Cameron signals that “extremism” is to become catch-all term for dissent

I give you this (via Islamophobia Watch) from the Express:

In a speech to the Community Security Trust, which helps protect the Jewish community from anti-semitic attacks […] Mr Cameron said that extremism was not confined to any particular religious or ethnic group. “During protests against the conflict in Lebanon, we witnessed the nauseating sight of well-scrubbed, middle class English people marching through central London holding placards that read ‘We are all Hizbollah’. That is the extremist mindset in action.”

English people who marched in solidarity with the Lebanese people as they suffered a devastating full-scale assault on their country and recognised their right to defend themselves against invasion = extremists.

But English people who marched in solidarity with the people of Israel as their government bombed civilian infrastructure in Lebanon and invaded the country – not extremists.

In other words, if you give vocal support to those people resisting imperialism and colonialism you are an extremist…

I think Cameron is signalling the direction he would be willing to travel, namely: in future, if you oppose US/UK-backed wars you will be labelled an “extremist”…

And with Cameron, perhaps there will be more UK/US wars, like those in Iraq and Afghanistan. After all, this is a man who has already expressed tacitly his willingness to go along with bombing Iran if the US decides.

Gutless Brown is willing to see hostages killed

“We will do everything in our power to secure our objective, which is the immediate release of the hostages.”

But…

“The taking of hostages is completely unjustified, wholly unacceptable and we are making it clear they will not change our policy in any way.”

Lest you miss the point, dear reader, I have emphasised the key message: we’ll do everything to save the hostages lives, except that which will bring them home alive as that would damage US or British imperial power.

Supposedly, the seven month delay by Brown was due to Foreign Office fears of a repeat of the kidnappings of Ken Bigley and Margaret Hassan, in which the hostage did not survive. I doubt this very much. The FO’s request to the media to keep the story quiet – which was obeyed, as you’d expect – has allowed Brown to dodge the issue of Iraq.

Most people in the UK want the armed forces to come home safely. Why not do it now and save five civilians, too?

Sadly, there’s not much chance of this happening. New Labour cares not for public opinion. Just look at the way Brown is backing US threats against Iran, despite US intelligence debunking claims by the Bush administration that the Iranian nuclear energy programme disguises a nuclear weapons programme.

What Brown conveys is that neither the British nor American government has any intention of leaving Iraq. Yes, power is being handed to the puppet Iraqi government, but there has been a 2% increase in spending by the British government on the Iraq mission, despite the reduction in troop numbers.

Considering his ascension to the office of prime minister was supposed to mark a change of policy with regard to the UK/US “special realtionship”, this untimely intervention reveals that Brown has no interest in saving the lives of the hostages. Why else wait until the hostage-takers had made public their intentions and demands?

I fear that the hostages will not survive long; not without Brown doing something brave for once in his pathetic life, and bringing all UK service men and women home from Iraq.

Referenda, rights, war!

[Thursday]

I thought the whole constitutonal reform agenda was just something to keep Jack Straw busy, but it appears it’s a sideshow to the real constitutional reform which is taking place in Europe:

A referendum would be “inevitable” if plans to give the UK a written constitution go ahead, a minister says.

Justice minister Michael Wills said any “fundamental alteration in the powers of Parliament” was likely to make a vote by the public necessary.

He spoke after the government said a written constitution could be introduced following wide consultation.

The issue of the European Union – a militarised multinational capitalist state in the making – is more pressing. Here’s an example:

The European Union’s highest court has said a German law protecting carmaker Volkswagen from takeovers is illegal.

Under the “Volkswagen Law” any shareholder in VW could not exercise more than 20% of voting rights, even if their stake in the firm was bigger.

The European Court of Justice said the law discouraged foreign investors from taking a stake in Volkswagen.

[…]

The European Court of Justice also rejected the right of the German government to appoint members to the VW board.

The federal government has said that it will move quickly to change the law.

I imagine that if Brown’s “British liberties” get in the way of the free movement of capital, the government will be just as subservient.

For all the talk of parliament getting powers to vote on the deployment of armed forces, Brown was quick to back the latest move towards war with Iran:

Says Brownie: “I will rule nothing out“.

I think what I’m trying to say is that the Brown government is full of shit and Gordon is the biggest turd of them all. A little crude, but true, wouldn’t you say?

But if we’re going to talk about rights, why not start with workers’ rights?

These were not given by the British ruling class, but fought for over centuries, and despite opposing the anti-union laws introduced by the Tories when in opposition, Labour has yet to undo the damage to working people (for obvious reasons).

John McDonnell’s Trade Union Rights and Freedoms Bill is being read in the Commons for a second time on Friday. It will be interesting to see what John’s reaction to the inevitable will be – he has already admitted that there’s no prospect of “reclaiming” Labour (whatever that means), will he do something a bit risky and split?

No nukes or prescription charges for Scotland, free school meals and social housing instead!

[Tuesday]

If the British ruling class have any plans to back the US in bombing Iran over its nuclear energy programme, they should think again. It could cost the Union…

The SNP/Green Scottish government is keen to push for nuclear disarmament, which is actually a stated aim of the UK Labour government.

First Minister Alex Salmond is seeking support from the international community in his campaign to rid Scotland of nuclear weapons.

He has written to representatives of 189 countries signed up to the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT).

Mr Salmond is asking them to back his bid for Scotland to have observer status at future treaty talks.

Labour MP Eric Joyce said the letter could “potentially damage our national security interests”.

[…]

Mr Joyce, the MP for Falkirk, said that the UK had very complex relationships with some countries such as Iran and Zimbabwe.

Ah yes, complex relations. In the case of Iran, the British government has in the past intervened with the US to depose a democratically-elected government; as for Zimbabwe, it is a former colony to which the UK government did not meet its commitments and has helped cripple its economy with sanctions.

But neither state threatens the interests of any of the nations in the “United Kingdom”…

What are the other objections?

David Cairns, the Scotland Office minister, says that Alex Salmond should be sorting out the free personal care instead of “cavorting across the world stage with his discredited loony-left policies” and giving comfort to our enemies. Well, they are also his loony policies, since Labour is still formally committed to pursuing “multilateral nuclear disarmament” under a defence policy which dates from the late 1980s.

Well, it looks like the matter of freebies hasn’t escpaed the Scottish Health Secretary:

Charges for prescriptions are to be abolished within four years, Health Secretary Nicola Sturgeon has pledged.

The deputy first minister said some people were being forced to go without vital medication because they could not afford to pay.

And there’s more:

Primary pupils are starting to receive free school meals as part of a pilot project in five parts of Scotland.
The scheme for all children in the first three years of school is under way in Glasgow and West Dunbartonshire.

They will be followed in the coming days and weeks by schools in East Ayrshire, Fife and the Borders.

The Scottish Government has invested £5m in the pilot scheme, with about 8,500 additional pupils expected to take up the offer in Glasgow alone.

The city already has free fruit, milk and mains-fed water coolers in its schools.

The six-month pilot has been set up to see if providing a nutritious lunch for all children could help improve their diets.

It all sounds very “Old Labour”, doesn’t it? Okay, the SNP are objectively a party of big business, but they are committed to winning independence for Scotland, and to this end will push the limits of devolution and provide reforms for working people to win them over to independence…

With measures like this:

The SNP government will consider a ban on the sale of new council and housing association homes.

A Scottish Government source said it would consult on the option, which would only affect those tenants moving to new-build homes.

The option will be contained in the government’s housing green paper, which should be published in coming weeks.

Now, this shows two things:

1. Socialists north of the border need to work together to ensure that these progressive reforms are implemented. This means some kind of conciliation between Solidarity and the Scottish Socialist Party.

2. Devolution can stall the neo-liberal agenda and allow a return to social democratic politics and reforms to benefit working people, which is why socialists should back a parliament for England.

Here endeth the lecture.

Did Murdoch cause Brown to cancel planned election?

[Monday]

Given that the tax-dodging media baron was staying at Chequers this weekend, I think we have a right to ask if Murdoch signalled to Brown that if he didn’t call a referendum on the EU, there would be no support forthcoming from the Sun. It might just be a coincidence that Brown has postponed the election for at least fifteen months, and reiterated his position on the EU consti-treaty.

I don’t particularly mind that Murdoch is pushing for a referendum – it would be a great leap for democratic participation and is a popular demand. Naturally, his reasons for opposing the EU are not because it is undemocratic – rather, Murdoch fears his press and TV empire would fall foul of anti-monopoly action if Britain was part of a European superstate.

Anything other than an overwhelming victory for Labour a general election would led to a referendum on the consti-treaty going ahead – and perhaps Brown would have been forced to do a U-turn on his “no referendum” line in order to get shot of Europe as an election issue.

Since Brown put paid to rumours of a general election on Saturday, the Tories have slammed Brown for bottling it, though no one believes they were really up for an election either. The Liberals have taken the opportunity to push for fixed-terms (a key demand of the Chartists, of which, more later) and though I doubt that anything will come of it, no one could argue that it is right that the PM can decide when to call an election. Brown has used this power to successfully silence dissent and crush democracy in the Labour Party – it only back-fired when the Tories united at their conference around a (soon to be stolen) platform of tax-cuts, prompting the PM’s trip to Iraq.

Today, Gordon Brown faced a press conference of journalists (to deny he was swayed by polls) and then the House of Commons, where he announced troop withdrawals (again!) and was forced to defend the continuation of (what is seen as) his predecessor’s war in Iraq.

Meanwhile, thousands of people turned up to demand the total withdrawal of UK forces from the Middle East. An “illegal” march to Westminster went ahead because, despite police threats to use an arcane anti-Chartist law from 1839 which protects MPs returning to parliament, people turned up in larger-than-expected numbers. Given the celebrities taking part, and the government’s support for the monks demonstrating in Myanmar who faced brutal repression, it was inevitable that the police would give in.

So, thankfully tear gas and rubber bullets did not greet peaceful protesters in London. But then again, since the march passed off peacefully, it hasn’t been as widely reported as events in Rangoon…

Perhaps you are thinking that it was a waste of time protesting to bring our young men and women home. Isn’t it enough that the government is slowly pulling out of Iraq? No, the opposite in fact – the pressure must be kept up as the pro-war Tories and anti-war(ish) Liberals are supporting Brown in his “overwatch in Iraq, surge in Afghanistan” policy, and word is that the PM would be sympathetic to US plans for a war with Iran if conditional on Iran firing the first shot. He’s not ruling anything out, though.

Oh, by the way, Brown was asked if he shared his mate Alan Greenspan’s view on the motive of the war in Iraq. Obviously, he said no, he thinks the former Fed Chairman is wrong. He will be hoping Greenspan is wrong about the UK economy, too…

Tonight, Panorama reported on the UK’s sub-prime crisis. So much for the end of boom and bust:

The market for high interest sub-prime mortgages has been booming and it now accounts for about 8% of the total UK mortgage market.

But a survey of more than 7,000 court hearings over the past three months – carried out jointly by BBC programmes Panorama and Five Live Report – has found that lenders who specialise in these mortgages or offer them as part of their business disproportionately make up over 70% of all repossession cases.

Benn to defy ban and march, Brown to defy marchers and bomb

[Monday]

Okay. Seymour Hersch has dropped another bombshell:

The bombing plan has had its most positive reception from the newly elected government of Britain’s Prime Minister, Gordon Brown. A senior European official told me, “The British perception is that the Iranians are not making the progress they want to see in their nuclear-enrichment processing. All the intelligence community agree that Iran is providing critical assistance, training, and technology to a surprising number of terrorist groups in Iraq and Afghanistan, and, through Hezbollah, in Lebanon, and Israel/Palestine, too.”

There were four possible responses to this Iranian activity, the European official said: to do nothing (“There would be no retaliation to the Iranians for their attacks; this would be sending the wrong signal”); to publicize the Iranian actions (“There is one great difficulty with this option—the widespread lack of faith in American intelligence assessments”); to attack the Iranians operating inside Iraq (“We’ve been taking action since last December, and it does have an effect”); or, finally, to attack inside Iran.

Rumours that Brown will call a general election in the next few months rather than sweat it out until 2009 can be seen in a different context if Hersch’s source is correct.

And it could be why the government isn’t too keen on the Troops Out demo to be held next Monday.

Tony Benn has today delivered a letter to the Home Secretary confirming that he will be marching on 8th October despite the attempt to use the arcane 1839 Sessional legislation to prohibit this march. The letter appears below. Tony will be joined at the front of the march by Walter Wolfgang, Brian Eno, Mark Thomas and many more people calling for the withdrawal of British troops and in defence of civil liberties.

Here’s Benn’s letter in full, with accompanying quotes from Eno and Thomas:

TO:
The Right Hon Jacqui Smith MP
Home Secretary
House of Commons
London
SW1A OAA
Monday, 1st October 2007

Dear Home Secretary,

LOBBY OF PARLIAMENT ON OCTOBER 8th

I am writing to you as President of the STOP THE WAR COALITION, to give you advance notice that there will be a demonstration in Trafalgar Square the day Parliament meets calling for the immediate withdrawal of all British troops from Iraq and Afghanistan at which I shall be speaking along with others.

Afterwards many of those present – including myself – will be marching along Whitehall to the House of Commons to meet MPs and urge them to support this call for a withdrawal, as I shall be doing in approaching Malcolm Rifkind my own local MP.

We shall be doing this in an orderly manner and I am making available to those who wish to have one, a postcard over my printed signature as a Privy Councillor, asking the police, and others to assist them.

I enclose a copy of this postcard.

The authority for this march derives from our ancient right to free speech and assembly enshrined in our history, of which we often boast and which we vigorously defended in two world wars.

I am copying this letter, and its enclosure, to Jack Straw, the Commissioner of the Metropolis, and as a courtesy, to the Prime Minister’s office.

I hope that you will be able to re-assure me that those who demonstrate and march down Whitehall will enjoy your full support and the support of the police.

But it is only fair to tell you that the march will go ahead, in any case, and I will be among those marching.

Yours in peace
TONY BENN

If they are planning an Iranian attack they will have a public even more upset and disgruntled than before. This is what this tightening up is about. Civil liberties never seem very important until you need them. At times like this we need to be re-enforcing them — Brian Eno

This is rather a ham-fisted attempt to prevent us from demonstrating. What they (the government and police) do is up to them. We will just ignore them and we have the moral and logical high-ground. I will be marching on Monday, 8th October — Mark Thomas

Defeated in Iraq, and on EU?

[Monday]

Finally it happens. The British Army retreats from Basra City to the airport. Surely the next step would be to fly the remaining service personnel home to safety? (When it happens, it will not be for long – Afghanistan awaits them.)

It is now clear that Britain is slowly exiting Iraq. What remains is the battle over who lost the occupation. The former head of the British Army, General Sir Mike Jackson, is in no doubt that it was the fault of the American government, and Major General Tim Cross is in agreement. The American government is publicly blaming interference from Iran (which is rich, coming from the American government). It seems that in private, the Bush administration is pointing the finger at Britain. The resistance in Iraq derives mainly from the Iraqi people, and blaming Iran helps build the American case for intervention in the affairs of Iraq’s next-door-neighbour.

The row between this troubled couple, Britain and America, is akin to two bald men fighting over a comb that doesn’t even exist. The imaginary comb – grateful Iraqis prostrating themselves to American imperialism – was dreamt up by the marketing boys in the States. And now that the armed forces are exiting Iraq, the Tories are talking up a full inquiry, threatening to revisit the lies of the past. This might just be pre-election blether, but it could be seriously damaging to Anglo-American relations if an official investigation into the invasion of Iraq ever takes place. Will the notion of “humanitarian” aggression survive the break-up of the special relationship?

Will the relationship even end? It would appear that the British ruling class has a choice between the United States and the European Union.* Getting closer to allies in Europe now means integration into a multinational state. The European constitution, rejected in France and Holland, has returned as a “treaty”. Pressure is on Brown to allow a public vote, as promised in the days when the “amending treaty” was called by its rightful name.

Again opportunistically, the Tories are calling for the referendum to go ahead. Some New Labour ministers are said to be supportive, but all must be praying that another country rejects the “treaty” first – there is no way, short of widespread fraud, that a public vote could return anything other than an overwhelming “no”.

Keith Vaz, the former Europe minister, has already called for the referendum to go ahead. Perhaps he values New Labour’s hegemony in Westminster more than a capitalist superstate in Europe. Perhaps he knows something we don’t.

The difficulty over Europe could be the reason why Douglas Alexander officially and clearly denied there were plans for a snap election. Other motives might include the anger felt by the labour movement at Brown’s continuation of New Labour’s neo-liberal agenda. Perhaps if Brown can ride out the conference season and deal with the Europe issue, he will be ready to call a general election in the spring of next year.

Or perhaps he’s planning to wait two and a half years? Who knows.

What is certain is that the ruling class is taken with Brown’s style: continued class collaboration, rather than confrontation. The Tories might have promised to hold back an attack on the public sector for a few years if they win the next election, but Brown is better placed to hold back working class militantcy.

* Whilst rewriting the CPB’s manifesto I came across the following observation:

Although one side of British imperialist interests dictates the necessity for an alliance with US imperialism, another side of those interests dictates the need for closer unity with the West European imperialist powers grouped inside the European Union.

It isn’t an “either or” scenario for the British bourgeoisie, but as it becomes ever more clear that the US is in terminal decline, Europe looks like the best option. Hence my wondering about Brown making a tacit turn against America in the event of a referendum on the European consti-treaty.