Stories of climate catastrophe, colonial resistance and dystopian futures

Posted on: January 21st, 2022 by TTE No Comments

Picture of a bookshelf, story on fiction writingThe Passenger by Ulrich Alexander Boschwitz (translated by Philip Boehm)

Ulrich Alexander Boschwitz was born into a German-Jewish family in Berlin in 1915. Following the rise of the Nazis, he and his mother were forced to flee Germany. They went first to Sweden and then to Norway and France. Expelled by the police from Luxembourg, they travelled to Belgium and eventually settled in Britain.

They were arrested in 1940 in Britain and held in an internment camp as “enemy aliens”. Boschwitz was deported to Australia and imprisoned there for two years. He died when the ship he was returning to Europe on in 1942 was torpedoed. He was only 27 years old.

Although Boschwitz’s first novel was published in Swedish in 1937, The Passenger (Der Reisende) wasn’t published in the German language until 2019. And now it has a new translation for English readers.  

The novel was written in just four weeks following the deadly attacks of Kristallnacht (Crystal Night). So named from the shards of broken glass that littered the streets after Nazi thugs smashed the windows of Jewish-owned shops, buildings and synagogues.

The novel is set in Berlin in November 1938. Synagogues are being burnt, Jews rounded up and their businesses destroyed. Otto Silberman, a confident businessman is Jewish. He has managed to evade the escalating violence of the Nazi regime—until now.

With Nazi stormtroopers battering on his door, he sneaks out the back and begins a desperate race to escape this homeland that is no longer home. Colleagues turn against him and the Brownshirts outright violence isn’t the only attack he has to face. “No one resists,” the novel reads. “They all cringe and say—we have no choice, but the truth is they’re happy to go along because there’s something in it for them.”

Otto is forever travelling but going nowhere, a Kafkaesque nightmare with his destination always eluding him. Leaving Germany becomes impossible as no country is willing to take fleeing Jews. It is with terrifying insight that Boschwitz wrote in 1938, “Perhaps they’ll carefully undress us first and then kill us. So our clothes won’t get bloody and our banknotes won’t get damaged”. .

Boschwitz writes with an urgency, which reads like a thriller and plunges the reader into the despair of Nazi Germany just as the darkness was descending. The novel sits wonderfully amongst rediscovered classics such as Irène Némirovsky’s Suite Française or Hans Fallada’s Alone in Berlin.

Bewilderment by Richard Powers

Richard Powers won the Pulitzer Prize in 2019 for The Overstory, a brilliant cry for action over climate change.

He returns to the fight for a sustainable world in his latest novel Bewilderment. At its heart is a young boy seeking answers to why humanity would allow the extinction of innumerable species of animals—and in the end its own destruction. 

Robin is a funny, loving nine year-old who thinks and feels deeply. He is transfixed by the work of his late mother, environmental campaigner Alyssa, and adores animals. Robin cannot see why something isn’t being done to stop the decline in biodiversity and logically wants to do something about it.

Robin is neurodivergent. He is on the verge of being expelled from school for his violent outbursts while psychoactive drugs are the only solution put forward.

Robin’s father Theo Byrne is an astrophysicist modelling possible life on other planets. But the US is moving towards an anti-intellectual authoritarianism and government funding for such research is drying up. Theo decides to home-school Robin and support his activism. And in this, Powers finds some of his most beautiful writing. As Theo and Robin work through the possibilities of different worlds out in space, so the potential for this world to be different is made real.

In the Trumpian—second term!—world of Bewilderment dissent can be an imprisonable offence and freak weather events are the norm. How does a father explain to his child a system that is so in love with its own destruction?

My Monticello by Jocelyn Nicole Johnson

In 2017 Heather Heyer was murdered by a Nazi driving his car headlong into an anti-fascist protest in Charlottesville, Virginia. In the immediate aftermath of the horror, president Donald Trump declared that there were “very fine people on both sides”.

Fast forward some years, and ecological disasters are battering the US, oceans are rising and power failing. Armed white men in jeeps booming, “The Star-Spangled Banner,” and shouting, “OURS!” set fire to the mostly black neighbourhood of our protagonist, student Da’Naisha Love.

A band of friends, families and strangers led by Da’Naisha batter their way through and flee together in an abandoned bus and head for the hills above town. They arrive at Monticello, the now deserted historic plantation-home of Thomas Jefferson.

But Da’Naisha has a complex relationship with the house. We discover she is a young black descendant of Jefferson and Sally Hemings, the enslaved woman who bore a number of Jefferson’s children. Johnson brilliantly draws out Jefferson’s position on slavery.

Jefferson is perhaps best known for the Declaration of Independence and its emancipatory statement that “all men are created equal”. In truth, he owned 600 enslaved people during his lifetime and believed that black and white couldn’t live together.

My Monticello is fraught with tension and fear—will they be discovered? “What if nobody comes,” asks Da’Naisha’s white boyfriend. “What if somebody comes,” replies Da’Naisha, encapsulating their different racialised experiences of life.

Johnson’s debut novel is a painful story of US racism past, present and future—and a powerful vision of resistance and hope.

Palmares by Gayl Jones

In 1975 a Random House editor named Toni Morrison read the manuscript of Gayl Jones’ first novel Corregidora. She wrote “that no novel about any black woman could ever be the same after this”—and Jones also received high praise from James Baldwin and Maya Angelou.

In the late 1980 she disappeared in controversial circumstances until her first new novel in over two decades appeared this year. It’s an epic tale of love and liberation set in 17th century colonial Brazil.

Palmares is written in a series of short chapters detailing the life, thoughts, humiliations, dreams and loves of Almeyda, a young, enslaved girl who travels from one plantation to another, sold and re-sold. Jones writes in such an extraordinary way that we are immediately at one with Almeyda as she navigates the brutal and magical world around her.

 Our main character’s grandmother has brought with her “old ways”, magic, and usefully, medical knowledge. From plantation to plantation, the name Palmares is whispered, a hidden settlement where fugitive slaves live free.

During the Atlantic slave trade, Portuguese rule in Brazil led to the transportation of more enslaved Africans than any other country. An estimated 4.9 million people. The average enslaved African only lived to be 23 years old because of the terrible work conditions, brutal treatment and disease.

Enslavement also brought resistance. Escaped slaves formed communities called Quilombos, usually located near colonial towns. They relied on raids to feed and clothe themselves and presented a real threat to the colonial social order.

Historically Quilombo dos Palmares was the most famous community, attracting between 6,000 and 20,000 people aiming to build an alternative free society. Though Palmares was eventually defeated, its existence and success saw the continuation of African traditions in Brazilian culture today.

Jones eventually gets her Almeyda to Palmares and conveys the struggle in all of its multifaceted and disorienting complexity. In a society so riven with division, can Palmares live up to the dream of freedom? On route and when fleeing Almeyda meets black Muslims, witches, women with wives, Christians, Jews, Tupis and Guaranis. And miners, female English journalists, voyeuristic Dutch painters, mercenaries and free black men and women—from Europe and Brazilian born.

Some have said Palmares is best read in parts over a period of time, as in the west African and Afro-Brazilian oral tradition. And this feels the right way to tackle such an odyssey. It’s a beautifully complex and enlightening tale of the horrors of colonialism and the fight for freedom.

The Employees: A Workplace Novel of the 22nd Century by Olga Ravn (Trans: Martin Aitken)

Maybe not for everyone, this beautiful little piece of science fiction is set in a workplace. It’s a spaceship sometime in the future, staffed by humans and “humanoids” looking after some objects found on the planet New Discovery. This is a novel longer in the thinking than the reading—at a sparse 136 pages.

Revealing its secrets through brief, poetic reports made by the employees to unknown assessors—a Workplace Commission—we are drawn into the world of the Six-Thousand Ship. On board something is happening between those that were born and those who were made, those who will die and those who will not—all “employees”.

Their brief statements to the Commission build a sense of fear and comfort, weariness and compassion, threat, desire and grief. Through the patchwork of the statements, we start to sense a coming together as well as division between the employees.

The ship’s mission is clearly doomed and gradually human and humanoid start to realise the role of the Workplace Commissioners. They’re assessing the reasons for a declining productivity and ultimately the fate of all things aboard the ship. 

A companion piece to a 2018 art installation by Lea Guldditte Hestelund, Olga Ravn asks big questions about sentience and the nature of humanity. She imagines not only a possible future, but also examines the contemporary workplace and the dehumanisation in the corporate language of today. Rebellion, division, and unity are all parts of the workforce response.

One passage reads, “You want to know what I think about this arrangement? I think you look down on me. The way I see it, you’re a family that’s built a house. And from the warm rooms of that house you now look out at the pouring rain.

“Safe from menace, you delight at the rain. You’re dry and snug. You’re reaping the rewards of a long process of refinement. When the storm gets up, it only heightens your enjoyment. I’m standing in the rain you think can never fall on you… I’m the storm you shelter from.

“I may have been made, but now I’m making myself.”

Ravn is a Danish novelist and poet who runs the feminist performance group and writing school Hekseskolen. The Employees was shortlisted for the International Booker prize 2021.

Buy from Bookmarks—the socialist bookshop and support its financial appeal 

London protest stands with Palestine after Sheikh Jarrah eviction

Posted on: January 21st, 2022 by TTE No Comments
A crowd of people in front of the Palestine embassy. They hold placards saying free palestine and save sheikh jarrah

Anger over Israeli apartheid in front of the embassy in London (Picture: Guy Smallman)

Over 500 loud and angry protesters gathered at short notice outside the Israeli embassy in London on Friday evening. 

They demonstrated in solidarity with Palestinians evicted from Sheikh Jarrah, east Jerusalem, and demanded freedom for Palestine and sanctions on Israel. 

Elif and Tamanna, presidents of the Palestine society at Westminster University, attended the protest. 

For Elif, freedom for Palestine means “stopping killing and stopping evictions”.

She said the energy has died down after the huge protests last May and June. “We need to keep Palestine in the media,” she told Socialist Worker. 

Tamanna said, “We have to change the mainstream narrative that Israel didn’t colonise Palestine, and challenge people’s thinking on this.”

Angry and determined demonstrators chanted, “One, two, three, four occupation no more. Five, six, seven, eight Israel is a terrorist state.” And, “From the river to the sea, Palestine will be free.”

Mia attended the protests last year, including when over 100,000 people marched in London one of the biggest Palestine solidarity demonstrations in Britain. “Any time something for Palestine is happening I come,” she said. “Protesting helps to raise awareness—even if someone walks past and looks up Palestine. 

“Protesting is powerful.”

Mia added, “Palestinian people, but also so many across the world, are oppressed and live in regimes of terror. Showing solidarity thousands of miles away can have an impact on those people and regimes.”

Placards on the protest read, “Freedom for Palestine,” “Save Sheikh Jarrah,” and, “Sanctions for Israel.” 

Speakers discussed putting sanctions on Israel and Western imperialist support for the Israeli military machine. They also pointed to the solidarity from trade unions and workers in the fight for Palestine.  

Among the speakers were trade union leaders and officials from the  Unite, NEU, Unison and UCU unions. 

Kamel Hawwash from Palestine Solidarity Campaign told the rally his cousin was one of those in east Jerusalem facing eviction. His son has been detained without charge by Israeli forces since August. 

He slammed the evictions as “appalling” and shouted “shame on you” at the British government for standing by while they took place. 

Ellie told Socialist Worker that Palestinians should not be living under occupation. “The occupation is a result of conflict, politics and power,” she said. “We have to fight over these issues too.”

Cops tried to stop protesters from breaking out into the street, but following the rally a march took to the road and disrupted traffic. 

Malaika travelled from Wales to join the protest. “It’s important everyone keeps showing up,” she said. 

“People shouldn’t sit back—we need the momentum. We have to keep fighting for equal rights for Palestinians and to end apartheid.”

A real life fairy tale, where the trees move for the rich

Posted on: January 21st, 2022 by Nick No Comments
A single tree is propped upright on a floating barge

An ancient tree on its way to the garden of former prime minister Bidzina Ivanishvili

The image of a giant tree floating in the sea seems like an act of magic—something from the pages of a fantasy novel.

And as one resident of a coastal village in Georgia remarks, “It’s like a fairytale.” Yet this film is a documentary—Taming the Garden by Salome Jashi.

It’s the story of an elusive buyer of century old trees.

Accompanied by a dog with a little red ribbon, he scouts out the oldest and most magnificent trees across the coast of Georgia for the private garden of former prime minister Bidzina Ivanishvili.

Once a special tree has been selected and the owner paid off under the promise of improved local infrastructure, the heavy machinery moves in. It feels as though we are witnessing a collective trauma.

A chasm leaves the earth bare where villagers once grew up underneath the branches of “the beauty of our district.”

Yet the filmmakers are careful to maintain a detached relationship, plugging the gaps with superfluous still shots of the sea and close-ups of machinery.

The most interesting scenes come from the conversations between the workers and those of the families affected.

An elderly woman broods over the line of trees which shelter her home from strong winds.

The workers need to cut them down in order to make way for the main prize.

They’re not quite attuned to her hesitancy as she recounts how she planted them when she was 25 years old. A gathering of curious residents, some teary and others cheery, say goodbye to their oldest and most ­special of trees.

Our farewell is quickly cut short as we’re suddenly jolted into a park with flamingoes and other wild birds in the background.

Is this it, the villain’s lair? Concrete paths wind between manicured grassy mounds, and workers on lawn mowers are dotted around.

An impressive collection of century old trees stand on top of the mounds as an automatic sprinkler system feeds their roots.

But knowing what we already know, there is a distinct feeling of unpleasantness.

Every tree appears to be supported by a black cable, as if they cannot support themselves anymore. Taming the Garden is a quietly evocative film.

Its resonating sadness taps into the familiar loss of our natural world and the sense that we’re never fully in control of our own surroundings.

Meanwhile, the superrich uproot and claim ownership to whatever it is they so happen to desire.

Taming the Garden is in cinemas from Friday 28 January

How capitalist competition threatens new Ukraine war

Posted on: January 21st, 2022 by Nick No Comments
A line of soldiers in Ukraine stand with rifles in the snow. The soldier in the foreground wears a Ukrainian flag on his shoulder

Ukrainian soldiers during a training exercise with US soldiers in 2019 to improve cooperation with Nato

Rivalry between the US and Russia threatens a devastating war in Ukraine for the second time in less than a decade.

Russian president Vladimir Putin has amassed 100,000 troops along Ukraine’s border. While the US remains the world’s strongest imperialist power, it is weakened and Putin hopes a military build-up will force it to the negotiating table.

He wants president Joe Biden to make assurances that the US’s military alliance Nato won’t expand any further eastwards. Biden has ruled out military action in Ukraine, but is determined to maintain US dominance against Russia.

While neither side wants a prolonged war, it could easily happen. That’s because the Ukraine crisis is a product of imperialism—a global system driven forward by competition between the big capitalist states. When tensions run high, a small spark can set off a wider war.

Ukraine is at the centre of a much bigger site of imperialist rivalry between the US and Russia and many other regional powers. This fault line starts in northern Europe on the border between Russia and the Baltic states—Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania.

From here, it cuts down into Ukraine, goes through the oil-rich Caucasus region on Russia’s southern tip, and then extends into central Asia.

Tensions are rising right along it. The US is determined to defend its position in the world while other states see its relative decline as an opportunity to jockey for position. US imperialism’s defeat in Iraq signalled it was possible for weaker powers to assert their interests against US wishes. Russia is one such power.

In 1991 the Soviet Union split apart into Russia and 14 other republics along its borders, including Ukraine.

For much of the 1990s, it was a shadow of its former power. But a combination of high oil prices and Vladimir Putin’s iron hand strengthened the Russian state. It began asserting its imperialist interests in what it calls its “near abroad”, the republics that used to be part of the Soviet Union. Ukraine—industrially developed, and a buffer between the West—was one of the most important.

After the Cold War, the US broke its pledge not to expand Nato into eastern Europe. In 2008 Nato agreed that Ukraine and Georgia should join. Russia invaded Georgia to prevent this happening.

There’s also an economic side to the rivalry. The European Union (EU)—a wannabe imperial power aligned with the US—tried to get Ukraine to join it in 2014. Russia had set up the Eurasian Customs Union (ECU) to compete with the EU and strengthen its hand against China in central Asia.

In 2014, Ukraine looked to align more closely with the West. In response, Russia took over the Crimea region from Ukraine and supported separatist militia in the south east. This conflict rumbled on since and has now flared up again.

How should socialists respond? Firstly, we should have no truck with US or British hypocritical claims to protect Ukraine from Russian aggression.

The revolutionary Vladimir Lenin argued that “in every country preference should be given to the struggle against the chauvinism of the particular country, to awakening hatred of one’s own government”.

So, in the West, socialists’ main job is to unite around opposition to our ruling class’s drive to war.

Second, this doesn’t mean that “my enemies’ enemy is my friend”—that the West’s rivals are in any way anti-imperialist. As Lenin went on to say, socialists also had to “appeal to the solidarity of the workers of the warring countries, to their joint civil war” against the warmongers’ system.

We build opposition to our own rulers—but as part of a struggle against the system of imperialist rivalries that causes war.

Israeli land grabs fuel Palestinian resistance

Posted on: January 21st, 2022 by TTE No Comments
Protesters carry a huge Palestinian flag on a pro Palestine demo in London

Tens of thousands protested in solidarity with Palestine in London last May

From the streets of Jerusalem to the desert of the Naqab, Israel’s drive to snatch Palestinian land is sparking new battles between protesters and the state.

In the east Jerusalem neighbourhood of Sheikh Jarrah—where last year’s Palestinian uprising began—Israel forced a family out onto the streets then demolished their home.

And in the Naqab desert—known by Israel as the Negev—thousands of Palestinian Bedouins fight heroically to stop Israel forcing them from their land.

At 3am on a cold, wet January morning, Israeli counter terrorism and riot cops stormed the house of the Salhiya family in Jerusalem last week. After arresting five of the family, the cops evicted the rest of the large household.

Then they bulldozed the building, leaving the Salhiyas with nothing. It was an abrupt, violent end to a decades long struggle by the Salhiyas to stay in the home they’d lived in since 1948.

“My father was asleep when they took him. They didn’t let him put a jacket or shoes on,” Yasmin Salhiya told the Middle East Eye website. “They separated everyone that was there and started beating the young men before detaining them in the jeeps and taking them away.

Meanwhile in the Naqab, just a few miles south, more Israeli cops have used rubber bullets and teargas-dropping drones on protesters. They have arrested at least 140 people there in the past month—almost half of them children.

Israel wants to get rid of entire Bedouin villages there so that it might build new military and industrial infrastructure there, and grow the Israeli population. And it has enlisted the help of the Jewish National Fund (JNF)—a charity with close ties to the state.

It funds the building of new Israeli settlements in the West Bank and east Jerusalem. And through innocuous sounding tree planting projects, it takes hold of and transforms Palestinians’ land, erasing their presence.

When the JNF began planting trees on land Bedouins use for farming, thousands of Palestinians marched to stop it.

In both cases, Israel is using the discriminatory laws that form the fabric of its system of apartheid and force Palestinians from their land.

In Jerusalem, the Salhiyas are victims of the “absentee law,” which allows the state to confiscate the land of Palestinians who fled when Israel was created in 1948.

In the Naqab, Israel says the Bedouin villages are simply “unrecognised” settlements on state land. By denying Palestinians the right to live where they want, the state hopes to push them into ever smaller enclaves.

So, in both cases, there’s also a direct link to the Nakba—the ethnic cleansing of Palestinians in 1948 that Israel was built on.

The Salihyas actually arrived in Sheikh Jarrah in 1948, after fleeing their home in the west of Jerusalem.

But Israel says the house is on land that once belonged to the Grand Mufti of Jerusalem—and that it took the right to confiscate it after invading east Jerusalem in 1967.

So, as Human Rights Watch put it, the Salhiyas’ eviction “turned them into refugees twice.”

In the Naqab Israel demolished Palestinian villages in 1948—erasing any trace of them—as part of its efforts to ensure Palestinians would be a minority in the new state.

Now the JNF says explicitly that its goal is to establish a stronger Israeli presence in the desert.

On the JNF’s website introducing its Negev blueprint, it outlines a plan to settle 500,000 people from elsewhere in the region.

“The Negev Desert represents 60 percent of Israel’s landmass but is home to just 8 percent of the country’s population,” it wrote. “And in those lopsided numbers, we see an unprecedented opportunity for growth.”

That’s why the Palestinians in both Jerusalem and the Naqab see their battles as part of a long struggle against ethnic cleansing.

“We will go back to our home. No matter what they do to us, we will go back,” said Yasmin. “Our message to everyone is stay in your homes. Don’t leave it. Don’t sell it. We’re losing Palestine bit by bit.”

Boris Johnson relies on more lies and blackmail to cling on

Posted on: January 20th, 2022 by TTE No Comments
Boris Johnson wearing a mask

Boris Johnson raises another glass (Picture: Flickr/Number 10)

Things are going from bad to worse for Boris Johnson—who has now been accused of blackmail. Senior Tory MP William Wragg claimed on Thursday that party whips were “threatening to withhold investments from MPs’ constituencies that are funded from the public purse”.

Wragg is chair of the House of Commons public administration and constitutional affairs select committee. He has advised other Tory MPs to take complaints of blackmail by ministers, whips and advisers to the police, who so far have refused to investigate Downing Street lockdown parties.

Wragg also claimed that “members of staff at Number 10, special advisers, government ministers and others” were involved in a smear operation against Johnson’s opponents.

He said they were “encouraging the publication of stories in the press, seeking to embarrass those they suspect of lacking confidence in the prime minister”. Wragg added this seemed to him “to constitute blackmail”.

The revelations are another sign of the crisis engulfing the Tories as Johnson’s supporters try to protect him from a vote of no confidence by his own MPs.

Many Tory MPs are now waiting for the outcome of senior civil servant Sue Gray’s report into the parties before making a move. She was given the task by Johnson himself.

Gray’s report on the parties will delve into “drinking culture” in Number 10 and Johnson’s knowledge about parties including the “bring your own booze” party held in his own garden in May 2020.

Johnson denied any real wrongdoing in the House of Commons, believing “implicitly” it was a work event. He “categorically” said that nobody told him that any of the gatherings he attended broke his own rules.

To force a vote of no confidence 54 Tory MPs—15 percent—would have to submit letters to the backbenchers’ 1922 Committee.

In an attempt to save his own skin, Johnson is ready to sack all the officials and advisers involved in the parties held during the first lockdown in 2020. And health secretary Sajid Javid said he was “looking forward to disciplinary action” being taken against those involved.

Johnson—and all the Tories—should go. The defection of Bury South MP Christian Wakeford to Labour shows the Tories sense anger against the government and are desperate to keep their seats. Wakeford said party whips told him he would lose funding for a new secondary school in his constituency if he did not vote in line with Johnson.

It also shows the lengths Labour will go to in order to appeal to the right and establishment—by welcoming Tories but expelling socialists. Indeed, Wakeford said he was a “centrist… just wearing a different rosette”.

Meanwhile, the cost of living crisis is mounting for ordinary people. Working class people cannot just wait for Johnson to fall at the hands of Tory MPs—or for a Labour Party that offers no alternative.

Yet the union leaders sit on their hands. The TUC union federation emptily demanded the Tories “come forward with a plan to tackle the cost-of-living crisis” when the new inflation figures came out on Wednesday.

Every trade unionist and campaigner should build solidarity for workers’ struggles that are taking place, such as the all-out strike at Chep UK. And they should fight to raise the level of struggle by fermenting strikes in their own workplaces. 

The UCU university union leaders should call hard-hitting action that can become a focus for wider resistance. 

Taking to the streets, and pressuring union leaders to act, to demand Johnson leaves now will set the tone for whoever takes his place.

The whole establishment is in crisis—we need resistance and to put forward socialist solutions. 

Solid picket lines as NewVic college strikers keep up action

Posted on: January 20th, 2022 by TTE No Comments
A group of strikers at NewVic college

NewVic workers are fighting for students too (Picture: Guy Smallman)

Workers at Newham Sixth Form College (NewVic) in east London are upbeat as they continue strikes against academisation.

NEU union members rounded off a three-day strike with a rally on Thursday—and are set for further walkouts. 

Workers’ mood hasn’t dipped since the start of the strikes last December. Union rep and teacher Rob told Socialist Worker, “The NEU has seen solid picket lines and education workers at the college remain determined to win.

“We have taken eight days of action so far and have seen support from NEU branches around London and from the unions—the UCU, PCS and Unite.

“Messages of support have been coming in from around the country strengthening workers’ resistance.

Strikes will continue at NewVic, we are taking action over unfair management practices, workload and academisation.”

Picket lines are lively, attended by dozens of workers, parents and local activists. And workers from Oaks Park High School in the neighbouring borough, Redbridge, have joined the pickets previously.

Some placards read, “Principles not CEOs,” “Teaching over testing,” and, “Accountability, not accounting.” Workers chanted, “No academies.”

Union membership increased to 100 during the pandemic in the lead up to the strikes. All but one department is participating in the strike, forcing management to continuously cancel planned events.

The workers are determined to win all their demands around workload and a culture of bullying. And they regularly point out that winning around these issues would benefit students.

NEU president Daniel Kebede said, “Fighting to defend NewVic from privatisation and keep it a community college will benefit all of Newham.” 

Rob encouraged everyone to attend their picket lines and rallies. One school or college turning into an academy can open the flood gates to more.

Every trade unionist should build solidarity for the NewVic workers’ fight in their union branches and workplaces.

Messages of support to Rob Behan at [email protected]

Former Guantanamo detainee Moazzam Begg to take legal action against Home Office

Posted on: January 19th, 2022 by TTE No Comments
Moazzam Begg speaks at a demo

Moazzam Begg has fought for justice (Picture: Garry Knight on Flickr)

Former Guantanamo Bay detainee Moazzam Begg is planning to launch legal action against the Home Office to restore his British passport.

Moazzam’s passport was first revoked after his release from Guantanamo, the US prison camp on Cuba, in 2005. It was then taken from him eight years ago—and taken again at the end of last year just weeks after being reinstated.

In Guantanamo, Moazzam was held without trial or charge and tortured for three years. Since his release, he has been harassed by British spooks, the Home Office and government.

Moazzam told Socialist Worker his experience has been “unbelievable”. He slammed the Tories, saying they’re either “lying, or deeply incompetent, or both”. “I’ve had my passport revoked three times in the past 15 years,” he said.

“I’ve been put in three military prison camps and been arrested by anti-terror police three times.

“I’ve not had my day in court, I’ve not been convicted of any crime.”

In fact, Moazzam has been declared innocent of crimes that led to his passport being taken.

Moazzam, who works with advocacy group Cage, was arrested in February 2002 in Pakistan and given to US forces. While held in the prison, British and US officers interrogated him. He was released in 2005.

He then travelled to Syria in 2012 and 2013. Before his second visit, Moazzam was told by M15 spooks that he was free to travel.

Yet his passport was again taken in December 2013 after returning from South Africa.

Moazzam applied for a new passport in 2019. It was issued in September 2021 and revoked weeks later. His treatment, Moazzam says, is the government “doing more of what it does—harassment and disruption”.

The letter informing Moazzam that his passport had again been revoked was incorrectly addressed to a woman in northern England. She had been convicted of passport fraud.

“It’s highly incompetent, vindictive and malicious,” Moazzam said.

Moazzam thinks he is being treated this way because he’s been attempting to hold the state to account for over 15 years. “MI5 were involved in my torture,” he said.

“But having given evidence to the police about the role of the US and Britain in the torture of prisoners, there has been no accountability.

“The government has avoided any prosecution and accountability. Anyone who seeks to hold them to account is punished.

“I’ve been put through the worst they could—they physically, racially and religiously abused me. They beat people to death in front of me. But I keep trying to hold them to account.”

So fighting for his passport, Moazzam said, “Is a relative walk in the park.”

Moazzam’s lawyers sent a letter to the Home Office and Passport Office with notice of the legal action. With no reply, he will launch an application for judicial review if the government doesn’t act.

“Criminal behaviour is not just on the streets,” he added. “It happens within governments, among leaders, prime ministers and cabinet ministers. When they act criminally, they should be held to account.

“They try to use the concept of people not adhering to so-called ‘British values’. One of their own values they repeatedly flaunt is the rule of law.

“Torture and false imprisonment are crimes. Clearly the government doesn’t believe in the rule of law—otherwise there wouldn’t be a set for them and one for everyone else.”

“It doesn’t matter to them I can’t attend the marriage of my daughter or do investigations that show clearly the government was involved with war crimes. Which I intend to continue,” he added.

“The tide is with us. The mood is you can’t trust people in power.”

Donate to Moazzam’ s crowdfunder