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General Strike in Belgium on Monday.

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Back our Belgian Sisters and Brothers!

BRUSSELS, Oct 16 (Reuters)

Belgium’s unions have called for a series of regional strikes culminating in a general strike on December 15 to voice their discontent over government plans to implement austerity measures and hike the pension age.

Belgium’s new federal government, which took office on Saturday, said it would raise the state pension age to 67 from 65, scrap a planned inflation-linked wage rise due next year and find savings in the public sector, including the health and social security budget.

“The government is deaf to the workers and recipients of social benefits but generous to the employers and the rich,” a common statement by the country’s three largest unions said.

The unions plan regional strikes every Monday starting November 24, culminating in a national strike on December 15.

The government said the austerity measures are needed to balance Belgium’s budget by 2018 and tackle the country’s national debt of about 100 percent of economic output, one of the highest in the euro zone. (Reporting by Robert-Jan Bartunek; Editing by Dominic Evans)

The general strike has been called by the FGTB (socialist), CSC (Christian) et CGSLB (liberal).

The scale of the action promises to be enormous.

Transport will be paralysed, public services will grind to a halt, the Union belge du transport (UBT) has urged lorry drivers to join the movement, and many in the private sector will support the mass protests (more here).

And…

Des piquets de grève temporaires « volants », des cellules qui bloqueront donc différents points capitaux au cours de la journée, seront mis en place ce lundi et des équipes de militants de la FGTB se tiendront prêtes à venir porter renfort aux piquets manquant d’effectifs.

‘Flying pickets’ , that is ‘cells’ of moving strikers, will block different sectors of the Capital during the day. They will be set up by activists from the FGTB (socialist/social democrat union federation) who will help any pickets that need reinforcements.

The day will be marked by demonstrations in the streets.

More details in Le Soir.

Bart de Wever, the leader of the Flemish nationalist party (N-VA) and part of the ruling ‘Michel Coaltion’ (hard right to centre right),has criticised the strikes.

He said yesterday that the unions had come out with “une véritable désinformation et parfois de vrais mensonges” misinformation and sometimes outright lies. De Wever accsued the trade unions of being the “”bras armé du PS”, the armed wing, of the Socialist Party.

The leader of the Socialist Party (Parti Socialiste, and former Prime Minister, Di Rupo has backed the strikes – though underlines that the union federations have taken this action independently and on their own initiative.

La  Libre Belgique.

France: Mélenchon’s new hope: alliance with the Greens (EELV).

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Mélenchon for Citizen Revolution with French Greens.

The Front de Gauche (FdG) held a national general meeting (Assemblée générale) last weekend on the 7th of December.

The splits between the Parti Communiste Français (PCF) and (largely) Jean-Luc Mélenchon remain unresolved.

The latter judged – after the local and European elections this spring – that the Front de Gauche was in a “pitiful state” ( en piteux état). That is the score of 6,33% and three seats for the European poll looked poor compared to, above all, the Front National’s 25% and 20 MEPs.

Mélenchon has not ceased reproaching the PCF for making electoral agreements with the ruling Parti Socialiste (PS) in order to keep hold of council seats and control of municipalities. As a counter-strategy the leader of the small Parti de Gauche, has not stopped vaunting the merits of an electoral alliance between his group, the French Green party ( EELV, Europe Écologie – Les Verts ) autonomous citizens groups  and ecologists and the radical left which took control of the small town of Grenoble (population 156,659 , about the size of Ipswich).

The point is that this list, the Rassemblement Citoyen de la gauche et des Ecologists, stood and won against an alliance of the PS and the PCF.

L’Humanité has reported on the weekend meeting.

After these disagreements over the municipal elections of 2014 a common declaration on the next electoral challenge is still being studied. There is a consensus for a broad alliance that goes beyond that of the Front de gauche (FdG), which breaks with the liberal economic policies of the government, and on the need for “citizen participation” and citizen assemblies at the grass-roots. There is a need to have a coherent selection of candidates at a national level. Other issues remains in dispute, notably on the position taken on the ‘second round’ of elections. That is the policy of, notably the Communist Party, of supporting Parti Socialiste candidates as part of the unity of the left. To the supporters of Jean-Luc Mélenchon any policy of supporting the governing Socialists – above all any agreement on common slates before the second round for local elections – is treason.

Reports (Libération) indicate that the Parti Communiste Français considers that the left of the Parti Socialiste, PS (the ‘frondeurs’)  is moving towards the FdG politics. This is, their strategy of drawing them leftwards has had an effect. The PS is certainly severely divided and its left has come to the fore with some important counter-proposals to the present right-wing course of Prime Minister Manuel Valls.

Mélenchon  has offered an alternative approach (it is too broad to label a ‘strategy’). Based on his own idea of mobilising the ‘people’ against the ‘oligarchy’ he has called for a new 6th Republic. ( l’Ère 
du peuple 2014) The left is ‘dead’ he has announced – echoing similar declarations made by the Spanish Podemos. Launching the Mouvement pour la 6ème République (MSR) he evoked the French Revolution and the its struggles for popular sovereignty. The leader of the Parti de gauche declared, ” c’est le peuple qui prend la place qu’occupait hier la classe ouvrière révolutionnaire dans le projet de la gauche ” – “The people now take the place of the revolutionary working class in the project of the left” notes a very critical assesment  L’ère du peuple, selon Jean-Luc Mélenchon

Not much has been heard of the MSR.

Now Mélenchon has popped up again.

Calling for a mass campaign against the ‘Macron’ reforms, which will weaken labour legislation, expand Sunday working and allow large shops to open, he has suggested that there are grounds for an alliance with the French Green Party – the EELV. (le Monde)

Talking of his future projects he states,

Nous avons un modèle : la victoire lors des municipales à Grenoble. La preuve est faite qu’il est possible de gagner avec un accord entre Europe Ecologie et le Parti de gauche – qui ne demande qu’à s’élargir au reste du Front de Gauche – contrôlé par un rassemblement citoyen à la base. La situation bouge chez les Verts. Cécile Duflot met des choses en mouvement, elle leur montre une issue possible. Je fais tout ce que je peux pour favoriser ce mouvement. La gauche est en train de se reformater. Mais la clé reste dans l’implication des citoyens.

We have a model: the victory in the local elections in Grenoble. The proof is that we can win with an agreement between the Greens and the Parti de Gauche. -which asks for this to be broadened to include the rest of the Front de Gauche – controlled by citizen participation at the grass-roots. Things are changing amongst the Greens. Cécile Duflot (former leader of this party) is pushing for change and shows a way out. I am doing everything I can to back these development. The left is reforming itself But the key remains the participation of citizens.

Le Monde

EELV is not, in most people’s view, a radical left-wing party.

Meanwhile we see (amongst many many examples) Mélo’s way of arguing.

Maul zu, Frau ! Frankreich ist frei. Occupez-vous de vos pauvres et de vos équipements en ruines !

Marine Le Pen and her Requited Love for Putin.

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lefortovo

Marine Le Pen in Moscow  (2013)

In October this story ran in the French media:

Marine Le Pen dit “admirer” Vladimir Poutine

“Je ne cache pas que, dans une certaine mesure, j’admire Vladimir Poutine. Il commet des erreurs, mais qui n’en commet pas ? La situation en Russie n’est pas facile, et on ne peut pas régler rapidement les problèmes issus de la chute de l’URSS” “

I don’t hide that, to a degree, I admire Vladmir Putin. He’s made errors, but who doesn’t? The Russian situation isn’t simple, and one cannot quickly settled the problems which have arisen from the fall of the USSR.

A couple of days ago this interview appeared on EuroNews, with Marine Le Pen.

SD
Are you ideologically close to Vladimir Putin?

MLP
I share at least a part of Vladimir Putin’s economic vision. That’s for sure, but it didn’t start yesterday.
The Front Nationale has never changed its position on this subject. We welcomed the arrival of a government that did not serve the ‘apparatchiks’ ; and which developed a patriotic economy.

SD
You’ve said you have a certain admiration for him as a person.

MLP
Yes. I admire his cool head. Because there is a cold war being waged against him by the EU at the behest of United States, which is defending its own interests. I admire that he has managed to restore pride and contentment to a great nation that had been humiliated and persecuted for 70 years. Simple as that. I think that there are things you have to look on with a positive eye, or at least with an impartial eye .

SD
Well, just on the reasons behind those tensions, a small number of countries have recognised the political situation in Crimea in relation to Russia. What about you. do you approve of the annexation?

MLP
At the time that that referendum was organised there was no legitimate power in Ukraine. It was an illegitimate power, a putsch.

SD
It was Viktor Yanukovich himself who left. No one forced him to go. He fled.

MLP:
Yes, with a knife at his throat. I think if he had stayed he would have been eliminated. So, I think the referendum was organised in conditions that were not so contestable and that the will of Crimea to be part of Russia is not so contestable. The annexation to Ukraine was against the will of Crimea.”

SD
But Ukraine didn’t steal Crimea. It was Khrushchev who gave Crimea to Ukraine.

MLP:
Yes, it was a gift. It was a gift, a gift. But I think Crimea would never have returned to Russia if the EU had not moved to recognise a government in Ukraine that was not, at the time, totally legitimate. The EU committed a serious error. In as much as there are highly dubious elements in this government, particularly a certain number of notorious Nazis.

SD
They say that about your entourage also!

MLP:
You’re joking, I hope! When I talk about Nazis in Ukraine, I’m talking about Nazis, Nazis, meaning Nazis with Nazi flags. But once again history will prove us right! But it’s alright, (sarcastically). I see, (you think), that there are nice Nazis. When they’re Ukrainian they’re ‘nice’ Nazis, not ‘nasty’ Nazis!

I’ve seen in the past governments condemned for brutalising their people, for firing on them. But that one in Kyiv is bombarding its own people, and no one is taking it to task.

Not surprisingly people have related this to the 9 million Euros lent to her party by a Russian Bank (First Czech Russian Bank (FCRB).

Her father’s ‘micro-party’ (Cotelec) has also benefited from similar largesse, – 2 millions Euros from a Cyprus based company run by a former member of the KGB.

Yesterday the Socialist Deputy, Razzy Hammadi, has demanded an inquiry into these  generous acts.

The New York Times reports,

The money appears to be yet another sign of growing closeness between Europe’s far-right parties and Russia. Ms. Le Pen has been steadfast in her admiration of Russia’s president, Vladimir V. Putin, even as France’s and indeed most of Europe’s relations with Russia have frayed over events in Ukraine. She has proposed breaking France’s relationship with NATO’s command in favor of a new alliance that would include Russia.

Her father, Jean-Marie, has long had ties to Russia’s ruling officials. In recent years, Le Pen family members have been frequent visitors to the Russian Embassy. Some analysts say that Marine Le Pen is an even more attractive ally to the Kremlin these days as she is doing well in the polls.

The National Front’s chief financial officer, Wallerand de Saint-Just, said the party needed substantial amounts of money for campaigns and might return to the lender in Moscow, First Czech Russian Bank, for more as it would need a minimum of $50 million. He said the party was paying 6 percent interest, which suggested it “was no special favor.”

Kobane: a fight for Democracy (L’Humanité).

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Photo : Frédéric Lafargue

In their Hour of Need Progressive Humanity is with the Kurdish People.

Editorial of l’Humanité Jean-Paul Piérot. 1st December. (Extracts)

The latest news…

“Self-defence groups of men and women, lacking arms and munitions, continue their battle. They are engaged in a fight, against all odds, and with heroism, to drive out, house by house, the terrorist forces. The town of Kobane has become a symbol of popular resistance against obscurantist barbarism.”

…….

“The Town has held out – its defenders have forced the aggressors to abandon their positions – courage and solidarity have changed the course of events. Victory is not assured, there remains a degree of anti-Kurdish complicity between Erdogan (Turkish President) and Isis which could still permit dangerous developments.The Turkish government is strongly suspected of having let a Isis commando attack a Syrian border post. In these decisive hours, the Kurdish people, who have lived for years under a repressive dictatorship, and who today oppose this criminal “caliphate”, are fighting for democracy –  a value all too rare in this region of the world.

The French Communist daily, l’Humanité,  has a special reporter on the ground, Pierre Barbancey.

This week the dispatches from this comrade, from Kobane itself, are essential reading.

They merit the attention of the whole world.

Kobané : des combats rue par rue, maison par maison

Written by Andrew Coates

December 3, 2014 at 1:12 pm

Labour Representation Committee Backs Kurdish Struggle.

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Kurdish Fighters: Our Kith and Kin. 

Yesterday the Labour Representation Committee AGM voted to back the Kurdish struggle.

Cagdas Canbolat from the Daymer Turkish and Kurdish Community Centre made a moving speech describing the current situation of the Kurds in Northern Syria. He talked of the importance of the heroic struggle of the people of Kobane against Isis (Da’esh). Warning against the manoeuvres of the Turkish state and the support of Qatar and Saudi Arabia (all (implicated in allowing the jihadists to flourish),for he stressed the need to be wary of the actions of the Western powers. But, with the common socialist objectives of his organisation and the British left, our priority must be support the Kurdish people’s fight.

In the afternoon the LRC’s views on international affairs were debated.

There was no full resolution on the Kurdish issue, although comrade John McDonnel (MP) has held a welcome meeting in the House of Commons on the topic.

There as however a general declaration in support of the Kurds’ fight, and for their right to self-determination.

During the discussion the Tendance regretted that the LRC had not had time to adopt the very recent Fire Brigades’ Union resolution ,

The FBU Executive Council is appalled by the ongoing siege of the predominantly Kurdish town of Kobane in northern Syria by ISIS forces.

The Executive Council notes:

  • The ISIS attack on Kobane and resistance of Kurdish and other local forces.
  • The role of Turkey, Saudi Arabia, Bahrain, UAE (all UK/US allies) in building, assisting and encouraging the growth of ISIS.
  • The particular role of the Turkish government in allowing money, arms and fighters across the border to build support for ISIS.
  • The role of Turkey at various times in obstructing the flight of Kurdish and other refugees and in blocking any support for predominantly Kurdish defenders of Kobane, thereby increasing the power and influence of ISIS and likelihood of collapse of opposition to it.

As the union of firefighting humanitarian professionals, we believe it is right to warn of the prospects of a massacre and to demand that governments (including the UK government) act to prevent atrocities. As professionals who have to deal with international humanitarian disasters as well as the effects of terrorism on our own doorstep, we cannot passively fold our arms and do nothing in the face of a likely massacre.

We send our message of solidarity to the workers’ organisations in Turkey, Iran and Iraq, including the Kurdish workers’ organisations. We believe these are the progressive forces that can oppose oppressive governments and reactionary and sectarian forces of all types, and can best guarantee workers’ rights and ensure democratic relations between the peoples of the region.

We support the right of Kurdish people across the Middle East to self-determination, including their right to defend themselves against attack from ISIS.

We oppose the horrific brutality of ISIS and its sectarian and murderous behaviour towards peoples of the region.

We condemn the Turkish government’s comments equating Kurdish fighters (including the defenders of Kobane) with ISIS.

We have no confidence in a US/UK/French bombing campaign against ISIS, based on the bitter experience of such efforts in the last decade and on the appalling role played by the Turkish government and other key western allies in the region.

We demand that:

  • The Turkish government lifts border obstructions to refugees.
  • The Turkish government allows relief efforts, including by opening a relief corridor to the Kurds and other forces defending Kobane.

We call for the TUC to raise these matters urgently, including with the Turkish embassy, the UK government and with trade unions in Europe and elsewhere. We call for international trade union solidarity and support for the defenders of Kobane.

Best wishes.

Yours fraternally

Matt Wrack
General Secretary

FBU

Afterwards I interviewed comrade Cagdas Canbolat.

He reiterated the importance of Kobane, the Kurdish defence of diversity in a region where this is threatened, and the role of women in leading their struggle against the genocidal Islamists.

Back in Ipswich that evening – at nearly ten o’clock – I went into a Kurdish run Newsagents/Off Licence on my way home.

Having already in the recent past already discussed the Kurdish fight with the people there I mentioned the debates at the LRC Conference.

Immediately the proprietor grasped his mobile and showed me pictures of him and his wife at last Saturday’s London day of Solidarity with Kobane.

He began talking about the bravery of the women fighters of the YPG – People’s Protection Units.

I asked if he had seen the video of the Kurdish comrades with the Italian Partisan Song, Bella Ciao.

He sang the first words!

I said that what I liked about the Kurds was that they are “normal people”.

By this I meant – and was understood to mean – that they are simply ordinary decent people.

He liked that expression and repeated it.

A phrase I used in the LRC debate was that these are our “kith and kin“.

That is, people who know, people we feel at ease with, not a special ‘heroic’ ‘victim’ group.

They are friends, neighbours – in my case a number of allotment holders, those who come to the Ipswich Trades Council May Day events, and those I have taught English to.

Nothing special – just plain decent people.

We in the labour movement and left do know the Kurdish organisations – they have supported us, they are part of us.

Ordinary or not the Kurds of Northern Syria are called on to do extraordinary acts.

As our flesh and blood they must be supported to the hilt.

Written by Andrew Coates

November 9, 2014 at 11:40 am

Back the FBU Statement in Support of the Kurds and Why We Don’t Back ‘Labour Solidarity with the Kurds’.

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Defend the Kurds: But How? 

In response to the attack by Isis on Kobane one the most respected trade unions in Britain, the Fire Brigades Union, issued the following appeal a few days ago.

The FBU Executive Council is appalled by the ongoing siege of the predominantly Kurdish town of Kobane in northern Syria by ISIS forces.

The Executive Council notes:

  • The ISIS attack on Kobane and resistance of Kurdish and other local forces.
  • The role of Turkey, Saudi Arabia, Bahrain, UAE (all UK/US allies) in building, assisting and encouraging the growth of ISIS.
  • The particular role of the Turkish government in allowing money, arms and fighters across the border to build support for ISIS.
  • The role of Turkey at various times in obstructing the flight of Kurdish and other refugees and in blocking any support for predominantly Kurdish defenders of Kobane, thereby increasing the power and influence of ISIS and likelihood of collapse of opposition to it.

As the union of firefighting humanitarian professionals, we believe it is right to warn of the prospects of a massacre and to demand that governments (including the UK government) act to prevent atrocities. As professionals who have to deal with international humanitarian disasters as well as the effects of terrorism on our own doorstep, we cannot passively fold our arms and do nothing in the face of a likely massacre.

We send our message of solidarity to the workers’ organisations in Turkey, Iran and Iraq, including the Kurdish workers’ organisations. We believe these are the progressive forces that can oppose oppressive governments and reactionary and sectarian forces of all types, and can best guarantee workers’ rights and ensure democratic relations between the peoples of the region.

We support the right of Kurdish people across the Middle East to self-determination, including their right to defend themselves against attack from ISIS.

We oppose the horrific brutality of ISIS and its sectarian and murderous behaviour towards peoples of the region.

We condemn the Turkish government’s comments equating Kurdish fighters (including the defenders of Kobane) with ISIS.

We have no confidence in a US/UK/French bombing campaign against ISIS, based on the bitter experience of such efforts in the last decade and on the appalling role played by the Turkish government and other key western allies in the region.

We demand that:

  • The Turkish government lifts border obstructions to refugees.
  • The Turkish government allows relief efforts, including by opening a relief corridor to the Kurds and other forces defending Kobane.

We call for the TUC to raise these matters urgently, including with the Turkish embassy, the UK government and with trade unions in Europe and elsewhere. We call for international trade union solidarity and support for the defenders of Kobane.

Best wishes.

Yours fraternally

Matt Wrack
General Secretary

This appeal was also issued last Saturday,

WE SAY NEVER AGAIN

Labour Solidarity with Kurds.

“And all of those who’ve been the victims of genocide and crimes against humanity. We honour their memory, we remember their persecution and their suffering and we say never again”

Ed Miliband, Leader of the Labour Party, Holocaust Memorial, January 2014

An open letter to the Labour Movement

We, non-Kurdish members of the British Labour Party and Trade Unions, are calling for an urgent and significant increase in the support from Britain and other countries to the people defending the world against the onslaught of the so-called Islamic State (ISIS). The Kurds of Kobani, Rojava and the Kurdistan Region, including Yezidis, Christians and other minorities, are on the front line of a global battle against the vilest fascism of our age. We must help them, we must call on the world to help them, and this help must be given by whatever means necessary. The Labour movement is an internationalist movement which understands deeply the plight of those who suffer at under tyranny. We must now stand united in our efforts to secure changes to current UK government policy in this conflict.

The images of grandmothers and grandfathers fighting, and often dying, alongside their younger families is something almost impossible for us in Britain to comprehend. The tales of beheadings, the abandoned dead bodies of women with their breasts cut off, men with their eyes gouged out, sex slavery, genocides and mass executions, and reports of the burning skin of possible acid attacks are too horrific for the British Left to give a half hearted response, or worse.

These atrocities are real, they are happening right now, and those suffering them are real too. They are real women, real men, and real children. They are workers and trade unionists, they are nurses, doctors, teachers and other public servants. They are farmers, electricians, chefs, politicians, and they are fathers and mothers, sons and daughters. They are the same as us, they are our international sisters and brothers and they desperately need, and profoundly deserve, our support.

We pay huge respect to those who have fought and continue to fight so courageously against ISIS. The role of Kurdish women fighters and leaders has been widely reported and had added a further poignancy to a battle which, if lost, would be a victory for an ideology which degrades, silences and enslaves women as a matter of principle. Many of the women on the front line are mothers. They are fighting for the lives and futures of their sons and their daughters. We must help them.

We in Britain are privileged to live in a peaceful, liberal, secular and democratic society, and we must never forgot that such a society had to be fought for, won and defended. It did not happen through some passive progressive evolution, but was won and preserved through progressive politics, through agitation, and most recently through war against Nazism. Now, a powerful horror is being unleashed into the world by ISIS, who believe they are carrying out divine work. They will not give up, they will not stop. They have to be taken on, and defeated, and this has to be done intellectually, spiritually, and practically. The Labour Party does not turn away from those in need. We help. And we must do so with great urgency now.

Each year politicians say “never again” as they lay their wreaths of Remembrance and at events marking the Holocaust. “Never Again” is a commitment to the men and women who fought and died in these wars that their sacrifices will be honoured and defended, through words and deeds. This surely means doing everything and anything necessary to help stop these atrocities now. To turn away from those in need at this moment would be an historically unforgivable act of abandonment to the past, the present and the future.

We on the Left have an historic responsibility to turn powerful statements about solidarity into concrete action and to give our full support to the Kurds at this moment of their greatest need. We therefore implore the entire Labour movement, the Leadership of the Labour Party and the Trade Unions and our fellow members to use our collective influence to seek and support the following:

  • The Kurds of Rojava in Syria and of the Kurdistan Region in Iraq are asking for solidarity against ISIS, which is active in both Iraq and Syria and between which there is no longer any border. We are asking that you support the use of British jets in air strikes against ISIS in both countries and urge the British government to change their position on British airstrikes against ISIS in Syria.
  • British government to send increased aid and arms, including heavy weapons, to the Kurdish forces fighting ISIS in Kobani, and in the Kurdistan Region.
  • A recognition within the Labour Movement that the Kurds and the Iraqis will play the most decisive role in ground operations to defend their homelands. They are not currently asking for the assistance of British and other western ground troops but a global fight of this kind cannot rule this out in the future.
  • To recognise that there may be future incarnations of ISIS and that this needs to be tackled by a mixture of political, economic and other measures to help increase tolerance, pluralism, and women’s rights to reduce and prevent the radicalisation of young people in the Middle East and more widely.
  • To urge Turkey to recognise the Kurds as allies in the fight against ISIS.
  • To recognise that ISIS barbarism has resulted in the flight of over a million refugees from Syria and internally displaced people from Arab Iraq into temporary sanctuary in the Kurdistan Region. The strain of this humanitarian crisis is enormous and the cold winter will mean many needless deaths unless the international community and Baghdad provide much needed support to the communities on the front line.
  • To call upon the Iraqi Government in Baghdad to end the economic blockade against the Kurdistan Region in Iraq.

People are dying every day at the hands of ISIS. They are being enslaved, raped, tortured, mutilated and brutalised and there is no end in sight. Our Labour Party and Labour movement has a duty to do justice to the anti-fascist, internationalist, courageous history of the Left and to do what is so needed now.

Yours in solidarity,

In  reporting on this appeal the Kurdish News Agency site Rudaw added this,

Nick Cohen, a prominent British left-leaning columnist who nevertheless regularly castigates the left for its compromises with Islamic fundamentalism, welcomed what he called “a glimmer of light can pass for a dawn.”Commenting on the open letter in The Spectator magazine, he wrote: “Today’s intervention by the Labour friends of the Kurds is a sign that there is not one ‘left’ but many lefts, and not everyone goes along with the  compromises of the past decade. Call me a trusting fool but perhaps, too, it is a sign that left-wing politics is becoming a little less seedy.”

Are the two appeals different?

Yes and in very important ways.

This is hard to say, and even harder to write, but there are fundamentally distinct objectives in the underlying  approaches.

Nick Cohen in the Spectator  draws out the implications of the Appeal.

Their proposals are both essential and sensible. They want the RAF to join allied air strikes against ISIS in Syria as well as Iraq; and for Labour to call on the British government to send to send increased aid and arms, including heavy weapons, to the Kurdish forces fighting ISIS in Kobani, and across Kurdistan.  Both are  desperately needed – Iraqi Kurdistan alone must cope with one million refugees and a well-armed force of clerical fascists, which could return to slaughter Kurds at any moment.

The MPs, party activists and trade unionists are too tactful to mention that an alliance between the Labour leadership and Tory right (not quite a Hitler-Stalin pact, but in the same territory) stopped British action against Assad, Cameron dare not allow the RAF to deliver the support to the Syrian Kurds they want for fear that left and right will combine again and destroy his government.

He then makes this observation: explaining why Miliband is unwilling to call for the RAF to attack Isis.

Bush, Iraq, post-colonial guilt, pacifism, parochial stupidity and the appeal of minding your own business and not wasting blood and treasure in other people’s conflicts

It would not be unfair to say that Cohen does not want intervention to stop at the defence of the Kurds.

He  has been consistently explicit in his stand on removing Assad,

As in (1st January 2012)  The west has a duty to intervene in Syria

Cohen cites Michael Weiss from the Henry Jackson Society, so-named after a virulently anti-communist American Democrat  ‘Scoop’ Jackson. He was a Congressman and Senator known for close ties to the Defence Industry and  who supported the Bombing of North Vietnam (1). Weiss had a plan for this intervention,

American, British and French air power might combine with Turkish ground forces to create a safe haven in northern Syria, where mutinous troops from the Syrian army could build a fighting force. Nato officials have studied it, while Burhan Ghalioun, chairman of the Syrian National Council, described the report as a “crucial resource for understanding how a humanitarian intervention in Syria can still be carried out responsibly.

This plan was not adopted.

Most people would not accept that it was ever viable, that interventions were bound to be botched, run up against the opposition of large numbers of Syrians,  and that the Syrian National Council was never a real player in the emerging civil war.

Cohen has not accepted this.

For him the absence of Western intervention (meaning a determined thrust to remove Assad)  in Syria was a betrayal.

He has written earlier this year (Observer).

A great evil has been done to Syria. I cannot see how any western project against Islamic State can prosper until the “conscience of the world” provides redress by saying it will not tolerate the continuation of the Assad regime. At present, however, the world won’t even acknowledge evil’s existence. We must expect evil in return.

The FBU did not back Western intervention in Syria.

It would be unfair to accuse them of ‘tolerating’ Assad: they, like most people on the left, simply did not see Western intervention as a serious means to create a democratic Syria.

No doubt they could point to the fact that there has been intervention (if not on Cohen’s personal terms). That is there was a flow of arms from the West to (initially) a broad swathe of the Syrian opposition, and a blind-eye to the weapons and recruits to the original jihadis, were part of the reason why we now have Isis/Islamic state.

Now the FBU does not call for UK aircraft to bomb Isis .

This is part of a blanket statement.

It “places no confidence” in a US/UK/French bombing campaign.

The FBU does not oppose arming the Kurdish resistance – it simply does not state a position.

Tendance Coatesy argues for arms for the Kurds according to their own wishes.

This is both distinct from the Stop the War Coalition’s view and from the call, without asking the Kurds’ opinion, on the British Government to use air power in Syria.

If it sounds ridiculous to have a dogmatic stand on this, from our real position in the world, we certainly welcome air raids and any means possible to defend Kobane.

We will not go further.

This comment has appeared in Tendance Coatesy’s comment boxes; asking why we do not ‘go further’.

Well, the FBU have said they want the UK Govt to “prevent atrocities” but have “no confidence” in a bombing campaign against Isis. Well, what should the Govt do then?

The Kurds in Kobane, on the other hand, do have confidence in the present airstrikes against Isis and are very happy to receive arms from the Americans.

While, I am sure, the Kurds are happy for the support of Unite and the FBU, I think they would prefer Ed Miliband and the Labour Party to adopt the ideas outlined above by “Labour Solidarity with the Kurds.”

Comments Jonr R.

It is clear that amongst those signing the Labour Solidarity with the Kurds are those who consider, like Cohen, that we should go further.

A lot lot further.

That this should be a bridgehead for much wider intervention in the Syrian Civil War – a demand which was predicted would be raised.

This is so completely off the wall that it is hard to know where to begin.

Perhaps we should say, in Henry Jackson style, that one can’t get use arms in a civil war, getting intimately involved in a life and death struggle, on the basis of all the horror and outrage one can muster at Assad and the Islamist genociders.

We can take sides in a precise case where we know something of the forces pitted against each other: the PKK/PYD against Isis/Islamic State.

We do not need to underline the links between those who’ve signed this appeal to the pro-Tony Blair Progress and the Henry Jackson Society to make further points casting doubt about it.

But one thing stands out: perhaps the most prominent signatory of Labour Solidarity with the Kurds, is Gary Kent  who is intimately involved in the politics of the Middle East. (2). He has just published in Progress an account of their appeal, Taking on ‘the vilest fascism of our age’. He has also spoken at more than one Henry Jackson event (including its launch).

Kent is a classic liberal interventionist.

Well it worked so well in Iraq, why not give it a try in Syria?

(1)  “The Henry Jackson Society is a non-profit organisation that seeks to promote the following principles: that liberal democracy should be spread across the world; that as the world’s most powerful democracies, the United States and the European Union – under British leadership – must shape the world more actively by intervention and example; that such leadership requires political will, a commitment to universal human rights and the maintenance of a strong military with global expeditionary reach; and that too few of our leaders in Britain and the rest of Europe today are ready to play a role in the world that matches our strength and responsibilities.”

(2) Gary Kent, Labour member, Director, of Labour Friends of Iraq, Unite/NUJ/Iraqi Federation of Trade Unions (honorary). Labour Friends of Iraq, Founding statement 2004. “Iraq is emerging from its long nightmare of Saddam’s totalitarianism, wars and privation. Iraq now has an opportunity to use its natural and human wealth to build a democratic civil society. An independent and secular labour movement is a key part of civil society and can do much to promote the unity of working people, regardless of creed or gender.”

See also: ROJAVA, IMPERIALISM AND THE ISLAMIC STATES .

And: LES COMMUNISTES-OUVRIERS ET LE « CONFÉDÉRALISME DÉMOCRATIQUE » Camille Boudjak

And: Solidarity with the Kurds, or NATO-bashing?  (Alliance for Workers ‘Liberty).

Amnesty for British Jihadists?

with 8 comments

Isis Justice.

On Sunday the Observer reported,

British jihadi fighters desperate to return home from Syria and Iraq are being issued with death threats by the leadership of Islamic State (Isis), the Observer has learned.

A source with extensive contacts among Syrian rebel groups said senior Isis figures were threatening Britons who were attempting to travel home. He said: “There are Britons who upon wanting to leave have been threatened with death, either directly or indirectly.”

It continued  with the claim from  former Guantánamo Bay detainee Moazzam Begg

Begg said that groups had approached him to try to put pressure on the government to show leniency to disillusioned fighters returning. Recently, the government suggested British jihadis who went to fight in Iraq or Syria could be tried for treason.

He said that a lot of Britons were currently “stuck between a rock and a hard place”. He added: “There are a large number of people out there who want to come back. The number in January was around 30, that was the number given to me. That number has definitely increased since.”

This comes as calls grow for an amnesty for British people who have gone to Syria to fight for the Islamists.

The Huffington Post said,

Britain should set up an amnesty for disillusioned and frightened British jihadis who want to come home, a senior diplomatic expert has said, as more reports emerged of “stranded” Brits desperate to leave Islamic State or other radical groups.

Up to 100 are believed to be currently stranded in Turkey, fleeing the horrors of the Islamic State’s rampage through Syria in Iraq. But most fear to return to Britain, according to Rachel Briggs, director of Hostage UK, which works with the families of victims kidnapped overseas.

Briggs told Huffington Post UK that the British government should “establish a clearing house near the Syrian border in Turkey to process and return home scared and disillusioned British jihadis”.

……

“In support of this effort, it should run an information campaign within Syria to inform British ISIS members of their return options,” she continued. “This does not mean letting criminals off the hook; those guilty of crimes must be prosecuted on their return.

Huffington Post

The article develops the theme,

Worried parents could be “de-facto negotiators” if helped more by the government, Briggs said, citing the case of Mehdi Hassan, 19 from Portsmouth, the latest British jihadi to be killed in Syria. His mother told the media after pictures of his body circulated on Twitter that the aspiring history student had been desperate to leave the Islamic State, despite his bombastic statements on social media.

“Mehdi was a loving boy with a good heart wishing to help Syrians,” the family said in a statement. “In recent months he had expressed the intention to return home but was worried about the repercussions. This is a tragedy and a lesson.”

These calls have drawn anger from right-wingers like Stephen Pollard.

In the Express today he rejects the idea saying that they deserve prosecution, “They are simply having to face the consequences of their actions. There’s a simply way for anyone to avoid prison for terrorism: don’t be a terrorist. And if you do become one but don’t like it: tough. You will pay for your actions.”

We can ignore this predictable outrage.

In the first instance, it is not a good idea to make policy, especially ones that involve the legal system, based on individual cases, particularly ones such as that of Hassan. The emotional charge is high, above all when claims have been made that he acted on his family’s report of wishes to leave the scene of mass murder.

Hasty measures taken to pick on suspected jihadists and efforts to impose what is in effect censorship and repression, and “counter-extremism” are not a good idea.

The fact is that there is an assault taking place in Kobani – where Hassan was killed – by the genocidal Isis against our Kurdish sisters and brothers .

A political campaign on the left to face up to the Islamists, and the political pool they have thriven in, expressing solidarity with those battling the jihadists , might have a deeper effects.

Campaigning against the murderous acts of the Syrian regime, not to mention wider Islamist (including Shiite) religious intolerance, would be part of such a move.,

This ia a long-term, long-haul, objective. 

In the meantime on the issue of amnesty, there does not seem much concern about those oppressed by Isis/Islamic State expressed by those advocating an amnesty – or by Pollard.

Racehl Briggs’s proposals are summarised in more detail by the following,

We need a more nuanced approach to deal with the different levels of threat. Arrest and prosecute those who have committed a crime and set an example of those guilty of the most heinous offences. Work proactively to bring back those who are scared and disillusioned, so they come back with us and on our terms. Turn the stories of returned foreign fighters into ammunition against ISIS. And offer those capable of reintegration the support they and their families need to get back on their feet and become productive members of society.

The issue of who has been a criminal is a hard one.

How exactly this should be determined, how they would be prosecuted  and how they can be distinguished from the “scared and disillusioned” is left unclear.

The example of ‘rehabilitation’ in some European countries are marginal, covering a handful of people.

More significantly the number of jihadists going from Europe including Britain, to kill in Syria has not notably decreased as news about the nature of Isis/Islamic State has become widely known.

Battling in a Holy War and murdering infidels does not seem attractive.

Some of these foreign fighters are reported to have participated in the worst atrocities.

Some cases are certain, as in the Western hostages tortured and murdered by the Islamists.

There is this in particular,

Mr Foley spent much of his time in captivity being guarded by three militants with British accents, whom the hostages nicknamed “The Beatles”. The group apparently took pleasure in abusing their captives, telling them they had been “naughty”. For a time, Mr Foley and others were held in a basement beneath a children’s hospital in Aleppo, before their captors joined up with Isis and moved their hostages to Raqqa, Syria, the capital of the self-proclaimed Islamic State, as Isis calls itself.

Independent.

An International War Crimes Tribunal is perhaps the best way of dealing with those who have committed atrocities in the Syrian and Iraqi conflicts.

In the meantime there is no reason for any special pleading on behalf of “young enthusiasts” who join groups that commit acts of torture and genocide.

Perhaps much more significant in this media discussion is the underlying idea that somehow “British” jihadists should get special treatment.

This might be described as the “Western saviour complex”, except that those being saved are “our” (repentant)  jihadis.

Assed Baig, the ‘controversial’ journalist who uses such phrases freely, and who received a window on Channel Four last night to air his opinion that Muslims in Britain are uniquely excluded and their religion and beliefs patronised and oppressed, would no doubt be opposed to any such favours from the Colonial British State.