log in

Help boost radical media and socialist organisation

Join Counterfire today for a minimum of just £5

Join Now

Obama's Undeclared War Against Pakistan

In a new interview, Obama said he has “no intention” of sending US troops into Pakistan. But US troops are already in the country and US drones attack Pakistan regularly.

  • Written by Jeremy Scahill
  • Category: Opinion

Iran - 1979 and 2009

The Iranian Revolution of 1979 was a mass event, a popular uprising of a scale rarely seen before. 30 years on, the Iranian people are out in their millions once again but the questions remain, what is this really about and where is this movement going?

  • Written by Dominic Kouros Kavakeb
  • Category: Opinion

Attacks on Romanians in Belfast

Now, you might be thinking, "bigotry in Belfast? Well, I never!" True, the attacks on Romanians earlier this week come after years of assaults and intimidation of Chinese workers which reached a bloody crescendo in 2003 and 2004. And it follows attacks on Polish workers earlier this year, in which Unionist politicians tried to cover up the extent of what was happening. Actually, Unionist politicians like Sammy Wilson - one of the few people in the world who really does have a face like a well-smacked arse - have been openly encouraging discrimination against migrant workers. But I do consider it significant that the attackers were chanting BNP and Combat-18 slogans as they did this. Not because there's a powerful Nazi organisation in Ulster, but it does look as if Northern Ireland's disproportionate number of violent young bigots have been heartened by the recent success of fascism in the mainland. Eamonn McCann, noting the lack of BNP presence in the areas affected, suggests that the attackers are "invoking an established brand rather than acting at the instigation of an organisation". (Mind you, it seems the BNP have just established their national call centre in Dundonald, and presumably intend to try and build a little family of fascists in the area: can't you just hear the pitter-patter of tiny goosesteeps?)

Over at Splintered Sunrise, I see that the UDA boss is ventilating over the BNP's malevolent influence, desperately trying to deflect any blame that might be placed on his right-wing paramilitary outfit: "It seems that what is exercising Hard Bap is the possibility that the UDA’s good name might be besmirched by commentators linking it with the BNP. Which sort of says something about Nick Griffin’s push for respectability." This won't fly, of course. Studies have shown that 90% of racist crime in Northern Ireland takes place in Loyalist areas. It may not be that the UDA are actually encouraging such attacks, but there is a powerful continuity in the methods of violence and intimidation, and the bigotry underwriting them. Moreover, it seems that some other things don't change either: most of Northern Ireland's minorities consider the Police Service of Northern Ireland (n√©e RUC) to be institutionally racist. Well, of course it is. It is the still largely unreconstructed authority of an occupying power that has spent decades terrorising Catholic estates. On top of that, the Crown Prosecution Service only seems to try a fraction of the reported cases of racist violence. So, if you're being driven out of your home by some jumped up Rangers fans with an admiration for the fascist way of doing things, you can't rely on the police, and you can't rely on the courts. And as for the Assembly, they've done fuck all about it for years, despite having pledged to do so. (The lack of consideration given to migrants in policymaking is discussed in this lengthy and useful report [pdf]). The efforts of solidarity campaigners is all that is coming down the pipeline.

McCann argues that the root of this is more than a deflection of older forms of sectarian violence, though, and I think this is crucial:

It is not to excuse the assaults to point to the fact that the Protestant working class, and its young people in particular, have been the main losers from change in Northern Ireland. It's not that they have taken a hit that their equivalents on the Catholic side have not also suffered. Whatever your religion, the poorer you are here the more likely you are to have not benefited at all from the agreement hailed around the world as ushering in a peace based on mutual tolerance. It's no accident that the Real IRA draws its support almost exclusively from the least well-off in the Catholic community.

The snarling young men who forced the Romanian families out have the additional grievance that the Protestant community's sense of itself as living in "their" state has been shattered by the developments symbolised by Sinn Féin sitting snugly in government with the DUP. That none of them can remember the glory days of untrammelled unionist rule matters little. They feel - and it's a feeling they know is endorsed and welcomed by many nationalists - that Catholics are on the way up, Protestants on the way down.

I know that complaint very well. One used to hear quite a bit (from Protestants) in the 1990s, that while once it was the Catholics who were being victimised, now it's the poor Prods. The neoliberal consensus reinforces this sense of grievance by reducing the sphere of legitimate arguments about public spending and resources to sectarian ones: not, will we close this hospital, but will this hospital be closed in a Protestant, or a Catholic area. This entails McCann's conclusion that, while it is necessary to confront these thugs - physically, if it comes to that - it is also essential to build the kind of radical anti-neoliberal left that has just done so splendidly well in the south of Ireland.
  • Written by Lenin's Tomb
  • Category: Opinion

Timeline: Recession

Author and activist John Rees introduces a programme on the economic crisis - screened live on the Islam Channel Sunday 14 June 2pm, Wednesday 17th June 10pm and Friday 19th June 10:45pm

Leon Kuhn on Obama

Leon Kuhn talks us through the ideas and creation of his latest photomontage

Film directed by Dawit Smallmoney. Music by Akemi Kuniyoshi, Paul Moss and Russell Lambert

  • Written by Leon Kuhn
  • Category: Opinion

Euro Elections: Labour's Collapse

Nick Griffin

The most politically significant thing - more than the election of two MEPs for the fascist BNP - is the scale of Labour's collapse.

  • Written by Ady Cousins
  • Category: Opinion

Deeds not words

Anyone expecting Barack Obama's speech 'to the Muslim world' to really alter the terms of debate round US role in the world looks like being disappointed.

  • Written by Lindsey German
  • Category: Opinion

No to Nato

Videos by Feyzi Ismail

The North Atlantic Treaty Organisation (NATO) is a military alliance of twenty-six nation-states. It was formed on the 4th of April 1949 specifically to counterbalance the growing power of Soviet Union and block its potential expansion into Europe.

The end of the cold war resulted in NATO becoming a vehicle for US military expansion which is notably seen in the war on Afghanistan.

This weekend NATO held a summit in Strasbourg, France on its 60th anniversary with the main aim of increasing its troops there. Thousands of protesters converged to say no to the war on Afghanistan, no to war, no to NATO. Below is a report from the London contingent:

The Stop the War Coalition (STW) organised 1 coach from Manchester and 2 coaches from London. I joined the contingent because demonstrating against NATO and Obama’s foreign policy felt like the necessary step to take after the injustice seen in the siege on GAZA.

The coaches were waved off by the FIT and arrived late Friday night having negotiated police road blocks and a faulty GPS. A campsite had been set up by local anarchists, who had barricaded the main street leading to it using furniture, broken glass and anything else available to ensure the police could not enter. In the middle of the night, amidst the constant hum of a police helicopter, it was reassuring to know the camp was being guarded.

In the morning the UK contingent marched with the New Anti-Capitalist Party (NPA) towards the meeting point for the main demonstration.

All trams and buses had been cancelled and a ring of steel placed around the city centre, with 24,000 German and French police on guard. The march was loud with slogans such as, ‘Obama, yes we can, troops out of Afghanistan’ whilst also focusing on Palestine and linking NATO and war with recession and anti-capitalism, alongside revolutionary chants.

Upon approaching a bridge smoke from tear-gas canisters marred our view and we linked with the Black Bloc (the name used to describe anarchists wearing black clothing) who had been battling the police lines since dawn. We tried to continue marching but a fresh round of canisters hurtled towards us and we had to draw back, temporarily blinded by our tears.

I had come ill-prepared but thankfully was handed a lemon and frantically bit on it then passed it on to prevent coughing fits; no-one wanted to stop chanting.

By this point I simply wanted to beat the police and others had the same urge. We tried pushing forward a couple more times, always staying strong with the banners, always standing our ground. The NPA then called for us to move back to their position, and we did so to form a stronger block.

Rumours then began that the bridge was open and we slowly inched forward until the smoke cleared and we could see lines of police with tanks to the left of us and fellow protestors ahead.

I had text comrades about our positioning and they had come from the rally point in solidarity. We marched together to it and sat in the blistering heat listening to speakers trying to ignore the low-flying helicopters and increasing plumes of black smoke rising from the German border where 7,000 protesters were barred from crossing into Strasbourg. When the fires drew closer and tear gas resumed the event organisers finally felt it was time for the march to begin.

The demonstration was 30,000 strong with international delegations of peace activists, Trade Unionists, the radical left and other pressure groups chanting for change. The main route was blocked and unfortunately the alternative ran alongside an IBIS hotel set alight by anarchists meaning the demonstration was stopped, police lines blocking the front and the back.

We took time to rest until suddenly tear gas was coming in and we were pushed forward into a desolate industrial area watching police shoot rubber bullets at anarchists throwing rocks. We retreated and tried to establish an escape route; there wasn’t one. With police lines inching forward I realised that there would be no independent witnesses if the police decided to baton charge and began preparing myself for that eventuality.

At that point organisers decided all protestors should sit down together away from the battle whilst someone negotiated our exit with the police.

Thankfully this tactic worked and we were allowed to leave, heads bowed, chants banned until we had passed the lines of police onto an open road once again. The demonstration ended where we had begun, with some including myself leaving slightly earlier, ID at the ready at a police block to return to the campsite, greeted by local sympathisers handing out much appreciated water and bread.

Teargassed, sunburnt and exhausted protesters spent the evening analysing the demonstrations, with many feeling there was an overall lack of organisation due to France not having an equivalent STW group but feeling positive having strengthened international solidarity and delayed the conference by an hour.

The following day an activist counter conference was held with Black Bloc tactics dominating the discussion. Most speakers felt that the Black Bloc should not be demonised or seen as a homogenous group, and although they shouldn’t have targeted Post Offices and bus shelters their overall actions appeared more justified when a camp medic spoke of police violence as early as the 2nd.

He described the use of tear gas and arrests at the camp, as well as bombs with aluminium shrapnel in them. STW Greece then argued we should be focusing on this police violence and NATO military violence instead of being distracted by the comparatively negligible violence of the Black Bloc.

This discussion linked greatly to the need to engage with youth, with Kate Hudson from CND feeling peaceful protest is enough to draw them in whilst John Rees from STW argued that in order to do this our movement must have a radical and dynamic core.

The London delegation left that evening, but only after we were searched by police blocking the campsite exit.

All our banners, political literature and anything else the police wanted was taken. This was supposed to be intimidating but, as with the whole weekend, their actions felt tame compared to the British police’s actions during the G20 and GAZA protests. It made me realise how violent our police had become.

Personally I felt the weekend was a success even if we didn’t manage to march where we wanted to; we protested, we were heard, and we forged closer international links which can only better our tactics in the future. The overall feeling was that no matter what the state throws at us, we will always organise and demonstrate against injustice and war.

Josephine Gough

  • Written by Jo Gough
  • Category: Opinion

Lindsey German: French Lessons

Lindsey German

I feel I've seen enough riot police in the past week to last me a lifetime. Strasbourg, where we went for the demo against Nato, was full of them - complete with pads, shields, helmets, truncheons and an assortment of weapons.
Lindsey German

  • Written by Lindsey German
  • Category: Opinion

Log in or create an account