‘Tyrants across the world know now they can maintain power through mass slaughter’

December 16, 2016

Interview with Leila al-Shami for Open Left

Leila al-Shami, co-author of Burning Country, a writer who has worked with human rights movements in Syria and elsewhere in the Middle East, gave this interview to Ilya Matveev and Gabriel Levy on 29 November (before the fall of Aleppo to the government forces). It also appears on the LeftEast site, and will soon be published in Russian on OpenLeft, as part of a transnational discussion between activists.

Gabriel Levy (G): What is the situation right now?

Leila al-Shami (L): The situation in Aleppo is absolutely critical. And the voices which can be heard from there are just showing how much panic and fear there is in rebel-held East Aleppo. People have been trapped in

A picture of Bashar al-Assad riddled with holes on the facade of the police academy in Aleppo, after it was captured by Free Syrian Army fighters, March 4, 2013. Photo Reuters/Mahmoud Hassano)

A picture of Bashar al-Assad riddled with holes on the facade of the police academy in Aleppo, after it was captured by Free Syrian Army fighters, March 4, 2013. Photo Reuters/Mahmoud Hassano)

East Aleppo since late August. There are tens of thousands of people under siege and there’s no way for them to get supplies in, there’s no way for them to get out. So they are effectively in an open-air prison. They are being subjected to extremely heavy bombardments and airstrikes. Gas has been fired at people. Hospitals are being deliberately and systematically targeted. Fuels are running out, there is no water. Civil defence structures have been targeted. People are now using carts to try to Read the rest of this entry »

Kazakhstan: state threat to shut down independent trade unions

December 14, 2016

Kazakhstan’s main independent trade union confederation is fighting for its life, as a court reviews a “justice” ministry bid to have it shut down.

The legal onslaught on union organisation comes after a four-year drive against opposition political parties and independent media. Nevertheless,

Workers at Emir Oil, Kazakhstan, display a banner protesting at the legal attack on independent trade unions. Photo by KNPRK.

Workers at Emir Oil, Kazakhstan, display a banner protesting at the legal attack on independent trade unions. Photo by KNPRK.

the workers’ movement is not beaten: strikes, even where organised outside the law, are forcing employers and state authorities alike to back off.

The Justice Ministry’s case against the Confederation of Independent Trade Unions of Kazakhstan (KNPRK) opened in Shymkent, in the south of the country, on 5 December.

The ministry is also urging the liquidation of industrial affiliate organisations representing mine workers, medical staff and domestic workers. The KNPRK (formerly the Confederation of Free Trade Unions of Read the rest of this entry »

Syria: voices from Aleppo

December 14, 2016

Aleppo is being drowned in blood. The Assad regime’s armed forces and Iranian-supported militias are doing the killing, supported by Russian air power and armed with Russian weapons. The “great powers” are standing by and letting them get on with it.

This is a disastrous setback for the popular uprising that started in Syria in 2011, although even now that movement of social liberation has not been completely defeated.

These are some facebook posts from Aleppo and elsewhere, shared by Syrian friends.

From Raed Fares on 12 December.

Doomsday in Aleppo
The people of Aleppo have gone to sleep
The people of Aleppo have died
Now, finally, the world will be blessed with a deep, uninterrupted sleep
As power in the US is transferred from a failure to a racist, Putin and Assad are murdering 150,000 civilians in Aleppo
The entire world can finally have some peace and quiet as the screams of Aleppo’s residents will be forever silenced
But their corpses, the corpses of Aleppo, will turn your dreams into nightmares

Aleppo. From Raed Fares.

Aleppo. From Raed Fares.

◊◊◊◊◊ Read the rest of this entry »

Afghanistan: pictures that are worth thousands of words

December 13, 2016

The photos in Guy Smallman’s book The Displaced speak for themselves, writes NADINE BALLANTYNE

A Pakistan government programme to force refugees out of Pakistan and back to Afghanistan is causing extreme hardship, as the majority have no home to return to, no family and no way to make a living. As a result the situation for internally displaced people (IDPs) in Afghanistan is deteriorating rapidly.

Things were bad enough prior to Pakistan’s action. A recent report by Amnesty International stated that the number of IDPs in Afghanistan has doubled to 1.2 million in the past three years, as increasing violence and poverty continue to push people from their homes.  According to Amnesty, “those internally displaced live in horrific conditions, on the brink of survival, with little access to food, education or health care”.

The photographer and activist, Guy Smallman, started going to Afghanistan regularly in 2008, when he first visited the Char-e-Qamba camp for IDPs in Kabul. He documents some of the children living in the camp in a beautiful and moving new book of photographs, The Displaced.

Apart from a short introduction, and captions at the end, Guy doesn’t put

Boys at the Chamn-e-Babrak camp playing football in the car park of a semi-completed but long abandoned housing development (2014). By Guy Smallman.

Boys at the Chamn-e-Babrak camp playing football in the car park of a semi-completed but long abandoned housing development (2014). By Guy Smallman.

words to the images. No description or opinion is needed, as they are powerful and full of the realities of the children’s lives without any need of Read the rest of this entry »

Alexei Gaskarov: “They aren’t winning this game by turning to crackdowns”

November 15, 2016

This interview with the Russian anti-fascist Alexei Gaskarov, who was released from prison last month after a three-and-a-half year prison sentence, was published (in Russian) by Snob magazine on 1 November. This English translation is reproduced with permission from the Russian Reader. Gaskarov talks about the unjust trial at which he and others were jailed, for “incitement” and other political crimes, after the Bolotnaya Square protest movement of 2012. He also discusses life in the penal colony, the Russian anti-fascist and protest movements, and the war in Ukraine. For readers in the UK and western Europe – where some of the old “left” clings stubbornly to the fantasy that Vladimir Putin’s authoritarian government is something to do with “anti-fascism” – this assessment of Russia in 2016, by a real anti-fascist, is worth reading.

Olesya Gerasimenko (journalist who did the interview): Was your trial fair?

Alexei Gaskarov: I regret we agreed to be involved in it. Like Soviet political prisoners, we should have stood with our backs turned and kept our mouths shut, and not treated it as an attempt to get at the truth. I had illusions after Khimki. [In 2010, Gaskarov was arrested and charged with attacking the Khimki town hall during a protest in defense of Khimki Forest, but the court acquitted him. — Snob] Several videos showed clearly that the incidents involving me happened before the riot kicked off,

Alexei Gaskarov. Photo by Tanya Hesso of Snob.

Alexei Gaskarov. Photo by Tanya Hesso of Snob.

according to police investigators themselves. In the end, I ticked off the evidence, the judge nodded her head, but there was no reaction. The entire trial looked as if the decision had already been made, the sentence written out, and let’s get this over as quickly as possible.

So did you push a policeman and pull a soldier out of the police cordon?

I never denied it from the get-go. A year had passed since the rally on Bolotnaya Square. I was working on an important project. I had a week to Read the rest of this entry »

Russian anti-fascist Alexei Gaskarov released from jail

October 28, 2016

The Russian anti-fascist Alexei Gaskarov was released from prison yesterday, as reported by the Russian Reader here. Alexei’s statement when he was sentenced in 2014, also translated by the Russian Reader, is here.

The Lucas plan and the politics of technology

October 26, 2016

This guest post by DAVID KING of Breaking the Frame looks back at how workers at Lucas Aerospace championed socially useful technology. It is a shortened version of a two-part article on the Breaking the Frame website, and feeds into a debate we’re holding this Saturday at the Anarchist Bookfair.

This year is the fortieth anniversary of The Lucas Plan, the pioneering effort by workers at the Lucas

The original pamphlet cover

The original pamphlet cover

Aerospace arms company to propose alternative socially useful applications of the company’s technology and workers’ skills, whilst retaining jobs. It was an inspiring model of industrial democracy and has played an important role in showing that traditional trade union concerns about jobs losses arising from closures in harmful industries such as arms, nuclear power, etc., can be met. The Plan was hugely influential in the 1980s peace movement, during the crisis at the end of the Cold War.

But although younger generations of leftists, environmentalists and peace activists may never have heard of it, the ideas of the Lucas Aerospace workers are crucially relevant for the challenges we face today, including climate change, militarism and automation/artificial intelligence. A conference in Birmingham in November will both celebrate the achievements of the Lucas workers and, we hope, reinvigorate movements for socially just solutions to those crises.

The plan

In the early 1970s the workers at Lucas had organised themselves into a cross-union Combine Read the rest of this entry »