Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Protests bring down Iceland’s government

by Chris Bambery

The government of Iceland became the first to be driven out of office in this recession by a wave of popular protest this week.

Weeks of demonstrations forced prime minister Geir Haarde and his cabinet to resign.

Some 10,000 people converged on parliament when it re-opened after the Christmas break.

Protesters pelted the prime minister’s car with eggs. They surrounded the vehicle and banged on it with cans.

Haarde was rescued by riot police, who used tear gas for the first time since 1949.

The demonstrations targeted Iceland’s parliament, government ministers and the country’s central bank.

Iceland has been hit badly by growing unemployment as well as sharp rises in food and petrol costs following last October’s bank collapse. Interest rates are now nearly 20 percent.

People know they will be expected to pay for the huge foreign debts amassed by the banks.

The resignation of Haarde, who belongs to the right wing Independence party means his coalition partners, the Social Democrats, will head the new government, probably in coalition with the Left-Green Movement.

The collapse of the Icelandic government follows the announcement that European Union (EU) leaders are to hold emergency talks in March about mounting social unrest caused by the economic crisis.

Just two weeks ago 10,000 protesters laid siege to the Latvian parliament over austerity measures demanded by the International Monetary Fund (IMF) and EU.

Protesters hurled eggs, paint and ice at the parliament, demanding the government resign.

Police attacked the crowd with tear gas and rubber-tipped bullets.

There have also been riots and protests in Lithuania, Bulgaria, Hungary and Greece as well as Latvia.

One Latvian diplomat posted the following comment on the EU observer website, “Latvians are normally very quiet. People are seeing what is happening in other countries… such as Greece, and they thought: ‘Why are we so calm?’”

The IMF-imposed austerity measures come at a time when personal debt is far higher in eastern Europe than it is in western Europe and governments preside over huge budget deficits.

The Financial Times talked of mounting unease among EU officials: “In Brussels there is growing concern that the public protests could spread across the entire region where many governments depend on narrow majorities or are based on shaky coalitions.”

Meanwhile French president Nicholas Sarkozy is facing a mass strike on Thursday of this week which will bring together public and private sector workers.

Rail workers, bank staff, air traffic controllers, lecturers, postal workers, supermarket employees and school students are just some of the groups set to take part in protests against Sarkozy’s free market reforms and mounting job losses.

Unemployment is particularly high among young people.

A recent opinion poll found that 70 percent of French people either support or sympathise with the strikes.

How to fight Redundancies, Socialist Style!

Redundancy is a shocking experience.
It disrupts your plans and hopes for your future.

Your company is also conveying a message: We do not care about you
– profit is all that counts. Of course, they don’t put it as bluntly as this.
Your CEO or manager will probably appear on the media and
talk about how sad they are but it had to be done for ‘competitiveness’.
But they mean: workers are worth nothing, profit is all that counts.

Global society is experiencing a 1930s style crash and we can no longer accept this.
This is the 21st century and all of us have a Right to Work.
It is time to assert that people and our lives are more important
than a company’s ‘bottom line’
If you are facing redundancy,
socialists advise you to take the following steps:

❶ Call a meeting of your workmates to discuss the situation.
Elect people to represent you, either by endorsing your existing
delegates or electing new representatives. Make sure that the
meeting is conducted properly by asking people to vote for what they

❷ The first thing you need to decide is whether you want to
oppose the redundancies or accept voluntary redundancies.
Your union officials will almost invariably urge you to accept
voluntary redundancies. Socialists, however, urge you to
consider resistance: There is very little work out there and you need a
wage packet now.

❸ Do some research on your company. Find out the following items:

■ Are they making a profit? If they are suffering a temporary loss,
what sort of profits did they make in recent years? How much do they
pay their CEO?
■ How much did your company get in state grants? Have they been
paying proper taxes in this country?
■ Are they re-locating or closing down in order to benefit from
cheap labour? Or are they trying to intensify work for the remaining

❹ Organise an occupation of your workplace to resist
redundancy. It is the only message that profit
addicts understand. Remember: You
have two great levers that help you.
■ First, the company will want to get hold of the machines, office
space or factory space to sell off or use elsewhere. You should use
these as a bargaining lever to secure concessions.
■ Second, as governments have been bailing out banks, the obvious
question is: why can’t they bail out redundant workers?

❺ You should use the occupation as a base to
launch a major campaign to demand that the government protect
your right to work. Tell them to recover any grants
given to a company that has treated its workers like disposable products
and to use that money to fund alternative employment.
Demand that the government either get you all places on
community employment schemes on Pay Related Benefit or that they take
the company into public ownership to guarantee jobs.

❻ Resistance will bring you some results – acceptance
will give you nothing. Some might argue that this is very ‘radical’. But
we are living in changed times. When a US President like
Barack Obama promises that the US state will help fund the creation of
3 million jobs, you know ‘the times they are a changing’.
We need real, radical change here and that will come through
‘people power’ – not taskforces, committees and crocodile tears.

If you want any further advice on resisting redundancies or want
support for your actions, you can simply
text - REDUNDANCY to 021 186 1450
and we will ring you back.

Saturday, January 24, 2009

Israel’s bloody war fails to achieve aims

by Simon Assaf

Israel claimed victory over Hamas and other Palestinian resistance organisations as it announced a unilateral ceasefire last Sunday after spending three weeks pounding Gaza.

Israeli leaders hoped they could destroy the resistance by demolishing Palestinian government buildings, schools, offices and homes. They launched wave after wave of attacks, which killed over 1,300 Palestinians.

But Israel failed in its objectives. Despite the devastation visited upon them, Hamas survived and was not driven from Gaza. Many Palestinians have rallied to its support.

A second central aim of the war was to stop the Palestinian rockets, but they were still flying as the ceasefire came into effect.

Huge protests around the world have also increased the pressure on Israel, and opposition to its oppression of the Palestinians has grown.

Israel’s military has not regained its aura of invincibility, which it lost after its defeat at the hands of the Lebanese Hizbollah group in 2006.

And the huge movement that has sprung up against the slaughter in Gaza has severely weakened the pro-US Arab regimes.

You can measure the fear felt by these regimes by the size of the new fortifications that have appeared around the Egyptian embassy in west Beirut, Lebanon’s capital city.

Rolls of razor wire surround the neighbourhood near the embassy. Behind them soldiers point machine guns at groups of demonstrators who often gather to demand Egypt open its border crossing with Gaza.

Public criticism of Egypt’s dictator Hosni Mubarak, a key US ally in the region, has become common, as have street clashes between demonstrators and security forces.

From Egypt to Jordan, Turkey to Saudi Arabia, diverse and spontaneous protests have rattled the regimes. When they appeared in Arab capitals, they were met by riot police, tear gas, rubber bullets and mass arrests.


In response ordinary people have taken to the streets of villages and towns – a wave of protest made up of thousands of local actions.

These protests have put immense pressure on opposition parties such as the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt to call for major demonstrations.

I got a glimpse of these protests in Beirut on the day of Israel’s ceasefire. Health workers and emergency crews drove ambulances around the city with sirens blaring against the refusal of Israel to allow in humanitarian aid.

Organisations as diverse as the Sunni Islamists and the left held protests outside the Arab League building, the Egyptian consulate and the US embassy compound.

One indication of the depth of the mood was an unprecedented vigil last week held in the heart of Christian east Beirut, a place long under the control of right wing parties who are deeply hostile to the Palestinians.

These protests have galvanised opposition to imperialism into harsh criticism of the Arab regimes. In protesters’ sights are Egypt, Jordan and Saudi Arabia – all of which have close links to the US.

Mubarak has become the main focus of anger. To try to defuse this, he dispatched his son to the border with Gaza as a gesture of solidarity with the Palestinians. But it did not work.

Other leaders who were seen as complicit with Israel’s actions could not escape the public humiliation. Protesters denounced Mahmoud Abbas, the head of the Palestinian Authority, along with the Jordanian king.

Israel’s strategy of mass terror relied on the Arab regimes to deflect blame for Gaza’s suffering onto the “intransigence” of the Palestinian resistance.

But this plan backfired, with pro-US regimes finding themselves isolated across the region.

Egypt and Saudi Arabia boycotted a conference for Arab heads of states organised by Qatar to push for a ceasefire. During the conference, Qatar, which has some diplomatic ties with Israel, announced these links would be suspended.

In response to the Egyptian and Saudi boycott, Qatar invited Iran – considered a pariah state by the West – and Turkey, which has longstanding military links to Israel and is a key member of the Nato military alliance.


The Turkish president Tayyip Erdogan used the meeting to demand that the United Nations expel Israel from the world body for refusing to implement its ceasefire resolutions. Iran seized the opportunity to break its international isolation.

Egypt and Saudi Arabia found themselves out in the cold.

Despite their overwhelming military superiority, the Israelis found they had run out of time and friends.

Israel and its allies are now also paying a hefty political price for the war on Gaza.

The US had been pushing Arab regimes to ease any criticism of Israel and crush those who advocated support for the resistance.

Whatever its claims to victory, Israel’s war has rebounded badly on it and pro-Western regimes in the Middle East.

The mood of anger and frustration against imperialism has grown deeper and become more widespread.

Eyewitness report: Israel is guilty of war crimes

Human rights worker Caoimhe Butterly speaks out from Gaza

Israel has been using banned weapons such as white phosphorus and Dime bombs during its assault on Gaza, according to eyewitness evidence from Irish activist Caoimhe Butterly.

Caoimhe is a human rights worker based in Gaza since September. She was out of the country when the bombing started, but managed to slip back in around two weeks ago. She has since visited some of the places shelled by the Israelis.

“I was in the city of Beit Lahia and the Jabalia refugee camp not long after a UNRWA [United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East] school was hit,” she told Socialist Worker on Tuesday of this week. “Two young brothers were killed and over 40 people were wounded.

“The boys were killed by tank shells fired into the school – but there was also white phosphorous dropped there. When we arrived there were still sponge-like particles on the ground. They remain ignited for hours after they’ve been dropped.

“I’ve visited lots of hospitals and talked to doctors. They point to the burns that are coming in and saying they’ve never dealt with such burns before.


“Doctors also point to the use of Dime bombs. These contain a type of explosive that fragments into tiny metal filaments. These get carried around in the bloodstream and shred your internal organs.

“The doctors pointed to patients who had been admitted in a stable condition – but later died of these Dime wounds.

“There has to be recognition that the Israeli army perpetrated war crimes against a captive civilian population.”

Caoimhe explained how Israeli ground troops used bulldozers to clear areas of Gaza that had already been devastated by three weeks of bombing.

“Yesterday I went to a farming village in the north of Gaza,” she said. “There’s not a single building left standing – they bombed every single house.

“People are completely alone. You just see people in shock sitting in the ruins of their homes. Others are still digging in the rubble, often with their bare hands, looking for the bodies of loved ones. The Palestinians have very little access to earth-moving machinery or bulldozers. Help from relief agencies is also very scarce.”

As Socialist Worker spoke to Caoimhe over the phone we heard explosions in the background. “That’s more shelling starting, by the way,” she casually commented.

“There are regular ceasefire violations by the Israeli army. I was working up north on the first day of the ceasefire when they started shelling. Four people were killed – a mother and child and two farmers.”

Caoimhe initially tried to return to Gaza on the boat Dignity, which set sail from Cyprus to try and bring in medical supplies for the Palestinians. But the Israeli navy rammed the boat and it had to divert to Lebanon.

She eventually managed to return via the

Rafah crossing to Egypt – despite the border being kept shut on the orders of Egypt’s dictator Hosni Mubarak.

“Israel’s siege has had a devastating effect on Gaza’s humanitarian structure,” said Caoimhe. “But this would have been so much less if the Rafah crossing had been open. People understand that the Egyptian government has been complicit in perpetuation of the siege.”

Friday, January 23, 2009

Defend Thai Socialist Giles Ji Ungpakorn

An edited version of the letter below was published today in the London Guardian. Please make use of the letter and organize protests/pressure on your local Thai embassy. The threat to Giles is very real, and Amnesty International has been shamefully slow in taking his case up.

We wish to express our deep concern at the decision of the Thai Police Special Branch to prosecute Associate Professor Giles Ji Ungpakorn,of the Political Science Faculty at Chulalongkorn University, with lèse majesté – that is, with insulting
King Bhumibol. Mr Ungpakorn is a well-known commentator on Thai politics, widely quoted in the international media. The charge arises from his book A Coup for the Rich, published in 2007. In that book he criticized the coup of 19 September 2006, in which the military seized political power in Thailand. Mr Ungpakorn argued that the army, along with the rest of the Thai establishment, used the monarchy to legitimize its political interventions. This is the kind of analysis that political scientists make as a matter of course, but various bookshops withdrew A Coup for the Rich from circulation, forcing Mr Ungpakorn to make it available on the Internet.

Now his academic freedom and basic citizenship rights have come under much more serious attack with this prosecution. Lèse majesté has fallen into disuse in most of the world as a relic of the pre-democratic past. Thailand is an exception. The Economist commented on 14 August 2008: 'The king said in 2005 that he could be criticised and was not afraid of this. But those posing as his majesty's protectors conveniently forget his words. So, despite their democratic institutions, Thais are not free to debate matters regarding their head of state, including appropriate limits on criticizing him.'

Lèse majesté carries a maximum sentence of 15 years, and MPs from the government party headed by Abhisit Vejjajiva, which came to office thanks to the connivance of the army, want to increase this to 25 years. The prosecution of Mr Ungpakorn therefore represents the most fundamental attack on freedom of speech. We demand that the charges against him are unconditionally withdrawn.

Yours etc.,

Professor Gilbert Achcar, School of Oriental and African Studies, London

Professor Luc Boltanski, École des hautes études en sciences sociales

Professor Dennis Brutus, University of KwaZulu-Natal

Professor Alex Callinicos, King’s College London

George Galloway MP

Susan George

Professor Barbara Harriss-White, Queen Elizabeth House, Oxford

Professor Domenico Losurdo, University of Urbino

Professor David McNally, York University, Toronto

China Miéville, Writer

Professor Beverley Skeggs, Goldsmiths, University of London


Dr. Geoff Abbott, Newcastle University

Dr Talat Ahmed, Goldsmiths, University of London

Dr Kieran Allen, University Collhe Dublin

Heidi Armbuster, University of Southampton

Dr Sam Ashman, University of East London

Professor Tayfun Attay, Ankara University

Dr Miryam Aouragh, University of Oxford/University of Amsterdam

Hans Baer, University of Melbourne
Professor Abigail Bakan, Queen’s University, Canada

Chris Bambery, Editor, Socialist Worker

Colin Barker, Manchester Metropolitan University (Emeritus)

Dr John Baxter, Open University

Dr Tom Behan, University of Kent

Dr Sue Blackwell, University of Birmingham

Professor Patrick Bond, University of KwaZulu-Natal

Helen Bowman, Manchester Metropolitan University

Pat Brady, Council for Academic Freedom and Academic Standards

Dr David Camfield, University of Manitoba

Mark Campbell, London Metropolitan University, National Executive Committee, University and College Union

Dr Steve Cannon, University of Sunderland

Joe Carolan, Editor, Socialist Aotearoa, New Zealand

Agger Carsten, Denmark

Jim Casey, Vice President, Fire Brigade Employees Union, New South Wales

Dr. John Charlton

Professor Simon Clarke, University of Warwick

Paul Coates, President, University of Melbourne Graduate Student Association

Dr Alejandro Colas, Birkbeck College University of London

Petros Constantinou,,Campaign GENOA 2001 Greece

Adrian Cousins, UNITE rep, London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine

James Cussens, University of York

Bernice Daly, National Executive Committee, University and College Union

Neil Davidson, University of Strathclyde

Dr Jonathan Davies, University of Warwick

Dr Andy Durgan, Barcelona University

James Eaden, Chesterfield College, National Executive Committee, University and College Union

Manfred Ecker, Vienna

Professor James Fairhead, University of Sussex
Dr Sue Ferguson, Wilfrid Laurier University

John Fernandes, Co-Chair, Council for Academic Freedom and Academic Standards

Panos Garganas, National Technical University of Athens

Lindsey German, Convenor, Stop the War Coalition (pc)

Professor Mike Gonzalez, University of Glasgow (Emeritus)

Dr Peter Goodwin, University of Westminster

Sarah Gregson, Vice President Academic, National Tertiary Education Union, University of New South Wales

Dr Phil Griffiths, University of Southern Queensland

Sylvia Hale, Member of Parliament, New South Wales

Professor Nigel Harris, University College London (Emeritus)

Marion Hersh, University of Glasgow

Tom Hickey, University of Brighton, National Executive Committee, University and College Union

Brian Ingham, Richmond-upon-Thames College, National Executive Committee, University and College Union

Feyzi Ismail, School of Oriental and African Studies, London

Nick James, University of Leicester, National Executive Committee, University and College Union

Professor Seongjin Jeong, Gyeongsang National University, South Korea

John Kaye, Member of Parliament, New South Wales

Paul Kellogg, Trent University, Peterborough, Canada

Dr Anna Laerke, Open University

Jens Laerke, Journalist

Dr. Mogens Laerke, University of Chicago

Maeve Landman, National Executive Committee, University and College Union

Councillor Michael Lavalette, Liverpool Hope University

Melanie Lazarow, Secretary, National Tertiary Education Union, University of Melbourne

Dr Elizabeth Lawrence, National Executive Committee, University and College Union

Professor Michael Lebowitz, San Francisco University

Craig Lewis, Coleg Harlech, National Executive Committee, University and College Union (pc)

Dr Nancy Lindisfarne, School of Oriental and African Studies, London (Emeritus)

Dr Steve Ludlam, University of Sheffield

Alan Maass,, USA

Judith McVey, Coursework Education Officer, University of Melbourne Graduate
Student Association

Georges Menahem, University of Paris-13/Dalhousie University, Canada

Laura Miles, Bradford College

Dr Sally Mitchison, Consultant Psychiatrist

Professor Colin Mooers, Ryerson University

Dr Carlo Morelli, University of Dundee

Dr Tim Morris

Pablo Mukherjee, University of Warwick

Antony Nanson, Bath Spa University

Dr Jonathan Neale, Bath Spa University

Jakob Nerup, National Board, Red-Green Alliance, Canada

Professor Alan Norrie, King’s College London

Allison O'Toole, Joint Queer Officer, University of Melbourne Graduate
Student Association

Dr George Paizis, University College London

Jamie Parker, Mayor of Leichhardt, New South Wales

Dr John Parrington, Worcester College Oxford

Dr Diana Paton, University of Newcastle

David Pejoski, Joint Queer Officer, University of Melbourne Graduate Student

Professor Malcolm Povey, University of Leeds, National Executive Committee, University and College Union

Dr Nat Queen, University of Birmingham

Maloti Ray, Research officer, University of Melbourne Graduate Student

Lee Rhiannon, Member of Parliament, New South Wales

Dr. Elaheh Rostami-Povey, School of Oriental and African Studies, London

Professor Werner Ruff, University of Kassel (Emeritus)

Professor Alfredo Saad Filho, School of Oriental and African Studies, London

Dr Alison Sealey, University of Birmingham

Dr Alan Sears, Ryerson University, Toronto

Dr Claude Serfati, Université de Saint-Quentin-en-Yvelines

Anwar Shah, International Student Officer, University of Melbourne Graduate
Student Association

Yiannis Sifakakis, Stop the War Coalition Greece

Sasha Simic, USDAW Shop Steward, Central Books (pc)

Socialist Party of Malaysia (PSM)

Professor Colin Sparks, University of Westminster

Dr Simon Speck, Derby University

Maria Styllou, editor, Socialism from Below (Greece)

Dr. Viren Swami, University of Westminster

J.G. Taylor, Leeds Metropolitan University

Jennifer Toomey, University of Newcastle

Dr Alberto Toscano, Goldsmiths, University of London

Charles-André Udry, Editions Page deux, Switzerland

University and College Union, Branch Committee, University of Dundee

Turkan Uzun, Antikapitalist, Turkey

Professor Kees van der Pijl, University of Sussex

Vegard Velle, member of national executive committee, Red Party, Norway

Sean Vernell, City & Islington College, National Executive Committee, University and College Union

Christine Vié, Manchester Metropolitan University

Dr. Max Wallis, Cardiff University

Dr Vron Ware, Open University

Tony Williams, Activities Officer, University of Melbourne Graduate Student

Dr Jim Wolfreys, King’s College London

Thursday, January 22, 2009

A Letter from Ireland

Ireland is a country much praised by neoliberal economists, paternership trade unionists and mainstream politicians in New Zealand as an example to follow. But the Global economic crisis is ripping the country apart, and points to how deep cuts and mass unemployment can radicalise workers, students and pensioners in a nation the same size as NZ. Irish socialist James O Toole writes for Socialist Aotearoa-

In the last week the Irish government has announced that it is about to undertake another round of cuts,this time amounting to close to 2billion euro .These new cuts come of top of last year's huge attacks on working people, students, pensioners and the unemployed in the Fianna Fail/Green Party coalition's budget.

Creches are closing down. Hospitals are like warzones. Cervical cancer vaccines for young girls have been canceled. Education provisions for the deprived Traveller community are to be cut. Fees are to be introduced in the colleges. Up to 2000 teachers are to lose their jobs. Now they want to cut 200 bus drivers and half our bus services (and all this with the so called 'Green Party' in coalition with the right). IBEC (the bosses union) is calling for far more vicious cuts on the public sector and are joined in this neo liberal chorus by most of the mainstream parties who accept, to a greater or lesser extent, the'logic' of the market.

This same week the government has also announced that it has nationalised the Anglo Irish Bank, a move which burdens the irish tax payer with a debt of up to 33 billion euro, and now there's talk of the nationalisation of two more of our biggest banks, Allied Irish Bank and Bank of Ireland. The government has already used half the 18 billion that was saved in the National Pensions Fund to re-capitalise the banks to maintain 'liquidity'. These massive debts, of the various banks, arose as a direct result of the insane logic of capitalism itself. The banks formed a tight triangle with the builders and the Fianna Fail party to stoke up a property boom. They borrowed vast sums on the international wholesale markets and then lent these out to fuel the property market. As long as the housing bubble lasted the banks and the builders made vast fortunes and re-cycled a small proportion back into the coffers of Fianna Fail. But when the bubble crashed, they ran to the government looking for a bailout. Of every 100 euro saved or invested in Allied Irish Bank, for example, 70 euro was re-invested in property.

Every day on the news there are more and more job losses, Ireland has gone from being the 'Celtic Tiger', an economy praised by neo-liberals everywhere,to being now described as the '4th Baltic state' (there have been riots in Latvia and Lithuania as a result of the crisis there). The Irish economy which saw huge growth year after year for a decade is now expected to shrink by over 4% this year. Dell computer's huge plant is Limerick has closed, Waterford Glass went into receivership and the Grocery chain Superquinn is to lay off hundreds.These are just a few examples.

The response of the Irish ruling class to the job losses? 'Cut more' they say! Workers responses have been quiet on the industrial front (although there was a plant occupation by Calcast worker in Derry) but the severity of this weeks cuts will face the unions here with no choice but to fight. On the streets though since the last budget in Autumn 2008 the fight back has been amazing! In the budget the government attempted to cut off Medical Cards for the over 70s, which would condemn any elderly people, reliant on welfare to pay for their medical needs, to sickness and death but 15,000 pensioners marched on the Dail (irish parliament) in what was one of the most angry and radical protests we've seen. A line of cops had to separate the pensioners from 15,000 students who were marching over the issue of fees on the same day and who's arrival outside parliament was greeted with cheers from the old folks! When speakers from any of the mainstream parties attempted to take to the stage to calm down and patronise these grey haired protesters they were greeted with boos and jeers and had to leave. One of the Fianna Fail ministers was quoted in a mainstream paper as saying 'This is what a revolution looks like'.

A few weeks later the teachers organised a national demonstration against the obscene cuts in schools-70,000 teachers, parents and children marched. We haven't seen a demo that big since the 120,000 on Feb15th 2003 against the attacks on Iraq (you also have to remember that Ireland has a population of just over4 million to understand the gigantic scale of these demos).

There is an air of radicalisation going on. The working class may be stunned and slow to react on the economic front, through the unions etc but the growing anger against this crisis, the cuts are pouring out in tens of thousands onto the streets! 6,000 farmers marched in rural Donegal against cuts. 10,000 people marched in Galway city alone and then just in the last week or two we've seen thousands back on the streets demanding an end to the horrors inflicted uponthe people of Gaza. It's becoming normal to hear of protests of a few thousand in small towns that have never had a demo before.

On February the 4th all the Student Unions of Ireland have called for a massive demonstration against the cuts the title of which is 'Join the Revolution- lets build Ireland's biggest protest ever'. Join the Revolution...every day that phrase is making more and more sense to more and more people here.

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Auckland vigil remembers the dead, celebrate's Bush's fall

Rose's poem was powerful
[In square brackets, italics: small amendments/updates by Rose Hollins, night of Tues Jan 20, 2009, as read to activists marking the end of George Bush's Reign of Terror, at US Consulate, Auckland.]


Emmanuel Ortiz, 2002

Before I start this poem, I'd like to ask you to join me
In a moment of silence
In honour of those who died in the World Trade Center and the Pentagon
on September 11th, 2001.
I would also like to ask you
To offer up a moment
of silence
For all of those who have been harassed, imprisoned,
tortured, raped, or killed in retaliation for those strikes,
For the victims in both Afghanistan and the US

And if I could just add one more thing...

A full day of silence
For the tens of thousands of Palestinians who have died at the hands of
US-backed Israeli forces over decades of occupation.
[A silence for evermore for Gaza.
Six months of
silence for the million and-a-half Iraqi people, mostly children, who
have died of malnourishment or starvation as a result of an 11-year US
embargo against their country.
[And now for the millions, murdered since US invasion].

Before I begin this poem,

Two months of silence for the Blacks under Apartheid in South Africa,
Where homeland security made them aliens in their own country.
Nine months of silence for the dead in Hiroshima and Nagasaki,
Where death rained down and peeled back every layer of concrete, steel, earth and
And the survivors went on as if alive.
A year of silence for the
millions of dead in Vietnam - a people, not a war - for those who know a
thing or two about the scent of burning fuel, their relatives' bones
buried in it, their babies born of it.
A year of silence for the dead in
Cambodia and Laos, victims of a secret war .... ssssshhhhh....
Say nothing ... we don't want them to learn that they are dead.
Two months
of silence for the decades of dead in Colombia,
Whose names, like the
corpses they once represented, have piled up and slipped off our tongues.

Before I begin this poem.

An hour of silence for El Salvador ...
An afternoon of silence for Nicaragua ...
Two days of silence for the Guatemaltecos ...
None of whom ever knew a moment of peace in their living years.
45 seconds
of silence for the 45 dead at Acteal, Chiapas
25 years of
silence for the hundred million Africans who found their graves far
deeper in the ocean than any building could poke into the sky.
will be no DNA testing or dental records to identify their remains.
And for those who were strung and swung from the heights of sycamore trees
in the south, the north, the east, and the west...

100 years of silence...

For the hundreds of millions of indigenous peoples from this half of
right here,
Whose land and lives were stolen,
In postcard-perfect plots like Pine Ridge, Wounded Knee, Sand Creek,
Fallen Timbers, or the Trail of Tears, [Parihaka].
Names now reduced to innocuous
magnetic poetry on the refrigerator of our consciousness ...

So you want a moment of silence?
And we are all left speechless
Our tongues snatched from our mouths
Our eyes stapled shut
A moment of silence
And the poets have all been laid to rest
The drums disintegrating into dust.

Before I begin this poem,
You want a moment of silence
You mourn now as if the world will never be the same
And the rest of us hope to hell it won't be.
Not like it always has been.

Because this is not a 9/11 poem.
This is a 9/10 poem,
It is a 9/9 poem,
A 9/8 poem,
A 9/7 poem
This is a 1492 poem.

This is a poem about what causes poems like this to be written. And if
this is a 9/11 poem, then:
This is a September 11th poem for Chile,
This is a September 12th poem for Steve Biko in South Africa,
This is a September 13th poem for the brothers at Attica Prison,
New York, 1971.

This is a September 14th poem for Somalia, 1992.

This is a poem for every date that falls to the ground in ashes
This is a poem for the 110 stories that were never told
The 110 stories that history chose not to write in textbooks
The 110 stories that CNN, BBC, The New York Times, and Newsweek ignored.
This is a poem for
interrupting this program.

And still you want a moment of silence for your dead?
We could give you lifetimes of empty:
The unmarked graves
The lost languages
The uprooted trees and histories
The dead stares on the faces of nameless children
Before I start this poem we could be silent forever
Or just long enough to hunger,
For the dust to bury us
And you would still ask us
For more of our silence.

If you want a moment of silence
Then stop the oil pumps
Turn off the engines and the televisions
Sink the cruise ships
Crash the stock markets [!]
Unplug the marquee lights,
Delete the instant messages,
Derail the trains, the light rail transit.

If you want a moment of silence,
put a brick through the window of Taco Bell, [Starbucks, Rakon],
And pay the workers for wages lost.
Tear down the liquor stores,
The townhouses, the White Houses, the jailhouses, the Penthouses and the

If you want a moment of silence,
Then take it
On Super Bowl Sunday,
The Fourth of July
During Dayton's 13 hour sale
Or the next time your white guilt fills the room where my beautiful
people have gathered.

You want a moment of silence
Then take it NOW,
Before this poem begins.

Here, in the echo of my voice,
In the pause between goosesteps of the second hand,
In the space between bodies in embrace,
Here is your silence.
Take it.
But take it all... Don't [jump the queue].
Let your silence begin at the beginning of crime.
But we,
Tonight we will keep right on singing...
For our dead.


- works with the Minnesota Alliance for the Indigenous Zapatistas (MAIZ) and Estación Libre ... a staff member of the Resource Centre of the Americas, the non-profit publisher of

Marx, Merrydyth and Jim rocked the gaff with songs of struggle and celebration
American socialist Robin spoke of the deep hatred for Bush and his policies from ordinary working class Americans, and pledged the fight would continue against war and imperialism in the Obama era.
Liz Williams from Justice for Palestine read a heartbreaking poem written by a young boy in Gaza.

Look into my eyes and tell me what you see?
You're blinded by our differences.My life makes no sense to you.
I'm the persecuted Palestinian.I'm the son of Palestine.
Each day you wake in tranquillity,No fears to cross your eyes.
Each day I wake in gratitude,Thanking God He let me rise.
You worry about your education
And the bills you have to pay.
I worry about my vulnerable life
And if I'll survive another day.
You blame me for defending myself
Against the ways of Zionists.
I'm terrorized in my own land
And I'm the terrorist?
You think you know all about terrorism
But you don't know it the way I do,
So let me define the term for you,
And teach you what you thought you knew.
I've known terrorism for quite some time,
Fifty-five years and more.
It's the fruitless garden uprooted in my yard.
It's the bulldozer in front of my door.
Terrorism breathes the air I breathe.
It's the checkpoint on my way to school.
It's the curfew that jails me in my own home,
And the penalties of breaking that curfew rule.
Terrorism is the robbery of my land,
And the torture of my mother,
The imprisonment of my innocent father,
The bullet in my baby brother.
But I will not rest, I shall never settle
For the injustice my people endure.
Palestine is our land and there we'll remain
Until the day our homeland is secure.
And if that time shall never come,
Then we will never see a day of peace.
I will not be thrown from my own home,
Nor will my fight for justice cease.
And if I am killed, it will be in Filasteen in Palestine
It's written on my every breath.
So in your own patriotic words,
Give me liberty or give me death