Friday, 21 December 2007

Dreaming of a Red Christmas! Seasons Greetings from Cardiff RESPECT

Another year gone. Good friends we've lost.
As we march out of 2007 and onwards into a new year, let's hope that 2008 will be a red hot year of protest and action to save the planet, reverse neoliberalism and build a better world.
Across the universe, empire is facing cataclysmic defeat in Iraq and Afghanistan, but when a rat's in a corner it doesn't just give up the fight and die but rather becomes more nasty and vicious, so expect to see an escalation of racism against asylum seekers and the demonisation of muslims, and the stepping up of agression towards Iran.
One sign of hope is on the continent of Latin America where rejection of neoliberalism is profound, we extend our fraternal greetings to our comrades across the world aiming to build "socialism in the 21st Century".
In this season of nativity plays our hearts are in Bethlehem where our brothers and sisters will spend Xmas under the heel of occupation.
Throughout this year Cardiff RESPECT has been active in the struggle on jobs, against Trident and war, trying to build a movement to save the planet, and in the frontline in the battle to resist and thwart the globalisers and their henchmen in Downing Street, Cardiff Bay and Washington.

If you are against war, racism, privatisation and the destruction of the environment and want to spend 2007 helping to build a socialist alternative to the 4 capitalist parties in Wales - New Labour, Plaid, LibDems and the Tories - email:

"In a dark time, the eyes begin to see"

Tuesday, 18 December 2007

Building a Broad Anti-Capitalist Party in France

He seems to be everywhere. Olivier Besancenot has a prominence in the political arena that now goes beyond his wildest dreams. RESPECT has fraternal links with his party the LCR who are now attempting to build a broad party in France to link those against war, racism, privatisation and the destruction of the environment

This is a far cry from the time when Alain Krivine presented his young protegé, the future presidential candidate, to the press, saying: “Isn’t he nice?” Six years later, this chubby little Tintin face is now ubiquitous on the left, on the TV screen with Canal+ or i-Télé, on the radio waves, and in the columns of Le Parisien … He even takes pride of place in a double page spread in Paris Match, sitting on a stool in an 18th District [Clichy/Montmartre] bistro, posing beneath a photo-portrait of Che Guevara. And the ultimate tribute: a team from “Groland”, a satirical programme with a big youth following, turned out for his last meeting in Paris on 22 November at the Mutualité hall.

The popularity polls, which place him just behind Ségolène Royal and Bertrand Delanoë [Parti socialiste, Mayor of Paris], have become accustomed to this rapid media breakthrough. First it was the BVA poll, which gave the young postworker a 40%-favourable rating, just behind the Mayor of Paris, then the Ipsos poll, and lastly the Sofres poll. Olivier Besancenot, 33 years old, now competes with major figures in the Parti socialiste [PS] for prime position on the Left. That would seem to show that his party, the Ligue communiste révolutionnaire (LCR), is right to claim that it has become “the sole beacon of socialism in the midst of a Left that has collapsed”.

At his meetings, his mentors, Alain Krivine and François Sabado, who not so very long ago had him repeat their scripts, are now placed on the second rank, as onlookers delighted at their success story. “He’s very good”, they keep repeating, when the young leader thrills his audience by insisting that he wants them to be “the Left that sticks to its guns”, set against the PS, which is “nowhere” and which will have to “relearn the habit of carrying placards on demos”. Even those who have only ever seen the “League” at the political margins can now take delight in this

After thirty years of standing Krivine as their candidate, these older members decided they’d have to take a gamble on recognising the “generation gap” if they wanted to be able to compete with the popularity of “Arlette” (Laguillier) [the candidate of Lutte Ouvrière]. The results they obtained in 2002 (4.27% of the vote) and especially the 4.08% of the vote in the Presidential Election of May 2007 (twice the vote of Laguiller or of Buffet, the Communist Party candidate), have outstripped all their predictions and have decisively placed Besancenot at the head of the radical Left.

Over the past month, they seem to have moved on a further stage and established themselves in direct competition with a PS that has become too pragmatic and which no longer knows how to put clear water between itself and the Right. “The PS doesn’t represent any alternative, and has left a vacuum which Besancenot now fills”, says Vincent Tiberj, Research Fellow at Cevipof, the Political Research Centre of Sciences Po [a political-science university institute in Paris]. This phenomenon has become more marked in the wake of the Presidential Election. An IFOP opinion poll commissioned by Le Journal du dimanche, and published on 2 November, shows that 7% of those interviewed would vote today for Besancenot. The surge in support is particularly strong among among manual workers (12%) and clerical workers (11%). “The PS seems to lack any line or leader that it can put up against Sarkozy. On the Left, only the postie [i.e. Besancenot] remains as the opposition”, according to the analysis of Jérôme Fourquet, director of IFOP.

Besancenot remains a militant and, since the end of the summer holiday period, he has been trying to stick as closely as possible to the course taken by working class struggle. He is everywhere, among the homeless on the rue de la Banque, at a demonstration supporting “users of the Postal Service”, at Colombes for a press conference against the EPR nuclear power station. When he has his say in the television studios, he always mentions an example of “workers in struggle” with whom he has met just beforehand. Playtex, Yoplait, Nestlé, Citroën or Well … He conveys the anger of workers and the demands of those who have been pushed to their limit.

A strike breaks out in the SNCF? He is the first to come out in public to offer his support to the railway workers, rushing down the day before the strike began to the depot at Sotteville-lès-Rouen to ask “the guys to stand firm”. The railway workers received him like one of their own. Alongside the marches during the big demonstrations in Paris, he was given cheers: “Hold out, Olivier! You’re not alone.” In the union offices, his interviews were now being pinned up on the notice boards: “He was already popular, but here he was just brilliant”, says his friend from the 18th District, Basile Pot, switchman at the Gare de l’Est. “There is so much confusion in the way the PS expresses itself politically that people can identify with his straight talk”, says Annick Coupé, spokesperson for Solidaires, the union grouping that comprises the various SUD sections [a militant rank-and-file based union movement that has grown over the past 20 years]. “He had the intelligence to see that there was a political space left empty” as Communist Party deputy Patrick Braouezec concedes.

From 2001 onwards, the young leader of the LCR has been able to show that he is different. There is the casual style: the dark jeans and black t-shirt he always wears, his simple and punchy way of speaking with finely honed slogans, and his stance as “just another wage earner like everybody else” which he insists on in contrast to the suits and ties of the notables. He is just as happy to advertise his friendship with the rappers Joey Starr et Monsieur R as he is to advertise his admiration for Che Guevara. “In the political arena, you get the impression that he comes from another planet”, laughs Léon Crémieux, a member of the LCR’s Central Committee.

The style may be out of place on the Left, but the younger generation is happy with it. “By drawing new causes like ecology and anti-globalisation into the arena, he’s been able to build up a base among first-time voters”, as the researcher Vincent Tiberj emphasises. Within the generation born between 1977 and 1982, Besancenot’s vote has reached 12%.

Besancenot continues to work on his “prole” and youthful niche. His public image receives the attention of his whole team. For his interviews, he chooses Le Parisien and free papers like Métro and 20 Minutes. And he prefers to reply to the enquiries of RMC Info, “a radio station of the people”, rather than the large media outlets for more general audiences. “For lots of workers, these are the only sources of information. It’s become our means of political communication”, as Léon Crémieux says by way of justification. Not to forget the radio stations based in the outlying districts, “to reach the young people in the big housing estates”.

Jonathan Walker translated this Le Monde article on Olivier Besancenot. It is republished from International Viewpoint magazine

Simultaneous No Borders Blockades to Prevent Dawn Raids on Asylum Seekers

PRESS RELEASE: 18.12.2007


“No Borders” Activists Prevent “Dawn Raids” on Children Protesters from the No Borders network are currently blockading the bases of Immigration Enforcement Officers in simultaneous actions across the country, stopping them from entering or leaving in vehicles. The protesters are currently blockading immigration reporting centres in Glasgow, Bristol and Portsmouth.

The protesters have been there since early this morning, and they have said that they will stay there until they can ensure that today, families throughout the country will be safe regardless of where they come from.

The protest coincides with the UN International Migrant's Day. In response to the growing number of attacks on family homes by the Borders and Immigration Agency, the No Borders network have taken action to expose and prevent the sinister tactic of “dawn raids” employed against families and young children.

In Bristol, the protesters were in place in time to obstrtuct bemused immigration officials, whose vehicles are now trapped in the car park. A frustrated police officer on the scene was heard to say, “how did you know a dawn raid was happening this morning?”

Dawn raids are used to gain custody of whole families in order to imprison them. Every day, doors are kicked in and families are snatched from their beds and taken to detention centres, where they are punished for seeking refuge in this country. They are taken away from their houses, jobs, schools and communities – their lives. Immigration Enforcement Officers come in the middle of the night as the children and their parents sleep in bed, and have not left to go to school or work. It also ensures no witnesses are present. There are no official statistics as to the number and regularity of these raids because the government will not release the figures. But the fleets of vehicles which have been blockaded this morning and the harrowing personal accounts of families indicate large-scale capacity.

Today No Borders have highlighted just a few of these bases, which are hidden around the country.

Simon Summerhill of the No Borders network said, “we are here to expose what the government is doing – breaking down doors and snatching children from their beds in the middle of the night. Some children go to school, others go to prison. Immigration officers regularly target the vulnerable- families, children and the ill or traumatised, in order to boost their official figures of deportations.”

Asylum seeking children are denied the human rights that all other children have. These rights include the right to go to school, the right to privacy, the right to family life (as established by the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child, 1989). Under UK laws, children seeking asylum can be sent to jail and are often denied the right to education.

No Borders maintains that a legal system which divides between children that have human rights and those that do not, is institutionally racist. To deny a child the right to education because of their background is racist, just as to deny an adult the right to work because of their background is racist.

Nikki Dickinson of No Borders: “This is institutionalised child abuse. They take kids who have already been traumatised and cause them even more distress. The effects of snatch raids, detention and deportation on children are unmeasurable. The families have often been settled in an area for years, and their removal affects the community around them- family members left behind, friends and teachers at school, neighbours.”

Notes to editors

1.No Borders is a coalition of groups who argue against all immigration controls and that freedom of movement is a basic human right.
2.The Scottish Executive Cabinet has recently announced its total and fundamental opposition to dawn raids - to any kind of forcible removal of children - and to detention of children. They also called for an amnesty, but they were rejected by Westminster.
3.For updates on the blockades, or for an interview with a No Borders activist, call: 07527463767

Cardiff RESPECT believes that workers of different countries have more in common with each other than their rulers. We believe that racism is a tool used by our rulers to divide and rules us. We defend the rights of migrants to live and work in this country free from harrassment.

Thursday, 13 December 2007

End Postcode Lottery for Female Victims of Violence

Each year, 3 million women across the UK experience rape, domestic violence, forced marriage, trafficking or another form of gender-based violence and there are many, many more who have suffered violence in the past. They deserve specialised support services, such as refuges and Rape Crisis Centres, yet Map of Gaps, published by the End Violence Against Women Campaign and the Equality and Human Rights Commission, graphically shows the postcode lottery in these essential services:

- A third of local authorites across the UK have no specialised services at all
- Only one in ten local authorities have services for ethnic minority women
- Most women in the UK don’t have access to a Rape Crisis Centre

Ask Gordon Brown to take urgent action to end the postcode lottery by taking a minute to sign our Downing Street e-petition here:
http://petitions. violenceservices/

Please pass this on to your networks and link the petition to your websites and blogs. To download Map of Gaps visit here

Comrade Stockhausen is Dead!

Lenin once described socialism as workers power and democracy + the electrification of the countryside. Karlheinz Stockhausen was a groundbreaking composer-philosopher of the 20th Century who used electricity to weave some of the most compelling and militant avant-garde sounds of the last 100 years and now the man is dead.

At one time, Stockhausen was named-checked by every Kraftwerk and Bjork listening pseudo-musical intellectual. For me, his electronic collages were the musical counterpart to TS Eliot's "The Wasteland" sketching out a landscape of modern distintergration that surrounded me.

Growing up in a council estate in a small market town meant that visionary and transcendental experience was sought outside of my own limited world of adolescence. Picking up a vox guitar and jacking it into an amplifier I would make weird sounds and try and reach out for something more in life. The screaming howl of feedback mirrored the scream of adolescent rage with a world gone wrong. An idealist I wanted genuine communion with the people and world around me, not experience mediated through some corporate product.

I discovered Stockhausen at around the same time as I hit upon one of his mentors, the brilliant Messaien. Messaien was a maverick French organ player who would construct huge gothic architecture in cathedrals around themes like the fire of Pentacost or the Ressurection of the dead . . . powerful stuff.

Like many young musicians I had my "secret heroes". Stockhausen was someone who taught me to be serious about the gaps in music, he had a concept of "coloured silence" that was incredibly useful. Another pioneer, Arvo Part once said, "that a single note played beautifully could me more important than a symphony" - I went on a quest to find that single note.

Stockhausen advocated a complete rejection of the entire canon of classical music. While such nihilism is ultimately futile and leads to a music that cannot connect to a mass audience it expanded the palate of many a musician and was another arrow in the quiver to use when times got tough.

Stockhausen's reasoning was poignant: He grew up in a world where Beethoven was what SS stormtroopers would listen to for relaxation after closing the oven doors on Jewish families. Classical music became the soundtrack for barbarism.

His father had been an enthusiastic National Socialist who went missing in the brutal war on the Eastern Front. His mother was one of many women forced into an asylum and fell victim to the Nazi's perverted science dying in their euthanasia programme.

Stockhausen described hearing the marching songs of war on the radio-set all through his childhood this scarred him with a lifelong hatred of repetitive, regular rhythms and pushed him out of the black and into the blue.

Whether Stockhausen was a political revolutionary is not important here. The militant socialist composer and one time musical collaborator, Cornelius Cardew, thought not and denounced him. What IS important was that Stockhausen was a musical revolutionary. Like the Kama Sutra his work is more of a manual or textbook than artwork in its own right.

Ultimately, Stockhausen's music was ugly. But as another musical prophet said, "The only beauty's Ugly, man". As a musician I'm still trading on the stamps that Stockhausen gave to me in my youth.

Goodbye, Comrade Stockhausen!

Monday, 10 December 2007

RESPECT builds Trade Union Support for the Anti-War Movement

A group of health workers from South Wales went as an official delegation to the recent International World against War conference hosted by the UK Stop the War Coalition which saw over 1,000 leading activists in the global anti-war movement descend on London to debate the way forward for the movement.

Blackwood RESPECT member and Shop steward Ian Thomas, who helped to organise the group, said,
“Our union branch unanimously backed this event. And by raising the Stop the War in the union, we’ve made the union more relevant.”

Nursing assistant Davide said,
“It’s important to get everyone together to hear different opinions and experiences”.

Selena, who is international officer for the Cardiff Unison union, agreed, “Last year we sent two delegates to this conference. This time there are five.”

Gareth, who had not been to a Stop the War event before, said,
“I’ve come to educate myself about the issues.”

RESPECT believes in building fighting trade unions capable of fighting the system on all fronts. We want to build a labour movement that not only fights for decent pay and conditions for all working people but also takes up political issues such as war, racism and islamophobia, the defence of asylum seekers and climate change to build a new society.

Wednesday, 5 December 2007

Immigrant Workers - More State Harrasment

Immigration officers in late-night raid on restaurant
Nov 29 2007 by David James, South Wales Echo

NINE people were arrested by immigration officers in a late-night raid on a city restaurant.
Several police officers and staff from the new Borders Agency cordoned off the Hawaiian Restaurant, City Road, Roath Cardiff, at around 9.30pm yesterday.
Two of the men arrested are believed to have been failed asylumseekers from Albania.
A spokesman from the Immigration and Borders Agency said that officers had been acting on intelligence. He said: The agency, supported by South Wales Police, carried out an enforcement operation acting on intelligence that a number of immigration offenders would be present at the premises in Cardiff.
As of 9.30pm, two men suspected Albanian failed asylum seekers “have been arrested and taken to a police station in Cardiff forquestioning.
The restaurant did not want to comment last night.The raid happened on the same night as Immigration Minister LiamByrne visited South Wales to attend one of a series of events aimedat hearing the publics reaction to the Government's proposed immigration shake-up.
The new Borders Agency has already been separated from the HomeOffice and has carried out a series of raids on takeaways andrestaurants in South Wales. But the Government is planning to go further and introduce an Australian-style points system to control migration better in thewake of a series of scandals that revealed the lack of informationheld by the authorities about the number of migrants in Britain. Inspector Paul McCarthy of South Wales Police confirmed fourofficers had attended the raid last night and that dog handlers had been requested.

The rich are free to move to whichever country will give them the biggest tax break, but when poor people migrate they face racism, demonisation and state harrassment. Cardiff RESPECT stands shoulder-to-shoulder with immigrant workers and utterly condemns the actions of the border agency, we say: "One Race - The Human Race!".

Big business asks no questions when it comes to the source of their profits. So we, in Cardiff RESPECT, make no distinction between native-born and other workers, living in Wales, when it comes to fighting for rights, or to winning support for a socialist future. We see ourselves as the representatives and organisers of that section of the international working class living and working in Wales. We only recognise ‘illegal’ worker status in order to combat it. The fight to unite our class internationally, and to oppose all attempts to divide us, is as important today, as past heroic struggles to free and abolish slavery, to liberate women and to enforce workers’ rights. Indeed, the fight, to prevent the imposition of outlaw status on millions of workers, shows us that all three of these great campaigns still need to be re-fought.