They shot to kill: eight years on from massacre of Kazakhstan’s striking oil workers

January 13, 2020

Eight years after the infamous massacre of striking oil workers and their supporters at Zhanaozen in western Kazakhstan, human rights defenders in the oil-rich republic are still seeking answers. How many victims were there, on top of the 16 dead and nearly 100 wounded acknowledged by the authorities? Who gave the order to open fire? What was the role of agents provocateurs? And Kazakhstan’s beleaguered trade union movement continues to count the cost of the killings – which brought to an end an eight-month strike, the longest and largest in the country’s history, and heralded a crackdown on all forms of opposition.

Internationally – while Tony Blair, the former UK prime minister, advised the Kazakh government on how to spin its crime before international audiences – oil workers and others voiced solidarity with the 2011 strike in pickets and protests. In that same spirit of solidarity, People & Nature publishes this interview with GALYM AGELEUOV, a human rights defender who worked with labour movement activists before, during and after the 2011 strike, republished with thanks from Current Time TV. (Original here.)

On 16 December 2011, eight years ago, police opened fire on unarmed citizens of Zhanaozen in western Kazakhstan. The victims included oil workers who were on strike,

Defendants at the trial of Zhanaozen residents for “disorder”

and innocent passers-by. The authorities of Mangistau region said the police had begun shooting “in self defence” – until video recordings appeared on the internet, showing how people ran from armed, uniformed men, who were shooting to kill.

According to official data, 16 people died and about a hundred were injured. Zhanaozen residents and human rights defenders said that the number of victims may have been several times greater. But Read the rest of this entry »


Comparethepolitics.com. A consumer’s guide to post-election inquests

January 7, 2020

A guest post by BOB MYERS

Many people will have been bitterly disapointed when they found that most consumers had bought the Eton toffs’ slogan “Get Brexit Done”, rather than the product on offer from Labour. And I agree, it is utterly nauseating to see the public school aristos put in charge of the tuck shop, and stuffing goodies into their slavering mouths faster than their arseholes can evacuate their waste.

When Jeremy Corbyn beat the remnants of Tony Blair’s privatising war junkies, and became Labour leader, thousands of people were excited by the prospect of what Corbyn himself described as “a new kind of politics”.

However, Comparethepolitics.com has looked at the election, and found little or no actual

Greek referendum 2015: demonstration for voting NO at Syntagma square, Athens, Greece / Creative Commons

evidence of “new politics”. While the products on sale may have had very different labels, the contents were identical in one vital respect.

Both set out to sell their products to a passive audience sat in front of TVs, mobiles and toilet paper dressed as newspapers. Both said: “Vote for me to solve your aches and pains.”

Where was the “new” politics?

Now Labour Party leadership hopefuls are rushing to the Guardian to tell their middle class readers that they know what the working class really want and need.

The hard truth is that the defeat of the miners’ strike in 1985 by the Thatcher government saw the almost total destruction of the British working class.

Of course there are workers: workers on ever deteriorating wages, workers on zero hour contracts, workers living homeless on the streets, workers doing two or three jobs to get Read the rest of this entry »


People and Nature greatest hits of the 2010s

December 23, 2019

I hope, dear readers, you get time for reflection, rejuvenation and relaxation in the midwinter holidays. If you find yourself reaching for your phone for something to read – then, rather than winding yourself up with news of Boris Johnson’s vileness, go a level more thoughtful: look at those People & Nature articles you missed out on first time round. Here is some stuff that has stood the test of time. Thanks for your interest, and see you all (virtually or really) in the 2020s. GL, 23 December 2019.

Climate and ecological emergency

Disaster environmentalism: looking the future in the face (5 December 2019). A critique of Rupert Read, Jem Bendell and other writers linked to Extinction Rebellion

Climate grief, climate anger (25 June 2019). How different global warming looks to young people

What does “climate emergency” mean? Let’s define that OUTSIDE parliament (2 May 2019)

Still bigger mountains of plastic on the way (March 2018). The petrochemicals companies are driving it

Global warming in the Indian context (June 2016). A pamphlet by Indian climate campaigner Nagraj Adve

Let’s face it. Melting ice has passed point of no return (23 November 2015)

The Paris climate talks and the failure of states (February 2015)

Stop tailoring global warming scenarios to make them “politically palatable” (July 2013). An interview with Kevin Anderson of the Tyndall Centre for Climate Research Read the rest of this entry »


Labour defeat: thoughts on democratic socialism

December 23, 2019

To continue discussion on the aftermath of Labour’s election defeat, I am republishing these “thoughts on the strategy of democratic socialism” by Angry Workers of the World, a group of worker militants based in London. This article was published on Saturday on their web site here, and is part of an upcoming book reflecting on six years of working class inquiry and intervention in west London.

“Democratic socialism” is currently the main alternative vision to transforming capitalism, and as such we need to take it seriously, despite our deep disagreement with it. By democratic socialism we mean the idea that by using the two legs of the organised labour movement – the trade unions and a socialist party in government – we can walk step-by-step towards socialism. Socialism is defined as a society dominated by either nationalised or cooperative ownership of the means of production and workers’ representation when it comes to management of these economic units.

The general strategy of democratic socialism can be summarised briefly.

The idea is to campaign for an electoral victory of a socialist party based on an economic programme of partial re-nationalisation of a limited number of key industries, and the creation of a wider sector of “solidarity economy”, formed by cooperative or municipal Read the rest of this entry »


Confronting the agents of capital: a Corbynista’s dilemma

December 19, 2019

Some thoughts on the election from Liverpool Riverside. A guest post by JOHN GRAHAM DAVIES

Listening to Radio 4 on Tuesday morning was a lesson in the gloating ruthlessness of our ruling class. We had just heard a clip of Jeremy Corbyn giving a dignified, measured assessment of his, and our, calamitous loss in the election. Corbyn explained why it was necessary for him to stay on for a short transitional period.

Cut to the studio: a cackling young BBC journalist, with an accent which sounded like it came out of one our more expensive public schools, armed with the obligatory fragment of Latin.

Jeremy Corbyn addressing a crowd outside St George's Hall, Liverpool, in 2016

Jeremy Corbyn addressing a crowd outside St George’s Hall, Liverpool, in 2016

“What’s the opposite of mea culpa? Ha ha ha! Not much self-criticism there, is there? Bit of a non mea culpa if you ask me.”

This braying buffoon, like so many of the other highly paid liars at the BBC, lives in so much of a bubble that he seems unaware of how much in contempt most of the British public now hold him. Him and his beloved BBC, that pompous foghorn of the state.

A right-wing Labour member of parliament was sharing the studio and made no attempt to silence the attack, or challenge it.

We all know that the knives are out for Jeremy Corbyn, but they are also aimed at our movement as a whole, and her silence was a reminder of that.

This election result, according to those who hold the wellbeing of our class most dearly to heart – well paid journos; former Labour politicians now earning nice salaries fronting radio Read the rest of this entry »


After the election: standing up to the global rise of nationalism

December 17, 2019

A guest post by MARTIN BEVERIDGE, who was out canvassing in Bedford, and is working on a book about the history of socialist ideas in the UK

I’m still recovering from the shock of the exit polls on Thursday night. The only good news from my end was that Labour hung on to Bedford, where I was canvassing over the previous two weeks, and retained both Luton seats with comfortable majorities.

Now, taking a breath, I think it important to think objectively about where we are now,

Jeremy Corbyn speaking at a rally in Bedford on the night before the election

before we can figure out what to do next.

Let’s be clear: Johnson and the Tories did not win a resounding mandate. Their vote hardly increased overall. What happened was that Labour lost, big time, and lost most in the areas that Labour badly needed to win.

What caused the slump in Labour votes?

First: in my view, Labour was totally unprepared for the kind of election this was going to be. The journalist Patrick Cockburn wrote that, instead of looking backwards to Thatcher, British politics should be understood in the context of the international rise of right-wing authoritarian governments elected on the basis of nationalism: Modi in India, Orban in Hungary, Trump in the US.

The Tories learned from 2017, and not only carried out a vast undercover social media campaign but also didn’t allow the broadcast media to be as impartial. They carefully Read the rest of this entry »


Nightmare on Downing Street

December 16, 2019

Until I saw the exit poll from the UK general election on Thursday evening, I was holding out hope that there would be a hung parliament, leading either to Boris Johnson squirming again under an opposition majority, or a Labour-led coalition or minority government.

I wasn’t the only one. The polls were narrowing, and millions of people were at least giving the impression of being undecided until the last minute.

It didn’t happen. We suffered a defeat. Here are some thoughts about it.

1. Boris Johnson’s xenophobic populism worked.

Clearly there were many reasons why working-class voters either voted Tory or did not turn out to vote Labour. But equally clearly, amidst the fear and desperation caused by

Demonstrators at Downing Street, Friday 13 December. Photo by Steve Eason

years of austerity policies, falling living standards and unemployment, the Tories’ vilification of outsiders (the continent of Europe, migrants, Muslims, and so on) had some resonance. Let’s not try to pretend otherwise.

“Get Brexit Done” was the latest in a series that includes not only “Take Back Control” but also Donald Trump’s “Lock Her Up” and “Build That Wall”.

Three days before the election, Johnson returned to the heart of his Brexit message, Read the rest of this entry »


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