Category Archives: democratic accountability
If any one doubts that the Irish working classes have been at the fore in their opposition to the Lisbon Treaty, they need only look at how adjoining constituencies in Dublin voted. Dublin South – mainly middle-class – 62.9% Yes, 37.1% No, Dublin South-West – which has a majority of working-class people voted 65.1%- No, 34.9%-Yes
It is hardly surprising that on this issue there is such a clear class divide, for unlike a section of the middle classes who still have their snouts in the EU gravy train, although how much longer this will last is any ones guess. The Irish working classes have gained least over the last few years from EU membership and in the main are firmly set against the privatization and neo liberal economics and globalization that are enshrined in the Lisbon Treaty; and which is designed to trump and replace the social Europe that would have benefited a majority of EU citizens and not just Capital and the economically rich minority.
Of course the real reason the Irish political establishment failed to gain a majority for the Lisbon Treaty was that during the campaign they were unwilling to explain the fine detail of the Treaty. This was not because it was to complex for ordinary folk, as the arrogant buggers claimed, but because they understood clearly had they done so they would have opened up a can of worms about what lay behind this wretched document, and even more people would have voted no.
Their arrogance as Ireland enters a recession smacked of desperation, as in the current political climate few people were liable to trust the very same politicians who have helped create the current economic mess and ever widening gap between the rich and economically poor. Thus the majority of the Irish electorate trusted their instincts and voted No, having decided that you cannot make a silk purse out of a sow’s ear, no matter how many times the leaders of Fianna Fáil, Fianna Gael, Labour Party, Green Party and Progressive Democrats said you could.
The NO vote against the Lisbon Treaty, confirms there is strong opposition amongst the EU citizenry regarding the democratic deficit, undemocratic methodology and neo-liberal economics upon which the EU is now being built.
The NO vote in Ireland, along with the French and Dutch NO votes against the previous constitutional treaty, should not be seen as a No against the European Union, but a radical criticism of the current policies and as support for an alternative idea of a social and democratic Europe in which people come before profit.
As the European Left Party said in a recent document, ‘there needs to be a new democratic process involving all European citizens. New contents are necessary; social and civil rights, policies of peace, cohesion and ecology, as well as civil values, which inspire the construction of Europe. And it is crucial that the people can express themselves on a new framework through a European wide referendum.’
The contract between the EU and its people needs to be completely re-negotiated, as to does the Commissions methodology. Lets hope the Irish peoples rejection of Lisbon is the first step down this road. Yes, to a social Europe and lets have no more of these grubby documents which are nothing more than an EU constitution by the back door.
Last Friday [6/6/08] I blogged an obituary of English gay rights activist Paul Patrick, In a forward to the obituary I wrote ‘One of the more unfortunately blow backs from the north of Ireland’s troubles, is that unlike the rest of western Europe, where many of the big societal issues were debated through and legislated upon from the late 1960s onwards. The north of Ireland, as far as the more prominent of these issues were concerned was passed by; and they are only now coming to the fore. In many ways the north of Ireland is still in the dark ages as far as Gay Rights, Comprehensive education and a Woman’s Right to Choose is concerned.[I could have added racism] Whilst some legislation has been placed on the Statute book, the northern political elite’s attitudes to the aforementioned issues are very reactionary, at best even progressive political party’s like Sinn Fein prefer to side step what they regard as the thorny problem of a woman’s right to choose, due to there fear of the Roman Catholic church’s reactionary influence upon a section of their electorate.
Little did I know at the very same time I was posting up Paul Patrick’s obit on Organized Rage, Iris Robinson, the wife of the north of Irelands newly nominated ‘First Minister’ Peter Robinson, and a leading Democratic Unionist Party politician in her own right, was appearing on BBC Radio Ulster’s Nolan Show condemning homosexuality as an abomination and adding helpfully, that “she knows a very lovely psychiatrist who works with me in my offices and his Christian background is that he tries to help homosexuals – trying to turn [them] away from what they are engaged in, I’m happy to put any homosexual in touch with this gentleman and I have met people who have turned around and become heterosexuals.” *
As if this was not bad enough, we now know a week previously Mrs Robinson had called for the portrayal of gay people to be banned from TV, she also complained about not being able to use the term ‘coloureds’ to describe black people.
Understandable her comments have provoked a number of articles in the Irish media and barrage of posts on web sites that cover the north of Ireland such as Slugger O’Toole.* Many of these, especially some which have come from the Unionist middle classes have supported what Mrs Robinson said, both about gays and Blacks. A small number, mainly from the fundamentalist Christian right have gone even further and not only supported Robinson’s claim that homosexuality is an abomination, but have attempted to link those who are criticizing Mrs Robinson as part of a liberal-hard left-SF conspiracy designed to deny society the right of free speech.
Sammy Morse one of the few openly gay political activist to belong to one of the north’s mainstream parties, pointed out on Slugger O’Toole that this is not simply a case of a rather silly woman expressing in a personal capacity her outdated and homophobic belief’s. As Mrs Robinson MLA is not only regarded as the first lady when her husband travels abroad on the Stormont Assembles business, but as a senior member of the Democratic Unionist Party she Chairs the Stormont Assemblies
Health Committee; and as such Sammy rightly points out as a gay man he would have no confidence that she would not allow her homophobic prejudices to influence her decisions about health care. For example he writes she might support crackpot ‘medical treatment’ for gay people.
So far there has been no official statement about Mrs Robinson’s remarks from either her party the DUP nor the Stormont administration which her husband heads, which is deafening in itself; as had similar remarks been made by a leading politician any where else in western Europe, the culprit would have been forced to eat humble pie and walk over sack cloth and ashes before being sent home permanently to reflect on their ignorance. Myself I doubt there will be much criticism from the Stormont administration as SF, whom in the past one would have expected to stand up for minorities, is these days to busy playing at mockney government to worry about standing up for the hard won rights of Gay people.
Although one does wonder if the North’s gay community will continue to allow certain Gay members of the DUP to continue to sit snug in their closet whilst their colleagues harangue gays people with talk about needing psychiatric help for the abomination which they suffer from and practice.
Still all is not doom and gloom, as some of the fiercest critics of Mrs Robinson on the web have come from within the Unionist community, if only the unionist political elite had the back bone of these people the North may just begin to move beyond the hate filled spew that came out of Iris Robinson’s mouth.
* The Royal College of Psychiatrists released a statement following the claims made by Mrs Robinson on radio. The statement said: “In light of comments made on The Nolan Show, the Royal College of Psychiatrists wishes to clarify that homosexuality is not a psychiatric disorder.” Continuing, it noted: “In 1973 the American Psychiatric Association concluded there was no scientific evidence that homosexuality was a disorder and removed it from its diagnostic glossary of mental disorders. “The International Classification of Diseases of the World Health Organization followed suit in 1992.”
Labour government by reclassifying Cannabis panders to the most reactionary elements within the media and US government.
by Mick Hall.
Just how bankrupt of ideas New Labour has become was demonstrated yesterday when the over promoted Home Secretary Jackie Smith, reclassified Cannabis back to a class B drug. Such cowardly and harmful behavior has been par for the course throughout the New Labour governments period in office. For whenever they have come under the lash of the right wing media due to a societal problem they have always use administrative means to appease their reactionary media critics, whilst refusing to confront the core of the problem.
The UK already has some of the harshest laws within the EU against the possession and supply of illegal drugs, yet far from reducing the number of people who take recreational drugs these laws have become part of the problem. Our jails are full to bursting due to these draconian drug laws and thousands of young people are having their lives ruined, not by the drugs and narcotics they experiment with, but due to the governments infantile over reaction.
Rather than looking at the overall picture as people like Professor Colin Blakemore are calling for, the government looks to PC plod and the law to solve the problems of illegal drug use. Which is farcical as history has proved draconian laws have very little affect on the numbers of people taking hard and soft drugs. Indeed Pro Blackmore, the former head of the Medical Research Council, said that cannabis use had fallen since 2004 when the law was liberalized and Cannabis was downgraded to a class C drug; and restoring the drug to class B status would be unlikely to protect those people who were most vulnerable, [such as those with a psychiatric illness] but it would increase their chance of getting a criminal record. He went on to say, “The confusion over cannabis highlights the need for a proper overhaul of the present classification system, which the public neither understands or respects.” *
Drug-Scope, the leading drugs information charity, said in a statement that it was disappointed the government had ignored the ACMD’s advice: “Unfortunately, the message given by this decision is that drugs policy can be driven as much by political considerations, media headlines and scare stories as by the evidence.”
Even the government’s own scientific advisers last night warned the Home Secretary, that her decision to upgrade the legal status of cannabis would not work in curbing its widespread abuse. Professor Sir Michael Rawlins, chair of the Advisory Council on the Misuse of Drugs (ACMD), said moving cannabis from class C to class B “is neither warranted, nor will it achieve its desired effect.”
The ACMD, the government’s own expert body on drugs, decided by 20 votes to three to recommend that cannabis remain a class C drug. Its nine-month review concluded that while more potent, homegrown strains of herbal cannabis, such as skunk, now dominate the British market, the evidence of a substantial link with mental illness remains weak.
Rawlins said that the government had the right to consider other factors but warned that reclassification would make little difference to the levels of consumption: “We know that for people who smoke cannabis, it makes no difference to them whether it is class A, B or C. What is important is a really vigorous public health response.”
About the only figure to welcome the reclassification decision was the Tory shadow home secretary, right winger David Davis, which just about says it all, as it is clear Ms Smith and the New Labour government is pandering to the worse of the reactionary media and conservative right wing bigots like Mr Davies. That these New Labour politicians still believe there are votes in cracking down on those who take recreational drugs just shows how little they understand about the constituency they are pledged to serve.
Again the Brown Government is using a societal problem to introduce laws that can and will be mainly aimed at working class people. Once again it will be the working classes and their children who will feel the backlash from this reclassification. Instead of turning the pockets out of working class youngsters and raiding small time inner city dealers, the police should turn their attention to the drug use within the City of London and within public corporations like the BBC. Drug use is allegedly rife in the dealing rooms of the cities major banks and the newsrooms of the mainstream media, but no suggestion of compulsory drug test there, despite the importance to the nation of what goes on in these organizations. Such test are reserved for the underclass that inhabit our prisons or the pupils who attend sink schools
Of course what is really needed is some innovative thinking as far as illegal drugs are concerned, but this is unlikely to happen for two reasons. Firstly neither the Labour Government or Conservative opposition would consider going beyond the strict guidelines set by the US government for its allies as far our drug laws and drug treatment methods are concerned. Secondly far to many influential middle class professionals gain a very good living out of the illegality of recreational drugs and it also allows governments and the home office to have a handy bogeyman about the place when it comes to justifying larger budgets for the police, military and security services.
Yesterday Turkish workers were attacked by riot police as they attempted to defy their government decision to ban them from celebrating May day in Istanbul’s Taksim Square. Below are a number of reports of the events that unfolded yesterday, which I have collated from the mainstream Turkish press, when reading these remember that they were taken from the bourgeois media.
Turkish government claims workers May day celebration is a threat to national security.
Thousands of police were stationed in the center of İstanbul yesterday to block access to its Taksim Square after three trade union confederations pledged to mobilize up to 500,000 people in defiance of an official ban. Masked protesters threw bricks at the lines of riot police and some attacked police officers with stones and Molotov cocktails. Armored vehicles sprayed protesters with water cannon and police fired tear gas. More than 500 people were detained; at least six policemen as well as dozens of demonstrators were injured in the protests. Store owners in the Taksim area closed their businesses for the day out of fear that they may get hurt.
Some marginal left-wing groups attacked police stations; they also damaged public property and set alight city buses. A group of 100 marginal protestors stoned businesses and ATM machines in the Taksim area. A group near Harbiye threw cobblestones at police officers. In Osmanbey protestors stoned a police car with a civilian license plate. Individuals at the Confederation of Revolutionary Workers’ Unions (DİSK) headquarters threw objects at the police from inside the building.
The outlawed Revolutionary People’s Liberation Party/Front (DHKP/C) brought its members to participate in illegal May Day demonstrations in İstanbul from eastern provinces. Clashes erupted between DHKP/C members and the police in the back streets of Taksim. The police used gas on a large number of protestors who had set up a barricade around the Dolapdere area.
Thousands of police lined the streets after Turkish unions defied the government and said they would hold May Day celebrations in Taksim, which was a scene of violent protests decades ago.
However, by noon, all union confederations announced that their May Day celebrations were over and did not appeal to their members to go to Taksim Square. Despite that, a group of about 300 people trying to make their way to Taksim were subject to harsh treatment by the police in the central Şişli district around noon.
Leaders of DİSK, the Confederation of Public Sector Trade Unions (KESK) and the Confederation of Turkish Labor Unions (Türk-İş) made a joint statement in front of the DİSK headquarters. “We wanted to meet in Taksim to voice our remarks in a joyful festivity. Now, all squares have become Taksim,” Çelebi said, announcing that union leaders had decided to end the demonstrations.
Çelebi also said unions displayed a great deal of common sense on May 1 this year. “In order not to become an instrument to the provocation of this government, we are ending the demonstration, in line with common sense, at this point. But we will continue to hold the government accountable for its deeds,” he said.
He also said the Justice and Development Party (AK Party) was only worried about a single freedom: “This May 1 only goes to show how two-faced the AK Party is. They have no concern for freedoms other than that of the headscarf.”
Referring to the unusually strict security measures around the Taksim area, Çelebi said the square was under siege, with laborers being stuck in their vehicles or homes since the governor’s office closed off many routes and canceled bus and ferry routes for the day. “But they are all celebrating May 1 wherever they are. I would like to congratulate all of them from here,” he said.
In a similar speech, KESK President İsmail Hakkı Tombul also called for an end to demonstration in Şişli without reaching Taksim. According to Tombul, as many as 900 union members were detained by the police yesterday.
In a press conference held in the late afternoon, Labor Minister Faruk Çelik thanked the union leaders for calling off the protests in Taksim.
President Abdullah Gül shared his opinion with reporters in response to a question on how he evaluated the ban at a time when Turkey was negotiating with the European Union for membership. “With or without the EU, the rights of the workers should always be protected. Bringing Turkey’s political, economic and social standards to EU norms is a policy that Turkey has been following with determination. Today, I saw that at the end of the day, common sense prevailed. I hope we will get to speak about these matters in a calmer manner in future years.”
In the afternoon, a group of about 150 people representing the unions, who were allowed access to Taksim, laid a wreath to commemorate those killed on May Day in 1977.
Taksim under police blockade
Riot police teams used clubs, tear gas and water cannons on Thursday to break up crowds of protestors trying to reach Taksim.
Officials set up barricades in and around the square, where May Day celebrations have been banned since 1977, when unknown gunmen opened fire on demonstrators, killing 37 people – most of who died in the resultant stampede.
Police wearing gas masks first broke up a crowd which had gathered in front of a labor union office with the intention of walking to Taksim. Workers ran into the building and police blockaded it, preventing them from leaving.
“Circumstances of war were in place in İstanbul today,” said Çelebi, the leader of DİSK.
Journalists and people trying to get to work were affected by tear gas and could be seen coughing or covering their mouths and noses.
Workers trying to reach Taksim shouted “Long live May 1!” and “Everywhere is Taksim!”
“İstanbul is like a war zone, like a city occupied by foreign forces,” Ufuk Uras, a member of Parliament and the leader of a small left-wing Freedom and Democracy Party (ÖDP), told reporters. “How can the government see its workers as a security threat?” he said, criticizing the government’s ban on Taksim.
Last week, the government agreed to commemorate workers on May Day but rejected requests for the day to be a public holiday and for festivities to be held in Taksim.
Turkey had stopped marking May 1 as Labor Day after the 1980 military coup, whose leaders regarded the festivities as an opportunity for leftist activism.
Labor unions gradually resumed marking the day after the coup. Some demonstrations turned violent when protesters tried to enter Taksim to commemorate the workers who died in 1977. Last year, hundreds of demonstrators were detained.
The government reinforced the İstanbul police force with teams from other cities. A police helicopter hovered above the city center.
Deputies, civil society support May Day protestors
A group of about 100 people including Freedom and Democracy Party (ÖDP) leader Ufuk Uras, pro-Kurdish Democratic Society People (DTP) deputies Hasip Kaplan and Akın Birdal and a delegation from the Turkish Doctors Union (TBB) and other civil society organizations gathered in front of the Sisli branch of the CHP to mark May Day. The group, on its way from the CHP building to the Confederation of Revolutionary Workers’ Union (DİSK) headquarters was stopped several times at different points by the security process. The group chanted slogans calling on the AK Party to resign from government.
After the speeches in front of DİSK headquarters, DİSK leader Çelebi, DTP deputies Sebahat Tuncel, Aysel Tuğluk, Akın Birdal and Sırrı Sakık, TBB President Gencay Gürsoy and Confederation of Public Sector Trade Unions (KESK) leader İsmail Hakkı Tombul started walking to Taksim Square to lay a wreath for the victims of the 1977 May Day who were killed under fire opened by unknown attackers. The procession marched under heavy security.
CHP and Democratic Left Party (DPS) deputies also expressed support for the protestors in İstanbul.
Labor Minister Faruk Çelik remains tough on government stance
Labor Minister Faruk Çelik made a speech yesterday calling for common sense, he told journalists on the grounds of Parliament. Stressing that Turkey is a state of law, Çelik said the government had previously announced that the Taksim area would be banned for May Day demonstrators.
He said his party was not against May 1 celebrations. “To the contrary, we have pursued a positive initiative on May 1,” he said, recalling that the government passed a decision commemorating May Day as Labor Day in Turkey, but with no official holiday. The holiday was official in Turkey until the coup d’état on Sept. 12, 1980, whose leaders saw Labor Day as an opportunity for leftist activism. “Next year, we will celebrate this in a more mature way. But we wouldn’t like to see scenes where windows are smashed, the police are stoned, and the like. We wanted that to be over; this is why we took that step,” he said.
CHP blame government for May Day tension
Deputy leaders of the CHP’s parliamentary group, Kemal Anadol, Kemal Kılıçdaroğlu and Hakkı Süha Okay, have said the government bears full responsibility for the incidents that broke out during May Day celebrations in İstanbul on Thursday. In a written statement the three said: “May 1, 2008 has revealed the true face of the AK Party. It has shown clearly that it is not on the side of the workers and labor.” Police, blocking all streets leading to Taksim Square, also dispersed groups of workers trying to enter the square through various entrances, firing tear gas and beating some demonstrators with clubs. Some demonstrators were seen throwing rocks at police.
SA dockers refusal to unload Zimbabwe arms shipment, immeasurably more important than than huffing and puffing by world leaders.
We should not underestimate the importance of the action taken by South African dockers against the Chinese vessel the An Yue Jiang, which had docked in the South African port of Durban’s carrying a cargo of seventy seven tonnes of weapons for Robert Mugabe government in Zimbabwe.
Despite the South African president Thabo Mbeki and his African National Congress (ANC) government decaring the seventy seven tonnes of weapons for the Mugabe government aboard the An Yue Jiang were legal cargo and would be transported 1000 miles overland northwards to Zimbabwe. The Durban dockers and port police refused to unload the cargo.
The South African government gave customs clearance for the weapons, which include more than three million rounds of AK-47 rifle ammunition, 1500 rocket-propelled grenades and more than 3000 mortar rounds and launchers. But Randall Howard, general secretary of the South African Transport and Allied Workers Union (Satawu), to which the Durban dockers belong, warned: “As far as we are concerned, the containers will not be offloaded. The ship must return to China. If they the Mbeki government bring replacement labour to do the work, our members will not stand and look at them and smile.”
South Africa’s police trade union warned Mbeki, widely seen as sympathetic to Mugabe, against using policemen as “scab” labour.
“The dockers have good reasons for not offloading the ship,” said Benz Soko, spokesman for the Police and Prisons Civil Rights Union (Popcru). “We understand their objection.”
South Africa is seen as the one country that could bring the Mugabe government to its knees and force it to hold truly free and fair elections that could see opposition movements take power. They would be faced with reconstructing a country with 1650% inflation, 82% unemployment and the world’s lowest life expectancy among women – 34 years, against nearly 60 at independence in 1980.*
The An Yue Jiang eventually left the port of Durban with its cargo of arms intact in its hold, its whereabouts is currently not known. The Mozambiquen and Angolian governments followed the example set by the South African dockers and refused the ship entry into their ports. If the An Yue Jiang is unable to find a port in southern Africa to offload its consignment of Chinese weapons and ammunition for onward transport to Zimbabwe it is thought the Chinese government will order it to return home.
The refusal of the SA dockers and police to unload the vessal may yet come to be seen as a turning point in the struggle to bring an end to the 29 year Mugabe regime; and will come to be regarded as immeasurably more important than all the huffing and puffing by so-called world leaders and news media.*
* Additional information from Tim O.