Wednesday, March 29, 2006

Massive Protests Against Immigration Law

Across the US this week there have been massive protests against a new immigration law in Congress. The protests have lasted for over 4 days and are still going strong, led by the youth. The NY Daily News reported on March 28th:
Massive protests by Latino immigrants have rocked more than a dozen major U.S. cities during the past few weeks in opposition to tough new immigration bills before Congress.

Not since the civil rights movement of the 1960s have street demonstrations spread so rapidly to so many cities - and never have Latinos turned out in such astonishing numbers.

"The sleeping Latino giant has finally awakened," said Assemblyman Felix Ortiz (D-Brooklyn), who participated in several of the protests last week.

And New York City, which has been fairly quiet so far, could be next with Latino religious and immigrant leaders planning a protest march over the Brooklyn Bridge on Saturday.

The largest rally until now has been in Los Angeles, where the new mayor, Antonio Villaraigosa, spoke Saturday to a crowd estimated by police at more than a half-million [people].

What else?
"These are your neighbors and co-workers," said Ellen Stutzman, a 23-year-old researcher for the Writers Guild. "I hate it when people say they are illegal. They're just undocumented. We've made them to be the enemy, and they're not."


LOS ANGELES, March 27, 2006 - LA school district is reporting 24,680 students have walked out of classes today to protest anti-immigrant law H.R. 4437. An official from LAUSD said that students from 52 separate middle schools and high schools throughout the district have walked out. Many students have joined a rally now taking place at city hall numbering in the 1000’s. There are also reports of walkouts in other school districts. The district is expecting more walkouts tomorrow.


[Minuteman] Gilchrist and a handful of supporters arrived on two previous Fridays in front of El Chinaco restaurant to protest its owner, city council candidate Mirna Burciaga, for opposing local police as Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) agents and to retaliate for weekly protests occurring in front of City Council member Gary Monahan's beer bar, a popular Minuteman outpost.

Gilchrist fired off an email accusing Burciaga of being a “racial supremacist” and a member of “racist groups.” No proof of that was offered, but in a flyer Gilchrist cast his own racist net over all undocumented immigrants:

“Does MIRNA BURCIAGA envision Costa Mesa as a criminal haven sanctuary city, infested with drug dealers, murderers, child molesters, robbers, and rapists wandering freely without any interference from law enforcement?”

(The Minutemen were forced off the streets due to consistent anti-racist protests)
And of course:
It's better to die on your feet, than to live on your knees...
-Emiliano Zapata
La Lucha Continua!

Saturday, March 25, 2006

Rachel Corrie with Palestinian Children

I found this picture of Rachel Corrie which seems to be making the circuit of the right wing sites to show why they think she is a terrorist. Here we see her angrily burning a piece of paper which appears to be a hand-drawn flag. I don't understand why the righ wingers get so angry about this sort of thing (they say she is burning an American flag) while ignoring the fact that many of the children surrounding Rachel were likely killed by occupation forces since this picture was taken. What is more important - a bit of paper, or human lives lived with dignity and free of fear?

I make an appeal to all people to bring an end to war and injustice through solidarity and understanding. We must come together in the spirit of true internationalism and replace imperialism (including Zionist imperialism) with socialist principles of direct democracy, cooperation, understanding, anti-racism and anti-sexism.

, , , , , , , , , ,

Friday, March 24, 2006

Why Jews Must Speak Up on Palestine

Jonathan Tasini had a good post related to the Rachel Corrie issue, over at The Huffington Post. Titled "Why Jews Must Speak Up on Palestine" which starts as follows:
Yesterday, I spoke at an event in New York City called Rachel's Words. Two years ago, Rachel Corrie, a human rights activist, was crushed to death by an Israeli Army bulldozer as she tried to protect the home of a Palestinian pharmacist from demolition in Rafah, Gaza Strip. She was 23. A play based on her writing, "My Name is Rachel Corrie" was scheduled to open yesterday in New York City but it's debut was postponed indefinitely, in all likelihood because of the controversy it would cause in a city with such a large Jewish audience.

As a Jew who lived in Israel for seven years and whose family still lives there and has deep roots going back more than 80 years, it breaks my heart that there is a refusal to grapple with an almost untouchable topic in our country: why does the United States have such a one-sided policy in the Israel-Palestine conflict? And it's the reason I agreed to speak at the event which honored Rachel's life and her beliefs.

It is unfortunate that so many right wingers and others equate Zionism with general Jewish or American interests. Any critique of Zionist policy is often greeted with the usual litany of being anti-Semetic or pro-terrorist, both of which are completely incorrect. I am happy to see that Tasini has stepped forward to call for greater Jewish and Palestinian solidarity and happy that Rachel Corrie's sacrifice is acting as a catalyst.

Saturday, March 18, 2006

American Vertigo

As many folks will already know, Bernard Heri Levy's (BHL) American Vertigo (available at Powell's Books) is taking the liberal intelligentsia by storm these days. Levy is a pop-philosopher, describing his book as "following in the footsteps of de Tocqueville," talked about his book to New York Magazine as follows:
“The trip was under three shadows,” BHL explains. “The shadow of the war in Iraq, the shadow of an election, and the shadow of Katrina,” although the hurricane hadn’t struck at the time he wrote the book. “The anti-ci-pated shadow of Katrina, as you see. I was in New Orleans four or five months before Katrina, and I more or less foresee what is going to happen."
OK, so far so lame. In fact, the vast majority of content produced by American media regarding BHL is dismissive and spiteful.

Enter Michael Feldman's "What Do You Know?," a radio show distributed by PRI. On March 4, 2006, Feldman interviews BHL regarding the new book. Feldman is a comedian and tried to engage BHL in the usual blather you would expect but BHL did not take the bait. In fact, BHL was mannered, polite and uncompromising, which is exceedingly rare, if not unique, in American media of any type. BHL in my opinion gave an exceptional socialist analysis of the state of American culture and defended his position quite well in the face of a less than enthusiastic audience.

The audio is available from PRI: The Show - March 4, 2006 (RealAudio, advance to minute 6:00 where the BHL interview begins where Feldman tries to put BHL on his heals, minute 13:00 is where the truely interesting content begins as BHL smacks Feldman down) and I encourage you to give it a listen.

My Name Is Rachel Corrie

Rachel CorrieSurprisingly few people on the left have heard of Rachel Corrie. Rachel was a peace activist uncompromisingly committed to her ideals who died for her convictions. It is now the third anniversary of her murder in Gaza, Palestine.

Rachel was a member of the International Solidarity Movement (ISM). She joined this direct action network of young activists in order to lend support to the Palestinian cause. As a member if the ISM, she participated onsite in a monitoring and obstruction exercise targeting the illegal clearing of land by Israeli forces. On March 16, 2003 Rachel tried to stop a Caterpillar bulldozer operated by Israeli security forces from smashing the house of a politically active Palestinian doctor (in Rafah, Gaza). Eyewitness Tom Dale describes the event as follows:
The bulldozer drove toward Rachel slowly, gathering earth in its scoop as it went. She knelt there, she did not move. The bulldozer reached her and she began to stand up, climbing onto the mound of earth. She appeared to be looking into the cockpit. The bulldozer continued to push Rachel, so she slipped down the mound of earth, turning as she went. Her faced showed she was panicking and it was clear she was in danger of being overwhelmed.

All the activists were screaming at the bulldozer to stop and gesturing to the crew about Rachel's presence. We were in clear view as Rachel had been, they continued. They pushed Rachel, first beneath the scoop, then beneath the blade, then continued till her body was beneath the cockpit. They waited over her for a few seconds, before reversing. They reversed with the blade pressed down, so it scraped over her body a second time. Every second I believed they would stop but they never did.

I ran for an ambulance, she was gasping and her face was covered in blood from a gash cutting her face from lip to cheek. She was showing signs of brain hemorrhaging. She died in the ambulance a few minutes later of massive internal injuries. She was a brilliant, bright and amazing person, immensely brave and committed. She is gone and I cannot believe it.
The Nation's Philip Weiss reported this week in his article To Hot for New York on a book which is currently available called "My Name is Rachel Corrie." The book is a play, which has yet to premiere in New York for unclear reasons, but American Jewish unease over the recent Hamas victory was cited. Weiss describes the book as "[a] self-portrait of a sensitive woman struggling to find her purpose, and a polemic on the horrors of Israeli occupation."

Apparently not available from the corporate (apolitical?) juggernaut Amazon, anyone interested in getting a copy of the play can purchase it from the union friendly Powell’s Books or you can get a copy of Rachel's Letters on which the play is based from AK Press. (Correction: Powell's, Amazon, and other American booksellers have the screenplay "My Name is Rachel Corrie" available for pre-order, it should be released in April, 2006).

I would recommend that anyone participating in anti-war movements or protests consider linking the tragedy of Rachel's murder with the generalized message against all war and specifically the Global War on Terror (GWOT). Rachel died fighting against state terror (systematic destruction of homes and lives). The youth of America who entered the Armed Forces to escape poverty and find purpose, and the youth of Iraq fighting for the freedom of their country against imperialism are killing, dying and being maimed in the same way. As Karl Marx brilliantly wrote "we must make the frozen conditions dance by singing to their own melody," namely that the GWOT is not a Global War on Terror, but a Global War of Terror.

The late, great Phil Ochs sings in "I Ain't Marching Anymore" that "It's always the old who lead us into war, and always the young who die." I believe that Rachel's story is the epitome of this sentiment.

Rachel reminds us that the fight against the evil of capitalist imperialism is not one that we can take lightly nor do at our own convenience. Through solidarity, which is the reflective love and respect of our fellow men and women regardless of differences, we can achieve peace and prosperity for all.

And yes, like Rachel, we have to be willing to be martyrs in this struggle.

Links & References:

That Is A Big Number

Opponents of a new French labour law are calling for at least a million people to demonstrate against the controversial legislation on Saturday. (Continue here.)
These protestors just won't go away. Since early February, protests against the de Villepin government's new First Job Contract (CPE) have given the French establishment a headache it was surely hoping to avoid, after the referendum defeat and youth riots in 2005. French students, supported by the trade unions, the Socialist Party and the Communists, have shut down their schools and universities, and organised marches drawing tens and even hundreds of thousands of people onto the streets - and there seems to be no end in sight, despite attempts to negotiate a cessation with union bosses.

The government has argued thet youth unemployment rates, the highest in France, justify these special measures. So why are a majority of people against the new reform to employment law? It is not only sympathy to the plight of young people. The issue is intrinsically linked to the wider sense of distrust people in France have for the authorities. Many are worried the CPE could lead to more general attacks on working people. And this fear is not without justification. Laurence Parisot, head of the Medef business lobby, recently told reporters, "It's never good to treat young workers in a separate category."

Thursday, March 16, 2006

The Case of Ken Livingstone

Last February the Mayor of London, Ken Livingstone, was suspended from office by the Adjudication Panel for England. An independent tribunal, the Panel had been investigating complaints over Livingstone's comments to a journalist from the Evening Standard. His offence? Comparing the journalist - who happened to be Jewish - to a concentration camp guard, in reference to the Standard's historical support for Fascism and long campaign against him personally. It was argued that Livingstone had brought the Mayoral office into disrepute through his comments - a charge he denied. Since then, a judge has frozen the suspension, to give Livingstone time to appeal.

My first reaction to the issue was, I imagine, like many other people in Britain. Outrage. It doesn't matter who Livingstone is; all that matters is what we is - London's chosen Mayor. It wouldn't matter if he was a fully paid-up member of the British National Party, my outrage would have been the same. Here was a Mayor, supported by 55.4% of voters, being suspended by an unaccountable tribunal... who no one elected. Frankly, it doesn't matter to me whether Ken Livingstone's remarks offended anyone; I don't care if they were insensitive or brought his office into disrepute. Maybe they did. The point is, Livingstone had a mandate from the electorate, one that cannot be revoked without their consent.

It is interesting to consider that Oliver Finegold of the Evening Standard and the Adjudication Panel may have saved Ken Livingstone's political career. Before the Panel's ruling, the mass media had launched concerted attacks on the Mayor and branded him an anti-Semite. The irony being, of course, that Livingstone has campaigned against racism throughout his entire political life - and is the current chairman of United Against Fascism. Of course, in the eyes of the right-wing press this was quite irrelevant; as a leftish politician, attacking Ken Livingstone is simply the most important consideration.

Jon Benjamin, of the Board of Deputies, is reported to have said, "With freedom of expression comes responsibility to be sensitive to other people's feelings." He added, "There were a large number of people who were offended and they should be equally free to report their concerns." I cannot be the only one to be contemptuous of this laughable argument. No one is denying people's right to be offended, or to "report" their concerns. But if the Mayor's critics had any genuine commitment to freedom of expression, they would accept the only people who have a legitimate right to remove Livingstone from office are his constituents: no matter how offended one may be.

As Ken Livingstone said himself, his suspension was a fundamental attack on our democratic rights. That message needs to be shouted from the rooftops. This cannot be allowed to happen. A short while ago, Tony Blair effectively said his decision to launch the Iraq war had divine support. This offended me. All wars are tragic; appealing to a spiritual authority to justify them is intellectually brankrupt, cowardly, morally repugnant and generally idiotic. I felt Blair's remarks brought the office of the prime minister into disrepute. Yet Blair, despite having less of a popular mandate than the Mayor of London, will not be brought to account for those comments; indeed they have already fallen off the headlines.

And yet, despite my democratic ideals, there is very little I - or anyone else - can do. The only route by which Ken Livingstone can appeal, is to challenge the assertion that the remarks brought his office into disrepute. The wider implications of deposing a democratically elected politician for mere speech have not been addressed. This is the result of the United Kingdom's archaic constitutional framework. Under the various Parliamentary conventions and so-called constitutional Acts (a term invented entirely by the courts to integrate English law into the European Union) which govern this country, local government has no inalienable legal right to exist, despite often being more democratic than Westminster. Sovereignty belongs not to the people, but to the Crown in Parliament.

That is the legal basis for the Mayoral Office - as an institution of local government. Like Blair's unfortunate (if entirely accurate) comments towards the devolved Scottish Parliament, the Mayor of London has no more power than a parish council! In the eyes of the UK constitution, Ken Livingstone gets his authority from Parliament, rather then the people of London. As a delegated institution, the Mayor - and indeed all local government - can be manipulated and even abolished on the whim of 646 Members of Parliament, despite the wishes of the 828,380 Londoners who supported Livingstone's bid to server as their Mayor.

There is, of course, a worrying precedent here. Under the post-1979 Conservative Governments, as part of her campaign against working people, Margaret Thatcher abolished the Greater London Council (forerunner of the London Assembly) and the metropolitan county councils. Then too, as Leader of the GLC and thorn in the side of the Tories, Ken Livingstone stood on the side of democracy and the people. Without wishing to idealise the man, he is at least consistent in opposing the arbitrary disenfranchisement of the public. Despite all of the setbacks, I remain convinced that, eventually, democracy will prevail.

The GLC was abolished, and yet here we are, with devolution for London. Livingstone was expelled from New Labour and unjustly deprived of the Party's endorsement for his candidacy, yet he has been grudgingly allowed to return and has now been elected as Mayor of London twice, in the first instance as an independent. At the end of the day, even the most apolitical people don't like being ordered around by self-important little despots.

Wednesday, March 15, 2006

Surprise, Surprise!

Bush Administration's Labour Rights Record Appalling, according to new report by the ICFTU:
Serious violations of labour rights in the United States are on the increase, according to a new report issued by the ICFTU today. The report, which coincides with a World Trade Organisation review of US trade policies, details a catalogue of breaches of international standards concerning freedom of association, the right to collective bargaining and child labour, and shows a clear trend towards lower standards under the Bush Administration.

"The credibility of the US, which takes a strong international stand on human rights issues, is severely damaged by the lack of protection for working people, especially the most vulnerable, within its own borders", said Guy Ryder, ICFTU General Secretary, adding that "this only encourages other governments to seek competitive advantage in global markets by violating fundamental workers' rights".

[Continue here.]
You can also read the full reports here.

Saturday, March 11, 2006

Review: Che and Cuba

Last summer, I bought a copy of Mike Gonzalez's excellent book, Che Guevara and the Cuban Revolution (American comrades should see here), at a Bookmarks stall during the Tolpuddle Martyrs rally. At the time, being busy with other things (such as getting sunburnt), I only glanced at it. Over the last few days, however, I've finally had time to properly read through it. And I can tell you, walking through that crowd of recruiters all trying to sell their own party rags, just to get to the Bookmarks tent, was absolutely worth it! I thoroughly enjoyed this unique perspective on Che and Cuba.

As the book says, "Mike Gonzalez is a senior lecturer in Hispanic Studies at Glasgow University. He has written widely on Latin American literature and culture, and on the politics of contemporary Latin America." So far, so good - the guy knows his stuff. However, Gonzalez also happens to be a member of the Socialist Workers Platform of the Scottish Socialist Party, and is in fact on the editorial board of the International Socialism journal. So some people may be rather put off - the Socialist Workers Party not being the most popular crowd in certain circles!

Nevertheless, for such a political individual, Gonzalez does a remarkable job of presenting a balanced account of Guevara's life (including his early years), with special examination of his role in the Cuban Revolution - its background, actual victory, and subsequent effect on the Cuban state and people. Of course, Gonzalez does not pretend to be disinterested or unbiased - he is obviously a committed socialist and believes strongly in its ideals. His arguments are therefore all the more passionate.

Gonzalez does, however, also detail Guevara's flaws and how they served to distort the Cuban experiment. For example, Gonzalez is critical of Guevara's quasi-Nietzschean belief in the power of the will to overcome material obstacles. In that regard, the account remains solidly left-wing, as the criticism is directed at the obstacles to revolutionary socialism in Cuba, rather than its attempted construction per se. The book is perhaps, therefore, suited more to those who are already favourably minded of socialism.

A second positive feature of the book - to me, at least - is Gonzalez's attempt to explain the role of Che's ideals in the growing anti-capitalist movement today. As a figure that is often denigrated by commercial exploitation and mocked by the liberal left as an icon of disillusioned middle-class teenagers, it is enjoyable to see the Argentinean Marxist restored to a position worthy of his lofty goals and inspiring story of self-sacrifice and anti-imperialist struggle. In short, I would strongly recommend this book!

To those of a socialist persuasion, the following IS online article from 1980 may also be worth reading: Cuba, Castro and Socialism - by Peter Binns and Mike Gonzalez!

Friday, March 10, 2006

Lockout 484

How many times have you listened to the following statement: trade unions are now obsolete. They were necessary to protect workers' pay and conditions, the conventional argument runs, but are now led by greedy and corrupt union barons who make unreasonable demands at the expense of the taxpayer and economic efficiency.

However, on occasion, a particularly acrimonious industrial dispute comes to the fore, highlighting the continuing, vital role of unions in the workforce and wider community. The Gate Gourmet controversy in Britain was a good example of this. The story of Lockout 484 in Meredosia, Illinois is another.

I first read about this story in the Monthly Review zine. Take a look yourself. The brutal attempt by the Celanese Corporation to attack the living standards of their chemical plant workers through breaking their union, the International Brotherhood of Boilermakers, in a lockout, shows that more employment protection, rather than less, is necessary. The use of strike-breaking private security firms like Special Response, and the pro-business agenda of the judiciary, both exposed in Lockout 484, should convince everybody that employers cannot simply be trusted to secure for workers a fair deal.

Without solidarity between working people, and independent and strong trade unions, no one is safe from the profit-grabbing machinations of global capitalism.

Thursday, March 09, 2006

Dear Comrade Lula

Very nice to see you enjoying yourself in Britain. Shame the weather was a bit crap, but then if you wanted a good holiday, you should have travelled somewhere warmer! Hopefully that prat Mr Blair didn't scare you away - the Prime Minister gets a bit excited when the cameras turn towards him. Still, you seemed to get on rather well. I must say it was nice to hear that Brazil believes in "the crucial importance of democracy".

Did you know that Mr Blair's government, which holds an absolute majority of seats, enjoys the backing of only one in five eligible voters? Eighty percent of the electorate didn't vote for a Labour Party candidate or sitting MP in the 2005 general election. Wow, makes you think, huh? Oh well. The will of the people can't be questioned, I suppose. Preserving freedom and democracy is probably too important a matter to be left to the people.

It was also heart-warming to hear of the mutual commitment our two countries share in fighting "poverty, injustice and exclusion" and of recognising the importance of "peace, security, human rights and social justice". Personally I didn't know the United Kingdom was committed to any of those, considering all the wars we've been fighting and all the people we've banged up in jail without even the possibility of a fair trial. Not to mention rising inequality and unemployment.

Don't get me wrong - all the talk of "shaping sustainable development, eradicating poverty, promoting social inclusion and improving quality of life" very welcome. As an internationalist, I'd like to see a lot more of you in the future. Just be sure to watch your cutlery whenever Mr Blair comes round for dinner.

Yours sincerely,

Older Workers, Unite!

The following comments were made by Brendan Barber, General Secretary of the British Trades Union Congress, in response to the government's publication of new anti-age discrimination laws:
"At the moment it's all too easy for employers to treat staff or job applicants unfairly either because they're young and seen as too inexperienced, or regarded as too old and over the hill. These new regulations will make the world of difference because they will force employers to treat workers of all ages fairly.

But the Government could have gone further, and we are disappointed that the regulations will see younger workers still being paid a lower minimum wage than their older workmates.

And on redundancy, it's a shame that the Government hasn't seen fit to bring all workers up to the higher rates of compensation that will continue to be paid out to older workers losing their jobs. All workers, regardless of their age, should get the same payment when they are unfortunate enough to be made redundant."

Ageism remains one of the few acceptable forms of discrimination in Britain, and no doubt in many other countries as well.

So this initiative by the Department of Work and Pensions, coming after a long consultation process, needs to be welcomed as a positive development. We must also remember that while many older women find it especially hard to gain viable employment, it remains to be seen whether women's issues are tackled in the final proposal.

Considering the recent publicity over the gender pay gap, it seems possibly that any omissions in the current plan will be rectified, but we cannot rely on that hope alone.

In other words: it's good start, but just a start.

Tuesday, March 07, 2006

Guy Debord a.k.a. Situationist Pt. I

Readers of this blog will no doubt have noticed that it is proclaimed to be "situationist" and further doubtlessly (for the non-anarchists out there) have scratched their heads wondering what the heck that exactly means.

Wikipedia offers:
The journal Internationale Situationniste defined situationist as "having to do with the theory or practical activity of constructing situations." The same journal defined situationism as "a meaningless term improperly derived from the above. There is no such thing as situationism, which would mean a doctrine of interpretation of existing facts. The notion of situationism is obviously devised by anti-situationist." (see
Which is a quite decent summary, and verifiable from many sources. But what does "constructing situations" mean? Well, I'm going to leave a deep-dive into general situationist thought for another post and instead redirect the spotlight onto Guy Debord, the key figure in the Situationist International and author of the brilliant "Society of the Spectacle."

A brief bio of Guy Debord from (the de facto home of the Situationist International) reads as follows:
Self-proclaimed leader of the Situationist International, Guy Debord was certainly responsible for the longevity and high profile of Situationist ideas, although the equation of the SI with Guy Debord would be misleading. Brilliant but autocratic, Debord helped both unify situationist praxis and destroy its expansion into areas not explicitly in line with his own ideas. His text The Society of the Spectacle remains today one of the great theoretical works on modern-day capital, cultural imperialism, and the role of mediation in social relationships.

After the dissolution of the Situationist International, Debord was tangentially implicated in the assassination of his friend and publisher Gérard Lebovici. The accusations infuriated Debord, and he consequently prohibited the showing of his films in France during his lifetime. Debord continued writing, and in 1989 he published his Commentaries on the Society of the Spectacle, arguing that everything he wrote in 1967 was still true, with one major exception: the society of the spectacle had reached a new form, that of the integrated spectacle. The prospect of overturning the society of the spectacle seemed more unlikely than ever. In December of 1994, at the age of 62, Debord killed himself. The French press, who had always repudiated the significance of the Situationist International, suddenly made him a celebrity.
Karl Marx describes the fundamental inner workings of Capital as he understood it during the late 1800s. Indeed the primal forces of capitalism still function largely as Marx described them, with exchange value and primative accumulation and all of the other core concepts completely intact.

What Guy Debord brings to the table is a compelling analysis of the recursive nature of capital in a society where image has become the core commodity. This is what Debord describes in the Society of the Spectacle, where he has radically developed the concept of the fetishization of the commodity as image, or spectacle. In his later works he applies systems theory to describe how this process continues to accelerate, and this he calls the "integrated spectacle."

The Society of the Spectacle, like Marx's works before, contains much hope. Both Marx and Debord say that the "evil systems" they are describing contain within them the kernels of their demise. Considering the way both of their lives ended I would not be surprised if either or both of them gave up hope eventually.

I suppose that I cannot imagine what it was like to go through the challenges the Guy Debord faced, with several of his friends having been assassinated and continual harassment from secret police. Nevertheless, I find and grab onto the great inspiration and hope in his early works.

I do believe that, no matter how small the chance, the seeds of a another possible world are daily planted, and like the snow crocus in early spring, that world will slowly but surely rise up from the frozen conditions to bring about a better, brighter and more just world for all man- and woman-kind.

Monday, March 06, 2006

Twenty Students

There was an interesting letter in Socialist Worker this week:

I have just returned from a visit to Havana, Cuba, with a group of art students from Cardinal Wiseman high school in Ealing, west London. We spent a brilliant week working with students specialising in art at the San Alejandro school in the Marinao district.

An exhibition of the resulting work will be held during Easter at the NUT teachers’ union conference, then later at its head office in Euston.

There are shortages of food, housing and transport, as well as low income levels for Cuban workers. But I met a ministry of education official who earns the same £3 per week as most teachers and other professionals.

The single most amazing fact for anyone connected with education in Britain is that class sizes for Cuban children aged five to 14 are set at a maximum of 20.

There are often two qualified teachers per class.

So next time you hear Tony Blair and his cronies talk about wanting a “world class education system” for Britain ask why Labour can’t countenance any class size limit here – of 25, or even 30 – when we know that the private schools he bases his ideas on boast about their own low class sizes.

Nick Grant, West London

On average, my middle and high school classes were forty students strong. In the latter case, they would sometimes break fifty. On several occasions I remember there being an insufficient number of chairs and/or textbooks, resulting from excessive class sizes.

The UK has the fourth largest economy in the world. Cuba... well, doesn't. I was never the greatest mathematician, but even I can see these figures don't add up correctly.

Sunday, March 05, 2006

Cingular Wireless Union

Johnathan Tasini over at Working Life made this inspiring post about Cingluar which I felt compelled to repost here. Thanks John! Keep up the good work.

Check out today's front-page story in the biz section of The New York Times on the Communications Workers of America's success at organizing Cingular Wireless. The main reason for the success is obvious: Cingular has agreed to be neutral in organizing drives. Indeed, that's even more obvious when you consider that of the 225,000 workers in the wireless industry--according to the Times--just 39,000 are union, virtually all of them at Cingular.

Here are the grafs we should all keep in mind to spread far and wide:

Cingular's wireless competitors have fought, at times fiercely, against unionization, arguing that an organized labor force would hobble their ability to move workers, cut costs and make changes necessary to compete in a high-tech industry. They often assert that unions ultimately hurt the workers they claim to protect.

But the growth of Cingular into the nation's largest wireless carrier — with a nearly fully unionized labor force — has challenged those assumptions and given a new spark to organized labor, said Harry C. Katz, dean of the School of Industrial and Labor Relations at Cornell University.

"The fact Cingular does well even in the face of unionization helps rebut the argument that unions aren't viable in a technologically sophisticated and dynamic industry," Mr. Katz said.

The rest of the story is here.

So, if you're not a Cingular customer yet (yours truly is), switch today and tell the company you are leaving you're doing so because Cingular is union--and tell Cingular why you're signing up.

Thursday, March 02, 2006

From the Garden to the Market

On 8th March , it will be International Women's Day - the ninety-seventh of its kind, I believe. It is a day when feminists, socialists and indeed all people can remember the achievements of women worldwide. However, that is not to say that gender inequality and discrimination against women does not still persist. One cannot hope to tackle global poverty and injustice without understanding the unique problems that women face every single day.

The International Confederation of Free Trade Unions recently interviewed Hélène Sawadogo, general secretary of the general secretary of the SYNATRAFLA union in Burkina Faso, which organises workers in the fruit and vegetable sector. The ILO was integral to unionising this informal economy, showing the benefits of international solidarity. Anyway, take a look!

Also note the following:
On 8 March 2006, the ICFTU will be launching the second stage of its global campaign on organising women workers. The campaign is called "Unions for Women, Women for Unions" and is principally targeting women working in export processing zones and the informal economy, and migrant women workers.

The first stage of the campaign, between 2002 and 2004, was led by 60 national centres from 49 different countries. It achieved remarkable results in some countries, including Mauritania, where the number of women trade unionists tripled.