Sunday, 28 November 2010

Friday, 26 November 2010


Wales pledges to keep education allowance
Friday 26 November 2010
By Lizzie Cocker

Campaigners called on the Con-Dem coalition to follow the Welsh Assembly government's lead today and save the education maintenance allowance.

The call came after thousands of school and college students protested against plans to scrap the allowance of up to £30 a week, which has been seen as a direct assault on the poorest young people.

UCU general secretary Sally Hunt said: "The allowance is a vital lifeline and can be the difference between people being able to study or being priced out.

"Withdrawing this allowance would hit some of the poorest and most vulnerable people in our society, at a time when we have one of the worst participation rates for post-16 education in the developed world."

But the government has insisted that the cuts will go ahead in England.

However a Welsh Assembly government spokesman reaffirmed its commitment to the allowance in Wales.

He said: "We're pleased to confirm that we are retaining the scheme which benefits learners and helps improve retention rates in education in Wales."

National Campaign Against Fees and Cuts spokeswoman Joanna Pinto, who has been heavily involved in organising the recent student mobilisations, said: "The Welsh Assembly should be an example to the coalition government in England.

"If it wants a well-run society, it needs to take care of its youngsters.

"That is what the Welsh are doing as the maintenance allowance is very much a part of that."

NASUWT general secretary Chris Keates praised the assembly's "understanding of what measures are effective in supporting and enabling young people to remain in education. Unlike the coalition government which knows the price of everything and the value of nothing."

Outrage over the mounting evidence of extreme police brutality during Wednesday's nationwide protests has continued to grow.

The London freesheet Metro published images today of a police medic spraying a halon fire extinguisher into the faces of a crowd of protesters who were kettled in Whitehall. Halon devices are banned for civilian use and have been linked to a range of symptoms including unconsciousness.

Ms Pinto urged people who had been victims of police violence to make complaints to the Independent Police Complaints Commission.


Because Self-defence against the police is Just and Right

Britain's most senior police officer warned today of a new era of civil unrest as the national campaign against university fee increases and education cuts gathered momentum.

Sir Paul Stephenson, the commissioner of the Metropolitan police, said the two large-scale student demonstrations of the past fortnight had been marred by a previously unseen level of violence, adding: "The game has changed."

His comments were seized on by critics, who said the hard-line rhetoric risked escalating tensions with students organising the nationwide grassroots campaign against education cuts.

Meanwhile, protesters today occupied 16 university campus buildings around the country. Six of the occupations – in Manchester, Newcastle, Leeds, Plymouth, Edinburgh and London – were expected to continue through the night. The Southwark and Bermondsey constituency office of Simon Hughes, the Liberal Democrat deputy leader, was also occupied by around 30 students from the London School of Economics.

More demonstrations are planned for the next month. More than 11,000 students have signed up to another wave of classroom walkouts and marches planned for next Tuesday. The demonstration will coincide with a Commons debate staged by Labour in a bid to expose Lib Dem divisions over the coalition's plans to dramatically increase tuition fees.

Hughes said today that he had not yet decided how he would vote, but that he was willing to meet students this weekend to discuss it. He told Young Voters' Question Time on BBC Three this week that he would "like to vote against", and was deliberating with other colleagues whether to do that or abstain.

Gareth Thomas, the Labour higher education spokesman, said: "Parliament is about to be asked to vote to make British universities some of the most expensive and worst funded worldwide without being allowed to consider in full, through a white paper, how the government's plans are supposed to work for students and their families. Too many questions remain unanswered."

Stephenson made his comments at a meeting of London's Metropolitan Police Authority (MPA). He said that the demonstrations had been characterised by outbreaks of violence that were not typical of student protests, and he conceded police were unprepared during a march on 10 November. But he said large numbers of riot police had successfully contained disorderyesterday . In total, 109 students have been arrested in connection with public disorder this month, suggesting a scale of student unrest unseen in decades.

"We have been going through a period where we have not seen that sort of violent disorder," Stephenson said. "We had dealt with student organisers before and I think we based it too much on history. If we follow an intelligence-based model that stops you doing that. Obviously you realise the game has changed. Regrettably, the game has changed and we must act."

In recent years the Met had reduced the numbers of officers deployed to tackle demonstrations, he said. "Regrettably, we are going to have to review that. We are going to have to take a more cautious approach."

Andrew Dismore, a former Labour MP who last year chaired an influential parliamentary inquiry into the policing of protests, said the commissioner's comments had been misguided. "I don't think the game has changed," he said. "The basic principles on how to police protest will be the same." Dismore questioned the tactic of containing schoolchildren within a "kettle", an area enclosed by police, and said Stephenson should resist using language that could inflame unrest.

"There is always a risk [that talk of disorder] becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy," he added. "He should be trying to de-escalate problems, not escalate them. The way to do that is to say he made a mistake at the demonstration outside the Tory party central office [on 10 November]. But that isn't then an excuse for overkill the next time protest comes along."

Dismore was backed by Aaron Porter, the National Union of Students' president, who said: "I would very much hope that the actions of a very small minority do not lead to an undermining of the public's right to protest peacefully."

Michael Chessum, a co-founder of the National Campaign Against Fees and Cuts, the group that called yesterday's day of action, also rejected Stephenson's comments. "It is the kind of policing we saw on Wednesday that creates disorder," he said. "If you refuse to allow people, many of them young, first-time protesters, the right to walk down the streets of their own capital city, and then 'kettle' them in Whitehall for eight or nine hours, people are going to get frustrated." He added that the vast majority of people on both demonstrations behaved peacefully.

Stephenson was also questioned by members of the MPA over the tactic of containing schoolchildren for several hours in freezing temperatures. "When you imprison thousands of people, which is essentially what you did yesterday, you do have a duty of care to them," said Jenny Jones, a representative from the Green party. "You kept people for nine-and-a-half hours. You punished innocent people for going on a protest. How can that be right? I just do not see it."


In the Game of 'Chicken', We Have to Win

Dan Renwick from

There are some actions and policies of government that demand action. Not action without thought, but reactive, cathartic action. When confronted with the naked truth of the situation, knowing that passivity and inertia are understood by the State as tacit consent, dissent must be heard.

The demographic most responsive to the call to dissent are the youth. Both the Gaza demonstrations of 2009 and this fateful November have been fuelled by the passion of mid-to-late teens. This world is theirs to inherit, they will not accept the perpetuation of settler colonialism, backed up with mass murder. Likewise, they will not accept a cuts agenda that stratifies society to protect the capital of the elites at the expense of the vast majority.

When blatant injustice is seen, known, yet unchallenged in the mainstream – grassroots protests will emerge and mushroom. However, since the violence of 2009 outside the Israeli embassy and the catastrophe of the G20, there has been a palpable difference in the policing of public dissent. The more recent demonstrations have seen a “hands off” approach by the police. An A to B to protest that disperses after a rally is easier to leave to its own accord than it is to contain. However, when there is a popular will to stop the agenda of the elites by any means necessary, the State will emerge as a Leviathan supported by its hound dogs, the right wing press, rabietic in their enthusiasm for criminalisation.

The intent of the students: to stop these cuts by any means necessary, is known at all levels of the State. Hence, we see a marked difference between 10/11 and 24/11. The return of kettling and baton charges on the streets of London is something that is not welcomed, but is indicative of the greater situation. When the police charged at the demonstrators in Kensington of January last year and kettled climate campers on the streets of London. They acknowledge that without such draconian policing measures, the will of the people could lead to something completely outside of what is currently considered possible – the breaking of the government agenda. 24/11 showed us the same thing.

We, therefore, find ourselves in a game of chicken. For those who do not know, “chicken” is a test of nerve. The typical example is of two cars coming at each other in the same lane. If both continue on their path, both will die. The game is won by the person who does not swerve, the person with the resolve and fortitude to stick the course. The students resolve is now being tested, but they have certain things in their favour. Unlike the Gaza demonstrators, the students are predominately white and middle class. The State racism that made pro-Palestinian demonstrators guilty of quasi-terrorism in the eyes of Joe Public cannot be replicated. Therefore, draconian sentences will lack legitimacy if handed down in the same way as they were for the public disturbances in Bradford and Kensington. The students must exploit the gaps afforded to them. Our state is racist and xenophobic. For too long, in spite of these conditions, the oppressed communities have taken the frontline in the struggle. Finally, the student movement has stepped up. It must stick the course and not swerve first. The path this government is on, is its own destruction.

We at GDSC fully support the students in their militant approach, knowing it is the only way to change this government’s agenda.



Fury builds over policing
Thursday 25 November 2010

by Lizzie Cocker, Morning Star

Police tactics used against student protesters on Wednesday were condemned as "outrageous and unacceptable yesterday by anti-cuts groups the Coalition of Resistance and National Campaign Against Fees and Cuts (NCAFC).

An estimated 130,000 school, college and university students across Britain participated in the day of action, which saw protesters in London -some as young as 13 - pressed into an area at Whitehall for almost nine hours without access to food, water or toilet facilities.

During a press conference which attracted national and international press, University of London Union president Clare Solomon said that it was "unbelievable that the police do not know the law themselves. Collective punishment was outlawed at the Nuremberg tribunal."

A number of protesters were also badly injured after police beat them with batons and one was reportedly trampled by police on horseback who unexpectedly charged at a crowd of about 1,000 protesters.

Joanna Pinto of the NCAFC described how a friend was badly beaten by police after trying to alert them to potential danger. And Ms Solomon revealed that footage of one young boy being so brutally attacked by one officer that his colleagues had to drag him away is expected to be sent to the media.

Simon Hardy of NCAFC urged the Metropolitan police to "change their tactics for further demonstrations."

With 16 universities still occupied today, representatives of both organisations insisted that direct action and demonstrations would "escalate," beginning with a third wave of nationwide protests next Tuesday which would gain the support of many of Wednesday's protesters.

Further mass mobilisations are highly likely on the day that tuition fees are voted on in Parliament, which is likely to be within weeks.

Speaking about of the Coalition of Resistance founding conference on Saturday, Feyzi Ismail, a student who is involved in the latest SOAS university occupation, said: "If you are going to spend £20 billion on the war, if you are going to spend £75 billion on Trident, you are lowering corporation tax and not collecting tax from the rich - we are asking: Where are your priorities?

"This is about what we value in society. You are cutting education, but this is a right not a privilege. We are shifting the debate and more people are on our side against the cuts."

Continuing the pressure on the Lib Dems, around 45 LSE and LSB university students were blockading the offices of party deputy leader Simon Hughes today as the Star went to press.

Thursday, 25 November 2010


For once in my life I've got something to say
I wanna say it now for now is today
A love has been given so why not enjoy
So let's all grab and let's all enjoy

If the kids are united then we'll never be divided
If the kids are united then we'll never be divided

Just take a look around you
What do you see
Kids with feelings like you and me
Understand him, he'll understand you
For you are him, and he is you

If the kids are united then we'll never be divided
If the kids are united then we'll never be divided
If the kids are united then we'll never be divided
If the kids are united then we'll never be divided

I don't want to be rejected
I don't want to be denied
Then its not my misfortune
That I've opened up your eyes

Freedom is given
Speak how you feel
I have no freedom
How do you feel
They can lie to my face
But not to my heart
If we all stand together
It will just be the start

If the kids are united then we'll never be divided
If the kids are united then we'll never be divided

Wednesday, 24 November 2010


Riot police get brutal with students
Wednesday 24 November 2010 by Lizzie Cocker

Thousands of school and university students turned out on the streets of London today to voice their anger at the Con-Dem coalition's vicious assault on Britain's education system.

Following their embarrassment earlier this month, when thousands of students beseiged and invaded Tory HQ, riot police reacted against peaceful protesters with a brutal containment strategy, corralling crowds in Whitehall for several hours.

The University of London Union's Carnival of Resistance, which began with a few hundred people, swelled to over 5,000 as it passed Trafalgar Square - ignoring Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg's plea for students to call off the protests.

The procession was expected to end with a rally in Trafalgar Square but the bulk of students broke away from the official route, weaving through traffic to end up on Whitehall.

Reading University lecturer Hannah Sawtell, who joined the march in support of students, said that young people had a right to be angry.

With plans to introduce £9,000 a year tuition fees and and brutal cuts to university budgets which are causing services such as crèches to close she said that she "definitely wouldn't have been able to go to university now.

"I was a single mum and, at the time, I got 80 per cent of my childcare paid for plus money to live on plus help with loans. And when I was a student it was only a grand a year to go to university."

Samba bands, drum and bass and hip-hop sound systems kept the atmosphere upbeat at first as students shouted "Tory scum here we come" and "No ifs no buts, no education cuts."

But then riot police and officers on horses threw a cordon around protesters, known as "kettling" and on a number of occasions police lines surged into students unprovoked.

Protesters were forced to push away barriers erected for road maintenance to create more space and avoid being trampled. Those who tried to escape the kettled area were violently pushed back by police.

Angry students responded by throwing smoke bombs and lightweight placard sticks, lighting bonfires and, at one point, a police van which was left in the middle of the sea of students was spray painted and smashed.

Labour MP John McDonnell said: "There was no violence whatsoever but the police surged and pushed them into a tight corner, putting people in danger of being hurt. It was a peaceful and good-humoured march and the police should have respected that but now they have provoked anger."

Forward Intelligence Teams from the Metropolitan Police could also be seen taking photographs of students and a number of arrests were made. these teams are notorious for taking photographs of protesters once they have been kettled, and creating files on them as "domestic extremists" even though they have committed no offence.

Earlier in the day police monitoring group Fitwatch had offered activists legal observer training before the ULU procession set off to ensure an increased level of protection for protesters from the pervasive police presence.


The Kids are Alright!

Sons of Malcolm sends congratulations to the British students, many of whom are under 18, for showing the way forward for the whole country of how to overthrow this Con-Dem government which has nothing but contempt and hatred for the poor and underprivileged.

Keep it militant. Keep masked up. Wear gloves so your prints arent collected by the police.

OCCUPY Tory and Lib-Dem offices and surgeries

OCCUPY Tory and Lib-Dem-run town halls.

Remember the suffragettes, remember the anti-Poll Tax movement, remember that justice is on your side.


‘The argument of the broken window pane is the
most valuable argument in modern politics’
(Suffragette leader Emmeline Pankhurst)

A hundred years ago today (on Friday 18th November 1910) a suffragette deputation to the House of Commons met with a six hour onslaught of police brutality resulting in a the Suffragettes beginning a huge window smashing campaign in protest.

The attack was so horrendous, the Suffragettes remembered the day it happened as ‘Black Friday’.

Today, when the government and right-wing press are declaring moral outrage at the smashing of a window in the Milbank Tower, many activists have been looking back to the inspiring examples of suffragette direct action.

The anniversary of Black Friday gives us an opportunity to ask why the Suffragettes attacked property and whether the tactic helped the movement.

Black Friday, police violence and the cover-up

On 18th November 1910 the Women’s Social and Political Union (WSPU), the main militant suffragette organisation, had called a ‘Women’s Parliament’ to challenge the legitimacy of the Westminster Parliament which excluded all women.

They had recently discovered that the Prime Minister, Herbert Asquith, who was deeply hostile to women’s suffrage, had announced that no more time would be given to a Bill which would give the vote to some women.

In response the ‘Women’s Parliament’ sent a deputation of 300 women to the House of Commons where they were met with ranks of police. For six hours women were batoned, beaten, punched, thrown to the ground, kicked on the floor and had their faces rubbed against railings in full view of the House of Commons. There were also widespread reports of police sexually abusing the demonstrators. They repeatedly pinched and twisted their breasts, lifted their skirts, groping and assaulting the women for hours.

The true cost of Black Friday would only be known some time after the event. At least two women died as a result of their injuries that day. Another woman who had been badly treated by the police and was arrested for stone throwing a few days later died after being released from prison on Christmas Day 1910 – she was Emmeline Pankhurst’s sister, Mary Clarke.

The cover-up followed swiftly after. When the Daily Mirror published a photograph of suffragette Ada Wright lying collapsed on the ground, her hands clutching her face, the government tried to stop the newspaper being sold and ordered the negatives to be destroyed.

To add further shame to the government’s record, the Home Secretary, one Winston Churchill, refused to permit a Government inquiry into the events of Black Friday.

From the introduction of the Bill that Asquith sabotaged until Black Friday the WSPU had called a ‘truce’ on militancy. Now that truce was well and truly over as the WSPU launched a campaign of window smashing.

Black Friday – A turning point

The window smashing campaign and the suffragette attacks on property were in part a tactical response to police violence. Why let yourself be hurt and abused for hours before being arrested on a demonstration when you could shorten the whole process by smashing a window and obtaining instant arrest?

It was also a political statement. The suffragettes were exposing that the government cared more about a pane of glass than a woman’s life (force feeding for hunger striking suffragette prisoners had been introduced in 1909) or a woman’s political rights. If property was the government’s priority, then property was a target.

However, it was also part of a move away from the collective action and mass mobilisations that had characterised the early years of the militant suffragette movement. Christabel Pankhurst, one the of the leading figures in the WSPU, had become completely dismissive of the capacity of working-class women to fight for their rights. She now looked to heroic individuals or influential (generally rich) women to win the struggle.

Her sister Sylvia Pankhurst, a socialist suffragette, later recalled that Christabel felt ‘a working women’s movement was of no value: working women were the weakest portion of the sex: how could it be otherwise? Their lives were too hard, their education too meagre to equip them for the struggle’. [1]

It was not, however, the end to all suffragette demonstrations although they changed in character considerably. In June 1911 the WSPU organised a Coronation Procession in honour of the new King. The modern equivalent would be the anti-cuts protestors of last week suddenly deciding to celebrate Prince William’s already-tedious engagement!

Meanwhile, Christabel Pankhurst ensured that suffragettes kept their distance from the new social movements that were emerging. 1910 also marked the beginning of the Great Unrest – a huge wave of strike action which included women workers and which terrified the government. If the WSPU had wanted to co-operate with this new movement it is very likely their combined strength would have forced the government to concede.

The East London suffragettes around Sylvia Pankhurst did attempt to link up with the new movements, working with socialists and attending the May Day rally as suffragettes alongside huge numbers of East End workers. In the end it would be Sylvia’s attempts to unite with other progressive movements that would see her forced out of the WSPU by Christabel who was unable to tolerate Sylvia’s appearance on a platform alongside Irish trade unionist Jim Larkin at a meeting protesting at the employers’ lock-out of workers in Dublin.

Militancy from below

Was direct action, then, inevitably incompatible with collective action? In fact window breaking emerged as a response to the government’s failure to listen to mass action.

In 1908 the government challenged the suffragettes to prove that votes for women had popular support. When the suffragettes organised one of the biggest demonstrations ever seen at that time in Hyde Park the government refused to alter its position. It was immediately after this, and an earlier bout of police violence, that the suffragettes threw their first stones - through the windows of 10 Downing Street.

Much of the direct action undertaken by suffragettes was pioneered by militants since described as ‘freelance’[2] – they acted without the permission or foreknowledge of the WSPU’s more conservative leaders. These women were often closer to socialist ideas than their leadership.

Mary Leigh was one of the first two window smashing suffragettes. She was a working-class woman with a deep commitment to militancy, and she was one of the first suffragettes to endure forcible feeding. She was also a socialist who worked with Sylvia in the East End campaigns and publicly spoke out against the WSPU leadership’s support for the British state in the First World War.

Her closest friend was Emily Davison – who committed the most famous militant act of all – disrupting the Derby Day race by running in front of the King’s horse, an action that, in collision with the horse, cost her her life. She too was sympathetic to socialist ideas and was involved with the newly-formed Workers Educational Association (WEA).

Sylvia Pankhurst herself was amongst the most militant of the suffragettes, suffering repeated imprisonments where she undertook hunger, thirst, sleep and rest strikes.

There were many other suffragettes with socialist sympathies who, like these examples, were at the forefront of the struggle, undertaking some of the most famous militant actions. For them, however, the individual acts of vandalism or sacrifice were part of a wider struggle against a system that not only excluded women from its political institutions but also oppressed working-class people and indulged in unjustifiable wars.

Suffragette militancy continues to inspire today. The broken pane at Milbank Tower has brought the suffragettes charging back into political debate. Activists insisting that smashing education is far worse than smashing a window are right when they point out that the Suffragettes did not win the vote by asking politely or avoiding windows. However, there were two traditions of militancy. One began to substitute individual heroism for a mass movement and moved away from wider questions of equality in society. Its focus became increasingly narrow and began to reflect the politics of the richer women who Christabel sought to lead it.

The other tradition is the tradition that Sylvia Pankhurst stood in. Militancy was a part of the movement, not in opposition to it. They used militancy to capture peoples’ imagination and to pull them into a wider struggle against oppression everywhere. That is the tradition that can help us build the resistance today.


[1] E.S. Pankhurst, The Suffragette Movement An Intimate Account of Persons and Ideals (London: Virago Press Limited, 1977 – first published 1931), p.517

[2] See L. Stanley and A. Morley, The Life and Death of Emily Wilding Davison (London: The Women’s Press, 1988)


Alice Walker: Thoughts on the Russell Tribunal
On November 23, 2010

Thoughts International Corporate Complicity in the Destruction of the People of Palestine

Nothing is Stronger Than a Circle Which is Why, as Black Elk Teaches us, Everything Tries to Be Round

In many of my talks to young people, to women, to peace activists, etc., I advocate that in these times of planetary disasters and instability people everywhere should gather together in circles of friends, in each other¹s homes, on a regular basis, to talk through the fears and challenges with which we, as a world, are faced: more frightening events at this time than at any period in human history. It is time to circle, I advise, with the hope that eventually our diverse circles will engage each other, merge, and organically transform the earth.

I think of the Russell Tribunal as one of these circles, perhaps the most important, though its members may consider themselves strangers to each other. That they are not strangers is evident by their appearance, as a group, to take on the Tribunal's exacting and highly essential work: to cast the light of conscience on the behaviors of powerful interests and destructive players in the world community. This is a duty that calls out to those who understand how important it is to end our common silence about abuse and atrocities committed in our names, and who also realize that we must be determined in our efforts to care for the maligned and traumatized and oppressed of the earth. That this caring signifies our awareness of membership in the same clan, the same family. The family of humankind of which any oppressed person is the brother or sister, the mother or father, the child or grandparent that is, at one point or another of our lives also our own self.

It has been an honor to be invited to join the present session as part of a jury hearing testimony on international corporate complicity in the destruction of the Palestinian people, who, since I visited Gaza a year and a half ago, have become part of the earth's peoples to whom I have felt duty bound to show up for. What has happened to them has happened to countless others. Including my own tribes: African, Native American, poor European immigrant. It is because I recognize the brutality with which my own multi-branched ancestors have been treated that I can identify the despicable, lawless, cruel and sadistic behavior that has characterized Israel's attempts to erase a people, the Palestinians, from their own land. For isn't this what the US military was ordered to do to the 'Indians' of America? Did not the British burn out communities of Scotts and horrifically oppress the Irish? Did not wealthy and powerful Whites, generally, for a time, rape, kill, capture, and/ or enslave Africans? And are not some of their descendents, at this very moment, stealing and confiscating African and Indian and poor white land, and harming people, using many of their ancestors' ancient tools of brute force and deceit?

It grieves me that I am unable to be in this circle of brave and compassionate people on this occasion because of a mundane yet tenacious visitor: the flu. Which condition, as I recover, I can almost consider absurd. Since college I have admired the pacifist Bertram Russell, the founder of the Tribunal and also Jean-Paul Sartre and Simone De Beauvoir, early members. James Baldwin, as well, a person of such laser like intelligence and moral integrity, that it would have been a joy to sit in his symbolic chair.

But the Tribunal will go on: because it is a living part of all of us. That part that knows what is right. That part that really does not appreciate wrong. That part that is not blind. Not deaf. The part that hears the cries of others in distress because those cries echo our own internal expressions of shame, horror, dejection and despair.

The Russell Tribunal is rare and precious and glorious, because it reminds us to act for ourselves, to follow our own conscience. To join with our fellow humans who are also awake. Or at least beginning to stretch and yawn. It is a treasure that makes the world not only more safe, but infinitely richer.

I bow to its belief in justice, fairness, international standards of decency and law. The ability of humans to acknowledge and defend what is right and to do the work of holding the light in a world that seems at times to be sliding inexorably into the darkness. All that is ever needed to challenge that darkness in one light. May each of us, following the Tribunal's example, be that light, however small and flickering, wherever we find ourselves.

November 19, 2010

Copyright © 2010 by Alice Walker

Sunday, 21 November 2010


Israeli policy 'comparable to Empire racism' Israel not different from historical US and British colonialism, Russell Tribunal told

20 November 2010

Pulitzer prize-winning writer Alice Walker today compared Israel’s treatment of the Palestinians with the historical racism of the British Empire.

She launched her scathing attack on the Israeli government in a statement to the Russell Tribunal on Palestine, a special inquiry into Israeli war crimes taking place in London this weekend. The focus of the London session is the complicity of British and international corporations in Israeli human rights violations.

She said: “What has happened to them [the Palestinians] has happened to countless others, including my own tribes – African, Native American, poor European immigrant.”

Hugh Lanning, deputy general secretary of the PCS union, told the tribunal in his testimony that the TUC would continue its campaign against firms guilty of complicity, and produce a “short list” of the worst offending companies early next year.

Lanning said potential targets included Israeli company Carmel-Agrexco (which sells produce in British supermarkets from illegal Israeli settlements) and Veolia, which collects household waste in Britain and is involved in “racist” transport policies in the occupied West Bank.

Israeli academic Dalit Baum from the group Who Profits? said many Palestinians, compelled through poverty to work on illegal Israeli settlements, were paid less than the minimum Israeli wage.

In a video statement, Palestinian farmers’ union coordinator Fayez al Taneeb showed maps that compared remaining Palestinian land in the West Bank with the Bantustans under South Africa’s apartheid regime. He pointed out that land under Palestinian control now amounted to 12 per cent of historical Palestine, while the Bantustans of the apartheid era had amounted to 13 per cent of South Africa.

Health problems had forced Walker to withdraw from the Russell Tribunal’s jury that is hearing evidence from around 30 expert witnesses.


The first day of the tribunal continues until 6.30 today. The second and final day starts 9.15am tomorrow at 113 Chancery Lane London WC2A 1PL.

The tribunal is also being broadcast live over the internet on our website (address below). Video from today is also available on the website.

The jury will give its verdict in a press conference at 10.30 am on Monday (22 November) at the Amnesty International Human Rights Centre, 17-25 New Inn Yard, London EC2A 3EA.


Pioneering Hip-Hop artist KRS One goes in live and direct on Westwood's Rap show in 1997, raising issues of the manipulation and exploitation of Hip-Hop and Rap by mainstream radio, and Westwood's complicity in it.

Sons of Malcolm and Beat Knowledge will be bringing out an article exploring this issue in the Grime and general 'Urban' scene very soon.

Friday, 19 November 2010


Reflecting on Stereotypes in Professor Green’s ‘Jungle’ music video

*By Sukant Chandan of Sons of Malcolm and Carlos Martinez of Beat Knowledge
Friday 19th Nov 2010

To make it clear from the outset, we are not saying that Maverick Sabre and Professor Green are racists; not at all. From what we know about them, they are aware of many social and cultural issues. From reading interviews with Maverick Sabre in particular, it’s clear he is a conscious brother with great talent and intelligence. Professor Green is also an intelligent, talented and well-respected artist who undoubtedly opposes racism. This track and video may even have been conceived as an attempt to address some negative aspects of our lives in order to move positively away from them.

Nevertheless, the most anti-racist and conscious of us will never wholly rid ourselves of white supremacist ideas, as they have been beaten into our consciousness, constantly reinforced by the education system, the media and the music industry, which always seeks to colonise our youth and community’s natural wealth: our culture. So it’s important for us to look out for each other when we might slip up, and discuss in a mutually respectful and calm way in order to build towards freeing our peers in our communities from the mess we are in. Many of us are doing this in many ways, including in such forums such as the recent Hip-Hop History evening, an inspirational event featuring a panel that included highly respected artists such as Lowkey and Akala, at which over a hundred youth took part in a deep debate on issues such as sexism, racism and violence within music.

So although we understand that Maverick and Professor are not racist, we consider that there are a number of very problematic elements to the track ‘Jungle’, which combined with the music video raises some deeply troubling issues.

The video is based in Hackney, in North East London. Hackney is one of the poorest boroughs in England and has a high concentration of working class people, including high concentrations of peoples from backgrounds from the Caribbean and Africa, Turkish and Kurdish peoples, and East European and Asian. The video starts of with Green stating:

“Welcome to Hackney, a place where I think somebody's been playing Jumanji.
A manor where man are like animals, an' they'll yam on you like they yam on food.”

So this video features two white artists telling a story about how life in Hackney is like a “jungle”. To show this, exclusively Black people are used to portray a “jungle” life of back-stabbing, violence and crime - a dog-eat-dog world where the only two white people in the video are simply observing.

Apart from one young man, the video depicts only Black men committing graphic violence against other Black men with the use of various weapons including firearms. Admittedly, this is not the behaviour of upstanding human beings concerned with their fellow humans, but to compare these people to animals in the context of this video whereby those passing comment (Sabre and Green) are white men surrounded by a sea of Black on Black ultra-violence leaves a bad taste in the mouth. Or as one friend put it in relation to the video: “Dehumanised discourse, stereotypical ‘Black behaviour’, while two white boys take an observational stance, worried about getting ‘yammed’”.

We don’t know how much input Green had into the writing and the direction of the music video. Often in the mainstream industry, artists have very little say on the artwork and videos, so it would be interesting to know Green’s level of involvement in the conceptualisation, writing, directing and editing of the video. As it stands, this video is more akin to Daily Mail propaganda: fear culture injected into the underground music scene.

The theme of de-humanising the Black subjects in the video continues with Green stating:

“London ain't cool to cruise through where the hunters pray, Looking lunch today, and your chains looking like fresh fruit to a hungry ape.”

Although several other ‘jungle’ animals are used to talk about Black crime in Hackney, using the term “ape” in a video (when the word is mentioned the video cuts to a young Black man’s face at 1:13secs) is massively insensitive. Is it so difficult to understand that this can be construed as deeply offensive and racist?

Presumably some would argue that it's just a fair representation of reality, where Black people are over-represented in street gangs (an issue that deserves to be dealt with in a serious and considered manner). However:

a) While many gangs might be majority Black, most have white members as well. Given that Professor Green is a white artist making music that has its origins in the Black community, you'd think he would have the cultural sensitivity to paint a more balanced picture. Yes, Professor Green is from the ‘ends’ himself and is perfectly entitled to comment on what life in poor inner-city neighbourhoods is like (indeed this is to be welcomed), but we can’t afford to ignore the issue of race, which still runs deep in the society we live in. As the respected US professor Cornel West points out: “All people with black skin and African phenotype are subject to potential white supremacist abuse.”

b) Any artist trying to communicate a socially relevant idea has a responsibility beyond simply painting a picture of a dystopian reality. In the words of the legendary singer and civil rights activist Paul Robeson: “The role of the artist is not simply to show the world as it is, but as it ought to be.” The net result of this video is to promote white supremacist ideas - that's not helpful.

c) No doubt Sabre and Green would claim to be anti-racist. Hence they need to actively take responsibility for countering racist attitudes. Racism is overwhelmingly concentrated in the white community; therefore white cultural figures such as Green (especially where he's making a good living off Black music) need to have a clear, unambiguous, public anti-racist policy and to be an example to others.

Hackney has some of the worst levels of working class crime in the country. The reasons for this are many: for example, high levels of unemployment; poor provision of youth services; gentrification; concentration of poverty; neglect from the state; and many more.

Hackney has a large Black population and high levels of crime but our mainstream media does a very good job to portray non-white people in England as untrustworthy, crime-loving, dangerous savages and all this video seems to do is reinforce and glamorise that, which is a great shame as Sabre and especially Green are actually in a position to challenge that.

Also, there are plenty of white people involved in crime in east London, but to someone who relies on the Daily Mail or the Sun for information, this video would simply confirm their prejudices that violent crime is an exclusively Black affair.

Again it promotes ideas that Black people are condemned to a world of Black on Black violence. When in reality, the main problems for Black people are deep-seated racism that affects every aspect of their lives. From being 26 times more likely to be stopped and searched by police, twice as likely to be unemployed as white people, racism in our schools (which actively deletes Black people’s history in relation to England) which creates racist attitudes in society at large through to the dehumanisation of Black peoples of the Caribbean and Africa.

Instead of just saying ‘this is how it is’, could not have Sabre and Green not done something to show why it is like that? Hackney being the second poorest borough in the country obviously has a lot to do with the fact that for many people being a part of the system is not an option. Surely reinforcing white stereotypes of Black people was not the intention but as Sabre said in a recent interview: “If you've got four minutes in someone's head, in someone's room, a young person - why say bullshit to them? The most important thing to me is that people can say I really connected to your song, whatever the song may be, and I understand something about myself more or something about society more.”

It also has to be said, for fear of sounding clichéd, most of our youth are humble, intelligent young people who want to do well in life even though they are usually aware and spend nearly every day of their lives countering the many obstacles a racist and exploitative system puts before them.

Our youth need a culture that is not scared to address the negatives, but in a way that uplifts them, inspires and informs them, and gives due credit and direction to the potential and actual power that is in the hands of our youth. We are not “apes”! We are beautiful and intelligent human beings who are fighting for our cultural, moral, social and political freedoms. And for those who are falling victim to the society’s traps, our job is to unite with them positively and bring them into our freedom struggles.


*Sukant Chandan runs the Sons of Malcolm website and is a filmmaker, political analyst and works with young people

Carlos Martinez runs the Beat Knowledge website and is a music producer, writer and cultural activist

Thursday, 18 November 2010



Zimbabwe land reform 'not a failure'

Zimbabwe's often violent land reform programme has not been the complete economic disaster widely portrayed, a new study has found.

Most of the country's 4,000 white farmers - then the backbone of the country's agricultural economy - were forced from their land, which was handed over to about a million black Zimbabweans.

The study's lead author, Ian Scoones from the UK's Institute of Development Studies at Sussex University, told BBC News he was "genuinely surprised" to see how much activity was happening on the farms visited during the 10-year study.

"People were getting on with things in difficult circumstances and doing remarkably well," he said.

He declines, however, to characterise it as a success.

'Facts on the ground'

The policy was central to President Robert Mugabe's re-election campaigns in 2002 and 2008, as he argued that he was putting right the wrongs inherited from the pre-1980 colonial era, when black Zimbabweans were forced from their homelands in favour of white settlers.

But his numerous critics accused him of simply bribing voters, while destroying what used to be one of Africa's most developed economies.

"What we have observed on the ground does not represent the political and media stereotypes of abject failure; but nor indeed are we observing universal, roaring success," says the study - Zimbabwe's Land Reform, Myths and Realities.

Mr Scoones accepts that there were major problems with the "fast-track" land reform programme carried out since 2000, such as the violence, which included deadly attacks on white farmers and those accused of supporting the opposition, and the corruption associated with the allocation of some farms.

The study also notes that most beneficiaries complained about the government not giving them the support they need, such as seeds, fertiliser and ploughing the land.

But he says much of the debate has been unduly politicised.

"We wanted to uncover the facts on the ground," he said.

Mr Scoones says it is important that the full pictures, with all its nuances, is known and argues that the 10-year study of 400 households in the southern province of Masvingo debunks five myths:

  • * That land reform has been a total failure

  • * That most of the land has gone to political "cronies"

  • * That there is no investment on the resettled land

  • * That agriculture is in complete ruins, creating chronic food insecurity

  • * That the rural economy has collapsed.

Investing in the land

The study found that about two-thirds of people who were given land in Masvingo were "ordinary" - low-income - Zimbabweans. These are the people Mr Mugabe always said his reforms were designed to help.

The remaining one-third includes civil servants (16.5%), former workers on white-owned farms (6.7%), business people (4.8%) and members of the security services (3.7%).

Of these, he estimates that around 5% are "linked to the political-military-security elite".

In other words, that they were given the land because of their political connections, rather than their economic need, or agricultural skills.

Mr Scoones accepts that the proportion of such "cronies" being given land may be higher in other parts of Zimbabwe, especially in the fertile areas around the capital Harare, and that 5% of people may have gained more than 5% of the land even in Masvingo.

But he maintains that they gained a relatively small proportion of the overall land seized across the country.

The researchers found that, on average, each household had invested more than $2,000 (£1,200) on their land since they had settled on it - clearing land, building houses and digging wells.

This investment has led to knock-on activity in the surrounding areas, boosting the rural economy and providing further employment.

'Under the radar'

One of those questioned, identified only as JM, told the researchers that before being given land he had relied on help from others but now owns five head of cattle and employs two workers.

"The new land has transformed our lives," he said.

Others say they are much better off farming than when they had jobs.

He says that about half of those surveyed are doing well, reaping good harvests and reinvesting the profits.

Maize is Zimbabwe's main food crop but its production remains reliant on good rains and output remains well below that pre-2000. Mr Scoones says Zimbabwe's food crisis of 2007-8 cannot be put down to the land seizures, as those people who went hungry produced a large surplus both the previous and subsequent years.

Before the "fast-track" land reform began in 2000, tobacco, mostly grown by white commercial farmers, was Zimbabwe's biggest cash crop.

But producing top quality tobacco requires considerable investment and know-how, both of which are lacking among many of the new black farmers.

Instead, they often grow cotton, which has now replaced tobacco as the main agricultural export.

Mr Scoones says those who are struggling the most are the least well-off civil servants, such as teachers and nurses, who have been unable to get credit and do not have the resources, or political connections, to invest in their land.

He hopes that as Zimbabwe's economy slowly recovers under a power-sharing government, a new programme can be worked out which would give these people the backing they need to succeed.

It is often argued that large-scale commercial farming - as many of the white Zimbabweans used to practise - is inherently more efficient than the smallholder system which replaced it, but Mr Scoones dismisses this argument and says he is backed by several studies from around the world.

He says it is now impossible to return to the previous set-up and even suggests that some of the evicted white farmers may one day work with the new farmers as consultants, marketing men, farm managers or elsewhere in the overall agricultural economy, such as transporting goods to market or helping to transform and add value to their produce.

Many of those who remain bitter about losing their land may are likely to respond: "Over my dead body".

But Mr Scoones says a surprising number are already taking this option and making reasonable money from it "under the radar".