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Monday, 17 July 2017

That time Putin walked out on a speech - in Hamburg

Tallinn, Estonia

This speech that Paul Goble has dug out retains all of its power and all of its relevance - a quarter of a century on - it's just astonishing.

Reblogged with permission.


By Paul Goble

Even Western leaders who are distinguished by the boldness of their statements on other issues appear reluctant to speak directly to Vladimir Putin about his lies and crimes, apparently fearful that he will turn the tables on them, use their words to reinforce his power at home, and attack them for undermining the possibility of reasonable relations.

But there have been some happy exceptions when Western leaders have not been afraid to speak the truth to Putin directly even though the Russian’s bad behavior only underscores how right they are to do so. One such event is now attracting a great deal of attention in both Russia and Germany. It deserves to be known even more widely.

Because the G-20 summit took place in Hamburg this year and because it featured a meeting between Putin and Donald Trump, German and Russian commentators have recalled an earlier meeting in Hamburg, in 1994, when Estonian President Lennart Meri delivered a remarkable address that caused Vladimir Putin to stomp out of the hall.

Hanseatic Leage cities and trade routes.
Source: Doc Brown
That action, as German officials have pointed out, was unprecedented in the centuries during which this dinner has been held and raises questions to this day about Putin and more generally about Russia and its relationship to Europe.

That event occurred on February 25, 1994, at the Mathia-Dinner of Hansa cities and their representatives. Among the honored guests that day were Meri and a relatively junior Russian official, the deputy mayor of St. Petersburg, Vladimir Putin, who shocked those in attendance by his boorish behavior.

Russian outlets have published excerpts from Lennart Meri’s speech, which are remarkable not only in their description of what was taking place in Europe and Eurasia in the mid-1990s but also in their predictions about the ways in which Moscow even then was threatening the West (,, and

Below is the full text of President Meri’s remarks from the portal of the Office of the Estonian President. They merit the closest attention both for their analysis of the situation and for the guidance they should be providing other leaders who have to interact with Putin now and in the future.

Address by H.E. Lennart Meri, President of the Republic of Estonia, at the Matthiae-Supper in Hamburg on February 25, 1994

Monday, 5 June 2017

Venezuela: Proof Corbyn's no 'Man of Peace'

Picture of Maikol Mendoza by Cristian Hernandez

Maikol Mendoza is a 17 year old Venezuelan who finally got a chance of life with a rare kidney transplant. The rat infested, medicine deprived state of his country's health care system has now deprived him of that second chance.
Then, Maikol became infected with a highly resistant bacteria borne out of the hospital’s poorly maintained water pipes.
Karla Zabludovsky piece for Buzzfeed on Mendoza and others suffering under a collapsing health care system is but one of many.
Stories like Maikol's are everywhere in Venezuela, where the health care system is on the brink of total collapse and patients who thought they were in the clear are back to fighting a harsh reality. Hospitals have left patients’ families to fend for themselves, scurrying to purchase everything from syringes to anesthesia, often at exuberant black market rates, and forcing doctors to perform surgery with antiquated equipment in operating rooms cleaned with dirty water.
Many of those reading this will have read similar reporting from Venezuela. What escapes me is why the leadership of the UK Labour party, who have so publicly identified themselves with the 'Bolivarian revolution', has not been asked about it.

The great cut off

June 2015 is that last time Jeremy Corbyn said anything on the record about Venezuela. Eight months later he scrubbed his website of any mention of the country.

To my knowledge Diane Abbott, Ken Livingstone, Richard Burgon, Owen Jones, Neil Findlay, and Seumas Milne have also all said nothing since this time. Bar a single reference discovered by Jack Staples-Butler:
As of this writing, Owen Jones has not used the word ‘Venezuela’ in print or online in the English language since 31st May 2015, over 580 days, mentioning it only when interviewed for a Spanish newspaper in June 2016, admitting “Venezuela is in a horrible state”[17] while making no reference to Chávez, socialism or his own involvement.
Since Corbyn's election as the leader of Her Majesty's Loyal Opposition the Venezuelan Solidarity Campaign most prominent public backer has been a Gandalf impersonator from a rail union.

Venezuela? Where's that?

This January Corbyn was in Mexico, on holiday, discussing his "dream of realizing a world government based on justice and fraternity,” with Mexico's Lopez Obrador, Venezuelan state TV channel Telesur reported.

The same month I imagine that Maikol Mendoza was wondering whether his transplant was happening.

A year ago on the day of Theresa May's election and to, presumably, cock a snoot at the Parliamentary Labour Party's meeting, Corbyn instead chose to not comment on May and to attend a Cuba Solidarity event in Parliament.

In the time since he stopped talking about Venezuela the Organisation of American States, Spain and the Vatican have all ramped up their efforts at a peace process President Maduro has trashed.

At the end of April the Pope, in his weekly address, said: "I make a heartfelt appeal to the government and all components of Venezuelan society to avoid any more forms of violence, respect human rights and seek a negotiated solution."

People are starving

Francisco Toro, executive editor of the excellent English language website Caracas Chronicles, spoke to a worker for the Catholic charity Caritas last week:
Caritas constructed a sample of more than two dozen at-risk areas in the poorest parishes of four Venezuelan states and started weighing children under 5 years old. This allows Caritas to measure “global acute malnutrition” — the key mechanism humanitarians use to assign numbers to the severity of hunger. In October, 8.9 percent of the children they measured faced either moderate or severe acute malnutrition. The number was high, and it has kept rising. By April, 11.4 percent of of children in vulnerable areas were experiencing acute malnutrition — well above the 10 percent threshold humanitarian agencies use to declare a food crisis.
Maduro refuses to declare a food crisis, which would trigger international support, and refuses to allow humanitarian aid agencies to properly do their work or to bring in food and medicines. Instead he has publicly joked about starvation and putting the nation on the 'Maduro diet'. The military is now starving the populace for profit.

Chavistas will blame the situation on the fall in the price of oil and the sulfurous Yankees, but malnutrition in children was already reversing from last decade's gains five years ago, before that price fell. The BBC World Service's 'The Inquiry' showed that Venezuela's economy has long had structural problems - and Chavista policies have only made them worse and led to today's situation.

The Maduro regime is now relying on financing from, amongst others, Goldman Sachs. Yes that Goldman Sachs.

Why are they doing this? Because they still believe they are creating a socialist paradise.

Writing for Caracas Chronicles César Crespo explained how Chavez' long game "was always establishing an “alternative” to capitalism." Spanish Marxist Professor Alfredo Serrano Mancilla, the main economic advisor to the government, has been described by Maduro as the "Jesus Christ of the economy." His prescriptions include:
Expropriations, the seizure of businesses, “urban agriculture” on balconies, the soviet supply system and forced employment in the public agriculture sector.
Mancilla wants any crisis hidden and no aid allowed in. According to the Spanish newspaper El Nacional, Mancilla has "solidified the idea that the socialist economic model of the 21st century is unquestionable, and that any failure is the result of attacks from the opposition."

Corbyn could have acted - he chose not to

When his visit to the region he professes to love was reported by Telesur at the beginning of this year Corbyn could have spoken out on Venezuela. When he spoke to the Cuban Solidarity crowd last June he could have spoken out.

He could have demanded:
  1. That the Venezuelan government rejoin the peace process
  2. That the Venezuelan government declare a food crisis
  3. That the Venezuelan government allow humanitarian aid agencies and NGOs to freely operate and to bring in aid
He could have repeated the words, practically word-for-word, of the Pope.

Here's the thing. Even within the worldview of supporters, like him, of Chavismo the country is deemed under attack from the evil behemoth to the North - yet still Corbyn (and all the others) has stayed silent and refused to come to the aid of the 'revolution'.

Never mind what happened 35 years ago or even 14 years ago (see an 'Exclusive!' piece today about Corbyn and North Korea) - what about now? Right now?

Venezuela is Corbyn's opportunity to not just play a 'Man of Peace' but to actually be one. He failed.

I have no doubt that even if I had published this weeks ago it would have had little impact, it is clear that such issues are largely irrelevant in this election. But it remains important that people know - Venezuela is the proof everyone has missed in this election, that Corbyn is no 'Man of Peace'.

Edited to add: Corbyn could have taken a lead from Spain's left wing party Podemos. They realised back in 2014 that they had to distance themselves from Chavismo, something they had previously been entwined with. This has caused the Maduro regime a lot of pain and demonstrates how someone like Corbyn similarly reversing could have a positive impact. See Caracas Chronicles from last May.

Do also read:


Thursday, 25 May 2017

The left and Manchester: Some good news

British comedian Rufus Hound* toying with conspiracy theories

Since the Manchester bombings there has been an understandable need to point and either laugh or yell at some of the 'hot takes' circulating online.

Whether they're coming from a comedian or some random woman with a Corbyn backback yelling 'conspiracy!' at soldiers outside Downing Street. Whether its some Texas redneck Sheriff seemingly arguing that British teenage girls should be armed or, in the case of a tweet of mine which went viral, some FoxNews commentator ignorant of the IRA bombing of Manchester 21 years ago.

There's mountains of them and they're nigh-on impossible to resist (I should know). They're especially difficult to resist if you can use them to make a bigger political point, as Tom Harris did in a Telegraph piece headlined 'The Left has lost the plot if it thinks the Manchester attack was a Tory conspiracy'.

The thing is that 'the Left' is not, enmasse, conspiracising over Manchester, and that's significant.

The well respected Canadian writer Terry Glavin has noticed this too. He says that "a tectonic shift in the way the “debates” around terrorism [has] lately evolved."

In the NATO capitals, something has finally shifted in the way Islamist terror is understood. It is as though the public tolerance for claptrap and prevarication of both the leftish and rightist type has at last been reached, and a new consensus, of the kind expressed so beautifully by Mancunians this week – Muslim and otherwise – is beginning to take hold.

At the time of the London bombings, Jeremy Corbyn, then just a boring, offside Labour MP, joined with London Mayor Ken Livingstone (recently suspended from the Labur Party for his dalliances with anti-Semitism) and the disgraced former Labour MP George Galloway (a fancier of Syrian genocidaire Bashar Assad and a Hezbollah enthusiast) in blaming the London attack on Western foreign policy.

Corbyn is now the leader of a bitterly divided and vastly diminished Labour Party that is expected to be trounced by Prime Minister Theresa May in the June 8 parliamentary elections. You won’t hear Corbyn blaming the wicked former U.S. president George W. Bush for Monday night’s outrage in Manchester. It would be suicidal. Things have changed.

The Manchester massacre occurred four years to the day after Lee Rigby of the Royal Regiment of Fusiliers was butchered by “lone wolf” jihadists in the streets of Woolwich. Rigby’s throat was opened with a crude knife and he was nearly decapitated, with a meat cleaver. As recently as 2013, it was still fashionable to utter imbecilities lightening such murderers’ burden of guilt by resort to the “blowback” defence.

At the time, the famous American fantasist/documentarian Michael Moore declared that Rigby’s slaughter was understandable, because Westerners “kill people in other countries.”

This sort of vulgar “analysis” has been largely excised from respectable conversation and appears now to be confined to the sewers of public debate, where it belongs. On Tuesday, the Kremlin propaganda channel RT News found some “experts” who took up the line. So did the viciously homophobic and anti-Semitic British Hizb ut-Tahrir group, which is about as popular among British Muslims as Galloway is among Britain’s Labour Party MPs.
The leading proponents of blowback, Tariq Ali and John Pilger, have, post-Manchester, been confined to, respectively, Democracy Now! and Russia Today with their micro-audiences. It also seems that Stop The War Coalition (StWC) have STFU. They must be chafing at the bit.

Of course there are people online connecting Corbyn's Iraq War opposition to somehow being 'prescient' because that War caused ISIS or something (and here is a brilliant meme from Andrew Spooner which nails down that canard).

But these are fringe voices.

As I write what 'blowback' argument there is is coming not just from the left but from everywhere on the political spectrum and it's about Theresa May's stint as Home Secretary and her cuts to the police.

As Glavin notes:
The people of Manchester are not unfamiliar with the horrible implications of “radicalization” among young Muslim men. The Muslim leadership in that city has been acutely concerned with the implications of jihadist recruitment and grooming for some long while.
As is so often the case, it seems the bomber was indeed reported to authorities. Whether police cuts really did play a role, given how expanded the security services have been, I don't know, but citing them is entirely legitimate and that's what the Corbynistas are doing along with a whole lot of other people.

What the biggest (with one exception) Corbyn supporting websites are not doing is indulging conspiracy theories, such as that the bombing was a false flag connected to the election or that the army deployment is to somehow win the election.

These websites, as Jim Waterson documented for Buzzfeed, have truly huge audiences and are consequently extremely influential but fly pretty much under the radar of Tweetminster.

Thomas G Clark (Another Angry Voice (AAV)), writes Waterson, is "measured by Facebook shares per article in the first week of the election campaign, the most viral political journalist in the entire country. "

None of AAV, The Canary, Evolve Politics, and Skwawkbox have indulged conspiracism. (The Canary even had, I swear this is true, an editorial the day after the bombing that would not have been out of place in The Guardian)

The exception is Mike Sivier's hysterical VoxPolitical, with Sivier writing that "Mrs May’s deployment of the army indicates she is quite happy to use terror tactics on her own people."

I wrote a comment to Sivier, which of course he won't publish:

Clark for AAV wrote last night against the conspiracy theorists, saying that "conspiracy theorising about "false flags" is deeply unhelpful".
The evidence-free assertions that the Tories plotted this attack themselves are damaging to the fabric of British political debate. The Tories might well be an incredibly callous party, but in my view they're also far too incompetent to pull something like that off without leaving incriminating evidence all over the place.

The important issues at the moment are that they deserve intense scrutiny about the extreme cuts they imposed on the armed forces, police, emergency services, hospitals and border agency. Also serious questions need to be asked about the emerging accusations that the bomber had been shopped to the police several times for having links to Islamist extremism.

Of course they have sailed right up to the line and there's a lot of stuff here I think is idiotic, particularly the stuff around the bombing halting a 'Corbyn surge' when its clear May's time as Home Secretary is coming back to haunt her over the issue of, of all things, security. Daniel Sugarman pointed me at this from Skwawkbox's Steve Walker, but I don't think its conspiracism because Walker's not saying the troop deployment was in order to win the election (i.e. there's a conspiracy).

And of course they have all sailed right over the line into conspiracism elsewhere. The Canary is right now doing that over the 'Evil Hillary murdered Seth Rich who dun the Wikileaks not the Russkies' conspiracy theory, as promoted by Fox New's Shaun Hannity. All of them have done it over antisemitism, with Sivier being a particularly stupid example. Also, as Andrew Coates has documented, conspiracism is growing within the European left. And, as Nick Cohen and others have suggested, they may well blame the Manchester bombings June 9 for Corbyn's defeat.

But over the Manchester bombing, as of now, most of them aren't pushing conspiracies, and it was also notable to see Corbyn sidekick Baroness Chakrabati, the bete-noire of many reading this regarding her role around Labour and antisemitism, going out of her way to speak out against conspiracism on BBC Newnight.

Terry Glavin thinks Manchester signals that something might have changed for the better and I think the evidence suggests that it has.

What if the non-Corbynistas, the 'sensible left', the fans of Nick Cohen - us - have actually had an impact?

What if we were so caught up in our own bubble that we failed to notice when we've actually won ourselves a little victory?


*Before someone cites Rufus Hound having 1.2 million followers on Twitter the way that works is that only a tiny fraction of that number will have actually seen the Tweet. Far more will have now, of course, because it's been amplified by the outrage to it.


Also by me, for Little Green Footballs, 'Manchester: Defiant and Proud'

Saturday, 21 January 2017

Two inaugurations: Two realities: Dakar vs DC

America does not take kindly to the world telling it stuff but there is an opera in this.

As the world watched - same time, same planet - its greatest power crowned a man who lost the vote to a woman. Same time, same planet, Africa peacefully forced our a man who lost power by the same majority vote to another man. Peacefully.

As the West hands nuclear codes to a man who lost the vote to a woman West Africa peacefully removes a man voted out by a majority.


The Gambia ('the' because of the river)  is a tiny, tiny country in West Africa you have probably never heard of. Its gay hating (a thing) dictator, Jammeh, won a coup. He lost 22 years later to someone, Adam Barrow, who once worked in a UK big box.

Jammeh conceded then he retracted. The region - ECOWAS - told Jammeh to give in. They had done this before, told losers to concede. This is what they do.

West Africa, ECOWAS, is bigger than the United States mainland. Thanks to a Belgian this rarely crosses our collective mind.

The UK big box guy was inaugurated in the neighboring state. All the neighbors said we will back you, with force.

In contrast to the rest of Africa this region had stood up for democracy. The dictator was forced from power. The same time as you inaugurated Trump.

Same time as the Trump inaugural was happening this was happening.

An African region was telling a member to uphold democracy.  It rolled out troops.

Another contrast

The US has a President who has a minority of votes. His election is predicated on a 200yr+ system designed to boost states with small populations in a system that this country has never tried to change. There is V strong evidence he was elected because of the intervention of a police chief, never mind the foreigners alleged to have interfered. There are electors calling him illegitimate.

How hard is it for this white Londoner to see this through African eyes? Not very.

As I mentioned, opera. Western tourists watched Trump's speech in The Gambia's capital's, Banjuy, airport as this all happened. Include that.

Make art from this.

Wednesday, 4 January 2017

Venezuela: A Corbynvista warning

“Negative campaigning works against other candidates but not against Corbyn,” one Smith aide said. “For a lot of people he embodies something about themselves. It’s a statement of intent about your personal identity, a personality marker to like Corbyn. So attack that and people take it personally.”
Jim Waterson signalling how a Corbyn identifying left will gladly sell out the likes of Venezuela's starving. Watch them - If/and you help this go viral.

Even before they fell silent on Venezuela's food crisis Jeremy Corbyn and others had failed to support Labour's cousins in that country. 

They cheered Chavismo but run away like cowards as it falls. And their acolytes say nothing.

In Venezuela there are four political parties that are sister parties to the UK's Labour Party, fellow members of the Socialist International (the "worldwide organisation of social democratic, socialist and labour parties."):
A member of the Democratic Action party and past vice president of the Socialist International, Henry Ramos Allup, was elected Speaker of the opposition controlled Venezuelan National Assembly in January this year.

The Venezuela Solidarity Campaign, which Corbyn and others are aligned with, have repeatedly said that these Social Democrats are 'right wing'.  Here's them describing Ramos Allup as 'right wing'.

They are no more 'right wing' than Owen Smith, Harriet Harman or Wes Streeting is but in Venezuela this label dumped on them by the Western likes of the VSC carries far more serious weight.

Herein lies a Lenin-echo tale

All four parties have been persecuted under, first, Hugo Chavez and now Nicholas Maduro.

Leopoldo López, of Popular Will, is the most well known persecution subject. He was jailed in February 2014 on charges of public incitement to violence through supposed subliminal messages and criminal association. He had previously been subjected to corruption charges, and banned from running for office. Those charges were declared false by the Inter-American Court of Human Rights.

Chilean José Antonio Viera-Gallo tried to visit López in 2014 in a mission from the Socialist International and was denied access. Viera-Gallo said:
In a dictatorship, there are no rights whatsoever, and one is left at the mercy of power. Yesterday, we confirmed human right violations against a political leader.
In June this year the socialist former Spanish Prime minister Zapatero finally met López.

Amnesty International have deemed López a Prisoner of Conscience and have said that:
"The charges brought against Venezuelan opposition leader Leopoldo López," was a “smack of a politically motivated attempt to silence dissent in the country.”
Guadalupe Marengo, Amnesty International Americas Program Deputy Director, called on Venezuelan authorities to:
Either present solid evidence to substantiate the charges against López or release him immediately and unconditionally ... Amnesty International has not seen evidence to substantiate these charges. This is an affront to justice and free assembly.
The (UK) Venezuela Solidarity Campaign (VSC, whose prominent left-wing British supporters I called out) have called López "right wing" - have called any opposition 'right wing' - and has disseminated Venezuelan government propaganda against him.

The group have said about protests against food shortages and repression:
The calls for street action from the opposition, [amounts] to destabilizing the country.
This is the language of Putin, of Lukashenko. This is Stalinism. To underline that Kremlinesque 2013 post, the VSC specifically tied the social democrat López to "fascists".

In this they echo the Venezuela government who just called the Chilean Foreign Minister, who served under Allende, a 'Pinochetista' for daring to inquire about the arrest of one of its citizens, the lawyer Braulio Jatar.

Jatar's imprisonment brings the number of political prisoners in Venezuela to 95.

'Man of peace'

I have looked and cannot find any contacts between Corbyn, or Ken Livingstone (for that matter), with Social Democrats in Venezuela.

Corbyn has never, no instance I can find, defended López.

Nor Manuel Rosales, another prominent (ran for President, exiled) Social Democrat persecuted by Chavismo.

Neither had he any comment on the massive corruption called out by Chavistas themselves.

Jack Staples-Butler's masterful, long-form complete demolition of Corbyn et al demonstrates how none of them - Corbyn, Jones et al - payed any heed, none. to even Venezuelan civil society, NGOs or trade unionists.

All of them were so bewitched, and, as Jack demonstrates, the 1930s, Orwell-Spain, parallels are so exact.


That they did not know is impossible

In a 2013 encounter on Al-Jazeera Corbyn was called out on his Chavismo support with critics citing corruption, manipulation of elections, and alliances with dictatorships like Iran and Syria.

His answer - noteworthy angry - was to point to 'what Venezuela was like before Chavez' and the fact that Chavez had won elections. He denied that Chavez has clamped down on the media and described opposition criticism of Chavez in the media as "libelous"

Since 2003, Freedom House has ranked Venezuela as "not free" concerning press freedom. Concerns about freedom of the press in Venezuela have been raised by Human Rights Watch, Amnesty International, the Inter American Press Association, the International Press Institute, Reporters without Borders, representatives of the Catholic Church, the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights, and others.
"[Chavez] was not a very efficient dictator because he allowed so much opposition to carry on," Corbyn said.
I refer you again to Jack Staples-Butler's surgical demolition of Corbyn et al on this point. Jack takes apart every talking point from Corbyn, Owen Jones etc from this period and shines sunlight on it.

Corbyn knew. Of course he knew.  He knows now. Ask him and watch the 'man of peace' dissolve before your eyes. Ask.
In his last recorded comments on Venezuela in June 2015 Corbyn did not include anything - not one word - on the grim situation with hunger in Venezuela, never mind the international outcry from fellow Social Democrats over the imprisonment of López. Almost the entire focus was on supposed American imperialism.

Now he deletes all comment on Venezuela from his website.

Do not tell me they did not know. Owen Jones, Burgon, Abbott - FFS Milne. They all knew.

Damn any unheard Venezuelan Social Democrat who complained. Shiraz Socialist:
Essential to any Bonapartist regime is the role of the army. Chávez was a career soldier and this conditions his outlook and politics. This is not simply because he tried to seize power in 1992 through a military coup. It is widely recognised that Chávez militarised politics in Venezuela.

Chávezs made it clear in interviews with sympathetic journalists such as Marta Harnecker and the hero-worshipping Richard Gott  that a reconstructed “civilian-military alliance” was the key to his politics. His organisation, the MBR-200, formed in the early 1980s, was made up largely of middle level officers, with others in a secondary role.

The armed forces have been central from the beginning of Chávez’s rule.
The military in now running the economy. The military is now starving the populace for profit.

Let me underline that again. Maduro has let the military run food and they are profiting from it while people starve.

One assumes this is fine by Corbyn et al but who knows? No journalist has asked them about it.

Serious people say this will come to a financial head in April. Jack Staples-Butler has ideas on who the Chavista apologists' fall guy will be

Will they get away with this?

As Caracas Chronicles noted when Nick Cohen demolished the remaining left support for Chavismo earlier this year:
It’s been years since there was a serious argument to be had about the Bolivarian Revolution. The symbolic bookend to the debate, for me, came when Noam Chomsky broke with Chávez over his treatment of judge Afiuni
This is true except in the deaf/dumb left organised by the VSC in the UK, and exemplified by the Labour leader and still backed by big unions and still left alone by UK media, even unto the Mail ...

This is from last August.

They sold out fellow Venezuelan socialists.  Corbyn stood by and watched. Let this be a lesson to UK Labour.

He failed to defend Social Democrats in the face of kleptocratic so-called Leninists. They cheered an experiment that failed.

You got the point from all this?

See also:

Sunday, 18 December 2016

In Jo Cox's memory: Expel those who defame the White Helmets

I have a question for John Prescott.

If you are a Labour Party member who defames the White Helmets should you be expelled?

On Friday my friend the Times columnist Oliver Kamm retweeted my throw to him of the Snopes post debunking Eva Bartlett.

She is a Russia Today promoted woman whose shtick is that media reports of atrocities in Syria are staged.

Her shtick has been as widely distributed as the one about the Odessa Massacre, and by the same people.

Her shtick has been distributed in the same way - and often from the same sources - as was the notion that the Sandy Hook massacre of Connecticut small school children was staged.

The lunacy, the internal contradictions, of this shtick has not been better mocked than by Jim Kovpak.

My timeline since Oliver's RT has been bloated with conspiracists. I have hit 'mute' a lot.

Flying Monkeys.. descend!

I am way far from alone in being assailed by such Flying Monkeys. Someone still obsessed with complaining about Hilary Benn* thinks the RAF is bombing Aleppo. Someone who has a ton of followers. Many of those same people are busy defaming the White Helmets.

It is all the same to them - Syrians are lying, a white person knows better than a brown one.

This is the truth they keep yelling about. The I Know Better truth.

The White Helmets are the civilians busy pulling Syrian people from the rubble. Their reality is documented times over but their treatment by sections of the supposed liberal/left, emblematic of the defamation in general heaped on Syrians, including our comrades, trying to do something against fascism, is not featured by liberal media. For four years we have had this. Liberal media failing to expose these people.

This is from the David Icke website. All Civilian protectors in Syria must be in service to the great lizard.
According to the Internet the White Helmets are part of a false flag operation. Or they are AL-Queda. You can find it all endlessly repeated online.

The campaign against the White Helmets went quiet after Jo Cox, the British MP who was a great friend to Syrians, was assasinated. It has ramped up since. That their selfless acts are questioned, by anyone, should - should - be incredible. Yet those who distort are seemingly allowed to get away with it.

My response to all this earlier was:

All this is not 'Labour'
A timeline telling me that a Tweeting seven year old Aleppine is a CIA invention should be a joke - F'yes - but when it comes to the Syrian civil defence organisation the White Helmets it should be different, for anyone in the Party. As far as Labour is concerned you should - should - never dare touch the White Helmets.

The White Helmets were joint recipients of the Jo Cox memorial fund. When you hurt that you hurt Labour.

They are as 'Labour' as the Welsh Dulais Valley miners and families I visited in 1984. Labour is Internationalist and Jo Cox embraced that meaning.

Social media is flooded with defamation against the likes of the White Helmets. Labour has seen this before. Jo got this. We should too.

If Jo Cox's life meant anything it was that we enfolded these Syrians within Us. If we respect Jo we listen to those she listened to.

But, is there is a block between Us embracing the likes of the White Helmets?

Are We the White Helmets or Not?

All that keeps us from this is conspiracism. Or straight up silencing of Syrians, as Stop The War Coalition does.

One or the other Labour has to reject both. It is not who we are.

How many of those who I just engaged with, via Oliver Kamm, are Labour? Who else are here in Labour who would reject those who Jo embraced?

The point is, Mr Prescott and everyone else, whether we heard Jo or not, whether she represents us or not, Labour must decide. Who Are We.

Jo Cox's embrace of the White Helmets faces Labour with a stark choice. Whether Labour likes it or not.

Are we those who defame the White Helmets - or are we not? John? Others?

So do we expel those who defame the White Helmets?


*Hilary Benn is the Labour MP who stood up for Labour's internationalist tradition a year ago in the House of Commons in a widely applauded speech. For this the Flying Monkeys descended and he now faces being forced out of Parliament.

Friday, 16 December 2016

Lindsey German is a thug, an accomplice

This week as the massacre of men, women and children has been live on the Internet UK MPs from all parties bar UKIP have urged aid for civilian protection on the British government.

Many of those MPs have payed close attention to what Syrian civil society has been urging. In an impassioned post Kellie Strom for Syria Solidarity UK (SyriaUK), the organisation which channels those demands here in Britain, outlined what the UK could be doing.
There are still people alive to be saved: on the run in Aleppo, under siege in Madaya and the suburbs of Damascus, in prisons across Syria. There are many possible actions that we and others have proposed that haven’t been attempted by our Government.

We haven’t seen UK airdrops, even to areas away from the Russian focus of operations such as Madaya which is only minutes from Syria’s border.

We haven’t seen RAF surveillance drones make their presence felt over hospitals and other civilian targets to deter war crimes.

We haven’t seen the UK track and publicly identify aircraft committing war crimes and publicly identify officers and officials with command responsibility.

We haven’t seen any sanctions against Russian individuals implicated in war crimes.

We haven’t seen any sanctions against Iranian airlines resupplying Assad.

We haven’t allowed our much discussed prospective allies against ISIS, the Free Syrian Army, to have the means to defend themselves and their fellow Syrians against Assad’s and Putin’s air attacks.

We haven’t dared do anything to constrain or deter Assad’s ongoing chemical attacks, at the same time as Israel has regularly enforced its own red lines by carrying out air strikes against Assad and Hezbollah forces.

Assad and Putin’s mode of operation is to attack the weakest: to attack hospitals, schools, and aid workers. They are free to attack the weak because we are afraid to be strong.

This is a war against humanity, a war against every law and convention that keeps us secure. We must defend ourselves now and end Assad’s and Putin’s slaughter.
In response to Parliament one of the loudest leaders of the Stop The War Coalition (StWC), Lindsey German, said:
Every time they get the chance, MPs rush to promote further intervention and to justify past ones.
To her organisation the use of the UK's armed forces to meet the requests of Syrians, such as those articulated by SyriaUK, is 'intervention'. This is the group which also opposed the use of those UK armed forces to defend Yazidis under genocidal threat from ISIS. This is the group which opposed any aid to Mali when is was faced with occupation by the same sort of Islamists.

Defending Yazidis = 'war'. Defending Malians = 'war'.

Their 'hearts' are not in the 'right place'. Someone tell Eno.

Socialist Gabriel Levy
I have gone through the last six months of statements on Syria by the “Stop the War” coalition, looking in vain for any mention that the main responsibility for the assault on civilians this year is borne by the Syrian and Russian forces. If anyone’s seen one, please let me know. There are repeated calls for “all” intervening forces to withdraw and underlining the role of US, British and other forces (but not Russian ones).
They write of the need for 'aid' but refuse to outline by what mechanism it can be delivered.

They write of the need for 'peace' as if they are the only ones demanding it. They talk of the need for negotiations as if no one else had thought of it.

They back their posture with thuggery that descends into outright racism.

Syrians are pawns to them, nothing more

One year ago an event happened which exposed StWC to a wider world than the one they usually inhabit. Again the focus was in Parliament.

They held a meeting in a Parliament room where UK Syrians attempted to get their voices heard. The police were called on those Syrians.

Later, German told lies on Twitter about what had happened. She behaved, as one of those who was there observed of her co-silencer Dianne Abbott MP, in the manner of the Harry Potter villain Dolores Umbridge. It was notable that she did not engage, furiously. with those Syrians at that meeting, she did it instead with one of their supporters, Peter Tatchell, who is a famous, white UK leftie.

It was almost as if they do indeed have a soft spot, which other white Westeners can poke.

She avoids Twitter wars with brown Syrians or their UK supporters. It, their edifice, cannot stand giving an inch to Syrians. They will stop any branch giving that inch. Their politics means that such Syrians must not be heard - ever - and sometimes they must behave as thugs.

What does this amount to?

Imagine how their behaviour towards Syrian refugees would have been treated in any other circumstances. Imagine women in hijabi yelling at white lefties that they are wrong (and what ensued) in any other circumstance but this.

The refusal to listen to Syrians and to the presentation of Syrian's views (even when they outline a civilian protection agenda as articulated by SyriaUK and others) as fitting a US agenda is racist. The argument of the overwhelming older, white British StWC, shown by their actions, amounts to 'we know better than brown people.'

More widely this is seen in the reception of white 'explainers' such as Max Blumenthal and Ben Norton and the wide circulation of conspiracist theories about the Syrian civil protection organisation (supported by Jo Cox) the White Helmets.

Assad and Russian propaganda is everywhere online.  Circulated by the right and the left.

It all comes down to 'we know better than brown people'. All of it. On the left, none of them* even pretend to genuflect. This does not occur in other situations. There is no reflection. None. By white Westeners.

This is racist. Imagine this about Trinidadian or Ghanaian politics. Imagine this refusal to listen about that.

Syrians disagree amongst themselves. Obviously. Those opposed to the fascist regime have different arguments. Some more thinking lefties have said that aid drops are not technically feasible. Some engage on such a useful, practical basis - The basis of listening, real listening. because they want to help. But none of this exists according to StWC. None.

StWc oppose any engagement. Any. Never listen and never support 'intervention'. All who do not support their line are in service to 'empire'. They have demonstrated this. 'Foreign' people are to be collectively judged. (And those who listen to them.)

There is a name for this.

To many this is crystal clear when the same arguments promoted by StWC are advanced by the likes of Nigel Farage. Yet the simple, smart branding of 'Stop The War' deflates all questioning for a section of opinion.

This must end. StWC must become toxic. StWC must become branded as excusers of war, excusers of massacres, excusers of genocide.


This exercise is essential for the left. The defeat of StWC is essential, has always been essential, to aid Syrians.

Many are woke. In October an open letter was published saying:

Dear Jeremy,

We write as members of the Labour Party and Momentum, as socialist activists, or as other supporters of your leadership of the Labour Party. We agree wholeheartedly with your opposition to militarism and nuclear weapons, and your call for an end to British arms exports to countries such as Saudi Arabia. Yet we are concerned by your silence – thus far – on the ongoing slaughter of civilians by Russian and Assad-regime forces in Syria.

If it is not clear who these people oppose, one year on we have a StWC treasurer defaming Syrians using Russian propaganda.

This is what they do. Who they are. Jo Cox's friends defamed. 

A few weeks earlier we had a spokesperson for the Labour leader* deflecting from Russia hitting an aid convoy to Blame America.

The Labour angle

At the time of that Parliament meeting one year ago the Labour leader, the former StWC leader, was besieged over his StWC history.

News crews attendance meant he had to enter the StWC Christmas party by the back door.

Major media had picked up on left critics and the more outrageous content of the StWC website had been exposed to wide scrutiny. Myself and many others had picked through the detritus of what StWC was frantically deleting.

One year on and we have defenders of the Labour leader again focusing on Tatchell over Syrian voices.

Again they chose Lindsey German's tactic, focus on the white leftie (Tatchell), ignore the Syrians.

What got drowned out again was what drowned out a year ago: #ListenToSyrians

The Labour leader, as some have pointed out, has become the focus. Acting becomes dependent on internal Labour politics. Instead, Syrians must be.

What must be done

As SyriaUK outlines, the actions we can take are many.

There are practical actions outlined by them which you can lobby your MP about - but the main one I urge to readers is to listen to Syrians. All flows for that.

Many of them are silenced because of Assad. The terror is beyond anything and this bleeds into their visibility. Literally bleeds.
  • Contact SyriaUK to ask how you can support them.
  • Support refugees and amplify the voices of Syrian ones.
  • If you are a socialist argue, everywhere, against StWC and its influence.
  • If you are a union member demand they stop supporting StWC. 
  • Ask your MP to carry on pressing the government to support the sort of civilian protection measures outlined by SyriaUK.


It is really important to note that StWC has many, many left critics. At the Downing Street demonstration over Aleppo left-wing groups were unrepresented save one. There are many other voices. Tendance Coatsey has an overview of left critics here. This is the resistance.

*I have picked up here on an idea advanced by Michelle Obama of not naming 'him'. Yes I know it may not work but worth a try. I have done this because my last post was understood by some as critiquing all of Labour when many have done good work over Syria. Yes, but, your leader. Nail him to the trucking wall. You have not nailed him. This is the question of our time. You must do more.

*'Them' covers a lot. From those who have a job who have decided to, or were inclined to, ignore Syrians to those who think they're on the left who have done the same.

See also:

Tuesday, 13 December 2016

How Labour trashed Tatchell, not Assad


As the people of Aleppo were being burned alive in the street, hospital staff massacred and men and boys led to deaths which evoke Srebrenica the Labour Party's High Command's trashed Peter Tatchell.

For days after a speech by leader Jeremy Corbyn protested by activists demanding action to support those Aleppines his supporters raged against Tatchell on the basis of - women's rights.

Yet Corbyn's Human Rights Day speech had been promoted to the media as about Saudi Arabia and Bahrain - not women's rights.

Four days later and a prime vehicle for the spin by the Labour Party proclaimed the 'victory' of fascist Assad's forces in Aleppo.

It wasn't about women

Thanks to one of those who protested last Saturday I tracked down that BBC and Sky News reporters at the Labour leader's speech had been briefed by Labour to focus on Saudi Arabia. Reporting by the Huffington Post and the placement of a piece by Shadow Foreign Secretary Emily Thornberry confirms this.

Labour's aim for the speech was to attack UK Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson, who had made Trumpesque comments about Saudi Arabia, a bete noir country for the sections of the left who now run the Labour Party Command.

Saudi Arabia and its role in Yemen is a constant 'whatabout' reference for left wing Twitter. Labour's media manager is Seumas Milne, whose entire history is to blame everything on the US.

Of course their aim was to use an event on the day of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights to slag off America. Doh.

Aleppo, whatever

The grassroot activist intervention in the Corbyn speech was allied to the desperate Aleppines because they are personally connected to them because it was organised by Syria Solidarity UK who are led by Syrian civil society. Their focus in the protest was aid drops of food and medicine. a method of civilian protection which was pushed in the House of Commons a few days later - by Labour MPs.

The presence of Tatchell was a lighting rod, which I wrote about after the protest and which has since played out. I said that the problem is journalists should ask Corbyn's office if he supports air drops - this has still not happened.

The protest resulted in a forced statement by Corbyn, live at the event, in which he did not say he supported air drops.

This did not result in headlines that Corbyn does not support airdrops despite journalists knowing full well that Corbyn's 'anti-intervention' in any sense stance means zero action for Syrian civilians.

Despite the hostility against them, once again journalists let him off the hook. Nothing appeared saying Corbyn refused support to aid Syrian civilians.

Labour's position on Syria is coming from everyone else but the leader. The supporters default to that, which tells you a lot. They imagine a Syria position by the leader which does not exist.

To the barricades! Attack Tatchell!

Despite the Party selling the speech as about Saudi Arabia and Bahrain almost immediately the leader's fanclub decided what their leader had talked about was, in fact, women's rights.

This line was promoted by the Party's Campaign Director. The leader's personal army, Momentum, proclaimed it within a few hours.

As always in these things it was based on some truth. 'Women' were mentioned in the speech a lot. Great victory. Yet hours earlier the Party machine was selling another story.

It was even claimed that the event was not about human rights in general but was about domestic violence (DV) in particular , despite the absence of Jess Phillips MP, the party's main champion on this issue and another bete noir of the leader's fanclub. And also despite the leader's failure to whip MPs (make their vote near-mandatory) on a international domestic violence measure pushed in Parliament by the Scottish Nationals. That same measure in post-speech accounts was cited to attack Tatchell, as if he had single-handily destroyed it.

Corbyn fans even suggested HM Opposition could have no impact, despite the earlier Dubs amendment victory over child refugees practically cited by George Osborne in his valediction of Jo Cox.

Focusing on Tatchell - despite the obvious protest women and the Syrian women they were representing - a Blitzkrieg was launched. It resulted in hundreds of personal online attacks on Tatchell and a front page in the Stalinist newspaper The Morning Star, which was happily shared widely.

The Morning Star has been praised by the leader as the only newspaper he will allow in his presence.

On and on it went with the wide circulation amongst fans of Corbyn of denunciations of the Nobel nominated Syrian rescue organisation the White Helmets included. Shameful conspiracism, whose source is Russian propaganda and comparable to the online experience of Trumpism.

All while Aleppines were being massacred.

While Aleppines were being massacred

Today we have a Stalinist Newspaper Corbyn professes to like, on its front page, saying that Aleppo has been 'liberated'. The same newspaper carries - highlights - a denunciation of Tatchell.

Are the people who did this proud of what they did? Will this be something they will want to tell their grandchildren?

Not the CPGB, we know who they are. They cheer Stalin. Nope. Am thinking of those 'social democrat' others who got us to this point.

Those who half listened to Allepines and half listened, for (guilty) shame to something more enticing.

Peter is someone I know and someone who is flawed. F'yeah and yourself? This is not the point. Your focus on Peter is offensive on several levels, not the least because actual people in Syria (Aleppo! May I weep)  heard what happened and reacted far differently than you and you ignored what they said.

He was not the protest - and you know that.

A huge part of the left's problem with Syria is a failure to listen to Syrians. Just STFU and listen.

Otherwise? Endless 'we/I know better'. This is why the Stop The War Coalition has trolled you in systematically excluding Syrians who disagree with them. And told you this brown face is an agent, with a neocon agenda.

In another world this would be immediately understood as orientalism and this would be obvious.

These are Jeremy and Seumas's people. Of course they did what they did. They have history, or for the brand makers - legend.

Own it

The 'man of peace' and his coterie wanted to use the Declaration of Human Rights anniversary to attack the Yanks. Agin.

Some people representing Syrians showed up but, thank dafunk, force multiplier, Tatchell did too. So they deflected. We saw what Corbynistas said and we picked up on that and used every muscle to pile onto that. And all we cared about was defending the leader.

We saw what you did but...

The issue is Syria and if you are fine with fascists massacring people, for whatever reason you have invented in your head, have the guts to say it.

Own it. Galloway does. Some call Assad the mass murderer a socialist/secular revelation. That you? Assad opposes the Yanks! You're taking a side and it's with Assad!

Own it.

UK Labour has no such guts, it goes after Tatchell. UK Labour circled the wagons to defend the leader and did not have the guts to fight fascism when it counted. Some members, some MPs did. Hooray. Gold Star. No. really. But this exercise tells me that the Party failed at this moment.

That is the trucking truth. That is what happened.

If you will not yell this now when will you?

Saturday, 10 December 2016

Does Corbyn back aid drops to starving Syrians?

Today's protest of Jeremy Corbyn over Syria has drawn a lot of attention because of the presence of Peter Tatchell. This is a good thing when it highlights the issue - aid drops to civilians - but also a bad thing when Peter becomes the focus and not Syria. It is a good thing when Peter's presence draws more attention than one just by the organisers, the pressure group Syria Solidarity UK, would have done but a bad thing when reporting focuses on Peter and not the issue, which is Corbyn's failure over humanitarian protection and, most desperately now, aid drops.

It is also a problem when there is no context given to the coverage, which is the disquiet over Corbyn's leadership failure on Syria, particularly the breadth of that disquiet.

Members of the party who otherwise support Corbyn have been calling on him to speak out on protection of civilians in Syria for some time.

In October an open letter was published saying:
Dear Jeremy,

We write as members of the Labour Party and Momentum, as socialist activists, or as other supporters of your leadership of the Labour Party. We agree wholeheartedly with your opposition to militarism and nuclear weapons, and your call for an end to British arms exports to countries such as Saudi Arabia. Yet we are concerned by your silence – thus far – on the ongoing slaughter of civilians by Russian and Assad-regime forces in Syria.
Also in October Corbyn was protested over Syria, by Syrians, at a meeting of the Stop The War Coalition.

Protestor Oz Katerji wrote:
The late MP Jo Cox called for the Labour Party to support civilian protection measures in Syria; I call on Jeremy to listen to Jo and stop ignoring Syrian activists. The bloodshed in Syria cannot be stopped while continuing to refuse to hold Assad accountable for his crimes. We must act to protect civilians now, a sea-enforced deter and retaliate no-bombing zone would be a good place to start, as would aid drops to civilians starving under Assad’s brutal ‘submit or starve’ sieges.

Enough of the silence, enough of the complicity, it is time to act now to protect Syrian lives.
The response from Corbyn's spokesperson (almost certainly Seumas Milne) was:
The focus on Russian atrocities, or Syrian army atrocities, which is absolutely correct, I think sometimes diverts attention from other atrocities that have taken place.

Independent assessments are that there have been very large scale civilian casualties as a result of US-led coalition bombing and there are several cases of large numbers of civilian deaths in single attacks and there hasn’t been so much attention on those atrocities or those casualties.

Both the United States and Britain, the British Government, have been reluctant to accept any independent assessment of those.
That drew this comment from the husband of assassinated MP Jo Cox, who had chaired the all party parliamentary friends of Syria group:
This isn't just wrong, it's absolutely disgraceful.
Corbyn's Twitter feed has made no comment on Syria since a series of tweets around the parliamentary vote a year ago. Today's tweets about Human Rights Day mention Bahrain but not Syria.

Tatchell said today:
He’s made no statements as far as we know in solidarity with civil societies in Syria. He’s not listening to their demands, he’s not promoting their demands, which are very simple – a UN-supervised ceasefire, for the UN to supervise the evacuation of civilians to safe havens, and, most importantly right now, the airdrop of aid and medicine to besieged civilian populations.
Labour MPs, including the Shadow Foreign Secretary, have backed aid drops to civilians. But Corbyn has said nothing and his response to the protest today did not clarify whether he backs aid drops either.

He said:
Just to be absolutely clear, in response to the point that Peter made, Emily Thornberry on our behalf during foreign office questions and on many other occasions has made it absolutely clear that we do think that aid should be given to people in Aleppo, we do think that bombing should end, we do think there should be a ceasefire, we do think there should be a political solution, we do think the war should end in Syria, we are absolutely supporting the people.
The specific demands made to Corbyn today were:
  • Support calls for humanitarian access to besieged areas in Syria. 
  • Push for a parliamentary vote on unilateral UK aid drops. 
  • Demand the suspension of Syria from the UN until it agrees to a ceasefire, and stops blocking aid to besieged areas. 
  • Request UN supervised evacuations of the White Helmets and the civilian population.
Despite the claims by Momentum we are no clearer now as to whether he supports those specific proposals - and a journalist who can get a response from Corbyn's office should ask.

Given the response from his office in October and given the attitude of the Stop The War Coalition to aid drops then I can guess what they will say. But I want to see a headline saying 'Corbyn refuses to back food drops to starving Syrians' not multiple versions of 'Peter Tatchell disrupts Jeremy Corbyn speech with Syria protest'.

Someone needs to pin him down with specific questions that demand a specific answer. In other words, the next journalist up needs to do a version of "Did you threaten to overrule him?"

Edited to add: In case it is not clear why pinning Corbyn down on these specific four points from responses and Twitter conversations today it appears that some genuinely believe that Corbyn has supported aid drops. Or must have. Until a journalist gets his office on record rejecting these demands (and others, such as sanctions on Russia, as has also been pointed out) then he will continue to get away with waffle. Myself, Peter Tatchell, Syria Solidarity UK, we cannot get a comment from the Opposition Leader's Office - journalist's can.

See also: