Archive for the ‘At the coalface’ Category

One of our links is to the excellent Le Mur des Oreilles site, which contains interviews with Palestinian figures, Israeli anti-Zionists and a range of cultural and political figures talking about the Palestinian cause and the importance of actions such as the Boycott, Divestment, Sanctions campaign.  Below is an interview with prominent Israeli historian Ilan Pappé, conducted last year by the site.


Ilan Pappé

LMaDO: Ilan, you are an historian, you’ve published numerous books, amongst them the famous and controversial for some people “Ethnic cleansing of Palestine” in 2006. In 2007 you moved to England where you are currently teaching history at the Exeter University. You are part of what is called by some people “the new historians” who gives a new analysis and narrative of the history of Zionism and the history of the creation of Israel. You’ve taken some radical positions against the state of Israel. Why and when did you decide to stand on the Palestinians’ side? And what were the consequences for you being Israeli?

Ilan Pappe: Changing point of view on such a crucial issue is a long journey, it doesn’t happen in one day and it doesn’t happen because of one event. I’ve tried in one of my books called “Out of the Frame” to describe this journey out of Zionism to a critical position against Zionism. If I had to choose a formative event that really changed my point of view in dramatic way, it would be the attack of the Israelis on Lebanon in 1982. For us who grew up in Israel, it was the first non-consensus war, the first war that obviously was a war of choice: Israel was not attacked, Israel attacked. Then the first Intifada happened. These events were eye-openers in many ways for people like myself who already had some doubts about Zionism, about the historical version we learned at school.

It is a long journey and once you take it, you are facing your own society, you are even facing your own family and it is not a nice position to be in. People who know Israel know that it is an intimate and vibrant society so if you are against it, you feel it in every aspect of your life. I think this is one of the reasons why it takes a bit longer for the people like me to come to the point where you say there is no (more…)

This article first appeared in revolution magazine’s Middle East bulletin MidEast Solidarity, issue #1, Spring 2001. It looks at the division of labour between the United Nations and western imperialist powers in committing mass murder in Iraq in the 1990s; in 2003, of course, the US-led invasion took place, killing thousands more and devastating Iraq, creating the current morass. The authors were members of the bulletin’s editorial group and active in the Middle East Information and Solidarity Collective.

UN sanctions killed over a million Iraqis and softened up the country for an armed imperialist invasion, symbolising division of labour between UN and imperialist powers

UN sanctions killed over a million Iraqis and softened up the country for a subsequent armed imperialist invasion, symbolising division of labour between UN and imperialist powers

by Grant Poultney and Yan Lin

The purposes of the United Nations are:

1. To maintain international peace and security, and to that end: to take effective action collective measures for the prevention and removal of threats to the peace, and for the suppression of acts of aggression or other breaches of the peace, and to bring about by peaceful means, and in conformity with the principles of justice and international law, adjustment or settlement of international disputes or situations which might lead to a breach of the peace. . .
Chapter 1. Purposes and Principles: Article 1 of the United Nations Charter

On August 2, 1990, Iraq invaded Kuwait. Four days later, the United Nations implemented a trade embargo on Iraq. This paralysed the country. Before the sanctions were imposed, Iraq imported 70 percent of its food. The sanctions in place since 1990 have crippled one of the once-healthiest countries in the world. UK and US politicians justify having the sanctions in place to contain the threat of Saddam Hussein.

In 1999, the United Nations ICE Fund (UNICEF) reported that over half a million Iraqi children had died as a result of UN sanctions. This works out to be an average of 200 children a day. How do the deaths of these children fit in with the first article in the UN charter? What have they got to do with ‘containing’ Saddam Hussein?

Depleted uranium

Iraq also suffers a continuing legacy as a result of the United States using (more…)


My trade union is engaged in a long term fight against Amazon for half-way tolerable pay and working conditions in its distribution centres in Germany.  Basic stuff like trade union representation or even a works council, reasonable breaks, being paid for the time spent while standing in line for security checks. Compliance with local labour law.  Some degree of respect for workers from the management. etc.

We are trying to extend this fight internationally and have had some initial success.

But it would help all those who are not uncritical admirers of totalitarian hyper-capitalism knew a thing or two about Amazon’s business strategy and role in the great cancer.  Matthew Stoller’s piece here has a good brief summary of just how and why this electronic trading monopolist has become so powerful.

Firstly, this isn’t an electronic retailer any more.  (Amazon CEO Jeff) Bezos’ ambitions are much wider – he is constructing a monopolist trading empire, something like a global East India Company. Amazon itself says that it competes in the following sectors:

physical-world retailers, publishers, vendors, distributors, manufacturers, and producers of our products, other online e-commerce and mobile e-commerce sites, including sites that sell or distribute digital content, media companies, web portals, comparison shopping websites, and web search engines, either directly or in collaboration with other retailers, companies that provide e-commerce services, including website development, fulfillment, customer service, and payment processing, companies that provide information storage or computing services or products, including infrastructure and other web services, companies that design, manufacture, market, or sell consumer electronics, telecommunication, and electronic devices.

Amazon is hardly taxed because all its profits are (more…)

Over the last six months an average of around 100 strikes and worker protests have been recorded every month in China – and this is just the tip of the iceberg. (AP/Eugene Hoshiko)

Over the last six months an average of around 100 strikes and worker protests have been recorded every month in China – and this is just the tip of the iceberg. (AP/Eugene Hoshiko)

by Han Dongfang

In early September, about 16,000 workers at two Chinese factories producing touch-screens for well-known brands such as Apple went on strike after management reneged on a promise to pay a US$100 holiday bonus.

The strikes were quickly resolved but still hit the headlines in the West because the bonus was supposed to include a box of moon cakes, a traditional gift during the Mid-Autumn Festival in China. The New York Post issued a dire warning to Apple fans, “No cake, no iPhone 6!”

The ‘moon cake strikes’ were further proof, if any were needed, that China’s workers are not afraid to take a stand and defend their legal rights and interests when they are threatened, no matter how trivial the dispute might seem to be about.

At China Labour Bulletin, over the last six months, we have recorded on average around 100 strikes and worker protests every month, and this is just the tip of the iceberg.

Although protests by factory workers tend to catch most of the international headlines, strikes in the manufacturing industry only account for around 40 per cent of all the strikes in China. Transport workers, teachers, construction workers, coal miners and those in the retail and service industries, are all willing and able to take industrial action if needed.

More often than not, worker protests in China follow the pattern of the (more…)

The article below is by Murtaza Hussain, a Toronto-based writer and analyst of Middle Eastern politics.  It appeared on the Al-Jazeera site last November and tells a moving story of the West’s double standards in relation to the Third World in general and the Arab and Islamic-Central Asian world in particular.  As the NZ government considers throwing in its lot with Washington in relation to ISIS in Syria, articles like this are important reminders of these double standards.

Nabila Rehman: seven of her siblings were wounded and her grandmother was killed in a US drone strike in Pakistan

Nabila Rehman: seven of her siblings were wounded and her grandmother was killed in a US drone strike in Pakistan

“Nabila, a slight girl of nine with striking hazel eyes, asked a simple question in her testimony: ‘What did my grandmother do wrong?'” writes Murtaza Hussain [Reuters].

On October 24, 2012 a Predator drone flying over North Waziristan came upon eight-year-old Nabila Rehman, her siblings, and their grandmother as they worked in a field beside their village home. Her grandmother, Momina Bibi, was teaching the children how to pick okra as the family prepared for the coming Eid holiday. However on this day the terrible event would occur that would forever alter the course of this family’s life. In the sky the children suddenly heard the distinctive buzzing sound emitted by the CIA-operated drones – a familiar sound to those in the rural Pakistani villages which are stalked by them 24 hours a day – followed by two loud clicks. The unmanned aircraft released its deadly payload onto the Rehman family, and in an instant the lives of these children were transformed into a nightmare of pain, confusion and terror. Seven children were wounded, and Nabila’s grandmother was killed before her eyes, an act for which no apology, explanation or justification has ever been given.

This past week Nabila, her schoolteacher father, and her 12-year-old brother traveled to Washington DC to tell their story and to seek answers about the events of that day. However, despite overcoming incredible obstacles in order to travel from their remote village to the United States, Nabila and her family were roundly ignored. At the congressional hearing where they gave testimony, only five out of 430 representatives showed up. In the words of Nabila’s father to those few who did attend: (more…)

Cops in the six counties (‘Northern Ireland’) block activists from the revolutionary movement éirígí in Newry.

Below we’re running an article by the Irish revolutionary-socialist group Socialist Democracy.  While parts of it deal with the particularity of the cops in the two statelets on the island of Ireland, it also makes wider points about the role of the cops, applicable in all capitalist societies, including here in New Zealand.  We’ve very slightly edited it and provided an explanation of several terms to make it more accessible to non-Irish readers.

The worker who becomes a policeman in the service of the capitalist state, is a bourgeois cop, not a worker – Leon Trotsky. 

It is not surprising, given the constant stream of propaganda that daily reinforces bourgeois ideology, that some workers should become convinced that the police are somehow above the demands of the class struggle. Revolutionaries see the police and army as the repressive organs of the state but reformists see the police as simply a group of ‘workers in uniform’, that will be driven by objective economic contradictions towards ‘revolutionary’ change. All that is required is to maintain ‘comradely’ relations with the rank and file of the state forces. Engels, Marx, Lenin and Trotsky were under no such illusions. 

For Engels there was no ambivalence about the role of the police and the state, particularly in (more…)

Jorge Medina, Sandro Salazar and René Córdoba with Wendy at Donnelleyby Wendy Z. Goldman

In late September, I was invited to Buenos Aires to speak about the recent Spanish translation of a book on the Bolshevik vision of women’s liberation that I first published in 1993, Women, the State, and Revolution: Soviet Family Policy and Social Life, 1917-1936.  The book, translated and published by Pan y Rosas (Bread and Roses), a socialist women’s organization, received a new life when it was published in Spanish in Argentina, and then in Portuguese by Boitempo in Brazil.  Workers and students embraced the ideas that the Bolsheviks had put into practice almost a century ago.

indexIn Buenos Aires, I spoke to a crowded auditorium of 700 workers, students, and faculty.  Workers came from the Lear plant, from the transportation sector, and from other factories.   One of the most moving comments was made by an older domestic worker who came up to the stage.  She explained that she spent her entire life cleaning the houses of wealthy people.  “The Bolsheviks talked about the socialization of household labor,” she said.  “Today, only women do this work.  And if a woman is wealthy enough, she pays another women like me to do it.”  One of the members of Pan y Rosas later told me that some of the women workers in the audience cried when they heard about the early socialist vision for transforming daily life and human relationships.

As part of my visit, Celeste Murillo and Andrea D’Atri, two committed members of Pan y Rosas and Partido de los Trabajadores Socialistas (Party of Socialist Workers), took me to the Donnelley printing factory, which had recently been taken over by workers.  For me, the factory immediately conjured images of the early soviets in Russia in 1917.  Russian workers, like their latter day comrades in Argentina, had also been propelled into (more…)