Archive for the ‘United Nations’ Category

Masoud Barzani

by Yassamine Mather

The Kurdish regional government (KRG) in Iraq will be holding a referendum on the issue of independence on September 25. There have been appeals for it to be delayed and the date has changed a number of times, but at the moment it looks like the vote will go ahead.

In 2014, at the time when Islamic State was gaining ground in northern Kurdistan, Kurds accused the Iraqi army of abandoning the territory lost to the jihadists. Ironically it is the ‘liberation’ of Erbil, Mosul and other northern cities that has precipitated the referendum. Last week in an interview with BBC Persian, Masoud Barzani, the president of the KRG, indicated that it will draw up the borders of a future Kurdish state if Baghdad does not accept a vote in favour of independence. However, what was significant in the BBC interview was Barzani’s insistence that (more…)



Barbara Gregorich and Phil Passen were members of the US Socialist Workers Party from 1965-72, and key figures in the Proletarian Orientation tendency within the SWP and then in the Class Struggle League 1972-74.  While maintaining their anti-capitalist views, Barbara became a writer of fiction, nonfiction, and poetry and Phil  is a musician on the hammered dulcimer.  In the interview below they talk about growing up in 1950s America, the winds of change of the 1960s, their politicisation and activity in that era, their involvement in the US SWP an how and why they began questioning its politics and organisational methods, how they came to a parting of the ways with it, their subsequent political activity, the decline of the left and the fate of the original new social movements of that era, and their assessment of politics in the United States today.

Philip Ferguson: Could you tell me a bit about your backgrounds?  What was it like growing up in the States in the 1950s and early 1960s?

Barbara Gregorich: I grew up in a small town in Ohio. My mother and father worked in my uncle’s bar as bar tenders until I was ten, then my father worked as a millwright in a steel mill and my mother worked at home. One of my uncles had a dairy farm less than half a mile from our house, and I spent much of my time there, with my cousins. I loved being outdoors and helping with milking and other farm chores. After I graduated from high school I attended Kent State University, which was maybe 35 miles away. I graduated with a degree in American Literature and also one in American History. I received an MA degree from the University of Wisconsin, in Literature, and I did post graduate work at Harvard, in the History of American Civilization.

I worked as an Instructor of English at Kent State University and Cuyahoga Community College while living in Cleveland, Ohio. Then Phil and I moved to Boston and I worked as a typesetter, first for a small job shop, then at the Boston Globe. We moved to Chicago, Illinois, and I worked as a typesetter for the Chicago Tribune, then as a postal letter carrier for the U.S. Post Office. I had always wanted to be either a baseball player or a writer. Baseball is closed to women, so I became a writer. In 1979 I went freelance,  which I’ve been to this day.

download (3)What it was like growing up in the States during the 1950s and 1960s is an interesting question, because of course one doesn’t think, “I’m growing up in the ’50s . . . and now I’ve transitioned to the ’60s!” But a person is definitely aware of the characteristics of the decade he/she grows up in, if not at the moment, then in retrospect, or in contrast to the next decade. Living in the 1950s, I was aware that I didn’t like many things about society. I hated fashion, especially as it applied to girls and women. I hated petticoats and crinolines, the latter “required” for the felted poodle skirts fashion of my junior-high years. I hated popcorn socks and pencil skirts and I refused to put my hair in curlers: torture!

What I wanted to wear was t-shirts and jeans, clothes I could function in. I also wondered why my fellow students flocked to and embraced each fashion that came along.  I can’t say that I was aware of politics when in junior and senior high, but standing in the early 1960s and looking back on the 1950s, I felt that it was a very conservative, unquestioning decade, and I was glad to be out of it.

Compared to the ’50s, the 1960s were a blast a fresh air, with people my age questioning what was right and wrong in society, and acting to make changes.

download (2)Phil Passen: I grew up in a small town in Michigan. My father, whose father had been a bricklayer who died from a fall on the job, owned a children’s clothing store in Monroe, Michigan, a small town between Detroit and Toledo. My mother’s parents had died when she was an infant, and she was raised by an aunt and uncle. I don’t know what their class background was, but I assume skilled workers or lower petty-bourgeois. My parents declared bankruptcy in 1960, and lost the store and our house primarily because of medical expenses for my mom’s various illnesses. I remember that this was the first time I thought about anything political, even though I didn’t realize at the time that it was a political question. But I wondered how medical expenses could be so great that they could cost people something they had worked so very hard for. My father was an Eisenhower Republican, and my mother was a Stevenson Democrat, and none of that made any sense to me.

passncon2I remember a palpable difference between the ’50s and ’60s. At some point early in the ’60s I realized that the stodgy, uninteresting, unexciting coat-and -tie atmosphere of the ’50s was gone — replaced by rock and roll, the Beatles and Stones, Bob Dylan, beats, greasers, art films, and an air of excitement. Hard to explain, but I remember feeling the change very strongly. And in the background, at least for me, but something I was very conscious of, was the Civil Rights Movement. I knew something was different.

Phil F: What made you first begin to question the existing state of things?

Phil P: Unquestionably, (more…)


Under Helen Clark’s government, the wages of rest home workers bordered on the minimum wage.

by Susanne Kemp

In her April 15 presentation at the United Nations as to why she should be taken on to lead this august institution of imperialism, Helen Clark ended with the following:  “I want to end with a Māori proverb from my country which says ‘He aha te mea nui o te ao? What is the most important thing in the world? He tāngata, he tāngata, he tāngata. It is people, it is people, it is people’.”

While many people in New Zealand are fully aware that Clark ain’t no people person – she’s such a cold fish that it took her years and a major makeover to even break out of the margin of error category in the polls for politician most preferred as prime minister when she first clawed and stabbed her way to the post of leader of the Labour Party.  Her ‘he tangata’ dissembling was presumably relying on her audience not being aware of her record and how she doesn’t really give a shit about people at all.

Anyone with any experience of private girls’ schools will recognise the Helen Clark type.  The teachers’ pet, the snitch, the goody-goody that no-one likes and that you know is driven by ambition to get ahead in order to get ahead rather than to help anyone get their rights.  And that, driven by a totally personalised ambition, manages to advance herself.

For instance, in her UN job interview speech she presented herself as an advocate of women’s rights.  Women’s rights is very ‘in’ these days with bourgeois women and the UN, and Clark is smart enough to know this and play the gender and glass ceiling card.  Well, she had nine years as prime minister in which to reform this country’s anti-abortion laws, which bear down heaviest on poor women, and she did. . . (more…)


by Phil Duncan

Radio New Zealand this morning reported on a two-hour session in which Helen Clark faced questioning at the United Nations in relation to her bid to become secretary-general of the imperialist institution.

Amusingly, Clark took exception to the suggestion by one questioner – the obviously insightful representative of St Vincent and the Grenadines – that she is “the establishment candidate”.

Like the consummate cynical and dishonest bourgeois politician she became decades ago, Clark claimed, “”I have never been an establishment candidate for anything. . .  I have come from the outside of everything I have done. . .”

She so long ago lost the ability to tell the difference between fact and fiction, truth and lie, that she also declared during the session: “I come forward because the government of New Zealand believes I am the best person for the job and I come forward with the full support of the government and parliament of New Zealand.”

Ah, so she’s the anti-establishment/’outsider’ candidate supported by John Key and (more…)

In October 2011 the corrupt and repressive regime of Muammar Gaddafi was overthrown in Libya by a set of rebel forces backed by NATO.  Very quickly the country descended into chaos, broken up into a series of areas run by rival warlords and their militias.  The Libyan people have paid a high price for their ‘liberation’.  The following article was written a year later, in October 2012, and explains what happened and why.  The article has certainly been confirmed by events since.

After NATO, another key imperialist institution, the United Nations, began playing a central role in the ongoing chaos.  Now a new peace deal is supposed to unite the country behind a single parliament – two parliaments emerged after the overthrow of Gaddafi – and a government has been appointed.  The prospects of peace, let alone peace and prosperity, seem very limited however.  Once again Western intervention has wreaked havoc.

by Workers Fight

_81052882_libya_strikes_624v2On October 23rd it will have been exactly one year since Libya was officially declared “free” by the governments of the imperialist powers, after seven months of “humanitarian” carpet bombing which they carried under the official pretext of protecting the Libyan population from Gaddafi’s guns.

However, if it was not for the inconvenient death, right in the middle of the American presidential campaign, of the US ambassador in Libya and three of his diplomatic staff, killed by gunmen in Benghazi, on September 11th this year, Libya’s dire situation would have been left under the carpet where it was swept many months ago.

Apparently the Obama administration had at first hoped that this killing could be explained away as the collateral damage of a wave of protests which had been taking place at the time throughout the Middle-East and beyond, following the release of a US video accused of “insulting Islam”.

But any cover-up would have been immediately exposed, since the diplomats had obviously been killed as a result of well-organised rocket attacks on two US facilities in Benghazi. Instead of a fanatical mob going mad, this was a serious military operation against a western power, which had been planned in advance to coincide with the anniversary of the 9/11 terrorist attacks in New-York. And this, in a country whose population was supposedly eternally grateful to the US for its help in overthrowing Gaddafi’s dictatorship!

While US politicians of all shades were bickering over the lack of protection given to diplomatic personnel, what these developments really exposed, once again, was the myth of the West’s “humanitarian” intervention in Libya. Just as in Iraq and Afghanistan, “regime change” in Libya was carried out by Western bombs – the main difference being that, this time, it had been done at a (more…)

Incinerated Iraqi soldier on the 'Highway of Death', 1991; despite Iraq having already agreed to pull out of Kuwait and its forces leaving, the US attacked the departing Iraqis, bombing, strafing and incinerating them for hours

Incinerated Iraqi soldier on the ‘Highway of Death’, 1991; despite Iraq having already agreed to pull out of Kuwait and its forces leaving, the US attacked the departing Iraqis, bombing, strafing and incinerating them for hours

This article was written 18 years ago and appeared in just the second issue of revolution magazine (June/July 1997). Its analysis of the trend to greater imperialist intervention in the Third World remains startlingly relevant, along with its argument that an anti-imperialist movement is badly needed in this country. The introduction to the original article stated, “Over the past few years there has been a dramatic increase in Western military intervention in the Third World. At the same time there appears to have been a collapse of opposition within the West to such intervention.” In the reprint below we have added about a few words in several places – about a dozen words altogether – in order to clarify a couple of points for a 2015 audience.

by Grant Pheloung and Phil Duncan

Today, imperialism is on the rampage. Whereas in the 1960s and 1970s, the Western powers had a hard time justifying themselves, they now intervene wherever and whenever they like. The US administration openly discussed when it should invade Haiti, for instance, with few voices of dissent being heard. Similarly, the West intervened in Somalia with scarcely a word of criticism or public protest. From Albania to Zaire to Papua New Guinea, Western powers discuss or carry out direct intervention. Meanwhile, the International War Crimes Tribunal at the Hague churns out its predictable verdict against Serb Dusko Tadic for ‘crimes against humanity’.

The absence of protests against the sham trials in the Hague and the imperialist logic behind them, Western intervention in ex-Yugoslavia, US bombings of the Serbs and the deployment of 20,000 US ground troops, are indicative of the degree of the collapse of radical movements of the 1960s and 1970s. Moreover, in New Zealand the left groups which fell over themselves to join the middle class populist outrage over French testing failed to organise a single protest against the 18-month deployment of NZ troops in Bosnia. It is now generally accepted that the West has the right to tell people in the Third World how to conduct their affairs and to send in its armed forces whenever it wants.

How has this situation come about and what can we do to change it?

There are three main factors explaining the new situation: the (more…)

Naval frigate Te Mana; behind the official anti-nukes policy, Lange stepped up NZ miitary involvement in Pacific to levels not seen since WW2

Naval frigate Te Mana; behind the official anti-nukes policy, Lange stepped up NZ military involvement in Pacific to levels not seen since WW2

The pamphlet reviewed below was produced by the Christchurch-based Revolutionary Marxist Collective in 1997 and reviewed in issue #2 of revolution magazine, June/July 1997.

In review: Grant Cronin, Andy Morris, Phil Duncan, New Zealand and the New World (Dis)Order, Christchurch, Revolutionary Marxist Collective, 1997, 24pp, $3; reviewed by Susanne Kemp

People in the West were told for forty years after World War 2 that the ‘Stalinist bloc’ was the main obstacle to peace in the world and that its disappearance would lead to a world of harmony and prosperity. But as New Zealand and the New World (Dis)Order notes, the post-Cold War world is one of continuing Third World immiseration and escalating Western intervention. The notion of the ‘white man’s burden’ has returned with a vengeance.

This pamphlet seeks to explain how and why this has happened. The intorudtction argues that, “Western ruling classes have no answer to the economic and social problems of their own countries. Meanwhile, the demise of the Soviet bloc has robbed them of the invented external threat, ‘the red menace’, which was used to cohere those societies behind the leadership of the ruling class. The Western elites, robbed of the authority they enjoyed during the post-war boom and the Cold War. . . shore up their authority by waving the big stick abroad, especially in the Third World.”

In the opening section on “The New World Order”, Grant Cronin investigates these factors more closely. He also looks at the new justifications for Western intervention in the Third World. From ‘the war on drugs’ to calls for ‘democracy’ to claims of ‘genocide’ or that Third World countries are incapable of exercising sovereignty within the framework of nation states, the Western powers, especially the USA, have constructed a ‘new ideology of imperialism’ which has politically disarmed much of the old liberal and left opposition. The Western powers, for instance, ovdersaw the break-up of Yugoslavia , and then militarily intervened, with very little protest at all; in fact, much of the old opposition to such interventions these days actually calls for Western intervention. (more…)