On January 1st, police in Britain are to be given sweeping new powers. Police, from Sunday onwards, will be allowed, if they think it “necessary”, to hold anyone they suspect of any offence – motorists who are not wearing seat belts, for instance, or who commit the felony of driving in a bus lane, or even your young ne'er-do-well who throws his fish supper wrapper away in the street.

Moreover, the police will be allowed to store a digital photograph of you on a database even if you have been found innocent of the charge you were originally arrested for.

The Home Office is changing the law because current legislation on what is an arrestable offence is, they argue, “bewildering”. On the one hand you have the Home Office suggesting your average cop is too daft to make his/her mind up as to what is a criminal offence, while at the same time asking the police to make an on the spot decision on whether or not it is “necessary” to arrest your average lawbreaker for gobbing his wad of chewing gum onto the pavement.

Were it not bad enough that Britain has more CCTVs spying on us than any other country on the planet (an estimated 300 cameras will have watched you when you get back home after a day’s bargain-hunting in Newcastle), that the British police have the biggest DNA database in the world, that your location can be tracked to within 6 feet when you use your mobile phone, but from next March, almost every car journey made in this country will be logged by CCTV and satellite cameras, and stored away for future reference on a police database. Terrestrial and space based cameras make it possible for the state to recognise your car number-plates anywhere you go and, we are told, quite soon they will be able to recognise human faces as well.

Forgive me for sounding alarmist, bit I’m banking that in a few years every single adult in Britain will have their mug-shot on a police database, that the day will come when your movements will be logged the moment you leave your house in the morning.

No doubt people, like me, concerned about increased police powers and increasing state intrusion into our daily affairs will be met with the imbecilic line: “If you’re not doing anything wrong, then you have nothing to worry about.” The point is that this has nothing to do with our innocence. It’s all about mistrust; about the state saying we can not trust a single one of you as far as we could kick you. The state is saying you have a brain and are capable of thought, so you are therefore a potential threat to very powerful interests and consequently need to be tracked 24-7. This is the state saying they want to know everything about us from the moment we’re born until the second our heart stops beating.

When you consider the state has access to the NHS database, to info transmitted each time we use credit cards (the spy in your wallet), to info that will be contained on the coming national id cards, the info gleaned at the NSA base at Menwith Hill that scrutinises our phone conversations and scans our email, the info amassed by Echelon, perhaps the most powerful intelligence gathering organization in the world and sponsored by the USA and the UK, then it’s time to sit up and start worrying.
Our civil liberties are being eroded by the second. You can either sit back and accept it as inevitable and reconcile yourself to a lifetime of mind-numbing conformity, never daring to think an out-of-the-place thought about the system that exploits you, or you can organise with others in an attempt to wrest state control from those who use it as a means of utter oppression on behalf of the master class. But don’t take too long to think about it – your thoughts will one day not be your own


Boxing Day Barbarians

Yesterday, across the country, 250 gangs congregated in furtherance of their class interests, turning a blind eye to a law that forbids such activity and went out purposely to rid their land of what they see as vermin

No, this was not a mass action by anarchist groups intent on ridding the country of the landowning class, but rather the landowning class, dressed in silly costumes that emphasise their power and privilege, cocking a snook at a 10 month ban on fox hunting and turning up in their thousands across the country for the ritualistic boxing day sport of hunting and ripping to shreds terrified and defenceless animals.

Were these 250 gangs of proletarians demonstrating against an injustice or something they felt passionately about, the police would have been out in force. Public assembly legislation would have been used against them; the riot act would have echoed around the country, there would be baton charges, cracked skulls and mass arrests. But no, this was a wealth owning minority, carrying out illegal activity on their “own land” and the law was powerless to intervene.
If we can draw one conclusion from this brazen mass defiance of the hunting ban it is that when it comes to issues of law, the rich and powerful are fully aware which side of the class divide the law is there to serve - that of wealth, privilege and power. They possess the land, the wealth, and power, and isn't possession nine tenths the law?

As John Lennon once famously said: "Possession isn't nine-tenths of the law. It's nine-tenths of the problem." Too bloody true. It seems that only when we sort out the real issue of who possesses what will we be in a position to put an end to the barbaric pastimes of the privileged few.


Chrimbo Musings

The Christmas season nowadays starts round about early November, just after we have finished celebrating the barbaric execution of Guy Fawkes and his co-conspirators. That’s about the time the seasonal ads start appearing on your TV set, reminding you that within seven weeks you will be obliged to empty what little hard-earned money you have in your savings account and to spend the same on presents, the recipients of which, in 999 out of 1000 cases, never really need.

Christmas is undoubtedly a secular festival these days, all religious claims to it having long been conceded to the master class who use it as a midwinter morale booster for their exhausted workers, and a money- spinner. And how the masses warm to the event, numbing the pain of their alienation in an orgy of over-spending, over-eating and over-drinking!

The truth is the whole dammed thing is an expensive ritual - a wallet-emptying convention devoid of any real and spontaneous show of affection - that many, if asked, would rather do without. Just look how embarrassed people feel upon receiving an unexpected card or gift and having none to give in return – a situation that reinforces one of the basic tenets of capitalism: ‘you get nowt for nowt’. How many people feel uncomfortable about writing out Christmas cards to send/give them to people they think they are bound receive one from, people they are acquainted with only on a superficial level, fearing that such an unreciprocated act will signify meanness?

I do not mean to imply that humans are greedy and selfish and uncaring. Far from it! I am a socialist because I think exactly the opposite - that humans are innately good, that they work best when faced with the worst, that they will go to any lengths to alleviate the misery of others and that they have the ability to fashion a world in their own interests. But Christmas is all about giving on cue, about affection on demand, about a “season of goodwill to all men”. And I really do not think humans need to be reminded to give on cue, to have their affection synchronised to the Gregorian calendar, to show goodwill to all people. We have developed the advanced technological society we enjoy now exactly because we give and share and care without being asked to, or being reminded to, or having the open show of affection ritualised – indeed, our very survival as a species has always depended on it.

I believe capitalist society suppresses our emotions, stultifies just what it is to be really human and goes a long way to create a society of atomised individuals, pursuing their own selfish interests. In such an anti-human climate Christmas seems a bloody miracle!

Granted, kids love it – it’s all about magic, about a fat, unshaven, jolly geriatric in a red suit who, with his band of trustee, anal retentive, reindeer, can cover the earth’s surface area of 196,940,400 square miles within 12 hours whilst showering presents on the deserving. And, granted, the heartily religious love it – it’s a time for remembering when, 2,000 years ago, a 13 year old Palestinian lassie had a virgin birth, having been impregnated by a God (nowadays that gets you on the sex offenders register, as does entering the bedrooms of youngsters in a silly red disguise to leave presents).

But do we need Christmas? I can only conclude that until we have abolished capitalists from the earth and gods from the skies the answer has to be yes. If it was not Christmas, then another event which necessitates the suspending of the normal functioning of the rat-race, demanding the proverbial letting down of one’s hair and the partaking in an orgy of consumption, would take its place. It’s sad, but the exploited masses just need that fix. Religion has sod all to do with it.


Capital and Other Kids' Stuff

The Independent reports how an online opinion poll conducted by the business organisation Luton First to mark National Kids’ Day reveals that “the next generation of teenagers looks set to be more materialist than ever before.”
Ranking the things they thought most important from 1-10, the survey found the values of your average 10-year-old to be:

1. Money and getting rich
2. Being famous
3. Football
4. Pop music
5. Animals
6. Families
7. Computer games
8. Holidays by the sea
9. Nice food
10. God

Evidence if ever it was needed that capitalism’s brainwashing machine is working perfectly! A couple of hundred years ago and your average 10 year old would have cited God, the “heavenly father”, as their number one. He has since been kicked into 10th place and his number one ranking taken by another God - Mammon - the god worshipped by capitalists for generations.

And animals taking the fifth notch ahead of their families? Harry the hamster and Billy the goldfish steal affection from kids’ parents?

“Dad, can I have a fiver for the pictures?”

“Bugger off, yer little sod; ask yer ferret.”

I’m just wondering if this survey of ten year olds, which bears on their capitalist aspirations, has anything to do with the age of criminal responsibility in England and Wales (the age at which you can be legally tried for an offence in a court) – which is, interestingly, 10 years of age?


Bugger Henry Moore. What about 'Viking in Mosaic'?

Henry Moore’s famous sculpture, Reclining Figure (pictured) , is the latest art masterpiece to have been half-inched. In the past century art thieves have swiped many notable works of art (for hundreds of years, in fact, if you count in the Elgin Marbles). They include da Vinci’s Mona Lisa, Munch’s The Scream and Turner’s Shade and Darkness. And it is not uncommon for the media to approach such thefts as if they were of national importance, the art thieves guilty of treason. The theft of some works of art , however, is not reported in the mass media and neither are they ever recovered. One such work of art was entitled Viking in Mosaic.

Viking in Mosaic was stolen in 1971. Its theft was not investigated by the police and it was never reported in the press. Why? Because it was created by me when I was 11 years old. Yup, me! The work was hanging on my 4th form class wall as ‘painting of the month’ when the ageing, red-brick prefab block of St Aloysius RC Primary was burgled one night.

The burglars never got much – they never ever did when they burgled the prefab block, which was about every other week – but amongst their haul this time was my mosaic Viking picture that I had spent many an art lesson on. It was brill! I was a canny artist in those days and had put a lot of work into this piece. The Viking was made from a dozen different materials (felt, scrap pieces of linen, string, fur) and he had a spear made from a drinking straw with a tip made from a silver milk bottle top, and a shield made from corrugated cardboard.

But it was most definitely stolen, I shit you not. Whether it was stolen to order by some jealous 3rd former who had too much pocket money and miffed that I had won that year's school Easter Egg Competition (I was a god wee artist back then), or was nicked by opportunists who saw the work as an investment, or maybe by thieves who just needed the fucking straw for the cartons of juice they also nicked, I will never know. And it was never ever found.

And was I bothered? Was I heckers!! They had actually stolen my art! Mine! I was chuffed as hell that someone had nicked it. I wanted their bloody autograph! Likewise, as far as I am bothered anyone who has the balls to have a got at something that weighs over 2 tons can keep it. Nicking something that big (10’ by 8’) is an art in itself and the thieves have certainly drawn more attention swiping it than Moore ever got creating it, which is more than I can say for Viking in Mosaic. Moore, looking down from artist’s heaven, should likewise be chuffed.


Richard Wilson or Evald Ilyenkov?

Like any revolutionary socialist worth his/her salt I can’t go past a second hand shop without popping in to see what books are on offer. You just never know what you will find. I remember walking up Clapham High Street not so long a go with a few comrades. As we passed the Save the Children shop we spied a large box of books they were throwing out. Like a pack of rabid dogs we descended on it and, heads down, arses up, rummaged about in it with glee. Minutes later we continued on our journey each with handful of books.

You just never know what you’re going to find in a second hand shop. My nearest charity shops are in Jarrow. I frequent them often and nine times out of ten come away empty handed. About a year ago, however, in the Scope shop just off Ellison Street, I came across a copy of Evald Ilyenkov’s Leninist Dialectics and The Metaphysics of Positivism - not a title you want to try repeating after 5 pints of brown ale – for one thing you’d slaver all over your shirt and for another someone would give you kicking for being a wanker.

I bought the book not with any intention of reading it – a quick skim reading of the book revealed you needed a an MA in Pure Applied Jargon and an MSc in Intellectual Masturbation to get past the first chapter – but out of pure curiosity (if I was a cat I’d have been long dead). Who the hell, I wondered, in Jarrow, would have this on their shelf? Was this a sign that in The Town That Was Murdered* there was a sign of life?

Yesterday, I bought another book in the Scope charity shop: I don’t believe it: Richard Wilson’s Book of Absurdities ( I’ve just done a friggin’ google search for this book and found it is selling on eBay for 1 pence, which is 100 times more than I paid for it). It’s the kind of book you quote from when you’ve had five pints of brown ale and get a kicking for being a boring bastard. I bought it because after a long year on the barricades I needed to wind down with something light.

The book is little more than a collection of amazing and weird facts and catalogued under various headings such as Nutty Notices, Misleading Names and Ghastly Gaffes.

Within minutes of opening it and flicking the pages I had learned that the Bible does not mention that Eve ate the forbidden apple (I’m gonna have to check that one out), that the Greek playwright Aeschylus died when an eagle dropped a tortoise on his head and that William Tell could not have shot an apple from his son’s head with a crossbow as crossbows were not known in Switzerland in the 13th Century.

I came home and read the entire book in an hour. Putting it down I considered that there was more in this book of interest to your run-of-the-mill Marxist (not the Groucho tendency) than in a dozen readings of Ilyenkov’s little book. Moreover, I knew I could pass it on to a comrade who would find it every bit as interesting as I have. And I wondered just who had handed this in at the charity shop. Was this a sign that there was life in The Town That Was Murdered*?
* The Town That Was Murdered is a history of Jarrow, which includes a much quoted chapter on the 1936 Jarrow March, and was written by the town's MP Ellen Wilkinson in 1939.


Acccording to the aformentioned Richard Wilson book on weird and wonderful facts, Pontius Pilate was a Scot. Seemingly his father was a governor of that part of the Roman Empire. Pilate was born at Fortingall near Dunkeld. St Andrew would turn in his grave.


Hail to the Chimp

Rarely do I not owe the morning's first smile to Steve Bell, the multi-prize winning Guardian cartoonist and the man who turned a president into a chimpanzee. The Bush-monkey idea has, in the past five years, been copied a million times around the world. The idea crops up on hundreds of websites. I've seen tee shirts with the image on, badges, posters and even a huge papier mache head-piece being worn at the anti-G8 at Gleneagles back in July.

In this morning's Guardian, Bell writes how the Bush-monkey idea came to him. Says Bell:
"I first drew Bush as a monkey after his installation by the Supreme Court, exactly five years ago. It was by accident. I was trying to depict him as a spiritual heir to Ronald Reagan, another useless chump whose most celebrated movie hit was Bedtime For Bonzo in which he starred with a chimp. So Bush became a chimp before I ever realised how closely he resembles our hairy forebears. Somewhat dim-wittedly, in retrospect, I had been trying to depict him as a turkey, because Bush's reputation for uselessness was growing as we got to know him, and (barring underpants) there is no better symbol of uselessness than that poor, maligned bird. But no amount of drawing him as a turkey would ever make him look like a turkey."

"...There was something about the way he held his arms as he walked up; then, as he faced the cameras, his mouth formed into a distinct pout. He moved like a chimp, walked like a chimp and even talked like a chimp. This was no play acting; George Bush actually was a chimp.

"...Some have written complaining that my depiction lacks subtlety and fails to convey his unique qualities and depth of character as a politician. I reply that I would be failing in my duty if I refused to acknowledge his unique qualities as a chimpanzee, for how often does a leader of the free world come along who resembles a monkey in every particular? Depth of character requires complexity, even contradiction. Bush betrays no such doubts or uncertainties. His confidence in his line of communication with the Almighty is total for the very simple reason that he knows he is God, and that is his most chimp-like feature."

For further Bell cartoons, try the Guardian's Steve Bell archive.

1000 Days of War

Thus ran the huge headline in this morning's Independent. One thousand days! It really does not seem that long ago that Darren and I were at the gates of Hyde Park on a freezing morning in February 2003 , handing out leaflets to the multitudes who had turned up for the biggest political gathering in British history (estimates for the number who turned up that day range from 1-2 million). If I remember that day for anything, the masses apart, it is for the lack of toilets and the fact that I was busting for a pee for hours, my discomfort not helped by the biting, bladder-chilling weather (Darren, like the typical Glaswegian, has a 20 litre bladder capacity so was unaffected).

But I digress. 1000 days of post invasion occupation! And it must be close on 1000 days since Bush nonchalantly strolled to the presidential podium to announce "mission accomplished", for the official "war"lasted only weeks.

And of the allied 'victory'? The Independent provides some painful statistics that ought to be carved on stone tablets and rammed down Bush's throat:

$204.4billion: the cost to the US of the war so far. The UK's bill up until March 2005 was £3.1 billion

2,339 Allied troops killed

98 UK troops killed

30,000 Estimated Iraqi civilian deaths

0 Number of WMDs found

8 per cent of Iraqi children suffering acute malnutrition

$35,819m World Bank estimated cost of reconstruction

53,470 Iraqi insurgents killed

67 per cent Iraqis who feel less secure because of occupation

$343 Average monthly salary for an Iraqi soldier.

Average monthly salary for an American soldier in Iraq: $4,160.75

66 journalists killed in Iraq. Journalists killed during Vietnam war: 63
5 foreign civilians kidnapped per month

47 per cent Iraqis who never have enough electricity
20 casualties per month from unexploded mines

20 per cent Inflation rate 2005

25-40 per cent Estimated unemployment rate, Nov 2005

251 Foreigners kidnapped

70 per cent of Iraqi's whose sewage system rarely works

183,000 British and American troops are still in action in Iraq. There are 162,000 US troops
and 8,000 British with 13,000 from other nations

90 Daily attacks by insurgents in Nov '05. In Jun '03: 8

82 per centIraqis who are "strongly opposed" to presence of coalition troops
15,955 US troops wounded in action
I could add another statistic - the number of times I wrote letters to the local press before, and indeed since, the war started, voicing my socialist objection, only to have those letters binned.
There are perhaps other important statistics to consider. For instance, the number of people who became totally disillusioned by politics in the wake of the invasion of Iraq. After all, over 1 million had turned up that cold day in February to voice their objection to the invasion (and many more around the world) only to have Blair and Bush totally ignore their protests. Many on the left thought this day would be a catalysts of sorts - that this day of action would result in the swelling ranks. Christ, how they were mistaken.

And another statistic - the number of reasons that Bush and Blair cited for invadingIraq and staying there: that Saddam had WMDs, that Saddam could lob a missile at the UK within 45 minutes, that they were restoring democracy in Iraq, that Saddam had helped Al Qaeda with the attack on 9/11 and that this was all about rooting out terrorism.

I feel a PhD thesis coming on so will say no more.


Cannabis - Tony Blair knows best

So Tony Blair wants to do yet another U turn, this time on the classification of cannabis! Recent reports suggest he wishes to overturn the decision the government made two years ago to downgrade cannabis use. His change in attitude is allegedly down to a report from the Advisory Council on the Misuse of Drugs (ACMD). They claim that there is a definite link between cannabis use and mental illness, that cannabis causes psychosis in regular smokers of the weed.

That such a change in legislation is proposed only two weeks after the government sanctioned round-the-clock binge drinking, allowing pubs and clubs to sell alcohol 24 hours a day, makes you wonder what the hell Blair is up to. Anyone who has ever been to British city centre on Saturday night can tell you that the unregulated sale of alcohol is by far a greater threat to society than the decriminalisation of cannabis.

Is the Labour cabinet continually stoned? On the one hand you have the government okaying 24 hour drinking, just ahead of Xmas, and on the other you have the Transport Secretary, Alistair Darling, launching the government’s annual crusade against drink-driving, and in a pub of all places - okay, so it was on the set of the Rovers Return, but still, it’s perceived as a friggin’ pub, and what the hell if he did order an orange juice!

Not so long ago we had Dave Blunkett, Home Secretary, relaxing penalties on cannabis use whilst at the same time unveiling harsher penalties for selling the stuff. Eh? Forgive me if I rabbit on here a moment – this is the Marxist in me - but isn’t there an issue of supply and demand here? Firstly you increase demand by decriminalising the bloody drug and then limit supply by imposing harsher punishment for the suppliers. Doesn’t this drive up the price? And how do you get the money to buy it? Crime?

And then along comes a new Home Secretary, Charlie Clarke, and he says that there should be limits on the amount of ganja you can carry before you are assumed by the cops to be a supplier – and he reckons that 4oz should be enough. Anyone ever seen what 4 oz of cannabis resin looks like? It’s a fair little chunk. Opinion is divided on just how many spliffs you can get out of this but figures I have sourced range from 250 to 800 joints. For your own personal use!! That’s enough to take you to the moon and back. And what of the cost of this? About £250 if you have a canny supplier.

But I digress. Back to the findings that cannabis use causes psychosis. I’ve just accessed an online dictionary which has given me a definition of the condition: “A severe mental disorder, with or without organic damage, characterized by derangement of personality and loss of contact with reality and causing deterioration of normal social functioning.”

I know a fair few ganja smokers, some of them heavy users – I’m fond of the odd joint myself – but I can honestly say I have never came across any with these symptoms (they undoubtedly exist in places like the White House and the Pentagon and Buckingham Palace). Granted ganja, whilst you’re smoking it, can slow down your reasoning, cause you to have what you assume are profound and innovative ideas, make you talk bollox, cause you to laugh at anything, for instance, but the effects are not, to my knowledge, what the ACMD claims for the drug.

Sitting talking to a uniformed police officer not so long ago (and no, I was not under arrest), I asked him what he thought about the legalisation of cannabis. He replied that if it was fully legalised then his job would be a lot easier. I asked him to explain and he pointed out that people smoking cannabis were a lot friendlier, more relaxed and chilled out. He had never encountered any aggro from them. The real problem he said was with drunks. He really dreaded being called out to incidents involving the intoxicated as it often involved violence and a lot of upset.

Maybe I’m wrong, but I can’t see the police approving of Blair’s new cannabis policy. There again, Blair ignored police concerns about 24 hour drinking. What the hell do the police know anyway? That’s why we elect leaders – coz they know best.


Harold Pinter's Nobel lecture

It is one thing to win the Nobel Prize for Literature and quite another to give a Nobel Lecture, having received it, that is itself deserving of the Nobel Peace Prize, but such was Harold Pointer’s brilliant Stockholm speech, which was broadcast Wednesday night.

That the BBC failed to mention it in their news broadcasts makes me wonder how many TV stations round the world did actually mention it, for this was something you would never see broadcast on prime time TV in the USA in a hundred years – it was just too close to the bone for your average repuke.

Pinter commenced his lecture with an analysis of his own artistic genre, about how important it is to ask what is true and what is false in art, and he even cited examples of how his plays come into being. He writes:

“I have often been asked how my plays come about. I cannot say. Nor can I ever sum up my plays, except to say that this is what happened. That is what they said. That is what they did.

“Most of the plays are engendered by a line, a word or an image. The given word is often shortly followed by the image. I shall give two examples of two lines which came right out of the blue into my head, followed by an image, followed by me.

“The plays are The Homecoming and Old Times. The first line of The Homecoming is 'What have you done with the scissors?' The first line of Old Times is 'Dark.' In each case I had no further information.”

His own art covered, Pinter coolly and calmly, with irony, rhetoric and humour tore into US foreign policy. He said:

“You have to hand it to America. It has exercised a quite clinical manipulation of power worldwide while masquerading as a force for universal good. It’s a brilliant, even witty, highly successful act of hypnosis.”


“I put to you that the United States is without doubt the greatest show on the road. Brutal, indifferent, scornful and ruthless it may be but it is also very clever. As a salesman it is out on its own and its most saleable commodity is self love. It's a winner. Listen to all American presidents on television say the words, 'the American people', as in the sentence, 'I say to the American people it is time to pray and to defend the rights of the American people and I ask the American people to trust their president in the action he is about to take on behalf of the American people.'“It's a scintillating stratagem. Language is actually employed to keep thought at bay. The words 'the American people' provide a truly voluptuous cushion of reassurance. You don't need to think. Just lie back on the cushion. The cushion may be suffocating your intelligence and your critical faculties but it's very comfortable. This does not apply of course to the 40 million people living below the poverty line and the 2 million men and women imprisoned in the vast gulag of prisons, which extends across the US.”

Your appetite whetted? Then go read it on The Guardian’s website!

One of these days, just one of these days, someone is gonna give a Nobel lecture and demand the abolition of the wages system and the establishment of world of free acess to the benefits of civilisation.

A stocking-filler with a difference

I’m taking a lead from Darren, the Inveresk Steet Ingrate, and using this blog to advertise a Xmas stocking filler. It’s not often I recommend that someone buys a particular gift – I think the last time was when told someone to buy Howard Zinn’s A People’s History of the United States.
But I shit you not – this is one helluva DVD. Fifty minutes of the best anti-capitalist argument you’ll ever hear! The film, made by 4 members of The Socialist Party in the UK, (including me as producer!!!) and beginning with a look at how we treat our children explains, in non-jargonised terms, the insanity of a system that places profit before human need. Please note, this is not some leftie Party political rant, just a sane look at an insane world that is very much crying out for real change, change that can only be brought about by a majority, acting in their own interests and without leaders.

We made this film in Hebburn, just across the Tyne from Newcastle, back in March on a budget of £80.00 – the cost of travelling expenses, the hire of a church hall, and cheese pasties and fanta drinks. One comrade, Carol, had some state of the art film equipment that was loaned the project and she kindly offered her years of video production experience to edit the film.

The film was uploaded to http://www.socialist-tv.com/ (and can still be seen there if you’re skint and can’t afford to buy it) and was streamed about 30,000 times in 5 months. It was shown on public access TV in the USA and requested by a TV company in Venezuela. Professors at universities across the USA asked if they could include it in their political courses and it even found its way on to many torrent sites where it has been downloaded thousands of times. Eventually, in spite of the film not mentioning the “S” word once, the Socialist Party agreed to finance its mass production.

The film is available in Pal and NTSC formats. The text on the colourful DVD insert and the jacket design of the DVD can be seen at the Portland Indymedia site. The UK version of the DVDs are shrink wrapped and in factory condition.

If you want a copy, then email: spgb@worldsocialism.org or send your £5.50 to 52 Clapham High Street, London, SW4 7UN or the equivalent in $US. And, hey, none of yer friggin' Monopoly money!


Stop the Warbiz (book review)

Stop the Warbiz by Ben Peri, (Authorhouse 2005), is one of those books you just wish you could mass produce and post through every letterbox in the country. In 357 well-sourced pages, Peri takes on the US war-for-profit machine like a rabid rottweiler might a postman. From Chapter 1 (the unbearable truth about the fabricated Pearl Harbour of the 21st Century) to Chapter 10 (the 2004 boxing day Tsunami), Peri unleashes a barrage of questions – and indeed offers many answers – about the White House’s war abroad and at home.

Stop the Warbiz strips away the web of mystery surrounding 9/11 and the consequent ‘war on terror’; it looks at rigged elections, the Patriot Acts and the increasing surveillance and invasion of privacy in the USA, the 800 camps that make up the hidden "American Gulag," and the red and blue lists of citizens to be executed when the green light is given from on high.
The book reveals how the government and media have created a culture of fear that is gnawing away at US civil liberties; how behind the “warbiz” is the oil-military-industrial complex - prepared to use any means to instigate their New World Order

The book is a mine of traceable facts – web links abound – and includes over 70 pages of appendices that cover the CIA, the little known of remote control anti-hijacking systems in aeroplanes, Bilderberg, Warbiz contributors to political parties and the contributions of the oil and gas industry to the US political system.

Ben Peri is an international analyst, consultant, journalist, reporter, columnist, and an advocate of free speech. Ben is a neutral, acute, and unbiased observer of the international political scene.
A man of no concession, Ben believes evidence supported by facts speaks louder to the truth than often shaky, mischievous, misleading, or influenced declarations and testimonies.

Ben's passion for ending wars and putting the business of wars “out of business” runs deep and has fueled his efforts on The Fingerprint of the Devil and Stop the WARBIZ for the past four and a half years.


Rendition to Torture

Once again, the US is in the proverbial “dock” over revelations that it allows a practice known as “rendition to torture”, whereby terror suspects, upon arrest, are secretly flown to far off countries to be tortured for months on end.

Condoleeza Rice, the US Secretary of State and Klingon look-alike, is currently on a damage limitation exercise in Europe and telling anyone who will listen to her, and who can keep a straight face, that the US is not into that sort of thing, that it does not condone torture. She admits that the US has made mistakes in the war on terror and has said that where possible those wrongs will be righted, but pathetically covers these transgressions with the claim that at least CIA methods have saved European lives.
Granted, there are a lot of gloopy people in Europe – I’ve met a fair few myself - or else we would not have the leaders we have here, but for her to come here and say the US is not into torture suggests Rice thinks Europe is chocabloc with lobotomised cretins.

Let’s get a couple of things straight. Firstly, the US does not give a monkey’s f*** for human rights. This much was made abundantly clear when George (Dubya) Bush took office and, acting on advice from one Alberto Gonzales, withdrew the US from the Geneva Convention and cancelled Clinton’s signature from the International Criminal Court. Well, if you’re aiming to torture whoever you want, where ever you want, then it makes sense not to be a signatory to a document stating you believe people should not be tortured, that all people should be treated with respect and human kindness.

Secondly the CIA is actually above the law. Not a lot of people know this but on 27/12/2000 Congress passed a law to protect the CIA from any legal action whatsoever (the relevant law is: 114 STAT. 2840 PUBLIC LAW106-56 DEC. 27, 2000. SEC.1001. (a) and (b)). The latter makes sound sense – if you’re hell bent on world domination and are prepared to go to any lengths to secure it then you have to make damn sure your intelligence services are free from prosecution.
According to Human Rights Watch, The Bush administration is now the only government in the world to claim a legal rationalization for abusing prisoners during interrogations.

White House officials recently approached members of the U.S. Congress to seek a waiver that would permit the CIA to use cruel, inhumane, or degrading treatment on prisoners in U.S. detention outside the United States.

In a 90-9 vote, the U.S. Senate accepted a measure backed by Republican Sens. John McCain and Lindsey Graham that would proscribe the military and CIA from using “cruel, inhumane, or degrading treatment” in the case of any captive, anywhere in the world. But in October, Vice President Dick Cheney and CIA director Porter Goss met with Sen. McCain to propose a presidential waiver for the planned legislation. The suggested waiver stated that the measure “shall not apply with respect to clandestine counterterrorism operations conducted abroad, with respect to terrorists who are not citizens of the United States, that are carried out by an element of the United States government other than the Department of Defence. . . if the president determines that such operations are vital to the protection of the United States or its citizens from terrorist attack.” The waiver which clearly applies to non-military counter-terrorism operations against non-citizens overseas, declares that such operations need to be “consistent with the Constitution and laws of the United States and treaties to which the United States is a party.” But the Constitution does not vigorously restrict the conduct of the CIA overseas, and pertinent domestic laws contain abundant loopholes. What is more, administration officials have previously told Congress that they do not deem CIA personnel operating outside the United States to be bound by legal prohibitions against “cruel, inhumane, or degrading treatment” under treaties to which the United States is party. This exemption carries coded language that could give the CIA the go ahead to treat prisoners inhumanely. Human Rights Watch said the waiver would also open the door for outright torture, as interrogators would find it impossible to draw lines between illegal and “allowable” mistreatment. Bush administration officials, under questioning from members of Congress in the past, have failed to clearly define differences between torture and lesser forms of mistreatment. They have also made inaccurate statements about the definition of torture; for instance, administration officials have claimed that “waterboarding” (suffocating a person until he believes he is about to drown) is not a form of torture.

The widely publicised photos from Abu Ghraib prison in Iraq, show not isolated cases of brutality by unsupervised personnel – as has been claimed – but CIA torture techniques that have been used for 50 years all over the world.From 1950 to 1962, the CIA carried out research into psychological torture that cost an estimated $1 billion, producing a new method of torture that was psychological, “no touch torture”, not physical.

Your common or garden physical method meant interrogators had to inflict pain, by rough beatings, but this often produced heightened resistance, especially in obstinate prisoners, or undependable information. With the new psychological concept, on the other hand, interrogators used two new methods, disorientation and self-inflicted pain, to make prisoners feel responsible for their own suffering.

Though ostensibly less violent, "no touch" torture can produce lasting psychological scars on both victims and interrogators. The victims often need much psychological help to recuperate from a trauma every bit as debilitating as physical pain. The interrogators can undergo a perilous increase of ego, leading to increasing barbarity and lasting emotional scars.

After codification in the CIA's "Kubark Counterintelligence Interrogation" manual in 1963 (this is now declassified and can now be downloaded from the National Securuity Archives website – they’ve lots of other juicy stuff there too) the new technique was circulated to police in Asia and Latin America through USAID's Office of Public Safety (OPS). In the wake of accusations of torture by USAID's police novices in Brazil, the US Senate closed down OPS in 1975.

With the demise of the OPS, the CIA propagated its torture techniques through the US Army's Mobile Training Teams, which in the 1980s were operating in Central America. In 1997, the Baltimore Sun published alarming extracts of the "Human Resource Exploitation Training Manual" that these Army teams had distributed to allied militaries for two decades.

These manuals ceased to be used in the early 1990s, but torture continued apace right up to 9/11 and beyond with the hunt for Al Qaeda suspects, with US intelligence agents handing suspects over to foreign agencies for processing.

When Bush kick-started the current ‘war on terror’ the ‘no touch’ torture techniques recommenced, firstly in Afghanistan at Bagram Air Base, where prisoners actually died during interrogation and then in Iraq, where interrogators have likewise killed their victims. Similar prisoner abuses have been reported at Guantanamo Bay in Cuba.

The US is as guilty as hell of not only torturing its suspects just as Britain and other countries are accomplices in so far as they allow their airports to be used by CIA chartered planes carrying their victims to be tortured in whatever god-forsaken hell hole they have lined up for them. The photographic evidence for psychological torture cannot be denied and neither can the testimony of those lucky enough to have been freed by their interrogators.

What planet Condi Rice comes from is anyone’s guess – the Klingon planet Narendra III?


When The Truth Hurts

Under a section headed ‘Open Government’, The Labour Party election manifesto of 1997 declared how “Unnecessary secrecy in government leads to arrogance in government and defective policy decisions”. It made reference to the Scott Report on weapons sales to Iraq under the Conservative Party and pledged that Labour would fight for a Freedom of Information Act and more open government. Many voters were highly impressed with New Labour’s alleged crusade for accountability and gave them their full support at the election.

In December of that year Tony Blair proudly revealed the White Paper Your Right to Know: The Government's Proposals for a Freedom of Information Act. The document advocated “establishing a general right of access to official records and information”, and stated this would lead to more open and accountable government.

The much awaited Freedom of Information Act. received Royal Assent on 30 November 2000 and was brought fully into force on January 2005.

In June 2005 a report by the Department for Constitutional Affairs, which assessed the first three months of the new Freedom of Information Act, found that Ministers and Whitehall bureaucrats were failing to open up the government and disclose information punctually to the public as previously pledged. The report showed that Whitehall departments had not revealed all the information asked for by the public in half of all cases and that there had been hold-ups in a third of all requests.

Maurice Frankel, director of the Campaign for Freedom of Information, said in The Guardian (24th June 2005) that that some departments had been so bad that "in any other field, the government would be sending in a hit squad to take the functions over from them because they couldn't do the job". Pointing particularly at the Home Office, he continued: "The legislation seems to have passed them by. They are living in a time warp."

In July, with Blair gearing up for his G8 meeting in Gleneagles, the government decided to release more than 500 documents requested under the Freedom of Information Act – previously blocked documents produced by the Strategy Unit under Lord Birt, a Blair adviser. However, in an exercise highly reminiscent of the infamous episode when the former adviser Jo Moore sent an email on 9/11 suggesting it was a good day to ‘bury bad news’, the government chose to release them on the Friday evening of the Live 8 events around the country, in the full knowledge that the weekend press would focus so much on the Live 8 concerts they’d have little concern for anything else.

So, when the Daily Mirror on Tuesday, 22nd November, printed a report, headed "Bush plot to bomb his Arab ally", which referred to a leaked 5 page government memo contending that US President George Bush considered bombing Al-Jazeera's headquarters in Qatar and was talked out of it by Blair, readers eagerly awaited further revelations and wondered how the government would react to the disclosure. But did the Blair government greet the openness that such an enquiry could bring and comply with requests for further information on the matter? Not on your Nelly! The government rather had the attorney general, Lord Goldsmith, threaten the Mirror and other newspapers with the Official Secrets Act – elevating the disclosure of any further information - clearly in the interest of the public - to a treasonable offence.

It is somewhat ironic that a government, which had blatantly and dramatically lied to the British public over Iraq’s WMDs so much in an attempt to get them to support a war in Iraq, a war which was presented as being very much in our interests, should now be saying that disclosure of the memo was not in the national interest, when surely such an attack on Al Jazeera’s Qatar base could have resulted in retaliation against the British public at home and abroad.

And it was not as if the USA had not already set a precedent in attacking Al Jazeera offices. During the 2001 invasion of Afghanistan, a US ’smart bomb’ hit the Kabul offices of Al Jazeera. Two years later, in April 2003, the war in Iraq in full swing, the Baghdad office of Al Jazeera was hit by a missile. In the latter incident not only had Al Jazeera provided the Pentagon with its co-ordinates, fearing another ‘mistaken’ attack, but witnesses in the area saw the plane fly twice over the building before it was hit. That same day the Baghdad office of Abu Dhabi TV was also hit.

What possible motive could the US have had for wishing to bomb Al Jazeera? Well Al Jazeera is based in Qatar, a country considered a US ally and its staff are gleaned from all around the world, even Britain, so there can be little question of the TV station being considered an enemy. Al Jazeera’s only agenda is to report the news to an audience of 50 million and in a difficult climate. When the TV station first began broadcasting it won much acclaim in the US. The New York Times eulogized it as a “beacon of freedom” and White House officials saw it as living testimony that the Arab world wanted democracy and freedom of speech. But then the US top brass realised that Al Jazeera has a ‘tell it like it is’ method of reporting; that it was not going to bury the truth like so many western TV stations. It began reporting in gruesome detail what it saw, so much so that it has a nifty sideline in selling footage to foreign TV companies. Moreover, it aired the alleged Usama bin Laden video tapes to the Arab world. Clearly the TV station was becoming something of a “turbulent priest” that the kings of oil wanted rid of.

When, in 2003, Paul Wolfowitz, the US Deputy Defence Secretary claimed Al Jazeera was “endangering the lives of US troops”, it was Donald Rumsfeld, the US Secretary of Defence who upped hostility to the TV station by falsely claiming it was collaborating with Iraqi insurgents. At the behest of their US puppet-masters, the newly elected Iraqi government had Al Jazeera thrown out of the country.

Back in June of 2005, Donald Rumsfeld further complained about Al Jazeera tarnishing the good old US image “day after day”

When US forces launched a massive and merciless assault on the Iraqi city of Fallujah, stopping all men of military age from leaving the city before the attack and with many hundreds of civilians dying in the consequent napalm bombardment, Rumsfeld commented on Al Jazeerah’s coverage of the atrocity:” I can definitely say that what Al Jazeera is doing is vicious, inaccurate and inexcusable.”

During the State of the Union address in 2004, Bush referred to reports from Al Jazeera and other Middle Eastern media outlets as “hateful propaganda coming out of the Arab world.”
George Orwell once said: “during times of universal deceit, telling the truth becomes a revolutionary act.” Well, events before and since the invasion of Iraq have revealed we certainly live in times of universal deceit, so maybe Bush wanted Al Jazeera knocked out for its revolutionary act of telling the truth about the occupation of Iraq.

In prosecuting the former Cabinet Official David Keogh along with Leo O’Connor, a researcher to the former Labour PM Tony Clarke over the leaked memo, and in threatening the media with the Official Secrets Act, the government is guilty of the same crime that the story focused on – namely that of attempting to strangle the truth. Blair, on the one hand, allegedly advises Bush, it would not be wise to bomb Al Jazeera, who would have been bombed because they reveal the truth which the US finds harmful, yet clamps down on all attempts to bring the circumstances surrounding the memo to public attention, because to do so would likewise harm Bush.

And this from the same government which announced in their White Paper back in 1997, that “the perception of excessive secrecy has become a corrosive influence in the decline of public confidence in government…[and that]…people expect much greater openness and accountability than they’re used to.”

George Orwell left us with another memorable quote: "He who controls the present, controls the past. He who controls the past, controls the future." This is exactly what New Labour, indeed the Bush-Blair bandwagon, is all about – controlling the future via their control of the present and what information is available to us and in the interests of their own backers. In preventing the truth surrounding Bush’s remarks becoming public knowledge the government is doing more harm to ‘national security’ than any full disclosure of the alleged “let’s bomb Al Jazeera” remark could. The Labour government ceases to be “open to scrutiny” and accountable to the people and instead becomes the puppet of US foreign policy its detractors always claimed it to be, losing what trust supporters might have had in it.

Of course none of the above should come as a surprise to the well informed, highly attuned to the Machiavellian goings-on of the executive of big business, namely governments. Few governments rule by force nowadays; most rule by consent, a consent granted by a misinformed and constantly lied-to public. Were governments really open with the truth, they would live as long as it would take the masses to tie their nooses.

Indeed, it was George Bush Snr who once said: “If the people knew what we had done, they would chase us down the street and lynch us.”

One thing, however, that the Socialist Party can pride itself on is its openness. We have no secrets; nothing we say or do is said or done behind closed doors, away from public scrutiny. Our EC meetings, Conferences and Delegate Meetings are always open to the public and there is nothing stopping members of the public speaking at the same. Moreover, all of the reports of these meetings are available for scrutiny, even posted on the www. And there are reasons for this – not only do we believe in accountability and feel it important to win the trust and respect of our fellow workers, we further envisage socialist society to be free, open and democratic, with all delegates wholly accountable to the people who elect them, so it makes sense that an organisation advocating such a society should hold its own democratic procedures up as a model.

And as advocates of democracy, free speech and accountability, we will be closely watching the trial of David Keogh and Leo O’Connor at Bow Street Magistrates Court on January 10th, though without much hope that this case will result in a triumph in the cause of government accountability. For Blair and Bush there is just too much at stake – the truth.