Wednesday 30 November 2016

Dismissal and Re-engagement, Indeed

Durham County Council has suspended the notices of dismissal and re-engagement that it had issued to its Teaching Assistants.

It will now be engaging in talks aimed at resolving the dispute.

Tomorrow's strike has therefore been called off.

There is still a lot of fighting to do.

But a victory march at next year's Miners' Gala ought to feature every re-elected Lib Dem and Independent, and everyone who had taken the seat of a Labour councillor who had voted against the TAs.

Without wishing to speak out of turn, at least one of their remarkable organisers ought to speak from the platform, as their stalwart supporter, Jeremy Corbyn, has already promised to do for the third year running.

Richmond Parking Ticket

I have a lot of respect for Christian Wolmar, whose expertise on transport and on housing would usefully grace the House of Lords.

But he has promised to vote against Article 50, a view that even Blairites as hardline as Jamie Reed no longer hold.

And he proposed a motion of No Confidence in Jeremy Corbyn at a meeting of his own Constituency Labour Party.

In any case, Labour is contesting Richmond Park at all only because Red Labour insisted on it.

Barnaby Marder really did deserve the nomination that would not even have been available without his efforts.

Still, Zac Goldsmith, whose vicious Mayoral campaign this year was no aberration, does deserve to be beaten by someone.

With no difference among the candidates on Heathrow expansion, the Richmond Park by-election is purely about race.

Any election with Zac Goldsmith as a candidate is by definition about race.

That was what he chose, for the rest of his life, with his despicable campaign for Mayor of London.

Feeling The Benefit

The spiteful and arbitrary system of benefit sanctions has been condemned even by the National Audit Office.

It found that they did not save a single penny piece, and that there was no evidence that they had ever helped a single soul back into work.

And the Government refuses to guarantee the triple lock on the state retirement pension.

The same Government that is presiding over the collapse of social care.

This is how General Elections are won and lost.

The Presentation of Intelligence

These are the fully 19 non-SNP MPs who today voted against Tony Blair on the Chilcot Report:

Sir David Amess, Ronnie Campbell, Philip Davies, Mark Durkan, Jonathan Edwards, Tom Elliott, Paul Flynn, Sir Roger Gale, Stephen Hepburn, Philip Hollobone, Kelvin Hopkins, Caroline Lucas, Stephen McPartland, Greg Mulholland, Margaret Ritchie, Liz Saville Roberts, Dennis Skinner, Hywel Williams, Mark Williams.

Precisely two of those are Lib Dems. So much for that party's credentials on Iraq.

And precisely five are Labour, although two of those were Shadow Cabinet members until recently.

Another of those five is Ronnie Campbell, who came back today from treatment for cancer. He is a very great man.

March of the Mnuchin

A Goldman Sachs partner.

You caused this, Hillary Clinton and the Democratic National Committee.

You wanted this.

It should have been Bernie Sanders. Of course it should.

Asking Plainly

If compulsory plain packaging would make no difference, then why were the tobacco companies so desperate to prevent it?

Workers' Voices, Indeed

It was a pity that Claire Perry spoiled her Question to the Prime Minister with "Smexit".

Her point about Uber and employment rights was important, and it was well made.

Moreover, Theresa May sounded genuinely sympathetic. But her party will get to her again.

If there are indeed to be the "workers' voices" on which it has insisted, rather than elected workers' representatives, then by whom are those to be appointed? The Government?

Next Door Numbers

In Florida, where they were dancing in the streets at the death of Fidel Castro, the anti-sodomy law is still on the Statute Book.

But it was repealed in Cuba as long ago as 1979, before its repeal in Scotland or Northern Ireland.

The American-backed coup in Honduras has led to an explosion of violence, including murder, against homosexuals.

More broadly, compare and contrast Cuba and her next door neighbour, the de facto American plantation in Haiti.

Haiti has had American-backed governments for almost the whole of the period since the Cuban Revolution, and it has one now.

Cuba and Haiti are both guilty of human rights abuses. Both have poverty, although it is Haiti that is the poorest country in the world.

Here, however, are the numbers:


Cuba: 11.4 million Haiti: 10.7 million

So, very much comparable, then.


Cuba: $77.1 billion - 67th in the world 
Haiti: $8.88 billion - 142nd in the world

Infant mortality rate

Cuba: 4 per 1000 live births
Haiti: 52.2 per 1000 live births

Adult literacy

Cuba: 99.7%
Haiti: 60.69% 

Food deficit

Cuba: 9 kilocalories per person per day
Haiti: 523 kilocalories per person per day

Life expectancy 

Cuba: 79 
Haiti: 63 

Male survival rate to age 65 

Cuba: 83%
Haiti: 57.9% 

Female survival rate to age 65 

Cuba: 88.3%
Haiti: 65.8%

Percentage of women in seats in Parliament

Cuba: 48.86%
Haiti: 4.21%

AIDS deaths

Cuba: 100
Haiti: 7100

HIV/AIDS adult rate

Cuba: 0.1%
Haiti: 1.9%

Intentional homicides

Cuba: 4.7 per 100,000
Haiti: 10 per 100,000

1959 And All That

Trotskyists have always said that the 26th July Movement, although it had nothing to do with the Soviet Union at the time, was some tiny band of outlaws up in the mountains, and that it just got lucky. Anyone still coming out with that one has not changed in anything up to 57 years.

Look, it is really very simple.

The human rights abuses are real, and they used to be worse, although you do mostly have to go back a bit for that, and the legal persecution of homosexuality ended earlier there than in Scotland, or in Northern Ireland, or in several American states.

There are no independent trade unions in Cuba, and there is no right to strike. Denis Thatcher wanted those things to be the law in Britain, and a number of the people making loud anti-Castro noises at the moment still do.

From a relatively high base, although not a dazzling one, educational standards have been brought up to First World levels, as anyone who has ever met people who were educated in Cuba can testify, and adult illiteracy has been eradicated entirely, which has never been achieved in Britain.

Healthcare has been transformed out of all recognition, to the point that the Durham Miners' Association, which has particularly close ties to Cuba through the late Davey Hopper, has occasionally been known to send members of its communities there for the treatment that they had been denied by the degradation of the NHS under all Governments since 1979.

The quality of healthcare is astounding in view of the blockade, which is also the blindingly obvious reason for the food shortages and for the antique cars. Imagine how much better it would be without that policy, which has been wholly unsuccessful in its objective of removing the regime that nationalised the Cuban sugar industry.

Cuban medical internationalism is justly legendary, with Cuban doctors even going to African villages where local doctors will not venture. If they felt like stepping in as services were reduced dramatically here in the land of the Durham Miners' Gala, which always features a Cuban Embassy speaker and a prominent display of Cuban flags, then they would be more than welcome.

The Cuban intervention in Angola destroyed the myth of white supremacist invincibility in Southern Africa, thereby delivering a body blow to the apartheid regime, which was on the way out from that moment, in 1988. Even Britain ended up having to recognise that fact. And no, that is not a partisan point.

The Cuban intervention in Ethiopia was, however, rather less heroic.

The Cuban Missile Crisis was a long time ago. It was just that, almost unbelievably, one of the main protagonists was still alive this time last week. Not for want of attempts to kill him.

The "exiles" in Miami seriously want Cuba to have to pay compensation for expropriated Mafia assets.

And almost nothing has ever happened in Cuba to compare to what happens every day in Saudi Arabia, whose successive tyrants the British, American, Canadian and numerous other Western States, as such, have mourned in the most extravagant fashion.

Flagging It Up

In a former life, Hillary Clinton tried to ban flag-burning.


Tuesday 29 November 2016

Comings and Goings

Why don't Democratic and Republican Presidential nominees already have Shadow Cabinets, going into the election?

What, exactly, is it that I am missing?

Rum and Reason

The latest from the "Castro was Hitler" old Trots, for so they are, is that Batista would have fallen anyway, since the Americans had withdrawn support.

As if that withdrawal had been unconnected to the impending victory of the Revolution, which was not at that time allied, or even sympathetic, to the Soviet Union.

The Americans used to have the knack of knowing when to cut their losses. Would that they still did.

America and, even more so, Britain, which had backed the old regime up to the hilt under Labour and the Conservatives alike, withdrew support from apartheid South Africa for the same reason: it had become inescapable that the other side was going to win.

That was well after the fall of the Soviet Union, the intermittent and fairly grudging support of which, whereas that of Cuba had been steadfast, had clearly been quite unnecessary to the triumph of the Liberation Struggle.

The apartheid regime had already been fatally weakened by its defeat in Angola, a defeat in which the Cuban intervention had been decisive.

From that point, in 1988, when no one had been predicting the fall of the USSR, the fall of apartheid had been inevitable.

Those wanting nuance for Thatcher as well as for Castro, here it is: she never put anyone in front of a firing squad, but she presided over significant regressions in healthcare and in education.

That Thatcher's Britain was never subjected to an American embargo was because she never nationalised the sugar industry.

That, and not anything to do with human rights, was and is the reason for the blockade of Cuba. Look at the countries of which there is no blockade.

That policy has been, and remains, as unsuccessful at bringing down the Castros as the comically incompetent assassination attempts used to be.

The United States might more profitably lead by example, and close its own monstrous affront to human rights at Guantánamo Bay.

Maple Leaf, Fig Leaf

Justin Trudeau is a slight figure.

But the reaction to his condolences on the death of Fidel Castro contrasts sharply with the reaction, or lack of it, to those of Stephen Harper when the far more egregious King Abdullah died.

The Governor General of Canada was sent all the way to Riyadh to convey those.

The United States, meanwhile, sent no fewer than 29 people to King Abdullah's funeral. Twenty-nine.

Those included the President, the Secretary of State, the House Minority Leader (a woman, for pity's sake), and the Director of the CIA.

Works Counsel

How are there not binding votes of shareholders on executive pay? There are binding votes of trade unionists on executive pay.

The genie is out of the bottle both on pay disparities and on workers' representation.

Theresa May has put those issues on the agenda, and Labour needs to step up.

It should simply be illegal for anything to pay anyone more than 10 times what it paid anyone else.

And the only logic of today's proposals is elected workers' representation on company boards.

That, in turn, would never be organised in practice by anyone apart the trade unions.

They are going to come marching back into the private sector for the purpose.

Thank you, Theresa May.

Still Trotting It All Out

That Newsnight spat over Cuba between Peter Hitchens and Tariq Ali made perfect sense if you knew that one was a veteran of the International Socialists while the other was a veteran of the International Marxist Group.

Those factions' differing Trotskyist analyses of the Soviet Union of the Brezhnev years were being applied to Cuba before our very eyes, but in highly exaggerated form.

Thus, to Hitchens, the state capitalist entity had no achievements whatever.

While to Ali, the degenerated or deformed workers' state was degenerated or deformed no more, with no human rights abuses at all.

It was an astonishing thing to have witnessed on the BBC in 2016.

I am told that, back in the day, there were Romeo y Julieta romances between the IS and the IMG at many a university.

But you crossed the line if you took up with member of the Communist Party.

Monday 28 November 2016

History Will Absolve?

Almost anyone who makes it to 90 will have outlived his own world.

The splits between Trotskyists and what were once Stalinists, plus their respective fellow-travellers and spheres of influence, had seemed to be long gone, and in fact irrelevant to anyone below a fairly high age.

The anti-war movement since 2001 and the anti-austerity movement since 2008 had seemed to have dispensed with all of that.

But then Fidel Castro went and died.

And it all came out again.

But this time, on Facebook and Twitter.

Detained By The Facts

I have no difficulty in believing that, as the BBC asserts, there are 8200 people wrongfully detained in Cuba.

The United Kingdom wrongfully detains 10,000 people per year by means of remand abuse.

A further 5000 are serving Imprisonment for Public Protection sentences, which are unlawful.

Be On Our Guard

There is more crime and general incivility when there are not guards on trains, or conductors on buses, or park-keepers in parks, or Police on the streets.

We have already lost far too much of that civilising human presence.

We need to fight for any vestige of it, however apparently trivial in itself.

A certain amount of inconvenience along the way is a price worth paying for that.

Tiny Little Purple People

You can win the Leadership of UKIP with 9,622 votes.

There are council seats that you couldn't win with that.

Hot On The Cuban Heels

So much for Jeremy Corbyn's being a Trotskyist, then, if he is indeed going to Fidel Castro's funeral.

As, come to that, is a Minister in the present British Government, Sir Alan Duncan.

Theresa May has not said a word on the death of Castro. Not one word.

In any case, Tony Blair dropped everything and dashed to Riyadh when King Fahd died, while David Cameron lowered the flags to half-mast for King Abdullah.

Castro had nothing on either of them.

If you want a definition of "Mob rule", then it is the electoral influence in Florida of the old retainers of the Mafia in Cuba, who have even managed to advance the demand that Cuba compensate the loss of the assets of organised crime.

Latin America and the Caribbean are rising, and we have a potential Prime Minister who already knows more people of importance or influence there than the present Prime Minister has ever met.

In British politics, only the Left has ever taken much of an interest in that region. Or in many parts of Asia. Or in the Less Bad Guy parts of the Middle East.

Or in Africa, at least since the fall of the white supremacist regimes in the South that the decisive Cuban intervention in Angola did so much to bring down by shattering the myth of white invincibility.

Or even in post-Soviet Russia, very much.

Reminders of the Cuban Missile Crisis in recent days have been reminders of just how long Turkey has been in NATO. Since 1952, in fact, but without ever having been any kind of bastion of democracy.

But then, nor was Salazar's Portugal, however fondly many Portuguese may remember him. And that was a founder member of the NATO into which the Attlee Government took the United Kingdom.

You can place anyone by whether they regard that Government's domestic or its foreign policy as an object of contemporary emulation. No one ever does both.

No Bootle Bonanza

Paul Nuttall is the right-wing bore in the corner of every Northern pub. 

UKIP, which has never won a seat here, will take even fewer votes here under him than it did under Nigel Farage. 

What is this bizarre fantasy that the Northern working classes do not like Jeremy Corbyn? 

They turn out to see him in their hundreds of thousands, at what are comparable to religious experiences.

The idea that they would prefer the bloke on their street who thought that Maggie had been right all along, or if anything too soft, is completely laughable.

Contrary to what people in the South seem to imagine, we have never had uncontested parliamentary elections up here.

Nuttall is exactly the type that has been losing them forever.

But I do love the idea of the Kippers voting for a Scouser. I find it hilarious.

Like the fact that UKIP does well (by its own standards) in Wales.


And what do the Alan Partridges of UKIP think of the Welsh?

I find this delicious, like the fact that they are now going to have to applaud a man whose accent they would consider unemployable.

The Pride of the Durham Lions

Kevin Maguire writes:

The inspiring Durham Lions are a roar against the contemptuous treatment of millions of working people in Britain as cheap disposable labour. Chancellor Philip Hammond’s mini-Budget was a grim monument to catastrophic Tory failure when average wages five years hence will still be worth less than eight years ago.

The Durham Lions, teaching assistants braced for a fifth strike day on Thursday, shame a Labour county council that’s lost its political compass.

Demanding the 2,700 grafters, lowly paid and mainly women, swallow pay cuts of up to 23% is indecent and deserving of the mother of all backlashes.

I spoke to three fearful teaching assistants, doing publicly unheralded fantastic work in Consett schools. 

Their plights are heartbreaking. Rachel Crowe, 41, is worried her three kids will go without and she’ll be forced to find another job if her pay’s cut £328.03 a month from £1,627.23 to £1,299.20. 

“Without sounding cheesy I do love the job but they’re going to put my own children on the poverty line,” Rachel told me. 

“I’m not going to let that happen.

“My option is to get a second job on an evening, and I don’t want to leave them at home alone, or be forced to find a new job.

“Why are they doing this to us?” 

Lindsay Temple, 50, calculated she’ll lose £4,500 a year should her £19,500 salary be chopped to £15,000. 

“This job isn’t filling the paint pots and recording TV programmes,” she explained. 

“We do everything from actually teaching to social work, making sure children are at school and looked after, and dealing with some major issues about safety.

“I thought I’d retire doing the job.

"Now I’m looking around. You have to.” 

Kate Wales, 40, works four days a week and would be £3,400 worse off if her annual £16,000’s reduced. 

“We really feel undervalued.

“I love my job too, I still like my job, but I mightn’t be able to afford doing it,” she disclosed. 

“What makes us angrier is the people doing this to us have no idea what we do in schools.”

Their fightback is uplifting and a glorious spirit of resistance. 

Unison’s leader Dave Prentis takes pride in his Durham Lions and enjoyed the rare honour for a union general secretary of hearing his name chanted at a rally. 

Durham’s political big wigs justify the grubby grab to – get this – avoid equal pay claims from women on even lower earnings. 

The world’s turned upside down when laws passed to raise wages are cited to impose savage cuts. 

Rachel showed me her scribbled calculations estimating she’ll be £225 a month short after tax.

“That’s my council tax, gas and electric, car insurance and the kids’ dinner money – all bills I won’t be able to pay in the future,” she fretted.

Lindsay complained: “I don’t live an extravagant lifestyle.

“I don’t have a big car... I’ll go home and have a good cry about what’s happening.”

Kate confessed: “With the worry I’ve given up a dress size since this happened. 

“People are off work with stress and the strain’s really beginning to tell.” 

Why is this happening to dedicated workers in 21st century Britain? 

Derby teaching assistants are in the same boat.

If it isn’t illegal, it should be.

Sunday 27 November 2016

To A Tee

Durham County Council has banned the Teaching Assistants' campaign T-shirts.

Over their uniforms, in view of the time of year, parents ought to send their children to school to them.

Havana Hope

I have been trying to think whose death will have the effect on my generation that that of Fidel Castro has had on those who were young in the early days of Revolutionary Cuba.

There really isn't anyone at all, is there?

We have had the hysterical attempt to portray him as some kind of Caribbean Hitler.

But his body count was very low indeed compared to that of many a Western ally, or compared to that of any President of the United States, not least the present one.

Matters have now descended into the merely laughable, with ranting about how a state in the 1960s persecuted homosexuality, or a person born in the 1920s never cared for rock music.

And did you know that black youths in Cuba were sometimes subjected to Police harassment? I mean, imagine living in a country like that.

The truth is that, while there was a lot of posing among his fans in the West (not all of them, but quite a few), the hope that the Cuban Revolution gave to what was then called the Third World has proved electrifyingly real and enduring.

It extends to, for example, the poor, often black Americans whom Cuba trains to become doctors at its own expense because of the lack of opportunity in their own country.

That is all organised through the black church. Of course.

The failures and disappointments along the way do deserve to be remembered.

As do the complexities; there was a reason why Cuba held three days of national mourning when General Franco died.

But so does that hope, simply for its own sake.

There is not much of it in the world at the moment.

Fake News: The Master At Work

Here and here.

Recount 2016

This is presumably a reference to the Democratic Party's nomination process.

It certainly ought to be.

Round Down If You Have To

François Fillon is an opponent of François Hollande's interventionist foreign policy, and he is a supporter of peace and co-operation with Russia.

He is wrong about domestic economic policy. But that is of less concern to the rest of us. Not none. But less.

Meanwhile, Marine Le Pen is wrong about everything.

Her election would send the most horrific signal. There would be triumphant pogroms, and not only in France.

Of course, those might not be the two names that went through to the second round. But they probably will be.

And if those are the only two names on the ballot, then you really do have to pick one of them.

Margarine for the JAMs

Frances O'Grady writes:

Chancellor Philip Hammond has promised to deliver an economy that works for everyone.

Tell that to a midwife who will be £5,000 worse off by 2021.

Or to a home carer whose real wages will plummet by £3,000.

Never mind the JAMs – the Just About Managing – it’s more like margarine for these public sector workers as they spend their lives helping new mums give birth and looking after our parents and grandparents.

We hoped the Chancellor would let vital public servants earn a small pay rise, after years of a pay freeze. 

But no.

The Government seem determined to make midwives, home carers and millions of other workers even poorer.

And we should all be worried.

We all need public services fit for the 2020s.

But there’s a staffing crisis in our schools and hospitals already.

And this will only get worse if working people can’t ever imagine earning a modest pay rise to keep up with the cost of living.

Rents aren’t frozen, nor are energy bills or fares.

Nurses, teachers and dinner ladies having a bit more money in their pockets is good for Britain too.

They’ll be out there spending in the great British high street – and that will help get our towns and cities growing again.

That way everyone wins.

It’s time for the Government to think again.

Patria o Muerte

Of course there are shortages of food and medicine in Cuba. The place is under a blockade. Certain restrictions on liberty are also to be expected during a siege.

Those berating Cuba are themselves not averse to intervening in trials, and the restrictions on liberty that they have advocated or enacted in their own countries, including this one, would not embarrass Cuba.

Although they go nowhere near as far as the ones in Saudi Arabia, which is the patron and the paymaster of those who are doing this berating.

Likewise, those paid Saudi puppets are giving effect to economic policies that have left their own countries, including this one, with food shortages and with collapsing healthcare systems.

Britain is now in receipt of Red Cross food parcels, while infant mortality is higher, and life expectancy is lower, in Washington, D.C. than they are in Cuba. These, too, are human rights issues.

Neither the United Kingdom nor the United States, however, is subject to a blockade.

Ignore the ludicrous death figures being bandied about by the only people in the present century to have murdered a Member of Parliament. Cuba would be practically depopulated if those figures were accurate.

Look out for the huge turnout from Africa at Fidel Castro's funeral. Funnily enough, they did not bother for Margaret Thatcher.

When he was released from prison, Nelson Mandela visited Cuba in order to thank the Government there.

He also visited Britain. But not in order to thank the Government here. Very far from it, in fact. That speech at Wembley Stadium is probably on YouTube.

The remaining defenders of that British Government on any issue whatever (and consider that even the present one, which is of the same party, openly believes the NUM instead on the pure facts of Orgreave) peddle a curious fantasy that they had always been in favour of ending apartheid, but that it had had to wait for the fall of the Soviet Union.

I doubt that they are kidding even themselves on that one, or that they have any desire to do so.

We shall pass over their perfectly hilarious suggestion that the fall of the Soviet Union had anything remotely to do with a some utterly uncultured fishwife, or with some old B movie actor who was literally demented and usually asleep.

Although I readily admit that Thatcher and Reagan were intellectual titans compared with Blair and Bush, Cameron and Obama.

The Thatcherites' devotion to the old regime in Pretoria, and to everything for which it stood, was absolutely fanatical.

They openly called for the introduction of apartheid in Britain. Its fall in South Africa was the worst day of their lives, and they will never forgive anyone who was right about it.

So they lash out by shooting and stabbing obscure, first term MPs who were children in the 1980s.

Whereas Cuba itself had been a kind of apartheid state and society before the Revolution. While not yet a perfect example of racial integration, it has long been unrecognisable from that period.

Everyone who lauds the old regime is white. There is a reason for that.

When Hurricane Katrina struck a largely black part of the United States, then the Cuban Government sent immediate aid, while the Bush Administration engaged in something approaching genocide by sheer negligence.

Contrary to what you may have heard, non-commercial homosexual activity between consenting adults in private has been legal in Cuba since 1979, which is longer than in either Scotland or Northern Ireland, and far longer than in several American states.

In any case, since when did those who are rushing to denounce Cuba officially approve of, or even tolerate, that kind of thing?

Cuba's constitutional definition of marriage as "the voluntarily established union between a man and a woman" is exactly what they would at least purport to wish to see in their own countries.

They approve of capital punishment in the United States, and they desire its restoration everywhere else.

They approve of torture at least on behalf of the United States, and not least when that is carried out on the island of Cuba.

Cuba's extremely liberal abortion law is in line with those in all Five of the Eyes, the pillars of the supposed Anglosphere.

Speaking of that fantastical concept, while the present Prime Minister of Canada is not the most impressive person ever to have filled that office, anyone doing so would have said much the same thing on the death of Castro, so resolute a holder out against commercial, cultural, political and military subjugation to the United States.

If to a lesser extent than Cubans, Canadians still recognise the necessity of public ownership in order to ward off American, or Chinese, or any other domination.

But we have lost that sense in Britain, where we let any and everything be gobbled up by any and everyone, just so long as we, the British nation acting politically as the British State, never own anything for ourselves.

Other people's States, as such, are considered perfectly acceptable as the colonisers of our soil and as the enslavers of our people.

Although that is not true of the present Leader of the Labour Party, who is not the hired hand of Kazakhstan that Tony Blair is.

Jeremy Corbyn's measured and nuanced response to the death of Castro bespoke an understanding that people who do not believe in Cuban sovereign self-government and self-respect do not believe in British sovereign self-government and self-respect, either.

There is no sovereignty, no self-government, no self-respect without economic sovereignty, economic self-government, economic self-respect.

There is no command without the commanding heights. Without a measure of nationalisation, there is no nation at all.

That there might arguably have been at some point before the War is immaterial. We are not living at some point before the War.

Before throwing it all away, the United Kingdom achieved such guaranteed sovereignty, self-government and self-respect without everything that marked the Cuban Revolution, which was itself quite some time ago now.

But that was because even the United Kingdom of 1945, bankrupt though it was in financial and many other ways, was not the Cuba of 1959.

That is the Cuba that the, strikingly few, dancers in the streets of Miami insanely wish to see restored to its former sickness.

The rest of us, on the other hand, are waiting for the Cuban doctors to arrive in Britain.

Close, But No Cigar

As a comment on a previous post puts it, the Soviet Union was "quite the fair weather friend" of the liberation struggle in Southern Africa, whereas Cuba was "the real deal".

Fidel Castro did not start out as a Communist. Che Guevara was initially quite dismissive of him as a classic leftish bourgeois poseur.

It was the underestimated Raúl who was almost certainly a KGB agent from the middle of the 1950s onwards, and who even threatened to split the revolutionary movement in order to prove to his brother the need to keep the Communist Party inside it.

But Fidel Castro was always a Third World liberationist, an anti-imperialist. His initial cause, and always his overriding one, was Cuban independence, overflowing into comparable aspirations elsewhere.

Tragically, that forced him into the embrace of the USSR, a relationship that was never without strain.

Those gleefully sharing that picture of him with Khrushchev need to look up which main British political party the latter outspokenly preferred after having met them both during his visit to this country in 1956.

The present regime in Cuba probably will die with Raúl. But what came after it really will need to be watched very carefully indeed.

I hope, for their own sakes, that those dancing in the streets of Miami do truly long to go home to Cuba. After all, they voted for Donald Trump.

Cuba led the global response to the Ebola outbreak, sending in doctors to treat the sick when the Americans sent in troops to contain them. 

But there would be none of that from the Batista restorationists. They are all still there, waiting in the wings. And they are frighteningly well-connected.

It is outrageous that the Cuban doctors have never received the Nobel Peace Prize, considering many of the people who have had it, and considering that even the White Helmets are now in the running for it.

A rectification of that oversight would be a fitting monument to the best that Castro ever did. There ought of course to be monuments, in the more conventional sense of the word, to the worst.

As there ought to be to the victims to the principal death and torture camp on his island. That is not maintained by the Republic of Cuba.

Right Back When

Things come back to haunt people.

Did a bit of drugs in the Sixties, then became a pillar of society, perhaps even a Cabinet Minister? But what if one of your old crowd turned up dead of it?

Had a bit of underage sex in the Seventies, then became a pillar of society, perhaps even a Cabinet Minister? But what if one of your old crowd turned up in court for hundreds of offences, or just for still doing it after all these years?

Hung around the neo-Nazi element of youthful Thatcherism in the Eighties, then became a pillar of society, perhaps even a Cabinet Minister? But what if one of your old crowd murdered an MP this year while shouting, "Britain First!"? 

People do foolish things in their youth, or else they enter middle age heavily medicated cripples while watching their more adventurous contemporaries as the pictures of health.

But not many have ever ended up in government when one of their old mates has murdered a Member of Parliament.

The days of treating even support for the NHS as Loony Leftism, while maintaining no right flank whatever on the officially designated political mainstream, are well and truly over.

The dominoes are going to start to fall, and some highly prominent people in what thinks that it is now this country’s perpetual party of government need to be very, very, very afraid.

Sinking Into Tyranny

A major military power on the edge of Europe, which illegally occupies a neighbouring state’s territory, is sinking into tyranny.

Its increasingly megalomaniac leader has built himself a huge new palace and is systematically eliminating all opposition as he prepares to become an unchallengeable supreme ruler.

Journalists at the only remaining major opposition newspaper have been arrested on ridiculous charges.

They are among thousands of others scooped up in an enormous purge, flung into prison or removed from their jobs.

No, it’s not Russia, the economic cripple with a navy even more decrepit than ours, which you’re constantly being told to fear.

It is Turkey, still an unchallenged member of the supposedly pro-freedom alliance Nato.

Turkey, in actions very similar to the Russian seizure of Crimea, grabbed North Cyprus by force in 1974 and has been there ever since, still our welcome ally.

Turkey’s President Erdogan, a passionate Islamist who regards democracy as a means to an end, is at least as repressive as Russia’s Vladimir Putin, and has certainly locked up many more journalists.

So, if all those media who attack Mr Putin the whole time are really so worried about Russian repression, why do they say so much less about the ruthless extinction of freedom in our Nato ally? 

Could it be their anti-Russian outrage is phoney?

Legitimising Genocide

Shehab Khan writes:

Burma’s Aung San Suu Kyi, stands accused of not protecting Rohingya Muslims in the country and potentially “legitimising genocide”. 

Military operations in Rakhine State have caused thousands to flee across the border to Bangladesh. 

A UN official said Rohingya in Burma were being ethnically cleansed with Rohingya alleging that government soldiers have killed and raped civilians. 

The military action – launched in response to coordinated attacks by armed men on border posts in October – has left scores of people dead. 

The army says it is fighting an armed insurgency in the region and the government denies abuses.  

“The international community misunderstood us because of Rohingya lobbyists who distributed fabricated news,” the presidential spokesman, Zaw Htay, said this week. 

“No one in the world would accept attacks on security forces, killings and looting of weapons.”  

Ms Suu Kyi’s failure to speak out in support of the Rohingya “is baffling to an international audience that persists in casting her as a human rights icon”, said David Mathieson of Human Rights Watch.

“One version to explain her silence is callous indifference, another is calculated limited messaging ... but the most likely is she simply has no control over the Burmese army,” he added.

Researchers at Queen Mary University London said her silence amounts to “legitimising genocide” and entrenching “the persecution of the Rohingya minority”.

“Despite the fact that this is the most significant test of Suu Kyi’s leadership, the country's de facto leader has remained remarkably indifferent,” they said.

Rights groups say the military has used the attack on police border posts last month as an excuse for a crackdown on the Rohingya.

The Rohingya, a group of around a million, have been resident in Burma for decades – but are treated as illegal immigrants and denied citizenship.

Ms Suu Kyi took power this year after winning the country’s first free elections in a generation.

She stood on a platform of reconciliation for people across the country, but she has been hampered by a junta-era constitution that gives the army a quarter of parliamentary seats and control over security.

She also faces a prevailing view among many of Burma’s Buddhists that the Rohingya are illegal immigrants and any move to support them would risk a public backlash.

Reports in Rakhine state cannot be independently verified because the government restricts access for journalists and aid workers.

Aung San Suu Kyi has said a government-led investigation is under way.

Malaysia will summon Burma’s ambassador over the crackdown on the Rohingya Muslims, it said on Friday, as protesters across South-east Asia demonstrated against the rising violence.

The Malaysian foreign ministry called on all parties involved to refrain from actions that could aggravate the situation.

“Malaysia also calls on the government of Myanmar [Burma] to take all the necessary actions to address the alleged ethnic cleansing in the northern Rakhine State,” the ministry said in a statement.

“The ministry will summon the ambassador of Myanmar to convey the government of Malaysia's concern over this issue,” it added, without giving a timeframe.

Hundreds of Rohingya Muslims marched in the Malaysian capital of Kuala Lumpur, condemning the bloody crackdown on the persecuted minority and criticising Nobel Peace Prize winner Ms Suu Kyi for her inaction on the matter.

Protesters demanded humanitarian aid for Rakhine, and urged that the military seize all attackers.

Protests were also held simultaneously in Bangkok, the capital of neighbouring Thailand, in Bangladesh and in the Indonesian capital of Jakarta.

Reliably Echoing


America's once venerable Washington Post has launched a Thanksgiving attack on the Russian media.

Sadly for our friends on the Potomac, it turned out to be a bit of a turkey.

This month, the mainstream media’s primary narrative has shifted toward ‘fake news’ and its role in the US election.

We’ve seen internet giants like Facebook pressured to get their act together on the issue and a series of investigations into the creators of misleading content.

Predictably, the “blame Russia for everything” constituency of the establishment press has tried to connect Moscow to this development.

Take the folks at the Washington Post, for instance, who have published a sensationalist and scaremongering piece about fake news stories that itself turned out to be, well, full of fakes.

To be blunt, the Washington Post has lied about RT and presented zero proof to support its allegations.

What’s more, it never even asked for a comment.

This means that its strangely crafted attempt to defend journalistic principles has effectively disobeyed the two most important rules of the business: namely “always double-check your sources” and “make sure to ask the subject of your story for a comment.” 

Pundit problems 

To start, WashPo references “researchers” to claim that some of the fake news and conspiracy theories plaguing the media coverage of the US election “originated with RT.” 

Mind you, not a single example is provided to support this lunacy – no link, no tweet, no article title. 

Then the reporter, one Craig Timberg, quotes Michael McFaul – one of the ‘talking heads’ du jour for criticism of Russia – as saying RT expressed overt support for Donald Trump during the US election.

That is pure fiction, apparent to anyone remotely familiar with RT’s actual programming.

As regular readers know, RT has published many articles which indicated that Moscow had no clear preference in the contest, covered Trump scandals, and interviewed guests from all over the American political spectrum – Republican and Democrat, Libertarian and Green.

We’ve invited Hillary Clinton, too, and the invite still stands.

McFaul then concludes his contribution with the statement that RT used “the #CrookedHillary hashtag pushed by the candidate (Trump)” on its social media services. 

Like with the “origin story,” this claim is presented not as subjective opinion, but as unquestionable fact.

In reality, this is another complete lie, one that WashPo would have had no trouble fact-checking with a simple search. Alas.

Thus, the Washington Post has hinged a piece about fake news on falsehoods.

The irony is astounding.

Absence of proof 

Timberg’s entire supposition is built around a collection of “suspicious episode” yarns, not facts or evidence. 

His argument revolves around tenuous social media interaction and unsubstantiated third-party claims. 

Outlets as diverse as AntiWar, Counterpunch, Sputnik, Drudge Report, Off Guardian and Unz Review are attacked alongside RT, not to mention internationally popular entities including WikiLeaks, Zerohedge and Truthout. 

Basically, anybody critical of US foreign policy is accused of “echoing Russia.” 

Also telling is the two external “research” sources the article relies on: PropOrNot and FPRI. 

“PropOrNot” is described as “a nonpartisan collection of researchers with foreign policy, military and technology backgrounds.” 

In reality, this group’s modus operandi is to smear any news source outside of the mainstream as “reliably echo(ing) Russian propaganda.” 

Meanwhile, Foreign Policy Research Institute is a US think-tank with a very clear agenda of “advanc[ing] U.S. national interests,” funded by massive corporations, such as Boeing, who profit from east-west tension through increased military spending and still mired in the Cold War-era worldview. 

With every day and every new wave of hysterical publications, it becomes difficult to deny that the real point of the current media campaign is to brand everything that runs counter to the establishment narrative as “fake news” and “Russian propaganda.” 

Perhaps in the hope that once criticism and adversarial journalism is removed, the general public will no longer lash out at the tight little club that has ruled the roost for so long.

Promising To Champion

A cross-party group of MPs will make a fresh effort to hold Tony Blair to account for allegedly misleading parliament and the public over the Iraq war. 

The move, which could see Blair stripped of membership of the privy council, comes as the former prime minister tries to re-enter the political fray, promising to champion the “politically homeless” who are alienated from Jeremy Corbyn’s Labour and the Brexit-promoting government of Theresa May. 

The group, which includes MPs from six parties, will put down a Commons motion on Monday calling for a parliamentary committee to investigate the difference between what Blair said publicly to the Chilcot inquiry into the war and privately, including assurances to then US president George W Bush.

Backing the motion are Alex Salmond, the SNP MP and former first minister of Scotland; Hywel Williams, Westminster leader of Plaid Cymru; and Green party co-leader Caroline Lucas. 

Senior Tory and Labour MPs are also backing the move, which reflects widespread frustration that the publication of the Chilcot report in July, after a seven-year inquiry, did not result in any government action or accountability for Blair. 

Salmond said some MPs believe that senior civil servants were “preoccupied with preventing previous and future prime ministers being held accountable”. 

He said: “An example should be set, not just of improving government but holding people to account.” 

He pointed to last week’s Observer story revealing that, according to documents released under the Freedom of Information Act, the inquiry was designed by senior civil servants to “avoid blame” and reduce the risk that individuals and the government could face legal proceedings. 

Salmond also noted that documents show many officials involved in planning the inquiry, including current cabinet secretary Sir Jeremy Heywood, were involved in the events that led to war. 

The new motion will be debated on Wednesday in Commons time allotted to the SNP. 

It calls on MPs to recognise that the inquiry “provided substantial evidence of misleading information presented by the then prime minister and others on the development of the then government’s policy towards the invasion of Iraq as shown most clearly in the contrast between private correspondence to the United States government and public statements to parliament and people”. 

The motion also asks the Commons public administration and constitutional affairs committee to add to its current inquiry into the lessons to be learned from Chilcot “a further specific examination of this contrast in public and private policy and to report on what further action is necessary to help prevent repetition of this disastrous series of events”. 

Salmond said the committee could “recommend whatever action it pleases”, including that Blair be stripped of membership of the privy council, which formally advises the sovereign and exercises government and judicial functions.

This would be an unprecedented move in respect of a former prime minister, but Williams said:

“If he continues to be a member of the privy council while there is all this damning evidence against him, what does that say about the institution?” 

Williams told the Observer the process used was “scrupulously fair” to Blair because he will have a chance to appear at the committee to defend himself. 

Lucas said: “The Chilcot report confirmed Tony Blair lied to the public, parliament and his own cabinet in order to drag us into the Iraq war. 

“Privately, he said he would support Bush ‘whatever’ eight months before the war – everyone else was told war could be avoided.

“Thousands of lives were lost because he put that promise before all the evidence. 

“Yet – despite the damning evidence against him contained in the inquiry’s report – no action has been taken against the former prime minister.” 

A spokesman for Blair declined to comment. 

But, privately, his supporters say similar motions have been tabled before without gaining significant traction among MPs. 

They said that Chilcot rejected allegations that Blair said one thing in public and another in private.

Appearing before the Commons liaison committee, Chilcot had said: “I absolve him [Blair] from a personal and demonstrable decision to deceive parliament or the public – to state falsehoods, knowing them to be false.”

The Bully As The Good Guy

Neil Clark writes:

Let’s suppose an enemy is out to get you.

He bought houses on your street and amassed his armed gangs on the edge of your property, despite promising not to.

He also attempted to ruin you financially, by trying to get businesses and banks not to deal with you. 

You respond to this bullying by placing missiles in your garden and get your friends round to defend your house. 

Your enemy then plays the victim and accuses you of ‘aggression’ and trying to start a conflict. 

Sounds like pretty outrageous behavior, don’t you think?

But that's exactly what NATO is doing today to Russia. 

Last Sunday, 4,000 troops from the NATO alliance took part in Operation Iron Sword 2016 in Lithuania, the largest such maneuvers to date. 

Also, 4,000 more troops are being deployed in Poland and the Baltic states. Now, if I were a Russian citizen, I’d be pretty alarmed by NATO’s Drang Nach Osten

The NATO deployments are after all the largest massing of foreign troops on Russia’s borders since 1941, when the Nazis invaded and killed 27 million Russian and Soviet citizens. 

There’s still quite a few Russians around who can remember those dark days and don’t want them repeated. 

But, guess what, when Russia responds to NATO’s hostile acts by sensibly deploying Iskander missiles and air defenses in Kaliningrad, the US State Department says Russia has nothing to worry about! 

NATO, we’re told, is only responding to Russian ‘aggression’.

We’ve entered the looking-glass world of Lewis Carroll when those threatening the peace are posing as the good guys, while those who are defending their country from attack are billed as ‘aggressors’ who we have to be terrified of.

Everything about the NATO ‘defensive’ narrative is false, in the same way, that everything about the Nazi narrative in 1941 was too. 

Any objective analysis of the situation, which takes in the historical background, will arrive at the conclusion that it’s NATO which is threatening Russia, and not the other way round. 

Take the events in Ukraine, which are cited as a justification for NATO’s recent troop build-ups. 

In NATO and the EU, the toppling of the Yanukovych government was depicted as a victory for ‘people power’.

Russia then ‘invaded’ Ukraine to seize Crimea. 

That ‘aggressive’ act by the Big Bad Bear showed us that not only Moscow needed to be sanctioned, but that we needed more NATO deployments in Eastern Europe to stop further Russian land-grabs.

In fact, Ukraine was an example of Western, and not Russian, expansionism.

The US and EU choreographed and financed the ousting of a democratically elected government, to bring ‘their’ favored politicians to power and push the country into the NATO/EU orbit. 

Here we can listen to Victoria Nuland of the State Department and US Ambassador Geoffrey Pyatt discussing who should and shouldn’t be in the new, ‘democratic’ Ukrainian government. 

With the government, many of them had voted for being illegally overthrown, and violent neo-Nazi thugs rampaging on the streets, the predominantly Russian population of Crimea quite understandably said ‘Enough is Enough’ - and voted to rejoin Russia in a referendum.

This exercising by the people of Crimea of their democratic rights was portrayed by NATO propagandists in the West as Russian aggression, but it was the imperialist NATO powers, and not Moscow, who had provoked a crisis. 

And not for the first time. 

NATO poses as a guarantor of peace and security, but in fact its warmongering has made Europe and the world a much more dangerous place.

Think back to 1999 and the 78-day bombing of socialist Yugoslavia.

Then the alliance broke not only international law but its own constitution, which only allowed the use of force when a member state was attacked. 

The bombing caused a humanitarian crisis and left much of the infrastructure of Yugoslavia destroyed. 

The people of the region are still dealing with the after-effects of NATO dropping around 15,000 tons of depleted uranium on them.

And remember, this was supposed to have been a humanitarian intervention. 

Then in 2011, NATO attacked Libya, transforming the country with the highest living standards in Africa into a failed state. 

The toppling of Gaddafi turned Libya into a haven for ISIS and other extremist groups, and helped to instigate a refugee/migrant exodus of Biblical proportions.

It also destabilized surrounding countries such as Tunisia, where, in 2015, 38 tourists, 30 of them British, were slaughtered on the beach in a terrorist attack. 

NATO helping to keep us safe? What a sick joke. 

As many old Cold War 1.0 warriors have argued, NATO should have been consigned to the dustbin of history in 1991, at the same time the Warsaw Pact was torn up. 

But instead, it morphed into the expansionary war machine it is today.

Just imagine for a moment if the situation had been reversed.

That back in the 90s, Russia had kept the Warsaw Pact going, while NATO had been scrapped. 

Imagine if Russia, breaking promises it had made to the West, had spent the past 20 years expanding the Warsaw Pact right up to the borders of the US.

And that in 2014, the Kremlin had orchestrated a coup in Canada to bring to power a new pro-Russian government, with extreme anti-American forces at the forefront of the revolution.

Would establishment commentators be saying Russia was acting in self-defense, and that the US and its allies had nothing to worry about? 

I think not. 

Probably the most obnoxious thing about Western policy toward Russia is the refusal to acknowledge the country which suffered more than any other in World War Two has any legitimate security interests at all. 

We can put our troops right on Russia’s borders, but if the Kremlin responds by deploying missiles, well, they’re the ones who are paranoid.

This is the psychology of the schoolyard bully, who thinks he can harass, taunt and threaten all he likes, while his victim has no right to retaliate.

Only the bully has rights, not those whom he persecutes.

The victim’s concerns are haughtily dismissed.

And so it is with Russia.

If things were bad enough before the US Presidential election, since November 8 they’ve got a whole lot worse.

The possibility that President Donald Trump might reset relations with Moscow, and work together with Vladimir Putin to smash ISIS, which most sane people around the world would love to see, seems to have induced something of a wild panic among Western bear-baiters

We’ve had McCarthyite reports from the NATO-linked Atlantic Council and the Henry Jackson Society, and an increase in anti-Russian rhetoric from the usual suspects.

But the problem the Russia-bashers have is public opinion. Americans and Europeans want jobs, decent well-paid jobs and not policies which will propel us into World War Three.

Western politicians who have called for better relations with Russia have been doing extraordinarily well in elections, with Donald Trump only the latest example. 

Rather than turning the public against them elite attacks on those who reject Cold War 2.0, and the labeling of them as Putin stooges or Russian agents, only seems to increase their appeal.

France is likely to break with its current anti-Russian stance after next year’s Presidential election, with both François Fillon and Marine Le Pen opposing NATO’s aggressive policies.

While in Britain, Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn, a veteran peace campaigner, has called for Western leaders to demilitarize the borders between Russia and Eastern Europe.

Meanwhile, the man most likely to be the next leader of UKIP, Paul Nuttall, has also made his position on Russia clear, and it’s not a neocon one.

In Germany, Angela Merkel’s popularity ratings have slumped jeopardizing her chances of winning a fourth term in office next year.

The anti-Russian hawks are in trouble as the political map in the west is being redrawn, and ‘extreme center‘ politicians receive their marching orders from disgruntled voters.

NATO’s Drang Nach Osten can be reversed, and hopefully genuine people power will achieve it.