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Airport Commission outlines new strategy to “surround London with airports”

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Spokesman Jacob Bantam told journalists, “by 2020 the only way in and out of London will be by air. This will provide a well needed boost to the airline industry and will be fine with most Londoners as they will be able to leave the capital without having to interact with the rest of the country”

Environmental groups have raised concerns, but no one really cares.

Defeat from the jaws of victory, is how David Simon, producer of The Wire, described the fate of American Capitalism in a  impromptu speech about the divide between rich and poor in America at the Festival of Dangerous Ideas in Sydney. He was referring to the fact that, after the Berlin wall came down, the West short-sightedly sprung upon the opportunity to shed itself of any baggage that faintly smelt of Socialism without realising, or caring, that it was this it was this balance, or compromise, that had actually made us so strong. With union rights, banking regulations and public services cut to the bone we are facing a “horror show” of unrestrained capitalism bound to implode. Meanwhile, the supposedly socialist Peoples’ Republic of China goes from strength to strength borrowing bits and bobs from capitalism to suit her needs.

In the face of this, you would expect the left to be offering us a reasonable solution. However, all we have is an audible silence. Labour promise us they will “manage the economy better”… great, cheers Ed. The left are in a similar crisis throughout Europe and in America have simply ceased to exist without anyone really noticing. Slavoj Žižek, our favourite eccentric (and bearded… of course) Marxist Philosopher claims that Socialism is not the answer. He explains that, in Western Europe at least, we already won the many rights socialists were fighting for during the 20th Century, think universal health care, old age pensions, universal education, national insurance, and a minimum wage. Yet poverty, inequality, economic crisis and environmental disaster are still realities we have to live with. Hence, he claims, when it comes to Communism (that prescribed by Marx, not practised in the the USSR), there is no compromise, whether it be in the guise of Socialism in Western Europe or the dictatorships of the Soviet Bloc.

“the great lesson of state socialism was effectively that a direct abolishment of private property and market-regulated exchange, lacking concrete forms of social regulation of the process of production, necessarily resuscitates direct relations of servitude and domination. If we merely abolish market (inclusive of market exploitation) without replacing it with a proper form of the Communist organization of production and exchange, domination returns with a vengeance, and with it direct exploitation”

It is easy, and correct, to site countless examples of  Western intervention, and plenty of cases of underhand practices within Europe and the US themselves, designed to undermine Communist movements, but this post doesn’t look to list them as I believe it is beyond the point. Historically, revolutionary movements have been so concerned with capturing state power that the moment they do it is impossible to dismantle it, as without it they would be nothing. Furthermore, it seems unlikely that the abolition of the market by the state and the imposition of an alternative economic model from above is likely to result in a “proper form of communist organization”, whatever that may be. Finally, it is only takes the toppling of the top  heavy socialist state to reverse any change achieved.

Hence, it seems rather naive to expect  the same state that declared war in Iraq and bailed out the bankers to provide us with a way out, no matter which party is in government. For this reason, we must move past the state / market debate, or arguing the merits of Marx as they simply distract us from demanding the fundamentals: a truly participative democracy. We need a party that represents the people, whether they be of left or right persuasion, and is dedicated to increasing democratic participation and taking power away from the state. While we the people need to start changing things from the bottom up. I believe we can work together for something we all agree on: that this country belongs to us, the people, and its about time we took control of it. I just hope we realize it in time to snatch victory from the jaws of defeat.

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Or, to whose benefit?, goes the Latin saying. A pertinent question, which appears to have been brushed over in the “case for war” in Syria that we have been presented with recently. This could be due to the fact that it produces several awkward inconsistencies which certainly weaken the case for military action and could possibly lead to damaging revelations for powerful actors involved in the Syria crisis.

What is most striking about the fallout from the chemical weapons attack last week in Syria, is that many of us found ourselves in at least partial agreement with Putin when he pointed out that it would be stupid of Assad to use chemical weapons at this point in the conflict in which his forces have managed to wrestle back some kind of initiative. Yet, the evidence presented by German intelligence seems to suggest just this; desperation on the part of the Assad regime. Furthermore, in his supposed desperation Assad apparently did the one thing Obama said would draw the US into the war, while UN chemical weapons inspectors were based in Damascus. All a little to convenient?

To many of us, the idea that the Syrian rebels would gas their own people just to draw the US into the conflict seems just too cynical to stomach. However, here we stumble on a common fallacy in the analysis of this conflict;  that it is the rebels versus the government, when the reality is a far more complex web of interests and actors. Take the Gulf states for example. Qatar alone has ploughed more than $3 billion into Syria only to achieve a bloody stalemate, rather than their intended goal of a new islamist leaning regime (as has been the result in many other qatari sponsored uprisings of the Arab Spring); a situation that could possibly provoke reckless, opportunistic and desperate measures?

As well as a motive, the Gulf states could also have had the capacity. US cables leaked to Wikileaks evidence Gulf state cash to be behind Sunni extremist groups, many defined as terrorists, from Mali to Pakistan; according to Hilary Clinton, “Donors in Saudi Arabia constitute the most significant source of funding to Sunni terrorist groups worldwide,”. Furthermore, “overall level of [Qatari] counter terrorism co-operation with the US is considered the worst in the region”. With the funds and contact with thousands of foreign Jihadists in Syria, in such a chaotic context it is not unimaginable that one of these groups got their hands of Assad´s chemical weapons stock and used them against the civilian population. The Gulf states certainly  need to topple Assad in order to put pressure on Iran (the main threat to their power in the region) and foreign Islamists trained in Afghanistan and Iraq would certainly not shy away from  fighting the Americans in Syria, in fact it could be very good for their Jihadist cause.

Finally, it can´t be denied that gulf sates have a long history of funding Sunni extremist groups for this very purpose and the US turning a blind eye. In an interview with Seamor Hearsh of the New Yorker Vali Nasr, a senior fellow at the Council on Foreign Relations, who has written widely on Shiites, Iran, and Iraq, tells us “It seems there has been a debate inside the [US] government over what’s the biggest danger—Iran or Sunni radicals … The Saudis and some in the [US] Administration have been arguing that the biggest threat is Iran and the Sunni radicals are the lesser enemies. This is a victory for the Saudi line.” Although at this stage it would be rash to begin pointing fingers, this posts hopes to show that it is far from “almost certain” that Assad is responsible.

Although Putin´s stance does upset many of our prejudices and we could certainly question his sincerity, the meat and bones of his proposals (international control of Syria´s chemical weapons stocks) seems far more sensible than the west´s “attack first, ask questions later” approach. Furthermore, it looks like the best way to open the door further negotiations which many are beginning to see as the only real solution to this conflict. This isn´t to say that we should let those responsible for war crimes in Syria (Be they the rebels, Assad, or even foreign actors) off the hook. They need to be brought to justice, yet without due process, what is this justice worth? When it comes to war, the stakes are massive yet we are always sold rapid action on the grounds of national security. Hats off to the British people and their parliamentary representatives for slamming on the breaks, giving us a chance to get to the bottom of the spider web of interests that is Syria. Shame on those who paint this as an inherent weakness of the West: democracy, a willingness to negotiate, respect for evidence and due process, this is what makes us strong and we musn´t forget that.

There we go I said it, and despite going against all my political instincts, I actually feel better for it!

After giving it some thought, I realized that after RIPing Hugo Chavez and Osama Bin Laden (I’m sure the lady would be thrilled at being lumped in with these guys!), I realized it would just be to hypocritical not to extend the same respect to Margaret Thatcher.

Let me leave it quite clear that I did not agree with much of her politics, especially when it comes to outlandish statements such as “there is no such thing as society” and “there is no alternative”. Now that the dark days of left versus right ideological battle are behind us, with the light of day it is quite clear that actually, there is such a thing as society, and there is always an alternative. Likewise, the Unions that Thatcher confronted were not entirely the faithful representatives of working Britons and the Militants within their ranks were not likely leading us to a new socialist golden age.

British politics was divided and Thatcher played that game better than anyone else; her non-negotiation with “terrorists” (in this blog placing the word terrorist between inverted commas doesn’t excuse political violence, but rather signifies the meaningless of the term) in Northern Island aggravated the conflict and brutal “shock therapy”  installed on mining towns was a blow from which many ex mining communities are still yet to recover from. Privatization,  while a bonanza for shareholders, left the rest of us with worse, more expensive services, and suddenly, it was ok to be selfish. Was is worth it to “save the UK”? We’ll never know, but hopefully we have learnt from her mistakes, although this appears unlikely given the behaviour of our current government.

Love her or hate her, at least Margaret Thatcher had backbone; she fought for what she believed in rather than what a collection of opinion polls, spin doctors, and political scientists told her what to believe in. She may not have had a tough upbringing, but at least she didn’t grow up groomed for politics within a political elite. She may have lead us into Neoliberal misery, but at least she, our elected leader, lead us, instead of god knows who pulls the strings of the stooges we are stuck with today. She may have subjected us to more than a decade of grim conservatism, but at least it was dished out to us by the Tories and not Labour a la Tony Blair. At least, when she lead us into war, it wasn’t on the back of a pack of lies.

At the end of the day, I’d rather be in conflict with politics I don’t agree with than be lied to, manipulated, and cheated by those I do, or am ambiguous to. Furthermore, and most importantly, she was just an old women like you or my Granny, so when I see some being happy with her death, it worries me. The political left is supposed to be about being more compassionate, caring, and peaceful, so what’s all this about celebrating the death of someone’s grandma? Instead, try RIPing Margret Thatcher. It may feel dirty but you might just feel good afterwards, and what’s better than starting the day with a pleasant surprise?

 

Contact the author: robbie_packer@hotmail.com

It´s Saturday the 20th of October 2012 when I meet Juan Carlos Chindicue, a coordinator of the Indigenous Guard,[1] in the centre of Cali and we set off together 20 minutes on motorbike up towards Alto Napoles, an indigenous “Nasa” community located in the outskirts of the city.

As we leave behind the paved road, and the houses begin to close in on us, Cali and the surrounding valley of Cauca unfold before our eyes. I was on my way to talk with the community about their displacement and resistance in the context of the peace negotiations between the FARC (the Armed Revolutionary Forces of Colombia) and the Colombian government. Being one of the populations most affected by the conflict, I was especially interested in learning more about a specifically indigenous perspective on these potentially historic talks.

Upon arrival, I am greeted by María Eugenia Osnas Osnas, governor of the community’s high council (Cabildo Mayor), she tells me “In 2009 25 of us, or 3 families, arrived here after being forcibly displaced. Today more than 250 people live here, some also having been displaced and others simply having come in search of work. The vast majority of us come from the north of Cauca, our ancestral homeland and an area of the country especially scarred by fierce fighting between the government and the FARC.”

After María Eugenia shows me around the community and we are sat chatting in the community’s meeting hall, it becomes clear that the state maintains very little presence here, except for a military base overlooking the community from a nearby hill. The electricity, water supply and drainage have all been installed by the residents themselves, whilst the indigenous guard take charge of security. “Supposedly, we are living on ´high risk land´, but the truth is the authorities have plans to build apartment blocks here. We live with the constant threat of being ousted and they have attempted to shut off our water supply; in the future we also want to leave but we don´t have anywhere to go” María Eugenia explains to me whilst we weave through the houses balanced precariously on stilts occupying every inch of the steep slopes.

Luckily, the Nasa of Alto Naples are not alone in their struggle. Together with other neighbouring communities they are organizing themselves in defence of their water supply, and in their struggle for recognition by the authorities of Cali they enjoy the support of the association of indigenous councils of the north of Cauca (ACIN) and the regional indigenous council of Cauca (CRIC). These two organizations represent indigenous populations in the southwest of Colombia in similar, if not worse, conditions to those in Alto Napoles. In fact, although the level of violence and conflict in Colombia has not increased since 2010 and 2011, according to the national indigenous organization of Colombia (ONIC), 2012 saw a disproportionate and worrying increase in the levels of violence inflicted upon indigenous communities, especially those from the North of Cauca[2] “It could be pure geographical coincidence, or it could be in reaction to our resistance” María Eugenia explains to me with a sad smile.

 A history of resistance

Later in the day I meet with Berenice Celeyta,  forensic  anthropologist and president of the association for investigation and social action (Nomadesc), a Colombian human rights organization accompanied by PBI. She explained how the Colombian indigenous movement has been steadily gaining ground since the eighties. On 12 October 1980, the first National Indigenous Gathering was convened as the first concerted effort among indigenous communities, authorities, and organisations to provide the indigenous movement in Colombia with a political and organisational structure at the national level.[3]  Going from strength to strength, they achieved recognition for the full diversity of Colombia in the 1991 Constitution [4] which opened “a new chapter in the history of indigenous mobilisation.”[5]  Since then, they have continued to be at the forefront of the Colombian social movement.

The mobilisation reached its peak in 2008 when more than 40,000 indigenous people, accompanied by representatives from various social sectors, marched nearly 100 kilometres to Cali to demand that the then president Alvaro Uribe Velez halt the violence against indigenous peoples and follow through on various unfulfilled agreements.[6]  However, they were met with disproportionate violence and the use of explosives on the part of the police in addition to shots fired by “men dressed as civilians inter-mingled with police forces.”[7]  This violence resulted in three deaths and nearly a hundred injuries.[8]

“Despite the extermination to which, historically, indigenous communities have been subjected, their mobilization has permitted them to denounce abuses and strengthened their resolve,” Berenice tells me. “The Minga [9] for Social and Communitarian Resistance was initiated by the indigenous communities of Cauca and went on to gather the support of various sectors including peasant farmers, students, workers, and black communities,” she adds.  Four years later, the Minga continues to mobilise these different populations with its program “Spread the Word” (Caminar la palabra) that addresses five thematic issues: land, war and human rights, economic policies, unfulfilled agreements, and a peoples’ agenda.[10]

Since the intensification of the conflict in Northern Cauca in July of this year, the Minga has reiterated its support of the demands made by ACIN and CRIC: “All armed actors must withdraw from the area!” These demands have encountered strong criticism from the State, the National Army, and the media [11]  which peaked after the destruction of several fortifications, and the expulsion of soldiers and guerrillas by the Indigenous Guard. [12]

Though the Government has agreed to talks with representatives from the indigenous movement, the conditions are highly adverse.  The communities point out what they perceive as a lack of good will and commitment on the Government´s behalf.[13]  This is compounded by the dozens of indigenous leaders who have been threatened or killed, the absence of a cease fire[14], and a national press, which, according to CRIC, is “biased and irresponsible, with content that is racist and disdainful of indigenous autonomy.” [15]  In Northern Cauca, a long a treacherous path to Peace still lies ahead.

  We cannot go it alone: ¡Solos no podemos!

In 2009, the Minga launched the “Peoples´ Congress”, a platform from which to take their proposal for a “transformative peace” to the national level. It began with “pre-congresses” in Cartagena, Bogota and Cali which led up to the Peoples’ Congress in October 2010 in Bogota. This was followed by a thematic gathering on land and sovereignty in 2011, and the planned gatherings for peace and on women in the fist semester of 2013 and 2014 respectively.  During these events, up to 20,000 “congresistas” come together to develop a “mandate of all mandates” upon which they plan to build legislation for the Colombian people that truly reflects the diversity of the country. [16]  “The principle achievements of the Congress are two-fold,” says Berenice: “In the first place, it’s the first movement that, in the face of extreme persecution and barbarity, has united so many diverse social sectors and grassroots communities to present a common proposal for the country.  Secondly, despite the great diversity of opinions and needs, we are making progress, overcoming and understanding differences, and this has permitted us to formulate an inclusive strategy that is broad and diverse and also permits us to transform the current conditions of war and conflict.”

“Clearly, we have been surprised, because to date the proposals from the social movement have not been taken into consideration in the peace talks” Berenice tells me.  “If, at this time, they are not able to generate trust to overcome a history of deceit [in these processes] and if they do not open the pathway to a true participation by the Colombian people, they could be squandering a valuable opportunity to build a definitive peace, with social justice and dignity for all: that which the Colombian people have been desperately seeking for so long.”

For these reasons, the Peoples’ Congress continues to gain strength and demands to be heard.  Furthermore, the proposals of the Peoples’ Congress are being channelled through the Common Social Path for Peace, a coordinated space which aims to bring together different social sectors, movements, communities and organisations in order to connect with one another in their work towards peace, with the explicit goal of demanding a place at the table in the peace talks between the Farc and the Government that began in October in Oslo. [17]

Armed with words

In the Community of Alto Napoles, at the edge of the western cordillera of the Andes and at the periphery of Cali, I felt very far from Oslo.   These people are the Nasa, one of 34 indigenous peoples in Colombia that were declared at risk of extinction by the Constitutional Court in 2009.[18]  In this way, they are fighting for their very survival which demands the recognition of two principles that sometimes appear mutually exclusive: diversity and equality.  However, the synthesis of these two concepts has become one of the unifying principles of the today`s social movement in Colombia, allowing a unity in facing the war like never before. “We start from the

Contact the author: robbie_packer@hotmail.com

Version español (original)

principle,” Berenice very simply puts it, “that we all want peace.”

 Footnotes

[1]  The Indigenous Guard is a security force that is part of the organising process for indigenous Colombian communities in their autonomy and self-governance, principles recognised by the 1991 Constitution.

[2] National Indigenous Organisation of Colombia (ONIC),  “Por la defensa, respeto y exigibilidad de los derechos de los pueblos indígenas en Colombia,” January to September 2012

[3] ONIC, “Historia de la Onic”

[4] Green Storcel, Abadio, “El aporte de los pueblos indígenas a un país diversoIn: Sánchez Gutiérrez,” Enrique & Molina Echeverri, Hernán: “Documentos para la historia del movimiento indígena colombiano contemporáneo”, Colombian Ministry of Culture, 2001, pg. 319.

[5] González, N. C., “¿Qué papel juegan las organizaciones indígenas del Cauca en la búsqueda de una solución negociada al conflicto y la crisis democrática colombiana?” In: L. Helfrich y S. Kurtenbach (eds.). “Colombia: Caminos para salir de la violencia.” Madrid/Frankfurt: Iberoamericana/Vervuert, 2006

[6] “Marcha indígena llega a Cali y se prepara para diálogo con Uribe”, El Espectador, 25 October 2008

[7]  “Ejército mató a esposo de líder de Minga indígena,” Semana, 16 December 2008

[8] Contravía, Documentary, “Minga 2008” (Marcha Indígena), Morris Productions, 27 October 2008

[9]  Translator’s note: Minga is a term utilised by the indigenous movement in Colombia, and now more broadly, to mean gathering together through social mobilisation and resistance.

[10]  Rozental, Manuel, “¿Qué palabra camina la Minga?”, Deslinde, November-December 2009

[11] ACIN, “Carta a los grupos armados,” 9 July 2012

[12] “Indigenas desalojan base militar en Cauca y piden mediacion de Baltazar Garzón”, El Pais, 12 July 2012

[13] CRIC, “Comisiones de trabajo entre autoridades indígenas del Cauca y el Gobierno nacional no avanzan satisfactoriamente,” 31 August 2012

[14] González Posso, Camilo, “Negociaciones en medio del terror”, Indepaz, September 2012

[15] ONIC, “Por el Derecho fundamental a estar bien informados,” 24 July 2012

[16] Peoples Congress, “Objetivos,” 8 September 2010

[17] ASDEM: “Nace la ‘Ruta Social Común para La Paz’, «la paz es también salud y educación»,” 5 October 2012; PBI Colombia: “A country in peace does not build itself up from the top,” 12 November 2012

[18] Colombian Constitutional Court, Auto 004/09, 2009

That Israeli interior minister, Eli Yishai, last Friday in an interview with the Isreali newspaper, Maariv can claim “This country belongs to us, to the white man”, demonstrates the staggering ability of this modern world to echo the most abhorrent excesses of 20th century racist doctrine in the very state founded by those fleeing such persecution.

This isn’t just a case of an extremist grabbing headlines, such inflammatory and blatantly racist statements are the norm for various members of the Israeli government including the prime minister himself who claimed recently that “The breach of our borders by infiltrators could threaten the Jewish and democratic state (…) we will begin by removing the infiltrators from South Sudan and move on to others”.

Nor is this a case of politicians talking tough in order to garner votes. Just this month draconian legislation was passed allowing anyone attempting to enter of having entered Israel illegally to be imprisoned for up to three years. Furthermore, anyone helping migrants or providing them with shelter could face prison sentences of between five and 15 years.

Perhaps most worrying is the stoking of public anger against African immigrants, the latest direct consequence of which has been the firebombing of a house containing 10 Eritreans. Politicians such as Eli Yishai and Michael Ben-Ari of the National Union shamelessly associate African immigrants with viral diseases, HIV and criminality while sources from Israel´s very own health ministry clearly state that “99.9% of the migrants who come to work in Israel are not infected with any unique disease whatsoever” and a recent parliamentary committee recently found the percentage of crimes committed by foreigners to be 13.5% although they make up 28.5% of the population.

Despite the apparent contradictions, maybe in the end we should not be surprised: name the only two nation states in history to be explicitly based on ethnicity – Nazi Germany and Israel. Eli Yishai said he was speaking out of “love for my country”, but let this be a wakeup call for all Israelis who really love their country. Instead of perpetuating centuries old hate Israel must break from its past and embrace secularism, for a Jewish state – Judaism being the only major religion strictly based on lineage – will never be at peace.

Despite massive attention across Latin America, surprisingly or not this “earless assassin” from Bolivia remains on the loose. Believe it or not, in 2009 Bolivian police released this identikit portrait of the suspected murderer of a taxi driver. Now maybe there was simply no time to put something more sophisticated together, or possibly the popular game Guess Who? was a key training tool of the Bolivian police, but either way this photo-fit was certainly a source of embarrassment for the Bolivian Police.

However, I think we should give the Bolivian police a little more credit. This “artist´s rendition” of the killers face is now known throughout the continent of Latin America. With blogs, chat shows and national newspapers featuring the image, and even people dressing up as the killer on Halloween, the murderer of Rafael Vargas will not be able to escape the shame and guilt of his crime and it will only be a matter of time before he turns himself in.

With an obviously astute understanding of social media the Bolivian Police have reached an audience of hundreds of thousands. Even polices forces with much more extensive means at their disposal are still grappling with the use of social networks, making the efforts of the clearly underfunded Bolivian police force that much more impressive.

Members of the public in possession of information that may lead to the arrest of the aforementioned suspect are urged to report immediately to the Bolivian Police.

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