Friday, 26 September 2008


By redguard

On Sept. 25, the International Action Center had the unique honor of hosting a reception for revolutionary activists in the New York area to welcome Prachanda, the new prime minister of Nepal, who is visiting the city for the United Nations General Assembly.

Comrade Prachanda is chairperson of the Communist Party of Nepal (Maoist) and led the people's war that ousted Nepal's monarchy and old parliamentary system. The CPN(M) won a decisive victory in constitutent assembly elections held earlier this year.

The by-invitation event was attended by representatives of the International Action Center, Workers World Party, BAYAN-USA, Malcolm X Grassroots Movement, Nodutdol, FIST (Fight Imperialism - Stand Together), the Bolivarian Circle, DRUM (Desis Rising Up and Moving), American-Iranian Friendship Committee, Pakistan-USA Freedom Forum, May 1st Coalition for Immigrant Rights, New York Free Mumia Coalition, Palestinian and Puerto Rican organizations, and others. Representatives of the Venezuelan and Algerian UN delegations were also present.
The program was co-chaired by Sara Flounders of the IAC and LeiLani Dowell of FIST.

In her opening remarks, Flounders emphasized the importance of the peoples war in opening up avenues for real democratic and social change in Nepal by going outside the corrupt structure of the parliament and refusing to accomodate the monarchy. This has helped to not only displace the royalty, but to lay the basis for a constitutent assembly to create new democratic structures and rewrite the constitution of Nepal. She said this was a powerful example of how the struggle of poor and working people coming from the grassroots was the fundamental condition for social change.

Former U.S. Attorney General and IAC co-founder Ramsey Clark introduced Prime Minister Prachanda, whose name translates as "the fierce one." Prachanda's ferocity, said Clark, is for social, political and economic justice for his people.

Prime Minister Prachanda was greeted with a standing ovation and raised fists. He spoke to the gathering in English and afterwards answered questions from the audience. What follows are rough notes on some of the major points he covered.

Comrade Prachanda explained that the CPN(M) has tried to understand the lessons of the international communist movement, of the revolutions and counter-revolutions of the 20th Century.

He briefly reviewed the history of the peoples war, which began in 1996 after the Nepali government's violent repression of mass demonstrations. Prachanda said that his party worked to explain to the people that they were not opposed to peaceful change, but that all avenues had been closed and armed struggle was necessary.
After five years of civil war, the CPN(M) embarked on a serious internal discussion of the lessons of previous revolutions, including the socialist revolution in Russia. At this time the party adopted the idea that a multi-party system and political competition should exist even under socialism. They determined that this is what Lenin would have done had he lived another five or 10 years, in the process of trying to build the basis for a socialist economic system in Russia. Lenin would not have followed the same path as Stalin, who made "serious mistakes in his understanding of philosophy and dialectical materialism," according to Prachanda.

Following this internal discussion, the CPN(M) initiated negotiations with the Nepali government. However, the talks did not succeed because the government would not agree to the minimum conditions of a constituent assembly.

Saying that the democratic revolution must be completed to carry through the socialist revolution, Prachanda explained that the monarchy had played a very important role in how the revolution developed through its stupidity and intransigence. The result was an understanding between the peoples war and other parties involved in the mass struggle, of bourgeois democratic and peoples movements side-by-side. This culminated in 19 days of mass actions that brought about the beginning of the end to the monarchy in 2006.

Prachanda commented on the "confusion of some people" when the Maoists became the leading party in Nepal. He said the CPN(M)-led government's mandate consists of three tasks: 1) drafting a new constitution; 2) carrying through the peace process, termed the "rehabilitation and integration" of armed forces; and 3)
initiating new economic development.

When he appeared at the closing of the Olympic Games in Beijing, Prachanda explained, he tried to convey that "we are making a big experiment -- not only for Nepal, not only for South Asia, but for the people of the world. We communists are more flexible and dynamic. We try to develop our ideology according to new
conditions. We understand the dynamic of change."

Recalling that just three years ago he was labeled at terrorist by the U.S. and had a price on his head, and the CPN(M) is still on the U.S. "terrorism watch list," Prachanda joked about the leaders of the U.S. being the ones who are truly "sectarian and dogmatic," not the communists.

He thanked the audience for the opportunity to address the "socialists of the USA."

Prime Minister Prachanda briefly answered questions from the audience.

Bernadette Ellorin of BAYAN asked about the future of the peasantry and land reform in Nepal. Prachanda responded that this was a key question facing the coalition government, which as undertaking the study of "a scientific land reform."

A Venezuelan representative asked about the role of the Nepali army and the dangers they might present to the revolutionary process. Prachanda replied to this "very serious question" that they were developing "our own model for rehabilitation and reintegration" different from the one espoused by the UN. One of his first tasks upon returning from the General Assembly will be the formation of a special cabinet-level committee to oversee this process.

Comrade Shahid of the Pakistan-USA Freedom Forum asked about the role of youth in Nepal. Prachanda explained that Nepal has a very high percentage of youth compared to most countries so this has great significance. He said youth are being mobilized under the popular slogan to "construct a New Nepal."

Ardeshir Ommani of the American-Iranian Friendship Committee asked about the role of the united front. Prachanda said that previously there was a united front of seven anti-royalist parties. After the big changes of 2006-2008, that front has changed and is now represented by the current governing coalition, which includes the Communist Party of Nepal (United Marxist-Leninist) and others. Although they are outside the government, "we want to have a front even with the Nepali Congress Party" against foreign intervention. The front will go though even more changes with the drafting of a new constitution.
An audience member asked about Nepal's economic future, given the country's past reliance on tourism. Prachanda stated that the 21st Century has been called the "century of water resources." Nepal has huge water resources, and his goal is to develop hydro projects at small, medium and large levels. "Through these water resources we will have an economic revolution." He said there could also be a qualitative development in the tourism industry.

Monica Moorehead of Workers World Party asked about the role of women in the revolutionary process. Prachanda explained that the Maoists have always given the highest priority to integration of women at all levels of the struggle. He pointed out that 33 percent of the elected representatives of the constitutent assembly are women, a higher percentage than most "democratic" countries. Even other parties were forced to give opportunities to women because of the CPN(M)'s example.
Deirdre Griswold of Workers World Party asked about the status of liberated areas of the countryside where land reform had been carried out during the peoples war. Comrade Prachanda termed this a "delicate question." During the civil war it was clear there were liberated base areas in much of the country. Now,
however, some compromises have to be made with other parties, and this is the basis of the "scientific land reform" process. He compared this to China's struggle against Japanese imperialism, when Mao had to make compromises with Chiang Kai-Shek in the interests of the anti-colonial struggle.

Prime Minister Prachanda concluded by noting the he will address the UN General Assembly tomorrow (Sept. 26), where we will put forward Nepal's struggle as an example for the world, which he humorously predicted would "generate some controversy."

Thursday, 25 September 2008

CHAVEZ: “Thank God there is a revolution in China; thank God there is a revolution in Venezuela; thank God we met each other and we shook our hands"

The Strategic Fund China-Venezuela
to be injected with 12
billion dollars
in three years

ABN 24/09/2008 Caracas,

Caracas, Sept 24. ABN.- The President of the Bolivarian
Republic of Venezuela, Hugo Chávez Frías, informed that in
three years 12 billion dollars will be injected to the
Strategic Fund China-Venezuela.

During his fifth visit to China, Chávez explained that he
sent the request to China three months ago and he will take
advantage of his visit to renew the fund.

President Chávez detailed that in a first stage, China
contributed with 4 billion dollars and Venezuela with 2
billion. “These resources are being invested in the country
(Venezuela) in hundreds of small and medium works that are
currently under construction.”

“Chinese Government, with a prove of friendship and
confidence to Venezuela, has answered positively,” he said.

Venezuelan Head of State commented that China and Venezuela
are able to resist the consequences of the current crisis
of the capitalism because both countries had and have
revolutions; and, thanks to that, it is also possible the
close bilateral relation that has been developed since
almost a decade ago.

He reminded that the relation went stronger when both
countries decided to establish a strategic alliance and
demonstrate that Venezuela and China could create strong
links despite geographical distance and the excuses of some
people saying it was impossible to send oil to that

“They kept us tied to the empire. We were a colony. The
Government was not in Caracas, but in Washington,” Chávez
said explaining the dependence Venezuela had to the North
American market.

“Now, we are free to travel to Beijing. We are working to
increase the oil processing to China,” he stressed.

“Soon, we will reach 400,000 barrels a day (sent from
Venezuela to China), then 500,000 barrels next year, and we
are going to keep working until we reach 1 million barrels
a day,” he said.

Chávez explained that to face worldwide energy crisis,
Venezuela and China are increasing their trade and
relations in oil sector with agreements to build refineries
and tank ships, as well as increasing oil supply to China.

In reference to the financial crisis, President Chávez
insisted that, nowadays, when there are banks going to
bankruptcy and it is so hard to get a credit, both
countries decided to double their joint fund of 6 billion
dollars in order to support the development in sectors like
energy, housing, sanitation, aqueducts, agriculture, among

Regarding food crisis, Chávez pointed out that both
countries keep a close cooperation in agriculture and food
industry since two years ago.

“All of them (the agreements) allow us to overcome the
(worldwide) crisis,” said Chávez with respect to the
bilateral cooperation, while the world is passing through
hard moments.

“Thanks God there is a revolution in China; thanks God
there is a revolution in Venezuela; thanks God we met each
other and we shook our hands,” he insisted.

Translated by Ernesto Aguilera

Wednesday, 24 September 2008


Iran's Ahmadinejad: US 'empire' nears collapse

Associated Press

Iran's president addressed the U.N. General Assembly
Tuesday declaring that "the American empire" is nearing
collapse and should end its military involvement in other

Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad said terrorism is
spreading quickly in Afghanistan and that "the occupiers"
are still in Iraq nearly six years after Saddam Hussein was
ousted from power in Iraq.

"American empire in the world is reaching the end of its
road, and its next rulers must limit their interference to
their own borders," Ahmadinejad said.

He accused the U.S. of starting wars in Iraq and
Afghanistan to win votes in elections and blamed a "few
bullying powers" for trying to undermine Iraq's nuclear

Ahmadinejad's hardline rhetoric came as no surprise and
offered little in the way of compromise at the U.N., where
he faces a new round of sanctions if no agreement is
reached on limiting Iran's nuclear capabilities.

While he reiterated that the country's nuclear program is
purely peaceful, the U.S. and others fear it is aimed at
producing enriched uranium to make nuclear weapons.

Iran already is under three sets of sanctions by the U.N.
Security Council for refusing to suspend uranium
enrichment. Washington and its Western allies are pushing
for quick passage of a fourth set of sanctions to underline
the international community's resolve, but are likely to
face opposition from Russia.

"A few bullying powers have sought to put hurdles in the
way of the peaceful nuclear activities of the Iranian
nation by exerting political and economic pressures against
Iran," he said.

Ahmadinejad also lashed out at Israel on Tuesday, saying
"the Zionist regime is on a definite slope to collapse, and
there is no way for it to get out of the cesspool created
by itself and its supporters."

The Iranian president is feared and reviled in Israel
because of his repeated calls to wipe the Jewish state off
the map, and his aggressive pursuit of nuclear technology
has only fueled Israel's fears.

Ahmadinejad accused "a small but deceitful number of people
called Zionists ... (of) dominating an important portion of
the financial and monetary centers as well as the political
decision-making centers of some European countries and the

In discussing Afghanistan, he suggested that the presence
of U.S. and NATO forces has contributed to a sharp rise in
terrorism and a huge increase in the production of

He predicted that the war would end in the alliance's

"Throughout history every force that has entered
Afghanistan has left in defeat," Ahmadinejad said.

His speech came just hours after President Bush made his
eighth and final appearance before the U.N. General
Assembly, urging the international community to stand firm
against the nuclear ambitions of Iran and North Korea.

"A few nations, regimes like Syria and Iran, continue to
sponsor terror," Bush said. "Yet their numbers are growing
fewer, and they're growing more isolated from the world. As
the 21st century unfolds, some may be tempted to assume
that the threat has receded. This would be comforting. It
would be wrong. The terrorists believe time is on their
side, so they've made waiting out civilized nations part of
their strategy."

At one point during Bush's 22-minute speech, Ahmadinejad
turned to Iranian Foreign Minister Manouchehr Mottaki and
gave a thumb's down.

As in past years, the United States only had a low-level
note-taker sitting in a rear seat reserved for the U.S.
delegation during the Iranian president's address, said
Richard Grenell, spokesman for the U.S. Mission to the
United Nations. The U.S. and Iran do not have diplomatic

During interviews ahead of his speech Tuesday, Ahmadinejad
blamed U.S. military interventions around the world in part
for the collapse of global financial markets. He said the
campaign against his country's nuclear program was solely
due to the Bush administration "and a couple of their
European friends."

"The U.S. government has made a series of mistakes in the
past few decades," Ahmadinejad said an interview with the
Los Angeles Times. "The imposition on the U.S. economy of
the years of heavy military engagement and involvement
around the world ... the war in Iraq, for example. These
are heavy costs imposed on the U.S. economy.

"The world economy can no longer tolerate the budgetary
deficit and the financial pressures occurring from markets
here in the United States, and by the U.S. government," he

Tuesday, 23 September 2008


PIC: Seventeen-year-old Palestinian athlete Ghadeer Ghroof
smiles during a training session in the West Bank city of
Jericho April 27, 2008. Ghroof, a short-distance runner
from the West Bank, is one of four Palestinian Olympic who
competed in Beijing

True Olympic triumphs

Morning Star (Britain)

RAMZY BAROUD looks beyond the Games' glitz and medals.

Experts recommend that aspiring marathon runners go through
at least six months of rigorous training, have the right
equipment, a special diet, regular check-ups, mental
training and all sorts of gadgets, budget permitting.

Still, though, some of the poorest countries in Africa have
managed to produce some of the world's best marathon

I had never imagined running a full marathon myself. It was
only when my doctor advised me with a sombre, regretful
tone that I should not walk for more than 20 minutes at a
time following back surgery that I decided to run one. And
I did.

Human nature is strange that way. Our weakest points can
turn into a launch pad for our most triumphant moments.

My own running "career," however, started in the Gaza
Strip. As a child in the Nuseirat refugee camp, I was
routinely chased, as were many other school children, by
Israeli troops.

"Running the distance" meant dodging the bullets and
reaching home alive. My greatest running moment was in
secondary school, though, when I outran a military jeep.

Along with my younger brother and a cousin, our goal was to
reach a citrus orchard by the Gaza Valley before being run

As bullets whizzed around us, we made our final leap into a
thicket. Bleeding from my face and arm after colliding with
thorns and branches, I looked triumphantly at the others
but said nothing. That day, we won more than gold. We won

When four Palestinian athletes marched with the Palestinian
flag into the Olympic games in Beijing, it was a statement,
a declaration of sorts, that Palestinians insist on their
right to exist on equal footing with the rest of the world,
to raise their flag without fear or a heavy fine, to wear
their country's name spelled out the way that it should be,
not as a Palestinian Authority, but Palestine.

The 1.5 million Palestinians living in besieged Gaza must
have savoured the moment more than anyone else.

One of their sons appeared on the screen. Nader al-Masri
had a big smile on his face as he marched nervously but
proudly around the Bird's Nest stadium. Gaza lived a moment
of freedom that day, one that even Israel cannot take away.

The "Olympic ideal" is by no means a clearly defined

Some partisan media commentators in China seemed more
interested in igniting cold war fever than anything else.

It was a nationalistic circus, brought to us courtesy of
the world's largest multinational corporations, adapted to
the sensibilities and prejudices of each nation, although
ultimately selling the same product.

While greater women's participation in sports has long been
held up as a step towards greater gender equality, the
mantra that "sex sells" appears today to be more dominant
than women's rights. Olympic women "role models" have
already featured in various editions of Playboy.

In many instances, for men and women alike, gaining a gold
medal is no longer about national pride but winning
contracts, endorsements and millions of pounds of extra,
unearned income.

However, despite the political manipulation and the
increasing corporate takeover of sports, the human spirit
continues to shine through.

When Germany's weightlifter Matthias Steiner claimed a gold
medal following a legendary effort in the super heavyweight
category, he raised his medal and a photo of his wife
Susann, who died in a car accident last year.

Susann's modest smile in the photo cannot be matched, not
even by all the fake smiles of Nike's top models combined.

And, as Georgia and Russia engaged in a conflict that
highlighted the bitter struggle between Russia and NATO for
influence in Eurasia, it could not tarnish the beautiful
moment when Georgia's bronze medal-winning Nino Salukvadze
hugged and kissed silver medal-winning Russian rival
Natalia Paderina.

Holding true to family tradition, I cheered for athletes
representing the poorest countries.

Victory for an athlete whose running gear was a last-minute
donation cannot be described in mere words.

Gaza's al-Masri is a son of Beit Hanoun, a small
half-destroyed town on the border with Israel. He trained
in the ruins against a constant soundtrack of bullets and

After a campaign involving the Israeli media, the runner
was allowed to leave his Gaza prison temporarily.

Thanks to Chinese coaches, al-Masri received a little
training before embarking on his first run.

He returns to Gaza without medals. His resilience, his
insistence on hope under the most desperate of
circumstances, will not generate much in the way of money
or contracts. But it will comfort the people of Beit Hanoun
and remind them of the possibility of better days without
siege or bullets.

Al-Masri and all the athletes who participated in the
Beijing Olympics as an embodiment of a noble idea, as
ambassadors of hope, of equality and of dignity, became
winners the moment that they refused to kneel to adversity
or surrender to despair.

The extent of their victory can only truly be understood by
those who have been told that they are not worthy enough
because they are not of the "right" skin colour,
nationality, gender or part of the world.

Gaza surely cannot wait to greet the returning al-Masri,
whose stories of the Great Wall and the grandeur and
wonders of China will be hungrily absorbed in a place past
weary at the same old stories of siege, Israeli incursions
and violence.

Al-Masri's town will certainly take time out from grief and
rejoice the return of its champion.

A Palestinian poet once wrote: "Our celebrations will plant
us firmly into the earth." So it will be in Beit Hanoun.


Ramzy Baroud is an author and editor of His latest book is The Second Palestinian Intifada: A Chronicle of a People's Struggle, which is out now on Pluto Press.

Monday, 22 September 2008


Go home, gringo

Bolivia and Venezuela's expulsion of their US ambassadors
exposes yet another fault-line in north American foreign policy

Richard Gott

On the 35th anniversary of the military overthrow of
Salvador Allende in Chile on September 11, 1973, which had
the overt support of the United States, the presidents of
Bolivia and Venezuela have asked the US ambassadors
accredited to their countries to leave. They both believe
they are facing the possibility of an imminent coup d'etat
in which they accuse the Americans of being involved. A
third country, Paraguay, announced 10 days ago that it had
detected a conspiracy involving military officers and
opposition politicians. Latin America now faces its most
serious crisis since the re-introduction of democratic
practice at the end of the last century.

Brazil and Argentina have both denounced the violent
activities of opposition groups in Bolivia that have led to
the closure of the natural gas pipelines to their
countries, while President Hugo Chávez of Venezuela has
warned that a coup against Evo Morales of Bolivia would be
seen as a "green light" for an armed insurgency in that
country. Giving details of a planned coup in his own
country, in which retired military officers and opposition
figures were involved, Chávez announced the expulsion of
the US ambassador, Patrick Duddy, and the withdrawal of his
own ambassador from Washington. Any aggression against
Venezuela, Chávez said, would involve a halt in the supply
of Venezuelan oil to the United States.

Chávez's decision came one day after President Morales had
thrown out the US ambassador in La Paz, Philip Goldberg,
who has been frequently accused by the Bolivian government
of plotting with the separatist politicians in the eastern
province of Santa Cruz. The situation in Bolivia is
immediately more dramatic than in Venezuela, although both
countries are facing important electoral battles at the end
of the year.

Evo Morales, an indigenous politician from the Andes in the
west of the country, has organised a referendum on a new
constitution to which the rightwing (and white racist)
politicians in the eastern lowlands are bitterly opposed.
The atmosphere of violence has now broken into the open,
with endless political demonstrations and several deaths,
the seizure of provincial airports, and sabotage of the oil
and gas installations on which the country's economy
depends. Morales has accused the regional governors of the
five eastern regions of creating the conditions for a coup.

Chávez originally announced his decision to expel the US
ambassador from Caracas as an act of solidarity with
Morales – "so that Bolivia is not alone". But it was soon
clear that he had his own possible coup d'etat to deal
with. A tape recording of phone conversations between
retired military officers, some of whom were involved in
the failed coup of April 2002, was broadcast on Venezuelan
television on Wednesday night, revealing plans to seize the
Miraflores presidential palace and to capture or shoot down
the presidential plane.

The suggestion that there were plans to assassinate the
president brought large crowds down from the shanty towns
on Thursday night to demonstrate their solidarity with
Chávez. Several of the alleged conspirators have been
detained. Venezuela, like Bolivia, has an uncertain
pre-election climate, since there will be regional and
municipal elections in November that will be viewed as a
judgment on the popularity of the president.

The possible coup in Paraguay appears less serious, since
it only appeared to involve preliminary discussions between
retired General Lino Oviedo, an old hand at failed coups,
and a serving officer. Yet since the government of the
left-wing former bishop, Fernando Lugo, has only been in
power since August, tales of a possible coup have
reverberated through the continent. Brazil declared
pointedly that it would not tolerate a coup in Bolivia "or
in any other Latin American country".

The US is, of course, preoccupied with Iraq, Afghanistan
and Pakistan, but whichever presidential candidate takes
over in January will also find Latin America at the top of
his in-tray.

Friday, 19 September 2008


Critics of Kalashnikov MP branded racist

Critics of a SNP politician caught on video firing a

Kalashnikov AK47 assault rifle in Pakistan have
been branded racist and colonialist by Westminster's
newest MP.

The Telegraph

John Mason, who pulled off a stunning victory in the
Glasgow East by-election, claimed that Councillor Jahangir
Hanif had been unfairly lambasted for showing his children
how to use the gun during a trip to the Kashmir border.

He argued that it amounted to 'thinly disguised racism' to
oppose the use of guns in other countries where they may
form an integral part of the culture.

The Scottish Nationalist MP also criticised his party for
suspending Mr Hanif, who has been dubbed the Kalashnikov
councillor, claiming the sentence was unduly harsh.

The comments were acutely embarrassing for Alex Salmond,
the SNP leader, who yesterday came under attack at First
Minister's Questions at Holyrood for failing to condemn

Mr Salmond admitted to reading internet blogs about the
scandal, but not a letter from councillor Hanif's daughter
in which she had pleaded with him to throw her father out
of the party.

Mr Mason launched his extraordinary defence of Mr Hanif's
actions after being informed of the letter's content by a
local newspaper.

The Glasgow East MP said: "The repeated attacks on the
SNP's Councillor Hanif are coming across as thinly
disguised racism.

"While being opposed to freely available guns, including
airguns, in Scotland, I totally support the right of other
countries to take a different view.

"Once we start implying other countries are second rate
because they have a different opinion from us, we are
surely being racist."

Pictures emerged last month of Mr Hanif, a Glasgow City
Councillor, firing the assault rifle at a military-style
camp in the mountains during a 2005 trip.

His 17-year-old daughter, Noor, told how she and four of
her siblings - one as young as five - were also encouraged
to use the weapon.

But Mr Mason claimed the criticisms of Mr Hanif's conduct,
for which the councillor later apologised, could be
construed as an attack on Pakistan and its culture.

"I would have expected that way of thinking in the colonial
era, but I am disappointed to hear it in 2008," said Mr

"If we are serious about building a multi-cultural society,
we all need to adapt to each other's ways of doing things."

Mr Mason said Mr Hanif may feel he had been 'harshly
treated' by being suspended for two months, claiming the
SNP's disciplinary committee 'felt they needed to make a

But his comments were met with derision and astonishment.
Mohammad Sarwar, Labour's Glasgow Central MP, said: "I
can't understand, when councillor Hanif has accepted his
actions were unwise, why John Mason is defending them.

"This issue has nothing to do with Pakistan, colonial power
or anything else."

Bill Aitken, Scottish Tory justice spokesman, added: "This
man's conduct was unacceptable. No differing standards
should apply in Pakistan than should apply here."

The comments also piled pressure on Mr Salmond, who
repeatedly lauded Mr Mason during July's by-election
campaign. The First Minister visited Glasgow East a dozen
times as the SNP clinched one of the safest Labour seats in
the country.

Cathy Jamieson, Labour's acting leader at Holyrood, used
today's First Minister's Questions to demand Mr Salmond

She also asked if he had replied to a letter from Noor
Hanif, sent on September 4, demanding that the councillor
be expelled from the SNP.

Mr Salmond said he had read newspaper blogs on the story,
but had yet to receive or read the letter. He argued that
it was an internal party matter and not a suitable subject
for First Minsiter's Questions.

But Frank McAveety, a Labour MSP said: "Alex Salmond had
the chance to put the record straight today but chose to
avoid doing so. He should apologise immediately. By his
silence he is condoning Mason's comments."

SNP and Labour clash over new Glasgow East MP's
allegation Scotsman


CONTROVERSIAL comments by Scotland's newest Member of
Parliament dominated First Minister's Questions at Holyrood
today. A newspaper article written by John Mason MP, who
won the recent Glasgow East by-election for the SNP,
claimed critics of a councillor pictured with a Kalashnikov
assault rifle were 'racist'.

Labour leader Cathy Jamieson used today's parliamentary
session to demand an apology from First Minister Alex
Salmond over Mason's comments, which challenged
condemnation of Glasgow councillor Jahangir Hanif and
insisted it was wrong to oppose the use of guns in other

The councillor, who was pictured with the gun during a
visit to Pakistan with his children, has been suspended by
the SNP for two months.

Ms Jamieson demanded: 'Will the First Minister now
apologise for those comments made by his colleague?'

Mr Salmond told her: 'Not for a second does John Mason
accuse that range of people, or somebody else commenting on
what John Mason said, as being racist.

Mr Salmond said the whole chamber should deplore racism
'wherever it emerges'.

And he suggested Labour was trying to seek party advantage
through 'what somebody might have said about somebody'.

He also accused Ms Jamieson of raising 'internal party
matters' rather than First Ministerial issues.

Mr Mason's comments appeared today in Glasgow's Evening
Times, after Labour's Margaret Curran challenged him to
support critics who said the two-month suspension imposed
on the councillor was too lenient.

Mr Mason told the paper: 'The repeated attacks on the SNP's
councillor Hanif are coming across as thinly-disguised

'Many countries in the world allow guns to be used freely.'

He also said: 'While being opposed to freely available
guns, including airguns, in Scotland, I totally support the
right of other countries to take a different view.

'Once we start implying other countries are second-rate
because they have a different opinion from us, we are
surely being racist.'

The MP also said he thought the two-month suspension was
'perhaps a bit severe'.

Ms Jamieson said Mr Mason believed the councillor had been
treated 'harshly' by being suspended for two months.

Told by Presiding Officer Alex Fergusson that this appeared
to be a party rather than a political matter, she said: 'I
appreciate that there are matters to do with the party.

'I also think this is something the people of Scotland are
concerned about.'

Mr Salmond told MSPs he believed it was a party matter and
said he would try to keep his comments within the range of
First Ministerial responsibilities.

'Perhaps the Labour Party would like to join with the
justice secretary in taking action against the guns that
are available in Scotland, and supporting with us our claim
on Westminster that this Parliament should have the right
to restrict air guns access across the whole of Scotland,'
he said.

Labour in Scotland chooses its new leader on Saturday and
Ms Jamieson is one of the three contenders.

Mr Salmond told MSPs: 'There are a whole range of issues
for which I have responsibility across Scottish society as
First Minister – I would like to see this Parliament have a
lot more responsibilities.

'If she is successful in her competition this Saturday,
perhaps in future she might choose from one of that array
of subjects and not about internal party matters.'

• ANOTHER issue raised at FMQs today was the proposal for a
new Scottish digital channel.

Alex Salmond called on the broadcasting industry to respond
constructively to a report calling for such a channel.

The proposal was at the heart of recommendations in a
report by the Scottish Broadcasting Commission this week
and already has the support of Mr Salmond.

Alongside the launch of the new Gaelic channel BBC Alba on
Monday, Mr Salmond said the new channel marks a
'significant and exciting time' for broadcasting in

'The Scottish Government will respond positively to the
report within our powers to do so later this year,' he said
during First Minister's Questions today.

'We look to the UK Government and the broadcasting
authorities themselves to respond in the same constructive
spirit to an independent report which enjoyed cross-party
membership and a degree, at least, of support.'

Thursday, 18 September 2008


Gaddafi and Berlusconi sign accord worth billions

By Salah Sarrar
Saturday, August 30, 2008

BENGHAZI, Libya: Libya and Italy signed an accord on
Saturday under which Italy will pay $5 billion in
compensation for colonial misdeeds during its decades-long
rule of the North African country.

"This accord opens the door to the future cooperation and
partnership between Italy and Libya," Libyan leader Muammar
Gaddafi said at the signing ceremony at a palace which was
once the headquarters of the Rome government's senior
official during the 1911-1943 colonial rule.

Italy has had difficult relations with Gaddafi since he
took power in 1969 but has backed Tripoli's recent drive to
mend fences with the West. The "friendship pact" removes a
major hurdle to an improvement in ties.

Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi said the accord
ends "40 years of misunderstanding", adding that "it is a
complete and moral acknowledgement of the damage inflicted
on Libya by Italy during the colonial era".

"In the name of the Italian people ... I feel the duty to
apologise and show our pain for what happened many years
ago and which affected many of your families," Berlusconi
said, according to a text on the government's website.

Libya says Italian troops killed thousands of Libyans and
drove thousands more from their villages and cities during
the colonial era.

"In this historic document, Italy apologises for its
killing, destruction and repression against Libyans during
the colonial rule," Gaddafi said.

Present day Italy is a friendly country, added Gaddafi, who
expelled Italian residents and confiscated their property
in 1970.

Gaddafi gave no details of the amount of money involved in
the deal but Berlusconi said on arrival that $200 million
per year will be invested by Italy in Libya over 25 years.

"Italian companies will set up more business in Libya,"
Berlusconi said, without giving details.


Italian officials said the amount of compensation would
total $5 billion in investments, including the construction
of a highway across Libya from the Tunisian border to

It also involves a project to clear mines dating back to
the colonial era.

Italy expects in return to win energy contracts and for the
Tripoli government to toughen security measures, including
joint maritime patrols, to stem the flow of illegal

In a goodwill gesture on Saturday, Italy returned an
ancient statue of Venus taken to Rome during colonial rule,
Libyan state media reported.

The headless "Venus of Cyrene" was carried away from the
town of Cyrene, an ancient Greek colony, by Italian troops
and put on display in Rome.

Tripoli's relations with the West have improved
dramatically since 2003 when Libya accepted responsibility
for the 1988 bombing of Pan Am Flight 103 over Lockerbie,

Libya has also said it would stop pursuing nuclear,
chemical and biological weapons.

On August 14 Libya signed a deal with the United States to
settle both countries' claims for compensation for

Wednesday, 17 September 2008


Fury as actress tells film festival:
'I would have joined the IRA'
By Amol Rajan Friday, 12 September 2008
The Independent

The Hollywood actress Rose McGowan has been heavily
criticised after expressing sympathy with the IRA ahead of
the release of her new film.

The Italian-born star, who is most famous for her role as
Paige Matthews in the series Charmed, said she would have
joined the IRA if she lived in Belfast during the Troubles.
McGowan, 35, stars in Fifty Dead Men Walking, a biopic
based on the autobiography of the former IRA informer
Martin McGartland. "My heart just broke for the cause," she
told a news conference before the film's world premiere at
the Toronto Film Festival. "I imagine, had I grown up in
Belfast, I would 100 per cent have been in the IRA," she
said. "Violence is not to be played out daily and provide
an answer to problems, but I understand it." McGowan's
comments have met with angry ripostes – not least from Mr
McGartland himself. He still lives in hiding because of the
threat to his life from militant sympathisers. "It's easy
to say this sort of thing when you live in LA," Mr
McGartland told The First Post website. "Rose McGowan's
comments were insulting to victims of IRA terrorism and she
should apologise. "She must have taken leave of her senses.
Can't she see that such remarks are incredibly insensitive
to the families of victims of the IRA? She clearly doesn't
know anything about Northern Ireland." Billy Armstrong, an
Ulster Unionist assembly member, said the comments were
"foolish and offensive". He added: "As an IRA member, would
Miss McGowan have been happy to participate in the
abduction, torture and murder of Jean McConville, a widow
and mother of 10?" The film, which also stars Jim Sturgess
as McGartland and Sir Ben Kingsley as his British handler,
is not the first to arouse controversy over the activities
of the IRA. The actor Mickey Rourke, who sports an IRA
tattoo, received approbation for allegedly claiming he
donated part of his fee for the 1989 film Francesco to the
terrorist group, though the charge was never proved. The
controversial comments from McGowan, who had leading roles
in Scream (1996), Jawbreaker (1999) and Grindhouse, last
year's two-part feature by Quentin Tarantino and Robert
Rodriguez, come in the wake of a settlement between Mr
McGartland and the film's producers over its content.
Chronicling his four years in the IRA from 1987 to 1991, Mr
McGartland has protested that the "film is not a true
account of my story as it puts me at the scene of torture
and murders". He added: "I insisted on a new voiceover and
a disclaimer at the beginning saying the film was inspired
by my book, rather than being a true story." Mr McGartland
has now dropped a threat of legal action following a
settlement which includes a payment thought to be about
£20,000. Mr McGartland was kidnapped after his cover was
blown in 1991. He escaped by jumping out of a window and
was later resettled with a secret identity in Whitley Bay,
near Newcastle upon Tyne. His new name emerged after he was
prosecuted for a driving offence, and in 1999 he was badly
wounded in a gun attack blamed on the IRA. Since then, MI5
has moved him to a new location.

Friday, 12 September 2008


Cuba's Castro wins S African humanitarian award

JOHANNESBURG (AFP) — South Africa Thursday said it has
given its 2008 humanitarian award to former Cuban president
Fidel Castro for his contributions to "humankind beyond

Castro, who turned 82 Wednesday, becomes the first
non-African and the third ex-head of state to win the
"Ubuntu" award, the National Heritage Council of South
Africa said in a statement.

"The Ubuntu award is honouring persons who have
consistently lived the humanitarian values of the African
philosophy of Ubuntu," which defines the individual in
terms of their relationships with others.

Castro won the award "for the role he played in the Cuban
revolution and worldwide contribution to the struggle for
an alternative, just and humane society," the statement

It said that Cuban patriots, under Castro, had "shared
their blood..fighting colonialism for the liberation of the
countries of Africa."

Castro, who ruled Cuba unopposed for nearly half a century,
has not been seen in public since July 2006 when he had
stomach surgery. His younger brother Raul took over
permanently as president in February.

The award is to be presented on September 24, the country's
National Heritage Day.

Nelson Mandela was its first recipient in 2006. Last year's
winner was former Zambian President Kenneth Kaunda.

Thursday, 11 September 2008


South Africa-Venezuela Establish Strategic Relations

Ven GlobalNews

Venezuela and South Africa pave the way for increasing
their bilateral relations by signing last Tuesday,
September 2, several cooperation agreements to strengthen
South-South cooperation.

President Hugo Chávez signed in Pretoria, capital of South
Africa, a framework agreement with his South African
counterpart Thabo Mbeki, after a meeting where both leaders
talked about several current international issues.

This State Visit to South Africa was the first official
trip ever delivered by a Venezuelan president since both
countries started diplomatic relations in 1995. It also
paved the way for the second summit of African and South
American heads of sate, to be held by late November in

Both leaders shook hands and said the agreements signed are
quite strategic because they have enormous sense and
interest for the full development of both nations,
integration and establishment of a new world order aimed at
the construction of a new multi-polar world.

The agriculture, energy, culture, economy, social, mining
and telecommunications agreements were signed by top
officials of both countries such as Nicolás Maduro,
Minister of People’s Power for Foreign Affairs; Rafael
Ramírez, Minister of People’s Power for Energy and Oil and
some other Venezuelan and South African officials.

The agreements are based on the framework cooperation
agreement which paved the way for deepening actions and
cooperation in diverse aspects.

The document states that both nations “agreed to promote
and intensify cooperation between both countries, under the
base of the principles of equality and self-respect for
sovereignty and reciprocity of advantages, and in
accordance with current internal legislations of each
country in the planned issues of this Accord.”

President Mbeki said that before the end of the year new
agreements can be signed under the base of the cooperation
framework agreement, with more extended issues in each
field to be discussed by both nations.

“We’ll work on it in a way that seeks to achieve practical
results,” he added.

He concluded by ratifying the intention to strengthen the
South-South relation and expressing the satisfaction of his
people for the visit of the Bolivarian leader and even more
for the results.

“We have agreed with President Chavez that the relationship
between South Africa and Venezuela should indeed assume a
strategic character,” the South African leader said.

The Venezuelan president “has requested that those
agreements we just signed must be enforced and not only
signed,” President Mbeki said.

“So as you can see, this is a relationship that is built so
that it relates to all elements of humanity,” he pointed

“Let me say that we are indeed pleased that the President
could come. We are very pleased with the outcomes of the
discussions which indeed confirm that we have this
possibility as these two countries to build a relationship
that will be mutually beneficial,” the African president

Unity among Southern countries

During his speech President Chávez said “we cannot waste a
single second more to get united, the peoples of the third
world, of the South”. He also remarked the importance of
unity among Southern nations and the necessity to be near
and carry out a new strategic agenda.

“Here we are with our hands to convey our willingness to
strengthen the relations and further cooperation between
the two countries, he said.

He considered the agenda must imply a truly strategic
change in foreign relations, considering the new liberation
projects already started in Latin America, especially in
the South.

Development of alternative energies and training of human
resources are some of the issues to be included in the
future work agenda which is already been developed between
both governments.

Just after concluding his visit to South Africa, President
Chávez met with former Haitian President Jean-Bertrand

“I feel African, a have Africa inside,” President Chávez
said just before leaving. A few minutes before boarding his
plane, he remarked the importance of getting close to that
continent and giving support to their struggles.

He considers that “saving Africa we’re saving humanity.”

Wednesday, 10 September 2008


Russia ships to join Venezuela naval exercises in Caribbean
Los Angeles Times

Four Russian vessels and 1,000 Russian military personnel are to participate. The move could further strain Washington-Moscow ties.

BOGOTA, COLOMBIA — The Venezuelan government announced
Sunday that four Russian naval vessels will participate in
joint exercises in the Caribbean this year, a move that
could heighten already strained relations between
Washington and Moscow.

Venezuela's naval intelligence chief, Adm. Salbatore
Cammarata Bastidas, said in a statement that a task force
including four Russian naval vessels and 1,000 Russian
military personnel would take part in mid-November
exercises with Venezuelan frigates, patrol boats,
submarines and aircraft.

The announcement came shortly after Russian Prime Minister
Vladimir Putin warned that the North Atlantic Treaty
Organization's deployment of several warships to the Black
Sea in the aftermath of Russia's invasion of Georgia last
month would not go unanswered. It was not immediately clear
whether the two events were linked.

The Russian agreement to send ships also could be seen as
part of Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez's campaign to
build up his military, an effort that includes arms deals,
a proposed hemispheric South American Defense Council and a
recent decree that gives his armed forces a greater role in
carrying out his social agenda.

Chavez, a strident critic of the United States, has said
the actions are to ward off what he has described as U.S.
imperialist designs on Venezuela and other Latin American
countries. He has accused the U.S. of supporting a 2002
coup attempt against him.

Chavez particularly is unhappy with the re-formation of the
U.S. Navy's 4th Fleet, based in Mayport, Fla., which was
disbanded in 1953 but is now patrolling the Caribbean.

Officials at the U.S. military's Southern Command in Miami
have said the 4th Fleet's re-creation is organizational in
purpose and is not a response to tensions with Chavez. It
involves no addition to forces already stationed at
Mayport, the Southern Command said.

The announcement of the November exercises did not come as
a total surprise. Chavez said during a visit to Russia in
July that its ships and airplanes were welcome in
Venezuela. In Sunday's statement, the Chavez government
said an adjutant to Russian Adm. Popov Fedorovichhad been
in Venezuela to plan the event.

Cammarata also said Russian vessels may appear in the
region before the exercises.

Flush with oil revenue, Venezuela has spent $4 billion
since 2004 on military hardware, purchased mainly from
Russia, according to the Security and Democracy Foundation
of Caracas. Those deals included the purchase of 53 Russian
helicopters and 24 Sukhoi fighter jets. Venezuela is also
buying rights and technology for a Kalashnikov assault
rifle factory near Caracas.

During his visit to Russia, Chavez said that the two
nations had formed a strategic partnership and that he was
buying a Russian missile defense system to thwart a
potential U.S. air attack.

In recent months, Chavez advisors have said Venezuela is
considering buying as many as five diesel-powered Russian
submarines. The deal would make Venezuela the region's top
naval force, said retired Gen. Alberto Muller Rojas, a
Chavez confidant.

Venezuelan officials have justified arms purchases from
Russia by noting the U.S. ban on all weapons sales by
American companies to Venezuela, a mandate that extends to
foreign manufacturers' arms that contain U.S. components.
Deals with Israeli, Swedish and Spanish manufacturers were
scrubbed because the weapons included U.S. parts.

"The U.S. . . . has done everything to motivate Venezuela
to seek a strategic military rapprochement with Russia,"
said a former advisor to Venezuela's Foreign Ministry who
requested anonymity.

Vladimir Putin set to bait US with nuclear aid for Tehran
Mark Franchetti in Moscow

The Times

Russia is considering increasing its assistance to Iran’s
nuclear programme in response to America’s calls for Nato
expansion eastwards and the presence of US Navy vessels in
the Black Sea delivering aid to Georgia.

The Kremlin is discussing sending teams of Russian nuclear
experts to Tehran and inviting Iranian nuclear scientists
to Moscow for training, according to sources close to the
Russian military.

Moscow has been angered by Washington’s promise to give
Georgia £564m in aid following the Russian invasion of
parts of the country last month after Tbilisi’s military
offensive. Kremlin officials suspect the US is planning to
rearm the former Soviet republic and is furious at renewed
support for attempts by Georgia and Ukraine to join Nato.

Last week a third US Navy ship entered the Black Sea with
aid bound for Georgia. Moscow has accused the Americans of
using the vessels to deliver weapons but has failed to
provide any evidence.

Vladimir Putin, the prime minister of Russia, who has been
the driving force during the crisis, has declared he will
take unspecified action in response.

“Everything has changed since the war in Georgia,” said one
source. “What seemed impossible before, is more than
possible now when our friends become our enemies and our
enemies our friends. What are American ships doing off our
coast? Do you see Russian warships off the coast of

“Russia will respond. A number of possibilities are being
considered, including hitting America there where it hurts
most – Iran.”

Increasing nuclear assistance to Iran would sharply
escalate tensions between Moscow and Washington. Over the
past 10 years Russia has helped Iran build its first
nuclear power station in Bushehr. Iran claims the plant is
for civilian purposes. Officially at least, Moscow accepts
that. The West has little doubt the aim is to build a
nuclear bomb.

But diplomats say that despite its help with the Bushehr
plant, Moscow has so far played a constructive role as a
mediator between the regime in Tehran and the West and by
backing United Nations sanctions.

Earlier this year, in one of his last actions as president,
Putin added Russia’s stamp of approval to a UN security
council resolution imposing fresh sanctions against Iran.

The document bans, with the exception of the Bushehr
project, dual-technology exports that could be used for
civil nuclear purposes and missile production.

“After the war in Georgia it’s difficult to imagine
relations between Russia and America getting worse,” said a
western diplomat. “Russia giving greater nuclear assistance
to the Iranians would do the trick – that’s for sure.”

Last month Russia agreed to sell missiles to Syria. “The
mood among the hawks is very bullish indeed,” said one
source who did not rule out a resumption of Russian
military action in Georgia to take the port of Batumi,
where American vessels are delivering aid.

Hardliners were infuriated last week by the visit to
Georgia of Dick Cheney, the American vice-president.
“Georgia will be in our alliance,” Cheney said. He also
visited Ukraine, whose Nato aspirations could make it the
next flashpoint between Russia and America.

However in Kiev, the Ukrainian capital, events appeared to
be moving Moscow’s way. Viktor Yushchenko, the pro-western
president, is fighting to stay in power in a crisis that
could see him impeached.

“I’m amused by claims in the West that Russia is the loser
in this crisis,” said a former Putin aide. “What would
Washington do if we were arming Cuba the way it armed
Georgia? The post-Soviet days when we could be pushed around
are over.”

Tuesday, 9 September 2008


China still on-side with Russia

By Yu Bin
Asia Times Online

Sino-Russian relations have been under intense scrutiny
lately because of the Georgian-Russian conflict over the
breakaway Georgian region of South Ossetia. For many in the
West, China's cautious "neutrality" is a departure from, if
not a betrayal of, its strategic partnership with Russia.

Such a view, among others, misreads the state of the
Sino-Russian relationship without an adequate understanding
of its depth, breadth and complexity. As a result, the
Western perception of Beijing-Moscow ties has swung from
one of threat against the West prior to the South Ossetia
crisis to the current premature celebration of its

Neither is right. Both look at the superficiality while
ignoring the substance. With the looming confrontation
between Washington and Moscow over South Ossetia, the West
itself seems to be getting lost in its tireless effort to
renew the "Western civil war", which was said to have ended
in 1991 when the Soviet Union collapsed.

South Ossetia and China's 'strategic ambiguity'

In the early morning of August 8, 2008, when President
Dmitry Medvedev was on vacation and Prime Minister Vladimir
Putin was in Beijing attending the Summer Olympics Games,
Georgia launched a military offensive to surround and
capture Tskhinvali, the capital of South Ossetia.

Putin, who was in Beijing prior to the Olympics opening
ceremony, immediately informed the Chinese side in his
meeting with Premier Wen Jiabao on August 8. China's
reaction to Georgia's assault, according to Putin, was that
"nobody needs the war", which was also US President George
W Bush's reaction.

Meanwhile, China expressed serious concern over the
escalated tensions and armed conflict in South Ossetia, and
urged both sides to exercise restraint, cease fire
immediately and resolve their dispute peacefully through
dialogue. In a way, Beijing did not publicly and explicitly
support Moscow.

China's "strategic ambiguity", if not neutrality, regarding
the Georgia-Russian conflict has been the focus of the
media and pundits. Many tend to highlight the differences
and conflicts of interest between China and Russia. China's
move is seen as an effort to maximize its interests while
Russia is going through difficult times with the West.
China's own Taiwan problem is perhaps one major reason that
China cannot publicly support Russia over this issue.

Most Central Asian states are also said to have
reservations regarding Russia's policy, due to the large
number of ethnic Russians living in this "near abroad" area
and their "cautious neutrality" also shows the growing
influence of China in this traditional sphere of influence
of the Russians.

These apparent differences between Russia and its Shanghai
Cooperation Organization (SCO) partners - China,
Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan and Uzbekistan - are
indications of the fragility of this regional security
group, and many of its members simply dream different
dreams while sleeping on the same bed with Moscow. Last if
not least, Georgia lost no time in thanking China for not
taking sides.

These assessments, among others, may make some sense. There
is, nonetheless a discernible switch in the West from
exaggerating the strength, or threat, of the Sino-Russian
strategic partnership to one of overplaying their
differences, deliberately or not.

Both views are rooted in a misperception of the
Beijing-Moscow strategic partnership, which essentially
means a normal relationship. It is the result of a long and
sometimes painful learning experience in the second half of
the 20th century - in which relations between Moscow and
Beijing oscillated between excessive dependence
(particularly China on Russia) and almost zero

What is essential for today's Russian-China relationship is
the absence of the ideological factors and border disputes
that constantly besieged the two nations up to the early
1990s. On the operational level, it means that the two
sides attach great importance to bilateral ties and share a
strong willingness to commit to their enhancement. At the
operational and functional level, it is largely a pragmatic
approach "to conduct strategic coordination without
alliance and close relationship without excessive
dependence". Moreover, there is a willingness to develop
the more cooperative aspects of their relationship while
managing those of disagreement and competition.

It is within this context of normal relationship, not one
of alliance, that China reacts to the Georgian-Russian
conflict. (In terms of trade, bilateral trade between China
and Russia, which has been growing at an average 30% pace
annually over the past nine years, may reach US$50 billion
in 2008, according to Gao Hucheng, Chinese vice minister of
commerce. Bilateral trade hit $32.3 billion, up 29%
year-on-year, in the January-July period of this year.)

'West's civil war' again? Stupid

In a broader sense, China’s “harmonious world” means
stability of the existing international system, despite the
fact that it is dominated by the West. Indeed, China would
like to see, as much as the West would, the stability and
continuity of the existing international system, from which
China has benefited enormously.

The Georgian-Russian conflict is in essence between Russia
and the U.S. While finger pointing was hurled between
Moscow, Washington, and Tbilisi regarding who made the
first move, it is inconceivable that a small Georgia would
dare to take on its giant neighbor without explicit support
from Washington.

Indeed, Washington was not only aware of Georgian military
actions before they started, it also explicitly sided with
Tbilisi for the August surprise. In July 2008, two U.S.
policies clearly emboldened Tibilis. U.S. Secretary of
State Condoleezza Rice traveled first to Prague, where a
treaty on the placement of radar was signed, and then to
Tbilisi, where she precisely and unequivocally sided with
Georgia in its conflicts with Russia. U.S. policies prior
to the August conflict may have contributed to
Saakashvili’s recklessness and miscalculation. Whether the
world is heading back to the Cold War or pre-World War I
setting, the ghost of “Western Civil War,” which was
claimed to have come to an end with the collapse of the
former Soviet Union in 1991, is being rekindled by the
Georgian/U.S.-Russian conflict.

At the time of the Georgia-Russian crisis, China’s
periphery has also become quite “fluid”: Musharraf’s
resignation as Pakistani president; violent demonstrations
in Thailand; the sudden exit of Japanese Prime Minister
Fukuda, and the prospect of Mr. Aso, now Secretary General
of the governing Liberal Democratic Party and a hardliner
toward China and Asia, as the next prime minister. Given
this specter of a possible general instability of the
international system, Beijing’s cautious approach is
perhaps quite natural.

Beijing's public "neutrality" toward the Georgia-Russian
conflict, however, should not be a surprise in that it has
been the pattern in China's diplomacy since the 1980s. In
almost all cases ranging from international crises (Korean
Peninsula, Iran, Kashmir, etc) to bilateral disputes (the
South China Sea with the Association of Southeast Asian
Nations, the East China Sea with Japan, border settlements
with Russia, Vietnam, India - in progress- etc), China has
opted for dialogue and compromise, rather than
confrontation or side-taking. The same operational
principle has applied to difficult issues such as Hong Kong
and Taiwan. (China negotiated with Britain for the ending
of colonialism in Hong Kong in the 1980s. In contrast,
India, which is a democracy, used force to take back Goa
from Portugal in December 1961).

Aside from this predictable pattern of China's approach to
conflict and disputes, the timing of the conflict was also
an irritant for Beijing. China did not want any conflict at
the historical moment of hosting the Olympics, whether
Russia was part of the conflict or not. Given the
complexities of the ethnic conflicts dating back to the
1920s, its evolving nature and the US looming large in the
background, China's cautious reaction was expected, if not
desirable for Moscow.

SCO sounds no SOS

During the SCO's annual regular summit on August 28, in
Dushanbe, Tajikistan, Medvedev briefed the SCO heads of
state on the Georgian-Russian conflict and Russian policies.
The Dushanbe Declaration does support Moscow's six principles
of settling the conflict in South Ossetia and supports Russia's
"active role" in promoting peace and cooperation in the
region. The wording of its call for peaceful negotiations of
the conflict, however, is vague and general at best.

The reason for the SCO's "neutrality" is both complicated
and simple, complicated in that all of the SCO's Central
Asian states were former Soviet republics. Many, if not
all, of them do not want to see any replay of the
Georgian-Russian conflict in their part of the world. That
concern of the Central Asian states, however, remains a
distant possibility, given that the SCO provides a
framework for its members to resolve disputes and to
achieve common purposes of security and development.

The key to the SCO's stance, however, lies in the nature
and structure of the regional security group. Far from
becoming a military bloc, like the North Atlantic Treaty
Organization (NATO), in which members are obligated to
defend one another, the SCO is a huge and diverse community
of nations. If its observer members are included, the SCO
would consist of almost half of the world’s population, the
three largest nations (Russia, China and India), and almost
all major civilizations: Christianity, Islam, Hinduism, and
Confucianism, all of which has become nuclearized by the
end of the 20th century. Meanwhile, SCO’s charter allows
considerable space for individual members to pursue their
own policies for their own interests.

There is simply no obligation for SCO members to
automatically commit themselves the way members of typical
military alliances would do. Given these reasons, Medvedev
perhaps never explicitly asked or demanded public support
from the SCO members.

Under these circumstances, the SCO's joint Dushanbe
Declaration actually means quite a lot for the Russians,
particularly in Article 3: "The SCO welcomes the approval
on 12 August 2008 in Moscow of the six principles of
settling the conflict in South Ossetia, and supports the
active role of Russia in promoting peace and cooperation in
the region." The member states of the SCO also "express
their deep concern" over the tension around the issue of
South Ossetia and call for peaceful means through dialogue
for reconciliation and facilitation of negotiations. This
can be seen as directed to both sides, particularly
Georgia, which started the ball rolling on August 8.

'Splendid isolation' in the 21st century

When the Georgian dust settles, the West may start to
comprehend that the Sino-Russian strategic partnership is
perhaps not as strong or weak as it appears. What is unclear,
however, is whether the crisis between Washington and Moscow
will be over, as Washington has rushed US$1 billion aid, and
Vice President Dick Cheney, to Georgia and NATO is amassing
warships in the Black Sea.

The US presidential candidates, too, are rushing to
demonize Russia and glorify Georgia as if there is no
tomorrow. If this continues, the "Western civil war" may
well turn into a brave new page for the 21st century
focusing on Russia as the problem.

The irony is that Russia has wanted to rejoin the West over
the past 20 years and is in no mood to confront the West
stated Gorbachev in his New York Times article on August
20. Each time, however, its unrequited affection of the
West has led to dismay. Soon after assuming his presidency,
Medvedev unleashed in Berlin his grand blueprint for a
Euro-Atlantic community from Vancouver to Vladivostok.
Within this community, Russia and Europe were said to share
common roots, history, values and thinking. A month later,
the Russian president again tossed around the same
"Medvedev doctrine" at the Group of Eight summit in Japan.
On the same day, however, US Secretary of State Condoleezza
Rice and the Czech Republic signed a missile defense
agreement, to the dismay of Moscow.

Putin, too, began his presidency with an unambiguous
Westpolitik (visiting Britain for his first foreign tour as
Russian president, toyed with a “hypothetical” idea of
Russia joining NATO, and “confessed” to the visiting U.S.
Secretary of State Albright of his “European essence” and
his Asian superficiality of practicing judo and eating
Chinese food). Overtime, however, Putin became increasingly
Euro-Asian dimension, meaning moving away from a
Euro-centric stance.

Even Boris Yeltsin, father of the Russian Federation, began
with an obsession of Western-style political
democratization and economic shock therapy. Prior to his
sudden exit from power at the end of 1999, Yeltsin chose
Beijing to remind the West of Russia's huge nuclear
arsenal, in a manner more like a recidivist Soviet premier.
In between, the man who brought down the Soviet empire
became progressively more disillusioned with the West.

It is time for the West to reflect its current Ostpolitik
(missile defense, NATO expansion, etc.), not necessarily
for West’s own interests, but the human race as a whole.
Indeed, the West should appreciate, if not embrace, such a
peaceful end of the Soviet superpower 17 years ago. “Never
before has there been a case of an empire that caved in
without a war, revolution, or an invasion,” observed the
philosopher Sir Isaiah Berlin (New York Times, 10 December
1991). The alternative, of course, is to stay the course in
making Russia a “problem” for the 21st century. A key
difference between this new-found obsession of the West and
past stages of the Western civil war is that the world is
now in the era of weapons of mass destruction.

Already, pundits are talking about possible “mushroom
clouds” for World War III if Russia’s rusted conventional
military hardware fails to deter the other side (Nikolai
Sokov, “Let’s Talk about World War III,” Asia Time online,
August 26, 2008). This scenario, no matter how distant,
remains a possibility, which is qualitatively different
from its predecessors of the 19th century when the West
dealt with the “French problem” (the Napoleon Wars) and of
the 20th century for the “German problem” (World War I and
II). The latter sucked the whole world into West’s own
senseless mutual slaughtering.

If this remains a possibility, China, together with the
rest of the non-Western world, will be better off staying

Yu Bin is senior research fellow for the Shanghai
Association of American Studies and professor of political
science at Wittenberg University, Ohio, US. He can be
reached at

Sunday, 7 September 2008


Brixton Black Panthers Movement

Black Panther rally

Picture: Olive Morris speaking at a rally against police brutality outside Brixton Library (ca. 1972)

Remember Olive Morris

Olive Morris was an active member of the Brixton Black Panther Movement until the group dissolved and reformed into a number of organisations working on specific aspects within the Black struggle.

The Black Panther and the Black Power Movements in the UK developed from the work of the Universal Coloured Peoples Association. Several American Black Panthers and radical activists visited the UK and gave lectures in London, including Malcom X (1965), Stokely Carmicheal and Angela Davis (both in 1967). Their message struck a chord in second generation Black youth, and gave impulse to the formation of a local Movement.

The British Black Panther Movement, although inspired by the ideology of the US Black Panther Party, was a different type of organisation that responded to the specific reality of Black people in the UK. As an organised movement it was short lived, and its main period of activity was from 1970-1973. Don Lett, a member of the Movement explains the difference in an interview by Greg Whitfield, published by

It all seems so easy now, the very word just rolls off your tongue, “Black British”, but for awhile back there, it wasn’t so simple you know? Fundamentally the Black British and the Black American experience was different, right from source. Black Americans were dragged, screaming and kicking, from the shores of Africa to an utterly hostile America, whilst my parents, they bought a ticket on the ‘The Windrush’ bound for London! So, right off, you have it there, a major fundamental difference. So even though I attended the Black Panther meetings, proudly wearing my Angela Davis badge, read “Soul on Ice”, there was still so much more that we needed to do. It’s true that we became aware, became conscious in many respects and that was partly due to those Panther ideologies, but the total relevance of that movement just didn’t translate into the Black British experience.

The Black Panther Movement in the UK organised itself in groups based around a particular location or area, and each group organised and run their work and activities independently but overseen by a common centre core. This central core - the intelectual leadership of the movement made up of university students - organised the setting up of local groups in areas whith a large Black population, and recruited local working class youth that constituted the local core.

Many members of the Brixton group went on to become inspiring community leaders and became notorious figures in their field of work. The Brixton Panthers had their headquarters at Shakespeare Road in a house that was bought with money donated by John Berger when he won the Bookers Prize.

Here are some of the members of the Brixton Black Panthers:

Althea Jones - medical doctor
Farukh Dhondi - broadcaster and writer
David Udah - church minister
Darcus Howe - broadcaster
Keith Spencer - community activist
Leila Hussain - community activist
Olive Morris - community activist
Liz Turnbull - community activist
Mala Sen - author
Beverly Bryan - academic and writer
Linton Kwesi Johnson - writer and musician
Neil Kenlock - photographer and founder of Choice FM London

This quote from an interview with Linton Kwesi Johnson published in 1998 by Classical Reggae Interviews, describes the work and ethos of the Brixton Black Panthers:

It was an organization that came in to combat racial oppression, to combat police brutality, to combat injustices in the courts against black people, to combat discrimination at the place of work, to combat the mis-education of black youths and black young people.

The Black Panther movement was not a separatist organization like Louis Farrakhan’s ‘Nation Of Islam’. We didn’t believe in anything like that. Our slogan was ‘Black Power - People’s Power’…

…and we also realized that we had to live in the same world as white people and that if we wanted to make some changes we had to win some support from the progressive section of the white population.

We published a newspaper which we would sell on the streets. I used to do that myself. Every Saturday morning I had to go to Brixton Market, Croydon Market, Ballem Market, wherever…(…).

…We would organize campaigns around specific incidents where there was some racial injustice involving the police and so on. We had educational classes for the Youth Section (I was member of the Youth Section) where we studied Black History, Politics and Culture.

And as a matter of fact it was through my involvement with the Black Panther movement I discovered Black Literature read a book called ‘The Souls Of Black Folk’ by W.E.B. Dubois and got inspired to write poetry.

When in time the Black Workers Movement dissolved, its members used the experience they have gained to set up new organisations, such as Black Workers Movement, the Race Today Collective and the Brixton Black Women’s Group. Olive Morris was a founding member of the BWG and OWAAD, and maintained close ties to both organisations throughout her life, even while she was based in Manchester.

If you or someone you know was involved with the Brixton Black Panthers and have stories or pictures of that time that you are willing to share, please use the comments box below to get in touch, in particular if you have any memories of Olive Morris work in the Movement.