Check out our pieces on the Gallipoli campaign and World War One.

Gallipoli: a dirty and bloody business

Empty Garden: Wellington’s national war memorial park

Field Punishment No. 1 Reviewed: reminder that the war’s not over

Stevan Eldred-Grigg’s ‘The Great Wrong War': NZ society and WW1

Anzac Day: time to remember those who tried to resist war

Striking workers picket Dunnes Stores at Cornelscourt, south Dublin; photo by Eric Luke, the Irish Times

Striking workers picket Dunnes Stores at Cornelscourt, south Dublin; photo by Eric Luke, the Irish Times

by Philip Ferguson

Last week, I reported on the strike by 6,000 Dunnes Stores workers across the south of Ireland for guaranteed hours they can actually live on, union recognition, a pay rise and improved job security (see here). The company did all it could to pressure workers not to go on strike but their efforts failed.  Moreover, the workers won wide support for their action.


The questions asked by the great Irish workers leader James Connolly need asking today by Irish workers and unions

Company vents displeasure

In the week since the strike, the company has vented its displeasure at what they regard as the insubordination of their much put-upon workers.  Across the south of Ireland there have been reports from union members of changes in shift patterns, making it harder to manage family commitments.  Workers’ roles have been altered too.  For instance, some workers who have been doing the same job for 20 years found themselves reassigned after the strike to other departments in the stores where they work; this can mean a loss in hours and disruption of their long-established work and life schedules.

Another tactic used by management to punish workers and discourage future industrial action is Read the rest of this entry »

The article below by veteran Marxist and intellectual Terry Eagleton is reprinted from the Chronicle Review site, April 6.  We’ve added sub-heads. 

images (1)A few years ago, I was being shown around a large, very technologically advanced university in Asia by its proud president. As befitted so eminent a personage, he was flanked by two burly young minders in black
suits and shades, who for all I knew were carrying Kalashnikovs under their jackets. Having waxed lyrical about his gleaming new business school and state-of-the-art institute for management studies, the president paused to permit me a few words of fulsome praise. I remarked instead that there seemed to be no critical studies of any kind on his
campus. He looked at me bemusedly, as though I had asked him how many
Ph.Ds in pole dancing they awarded each year, and replied rather
stiffly “Your comment will be noted.” He then took a small piece of
cutting-edge technology out of his pocket, flicked it open and spoke a
few curt words of Korean into it, probably “Kill him.” A limousine the
length of a cricket pitch then arrived, into which the president was
bundled by his minders and swept away. I watched his car disappear from
view, wondering when his order for my execution was to be implemented.

This happened in South Korea, but it might have taken place almost
anywhere on the planet. From Cape Town to Reykjavik, Sydney to S?o
Paulo, an event as momentous in its own way as the Cuban revolution or
the invasion of Iraq is steadily under way: the slow death of the
university as a centre of humane critique. Universities, which in
Britain have an 800-year history, have traditionally been derided as
ivory towers, and there was always some truth in the accusation. Yet the
distance they established between themselves and society at large could
prove enabling as well as disabling, allowing them to reflect on the
values, goals, and interests of a social order too frenetically bound up
in its own short-term practical pursuits to be capable of much
self-criticism. Across the globe, that critical distance is now being
diminished almost to nothing, as the institutions that produced Erasmus
and John Milton, Einstein and Monty Python, capitulate to the hard-faced
priorities of global capitalism.

Finishing school for the gentry

Much of this will be familiar to an American readership. Stanford and
MIT, after all, provided the very models of the entrepreneurial
university. What has emerged in Britain, however, is what one might call
Americanization without the affluence – the affluence, at least, of the
American private educational sector.

This is even becoming true at those traditional finishing schools for
the English gentry, Oxford and Cambridge, whose colleges have always
been insulated to some extent against broader economic forces by
centuries of lavish endowments. Some years ago, I resigned from a chair
at the University of Oxford (an event almost as rare as an earthquake in
Edinburgh) when I became aware that I was expected in some respects to
behave less as a scholar than a CEO.

When I first came to Oxford 30 years earlier, any such professionalism
would have been greeted with Read the rest of this entry »

imagesby Philip Ferguson

It looks very likely that on May 22 the south of Ireland will become the first country in the world in which people have voted for gay marriage.  That day, there is a referendum on gay marriage, the wording of which is that an amendment be made to the constitution of the state that “marriage may be contracted in accordance with law by two persons without distinction as to their sex”.  All the main political parties and well as over 75% of voters, according to opinion polls, support the amendment which looks sure to pass.


Cops at Henry Street station in Limerick smile while they stand behind a rainbow flag with local Gay Pride 2014 organisers. The police station, on their own initiative, flew the flag on the day of the Limerick Pride festival last year. Most of the establishment now embraces gay rights.

The referendum is a mark of how much has changed in the south of Ireland over the past generation.  In particular of how liberal attitudes around sex and sexuality are now in the ascendant and the Catholic Church hierarchy – and in Ireland the Catholic hierarchy have always been especially reactionary – are on the defensive, their power diminished and their claim to some imaginary moral high ground much reduced as a result of the mass of scandals which has enveloped the church in recent decades.  These scandals have partly been the result of the secularisation of the society making it possible to challenge the church, and the challenges and exposures in turn speeding up the secularisation of the society.

One of the signs of the sea-change in southern Irish society is the wide political consensus in support of equal marriage rights.  For instance, while a position in support of marriage equality is not at all surprising from Sinn Fein, Labour and the Greens, it is now firmly supported by traditionally the two biggest and most socially conservative parties, Fianna Fail and Fine Gael.

Origins of conservatism in southern state

Both those parties date back to the struggle for independence and subsequent civil war.  Fine Gael is the successor party to Read the rest of this entry »

The secular-progressive PKK has played a critical role in fighting the IS ultra-reactionaries and yet the NZ government has it on their 'terrorist' list and bans people here from supporting it

The secular-progressive PKK has played a critical role in fighting the IS ultra-reactionaries and yet the NZ government has it on their ‘terrorist’ list and bans people here from supporting it; above, PKK guerrilla fighters.

Faced with the armed forces of Islamic State (IS), the Iraqi army has tended to run away.  The forces that have been able to take on IS and, in several places, beat them back, have been the Kurdish armed forces associated with the PKK (the Kurdistan Workers Party).  PKK-aligned guerrillas helped save the lives of thousands of Yazidis and other facing death at the hands of IS.  Yet the PKK is on the list of designated ‘terrorist’ groups in a number of western powers, including the United States and New Zealand.  (For a full list of the groups on the NZ list, see here.)

The PKK, of course, is not a ‘terrorist’ organisation – it is a movement for the national liberation of the Kurdish people.  It has an armed wing because the governments which deny the Kurds their national rights do so through military repression and have tended to be vicious dictatorships.  Even where the dicatorships have been replaced with elected civilian governments, these governments have continued to use murderous violence against the Kurds, as in Turkey for instance.

The fact that the PKK is on the NZ government’s ‘terrorist’ list is one of the things giving the lie to John Key’s claim that his government cares about democracy and human rights in the Middle East and that’s why NZ armed forces are again being involved in Iraq.  His government is actually trying to prevent people here supporting the PKK’s defence of secular and progressive values against IS.  And, of course, it’s not that long ago that Washington was supporting – indeed, playing an instrumental role in creating – Islamic fundamentalist outfits as a counter to secular, progressive, national liberation movements in the region.

People opposed to imperialist intervention in the region, including the involvement of NZ armed forces, need to demand that we be able to build support for the PKK’s resistance to IS and their fight for the emancipation of the Kurds, including publicising and raising funds to assist their efforts.  The PKK should be allowed to have an office and operate legally in New Zealand.  Any and all restrictions on them should be removed.

The article below was written in November 2014, so is a little bit dated as events in Iraq and Syria have moved quite fast.  Nevertheless we think it is a valuable article to put up on Redline as it covers much more than just the precise situation at a moment in time.

by Florian Wilde

The West has suddenly begun supporting various Kurdish organisations in its fight against the Islamic State. So why is the largest Kurdish organisation of all, the PKK, still outlawed? This article discusses current developments in Kurdistan and gives a brief overview of the history of the Kurdish liberation movement and the PKK’s illegal status in Germany. It argues for a radical left strategy focused on defeating the ban on the PKK.

“It wasn’t the Americans who saved us. It was God and the PKK.”

August 2014: Terrorist militias under the leadership of the Islamic State (IS) storm a region in northern Iraq near the Syrian border inhabited by the Yazidis, a millennia-old monotheistic ethno-religious Kurdish minority. Divisions of the Peshmerga, the region’s armed forces, flee from the advancing IS troops without firing a shot. The Yazidis beg the Peshmerga to at least leave them their weapons so as to give them a chance at defending themselves, but the Peshmerga refuse. Tens of thousands of Yazidis are forced to flee into the nearby mountains. Those who stay behind are subjected to brutal, genocidal acts: thousands killed, hundreds buried alive, and countless acts of rape, kidnapping and enslavement are perpetuated against Yazidi women. To add insult to injury, IS fighters ransack and destroy ancient Yazidi holy sites.

But even those who were able to flee faced the possibility of a looming humanitarian catastrophe. The fleeing Yazidis were surrounded by the IS and trapped in the mountains with little food or water under conditions of extreme heat. Abandoned by the rest of the world, it seemed as if they had little choice but to wait for death – that is, until unexpected reinforcements arrived: divisions of the Kurdish People’s Protection Units (PYG) break through IS lines in northern Syria, while guerrilla fighters from the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) advance from the north and fighters from their Iranian sister organisation, the PJAK (Party of Free Life of Kurdistan), from the east.

The Kurdish fighters manage to establish an escape corridor, through which tens of thousands pass into liberated Kurdish areas of northern Syria. It is only days after their escape that the US bombing campaign and accompanying Peshmerga offensive begins. Surviving Yazidis repeatedly insisted to western journalists that “it wasn’t the Americans who saved us. It was God and the PKK.”

The northern Syrian Kurds came to the Yazidis’ assistance despite having to defend themselves from the IS on their home territory as well. The north Syrian Kurds in question are Read the rest of this entry »

obama-mid-eastThe article below is the text of a talk delivered at the London International Communist Forum in November 2014

A historical focus for Europe’s greed

Those familiar with the history of the region will recognise the features of today’s invasions and occupations in those of the bloody campaigns pursued by the European powers of the past.

The ruthless crusades of the Middle Ages during which western European feudal lords plundered the riches of the Middle East, initially claiming to be defending a small group of Maronite Christians living in what is now Lebanon, caused havoc. But partly due to their acquisitions and also to the development of sea routes to the far east and Americas, Europe’s attentions eventually – but temporarily – switched away from the region.

Of course, because the main overland trading route between Asia and Europe passed through the region, it always remained a focus for rivalries between the different western European powers, notably France and England, and later Germany. This meant that for nearly six centuries following the end of the Crusades, it was necessary for European rulers to come to terms with the Ottoman Empire, which dominated this whole region from the 13th Century right up until the eve of WW1.

In fact the name “Ottoman” is the bastardisation of the name of one of the founders of the Ottoman Empire – Osman Bey, who established a Sunni caliphate in the region of north western Anatolia in 1299.

Through the conquest of most of what are now the Balkan states of Eastern Europe and almost the whole Mediterranean region, the Ottoman Empire reached its height in the 16th and 17th centuries. And it is important to understand that despite being an Islamic state, it encompassed multiple ethnicities and language groups as well as many religious minorities. It dealt with different religious groups by imposing a special tax on them – in other words, tolerance was a financial transaction – but it meant that for most of the time everyone lived side by side in peace.

Strategic and financial interests first

In the 19th century however, the emerging western imperialist powers – France and Britain – began to make inroads into the Read the rest of this entry »