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Autumn 2012


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On 20th October, thousands of people from across the country will march together in defence of public services and the welfare state, whose very survival is threatened by austerity. In response to pressure from workers and campaign groups like Coalition of Resistance (CoR), the Trade Union Congress (TUC) has at last taken the lead in calling for a national demonstration against the cuts. The TUC march is a great opportunity for the movement to create what we need to win: the broadest possible united front. Already community and anticuts groups are joining unions in calling for nationwide mobilisation. This cannot be left to unionists and activists alone. For many of us – students, the unemployed, the sick, the elderly – these cuts threaten rights on which we rely. And all these elements must be represented on the demonstration. But in reality, we all have cause to resist. Profit and power they will privatise, and the only thing they want to socialise is mountainous debt they created. Far from saving the economy, austerity is strangling it and fatally weakening the democracy in which we are all stakeholders. Education is being corporatised, the NHS dismantled and law enforcement privatised. With 90 per cent of promised cuts still to come, Britain will be unrecognisable in ten years’ time unless these reforms are met with uncompromising popular opposition. But the government finds itself in a weak position. It may not survive its full term and recent polls suggest the majority of the public are disappointed with its performance. A million-strong march could tip the balance. It will strengthen the unions and the movement as a whole, shoring up our struggle for a future that works not for the City, but for the people.




No to imperialist intervention in Syria BY PETER STAUBER The dynamics of the conflict in Syria have changed significantly over the past eighteen months. The Arab revolutions reached Syria in March 2011, when large popular demonstrations demanded an end to Bashar al-Assad’s rule. As the regime cracked down on the protest movement with fierce brutality, the conflict turned into a civil war, with the military opponents of Assad rallying behind the Free Syrian Army. But the conflict is not a clear-cut struggle between Assad supporters and proponents of democratic change. As in other Middle Eastern countries that have experienced popular uprisings against autocratic regimes, most notably Libya, the struggle has become heavily influenced by Western imperialism. In Syria, this interference takes the form of indirect support for the Syrian opposition – the imposition of sanctions, the deployment of “special forces” on the ground, and the supply of weapons by Saudi Arabia and Qatar, the West’s allies in the region. The aim of this interference is clear: The West seeks to replace the Assad regime with a government more sympathetic to their interests. Even if direct military intervention has so far been thwarted by disagreements between the main actors in the UN Security Council, it remains a distinct possibility – especially considering that Syria is, at least partly, a proxy for Iran. Since Assad is an important ally of the regime in Tehran, it poses an obstacle to an Israeli-American attack on Iran.

Image by FreedomHouse

In order to further its goals, the West has been promoting a sectarian agenda, with its Sunni allies the main beneficiaries of its support. While there are progressive forces within the anti-Assad opposition, the threat of religious sectarianism, once unleashed, is extremely hard to contain. The links with imperialist powers have changed the character of the Syrian opposition. Support for the revolution must now mean combining opposition to Assad with sharp criticism of those who would compromise the revolution for the benefit of the Western powers.


This is a movement for all of us... BY RICHARD ALLDAY For 4 years we have been fed a diet of austerity by a millionaire Coalition that tells us, straight-faced, that ‘we are all in this together.’ Fuel duty hits the hospital porter and the banker. Indeed the porter’s Astra is probably cheaper on fuel than the banker’s Porsche. So that’s alright then! First under Labour and accelerated by the Con-artist Coalition, we have had our belts tightened, our benefits cut, our services slashed, libraries shut, banks ailing and hospitals bankrupt. This benefits only the rich and powerful. But this is just half the story. The other half is the story of the 99 per cent; of the refusal to swallow austerity in Greece; the movement of the Indignados in Spain, and in Britain, the Occupy activists and UK Uncut. Alongside have come the first stirrings of revolt amongst organised labour. Electricians are resisting wage cuts. Tanker drivers have struck to defend working conditions. Tube, rail and now bus drivers have demanded a share of the bosses’ windfall Olympic profits. This is the voice of a population proclaiming enough is enough. Our power is greatest when we organise collectively, and most concentrated when we do so in the workplace. But there is a reason that Tahrir Square became the defining symbol of the Arab Revolutions and why the anti-austerity movement in Greece was epitomised by the mass demonstrations outside the Greek parliament. Where activism in the workplace has been weakened by attacks on trade unions and our forces are thinly scattered, confidence must be built

F i r ebox

Café & events space for a new left in the heart of London

F iEvents r ealready b ounderx way with: Tariq Ali, Tony Benn, Mitra Qayoom & Neil Faulkner F i r e b o xMeeting space & media hub with free Wi-Fi F i r e 6thbOctober: o x Grand Opening F i r e b o x 106–108 Cromer St WC1H 8BZ King’S CroSS Political discussion, activist meetings, film, art, music, spoken word & much more



by protest movements which call for solidarity with other strands of dissent. That was the pre-eminent lesson of the electricians’ fight. Activists must understand they are not alone to realise the possibility of effective resistance. At last this movement has mobilised the TUC to respond to calls for a national march against the Coalition government on 20th October. Every trade unionist needs to build for this demonstration but it cannot be left to trades unions alone. Exploitation by austerity is a class issue and resistance must be class-wide. This is the great opportunity on offer. We must encourage anti-cuts activists, fair tax campaigners, students and the unemployed youth to lay claim to 20.10 as their day of rage. Rather than submitting to calls for slower and slyer austerity, such a coalition of resistance would unite these struggles and stop the cuts. Every trade unionist on that demo will get a boost from seeing they are not alone; this is not just their fight, in isolation from the rest of society. They have allies in the hundreds of thousands. It will boost the confidence of trade unions and the wider campaign against austerity. If we succeed in making 20th October a success, we will owe a debt to

all those who supported the march. And the first repayment of that debt should be to support and build for the students’ demonstration 21st November. The TUC and its member unions must turn out in force for this to show Cameron, Clegg and all – they will not divide us.

Events at Firebox

Marxism and the movement 13th October, 2pm

Join Tariq Ali, Kate Connelly, Chris Nineham and James Meadway in a discussion on the Eurocrisis, the Arab uprisings, women’s liberation and why Marxism matters today

Which witch is which? 31st October, 6.30pm

Halloween event with special menu and supernaturally good conversation

Islamophobia: child of war BY FADUMA HASSAN The Israeli government and the neoconservatives in the US and the UK are loudly campaigning in favour of an attack on Iran. The sanctions in place against Iran are already some of the most draconian ever imposed. They are causing widespread hardship amomg ordinary Iranians, many of whom are critical of their government. The current Western hostility to Iran is a result of its increased influence in the Middle East. This is itself a result of the catastrpohic Western failure in Iraq. Such hostility has to be justified, of course. And the old stereotypical antagonism to Islam is being wheeled out once more, just as it was used to sustain the argument in favour of the Afghan and Iraq wars. This normalisation of Islamophobia in Britain, instigated by both the government and mainstream media, is a growing threat to the peace, security and civil liberties of British citizens. The language used to talk about Muslims are at best negative and at worst vile racism.

For example, the reporting on Iran is shot through with long-standing colonial caricatures on the relative irrationality, barbarity and fanaticism of ‘the foreigner’ which have no place in a our society. And if you demonise Muslims in other countries you end up doing the same to Muslims who live here. A Channel 4 survey of 974 British press articles from 2000 to 2008 found two thirds of them portrayed British Muslims as a ‘threat’ and a ‘problem’. Additionally, according to the Crown Persecution Service, Muslims account for more than 54% of religiously aggravated offences. Cameron’s government has clearly been complicit in heightening antiimmigrant prejudice. His speech on the failure of multiculturalism indicated the government’s willingness to divert attention from their own policies and turn the spotlight on minority groups. Racial scapegoating is also a useful tool to redirect the public gaze away from the systemic causes of the recession. Far-right groups like the British National Party and English Defence

League are a symptom of this misplaced aggression that they work so hard to exploit. They present themselves as crusaders against the socalled ‘Islamification’ of Britain. They have hijacked economic insecurities, which are blamed on immigrants and asylum seekers, misrepresented as receiving unjustly preferential treatment. The demonisation of Muslims is not just a British problem. It has infected mainstream European politics with the rise of many anti-Muslim groups such as the Swiss and Danish People’s Parties both outwardly rejecting multiculturalism. In projecting Islamophobic ideologies, politicians and journalists mould public opinion. But they do not monopolise it. The impresive recent protests against the EDL have shown that many working people are willing to stand up against Islamophobia and racism. Uncompromising opposition, counter-protest and solidarity amongst British workers of all racial and religious backgrounds can work to re-write our political history.


The City is running out of credit with us BY JAMES MEADWAY

It is now over five years since the “credit crunch” slammed the brakes on the world economy. This was the week, back in summer 2007, when it became clear that the mountainous piles of debts the world’s banks had built up over the last decade were turning sour. As those high-risk debts turned bad, the banks began to panic. They stopped lending to each other, and the system began to freeze. The first major casualty in Britain was Northern Rock, a mouse of a bank that pretended it was a tiger, borrowing at ludicrously low rates from the major banks and then offering too-good-to-be-true mortgages to its customers. When the major banks panicked and stopped their lending, Northern Rock went under. Terrified savers rushed to withdraw their deposits. Gordon Brown’s administration stepped in with an emergency nationalisation. They hoped to contain the crisis. They were wrong. A year later, giant investment bank Lehman Brothers collapsed. A new period of history had opened. The decade before had promised “no return to boom and bust” (in Brown’s infamous words), but it was built on sand – growth driven by debt, which masked, for a time, the world economy’s rotten foundations. The flood of cheap credit into the system – encouraged by governments from Thatcher’s to Brown’s - helped support apparent prosperity. As the flood-tide of debt has receded, all the real failures of the system have become exposed. For most workers, their real incomes have been falling sharply over the last year, after a decade of stagnation. The City

Photo by Pete Riches

of London reeks of corruption. The Libor scandal , in which major banks (seemingly with the Bank of England’s knowledge) rigged their own interest rates, is just one element in a stinking whole. Now buoyed up by the bailouts, totalling £1,300bn of public support in the UK, the bankers think they are untouchable. Auster-


ity – vicious cuts to public spending - impoverishes most of us, but keeps the bankers rich. Cuts wreck the economy and have helped cause the “double-dip” recession, but they mean the banks can carry on sitting pretty on our support. But a government of millionaires, like the Coalition, looks to help its

own. It will not shift without a mass movement. Syriza in Greece and the epic struggle of the miners in Spain have shown the way. Stopping the cuts would break the decline. Government investment in new, green industries can create jobs. And the banks can be placed under public control, lending for the public good, not private profit.

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Counterfire Broadsheet Autumn 2012  
Counterfire Broadsheet Autumn 2012  

Seize the day: 20 October TUC protest, Syria, Islamophobia and the banks