31 Dec 2017

Hugo Blanco 'Retorno a la cárcel de Fujimori'

Retorno a la cárcel de Fujimori



(This is on the protests against the pardoning of former Peruvian President Fujimori by Hugo Blanco, the BBC and most media outlets in the UK don't put this on the front page, will get a translation when I have a moment.  Fujimori's security apparatus put Hugo Blanco on their death list but he escaped before they could kill him)

Aprovechando la nochebuena el presidente peruano Pedro Pablo Kuzinski (PPK) liberó al exdictador Alberto Fujimori, encarcelado por asesinato múltiple.
La nochebuena es denominada “Noche de Paz, noche de Amor” y el regalo navideño de PPK al pueblo peruano fue liberar al símbolo de la guerra contra nuestro pueblo y del odio contra él.
A partir de ese momento, en el Cusco, donde yo estuve, en Lima y en otras ciudades, la gente salió a las calles abandonando la cena navideña.
En Lima, la capital, la manifestación pretendió ir al Palacio de Gobierno, ante el rechazo de la policía se dirigió a la residencia del presidente. Los videos muestran a los manifestantes empujando los escudos policiales.
El día de Navidad el Cusco volvió a salir a las calles y se convocó a una reunión en el local de la Federación de Trabajadores del Cusco para el día siguiente. En la reunión se nombró un cuerpo directivo para la continuación de la lucha por el retorno de Fujimori a la cárcel, se prepara un paro regional y se luchará por un paro nacional.
Hubo manifestaciones de protesta en varias ciudades.
La exministra de Justicia Marisol Pérez Tello dijo que al expresidente peruano no le correspondería un indulto común ya que fue condenado por crímenes considerados de lesa humanidad.
Por lo tanto el presidente nombró un nuevo ministro, Enrique Mendoza, para que liberara a Fujimori, éste cambió la Comisión de Gracias Presidenciales.
Nombraron una junta médica donde estaba incluido el médico del reo, que calificó de “grave” la salud de Fujimori.
El pueblo peruano opina que ésta es una traición, pues precisamente PPK fue elegido para que la hija del dictador no fuera presidente, pues liberaría a su padre. 
La ley peruana impide dar libertad a un preso cuando hay un proceso en curso: El caso de la matanza en Pativilca. Por lo tanto es ilegal la liberta de Fujimori.

¿Qué significó el Fujimorismo?
En 1990 los candidatos fueron Mario Vargas Llosa y Fujimori.
El programa económico de Vargas era neoliberal, contra eso el Perú votó a Fujimori.
Fujimori en el poder practico la política económica planteada por Vargas Losa. Privatizó las empresas públicas.
La noche del 5 de abril de 1992 Fujimori dio un mensaje a la nación en el que anunciaba la intervención del Congreso de la República, el Poder Judicial, el Ministerio Público.
Mientras el discurso era transmitido por televisión, tropas del Ejército, de la Marina y de la Fuerza Aérea llegaron al Congreso de la República, el Poder Judicial, el Ministerio Público, entre otras instituciones para tener el control completo de ellas. También fue intervenida la sede de la Confederación General de Trabajadores del Perú (CGTP) y otros sindicatos.
Los hechos ocurridos inmediatamente después del mensaje a la nación, solo fueron difundidos por medios internacionales. Miembros de las Fuerzas Armadas ingresaron a canales y emisoras de radio, y obligaron a seguir con la transmisión normal, sin informar sobre lo que ocurría en las instituciones estatales y en la calles. El gobierno decretó un toque de queda y comenzó una serie de detenciones a empresarios y políticos.
Puso el Poder Judicial y el Ministerio Público (fiscales) a su servicio.
Con el dinero de todos los peruanos impulsó la “prensa chicha” a su servicio.
Educó a sus hijos en costosas universidades de EEUU con el dinero del pueblo peruano.
Sus familiares robaron dinero enviado de Japón para gente pobre. Su esposa, Susana Iguchi, denunció esto. Por esa causa hizo apresar y torturar a su esposa.  Su hija Keiko aceptó ser nombrada “primera dama” en lugar de su madre apresada y torturada.
Obligó a esterilizar forzadamente a mujeres indígenas para exterminar nuestra raza.
Cambió la Constitución para ser reelecto
Compró políticos, como se vio en un video de su principal asesor.
Organizó grupos de asesinos mercenarios como el grupo Colina que masacró a estudiantes y un profesor de La Universidad La Cantuta.
También el grupo Colina masacró en Barrios Altos.
El caso Pativilca, arriba mencionado, fue así: Los integrantes de Colina llegaron secuestraron a John Calderón Ríos (18), Toribio Ortiz Aponte (25), Felandro Castillo Manrique (38), Pedro Agüero Rivera (35), Ernesto Arias Velásquez (17) y César Rodríguez Esquivel (29).
Luego de reducirlos, los torturaron con quemaduras de soplete en diversas partes de sus cuerpos, incluido el ano; y además les propinaron patadas. Después de esto, los mataron con sendos disparos de bala en la cabeza y lanzaron sus cuerpos en un cañaveral.

Declinación
Apareció un video que mostró a su asesor Vladimiro Montesinos (ahora preso) comprando a un político opositor.
Fujimori anunció que habría elecciones y que él no postularía.
Luego viajó a la reunión del Foro de Cooperación Económica Asia-Pacífico (APEC) realizada en Brunei, desde ahí renunció a la presidencia por fax. Luego viajó a Japón, como también es ciudadano japonés por ser hijo de japoneses, ese país no lo enviaría al Perú.
Cercanas las elecciones en el Perú en 2006, viajó a Chile, pues sus partidarios le dijeron que el apoyo de la población peruana era grande.
Al pedido de extradición de Perú por los crímenes de su gobierno, Chile lo extraditó.
Fue encarcelado por las masacres de La Cantuta y Barrios Altos.

El indulto
Es un indulto político. Cuando el congreso votó la vacancia de PPK, Fujimori telefoneó a sus partidarios para que votaran en contra. En recompensa a eso PPK lo indultó.
Es ilegal, pues ahora existe la aceptación de extradición por otros delitos: La resolución de la Corte Suprema de Chile, que aprobó por unanimidad la ampliación de la extradición de Fujimori, habilita al Poder Judicial de Perú a seguir un proceso por el llamado caso Pativilca.
La ley peruana impide dar libertad a un preso cuando hay un proceso en curso. Por lo tanto es ilegal la liberación de Fujimori.

Internacional
Organizaciones de Derechos Humanos solicitaron una audiencia a la Corte Internacional de DDHH que será en febrero de 1918.
La Oficina Regional para América del Sur del Alto Comisionado para los Derechos Humanos (Acnudh), Fundación para el Debido Proceso (DPLF),  Centro por la Justicia y el Derecho Internacional (Cejil) y la Oficina en Washington para Asuntos Latinoamericanos (WOLA), opinan que no se respeta las normas internacionales de Derechos Humanos.
Corte Interamericana de DDHH cita a audiencia. Señala que participación de su médico de cabecera en junta médica afecta la imparcialidad del proceso y que derecho de gracia impide procesarlo por el caso Pativilca. Audiencia extraordinaria de la CIDH será el 2 de febrero. Tribunal supranacional advirtió que al haber dado el indulto, PPK incumplió obligaciones internacionales.

Renuncias en protesta contra el indulto
Renuncian 3 funcionarios del Ministerio de Justicia a causa del indulto
El director general de Derechos Humanos del Ministerio de Justicia renunció.
La prefecta (el más alto cargo político a nivel departamental) de Moquegua, Paulina Lourdes Cano Oviedo,  renuncia a su cargo y al partido del gobierno.
Renuncia el Ministro de Cultura Salvador del Solar.
Tres parlamentarios del partido del presidente renuncian a dicho partido.

Continúan las movilizaciones populares
Arequipa, Cusco, Puno y Tacna continúan protestando.
Gremios de Puno declaran traidor a PPK y saldrán a marchar a las calles. Dicen: “El fujimorismo llegó al poder a través de PPK. ¡Que se vayan todos!” refiriéndose a los políticos corruptos.
En el norte: Chiclayo, Trujillo Chimbote y Piura también se movilizaron.
La Confederación General de Trabajadores del Perú evalúa la posibilidad de un paro a nivel nacional.


28 Dec 2017

Spartacus



I have decided to blog about political films. Replacing vague ideas with clear images, so to speak. I spend too much time writing books and in an age of activism I am aware that the screen is more powerful than the word.


A classic to start off with is Spartacus (1960), its political virtues are legion.  Spartacus the leader of a slave rebellion was famously Karl Marx's favourite hero.  Indeed Marx wrote in a letter to Engels dated 27 February, 1861 that ' Spartacus is revealed as the most splendid fellow in the whole of ancient history. Great general (no Garibaldi), noble character, real representative of the ancient proletariat.'



While sadly cut from the first showings the film contained a classic advocacy of intersectionality in the famous scene discussing oysters and snails. It's all a matter of taste in republican Rome!





It is a call to revolution against tyrannical power.  The most powerful scene is where the captured slave army each one by one proclaim 'I am Spartacus', refusing to betray their leader to be crucified.







Its script editor Dalton Trumbo was had been black listed by Senator McCarthy but Kirk Douglas (who played Spartacus) insisted that he be credited.


Its sheer, occasionally kitschy entertainment value notwithstanding, Spartacusis a movie with a message that today comes across as somehow melodramatic — Slavery Bad, Freedom Good — and politically pointed; in fact, the anti-authoritarian rumblings that inform so much of the film are, in retrospect, utterly unsurprising. The screenplay was written by the great Dalton Trumbo, after all — perhaps the most famous of the men and women blacklisted during the "Red Scare" McCarthy era that rocked Hollywood, splintered friendships and torpedoed promising careers.


Trumbo, a member of the Communist party for five years in the 1940s, was blacklisted after refusing to testify before the House Un-American Activities Committee, and spent 11 months in a federal penitentiary. Many of his later screenplays were written under pseudonyms. But Kirk Douglas insisted that Trumbo's credit for Spartacus be made public -- an act of conscience that is often cited as the beginning of the end for the blacklist era.


"Senator McCarthy was an awful man," Douglas once said. "He blacklisted the writers who wouldn't obey his edict. The heads of the studios were hypocrites who went along with it. Too many people were using false names. I was embarrassed. I was young enough to be impulsive, so even though I was warned against it, I used [Trumbo's] real name on the screen."


There have been numerous commentaries on either the film or the real life rebellion, Alan Woods is one to read for some more detail.


Perhaps we might leave the last word to Kirk Douglas who, of course, played Spartacus in the film, We've traveled a long ways together. We've fought many battles and won many victories. Now, instead of taking ships to our homes across the sea, we must fight again once more. Maybe there's no peace in this world, for us or for anyone else, I don't know. But I do know that as long as we live, we must remain true to ourselves


26 Dec 2017

Britain's Gulag

Review: Britain's Gulag: The Brutal End of Empire in Kenya by Caroline Elkins. Bodley Head: London (2014).



This is a devastating read.  We tend to think we are the good guys and girls but the historian Caroline Elkins catalogues in great and well referenced detail a tale of rape, degradation and humilation at the end of Britain's African empire.

During the 1950s Kenya's Kikuyu people, the largest ethnic group in the country, rose against British rule, largely because of increasing theft of their land which was given to white colonialists.  Access to land was both economically vital and essential to the construction of identity.  Drawing upon traditional religion Kikuyu people swore an oath to fight the colonialists and the Mau Mau rebellion was born.

White settlers viewed the Kikuyu as inhuman savages and a war of astonishing violence ensued with atrocities on both sides.

Caroline Elkins researched how virtually the entire Kikuyu population of 1.5 million people were forced into camps and brutalised. 

The accounts of the brutality, often utilizing sexual violence, are indefensible and difficult to repeat.  They are also very well documented by Elkins.  She interviewed former settlers who boasted of the violence they used as well as many inmates of the camps.  Records from religious organisations, local government, letters from inmates and many other sources are drawn upon, this a meticulous piece of historical research.

Elkins found  a systematic bias in UK government records:

I soon returned to Britain and then went on to Kenya for an exhaustive look into the official colonial records.  It wasn't long before I began questioning my earlier view of the camps and the British colonial government.  I found that countless documents pertaining to the detention camps either were missing from Britain's Public Record Office and the Kenya National Archives or were still classified as confidential some fifty years after the Mau Mau war. The British were meticulous record keepers in Kenya and elsewhere in their empire, making the absence of documentation on the camps all the more curious.  I came to learn that the colonial government had intentionally destroyed many of these missing files in massive bonfires on the eve of its retreat from Kenya.
 To give a sense of the destructive scale, three different departments within the colonial government kept individual files for each of the reported eighty thousand detainees in the camps.  This means there should have been at least 240,000 individual detainee files in the official archives.  I spent days and days searching for them in the catalog of Britain's coldly efficient Public Record Office and in the dusty but orderly file shelves of the Kenya National Archives, but in the end I unearthed only a few hundred in Nairobi and came up empty handed in London.
After years of combing through what remains of in the official archives, I discovered that there was a pattern to Britain's cleansing of the records.  Any ministry or department that dealt with the unsavoury side of detention was pretty well emptied of its files, whereas as those that ostensibly addressed detainee reform, or Britain's civilising mission, were left fairly intact. (Elkins 2014:x-xi)
This is a very important book to read to understand the realities of Britain's Empire, a subject which is ignored or even celebrated in the UK.  Indeed as I write there are reports that an ethics of Empire will defend Britain's Empire from those who call it 'wicked'.

Brtian's Gulag is nuanced.  The brutality of the Mau Mau is acknowledged and from dissenting Army officers, MPs as varied as Labour's Barbara Castle and the right wing Enoch Powell, British voices (sometimes unlikely) against the oppression get a hearing too.

However the way in which racism is cultivated to dehumanise is well described.  And once dehumanised individuals can be killed and tortured without pause.

Lets not view Britain's Gulag as of purely historical interest.  Its been recently revealed that numerous documents dealing with controversial episodes such as the Miners Strike and the Northern Ireland conflict are missing from the Public Record Office at Kew, which Elkins visited.  The search for peace and reconciliation in Northern Ireland is pretty much ignored in the British media but the suppression of the Mau Mau sheds light on the Miami Show band massacre and the Glenanne Gang.  The process of white wash is continuous.

Elkins book is a must read.

23 Dec 2017

It was if he had been killed by ISIS all over again


My friend Mehmet Aksoy was killed by Isis in Raqqa, Syria on 26th September this year.  He had been working as a journalist and communications officer for the Peoples Defence Force (YPG).  He was not a fighter but there instead to tell a story about how the Kurds and their allies were working to defeat the so called Islamic State and to promote the alternative of a democratic, diverse society. 

Tragically at least five British citizens who have fought as members of the YPG or like Mehmet worked to support them without being fighters have been killed in Syria.  Just weeks ago, Jac Holmes, an IT worker from Bournemouth died while clearing land mines.

Mehmet’s funeral (see above) saw 3,000 people attend and he was buried in Highgate Cemetery in North London, near to Karl Marx.  I had worked with Mehmet on a couple of projects including a fundraising event for refugees and he had commissioned me to write a piece about Elinor Ostrom (an economist) and Rojava.  I like many others shed some tears when he was buried.

The Kurds and their allies in Northern Syria are continuously threatened by the Turkish Army, as I write, they are poised to invade and attack.  The increasingly dictatorial Erdogan regime has money, power and influence and is on a propaganda offensive against Rojava (Kurdish for ‘the west’) the self-governing Kurdish portion of Syria.

British fighters with the YPG have been on the front line in the fight to defeat ISIS but they don’t get any praise over here in the UK.  Indeed, they are often put on trial and Theresa May’s government treat them as if they were members of ISIS not the people who defeated ISIS!

I was dismayed to read an account in a Turkish newspaper by John Woodcock, theLabour Party MP for Barrow-in-Furness condemning the YPG and calling them terrorists.  I would simply ask John to meet and talk with my friends the Scurfields whose son, a former British marine, was killed in Syria fighting with the YPG against ISIS.  To me and many others Konstandinos Scurfield was a hero not a terrorist.  I would ask John to talk to former British fighters like Macer Gifford or Kimmie Taylor, there is another perspective to that of the Turkish government.  He might do well to meet the families of others British people who have died in Syria or perhaps those who have been rescued from slavery under ISIS by the Kurds and their allies.

I can see that John might not want to talk to former fighters or their families but I would ask him to consider that Turkish hostility to the YPG might be based on a history of discrimination.  Turkey criminalises discussion of the Armenian genocide and Kurds are strongly persecuted in the country still.




For me when I read John Woodcock’s opinions it was as if Mehmet had been murdered all over again.  If like me you view the YPG as a force for good rather than terrorists you might want to send John a polite email via his office on john.woodcock.mp@parliament.uk or you can find him on twitter at @jwoodcockmp  



15 Nov 2017

Ecosocialist International, Cumbe of Veroes, Bolivarian Republic of Venezeuela

THE FIRST ECOSOCIALIST INTERNATIONAL


WEAVING OURSELVES TO MOTHER EARTH
OCTOBER 31 – NOVEMBER 3, 2017
CUMBE OF VEROES, BOLIVARIAN REPUBLIC OF VENEZUELA


It has been one year since “The Calling of the Spirits” in Monte Carmelo, Lara, when with spirited minds and seeds in our hearts,  we launched a convocation titled “The Cry of Mother Earth.” Those who responded to this cry are now here: around 100 people from 17 countries and five continents, 12 original peoples from Our America, and ecosocialist activists from 14 states of Venezuela. We are here in the Cumbe* of Veroes, cradled in the enchanted mountains of Yaracuy, where the guardian goddess of nature lives. From the 31st of October until today, the 3rd of November, 2017, we have done the work demanded of us: the articulation of a collective strategy and plan of action for the salvation of Mother Earth.


We have made the decision and the collective commitment to constitute the First Ecosocialist International. To reverse the destructive process of capitalism, we will return to our origins, recuperate the ancestral spirituality of humanity, live in peace, and end war.


We recognize that we are only a small part of a spiral of spirals, which has the profound intention to expand and include others, until all of us are rewoven with Mother Earth; to restore harmony within ourselves, between us, and between all the other sister beings of nature.


The First Ecosocialist International is not just another gathering, nor another reunion of intellectuals to define ecosocialism. We believe that ecosocialism will define itself to the extent that it is reflected and conceptualized in praxis; from what ecosocialists do, to what ecosocialist militants are. Neither is the First Ecosocialist International a single organization with a seal, or with the omnipresent danger of becoming a bureaucracy. It is simply a common program of struggle, with moments of encounter and exchange, which anyone may join by committing themselves to fulfilling one or more of the various actions agreed upon in order to relieve our Mother Earth. No person or process is owner or protagonist of that which is done and achieved collectively.


We convoke all the peoples, movements, organizations, collectives and beings in the world to adhere to the First Ecosocialist International, and to assume the collective construction of a curriculum for the salvation of Mother Earth. By reinstating a lost spirituality we may arrive at a new one; a new and sometimes ancient ecosocialist ethic, sacred and irreverent, fed by the sun of conscience. We are recreating our spirituality, with a new imagination, with a new heartbeat, which leads to unity and diversity. Because right now we are only surviving, we are not living. The understanding and practice of this new spirituality will have the power to repel empire and capitalism which are powered by greed, and it will be able to strengthen our peoples and cultures which are conditioned by necessities. We confront a contradiction: restore life, or lead it to extinction. We must choose.


We don’t have any doubts. We are radicals; we shall return to our original ways, to our roots, seeing the past not only as a point of departure but also as a point of arrival.


A collective birth, a loving upbringing, we are an immortal embryo…
To dream and act without sleeping!


*Cumbe: A territory of resistance dedicated to an intercultural way of life; a form of organization, production and insurgency pioneered by maroons; based on ancestral principles of solidarity and reciprocity and not in competition.

  • COLLECTIVE STRATEGIES AND PLAN OF ACTION   -


As daughters and sons of Mother Earth and the commanding people, we had concluded in the preparatory process, as we wrote clearly in the convocation to this First Ecosocialist International, that “the social relation of greed – for which there are too many people and not enough planet for the accumulation of profits to continue – has generated a global crisis. A total war against life has been launched in order to eliminate the surplus and to control the scarcity that this social relation have falsely conceived.” Those of us who responded to the Cry of Mother Earth know and understand that in reality the only surplus is this system, and that what is lacking is not an alternative to this system, nor the necessity of creating another possible world nor other new models, but to recognize that we are the original model; that they cheated us, made us dazed and confused and imposed their counter-model, their alternative to our ways of living based on ancestral principles and practices, which those of us here either never lost, or are in the process of reclaiming.


Based on this, and on the transformative actions of the organizations, collectives and movements who form part of the First Ecosocialist International, who adhere to its plan of action, we shall first of all listen to and accompany the struggles of the original peoples of the five continents of the world, in the recuperation of their ancestral lands, cultures and spiritualities, recognizing them as our elder sisters and brothers, as our highest elders, and as the first and original ecosocialists in the world. We are fully conscious that to continue on the path that humanity has been walking over thousands of years is the best way to imagine the thousands of years ahead. For this reason, many of the actions contained in this plan are framed in this context.


The earth receives heat from the sun, and should return a part of this heat through the atmosphere. However, due to the gases produced by big capital such as carbon dioxide, this heat cannot be returned, and the resulting warming causes the  melting of the poles. Many parts of the South Pole have melted, .... the disappearance of the arctic ice causes accelerated warming, as the mirror shrinks which reflects the heat from the sun. Another danger is that with the warming of the tundra and the North Pole, methane is being released, and if this continues to escape it will cause an irreversible catastrophe. There are corporations who are happy about this warming, because they want to exploit this area for oil.


Global warming has caused many hurricanes, tornadoes, etc. The recent floods in Central America are caused by this phenomenon, along with the melting of ice in the mountain ranges of the world. For example, in the Cordillera of the Andes, we see that there are fewer springs, which affects the farmers in the region. Rivers become ever thinner, and this effects the surrounding populations and their ecosystems. Therefore we must fight the capitalist enterprises which are causing the greenhouse effect.


Another example is Lake Titicaca, which receives water from various rivers, and the River Desaguadero, which drains from it. This river carries water from Lake Titicaca to Lake Poopo, which has completely disappeared; and all over the world there are lakes which will probably disappear. The situation of ecosystems in general is alarming, and for this reason many of the actions contained in this plan are directed towards reversing this situation.


If the situation of Mother Earth is grave in relation to the loss of the biosphere, it is equally so in relation to the loss of the ethnosphere. Every day the last speaker of an ancestral language dies. The cultural diversity of the symbolic systems where the cultures, myths, legends, oral traditions and songs of many peoples are encoded, is today under grave threat at the hands of a hegemonic globalization and the cultural imposition of patriarchal and anthropocentric western modernity, which loots, dominates, and destroys life. With the certainty that there are other ways of thinking and feeling, other intellectual and spiritual beliefs and ways of relating to our Mother Earth, we define here many collective actions focused on resolving this desolate panorama.


As members of popular organizations who form parts of the First Ecosocialist International, who are opposed to the domination which confronts us in competition and war, we propose to accompany with strength and real relationships the anti-colonial and anti-imperialist struggles which the peoples of the world are fighting; putting ourselves at the service of their recognition and liberation, so that their words may move the solidarity of nations. Thus we shall speak the truth and teach the truth about the empire and capitalism which are destroying life; to remove their disguises, to recognize them and identify them as our enemies. Ecosocialism symbolizes insurgency and love, it is spiritual, pluri-cultural and multi-ethnic, and it teaches decolonization and anti-imperialism. Finally, we define here a Route of Struggle, where we propose several actions and reunions.


The logic of the system which murders life is cunning; it robs us to feed itself, and disguises itself to continue existing. To escape from this logic and its ability to constantly recycle itself, we have decided to adopt a pluricosmovisionary perspective.*


We invite everyone, who like us believes in this dream, and who walk their talk to achieve it, to commit themselves to the fulfillment of this plan. Let us do this on the foundation of the heroic resistance of our peoples, who have kept alive their old ways, their native forests, and their sources of clean water. Let us do it with our own seeds and our ancestral cosmovisions, without poisons or patrons!


We have distributed our proposals amongst the five elements: Ether, Water, Earth, Fire and Air, interwoven into the spirit, the milk, the body, the energy and the voice of Mother Earth; harvesting our ancestral cultures so that they may be dispersed as seeds throughout the four sacred directions of the world.


These actions are proposed for the short term (a time of struggle), for the medium term, (a time of construction), and the long term (a time of utopia), understanding the long term as approximately 500 years, or a Pachakutik (an era in the Aymara calendar).

*Pluricosmovisionary: A plurality of visions of the cosmos, or worldviews; a perspective which goes beyond the “multidisciplinary” or the “transdisciplinary,” which combine the perspectives of various disciplines, but within the same western and academic epistemology.

27 Sep 2017

WE SALUTE OUR FRIEND MEHMET AKSOY

PEACE IN KURDISTAN
WE SALUTE OUR FRIEND MEHMET AKSOY





It is with deep sadness and horror that we learn of the death of Mehmet Aksoy who has been killed in the fight against Islamic State (ISIS) on 26 September 2017.

A dynamic Kurdish activist and talented young film maker, Mehmet died while working in Raqqa where he had journeyed in order to record the experiences of the Kurdish fighters in their resistance to ISIS.

His death is a tremendous loss: it is not simply a terrible and grievous personal loss to his family, friends and comrades, with whom we mourn, but it is a great loss to the Kurdish movement.

Mehmet was totally dedicated to the cause of Kurdish freedom which he expressed in all his activities and in the choices he made.

He was a capable leader who could inspire others by his transparent integrity and honest commitment. Leading by example he was successful in galvanising Kurdish youth to take action to demonstrate their opposition to ISIS and in support of the people of Kobane.

He touched the lives of all who knew him and contributed immensely to the eventual liberation of his people and to the building of a better world for everyone.

He will be remembered for his intelligence, cheerful and affable nature and by his total dedication.

Mehmet Aksoy was exceptionally talented and at just 32 years of age when he was slain he had the potential for a long career ahead of him in the political leadership of his people; in fact, in no matter what career path he would have chosen he would have excelled.

Tragically that potential has now all been abruptly cut short. But while he will be greatly missed he will never be forgotten.

Peace in Kurdistan wishes to convey its condolences to Mehmet's family and friends.

We salute him.
 
Peace in Kurdistan Campaign for a political solution of the Kurdish QuestionEmail: estella24@tiscali.co.uk <mailto:estella24@tiscali.co.uk>
www.peaceinkurdistancampaign.com
Contacts Estella Schmid 020 7586 5892 & Melanie Gingell - Tel: 020 7272 7890

Patrons: John Austin, Christine Blower, NUT International Secretary, Prof Bill Bowring, Julie Christie, Noam Chomsky, Jeremy Corbyn MP,  Prof Mary Davis, Lord Dholakia, Simon Dubbins, UNITE International Director,  Jill Evans MEP, Lindsey German, Convenor STWC, Melanie Gingell, Nick Hildyard, Dafydd Iwan, Former President Plaid Cymru, James Kelman, Bruce Kent, Jean Lambert MEP, Elfyn Llwyd, Mike Mansfield QC, Doug Nicholls, General Secretary, GFTU, Sinn Fein MLA Conor Murphy, Dr Thomas Jeffrey Miley, Kate Osamor MP, Margaret Owen OBE, Gareth Peirce, Maxine Peake, Lord Rea, Joe Ryan, Stephen Smellie, Dr Tove Skutnabb-Kangas, Dr Tom Wakeford, Dr Derek Wall, Julie Ward MEP, Hywel Williams MP. 

19 Sep 2017

THE RENT TRAP


THE RENT TRAP BY ROSIE WALKER AND SAMIR JERAJ. PLUTO PRESS. 2016

Samir is a friend and Pluto Press regularly publish my books, so I must admit a conflict of interest, nonetheless with this warning I hope my brief review will be useful.
It is generally acknowledged that the UK housing market is broken.  More and more, especially young people are either homeless or suffering from high rents, on the other side of the equation landlords are growing richer.
Own property and your income and in turn your wealth in property tends to grow.  Fail to own property and you pay more and more in rent.  Rent controls are seen as anti-market, rent controls that limit rent increases are thought to discourage landlords from renting, restrict the quantity of rent accommodation and make shortages worse.

Walker and Jeraj challenge this view.  Landlords can make enormous amounts of money by renting, so tend to buy up housing, this crowds out potential homeowners and, in turn, pushes up rents.  The Rent Trap shows how with the decline of council housing, marketizing the housing stock has led to increasing inequality in Britain.
The book is vividly written with lots of real life horror stories of landlords evicting tenants illegally, charging high rents and failing to carry out repairs.  As the authors note while must dog owners are compassionate to their pets, animal welfare laws are still necessary.  Thus, while perhaps most landlords are ethical, stronger safeguards are necessary.  Even where the law protects tenants, often they cannot afford to act to defend their rights, or both tenants and landlords are ignorant of the law.
As well as cataloguing a major source of inequality, The Rent Trap has a lot of good advice for tenants, including a guide ‘How to take your landlord to court’.
The deeper message is we need more safeguards and a huge investment in social housing including social housing as well community land trusts and housing cooperatives.
It is an illustration of the pathologies of the market, where speculation and luck distort the price mechanism.  It is also a reminder that the young increasingly feel excluded and put upon, the rent trap, along with zero-hour contracts and student debt, has fuelled supported for Jeremy Corbyn.
Jeremy has been a long-term advocate for those who rent and there is an interesting interview with him from 2015 a few days before he took the decision to run as Labour Party leader.  It is instructive that until recently rental abuse was off the political agenda, it is also interesting that a third of MPs are landlords.
I think my only criticism of the book is that it could have collected policy suggestions into a neat conclusion but otherwise it is well researched, well written, persuasive and illustrates an often forgotten (by the media and politicians) problem.

The Rent Trap is one of a series of books for the Left Book Club.

Some scary stats
11 million private renters in UK.
Many 16-18 spend 80% of their income on rent.
1 in 12 renters too scared to ask landlords for repairs because they fear eviction.

And some scary stories
One renter threatened at gunpoint.
Organised crime moving into renting.
Parents with young children moving from one home to another because of powers of eviction.

7 Sep 2017

How to Teach Quantum Physics to Your Dog






My wife, noting my interest in but poor understanding of mathematics, borrowed How to Teach Quantum Physics to Your Dog, for me from Bracknell Library.  It is in the genre of light physics and mathematics, I have also recent enjoyed Simon Singh's The Simpsons and Their Mathematical Secrets (which incidentally is very good).

The conceit of the quantum physics book of explaining to the dog is stupid but fun too.

Much of this I don't understand but I guess if I keep reading something  will rub off.

More seriously it fits with my more lengthy posts recently on epistemology, the question of how do we know what we know, here and here.

Clearly while I am committed to both rationality and materialism, what we mean by matter is up for debate and any one with any kind of mathematics knows that things get seriously weird quite quickly when rationality based upon mathematical formalism comes into play.  So while we should eschew anything goes relativism (if that is really a thing rather than an accusation) rationality ain't what it used to be either.

Quantum  uncertainty is a fundamental limit on what can be known, arising from the fact that quantum objects have both particle and wave properties.
Uncertainty is also the first place where quantum physics coincides with philosophy.  The idea of fundamental limits to measurement runs directly counter to the goals and foundations of classical physics. Dealing with quantum uncertainty requires a complete rethinking of the basis of physics,
(Orzel 2013: 46)
Looking forward to gradually eroding my ignorance by reading the rest of this title!  And just because its science doesn't mean that it is certain.

6 Sep 2017

Statement condemning the international arms fair in London




Peace in Kurdistan condemns the Defence and Security Equipment International arms fair being held at the ExCel Centre in London’s Docklands from 11th to 14 September 2017. It is the world’s biggest arms fair and will host guests from among the world’s most oppressive regimes, including from Turkey. This exhibition, promoting the wares sold by the merchants of death, will be addressed by British government ministers. Britain is the world’s second largest, and Europe’s largest, arms exporter. Over half of the weapons that British companies sell go to the Middle East. British companies and politicians share responsibility for the murder and mayhem inflicted on the Middle East for decades. There are some 9,000 arms companies in the UK, including smaller businesses. These firms seek to profit from the war being waged by the Turkish state against the Kurdish people.  This must be stopped.
Kurdish people have a legitimate right to self-determination and their representatives, including their gaoled leader Abdullah Ocalan, have persistently sought a peaceful solution to the Kurdish question. Their pleas and proposals for peace have been rejected by Ankara with no serious pressure coming from Westminster. The Turkish government, headed by President Erdogan, has used military means to try and suppress any manifestation of the Kurds and their democratic aspirations. The Kurds are confronting a war of extermination. With at least six Turkish arms companies attending the exhibition and the British government issuing export licences for arms sales to Turkey worth £466 million from July 2013 to June 2016, Britain is facilitating and encouraging the Turkish state’s war on the Kurds and equipping it with the means to kill more ruthlessly. In 2017, Britain’s biggest arms company, BAE Systems, signed lucrative deals, worth over $100 million, with Turkish arms companies to develop fighter jet production in Turkey and to sell it fighter aircraft. This increases the potential for escalating war against the Kurds and, given President Erdogan’s regional ambitions, spreading destruction across the Middle East – all for the benefit of corporate profits.
In February 2017 the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights issued a report on human rights in the predominantly Kurdish south-east Turkey covering the period between July 2015 and December 2016. The report says some 2,000 people were killed in security operations, including 800 state forces. It details ‘enforced disappearances; torture; destruction of housing and cultural heritage; incitement to hatred; prevention of access to emergency medical aid, food, water and livelihoods; violence against women; and severe curtailment of the right to freedom of opinion and expression as well as political participation.’ There has been not a single investigation into unlawful killings of hundreds of people. ‘A series of laws … has created an atmosphere of “systematic immunity” for security forces.’ The number of displaced persons in south-east Turkey is put at 355,000 to half a million people. In towns and villages, state killings are followed by ‘mass displacement of the survivors and the destruction of their homes and local cultural monuments’. ‘The centres of towns and cities across south-east Turkey have been described as empty moonscapes and vast parking lots’ with much ‘damage due to the use of heavy weapons and, possibly, air-dropped munitions … systematically demolishing entire neighbourhoods.’ By selling arms to Turkey and by giving its government political and diplomatic support, Britain shares a responsibility for this slaughter and destruction. Turkey being a NATO member, selling weapons to its government is legitimised by the US, British and other European governments. This is unacceptable: Turkey must be condemned and ostracised as an international pariah, not armed to the teeth.
Since the 15 July 2016 failed coup attempt, the Turkish government has arrested, fired or suspended from work some 190,000 people. Approximately 50,000 people have been gaoled, including 13 People’s Democratic Party (HDP) MPs. Central government has taken direct control of 82 municipalities in predominantly Kurdish areas of the country, suspended democratically elected co-mayors and gaoled 90 of them on terrorism charges. 178 journalists are in Turkey’s prisons and over 150 media outlets have been shut down. President Erdogan and his Justice and Development Party (AKP) government have imposed a dictatorship on the Turkish people. Any manifestation of criticism of the regime is ruthlessly suppressed; even the director and chair on Amnesty International’s Turkish branch have been arrested and gaoled accused of supporting terrorism for speaking out on the flagrant and systematic rights abuses.
The Kurdish people continue to resist and demand recognition of their rights. Erdogan and his government are currently threatening to escalate their war against the Kurds by launching an all-out attack on Rojava, the autonomous and predominantly Kurdish part of northern Syria. In his determination to subdue the Kurds, wherever they may be, President Erdogan has shown he is willing to mobilise and arm jihadi groups, including the so-called Islamic State and Al-Qaeda-linked jihadists. People in Britain must speak out by demanding that their government opposes the warmongering of President Erdogan, stop arming the Turkish state terrorists and their auxiliaries, and support the cause of democracy and rights for the Kurds. Halt the war machine and end the UK's profits of death.
For information contact:
Peace in Kurdistan
Campaign for a political solution of the Kurdish Question
www.peaceinkurdistancampaign.com
Contacts Estella Schmid 020 7586 5892 & Melanie Gingell - Tel: 020 7272 7890

Join the protest on 10 September, 2017, 1-6pm
Stop UK Arms Sales to Turkey. Stop Genocide against the Kurds!


5 Sep 2017

Gaston Bachelard

Gaston Bachelard by Roch C. Smith, Twayne Publishers: Boston. 1982




One reason I keep my hand in with university teaching is library access, working at a University of London college, means I can borrow books from Senate House Library.  Its an impressive building rather brutalist and soviet but in a kind of good way!  While my academic experience is around political economy I have long had an interest in the methodology of science.  A key figure in this area is the great and provocative French thinker Gaston Bachelard. I don't read French and his texts on scientific method are often untranslated.  I have found Roch Smith's book entitled, quite simply, Gaston Bachelard useful and since borrowing it from Senate House have read it quickly.


It is not a recent title and is short but I feel I understand more about Bachelard than I did last week before reading it.  Bachelard, he of the splendid beard, combined a resolute rationalism in examining science methodology with an expansive and subjective view of literature.  It as if there were two Bachelard's.  Number one is a French rationalist and part of the ensemble with Jean Cavaillès and Georges Canguilhem.



All three were in turn influenced, I think, by Léon Brunschvicg.  Bachelard number two is a mystical figure who embraced a vivid impressionistic approach to literature.  Smith, I guess, like everyone else struggles to explain the relationship between the resolutely rational Bachelard and the mystical Bachelard.  He does note that those of us who simply read Bachelard's work on science, only take a part of what he did.

My interest, rightly or wrongly, is in the rationalist Bachelard.  Bachelard argued that in science our investigations are conditioned by everyday life understanding which is not enough to gain an understanding of phenomena which we do not experience directly.  Chemistry and physics often involved the investigation of aspects of reality that we cannot directly observe.  Thus positivism based on what we can measure and empiricism based on evidence can be misleading.  The pursuit of rationalism, understanding based on logical relations, puts us on firmer foundations
.  


For when science, particularly physics and chemistry, explores the world of the atom, it deals with a different order of experience, one that is outside the realm of everyday observation. As Bachelard repeatedly indicates throughout his epistemological works, this microphenomenal world may require systems of thought that, in some ways, contradict the logic of everyday experience [...] Bachelard reminds us, a discrepancy between the exactness of mathematics, which can be viewed as absolute, and the necessary imperfections of any attempt at exactness when dealing with concrete reality. Our knowledge of reality can be made relatively precise, but never absolutely exact. (Smith 1982: 10)

French continental theory, starting with Althusser, takes Bachelard's rationalism to criticise empiricism, noting that evidence is limited and logical analysis is the true scientific method.  Smith suggests this is a partial misreading, Bachelard has some time for empiricism and notes that a purely rationalist approach may need to be supplemented with observation.  While I don't fully understand Bachelard's approach, I get the superficial impression, that he does not construct an entirely rationalist view of science.  Such an approach provides a fully logical investigation but risks remaining separate from 'reality'.

However clearly as science moves further way from what we directly observe in everyday life, rationalism (in the sense of a mathematical approach based on logic relationships) becomes more significant.


In dealing with the newness of Einsteinian theories, Bachelard's central preocccupation is with the revolutionary role of mathematics, which he had previously identified as the hallmark of contemporary science.  He points out that in Einsteinian physics the mathematics of discovery does not proceed deductively from certain quantified laws based on prior observation and experiment.  Rather, the calculus of relativity initially generalizes in order to account for all variables.  It is synthetic, or inductive, rather than analytic, or deductive, in its initial approach.  Mathematics is not used merely to describe reality in quantitative terms, through its constructive processes, it has become a means of discovering reality.  'We are thus led to oppose to the simplifying role of mathematical information, the constructive role of mathematical induction' (VIR, 84-85) (Smith 1982: 17)
Observation Bachelard noted was conditioned by theory and theory by metaphor.  The notion of an epistemological break, that science proceeds not by gradual accumulation of knowledge but the sharp reject of a particular way of looking at reality, can be derived from this view.  However important as this is, it does not exhaust the imagination of Bachelard, the rest of the Smith's book describes how his thought took flight into many varied and exciting areas.

Solidarity statement with Afrin from Hugo Blanco

Afrin by Hugo Blanco At the same time as we write and read this, they have cut off the electricity and water in Afrin, Rojava, the ...