Sunday, July 31, 2011

A few questions for the Muslim brothers in Tahrir Square on 29 July

  • I address this poem to the Muslim brothers who demonstrated in Cairo's Tahrir Square after Friday prayers on 29 July

    Patience exhausted

    You emerged from the shadows

    To tell us what was forbidden and why.

    You spoke loudly and clearly,

    Each chant a whiplash:

    God is Great!

    The laws of God transcend democracy!

    Liberals and secularists are the scum of the earth!

    Copts too!

    And uncovered women!

    And leftists, trapped on the wrong side of history,

    Their rage impotent, their numbers miniscule!

    We Brothers represent the will of God!

    Who told you?

    Why did you believe him?

    Was it the will of God that your leaders collaborate with Mubarak?

    What of your rivals at home who claim the same?

    And your noisy neighbours, each with their preachers in tow?

    The Sultans in Abu Dhabi and Riyadh?

    The Ayatollahs in Qom and Karbala?

    The godly warlords in the White House?

    The Pope in the Vatican?

    The Rabbis in the Jerusalem Synagogue?

    Their God is great too, is he not?

    The Book teaches us there is only one God,

    Omnipotent, indivisible, all-seeing.

    Why does He speak in so many different tongues and voices?

    Is He trying to please all at the same time?

    Both Israel and Palestine?

    Both oppressor and oppressed?

    Leave Him alone for the moment,

    Tell us what else you believe in?

    How will you deal with our exploiters

    starting with those inside your ranks?

    Does the sun belong to you alone?

    Is your God a neoliberal?

    Must the poor live off charity for ever?

    Why are our people despairing?

    How long will you chain their freedoms?

    Whose side are you really on?

    Tariq Ali

    31 July 2011

    The Friday of Reaction and Bigotry

    July 30th, 2011 at 2:46am | 9 comments
    Tags: | | | | | | |

    What was originally announced as a “Friday of Unity” was anything but that. You can call it, the Friday of Disunity, The Friday of Bigotry and Reaction, the Friday of Religious Fanaticism.

    For weeks, the Islamist forces, without exception, have been denouncing the Tahrir sit-in, spreading all sorts of cheap, filthy, sensationalist lies against the largely secular protesters, amid agitation by SCAF also, that already incited Abbassiya residents against marchers on 23 July.

    The Islamist forces, whose leaders, also without any exceptions, are in one way or another allied to the SCAF awaiting their shares of the booties in the coming parliamentary elections and constitutional reform, decided to escalate their moves against the Tahrir revolutionaries by announcing roughly two weeks ago they were calling for mass protests in the square, to “assert Egypt’s Islamic identity, denounce supra-constitutional principles, and to demand the application of Islamic sharia.” Such announcement was coupled with an agitation campaign that spoke of “purging Tahrir from the secularists.”

    There was tension in the square over the past few days. We didn’t know what to expect on Friday. Some were expecting an “Islamist invasion” of the square, medieval style, with swords and sticks. Others thought it was going to be a peaceful day.

    Some, like me, expected troubles, but we were hoping to at least try to polarize the Islamist protesters around different demands that their leaders had put forward. I suggested that Islamists would be welcomed at the gates, while distributing leaflets on the military tribunals, detainees, torture, retribution for the martyrs’ families, and social demands. There were calls by some to try to block the Islamists from entering. This was totally impossible even if you thought it was politically correct. It would have been a massacre.

    As the countdown to Friday started, shuttle talks were taking place between protest leaders, representatives from leftist, liberal and secular groups with officials from the Islamist groups including the Gamaa Islamiya, Salafi Nour Party and last but not least, the Muslim Brotherhood. An agreement was announced yesterday whereby the Islamists vowed not to include the application of sharia on the list of their demands and not to attack or provoke any secular protesters. In exchange, the leftist and liberal groups agreed not to engage in the “Elections First” or “Constitution First” debate and promised not to chant against SCAF (liberals in general are not those who meant by the agreement, it was largely the leftists, since the liberals are cowing down everyday to SCAF). A statement was issued, with a list of demands agreed by all parties.

    What happened since the night of Thursday was a complete disgrace. The Islamists have broken the agreement. They started showing up on Thursday evening setting up their stages, only to be followed later by sound systems blasting anti-secular, anti-leftist propaganda, calls for the application of sharia and pro-SCAF chants.

    To be fair, some young Muslim Brotherhood organizers tried to intervene and control the situation, but they failed. The ones who mainly broke the agreement were the Salafis. Over hours and hours, till Friday 7pm, Tens of thousands of Islamists were chanting for Sharia, the Quran as a constitution, intimidated secular activists and non-veiled women.

    Left wing and liberal groups held a press conference in the afternoon announcing they were withdrawing from the activities of the day, denounced the Islamists for breaking the agreement, but asserted they would resume the sit-in. The liberals, freaking out, are crying asking the army to protect the secularism of the state. The army?! The liberals are only repeating the same mistake in the 1990s, when they as well as the Statlinists, threw themselves on the side of Mubarak in his war against the “Islamo Fascists.”

    Many secular protesters, especially the women, decided to leave the square, feeling completely uncomfortable with the situation. Others stayed and tried to engage in discussions with the Islamist protesters. There were marches too, and protests, where Muslims and Christians chanted for a secular state and national unity.

    By 7pm, most of the Salafis and the Islamists had left the square as planned. Many of the Salafi protesters came from the rural provinces, not from Cairo. Buses awaited them to transport them back home from Abdeen, Talaat Harb Squares and Abdel Moneim Riyadh Squares.

    And it was then that the secular forces started reclaiming the square again. Marches started, with strong chants: “Civil (State)! Civil (State)!”, and other chants for social justice and retribution for the martyrs’ families.

    While leaders of the Islamist forces are knee-deep in their opportunism and clientalism to SCAF, I continue to be hopeful that the Islamist youth, those who defied their leaders and took part in the uprising shoulder to shoulder with their leftist and liberal brothers and sisters, would break the ranks and join us.

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Tony Bliar- run and hide- we charge you with Genocide.

Tony Bliar, the disgraced former Prime Minister of Britain and the Butcher of Baghdad with the blood of at least 100,000 Iraqis on his hands, was forced to slither in the back door to Eden park's Conference Centre in Auckland today, to avoid a posse intent on putting him under citizen's arrest.

Bliar, now known locally as the Backdoor Man, shared dinner with some of the low life scum who make up New Zealand's Corporate and Political Ruling Class, where tickets were slashed in price from $1500 to $500 to desperately fill some seats.

Outside, anti war protesters were in high spirits, disrupting the Conference Centre with loud sound systems, sirens and chants. The group of 50 then attempted to access the Centre before being blocked by a phalanx of Auckland's Boys in Blue, who have not been briefed on the Geneva Convention or their responsibilities to prosecute international war criminals. But then again, their function is not to bring justice, their function is to defend the ruling class.

Tony Bliar's media coverage has subsequently revolved around his lying, his war crimes and the fact that he was unable to show his face publicly in Auckland, and although protesters were unable to place him under citizens arrest, his image as a global Leader is severely dented, if the rest of his life he is reduced to accessing public buildings via backdoors, surrounded by hundreds of security guards and cops.

One day, he'll be in the dock.
Until then-
Tony Blair, you can't hide-
we charge you with genocide.

Stuff video HERE
3 News video HERE

NEVER AGAIN- After Norway, how do we fight Fascism and Islamophobia?

NEVER AGAIN- After Norway, how do we fight the rise of Fascism and Islamophobia.

Levi Joule, Young Labour
Billy Hania, Palestinian Humanr Rights Campaign
and Nicola Owen, Anti Nazi League veteran and Socialist Aotearoa.

Venue- Unite Union, 7pm, Wed 3 August. RIP Sharidyn

Thursday, July 14, 2011

Lockwood Smith- Wash Your Hands

cheesy tory

Commentary- Shanna Olsen-Reeder, Socialist Aotearoa (Wellington)

Hone Harawira was ordered out of the chamber today less than a minute after entering to be sworn in as the elected member of the house for Te Tai Tokerau.

Speaker Lockwood Smith ordered the Leader of the Mana party to leave after he began his oath not by bearing allegiance to the Queen but instead to the founding document of New Zealand- Te Tiriti o Waitangi. Lockwood took offense to this and Harawira left the house only one minute after entering. Supporters sang from the gallery as he left the house, disregarding Smiths pathetic attempts to call for order. Smith said later that he regretted interrupting the waiata (or in his words why-aata) as it was a “fundamental part of the culture of this country.”

Now hang on a minute- isn’t this the same Lockwood Smith that in 2008 as Senior National MP said that Pacific Islanders needed to be taught how to use a toilet?

How can the same man who claimed that Pacific Islanders don’t know how to wash or use a toilet regard Waiata as special? And why was Hone Harawira’s oath unacceptable when other members have made similar oaths when being sworn into parliament? Green MP Catherine Delahunty questioned the speaker on this point “when I made my affirmation sir, I was asked to repeat it, and I was given that opportunity because I also mentioned Te Tiriti o Waitangi, and I’m not sure why this wasn’t allowed in this case.”

Lockwood Smith then said Ms Delahunty had broken the law and that practise was unacceptable.

In fact changing the oath is not that uncommon. Catherine Delahunty, Kevin Hague and Hone Harawira all pledged their own edited versions in 2009 and all were given the opportunity to repeat the traditional pledge. Harawira had intended to say the traditional oath at the end of his speech exactly as he and several others had in 2009 but had not been allowed to finish it this time.

"There was scope there for the oath of affirmation to proceed, he chose not to let that happen. That's something perhaps he needs to think about, particularly given he has allowed numerous others to affirm in
different ways in the past."

Speaker Lockwood Smiths skewed vision of equality has come into question recently when he threw Labour MP Clare Curran out of the house for breaching the dress code by way of a rugby shirt. In 2010 however National MP Jackie Blue wore an All Whites shirt during the Football world cup. Perhaps the speaker isn’t a rugby fan. Maybe Hone should try wearing an All Whites shirt next time he tries to make his oath. Regardless it is obvious the speaker isn’t a Hone fan, and thus the people of Te Tai Tokerau are still waiting to be represented in Parliament.

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

The Resistance INSIDE Parliament and on the streets!

When Mana promised to be the Resistance both on the streets and in Parliament- we meant it!

Good on you Hone. The Treaty is the Founding Document of this country. I'd pledge my alleigance to Aotearoa, not to any old British Queen ;) and can't wait to see you joined by Annette Sykes, John Minto and other radical voices for Mana in November!

and always remember Whanau- the more the MPs of Sinn Fein boycotted the Westminster parliament, the more votes they got ;)

video of Hone in the house HERE

What Harawria said:

"I, Hone Pani Tamati Waka Nene Harawira, swear that I will be faithful and bear true allegiance to Te Tiriti o Waitangi, that I will be honest and forthright in my efforts to advance the rights of the people of Tai
Tokerau, that I will do my utmost to help all Maori people become full
empowered citizens of this land and that I will do whatever I can to reduce inequalities in this country, so that all may one day be proud to call Aotearoa home."

The correct oath (in English or Te Reo):

"I, [name] swear that I will be faithful and bear true allegiance to Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth the Second, Her heirs and successors, according to law. So help me God."


The affirmation:

"I [name] solemnly, sincerely and truly declare and affirm that I will be faithful and bear true allegiance to Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth the Second, Her heirs and successors, according to law."

from stuff-

There were dramatic scenes in Parliament today as Speaker Lockwood Smith refused to swear in new Mana Party leader Hone Harawira after he would not deliver his affirmation as dictated by law.

The former Maori Party MP was to be sworn in as MP for Te Tai Tokerau.

As Harawira left the debating chamber, supporters sung from the public galleries in defiance of Smith's ruling for them to cease.

Harawira had earlier sought to speak in Maori after approaching the Speaker to take the oath.

Smith interrupted him and informed him he must leave the Chamber and "return on a sitting day when he is determined to make the affirmation according to the law of this land".

There were calls of "shame" and "no respect" as Harawira left.

The Speaker informed MPs that he had advised Harawira prior to his affirmation that the law of New Zealand required the affirmation "to be [delivered] in a certain way".

An attempt was made by Labour MP Trevor Mallard to get leave from Parliament for Harawira to return and read the affirmation but other MPs objected.

Smith later told Parliament he felt bad interrupting a waiata and would not ask the security guards to remove the members of the public who had defied his ruling for order.

Outside Parliament a large crowd of supporters gathered to perform a haka as Harawira prepared to address them clad in a traditional feather cloak.

He read out the oath he attempted to deliver in the house, in which he swore allegiance to the Treaty of Waitangi rather than the queen.

Hone Harawira MP newly elected MP for Te Tai Tokerau and Leader of the Mana Movement, has been asked to leave the house for his refusal to speak the oath he is required to make, and as a result, he was directed to leave the house.

Therefore, he was not sworn in and was asked to come back on the House’s next sitting day, which is Tuesday 2nd August.

As Mr Harawira left the chamber, his supporters who were in the Gallery sung a waiata tautoko, which the Speaker of the House asked passively to cease.

Green Party MP, Catherine Delahunty, made a point of order asking that Mr Harawira be allowed to repeat the oath in English as she was allowed during her swearing in. The Speaker of the House denied this request, saying what Hone had done was against the law and rules of the House.

While National Party MP Bill English suggested that he not be allowed to repeat the oath and made the point that those in the gallery be possibly punished for singing their waiata, and thereby “not respecting” the rules of the house. Russell Norman of the Greens supported his colleges’ point of order and again asked that Mr Harawira be allowed to repeat his oath.

The speaker, then asked if there were any objections, there were, so the request to repeat the oath was not denied.

Had Mr Harawira been allowed to speak, this is what he would have said:


Hone Harawira – Tai Tokerau MP and Leader of MANA – Thursday 14 July 2011


It’s been just over 2 months since we launched MANA to be a movement away from the politics of fear and compromise, a movement based on the authority of Te Tiriti o Waitangi and the mana of both parties to that contract, a movement that values the rights of families over corporate endeavour and the needs of children over an education system geared to ensure Maori failure, a movement focused on improving the status of those who work, those denied work, and those in genuine need, and a movement that honours the efforts of those who have fought to give us all a place to be proud of, a genuine movement of the People.

And it’s been just a few weeks since the people of the Tai Tokerau achieved a truly great victory; a victory against the country’s biggest political machine, a victory against the old school politics of denying change, a victory against money, a victory against prejudice, a victory against a racist media, and a victory that I dedicate today to the memory of Hone Heke Ngapua, Tai Tokerau’s greatest ever MP, and Matiu Rata the leader of Mana Motuhake, and Muriwhenua’s favourite son.

And it is because of the determination of the people of the Tai Tokerau and those who came to support us in our campaign for freedom, that today I returned to the New Zealand House of Representatives as the leader of the MANA Movement, not to the dark corners where I had been dispatched by those who would wage war on their own while sleeping with the enemy, but to the front benches of parliament, in recognition of MANA’s status as the newest and most energetic political movement in Aotearoa.

Today as I returned to the House, I carried in my hands a copy of Te Tiriti o Waitangi, as a mark of respect for the efforts of Tahupotiki Wiremu Ratana, and activists of every generation since 1840, to see the Treaty honoured, and today I pledge to continue their work until the day that the Treaty takes it rightful place as the cornerstone of this nation’s constitution.

So today, although we may be just a little late in celebrating Matariki, today we say farewell to the bad old days and today we celebrate a new dawn, a new beginning, and an exciting new future.

Because I think that for the first time in a long, long time, ordinary people are sensing that they may finally have a voice in Parliament that represents a growing sector of New Zealand society – those who are poor, those who are marginalised, and those who have to struggle every week just to scrape together enough money to feed the family and pay the bills.

And right now in this country there are a growing number of people living in poverty. It’s not that they want to be there – it’s just that there isn’t the political will to stand against the tide of international takeovers and ruthless free-market economics that are crushing our people.

And that’s what MANA’s here for …

MANA will address issues that the people want answers to – issues around poverty, the skyrocketing cost of living, stagnant wages, and the impossibility of the ‘quarter acre dream’. These are the real issues that affect Rangi and Joe in communities throughout Aotearoa.

These of course are issues that Maori are all too familiar with, having placed our faith in Labour for more than 70 years. And yet today we find ourselves in the same dismal state of affairs as when the first Labour Maori MP was elected in 1932. For all their promises, Labour has made no real difference in the status of Maori as second-class citizens in our own land, and their choice to be a centrist party confirms their rejection of their own working class roots.

The other major political force in this country has of course been National, who have only ever had one interest – looking after the rich. They believe blindly in the theory that the market will provide (even when we see how the market crashes and governments have to bail it out), and they continue to blame beneficiaries for being a burden on the taxpayer, when most beneficiaries are there by virtue of the free-market economics that the Nats support.

In 2005 the Maori Party burst onto the political scene, as the first independent political voice for Maori and most of us, me included, were proud to be part of that change.

Unfortunately however, before we’d even gotten wet behind the ears we’d signed up to a coalition deal with National and ACT, and it quickly became clear to me and to thousands of other members of the Maori Party that our once proud claim to ‘independence’ was no longer.

And although I raised many critical issues with my colleagues at Council meetings and in caucus, it also became clear that the Maori Party would sacrifice one of their own MPs rather than jeopardise their ministerial perks and their deals with John Key, Rodney Hide and Don Brash.

Yet despite our differences, and even after winning the by-election, I was still moved to extend an olive branch to see if we could minimise any conflict and maximise the number of Maori seats in parliament. The answer from the Maori Party was clear and unequivocal – NO.

Since then of course, Maori Party supporters from all over the country have been ringing MANA leaders to say they can’t believe that a party with so much to lose would not seek a peace deal with MANA.

But that’s a decision that their leaders have taken (even though I now hear that they want to change their minds … again). But you know how the saying goes – fool me once, shame on you; fool me twice … no thanks. The people deserve better than that.

And so tomorrow we turn ourselves to the challenges that lie ahead of MANA – of building branches dedicated to the needs of the members rather than the demands of party politics, with electorates actively demonstrating their capabilities so that MANA MPs can see where the real power lies, building a national movement based on honesty and integrity, and selecting MPs chosen for their demonstrated commitment to kaupapa and their willingness to put the needs of their people before the expectations of parliamentary procedure.

Already we are seeing people in their hundreds joining MANA from Te Rerenga Wairua to the Bluff. Branches have been formed, committees are being elected, and ideas for a better tomorrow are flowing in along with the flood of goodwill and support that bodes well for the upcoming election in November.

And as we turn to the future, political commentators are already saying that the worst we can do is to increase our party vote and bring in one or two more MPs. At best, we will add one or two of the Maori seats to that.

With ACT struggling to make any headway under the leadership of the race-baiting idiot from the deep south, and the Maori Party taking a real pounding in the polls, National’s coalition is in real strife, opening the door for a MANA, Green, Labour coalition to win the treasury benches.

And despite Phil Goff saying that he won’t work with me, everyone knows that if he needs MANA’s numbers, he’ll either give me a ring or be consigned to the political dustbin of history.

So today is a great day for us all.

We already have some of the best Maori and left-leaning minds in the country working on policies and solutions that ordinary people can understand.

From kaumatua and kuia in Kaitaia, to millworkers in Kawerau, the homeless in Auckland, students in Palmerston North, public servants in Wellington, farmers in Canterbury and oyster-shuckers down the Bluff – everybody will know what we stand for.

There’s not a lot of time from now to the election, so we aim to keep our messages simple, we want our messengers to be people you know and trust, we plan to use every form of media we can, but most importantly, we want to win the hearts and minds of ordinary Maori and non-Maori in this country, and we want you to add a spice of MANA to the korero you have with your whanau, your friends and your neighbours, as you debate the upcoming elections and the fastest growing political movement in the country – your movement – MANA.

And just who might some of those messengers be?

Well, at our founding hui in Whangarei, one of our leaders spoke of people having a “fat kaupapa belt”, people with belts that have got a few notches in it, people with history in fighting for human rights, people who have made a difference in other people’s lives, people with experience, people that other people respect, people with their own MANA, people like Annette Sykes and John Minto.

Both of them have accepted roles as interim co-vice presidents of the MANA Movement and both of them are people I would be proud to have stand by my side, because they are exactly the kinds of leaders that MANA will need if we are to make a difference, at the polls, and in the lives of those marginalised in today’s society.

We have momentum, we have righteousness, but we need more, and so as I close today let me just ask this of us all …

  • Let us commit ourselves to policies that bring a sea change to the way in which we do politics in this country
  • Let us commit ourselves to a programme of hard work and honest endeavour so that our people believe what it is we say.
  • Let us commit ourselves to a future where the treaty lives, where rangatiratanga sits comfortably alongside kawanatanga, where Maori are lifted to a place of genuine equality in all spheres of life, and where every other citizen can thrive in this most blessed of countries
  • Let us commit ourselves to developing a set of principles that will guide us in all we do, not as a political party but as a movement of the people
  • Let us commit ourselves to changing our own lives so that we become the leaders that our people want to follow, and
  • Let us commit ourselves to one another, to our families, to our children, and to those generations yet unborn

Tena koutou, tena koutou, tena tatou katoa

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Egypt- the Mask has slipped

The mask has slipped: instead of military salutes we now hear the generals’ threats

12 July 2011 (translation via Alex Callinicos)

Only a short while ago, the spokesman of the Military Council, Major General Fangari, saluted the martyrs of the revolution and melted Egyptians’ hearts with the memories of the days they spent chanting that the army and the people were “one hand.” Today he delivered another kind of message to the revolutionaries: threats to “take all necessary measures to confront the threats which encircle the homeland unless this questioning of the ongoing process ceases … as do the rumours and misconceptions which lead to discord and rebellion and the promotion of the interests of a narrow minority over those of the country as a whole.” He calls for honest citizens to work for the return of normal life for the children of “our great people”, and, brandishing his finger in the face of the people like Mubarak, insists that "the armed forces will not allow anyone to seize power or override legitimate authority, except within the framework of legal and constitutional legitimacy.”

Thus ended the speech, which came less than 24 hours after Essam Sharaf’s short announcement, and confirmed that the ministry Sharaf heads is nothing more than a mask designed to hide the ugly face of military rule. But over the last six months the people have grown wise to this division of roles between the “good cop” of the Prime Minister and the “bad cop” of the representative of the Military Council. The revolutionaries’ position is that, this time, there will be no going back. We will occupy the streets until the demands of the revolution are met. This inevitably means justice for the martyrs who shed their blood in the squares of Egypt as the price of freedom. We will not settle for less than the fair and public trials of the criminals of Mubarak’s regime and the killers of the martyrs. We will not give up our demand social justice and human dignity through the implementation of a decent minimum wage, humane working conditions and an end to the slavery of fixed-term contracts. We will defend our right to strike and occupy. These rights were not granted, but were won by the people through years of struggle in the street; years which had the bitter taste of arrests, torture and prosecutions. No law issued by the Military Council to criminalize strikes and occupations, and no punishments it imposes can take this right away from the free people.

The military tribunals which steal years from the lives of our young people should have been reserved first for the deposed president in his capacity as former head of the armed forces, rather than enjoying the luxury of a civilian trial. Instead he is protected by the Military Council, which one time postpones the court date under the pretence he is ill, and another spreads rumours of Mubarak’s impending death.

We are not “questioning the ongoing process”, rather we are announcing that the process is slow and compromised in order to protect the killer police officers from justice. We are telling the world that ten thousand of the children of this country are locked up in military prisons after suffering the worst tortures. We know that the system is making the maximum effort to stop the people from regaining the wealth which was looted from them over the decades. We know that only revolutionaries are brought before the military tribunals, while the killers enjoy trials in the civilian courts, with release on bail between sessions.

We are not “spreading false rumours” but spreading the truth that you are trying to hide; the truth that poverty and repression, torture and detention, are still everywhere after 25 January, just as they were before. We have only exchanged the state jails for military prisons, gained the military prosecutor in place of the state security prosecutor, swapped the military tribunals for the exceptional courts. The Emergency Laws were not enough for our military rulers: they added new laws criminalising strikes and occupations in an attempt to clamp down on Egyptians’ freedoms. The budget which the government promised us would be fair turned out to consist of cuts in spending on health, education and old age in order to fund the Ministry of the Interior and the Army.

The people’s interests are not “narrow”. The demands for a loaf of bread, for health care, education, housing fit for human beings, freedom of expression, the right to work and the achievement of justice are at the heart of the demands of the revolution. They do not compare to the narrow self-interest of businessmen and their associates, who, not content with plundering the people’s wealth. These people are terrified by the falling stock market, but unmoved by the blood of 1200 martyrs or the fact that half the population live below the poverty line … or that young people are losing years of their lives in prison. All they care about is that their bank accounts are still swelling and that they continue to drain the blood and sweat of the workers for as little pay as possible.

Finally, revolutionaries do not “seize power”: it is theirs by right. This country should be governed by those who shed their blood for it. If anyone has “seized power”, it is the Military Council and its supporters who were asked by no-one to rule the country, but whole stole – or tried to steal – the revolution by force, taking advantage of the people’s euphoria over the overthrow of the dictator.

It seems as if the one who is shaking his finger and threatening the revolutionaries does not think they understand what it means to lose their children, not on the field of battle with a foreign enemy, but on the soil of their homeland, at the hands of police officers whose salaries were paid by their own taxes. He does not understand what happened on the 25th of January. On that day the people of Egypt rose up, determined never again to be enslaved, inherited or exploited. On the 25th of January the Egyptian people regained their sense of dignity and confidence that they could overthrow the symbols of dictatorship. The head fell, leaving the corrupt body behind. The people swore they would not stop before the downfall of the regime: if not today, then tomorrow.

Glory to the martyrs

Victory to the revolution

Power to the people

The Revolutionary Socialists of Egypt

Thursday, July 07, 2011

Song of the Syrian Revolution

Drowning the Syrian revolt in blood

Lee Sustar

THREATENED BY defections in the armed forces and the resilience of the revolutionary movement, the Syrian state is moving to crush the popular movement with mass slaughter, raising the specter of a civil war.

Following the script of Libya's ruler Muammar el-Qaddafi and Bahrain's King Hamad bin Isa al-Khalifa, Syrian President Bashar al-Assad is using savage force, including tanks, helicopters and heavy weapons, to hammer the northern town of Jisr al-Shughour and drive much of its population across the border with Turkey, where an estimated 3,000 Syrians have taken refuge in camps as of June 12, and another 6,000 were waiting for access.
According to survivors and documented by video footage smuggled out of the country, Syrian armed forces shot dozens of unarmed people in Jisr al-Shughour as tanks laid siege to the town of 70,000 and shelled homes. Livestock were slaughtered, and crops were burned.

There was lightly armed resistance to the killings, bolstered by the defection of Syrian soldiers. After being told that they were being sent to fight "terrorists," the soldiers found themselves facing off against unarmed demonstrators. According to several media reports, some refused orders to fire on unarmed people, and their commanders ordered them to be shot.

Others soldiers have apparently managed to join the rebellion, turning their guns on the Syrian armed forces. The government claimed that 120 soldiers have been killed around the town of Jisr al-Shughour in recent days. This could be an inflated number, but some soldiers have certainly died, either because they disobeyed commands or they were killed by those who did, in fact, join the rebellion.

The resistance has taken on armed character in another town in the same northwestern region of Syria. According to a BBC report, armed men attacked the courthouse, police station and a key fuel depot in the town of Maarat al-Numan.
- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -
IF THE popular movement is taking up weapons after weeks of nonviolent protests, it's because the regime has again and again used lethal force since the popular movement mushroomed across the country in March. Despite an estimated 1,200 deaths at the hands of security forces and the arrests of 10,000--many of whom have been subjected to torture--the movement has nevertheless continued to grow.

Indeed, the horrors inflicted by the regime have only radicalized the democracy movement. In the southern city of Daraa, where protests began three months ago following the police torture of youths for writing anti-regime graffiti, there was widespread fury over the death last month of 13-year-old Hamza al-Khatib while he was in police custody. The boy's family defied threats from police to keep quiet and allowed reporters to see his Hamza's mutilated body. Al Jazeera reported:

Hamza's eyes were swollen and black, and there were identical bullet wounds where he had apparently been shot through both arms, the bullets tearing a hole in his sides and lodging in his belly. On Hamza's chest was a deep, dark burn mark. His neck was broken, and his penis cut off.

A few days later, authorities released the mutilated body of Hamza's friend, 15-year-old Thamer al-Sahri. The two had been arrested together while attending a protest six weeks earlier.

Activists responded to the torture and murder of Hamza by giving the weekly Friday protest on June 3 a theme of marching for children--despite the likelihood of an even greater crackdown from the government. But as the Associated Press reported, instead of the "familiar cycle of protest and government crackdown," during the June 3 demonstrations in Jisr al-Shughour and elsewhere, "police and soldiers turned on their commanders, and control of the town slipped out of government hands."

Al Jazeera reporters pieced together this account from defecting soldiers and civilians in the protest movement:

Speaking to Al Jazeera from Turkey, having crossed the border on Friday night, an activist based in Jisr al-Shughour and trusted by experienced local reporters described how a funeral on June 4 for a man shot dead by plainclothes security a day earlier grew into a large anti-government protest.
"As the demonstration passed the headquarters of the military secret police, they opened fire right away and killed eight people," the activist, who was among the crowd, said. "But some of the secret police refused to open fire, and there were clashes between them. It was complete chaos."
The following day, the activist and others went back to the military police building, having heard explosions coming from the area the evening before. They found dozens of bodies, including that of the military police chief, identified by his ID card.

Jisr al-Shughour remained under popular control as the June 10 Friday demonstrations approached. Unwilling to rely on conscripted soldiers for fear that they too would join the revolution, Maher al-Assad, the president's brother, took his elite forces to lay waste to the city. It was a repeat of the tactics used by his father, former President Hafez al-Assad, whose own brother commanded the military forces that leveled the city of Hama in 1982, killing an estimated 10,000 people in an effort to crush an uprising involving the Muslim Brotherhood.

Given the memory of that repression, Hama--Syria's fourth-largest city, with 800,000 people--was slow to join the movement. But as on Friday, June 3, an estimated 150,000 people took to the streets--and tens of thousands marched again two days later in funeral processions for the 65 killed in the initial protest amid a two-day general strike. The armed forces responded by occupying the city for several days.
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BY UNLEASHING Syria's most loyal armed forces, Bashar al-Assad is betting that a combination of barbarism and bribery will keep the regime intact.
Syria is a multi-ethnic and multi-religious society, with Sunni Muslim Arabs making up the biggest single group, but sizeable minorities of Christians and heterodox Muslims such as the Druze and the Assad's Alawite group. Most of the key security personnel have been Alawites, and that group has traditionally counted on the support of other minorities, as well as a layer of wealthy and politically connected Sunni businessmen.

The fear of sectarianism--that is, the ascendancy of the Sunni Muslim majority--has been manipulated for decades by the ruling Baath party, which points to the long sectarian civil war in Lebanon as an example of what would happen to Syria if the dictatorship was overthrown. However, the contradictions of Assad's political and economic "reforms" since he took power a decade ago have destabilized Syrian politics.

A halting openness to democracy, followed by a wave of arrests, alienated the middle class while threatening the established order. At the same time, the conspicuous accumulation of wealth by the Assads' relatives, such as cell phone magnate Rami Makhlouf, has antagonized working people and the poor. Meanwhile, the vast majority of Syrians are squeezed by food inflation that was running at 13 percent in January, nearly double the rate of a year earlier.
The price of dairy goods was rising at an annual rate of 27 percent as the year began.

On the eve of the revolt in February, the government began making food aid payments to help 420,000 vulnerable families--in a population of 23 million. Unemployment at that time was 12 percent, according to official statistics, but economists put the true figure at around 20 percent. It is these economic conditions, along with growing discontent with the Syrian police state, that sparked a protest movement in Syria in the wake of the Tunisian and Egyptian revolutions.

The movement, at first highly localized, took on a national character despite the regime's attempts to pit region against region, sect against sect, Arab against Kurd. Moreover, the increasingly ferocious repression hasn't deterred masses of people from taking to the streets week after week, even though protesters know that some among them could be killed. In the wake of the attack on Jisr al-Shughour, however, the opposition will have to achieve a greater level of organization.

The Local Coordination Committees of Syria have tried to link the protests and put forward a basic platform, starting with the ouster of Bashar al-Assad and a national conference aimed at "the transition of the country to a democratic and pluralistic state based on freedom and equality for Syrian citizens. The task of this conference is ensuring a peaceful and safe transition of the current regime, in order to avert a violent collapse."
It is difficult to gauge the strength of opposition, which is divided between activists on the ground in Syria and exile groups of various political stripes, ranging from pro-U.S. figures to democrats and socialists.
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THE WEST has so far hedged its bets, cultivating the most conservative opposition figures and making loud rhetorical statements against Assad, but refraining from putting real pressure on the regime. Having attempted in recent years to detach Syria from its alliance with Iran, Washington hoped to convert Assad into an ally, repeating the transformation in its relationship with Qaddafi's Libya.

But now, as in the case of Libya, the scale of the repression against the revolution has presented a dilemma for Washington and its allies in Israel, Saudi Arabia and Europe. All had tacitly backed Assad's crackdown, fearful of both the implications of another revolutionary victory in the Arab world and the possible end of Syria's long cold peace with Israel, which has freed up Israel to periodically wage war in Lebanon and in Gaza. Now, however, the massacre in Jisr al-Shughour could force the hand of the West. It's already provided an opening for hawkish politicians such as the Republican South Carolina Sen. Lindsey Graham: "[I]f you really care about the Syrian people, preventing them from being slaughtered, you need to put on the table all options, including a model like we have in Libya," he said on CBS's "Face the Nation."

Assad sees the issue in similar terms, according to Syria expert Joshua Landis:

We saw here [in Jisr al-Shughour] an attempt to organize an army--a rebel-organized military resistance to the Syrian government. The Syrians cannot allow that to happen and must move in with overwhelming force because they must not allow a Benghazi [the rebel capital in Libya] to form here, where rebels would have a physical base, and the CIA, MI6 and French intelligence could go in as they did in Libya to train and arm the opposition.

For its part, Turkey is putting pressure on Assad, a longstanding ally, by denouncing the repression and hosting a meeting of opposition groups. The former colonial power in Syria, Turkey has had growing economic ties with the current Syrian current regime. But now, it is exploring the possibility of a easing out Assad and fostering a government that would be in a closer orbit to it, as part of a contest with Iran for regional influence. As M.K. Bhadrakumar wrote at the Asia Times website:

In short, Syria stands right in the way of an expansion of Turkish influence in the Middle East. The present ruling party--so-called "neo-Ottomans"--in Turkey, finds this particularly frustrating as it harbors pretensions of being the inheritors of the Ottoman legacy in the Middle East. In short, Syria blocks Turkish ambitions as a Middle Eastern regional power that Europe will learn to respect and woo.

But as the U.S. and NATO war on Libya shows, imperialist powers are interested not in assisting the Arab revolution, but rolling it back and installing an acceptable pro-Western government. The West may yet decide to allow Assad to continue trying to drown the revolution in blood in the name of "regional stability," and impose sanctions rather than intervene militarily. In either case, however, the U.S. and its allies will be trying to impose their interests--which are contrary to those of the mass of Syrian people.

The hope for the Syrian revolution lies with the women and men who began the struggle by protesting for democracy and dignity and against the torture and murder of their children. The workers who participated in demonstrations and strikes, the soldiers who mutinied against their commanders, the mothers who ignored threats to expose the savagery of the regime--they represent the hopes of all those who want to see the Arab revolution move ahead.

Wednesday, July 06, 2011

Contours of the Arab Counter-Revolution

Commentary: Omar Hassan, Socialist Alternative (Australia)

In the early days of the Arab revolutions it seemed like the dictators and their Western allies were paralysed, helpless in the face of the popular movements. Ben Ali fell after only one month of protests, and Mubarak gave up in a similar timeframe. It was a fire sale, a dictator a month, and the only question was which one was to fall next.

Six months later, it’s clear now that this phase of the struggle is well and truly over. The counter-revolution has mobilised and consolidated its forces. The Arab revolutions are under siege from all sides.

The capitalist classes, both local and international, have an enormous range of tools at their disposal in the struggle against the Arab masses. Though there can be contradictions and disagreements between the various parties – even within the different wings of the American state – they all agree that the revolutions need to end as quickly as possible.

This explains why it is that “radical” Salafist organisations can be funded and supported by the US, why secular liberals can happily cooperate with the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt, why Israel can come out and defend its erstwhile enemy in Bashar el-Assad, and why billionaires can (retrospectively) come out in support of revolutions.

Holding back the revolutionary wave is their priority. Everything else is secondary.

The old regimes are still in power across the region. They have learnt the lessons from Ben Ali and Mubarak, and have been much more prepared to use brutal violence to cling to power.

In Bahrain the revolutionaries have suffered a serious defeat. In a bitter twist, many of those who participated in the demonstrations are now being tried for the deaths of their comrades at the hands of the police. Medical volunteers who risked their lives to treat the wounded are being charged with somehow providing guns to the protesters. For now it seems that the movement is over.

Though the Syrian regime has had less success in crushing the uprising, it too has been vicious in its use of tanks and machine guns against demonstrators. The response to the crackdown has been heroic and the attacks have pushed the movement towards calling for the total overthrow of the Ba’athist regime. Yet the Assad clique remains in power, its security forces more or less intact.

Similarly, in Morocco, Jordan, Libya, Iraq and elsewhere the movements have yet to achieve their first task – the overthrow of the regime.

But even where the figureheads have fallen their institutions remain intact. In each case, allies of the old leaders have simply stepped in to fill the power vacuum left by their departure. The old authoritarian constitutions have been left more or less unchanged, the hated security services rebadged, and so on.

The Egyptian army has been the organisation most successful in rebranding itself as an ally of the revolution. This an impressive achievement given that Mubarak himself was a military general, that the military enjoyed enormous privileges under the old regime, and that it has been aggressively cracking down on free speech, the right to protest and other basic gains of the revolution.

As the largest and most powerful military in the Arab world, the Egyptian army is among the most important forces for counter-revolution in the region.

For the revolutions to achieve their aims, even in the countries where the tyrants have fallen, they will need to continue to push to totally destroy the old structures of the state.

In trying to do this workers and the poor will inevitably confront (some are already confronting) those who to varying degrees supported the revolutions in toppling the dictators, but are clearly for the preservation of capitalist stability.

There are two different aspects of this counter-revolutionary movement.

The first is in the secular liberalism of parties like the Free Egyptians Party. The FEP claims to have supported the revolution from day one. If elected it promises to ensure a secular, democratic and “pluralistic” Egypt, as well as free education and a raft of other social services.

Yet despite all this liberal parties such as the FEP are fundamentally reactionary. They are the political expression of pro-Western capitalists hoping to increase their control over a post-revolutionary Middle East. Their goal is to limit the outcome of the Arab Spring to relatively superficial changes to the political structures, while leaving the neoliberal structure of the economy intact.

The FEP for instance thinks Egypt needs an even more neoliberal free market economy than that presided over by Mubarak, which puts them nicely in line with the IMF agenda. Crucially, it also opposed demonstrations on May 27 and more recently, on the basis that order and stability was crucial for the reconstruction of Egypt. But what would you expect from a party presided over by a billionaire businessman?


On the other hand there are the Islamists.

In the early days of the revolution there was much fearmongering in the Western media about the dangers of an Islamic revolution, particularly centred around the Muslim Brotherhood. So a few facts first.

The Muslim Brotherhood is basically a conservative organisation of the status quo, but this is mediated by its relationships with the different Arab regimes. In Syria for instance, it was totally banned and repressed (which gives it a slightly more radical tinge), while in Egypt it was tolerated by Mubarak for over 20 years, at times organising election lists and demonstrations with the ruling NDP.

Generally, its leadership includes some of the wealthiest people in Egypt and its core activists are from the educated middle classes – doctors, lawyers and the like – none of whom have much desire to rock the boat. National differences notwithstanding, the organisation is more or less comparable to the pro-capitalist, moderate “Justice and Development Party” ruling Turkey at the moment – which despite pro-Palestinian posturing and Islamist verbiage has developed strong economic and political ties with Israel, America and the EU.

So just like the liberals, the Brotherhood essentially wants a slightly modified status quo. This has become clearer in the run-up to the elections, where it has united with a number of liberal parties in an electoral alliance. More evidence came to light just last week, when US state officials indicated they were initiating dialogue with the Islamic party. The Brotherhood’s leadership welcomed this move with open arms.

Then there are Islamist forces outside the Brotherhood. These are the Salafist groups. Spewing sectarian, misogynistic, anti-revolutionary bile, these forces have been using Saudi money to grow amongst sections of the poor in the Middle East for decades now, and opposed the revolution in Egypt from day one.

Far from being the hostile enemies of America you might expect, the Salafist organisations and the West often act in counter-revolutionary harmony. For instance in Lebanon they provide the shock troops of Hariri’s pro-American March 14 grouping; in Egypt Mubarak tolerated their organisations more than any others; while in Syria they make up the most reactionary and pro-Saudi component of the uprising.

Nowhere are the Salafists likely to come to power – their violent and sectarian methods are not popular in the revolutionary climate in the region today. Rather, the danger is that they provide a pretext for others – say, the Muslim Brothers – to come in and impose “order” on the revolutions, an order which will mean the end of the revolutionary organising and an inevitable crackdown on the left.

Foreign intervention

It is impossible to talk about the forces of counter-revolution without addressing Western intervention. It is no accident that Libya, the country where the West most involved itself, is also the country where the revolution has the most problems. Gaddafi has been entrenched, civilians are being killed by NATO bombs, and the mass struggle against the regime has been replaced by the military one.

Yet this is the only case where the West has been able to intervene directly. Its leaders have been hamstrung by the fact that the people of the region are deeply hostile to foreign intervention, for very good reasons. They’ve overcome this to some extent by training others to do their dirty work for them, and they are assuredly throwing their weight around behind the scenes, but it’s far from an ideal situation for American policy wonks used to having their own way.

The Israeli army faces similar difficulties. In the context of the Arab Spring an Israeli attack could lead millions to demand a revolutionary war against the Zionist state. Needless to say, this is not exactly in line with US interests.

Of course, the West has any number of counter-revolutionary tricks up its sleeve.

The IMF’s recent offer of a three billion dollar loan to Egypt at zero interest is a case in point. Labour historians have rightly pointed to the damage that decades of IMF “assistance” has done to Egyptian society. Mubarak used the cover of “structural adjustment plans” to sell off state assets to his cronies and undermine the living standards of workers and the poor.

Popular opinion forced the military council to reject the loan this time around, but fiscal pressure to do otherwise will continue to mount given the weakening condition of the Egyptian economy.

On a similar note, Qatar has proposed the creation of a Middle Eastern Development Bank. The press release for this wonderful plan compares it to the European Bank of Reconstruction and Development, which “helped the rebuilding efforts in countries in Eastern Europe after the end of the Cold War.” Its goal is to “help the ailing economies of Tunisia and Egypt” but as an added bonus it plans to “put aside tens of billions of dollars for yearly lending for political transition in countries in the whole region”.

Given that levels of poverty and political corruption have somehow managed to increase in Eastern Europe after the end of the Stalinist regimes, it would seem reasonable to be somewhat sceptical.

The Saudi-Gulf alliance

This last initiative points to the final factor in the counter-revolutionary forces facing the Arab Spring: the Gulf States, particularly the newfound alliance between Saudi Arabia and Qatar.

Now, it is something of a cliché in the Arab left to pin all that is reactionary on Saudi Arabia. For decades it has been used as a reason to defend the so-called “progressive regimes” in Iraq and Syria. Many so-called leftists are stuck in this Stalinist mentality. For them, the movement in Syria is against an anti-imperialist country, and therefore little more than an “Anglo-Americozionist-Saudi-Qatari” conspiracy, or a CIA coup.

Yet despite the historical problems with this obsession with Saudi Arabia, it is clear that the Saudi royal family is one of the key lynchpins of imperialist stability in the Middle East. While Israel has been passive and the US tentative, Saudi Arabia has been able to adopt an aggressively anti-revolutionary foreign policy.

The reason for this is that unlike Israel, America or the EU, Saudi Arabia is an indigenous capitalist force in the region. Unlike the others, Saudi Arabia works within the Arab institutions, such as the Arab League and the increasingly active Gulf Cooperation Council. Its integration into these regional forums is important in a region where pan-Arabism remains a strong current.

For years Saudi Arabia has been cultivating networks of Wahhabi (i.e. Salafist) schools and mosques throughout the region. Saudi Arabia’s close ties with both Egypt and the US help explain why it was that the Salafists were the only group to be allowed a TV station in pre-revolutionary Egypt, and why they are now strong enough to go around organising bashings of Christians, women, and others. As one neo-conservative commentator explains:

Wahhabi-Saudi policy has always been two-faced: that is, at the same time as the Wahhabis preach hostility and violence against non-Wahhabi Muslims, they maintain a policy of alliance with Western military powers – first Britain, then the US and France – to assure their control over the Arabian Peninsula.

It has also been expanding the size and scope of the counter-revolutionary activities of the Gulf Cooperation Council, the Saudi-led regional bloc of oil-rich pro-American regimes. This body was the vehicle for the crushing of the uprising in Bahrain, and has also been central in attempting to diffuse the revolutionary possibilities in Yemen.

In recent years Saudi Arabia has been developing a media strategy, with a number of well-funded TV stations and newspapers broadcasting one-sided, pro-Saudi perspectives to the Middle East daily.

Assisting them in this project is the new, improved Al Jazeera Inc. While millions enjoyed its unprecedented coverage of the early period in Egypt and Tunisia, there has since been a clear shift away from that sort of reportage. The station has become more and more like Western outlets – silencing criticism of the Gulf states and ignoring the revolutions that don’t suit the interests of the Qatari ruling class. Rumours of a formal alliance with the Saudi royal family are backed up by the fact that that Saudi corporations have now been permitted to advertise their products on the station.

The credibility gained from its earlier coverage of the Tunisian and Egyptian revolutions means that Al Jazeera is far better placed to shape mass opinion than the crude propagandists of the other Arab-owned stations or Western outlets like CNN.

The battle continues

Despite this impressive array of forces aiming to stop the revolutions in their tracks, it is hard to see how any lasting stability can be achieved in the short term. The spectre of the global economic crisis continues to haunt the region, with the possibility of a double-dip recession in America and defaults by entire nations in Europe. All of this is certain to impact negatively on the already fragile economies of countries like Syria, Tunisia and Egypt.

There are other, subjective sources of instability too. Just this week we’ve witnessed a new round of small but militant protests against the military council’s failure to punish acts of police violence in Egypt. It is difficult to make predictions, but struggles between workers and the poor and those who aim to limit the revolutions seem inevitable, as the basic economic demands made throughout the revolution remain unfulfilled.

Tuesday, July 05, 2011

Another Boss Bites the Dust...

Giving Alasdair Thompson and the EMA the tampon finger

Employers and Manufacturers Association Boss Alasdair Thompson has been sacked today, after justifying lower pay for women because they had monthly periods. Socialist Aotearoa joined equal pay activists last week in pelting the bosses HQ with tampons, and supporting Unite Union's national day of action for "Equal Pay for Equal Work", opposing the reintroduction of youth rates. Thompson had blamed the public outrage against him on the socialists, so this head joins Paul Henry up on the Trophy Wall at SAHQ ;)

The pressure on the EMA and the businesses it organises should be maintained, until they drop all plans to introduce youth rates, and pay equity for women is a workplace fact. Women in New Zealand still earn 12% less than men in many industries, and face huge discrimination and bullying on a daily basis. Childcare, maternity leave and pay are all still woefully inadequate.

The sacking of this dinosaur should embolden all activists fighting for workplace equality to redouble our efforts. No youth rates, pay equity for women. Or as we chanted when we pelted his building with tampons-

"Alasdair Thompson, you're a jerk- equal pay for equal work."

Monday, July 04, 2011

Mana- the Map

The Northern Heartland
Mana holds the West

An awesome resource from Comrade U. showing us where Mana did best, and the ground we need to take back in TTT-

Mana- the Map- HERE

Sunday, July 03, 2011

Melbourne Police viciously attack Palestine Solidarity demo

Victoria police viciously attacked a peaceful pro-Palestine demonstration in Melbourne on Friday night. In one of the most violent displays in years, around 20 people were arrested and later charged with various offences ranging from trespass and riotous behaviour to resisting arrest.

Scores more suffered bruising and one protester had his shoulder dislocated after up to 100 police officers surrounded the demonstration and repeatedly charged at and picked-off participants.

The event, called by Coalition Against Israeli Apartheid, was protesting against Israeli-owned Max Brenner chocolateria in the QV shopping centre. Max Brenner is owned by the Israeli conglomerate the Strauss Group, a company that has a long and sordid history of giving explicit support to the Israeli military – including during their 2008/09 massacre in Gaza.

The non-violent demonstration was 150-200 strong. Salem Nasser, one of the organisers, described the scene:

We were peacefully gathered in the QV courtyard. People were making speeches about the daily attacks that Palestinians endure; the apartheid nature of the Israeli state; the ongoing ethnic cleansing; the hundreds and thousands who are languishing as political prisoners in Israeli jails; and score who are killed every month at the hands of the IDF.

All of a sudden some special operations type group rushed into the area and split the demonstration in two. They began by targeting the people with megaphones and pushing people to the ground. They were calculated in their approach.

My section of the demonstration was pushed by maybe 40 cops – they drove us into the ground and then surrounded us. We sat and linked arms, refusing to move any further. A number were then arrested as the cops picked off people on the outside of the group and dragged them away.

We stayed for around an hour, before deciding that we should move off as a group and meet up with the others. We were bruised and a little battered, but not cowed. Our victory was in resisting the violence and refusing to be intimidated.

Warning signs were all around QV – and also Melbourne Central shopping centre, the site of previous demonstrations that successfully shut down the Israeli-owned Jericho/Black Pearl cosmetics company – stating that “people who propose to demonstrate disapproval of the political or social interests of a retail tenant” would be prohibited from entering.

But the police attack was completely unprovoked and is an indication that Victoria Police and the Baillieu state government are intent on cracking down on the democratic right to protest.

On one hand, the viciousness of the police response is connected to the law and order campaign that both parties were running in the lead up to last November’s state election. On the other, it is testament to the strength of the campaign that the authorities are so intent to see it shut down.

Around the country, there have been numerous successful actions against Israeli companies – and the protests have grown in size this year.

But no matter how heavy handed the police get, they will not succeed in stopping the demonstrations against apartheid. The justice for Palestine campaign is global – and growing; Melbourne participants vowed to return and continue to show solidarity. The struggle will only end with the fall of apartheid.

A slap in the face for the dictatorship of Thailand

Thai Election: A slap in the face for the Military, the "Democrat" Party and the royalist elites

Commentary by Giles Ji Ungpakorn

The Thai election results are a slap in the face for the dictatorship. They prove without any doubt that the majority of people have rejected the Military, the Democrat Party and the royalist elites. Peua Thai, the party closely allied to the Red Shirt movement, has won a clear majority. The result is all the more remarkable, given that the election was held under conditions of severe censorship and intimidation of the Red Shirt democracy movement by the Military and the military-installed Democrat Party of Abhisit Vejjajiva.

This election confirms that the Abhisit government never had a mandate from the people. It confirms that the 90 pro-democracy activists, who were shot down by military snipers last year, were shot in order to keep the Democrat Party and the Military in power.

Every single election since 2001 has been won by the Thai Rak Thai or its descendants, Palang Prachachon and now Peua Thai. The latest results exposes the lies of the Military, the mainstream media, the liberal academics, the NGOs and the Democrat Party, all of whom supported the 2006 military coup and claimed that the coup was “necessary” because the majority of the electorate “didn’t understand democracy” or were “bought-off” in election frauds.

The latest election is a vindication of the struggles and sacrifices of the Red Shirts and it proves the deep commitment to Democracy among the majority of Thai citizens, especially the poor.

But the important question after the election is whether the Peua Thai government will match such commitments to freedom and Democracy shown by those who voted for it.

If Thailand is to shake off the legacy of the 2006 military coup and the subsequent destruction of the democratic process by the courts and the Abhisit government, this new government must take some immediate and important measures. These include:

1. The freeing of all political prisoners, including those jailed or charged under the notorious lèse majesté law.

2. The ending of censorship of all types, especially the internet and community radio stations.

3. The sacking of the Army chief General Prayut Junocha on the grounds that he sought to influence the outcome of the election and announced that he opposed Peua Thai policies in the South. The Army Chief should be the servant of an elected government. He should never have special extra-constitutional powers to intervene in politics.

4. The indictment and trial of former Prime Minister Abhisit and his deputy Sutep, along with Generals Anupong and Prayut on the grounds of murdering Red Shirt civilians last year.

5. The temporary re-introduction of the 1997 Constitution, instead of the present military constitution and the start of a process to rewrite the constitution to increase freedom and democracy.

6. The scrapping of the lèse majesté and computer crimes laws which prevent freedom of expression.

In the long term, Thai society must seek ways to totally reform the Military, drastically cutting its budget and removing its control of the media. This will reduce its political influence. The justice system, which has been plagued by double standards, must also be seriously reformed and measures should start in the process of building a welfare state in order to reduce inequality.

But it is doubtful whether the Peua Thai Party will have any intention of carrying out these necessary changes. It will be up to the Red Shirt movement to push the Government into making more radical reforms rather than doing secret and dirty compromises with the Military and the elites. Of course, the Red Shirt movement has many factions within it. This is normal for such a large mass movement. Some will want to wind down the movement and leave the business of politics to the new government. This would be a serious mistake. The more radical sections of the movement must continue the struggle for justice and equality in order to bring about real changes.

This election is only one step towards restoring Democracy. It will take mass participation of the Red Shirts in order to strengthen and speed up the process.