Monday, April 29, 2013

Willie Pete? "We never used it, and now we are giving it up"


HOW very timely. In the same week that President Obama warns of the "red line" that will have been crossed if the Assad regime is shown to have used chemical weapons (the accusation is that sarin nerve gas has been used against civilian areas and rebels), it is reported that the Israeli military is giving up the use of white phosphorus.

But hang on. Didn't the Israeli government and its mouthpieces all deny the accusation that Israel was using white phosphorus in the first place? Even when photographs were appearing of Israeli forces scattering white phosphorus over Gaza during Operation Cast Lead?

I hesitate to trust my memory these days, when statesmen's lies are so preposterous (Did they really say that ?), but sure enough others better informed than me have confirmed this recollection. Among them is Idan Landau, an Israeli academic from Ben Gurion University, whose comments in his blog have been translated and published in .972 mag.

Israel gives up white phosphorus, because 'it doesn't photograph well'

By Idan Landau
A certain air of nostalgia dominated Maarivs headline last Thursday: “Due to criticism in the world, IDF parts ways with white phosphorus”: just like the old Galil assault rifle and the old two-way radios that generations of soldiers grew familiar with. A couple of years ago we learned the IDF was giving up its cans of preserved meat (the kosher version of SPAM). Now, it’s white phosphorus that we say goodbye to.
[Twilight. The IDF and white phosphorus exchange a final gaze. A sad violin tune is heard. Curtain down.]
So the IDF is looking for a replacement for the white phosphorus bombs. A senior officer in the ground forces explained: “As we learned during Cast Lead, it [white phosphorus] doesn’t photograph well, so we are reducing the supply and we will not purchase beyond what we already have.”

“It doesn’t photograph well.” In all honesty, the man is right.

This item caught me by surprise. The IDF is giving up white phosphorus? Wait a minute; the IDF never used white phosphorus during Cast Lead. So how exactly do you give up something you we never had? Chemical weapons are something the Syrians use, no?
Okay, after a while the army did remember that it had been confused, and it did use white phosphorus, but only in open territories and not against people.

Okay, then the IDF remembered that it got it wrong again and that it did use white phosphorus in urban areas. Two hundred bombs, actually. But this was only in order to create a “smoke screen,” and there is nothing wrong with that. And if there was something wrong, it’s insignificant and unintentional, and it would be thoroughly investigated, so that no stone is left unturned.

That’s all nice and well, except that at least 12 Gazans met their horrific death this way, burned to death by white phosphorus. Among them were three women, six children and a 15-month-old baby girl. Dozens more suffered burns from the material which continues to burn through flesh and tissue until it reaches the bone. Doctors in Gaza were helpless in treating the unfamiliar burns. Israel didn’t give them time to prepare themselves; white phosphorus shells hit Al-Quds Hospital and completely burned the top two floors.

These facts were already known in the first days of Cast Lead. Human Rights Watch published a thorough investigation – one of the most thorough I have read – of Israel’s use of white phosphorus and its devastating effects. IDF soldiers who took part in the Gaza campaign also testified on the extensive use of white phosphorus, including direct fire on houses suspected of being booby-trapped (and not for “masking” purposes as the IDF later claimed).

Ghada Abu Halima, 21, who was gravely injured by IDF white phosphorus in Gaza. Abu Halima later died of her wounds (photo: Muhammad Sabah / B’tzelem)
Indeed, the outcome “didn’t photograph well,” and that’s the reason the IDF is parting ways with white phosphorous. Not, god forbid, the hell that Ghada Abu Halima went through from the moment she was burned by white phosphorous and lost five family members, up until her death two and a half agonizing months later. Ghada managed to give her testimony and to have her photo taken, which “didn’t look good,” and “burdened Israeli hasbara [propaganda],” as the Maariv reporter put it.

White Phosphorus does not photograph well
Even so, after this announcement from Israel, perhaps now President Obama and David Cameron can be persuaded to issue a statement pledging that American and British forces will abandon the use of white phosphorus, such as they of course never used against the Iraqi town of Faluja.

Faluja -The_Hidden_Massacre

White Phosphorus in Iraq

Apparently US service personnel were so familiar with white phosphorus in munitions they gave it the nickname Willie Pete, from their pre-NATO phonetic alphabet. So charming, sounds like a cartoon character.  They're just kids at heart.
"Willie Pete is Standard" - an American report.


Friday, April 26, 2013

Remember the Dead, and Fight for the Living!

LINDA WHELAN with portrait of her son Craig.
 photo: The Journal

IF you really want to know about things happening to people at work, you often have to turn from the national media to the local papers. Here is an item from the Bolton News.
Father-of-one, Craig Whelan, was just 23 when he died while working on the 200ft chimney at Carnaud Metal Box Plc's factory in Westhoughton, in May 2002.
He and another steeple jack, Paul Wakefield, were attempting to burn off a black tarry residue from the inside of the chimney when catastrophe struck.
They were inside the chimney half way down when the explosion happened.
Barrister, Anthony Berrisford, told London's High Court the fumes suddenly ignited, causing a fireball of such intensity that it burned through the metal cables holding up the hoist on which the two men were standing.
Family of fireball death steeplejack win compensation

Two executives were almost prosecuted for manslaughter, but it did not happen. Although Craig Whelan's parents won compensation for the death of their son, this did not stop them campaigning for justice, for Craig and for all the other workers killed or maimed in accidents at work, which could often have been prevented, and for all those likely to be endangered in the future.

Last year Linda Whelan, a founder of Families Against Corporate Killing (FACK), hit out at government plans to relax safety regulations and cut back workplace inspections.  
 Mum hits out at plans to relax safety laws

But the Durham mother and her supporters face opposition even on the one day a year when workers killed at work are supposed to be remembered. As a friend informs us on Facebook:
"For years the joint trades councils in Durham have held a peaceful march and service to mark Workers Memorial Day on the 28th April. The event is traditionally held in the quiet Durham village, Stanley Crook, as St Thomas' Church has a Workers Memorial window. Then, suddenly, last year the police told us we would be arrested if we marched through the village. Details here:<

And it looks like the same thing is happening this year:
ORGANISERS of a march in memory of people who have died at work have been warned they will be liable if anything goes wrong at the event.
County Durham’s Safety Advisory Group (SAG) has confirmed it does not support the Worker’s Memorial Day march planned to take place on Sunday (April 28).
The march through Stanley Crook, County Durham, has been organised by Families Against Corporate Killers (Fack) with support from several unions.
Linda Whelan, founder of Fack, has previously told The Northern Echo she plans to go ahead with the march despite objections from the advisory group, which is made up of several bodies including Durham County Council and Durham Police.
Last year’s march was cancelled due to SAG’s objection, but Mrs Whelan said she is determined to go ahead with the ten-minute long march, which will feature families of people who have died at work, union representatives and old mining banners.
The walkers will start at 1.30pm at the eastern end of the village before the march to St Thomas’ Church nearly a mile away where a service will be held.
A statement from SAG said: “The Safety Advisory Group has been informed that the planned route of the march is down the middle of a road.
“Public safety is paramount and the SAG does not support the march going ahead as planned on the grounds of health and safety.
“The organisers have been advised that for the march to go ahead safely it should either take place off-road or a road closure should be put in place.”
The march will not be physically stopped by police but, should it cause any accidents or incidents, the march’s organisers will be solely responsible for the consequences.
 This almost sounds like the police are inviting any peverse or dangerous driver to disrupt or endanger the marchers. In fact, as Linda Whelan said last year when the police suddenly refused permission for the march, by refusing road closures, the marchers were not intending to cause any trouble or disruption, and  had not previously had problems.

“In the past we have kept to one side of the road so traffic can still get past, and we found that actually many motorists joined the procession to express their support.”
 Mothers anger as police cancel memorial march
As she said, the march was not one of protest but of respect.

Would the authorities'  attitude have been as unco-operative and obstructive if this had been an armistice day procession?  Or honouring service personnel killed in action?  We doubt it. So why are workers killed at work less worthy of respect?

In recent years it seemed sometimes as though International Workers Memorial Day was being co-opted by the authorities, as more acceptable than, say, May Day. But evidently not so, at least not in Co.Durham. And probably not elsewhere, even when as this year it falls on a Sunday, if the powers that be can help it.

Remembering those sisters and brothers who have been killed, and internationally, is subversive enough, and even more so when it is coupled with organising to protect the living.     


International Workers Memorial Day 

Sunday 28th April 2013

Join us: 11am Tower Hill at the statue of the

Unknown building worker,

opposite Tower Hill underground.

At Tower Hill on Workers Memorial Day. Photo by: Stefano Cagnoni/
photo:© Stefano Cagnoni/

More activities:

Labels: ,

Thursday, April 25, 2013

Come into work and get killed

CONFRONTING firms with responsibility 
Sum of Us

FIRST it was FIRE, now it's a BUILDING COLLAPSE. The high price of cheap clothing and profitable business.

RESCUERS were combing through the rubble today of an eight-storey building which collapsed on Wednesday morning, on the outskirts of Dacca, the Bangladesh capital, killing at least 200 workers, as far as is known up to now.

The building, known as the Rana Plaza, developed cracks in its facade on Tuesday morning, bringing a visit by local government officials. It housed various businesses, including a bank and shops, as well as a garment factory. The bank, Brac Bank, advised staff to stay away due to the danger, but apparently garment workers were told officials had said the building was safe, and they should come into work as normal, or lose two day's pay.

The building collapsed at about 9 a.m.

 Sumi Akhter, 25, told the Bangladeshi news site that she and other workers had been ordered to work despite the obvious structural problems at the building. “I did not want to enter the building. But management told us to go in,” said Akhter, who was being treated at a local hospital. “Hour later, it collapsed."

Bangladeshi workers are on low pay enough,  and dare not risk losing pay or jobs. But many lose their lives in poorly maintained workplaces, receiving scant inspection by the authorities, and with poor enforcement of labour laws. These factories produce cheap garments, and big profits particularly for Western high street retailers.

In November last year more than 110 lives were lost in the Tazreen factory fire. The factory had been producing clothes for Walmart, among other retailers. Emergency exits had apparently been blocked and windows covered with steel bars, and managers had told employees who'd heard rumors of a fire on another floor to go back to work. Many survivors had jumped from the building.

Only recently a survivor of the Tazreen fire was touring the United States with the help of trade unionists and campaigners to try and bring home the responsibility of big companies which impose exacting terms on suppliers competing for contracts.

A factory in the Rana Plaza listed several European and Canadian buyers, including Walmart, on its website, and a report in the Guardian today mentions Primark.

Many people in Dhaka today were angry at how long the rescue operations were taking, with people still heard crying for help from under the debris. Ranging from army soldiers to relatives of the victims, the rescuers were badly equipped let alone trained for their tas. Meanwhile there is anger too at the lack of action against those responsible for this and other disasters. No arrests had been made, and the owner of the building, a government politician, Mohammad Sohel Rana, was reportdly escorted from the area, not by police but by his party supporters.

Meanwhile, here, as well the finger of responsibility pointing at companies which profit from the cheapness of lives as well as labour in countries like Bangladesh, the disaster should serve as a reminder of what unfettered capitalism can do, when it does not have to worry about adequate safety inspections, or the "health and safety culture" decried by our government and media.

Sunday, April 28 is International Workers' Memorial Day - a day to remember the dead and campaign for the living.

Building collapse after workers told to come in

Survivor calls on firms to support safe and fair labour

Workers Memorial Day (1)

International Workers Memorial Day

Labels: ,

Wednesday, April 24, 2013

"Misadventure" at the hands of the Metropolitan Police


THIS blog has become a bit like a chronicle of deaths in the past few postings, but c'est la vie. We are commanded to remember, especially those left crying out for justice. Today, St.George's Day and Shakespeare's birthday for some, a friend posting on facebook reminded me of this one:
 On 23 April, this day, in 1979 the anti-fascist Blair Peach was killed by a blow to his head by an unknown policeman, a member of the Special Patrol Group. The exact identity of his murderer remains unknown. The Guardian reported that when other police "raided lockers at the SPG headquarters he uncovered a stash of unauthorised weapons, including illegal truncheons, knives, two crowbars, a whip, a 3ft wooden stave and a lead-weighted leather stick. One officer was caught trying to hide a metal cosh, although it was not the weapon that killed Peach. Another officer was found with a collection of Nazi regalia."
See also: Blair Peach killed by police  Peach, a 33-year old New Zealander, had been teaching Special Needs children at a school in the East End of London for ten years, and became chair of the East London Teachers Association in the year he was killed. He had also joined the Socialist Teachers Association and the Anti-Nazi League, which campaigned against racist and fascist activity in east London and elsewhere.

On the night he was killed he had gone to Southall in west London, where the National Front was holding a St.George's Day meeting in the town hall. Local people had petitioned the council not to allow the NF the use of the premises, but were told it was entitled to hold a meeting with the general election coming. On the night about 40-odd Front supporters were bussed in, while more than 2,000 police confronted protesters, mainly young Asians Blair Peach was struck down by a blow to the side of the head. He died later in Ealing hospital. The official verdict was "death by misadventure". Another demonstrator hit by police was in a coma for five months.

Some 10,000 people took part in a tribute to Blair Peach in Southall. In later years there were demonstrations on the anniversary of his death.

Not till April 2009, thirty years later, was the police report into what happened, by Commander Sir John Cass, released, (with officers' names redacted), after persistent campaigning for truth by Blair's family and friends, notably his girlfiend Celia Stubbs, who wrote:

  The report states what we always believed – the fatal blow was struck by a police officer from Unit 1 of the Special Patrol Group based at Barnes police station, and it is likely that it was the first officer out of the police van parked at the corner of Orchard Avenue and Beechcroft Avenue who dealt the blow. But, equally disturbing, in reading the report the deliberate untruths told by officers and their success in obstructing the police inquiry have been laid bare. The deceit and lies these officers told is a major factor as to why no policeman was prosecuted for Blair's death.

The mindset and attitude of Commander Cass, other senior Metropolitan police officers and coroner John Burton also stymied this inquiry. Cass set the scene by saying: "It was an extremely violent, volatile and ugly situation where there was serious disturbance by what can be classed as a rebellious crowd ... Asian youths appeared quite often to lose complete control of their emotions." He said "the demonstrators received orders from the Anti-Nazi League."
Of Blair, who was known to the police as an anti-racist campaigner, he stated: "If he was true to form he may have been in dispute, conflict, obstructing or interfering with the police."

Celia Stubbs 

So according to Cass, the thousands of angry young local Asians who saw the NF rally in their area as a provocation, by an organisation they associated with racial attacks, appeared to "lose control of their emotions", but they were taking "orders" from the ANL, like a disciplined force - such as the Metropolitan Police were supposed to be.
And though witnesses say Blair Peach was doing his best to restrain the youth and persuade them to stay on the pavement when he was hit from behind, it is enough for Sir John to suggest the teacher had "form" and that he "may have been" obstructing or interfering with the police. In other words, he was a "Red", so who needs evidence?   

As the Guardian noted:
From the outset, the Cass investigation appeared unlikely to find an officer guilty. He defined Peach as a member of a "rebellious crowd" in his terms of reference, adding: "Without condoning the death I refer to Archbold 38th edition para 2528: 'In case of riot or rebellious assembly the officers endeavouring to disperse the riot are justified in killing them at common law if the riot cannot otherwise be suppressed'." <>I remember my Dad, who served in India after Amritsar, telling me about the Riot Act, and the regulations that are supposed to govern the conduct of forces dispersing crowds and how much force they can use. From what he told me and from what I have seen of the Metropolitan Police in action, the soldiers like him were more resticted, and certainly less enthusiastic in breaking heads. But I suppose the scabby old imperialist lion is bound to get more savage in its lair, and the police didn't just enlist for a shilling a day, especially not in units like the SPG which consider themselves an "elite". So we may never see justice for the death of Blair Peach, any more than for the killing of student Kevin Gately in Red Lion Square five years earlier, But we are obliged to remember. As  does Bernard Regan, nowadays a leading member of the National union of Teachers:
Today 34 years ago my friend, colleague, comrade, neighbour Blair Peach was murdered whilst leaving a demonstration against the National Front. The only people in the vicinity were members of the Metropolitan Police Special Patrol Group. The names of all six members of the unit have been known since that night. None have ever been charged.

At the time the NUT Executive and the TUC called for a public inquiry into what happened. None took place. The Union was united in shock and anger at what happened.
There are many friends and comrades who will have their own memories of Blair -just a few of my own all of which could be illustrated with stories reflecting his professionalism, principles,seriousness and sense of fun.
We lived next door to each other, worked together in the same special school, taught the same children, were active in the Union together, took part in demos, argued about politics, shared jokes, played football on Victoria Park, badminton after school. Blair was the President of East London Teachers Association when I was Secretary. He was a committed teacher, trades unionist, anti-racist, internationalist, anti-sexist, opposed to homophobia and all forms of discrimination. He campaigned against the victimisation of the teachers at William Tyndale School in Islington, marched on demos against the fascist coup overthrowing President Salvador Allende in 1973 by Margaret Thatcher's ally General Pinochet, supported the campaign defending a gay teacher who had been outed for participating on a demonstration.

He is remembered for his stance against racism but he participated in campaigns in all these areas. It was very fitting that the Union created the Blair Peach Award. We should cherish his memory but as Blair would have said it is not enough just to say we are committed to these principles - it is important that we act on them.

Labels: , , , ,

Monday, April 22, 2013

Justice Incomplete

 STEPHEN LAWRENCE.   Long struggle for justice took longer than he lived, and still not finished. 

TWENTY years ago, about 10.30 pm on a Thursday evening, April 22 , 1993, student Stephen Lawrence and his friend Dwayne Brooke were on their way home from Stephen's uncle's house in Plumstead, when they decided to change buses at Well Hall Road.It was a fateful decision.

While Dwayne waited at the bus stop, Stephen walked up to the corner with Dickson Road to see if the bus was coming. Dwayne noticed a group of white youth approaching on the opposite side of the road. At about 10.35 pm he called to ask Stephen if the bus was coming. At this, he says, the youths on the other side of the road shouted something like "What? What, nigger?"

 They came over and surrounded Stephen, inflicting two stab wounds, to his chest and arm, which severed arteries. Dwayne had got away, towards Shooters Hill, and Stephen somehow managed to run to join him, but fell after running 130 yards. The stabbing had caused a collapsed lung. But he actually bled to death there on the pavement.

There were witnesses to what happened, besides the traumatised Dwayne who saw his friend killed. There were people who knew who the gang were, and passed anonymous notes to the Lawrence family, naming the same five names.

There had been other racist murders in this corner of south east London, Rohit Duggal and Rolan Adams in the previous year. A lot of people saw a connection with the activity in the area of the British National Party, which had opened an office nearby. But it was another matter getting national attention, let alone going after the killers.

It might have made a difference that within a fortnight of Stephen's murder, his parents Neville and Doreen Lawrence were seen on TV with Nelson Mandela, talking about their son's death, and voicing their suspicion that the killing of a young black man did not arouse as much concern from the Metropolitan Police as other cases might.

The Lawrences were "ordinary" enough people, Neville a carpenter and Doreen a special needs teacher. They were proud of Stephen who was working hard at college and wanted to become an architect. They were determined to get justice against those who had robbed them of their son and him of his life and future. It took 19 years of relentless campaigning by them, - one more year than Stephen's  life, -a public inquiry, a private prosecution and changes in the law, before two of the gang were brought to justice.

Another two, though known, seem to be living their lives in reasonable comfort without even having to move too far from their old playground, and it seems without having to work. As for the police, though they and British society at large might like to say they have put their house in order since the inquiry under Sir William MacPherson accused them of "institutional racism", reports say black people are still 28 times more likely to be stopped and searched, minorities still feel neither free from discrimination nor safe, and the Black Police Association issued a statement today saying: "The association still believe that the police service is institutionally racist."

The other night I heard Dr.Richard Stone saying how Doreen Lawrence felt when she heard that police called to the scene of her son's death stood by while Stephen bled to death, not even attempting to render first aid, and staunch the bleeding, though they were supposedly trained to do so. Another police unit arrived , apparently under the misapprehension that two black boys had been fighting. Told what had happened, and which way the gang had fled, they went off in the other direction, to a pub. Even after the suspects had been named by informants, the police made no attempt to detain them on suspicion.

Richard Stone was a west London GP, the one who did much to bring down Dame Shirley Porter in Westminster, by asking how it was that when he recommended patients as badly in need of suitable housing, he was told the council had nothing available, yet whenever he went out and about on his rounds he passed boarded up council flats and houses, with steel doors fitted to keep them empty. These were of course the monuments to Porter's policy of 'social cleansing' , replacing working class council tenants with 'yuppie' buyers in the hope not just of gentrification but gerrymandering, to keep Westminster safely Tory.

No stranger to issues of racism, Richard had been asked to help young black people from the Mangrove Club who were picked on, and he tried to organise a rota of fellow doctors prepared to go into police stations and examine people alleging police brutality. He had studied law before deciding to switch to medicine, and he bcame chair of the Jewish Council for Racial Equality which drew on the experience of people overcoming one kind of discrimination to assist those confronting another.

Called upon to be an adviser to the MacPherson inquiry, Dr.Stone felt honoured to assist. He got to know the Lawrences, and identify with their quest for justice, and he also pays credit to Sir William MacPherson, who he says insisted that the inquiry be called after Stephen Lawrence, rather than its head as was usually the case, so as to preserve the young man's name.

It was after the inquiry was finished, and feeling disconcerted by the difficulty of accessing its archives, as well as fearing that its findings might be laid to rest beneath complacency, or even dismissed and fogotten, that Richard Stone decided to write his own account. His book Hidden Stories of the Stephen Lawrence Inquiry both reminds us of the issues and raises questions that still require following.

Was the inquiry's independence or authority helped by having a senior civil servant as secretary?  This man told Muhammad Idrish, of the Asian Resource Centre in Birmingham. that the inquiry could not visit Britain's Second City, where there was a lot of interest, because Dr.Stone could not make as it would clash with Jewish holidays. Dr.Stone had said no such thing, and not been asked, as he was able to tell Muhammad Idrish when they spoke. Fortunately they were friends and not dependent on the man from the Home Office for an introduction.

What, or who, was really behind this reluctance to take the show to Birmingham?

Was there anything in the rumours of police corruption dragging investigations to a stop because the father of one of the teenage gang involved was a known criminal with a link to at least one police officer?

Why after all these years have only two of the gang been convicted?

Why wasn't the archive published right after the report?

Have the police really done all they can to remedy issues of  "institutional racism" and leadership?
Should we accept David Cameron's reassuring words on how much Britain has changed, or worry about one of those who rejected the Stephen Lawrence Inquiry report now being the country's Education Secretary?           

Launch of Richard stone's book hidden Stories

Gang Member Enjoying Good Life.

Labels: , ,

Sunday, April 21, 2013

Warsaw's Fighters and Martyrs - including one in London

GHETTO IN FLAMES. Germans set housing block on fire to drive out or destroy ghetto fighters. "We were beaten by the flames, not the Germans", said Marek Edelman.

SEVENTY years ago, on April 19, 1943, the eve of Passover, the Warsaw ghetto revolt broke out. The Nazis having defeated and occupied Poland had crowded Jews in the capital and some from outside into a small walled off section of the city, of which the boundaries they kept shrinking.

Weakened by hunger and sickness, and subjected to brutality and demoralisation at the hands of police, collaborators and criminals, the ghetto population was expected to fall easy prey to Nazi deportations and genocide.

But the Nazis had underestimated the resilience of the Jewish labour movement, which had a tradition of organising, defiance of authority and defence against racists; and of the cultural community which kept alive people's spirits through underground publications, arts and music through all adversity. To compound their error they brought into the ghetto some youth from movements like Hechalutz and Hashomer Hatzair who had been training for life in Palestine. Deprived of that hope, these idealistic and energetic young people would defend their honour by fighting, and if necessary falling in action, where they stood.
At first the Jewish people in the ghetto did not realise what the Nazis had in mind for them, and even the resisters thought "resettlement to the east" might only mean forced labour camps. But as more information filtered back about the Nazi camps, so grew the determination, however hopelessly, to resist. Already in January 1943 the Nazis had to cut short their mass deportation plan, as their forces met armed resistance from the ghetto fighters. By April, they were resolved to complete their plans, but meanwhile the Jewish fighters had readied themselves, preparing bunkers within buildings, and stockpiling what weapons they could, some home-made, some smuggled in from outside.

Marek Edelman, the Bundist and deputy commander of the Jewish Combat Organization, Żydowska Organizacja Bojowa, ŻOB), stated that the ŻOB had 220 fighters; and each was armed with a handgun, grenades, and Molotov cocktails. His organization had three rifles in each area, as well as two land mines and one submachine gun in the whole Ghetto. The insurgents had little ammunition; more weapons were supplied throughout the uprising, and some were captured from the Germans. .

Support from outside the Ghetto was limited. Some commanders in the London-backed Polish Home Army (Armia Krajowa, AK) were reportedly reluctant to spare arms for the ghetto fighters saying these might "fall into the hands of communists" . The Revisionist Zionists' separate fighting unit may have fared better than the ZOB, having links with the right-wing Polish colonels. The AK and the smaller communist Polish Workers' Party's militia People's Guard (Gwardia Ludowa, GL) did supply some weapons and amunition however, and attacked German units near the Ghetto walls, later helping some Jews escape as the ghetto fell.

On 19 April 1943, police and SS auxiliary forces entered the Ghetto. They were scheduled to  complete the deportation action within three days, but were ambushed by Jewish insurgents firing and throwing molotov cocktails and hand grenades. Two German combat vehicles were set on fire by  petrol bombs.

The German task force dispatched to put down the revolt and complete the deportation action numbered 2,090 men armed with artillery pieces, armored vehicles, minethrowers, 82 machine guns and 135 submachine guns.  Its backbone consisted of 821 Waffen-SS Panzergrenadier troops, and one SS cavalry battalion, reinforced by police battalions and Wehrmacht units, and Ukrainian, Latvian and Lithuanian police units. From what had been planned as an orderly deporation, they turned to setting buildings ablaze, eventually deciding to raze the ghetto to the ground.  
As the defence of the ghetto fell before this onslaught, fighters and civilians alike took to the bunkers and sewers. The Nazis used dogs to locate hideouts amid the ruins, then dropping in smoke bombs, and flooding bunkers or destroying them with explosives. Still, shoot outs took place, and sometimes captured women produced grenades concealed under their clothes. Small groups of insurgents clashed with German patrols at night..

On May 8, the Germans discovered the bunker at Mila 18, the ZOB's command post. The ZOB commander Mordechai Aniliewicz was among those who perished there, but his deputy Marek Edelman escaped with a few comrades through the sewers. As late as June 5, 1943 there was a clash between German troops and Jewish fighters in the ruins of the destroyed ghetto. Some of those who escaped the ghetto were able to participate in the Warsaw uprising in June 1944. Jews deported from Warsaw to Treblinka concentration camp also took part in the revolt and break out there.

 Although many ghetto survivors went to Israel after the war, Edelman, who became a cardiologist, insisted on remaining in Poland, through all the difficult years of Stalinism and nationalism, to preserve Jewish life and uphold his ideas of freedom.  

On April 19, 1943, the same day that the Nazis were setting out to liquidate the Warsaw ghetto, the US and British governments convened a conference in Bermuda, to discuss what could be done to help the Jews in Nazi-occupied Europe. They did not come up with anything.


One man who had been pleading for help from the day his country was invaded was a Jewish trade unionist and socialist called Szmuel 'Artur' Zygielbojm. Before the war a city councillor in Lodz, Zygielbojm was asked by the Jewish worker's Bund to be its representative in the Polish parliament in exile, in London. He had gone to America in 1940 to raise awareness of the looming tragedy in Poland, and as reports of the ghettos and camps reached him via Polish couriers, he was able to speak in the House of Commons and on BBC radio.

By the beginning of May, it had become apparent that the Bermuda Conference was producing nothing, and with news that the Warsaw ghetto revolt had been suppressed Zygielbojm  also learned that his wife Manya and 16-year-old son Tuvia had been killed there. On May 12, Zygielbojm killed himself as a protest against the indifference and inaction of the Allied governments.
In his "suicide letter,"  Zygielbojm stated that while the Nazis were responsible for the murder of the Polish Jews, the Allies also were culpable:
The responsibility for the crime of the murder of the whole Jewish nationality in Poland rests first of all on those who are carrying it out, but indirectly it falls also upon the whole of humanity, on the peoples of the Allied nations and on their governments, who up to this day have not taken any real steps to halt this crime. By looking on passively upon this murder of defenseless millions tortured children, women and men they have become partners to the responsibility.

I am obliged to state that although the Polish Government contributed largely to the arousing of public opinion in the world, it still did not do enough. It did not do anything that was not routine, that might have been appropriate to the dimensions of the tragedy taking place in Poland....

I cannot continue to live and to be silent while the remnants of Polish Jewry, whose representative I am, are being murdered. My comrades in the Warsaw ghetto fell with arms in their hands in the last heroic battle. I was not permitted to fall like them, together with them, but I belong with them, to their mass grave.

By my death, I wish to give expression to my most profound protest against the inaction in which the world watches and permits the destruction of the Jewish people.

A monument to Zygielbojm was incorporated into a building on a housing estate on part of what was the wartime ghetto in Warsaw.

In London, a campaign partly led by the Jewish Socialists' Group (JSG) resulted in a plaque commemorating Zygielbojm being put up on the corner of Porchester Road and Porchester Square, near where he lived. Among those who participated in the memorial's unveiling were members of Zygielbojm's family, the Polish ambassador, and the mayor of Westminster.  

This year, on the 70th anniversary the JSG has called a meeting on Sunday 12th May, 7.30-9.30pm
MIC Centre 81-103 Euston Street NW1 2EZ


Remember Szmul Zygielbojm
Remember the Warsaw Ghetto resisters
Please come to an event marking the 70th anniversary of the Warsaw Ghetto Revolt and the suicide here in London of the Bundist, Szmul Zygielbojm, who sat on the National Council of the Polish Government in Exile.

The evening will include talks about Zygielbojm’s life, personal reminiscences from the Warsaw Ghetto, and  Yiddish songs, poetry and readings.

Wlodka Blit-Robertson (Warsaw Ghetto survivor)
Robert Szaniawski (Polish Embassy)
David Rosenberg (JSG)
Ghetto songs from Yiddish singer/performer Rachel Weston accompanied by Carol Isaacs (London Klezmer Quartet) 

See also:Freedom in his Heart: Marek Edelman

Labels: , , ,

Thursday, April 18, 2013

Does London Met trouble trail lead to Home Office?

LONDON MET protests won reinstatement. But fight is going on.

HAS the government been directly interfering in the running of a university?
 IF it has done, and everything is above board and correct, why has it done so from behind the scenes, and why are the university authorities and media covering up for it?

 London Metropolitan University has been through enough trouble in the last few years to last most institutions a lifetime. In January 2010, it was found guilty of misreporting domestic student numbers and told to return £36.5m of public funding. Courses and staff were cut, though unions and students protested that they were being made to pay for a mess that was not of their making. The governing body resigned en masse and a new vice-chancellor, Malcolm Gillies, was brought in.

Then in August last year, the UK Border Agency accused the London Met of a systemic failure to monitor overseas students. The implication was that students were signing up for expensive degree courses merely so they drop out and take the sort of jobs done by illegal immigrants. Whatever the truth it left many bona fide students who'd paid for their courses in limbo, not even sure they could get back into the country if they had gone home for the Summer vacation, let alone return to their courses. Others feared deportation if they could not find another place to work for finals. Many who had to find another place are still angry.
Banned students still angry
On April 9 this year London Met's right to recruit overseas students was provisionally reinstated. But the international scandal has had lasting effects. For the 2012-13 academic year, enrolments were down 43%. And the ban had a "big effect on income", Vice Chanceller Gillies concedes.

In December, Stephen Perkins, dean of the business school, announced that the school would be cutting 40% of staff and three-quarters of its courses "to ensure the university's future sustainability". A report in the Guardian highlights the case of a PhD student whose work was thrown into chaos by staff resignation. "... Ross's main supervisor, whom he describes as a 'fantastic' professor, left the school voluntarily. Ross had no idea what this meant for him – and he couldn't find anyone to answer his questions. 'The university never even contacted me to let me know that my director of studies had left,' he says."

Now Gillies is about to publish a new three-year business plan which will cut a further 150 posts on top of 200 that went last year, and more staff are expected to leave voluntarily.
 London Met "survival strategy"

But London Met's problems have become political, as well as economic.

On March 12-13 three members of staff were re-instated after up to five weeks suspension, which led to a campaign in their support by the trade union Unison and others. Jawad Botmeh, convicted in what many people believe was a frame-up for "conspiracy" to bomb the Israeli embassy in 1994, had been working quietly as a researcher in London Met's Working Lives institute for five years. There were no complaints about his work or conduct, and he appears to have got along well with colleagues. It was after he was elected a staff governor that his suspension followed.

After he was reinstated Jawad stepped down from the board of governors.

According to an email from University secretary Alison Wells: "The Board and the University had become aware that Jawad Botmeh's membership of the Board would impact adversely on the interests and the future sustainability of the institution".

This as good as confirmed my suspicion that somebody was putting pressure on London Met from outside, though it remained to be seen where this was coming from.  

Meanwhile, though back in their jobs, administrator and Unison shop steward Max Watson, and the head of the Working Lives Research Institute, Professor Steve Jefferys, have still been facing disciplinary charges, although it is not clear what they are supposed to have done wrong. What many trade unionists suspect, and beyond the confines of the university, is that not only have people in power disliked London Met's intake of working class students, but they resent the very existence of the Working Lives Institute because it deals with trade union rights and history, and records working people's experience.

At a protest meeting on Wednesday, the day Thatcher was being buried, and working people throughout the land were celebrating, Max Watson spoke of victimisation aimed at denying workers representation. Steve Jefferys, a one-time Chrysler factory worker, said that far from acting improperly, his department had introduced proper interviews for casual job applicants, in place of the informal arrangements which enabled people to appoint their mates.

 But what was most headline-grabbing - or should have been - was the announcement by speakers at this meeting that they have seen a confidential document from the Home Office, dated April 9, the same day London Met was given its probationary recruitment rights, expressing satisfaction at its conduct in removing Jawad Botmeh as a staff governor, and warning that its rights will be revoked if he is ever re-elected. 

London Met meeting, April 17

   In other words, if you know what is good for you, you will make sure no one is elected to any position of whom we disapprove!

And we wonder how long before this way of running things is applied more widely, whether in academic institutions or the rest of the country?  

Labels: , , ,

From Liverpool TUC, a summing up

MERSEYSIDE UNITED as one. Evertonians make the message clear.

Liverpool Trades Union Council
Press statement
Wednesday 17 April 2013

Why we won’t mourn for Margaret Thatcher

Margaret Thatcher died on 8 April 2013 and the vast majority of ordinary people greeted her passing with undisguised joy.

The right wing media have tried to portray this response as the disrespectful behaviour of a minority. It isn’t. It is a fitting response to the death of a Tory prime minister who spent the entire 1980s wilfully attacking the poor and the working class, in Britain and abroad.

During her reign countless people lost their lives directly as a result of her policies – miners killed on the picket lines, ten Irish prisoners driven to death on hunger strike by her refusal to recognise their human rights, sailors on the Belgrano torpedoed on her order as their ship sailed away from a war zone, people driven to suicide by her selfish economic policies that increased inequality massively in Britain.

And of course in this city 96 Liverpool supporters died at a football match. She was up to her armpits in a conspiracy to blame the victims and their families for a tragedy that her hateful policing policies caused. And we have only just got an official recognition of how this cover up increased the terrible suffering that the families and survivors of this terrible event have had to endure for 24 long years.

Did Thatcher mourn for her victims? No. And we don’t mourn for her.

In Britain she destroyed industry after industry to break the power of the trade unions – in steel, in the mines, in the print and on the docks. She passed the most undemocratic and draconian anti-union laws in the west. She deregulated the banks and directly caused the regime of financial piracy that led to the recent financial crash.

Thatcher openly targeted our city – a city with strong trade union and socialist values –imposing savage cuts and then ousting a democratically elected Labour council that fought her. She launched her attacks on Liverpool after the Toxteth Rising in 1981, determined to make us pay for having fought back and determined to carry out a policy of the “managed decline” (her words) of our city.

After she had waged her neo-colonial war against Argentina in the Falklands/Malvinas in 1982 – a war designed to shore up Britain’s military prowess on the world stage and protect the interests of Britain’s bosses who could smell oil reserves in the South Atlantic and saw the islands as a potential future basis of operations – she returned to war on people she called “the enemy within”, trade unionists, workers, poor people and above all the miners. After all, the excuse that Argentina was ruled by a dictator didn’t wash given her lifelong support for the murderous General Pinochet in neighbouring Chile. This was a dictator she was happy to lavish praise on and arm to the teeth. He killed at least 30,000 Chilean trade unionists after his coup in 1973.

Thatcher spent untold millions killing Argentinians and then in 1984/85 bludgeoning British miners into submission after a year-long strike, and all for the same aim - to ensure that the country would be a land of plenty for the rich elite both at home and abroad. Mining communities were wrecked by her pit closure programme and criminalised by a police occupation of their villages when they fought back.

And having won both battles she went on, in her third term of office – to impose an unjust local tax on everyone – the poll tax. She brazenly piloted it in Scotland first in act of vengeful spite against a people who had rejected Toryism outright. This was one battle she lost as we fought back with all our might. Make no mistake, it may have been the Tory men in suits who moved against her in parliament, but they were only able to do it because we had made Britain virtually ungovernable through the great Poll Tax Rebellion.

During her time in office and even before she became prime minister Thatcher – who famously said, “there is no such thing as society” –did her best to harm all of those who stood for justice and equality. She took free milk away from schoolchildren. She sold off council houses creating a terrible shortage of affordable homes, she privatised industries and utilities so her loud mouthed mega rich friends in the City of London could make killing after killing on the stock markets. She closed down industries and then allowed a heroin epidemic to flourish in the ghost towns her policies had created.

She sponsored a wave of racism claiming Britain was being “swamped by immigrants” – and then unleashed a reign of racist terror by the police on black communities across the country, notably in places like Brixton and Toxteth. At the same time she propped up Apartheid racism in South Africa branding Nelson Mandela a terrorist to the very end. She used the AIDS epidemic of the 1980s as an excuse to attack lesbians and gay men, bringing the anti-gay law, Section 28. And in case students thought they were getting off lightly she laid the foundation stone of the long campaign to transform education from a right into a privilege for the rich by introducing student loans.

There is not one thing that Thatcher did that was good. Her life was a blot on our landscape. We are well rid of her – and we are outraged that at a time of major cuts in welfare she is being given a multi-million pound send off. What hypocrisy, what an insult to the poor of this country who are having to cope with the bedroom tax and the benefit cuts as over £10million is spent burying a person the majority of people in this country despise.

Which brings us to the main point we should all remember as she is dispatched – Thatcher may be dead but her legacy of sacrificing the livelihoods, the rights and communities of the working class on the altar of profit lives on in her descendants. Cameron and his gang of Etonian toffs are trying to finish off the job Thatcher started. It is our job to stop them and hurl Thatcher’s legacy back in their face. Which is why on the day of her funeral Liverpool Trades Union Council renews its commitment to stopping the cuts, axing the bedroom tax, saving the NHS and supporting workers’ struggles here, across the country and across the world.

Don’t mourn Thatcher, organise against Thatcher’s heirs.

By way of contrast:

Labels: , ,

Tuesday, April 16, 2013

Truth v.Lies. From Hillsborough to Wapping

 LIVERPOOL mourns. But not for Thatcher. Banner at Saturday's match. 

THOUSANDS of people gathered at Liverpool football club's Anfield ground today to mark the 24th anniversary of the day of horror when over 1,000 went to a football match at Hillsborough, in Sheffield, and 96 did not come back.

Among those remembering the victims of the man-made disaster at Hillsborough were parents whose teenage children were killed. To their grief at the loss was added the anguish of seeing Liverpool fans vilified by the media, and specifically Rupert Murdoch's newspaper The Sun,whose front-page carried lies fed by the police, blaming the crush in the stadium pen on drunken fans, and accusing them of hampering rescue efforts and robbing the dead.

It has taken years of hard campaigning for the truth to be admitted, that it was the South Yorkshire police who forced people back into the crush, and held up ambulances from reaching the injured.Sadly, some who lost loved ones at Hillsborough have not lived to see the truth acknowledged.

Margaret Aspinall, chair of the Hillsborough Family Support Group, told the 7,000-strong crowd at Anfield that there could be no delay in the IPCC  investigation into police conduct at the 1989 game.
The inquiry followed the Hillsborough Independent Panel's report in September, which revealed the extent of the establishment cover-up and attempt to blame Liverpool fans for the tragedy. It is believed it could take two years to complete. Aspinall, who lost her 18-year-old son James, said: "The truth has finally been revealed and now justice must follow… We [the families] are all getting older and some have been diagnosed with incurable illness. Delays are not acceptable under any circumstances."

At Saturday's game with Reading, whose chair had hastily switched from calling a silence for Thatcher to saying it was for the Hillsborough victims, Liverpool fans held banners not only remembering the 96, but making clear their emnity for Thatcher. People have not found it hard to see the connections between Thatcher's gratitude to the police for their action against the miners, her support for cover-up, and her assistance to Rupert Murdoch in crushing the print unions at Wapping.

Phil Scraton, proessor of Criminology at Queens University, Belfast, and primary author of the hillsborough panel's report, says:
'Instructively, the Report carries a photograph of Margaret Thatcher and Douglas Hurd at Hillsborough in animated conversation – an unrecorded briefing – with senior officers and club officials. Sir Bernard Ingham has since noted they “learnt on the day” that a “tanked-up mob” had stormed the terrace. While Mrs Thatcher’s public face displayed empathy, behind the scenes her earlier condemnation of the “enemy within” was revitalised – a “spectrum” aligning football “hooligans” with “militant” trades unionists and “terrorists within our borders”.

'Disclosed documents show how South Yorkshire Police officers, supported by their Chief Constable, Peter Wright, successfully extended a damage limitation exercise to orchestrated manipulation. Fabricating a story of drunk, ticketless, abusive fans arriving late, forcing entry and causing the fatal crush on the terraces, they sought to shift blame from the actions or inactions of senior officers.'

24-years-on. The Voices of the Victims will be Heard

Dr.John Drury, a social psychologist at Sussex University, considers the problem was that police approached the event beforehand as one of "crowd control", ignored what was actually happening, such as fans trying to help each other, and then tried to cover for themselves with lies - and kept doing so.

A professor of psychology critically examines the attitude of the police.

 But though it was the police and a Tory MP who provided the disinformation, it was the media, and especially Murdoch's Sun, who worked up the smear, and proclaimed the accusations to be "The Truth".

'The man personally responsible for mocking up the notorious “The Truth” front page was Kelvin MacKenzie. MacKenzie apologised for printing the allegations that LFC fans picked the pockets of dead fans, urinated on police trying to help stricken fans and abused the corpse of a young girl – but he then retracted his apology. He has since been unrepentant on the matter.
Here’s what The Sun’s newsroom made of the front page, recounted by Peter Chippendale and Chris Horrie in their book Stick it Up Your Punter!: The Uncut Story of the “Sun” Newspaper.

'As MacKenzie’s layout was seen by more and more people a collective shudder ran through the office, [but] MacKenzie’s dominance was so total there was nobody left in the organisation who could rein him in except Murdoch.
“Everyone seemed paralysed, ‘looking like rabbits in the headlights’, as one hack described them. The error staring them in the face was too glaring. It obviously wasn’t a silly mistake; nor was it a simple oversight.
“Nobody really had any comment on it – they just took one look and went away shaking their heads in wonder at the enormity of it. It was a ‘classic smear’.”'
 Smear that caused shudder in the news room
Even the journo who wrote up the story later claimed he was shocked by the way it was presented:
"When I saw the headline, 'The Truth,' I was aghast, because that wasn't what I'd written. I'd never used the words the truth... I still believe [I wrote it] in a balanced and fair way.
"So I said to Kelvin MacKenzie, 'You can't say that'. And he said 'Why not?' and I said, 'because we don't know that it's the truth. This is a version of 'the truth'."
Aghast at headline

But then McKenzie had history.

IT was him who during the miners' strike got hold of a photograph of Arthur Scargill raising an arm and wanted to use it on the front-page with the headline “Mine Fuhrer” .Some cheek when the Sun was notorious for right-wing, anti-immigrant propaganda and Scargill was a patron of the Anti-Nazi League.  But hey! There was a strike going on and the Sun wanted Maggie to win, so anything goes.

Except this time it didn't  Print trade union members refused to publish the paper's attack on Scargill. They even suggested that the miners' leader should be given a chance to reply to such attacks. Instead the Sun appeared with a front page saying: “Members of all The Sun production chapels refused to handle the Arthur Scargill picture and major headline on our lead story.
“The Sun has decided, reluctantly, to print the paper without either.”

Neither MacKenzie nor the big boss in America could forgive this humiliation. Nor, I imagine could Thatcher. They got their chance to smash union power and establish their way of running things in the battle which broke out at Wapping in 1986. As the Sun had done the dirty work for the police, so now it was the police who galloped to the aid of Murdoch.

MacKenzie's onetime colleague Roy Greenslade says:

"Post-Wapping (from January 1986), he became more reckless and even more mercurial.
Freed from the constraint of unions, more arrogant than before in his dealings with internal management (except for Rupert Murdoch himself, of course), he became over-confident in his own judgement. I detected a master-of-the-universe feel about him. ...

By April 1989, when the Hillsborough disaster, occurred, MacKenzie was at the zenith of his powers and his paper's grotesque coverage of the police allegations was entirely due to his waywardness." 

Geenslade on Kelvin Mackenzie.

But as the Liverpool fans with their banner in our picture rightly understand, the conduct and demeanor of characters like Mackenzie was part and parcel of the arrogant government and ruling class they served. It formed part of the link between the swing of police batons at Orgreave and the clatter of hooves at Wapping.When Thatcher's fawning admirers say she "freed" Britain from the the grip of the unions, what they are really talking about is how we were driven back from exercising any restraint on our rulers or their well-paid liars.

As for "freedom", the fear that silences journalists from standing up to the boss and criticisng a word of the lies being printed is just one example of how much freedom you can enjoy when you have not got a union to back you.

Not that the Metropolitan Police were Murdoch's only allies at Wapping. He had the help also of my old trade union, the EEPTU, which recruited strikebreakers. Not all EEPTU members went along with this disgrace, and some formed the breakaway electrical and Plumbing Industries  Union, EPIU, when the EEPTU was cast out of the TUC. The EPIU is now part of Unite the union, as ironically by a different route have arrived the EEPTU's successors. Without wanting to to dwell on the past, there is a history there to be examined.

Meanwhile, let us praise the 'ordinary' Liverpool folk whose extraordinary tragedy and determined fight for the truth and justice led them to take on the powerful and corrupt forces that dominate us. Their fight is ours, and their heroism and dignity are an example to us. 

Labels: , , ,

Sunday, April 14, 2013

The Grocer's Daughter and A Mystery Fortune in Bricks and Mortar

FROM DING DONG SONG TO SINGING  IN THE RAIN.  media say "hundreds", friends say 3,000, and so do photographs, like this one from Nicholas Glais.

APOLOGIES to fans and admirers who might have been hoping for a bop around Trafalgar Square with me on Saturday evening, but after an early start, an interesting meeting of the Greater London Association of Trade Union Councils, and a few pints with the gang before heading home through the rain, I'd had enough excitement for the day. Such is old age.

Besides, there had been all the warnings in the media, of murder and mayhem being brought to the capital by anarchists, if not al Qaida, and judging from the armed police I passed at Kings Cross someone was taking it all seriously.

Doing its best to keep up the thrills and supposed suburban outrage, the Daily Mail came up with a scoop:

Mastermind behind plans to disrupt Thatcher funeral is Oxford student whose parents live in £700,000 house in Tunbridge Wells

  • 25-year-old Dominic Francis studies at Oxford's Ruskin College 
  • Fanatics plan to 'celebrate' Iron Lady's death in Central London today If people do break the law they will be properly dealt with,' Mayor said 
  • Police preparing for planned protest in Trafalgar Square tonight
  • Members of Durham Miners' Association among those taking part
  • The Mail Discovers a Mastermind
It seemed that not only were people going to be listening to speeches and partying in the Square on Saturday night, but what young Dominic has planned is for people to turn their backs on Thtacher's funeral cortege as it passes by on Wednesday. Wow, that is really scary.

Not wishing these young whipper-snappers to receive all the credit for the national rejoicing I am going to make a confession. Some years back when an unfortunately unfounded rumour went around before Christmas that Thatcher had popped her clogs, I suggested that if this was confirmed the song should resound throughout the land, "Ding Dong, the Witch is Dead".

True to my word, as soon as I heard the news of her death at the Ritz last week I opened my windows and regaled the neigbours with more than one version of the Yip Harburg classic. I have not had any complaints, nor even remarks, but I read in the Mail that a decision by the BBC to broadcast a short snatch of the Ding Dong song after it zoomed up the charts is handing "victory to the Trots". Ding Dong victory.

Loth as I am to claim credit for an idea that occurred to so many other people, I think for the sake of the Daily Mail  I will confess to being the "mastermind", or if you prefer, the Mister Big, who started this conspiracy. Well, we need every little victory we can get.

But while the Rothermere rag was doing its best to stir up readers' resentment against this young man at Ruskin over his parents' house in Surrey (without much success, to judge from the comments I've seen), the Daily Mirror was drawing our attention to another, more pertinent housing story.  

Mystery: Margaret Thatcher, her £6m house and the tax havens

Margaret Thatcher’s £6m London townhouse is owned by a mysterious company with links to THREE notorious tax havens.Financial experts said it could have been a scheme which would help her estate avoid millions of pounds in inheritance tax.

But because her affairs are shrouded in such extraordinary secrecy it may be impossible to find out.

The trail leads to offshore businesses in the British Virgin Islands with links to Liechtenstein and Jersey.

The £6million property she lived in for more than 20 years is owned by Bakeland Property Company, based in the BVI.The company’s official address is a PO Box in a small town in Liechtenstein and it had its original roots in St Helier, Jersey.

Any suggestion of avoiding a £2.4m inheritance tax bill will spark outrage following the row over who is paying for Thatcher’s lavish £10m funeral.

Records at the government’s Land Registry HQ in Croydon, South London showed that on March 29, 2006, Bakeland paid £2,395,807 for the house at Chester Square in Belgravia, London.It is unclear who they purchased the house from because they were also named on the lease when the house was originally bought on October 30, 1991 for a reported £700,000 in 1991.

There are two leases on the property, which a Land Registry source described as “unusual”.The first one was taken out on October 18, 1991, and lasts until December 25, 2030.The second was taken out on July 29 and runs out in 2055.

The latest lease mysteriously stated: “The airspace above the building is excluded from the title.”

Bakeland Property Company Ltd trustees were originally listed as Jersey-based Hugh Thurston and Leonard Day, her friends and financial advisers. In 2002 The Guardian reported that Bakeland’s shares were held by Mr Day and Mr Thurston. Accountants said they were acting as nominees for a trust with concealed beneficiaries.

As Lady Thatcher did not own the house herself it is possible, depending on the terms of her will, that her children Mark and Carol could benefit.If the property was listed in the name of their mother they would been subject to 40% tax on the entire value of the home – an estimated £2.4m.

Both Mark and Carol visited the house in Chester Square last night.

Tax campaigner Mr Christensen added: “There are huge financial benefits for an offshore company to own a property or leasehold particulaly in connection with stamp duty and inheritance tax.

“A company doesn’t die. If a person dies the property has to be passed on to someone else – obviously this is not the case with a company.

“This can be very beneficial indeed and can save a large amount of money in taxes which would be othewise due.”

The Mirror called the British Virgin Financial Services Commission which confirmed that the company which now owns Thatcher’s house had been based there since August 19, 2005.

The question marks over the Thatcher home come as police in London prepare for demos this weekend following the former Prime Minister’s death on Monday. Anarchists threatened a mass “party” to celebrate her death and protesters say a demonstration in Trafalgar Square today will be a focus for discontent in the run-up to Wednesday’s funeral.

     Mystery of The House on Chester Square

We've been interested in houses in Belgravia before, in connection with the generosity of Saudi businessmen. Mark Thatcher had a home in Eaton Terrace, handy for "Mumsy".  I don't know about bedroom tax but I should not think he'll be affected by the benefits cap.

Paper hit by legal hoax

Lastly, quite unconnected, another mystery, from Croydon. Newsagents and supermarkets across the south London borough were duped into taking the Croydon Advertiser, with front-page stories about Lady Thatcher and Princess Di,  off their shelves, after someone calling themselves "Joanna Lumley" 'phoned to say there was a legal problem.

Not the Joanna Lumley surely? How could anyone imitate that voice and accent?  Or suppose she was working in the local paper's office? Still, whoever it was, it worked. Thanks to the word "legal" the paper lost a whole day's sales.
Advertiser editor Glenn Ebrey said: "I've been in journalism for almost a decade but never heard of anything like this before"

Somebody sabotages the Advertiser

Here I have the advantage over him.

When I was working (unpaid) on the late Workers Press, I wrote a story about one Roger Rosewall, whom I remembered from the Young Socialists, but had made the news as a shadowy adviser to another grocer's daughter, Tesco heiress Dame Shirley Porter. The leader of Westminster city council, notorious for selling off council houses in what became known as "homes for votes" scandal.

With the help of one or two old friends, I traced his career from Socialist Workers Party industrial organiser by way of Ruskin College (!) to helping ex-CP union leader Frank Chapple at the Daily Mail before moving further into the corridors of power, well City Hall at any rate (Though he was not on Westminster's staff officially, and it was reported that they were not supposed to mention him).

Next morning I looked forward to seeing, and selling, the paper with my article, but it was not available. Apparently a certain person, whom I will not embarass by naming, had seen my copy being set, and taken it upon himself to call the printers and some outlets , warning them authoritatively that my article could be considered libellous. Not being a big company with pots of money or on tap lawyers they were worried and stopped the paper going out.

Not till after my late friend Geoff Pilling, the paper's editor (whom they had not 'phoned) heard about this, and checked with a lawyer who knew what he was talking about and said there was noting wrong with my article, did that issue of the paper get out, late in the day.

What was behind all this, besides an absurd nervousness, I don't know. It almost makes me sympathise with the Croydon Advertiser. 

Roger Rosewall gets a mention in the House

Labels: ,

Saturday, April 06, 2013

Has African ghost come back to haunt Vauxhall Cross?

DELIVERED trussed up to his enemies. But who arranged Patrice Lumumba's death?

HAS the ghost of Congo's first elected prime minister, Patrice Lumumba, murdered in 1961, and revered ever since as a victim of imperialist intrigue and ikon of African aspirations for freedom, come back to haunt the headquarters of British intelligence, MI6, at Vauxhall Cross in London?

Lumumba was ousted by the CIA-backed Colonel Joseph Mobutu, having failed to subdue the breakaway mineral-rich Katanga province, and called in UN troops to restore order. The UN forces went everywhere except Katanga, and it was there that having been handed over to his enemies, the Congolese leader was killed by officers from his country's former colonial masters, the Belgians.

In 1975 the US Senate's  Church Committee looking into CIA operations went on record with the finding that spychief Allen Dulles had ordered Lumumba's assassination as "an urgent and prime objective". Declassified  CIA cables mention two specific CIA plots to murder Lumumba: the poison plot and a shooting plot. Although some sources claim that CIA plots ended when Lumumba was captured, records show that removing him remained a US objective. A CIA officer told another that he had disposed of the body.

A Belgian Commission investigating Lumumba's assassination denied that Belgium had ordered it but admitted culpability for failing to prevent it taking place.  In February 2002, the Belgian government apologised to the Congolese people, and admitted to a "moral responsibility" and "an irrefutable portion of responsibility in the events that led to the death of Lumumba".

Now a historian, Calder Walton, whose book Empire of Secrets has prompted claims of British involvment in the affair has urged MI6 to declassify its secret files on Lumumba.

It was after Walton's book was reviewed in the London Review of Books last month that Labour Life peer Lord Lea of Crondall wrote to the LRB to say that he had been told Lumumba was killed with the help of MI6.  He claimed he was told this by the late Baroness Park of Monmouth, who at the time of Lumumba’s death headed the Leopoldville station of MI6.

In his book, Walton, who until 2009 served as research assistant for Professor Christopher Andrew’s authorized official history of MI5, Defence of the Realm, says it is unclear who organized Lumumba’s assassination. He argues that “at present, we do not know [...] whether British plots to assassinate Lumumba [...] ever amounted to anything”. But speaking to The London Times on Wednesday, the historian and author urged MI6 to declassify its internal archives on the Congolese leader. He told the paper that MI6 must be placed “in the position it deserves in the history of anti-colonial movements in Africa and elsewhere”, but that could only be done if MI6 “releases records from its own archives”.

According to Lord Lea, what he was told by Baroness Park was that MI6 was worried that Lumumba might bring the Congo, with its important uranium deposits among other minerals, under Soviet influence. According to US records, Eisenhower was persuaded that Lumumba was a "communist".
If that was down to MI6 it would not be the first, or last, time, that the British intelligence establishment had worked up a "Red scare" to try and affect US policy.

Congolese uranium was important to the United States for military as well as economic reasons. But there were British interests in the Congo, and more specifically, Katanga's other minerals. In fact the British combine TANKS, originating around Tanganyika Ceoncessions Ltd., was a major holder in Union Miniere, the Belgian company which continued to own and run Katanga until it was taken over by Mobutu.

Lumumba was forcibly restrained on the flight to Elizabethville (now Lubumbashi) on 17 January 1961.[21] On arrival, he was conducted under arrest to Brouwez House where he was brutally beaten and tortured by Katangan and Belgian officers,[22] while President Tshombe and his cabinet decided what to do with him.[23][24][25]
Death by firing squad

Later that night, Lumumba was driven to an isolated spot where three firing squads had been assembled. According to David Akerman, Ludo de Witte and Kris Hollington,[26] the firing squads were commanded by a Belgian, Captain Julien Gat; another Belgian, Police Commissioner Verscheure, had overall command of the execution site.[27] The Belgian Commission has found that the execution was carried out by Katanga's authorities, but de Witte found written orders from the Belgian government requesting Lumumba's execution and documents on various arrangements, such as death squads. It reported that President Tshombe and two other ministers were present with four Belgian officers under the command of Katangan authorities. Lumumba and two ministers from his newly formed independent government (and who had also been tortured), Maurice Mpolo and Joseph Okito, were lined up against a tree and shot one at a time. The execution probably took place on 17 January 1961 between 21:40 and 21:43 according to the Belgian report. According to Adam Hochschild, author of a book on the Congo rubber terror, Lumumba's body was disposed of in an unmarked grave by a CIA agent.[28]

No statement was released until three weeks later despite rumours that Lumumba was dead.

Later that year it was the turn of UN Secretary General Dag Hammarskjold to die,  while on a flight to Katanga. His plane came down near Ndala, in Zambia, on September 18, 1961. Reports of a bright flash in the sky before the crash led to a UN investigation. There were rumours and accusations of a conspiracy. It is possible that new evidence about the murder of Patrice Lumumba might lead to reopening the case of Dag Hammarskjold's death.

But we are consistently reassured that British intelligence services, MI5 and MI6 do not engage in such things. And who are we to question the word of British officers, ladies and gentlemen?

Congo remains the prey of competing mineral interests, with proxy wars and child slavery used to take out the 'rare earths' valued by the electronics industry,  along the border with Rwanda, now a member of the British Commonwealth.

"MI6 link to Lumumba assassination"

Historian calls on MI6 to declassify files

How the UN fronted for imperialist conspiracy against Lumumba

Union Miniere

Patrice Lumumba

Dag Hammarskjold

Labels: , , ,

Wednesday, April 03, 2013

Sack Di Canio and send him home!

PAOLO DI CANIO wears "Duce" tattoo and has written that Mussolini was "misunderstood". Was his salute, made more than once, also "misunderstood"?

A WEEK is a long time in politics, so said Harold Wilson, and it seems when politics meet football, some people's memories don't last a full season. Sunderland football club has appointed self-proclaimed fascist Paolo Di Canio as manager, and is pretending that all that matters is his ability to get results.

"Football is nothing to do with politics", they and those who defend their decision claim. From what we hear of Di Canio's ways we wonder. But for those who are satisfied with Di Canio's much-quoted assurance that he is " a fascist, but not a racist", there should be no need to go right back in history.

  True, perhaps, racial antisemitism was not as central to Mussolini's original fascism as it was for Hitler's Nazis. The Fascist party had Jewish members and supporters, and Il Duce was admired by Jabotinsky's right-wing Zionist Revisionists who went on to form the Irgun Zvai Leumi terrorists in Palestine, and became today's governing party in Israel. If the Italian fascists decided instead to support the Arab revolt in Palestine, and directed anti-Jewish propaganda to the Maghreb (at least as much for the white colons as the Muslims) this was a matter of geopolitics and strategy.

True, too, perhaps, that fascist brutality in Italy itself did not discriminate. They broke up workers' organisations, jailed and beat up socialists and other opponents without regard for their origins.

None of this was compensatory for the Libyans and Ethiopians who were bombed and massacred to make way for Italy's colonial empire. Nor for the Italian Jews rounded up for the camps, when Mussolini decided it was time to fall in with his allies' racial plans.

But when our rulers heard that some Socialist or trade unionist had been killed or had to flee the blackshirt thugs they probably told themselves that this was worth it if Mussolini could make his trains run on time, as was claimed. "Had I been an Italian, I would have been with you from the start. You have shown a way to beat the bestial appetites of Bolshevism." said Winston Churchill on a visit to Italy in 1927.

For others, like Sir Oswald Mosley, or the the Rothermere-owned Daily Mail, the charm lasted longer, in Mosley's case until the cheques ran out and he had to turn to Adolf for support.

After the war, since Italy, though not Musso, had surrendered, and the Italian fascists were seen as potentially needed allies against the workers' and partisans of the Left, the Allies did not bother with any war crimes trials. After all, the victims of the fascist war crimes had been mostly Arabs and Africans, so they did not really count. Nor did the Slovenes, when Britain protected General Roatta, who had been responsible for massdeporations and killings there.

Fascist generals were protected, and neo-fascists enlisted for NATO's Gladio network. Perhaps they too can say they were not racialist, as their victims were mainly fellow-countrymen, such as the 85 killed in the 1980 Bologna station bombing.

 It was reported today that Di Canio attended the funeral of one of the Bologna station bombers. But what was already notorious was his fascist salute to far Right Lazio fans, which he explained was a a gesture to his people.

 Nowadays there is no room for doubt about the violent racism and antisemitism of Italian fascist groups, and Lazio 'Ultras' are proud of their reputation for racist chants and thuggery. It was naturally assumed they were behind the organised attack on English Spurs fans in November, though magistrates said later it was a rival gang. The Lazio fans did not miss up on their chance for antisemitic chants however.  And even if Sunderland bosses didn't know their history, they might have vaguely recalled the incident in Rome before declaring that football is nothing to do with politics. 

organised attack left fan with stab wounds

Who are Lazio Ultras?

Di Canio's "people", Lazio Ultras  

Di Canio at Bologna bomber's funeral

Miners demand their banner back

Now after former Foreign Secretary and South Shields MP David Miliband resigned his directorship of Sunderland,  Durham miners demanded their union banner back from the Stadium of Light, and many ordinary but loyal supporters voiced their protests, we get a change of tune. Di Canio appears on TV waving a Sunderland scarf and says he is neither a racialist or a fascist. After what looked suspiciously like flying a kite for fascism's acceptability, it seems for now we are treated to a PR exercise. Whether this display of supposed 'sincerity' will erase the previous shows with right arm extended to "my people", we will see. Better he be sent back to his 'people, and the Sunderland bosses apologise for insulting theirs, but I suppose that might cost too much.


Labels: ,