Archive for the ‘war’ Category

You are being lied to about Syria.

April 16, 2018

syriaAs we slide inexorably into renewed conflict in the Middle East, it might be worth revisiting some of the lies, fabrications and half-truths that took us to a decade of war in Iraq. These are worth remembering, as you watch a politician on the news decry the Assad regime in Syria for using chemical weapons, while not mentioning inconvenient truths: precursors to chemical weapons were sold to Syria by the UK in the 1980s, the attack by Israel on Gaza using white phosphorous or the use of depleted uranium shells in Iraq by the US.

We see a tendency by commentators to oversimplify, “the enemy of my enemy is my friend”; the logical fallacy of the excluded middle. Socialists oppose individual acts of terrorism. Instead of mass action to remove dictators, the actions of a few “heroic” individuals or suicide bombers (depending on your viewpoint), are supposed to bring down those in power. There is nothing progressive about terrorism. It destroys innocent lives, it does not empower the working class and rather than an attack on the establishment, it only strengthens racism. It divides rather than unites us.

It is worth re-reading Trotsky’s articles Marxism opposes Individual Terrorism and the Bankruptcy of Terrorism. In place of individual action, socialists propose mass action through the organised working class, to transform the lives of millions and end this brutal, warmongering, uncaring system of capitalism. We propose a rationally planned society, worldwide, in which the collective productive forces of humanity can be used for the good of all, rather than killing people. “If we can find the money to kill people, we can find the money to help people”, as Tony Benn argued.

Just as Theresa May is ignoring the democratic process now, so Tony Blair refused to acknowledge the mass demands in 2003 to Stop the War, the biggest demonstration in British history. Just as then, the conflict in Syria is not about chemical weapons, it is not about bringing democracy or peace, but it is about US prestige, the “special relationship” between the US and UK and a struggle with Russia for control over proposed oil pipelines in Syria. The destruction and casualties of war in the Middle East go back a long way, to British imperialism, the carving up of the Middle East by Britian and France, with the Sykes – Picot agreement in 1916, to carve up the spoils of the First World War, and the advocacy of mustard gas by Churchill to attack Kurds in Mesopotamia (Iraq).  The US is not without its own hypocrisy; as in the 1980s they supported Saddam Hussein’s Baathist regime in Iraq, as a bulwark against the USSR.

What was lacking in 2003, and what is urgently needed now, is a call to action on the part of the left. Tony Benn was the leading figure of the Labour left in those days, but he mistakenly put his faith in the UN and bringing Bush and Blair to task through legal and Parliamentary channels. This is wholly insufficient. We need to hit the capitalist powers where it hurts, in their wallets. Mass strike action is necessary to bring down Theresa May and Donald Trump. The working class alone has the power to end war and austerity. What is lacking is the political leadership and will to see the struggle through to its logical end. I hope Corbyn, as leader of the Labour movement in the UK, will call mass demonstrations, and use these as a platform to enthuse mass opposition to this war.

During the Iraq conflict, in Motherwell, the actions of a few, determined train drivers organised by the ASLEF trade union caused delays to the plans of the US, when they refused to carry munitions destined for the war zone.  If this spirit had spread to other unions, and mass resistance was shown – like the student walkouts, and if the trade unions had the necessary leadership – Britain’s involvement in the war could have ended. There would not have been years of needless suffering. Worldwide there were also similar actions – In Italy, people blocked trains carrying American weapons and personnel, and dockers refused to load arms shipments. US military bases were blockaded in Germany. Unfortunately, such examples were all too few – too little, too late to stop that bloody conflict.

There is also the question of what happens when, with the military might of the Western superpowers, they “win” the war. There were lies about carefully targeted “precision bombing” in Kuwait and Iraq, there were lies about “shock and awe” and “mission accomplished” – in reality the war dragged on year after year, millions of people died through sanctions and warfare, and millions more became displaced refugees.

During the Iraq War a central slogan of the anti-war movement was “No War for Oil” – this latest conflict is no different, it is not about the use of chemical weapons. It is more about who controls the oil supply, as pipelines are planned to run through Syria by Russia and the US.

The Socialist Party, to which I belong, does not support undemocratic, despotic regimes. We denounce terrorism. Our enemy are not innocent people in the Middle East who are caught up in a brutal, sectarian civil war. We point out that bombing will only intensify and risk further conflict – even the spectre of a Third World War and war with Russia is raised. We do not support imperialist Western powers imposing military might on people in an effort to impose freedom and democracy, as if that was possible – clearly the wars in Vietnam, Iraq, Korea and Kuwait have taught them nothing. The only beneficiaries of further conflict are private security companies, the arms industry, and the oil companies, whose donations help fund the Democratic and Republican parties in the US.

We need to build a mass movement to bring down those in power, and we need to do it now.

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Fascism

September 26, 2017

A heavy word. Not one to be tossed easily,
Grenade-like into polite conversation.
A threat, a lie, a swindle to
Set us against each other.

But tyrants are mortal.
You cannot set in stone,
When wind erodes,
Time crumbles to dust.

National pride wrapped in bundles of sticks.
Together we are strong, individuals can be broken.
In basements, under spotlights, in gas chambers.

The Roman salute, Hail Caesar!
Mussolini stole such
Patriotic guff. Clothed his men in uniform
To inspire fear, to stand aside from
Crowds of unbelievers.

For fascism to take hold
It first has to rid itself
Of opposition. Crush resistance
From those who conspire and
Dream of freedom, democracy.
Label others with stigmata.

Hitler failed at art.
If only his school teachers
Praised his scribblings,
Galleries showed his work,
His ego may not have found
Such an outlet.

He was also a thief.
Cloaked distasteful ideas, at first,
In talk of socialism,
Freedom from wage tyranny.
But hate and terror prevailed,
The world blazed in agony.

Together, humanity defeated such ideas:
Or so we may talk ourselves into believing,
Sitting here, discussing politics and struggle.
Yet still there are people

Who swallow lies of superiority,
Deceit of supremacy.
Visions, of returning to
Non-existent golden era.

Rome taught them the art of carving up
Ruling supreme. Keep tribes squabbling
With petty concerns,
Or if revolt threatened,
Throw their chieftain a juicy bone.

Corruption still gnaws at our society.
But there is human solidarity,
Kindness, and comradeship,
Which, if it stands firm,
Can overcome racism and division.

When we realise that we are all just
Part of a fragile, blue bauble in space.

 

Adrift

October 29, 2016

They came – a few hundred, not thousands as claimed
Fleeing fear and persecution – they should not be blamed.
Desperate people, not a swarm, horde or flood
The same as you and me, made of flesh and blood.

Ils sont arrivés – quelques centaines, ce n’est son pas des milliers  selon
Qui fuyaient la peur et la persécution – ils ne devraient pas être blâmés
Des gens désespérés pas un essaim, une horde, ou une inondation
La même chose que vous et moi, de chair et de sang.

The Express and Daily Mail bleat unsparing, vile attacks
Some people sadly taken in by lies of right-wing hacks.
You might think World War III was on its way
If you read the tabloid press – so we need to sway

 «Aujourd’hui en France>> avec des attaques viles, impitoyables
Malheureusement certains croisent les mensonges de la droite.
Vous pourriez penser que la troisième guerre mondiale était sur son chemin
Si vous lisez la presse tabloïd donc nous aurons besoin de tangeur

the balance back – fight for the oppressed and the poor.
Unify against bosses, politicians who waged war
which created refugees; dispossessed, homeless –
It was not poor people who got us into this mess.

lutter pour les opprimés et les pauvres.
S’unifier contre les boss, les politiciens qui font la guerre
Qui a créé des réfugiés; dépossédés, sans-abri:
Ce ne fut pas de pauvres gens qui nous ont mis dans ce pétrin.

Immigrants were not responsible for the financial crisis
While bankers rake in billions, the media divides us.
We need solidarity, not racism against fictitious “angry mobs”
Who are no threat in reality, just want the chance to get jobs.

Les migrants ne sont pas responsables de la crise financière
Alors que les banquiers râtissent des milliards, les médias nous divisent.
Solidarité, contre le racisme fictif «des foules en colère»
Qui sont pas une menace en réalité , ils veulent une chance de trouver un emploi.

But they cannot work, just get by on an Azure card
Not welcome in certain places. Bureaucracy gone mad.
The system treats the asylum seeker like a criminal
No independence, singled out – the message is subliminal.

Mais ils ne peuvent pas travailler, juste obtenir une carte Azure
Seulement accepté dans certains magasins. Bureaucratie devenue folle.
Le système traite le demandeur d’asile comme un criminel
Pas d’indépendance, persecuté – le message est subliminal.

And the police respond with Operation Stack
COBRA is convened: we are under attack.
The refugee is dehumanised, feared by all and sundry
But millionaires are fêted, when they come to the country.

Et les flics réagissent avec l’Opération Stack
Le comité d’urgence est convoqué: nous sommes sous la menace.
Le réfugié est déshumanisé, craint par toute l’humanité
Mais les millionnaires sont acclamés, quand ils viennent au pays.

45 minutes

July 9, 2016

45 minutes to sex up the dossier,
45 minutes to polish the lie.
45 minutes of cowardice and calumny,
45 minutes, pressed suit and red tie.

2 million marched through Trafalgar Square,
2 million sought refuge from ruined Iraq.
2 million ignored, corruption laid bare,
2 million hopes crushed, prepare for attack.

Zero the weapons of mass destruction,
Zero nuclear warheads, anthrax or napalm.
Zero reasons, zero justification,
Zero warnings of depleted uranium.

Thousands of campaign dollars from Exxon, persuasive
Thousands to white-wash the blackness of death.
Thousands of sound-bites, slick and evasive
Thousands of half-truths that lie on your breath.

One special relationship had to be kept,
One bond with George Bush that held you in thrall.
One soldier Tom Keys, whose family wept,
One aim for the war, to secure yet more oil.

How Saxby Street Got Its Name

September 28, 2015

Some poetic responses for the Everybody’s Reading Festival, to the eponymous book by Penny Walker, which discusses the impact of World War One on my local community of Highfields, Leicester.

What’s In A Name?

Place names – windows onto the past
From a distance of a century,
Ordinary folk from Highfields
Caught up in conflict
With other ordinary people.
We even shared the same words:
Mecklenburg, Mickleover, Micheldever
Mony a pickle maks a mickle.
Inflamed by propaganda,
Outraged at living with a Germanic street name
Indignant complaints made to the council.
At a stroke of a bureaucratic pencil
Hanover – Andover; Saxe Coburg – Saxby
As in Groby, Blaby, Barkby, Ratby
Reminders of the time when the Danelaw ruled
And Erik Bloodaxe was feared like the Hun.
Immigration is nothing new,
We all have something fresh to bring.
Today, Leicester celebrates Divali, Eid and Vaisakhi
The Empire which stoked war is but a memory
We live together as a community.

The motto of Leicester is Semper Eadem which translates as “Always the Same”. The children of Medway Primary School staged a short play, looking at the similarities and differences between 1915 and 2015.

Always The Same

Leicester stood out
In the rush to sign on
We remained aloof,
Independent.
Recognised the war for
The racket it was.
It was easy to get a job
Though hours were long
Hosiery was thriving.
We sang to rhythms
Of the factory.
No need to risk our lives
For a few bob.

Penny’s book dealt with memories from the First World War recorded in the local Oral History Archive. Since this was compiled starting from the early eighties, few people were alive who could remember the events from their adulthood. Many of the contributions were about childhood experiences of wartime.

Memories

Children played in the street
Hopscotch, top and whip, battledore and shuttlecock.
Our rhymes danced high and clear –
One potato, two potato, three potato, four!
Much better than school – crammed sixty to a class.
Lives were more fragile;
No doctors for the likes of us.
The NHS was a figment of Bevan’s imagination
To be cradled by a future war.
We couldn’t afford such luxury.
We swam through the jitties and the alleys
Fireflies amidst pollution’s pall.
Innocents in the battle
Which engulfed the world.

little red little green

If you have enjoyed my poetry on this blog, my new collection, “Little Green Poetry” is now available from Lulu – – £4+P&P (paperback) or £2.50 (for e-book readers)

You can still order copies of my first collection, “Little Red Poetry” from http://www.leftbooks.co.uk or http://www.lulu.com – again for £4 (pb) or £2.50 (as a pdf for e-readers).

I hope you enjoy reading my poems, and, as always, all proceeds will go to help build the fightback against corporate political parties, to build a voice for the millions, not the millionaires.

To find out more about my politics, visit the website of the Committee For A Workers’ International, which is engaged in struggle in around 50 countries worldwide.

Colour Blind

July 19, 2015

Mandela’s long road started with a single step.
Mao’s Long March, a mountain retreat.
Long list of conflicts, longer list of casualties
Long columns of troops, longer columns of newsprint

It’s a long, long way to Tipperary.
Long history of imperialism
Long time to think – to realise
We’ve come a long, long way together.
Long time coming, struggle so hard.

Long struggle for recognition;
For too long we have been betrayed.
A long fight to break this glass ceiling,
The long roll call of the dead.

We will not be free until we are colour blind.
Until we treat others as we treat ourselves.
Whether you believe or not, or which god you follow,
Whether you are gay, or straight, or bi.
It doesn’t matter where you come from.

We are all one –
On this long road
To equality, to freedom.
little red little green

If you have enjoyed my poetry on this blog, my new collection, “Little Green Poetry” is now available from Lulu – – £4+P&P (paperback) or £2.50 (for e-book readers)

You can still order copies of my first collection, “Little Red Poetry” from http://www.leftbooks.co.uk or http://www.lulu.com – again for £4 (pb) or £2.50 (as a pdf for e-readers).

I hope you enjoy reading my poems, and, as always, all proceeds will go to help build the fightback against corporate political parties, to build a voice for the millions, not the millionaires.

To find out more about my politics, visit the website of the Committee For A Workers’ International, which is engaged in struggle in around 50 countries worldwide.

In Absentia

August 26, 2014

I wasn’t there.

I can only guess,

Foundering in the mud

The gulf between sides dug in

A chasm of generations.

You were unable to give tongue,

Horrors left unsaid.

 

We weren’t there.

How can such voices span the gap of time?

Unamplified, analogue – signal is too faint,

Drowned out in digital dazzle,

The stampede of politicians,

Hypocrites all too eager to clamber

On bandwagons of false patriotism.

 

They weren’t there,

As realisation sunk in

War-tired, weary

Drenched by the same rain,

Battered by the same cold winds,

Existing on the same meagre rations.

Conscripts lusting after glory and honour;

The realisation – pawns

In someone else’s power game.

Eyeless in Gaza

July 29, 2014

Three ways of looking at a blackbird

 

Why did Blackbird, with beak and talon,

Eyes aglow with weltering anger,

Forged in furnace,

Come screeching and tearing,

Crying bloody vengeance,

Against innocent Earthworms?

 

Because . . .

 

Why do Blackbirds, with drinks and popcorn,

Eyes agog with excitement and tension,

Roll up, roll up, come bring the family,

Perched on deckchairs,

Revel in righteous carnage

Of innocent Earthworms?

 

Because . . .

 

Why do Blackbirds, with banners and placards,

Eyes brimming with tears at wanton destruction,

Comrades come rally,

Against injustice,

Senseless slaughter,

Poor innocent Earthworms?

 

Because . . .

 

Earthworm lay . . .

Bruised and battered,

Concussed and shattered,

Amidst ruins of what once was home.

She had no answers.

Portrait of a survivor

April 8, 2014

Joystick brings target into view;

Violent game of life and death.

Balanced in cloudless sky of blue,

Distant concerns of kin and kith.

 

Remote, the drone receives command,

Pulse of bytes, irrelevant noise.

A far-off war, a remote land.

Men will play with expensive toys.

 

Human emotions don’t apply,

All empathy, conditioned out.

Soldiers are ordered to comply,

Drones must carry orders out.

 

Mission control will know the score.

Ours is not to question why,

Query what drones are fighting for,

Just direct objects in the sky.

 

Human face imposed on a field,

Basic pattern recognition.

Can it stop the impulse to wield

Weapons, stop blind causation?

 

Give back humanity and life,

End this video-game of death.

 

Image

Image source – http://www.rawstory.com/rs/2014/04/06/artists-install-massive-poster-of-childs-face-in-pakistan-field-to-shame-drone-operators/#.U0HpmWJMrSI.facebook


You can read some more of my poetry in ‘Little Red Poetry’. All proceeds go to build a new party for ordinary people, against cuts and privatisation. Support independent publishing: Buy this book on Lulu.

Copies are also available from Left Books

Water and oil do not mix

March 4, 2014

Seed,

Life-giver.

Slaker of thirst.

Clear, fresh spring.

Without you, we are nothing.

On tap. A right for all humanity.

Not a packaged commodity

Bottled and marketed,

Stock to be floated,

Sold out

Down

The

River

Of Oil,

Black gold.

Harbinger of doom.

We can ill-afford our chemical

Romance. We cannot stomach toxic

Petrochemical soup, polluting aquifers.

Heating our homes, but heating the planet.

We must get control over our addiction,

Take our power from the sun, not

Wage wars over pipelines.

We need to take

Control.

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You can read some more of my poetry in ‘Little Red Poetry’. All proceeds go to build a new party for ordinary people, against cuts and privatisation. Support independent publishing: Buy this book on Lulu.

Copies are also available from Left Books