Saturday, 26 December 2009

Right to Work Conference

A conference of resistance and solidarity
Saturday 30 January, Central Hall, Oldham Street, Manchester 11.30am-5pm

Fight for every job
Organise to stop the cuts
Defend services and pensions
Unite the public and private sectors
Demand a million green jobs
Jobs not bombs
Defend migrant workers – jobs for all

Speakers include:
Mark Serwotka (PCS), Sally Hunt (UCU), Tony Kearns (CWU), Jeremy Dear (NUJ), Jerry Hicks (Unite), Mark Smith (former Vestas worker), Paul Brandon (Unite bus worker), Nahella Ashraf (chair, Greater Manchester Stop the War), Dave Chapple (Chair National Shop Stewards Network), Clara Osagiede (RMT cleaners’ secretary), Kevin Courtney (NUT national executive, personal capacity), Dot Gibson (General Secretary, National Pensioners Convention) and speakers from the Fujitsu strike, Royal Mail dispute, Brighton bins dispute, BA cabin crew, Superdrug… and many more.

Supported by UCU nationally and over 55 union branches so far.

There’s a deep economic crisis – and the bosses and the politicians want us to pay for it. It’s bad now, and an avalanche of cuts is coming after the election. But there’s also a fightback, and we need more of that.
Whenever there’s resistance, then we need solidarity. Many working people rallied round the postal workers’ national fight. And many have also backed the Leeds bins workers, the BA workers, the Superdrug workers and other groups who have taken action. This conference is designed to bring together those networks of resistance and to make them stronger.
This is a brilliant chance to learn from one another and spread the lessons of the fightback.
It’s not just for trade unionists, and it won’t just be about workplace struggle. We are having speakers and workshops on issues like the war in Afghanistan, anti-racist battles, decent housing, and so on. We want students, unemployed workers, anti-war activists, pensioners, campaigners for green jobs, housing activists and anti-racist activists to come.

It won’t be a talking shop. We want to organise initiatives from the conference. For example, some people have suggested a day of action around welfare ‘reform’ or a coordinated push to unionise in specific areas, or action to defend and organise migrant workers.

We want to people to bring their own ideas to the conference and to go away with stronger organisation.

Workshops include:
How can we stop the jobs massacre?
Fighting privatisation, defending public services
Don’t let them rob our pensions!
Jobs not bombs
After Copenhagen, how can we win a million climate jobs?
“The lost generation”? – students and young workers fighting back
Against racism and the scapegoating of migrant workers
How can workers get a real political voice?
Defying the anti-union laws
The welfare reform agenda – fighting for our rights

Saturday, 21 November 2009

The Wave

Stop Climate Change Demonstration

Oxford Stop Climate Chaos Coalition is running subsidised coaches to the demonstration to get as many people there as possible.  Coaches leave St Giles at 10a.m. Tickets Cost £10 waged and £8 unwaged.  There is also a special price of £3 for members of Oxfordshire UNISON health branch.

Tickets can be bought online below http://web.bethere.co.uk/OSCC/ or email OSCC@bethere.co.uk or call 07985056089.

Climate change is the greatest threat to humanity and the world’s ecosystems. We have fewer than 100 months to reverse the growth in global carbon emissions, otherwise global warming will almost certainly exceed the danger threshold of 2 degrees C.

The UN Climate Change negotiations in Copenhagen this December are the most important international talks in the history of humankind. They must deliver a fair global deal to keep us all safe from dangerous and irreversible climate chaos.

We are urging as many people to come to London with us to make it clear to world leaders we want immediate effective action.

 

Friday, 13 November 2009

Letter from America # 17

America Ys Guns

The recent shootings at Fort Hood army base in Texas have shocked the nation, and given rise to hours and pages of agonized media coverage. There is speculation about the shooter’s motives, his Muslim identity, and whether the crime should be classified as terrorism (as if this makes any difference to the families of the victims). As usual, the right-wing media has used the incident to engage in virulent Islamophobia. As usual, the media coverage misses the point.

Nidal Hasan’s Islamic beliefs may be relevant, as there are reports that he was increasingly influenced by radical Islam in the months leading to his rampage. There are, however, also reports that his communications with a ‘radical Imam’ were for the purpose of legitimate research. His actions may have been equally the result of his horror at the Iraq War, his fear of being sent to a war zone, his suffering from Islamophobia and anti-Arab racism, and his day-to-day experience in his job as a military psychologist listening to the horror-stories told by returning veterans. His being influenced by radical interpretations of Islam might be the trigger, but probably not the underlying cause, of his actions.

Also irrelevant is the debate that usually follows such events about the Second Amendment, which supposedly guarantees the right to bear arms. (It actually calls for a ‘well-regulated militia’, not for every right-wing gun-nut to be allowed to tote an AK-47.) Liberals usually call for more gun control after the latest shooting, and it’s understandable that the left should wish to oppose right wing militias such as the Minuteman, who exercise their Second Amendment rights by intimidating immigrants along the Mexican border. But, as Michael Moore pointed out in Bowling for Columbine, gun ownership is just as high in Canada as in the US, but Canada does not experience the same kind of gun-crime problems. Here in central Michigan, every second family seems to own a rifle for hunting during the deer season in the autumn. It does not make our area a hotbed of gun violence.

But of course, the usual gun-control vs gun-rights debate did not take place after the Fort Hood shooting, as the shooter belonged to the biggest, most heavily armed group of killers on the planet – the US armed forces. Any discussion of ending killing by taking the guns out of the hands of potential killers would of course come into head-on collision with official America’s love affair with the military.

The military in the US is bigger and more visible than in the UK – a larger proportion of the population is in the armed services, has been posted to Iraq, or has been killed or wounded there or in Afghanistan. Nobody is more than a few degrees of separation from an Iraq veteran (I have taught two of them in my classes). The understandable desire of people to support veterans is twisted and exploited into an orgy of militarism and patriotism, as we are constantly invited by bumper stickers or ads on TV to ‘support our troops’. Harley-Davison saw fit to ‘salute those who defend freedom’ with a youtube ad featuring scantily-clad women draping themselves over motorbikes. Presumably, the US forces in Iraq are fighting to defend soft porn and greenhouse gas emissions. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=o6CHqSN7O-o We are not, however, invited to empathize with the troops beyond a superficial call to ‘honor their sacrifice’. We are not invited to ask why veterans are more likely to be unemployed, mentally ill, to commit suicide, or to go to prison.

The other question not being asked is why so many shooting sprees are committed by people linked to the far right. If Hasan’s crime was motivated by Islamism, then he’s in a minority – American ultra-conservatism and neo-fascism are behind more acts of violence in the USA than radical Islam. Before 9/11, the biggest act of domestic terrorism was Tim McVeigh’s bombing of the Federal Building at Oklahoma City. McVeigh was a military veteran, motivated by a peculiarly American brand of right-wing politics that stresses racism, suspicion of the federal government (except when it’s fighting wars), and worship of the gun. More recently, the last year has seen the murder of George Tiller, a doctor in Kansas who performed abortions; the assault on a Unitarian church in Tennessee by a shooter who hated its members’ ‘liberal views’; and the killing of a security guard at the national Holocaust Museum in Washington, DC by a neo-Nazi. All these stories were well reported at the time, but all seemed to disappear from media discussion of gun-crime, as they do not fit the stereotype of mass-shootings being committed by (a) Muslim terrorists or (b) lone gunmen who ‘go postal’ for crazed, personal reasons. I’m not saying these killings were linked in an organizational sense, but they share a common ideology.

This ideology cannot be dismissed as the belief system of a few extremists – it shades into that of the more mainstream right. Before his murder, Dr Tiller was repeatedly labeled ‘Tiller the Baby-Killer’ by Rupert Murdoch’s ‘Fair and Balanced’ Fox News. His murderer was linked to the anti-abortion group ‘Operation Rescue.’ Right-wing protestors against healthcare reform have turned up outside meetings held by Democratic members of Congress, and even one of Obama’s speeches, openly carrying assault rifles. At election rallies held by McCain and Palin last year, members of the audience were heard shouting ‘traitor’ and ‘kill him’ at the mention of Obama.

I’m not saying the USA is about to face a fascist coup, or that the Republican Party are in league with neo-Nazis. My point is that there is – to use the old cliché – a ‘violence inherent in the system’ of the US. Fort Hood was, after all, named after a Civil War general in the armies of the slave-owning South. When a country has the world’s largest nuclear arsenal, when it has military bases in over 100 foreign countries, when it occupies two countries, and funds the Israeli occupation of a third, when it has the world’s biggest arms industry, when it imprisons more young Black men than it sends to college, when it was built on the dispossession of one people and the enslavement of a second – when, in short, American capitalism polices the globe and its own people with naked violence – it is not surprising when that violence sometimes emerges in unexpected and shocking ways. As Malcolm X put it, commentating on the assassination of JFK – the chickens have come home to roost. 

 

 

Monday, 2 November 2009

Palestine Solidarity Campaign Meeting

Palestinian Child Prisoners

Public Meeting on Thursday 5th November 7-9pm
Oxford Town Hall, St Aldate's

Chair: Victoria Brittain
Guests: Danny Freidman and Karma Nabulsi

Thursday, 15 October 2009

Mike's Letter from America No 16

Kick me out of the Ball Game

There’s lots to write about in U.S. politics at the moment; Obama’s Nobel Peace Prize (which the USA celebrated by launching a missile at the moon); the continuing health care debate, which looks set to deliver a bill so watered down that it can hardly be called ‘reform’; and an increasingly hysterical right-wing campaign against Obama, with public meetings called by Democratic congressmen invaded by mobs orchestrated by Fox News and right-wing pressure groups. But instead, I will write about a lighter subject; baseball.

‘America’s Pastime’, as it is sometimes called, is reaching its season’s climax this month. October is traditionally the time for the post-season play-offs, ending in the World Series. Baseball is a microcosm for much that is good and bad about America. It is traditionally a working class sport, and despite an early history of racial segregation, is very multi-cultural. Today’s professional teams include large numbers of players from Latin America, U. S. players of all racial backgrounds, and, increasingly, the top players from Japan and Korea are playing in America’s major leagues.  It also contradicts some of the clichés about American sports fans who supposedly don’t take to cricket or football (‘soccer’) because they are too slow-moving and low-scoring.  Baseball games can last three hours or more; last week’s game that saw my local team (Detroit Tigers) eliminated lasted 4 ½ hours, and was totally gripping. It is a game that requires (but repays) patience from the spectator, it is subtle, and highly tactical – everything that is opposite to the stereotype of Americas liking entertainment that is flashy and quick. And the teams do not wear sponsors’ names or logos on their shirts.

On the negative side, baseball also reflects the least savory aspects of American society – capitalism and nationalism. All professional sports are big business, but baseball pioneered some of the worst aspects of sport-as-capitalism. It was the first sport to move teams lock, stock and barrel across the country to access richer markets, which began with the migration of two clubs from New York to California in the 1950s. Team owners in the early days of the game treated their players like serfs, a practice which lives on in a punishing 162-game fixture list. Today, the players are millionaires, but the pressure to perform to earn their vast wages has created an endemic culture of performance-enhancing drugs. 

Alongside increasing commercialism is rising nationalism. It has long been a joke to non-Americans that the ‘World Series’ only includes teams from the USA and Canada. The ritual of playing the national anthem before sporting events is an alienating one to me, as both a foreigner and a socialist, but something that you get used to. In recent years, however, the enforced patriotism has been ramped up, and combined with militarism. I first noticed this in 2006, when I was following the Detroit Tigers in the World Series via Channel 5 in the UK. In one game, the commentators read an email from a viewer in the US armed forces, who was watching from Iraq. One of them then said ‘those boys are fighting so that we can have the freedom to enjoy occasions like this’, which was news to me, as I had been previously unaware of Saddam Hussein’s evil plan to destroy Major League Baseball.  Now when you go to a game the tannoy announcer asks you not only to stand for the national anthem, but to do so in honor of the armed forces. At one minor league game I went to this year, the flag was escorted onto the field by an honor-guard of flag-waving boy scouts. The pre-game rituals of baseball feel increasingly like the ‘Tomorrow Belongs to Me’ scene in Cabaret, where an angelic-looking boy singer turns out to be a Hitler Youth member.

The worst aspect of all this is the damage done to the beloved ‘Seventh Inning Stretch’. This is a pleasantly silly ritual where the crowd are able to stand, stretch their legs, and sing ‘Take Me Out to the Ball Game’ a hokey song about the joys of watching baseball. Today, ‘Take Me Out’ is often replaced by ‘God Bless America’ or some other patriotic song – as if the national anthem were not enough. Maybe they fear our patriotism has faded in the previous 6 ½ innings, and needs a top-up? I’m sad to say that last year one America-hating subversive in New York tried to use this time to go to the toilet, only to be thrown out for disrespecting ‘God Bless America’. I repeat – not just told to sit down, but thrown out and roughed up by two cops.  http://wcbstv.com/local/yankees.bathroom.ejection.2.804859.html

So will understand my mixed feelings about attending a baseball game in the USA during the ‘War on Terror’. But on the plus side, baseball is still an enjoyable game, and the right to burn the American flag is still protected by the Constitution. Now, where are my matches?

Saturday, 3 October 2009

Troops Out of Afghanistan- Protest 24th October Oxford coach details

National Demonstration: LondonTroops Out of Afghanistan Now
Saturday 24 October Central London
Called by Stop the War Coalition, CND and British Muslim Initiative

The majority of people in Britain want the troops out of Afghanistan now. They know this war is unwinnable and unjustifiable. The demonstration on Saturday 24 October will give voice to that majority who say the troops must come home now.

Oxford Coach Details:
Subsidised transport to London from Oxford will leave St. Giles at 9.30 pm.
Coach tickets are £11 waged/£7 unwaged can be boughtonline at www.oxfordactivists.co.uk/

10 reasons to get the troops out of Afghanistan...

Pull the Plug on Nazi Griffin

Demonstrate
Unite Against Fascism will be protesting at the BBC headquartersPicket from 9am. BECTU is supporting BBC workers refusing to work.
There will be a national and local demonstrations from 5pm, Thursday 22 October







LONDON Wood Lane, London W12 7RJ (White City or Wood Lane tube)
OXFORD 269 Banbury Road, Summertown

Shame the BBC for inviting Nazi BNP leader Nick Griffin onto Question TimeThe BBC has invited Nick Griffin, leader of the fascist BNP and a man with a criminal conviction for denying Hitler’s Holocaust, onto its flagship Question Time programme on Thursday 22 October in London.

The BBC says the BNP should be treated as if it were a democratic party. But there is nothing democratic about the BNP. It is a racist and fascist organisation dedicated to kicking every single black and Asian person out of this country. Griffin himself wrote: “When the crunch comes power is the product of force and will, not of rational debate.” He isn’t interested in impressing people with his arguments – he wants to back up the BNP’s slogans with “well-directed boots and fists”.


The BBC does not have to give Griffin a platform to spout his doctrine of race hate. It has chosen to roll out the red carpet to racists and fascists. And by doing so, it has chosen to treat black and Asian people with contempt. More airtime for the BNP will lead to more racist attacks on the streets.If you’re disgusted by Nick Griffin and appalled by the BBC’s decision to host him, come join our demonstrations outside the BBC on Thursday 22 October.No platform for Nazis • Stop racist attacks • Unite to stop the BNPLeaflet can be downloaded here.

We urgently need funds to produce leaflets, posters and placards etc to keep up the fight against the BNP. Donations can be made c/o http://www.uaf.org.uk/

Tuesday, 29 September 2009

Oxford Troops Out of Afghanistan Meeting- Monday 12th October


Oxford Stop the War Coalition Public Meeting
Monday 12th October 7.30pm
Oxford Town Hall St Aldates

Speakers: Tariq Ali and Jeremy Corbyn MP

Ten reasons to get the troops out:
  1. The death rate is rising on both sides. The number of British troops who have died is now higher than those killed in 6 years in Iraq. Fifteen soldiers died in the first two weeks of July alone. No one keeps track of the number of Afghan dead but it numbers tens of thousands since 2001. In May more than 140 Afghans, mainly women and children, were killed in one air strike.
  2. This is an unwinnable war. The Taliban was defeated in 2001 but is now growing in strength. Osama bin Laden has not been captured. The war is supposedly about defending the Karzai government. But his government is one of the most corrupt in the world. Neither he nor the occupation forces have brought any real improvements for the Afghan
  3. Gordon Brown claims the war is about combating terrorism. But there was no terrorist threat to Britain before the war in Afghanistan, or before the war in Iraq in 2003. It is those wars and their consequences that have made Britain a target. Even MI5 told the government the Iraq occupation was likely to increase not decrease terrorism.
  4. We are told this may have to be our ’30 years war’. We have fought for eight years and the situation is getting worse. Children as yet unborn will be dying if this war is not stopped.
  5. The war is spreading to Pakistan, which is a nuclear state, opening up the prospect of an even more terrible conflict.
  6. Life is getting worse for most Afghans under occupation. There is a huge refugee problem. Corruption is rife. While Tony Blair promised in 2001 ‘we will not walk away’ Afghanistan remains one of the poorest countries in the world. According to the United Nations life expectancy has fallen for Afghans since 2003. Far more is spent on the war and the military than is spent on reconstruction. Aid meant to help the Afghans is not getting through to those who need it.
  7. Britain has spent £4.6 billion on the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq every year – enough money to create 200,000 graduate jobs annually. We should be funding these jobs, not wasting more money on war. Unemployment must not become a recruiting sergeant for the army.
  8. More troops or helicopters won’t help. The NATO forces are not losing because they don’t have the equipment but because they are in Afghanistan.
  9. We were told that the war in Afghanistan was to liberate women. But women’s lives have not improved. Death in childbirth is rising. The Karzai government even tried to pass a law allowing rape in marriage. Despite all the talk about troops helping girls to go to school, less than a third of Afghan girls are in school and less than 10% can read and write, 7 years after the fall of the Taliban.
  10. The majority of Afghans do not want the war and occupation. The majority of British people think the troops should come home by Xmas at the latest. In two recent polls 56% (BBC and Guardian) and 59% (ITN) want the troops out.

Friday, 18 September 2009

Rage Against Labour September 27th

Jobs, Education, Peace! Demand a new direction
Lobby and Demonstration @ Labour Party Conference, Brighton12.30pm, 27th September 2009
Coach leaves Central Oxford 9am
Contact: 07967392229 / gawainlittle@yahoo.co.uk

A coalition of trade unions and pressure groups have teamed up to lobby the Labour Party Conference and call for a change in direction over proposals to cut public expenditure.The government have announced that public spending growth will be cut from 1.1%next year to 0.7% from 2011-12. Alongside this real term spending cut, the government also announced further ‘efficiency savings’ of £9 billion across the public sector in addition to the £5 billion announced in November. Past so-called ‘efficiency programmes’ have had a disastrous impact on all public services.It is against this backdrop that the media and some politicians are trying to create a division between the public and private sectors. Divisive myths about job security, pay and pensions in civil and public services have been voiced in an attempt to portray the public sector as ‘having it easy’ compared to the private sector.We oppose false divisions between public and private sector workers. The real issue is the injustice of making the low paid, wherever they work, pay for a crisis not of their making. We call on the government to defend both public and private sector jobs, and invest in public services, not cut them.

Called by: UCU, NUT, PCS, NUJ, CWU, StWC, UAF, Right to Work.Transport organised by: Oxford & District Trades Council, Oxford CWU, Oxford UCU, Oxfordshire NUT.

More Info: http://www.righttowork.org.uk/

Saturday, 1 August 2009

Mike's Letter from America No 15

The Worst of Health

Yesterday, I went to have some blood samples taken. The first thing I was asked when I got to the clinic was ‘could I see your insurance card?’ This is always the first thing an American resident is asked when going for the first time to a doctor, dentist, or even a hospital – except in the direst of emergencies, no insurance = no treatment.


The irony of this is that, if you believe the Republicans and their allies in the media, in Britain or other countries that have a public health system ‘government bureaucrats come between you and your doctor’. Yet in 39 years under the care of the NHS, I never had to see a bureaucrat, government or otherwise. When I lived in Oxford, the NHS medical centre was literally across the road - the only thing ‘between me and my doctor’ was a street. In the US, however, the private bureaucracy of the insurance companies always stands between a patient and his or her physician.


Another example of my experience of the US healthcare system: soon after arrival in America, I went to the pharmacy for a prescribed nasal spray. When told it would cost me $40 (about £26), I asked whether they had remembered to deduct the portion paid by the insurance. They told me that yes, they had, and that the full price for the medicine was more like $400! Now, I know for a fact that this medicine sold for a market rate of about £8 in the UK, where it is obtainable over the counter. With a prescription, of course, it costs even less (and is free in Scotland or Wales).


As shown by Michael Moore’s movie Sicko, the US healthcare system regularly fails those who need it most. Over 47 million Americans (nearly 20% of the population) have no health insurance and, as Moore demonstrated, even those who are covered constantly find that their insurers fail to pay up. Whole armies of bureaucrats are employed by the insurance companies to investigate their clients to find loopholes that will allow them not to pay for their treatment. In 1993, when health care reform was proposed by the Clinton administration, the insurers paid out 95c for every $1 they collected in premiums; now, the figure is only 80c. Meanwhile, their profits have increased by over 400%.


Fortunately, Obama has a plan. To listen to the Republicans and the pundits on Fox News, you’d think he was going to bring in a fully-funded public health-care system, paid for by expropriating the bourgeoisie while strangling some particularly adorable puppies. In fact, Obama’s plans are incredibly moderate, consisting mainly of a public insurance scheme to compete with the private insurers, and making it compulsory for employers to offer health coverage to their workers. His administration has been very careful to reassure the health insurance industry that their profits will be left intact. A few weeks ago, Health Secretary Kathleen Sebelius was on the radio telling listeners that the government-sponsored public insurance scheme would not undercut the private insurers – to which my reaction as ‘why the hell not?’


The other plank of the healthcare scam is the pharmaceutical companies. My $400 nasal spray incident was made possible by the fact that the in insurers are essentially in cahoots with the drugs companies to maximize their profits. Pharmaceutical companies can charge what they like, knowing insurers will (grudgingly) pay up; insurers can charge what they like, knowing that the public have no other choice but to pay their premiums. Yet the Obama plan leaves the big pharmaceutical companies untouched. Recently, Harry and Louise, the adorable white middle-class couple who famously appeared in ads opposing Clinton’s health reform proposals (paid for, of course, by the health insurance industry), have been on our screens again. This time, however, they are supporting Obama’s plan. And who is paying for the ads? The lobby representing the drugs companies. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fOr17a4ZOIU You may think any healthcare reform that is backed by big pharma is not a reform worthy of the name – and you’d be right.


Still, Obama’s plan is a tiny step in the right direction. It ought to be very popular – polls show that 72% of Americans want some kind of public health insurance. Yet the barrage of lies and scare tactics against ‘socialized medicine’ seem to be having an effect, with some polls showing Obama losing popularity over the healthcare issue. The ‘Blue Dogs’ (right-wing Democrats who would not be out of place in David Cameron’s Tory Party) are getting cold feet, and Democrat senators are trying to cobble together a deal with the Republicans to remove even the tiny, weak public insurance scheme proposed by the president.


Ironically, public health care already exists in the USA. Medicare/Medicaid, which covers the poorest and the elderly, has been in place since the 1960s, and is incredibly popular. More to the point, members of Congress benefit from a health insurance scheme of the sort that they would deny the rest of us. The military also have publically-funded health insurance, and John Stewart on the Daily Show managed to get neo-con Bill Krystol to admit that (a) it is better than private health care and (b) that the rest of us don’t deserve the same. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Sa69puS7J0Q


If health care reform is scuppered again, as it was under Clinton, it will show where true power lies in US society. The Democrats have the presidency, both houses of Congress (including a supposedly unassailable 60-40 majority in the Senate), and the backing of 72% of the population. But the private health industry has the $500 million it paid last year on lobbying and campaign contributions to politicians. It will take a mass campaign from outside the halls of Congress to counter that, and make sure Democratic congressmen vote with their electors, not with the lobbyists.

Tuesday, 28 July 2009

Vestas workers take on climate change minister in Oxford







Vestas workers challenged Climate Change Minister Ed Miliband at a packed public meeting of 600 people at Oxford Town Hall on Monday evening.
Protesters supporting the Vestas workers heckled Miliband earlier in the day when he met the public at Oxford train station. Local trade unionists and environmentalists forced him to agree to an impromptu personal meeting with one of the Vestas workers.

Later, local campaigners gathered signatures from the public as they entered the public meeting, calling for a Vestas worker to be allowed to address the meeting from the platform. Just as Miliband was about to speak it was announced, to much applause, that “due to popular demand” the meeting agenda would be rearranged to allow a Vestas worker to speak to the meeting.

Vestas worker Dave Hughes addressed the meeting. He explained what had happened and why the workers were occupying the factory – to save their jobs and to show the government that they have the skills to make wind turbine blades for the UK market. He asked Miliband, “Why has the government stood back and allowed 600 workers to be fired?” and said that if the government was serious about tackling climate change it should save Vestas.

Miliband replied that Vestas management had told him that government money would not save the plant and that the biggest problem was UK planning laws – laws that he said the government was going to change. Several Vestas workers and others challenged Miliband from the floor. They asked why, if the government could find billions to nationalise the banks, they could not nationalise Vestas to save jobs and help save the environment. Miliband argued that, “If I nationalise I don't think it will encourage others to come here and invest”. A speaker from People and Planet lambasted the government’s new energy white paper saying it was “incoherent and does not have a long term strategy behind it”. To much laughter people pointed out that, while the government claims to be a global leader on carbon reduction, it now owns the Royal Bank of Scotland—the biggest funder of fossil fuels in Britain. Miliband urged us all to “suspend our pre-existing views” to find ways to deal with climate change. Yet when challenged again from the floor as to why the government won't step in and save Vestas he replied, “It’s not about the amount of money from us – to nationalise will do more harm than good”.

New Labour is clearly not prepared to drop its ideological belief that the free market is the answer to solving climate change and creating much needed new green jobs during the biggest recession the country has faced since the 1930s.
Many people left the meeting unconvinced by Miliband’s lukewarm response – but inspired by the Vestas workers’ action.

A collection for the Vestas workers raised £200

Tuesday, 21 July 2009

Unite Against Fascism- Oxford coach for 15th August

A national demonstration will take place against the Red, White & Blue fascist “festival” organised by the BNP in Derbyshire on Saturday 15 August

Despite significant local opposition, the BNP are going ahead with their Nazi rally in the Derbyshire countryside.

In previous years, BNP members were secretly taped by BBC documentary makers singing Nazi marching songs at the event.

In the wake of the election of two fascist BNP members to the European Parliament, we must ensure that the BNP does not use its electoral foothold to promote their bigotry and hatred on our streets.

Unite Against Fascism is calling on every organisation and individual opposed to the BNP to join the national protest and rally against the Red White and Blue “festival of hate” in Codnor, Derbyshire. We want to bring enough protesters to Codnor to “kettle” the BNP rally by encircling it with anti-fascists. This action will symbolise the fact that the vast majority of people in this country reject the BNP’s Nazi politics.

This action is supported by local Unite Against Fascism and Love Music Hate Racism groups.

Seats on the coach from Oxford can be booked online c/o
http://web.bethere.co.uk/OxfordUAF/ or email OxfordUAF@bethere.co.uk. Alternatively ring 07790532513. Please talk to your friends, work mates and members of your organisations about supporting this demonstration.

Message from the Campaign Against Climate Change

Save Vestas - Defend Jobs, Save the Planet - Support the Occupation
 
Workers at the Vestas Wind Turbine factory on the Isle of Wight have
JUST NOW occupied their factory. They are fighting for 600 jobs and 
the future of the planet. They need help now.

PLEASE TEXT AND CALL EVERYONE YOU KNOW.

There is a large picket of support starting outside the factory. This 
will be crucial in giving people confidence inside. We want hundreds 
of people by morning.
If you are not working, come now, by car, bus or train.
If you are on the South Coast and working, come for the night and go
to work exhausted and proud.

If you can’t come, call up friends and offer to pay the fare or petrol 
money for someone else to come down. Or part of the fare.
Don’t just call the environmental and union activists you know. Call 
your friends and ask them who they know. Call your brother’s friends=2 0
or your children’s friends. Text everyone. Get your friends calling 
and texting.

WE WANT HUNDREDS OF PEOPLE NOW.
SAVE THE JOBS - SAVE THE PLANET.

The workers want Gordon Brown to step in as if it was a troubled bank 
and save the jobs and keep making wind turbine blades. They gave the 
bankers trillions. They say they care about climate change. He has 
talked about creating 40,000 "Green Jobs", the first step should be 
protecting these 600.
 
The workers will need solidarity - donations of money, food and other 
assistance. In the first instance please send messages of solidarity 
to savevestas@gmail. com

We will suggest other forms of solidarity soon. Do this now. Reach for 
your phone.

Saturday, 11 July 2009

Why we should get the Troops Out of Afghanistan

INTERVENTION AND RESISTANCE IN AFGHANISTAN
Why has one of the poorest countries in the world been soaked in blood for over 150 years, as three major powers have sought to control it? Stop the War officer John Rees presents a short video history of imperialist intervention and local resistance in Afghanistan.The 20 minute film can be viewed here: http://bit.ly/13TEmJIt is part of the Timeline series produced by the Islam Channel (http://bit.ly/4jCqQ).

Monday, 8 June 2009

Mike's Letter from America No 14

Factories Close, Guantanamo Stays Open

‘Do you approve of President Obama?’ asks a quiz on Facebook. Polls are always pretty unreliable, especially online ones, which tend to be self-selecting. But the more scientific polls reveal that, while some of the initial euphoria about Obama’s election has worn off, his approval ratings have been consistently over 60%. Gordon Brown (assuming he’s still PM by the time I finish writing this) could only dream of such ratings. The problem with the poll, of course, is that it begs the question ‘approve of what?’ Do I approve of the fact that Obama, not John McCain, is president? Well, yes, but there is a lot to disapprove of about the Obama administration.

The biggest question facing the US at the moment is, of course, the economy. To be fair to Obama, he has carried out some vaguely social-democratic polices, but more by accident than design, as he has been forced to take measures (like FDR in the Great Depression) to save capitalism from itself. Most striking has been Obama’s behavior toward General Motors (GM). First, the president insisted on sacking the company’s CEO after GM received a government bail-out – a small step perhaps, but an astonishing breach of the free-market  taboo against state intervention that has dominated politics for the last 30 years. Now, following GM’s bankruptcy, the federal government has taken a 60% share of the company. Nobody will say the word, but this is in effect nationalization. Something apparently even more radical occurred in Chrysler, where a trust controlled by the auto workers’ union the UAW received a controlling share of the company

The auto industry is a subject close to the hearts of us in Michigan, home to the so-called ‘Big Three’ car manufacturers (Ford, Chrysler, and GM) all of which are in various degrees of distress. Given that Michigan already has the worst economy of any of the 50 states, with unemployment in double figures, the crisis in the car industry could send the state into economic meltdown. So have Obama and the UAW ridden to the rescue, implementing a socialist utopia of nationalization under workers’ control?

Not so fast. The government intervention is designed to stabilize GM and manage its bankruptcy. No jobs are being saved, on the contrary, the government and the union are there to manage the redundancies, which continue almost daily. (This morning, GM announced another 400 redundancies in Flint, Michigan, a city whose plight was explored in Michael Moore’s documentary Roger and Me.) The Democrats were quick to reassure big business that Congress would not be running GM (which begs the question, why nationalize a company if you’re going to leave its running to the executives who drove it to bankruptcy?). For its part, UAW bureaucracy, which has led the way in selling pay cuts and the loss of pensions to its members, is acting to smooth the process of bankruptcy and redundancies. As for Chrysler, the UAW is using its share to finance its members’ pensions (which, until the union sold out, had been paid for by the employers anyway), and has stated it will not control management of the company.

Let us leave the depressing prospect of the devastated economy of Michigan to consider more positive matters. Isn’t Obama closing down Guantanamo? Well, no, not really, as he is only closing it down in order to move the inmates to other prisons. The whole regime of detention without charge or trial is to continue, and the administration’s lawyers even came up with a new, updated definition of ‘illegal combatants’ to justify their continued detention. But even the plan to move the deckchairs on this ethical Titanic was too much for the Democrats in Congress. Following a hysterical fear-campaign by the Republicans, invoking images of dangerous terrorist running free in small-town America, Democratic senators crumbled, and the measure to close Guantanamo was defeated by an astonishing margin of 90 to 6, in a senate that contains only 40 Republicans.

Surely, at least in foreign policy Obama is progressive? Part of his continuing appeal is that he has changed the tone compared to Bush. In place of confrontation and a contemptuous dismissal of other cultures and nations, Obama is very good at making the right noises about peace and cooperation.  His speech in Cairo was a great example of his approach, dotted with references to Islam and Arabic culture that won over his audience. He even mildly criticized Israel, but the substance of his speech left little of comfort for the Palestinians, who were told they had no right to armed resistance, and must accept whatever crumbs are handed them from the negotiating table. Meanwhile, Obama is moving more troops to Afghanistan, and Afghan and Pakistani civilians are dying in the continuation of Bush’s ‘War on Terror.’

It is too early to see if any alternative to the left of Obama is going to emerge, and most liberals seem prepared to give Obama the benefit of the doubt, especially as he is about to launch long-awaited health care reforms. But the optimistic opinion polls disguise growing unease over the economy and torture, and (unlike the depressing scenario in the European elections) the Republicans are ill-placed to take advantage of it. When the right organized a series of ‘tea-bagging’ demonstrations (don’t ask!) against wholly-imaginary Obama tax increases, the turn out in most places was pathetic, and the notion of ‘tea-bagging’ received widespread ridicule. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=OLsKt4O4Yw8 More good news is that the wretched bureaucratic leadership of the UAW is not the whole story when it comes to the labor movement in the US. Union membership is growing rapidly in the service sector, and in 2007 union membership figures increased nationally for the first time in 25 years. As I’ve written before, the gay rights movement is growing in reaction to California’s ban on same-sex marriage, and the conservatives have been forced onto the back foot over this issue. Finally, despite the Republicans attempts to (ludicrously) scare people by labeling Obama a socialist, opinion polls show that half the population actually think socialism is a good idea. Maybe we should believe those polls after all?

Tom Woodcock result in Cambridge Council Elections shows scope for Left Alternative

Tom Woodcock stood in the recent County Council elections in Cambridge under the slogan 'make the bankers pay – defend jobs, public services and the environment'.
Kilian Bourke (Lib Dem) 34.4% 829
Chris Freeman (Labour) 20.46% 493
Tom Woodcock (Independent) 17.63 % 425
Phil Richards (Green) 12.32% 297
Sam Barker (Conservative) 11.2% 270
Marjorie Barr ((UKIP) 3.98% 96

Sunday, 17 May 2009

Oxford Working Class Book Fair

Saturday, 2 May 2009

1ST Oxford Working Class Bookfair!

Saturday 20 June, 11 am - 6 pm
Ruskin College, Walton Street, Oxford


OWCB cordially invite YOU to visit the 1st everOXFORD WORKING CLASS BOOKFAIR!There will be books, talks, workshops, short films and more books and magazines . . .

We plan to recover/reclaim some of thehidden history of Oxford, with its gallery ofrogues, rebels and revolutionaries, to touch upon some topics of contemporary relevance to the man & woman on the street today, provide quality entertainment, discuss the big issues past and present & hopefully have a real good time to boot! - All in a relaxed and warm atmosphere!

http://oxfordworkingclassbookfair.blogspot.com/2009/05/1st-oxford-working-class-bookfair.html

Saturday, 9 May 2009

The Liberal Defence of Murder


Richard Seymour, the blogger of Lenin's Tomb fame and author of 'The Liberal Defence of Murder' will be speaking at Wadham College SWSS meeting this Thursday 14th May at 7.30pm (will be signed from front).

Richard's Blog:  http://leninology.blogspot.com/
New Statesman Review: 
http://www.newstatesman.com/books/2008/12/liberal-defence-seymour-murder



Climate Emergency Parliament

Campaign against Climate Change

 

Climate Emergency Parliament

 

Parliament Square, Wednesday 15th July at 6.00 pm

 

Our current parliament is failing to respond the Climate Emergency.

We will convene an alternative parliament to respond with the degree of urgency required.

 

The Bills before Parliament will include measures for

 

10% reductions in UK Greenhouse gases by the end of 2010

A million Green Jobs and emergency insulation program

Banning all domestic flights by the end of 2010

A 55 mph national speed limit

Halfing (on average) the cost of public transport and terminating the roads program

 

Come to the Peoples’ Parliament ! All are welcome – just turn up and take your seat ( er….on the pavement)

Hear what we could be doing in the UK now to avert climate catastrophe and bring your own ideas !

 

The gap between what the science demands and what the politicians are offering is vast – whilst there are signs of faltering political progress (and much greenwash), the updated science gets more scary day by day… See for instance http://climatesafety.org/ 

 

Add your voice to the demand for radical action now – we should not just be on the defensive saying ‘no’ to airports, new coal, road building etc.. etc.. we should be pushing forward our own positive agenda for real solutions to the climate crisis !

 

We in the UK cannot deal with this problem on our own but our best chance of influencing the critical international Climate Talks in Copenhagen at the end of the year is by  committing to really radical measures here in the UK in order to lead in the only effective way we can :by example. And the time to do that is RIGHT NOW

 

Updates will be at  www.campaigncc.org

Thursday, 23 April 2009

Oxford Trade Union May Day Rally Sat 2nd May

May Day Rally in Oxford: Defend jobs and public services!
Bonn Square 1-3pm Saturday 2nd May

With 4,000 jobs lost in Oxfordshire over recent months, the trade union movement is calling for an alternative solution to the economic crisis: one which protects your jobs and your public services. Together we can make a difference.
  • Bring along campaigning and union banners, stalls, music from 1pm, speeches start at 2pm.
  • Speakers from Unite (car workers union), CWU (postal workers union), Unison (health workers union) and Cuba Solidarity Campaign.
  • Music from Love Music Hate Racism.

http://www.odtuc.org.uk/

Friday, 13 March 2009

Mike's Letter from America #13

Letter from America #13

An Indecent Proposition

The election of Barack Obama signified many things, and one of these was the apparent failure of the Right’s ‘culture wars’ strategy. This concept had its roots in the 1960s, when Nixon’s Republicans sought to mobilize the ‘silent majority’ (who they believed to be innately conservative) against 60s radicalism.  It worked in 1968, when a year usually remembered for is revolutionary potential saw Nixon reelected, with some southern states voting even further to the right for the racist segregationist George Wallace. The idea that the working class vote could be split by appealing to conservative ‘values’ seemed to work again for Reagan in the 1980s and for George W Bush in the 2000s.

The idea that the Democrats lost in these decades because they alienated white working class people through the adoption of radical ideas is deeply flawed. It is difficult, for example, to see what was radical about John Kerry’s campaign in 2004. But it is true, however, that the Democrats’ failure to put forward economic arguments that would appeal to the working class, or, in 2004, to make a clear anti-war argument, made it easier for the Republicans to push their ‘values’ agenda. For the Republicans of course, ‘values’ include homophobia, opposition to affirmative action, denial of women’s right to choose, and so on.

Obama’s election marked a shift away from that. Not because Obama is a radical, but because the logic of the disastrous economic implosion, and the hugely unpopular war in Iraq, forced him to place these issues at center stage. And the electorate responded, ignoring Obama’s ethnicity, his Muslim background, or his supposed links to terrorists to elect the country’s first Black president, and the first Democrat to win over 50% of the popular vote since Carter in 1976.

There is, however, one area where the ‘culture wars’ still seem to be raging, and that is the question of same-sex marriage. On election night last year, amid the celebrations of Obama’s victory, liberals in California were lamenting the passage of Proposition 8, which amended the state’s constitution to ban same-sex marriage. Less well publicized was the success of similar votes in Florida, Arizona, and Arkansas. This week, the California Supreme Court heard an appeal from Proposition 8’s opponents, arguing that the ban is unconstitutional – the court’s decision is yet to be announced.

We on the left used to take a rather stand-offish position on this issue, arguing that, while of course same-sex couples should have the right to marry, it was hardly the central issue of the struggle. The desire for LGBT people to emulate the bourgeois nuclear family, with all the tensions, lies and hypocrisy that went with that institution, wasn’t something that struck us as particularly liberating. Such as position would be unthinkable today, as the issue of ‘gay marriage’ has become a symbol of the entire argument over the rights of LGBT people. When the Right go to the effort of organizing referendums to change state constitutions, for the sole purpose of interfering in people’s personal lives, it’s obvious that this is a human rights issue which the left cannot ignore.

Although the California vote received the most attention, the sheer bigotry of gay marriage opponents is best illustrated by the ‘Unmarried Couple Adoption Ban’, which does exactly what it says on the tin – denies unmarried couples, whether gay or straight, the right to adopt children. In other words, Arkansas’s self-proclaimed defenders of the family would rather deny children a family than have them brought up by people living in the ‘wrong’ kind of relationship. Just for good measure, Florida voted to end benefits for unmarried couples, including straight couples. In these circumstances, the idea that an attack on minorities is an attack on all us ceases to be mere rhetoric, as the gay-bashers seek to impose their narrow definition of ‘family’ on everyone. 

The activists fighting to overturn Proposition 8 in the courts are absolutely right to do so. But they need to win the argument with those working class people (including many African-Americans) who voted for Obama but also voted for Proposition 8. The right-wing media gleefully seized on the fact that the number of Black Californians voting for the gay-marriage ban was about equal to the proposition’s margin of victory. This of course blatantly ignores just how many white people also voted for it, but it shows the potential for the Right to use divide-and-rule tactics among minorities. Clearly, homophobia has to be challenged not just directly (although Californian activists report that they are winning the argument with many former ‘yes’ voters), but indirectly, in the context of building mass movements that unite people across boundaries of race, gender, and sexuality. As the economy plunges deeper into crisis, there is clearly a danger that working class people will be encouraged to take out their frustrations on minorities.

Which brings me to the good news. There are signs of resistance amid the gloom. Back before Christmas, there was a lot of publicity about the struggle of the workers of Republic Windows and Doors. These mainly Latino workers in Chicago were laid off without the severance pay to which they were legally entitled. After a lot of media publicity, most of it favorable, their story was lost in the saga of Rod Blagojevich, corrupt governor of Illinois. What the media neglected to tell us is that the Republic workers won! They demonstrated that workers can fight back even in a recession, and in doing so can unite people of different backgrounds. We’re going to need a lot of that kind of spirit in the months and years ahead.

Sunday, 22 February 2009

Details of this years Oxford Radical Forum 2009

http://oxfordradicalforum.wordpress.com/::

OXFORD RADICAL FORUM – 2009 :::: WADHAM COLLEGE, OXFORD :::: 6 – 8 MARCH ::

The second Oxford Radical Forum will be taking place from Friday to Sunday, 6 -8 March, 2009, in Wadham College, Oxford. Building on the success of last year's conference, and a conviction in the continued necessity of leftist theory and politics, the weekend will see some of the brightest and most engaged people from the radical left coming to Oxford in order to contribute towards the reconstruction of an alternative, critical politics – a politics that stands for a real transformation of society in favour of social justice and equality and against war and poverty. We invite you all to join and participate in open and challenging debates in talks, workshops and seminars on war and imperialism, women's liberation, socialism and ecology and many other issues, with some of the key thinkers and activists of our day.There will also be bookstalls and daily socials (including a dinner and a clubnight) over the weekend, making the event a unique opportunity to bring together not just the left in Oxford (and beyond!) but also all those who are interested in seriously discussing profound political questions in an open and critical atmosphere.

The action will be centred around Wadham College's 'Ho Chi Minh Quad' from Friday afternoon until Sunday evening. All talks and debates will be free of charge and no registration is necessary, though we welcome people to show their interest on Facebook: http://www.facebook.com/editevent.php?info&eid=52663902886#/event.php?eid=52663902886

A choice selection of confirmed sessions include:::
ALEX CALLINICOS on Imperialism Today – What it is and how we resist itAlex Callinicos is Professor of European Studies at Kings College London and author of many acclaimed books on social and political theory, as well as being involved in the European and World Social Forums, and the British anti-war movement.::

DEBORAH CAMERON on 'The Myths of Mars and Venus'Deborah Cameron's popularly received book, 'The Myths of Mars and Venus: Do Men and Women Really Speak Another Language?', explodes popular misconceptions about the differences between men and women.::

EYAL WEIZMAN on Israel's Architecture of OccupationIsraeli architect Eyal Weizman (Goldsmiths College) analyses the nature of the Israeli use of architecture and space in that state's ongoing oppression of the Palestinians, while criticising the silence of his own profession.::

DEREK WALL on the Red and the GreenProspective MEP candidate for the Green Party and leading figure in Green Left, the Green Party's eco-socialist, anti-capitalist faction, will be discussing the necessary interrelationship between ecology and socialism.::

ALBERTO TOSCANO on Italy, politics and the Right todayPolitical philosophy researcher at Goldsmiths, Alberto Toscano will be talking about the contradictory and ambiguous political situation in Italy, particulary considering the rise of the far right.... and many more!We will be sending out a confirmed timetable within the next few days.

With all best wishes from the Organising Committee of the OXFORD RADICAL FORUM - we hope to see as many of you as possible, 6 - 8 March.[PS! Could all those willing to help promote the event in Oxford please get in touch on http://uk.mc274.mail.yahoo.com/mc/compose?to=oxfordradicalforum@googlemail.com!]

Saturday, 21 February 2009

BMW jobs meeting this Tuesday

Following the 850 job losses at BMW Oxford & District Trades Union Council has agreed to organise a " Jobs and justice:  Put people first!" public meeting next Tuesday 24th Feb - 7pm - Assembly Room - Town Hall. The public meeting will be the first of a series of activities building towards the G20 TUC national demonstration for Jobs, Justice & Climate on March 28th.

Tuesday, 17 February 2009

After BMW jobs massacre join the march for Jobs

On 28th March thousands will march through London as part of a global campaign to challenge the G20, ahead of their 2nd April summit on the global financial crisis.

Even before the banking collapse, the world suffered poverty, inequality and the threat of climate chaos. The world has followed a financial model that has created an economy fuelled by ever-increasing debt, both financial and environmental.

Our future depends on creating an economy based on fair distribution of wealth, decent jobs for all and a low carbon future.

There can be no going back to business as usual.

People from all over the country will join the march on March 28.

 
Jobs, Justice, Climate placard

Be one of them.


Coaches from Oxford for London march depart St Giles at 9 am Saturday 28th March - book your seat now


People can buy coach tickets online at 

http://web.bethere.co.uk/PutpeopleFirst/


Monday, 2 February 2009

Terry Eagleton to speak in Oxford this Wednesday

The famous radical literary critic Terry Eagleton, and others, will be speaking this wednesday at 6 p.m. on fighting against neo-liberalism in our universities and rebuilding a radical students movement.

The event is being organised jointly by the OXFORD RADICAL FORUM and new national campaign Another Education Is Possible (http://www.anothereducationispossible.org.uk/). Details follow:

---------------------------------------------------------------

Another Education is Possible is teaming up with the Oxford Radical Forum to present an evening discussion on the threat of Neo-Liberalism to our universities and the right to education, and what we can do to resist it and reclaim our universities.


:: ANOTHER EDUCATION IS POSSIBLE ::

18:00, Wednesday, 4 Feb. (3rd Week)
Wadham College, Moser Theatre (tbc.)

Speakers:

Terry Eagleton ('Britain's best-known academic rebel' - The Guardian)

Kostas Todoulos (Athens University Occupation)

Rob Owen (NUS National Executive Committee - personal capacity)


As the economic crisis deepens, the government and powerful business will be more than ever seeking to make cuts in higher and further education, threatening the quality of ours and future generations' education, and in the process damaging one of society's most crucial social goods. We believe that education is a right - not a privilege - and affirm the benefit it has on society as a whole.

Another Education Is Possible is a new national campaign aspiring to focus campaigns up and down the country that oppose neo-liberalism and attacks on education, and intergrate those struggles. With the nationwide explosion in radical campaigning connected with the occupation movement in solidarity with Gaza, we have the real potential for a new students' movement that can fight and win.

So come on Wednesday to hear about these struggles with Terry Eagleton and Kostas Todoulos - fresh from the occupation movement in Greece, and prepare for a national demo against attacks on education 25 February, in Central London.

Wednesday, 28 January 2009

Mike's Letter from America #12

Inauguration Day

I wasn’t with the crowds who thronged the National Mall in Washington for Obama’s inauguration, but I managed to capture some of the feeling of being squeezed tightly together while trying to catch a glimpse of a distant TV screen. I was teaching at the time, but decided to end my class early, and my students and I gathered around a public TV screen in a crowded corridor to catch the ‘historic occasion’ (copyright: all of the media).

As with all things Obama-related, it is hard to cut through the media hype to understand the true significance of the occasion. The inauguration of the USA’s first African-American president, coming immediately after Martin Luther King Day, was certainly an inspiring reminder of just how far the country has come since the days of segregation and ‘Jim Crow’. But listening to the self-congratulation in the media, you would think that electing a Black president had ended racism and exonerated the USA for over 200 years of systematic oppression of African-Americans.

Despite the hype, there were many genuinely moving moments, mostly related to the presence in the vast crowds in Washington of veteran civil rights activists. Five of the ‘Little Rock 9’ (the black students who integrated an all-white high school in Arkansas 50 years ago, in the face of angry racist mobs) were there, as was a 105-year-old African-American woman who braved the sub-zero temperatures against all the well-meaning advice of her doctors and carers. The record attendance of over 2 million people at the ceremony shows that there is a genuine public mood behind the rhetoric of change.

There are some hopeful signs that Obama does mean what he says about ‘change’, such as his pledge to close Guantanamo, and to roll back Bush’s attacks on abortion rights, as well as a refreshing willingness to proclaim the need for state intervention in the economy. Yet there is a gulf between the expectations placed on Obama and the reality of what his administration is likely to achieve. Partly, this is because of the mess he has been left by Bush – a looming depression and two wars. Partly, too, it is inevitable that any reformist leader will fail to match the hopes of the left – after all, the man is not, nor has he ever been, a socialist (despite what the right wing media pundits claim).  But many of Obama’s picks for his team suggest the he is intentionally moving to the right. They include:

·       Homophobic preacher Rick Warren, chosen to give the benediction at the Inauguration.

·       White House Chief-of-Staff Rahm Emanuel, son of a member of the right-wing Zionist terrorist organisation Irgun, and, like many Democratic politicians, an uncritical supporter of Israel. Emanuel even volunteered to work with the Israeli military during the 1991 Gulf War.

·       Secretary of State Hillary Clinton – Obama’s foreign policy will be in the hands of somebody who has threatened to ‘obliterate’ Iran

·       Susan Rice, Ambassador to the UN, and the person you are most likely to hear from if Obama plans a ‘humanitarian’ invasion to end genocide in Darfur.  Unfortunately for her humanitarian credentials, during her stint as secretary for African affairs in Bill Clinton’s state department she gave the green light to the Rwandan invasion of the Congo, sparking a civil war that has left 4 million dead.

·       Timothy Geithner, Treasury Secretary. Voted most likely to get us out of the recession, perhaps because he helped get us into it, during his time with the Federal Reserve (the US equivalent of the Bank of England), where he was a major instigator of the bail-out of Wall Street.

·       Deputy Defense Secretary William Lynn, who knows all about military affairs from his time as a lobbyist for arms manufacturer Raytheon.

Finally, Obama himself has been sounding very hawkish recently. He advocates withdrawal from Iraq, but largely in order to send more troops to Afghanistan. His inauguration speech sounded at times like a challenge to a fight, albeit in more poetic terms then Bush would have managed. Take the phrases “our nation is at war, against a far-reaching network of violence and hatred”, or “our spirit is stronger and cannot be broken; you cannot outlast us, and we will defeat you.” These could have come from the Bush ‘War on Terror’ lexicon.

Obama today, like Blair in 1997, is actually to the right of the popular mood that swept him to power. Our best hope is that this mood pushes the new president in directions that he doesn’t want to go. There is, for example, growing pressure on Obama to put members of the Bush administration on trial for their use of torture.  http://washingtonindependent.com/26162/obama-may-be-required-to-prosecute-bush-officials-for-war-crimes When the cable news station MSBNC presented its pre-inauguration coverage from what appeared to be a fish-tank on the National Mall, the crowds outside could be seen holding posters with slogans such as ‘try Bush for war crimes’.

One incident from Tuesday seems to sum up the tensions and contradictions within Obama’s base. In the run-up to the inauguration, tickets for the event were as sought-after as golden tickets to Willy Wonka’s chocolate factory, with many changing hands for hundreds of dollars on ebay. Yet, as our local university newspaper reported, many holders of the coveted tickets never made it to their seats, as “a large number of people chanting ‘yes we can’ broke through a police barricade at the main entrance on Independence Avenue.”

Will Obama stand with the people with the golden tickets, or will he be made to listen to the millions standing outside in the cold? That is the question that will define American politics for the next four years.

Two Sides, One Story - Cageprisoners National Tour

From Cageprisoners: 

TWO SIDES - ONE STORY: 
GUANTANAMO FROM BOTH SIDES OF THE WIRE 

A national tour to mark seven years of unlawful detention, abuse and torture 

January 11th 2009 - 4th February 2009 

SAMI AL HAJ (Ex Guantanamo Detainee and Aljazeera Journalist) 

CHRISTOPHER ARENDT (Ex-Guantanamo Guard) 

MOAZZAM BEGG (Ex-Guantanamo Detainee, Spokesman for Cageprisoners)
 


Guantanamo Bay stands as one of the most potent symbols of unlawful detention in the world today. The detention of suspected terrorists as the prison camps has evoked emotion from those seeking its closure and continuance. 

Cageprisoners presents Two Sides – One Story , a tour of the UK that brings those on opposite sides of wire at Guantanamo together for the first time. 

Chris Arendt, a former guard at the base has agreed to speak about his experiences in detaining suspected terrorists and bring new insights into the way the US administration carried out policies against them. 

Also for the first time the detained Al Jazeera journalist Sami El Haj will be speaking withMoazzam Begg as they both reflect on life at the prison on the opposite to Chris. 

This unique tour is a historic moment in the continued War on Terror and will be launched on 11th January 2009, exactly seven years after the first transfers to Guantanamo Bay. 

Visit 
Guantanamo Voices, http://www.guantanamovoices.org/ the new blog by Sarah Mirk, a reporter based in Portland, Oregon. Sarah is travelling around the UK with Cageprisoners as part of our UK tour. 

02/02 -  Oxford Meeting
Supported by the Oxford Union and the Oxford University Islamic Society 
8pm 
The Oxford Union 
Frewin Court 
Oxford 
OX1 3JB 

For further information: 
07973-264-197 
contact@cageprisoners.com 
www.cageprisoners.com/tour