maandag, mei 30, 2005

On to the Netherlands

On a gagné! On a gagné! 56% against, according to interior ministry figures.

Tremendous result, but, as I'm sure you're all hearing, the cretins of the Oui side are already saying that this is not the end of the Constitution, but that we must wait for others in Europe to make their pronouncements and that so long as 20 out of the 25 countries pass it, the Constitution is still viable. The bloody liars. These same chicken littles not 24 hours ago said that it was the end of Europe if France voted no.

The sun will still rise tomorrow, and well they know it.

zaterdag, mei 28, 2005

Pour l'Europe, votez Non à leur constitution!

There is an insufferable smugness with which the liberal (in the Anglophone sense of the word) encouragers of a Oui vote in France's referendum on the European Constitutional Treaty tomorrow present their argument.

In almost every Guardian article on the subject from the last month, the requisite description of what is being put to the vote includes the words 'designed to make the European Union more efficient and democratic' - presented within news articles as fact, not within editorials as the (gullible) opinion these words are. How could anyone, they reckon, other than facho Lepenistes and dippy Neanderthal Euro-refuseniks vote anything other than Oui? Jon Henley, the Guardian's gauchephobic France correspondent (or, more accurately, the Grauniad's sentimentalist in-house purveyor of Year-in-Provence-esque cliché) wrote last week that 'half the French population is living on another planet.' (Actually, as of yesterday, the polls suggest le Non, il s'insurge: 55 per cent against)

However, I wonder whether these liberal Ouistes have actually themselves read the very document they champion. Today's leader on the referendum in the same paper calling for a Yes, contains this howler:

'[T]he constitution does not warrant the opposition it has generated. For all the anger about liberal Anglo-Saxon economics, the text does not include economic prescriptions that are any different from those in the Treaty of Rome in 1957'

Just quickly, here are a handful of the key examples (which I already discussed in an earlier post) of how the ECT remains not merely neo-liberal through and through, but is additionally aggressively militarist, (incidentally undermining the traditions of neutrality of Ireland and Austria):

1. Articles 111-69, 70, 77, 144 and 180 all identically repeat that the Union will act 'in conformity with the respect for the principles of an open economic market where competition is free.'

2. There are numerous clauses that specifically correspond to demands made by certain employer organisations.

3. The ECT demands unanimous voting for any measures that might go against corporate interests. This is the certainly case for measures against tax fraud, or taxation of companies. Such legislative movement in this regard requires a unanimous vote as, above all, "[it is] necessary for the functioning of the internal market and to avoid distortion of competition." (111-63). Thus, any future proposed duty imposed on corporations would be subject to unanimous voting - something the Ouistes regularly trot out as being reduced under the ECT.

4. Shockingly, the ECT demands all states' subservience to NATO: '[M]ember states shall undertake progressively to improve their military capacities.' (1-40-3). Article 1-40-2 says that European defence policy shall be compatible with members' NATO obligations, a direct recognition of the superior judicial status of that military organisation. Furthermore, the article continues with even greater precision that "participating member states shall work in close collaboration with NATO". Even in situations of "internal serious disturbances affecting public order, in cases of war or of [...] the threat of war", member states are obliged to work together in order to avoid "affecting" the functioning of the "internal market"! (III-16)'

5. Perhaps most disturbing in the ECT is clause 17 of the third section, regarding the question of the break-up of public services: It is permitted that a member state can be in favour of maintaining a public service. But public services have: "the effect of distorting the conditions of competition in the internal market, [and] the Commission shall, together with the state concerned, examine how these steps can be adjusted to the rules laid dawn in the Constitution. By derogation of common law procedure, the Commission or any member state can apply directly to the Court of Justice which will sit in secret..." (III-17)' Thus the constitution from the start commits member states to the ultimate elimination of public services.

I find it remarkable that the Guardian leader writers are not aware that the ECT explicitly codifies the dismantling of social services and expansion of European military capablilities.

But let's take the latter two elements and invert them leftwards, just to expose how retrograde this project truly is: Imagine if instead there were a document - a constitution no less, the founding document of a (in this case quasi-)state - that included words something along the following lines:

'Markets have the effect of ever greater inequality, impoverishment and environmental destruction, and so the Commission shall, together with the state concerned, examine how steps can be taken to minimize the impact of markets on society, steadily taking into public ownership under workers' control initially the commanding heights of industry, but in the shorter or longer term every aspect of the economy, in accordance with the rules laid dawn in the Constitution. By derogation of the inalienable rights of humanity, the Commission or any member state can apply directly in this regard to the Court of Justice, which will be directly elected and instantly recallable and which will sit openly...'

or how about:

'Member states shall undertake progressively to eliminate their military capacities. European peace policy shall aim at ending the use of the force of arms between nations or within nations for evermore, and will work in conscious opposition to all forms of imperialism, colonialism and state terror, with particular emphasis and close collaboration by member states on undermining the American hegemon.'

Now, I'd happily vote for something like that, but I'd hardly be capable of convincing anyone that such a document was politically neutral. The above is merely the progressive inverse of what is written in the proposed ECT. Would anyone be under any illusion whatever that such a document was anything but a socialist programme? It is a mystery to me why anyone remains under the illusion that the ECT as it stands is anything but a neo-liberal programme.

At least in France, the Oui de gauche forces readily and defensively admit that the document is flawed. Even Chirac has recently been admitting its flaws, and regularly. The sole remaining card supporters of the ECT in France can play is that 'at least it's a start, and after a Yes vote, we can fix it.' This is the pitiable defence the Oui side has been reduced to, the Non forces have been so effective.

But even this is false. To change this constitution after it is approved will be even more difficult to change than the U.S. Constitution, which, for thirty-odd years has been unable to be amended to include even the simple provision that women are equal to men (the failed E.R.A.).

Let's also dispel the myth that the Non vote is a xenophobic vote against Turkey joining the Union or is rooted in some Gallic chauvinism - or even that the referendum will be decided by Front National voters. All of the Non campaigners, barring the Front National, have been explicitly clear that they are pro-European and for this very reason they must vote no.

According to Pascal Perrineau, a political scientist and the director of the Centre d'etudes de la vie politique française (Cevipof), interviewed in Thursday's Libération,

'Front National electors will contribute decisively to the Non side's victory [behind the traditional supporters of the Parti Socialiste(PS)]…the Lepeniste electorate is, of all the various parties' supporters, situated the most in the Non camp, with some 90 per cent of them against, according to a TNS-Sofres poll. Their vote will be massive, as it was in 1992 against the Maastricht Treaty…The electorate of the far right is the second biggest section of the Non voters, after those who traditionally vote Socialist, but ahead of Communist Party supporters and of the far left. No majority for the Non is possible without the FN.'

Tout d'abord, to counter M. Perrineau's Ouiste thesis, the PS electorate is much, much larger than that of the FN. It is the left of the PS that has won this one (assuming the Non is successful) - overwhelmingly so. What sort of math attributes primary importance to the secondary contributing factor? Secondly, the FN has been running a very low-key Non campaign, as the party itself admits, with the Great Leader having been recovering from hip surgery since March. Thirdly, to the extent that the FN vote is voting Non, we have to recognise that, as with much of the rest of the support for the far right throughout Europe, FN supporters for the most part come from economically depressed regions. The largest support for the FN outside traditionally conservative Alsace is the deindustrialised north, which historically voted not merely Socialist, but Communist. There is no reason to assume that the FN electorate's vote is a xenophobic vote and not a vote against factory closures, precarity, unemployment, delocalisation and the rest of the nasty secondary diseases that one contracts after a major infection of neo-liberalism.

Admittedly, we shouldn't be Pollyanna-ish about this - it may well be a mixture of the two amongst FN voters in many cases - but the sort of aggressive, genuinely anti-neo-liberal campaign that the Non team have been carrying out, and hasn't been seen on the national stage in France outside the far left since 1981, is exactly the sort of work that needs to be done (across the board, not just in France) to wean these working class voters from the far right. It is in the absence of credible left alternatives to neo-liberalism that far right politics flourish.

It is heartening to hear reports that the various forces (left Socialists, left Greens, SUD, the CGT, the LCR, and other far left groups) have been so galvanised by the success of their campaign and, recognising that they represent a majority of the French, but a majority that regularly goes unrepresented by the gauche plurielle, that there are discussions currently taking place about continuing to work together after the referndum to fight neo-liberalism in its other forms.

Already, Chirac has said that job number one after the referendum is a major initiative to combat youth unemployment. Now, whether anything of any substance results from such words or they turn out to be, comme d'habitude, just words is immaterial. Chirac, along with the rest of the forces of neo-liberalism in Europe - including the full spectrum of establishment left parties, union bureaucracies, and centre-left media outlets - have been put on the back foot, however France votes tomorrow. Oui ou Non, nous avons deja gagné.

Votez Non.

maandag, mei 23, 2005

What do you do with a scab?

Picket, picket, picket.

vrijdag, mei 20, 2005

The French referendum, Uzbekistan and David Cross on Pitchfork

I am increasingly impressed with Jonathan Steele, the Guardian's senior foreign correspondent and former SNCC activist. Last weekend at this 'Wave of Resistance' meeting in Amsterdam, he saw off a roomful of potentially hostile Slavic Yankophiles and managed, I think, to win over a good number of them. His analysis is consistently acute, with, again, today, a sober, Europhile, deconstruction of the supposed 'catastrophe' that is scheduled to befall Europe should the Frenchies listen to their heart and their brain and vote 'No' to the Banker's Charter that is elsewhere described as the European Constitutional Treaty.

'A cross-section of leftwingers were on display, from dissident Socialist party activists (a majority of members voted yes in an internal party referendum last year) to communists, Trotskyists and Attac, the anti-globalisation youth movement. The National Front is also voting no, but the left is keen to show it has nothing in common with the Front's xenophobic nationalism.'

Given that the almost the entire spectrum of the French establishment, barring the Socialist Party's Laurent Fabius, who has his own leadership ambitions that more reliably explain his opposition to the ECT, it warms the soles of my cockles to see how much influence a few commie rabble-rousers can have when they get their act together.

'"A no vote will be a thunderclap around Europe, provoking a real debate among people instead of discussions among heads of government." Tony Blair was the bogeyman, getting far more mentions than George Bush. "Look what's happened in the UK," said a shop steward [concerned that the ECT will turn Europe into Britain]. "There's a centre, a centre right, an extreme right, and no left at all."'

Ahem. I get your point, mate, but steady on.

Steele concludes: '[A] pause for reflection on how to produce a short, clear and eloquent constitution, not dominated by a particular economic ideology, will do no harm.'

Quite. Perhaps we might even be able to have a crack at the anti-democratic structures (appointed Commission with absolute power; elected Parliament, like a latter-day, be-Blackberried Estates-General, with nowt but a begrudgingly conceded advisory function) at the heart of the E.U.

Ahmed Rashid, whose book on the Taliban was required reading three years ago, has an article in Transitions Online, reprinted from Eurasianet, fleshing out some of the details of what is going on in Uzbekistan. It doesn't make for pleasant reading, as no matter what happens, there are no democrats waiting in the wings to take over, should Karimov fall (or die - according to Rashid, Karimov is seriously ill).

'Western policies have ensured that even if Karimov were toppled in an internal power struggle, his replacement would only be another dictator. The chances of a democratic movement emerging in Uzbekistan are highly unlikely. Armed struggle, even if waged by democrats in the Ferghana Valley, is unlikely to stay democratic very long.'

The extreme repression against democrats and progressives has, in an identical pattern to what happened across the Middle East, resulted in the growth of Islamic resistance - the only viable outlet through which discontent can manifest itself.

Interestingly, Rashid also notes that when Karimov, petrified of a domestic people power revolution on the Georgian model, cracked down on N.G.O.s, in particular George Soros' Open Society Institute, the U.S. and U.K. said nothing. This suggests that, far from being any co-ordinated effort on the part of the American government, its 'democracy promotion' is as haphazard an affair as any other government programme. (Remember, of course, that one of the reasons the U.S.-backed coup against Hugo Chavez fell apart so quickly was that the State Department and C.I.A. were backing two separate groups of coup-plotters, who never thought to call each other ahead of everything kicking off) Furthermore, the Open Society Institute is more of a freelance democracy promotion outfit, with only tenuous links to the U.S. government, whose patron is also engaged in promoting regime change in the U.S. itself, so I'm sure the Spooks-in-chief aren't terribly bothered if George Soros' employees get a couple of fingernails ripped out or electrified alligator clips attached to their gonads.

Elsewhere, Meaders puts all the American Gallowaymania on the Democratic Underground discussion boards, on Air America and elsewhere in perspective, while Ellis, at the Sharp Side, has a great piece on what sounds like a rather dreadful potboiler of a flick set in the occupied territories:

'What would we think of Alfred Hitchcock if he’d gone off to the Third Reich and made a thriller in which the bad guys were Jews, the Gestapo were represented as a neutral law and order organisation and Hitler’s Germany was presented as a pleasant everyday sort of place? Or if Michael Caine had starred in a thriller made in apartheid South Africa, where the bad guys were vicious, evil members of the African National Congress and the good guys were brave white cops?
'Questions like this obviously don’t trouble some members of the acting profession or some professional musicians. The fact that they don’t is perhaps in part a tribute to the effectiveness with which the Israeli state has muffled awareness of its origins and history, its victims, and its fundamental sectarianism.'

And then, over in Indieland, David Cross, everyone's favourite commie comic, has ripped the pretentiously overwrought writers at Pitchforkmedia a new asshole, and K-Punk simultaneously bitch-slaps the Amys and Jemimas of the C86 Forever brigade (or, rather, knitting circle) and homes in on the Bryan-Ferryite anomie at the navel of hip-hop:

'It strikes me that what is wrong with pop culture now is the poverty of its concepts of what success can be. Whereas this lo-fi culture has no concept of failure (middle-class kids who had piano lessons from the age of 4 pretending that they can only just about manage to blow into a kazoo just about covers it, I reckon), hip-hop's Darwinian brutality is conditioned by a model of success that comes ready-made by Kapital. (It occurs to me that what hip-hop needs is an immanent critique of those aspirations, which would function in the same way that punk operated in relation to glam. Mooching about in the existential desolation of their mansions on MTV cribs, who do today's hip-hoppers resemble if not the Ferry of the 70s, trapped by the trappings of a success that, achieved too quickly, became a prison of conspicuous consumption?)'

Um, and A.C. Newman, Patrick Wolf, Dungen and Mattafix are in heavy rotation on the Apostate Windbag stereo.

A tout à l'heure.

donderdag, mei 19, 2005

Laughland is on crack.

To me it is self-evident that one did not have to support Saddam Hussein in order to oppose the war - however much the pro-slaughter left likes to confuse the two positions. Similarly, one does not have to be a supporter of the congregation of Eastern European despots and their 'managed democracies' in order to raise concerns about the Americans' activities behind the scenes of the resistance groups.

However, intermittent Guardian contributor and Putin-cheerleader John Laughland seems to believe the contrary.

His latest exercise in false logic sees him warming up to Uzbekistan's Islam 'Boil-in-a-bag' Karimov and reminding us all that the 'alleged massacre' in Andijan is yet to be proved. His reasoning for this? That there have in the past been examples of massacres that turned out not to have been quite so bad.

'Other alleged massacres in the recent past have also turned out not to have been what had been claimed… [T]here has been too little scepticism about reports from Uzbekistan, which seem to be following a well-worn propaganda formula.'

While the UK canned its ambassador to the country for speaking out against the Uzbek president's various abuses, Laughland seems to think this was all some sort of slick ruse to hide the fact that the US and UK are actually the puppet-masters controlling the Uzbek opposition.

If Laughland thinks the Western media has been too quick to take the word of the opposition, he himself certainly hasn't delayed much in taking Karimov at his word and repeating the accusation that the opposition are violent Islamists.

At the same time, because there is the same network of U.S.-backed N.G.O.s operating in Uzbekistan as have been operating in Ukraine, Georgia, Belarus and Yugoslavia, he deduces that they must be orchestrating the opposition manoeuvres.

However, the only two examples of these N.G.O.s he can find in Uzbeistan are Freedom House and the Institute for War and Peace Reporting, which he says is 'is overwhelmingly funded by western governments and private foundations close to them'.

And how is it that the States, ostensibly in a war against Islamists, in Uzbekistan back them against the man who has provided them with a handy-dandy air base from which to attack Afghanistan? Ah - see, the U.S. has backed Islamists before, in Afghanistan against the Soviets, and Osama bin Laden was on the C.I.A. payroll once upon a time. All of which is true, but Laughland offers no proof that the U.S. in fact is supporting the Uzbek Islamists - or even that they are Islamists.

The man has it comprehensively bass-ackwards. Craig Murray, the former ambassador to the country was rendered jobless for his discommodious mentions of the allergic reaction Karimov has to democracy and human rights. It is Karimov's very abuses that puts the lie to Bush and Blair's commitment to the 'untamed flame of democracy alight in people's hearts around the world' and other associated codswallop.

Further, if one has in fact been reading the American press, one would see that the Yanks have decidedly taken Karimov's side in all this, calling for 'calm on both sides' - as if 700 dead people could be any calmer - and repeating the accusation that the opposition are Islamists. White House press secretary Scott McLellan warned that there were 'Islamic terrorists' among the Andijan dead and scolded that the opposition should seek peaceful means to achieve change in the country and renounce violence.

Laughably, Laughland's position is nearly identical to that offered by the U.S. he supposedly opposes.

Murray himself, writing in the Guardian, encourages us to read a U.N. report and a Human Rights Watch report that detail the systemic nature of torture in Uzbekistan.

'One of the uses of Uzbek torture is to provide the CIA and MI6 with "intelligence" material linking the Uzbek opposition with Islamist terrorism and al-Qaida. The information is almost entirely bogus, and it was my efforts to stop MI6 using it that led ultimately to my effective dismissal from the Foreign Office.'

Then we have Jonathan Freedland, writing in the same publication, noting that Karimov may be a sonofabitch, but he is at least our 'sonofabitch':

'Shortly after 9/11, he allowed the US to locate an airbase at Khanabad - a helpful contribution to the upcoming war against Afghanistan. Since then he has been happy to act as a reliable protector of central Asian oil and gas supplies, much coveted by a US eager to reduce its reliance on the Gulf states. And he has gladly let Uzbekistan be used for what is euphemistically known as "rendition", the practice of exporting terror suspects to countries less squeamish about torture than Britain or the US.'

Karimov is a vital American interest in the region, and that is why, despite the presence of Freedom House in Tashkent, there will be no people power revolution on the Georgian or Ukrainian model - or not if the Yanks can help it.

Laughland is on crack. He seems to genuinely and unapologetically take the side of Stalinoid and proto-fascist despots. What his background is, I don't know, but it is a mystery to me why the Guardian publishes his odd, odd, unhelpful essays.

Galloway vs. Hitchens, U.S. Senate

Y'all know I'm not a fan of Galloway nor of bourgeois parliaments, but you know, I have to say, there really is something to be said for the rhetorical training to be gleaned from parliamentary cut and thrust that just doesn't exist in the American political system.

Go on, my son. Go ooooon!

woensdag, mei 18, 2005

Weaning the Eastern European democratic resistance from the Yankee teat

[I've done it again. This one's a bit of a long one (seven pages in Word); You might want to print it off rather than give yourself eye pathologies]

News about the extent of the massacre in Uzbekistan was just beginning to filter in over the weekend as I attended a conference in Amsterdam, 'Wave of Resistance', about the recent cluster of democratic revolutions in Eastern Europe. While some of the defenders of America's intervention in the East were having none of it, could there be a more timely proof of that country's, er, inconsistency in its support of democracy and human rights?

UK foreign minister Jack Straw has at least gone some way condemning President Islam Karimov, but then he really couldn't do anything but, seeing as he not days before had only just seen off a formidable challenger for his Blackburn seat, Craig Murray, the former ambassador to Uzbekistan, canned for criticising the fact the Karimov had a predilection for boiling his political opponents alive. Really, we have Murray to thank for embarrassing Straw into at least saying something, however late it has come. However, as Murray himself now says:

'[T]he Uzbek people can keep on dying. They are not worth a lot of cash, so who cares? I travelled to Andijan a year ago to meet the opposition leaders, and kept in touch. I can give you a direct assurance that they are - or in many cases were - in no sense Islamist militants. They died an unwanted embarrassment to US foreign policy. We will doubtless hear some pious hypocrisies from Jack Straw. But when I was seeking funding to support the proto-democrats, the Foreign Office turned me down flat.

'The US will fund "human rights" training in Uzbekistan but not help for the democratic opposition, in contrast to its policy elsewhere in the former Soviet Union. When Jon Purnell, the US ambassador, last year attended the opening of a human rights centre in the Ferghana valley, he interrupted a local speaker criticising repression. Political points, Purnell opined, were not allowed.'

Judging the situation by the American response to the biggest political slaughter in Asia since Tiananmen Square, you would think that all that had happened was that the country had slapped a tariff on butter imports:

'We've been very clear about the human rights situation there, been very factual about it, but unfortunately the facts are not pretty,' State Department spokesman Richard Boucher said.

At the same time as the statement was issued, according to CNN, State referred reporters to a Department 'background note' from February outlining the US government's analysis of the Uzbek situation [from the CNN report]:

'The United States believes Uzbekistan "plays a pivotal role in the region" and "has developed a broad relationship covering political, human rights, military, nonproliferation, economic, trade, assistance, and related issues."

'"Uzbekistan has been a strong partner of the United States on foreign policy and security issues ranging from Iraq to Cuba, and nuclear proliferation to narcotics trafficking" and "is a strong supporter of U.S. military actions in Afghanistan and Iraq and of the global war against terror."

'The note says the United States "values Uzbekistan as a stable, moderate force in a turbulent region. The United States urges greater reform to promote long-term stability and prosperity. Registration of independent political parties and human rights non-governmental organizations would be an important step."'

Yes. That would be a good idea. But if it gets in the way of us retaining our vitally important air base on the Uzbek-Afghan border, then, um, well, just try not to boil quite so many towelheads, mmmkay?

At the conference, four documentaries were shown detailing various aspects of the cascade of Eastern rebellions over the last couple of years and activists from the youth and student groups that formed the backbone of the various democratic movements - Otpor (former Yugoslavia), Kmara (Georgia), Pora (Ukraine), Zubr (Belarus) and Mjaft (Albania) - gave talks on their own experiences. There were also individuals from Yox (Azerbaijan) and Yabloko Youth (Russia).

The second documentary, Anatomy of a Revolution - in fact an extended reportage for Correspondent, a long-form current affairs programme on Canada's twenty-four-hour news channel, CBC Newsworld - was an exposé of the role played by U.S. funding and training and the general cloak and dagger escapades of the various N.G.O.s engaged in what, it turns out, is officially termed 'democracy promotion'. The producer of the piece, Alex Shprintsen, is Canadian, but was born in the Ukraine and lived there till he was twelve years old. He introduced his doc by saying 'the U.S. and other Western countries have been involved behind the scenes in these revolutions, and we should ask ourselves: "is there anything wrong with that?"'

But Mr. Shprintsen, who has been making documentaries in the former Soviet Union for the last ten years, had already decided for himself the answer to his own question, and would brook no counter-position at all.

The doc itself was quite good: there are interviews with Richard Miles, who was the chief of mission in the U.S. embassy in Belgrade at the time of Milosevic's ouster, and who, coincidentally, was ambassador to Georgia at the time of that country's 2003 house-cleaning. But of course, as Ambassador Miles admits, there is no coincidence at all. The Americans aren't hiding anything at all, apart from the exact figures spent. Ambassador Miles without pressure admits to the U.S. having spent US$100 million on the Georgian operation. A representative of Freedom House, a U.S. N.G.O. exclusively engaged in democracy promotion activities admits to having spent 'a couple hundred million' on the same project. These figures most likely represent the costs associated with training and other support that did not include the direct supply of cash, as Giorgi Kandelaki, a Kmara who spoke a number of times at the conference, was adamant that the U.S. supplied them with no funds whatsoever: it was only financier George Soros's Open Society Foundation from whom they received direct cash grants, although he did say that Kmara would readily have taken money from the U.S. had it been offered.

The funding supports a variety of activities: the key one being the collection of independent exit polls to expose rigged election results - a task which is enormously expensive and one that individual activists by themselves would never be able to carry out. Secondarily there is the cost of the opposition materiel - posters, leaflets, Jumbotron TV screens, stages for rock bands and opposition politicians from which to compere rallies, and - in the case of the Ukraine tent city - food, port-a-potties, tents, medical assistance, etc. Lastly, there is the training of the activists themselves via workshops, meetings and training camps in civil disobedience techniques, leadership, public speaking, how to organise rallies, how to raise awareness, methods of coalition-building, etc. - the meat and potatoes of campaigning that any lefty will instantly recognise.

So, far from being the fevered conspiracies of leftish tin-foil helmeteers (and, Lord knows, we have a few. Barely an evening's worth of campaigning on the left - or, worse still, witnessing what happens during an open mic session at a public meeting - will severely test one's support for care in the community), both the Americans and their protégés readily admit to there being a 'revolution' franchise applied in the East.

Mr. Shprintsen, was not attempting to denounce all this, but instead hopes that his documentary will convince viewers of America's benevolent role in the world. America is the architect of these revolutions, and thus America is Good. Needless to say, he and I, the sole two Canadians in the room (as far as I was aware), did not get on like a house on fire. As readers of this blog will be aware, I have no problem with these groups taking money from the U.S., just as I have no problem with Venezuela's Hugo Chavez accepting doctors and teachers from Cuba. In any case, I asked the activists how they felt they could reconcile receiving financial support from America, a country that elsewhere uses bombs and death squads (in particular in Latin America, I said, which seemed uncontroversial - I didn't want to get into any arguments about Iraq or Israel) to achieve its foreign policy objectives.

Interestingly, it was the young people from these groups who were more than cognizant of America's dilletantish support for democracy movements. The representative of Azerbaijani youth group, Yox, was particularly disappointed that, as he put it, the west's interest in maintaining stability in order to extract oil and gas from his region trumped a more robust support for his group. Giorgi, of Kmara also found this to be disappointing, and he was also well aware of America's (and the UK's) support for Uzbekistan's Islam Karimov. The representative of Otpor, Stanko Lazendic, seemed less concerned.

Oleh Kyriyenko, of Pora, however, put the dilemma quite succinctly: 'If a child is dying and the only thing that can safe it is the kidney of a serial killer: would the mother refuse the kidney out of principle?'

Mr. Shprintsen chafed at this epigraph, blimpishly asking: 'Do we have to accept this characterisation of the United States as a serial killer?' I was sitting right behind him and, of course, replied 'yes', at which point he got a little humpty at me in that passive-aggressive way that Canadians are best at. Give me a gruff, arrogant American argument any day over falsely polite Canadian terseness.

Interestingly, it later transpired that it was Oleh who posted my earlier essay on these youth groups on the Pora website, as he, in his words, very much agreed with what I wrote. So ner. Although I got the impression that there was a range of views on this subject amongst the activists. The way that Oleh came up with the analogy so quickly and precisely suggests to me that this was, or is, a discussion that the activists have regularly had amongst themselves.

Indeed, one of the elements that has been lost in all the discussion about the so-called 'McRevolutions' is that these groups are not monolithic, either internally or amongst each other. (I should probably say now, I am embarrassed that I came up with that term. The young people involved are so much more savvy and aware of the contradictions of their benefactor than sometimes even those critics, such as the mysteriously dodgy Guardian contributor John Laughland. These are not 'McRevolutions'. These young people are as committed to democratic change as the anti-globalisation/global justice movement is in the West)

The films about the various groups showed something that cannot be shown in all the reams of newspaper column inches and blog postings: what the kids actually looked like. This is not as frivolous a thing as might be imagined. There is a look to the anti-globalisation movement. Not everybody adheres to it, but you know that a certain combination of particular styles of t-shirts, piercings, baggy jeans, hoodies and kefiyehs works as something of a uniform. You can't always put your finger on it, but you know it when you see it, that sets them off from regular kids. There is also something of a uniform or outfit for student leaders and student unionists. They dress a little bit smarter. Maybe their shirts have collars, although they are likely to be untucked. They wear sweaters rather than hoodies. They haven't as many piercings, but they won't hide what ones they do have either. Occasionally they may where a suit - they certainly know to which occasions a suit should be worn - but it may be ill-fitting. Then there is the uniform of the aspiring young social democrat. The women dress in the same way that aspiring young conservative women dress, and the men have suits that not only fit, but they have a few of them, and Paul Smith ties and maybe even some cufflinks. There will be exceptions to all of these - the slobby Blairite and the GQ-reading member of the Hands off Venezuela Campaign (I, for example, may wear jeans around my bum, do own a hoodie and have a keffiyeh in my wardrobe, but the latter tends to make me look like a granny in a shawl and the hoodie somehow just doesn't work and, in the end, I end up wearing a lot of checked shirts and band t-shirts - which is some ways away from the strict anarchist black hoodie and cargo pants/combat trousers costume [Ooh! You're all in black! No one will notice you now! The police will never be able to pick you out of a crowd!] - but taken as an aggregate the uniform is unmistakable.

You can tell a lot from how activists dress. It is in this same way that the police plant in the room is always noticeable from his dough-nut bum and moustache. The Otpor guy dressed like a social democrat, the activists in the room dressed like student unionists; and the grunts in the films handing out the leaflets, doing the postering and graffiti spraying - they looked the same as every kid in Genoa, Seattle and Quebec City looked.

The offices out of which these revolutions were organised could have been any infoshop, musty leftie bookshop, squat, PIRG office, or local Palestine solidarity group headquarters. The same posters bluetacked to the walls, the same beardy keener manning the phones, the same stickers on computers and filing cabinets. You could almost smell the patchouli oil and cold coffee. The bright orange stages decked out like a U2 stadium concert in Kiev public squares may have been thoroughly professional (and I'm sure whoever rigged the lighting must be the same dudes who indeed do it for U2), but the rest of the operation would be instantly recognisable to any Western altermondialiste.

A number of the activists in Amsterdam were keen to point out that each of the groups were anti-hierarchy, had no leaders and were strictly not aligned with any political parties. Does this sound familiar, Social Forum attendees? It should. They adhere to Gandhian principles of non-violence and their main activities involve awareness-raising, occupations, demos and direct action.

These are, unmistakably, our kind of people.

Furthermore, while the outside world knows of this one, monolithic entity known variously as the anti-globalisation movement, we know amongst ourselves how riven with debate and even sectarianism we are. We are all opposed to neo-liberalism and the war, but there are thousands of answers to the question, 'What is to be done?' Thus why should we assume that all these groups and their members are monolithic in their resistance to authoritarian regimes? I can't be sure, but it seemed that the activists from Pora, Kmara and Yox were less comfortable with their Yankee erstwhile comrades than the others, but then again, there was another member of Pora in the audience in an Orange sweater who seemed to be contemptuous of any criticism of the United States.

Within Pora itself, there are in fact two Poras: the Yellows and the Blacks. Diplomatically both groups say they were founded more or less at the same time, as when both Marconi and Popov simultaneously invented the radio (although one gets the impression, behind the diplomatic words, that the Blacks feel the Yellows copied them). Both opposed to Kuchmism and Yanukovych, they had a 'civil marriage' in August, 2004. If one can give a brief analysis of the distinction - and this is almost certainly an oversimplification - it is that the Blacks are more 'grassroots'-oriented, or 'civic', and the Yellows are more leadership-oriented, or 'political'. (At the same time there are activists that are both Yellow and Black. Confusing? No more so than the multiple, overlapping and contradictory loyalties one finds in your quotidian committee to save the local hospital or anti-war group)

Oleh publicly said that while there is a difference, they are united in their opposition to the former regime. However, himself a Black, Oleh later sent me a couple of links from the Black Pora website about an organizational conference on the future of Pora, at which was discussed the role of leaders, and, while he doesn't use this word himself, what we would describe as 'careerists', in a tone that is courteous but pointed and that will be familiar to those who have engaged in similar arguments within the anti-globalisation movement:

'In theory, any merger should lead to an increase in strength and power. On top of that both Pora’s nicely complemented one another – “blacks” had a broader “street” experience, “yellows” apparently were better in media relations.

'Nonetheless very soon the process of merging slowed down drastically. The “blacks” say it happened because the “yellows” did not adhere to one of the fundamental principles (by the way taken from “Otpor”) of the Civic Campaign – leaderless and horizontal structure. For instance it is frustrating that one of the coordinators of the “yellows” – Vladyslav Kaskiv (who is also a Chairman of NGO coalition “Freedom of Choice”) – keeps appearing in media as a leader or chairman of “PORA!” (while no surnames of the activists of “black” PORA! were ever released to the media except for the cases of arrested activists, when it was crucial to ask for help from the public - correction by “black” PORA!)

'“We are like sand” – explains one of the “PORA!” activists. “We consciously chose this niche, where nobody has an opportunity to take advantage of our movement”.

It seems that the Yellows want to form a political party taking advantage of the prestige Pora has won over the past year, while the Blacks want Pora to remain a clearinghouse for democracy activists in the rest of the region - especially for those activists in Russia, Belarus and Azerbaijan - and remain a democratic watchdog - a 'Cerberus of democracy', as one activist puts it - in their own country, as Yanukovych and thousands of other 'Kuchmists' remain in office. Furthermore, it seems the Yellows have already made arrangements in this regard, angering their Black comrades in so doing:

'…leaders of the “yellows” [have] made their choice already – in favour of the last alternative. They have allegedly made phone calls to some regions and portrayed the perspectives of creating a party on the basis of “PORA!” offering to join. What one of the activists who made a presentation at the forum found most disturbing was a fact that complete outsiders were approached with those proposals in the regions, behind the backs of actual “PORA!” activists. In this respect an angry activist even said “it is a treachery!”'

[The author of the piece subsequently goes on to note that when Otpor transformed itself into a political party, it managed to win just 1.65 per cent of the vote]

Anyone event tangentially involved in the anti-globalisation movement will recognise these debates over leadership and taking part in parliamentary activity.

The Wave of Resistance conference was put on by the Alfred Mozer Foundation, a project of the PvDA, the Dutch Labour Party. The Foundation was established in 1990 to aid in the development of (social) democratic parties in Eastern Europe after the fall of the Berlin Wall and the dissolution of the Soviet Union. Since then it has played a similar role to that of the various U.S. N.G.O.s and semi-N.G.O.s in the region.

A number of commentators have pointed out that much of the funding for these groups does not in fact come from the U.S. government, but from N.G.O.s. This is true in a sense. The National Democratic Institute for International Affairs and the International Republican Institute are connected to the U.S. Democrat and Republican Parties respectively. The sugar-daddy that bankrolled the Georgian Revolution was George Soros' Open Society Institute, which is ultimately small-L liberal in political orientation, but some of Soros' money has found its way into some decidedly left-wing outfits in the U.S. and elsewhere - including even some anarchist prison abolition groups. Further, Soros is openly hostile to George Bush and the neo-cons, having spent hundreds of millions of dollars last year attempting to defeat him.

Freedom House, another of the groups offering funding and advice, is a non-partisan N.G.O. originally founded by Eleanor Roosevelt to promote democracy. However, over the years, as lobby-group watchdog Right Web, a project of the International Relations Center, an American progressive think-tank, has pointed out, Freedom House has overwhelmingly focused its attention on authoritarian regimes that are enemies of the U.S. government, and even non-authoritarian but left-wing governments. Historically its focus has been Central America, in particular Nicaragua (no points awarded for guessing which side it supported in the civil war). Unsurprisingly, today it does not have many good words to say about Venezuela.

If we look still further, at those individuals who make up the group's board of trustees, we get a clearer picture of what sort of an organisation it is. James Woolsey, the former director of the C.I.A. and one of the country's main neo-conservatives, is Freedom House's chairman. Other members of the board include Samuel Huntington, the racist neo-con theorist and author of that neo-con bible, Clash of Civilisations; Diana Villiers Negroponte - guess whose wife she is; Jeane Kirkpatrick, a U.S. ambassador to the U.N. under Reagan and famous for the 'Kirkpatrick Doctrine' - which posited that the U.S. should support authoritarian regimes so long as they were anti-Communist, one of the States' strongest supporters of the Argentine dictatorship of Gen. Galtieri, and a fellow of the American Enterprise Institute (intriguingly, or not, she started out her career as a Marxist); Ken Adelmen, another of Reagan's ambassadors to the U.N., member of the Defense Policy Board, a signatory of the Project for a New American Century, regular commentator on Fox News and - wheels within wheels here - a trustee of George Soros' International Crisis Group; Steve Forbes, former Republican presidential candidate and editor of Forbes Magazine; and the person who used to be called the right-wing's Christopher Hitchens until Hitch claimed that mantle for himself, P.J. O'Rourke.

Freedom House is neo-con from slappable bald patch to gout-enlarged toe.

So, in a strict sense, it's true that some of the funding and advice does not come from the U.S. government directly. During the conference's debate portion of the day, in which the chair of the Alfred Mozer Foundation, Prof. André Gerrits, of the Universiteit van Amsterdam, sparred with the Guardian's Jonathan Steele, who has written a number of articles on the Americans' intervention in Eastern Europe, Prof. Gerrits said that the American funding for these groups came fifty per cent from the U.S. government directly, and fifty per cent from N.G.O.s, while the groups' European funding nearly all came from governments and the E.U. But this is merely reflective of the political culture in the U.S., where there is a revolving door for personnel of think-tanks and N.G.O.s and the U.S. government. They are not truly separate at all. In Europe, this happens to some extent as well, but not nearly to the institutionalised extent that it does in America.

The democracy movements in Eastern Europe should know that the groups that are helping them out are not interested in 'democracy promotion', but Western foreign policy promotion. Of course they should take their money. Where else are they going to get it? But they, like Faust and the Québecois coureurs du bois in their flying canoe, have made a pact with the devil. They should know that their benefactors will some day come to collect their quid pro quo.

But that is their concern. For us on the European left, this is all an embarrassment. Why should democracy groups in Eastern Europe have looked first to the U.S. embassy and American N.G.O.s that are crypto-fronts for the C.I.A. and State Department? Why were our own organisations, more than qualified in solidarity work and the development of civic resistance, not first in the rolodex? Firstly, it is because of our relative weakness historically, and we certainly cannot come up with the moolah that can be made available at the snap of a consular finger, but I think there is also an institutional hangover from the Cold War.

Too many organisations of the European left, even if they did not openly support the U.S.S.R., were at a loss upon its collapse, and even now continue to be suspicious of opposition movements in the former Soviet Bloc. I remember during the Nato bombing of Yugoslavia, the Vancouver Anti-War Coalition of the time (there have been many Vancouver Anti-War Coalitions before, since and, sadly, at the same time), there were not a few activists whose analysis of the situation was that a socialist state was being attacked by the capitalist West. Michel Chossudovsky's Centre for Research on Globalization, for example, which has done some tremendous work exposing the thievery of international financial institutions, remains to this day an unrepentant defender of Milosevic.

Thankfully, for the most part these sorts are disappearing, and the anti-globalisation movement has no time for Stalinists of any description. But we have not done enough to welcome young activists from the East.

If for no other reason than to wean these activists from the Yankee teat, we must open our own organisations and meetings up to these genuine revolutionaries. We must make links and build solidarity with them. We must bend our organisations to help those still under the yoke of authoritarians such as Lukashenko in Belarus and Aliyev in Azerbaijan. Students and others that protested Shevardnadze are now back in the streets protesting Saakashvili. We must support them, because now that the U.S. has what it wants - a president that calls George Bush a 'freedom fighter' and is hostile to Moscow - the U.S. embassy won't be returning the students' calls any more.

At the very least, representatives from Otpor, Kmara, Zubr, Mjaft, Pora, and Yox should be invited to the next preparatory assembly (Paris, 19-18 December) for the 2006 European Social Forum in Athens. Perhaps some work can be done through the ESF Working Group for Integration of Central and Eastern European Countries. Any other conferences, organising meetings or protests that are appropriate should also be opened to these groups

Fighting demagogues today wherever they are is as much an act of the left as it was in Prague in the spring of 1968. They are our comrades.

woensdag, mei 11, 2005

Georgie does Georgia

So cute. A blonde little Georgian girl sitting atop her daddy's shoulders, waving the Stars and Stripes as Georgian President Mikhail Saakashvili tells the visiting George Bush: 'We welcome you as a freedom fighter,' in front of a crowd of some hundred thousand citizens, and, um, what looked to me like a stadium full of KKK Grand Wizards arranged on the seats to form a massive human St. George's Cross.

Laura Bush gives hubbie a hand with his package
of diplomatic initiatives in Eastern Europe.

I could be wrong about that last bit, as I was on the treadmill at the gym some distance away from the TV when I was watching CNN's coverage of Bush's visit to Georgia today, and I get a bit squinty sweating away on that dang gadget that after six fucking months has done nothing at all to diminish my decidedly non-dishy love handles. But I'll tell you what was clear enough: shots of Georgie in Georgia being welcomed by a pretty five-year-old Aryan and thousands of others and hailed as a freedom fighter. (I wonder if Saakashvili thought that line up himself, or if the boys that did up that nice Mission Accomplished banner a while back were behind it) Makes a nice break from all those shots of millions of protesters in 'old' Europe that always pop up whenever the President visits. Oh…wait, no, we never get to see those on CNN.

In any case, from the piccies, one would think that not only is George Bush massively popular in Georgia, but that so remains the country's revolutionary leader and president, the Soros-bankrolled Saakashvili.

However, as it turns out, Misha has seen his support drop by over 25 per cent in the last six months, and the country, according to Jaba Devdariani, writing in Transitions Online, is beset with regular protests once again.

'Of late, people have been protesting frequently, very frequently in Georgia. Some have taken to the streets with purely social demands: a lack of electricity in most provinces, social hardships in Armenian-populated Javakheti, and disruptions to the water supply in Imereti. Also linked to social issues are the "bazaar protests" by traders in Georgia's near-ubiquitous open-air markets. They are up in arms at the prospect of being relocated from the center of Tbilisi and other cities to newly allocated suburban plots, a move that will, they fear, lose them customers.

'Then there are the protests against reforms: Traders are refusing to comply with better-enforced safety, sanitary, and licensing requirements. Medical students have launched a hunger strike against new national examinations intended to replace university entry exams…'

'Most of the socially motivated protests were inherited from Shevardnadze's administration. In fact, this is the very same wave of social discontent that propelled the Rose Revolution and brought down President Eduard Shevardnadze. So, seen against that backdrop, the government should worry lest this unrest turn into an explosion.'

Devdariani's not especially sympathetic to the protests, and his prescription, similar to that of Simon Tisdall, writing in the Guardian, is to push still further with Saakashvili's reforms. Certainly going further in tackling the corruption in the government at all levels will go some way to placating this same anger that led to Shevardnadze's overthrow.

However, the word 'reform' has taken on something of a dun, Orwellian tincture over the last few years, meaning not change that will improve people's lives, but instead privatisation and deregulation, and I'm not sure this perennial prescription from the neo-liberal lemmings will do much to ameliorate such concerns as lack of electricity, disruptions to water supply and 'social hardship'.

Such swindles rather tend to intensify these sort of problems, and, indeed, opposition to governments.

maandag, mei 09, 2005

Shoot baskets, not people

I have to say I'm pretty happy to see Steve Nash voted Most Valuable Player in the NBA this week. Not merely because he's from my home town, Victoria (exactly how many hometowns does Victor S have? Complicated question. I was born in Cannock, Staffs., spent my earliest years in Fordingbridge, Hants., grew up in Whitby, Ont., but was schooled in Oshawa in the same province, attended high school in Vancouver, BC, and have lived for extended periods in London, Amsterdam, Wadebridge in Cornwall [hence the familiarity with Mebyon Kernow], and now Brussels - but my unnaturally-extended university years were spent in Victoria - the longest time I've lived anywhere - so I guess that's as close as I get to a hometown), or because he completely turned around the fortunes of the Phoenix Suns, but because of his unwavering and outspoken opposition to the war, which has earned him the opprobrium of his boss, other players and sections of the US media.

As great commie sports writer, Dave Zirin, notes, Nash

'was the first high profile athlete to come out against Dick Cheney's "war of a generation", showing up at the 2003 All-Star game in 2003 wearing a T-shirt that read, "Shoot baskets not people."' When questioned on his incendiary attire, Nash said, "I think that war is wrong in 99.9 per cent of all cases. I think [Operation Iraqi Freedom] has much more to do with oil or some sort of distraction, because I don't feel as though we should be worrying about Iraq…Unfortunately, this is more about oil than it is about nuclear weapons.""'

Oh, and according to an interview earlier this season, he said that the last book he had read was The Communist Manifesto.

zondag, mei 08, 2005

Time for the Greens to join Respect

That pathologically constipated ex-Tankie whose sphincter is so tightly constricted he could shit diamonds, David Aaronovitch, is a bit put out: 'Since Thursday's election, every time I think about it, the result has looked worse to me. I can find nearly no comfort in the electorate's choices whatsoever.'

I rather think that there are very few ways in which the election, out of the range of realistic outcomes, could have gone better.

Labour's majority was cut to just about the lowest level that had been predicted without the Tories vote markedly improving; father of slain soldier Reg Keys and former ambassador Craig Murray both polled well, with the former offering up the moment that will forever be seen as emblematic not merely of this election, but of Blair's entire premiership: his concession speech in front of an ashen, blank-faced Blair expressing his hope that the Prime Minister at some point might apologise to the families of the dead and visit injured British soldiers; independent ex-Labour AM Peter Law overturned a 19,000 majority in Blaenau Gwent to win by 9,121 in what was supposed to be Labour's safest seat in Wales; the myth of the Shiraz-quaffing, bruschetta-munching middle-class war-botherer was exploded as opposition to the war was cited by voters as motivation for not voting Labour in exit polls across all regions and social classes; the hopes of UKIP and Veritas fizzled like a wet firecracker; Respect not only won in Bethnal Green & Bow, but managed some spectacular votes in Birmingham Sparkbrook and Small Heath (Salma Yaqoob: 27.5 per cent/second place), East Ham (Abdul Khaliq Mian: 20.7 per cent/second place), West Ham (Lindsay German: 19.5 per cent/second place), and Poplar & Canning Town (Oliur Rahman: 16.8 per cent/third place), and managed to achieve, erm, respectable votes in the mid-single figures in seven other constituencies; and I'm even happy with the advance of the Lib Dems, expressing as it does not an endorsement of the party but a rejection of war and privatisation. Most of all, a consensus has rapidly developed in all quarters in the wake of the results that Blair must go, PDQ.

The night was not absent of disappointment, however, and I don't mean the completely unforeseen drubbing Mebyon Kernow received at the hands of every other party running against them. (I'm sorry - I'm being too harsh on the Cornish separatists. But I mean, really. An independent Cornwall? With an economy built on surfing lessons and pasties?)

Plaid Cymru has a leftish colouration in a way that the SNP doesn't, and has seen moderate success of late, but on Thursday their vote declined as the Lib Dems advanced; and Forward Wales, the Welsh socialist party, failed to make any impact at all, with their hottest prospect, Janet Williams, coming last in Wrexham with just 1.6 per cent, behind even the BNP's 3.0 per cent.

Although the Greens achieved a superb result in Brighton Pavillion - 22 per cent, it was not enough to put them over the top.

The Scottish Socialist Party's decline from 3.0 per cent in the last election to Westminster to a wretched 1.9 per cent can't be blamed on first-past-the-post. Even the Scottish Greens did better. I'm not on the ground in Scotland, so I can't comment with authority, but even from here in Brussels, it seems apparent that the Tommy Sheridan soap opera hasn't helped the party. I have an awful lot of time for the SSP, and, despite its growing capitulation to Scottish nationalism, the organisation is in my opinion a model example of the sort of centrist (in the Marxist sense) force that offers the best electoral prospect for the far left around the world. Let's hope the organisation's wet fart of a result is an aberration from their otherwise healthy growth over the past few years. I can't comment further on the significance of the SSP vote as I'm more than a bit out of the loop. I'm sure I'll get a sectarian, fragmentary view that contains a soupçon of accuracy from the CPGB's Weekly Worker next week, but I wouldn't mind a more honest assessment from somewhere else, and one that also doesn't overly depend on clever but ultimately vacuous football analogies (c.f. convenor Colin Fox's press debriefing). I would welcome reports from anyone who knows more about exactly why this has happened.

Lastly, there is the deeply worrying surge of the BNP in Barking.

Lenin, the pseudonymous proprietor of the top-notch blog, Lenin's Tomb, and active Respect campaigner, is understandably ecstatic about Respect's results from all of its contests, but particularly about the eager new mood that comes from a genuine, hard-won victory amid a period of seemingly endless defeats: 'If we have Respect tables out across the country asking people to join this weekend, people will join.'

If he's right - and I hope he is - then he has the right idea. Where regular electoral parties exist but for electoral contests, socialists view, or should view, elections as the lowest form of political activity, knowing that battles are not won or lost at the polling station, but long before, in the street and on the shopfloor and in the hearts of the oppressed and exploited. A movement on the ground that is confident enough can force any government to do its bidding, whereas even the most left of electoral successes will be undermined if there is not an extra-parlimentary force to defend and spread a government's undertakings. The other parties, whether having won or lost, will hibernate until the next contest like electioneering Yogi Bears. The fighting socialist party shakes off their hangover and immediately goes back out there to campaign against the next hospital closure or pension roll-back, or, most likely in this case and leaked not hours after the last election results had come in, a massive programme of building nuclear power stations, as well as the predicted acquisition of a new generation of nuclear weapons for Britain.

It would be a mistake for Respect to disappear from the political scene awaiting the next electoral skirmish. There are endless campaigns right away to get stuck into which will not only raise the profile of Respect and win it the esteem of local people and activists, but help build resistance to neo-liberalism and root it in local communities across Britain so that Respect becomes not a vanguard, but merely the electoral expression and 'resource centre' of a vibrant social movement and culture of resistance far broader than itself.

For this to happen, however, Respect must not be a tap that is turned on and off by its leading internal force, the SWP, at times opportune or less opportune for the recruitment of members of the SWP-proper, as it did with the poor, old Socialist Alliance.

There must also be a renewed effort to woo the Greens, although the ball is to a great extent in the Greens' court given Respect's excellent results, eclipsing the Greens as the most successful party to the left of Labour. The Greens failed not only to elect a single MP, while Respect did (although Respect did profit from Galloway's already-considerable profile), but failed to chalk up even one second-place result, where Respect managed three very strong second placings and an additional third-place result. The Socialist Unity Network website very quickly posted the Green's response to the results: a very frank assessment from the party's election co-ordinator for England and Wales, Peter Cranie:

'George Galloway's high profile and remarkable victory over Oona King is the headline of the night, but it is Respect's results in East and West Ham (either side of the 20% mark) that are undoubtedly impressive and have particularly caught my interest. There is certain to be strategic discussion within the Green Party about what this means for Green/Left political relations. I've already started this process on a political newsgroup as a way of finding out the views of grass root activists.'

The UK Greens, to a great extent, are a deeper shade of green than many of their continental counterparts - notably the neo-liberal, Castor-transporting and war-mongering Bündus90/Die Grünen of Joschka Fischer - and thus not an unnatural ally of Respect. If Cranie's comments are typical of Green thinking, a merger or at least some sort of electoral pact with the party should not be out of the question. Respect would also benefit from the many years of grunt work the Greens have put into developing their organisation at the local level.

There remain concerns about Respect, most of which I have mentioned previously, so I don't think I need to repeat myself. Red Pepper, by the way, has a very balanced article by James O'Nions of the Radical Activist Network appraising the organisation. His views on Respect are not dissimilar to mine and I certainly recommend you have a read of the article.

Nonetheless, the success of Respect in Thursday's election exceeded my expectations. They have more than proved themselves and done an enormous service to genuine progressives in shattering the myth that any project to the left of Labour in England is a hopeless proposition, incapable of electing MPs. Now, for all Respect's imperfections, it is only sectarianism that keeps others on the far left from joining.

Respect's task now is to consolidate the gains they have achieved. All hands on deck.