video, along comes this load of nonsense from the Daily Telegraph (and an Editor’s Choice on its website no less). Serendipity or what?

Here are some of the crazy predictions from the YouTube video, taken from the BBC report

Of the video’s claims that 90% of Europe’s population growth since 1990 is due Islamic immigration, only a fragment is true. Immigration is the main driver of population growth according to EU statistics and in some exceptional years, 90% of population growth has been down to net inward migration.
But that includes all immigrants coming into the EU, not just Muslims.

In the Netherlands, according to the video, half of all newborns are Muslim, and in 15 years half the population will be Muslim.
But the Dutch office of statistics estimates that Muslims make up only 5% of the population. For Dutch Muslim women to produce half the nation’s babies, they would have to be giving birth at at least 14 times the rate of their non-Muslim neighbours.

But the video doesn’t just rely on statistics, it also uses an official Government statement. It quotes it as saying: “The fall in German population can no longer be stopped. Its downward spiral is no longer reversible. It will be a Muslim state by the year 2050.”

The statement in question was made by then vice-president of the Federal Statistics Office, Walter Radermacher, who is now chief statistician of the European Union. He says that while it is true he said Germany’s population was in decline, the last part of the quote [in italics] is just an invention. He said nothing about Germany becoming a Muslim state.

“The quotation which reads as if the German government believed that Germany will become a Muslim state is simply not true,” he says. “There is no source which can be quoted that the German government has published such an expression or opinion.”
The video also claims the German government believes the number of Muslims in Europe will double to 104 million.
Mr Radermacher adds: “That is not true. The German government does not believe that the Muslim population will double in the next 40 or 50 years. There are no reliable sources that give a proof for that assumption.”

So as we can see, the video is a mish-mash of misused statistics and outright lies. Can we say the same of the Daily Telegraph article? Well firstly we should note this (the article is headlined Muslim Europe: the demographic timebomb transforming our continent)

Britain and the rest of the European Union are ignoring a demographic time bomb: a recent rush into the EU by migrants, including millions of Muslims, will change the continent beyond recognition over the next two decades, and almost no policy-makers are talking about it.

There is a very disingenuous elision of Europe with the EU here, especially from a newspaper which has a far from glorious track record of complaing about immigration into Britain from countries that are now part of the EU and that aren’t Muslim. The misuse of statistics follows shortly afterwards

The numbers are startling. Only 3.2 per cent of Spain’s population was foreign-born in 1998. In 2007 it was 13.4 per cent. Europe’s Muslim population has more than doubled in the past 30 years and will have doubled again by 2015.

Of course, no mention of what proportion of that foreign-born population is Muslim. And definitely no mention of what proportion of that population is made of ex-patriot British people. Quite a high proportion I suspect.

In Brussels, the top seven baby boys’ names recently were Mohamed, Adam, Rayan, Ayoub, Mehdi, Amine and Hamza.

But let’s put that in perspective from the BBC report

Is 25% of the Belgian population Muslim, as the video asserts? No. The Belgian office of statistics points to a 2008 study which suggests the real figure is just 6%.

And so on. The Telegraph article mentions the fact that the US Air Force commissioned a study to examine the possible implications of Muslim population growth within Europe. It estimated in 2006 that there were 15 million Muslims in Europe, maybe as many as 23 million. To put that in persepective, the EU population in 2005 was over 450 million. So Muslims are considerably less than 10% of the population, 5% at most. The fact that the US Air Force commissioned a study is presented as significant, as opposed to the standard type of analysis and planning that goes on by every military. It means nothing. As for the report commissioned by the US Air Force itself, the contradictory nature of the following sentence gives an indication of how seriously we should take it.

“Faced with rapidly growing, disenfranchised and increasingly politically empowered Muslim populations within the borders of some of its oldest and strongest allies, the US could be faced with ever stronger challenges to its Middle East foreign policies.”

I’m no fan of political Islam. Or mixing politics with any other type of religion. Any mixing of religion and politics is inherently reactionary, although the extreme forms of political Islam are among the most reactionary politics in the world today. However, as far as I am aware, there are no Islamists anywhere in Parliament in any European Union country. There is no Islamist bloc in the European Parliament. And there are certainly no Islamist parties acting as partners in government. We cannot, however, say the same of the extreme right who are seeking to exploit fears of Muslims with the type of video referred to in the BBC report. If there is a threat to European norms and values today, it comes from that source, not from political Islam, and certainly not from Muslims in general.

In other words then, a Muslim Europe is pure fantasy, the fear-cum-pornography of the extreme right. Nothing more and nothing less. We must expose it for what it is.

UPDATE: This thread from P.ie has a lot of useful links about the same issue.

“I was chosen to defend, maintain and continue to perfect socialism, not to destroy it”

August 2, 2009

A bold message from Raul Castro in response to demands from the US that changes be made in Cuba before moves to ending the embargo can begin. Great to see that the determination of the Communist Party of Cuba to defend and improve upon the gains of the revolution remains as strong as ever.

Robert Mc Namara dies

July 6, 2009

RobertMcNamara

Apologies for the big gap again. Work is crazy. I’ve just read that at the age of 93 Robert McNamara has died. Given that he was the US Secretary of Defence during the Cuban Missile Crisis and was responsible for a great deal of the death and destruction wrought on the people of Vietnam, it might be expected that I would be unaffected by his death. However, I find myself feeling that his death is a loss. The reason for that is simple: in 2004 (I think) I went to see The Fog of War: Eleven Lessons from the Life of Robert S. McNamara and found myself both fascinated and impressed by McNamara as a man.

McNamara was a brilliant young man, and was headhunted by the US military during World War II. His job in effect was to provide statistical analysis of the effectiveness of bombing, and to apply his mathmatical skills to improve their efficiency. He talked interestingly in the film about the moral questions involved in improving the efficiency of bombing civilians in large cities. After the war, he worked for Ford, helping make it more successful and rising to become its President (the first non-Ford to hold the job) before joining Kennedy’s Cabinet as Defence Secretary. As with another President in whom a lot of progressive people place great hopes, Kennedy was keen on the use of US military power where he thought it could win, and McNamara was brought in to reshape the military. The result was a massive expansion of the US nuclear arsenal, and a Soviet response – in other words, McNamara and Kennedy were fundamental to the emergence of the arms race. Both also bear a great deal of responsibility for nearly bringing about nuclear war over the Cuban missile crisis. And as already noted, the extrance of the US into Vietnam was their idea too.

McNamara’s technocratic approach which had served him well during World War II proved to be his achilles heel when it came to Vietnam. While McNamara wheeled out statistics showing that the US was winning the war on every available numerical measure, he completely missed the point that the will of the Vietnamese people could not be broken, unlike the will of the teenage conscripts sent to Vietnam and that of a sceptical public opinion at home. As Defence Secretary until 1968, he had a huge amount of blood on his hands, despite his later claims that he saw early that the war was not being won, and that he opposed some of the more callous and brutal strategies desired by the military. McNamara afterwards served as President of the World Bank, when it was associated in many minds – including those of rabid anti-communists – with more progressive ideals than it is today, and he is associated with efforts to combat river blindness. In his retirement, he worked for various causes he was interested in.

The Fog of War – like McNamara’s 1995 memoir In Retropsect: The Tragedy and Lessons of Vietnam (which I haven’t read) – is of course an attempt by McNamara to justify himself, and to rewrite history. The most obvious example of this in the film is an event where he meets (if I remember correctly and I might not) a minister from Vietnam at the same time he was Defence Minister. The Vietnamese tells him that all they wanted was their independence but that the Americans wouldn’t let them have it. McNamara goes on a bit about China and Communism, then eventually says we would have let you had your independence. This is clearly untrue. There was no chance of the US happily letting the South Vietnamese state be overthrown by its people and an independent socialist Vietnam emerging. Anti-communism was too strong, not least within Kennedy’s government and its successor. They hoped to replicate the war in Korea, or perhaps be more successful.

Nevertheless, despite all the problems with the film, it clearly showed McNamara as someone with a good deal of humanity, especially in his later years. Despite it all, he did not strike me as being the same as his counterparts in the recent Bush regime. A complicated man, who worked to undo some of the damage he wrought and achieve progress in other areas, he was worthy of respect, if not perhaps admiration.

ADDS: BBC Obituary