Sunday, May 31, 2015

London Coroner's Careful Verdict Leaves Case for Pursuing Justice

A London coroner has accepted that London student Jeremiah Duggan was killed when he ran into motorway traffic outside Wiesbaden, in Germany, as reported by witnesses; but rejected the German authorities' verdict that Jeremiah committed "suicide". 

Although he did not accept a theory that Jeremiah could have been killed elsewhere and his body taken to stage the accident on the autobahn, the coroner at Barnet acknowledged that some of the bruising on the young man's body suggested he had been involved in an "altercation" before he met his death.  He also noted the political circumstances which might have had a bearing on Jeremiah's death.

Concerned at the build up to war on Iraq, Jeremiah, 22, had been  attending a supposed anti-war conference called by the Schiller Institute, part of an international organisation headed by American cultist Lyndon LaRouche, when he died.

In a narrative verdict, Coroner Andrew Walker said:

“On the 27th March 2003 in the early hours of the morning Jeremiah Joseph Duggan, who had been attending a conference run by a far-right wing organisation, was staying with a friend in Wiesbaden with a family. “Having spoken to his girlfriend and mother in alarming terms Mr Duggan, having asked to leave the house for a cigarette accompanied by the friend, suddenly ran from the house. The friend who was with him did not follow him.

“At about 6am the same Jeremiah Joseph Duggan received fatal injuries following a collision with two cars on the Berlinerstrasse and died in a road traffic collision.

“The fact that he attended a conference run by this far-right wing organisation, and the method that the organisation used to recruit young persons at that time - against the background of the start of the Iraq war, together with Mr Duggan expressing that he was a Jew, British and questioning the material put before him - may have had a bearing on Mr Duggan’s death, in the sense that it may have put Mr Duggan at risk from members of the organisation and caused Mr Duggan to become distressed and seek to leave.

“There are a number of unexplained injuries that suggest that Mr Duggan may have been involved in an altercation at some stage before his death.”
(my emphasis -CP)

During the inquest expert witnesses including a former member of the LaRouche organisation testified to the methods used by the cult in attracting and indoctrinating members. The court also heard that after Jeremiah Duggan rejected some of the things said in conference, members were told he must be some kind of spy.

When the verdict was read out, Jeremiah's mother, Erica Duggan, shouted “Justice, we want justice”.
Speaking outside, she welcomed the verdict but said she was disappointed the coroner had rejected expert evidence suggesting Duggan had been killed before his body was moved to the motorway as part of an elaborate setup.

“I was emotionally shocked and disappointed at the fact he did not take enough notice of the very powerful evidence he had from experts,” she said. “I am going to fight on but I am not sure I will do it through the justice system.”

In a statement, the Duggan family said they were grateful that some of the facts had come out in court about why Jeremiah tried to get away from the conference, and expressed the hope that other students would not be taken in by such extremist organisations.

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Tuesday, May 26, 2015

When political tricks misfire

 DEMONSTRATORS outside Kirkwall cathedral (pic from the Orcadian) and below, marching on Carmichael's Shetlands office (BBC).

FORMER Scottish Secretary Alistair Carmichael, the last Lib Dem MP left in Scotland, could soon be gone as a result of a clever little piece of political mischief which has misfired.
Mr. Carmichael, whose Northern Isles constituency covers the Orkneys and Shetland Isles, has admitted he was behind the "leak" of a civil service memo which claimed Scottish National Party leader Nicola Sturgeon had said she would prefer to see a Tory government under David Cameron returned in the general election.

The SNP leader denied saying anything of the sort.  Describing the leak, which appeared in the Daily Telegraph before the election as a "blatant election dirty trick", she has said Carmichael should seriously consider his position as an MP.

The confidential memo,  written by a civil servant in the Scotland Office, was a third-hand account of a conversation between the Scottish first minister and the French ambassador, in March, which Ms Sturgeon was reported to have said she wanted David Cameron to remain as prime minister. Both Ms.Sturgeon and the ambassador denied any such conversation had taken place.

After the story appeared in the Daily Telegraph,  the cabinet secretary, Sir Jeremy Heywood, ordered an inquiry into how the confidential memo got into the public domain. He discovered that an official mobile phone belonging to Euan Roddin, Carmichael’s special adviser, was used to contact one of the reporters who wrote the Telegraph story.The official cabinet office inquiry into the leaking of the memo said Mr Carmichael's former special adviser Euan Roddin gave the details to the Daily Telegraph - but he had Mr Carmichael's permission to do so.

LIB DEM CARMICHAEL. MP  wants to carry on but may have to go.

Carmichael now says he accepted the memo was wrong about Nicola Sturgeon being pro-Tory, and described the leak as “an error of judgment”, He apologised to the SNP leader. He has said he is waiving the severance pay he is entitled to after losing his cabinet job. He said that if he had still been a minister it would have been a resigning matter.

Speaking to BBC Radio Orkney, Mr Carmichael said: "I have said already that I very much regret the position I am in. I have been the member of parliament for Orkney and Shetland for the last 14 years.
I have worked hard for local people and believe that's the record on which I am entitled to rely and that's the job that I am now going to be getting on with. None of that has changed."
On Saturday, the Scottish Lib Dem's party executive agreed Mr Carmichael would not face any disciplinary action and the party's leader Willie Rennie has said the MP "deserved a second chance".

But there have been demonstrations in both Lerwick in the Shetlands and Kirkwall in the Orkneys, demanding that he stand down.  Scottish Nationalists insist they are not the only ones demanding he go.

The nationalists have repeated calls for a formal investigation by the Parliamentary Commissioner for Standards into Mr Carmichael's behaviour.  SNP MP Pete Wishart said Mr Carmichael must explain if he was sent a copy of the memo. He said: "Mr Carmichael no longer has any credibility as an MP - the best course of action would be for him to stand down.

"Mr Carmichael must now explain if he was sent a copy of the memo before authorising the leak. If he was, he must then explain why he apparently failed to read his own ministerial papers. A formal investigation by the Standards Commissioner would help shed light on these matters."

Stewart Hosie, MP for Dundee East and the SNP’s deputy leader at Westminster, told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme on Saturday that Carmichael, who had at first denied involvement in the leak, ought to resign. He said: “This is potentially career-ending precisely because he went into an election suggesting one thing and then we find out – lo and behold, just after the election – it wasn’t true.

“Given the scale of this – a dirty tricks campaign that involved the French ambassador and the Scottish First Minister – all of which is completely false, bogus, made up, really he ought to consider very seriously whether he can be even be trusted by his constituents to remain an MP.” 

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Thursday, May 21, 2015

Searching for Justice for Jeremiah Duggan

JEREMIAH DUGGAN.  Unlikely 'suicide'.  Normally cheerful student 'phoned home in terror before meeting his death at Wiesbaden.

A LONDON family's long search for truth and justice for the death of their son in Germany reached Barnet Coroner's Court this week, and reports of the case have brought to public notice the sinister international cult headed by Lyndon LaRouche, little known in Britain, but long notorious in the United States, where it began, before extending its activity to continental Europe.

Jeremiah Duggan was just 22, and studying at the Sorbonne in Paris in 2003 when, worried over the prospect of war on Iraq, he bought a paper called Nouvelle Solidarite, and was invited by the seller to attend a youth anti-war conference being organised in Wiesbaden, Germany, by the Schiller Institute. 
What he was not to know was that Nouvelle Solidarite is produced by Lyndon LaRouche's supporters  in France, and the cultural-sounding Institute (Friedrich Schiller was an 18th century philosopher and poet) was founded by LaRouche's German wife, Helga Zepp LaRouche.

At the conference, Jeremiah apparently disagreed with some of the things he heard, - some of the speakers seemed to blame Jews for the war - and he said so. But he agreed to attend a cadre school to continue discussion. He was not to make it.  His body was found by the side of an autobahn on the outskirts of town. German police accepted that he had run out into the road, and been struck by two vehicles, and recorded it as "a suicide by means of a traffic accident".

The Duggan family and friends have never accepted this explanation. For one thing they say Jeremiah was a cheerful, healthy young man, happy with his studies and his girlfriend, and had no reason to end his life in the horrible way described. For another, his mother Erica Duggan received a 'phone call from Jeremiah on the night that he died, saying he was in serious trouble and sounding terrified. In May 2010 the High Court ordered a fresh UK inquest after judges said evidence of possible foul play must be investigated.

At the new inquest in Barnet, as well as hearing Erica Duggan retell that 'phone call, the court heard from Paul Canning, a forensic photographic expert Paul Canning who said that after examining pictures from the scene, "the only possible conclusion is that it must have been a set-up".

Mr Canning, who has over a decade of experience working with the Metropolitan Police, said there was no evidence of contact between Mr Duggan and two vehicles - a Peugeot 406 and a Volkswagen Golf - which the German investigation found had been involved in his death.

He said: "After making a lengthy examination of the photographs I conclude that, based on my experience of attending hundreds of fatal and very serious road traffic accidents, that in examining the scene of the accident, the road, Jeremiah's body and both vehicles involved, I could find no traces of blood, hair, tissue or clothing on the vehicles or road, except round the immediate vicinity of Jeremiah's body."

He added that both vehicles and Mr Duggan appeared to have traces of a wet sandy substance which was not present at the scene and therefore placed them elsewhere before the alleged accident - perhaps a builders yard or quarry. .

He said the damage to the Peugeot, which is claimed to have hit Mr Duggan, appeared to have been caused by a "heavy metallic instrument" or possibly another car rather than a person. He described damage on the Volkswagen, which is said to have run Mr Duggan over after he jumped out and hit the Peugeot, as "inconsistent".

Coroner for north London Andrew Walker asked: "Are you saying the damage to the vehicles is unlikely to have been caused by an impact with a person?"

"Yes sir, in my opinion," Mr Canning replied.

"Is it likely that damage to the vehicle has been placed there?"

"After looking at the photographs the only possible conclusion I could find was that it was placed there and further, that it looks like pre-existing damage that was undertaken prior to this incident."

"Are you saying this was a constructed road traffic collision?"

"It certainly looks that way, sir."

Written evidence from forensic pathologists said Mr Duggan’s body had not suffered from drag marks or head injuries consistent with being run over by a car, the inquest heard.

After Mr Duggan’s death on March 27, 2003, a witness told the family of the chaotic scenes at the LaRouche conference, the court heard. Jeremiah's father Hugh Duggan said: “All their members, 40 to 50 of them, were gathered into a room and addressed by Helga LaRouche, the wife of LaRouche, at this stage she said, ‘Jeremiah Duggan is dead. We believe he was a spy sent to harm the organisation and now we want you to pack up and go home right away. Don’t talk among yourselves about this and don’t talk to others.”

That summer Hugh Duggan arranged a meeting with the German ambassador in London to discuss his concerns over the far-right group’s involvement in the lead up to his son’s death, the inquest heard. Mr Duggan told the court: “The first thing he (the German ambassador) said was, ‘We know all about LaRouche. We have been after him for years’.”

If the authorities in Germany knew all about LaRouche they, and particularly the police in the State of Hesse where the Wiesbaden institute is situated,  seem to have been quick to accept the "suicide" story which the LaRouchites proffered. British police have been slow to follow up the call for a new investigation, saying they were awaiting evidence from Germany. Most if not all the efforts to investigate what happened have been pursued by the Duggan family themselves.

I regret to say I never met young Jeremiah Duggan, nor knew the family, but as it happens I did know his grandfather Hans Freund, who died in 2007. Having left Germany as a refugee from the Nazis, Hans joined up to fight them in World War II, taking part in the campaigns in north Africa and in a daring prisoner of war escape. Later he was involved as a Communist Party member in the underground struggle against the Apartheid regime in South Africa, a cause he continued to support after coming to Britain. Best-known and loved in London as a hearty Jewish choral singer, Hans also joined the Jewish Socialists' Group, which was how I came to know him.  A good-humoured, even jovial man, modest about his own role and background, but a source of strength and encouragement.

I'm sure Jerry Duggan must have taken courage, intelligence and good humour from both the Jewish and Irish sides of his family.

Like Jeremiah Duggan, and I suppose many other people, I started my acquaintance and active involvement in politics through buying a paper off someone in the street, though thankfully it was not Nouvelle Solidarite but Newsletter, the paper of the Socialist Labour League, when I was 17, and though neither still exist I'm alive to tell the tale.

From 1976-8 I was employed as a poorly-paid hack on the daily News Line.  One morning my colleague the late Jack Gale took a 'phone call, and hand over the mouthpiece, turned to ask me whether the reformist party in Sweden was called the Social Democrats? Which I confirmed.
Jack had taken a call from someone saying they spoke for the "Swedish Labour Party", asking for information about a former British soldier who had turned up in Sweden. This was a man who had testified about torture used by British forces on prisoners in South Yemen. But I also recognised the name "Swedish Labour Party" as one used by an organisation which Lyndon LaRouche had established in Sweden. We did not ring them back with any information.

Lyndon LaRouche, often using the name "Lyn Marcus", had been among a group of left-wing dissidents around the US Socialist Workers Party, America's original Trotskyist organisation, who opposed its leadership and made contact with the Socialist Labour League, led by Gerry Healy in Britain.  Unable to remain long in any group that he was not leading, LaRouche/Marcus (Tim Wohlforth recalls his "gargantuan ego") soon broke with the rest and set off on his own direction.  

Still posing as some kind of left-wing revolutionary, setting up the National Caucus of Labor Committees, while concentrating on recruiting students, LaRouche began to systematically inculcate violent hostility to other groups among his followers, going well beyond ordinary sectarianism. They turned to organised violence and thuggery.  

Armed with chains, bats, and martial-art nunchuk sticks, NCLC members assaulted Communist Party, SWP, and Progressive Labor Party members and Black Power activists, on the streets and during meetings. At least 60 assaults were reported. The operation ended when police arrested several of LaRouche's followers; there were no convictions, and LaRouche maintained they had acted in self-defense. Journalist and LaRouche expert Dennis King writes that the FBI may have tried to aggravate the strife, using measures such as anonymous mailings, to keep the groups at each other's throats.[45][46

Opponents doubted whether LaRouche's organisation could operate in the way it did without some complicity from state forces. Although he did serve a prison sentence for fraud, LaRouche seems to have led a charmed life, and his organisation and publications have had no shortage of funds or prestigious contacts as they expanded their activities to Europe. Former members describe the organisation as functioning like a cult, while the LaRouchite Executive Intelligence Review, circulating among business and political circles, combines often well-informed analysis with bold conspiracy theory.

Among other things the LaRouche movement has claimed the British Royal Family heads a global drug smuggling racket, the Tavistock Institute in London is a British intelligence front for brainwashing subjects, and that Jessica Duggan's quest for truth about her son's death is part of a conspiracy orchestrated by the British Foreign Office.  

Back in 1977, when we got that 'phone call from the LaRouchites to News Line, little or nothing had been published about them in Britain. But there had been plenty in the left-wing press in the United States, including The Bulletin published by our co-thinkers in the US Workers League. They were also starting to get attention in Germany. Thinking we ought to publish something about this organisation and its expansion to Europe, I gathered what material we had and wrote an article.

To my surprise, our editor Alex Mitchell, who was away much of the time working on a project and series of articles called Security and the Fourth International, assisted by Dave North of the Workers League (nowadays Socialist Equality Party), came into the office looking worried, after a meeting with Gerry Healy, and said there was no way we could publish anything about Lyndon LaRouche and his organisation. By way of an explanation, he remarked that the last thing we wanted was some "LaRouchite nutter throwing a bomb into the printshop".

That made me feel I'd been irresponsible, instead of conscientious, and I did not argue. All the same, and though it was not the only time I was told something could not go in the paper, there was something odd about this. Much of what I had written had come straight from our US comrades. What's more, as part of the Security and the Fourth International campaign we had not only accused the Socialist Workers Party in the United States of harbouring FBI agents, which it did, but implied that it had a hand in the murder of Trotskyists, including Tom Henehan in the United States and even a Sri Lankan comrade. If all this was true - and I never questioned it - we were being brave and bold in publishing it, but apparently could not do the same with what we knew about the LaRouchite movement.

Anyway, my article never saw the light of day, and within a year -albeit for other reasons - I was exiled from the News Line office, ostensibly to cover the firefighters' strike in the West Midlands, and then sacked by Gerry Healy.  Thus ended my brief career as a professional journalist.

In the Autumn of 1985, Gerry Healy exited the Clapham centre in somewhat greater haste than I had, and public disgrace over his treatment of party members, particularly young women comrades. According to Alex Mitchell, and others who went with Healy, he was still a great revolutionary and the victim of an MI5 conspiracy. Former London mayor Ken Livingstone endorsed this line. Alex Mitchell returned to his native Australia to resume his journalistic career, and in a memoir published in 2012 he recalls hearing that Healy had denounced him too as an intelligence agent; but this does not seem to have inspired him to re-examine his own previous accusations.

In 1986, the Swedish prime minister Olaf Palme was assassinated, and a former member of the LaRouche organisation in Sweden, renamed European Workers Party, was arrested though later discharged as a suspect. The LaRouchites denounced efforts to throw suspicion their way, but their Swedish organisation seems to have undergone a crisis after this.

In recent years, despite its increasingly right-wing image and reputation for extremism, the LaRouche organisation seems to have continued acquiring wealthy and influential friends, including some in Russia and eastwards. Perhaps the investigation of Jeremiah Duggan's death will threaten to uncover a real and bigger conspiracy.

Who's your friend?
American fascist Lyndon LaRouche, his wife and colleague Helga-Zepp LaRouche and current Putin's aide Sergey Glazyev, then Russian parliament chairman of the Economic Affairs Committee, June 2001

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Sunday, May 17, 2015

Art and Labour in Abu Dhabi

AT the end of April a group of trade unionists and safety campaigners went to the Qatar embassy in London, to hold a protest and deliver a letter about the lives and conditions of migrant workers in Qatar, as part of International Workers Memorial Day. The focus on Qatar is because of booming construction there in preparation for the 2022 FIFA World Cup.

It has been alleged the oil rich kingdom spent billions of pounds lobbying to get the world cup , for which it is building a super-modern air conditioned 40,000-seat stadium and other facilities.  But the workers, mainly from south Asia, and many held under something like debt-bondage, have been working long hours in desert heat, and dying at a rate that suggests 4,000 could have died before the first ball is kicked.  

Qatar is not the only Gulf state where labour conditions at a prestigious world site have aroused international concern. In the United Arab Emirates, the Guggenheim Foundation is building a huge art museum which will be the centre of a cluster of museums on an island off Abu Dhabi. The Louvre, the British Museum, and New York University  are also involved in the project.

The American architect Frank Gehry writes:
“Approaching the design of the museum for Abu Dhabi made it possible to consider options for design of a building that would not be possible in the United States or in Europe. It was clear from the beginning that this had to be a new invention. The landscape, the opportunity, the requirement, to build something that people all over the world would come to and the possible resource to accomplish it opened tracks that were not likely to be considered anywhere else. The site itself, virtually on the water or close to the water on all sides, in a desert landscape with the beautiful sea and the light quality of the place suggested some of the direction.”

But Abu Dhabi offers other features not, thankfully, common in Europe or the United States. At least, no longer, and not yet brought back. As a report for Human Rights Watch in 2009 began:
Foreign construction workers in the UAE are subject to a sponsorship (or "kafala") system that places them in a highly dependent relationship to their employers. In conjunction with prohibitions (de facto or de jure) against unions, collective bargaining and striking, the sponsorship system grants employers an extraordinary degree of control over foreign workers, placing the workers at severe risk of exploitation. 

The Observer reported at the end of 2013 that the emirate's tourism development and investment company (TDIC), which runs Saadiyat island was "failing to uphold its own employment policies, with workers left destitute, confined to their quarters and sent home for taking strike action. Migrant labourers building New York University's Abu Dhabi campus on the island were found to be suffering even worse mistreatment".

The Observer's investigation found that:

■ Companies were withholding the passports of migrant workers, trapping them in the UAE.

■ Thousands of workers were living in substandard or squalid conditions in apparent breach of the TDIC's pledge to house them all in its model Saadiyat accommodation village.

■ Dozens of workers were deported in 2013 for striking over pay and conditions.

■ Workers decorating the university live in squalid conditions, with 10 men to a room, no free healthcare and some trapped because they have to pay back huge recruitment fees.

■ Louvre workers were having to work for nine months to a year just to pay back their recruitment fees. One worker who went on strike over poor wages was kept in his camp unpaid for three months and then sent back to Pakistan with 19 others.

The European council held a meeting on December 4, 2013, to discuss the growing concern about migrant workers' rights in the UAE and Qatar. The chair of the European parliament's subcommittee on human rights, German MEP Barbara Lochbihler, said migrant workers in the UAE, including those on Saadiyat Island, were exploited "on a daily basis".

She said: "Minimum labour standards are not respected, there are systematic complaints about poor accommodation and sanitation, salaries and medical services are withheld, and both experts and the migrants themselves report excessive police force and situations of forced labour. This is unacceptable."

Sharan Burrow, general secretary of the International Trade Union Confederation, said the organisation was "deeply concerned by the abuses of workers' rights on Saadiyat island".
The findings reflected that labour abuses were a systemic problem in the UAE, with migrant workers suffering "extreme exploitation", including unpaid wages and excessively long working hours, she added.

Euro-MPs, trade unionists and campaigners, including many artists, have said the Western cultural institutions engaged in the Saadiyat project must take their share of responsibility for the conditions of the workers. Artists have pledged they will not exhibit until workers rights are respected and conditions have been improved. There have been protests at museums and events in the West.

These actions could be having some effect. It seems New York University has been shamed into promising to compensate workers from its Abu Dhabi site.

Some artists and campaigners who tried to enter Abu Dhabi to see conditions for themselves have been barred by the authorities. Gulf Labor, a international campaign begun in New York, has sent out this open letter on the subject:

Guggenheim, New York and Abu Dhabi
Louvre, Paris and Abu Dhabi
New York University (NYU), New York and Abu Dhabi
Tourism Development & Investment Company (TDIC), Abu Dhabi
Abu Dhabi Tourism and Culture Authority (TCA), Abu Dhabi
Sharjah Art Foundation (SAF), Sharjah
Art Dubai, Dubai
Salama Bint Hamdan Al Nahyan Foundation, Abu Dhabi.

 This week artists Ashok Sukumaran and Walid Raad were denied entry to the UAE on grounds of “security”. This comes after NYU professor Andrew Ross was similarly barred from flying to Abu Dhabi in March. Given Sukumaran and Raad’s history of vital and sustained engagement with the country and region, invited or celebrated by many of you addressed in this letter, the only possible reason to suddenly have three such integral parts of our art and academic community denied entry, must be their involvement with the Gulf Labor Coalition.

All three are members of this artist-initiated group that has been working since 2010, urging the museums and other institutions being built on Saadiyat to create better conditions for their workers. One of the reasons Gulf Labor has focused directly on the Guggenheim is that as contemporary artists working in and engaging with the region, we have felt particularly implicated, and also felt we could have a say in the development of this museum.

Beyond Saadiyat Island, Gulf Labor has conducted independent research and continues to produce a body of knowledge around migrant labor, not only in the Gulf, but also in the home countries of workers. In July 2015, it will present a report on this research in the context of the Venice Biennial. Gulf Labor’s long history of constructive, and patient engagement with the Guggenheim and TDIC on this issue is documented on our website.

From the summer of 2010, six months before the announcement of a boycott, up to our last proposal in April of 2015, we have have tried to consult with, or address directly, the Guggenheim before making our positions public. Our most recent proposal synthesizes and brings together years of research and engagement with many parties ranging from human rights and labor organizations, to researchers and workers in the region. These remedies have been drawn from the experiences of workers at the Louvre, NYU Abu Dhabi and Saadiyat Island infrastructure sites, and is supported by experts in the field.

We have made this proposal at a pivotal juncture when contractors are meant to be hired and construction of the Guggenheim building is set to begin. Addressed to the Guggenheim and its Abu Dhabi partners we have stipulated:

 (1) setting up a fund to reimburse workers for recruitment fees,
(2) ensuring a living wage,
(3) allowing forms of collective representation.

We provided the Guggenheim a month to engage with what we still believe is a realistic and achievable proposal to improve the condition of workers on the island and to end our call for a boycott. An entire month passed without a response.  Now with these denials of entry, we are faced with a further retrenchment of the possibilities of dialogue and a foreclosing of the exchanges which have contributed to the development of the cultural institutions of this region.

We have always held that the betterment of conditions for workers is not separate from the development of conditions of making and showing art.  These denials are not targeting specific individuals, but potentially setting a dangerous standard of what can or cannot be done within the field of culture itself. And in this way, they implicate all the members of our artistic and cultural communities. Thus, we believe that it is an especially crucial time for institutions with expressed commitments to the region such as your own, to commit to lifting these denials of entry and, at the same time, to explicitly engage with the questions that these denials seem to want to evade – that is, the fair working conditions of the people who construct and maintain your organizations.

The specter of work has always haunted the making of art and the reflections of artists. To deny this engagement is not just a denial of a particular topic or subject matter, it is a denial of the history from which art emerges, which is from an inherent questioning of human activity in this world and the measures by which these activities are valued.

Links to Sukumaran and Raad‘s recent statements.

 May 16, 2015

May Day in New York - bringing it to the Guggenheim.

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Saturday, May 16, 2015

Call it "Community". Sounds nicer than Slavery on the High Street

LONDONERS and South-East commuters must be very well-informed. We get regional news and features on TV, and free newspapers cluttering the tube. We even have a new regional commercial TV channel. We know from national TV how well the country is prospering, and people are getting back to work, and house prices, even if we can't afford them must mean prosperity in London and the South East.

Some people even have two jobs, Boris for example, and even if Labour now has a string of London boroughs, we are told it must do more to target the "aspirational", those who "shop at Waitrose" and want a "home and garden". Obviously those Londoners who have been told they might have more chance of a council flat if they move to the Black Country are not enough.

There's more to London life than the diet of government hand-outs and West End shows publicised on  BBC, as people know from experience, but it sometimes seems to take less conventional media and unpaid journalists to see what's going on, and talk about it.  One example I've come across is a poet, entertainer and educationalist going by the name of  Pete the Temp

Here's an extract from his blog recently:

Workfare, Forced Labour and the new ‘Business and Community Wardens’.

Arriving at Finsbury Park station I came across a group of men people in high vis vests. Their vests read ‘Business and Community Warden’. I’ve learned to be suspicious of people who claim to be ‘public officers’ or ‘wardens’ so I went up to one to ask what they do. My mistrust quickly melted to sympathy. The man I was speaking to walked with a heavy head, sagging eyes and a narked expression.  His colleagues also looked seriously bored and disaffected.

He told me he is on a six month, 30 hour per week Workfare placement. The work is a compulsory condition for receiving his Job Seekers Allowance –  a meagre £240 a month to live off. Of this he has to pay his own travel (£88 a month) to get to and from his  unpaid work. That leaves him a grand total of £152 a month (or £38 a week) for food, bills, and any other services or contingencies needed to maintain his home and his health. I don’t imagine his weekends are particularly lively.

The frown on his face crept over my own as he told me that he they do not provide food so many days he can’t afford to eat at work. One day he was ill with a virus and needed to miss a day. He was told that “that wasn’t good enough” so he worked through his illness. If he misses a day of work he loses 1 month pay. If he misses 3 days he loses months of pay.

I was left wondering how much time he and his fellow unemployed colleagues  were able to look for work while they stood motionlessly and reluctantly outside the station waiting for members of the public to ask them directions. They told me that they “have a list of things to do” including patrolling local supermarkets (they have been dealing with shoplifters for both Sainsburys and Tesco) but mostly they have to just stand there.

Why do these supermarkets (who have already dodged so much tax) get free forced labour from some of the borough’s most vulnerable involuntarily unemployed? Was it not these same corporations who lobbied so hard against the minimum wage and are now cutting costs on their own security? If they are benefiting from this labour then why don’t they, and not the tax payer, pay the Job Seekers Allowance ?

“How do I complain?” I asked the Warden.

“Phone the number on my vest and speak to Courtney Bailey, he’s the boss”

When I phoned I got through to The Finsbury Park Business Forum. This is an odd place to be directing a complaint about a body of public wardens, regularly briefed by the MET to carry out low level police patrol and ‘counter terrorism’ duties as a kind of forced volunteer unit of para- police. The Business forum’s website says that one of their duties is to ‘lower the perception of crime’ at the station. In helping the police clear the area of ASBOs this can be seen as the civilianisation of social cleansing. Poor people forced to police poor people on behalf of business.

Courtney Bailey met my complaint by quickly becoming loud, aggressive and insulting. When I pressed him on the scheme he accused me of being “wrong in the head”, “full of it” and “one of those anarchists” (he was at least right about that last point).

“Name me one person who is has no choice to work for us?!” he shouted.

“I’m not going to name them because you might report them to the Job Centre and they could lose their benefits” I replied.

He hung up.

Kerry- Anne Mendoza, in her fantastic new book: ‘Austerity: The Demolition of the Welfare State and the Rise of the Zombie Economy’ points out:

‘Article 4 of the European Convention of Human Rights clearly states: ‘No-one shall be required to perform forced or compulsory labour.’ If the government threatens to withdraw a person’s sole lifeline unless they supply their labour, then it can clearly be argued that this labour has been obtained forcibly. The labour is also clearly compulsory.’

She goes on to point out that benefits such as the JSA are a safety net that help citizens ‘live in dignity’ and are a ‘foundation stone of social democracy’. Why are we now submitting people to compulsory work in order to get it?"

The Jobcentre sends people on this scheme where they are supposedly gaining training and experience.  Pete reckons the "training" consists of a visit with someone from the Metropolitan Police to give the "volunteers" training in "self-confidence".

The Forum says ‘This is truly a community coming together as one team for a safer neighbourhoods in   Islington…Our aim is to promote community solidarity and encourage neighbourhoods to identify and solve problems and be a trusted friend for Business and the Community.’

"The newsletter thanks VIPs in the police, local businesses and stakeholders. Not a word of thanks  goes to the Wardens themselves, who will be working without pay outside Finsbury Park station for the next six months.  The scheme is soon set to be rolled out to Drayton Park, Arsenal, Highbury & Islington, Holloway Road, Angel, Camden, Kings Cross – tube and train stations." 

A few years ago I seconded a motion at the annual conference of trades union councils calling for a campaign against these workfare schemes. Some sisters and brothers from Merseyside felt our London motion did not go far enough, and they successfully moved an amendment promising more action.

I'm afraid I missed the report the following year on what had actually been done. If anyone can set me right on I'd welcome their accounts.

Meantime, we have the Tories back with a vengeance, and we can see why they are keen to get rid of awkward notions like Human Rights that they find restrictive.

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Wednesday, May 13, 2015

Why can't Turkish government be honest about the past?

FORCED MARCH.  Armenians being deported under armed guard, 1915. People were punished if they tried to help the victims. 

RELATIONS between the Turkish government and Germany could be seriously strained by a row over a massive crime committed a century ago, when the two countries were military allies.  This seems all the more ironic now, when Turkey and Germany are not only NATO allies again but Turkey needs German approval if it is to be accepted into the European Union (EU).

Despite reports that President Tayyip Erdogan was turning away from the long-stalled EU bid, the Turkish leader insisted in January that it was still under way, and said it would be Islamophobic of Europe to refuse Turkish entry.

Negotiations have been going on since 2005. In June 2013 it was reported that Germany, Austria and Holland were blocking the Turkish application because of the Turkish government's repression of protest demonstrations.  And last month when a British journalist was arrested in a clampdown on an armed group in Turkey, Turkish papers claimed he was an agent of the German Federal Intelligence Service, BND.

But the latest row appears focussed on events a century ago, when Germany and the Ottoman Empire were allies in the First World War, the government in Istanbul dominated by German agents, and much of the Turkish armed forces came under German command.

Blaming Armenians allied to Russia for their reverses in the Caucasus, the Ottoman rulers began an organised onslaught on the Armenian minority. On 24 April 1915, they began by rounding up 250 Armenian intellectuals and community leaders in Istanbul for deportation. This was followed up by  drafting Armenian army conscripts into forced labour units under brutally harsh conditions, massacres of Armenians in several places, and mass deportations of Armenian women, children and elderly people on forced marches into the Syrian desert.

Any Turkish soldiers or officers reluctant to commit atrocities, or civilians who tried to help those on the forced marches with food or water, could be punished.

Reports by neutral observers described what was happening.  Some German officers and missionaries sent reports back to Berlin, as did engineers working on the Baghdad Railway, though the information was censored and suppressed by the Kaiser's government.  

Estimates vary, but it seems around a million Armenians died in this Holocaust (a term first given its modern meaning with reference to the Armenian victims, some of whom were burned in pits).

The regime responsible for this slaughter has long gone. The main perpetrators met rough justice at the hands of Armenian avengers after the First World War. Yet to this day, while Armenians around the world commemorate the events, Turkish governments have refused to acknowledge what happened as genocide, and governments anxious to maintain good relations with Turkey have bowed to this insistence on denial.

Hence the significance of Germany stepping out of line: 

German  Parliament speaker: killings of Armenians genocide

By Associated Press

Published: 21:49, 24 April 2015 | Updated: 21:49, 24 April 2015

BERLIN (AP) — Germany's parliamentary speaker said Friday that the slaughter of Armenians by Ottoman Turks 100 years ago was genocide, and that Germany's own Nazi past makes it important to speak out.

"We Germans cannot lecture anyone about dealing with their past, but we can through our own experiences encourage others to confront their history, even when it hurts," Norbert Lammert told Parliament.

The comments came as Parliament began debate on a non-binding motion saying the Armenians' fate is "exemplary for the history of mass destruction, ethnic cleansing, expulsions and genocides by which the 20th century is marked."

It stresses Germany's awareness of the "uniqueness" of the Nazi Holocaust, to which Lammert also alluded.

"What happed under the Ottoman Empire ... was a genocide," he said. "It did not remain the last in the 20th century."

Parliament was expected to vote to approve the motion before its summer break.

Historians estimate that up to 1.5 million Armenians were killed by Ottoman Turks around the time of World War I, but Turkey denies the deaths constituted genocide, saying the toll has been inflated, and that those killed were victims of civil war and unrest.

The German government hasn't used the term genocide, but had faced increasing pressure to do so.

On Thursday, German President Joachim Gauck labeled the killings genocide in a speech to a memorial service in Berlin.

Turkey's Foreign Ministry said in a statement late Friday that Gauck doesn't have "the right to attribute on the Turkish people a crime which they have not committed."

It said that the "Turkish nation will not forget and forgive President Gauck's statements." Germany has a large Turkish minority.

In his speech, Gauck also noted that Germany, Ottoman Turkey's ally a century ago, must consider what responsibility it shares for the killings.

German soldiers were involved in planning and carrying out deportations, he said, adding that "tips from German observers and diplomats who recognized the will to destroy in the action against the Armenians were ignored." 

I've added emphasis to those two last pars. The German president deserves credit for this admission of complicity in what happened.

And the Turkish Foreign Ministry deserves condemnation, not only for denial, but for pretending that it is "the Turkish people" to whom blame is being attributed.  We have met this dirty tactic before, and elsewhere, of political leaders trying to drag an entire people to their side when rejecting accusations.

But what is peculiar about this example is that the Turkish government is, for whatever reasons, still defending a long departed regime over a century old crime. In doing so it insults the Armenian people, and takes a share of the crime upon itself.

Further reading:

LONDON meeting.  Thursday, May 14,  7.30pm at the  Indian YMCA, 41 Fitzroy Street, W1T 6AQ,  'On being Armenian in Turkey'. 
Milena Buyum Jackson  is a prominent anti-racist and human rights activist who grew up in a left wing Armenian family in Turkey. She was in Turkey very recently for events marking the 100th anniversary of the genocide and will be combining descriptions of the history with her personal testimony as an activist of Armenian heritage .  
Organised by the Jewish Socialists' Group. 

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Monday, May 11, 2015

Turkish Entanglement

DIFFERENT REPORTING.  Mail didn't have name or photograph. Turkish papers, evidently better briefed, had both, and claimed to know whom arrested Brit had been working for.

What is the score with Steve Kaszynski, the British journalist arrested in Turkey over a month ago, and accused of links to a banned terrorist organisation?  His arrest was reported somewhat inadequately in the British press at the time, and one or two people who knew him commented, though not saying much.

With so much attention focused on the election in the past six weeks, and on the plight of refugees on the Med, as well as on police violence in the United States, I'm not complaining that the case of one man apparently caught up in Turkish conspiracies and state machinations has not been in the spotlight.

But an online search brought up next to nothing in the British press, and no one has replied to an enquiry on Facebook I made. 

One website, taking its name though I suspect not its politics from the late peace campaigner Brian Haw, notes that the Daily Mail reported a British man had been arrested, but without managing to give either a name or a photograph.

Turkish reports were supplied with both, and with the accusation that the arrested man had been no mere innocent astray, nor even a misguided revolutionist, but was a British agent, albeit working for the Bundesnachrichtendienst (BND), German intelligence service. 

From this the Haw site has woven a plot to divert attention from Turkey's involvement with Western powers and Israel in waging war on Syria, and a Gladio-style strategy of tension inside the country.  I'm a bit dubious about neat conspiracy theories in which disparate pieces are made to fit, and more than dubious about this one.

But I'm willing to think something 'funny' is going on. 

Incidentally one voice that was raised in defence of Steve Kaczynsky and those arrested with him was that of the hardline Republican Sinn Fein in Ireland, who reject the accomodation reached by the Provisionals with the British government. In a statement calling for the "release of arrested comrades in Turkey" the RSF said that in particular "Cihan Keskek and political activist Steve Kaczynski ... are close friends of the Republican Movement in Ireland. Steve is a regular reader of the republican monthly SAOIRSE. Only some weeks ago, Cihan and Steve met with a representative of Republican Sinn Féin."

This makes it seem extra strange that the British and indeed Irish media have so far had little to say
about the case.  An item in the Times on April 7 did say Steve Kaczynski had worked for the BBC for some time, since which he had contributed to left-wing publications.

I have come across some of his contributions in left-wing publications, e.g. and on websites. I would not have thought this branch of journalism, however good the work, pays very well.  Not at all, in my experience.

Anyway, here are how the arrest was reported in Turkey:

Briton detained in raids against terrorist organization

Published April 3, 2015 Turkish police detained Stephan Shak Kacynski, a British national of Polish origin, in operations against the terrorist organization DHKP-C in Istanbul on Thursday. He is accused of having close ties with the organization.

Among the suspects detained at the Turkish National Police's dawn raids at several locations in Istanbul on Thursday against the Revolutionary People's Liberation Party-Front (DHKP-C) was Stephan Shak Kacynski, a British national of Polish origin.

The 52-year-old freelance journalist is accused of having links to the terrorist organization that killed a prosecutor on Tuesday and attacked a police headquarters on Wednesday.

He was reportedly at the offices of İdil Culture Center associated with the group when he was detained by police.

Speaking to Daily Sabah, officials from the British Embassy in Ankara stated that they "closely working with Turkish partners to tackle DHKP-C." However, no comments were made on the claims that the detained British national is allegedly a spy working for British intelligence. "We condemn group's acts of terrorism in Istanbul this week. Condolences to the family of the prosecutor Mehmet Selim Kiraz. We are aware of the detained British national and we are offering consular assistance to him," the statement added.

Kacysnki, who occasionally writes articles on the terrorist organization on various websites, is a frequent traveler to Turkey. According to media outlets, he is a former member of the Communist Party of Great Britain, a Marxist-Leninist movement and he monitored the trial of an Austrian national accused of joining a DHKP-C rally for the Scottish Socialist Party. He was present as an observer on trials of DHKP-C members in the 1990s and early 2000s. Turkish media outlets, quoting intelligence sources, reported that Kacysnki was involved in the "activities" of the terrorist organization in Germany and Greece and often visited Istanbul and had contacts with various groups affiliated with the DHKP-C.

Turkish police had rounded up dozens of supporters of terrorist organizations in operations against the group in Istanbul and several other cities. Apart from Kacyznski, six senior figures of DHKP-C and members of a band known for its support of the terrorist organization, were detained in operations in Okmeydanı, a working-class neighborhood on Istanbul's European side. Okmeydanı is known as one of the strongholds of the DHKP-C and it is often the scene of violent riots by the organization's supporters. Along with suspects, police seized several weapons, ammunition and jammer devices. Turkish media reported that the raided places had tight security and police had to remove a set of 11 steel doors in one location to enter inside before the suspected militants burned or destroyed evidence that might link them to the organization.

The terrorist organization is known for having support from abroad, especially from far-left organizations in Europe. The support from abroad for the DHKP-C is not confined to individuals. Greece and Syria, two neighbors of Turkey, is known for harboring members of terrorist organizations. Greece houses Lavrion, a refugee camp where the militants, treated as asylum seekers, are trained by senior leaders of the organization. Syria, where the terrorist group was founded in 1994, is also known for openly harboring militants, especially at a time of strained relations between Turkey and its southern neighbor. According to reports in the Turkish media, the DHKP-C has a "base" in Syria's coastal city of Latakia and supported by al-Mukhaberat, formidable intelligence service of the al-Assad regime. An article in the Yeni Şafak newspaper quoting intelligence sources says 52 DHKP-C members are trained at the base and Turkish intelligence suspects they may carry out attacks in Turkey. The article also points out that Mihraç Ural, a Turkey-born militant who heads a splinter group of a movement that the DHKP-C fell out with, now coordinates training of DHKP-C members in Syria.

But while this report links the armed organisation to what might be called traditional enemies, a subsequent article points in a different direction:

British citizen detained in DHKP-C terror probe works for German spy agency BND

Published April 4, 2015
AA Photo
The investigation into Stephan Shak Kacynski, a British national of Polish origin, has revealed that the suspect who was recently detained under the scope of the DHKP-C probe is a spy working for Germany's Federal Intelligence Service Bundesnachrichtendienst (BND).

Kacynski and several others were arrested under the scope of the DHKP-C operation on Saturday.

According to reports, Kacynski was not only responsible for giving instructions to the terrorist organization and providing communications between the DHKP-C and BND, but was also responsible for providing funding from Europe. It was reported that he occasionally participated in protests organized by the terrorist organization and frequently contacted the organization in Istanbul.

Stephan Shak Kacynski was among the suspects detained at the Turkish National Police's dawn raids at several locations in Istanbul on Thursday against the Revolutionary People's Liberation Party-Front (DHKP-C).

The 52-year-old freelance journalist is accused of having links to the terrorist organization that killed a prosecutor on Tuesday and attacked a police headquarters on Wednesday.

Kacysnki, who occasionally writes articles on the terrorist organization on various websites, is a frequent traveler to Turkey. According to media outlets, he is a former member of the Communist Party of Great Britain, a Marxist-Leninist movement and he monitored the trial of an Austrian national accused of joining a DHKP-C rally for the Scottish Socialist Party. He was present as an observer on trials of DHKP-C members in the 1990s and early 2000s. Turkish media outlets, quoting intelligence sources, reported that Kacysnki was involved in the "activities" of the terrorist organization in Germany and Greece and often visited Istanbul and had contacts with various groups affiliated with the DHKP-C.

This is not the first time that the finger of allegations has been pointed at one of Turkey's NATO allies. It was claimed that a Canadian intelligence agent was involved in helping British nationals cross into Syria to join ISIS.

Whatever the truth of such allegations, or the Turkish government's motives for making them, it looks as though what is really happening in Turkey is more complicated than any conspiracy theory.

Meanwhile, it is not just the established media that is being strangely quiet about this case. Hopefully as soon as parliament is back in business there will be questions asked. But also maybe friends on the Left, some of whom say they have met Steve Kaczynski and that he is a nice guy, will be raising calls for his release - and perhaps considering their own investigation?

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Sunday, May 10, 2015

Disputed Victories

CELEBRATING DELIVERANCE. Rehobothers celebrating victory at Sam Khubis with traditional 'lang-arm' dance.  But should Namibia's president be welcome?

YESTERDAY'S commemorations of VE Day - victory seventy years ago - were overshadowed in Moscow by concern that the huge display of hardware might not be the way to de-escalate conflict over the Ukraine; and in London by realisation that the Tories may interpret their election victory as mandate to proceed with wrecking every social advance since 1945, from the National Health Service to the European Court of Human Rights.

The defeat of Hitler's Germany in 1945 is not the only victory celebrated on May 8. In Namibia, south-west Africa, the Rehoboth Baster people particularly commemorate the Battle of Sam Khubis, a hundred years ago on May 8, 1915, a couple of weeks after the Gallipoli landings in faraway Turkey which gave rise to ANZAC day, and part of the same world conflict.

The Basters, mostly descendants of white Europeans and native African women, had adopted a way of life like that of white settlers and taken up their Calvinist christian religion, but in an increasingly racist and discriminatory South Africa their chances of integration, or independent development with their own farms etc, were denied. So in 1868 they left their original home in the Cape Colony, and trekked northwards in search of land.

Settling in Rehoboth, given its Biblical name by German missionaries, in what is now central Namibia, they set up the Free Republic of Rehoboth, with its own flag and constitution, in 1872. 
During the German annexation of South West Africa, the Baster Kaptein Hermanus van Wyk signed a 'Treaty of Protection and Friendship' with the German Empire on 11 October 1884. This permitted some autonomy to the Basters, but at the expense of recognising German colonial rule and under a National Service agreement in 1895, providing soldiers whom the German forces were able to use against other African peoples.

In 1904 it was Basters like Hendrik Campbell from Rehoboth, compelled to take part in the war against Herero rebels, who reported how German troops were killing prisoners and destroying villages, in what turned from a war of repression to one of deliberate extermination.

The Rehobothers' loyalty and willingness to get along with German settlers did not spare them from increasing discrimination and racism. Indeed, just as the German colonialists' treatment of the Nama and Herero peoples can be seen as the first acts of 20th century genocide, so much of the racist laws and ideology which the Nazis would apply in Europe can be traced to legislation and ideas adopted to enforce white rule and racial 'purity' in South West Africa.

 In 1914, seeing no reason to get caught up in the war between imperial masters, or go down with the German colonial Schutztruppe facing superior South African forces, the Rehoboth Baster leaders attempted to negotiate neutrality for their people. The Baster Council disapproved recruitment of a mounted unit by the Germans, and Basters ordered to guard prisoners of war preferred defecting. Shooting incidents occurred between Germans and Basters.   

Treating the Basters' position as armed revolt, Governor Theodor Seitz cancelled the protection treaty with them and ordered his forces to attack Rehoboth. German forces killed civilians, and chased after refugees who had made for the mountain of Sam Khubis.  There on the mountainside, fifty miles south east of Rehoboth, about 700 Basters - men, women and children - set up camp, and prepared to resist attack.   On May 8, 1915 the Germans attacked this last entrenchment, but despite repeated attempts and superior weaponry, they could not destroy the Basters' position.

By nightfall, the Basters were running out of ammunition, and believing they faced defeat, they prayed.
   God van ons vaderen / sterke en machtige God / heilig is Uw naam op die ganse aarde / Uw die de hemelen geschapen heft / neigt Uw oor tot ons / luister na die smekingen van Uwe kinderen / de dood staart ons in het gesicht / die kinderen der bose zoeken onze levens / Red ons uit die hand van onze vijanden / en beskermt onze vrouen en kinderen / En dit zult vier ons en onze nacheschlacht zijn een dag als een Zondag / waarop wij Uw naam prijzen en Uw goedertierenheid tot in euwigheid niet vergeten

    God our father / strong and powerful / holy be Thy name all over the earth / Thou that made heaven / bow Thou down to us / listen to the cries of Thy children / death stares us in the face / the children of evil seek our lives / Save us from the hand of our enemies / and protect our wives and children / and this shall be for us and our kin a day like a Sunday / on which we shall praise Thy name / and Thy gratitude shall not be forgotten in eternity

Next morning it seemed this last plea to the Almighty had worked. The Germans had retreated and the Rehobother Basters were spared. It turned out that advancing South African troops from Walvis Bay were threatening to cut off a Schutztruppe contingent near Windhoek, so the troops attacking Sam Khubis were ordered to pull back and take the train the following morning to join their main force.

South-West Africa was occupied by South African forces in 1915, but General Botha rebuffed Baster offers to join them, saying the war with Germany was not the concern of coloureds. After the war the Basters applied to become a British Protectorate, like Basutoland, but the South Africans were able to block this. Taking over South-West Africa under a League of Nations mandate, they made no concession to Baster aspirations, even taking away those rights they had been granted under the Germans.

Ten years later a rebellion broke out at Rehoboth, but it was suppressed by colonial forces, armed with machine guns and supported by two aircraft. They marched into the town and arrested more than 600 people.

In 1963, after repeated petitions to the United Nations to end Apartheid South African rule, a group of Namibians fled to Botswana, from where they planned to recruit and organise for the armed struggle led by the South West Africa People's Organisation, SWAPO.  Among the four was a political campaigner from Rehoboth, Hermanus Christoffel Beukes (also known as Oom Maans Beukes), born in 1913 under German rule. Kidnapped by South African agents, the four were then released under international pressure.

The UN decided to take responsibility for South West Africa, and in 1973 it recognised SWAPO as the legitimate representative of the Namibian people. But it was not until after a prolonged armed struggle and the war in neighbouring Angola that the South Africans withdrew, and Namibia obtained independence in 1990. But this was no unblemished victory. Critics, including veterans of the armed struggle and descendents of the country's first freedom fighters, say SWAPO failed to live up to the promise of uniting all Namibians in the struggle, that corrupt leaders held back supplies that were desperately needed by the fighters, and that SWAPO's security organs meted out repression, torture and murder to dissidents within its ranks as well as rivals.

Some of this information was documented and brought to the outside world by survivors, though some Guardian journalists, liberals, "solidarity" professionals and Stalinists, not wanting to spoil their celebration of the new regime, preferred not to listen.

Though SWAPO under Sam Nujoma formed Namibia's first government and remains the dominant party, it faces a left-wing opposition drawn from former fighters and the nascent workers' movement.  From this background came the following letter to the President, as preparations were under way to commemorate the centenary of the Rehobothers' victory at Sam Khubis:
27 April 2015

Dr Hage Geingob
The President
The Republic of Namibia


Mr President,

RE: Your attendance of the 100th Commemoration of ‪#‎Khubis‬

We are submitting this letter to you in addition to the letters from members of the Rehoboth Community and our party, the Workers Revolutionary Party. We do so due to the particularly direct personal and intimate interest we have in this matter to which impersonal and general political statements cannot give expression.

Nevertheless, we are submitting this letter for the historic record.

Hewat is a grandson of Johannes Timotheus Beukes, who was the commander of the forces at #Khubis which defeated the German army on 8 May 1915 and saved the Rehoboth Baster Nation from extermination. He is the brother of the Late Martha Ford, who was a Politbureau member of SWAPO in exile. Prior to that, she was a National Executive member of the SWAPO within the country. He is the uncle of the Late Winston Ford the son of Martha Ford and he is the cousin of the Late Priscilla van Wyk, who fled into exile in 1978.

Erica is the sister of the Late Walter Thiro, who fled into exile in January 1979.

In 1989 Hewat and Erica were informed by returning members of SWAPO who were imprisoned in holes in Lubango, Angola that Erica’s brother Walter had died in these holes after having been slandered, tortured and imprisoned. His body was disposed of in an unknown manner. They were also informed that Priscilla van Wyk who had fled Namibia to escape arrest was used after her arrival in Zambia as a slave and personal attendant by Pendukeni Emvula-Iiitana – the present Home Affairs minister.

It was reported in 1984 that Priscilla suffered distortion of her face due to extreme anxiety and constant fear. Priscilla later died in the USA after her escape from Zambia.

In 1996, Hewat travelled to Angola to attempt to convince Martha Ford to return to Namibia. The family was under the impression that she refused to leave Angola due to her son’s death in 1978. However, upon his meeting with Martha the full truth started to emerge. Martha had left Namibia in 1978 to Angola with her two children, Shireen and Winston. She was quickly disillusioned by the SWAPO leadership’s sexual abuse of young girls and traitorous politics. She expressed her criticism openly. During about October 1978 the SWAPO leadership shot and killed Winston Ford, then 10 years of age, as reprisal, she told Hewat.

She further unfolded the circumstances of his death: Winston remained in a SWAPO camp in southern Angola. The SWAPO leaders first had him dropped–off in a remote wilderness where it was assumed he would be killed by wild animals or he would succumb without water and food. He made it back to the camp however where he was later shot. When Martha came back to bury her son, the officials refused her to inspect his body. She was secretly informed by women that he was shot.

After she left SWAPO as a member, the SWAPO leadership conspired with the MPLA including the poet Lusio Lara to confine her to Angola. It became clear to Hewat after listening to Martha that she stood in danger of being killed should she make a serious attempt to leave Angola. She lived in squalor. Hewat abandoned his attempts to get her out of Angola and returned to Namibia to ask the family to support her materially.

Her health deteriorated until she was a shadow of her former self. Only then did the Angolan regime allowed her to leave. She died in Namibia due to years of neglect.

The SWAPO leadership in particular yourself, Mr President, refuse to account for the whereabouts of the remains of Winston Ford and Walter Thiro amongst others.

You now stand invited by a group in Rehoboth to attend the 100th Commemoration of the Battle of #Khubis. This group of people are mostly not descendant from fighters of #Khubis. They have been tied to the homeland policy of the South African regime which turned Rehoboth into a Bantustan despite its rejection by the Community. They are ‘kulaks’ – rich peasants – who seek the total privatisation of the Rehoboth Community’s collectively-owned land. They have reportedly travelled to China this year to acquire funds on the strength of your government to erect a lodge on the site of the Battle. They have allotted this land in 1992 to themselves through their connection to the former Bantustan and their newfound connection to the SWAPO regime. This group consists of farmers who use the most horrific racist methods of deprivation and humiliation against Ovambo contract labourers, Namas, Damaras and Basters.

To us it is no surprise that your regime is in a good relationship with this group or class of persons.
We note that they have even shifted the Commemoration to 6th of May to accommodate you!!!
In your State of the Nation address you amongst others relegated the national languages of this country to alien languages with English – a foreign language - the official language. You put the obligation on people to create their own facilities to be able to speak their languages. This has completed your policy of expropriation of Namibians.

Given your policy of Total Expropriation of Namibians both materially and spiritually and your crimes against us as a family we demand that you stay away from our most sacred moment, the 100th Commemoration of our salvation from German extermination.

In conclusion,
The fact that your leadership is guilty of crimes against the Beukes and the Thiro families and in particular that you have done absolutely nothing to resolve outstanding issues such as the return of our peoples’ remains make it unacceptable for you to attend our Commemoration.
As a member of the SWAPO Politbureau you were co-responsible for all the above.

Do not attend!

Hewat and Erica Beukes
On behalf of the Beukes and Thiro families.

ERICA and HEWAT BEUKES at meeting in Kilburn twenty years ago. 

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Friday, May 01, 2015

The Misfortunes of Nigel

NIGEL FARAGE, the valiant champion of British liberties and freedom of speech, has complained to police about a remark made on the BBC satirical news programme 'Have I Got News for You', claiming it breached the 1983 Representation of the People Act. 

Since our Nige ("I'm just an ordinary bloke") had previously been upset about a spoof game made by schoolkids featuring a character called Nicholas Fromage, we needn't be surprised that he takes such things seriously, though it appears the Old Bill have decided they had better things to do.

What upset him this time was a remark by Sunday Times journalist and HIGNFY panellist Camilla Long, who had been challenged as to how well she knew the South Thanet area about which she 'd been disparaging. The panellist replied that she had been there more often than the UKIP leader, who is standing for election in South Thanet.  “By the time I arrived there he’d only been a few times,” she said.  

Farage complains that the BBC has not given his campaign in South Thanet enough coverage. For once I agree.  The other evening the Beeb did broadcast a clip about it, starting with a woman shouting at Farage, showing some drab seaside street, and giving a few locals' comments.  All pretty tame, inadequate, and disappointing.

By contrast here's what a young woman in Broadstairs reported last Saturday (April 25):
"I'm just back from canvassing leafletting etc where we were attacked by far right thugs shouting out support for UKIP as well as other abuse. This was witnessed by many people at Broadstairs sea front. The Police have interviewed us. The Thanet Stand Up To UKIP (SUTU) campaign had just packed up their stall when we were attacked by members of an organisation called South East Alliance, a breakaway group from the extreme right wing English Defence League.

The police were called but the attackers vanished.This followed remarks made by Nigel Farage at the meeting in Broadstairs Pavilion I went to last night in which he singled out and criticised Thanet SUTU as a local organisation vocally opposing UKIP. The same right wing thugs who attacked the Thanet SUTU stall were also there at the UKIP meeting. Farage should have known his remarks could be inflammatory. Labour party canvassers were also attacked. What can I say? "

We'd heard before about Britain First offering its services to UKIP, and a team of its heavies gatecrashed a meeting of UKIP's opponents in London as a reprisal for them staging a protest stunt at Farage's local.  But it seems the Far Right enthusiasts for Farage turning up in Thanet South go under a variety of labels, judging from a report in last week's Mail on Sunday.  

Gary Field, pictured,  was seen at a Ukip event in South Thanet awaiting the arrival of Nigel Farage

GARY FIELD, as featured in the 'Mail'.  Some say he is known by other names.
Nigel Farage was at the centre of fresh controversy last night after National Front members turned up to campaign for him in the South Thanet constituency.
The row started after a group of far-Right supporters calling themselves the East Kent English Patriots supported Mr Farage at an event in Broadstairs on Friday evening.
 They were led by Gary Field, a former regional organiser for the English Defence League, and enjoyed the protection of Ukip’s security teams, which encircled the Broadstairs Pavilion.
Mr Field, who has a criminal record for assault, drank beers behind the cordon with fellow members of his group and gestured to onlookers as a crowd waited for Mr Farage’s arrival.
Yesterday, Mr Farage’s Labour opponent in South Thanet, Will Scobie, claimed a group of his campaigners had been attacked by National Front members chanting for Ukip in Broadstairs late on Friday.
When Mr Farage realised that Mr Field and his supporters had been seen by this newspaper on Friday evening, he moved quickly to disown them, saying: ‘Members of an extremist group today arrived at a Ukip public meeting at the same time as a Mail on Sunday camera arrives.’
Mr Farage’s comments triggered a war of words with the patriots group, which immediately posted a message saying: ‘We went to Ukip meeting with members of Kent NF and after the meeting Nigel Farage went on Twitter saying we have far right extremists here... the question is nig, do you want our vote or not?’

Shortly after the incident, Mr Field posted offensive messages about Mr Scobie, writing: ‘Will scobie you are a liebour [sic] paedo supporting ponse you won’t beat ukip in south thanet you dirty little scummy traitor.’ He added: ‘I have the lynx effect on lefties.’

Mr Field was tagged in 2013 for breaching a community service order after being found guilty of assault.

A Ukip spokesman said: ‘We don’t know who Gary Field is, and therefore we have no responsibility for the actions he takes or the events that he attends. We have made our stance on extremist groups clear. We have no truck with them. End of.’
If UKIP takes no responsibility for Gary Field and the "extremists" whom it attracts, maybe it will at least acknowledge its own members. Like the councillors it has in Great Yarmouth.

David Braniff-Herbert, a trade union activist and gay rights campaigner was in the east coast resort organising leafletters for the anti-racist campaign group Hope Not Hate, which had booked a town centre hall for them to meet. He was in the centre at around 11am when a volunteer informed him that two people were outside taking photos.

“They’re in a car – two UKIP councillors,” the volunteer told him. “They’re taking pictures of the people as they’re leaving with the leaflets.” This was, he said, an intimidation tactic usually employed by far-right parties. Braniff-Herbert said he then asked the people in the car to stop, but they did not do so, so he responded by taking pictures of the car and the people in i

Told that another UKIP councillor had entered the hall, David went back in and challenged the man.
“I said, ‘I think you should leave,and he said, ‘Well what are you doing?’ and I said, ‘Well, we’re campaigning against UKIP, so it’s not worth you being here.’”

The conversation became increasingly hostile, with David Branff-Herbert accusing the UKIP councillor of trying to intimidate people, and the councillor, Tom Andrews telling him to "fuck off" and slapping him in the face.

Later Great Yarmouth police confirmed that they had detained the 73-year old UKIP member and released him with a caution for minor assault. UKIP said its member had gone into the hall on other business, nothing to do with the campaign.

And so to Hayes, in Middlesex, or outer west London, where I had to go on entirely non-political business on a fine sunny day yesterday, rounding off my visit by repairing to a local hostelry for a lamb rogan josh and pint of ale.

Overheard behind me, a couple were discussing their difficulties with social security, and turning to the topic of the general election, the woman opined that if "this lot", i.e. the government got back in, they would make things worse. "They say they will cut spending on benefits, but they won't say where they'll make the cuts".

To this not unreasonable observation the bloke with her, who did not sound in the best of health, said that he was undecided how to vote. He had previously voted National Front, but they were not standing this time. "They say to vote UKIP, because that's the next best thing".

Not wishing to spoil the lunch I'd just enjoyed or linger longer than I need, having finished my pint, I did not turn to ask the poor patriot what UKIP might do for benefit claimants (Farage has said there are too many claiming disabled benefit, and complained the Tories were "hamstrung" in their welfare 'reforms'), but left to catch my bus. 

 Sure enough, I see the National Front is not standing in Hayes and Harlington constituency, nor is the British National Party, which gained about 1,500 votes there in 2010. But Cliff Dixon, who stood last time for the English Democrats, a right-wing nationalist party said to have been swelled by a number of disgruntled BNP supporters, and gained 464 votes, is now the candidate for UKIP.

Not that I suppose Labour's John McDonnell, whose posters adorn several premises in the centre of Hayes besides the Party HQ, has much to worry about. His vote in 2010 was 23,377 (54.8%), almost twice that of his Tory rival; and though John's health has not been good in recent years, his political vitality and standing seems as strong as ever.

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