Viva la solidaridad! Venezuela & the new Latin America stand in solidarity with Gaza

By Matt Willgress and Paul Dobson

In contrast with western complicity with Israel’s attack on Gaza over the summer and ongoing attacks and land grabs since, Venezuela and its allies in Latin America are offering concrete help to Palestine, says Matthew Willgress of the Venezuela Solidarity Campaign, with additional reporting from Paul Dobson in Venezuela.

Venezuela’s Government sent a third consignment of humanitarian aid to the embattled people of Palestine this month. In return, they greeted 119 young Palestinians who are going to be trained to be doctors at the Latin American Medical School in Caracas, demonstrating that genuine solidarity does not consist of excellent speeches, heartwarming discourses, nor best intentions, but rather has concrete actions and deeds at its centre.

“If the 21st Century saw a fighting and brave country, it is that which belongs to the people of Palestine” stated Minister for University Education, Science and Technology, Manuel Fernandez at the sendoff of the aid.

“[Hugo] Chavez brought the love of Palestine to Venezuela and left this legacy with .. Nicolas Maduro” commented the Palestinian Ambassador in Caracas, Linda Sobeh Ali.
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M&S, more Marley & Scrooge than #magicandsparkle

slough-demo-011416334343803424340The way M&S is acting the letters M&S could stands for Marley and Scrooge over the mean spirited way these workers are being treated over the Christmas period says GMB

GMB members, employed by Tempay Ltd at a Marks and Spencer distribution centre in Swindon, protested outside M&S’s store in High Street Slough on Tuesday 18th November over being required to work six days every week until January with only one day off in a 14 day period.

More than 150 formal grievances have been submitted to Tempay Ltd about the Christmas work rotas, from among their 500 staff on the site.

The Marks and Spencer distribution centre in Swindon is run by Wincanton. However most of the staff are employed by an employment agency, 24.7 Recruitment. They are then formally employed through a further company, called Tempay Ltd. Workers employed through Tempay earn the minimum wage of £6.50 per hour compared to the £8.50 per hour paid to workers doing exactly the same job but employed directly through Wincanton.
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Band Aid is offensive

Bob GeldofBack in 1984 a group of rich pop stars gathered together to ‘save Africa’ in response to famine in Ethiopia. The result was Band Aid. Thirty years on and another group of rich pop stars has come together to ‘save Africa’ in response to Ebola.

Tarzan of the Apes is a fictional character who first appeared in a 1912 book of the same name by Edgar Rice Burroughs. At the time the popular view of Africa and Africans in the West was of a primitive, backward, and retrograde culture and people who needed to be ‘saved’ by the white man and white civilization.

It was the very mindset responsible for the continent’s colonisation, which over a period of 400 years devastated its people and plundered its natural resources, leaving deep economic, social, and historical scars that have yet to heal. While Africa no longer suffers the colonisation that it did when Tarzan first appeared in popular culture, it continues to suffer from the colonial mindset and from a global economic system that has ensured its continued under development up to the present day.

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Beyond the froth

Mark Perryman of Philosophy Football picks out the best of the autumn sports books

I’m sorry but you won’t find here the just-in-time-for-Christmas sports autobiography blockbusters. With just enough manufactured controversy to ensure blanket coverage when they are launched. Even a skim read will reveal that, on the contrary, they tell the reader very little they didn’t either know or suspect already.

Instead I would recommend a weighty volume of this sort. A Companion to Sport edited by David Andrews and Ben Carrington. The range of coverage from Monty Panesar to football’s 2010 World Cup is matched by the variety of insights, sport as a contested space being the overarching theme. As an academic book scandalously expensive, but any well-stocked library should have a copy.

Played in London

As a writer Rob Steen straddles that frustrating divide between the academic and the journalistic. His new book Floodlights and Touchlines reveals the richness of writing this mix can sometimes produce. A living history of the relationship between the spectator and his, or increasingly as Rob chronicles, her sport. This is social history of the very highest standard. Simon Inglis is rightly renowned for his writing on the cultural significance of stadia and other sporting buildings. Simon’s Played in Britain project has helped transform our understanding of what these structures mean to their localities, and his latest account of this relationship, Played in London not only continues the richness of Simon’s explanation but is unarguably his finest book in this extraordinary Played in… series yet.

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A vote for Jim Murphy in the Scottish Labour leadership election is a vote for a Tory government in 2015

Jim MurphyWhen it comes to the three candidates fighting it out for the leadership of the Scottish Labour Party – Jim Murphy, Sarah Boyack, and Neil Findlay – if the Tories in Scotland and the SNP could cast a vote between November 17, when the ballot commences, and Dec 13, when the new leader is announced, you can be sure it would be for Jim Murphy. Why? Because with Murphy as leader the likelihood of a Tory government at Westminster in 2015 increases to the point of being almost guaranteed, and likewise the continued dominance of the SNP in Scotland, bringing with it renewed danger of the break-up of the United Kingdom.

This is the reason it is no exaggeration to state that the upcoming election of the next leader of Scottish Labour is the most important internal election in the party’s history, not only in Scotland but UK-wide. For on the result hinges not just the future of Scottish Labour but also the outcome of the 2015 general election and, even more importantly, the very future of the United Kingdom.
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Debunking the myth of the Special Relationship

By Numan Abd al-Wahid

Whether one is critical of the alliance between the United Kingdom and the United States or in favour of the so-called “Special Relationship” it is perceived to be an amicable, natural and trans-historical partnership between two nations who share the same language and whose global interests are more or less the same. Over the last fifteen years these two nations assumed the lead in their continuing support of the colonialist state of Israel and waging war on Afghanistan, Iraq, Libya and calling for more military intervention in Syria and Iran. So it is no surprise that many find it hard to accept that this alliance is a recent advent rooted in geo-political exigencies of the historical moment at hand. British imperialism was animus, if not outright antithetical, in the first 150 years of the Republic.

Writing, if not gloating, in the midst of the American civil war in the nineteenth century, the future British Prime Minister Lord Salisbury (a.k.a. Robert Cecil) heralded not only the end of the United States of America but democracy itself or as he referred to it the “evil of universal suffrage.”[i] American democracy and the vaunted republic he gleefully boasted were not only a failed experiment and a busted flush but the “most ignominious failure the world had ever seen.” It had become, in our esteemed Lord’s eyes, what today would be referred to derogatively and pejoratively, as a ‘failed state’.

The main reason for this inevitable failure according to Cecil was that the United States had rejected and overthrown its natural leaders, i.e. the British establishment. As such they are now richly “reaping a harvest that was sown as far back as the time of Jefferson.” The Americans had substituted genuine leadership for a dreamer’s theory (the works of Thomas Jefferson) and more so, in the present climate, Abraham Lincoln was an “ass”, an incompetent and “the most conspicuous cause of the present calamities.”[ii]

Another British Minister, William Gladstone too had little time for Lincoln and came out in support of the Southern Confederacy. The Gladstone family had become wealthy largely owing to the family’s slave camps in Jamaica and William’s maiden speech in parliament was a defence of the family business which arose from the slave trading port of Liverpool. Although William Gladstone represented constituents in the family’s native parliamentary seat of Midlothian, Scotland, his father had represented Liverpool in Parliament.[iii]

At the time of the civil war Liverpool’s economy as well as that of the wider North-west region of England was mostly reliant on cotton imported from the American south and then distributed to the cotton mills of Lancashire and Cheshire. Lincoln’s Union army’s blockade of Southern ports caused a massive disruption to this trade.

The blockade also affected the South’s ship manufacturing facilities. As such they turned to Great Britain for ship and gunboat manufacturing. Two ships stand out. The first was the ‘Alabama’ which once operational sunk 65 union ships. The other Confederate ship was a trade ship re-fitted as a gunboat, ‘Shenandoah’ which once sent out to battle “captured nearly 40 prizes” i.e. that is hijacked and looted 40 union and other ships. Needless to say the crew on both ships were mostly manned by British personnel.[iv]Claims were made that these ships were “decoying their victims with the British flag.”[v]

In parliament 74 members were in favour of the confederacy, while only 17 were pro North, pro Lincoln.[vi]The British political establishment were clearly waiting for the right time to intervene on behalf of the south yet at the same time they were loathe to spread the Empire’s resources “too thinly across the globe.” [vii] Click to continue reading

25 years on: East Germany in context

By Hans Modrow

Morning Star

Before I deal with the demise of the German Democratic Republic (GDR) it makes sense to remind ourselves of the circumstances of its birth.

The conclusion of the second world war was sealed at Potsdam between the Soviet Union, the US and Britain.

France was later included and from then on the future development of Germany was dependent on the four allied powers that had defeated fascism.

A new order was created in Europe which led first to the division of Germany and then, with the onset of the cold war in 1946, the division of Europe.
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Political Assassination In Venezuela: Serra’s Death Blamed On Right Wing Paramilitaries

By Paul Dobson

Venezuela Solidarity Campaign

“Some of the media tycoons and imperial elites don’t want to understand that if they come to destabilize Venezuela, then the entire continent will move itself like an earthquake. The best guarantee of tranquility and social stability in Latin America and the Caribbean is a stable, democratic, peaceful Venezuela” – Venezuela’s elected President Nicolas Maduro.

One of the youngest and brightest Venezuelan revolutionaries was assassinated by right wing paramilitaries in October, sending shock waves through the country, writes Paul Dobson in Venezuela.

“It’s painful and regrettable to inform that in the Pastora, Libertador Municipality of Caracas, the bodies were found of the Deputy Robert Serra- a young Venezuelan leader of the PSUV (the governing United Socialist Party of Venezuela)- and his companion” announced the Interior Minister, Rodriguez Torres on the 1st October. “They were vilely assassinated in their homes”.
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GMB slams M&S for Scrooge like behaviour

From Swindon Advertiser, by Elizabeth Mackley

WORKERS have accused Marks and Spencer of turning a blind eye to unfair pay at a distribution centre in South Marston.

Now, GMB trade unionists, representing the workers at the distribution centre, are calling on the leading retailer to address the pay inequalities between workers carrying out the same work on their behalf.

The Marks and Spencer distribution centre in Stirling Road is run by Wincanton, but most of the staff are employed by recruitment agency, 24.7 Recruitment.

They are then formally employed through a further company, called Tempay Ltd.

They are also asked to work six days every week until January, with only one day off in every fortnight.

GMB branch secretary for Swindon, Andy Newman, said: “It almost makes you think that M&S stands for Marley and Scrooge, the mean spirited way these workers are being treated over the Christmas period.

“Our members are going to say “Bah Humbug!” to M&S, and we have asked M&S to sort this out, or GMB will organise a series of protests outside M&S stores during Christmas shopping.”

The loophole in the law which allows companies to pay staff doing the same job a different wage is under Section 10 of the Agency Workers Regulations – otherwise known as the Swedish derogation.

But while the practice is legal, union members say it is unethical and runs against the Marks and Spencer ethos.

Andy said: “Despite the relationship that Marks and Spencer chooses to have with these workers, this is an M&S warehouse, where M&S products are stored and dispatched to M&S stores, to be sold to M&S customers to make profits for M&S shareholders.

“The difference between how the Wincanton and Tempay workers are being treated is a miserly attempt to push down wage costs over the Christmas period, that Scrooge would have been proud of.

“Marks and Spencer claim to have an ethical supply chain when it comes to their overseas manufacturing suppliers, we are calling for them to take the same interest in ethical business much closer to home, here in Swindon.”

GMB says that so far, more than 150 formal grievances have been submitted to Tempay Ltd about the Christmas work rotas, from among their 500 staff on the site.

One of the workers affected is John Fernandes, who said that the way they were being treated by companies was both confusing and unfair.

“Of course we’re very, very angry,” said John, who works as a loader in the distribution centre.

“We are doing the same job and we should be paid the same wage.

“We are only allowed one day off in 14 days and we are paid less than the people who are employed by Wincanton.

“We also get confused as to who actually employs us, since it’s Tempay that does the payroll but we are employed through 24.7.”

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