Monday, March 30, 2009

Lahore Terrorist Mayhem Shows Crisis of Pakistani State

By our correspondent in Lahore
Monday, 30 March 2009

At half past eight this morning (March 30) terrorists used machine guns and grenades to launch a savage attack on a police training academy in Manawan, on the outskirts of Lahore. The police and special forces remain locked in pitched battle with the attackers who are hidden inside various buildings at the site, as emergency services are scrambling to evacuate the wounded to nearby hospitals.

Frictions are occuring between the two allies as the war in Afganistan intensifies. Photo by travlr on Flickr.

According to private television channels at least 20 policemen are dead and 150 injured. Two militants have also been killed according to Rangers personnel. “The number of killed is at least 20,” police sub inspector Amjad Ahmad told AFP outside the police training ground in Manawan. However, given the murderous crossfire as police attempted to flush out the terrorists inside the building, the death count may turn out to be much higher.

The incident took place as trainees were participating in a morning parade. Eyewitness accounts estimate some 10 militants carried out the attack, and at least 11 explosions have been heard so far. According to reports, some of the attackers entered the academy wearing police uniforms.

The location of the attack is significant, since Manawan is close to the road that leads to the Indian border. Clearly, the implication is meant to be drawn that the hand of India is behind this latest outrage. In the same way, some sections here tried to pin the blame for the recent killings of Sri Lankan cricketers (also in Lahore) on India, allegedly as retaliation for the Mumbai atrocity.

However, there is a far more likely explanation, and it points an accusing finger at a source far nearer to home. Yesterday the Pakistan authorities conveyed their “concerns” through diplomatic channels over certain aspects of the new policy for the region announced by President Barack Obama on Friday.

“We will speak to them (the United States) on issues of concern in subsequent diplomatic negotiations,” the President’s spokesman Farhatullah Babar told the Dawn on Saturday. A similar impression was given by senior officials of the foreign office, who said the concerns would not go unnoticed and would be taken up at an “appropriate level”.

What did Obama announce that so worries Islamabad? The US President announced several incentives, including an increase in aid to Pakistan, the passage of legislation on the reconstruction opportunity zones and a commitment to democracy in the country, but at the same time he was quite ominous in his tone when he categorically said that there would be no “blank cheques” for Pakistan.

What does this mean? It means that, although Washington sees Pakistan as a vital piece in its strategy to fight the “war on terror” in Afghanistan, it is becoming increasingly frustrated at the ambiguous role of the Pakistan authorities and in particular the role of the Pakistan secret services (the ISI), a shadowy state within a state, which is well known to have close links with al Qaeda and the Taliban and is secretly protecting and encouraging terrorist organizations for its own sinister purposes.

The response of the Pakistan foreign office was guarded because this is an explosive issue and one that lies at the heart of the crisis in the Pakistan state. Sources in the foreign office stated: “There are pretty big problems in the policy about which our leadership is not speaking.” They have good reason to keep silent!

American frustration was shown by recent declarations by US Defense Secretary Robert Gates, who urged Pakistan's powerful intelligence service to cut contacts with extremists in Afghanistan, which he called an “existential threat” to Pakistan itself. Gates was merely saying what everybody has always known: that Pakistan’s Directorate for Inter-Services Intelligence has had links with jihadi terrorist groups “for a long time, as a hedge against what might happen in Afghanistan if we were to walk away or whatever,” as he told Fox News Sunday.

“What we need to do is try and help the Pakistanis understand these groups are now an existential threat to them and we will be there as a steadfast ally for Pakistan,” Gates said. “They can count on us and they don't need that hedge,” he said, citing the ISI's links specifically to the Al Qaeda-linked Haqqani militant network and to the forces of Afghan warlord Gulbuddin Hekmatyar.

The Pentagon chief's comments came after President Barack Obama on Friday put Pakistan at the centre of the fight against al Qaeda with a new strategy to commit thousands more troops and billions of dollars to the Afghan war.

“He clearly understands this is a very tough fight and that we're in it until we're successful, that al Qaeda is no longer a threat to the United States and that we are in no danger of either Afghanistan or the western part of Pakistan being a base for Al Qaeda,” Gates added.

America is Losing in Afghanistan

It is now an open secret that the war in Afghanistan is going badly. Western casualties are constantly rising. Obama is trying to extricate the US forces from Iraq in order to reinforce the US military presence in Afghanistan. Asked about a New York Times report that US military commanders had pressed Obama for even more troops, the defense secretary said: “The president has approved every single soldier that I have requested of him. […] And the reality is there already are a lot of troops there. This will bring us, when all is said and done, to 68,000 troops plus another 35,000 or so Europeans and other partners.”

Obama is now exerting intense pressure to extract more troops from its unwilling European allies. Washington is also demanding more civilian experts and police trainers. But no matter how many troops are sent to Afghanistan, the likelihood of victory remains a mirage. With every bomb dropped on an Afghan village the hatred of the foreign invader grows more intense. The government of Kabul is seen as a puppet government of collaborators and corrupt gangsters. On the other hand, the Taliban have an endless supply of recruits from Pakistan, plenty of money from opium smuggling and secure havens in the tribal areas across the border with Pakistan.

This explains the public attacks on the ISI from Washington, which have provoked angry denials from the Pakistan State Security. The fact is that the ISI was actively encouraged by Washington to support al Qaeda and the Taliban in the past, when these reactionary bandits were used to fight the Soviet army in Afghanistan. This encouraged sections in the tops of the Pakistan army (and especially the ISI) in the belief that they would have a free hand in Afghanistan, which, in effect, would be under Pakistan’s control. They developed the notorious theory of “defence in depth”, which meant that Afghanistan would serve Pakistan as a kind of fallback position in the event of another war with India (a subject these elements are constantly obsessed with).

Ever since the US imperialists have changed the line and declared war on their former allies, al Qaeda and the Taliban, the ISI and other reactionary elements in the Pakistan General Staff have not concealed their displeasure. They have never abandoned the theory of “defence in depth”, nor their ambitions in Afghanistan. They have never broken their links with al Qaeda and the Taliban, which are not motivated by religious fanaticism, but rather the fanaticism to get rich by dirty means.

As Pakistan’s economy collapses and the masses are faced with poverty and hunger, prominent citizens of Pakistan are growing fabulously rich on the proceeds of the black economy, especially the lucrative drug trade. The so-called Islamic fundamentalists are really gangsters and lumpens, linked to the drug mafia and transport mafia that trades in human misery. This is big business on a vast scale, which involves massive corruption that leads all the way up to the top – including the tops of the army. This is the cancer that is gnawing at the entrails of the Pakistan state and destroying it slowly from within. That is why Gates talks about an “existential problem”.

A few months ago, a Pakistani general, Ameer Faisal Alvi, a serving officer in the Pakistan army’s campaign against al Qaeda and the Taliban in the Tribal Areas of Waziristan, and head of the elite Special Services Group (Commandos), sent a letter to the Chief of Staff, general Pervaiz Ashraf Kayani, denouncing the fact that generals of the Pakistan army were actively collaborating with al Qaeda and the Taliban. As a result, he was dismissed from the army. After this, he sent another letter to the Chief of Staff, in which he named the generals concerned. It was an act of personal bravery for which he paid a high price. On November 26, 2008 he was murdered in broad daylight on the streets of Islamabad.

Splits in the State

This explains why the rulers of Pakistan are afraid to talk about certain matters. The rottenness of Pakistan capitalism has extended to the highest levels of the state, army and government, to the extent that it threatens complete breakdown. Last week a US think tank predicted that if something were not done soon, the state could break down in six months! All these events are a striking confirmation of the Marxist analysis of the state that was put forward in the recent congress of The Struggle.

The murder of Benazir Bhutto was an indication of the sinister forces at work in Pakistani society. The western media falsely portray this as the rise of “Islamic fundamentalism”, when in reality these terrorist organizations are small minority groups composed of lumpens and bandits manipulated by the powerful drug mafia and the state. Although it was a lumpen fanatic who pulled the trigger, the real murderers of Benazir Bhutto were the ISI. There is no doubt that the same people were behind the Mumbai atrocity and the killing of the Sri Lanka cricketers. And there is no doubt that the same invisible hand is behind today’s bloody events, which are meant as an answer to the threat from Washington.

The idea that the fundamentalists enjoy massive support in Pakistan society is a blatant lie and a slander against the people of Pakistan. These reactionary gangs were originally created by US imperialism under the brutal Zia dictatorship and were nurtured, financed, armed and trained by the Pakistan state. Without the backing of the ISI they are nothing. That is why the US imperialists are now demanding that the Pakistan government take action against the ISI.

This is very easy to say from the safety of an air-conditioned office in Washington, but not so easy to put into practice on the streets of Islamabad. The ISI is entrenched after decades of a pampered and privileged existence. It is linked by a thousand links with corrupt government officials and politicians at the highest level, to organized crime on a grand scale, to the drug and transport mafia, to the religious fanatics in the madrassas that turn out brainwashed fanatics prepared to act as the murderous instruments of reaction, and to the murky underworld of jihadi terrorism.

Another section of the state has different interests. They are in the pockets of US imperialism, whose interests they serve like a dog licking the hand of its master. They bow and scrape before their bosses in Washington, who treat Pakistan as if it were America’s backyard. The conflict at the heart of these two antagonistic wings of the ruling class is explained by antagonistic material interests.

As far as the working class of Pakistan is concerned, there is nothing to choose between these two rival groups of gangsters. The Pakistan Marxists will fight US imperialism and oppose its criminal actions in Afghanistan, Waziristan and Pukhtunkhwa. But we will do so with our own methods and under our own banner, which is not the black flag of fundamentalist reaction but the red flag of socialist revolution.

Only by taking power into their own hands can the working class overthrow the rotten, diseased state of the exploiters and build a new state – a democratic workers’ state in which the lives and destinies of the people will be determined by the masses themselves. That is the only way forward to lead Pakistan out of the present nightmare and into the realm of socialism and freedom.

Lahore, March 30, 2009


Thursday, March 26, 2009

Crossing Borders with the Afro-Cuban All-Stars

Thank you Foxessa. for informing me about this situation.

By Larry Blumenfeld (The Village Voice)
Tuesday, March 24th 2009 at 3:04pm

When Juan de Marcos González brings his 14-piece Afro-Cuban All-Stars to Town Hall on March 28, they'll include residents of eight countries, from Mexico to Sweden, Spain to the United States. But none from Cuba. No musician living there (and planning to return) has played here since December 2003, when pianist Chucho Valdés headlined the Village Vanguard. After that, the Bush administration effectively shut down all U.S.-Cuba cultural exchanges.

González has contributed mightily to that cut-short exchange. Best known as the architect of the Buena Vista Social Club, he assembled that band with musicians drawn from the first edition of his All-Stars. (Their debut CD, A Toda Cuba Le Gusta, released simultaneously with Buena Vista's, was the better recording.) But he soon went his own way, turning down offers for more retro-styled recordings, or what he called "la onda de los viejitos" ("the fad of the old-timers"). He's been cleverly crossing stylistic boundaries with his latest batch of All-Stars ever since, blending traditional and contemporary Cuban sounds. His 40-city tour is equally resourceful in terms of border crossings: The band's members, all with roots in Cuba, have passports in other nations, thus sidestepping the rules that exclude Cuban musicians.

"This band is bringing a message," he says. "Cuba is here, independent of any politician or policy. Our music and our influence cannot be stopped. And it's time for the policy to catch up with the reality."

Such change may be afoot. Tucked into the recently approved Omnibus Appropriations Bill, despite vociferous objection by such hard-liners as New Jersey Senator Bob Menendez, are provisions that liberalize travel for Americans to visit relatives in Cuba. However, the bill does so essentially by defunding the Treasury Department agencies that police such activity, which is different from legal sanction—besides, it expires in six months.

"But Mr. Obama is a smart guy," González adds. "He's going to open the doors wider, at least to cultural exchange."

To that end, the President's inbox holds the urging of more than a thousand noted artists, educators, and cultural leaders via signatures on a letter calling for, among other measures, the elimination of restrictions that prevent Americans from traveling to Cuba, and Cuban artists from performing in the United States. (See it at "I shouldn't have to ask permission of my government to travel anywhere," says Louis Head, co-founder of the U.S.-Cuba Cultural Exchange, which orchestrated the letter campaign. "Historically, cultural expression in the U.S. and Cuba are joined at the hip, and it's time to respect that vital connection."

"The letter is very important," Grammy-winning pianist Arturo O'Farrill told Amy Goodman of Democracy Now! "For us to be denied access to this source of cultural sustenance is absolutely insane."

The "Freedom to Travel to Cuba Act" (H.R. 874 in the House and S. 428 in the Senate), a more effective and lasting option than the Omnibus add-on, is attracting a growing list of co-sponsors and, if passed, would permit all U.S. citizens unrestricted travel rights. That should allow, for instance, O'Farrill to realize his dream of bringing his Afro-Latin Orchestra to Cuba to perform the music composed by his father, Chico, in the home Chico left in 1958, for good.

Still, we need the door to swing open both ways, so that, as Alicia Alonso, director of the Ballet Nacional de Cuba, wrote in a 2007 open letter to American artists, "a song, a book, a scientific study, or a choreographic work are not considered, in an irrational way, a crime." González envisions bringing a 30-piece band to the U.S., adding such musicians as pianist David Alfaro, who lives in Cuba. No one should stop him.

Juan de Marcos González and the Afro-Cuban All-Stars play Town Hall March 28


Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Free Roxana Saberi

Iran said today that an Iranian-American journalist whose family have not heard from for three weeks was arrested for engaging in “illegal” activities because she continued to work after the Government revoked her press credentials.

Roxana Saberi, 31, who has reported from Tehran for the BBC and other news organisations, called her father in the United States on February 10, saying that she had been arrested for buying a bottle of wine.

"She called from an unknown place and said she’s been kept in detention,” Mr Saberi said from Fargo, North Dakota, where her family lives.

“She said that she had bought a bottle of wine and the person that sold it had reported it and then they came and arrested her,” he said, adding that the wine purchase was just an excuse to arrest her
Ms Saberi said that she had already been held for ten days, and called back moments later to say that she would be released in two more days. Neither her family in the US nor her friends in Tehran have heard from her since. Mr Saberi said that he was going public with the information because of fears for his daughter’s safety.


Friday, March 20, 2009

Northern Ireland: No Way Out Except Socialism

By Editorial Statement of the Socialist Appeal
Thursday, 19 March 2009

The recent fatal attacks on British Army and Police Service of Northern Ireland personnel by the Real and Continuity IRA came as a shock. They are the first in 12 years. There has been plenty of evidence over the past few months that they were being planned. The rumours were that the Real IRA were trying to force the hand of the Sinn Fein leaders, by obliging them to line up with the security forces and the Police and thus to demonstrate that they had sold out the Republican cause.

The 'armed struggle' failed. In fact it threw back the consciousness of the working class, dividing worker against worker.

The fact is, however, that the conditions which would result in these groups gaining anything from this are absent. The "armed struggle" failed to liberate one inch of land over 30 years. In fact it threw back the consciousness of the working class, dividing worker against worker, and gave the excuse for dozens of repressive laws and measures to be introduced. These laws can in fact be used against the working class, and the trade unions in particular.

These recent attacks have helped to create an environment in which anyone who disagrees with the Good Friday Agreement, can be tainted as "dissidents" and thus "terrorists", when the two things are not the same at all. There are among the Republican movement those who oppose that Agreement on a class basis and reject the idea of a return to the "armed struggle".

There was a huge war weariness, which resulted in the sham of the Stormont Assembly. Stormont is nothing more than a glorified local council. The underlying tensions and the problems and contradictions in Northern Irish society have if anything got worse over the past period. The huge economic development in the Republic had a certain effect on the economy, but the six counties in the North are more divided physically by the walls and barbed wire and sectarianism has been institutionalised with the Sinn Fein and Democratic Unionist Party, officially "representing" the Catholic and Protestant communities respectively.

The attacks reflect in a distorted and confused way the frustration of a layer of young people who don't see any other way out. Their tactics won't achieve a united Ireland in another 30 or even 300 years. In the late 1960s and early 1970s the Provisional IRA was able to gain a sizeable echo among the Catholic Youth, because they were seen to be defending the communities from sectarian attacks and the British state. But even with significant support the Provisionals' campaign failed in its objectives.

The response to the attacks has been rapid and very revealing. It is very positive that the unions, under the pressure of the workers, called for demonstrations against a return to sectarian violence. Unfortunately, religious groups, MPs and ‘security forces' tried to appropriate these protests turning them into the ‘official' response. That must not be allowed to happen. That same establishment has been for centuries responsible for the oppression of workers of different denominations and the sectarian division in the North of Ireland.

For Marxists the key to transforming the situation is the organized working class. We recently saw thousands of workers from all denominations and backgrounds marching together in the South. When the workers move, there is no power on earth that can stop them.

The so-called 'Peace Wall' separates Protestants and Catholics in Belfast. Photo by a11sus on Flickr.

The conditions are maturing for the building of a mass movement against capitalism. The crisis of capitalism doesn't respect religious denomination or which side of the ‘peace walls' (that separate Protestants and Catholics in Belfast) you happen to live on. Unemployment is shooting through the roof. It's doubled in the South and the ripples of the economic nightmare there will not stop until they reach the North Antrim coast.

At a time when jobs, services, houses and health are all at risk, taking pot shots at the PSNI or the Army is a dangerous diversion. How many trade unionists and young people in the North were sitting glued to the pictures of the monster demonstration in Dublin last month? How many were sitting thinking "we should be doing that"? Now they have been sitting watching the TV news reports of the shootings wondering whether the clock has been turned back 20 years.

The ideas of Marxist internationalism provide a genuine alternative to the blind alley into which the working class in the North of Ireland has been driven for so long. We base ourselves on the organised strength of the working class in the trade unions and among the youth. It is only through fighting in the tradition of Connolly and Larkin that we can hope to bring down the partition and the so called peace walls. We stand for a united Socialist Ireland, linked in a voluntary federation to a Socialist Britain as part of a voluntary European and world Socialist Federation.

Sectarianism only serves to divide the working class. When in reality the conditions that Catholic and Protestant workers face mean that they have far more in common with each other than they could ever have with the bosses. That fact alone means that there is an alternative. But Marxism needs to win the arguments and show up the shortcomings of both Paisley and Adams. That means not simply waiting for things to happen or tail ending events. On the contrary, what is required is for all genuine Marxists in Ireland to come together and work towards the building of a force that can unlock the potential power and strength of the organised working class in the whole of the island.


Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Kiefer Sutherland Presents Mouseland

You know Kiefer Sutherland as the star of hit television show 24, or the son of actor Donald Sutherland. He is also grandson of the founder of the New Democratic Party Tommy Douglas. The NDP is Canada's labor party.

Kiefer presents with the help of his grandfather's words and Mouseland Players, a valuable political lesson.


Friday, March 13, 2009

El Salvador Elections March 15th 2009 Open Thread

On Sunday, March 15, there will be presidential electionsin El Salvador. An indication of the balance of forces can be seen in the size of the end of campaign rallies. The left wing FMLN gathered 250,000 people, one of the largest mobilisations in the country’s history. The mood was one of enthusiasm, hope and militancy, even though the bureaucracy did its best to turn the rally into a carnival. The right wing could not even fill the Cuscatlán stadium, and as it is always the case in these events, paid people to attend, forced civil servants to attend, as well as bringing popular music groups. Even with all this, the meeting was only about 50,000 strong. However the mood was very different. It was a very political meeting appealing to prevent the victory of “communism”, to defend “democracy and freedom”.

The right wing is seriously considering electoral fraud in order to “win” these elections, and there is a lot of uncertainty about what will happen on March 15 and the following days. The right wing parties are very discredited, but the ruling class is not sure that its interests will be safe with a FMLN government, even though the FMLN candidate and the leadership of the party have made repeated statements saying they will respect private property and will not move towards socialism. Neither the leadership of the FMLN nor Funes have prepared seriously to fight electoral fraud and have even signed an statement saying they will respect the electoral results. But the patience of the masses is running short and it is unlikely that the leadership will be able to contain the protests of the workers which are likely to be very militant and might acquire a revolutionary character.



Monday, March 09, 2009

Open Thread: Talk About What Is On Your Mind


I've been diverted by problems with Blogrolling. They returned into service, after being "hacked," with promises of being new and improved. The new Blogrolling is a site, where you have to pay to get rid of pop-ups, when you click on a link. I have almost 400 links to transfer.

Many of the blogs, that I had links to, over the years closed. It's sad in a way. Some blogs that linked to me, took the link down, probably as my politics got harder.

What book are you reading? Seen any movies?

Guilty pleasure?

Have a confession?

Is there a movie you loved, and everyone else hates?

How are you coping with the economic crisis?

It's open thread time.


Thursday, March 05, 2009

Britain: Preparing For a Summer of Rage

By Fred Weston
Wednesday, 25 February 2009

High-ranking British police officers have expressed concern that the country may be facing an outburst of street protests. Superintendent David Hartshorn, head of the Metropolitan police's public order branch, and one of the highest ranking police officers in the country, in an interview with The Guardian newspaper, spoke of the possibility of riots like those that rocked the country in the 1980s, erupting later this year as people who lose their jobs, homes or savings become "footsoldiers" in a wave of violent mass protests.

The number of people who lost their homes in 2008 grew by more than 50%, hitting a 12-year high. Unemployment in the UK grew by 131,000 to 1.92 million between the months of September and November of last year. In December according to ILO figures the number had reached 1.971 million and is now clearly over the two million mark.

Every day newspaper headlines and the evening TV news list the latest jobs to go. While this is happening the government continues to throw billions at the banks, with no real effect on the economy in terms of defending jobs, boosting credit, easing up on mortgages and so on.

The workers affected by this crisis can see the glaring contradiction between how easily and quickly the government moves when a bank is facing crisis, and the stubborn refusal to intervene when companies are facing bankruptcy, the latest example being the van producer LDV.

British police are preparing for violent protests this summer as working class people take to the streets. Photo by Rich Lewis on Flickr.

Superintendent David Hartshorn refers to “middle-class individuals who would never have considered joining demonstrations may now seek to vent their anger through protests this year”. We have to consider this term “middle class” carefully. What does it mean? Does it mean small business people, small “owners of the means of production”, or the petit bourgeois, to use a Marxist term?

Partially yes, as many small business people are facing bankruptcy. Also, over the past period many people who would normally have worked for a boss were forced to become “self-employed”, when in reality their work still depended on the same boss, except that the boss doesn’t have to sack them, as he doesn’t formally employ them.

However, the term “middle class” here actually means a section of “wage labour” (another Marxist term), i.e. people who to earn a living have to work for someone else, the owner of the means of production who pays them a wage. In this sense, the overwhelming majority of the workforce is “wage labour”, and therefore “working class”.

When capitalism is booming and a significant section of this “wage labour” can earn a relatively high income they can feel that they are “middle class”, especially if their job involves working in an office, wearing a suit, and so on. But we as Marxists understand that this layer is, and always was, “working class”. Now that the crisis of capitalism is hitting hard those people who had illusions that they were “middle class” and so they are suddenly discovering that they are in fact “working class”.

So what our Superintendent is actually saying is that what we are facing later this year is a revolt of the working class, which will be joined by sections of the “petit bourgeois” as these become “proletarianised” as Marx would have put it, i.e. as they fall downwards into the working class.

The British police have carried out detailed studies of the behaviour of demonstrators in recent protests. What they have noticed is that the mood has changed into an angrier one than previously noticed. Protestors are increasingly "intent on coming on to the streets to create public disorder".

Mass protests, such as in Iceland, have made an impression on the British police who will be attempting to prevent similar events from occuring in Britain. Photo by Finnur Malmquist on Flickr.

The police are concerned that “viable targets” are the banks and the headquarters of multinational companies and finance houses, all seen by the public at large as mainly responsible for the present crisis.

The tops of the police also learn from what happens in other countries. The eruption of massive youth protests in Greece in December has not been lost on these people. They realise that what was behind the movement in Greece were the social conditions that have been created over decades, of extreme flexibilisation, casualisation of labour, low wages for the youth, and a general feeling of being in a dead end – the same conditions that afflict the youth in this country.

They have noted the sharp turn in events in a country like Iceland, which only one year ago was being described by the same Guardian newspaper as the best place to live in the world. Here the financial crisis has led to mass mobilisations and violent clashes on the streets. They have noted the big protests in France, the strikes in Italy, the recent huge demonstration in Ireland and the growing wave of worker militancy there. And most recently of course we have had the Lindsey dispute and a spate of similar strikes, strikes which have revealed a very high level of militancy of the British workers.

What happened at Lindsey has sent a clear signal to workers in other industries: militancy pays! In some cases what we are seeing is not a passive, defeatist attitude of workers faced with redundancy. On the contrary we are seeing workers balloting for strike action, as is the case on the railways, in the post office, in car plants such as BMW at Cowley. Even the Prison Officers are preparing for strike action!

It is obvious to anyone that this resurgence of union militancy in the context of a deep economic crisis affecting all layers of the working class is creating a potentially very explosive situation. According to the same Guardian article, intelligence reports indicate that “known activists” are preparing to “foment unrest”. As Hartshorn explained, "Those people would be good at motivating people, but they haven't had the 'footsoldiers' to actually carry out [protests]." Now that the economy is in deep crisis he fears that the “footsoldiers” will increase!

In the immediate future, the police are concerned about what may happen around the G20 summit in March, and they are preparing to mobilise big forces to meet any protests there. But it isn’t just about the G20 summit. What they are concerned about is a much more widespread wave of protest involving ordinary working people over a whole period of time.

In line with this goes a much more aggressive stance of the police in the latest protests. As one trade union activist has put it, “it’s getting very nasty out there”. The police are preparing to use the same methods they used against the British miners twenty years ago. And there is a logic in this. The bosses, the capitalists, the ruling class, the bourgeoisie cannot provide ordinary working people with jobs, decent income, a home, because their system is in deep crisis. Therefore they are preparing for violent confrontation with the people of this country.

The behaviour of the police during the recent Greek solidarity marches in London, the protests over the invasion of Gaza, or even the protest against the Kingsnorth power station in Kent last August is an indication of all this. In the case of the Kingsnorth power station they drafted in 1000 police officers, aided by helicopters and riot horses, with an overall cost of the operation of £5.9 million pounds and with 100 activists being arrested.

Notice the priorities they have. Close to six million pounds is spent on policing one protest, but when workers in industry demand the government spends money on saving their jobs they get not a penny! All this is having a profound effect on ordinary people’s understanding of the nature of the system we live in. A recent YouGov opinion poll has revealed that 73% of people fear a return of mass unemployment. The same poll revealed that 37% thought “serious social unrest” was likely in British cities in the coming period. A similar figure believes that the Army would be used to face rioting, as the recession gets deeper.

The police chiefs, the intelligence services, ministerial study groups and so on, study carefully what is happening deep down in society, particularly among the workers and youth. They can see what the Marxists can see: society is polarising along class lines. The two major classes, on the one hand the bourgeoisie, a tiny minority numerically, but which has at its service the state, with all its trappings, and on the other hand the working class, the huge majority of society, are lining up for battle. It will be a battle such that we have never seen in the whole history of capitalist society. The outcome of this battle will depend on the leadership of the working class. The one we have at the moment wishes for peace and tranquillity. It wants compromise with the bourgeoisie. It is living in the past. What is required is a leadership up to task of seriously leading the workers. That is what the Marxists are patiently and systematically working towards.


Monday, March 02, 2009

Incredible High School Musicians From Venezuela! Led by Gustavo Dudamel

The Teresa Carreño Youth Orchestra contains the best high school musicians from Venezuela's life-changing music program, El Sistema. Led here by Gustavo Dudamel, they play Shostakovich's Symphony No. 10, 2nd movement, and Arturo Márquez' Danzón No. 2.