Posts Tagged ‘war’

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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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.

Uncovering Resistance: Leicester and Leicestershire in World War One

October 3, 2015

This set of poems arose from a book by Penny Walker, exploring Leicester’s resistance to World War One. I performed these as part of the Everybody’s Reading Festival.

Common to the interviews done in preparation for the book, were family silences on the subject of war. Perhaps it was just too difficult a subject to be talked about. The prevailing attitude (completely unhealthy of course) of the British “stiff upper lip” may have played a part – or perhaps words were simply not capable of capturing the horrors of the trenches.

The opening line, “For fifty-seven years”, refers to Harry Patch, who never talked about the war to his late wife, and was 100 before being inspired to pass on an anti-war message to future generations.


Silence

For fifty-seven years, he kept it secret from his wife
A shameful infidelity, a nightmare, a scream of terror.
For words cannot encompass the horror
Cannot convey the conflict.
Unless you were there, you would not understand.

The title of my next poem, “Cat and Mouse”, refers to the treatment, common to both conscientious objectors and suffragettes – of being imprisoned for a short time, then released – only to be recaptured by the authorities. The popularly called “Cat and Mouse Act” enabled the government to remove suffragettes from prison, if they had been on hunger strike, forcibly feed them, then return them to prison. As the war went on, it became more difficult to obtain exemption from the war. Conscientious objectors faced similar treatment, and the opprobrium heaped on them continued, even after the conflict had ended.


Cat and Mouse

We were released,
Asked to sign on
Imprisoned again.

Up before the beak,
The middle-class old duffer,
Deaf to our pleas.

Treated like criminals,
Blacklisted.
After war ended
Still people held grudges.

Life goes on,
We make do.
Where others perished,
We still live.

The white feather
Becomes a white poppy.
Symbol of resistance,
Symbol of pride.

Common reasons for objecting to the war were non-conformist Christian beliefs – the idea that it is never right to kill another human being, as well as socialist beliefs – the idea that the working class should unite against the bosses, and that this struggle must be international. This imperialist war is a war for the aristocrats – so why should we do their dirty work for them? Common to both strands of thought, were rock-solid principles.

“I have been fighting all my life” is a quote from John Flanagan, who was a shop-steward and a member of the Independent Labour Party in Bradford. His grand-daughter now lives in Leicester. When asked why he refused to fight, he replied that he had been fighting all his life, but he refused to kill fellow workers. Often Christian and socialist beliefs went together, and I (an atheist) have tried to combine these outlooks in this poem.


Principles

I will not fight against my fellow man.
This is not an act of cowardice;
I am as patriotic as the next fellow:
But war must be resisted.

Without us, the general’s plans are naught.
We are the ones who have to drive in
The bayonet. Who have to turn against
Common humanity, common decency.

I have been fighting all my life
For decent pay and better conditions.
The trade union banner is my flag.
The bosses are our enemy, not each other.

An injury to one is an injury to all.
Thou shalt not kill.
We were all created in the image of God.
We are all equal.

One of the most enduring images of the First World War is the recruitment poster with Lord Kitchener, “Your country needs YOU”. In this poem, I contrast the glory and camaraderie which many people signed up to war, with the shell-shocked veterans who returned from the front, only to be shunned by polite society. For the ordinary Tommy, there would be no treatment of the psychological effects of the war, and this was only just beginning to be understood.


Kitchener

Kitchener pointed at each of us.
Our friends had signed up,
Some lied about their age to join.
We were young in those days
Eager, idealistic, naïve.
By Christmas it would all be over:
Cut down in the trenches of Passchendaele or Ypres.
Such a waste of life.
The Lonely Ones returned
Not to a heroes’ welcome.
Nomadic – unable to settle, or rest.
Thoughts echoed through their heads
To surface in nightmares.
Ignored by society, shunned.
Past glories, forgotten.
Fingers still point accusingly
At broken men.

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.