The following statement was issued by the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine on 18 November 2014 in relation to the attack on a synagogue in the Har Nof area of Jerusalem.

image“The operation today in Jerusalem is a natural response to the ongoing racist policies and crimes of the occupation, and it is the occupation that is responsible for the escalation in Jerusalem and throughout Palestine. We are witnessing lynchings, the targeting of Palestinians, demolishing homes, confiscating land, building colonies, taking unprecedented measures against Muslims’ and Christians’ holy sites in Jerusalem on a daily basis,” said Khalil Maqdesi, member of the Central Committee of the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine.

“Every day, thousands of supporters of the PFLP – and our entire Palestinian people – resist occupation in Jerusalem and throughout Palestine. There will be more of these kinds of actions so long as the occupier’s assault continues,” Maqdesi said. “The PFLP will continue to Read the rest of this entry »

iraqbases

by Workers Fight

As this issue of our journal goes to press,* four months have elapsed since the first of Obama’s “special advisers” officially set their “boots” – sorry, their “civilian shoes”, since they were not meant to be there in a combat capacity – on Iraqi soil. They arrived on August 1st.

In fact, whether they wore “boots” or “civilian shoes”, was hardly relevant. With 35,000 heavily-armed private contractors operating in Iraq, 17,000 employees at the US embassy in Baghdad (the world’s largest!) and countless military minders and trainers “embedded” within the Iraqi forces, the US government already had “boots” all over the land of Iraq, anyway!

Western “precision bombings” against ISIS began a month later. They were first carried out by the US air force at the beginning of September, then by the French from September 19th and, after the Commons vote on September 26th, by the British RAF – with a host of smaller players joining the US-led coalition over the following weeks.

Two months on, however, this new Western intervention in the Middle East seems to have melted into the general background noise of international politics. Of course, given the right opportunity, like the gruesome beheading of a western hostage by ISIS, the past hysterical media coverage will undoubtedly come back – to provide yet more “moral” justification for the western governments to use their lethal arsenal against the population of the region and to whip up fears here that, unless this is done, the ISIS henchmen will soon be knocking at our doors.

As to the bloody mayhem which the Iraqi and Syrian populations have to live through, the deaths and injuries they suffer, the hardship experienced by the massive numbers of refugees fleeing the war zones, whether they are internally displaced or forced into makeshift camps in neighbouring countries – all that is carefully ignored by the media.

But isn’t this entirely predictable? Who would want the public to come to realise that the situation of these populations is only made worse by this new Read the rest of this entry »

The following open letter to “journalists of the mainstream media” was issued by Professor Richard Jackson on his blog, on October 8, under the heading “Hey mainstream media! Here are some pointers for doing your job”.  Professor Jackson is deputy-director of the Centre for Peace and Conflict Studies at Otago University although, of course, his blog represents his personal views; we don’t necessarily agree with all of this piece – see the comments section – but welcome it as a challenge to the largely uncritical role of the media in terms of the deployment of NZ forces to Iraq and the new ‘anti-terrorism’ legislation.  Academics speaking up in this frank way are rare indeed in this country.

by Richard Jackson

Dear Journalists of the Mainstream Media,

It is fair to say that, pretty much exactly as in the lead-up to the 2003 invasion of Iraq, you have failed once again to fulfil your professional mandate and live up to even the minimal standards of journalism. For the most part, you have simply repeated the ridiculous speculations and hysterical statements of politicians, without any rigorous questioning or adequate investigation into their veracity. I know you work in a 24-7 news environment in which you feel like you don’t always have the time to find whether the things that officials say are not nonsense, and that most of you belong to a few large media conglomerates which impose a strict editorial line. But, come on! I know you can do better than ” Islamic state is an apocalyptic death cult and we’re all going to die! Launch the bombers now!” In the process of being so pathetically uncritical in the past few weeks, you have fuelled the moral panic that currently surrounds Islamic State, created an atmosphere of fear and Islamophobia, and offered almost no critical analysis of the patently pointless and counterproductive decision to bomb Iraq for the umpteenth time. As a consequence, you have utterly failed to provide a check on the politicians who are determined to roll back civil liberties, restrict protest and dissent, surveille the whole world, torture people and ironically, muzzle the freedom of the press. Yes, you didn’t even notice until it was too late that their plan to fight the purported existential threat of Islamic State included further restricting the activities of the press.

As a consequence of this pathetic failure, it is my duty to suggest a series of fairly simple and obvious questions which you, as professional journalists, can ask politicians and security officials during press conferences, or radio or television interviews on the subject of Islamic State, terrorism and/or bombing Muslim countries. Trust me, these will really help you to do your job properly, and may in the long run, bring back a little credibility to your profession. On the other hand, they may also get you banned from official press conferences or shunned by the hacks who are happy to act as paid government mouthpieces. In any case, by asking these questions, you’ll definitely feel better, reduce the shame you must feel for how you got sucked in again, and perhaps get a little bit of your dignity back.

So these are a few basic, random questions you might ask Read the rest of this entry »

e00b626cd93edab07a343e270c3d632e8ba6a26a_big

The pretence of ‘honest broker’ helps NZ’s ruling class pursue their own interests in the Pacific, Asia and elsewhere

The article below was written in 1997 and appeared in revolution #3, Aug/Sept 1997, a Christchurch-based Marxist journal; as NZ intervention in both the Pacific and elsewhere since shows, the article very much retains its relevance

by Linda Kearns

Negotiations recently concluded between the Papua New Guinea government-appointed regime on Bougainville and Bougainville separatists. The talks were held at Burnham military camp outside Christchurch, producing the ‘Burnham Agreement’.

At a time when its popularity is plummeting in the polls, and politicians are held in deep contempt, the New Zealand government is delighting in being able to play the moral card, as a disinterested observer helping Third World warring factions sort out their problems. Even left-wing Alliance Party leader Jim Anderton describes New Zealand as an “honest broker” in the process.

This country’s interests in the Asia-Pacific region are, however, anything but noble. In fact, it is the ability of our rulers to appear as a moral player, or ‘honest broker’, which is crucial in allowing them to pursue their regional interests as a capitalist class.

How the policy makers see things

Both New Zealand’s military capacities and its relations with the region are key topics of discussion in foreign and defence policy circles in this country.

Deputy-director of the Centre for Strategic Studies at Victoria University David Dickens, noting that three quarters of NZ’s export income and imports are generated from the Asia-Pacific region, holds that this country’s “economic well-being depends on overseas trade” and that “New Zealand’s strategic interests are global” (Dickens, “Building peace through credible defence”, New Zealand International Review, vol 22, no 3, May-June 1997, p11). “(I)f detractors can show that New Zealand is not serious about conventional defence, then Wellington’s credibility on security issues will be undermined. Without a credible defence posture New Zealand will struggle to create a credible foreign policy” (ibid).

Dickens argues that NZ’s military forces “are an ideal instrument to underpin Wellington’s claim that it is genuinely interested in security in the region” (ibid, p14), ‘security’ being a euphemism for a state of affairs in which the business of exploitation and oppression proceeds with the least disturbance.

New Zealand needs, in Dickens’ view, “a defence force that is Read the rest of this entry »

imagesThis article is a slightly abridged version of one which was written in 1997 and appeared in issue #3 of the Christchurch-based journal revolution, Aug/Sept 1997

by John Gillot and Manjit Kumar
(with additional information from Simon Faraday)

Is science the liberator of humanity, or the tool of despots? Is the attempt to control the laws of nature the handmaiden of progress, or the suicidal act of ignorant fools? These are the kind of issues being raised today, as the world’s pressing demographic and environmental problems make more people ask whether progress is such a good thing. What answers can we come up with?

Marxists support the unlimited growth of scientific knowledge and capacity. The dangers posed by the application of modern science arise from the nature of the societies in which it takes place not from the science itself. The system which dominates the globe – capitalism – is at best stagnant. Without the constraints this system imposes, the potential exists for fundamental scientific advances to be made and used for the good of us all. In opposition to the Marxist view, however, there is a growing belief among radical thinkers that humanity is inevitably threatened by technological and scientific advance.

This view has been put clearly by the modern Green movement. Discussing the environmental problems of today, Fritjof Capra has argued that these “manifold health hazards are not just incidental by-products of technological progress; they are integral features of an economic system obsessed with growth and expansion, continuing to intensify its high technology in an attempt to increase productivity.”

The Green view of science and technology as inherently dangerous makes sense to many people. Mention biotechnology, for example, and images of man-made mutants are more likely to come to mind than thoughts of a cure for genetic disorders. Such a reaction is understandable, given the misuse of scientific research. If people like Capra and his colleagues only wanted to expose the abuse of science by the capitalist system, we could have no objection. However, they go much further, asserting that “technological progress. . . growth and expansion” as such are the problem. This simply will not stand up to scrutiny.

Technological growth and scientific progress have vastly improved the state of human existence through the ages. A glance at Read the rest of this entry »

Andy Warren gets negative about a film before he’s seen it and takes a quick look at the history and themes of Hollywood science fiction cinema and their parallels in the real world

Interstellar: yet another misanthropic view of humanity

Interstellar: yet another misanthropic view of humanity

It is perhaps foolish to base too much on a film’s trailers. However, Hollywood generally can’t help but leak the key points. So I think I’ll be fairly safe. Once I’ve watched it I’ll write an update.

“We’ll find a way … we always have,” says Matthew McConaughey’s character, Cooper. “Mankind was born on Earth. It was never meant to die here.”

These quotes sound inspiring out of context – in the moody voice over. The reality is, I expect, rather uninspiring.

Recently released Interstellar (November 2014) will deliver the latest dollop in what I call the “humanity is doomed unless…” genre. The genre that likes to market itself as highbrow science fiction but which in reality manages only “we’re suddenly doomed but that brilliant man will save us – hey what does that lever do?” with as much glossy scientific credibility as the production can afford.

Interspersed with footage reprising the dust bowl depicted in The Grapes of Wrath (Depression-era US Midwest “bread belt”), farmer-but-also-engineer-and-brilliant-pilot McConaughey (the brilliant guy) is torn from his down-to-earth farming life (“good people”) because he is humanity’s only hope – the hope that we can find a new habitable planet elsewhere in the universe.

Judging by the sheer quantity of thrillingly impossible action sequences and dramatic moments in the various trailers I’ve watched, this film will have no choice but to quickly dispatch with its main justification and cut to the core of it’s mission – dressing up a basic dystopian morality message with special effects and bite-sized wisdoms delivered in McConaughey’s otherwise enjoyable slow, thoughtful Texas drawl. Yet another environmental story is dressed up in a relatively new and exciting form – this is the goal of the marketing machine’s influence on script and storyline. The environmental theme by now needs no introduction – the work has been done by dozens of previous Hollywood productions and the earnest bleating of the green movement. If the film has been done well, we might see some truly breathtaking space travel. I genuinely hope so.

About those Dust Storms…

John Steinbeck wrote in his 1939 novel The Grapes of Wrath: “And then the dispossessed were drawn west – from Kansas, Oklahoma, Texas, New Mexico; from Nevada and Arkansas, families, tribes, dusted out, tractored out. Car-loads, caravans, homeless and hungry; twenty thousand and fifty thousand and a hundred thousand and two hundred thousand. They streamed over the mountains, hungry and restless – restless as ants, scurrying to find work to do – to lift, to push, to pull, to pick, to cut – anything, any burden to bear, for food. The kids are hungry. We got no place to live. Like ants scurrying for work, for food, and most of all for land.”

Steinbeck was describing life for farming families driven from their farms by a period of intense drought which hit them on top of the Depression and a rapaciously brutal banking industry – subsequently bailed out by Franklin Roosevelt and the 1933 Emergency Banking Act – a forerunner of the US Congress appetite for bailing out Wall st on a more regular basis today.

Where Steinbeck based his work on brutal reality, Interstellar draws on the imagined reality that appeals to enviro-zealots and doom mongers. What Read the rest of this entry »

It would be good to get some discussion going on this issue, obviously a big one for the anti-capitalist left internationally anyway but an especially pertinent one in this country, where the working class remains almost perversely passive.

. . . and yet it survives. . .

. . . and yet it survives. . .

by Michael Roberts

Last weekend, I attended this year’s London version of the Historical Materialism conference (http://www.historicalmaterialism.org/conferences/annual11), which for those who don’t know is an annual gathering of mainly Marxist academics, students and activists organised by the Historical Materialism journal. A host of papers and book launch presentations are made, often bringing out new ideas in the analysis of capitalism.

This year’s main theme was “How Capitalism Survives” and was apparently attended by over 750 scholars, academics and activists. It’s not possible to attend all sessions, of course, so my review concentrates on the economics papers and even there is sometimes based on reading the papers presented rather than on actually attending the session (so be forewarned!).

How does capitalism survive? Well, according to John Weeks, emeritus professor at SOAS, it’s because the capitalist mode of production has had very few of what could be called proper crises (2014 Weeks_Crisis_Izmir). Weeks reckons that only the Great Depression of the 1930s and the recent Great Recession could be considered generalised crises (“episodes of severe contraction”) that affected the world capitalist economy for any length of time or to any depth. Other so-called crises were merely mild recessions or financial crashes that were short and limited to the national economy concerned.

As for the causes, Weeks argues that it was the Read the rest of this entry »