Monthly Archives: September 2007

Take Action Know! Release Myanmar protesters




Urgent Press release from Amnesty International [http://www.amnesty.org/]

Release Myanmar protesters

At least 500 people were reported to have been arrested in a crackdown on anti-government protests in Myanmar by the ruling State Peace and Development Council (SPDC).

The crackdown escalated on the evening of 25 September in the former capital Yangon, the second-biggest city, Mandalay, and also Meiktila, Pakokku and Mogok. There have been at least nine reported fatalities and Amnesty International has learned that many people have gone into hiding.

Some people were reported to have been arrested in the evening of 24 September, but most were seized during the following 48 hours, as the crackdown by security forces escalated. Among those arrested were hundreds of monks in Yangon.

Others arrested include:

Famous comedian and former prisoner of conscience Zargana
Myint Myint San (f), National League for Democracy (NLD) member
Paik Ko (m), NLD Member of Parliament, Pakokku
Par Par Lay (m), comedian (pictured)
Tin Aung (m), NLD Member of Parliament
Tin Ko (m), NLD youth member in Meiktila
U Win Naing (m), politician

Amnesty International believes these and other detainees are at grave risk of torture or other ill-treatment.

The security forces have reportedly beaten demonstrators with batons, used tear gas on crowds that defy orders to disperse and fired warning shots into the air. Despite the high tension, thousands of people continue to take to the streets in continued anti-government protests.

Read the latest news on the situation in Myanmar

Take action!

Please urgently send emails, faxes or letters in English or your own language. You may wish to use the suggested text below which you may cut and paste into your message.
You can copy and paste this sample letter into an e-mail or a document to print out. If you are planning to write your own appeal please read our letter writing guide.

Please send appeals to:

Foreign Minister Nyan Win
Ministry of Foreign Affairs
Naypyitaw
Union of Myanmar
Fax: +95 1 222 950 OR +95 1 221 719

E-mail: mofa.aung@mptmail.net.mm

Please let us know if you have taken this action

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Turkey, a case of one step forward, two back.



If ever there was a nation that operated under the maxim one step forward two steps back it is the Turkish Republic, which was established by Mustafa Kemal, aka Ataturk and his brother military officers out of the remnants of the Ottoman Empire. Since 1984 when the Kurdistan Workers’ Party [PKK] cadre first went into the mountains of south eastern Turkey to fight for an independent Kurdistan, there has been a violent insurgency in that area which has resulted in tens of thousands of dead, young Turkish army conscript’s, PKK combatants and civilians have littered the Kurdish areas of Turkey and in truth an independent Kurdistan is no nearer today than it was in 1984.

The Kurdish people of south east Turkey lived under draconian laws which amounted to nothing less than marshall law. After the Justice and Development Party[AKP] came to power in 2002 under Prime Minister Recep Erdogan he introduced laws on to the statute book which liberalized and abolished many of these laws, especially those which forbade the Kurds to broadcast in their own language. Erdogan himself understood how petty and restrictive these laws could be as when he was Mayor of Istanbul he was imprisoned for reciting part of a poem in Kurdish.

To the surprise of most of the Turkish media pundits Erdogan’s AKP not only swept the board in the 2007 General Election, but also did extremely well in the south east of the Nation where most of the Kurds live. The AKP became the first Turkish political party in living memory to garner in the Kurdish vote in great numbers and in the process this has given hope to both Turk and Kurd that the conflagration in the east can come to an end by peaceful means, with the Turkish Republic intact but having undergone a democratic spring clean.

However the Dinosaurs who lurk within the heart of the Turkish State and still believe the only way to deal with the Kurdish problem is to crush them with military might have not been sleeping; and they reacted quickly to the fact that the Kurdish Democratic Society Party [DTP] gained 20 seats in the new Parliament, thus for the first time since 1994, when Kurdish Parliamentarians were jailed for taking in Kurdish the oath of allegiance to the Turkish Parliament, the Kurds are also represented in Parliament by a pro-Kurdish party. The minions of the ‘Secret State’ in the legal system quickly went to work against the DTP by arresting three of its leading members. The case against Osman Özçelik, the Deputy[MP] for Siirt, a city in south-eastern Turkey which has a mixed population made up of Turks, Kurds and Arabs and his comrades Çimen Işık and Kudret Ecer, is that they failed to comply with the Political Parties Law by not preventing Kurdish slogans being chanted during the DTP party’s first grand congress meeting, held on June 25, 2006.

The case indictment which would be preposterous in almost all EU nations is that slogan’s in a language other than Turkish is prohibited, and that a poster of the jailed Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) leader Abdullah Öcalan was draped on the wall during the DTP congress — both acts constitute a crime under Turkish law.

The case continues……

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Some good news from Turkey


Still all is not bad news from Turkey on the political front. Shortly after taking office as President of the Turkish Republic, Abdullah Gul hit back at the ‘secret state’ which had vigorously tried to prevent him from taking office, by choosing to visit the south east of Turkey on his first official trip outside Ankara. Whilst there he went out of his way to meet the representatives of the Kurdish political parties, including the DTP and he was given a warm welcome by many Kurdish people. The message the government seemed to be passing on to its Kurdish citizens is that unlike previous administration, they are willing to negotiate an end to the PKK insurgency which would include an extension of democratic rights and equality. One can only live in hope.

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George Scales, farm-worker, socialist and working class intellectual. [Obituary].


I really enjoyed reading the obituary of George Scales, as my own father was a farm worker and as a child we lived in tied cottages and my parents experienced the sheer awfulness of most farmers when it came to the way they treated their workers.
My Dad worked on the farm next to the one mentioned in this obituary and for a time we lived in a tied cottage opposite Coopersale Hall Farm

M H.

Obituary
George Scales

Farmworker, socialist and witty columnist for his union’s paper.

Francis Beckett
Monday September 17, 2007
The Guardian

George Scales, who has died aged 87, was an arable farmworker. He was also an elegant, witty writer, a socialist, and a trade unionist. Some of his best ideas and phrases came to him while at the wheel of his tractor, and he kept a pencil and notebook in his boots. That evening, lovingly honed and polished, they would form the basis of short and perfectly formed letters for the farming and national press, and eventually for his column in the farmworkers’ trade union paper, the Landworker.

He completely lacked the rural worker’s traditional respect for authority. A Christian farmer’s respect for the Sabbath, combined with the same man’s determination that his workers should put in seven days a week at harvest time, inspired this typical Scales verse: When praising the Lord for his harvest, remember / The sinners who gathered it in / For if it were left to the pure and the holy / We would all be excessively thin.
George was born in a tied cottage in Hertfordshire, from which his family was evicted when he was a child. He wrote in one of his Landworker columns that he was not sure which was the greater drawback, the tied cottage or his Church of England school. “I’d abolish them both. Rent books, not hymn books, I say.” In 1939, “I went into the army and some silly bugger started a war,” so he spent the next four years lifting mines. It was, though he always downplayed it, skilled and dangerous work, but he remained a private. “They said he ought to be in the awkward squad,” says his wife Doris. “He was a very awkward and interesting man.”

“Back in civvy street and out of a job,” he wrote, “I fell easy prey to a local farmer on the prowl for cheap labour.” This man taught him two things: “How well farmers stick together, and how they hate their workers doing the same.”

From 1958 he worked at Coopersale Hall Farm in Essex, until he was made redundant in 1983 at the age of 63 because, despite his roadside protests, the farm was demolished to make way for the M11/M25 interchange. By that time a blizzard of letters to Farmers Weekly, the Times and the West Essex Gazette had made him something of a spokesman for the rural poor.

But his favourite outlet was the Landworker. At first he was distrusted at the union’s headquarters, for his irreverence extended to the union’s leadership. When I became editor of the Landworker in 1978, the general secretary, Reg Bottini (obituary, May 28 1999), warned me about the cantankerous serial letter writer from Essex. My first letter from George was in verse: Dear Brother Francis Beckett, will you give a solemn pledge / Not to print so many pictures of our handsome leader Reg?

After a time, with a new general secretary, I asked him to write a regular column, which we called Weighing Up. There are highly paid newspaper columnists who could not match his professionalism, reliability, and ability to startle. His copy arrived on time and to length, needing virtually no editing, and he always found a new and interesting way of looking at his subject: never any prefabricated opinions or phrases from George. It was a monthly dose of witty invective against farmers, employers, governments, anyone who failed to act properly towards the men and women who tilled the land. But there was gentler stuff too, such as his argument with Doris about whether their son should be christened. George the atheist said: “He’s half mine, you know.” Doris replied: “I’ll christen my half. You do what you want with yours.”

After he was made redundant, he took on gardening work until he was 80, when he finally retired.

He was an atheist, but just in case he was wrong, he prepared his first complaint for the afterlife: Arriving in Heaven a little bit late / He said to St Peter as he passed through the gate: / “The funeral benefit I got was so small / “I could hardly afford the fare here at all. / “If inflation continues, it grieves me to tell, / “My mates won’t be coming, they’ll be going to Hell.”

A selection of his columns appears in Weighing Up, published by Journeyman Press, 1988. He is survived by Doris and their son Stephen.

· Lionel George Scales, farmworker, writer and union activist, born April 2 1920; died August 12 2007

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Lesson for EU Left in Greek election result.




If you were to read what the UK and Irish mainstream press wrote about the result of the recent Greek General Election, one would have thought the Left’s performance amounted to little more than a dismal also-ran to the Right wing New Democracy[ND] and its leader Kostas Karamanlis. However this was far from the full picture as Dave Osler astutely pointed out on his web site.* If one adds up the percentages of votes cast, the left came out the poll with 51.29% of the total votes cast. Yet it is to be ND, with Kostas Karamanlis as Prime Minister who will be sworn in as the new Greek government, despite only receiving 41.84% of the vote. This fact is due to not only the vagaries of the Greek electoral system, but also the current inability of the Greek left to form an electoral alliance made up of the various left parties and factions.

As for the political parties to the left of Pasok, the two main elements increased there vote, with the Greek Communist party [KKK] gaining 22 seats in the new Parliament and the Coalition of the Radical Left [SYRIZA] 14, which is a joint increase of 18 seats since the last general election. Which is a step in the right direction and a timely reminder for the Left that if it is to have any real influence in the nation State’s of the EU, then it must enter into an Alliance/Coalition/United Front of Left parties; and until it does it will continue to fail to offer the voters a viable electoral alternative to the political Right.

The Greek Left.

Pasok–38.10%==102 seats.
Communist Party[KKK]–8.15%==22-seats.
Coalition of Radical Left[SYRIZA]–5.04%==14 seats.
Ecology[Green] Party–1.05%==0 seats.

The Greek Right.

New Democracy–41.84%==152 seats.
Popular Orthodox Rally–3.80%==10 seats.

* Dave Osler’s web site can be found here, http://www.davidosler.com/

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Only pressure from below can bring about aTruth, Justice and Reconciliation Commission


It has become increasingly clear since the new DUP led administration was established at Stormont, that there is no political will within the leading political parties of the United Kingdom and Ireland to work towards a Truth, Justice and Reconciliation Commission, that looks at the years of the north of Irelands ‘dirty war’. Including the criminal collusion that we now know took place between UK Security Forces and Irish para-militaries.

For the London based political parties, real scrutiny of the ‘secret state’ has always been out of bounds. At best a Westminster Parliamentary committee will periodically look at the work of the security services. The members of this Committee are more often than not selected due to their longevity as parliamentarians, past links with the military, or worse the very security services they are tasked to investigate. Thus no one is surprised when the members of this committee merely tinker around the edges and offer up a report that give the boys and girls at Spook Central an A Plus.

When you consider that the UK Security Services down the years failed to see the threat the Argentine military posed to the UK Protectorate the Falkland Islands. Allegedly reported wrongly to the British Prime Minister Tony Blair that Saddam Hussein’s regime had WMDs etc; and at one time had as head of the counter-espionage department which worked against the Soviet Union, Kim Philby, who went on to end his career as a KGB General and holder of the Order of Lenin. One might have thought at the very least a little more diligence would have been more appropriate when overseeing the security services. But such is the obscure Byzantine ways of the class ridden British Establishment.

The north of Irelands political parties many of whom represent politically the victims of UK State collusion are little better. The Unionists secretly regard any collusion that tool place as being a necessary price to be paid for defeating and bringing to heel the Provisional Republican Movement. The SDLP is far to timid to go out on a limb over this matter as it is not how they operate, still believing after all that has happened in the north of Ireland that back channels are the way to conduct ‘civilized’ political business when dealing with the UK State.

As to Sinn Fein, whilst I have no doubt the majority of its membership wish to see the British murder machine in Ireland exposed and brought to account, there leaders having signed the GFA, are like a fly caught on an old fashioned fly-paper, believing they have no option but to concede this one to the British State. As they are fearful of what might be revealed about contacts between the security services and leading Republicans if any Commission was to seriously look into the dirty war. When periodically SF leaders fail to restrain themselves due to pressure from below and start making public statements about the need for a collusion enquiry. The British quickly swat them down by retaliating with a leak to some opportunist Unionist politico, who threatens to name some unfortunate Sinner as a long time British security force informer.

So does this mean a Truth, Justice and Reconciliation Commission is dead in the water as many commentators now claim. Not at all, what the aforementioned means is that the responsibility for bringing any TJ@RC into being rests where it always has, with civil society, both in Ireland, the UK, EU and USA. Mr friend Anthony McIntyre is mistaken when he wrote in a recent Blanket article that “It is hard to see how the issue of truth is going to be resolved. The stark answer is that it won’t be. The current British government would need to be of the same mind as the present Argentinean government which has taken a strong stand against the record of the 1976-83 military junta and is demonstrably prepared to grasp the nettle of state murder and torture”.

For what Anthony failed to mention was that previous Argentinean Governments were just as hostile when it came to looking at the dark years of the Military Junta in Argentina as the current British government is to a TJ@RC It was only continuos pressure from Argentine Civil Society that brought about a change in government policy, beginning with the Mothers of the Plaza de Mayo, who three decades ago began their protest in Buenos Aires in support of the victims of the Junta’s dirty war.

Are those who have been the victims of UK State collusion in criminality any less worthy than their Argentine counterparts? Of course not, nor should we underestimate the great reluctance and hostility any campaign for TJ@RC will face from the UK State and its Irish political acolytes. But the struggle for human rights and State accountability have never been easy and has always been paved with a mirage of governmental mantraps and diversions. But by mentioning the Argentine example Anthony has done us a service, for what it shows is solidarity, persistence and bloody mindedness can achieve progress if not tiny miracles. For time and again the Mothers of the Plaza de Mayo were told by the nay-sayers that they could never succeed and were threatened and bullied by the representatives of the State and various political parties who were complicit in the Military Junta’s dirty war. But succeed they did.

We should also not over look the fact that like its Argentinean counterpart, the campaign for a TJ@RC may well take time to achieve its aims and during that period many of the current politicians who are placing road blocks in its path, will gradually be leaving the political scene. Leaving the way open for others, possibly more opened minded and less tainted by the past to take their place and thus it is essential that when this generational change occurs, a strong, vocal TJ@RC Campaign is knocking on their door.

The struggle for a TJ@RC is part of the broader struggle for the United Democratic Socialist Republic. For with the GFA the British State is doing all it can to turn the clock back and rewrite its brutal history in the six counties. An on going campaign to expose the levels of UK collusion in criminality during the long war is necessary to expose those who choose to acquiesce to the revisionist historical viewpoint. There are those who will and do claim that the military occupation of the six counties during the long war was all about enforcing the rule of law. The very presence of an activeTJ@RC campaign and the British State’s refusal to establish such a Commission will tell the world that British claims about being the guardians of the rule of law in Ireland are nothing less than historical hogwash.

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Monty Johnson Obituary


After carrying the obituary of veteran Irish republican John Kelly last week, I thought I would make this a regular feature of Organized Rage. If any reader comes across an obituary that they feel would be of interest or knows an individual who has recently died and who was involved in the progressive struggle please contact me. Below is an obit of communist Monty Johnson which first appeared in the Guardian.

Loyal but critical communist thinker utterly indifferent to modern comforts

Eric Hobsbawm

Monty Johnstone, who has died from complications following treatment for a burst ulcer, aged 78, was an admired, but for the most part lonely, presence in communist and socialist politics for half a century.
He was indeed hard to overlook. The journalist Francis Beckett recalled him at the final congress of the Communist party in 1991 as “a tall, thin, imposing figure who ran his fingers through his long dark hair as he spoke and sounded like an eccentric history professor”. More likely he will be remembered, looking genial and perennially youthful, cycling through London – his grandfather Sir John Foster Fraser had in 1896-97 been the first man to cycle round the world – on his way from one meeting to another to debate Marxist theory and developments in the Soviet Union and eastern Europe. Learned, a formidably multilingual traveller, as vocal about public matters as he was silent about private ones, and utterly indifferent to the comforts and conveniences of life, he seemed a modern secular version of a medieval scholarly friar.

Born to CJS Montague Johnstone of the Royal Scots Greys and Margaret Fraser in Sir Walter Scott’s house, Abbotsford, in Melrose, Monty joined the Young Communist League aged 12 in the unlikely milieu of Henley on Thames before going to Rugby school. After national service in Germany and communist agitation in the Hamburg dialect, he went up to Christ Church, Oxford, with a languages scholarship to study politics, philosophy and economics.
After he graduated in 1952, he took a party job as editor of the Young Communist Challenge until his heterodoxy ended his party career in 1956. Perhaps he might have been happier as an academic.

Monty was to remain a loyal but critical communist all his life, hostile to the dilution of socialist ideals but equally critical of the destruction of democracy in post-1917 Russia and the blind loyalty of communist parties to Moscow.

Though he stayed in the party after 1956, he was viewed with suspicion, and the party press was closed to him until after the 1968 Soviet invasion of Czechoslovakia, during which, in Prague, he tried to dissuade embarrassed Russian tank crews in fluent Russian. Meanwhile in the CP, his anti-Stalinism pioneered what later became known as Eurocommunism. He also established a reputation among the 1960s New Left, and became associated with Ralph Miliband (obituary, May 23 1994) and Isaac Deutscher.

By the 1980s, the ideological shift in the CP leadership brought Monty rehabilitation within what was by then a doomed party. He was finally put on the editorial board of the Collected Works of Marx and Engels and was even elected to the CP executive committee. However, he was unsympathetic towards the wholesale revisionism of Marxism Today. None the less, in 1980 – nobody quite knows how – he secured that newspaper the journalistic coup of a double interview in Poland with the leader of Solidarity, Lech Walesa, and prime minister Mieczyslaw Rakowski. He was pessimistic about Mikhail Gorbachev’s reforms, opposed the dissolution of the Communist party of Great Britain, but kept a political home in the Socialist History Society, the Alliance for Green Socialism and various continental groups analysing the failures and might-have-beens of communism.

In the late 1960s, Monty gave up a successful career teaching at Woolwich Polytechnic – now part of Greenwich University – for a freelance life of writing, lecturing in Britain and abroad (he was a powerful speaker), and bringing up his children. He had a contract for a major book on the development of Leninism, but never completed that or any other book, although he published numerous lucid and persuasive lectures.

Following the break-up of his marriage in the early 1970s, he became in effect a single parent. After his children grew up and left, he sold the family house and lived increasingly in unadvertised and uncomplaining poverty in a south London flat without a telephone, analysing and presenting the history of communism with erudition and undiminished ardour, but without optimism.

Monty passed his last four years in deteriorating health, physically and mentally. He is survived by his children Christina, Michael and Laura, who had helped him in these difficult later times. A poem by Goethe, Edith Piaf’s Je Ne Regrette Rien and the Red Flag accompanied his funeral.

Doreen Massey and Hilary Wainwright write: Monty Johnstone was an extraordinarily understated person. We knew him for many years, including as fellow trustees of the Lipman-Miliband Trust (which gives modest grants for “education in socialist ideas”), and it was only gradually that we learnt the depth and extent of his knowledge of the history of communism – the Soviet Union in particular – Marxist theory and contemporary leftwing debate.

This encyclopaedic knowledge would come out in comments, sometimes wry, sometimes just informative, always shrewd. Clearly, he reflected deeply on this wealth of experience and drew lessons for present-day debates and strategic thinking. It gave him an independence of mind and an ability to combine commitment with a complete absence of dogma or sectarianism. He was always fascinating to listen to as he spoke unassumingly about historic people and events, many of which he had witnessed.

He always arrived by bicycle and was contactable by letter only, which reinforced the feeling of dedication and simplicity, but absolutely not worthiness or puritanism, that surrounded him. We shall both miss his contribution, his humour, his modesty and his wealth of knowledge and wise judgment.

· Alastair Montague (Monty) Johnstone, communist thinker, born November 20 1928; died June 22 2007

Thursday August 23, 2007
The Guardian

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