Thursday, August 31, 2006

New Statesman Sept 4th

This New Statesman leads on the world's Dictators, but there's a stand-out piece by John Pilger, 'The return of people power', which compares the general acceptance of Reaganite propaganda about Nicaragua in the '80s with the general scepticism in Britain today. Pilger quotes Vandana Shiva to talk about an "insurrection of subjugated knowledge" and a revived internationalism 'aided by new technologies' and says Bush and Blair can't get away with it. He takes examples from Afghanistan, Iraq and Lebanon (quoting Simon Assaf without mentioning Socialist Worker) and uses Assaf's account of a popular movement from below in Lebanon to talk about the popular movements in Bolivia and Venezuela, and Derbyshire. Pilger's account is very strong. I do have a caveat, which is the starry-eyed treatment of the resistance in Iraq. Pilger quotes statistics I've seen on blogs quite a bit about the percentage of bombs exploded in July. I'm not disagreeing with saying 70% were aimed at the Americans, 20% against 'puppet police force' and 10% against civilians. The slippage is from the number of bombs to the number of killings, which seem to me to be overwhelmingly civilian. I understand the desire to paint the resistance in the best light, but this seems to me to be too rosy, too utopian.

Elsewhere: the magazine editorialises on the likely outcome of a Tory election victory, warning that images of a caring conservatism could easily be misplaced and constitutional changes to remove Labour's Scottish advantage could ensure Labour is excluded for another generation.

Sam Alexandroni reports on how Syria is enjoying Hezbolah's victory in Lebanon. Sadly Rageh Omaar still doesn't seem to have much to say about Iraq. Ziauddin Sardar warns against Tablighi Jamaat. Charles Clarke offers advice to the Labour administration.

And the dictators: Musharraf of Pakistan, Lukashenko of Belarus, Ayatollah Khamenei of Iran, Kim Jong-il of North Korea, Niyazov of Turkmenistan, Hu Jintao of China, Nguema of Equatorial Guinea, Abdul Aziz of Saudi Arabia, Sheikh Mohammed of Dubai, and goodbye to Stoessner of Paraguay.

Paul Rogers on Lebanon aftermath

I've seen criticism of the Open Democracy webs-site as the equivalent and ally of Harry's Place, i.e. the repository of all things bad and noxious. This seems pretty one-sided to me and based in the sad tendency to dislike reading what you disagree with. What are these leftists afraid of?

There are a lot of disagreeable things on Open Democracy, and that's one of its strengths; but one of its ornaments and must-read features are the regular contributions by Paul Rogers from Bradford University. Here's his latest thing on Lebanon.

Lebanon on the edge
Paul Rogers
31 - 8 - 2006

The intense military inquests and feverish diplomatic activity after Lebanon's war reveal the fragility of the Israel-Hizbollah ceasefire.

Soon after the Lebanon ceasefire took hold on 14 August 2006 after the thirty-four-day war, George W Bush declared with conviction that Hizbollah would be seen to have been the conflict's loser. At the time it seemed an extraordinary remark, given the manner in which Israel had evidently failed to achieve its original objectives of disarming Hizbollah or removing the threat on its northern border. Nonetheless, Bush's view persists and provides reassurance for elements within the administration and for some Washington political circles (see Lee Smith, " The Real Losers ", Weekly Standard, 28 August 2006). But it is not shared by the United States military.

The argument that Hizbollah lost draws on what confirmation it can, the latest element being Hizbollah leader Hassan Nasrallah's declaration in a television interview on 28 August (significantly, with the New TV station rather than Hizbollah's own al-Manar) that the movement had not expected Israel's massive reaction to its 12 July border attack. The comments, however, probably have much more to do with internal Lebanese politics and Hizbollah's need to consolidate its relative success in the war.

Hizbollah's advantage
If Israel's determined attacks on the Lebanese economic infrastructure were intended to incite high levels of internal opposition to Hizbollah, there is little evidence that they succeeded. This is in spite of the damage done to the Lebanese economy. Swedish estimates put the direct damage at $3.6 billion, with an immediate requirement for $0.5 billion that is simply not coming from western sources (see "Lebanon 'desperate for new funds'", BBC, 31 August 2006).

In this near-vacuum, the growing success of Hizbollah in dominating the rapid reconstruction of infrastructure, especially in southern Lebanon, is confirming its power-base (see "A phoenix from Lebanon's ruins", 17 August 2006). At the same time, it is essential for Hizbollah to counter the strong feelings that do persist among sections of Lebanese society that the group bears some responsibility for the sheer destruction meted out by the Israeli air attacks. By confessing to surprise at the intensity of these attacks, even to the extent of saying the raids might not have gone ahead if this outcome had been known, Nasrallah accepts some responsibility while still focusing attention on the Israeli actions.

Meanwhile, Hizbollah is clear that it will not seek to break the ceasefire, an attitude reflected in its lack of response to Israel's commando raid in the Beka'a valley on 19 August. It follows that there is now a real chance that the ceasefire will hold and that an expanded UN presence will provide a kind of buffer-zone, even if it has little or no intention of actually disarming the Hizbollah militia. For its own political purposes, Hizbollah is likely to draw back from the area close to the Israeli border, perhaps even concentrating its military capabilities north of the Litani river. But none of this disguises the fact that the war itself evolved in a manner both entirely unexpected by the Israelis and carrying serious implications for the United States as well as Israel itself.

This does have to be put in the perspective of the fact that Hizbollah possessed four advantages. First, it had six years (effectively since Israel's withdrawal from southern Lebanon in May 2000) in which to develop its system of bunkers, supply-chains, stores and communications systems. Second, its militia were mostly from the immediate area, were defending their own homes and families and had detailed knowledge of the area they were defending. Third, it had considerable support from Syria and Iran. Fourth, it had experience of the tactics and methods of the Israeli Defence Forces going back over two decades.

Even so, a few thousand operatives (at most) were able for more than a month to resist far larger Israeli forces equipped with a remarkable range of weapons – and on the last day of the war, Hizbollah fired the largest number of missiles into northern Israel of the entire conflict.

Israel's troubles
The Israeli agreement to a ceasefire involving a considerably boosted United Nations force is far more significant than is generally appreciated. The disdain verging on contempt that Israel has for the UN in general and for Unifil in particular makes this perhaps the best indicator of Israel's inability to achieve its principal aim of destroying Hizbollah.

In the various western defence journals there is substantial coverage of the Lebanon war which offers revealing information and insight (see, for example, Barbara Opall-Rome, "Mideast Crisis to Drive Future Needs", Defense News, 14 August 2006 and David A Fulghum & Robert Wall, "Lebanon Intermission", Aviation Week and Space Technology, 21 August 2006.

There are even some detailed and thoughtful discussions getting into the open literature; one of the best informed is Anthony Cordesman's report for the Center for Strategic and International Studies in Washington, Preliminary "Lessons" of the Israeli-Hizbollah War (CSIS, 17 August 2006). All this reflects an even more intense analysis going on in defence ministries from Jerusalem to Washington and Tehran to Damascus.

Three examples of the Israeli experience during the Lebanon war give some indication of the problems the IDF encountered.

The first is that Hizbollah had a wide range of lightweight yet effective weapons, including portable anti-tank missiles of Russian, French, Italian and even US origin, albeit some of them manufactured in Syria and Iran.
The second is that the Syrian connection was actually much stronger than the Israelis or Americans appreciated – and, further, that Hizbollah's supplies came too from the grey and black markets. The movement could acquire equipment sourced from many western countries through diverse networks – yet another indication of the ubiquity of the international arms market. Iran, meanwhile, was a significant supporter but almost certainly not on the scale claimed by the Israelis or the Bush administration.

The third problem is that the Israelis had continual problems with Hizbollah's sophisticated communications systems. It was easy enough for the Israeli air force to destroy communications towers, but a consequence was that Israeli surveillance systems could no longer "listen in" to Hizbollah operatives' mobile-phone calls. In any case, the Hizbollah planners had already thought this through and were relying much more on a cell structure of paramilitary units using short-range walkie-talkie systems and hardened land lines that had been laid over a number of years.

In essence, it is now accepted that a well-armed, motivated and organised force numbering just a few thousand paramilitaries held down one of the best-equipped armies in the world for more than a month, and was not defeated by the time political necessity required a ceasefire from Israel. The many lessons to be learned by the Israelis, Americans, British, French and others are already permeating the planning cells in these countries' defence ministries, as well as the lecture theatres and seminar rooms of their defence colleges.

Iran's, and the world's, learning
What is probably even more significant, though, is that the war is also being studied in great detail across the rest of the world, especially in Tehran and Damascus – let alone Fallujah, Ramadi and Baghdad's Sadr city. A number of earlier columns in this series have tracked the evolution of the Iraq insurgency, including the manner in which Iraqi paramilitaries have evolved their tactics at a speed often exceeding American countermeasures (see, for example, "A jewel for al-Qaida's crown", 11 August 2005). For them and for the planners in Tehran and elsewhere, the experience of the Lebanon war will be scrutinised with great intensity.
There is an extraordinary irony here – although one not widely recognised in the United States or Britain. An intimate connection has long existed between the US army's Training and Doctrine Command (Tradoc) and the Israeli army in relation to counterinsurgency operations in Iraq. The difficulties facing the US forces in trying to control the Iraqi insurgents have made these forces more heavily reliant on the experience of the Israelis in controlling the occupied Palestinian territories. This has included training methods, surveillance equipment and even weapons, with much of the latter bought from Israel or made under licence (see "A week of vengeance", 1 April 2004). Just as the Americans have sought to learn from the Israelis, now many of the Iraqi paramilitaries and the Iranians will be working hard to learn from Hizbollah's experience.

At the very least, this means that one of the original motives for US support for Israel may have backfired in a quite spectacular way. The Lebanon war was seen within the Bush administration as an opportunity for Israel to defeat Hizbollah and, indirectly, decrease Iranian influence in the region. This would put Iran on the defensive in relation to its nuclear ambitions and would remove any Iranian capability to utilise Hizbollah in responding to a US or Israeli attack on its nuclear facilities (see "Hit Beirut, target Tehran", 21 July 2006).

Instead, the political effects of the war have been to embolden Tehran, and the military effects will be to increase Iranian capabilities to cause major problems for the United States in Iraq.

This is well known in Washington and Jerusalem and is a source of considerable unease. It also means that no one should rule out a collapse of the ceasefire in the coming weeks. There are unconfirmed reports of a substantial re-supply of weapons and equipment from the United States to Israel, and it has to be remembered that Israel is continuing its air and sea blockade of Lebanon.

The intense diplomatic efforts made by Kofi Annan to smooth the way to implementation of the Security Council resolution of 11 August 2006 reflects the huge concern in United Nations circles that there could be a sudden outbreak of violence leading to a new phase of the war. The next month is crucial. If the ceasefire does hold then there is a real hope that there could be a progressive easing of tensions in southern Lebanon, but to take that for granted would be highly dangerous.

Paul Le Blanc

MRZine August 28th
Interview with Paul LeBlanc by Michael D. Yates

Paul LeBlanc is what I have called an "organic intellectual," a scholar and activist who has risen directly out of the working class. Paul is the author of many books, including A Short History of the U.S. Working Class (Humanity Books, 1999) and Black Liberation and the American Dream (Humanity Books 2003), and is an internationally known and respected historian of the life and works of Rosa Luxemburg. Paul has been active all his adult life in antiwar, antiracist, and socialist movements. He is currently an Associate Professor of History and Dean of the School of Arts and Sciences at La Roche College in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. This interview was conducted by email in August 2006.

Michael Yates (MY): Paul, tell us how you came to write Marx, Lenin, and the Revolutionary Experience?

Read the rest here, its worth it for anyone intersted in the hitory of the American left.

Wednesday, August 30, 2006

Naomi Klein on disaster capitalism: Katrina +1

Disaster capitalism: how to make money out of misery
The privatisation of aid after Katrina offers a glimpse of a terrifying future in which only the wealthy are saved
Naomi Klein August 30, 2006 The Guardian

The Red Cross has just announced a new disaster-response partnership with Wal-Mart. When the next hurricane hits, it will be a co-production of Big Aid and Big Box. This, apparently, is the lesson learned from the US government's calamitous response to Hurricane Katrina: businesses do disaster better.

"It's all going to be private enterprise before it's over," Billy Wagner, emergency management chief for the Florida Keys, currently under hurricane watch for tropical storm Ernesto, said in April. "They've got the expertise. They've got the resources." But before this new consensus goes any further, perhaps it's time to take a look at where the privatisation of disaster began, and where it will inevitably lead.

The first step was the government's abdication of its core responsibility to protect the population from disasters. Under the Bush administration, whole sectors of the government, most notably the Department of Homeland Security, have been turned into glorified temp agencies, with essential functions contracted out to private companies. The theory is that entrepreneurs, driven by the profit motive, are always more efficient (please suspend hysterical laughter).

We saw the results in New Orleans one year ago: Washington was frighteningly weak and inept, in part because its emergency management experts had fled to the private sector and its technology and infrastructure had become positively retro. At least by comparison, the private sector looked modern and competent.

But the honeymoon doesn't last long. "Where has all the money gone?" ask desperate people from Baghdad to New Orleans, from Kabul to tsunami-struck Sri Lanka. One place a great deal of it has gone is into major capital expenditure for these private contractors. Largely under the public radar, billions of taxpayer dollars have been spent on the construction of a privatised disaster-response infrastructure: the Shaw Group's new state-of-the-art Baton Rouge headquarters, Bechtel's battalions of earthmoving equipment, Blackwater USA's 6,000-acre campus in North Carolina (complete with paramilitary training camp and 6,000-foot runway).
I call it the Disaster Capitalism Complex. Whatever you might need in a serious crunch, these contractors can provide it: generators, watertanks, cots, port-a-potties, mobile homes, communications systems, helicopters, medicine, men with guns.

This state-within-a-state has been built almost exclusively with money from public contracts, including the training of its staff (overwhelmingly former civil servants, politicians and soldiers). Yet it is all privately owned; taxpayers have absolutely no control over it or claim to it. So far, that reality hasn't sunk in because while these companies are getting their bills paid by government contracts, the Disaster Capitalism Complex provides its services to the public free of charge.

But here's the catch: the US government is going broke, in no small part thanks to this kind of loony spending. The national debt is $8 trillion; the federal budget deficit is at least $260bn. That means that sooner rather than later the contracts are going to dry up. Insiders call it the "homeland security bubble".

When it bursts, firms such as Bechtel, Fluor and Blackwater will lose their primary revenue stream. They will still have all their hi-tech gear giving them the ability to respond to disasters, while the government will have let that precious skill wither away - but now they will rent back the tax-funded infrastructure at whatever price they choose.

Here's a snapshot of what could be in store in the not-too-distant future: helicopter rides off rooftops in flooded cities at $5,000 a pop ($7,000 for families, pets included), bottled water and "meals ready to eat" at $50 a head (steep, but that's supply and demand), and a cot in a shelter with a portable shower (show us your biometric ID, developed on a lucrative homeland security contract, and we'll track you down later with the bill).

The model, of course, is the US healthcare system, in which the wealthy can access best-in-class treatment in spa-like environments while 46 million Americans lack health insurance. As emergency-response, the model is already at work in the global Aids pandemic: private-sector prowess helped produce life-saving drugs (with heavy public subsidies), then set prices so high that the vast majority of the world's infected cannot afford treatment.

If that is the corporate world's track record on slow-motion disasters, why should we expect different values to govern fast-moving disasters such as hurricanes or even terrorist attacks? It's worth remembering that as Israeli bombs pummelled Lebanon not so long ago, the US government initially tried to charge its citizens for the cost of their own evacuations. And, of course, anyone without a western passport in Lebanon had no hope of rescue.

One year ago, New Orleans's working-class and poor citizens were stranded on their rooftops waiting for help that never came, while those who could pay their way escaped to safety. The country's political leaders claim it was all some terrible mistake, a breakdown in communication that is being fixed. Their solution is to go even further down the catastrophic road of "private-sector solutions."

Unless a radical change of course is demanded, New Orleans will prove to be a glimpse of a dystopian future, a future of disaster apartheid in which the wealthy are saved and everyone else is left behind.

· Naomi Klein's book on disaster capitalism will be published in spring 2007.

Thursday, August 24, 2006

Socialist Worker Aug 26th 2006

Socialist Worker (#2015 Aug 26th)continues its focus on imperialism and the struggle against it with an exciting 'The Power of the Masses' lead about an exclusive report (they are very keen on 'exclusive reports') by Simon Assaf and Guy Smallman from Lebanon, emphasising the mass scale and popular unity of resistance to the Israelis. But SW also provides a warning: 'US and its allies try to regain lost ground', re-emphasising that the conflict was a 'proxy war' against Iran and Syria, quoting Seymour Hersh.

Simon Assaf has a page of reportage on 'Freedom from below' about popular solidarity for Hizbollah. Good, but effect spoiled by a tendentious piece by Guyt Smallman suggesting that a dairy plant was bombed for a small economic motivation. But the centre-page reportage makes up for it: 'The Battle of Aita Al-Shaab' is excellent and the interview between John Rees and Sameh Naguib from Cairo interesting and important.

Other things:
Alex Callinicos on Polish and other East European migrants. Callinicos makes the case for the traditional Marxist view that what is going on is the typical 'divide and rule' policy of the bosses. He refers to the bosses as 'split', which is true but the term sets up misleading images of unity as necessary; instead, on this as with most other things the ruling class has different approaches and strategies reflecting different interests. 'Split' maybe comes from conceptualising bourgeois politics as the mirror-image of the rhetoric of Marxist politics. Callinicos does point up the contradictions of the situation, in which both unemployment and employment are rising and which is precisely why there are different strategies. The column does end on the welcome note of migrant workers organising themselves and a strike by strawberry pickers.

Dave Sherry finishes his series on the struggles of the seventies: 'Political Lessons for the rank and file', which succinctly deals with the reasons why the rank-and-file movement fell apart in the face of the social contract; but he ends with the usual 'witnessing the birth of a new movement that can transform the unions' and possibility of a revival of class struggle, we 'don't yet have struggles on the scale of the early 1970s, but the general political mood is much more favourable than it was 30 years ago'. Okay, but just to note that the SWP has been predicting the return of class struggle for the last 20 years, do they have any sense of their own history?

Letters: in view of the strong and I think somewhat dishonest support for Tommy Sheridan the letters page includes a couple of anti-Sheridan letters: good on yer editor, although one has a distinctly misleading heading, 'SSP's turn to the grotesque' should have been 'Tommy's turn to the grotesque' to catch its flavour.

Bob Light praises Almodovar: hurrah!

And the backpage is devoted to Scotland, pushing the Sheridan cause and the Sept 3rd meeting to set up a new rival organisation. Mike Gonzalez gives a political contextualization, sounds good unless you think about what is based on. A 'debate' column, somewhat mistitled as the debate is rather one-sided.

Sunday, August 20, 2006

Robert Fisk Diary from Beirut

A change of policy by The Independent (on Sunday) (or maybe just temporary) has Robert Fisk's Beirut Diary available in full here: A land reduced to rubble: 'These places now look like French villages did after German bombardment during the First World War' (20 August 2006) is worth a look. Just a bit from Tuesday the 15th considering the tragic death of David Grossman's son late in the conflict (yes I know there are hundreds of the unkonwn dead, that Uri was an army, that it's in the context of Israeli aggression and a particularly cynical military exploitation of the last few hours before the announced ceasefire kicked in). There is still something tragic about the futility of deaths so late in a war. Anyway, a quote from Fisk:
"The Lebanese papers carry the news of the death in action of David Grossman's son Uri, killed fighting the Hizbollah in southern Lebanon. That Grossman, a brilliant and compassionate writer well known in Lebanon - his books are on sale here and the local newspaper reports are written with dignity - should suffer in this way seems especially cruel. I turn to his work on the Palestinians of Israel, which nestles in the bookcase beside my desk. "Every acrobat knows the secret of walking a tightrope over an abyss; the Arabs in Israel have learnt something even more difficult - to stand still on the wire," Grossman wrote in 1993. "To live a provisional life that eternally suspends and dulls the will... So it has been for decades, for hundreds of thousands of acrobats."
Wednesday 16 August

Friday, August 18, 2006

New Statesman Aug 21st 2006

The New Statesman (Aug 21st) has a cover focused on Al-Qaeda's plan for Britain. This alarming (alarmist?) story by Zaki Chehab compares the disoriented disbelief of families in High Wycombe with his own surprise at someone he knew turning out to be a 911 suicide bomber. Chehab's take is that al Qaeda's focus on Britain, as target and source of recruits is very strong. There isn't much direct evidence, but Chehab is writing with confidence. Dennis MacShane calls for Muslim leaders to stasnd up against the 'new totalitarianism'. John Pilger argues that the real threat we face is Blair, and Rageh Omaar asks for how much longer will deny that foreign policy is a factor in the motives of the government? Ziauddin Sardar reports on a gathering of the anti-jihadi Ahmadis, persecuted or repressed as heretics in much of the Islamic world.

Elsewhere the fall-out from the Second Lebanon War is examined by Haim Baram from Jerusalem on Israel's sense of defeat and gives a sense of the way that the fall-out will help Netanyahu. Sam Alexandroni reports on protests in Jordan.

Alice O'Keefe reports from Cuba on the prospects for change.

Achcar on Lebanese ceasefire

The 33-Day War and UNSC Resolution 1701
August 16th

The resolution adopted by the UN Security Council on August 11, 2006 fully satisfies neither Israel nor Washington nor Hezbollah. This does not mean that it is "fair and balanced": it only means that it is a temporary expression of a military stalemate. Hezbollah could not inflict a major military defeat on Israel, a possibility that was always excluded by the utterly disproportionate balance of forces in the same way that it was impossible for the Vietnamese resistance to inflict a major military defeat on the U.S.; but neither could Israel inflict a major military defeat — or actually any defeat whatsoever — on Hezbollah.

In this sense, Hezbollah is undoubtedly the real political victor and Israelthe real loser in the 33-day war that erupted on July 12, and no speech byEhud Olmert or George W. Bush can alter this obvious truth. [1<>]

In order to understand what is at stake, it is necessary to summarize theU.S.-backed goals that Israel was pursuing in its offensive. The central goal of the Israeli onslaught was, of course, to destroy Hezbollah. Israel sought to achieve this goal through the combination of three major means.

The first one consisted in dealing Hezbollah a fatal blow through an intensive "post-heroic," i.e. cowardly, bombing campaign exploiting Israel's"overwhelming and asymmetric advantage" in firepower. The campaign aimed at cutting Hezbollah's road of supplies, destroying much of its military infrastructure (stocks of rockets, rocket launchers, etc.), eliminating a major number of its fighters and decapitating it by assassinating Hassan Nasrallah and other key party leaders.

The second means pursued consisted in turning Hezbollah's mass base among Lebanese Shiites against the party, which Israel would designate as responsible for their tragedy through a frenzied PSYOP campaign. This required, of course, that Israel inflict a massive disaster on Lebanese Shiites by an extensive criminal bombing campaign that deliberately flattened whole villages and neighborhoods and killed hundreds and hundredsof civilians.

This was not the first time that Israel had resorted to this kind of stratagem — a standard war crime. When the PLO was active in southernLebanon, in what was called "Fatahland" before the first Israeli invasion in1978, Israel used to heavily pound the inhabited area all around the point from which a rocket was launched at its territory, even though rockets were fired from wastelands.

The stratagem succeeded at that time in alienating from the PLO a significant part of the population of southern Lebanon, aided by the fact that reactionary leaders were still a major force down there and that the Palestinian guerillas could easily be repudiated as alien since their behavior was generally disastrous. This time, given the incomparably better status of Hezbollah among Lebanese Shiites, Israel thought that it could achieve the same effect simply by dramatically increasing the scope and brutality of the collective punishment.

The third means consisted in massively and gravely disrupting the life of the Lebanese population as a whole and holding it hostage through an air, sea and land blockade so as to incite this population, especially the communities other than Shiite, against Hezbollah, and thus create a political climate conducive to military action by the Lebanese army against the Shiite organization. This is why, at the onset of the offensive, Israeli officials stated that they did not want any force but the Lebanese army to deploy in southern Lebanon, rejecting specifically an international force and spitting on the existing UNIFIL.

This project has actually been the goal of Washington and Paris ever since they worked together on producing UN Security Council resolution 1559 in September 2004 that called for the withdrawal of Syrian troops from Lebanon and "the disbanding and disarmament of all Lebanese and non-Lebanese militias," i.e. Hezbollah and the organizations of the Palestinians in their refugee camps.

Washington had believed that, once Syrian forces were removed from Lebanon, the Lebanese army, which has been equipped and trained chiefly by thePentagon, would be able to "disband and disarm" Hezbollah. The Syrian army effectively withdrew from Lebanon in April 2005, not because of the pressure from Washington and Paris, but due to the political turmoil and mass mobilization that resulted from the assassination, in February of that year, of Lebanese former Prime Minister Rafik Hariri, a very close friend of theSaudi ruling class.

The balance of forces in the country, in light of the mass demonstrations and counter-demonstrations that occurred, did not make it possible for theU.S.-allied coalition to envisage a settlement of the Hezbollah issue by force. They were even obliged to wage the ensuing parliamentary elections in May in a broad coalition with Hezbollah, and rule the country thereafter through a coalition government including two Hezbollah ministers. This disappointing outcome prompted Washington to give Israel a green light for its military intervention. It needed only a suitable pretext, which the Hezbollah's cross-border operation on July 12 provided.

Measured against the central goal and the three means described above, theIsraeli offensive was a total and blatant failure. Most obviously, Hezbollah was not destroyed — far from it. It has retained the bulk of both its political structure and its military force, indulging in the luxury of shelling northern Israel up to the very last moment before the ceasefire on the morning of August 14.

It has not been cut off from its mass base; if anything, this mass base has been considerably extended, not only among Lebanese Shiites, but among all other Lebanese religious communities as well, not to mention the huge prestige that this war brought to Hezbollah, especially in the Arab regionand the rest of the Muslim world. Last but not least, all this has led to a shift in the overall balance of forces in Lebanon in a direction that is the exact opposite of what Washington and Israel expected: Hezbollah emerged much stronger and more feared by its declared or undeclared opponents, the friends of the U.S. and the Saudi kingdom.

The Lebanese government essentially sided with Hezbollah, making the protest against the Israeli aggression its priority.[2<>]

There is no need to dwell any further on Israel's most blatant failure: reading the avalanche of critical comments from Israeli sources is more than sufficient and most revealing. One of the sharpest comments was the one expressed by three-time "Defense" minister Moshe Arens, indisputably an expert. He wrote a short article in Haaretz that speaks volumes:
"They [Ehud Olmert, Amir Peretz and Tzipi Livni] had a few days of glory when they still believed that the IAF's [Israeli Air Force's] bombing ofLebanon would make short shrift of Hezbollah and bring us victory without pain. But as the war they so grossly mismanaged wore on... gradually the air went out of them. Here and there, they still let off some bellicose declarations, but they started looking for an exit — how to extricate themselves from the turn of events they were obviously incapable of managing.
They grasped for straws, and what better straw than the United Nations Security Council. No need to score a military victory over Hezbollah. Letthe UN declare a cease-fire, and Olmert, Peretz, and Livni can simply declare victory, whether you believe it or not.... The war, which according to our leaders was supposed to restore Israel's deterrent posture, has within one month succeeded in destroying it."[3<>]

Arens speaks the truth: as Israel proved increasingly unable to score any ofthe goals that it had set for itself at the onset of its new war, it started looking for an exit. While it compensated for its failure by an escalation in the destructive and revengeful fury that it unleashed over Lebanon, its U.S. sponsors switched their attitude at the UN. After having bought time for Israel for more than three weeks by blocking any attempt at discussing a Security Council resolution calling for a ceasefire — one of the most dramatic cases of paralysis in the history of the 61-year old intergovernmental institution — Washington decided to take over and continue Israel's war by diplomatic means.

By switching its attitude, Washington converged again with Paris on the issue of Lebanon. Sharing with the U.S. a common, albeit rival, dedication to taking the most out of Saudi riches, especially by selling the Saudi rulers military hardware[4<>],
Paris regularly and opportunistically stays on the right side of the Saudis every time some strains arise between Washington's agenda and the concerns of its oldest Middle Eastern clients and protégés. Israel's new Lebanon war was such an opportunity: as soon as Israel's murderous aggression proved counterproductive from the standpoint of the Saudi ruling family, who are terrified by an increasing destabilization of the Middle East that could prove fatal for their interests, they requested a cessation of the war and a switch to alternative means.

Paris immediately came out in favor of this attitude, and Washington ended up following suit, but only after giving the Israeli aggression a few more days to try to score some face-saving military achievement. The first draft resolution crafted by the two capitals circulated at the UN on August 5. Itwas a blatant attempt at achieving diplomatically what Israel had not been able to achieve militarily. The draft, while stating "strong support" forLebanon's sovereignty, nevertheless called for the reopening of its airports and harbors only "for verifiably and purely civilian purposes" and provided for the establishment of an "international embargo on the sale or supply ofarms and related material to Lebanon except as authorized by its government," in other words an embargo on Hezbollah.

It reasserted resolution 1559, calling for a further resolution that would authorize "under Chapter VII of the Charter the deployment of a UN-mandated international force to support the Lebanese armed forces and government inproviding a secure environment and contribute to the implementation of apermanent cease-fire and a long-term solution." This formulation is so vague that it could only mean, actually, an international force authorized to wage military operations (Chapter VII of the UN Charter) in order to implement resolution 1559 by force, in alliance with the Lebanese army.

Moreover, no provision restricted this force to the area south of the Litani River, the area which under the draft resolution was to be free of Hezbollah's armament, and the limit of the zone that Israel has requested to be secured after having failed to get rid of Hezbollah in the rest of Lebanon. This meant that the UN force could have been called upon to act against Hezbollah in the rest of Lebanon.

This project was totally unwarranted by what Israel had achieved on the ground, however, and the draft was therefore defeated. Hezbollah came out strongly against it, making it clear that it would not accept any international force but the existing UNIFIL, the UN force deployed along Lebanon's border with Israel (the "Blue Line") since 1978. The Lebanese government conveyed Hezbollah's opposition and request for changes, backedby the chorus of Arab states including all U.S. clients. Washington had no choice then, but to revise the draft as it would not have passed a vote at the Security Council anyway.

Moreover, Washington's ally, French President Jacques Chirac — whose country is expected to provide the major component of the international force and lead it — had himself declared publicly two weeks into the fighting that no deployment was possible without prior agreement with Hezbollah.[5<>]

The draft was therefore revised and renegotiated, while Washington asked Israel to brandish the threat of a major ground offensive and to actuallystart implementing it as a means of pressure in order to enable Washingtonto get the best possible deal from its standpoint. In order to facilitate anagreement leading to a ceasefire that became more and more urgent forhumanitarian reasons, Hezbollah accepted the deployment of 15,000 Lebanesetroops south of the Litani River and softened its general position.Resolution 1701 could thus be pushed through at the Security Council onAugust 11.

Washington and Paris's main concession was to abandon the project ofcreating an ad-hoc multinational force under Chapter VII. Instead, the resolution authorizes "an increase in the force strength of UNIFIL to a maximum of 15,000 troops," thus revamping and considerably swelling the existing UN force. The main trick, however, was to redefine the mandate of this force so that it could now "assist the Lebanese armed forces in takingsteps" towards "the establishment between the Blue Line and the Litani riverof an area free of any armed personnel, assets and weapons other than those of the government of Lebanon and of UNIFIL." UNIFIL can now as well "take all necessary action in areas of deployment of its forces and as it deems within its capabilities, to ensure that its area of operations is not utilized for hostile activities of any kind."

Combined, the two precedent formulations come quite close to a Chapter VII mandate, or could easily be interpreted in this way, at any rate. Moreover, the mandate of UNIFIL is actually extended by Resolution 1701 beyond its"areas of deployement," as it can now "assist the government of Lebanon at its request" in its effort to "secure its borders and other entry points toprevent the entry in Lebanon without its consent of arms or related materiel" — a sentence that definitely does not refer to Lebanon's border with Israel but to its border with Syria, which runs the length of the country, from north to south. These are the major traps in Resolution 1701, and not the wording about the withdrawal of the Israeli occupation army that many comments have focused on, as Israel's withdrawal is actually propelled by the deterrent force of Hezbollah, not by any UN resolution.

Hezbollah decided to give its green light for the approval by the Lebanese government of Resolution 1701. Hassan Nasrallah gave a speech on August 12, explaining the decision of the party to agree to the UN-mandated deployment. It included a much more sober assessment of the situation than in some of his previous speeches and a good deal of political wisdom. "Today, Nasrallah said, we face the reasonable and possible natural results of the great steadfastness that the Lebanese expressed from their various positions. "This soberness was necessary, as any boastful claim of victory — like those that where cheaply expressed by Hezbollah's backers in Tehran and Damascus —would have required Nasrallah to add, like king Pyrrhus of Ancient Greece, "One more such victory and I shall be lost!" Hezbollah's leader wisely and explicitly rejected entering into a polemic about the assessment of the war's results, stressing that "our real priority" is to stop the aggression, recover the occupied territory and "achieve security and stability in our country and the return of the refugees and displaced persons."

Nasrallah defined the practical position of his movement as such: to abide by the ceasefire; to fully cooperate with "all that can facilitate the return of our displaced and refugee people to their homes, to their houses, and all that can facilitate humanitarian and rescue operations." He did so while expressing the readiness of his movement to continue the legitimatef ight against the Israeli army as long as it remains in Lebanese territory, though he offered to respect the 1996 agreement whereby operations of both sides would be restricted to military targets and spare civilians. In this regard, Nasrallah stressed that his movement started shelling northern Israel only as a reaction to Israel's bombing of Lebanon after the July 12 operation, and that Israel was to be blamed for extending the war to the civilians in the first place.

Nasrallah then stated a position toward Resolution 1701 that could best be described as approval with many reservations, pending verification inpractical implementation. He expressed his protest against the unfairness ofthe resolution, which refrained in its preambles from any condemnation ofIsrael's aggression and war crimes, adding however that it could have been much worse and expressing his appreciation for the diplomatic efforts that prevented that from happening. His key point was to stress the fact that Hezbollah considers some of the issues that the resolution dealt with to be Lebanese internal affairs that ought to be discussed and settled by the Lebanese themselves — to which he added an emphasis on preserving Lebanese national unity and solidarity.

Nasrallah's position was the most correct possible given the circumstances. Hezbollah had to make concessions to facilitate the ending of the war. As the whole population of Lebanon was held hostage by Israel, any intransigent attitude would have had terrible humanitarian consequences over and above the already appalling results of Israel's destructive and murderous fury. Hezbollah knows perfectly well that the real issue is less the wording of aUN Security Council resolution than its actual interpretation and implementation, and in that respect what is determinant is the situation and balance of forces on the ground. To George W. Bush's and Ehud Olmert's vain boasting about their victory as embodied supposedly in Resolution 1701, one needs only to quote Moshe Arens pre-emptive reply in the already quoted article:
"The appropriate rhetoric has already started flying. So what if the whole world sees this diplomatic arrangement — which Israel agreed to while it was still receiving a daily dose of Hezbollah rockets — as a defeat suffered byIsrael at the hands of a few thousand Hezbollah fighters? So what if nobody believes that an 'emboldened' UNIFIL force will disarm Hezbollah, and that Hezbollah with thousands of rockets still in its arsenal and truly emboldened by this month's success against the mighty Israel Defense Forces, will now become a partner for peace?"

The real "continuation of the war by other means" has already started in full in Lebanon. At stake are four main issues, here reviewed in reverse order of priority. The first issue, on the domestic Lebanese level, is thefate of the cabinet. The existing parliamentary majority in Lebanon resulted from elections flawed by a defective and distorting electoral law that the Syrian-dominated regime had enforced.

One of its major consequences was the distortion of the representation ofthe Christian constituencies, with great under-representation of the movement led by former General Michel Aoun who entered into an alliance with Hezbollah after the election. Moreover, the recent war affected deeply the political mood of the Lebanese population, and the legitimacy of the present parliamentary majority is thus highly disputable. Of course, any change in the government in favor of Hezbollah and its allies would radically alter the meaning of resolution 1701 as its interpretation depends very much on the Lebanese government's attitude. One major concern in this regard, however, is to avoid any slide toward a renewed civil war in Lebanon: That's what Hassan Nasrallah had in mind when he emphasized the importance of"national unity."

The second issue, also on the domestic Lebanese level, is the reconstruction effort. Hariri and his Saudi backers had built up their political influencein Lebanon by dominating the reconstruction efforts after Lebanon's 15-yearwar ended in 1990. This time they will be faced by an intensive competition from Hezbollah, with Iran standing behind it and with the advantage of its intimate link with the Lebanese Shiite population that was the principal target of the Israeli war of revenge. As senior Israeli military analyst Ze'ev Schiff put it in Haaretz: "A lot also depends on who will aid in the reconstruction of southern Lebanon; if it is done by Hezbollah, the Shiite population of the south will be indebted to Tehran. This should be prevented." [6<] ">>]
This message has been received loud and clear in Washington, Riyadh andBeirut. Prominent articles in today's mainstream press in the U.S. aresounding the alarm on this score.

The third issue, naturally, is the "disarmament" of Hezbollah in the zone delimited in southern Lebanon for the joint deployment of the Lebanese army and the revamped UNIFIL. The most that Hezbollah is ready to concede in this respect is to "hide" its weapons south of the Litani River, i.e. to refrain from displaying them and to keep them in covert storage. Any step beyond that, not to mention a Lebanon-wide disarmament of Hezbollah, is linked by the organization to a set of conditions that start from Lebanon's recovery of the 1967-occupied Shebaa farms and end with the emergence of a governmentand army able and determined to defend the country's sovereignty against Israel.

This issue is the first major problem against which the implementation ofResolution 1701 could stumble, as no country on earth is readily in a position to try to disarm Hezbollah by force, a task that the most formidable modern army in the whole Middle East and one of the world's major military powers has blatantly failed to achieve. This means that any deployment south of the Litani River, whether Lebanese or UN-mandated, will have to accept Hezbollah's offer, with or without camouflage.

The fourth issue, of course, is the composition and intent of the new UNIFILcontingents. The original plan of Washington and Paris was to repeat inLebanon what is taking place in Afghanistan where a NATO auxiliary force with a UN fig leaf is waging Washington's war. Hezbollah's resilience on the military as well as on the political level thwarted this plan. Washington and Paris believed they could implement it nevertheless under a disguised form and gradually, until political conditions were met in Lebanon for a showdown pitting NATO and its local allies against Hezbollah. Indeed, the countries expected to send the principal contingents are all NATO members: along with France, Italy and Turkey are on standby, while Germany and Spain are being urged to follow suit. Hezbollah is no fool however. It is already engaged in dissuading France from executing its plan of sending elite combat troops backed by the stationing of the single French air-carrier close to Lebanon's shores in the Mediterranean.

On the last issue, the antiwar movement in NATO countries could greatly help the struggle of the Lebanese national resistance and the cause of peace in Lebanon by mobilizing against the dispatch of any NATO troops to Lebanon, thus contributing to deterring their governments from trying to do Washington's and Israel's dirty work. What Lebanon needs is the presence of truly neutral peacekeeping forces at its southern borders and, above all, that its people be permitted to settle Lebanon's internal problems through peaceful political means.

All other roads lead to a renewal of Lebanon's civil war, at a time when the Middle East, and the whole world for that matter, is already having a hardtime coping with the consequences of the civil war that Washington has ignited and is fueling in Iraq.

August 16, 2006
Gilbert Achcar grew up in Lebanon and teaches political scienceat the University of Paris-VIII. His best-selling book The Clash ofBarbarisms just came out in a second expanded edition and a book of his dialogues with Noam Chomsky on the Middle East, Perilous Power, is forthcoming.*

[1 <>] On theglobal and regional implications of these events, see my article "TheSinking Ship of U.S. Imperial Designs," posted on ZNet, August 7, 2006.
[2 <>] As an Israeli observer put it in an article with a quite revealing title: "It was a mistake to believe that military pressure could generate a process where bythe Lebanese government would disarm Hizbullah." Efraim Inbar, "Prepare for the next round," Jerusalem Post, August 15, 2006.
[3 <>] Moshe Arens, "Let the devil take tomorrow," Haaretz, August 13, 2006.
[4 <>] Both the U.S. and France concluded major arms deals with the Saudis in July.
[5 <>]Interview with Le Monde, July 27, 2006.
[6 <>] Ze'evSchiff, "Delayed ground offensive clashes with diplomatic timetable,"Haaretz, August 13, 2006.
Excellent as always - but no mention of the 'opening salvo in the war on Iran' theory.

Thursday, August 17, 2006

John Harris proposes a way forward

Put aside the green-inkery and grasp this opportunity to set the agenda The left may appear to be on the back foot, but if it adopted better strategies it could make political hay
John Harris
Thursday August 17, 2006
The Guardian

If, as Tony Blair put it in October 2001, the modern threat of terrorism has shaken the political kaleidoscope and left everything in flux, one of the results of last week's airports alert surely proves him right. The stock of John Reid, long mentioned as a candidate for the Labour leadership but never taken wholly seriously, appears to have skyrocketed. William Hill has scythed his odds from those of a 12-1 outsider to 7-1 second favourite; liberal hearts are probably quivering at the possible prospect of a leader drawn - like Alan Milburn and Peter Mandelson - from the wing of New Labour in which early years on the hard left have resulted in a legacy of cast-iron absolutism. In the current circumstances his alleged ambitions make a grim kind of sense: if you're in the midst of an endless war, a reformed communist might just look like a good bet.

As with previous alleged terror plots, the response of too many voices on the left has probably served to make him look even more like leadership material. Elevating the green-inkery that defines so much of the blogosphere to any kind of credibility rather bothers me, but last week's online noise tapped into a wider feeling: in the chorus of claims that the alert was merely a pro-Israeli diversionary tactic or yet another cynical dose of "the politics of fear", there was the all-too-familiar sound of those who oppose Anglo-American foreign policy taking refuge somewhere dangerously close to the lunatic fringe.

You cannot go to a leftwing event these days without encountering merchants of crank theories - from the claim that MI5 put last July's bombs on the London underground to the idea (endorsed, somewhat chillingly, by a full 45% of Muslim respondents to a recent Channel 4 poll) that the American government was responsible for 9/11. Worse still, it's a problem that has long since rippled into surprisingly respectable places. If, for example, Michael Meacher throws his hat into the Labour leadership ring, Reid - along with Gordon Brown - will doubtless make gleeful reference to his apparent dalliance with those who claim that the truth behind al-Qaida's most infamous attack partly lies in some sinister tangle of deliberately stood-down aircraft and Big Oil.

Given the Manichean terms in which the government's more hard-bitten figures hold forth about the supposed war on terror, that kind of talk puts the left exactly where they want it: lined up with people who spend their Saturdays selling head-banging newspapers in urban shopping precincts, or whose grasp of PR was crystallised by the Islamist placards at the recent pro-ceasefire march that read "We are all Hizbullah now" (shades, perhaps, of John Lennon's observations of leftist desperadoes circa 1968: "But if you go carrying pictures of Chairman Mao / You ain't gonna make it with anyone anyhow") . Even without the conspiracy theories, given some of the company the left keeps, it's still too easy for the government to brand its opponents as the same forces who argued against the Gulf war, intervention in Kosovo, and the idea that the attacks of September 11 made ridding Afghanistan of al-Qaida camps not just inevitable but necessary - in the terms of a recent Reid speech, the people who "just don't get it".

The strange thing is, though the impact of the war on terror in such areas as civil liberties and multiculturalism might appear to be putting us on the back foot, there is every sign that plenty of the left's agenda stands a good chance of making unprecedented headway. Look at the trickle of recent polling data: 63% of respondents to a Guardian/ICM survey think Blair "has tied Britain too closely to the US"; 61% agree with the contention that Israel's attacks on Lebanon were an overreaction. Elsewhere there is news that, back in the 1980s, would have caused leftwing hopes to soar: presumably well aware that our troubled world has moved beyond the simple verities of mutually assured destruction, 59% of the public oppose the replacement of Trident.

Given the public's disconnection from the political parties, their views may well meekly bump against the sealed-off Westminster consensus (how strange it is that both Tory and Labour leaders still think the attack on Iraq was a good idea) and leave our politics pretty much unchanged. Perhaps David Cameron, given his current fondness for allying himself with political currents once associated with the Tories' adversaries, will belatedly express fuzzy sympathies with this new mood while avoiding any specific commitments. Or maybe - and this is a long shot, though you can but hope - the people who have spent decades stoically printing leaflets and organising thinly attended events might rise to the challenge and make political hay.
This, needless to say, will require new approaches. A web of loosely aligned single-issue groups will have to stop talking to themselves and learn the art of projecting outwards. Tiny demonstrations bolstered by saloon-bar commandos from the Socialist Workers' party are a waste of time; so, I fear, are Friday-evening meetings featuring Tony Benn and a suitably leftwing comedian. The organisations whose envelopes pop through my letter box containing eight-page bulletins about Israeli atrocities in occupied Palestine would be best advised to save their money and encourage a boycott of Israeli exports via an advert in, say, the Daily Mirror. CND, apparently enjoying a much-deserved renaissance, might want to look at its superfluous involvement in calls for a ceasefire in Lebanon or opposition to the revival of civil nuclear power, and get on with the job it was designed to do: pointing out the insanity - both moral and military - of nuclear weapons. Perhaps most importantly, those who have waved goodbye to involvement in the Labour party could think about the recent election of that iconic leftist peacenik Walter Wolfgang to the national executive committee and rejoin.

All told, there is a new position emerging, chiming with the left but tantalisingly close to mainstream public opinion. By comparison, it is the chewed-up logic that currently unites Whitehall and Washington that looks both extreme and deluded: Blair's bundling-up of conflicts as diverse as those in Kashmir, Chechnya and the Middle East into the idea of an "arc of extremism" and his attempt to recast the attack on Iraq as a matter of "values change"; the drive for a two-state solution that looks set to so cleave to Israeli designs that Palestine will be a broken state from the off; the fact that endless attempts to drag the public into a world of new threats are surely compromised by the government's insistence on wasting billions on a defence system rooted in the cold war.

To instantly grasp how contorted their stances have become, consider the daily spectacle of ministers denying any link between foreign policy and snowballing support for Islamist terrorists, and claiming that anybody who advances one is "justifying" their actions (these are, presumably, people who have history O-levels partly secured via essays placing the rise of Hitler in the context of the treaty of Versailles, written with no fear of being labelled a Nazi).
So, on the current evidence, it is actually the people on our side who "get it". But are we ready for the next step?

It's worth checking the original out and looking at the CiF discssion.

Tuesday, August 15, 2006

Le Monde Diplomatique retrospective on French riots

Le Monde diplomatique
August 2006
France: state of the estates
Just nine months after the young on France's immigrant estates
erupted into dramatic nationwide disorder, the subject seems to
have been dropped by both the authorities and the media. The
problems remain as they were, but nobody is talking about them.
by Denis Duclos
With the benefit of hindsight it becomes clear how hasty were
many of the conclusions drawn by analysts on both the left
and the right after the urban unrest in France in November
2005. They took little account of the many in-depth studies
on the subject (1) and generally failed to put the troubles
in their proper perspective, both in time and in their
relation to similar events elsewhere in the world.
Inside and outside France, there have been three main
explanations for the troubles. One was that ethnic, cultural
and religious tensions, exacerbated by a failure to integrate
successive waves of immigrants, caused the problems on
underprivileged banlieue estates. This view was defended by
Alain Finkielkraut (2) and Hélène Carrère d'Encausse (3), but
disputed by Olivier Todd (4).

Another explanation was that the structure of immigrant
families had broken down, the only remedy for this being to
restore the moral, educational and disciplinary standards of
the young generation and of their parents.
It was also suggested that the root problem was mass
unemployment of the young on sink estates, and the wider
socio-economic deprivation of their inhabitants.
Comparing the crisis in France to similar events elsewhere
may help to clarify and put in perspective these
explanations, and in some cases contradict them. There are
even specific features of the French events that might
encourage some optimism, which is seldom the case elsewhere.
For example, racial, cultural and religious strife were not
in fact major factors in the banlieue revolt, which partly
explains why there were so few casualties. Urban riots
triggered by religious hatred can cause thousands of deaths
(as was the case in India in 1992-3 when members of Mumbai's
Muslim and Hindu communities clashed). Fighting between
racial groups has claimed lives elsewhere, including during
urban riots in the United States, particularly in Los
Angeles, between the 1960s and 1990s.

In other situations, local enmity, which may become a
political issue, can cause the sort of recurrent, long-term
suffering that is still experienced in Palestine and Northern
Ireland (5). It may suddenly change and escalate, especially
with outside interference, into civil war (Beirut at the end
of the 1970s) or genocide (Rwanda in 1994).
These examples remind us that extreme urban violence may
erupt in situations in which the "problem", often minority,
population (African Americans, Indian Muslims, Northern Irish
Catholics) is not foreign, but has been settled for
centuries. It may even, as with the Northern Irish Catholics,
be the indigenous population. Just as in any social class,
the opposing groups have similar mores and are only
differentiated by faith. So it seems unreasonable to put all
the blame for the French troubles on conflict between the
cultures of recent immigrants and the national culture.

Not a recruiting ground, yet
The social and political unrest in France does involve young
people of foreign parentage, but religious activists have so
far failed to turn that to their advantage. As even the
police have emphasised, fundamentalist Muslim clerics have
not tried to find new recruits among young rebels. Perhaps
egalitarian, liberal forces already exert too great an
influence over them, since they seem more sympathetic to
republican, perhaps even anarchist, ideals than to some quest
for spiritual purity. The unrest has not caused a deep rift
in the identity of these youngsters.

However, once a separatist identity has taken root in a
community of believers it becomes far more durably dangerous
than sudden outbursts of juvenile resentment. To rely on
community and religious leaders, and their pacifism, to
restore order, as some politicians and analysts advocate,
would be a serious mistake. This would merely contribute to
the climate of religious and racial confrontation
increasingly rife in northern Europe, especially the
Islamophobia gripping Holland, Denmark and the Flemish part
of Belgium.

It would make little sense to do so in France anyway, there
being no open conflict between ethnic groups, though a return
to racist beatings and victimisation by the police, as
happened in the past, is always possible. The remaining
far-right groups are not strong enough to risk provoking the
"foreigners" in their "ghettos", unlike the British National
Party in Britain, which was responsible for baiting Pakistani
and Bangladeshi youth, thus indirectly triggering riots in
Oldham and Bradford in 2001.

We should ask a rather different question. France has a
secular tradition and a reasonably open mind on differences
of race, culture and religion (6). And it has no religious or
political groups that would dare openly to provoke the youth
in a particular community. So how has it been possible to
foment rage in one location and for that rage then to spread
to other parts of the country?

It seems clear that only the state is in a position to
trigger or restrict confrontation, a view borne out by recent
events. Successive rightwing governments since 2002 have
deliberately demolished all the real or symbolic firewalls,
such as the youth employment scheme, which were introduced by
their socialist predecessors to reduce social tension in
underprivileged areas. Last autumn they began to pay the

In a country such as France only the government can incite
officials to behave in a hostile or aggressive manner.
Political leaders and the government have taken the place of
popular antagonism, in the process reaping several indirect
benefits. They can claim to be upholding law and order,
whereas in fact they contribute to unrest. This may seem a
dangerous political gamble, but it may also be seen as a last
stand before some final acknowledgement of the Other, whose
existence cannot be denied much longer without causing people
to suspect that the political leaders and government have
malicious designs, possibly against a wide range of
citizens (7).

So there is no need to look far for the basic, recurrent
cause of urban revolt, even among the young. It mostly
results from a lack of respect. The authorities have failed
to recognise people on the problem estates, particularly
youths, as cultural and political subjects in the
sociological sense. This is the fault of the representatives
of the authorities, and is reflected in their indifference,
implicit distrust and sense of superiority. This causes
harassment by police or officials and deliberate attempts to
make it difficult for the estate-dwellers to find work.
We know that a climate of official distrust inevitably
provokes trigger events. There have been comparable outbursts
in the US, and each time the pattern is strikingly similar,
with a member of a "difficult" minority being wrongfully
pursued, arrested or sentenced, or beaten up during a police
raid. (Rodney King was assaulted in 1991 by Los Angeles
police; boys running away from the police in Clichy-sous-Bois
were electrocuted in a substation.)

Friends soon find out what has happened to the victims. The
community quickly hears the news thanks to modern media,
prompting an immediate response, particularly among the
young. Their anger focuses on symbols of authority and
economic power, rather than other groups or individuals. They
cause considerable material damage, although serious injuries
or fatalities are unusual unless the police deliberately
provoke confrontation in a show of force.

There is a guaranteed ratchet effect. The more a repressive
state consciously or unconsciously seeks vengeance, the more
deaths there will be. The French state has so far exercised a
certain restraint, avoiding mass confrontation and the risk
of involving older members of the community, who would use
the many firearms readily available but usually reserved for
crime. Perhaps the authorities remember May 1968 or the Malek
Oussékine affair in 1986 (8). It is possible that police on
the ground now have a better understanding of what is at

However, the more the government authorises educators, social
workers and above all the police (or in future the army) to
adopt the approach of controlling people, the more likely it
is to cause humiliation, inevitably sowing the seeds of
further urban unrest. Preparing for the worst with plans for
armed occupation of estates would lead straight to what such
measures are meant to prevent: civil war.

Keep the tower blocks
About the physical context of urban unrest, and drawing on
the work of Loïc Wacquant (9) and other commentators, we
should consider a few points which suggest that the wholesale
demolition of the much-maligned banlieue tower blocks is not
really advisable.

Contrary to the claims of some sociologists, the arrangement
of the flats within each block hinders the formation of
ethnic or religious ghettos. The film director Mathieu
Kassovitz (10) noted that groups of young people were
relatively mixed and research has since confirmed this.
Luckily, a melting pot really exists, which is not true in
Britain, where poor whites seem relatively segregated from
coloured communities. Nor is such exchange possible in
segregated US neighbourhoods, where a fear of other
minorities prevails (11). The 1992 riots in South Central, a
poor suburb of Los Angeles, were partly due to friction
between three "racial" communities - Latinos, Asians and
African Americans (12); there continued to be an annual
average of 300 murders until the end of the 1990s. Just as
the American poor are lumped together in racially defined
units, so the rich are self-isolated in ethnically exclusive
gated communities (13). The spread of such estates is
fuelling forms of racial hatred almost unheard of in France.
The tower blocks, which rise like medieval fortresses, are
difficult to police, but do help discourage provocation by
racist thugs, unlike the small terraced houses so common in
Britain. The towers are also too visible for it to be
possible to hide Albanian slaves labouring for the local
population as has happened in Italy and Greece.

France's large out-of-town housing estates are generally the
preserve of people, with all the necessary permits, who have
demonstrated their ability to support themselves; unlike the
slum dwellings still found in town centres, often occupied by
unofficial immigrants. Income on the estates is nevertheless
30% below the national average and youth unemployment two or
three times higher (14). Many of those who want to find work
must drive to a distant workplace without a licence or
insurance. But thanks to government grants and subsidies, a
range of public and community initiatives and a genuine local
economy, people do not die of hunger in the banlieues.
Some of the estates are in a poor state of repair, but this
is due as much to real economic difficulties as to banlieue
culture. Vandalism owes much to impotent rage, a sentiment
often shared by the young in more prosperous quarters with
their streets of detached houses. This raises the issue of
recognition. Ideas such as delinquency, anti-social behaviour
and cultural disintegration do not much help engagement with
the need for recognition. They tend to encourage observers to
disregard the issue.

Ready for life outside the nest
Some commentators have suggested, groundlessly, that certain
lifestyles are incompatible, citing the deculturation caused
by transplantion to a new setting, especially for the
youngest members of an immigrant community. Pre-adolescents
in Africa enjoy considerable freedom and it is traditional
for them to form gangs, grouped by gender and age group. But
this does not mean families have lost control of their
offspring, rather that it is an early trial period for life
outside the nest (15), corresponding to ancestral practices
designed to prevent incest.

There is no doubt that problems can arise when the chill
control of European society replaces the village's more
congenial authority. But that should perhaps encourage us to
consider the solitude and disregard for the law to which our
own, supposedly superior, system leads.

Analysts have found many ways of describing the banlieue as
an inferno where mental and moral decline is inevitable, but
such terms only partly describe a material reality, and
mostly fail to convey the perceptions of people actually
living there. Such descriptions are often a part of the
denigration of the homes of working people from distant
countries by the prosperous, fashionable classes. The
well-off like to believe the occupants of poor estates are
overwhelmed by their afflictions and terrorised by their
neighbours. The rich forget that a neighbourhood is often the
only thing that the young can call their own. It is a place
about which to complain and joke, a patch to defend and a
base for petty crime. The young estate-dwellers long to
escape, but surely anyone who is young dreams of leaving his
or her childhood environment. Many French rap songs remind us
how often such dreams are shattered, but they also stress the
solidarity that prevails on the estates. They may want to
leave but they are nevertheless proud of their concrete

Segregation in the US is far worse than in France, but even
there it has been exaggerated by commentators and outside
observers. Even today people live quite normal lives, sending
their children to school in Watts, a neighbourhood of Los
Angeles where just venturing out is supposed to be hazardous.
Insufficient attention has been paid to the effects of
automatic vilification, the way it helps destroy a sense of
neighbourhood solidarity and fosters a gang spirit, provoking
widespread antagonism and revolt, even if it does not
contribute directly to the development of organised
crime (16).

The unruly behaviour of gangs can be unbearable, but a
distinction needs to be made between rebelliousness and the
ordinary explosive energy of the young. Exuberant young
people make a noise, but no more than they do in many
middle-class homes. Nor is it unusual for the young to take
less interest than their elders in the problem of employment,
or the matter of work. Sometimes the authorities want to
quell this exuberance (labelled as hyperactivity or lack of
inhibition in repressive psycho-speak), thus provoking a
spiral of hatred (17).

Some commentators have been irritated by the way that this
turbulent vitality has produced an expansive culture which is
much easier to share than the middle-of-the-road culture of
the commentators. They implicitly attack not rootlessness or
poor integration but the enthrallment of French youth and
media by banlieue culture. The hip-hop movement, which came
out of poor estates, is making banlieue culture into a force
for integration, perhaps even more powerful, given its
international inspiration, than the working-class culture it

The intrinsic value of rap music is uneven, as is the case
with most other popular music, but it often contains
political and philosophical comment, even moments of poetry,
that make it preferable to the bland material that schools
serve up as art. Cultural integration is speeding up, but it
is moving in the opposite direction from that expected. Young
people in remote French country villages pick up banlieue
accents as the bourgeois youth of Paris used to imitate
working-class speech. They listen to the misfortunes of Diam,
take lessons from Doc Gyneco (particularly N'oublie jamais
d'où tu viens), and hear appeals from Disiz la Peste, 113,
Busta Flex, or La Brigade. There are even new versions of
numbers from the mid-1990s by artists such as NTM, MC Solaar,
Passi, Assassin, Menelik and IAM, whose rage has been
sublimated in artistic and political expression.

A different French
No one will be surprised to learn that they do not speak the
same French on the estates as they do on highbrow radio
stations. Culture, especially in hard times, is not a
top-down process, but may rise phoenix-like from suffering.
The West Indies slave trade may have destroyed much of the
original African cultures of its victims; however, the
children of imported slaves, forbidden by their masters from
speaking their mother tongues (18), invented a new creole
language and culture from the scraps of what they heard
around them, from orders shouted at them and conversations
between the whites.

We are a long way from creole culture. French schools do a
good job and the media reach people on the estates as they do
everybody else. Estate youngsters show considerable technical
skill with mobile phones and the internet, and considerable
organising ability, surprising and fooling police who try to
predict trouble spots.

We must stop vilifying the estate adults, youths and children
who draw on their predicament, sometimes unwillingly, to
produce this dynamic part of modern French culture. They are
part of the switch "from an atavistic culture to a composite
one" along with the global market (19).

The events of October and November were unpleasant for the
owners of the 8,000-10,000 burnt cars and for taxpayers who
"own" the many wrecked public facilities. But we should
perhaps consider the participants not as rioters but as the
protagonists in a crisis of integration. By crisis we mean
the upheaval that happens in adolescence, which is in fact a
rite of initiation. We could see the changes in France's
relationship with its estate youth as a successful
experiment, made possible here because ethnic and religious
factors play a fairly minor role. If this experiment proves
successful, it may offer a new way to achieve greater
solidarity in society.

In which case tough talk about enforcing stricter,
military-style discipline on difficult families makes no
sense. It will only perpetuate the inability to accept the
current osmosis, and underpin policies that turn the state
into an agent provocateur (20).

Only a genuine integration policy can achieve both short and
long-term results for those youngsters playing outlaw games
with the police and fire service. But to succeed it has to
fulfil two conditions. First it must coincide with a radical
shift in attitude and discard any paternalism or unconscious
denigration, acknowledging that the Other has a right to his
or her place in a more unified world. We demand just that
when we retire, en masse, to Morocco's sunnier climes to make
our pensions stretch further.

The second condition is not specific to the banlieue young.
We cannot expect all French pupils to appreciate the process
of going through state school to get a job some day, while
aligning pay and working conditions with the lowest levels
prevailing in emerging countries. As a wise old man
suggested: "We must find an occupation for the young. But we
have to give them jobs that pay. That way, one day they will
become nice and friendly" (21).
Denis Duclos is a sociologist, research director at the CNRS,
Paris, and author of `Complexe du loup-garou' (La Découverte,
Paris, 2005)
(1) See work on the banlieue published over the past decade
by Annales de la Recherche Urbaine, under the supervision of
Anne Querrien.
(2) Interview in Haaretz, Tel Aviv, extracts in Le Monde, 24
November 2005.
(3) Interview on Russia's NTV channel, November 2005.
(4) Libération, Paris, 21 November 2005.
(5) The mechanism of provocation by politicians and the
military, leading to a massacre, is perfectly analysed in
Bloody Sunday, the film by Paul Greengrass about the
Londonderry riots in Northern Ireland on 30 January 1972.
(6) A survey by the Pew Research Centre in Washington reveals
that 65% of the French have a positive opinion of Muslims,
compared with only 36% of Germans,
(7) As illustrated by such recent polls as the TNS-Sofres
poll dated 22 June, which found that the interior minister
Nicolas Sarkozy "worried" 55% of those surveyed.
(8) Malek Oussékine died during a student demonstration in
December 1986; he had probably been beaten up by two police
(9) Notably his remarkable work comparing the Woodlawn ghetto
in Chicago and the Courneuve estate outside Paris, Urban
Outcasts: Colour, class and place in two advanced societies,
1994, but also "Pour en finir avec le mythe des
cités-ghettos", in Annales de la Recherche Urbaine, no 54,
March 1992, and Parias Urbains: Ghetto, Banlieues, Etat, La
Découverte, Paris, 2006.
(10) In his film La Haine, 1995.
(11) Julia Nevarez, "Vivre aux confins de Central Park et de
Harlem à New York", Annales de la Recherche Urbaine, no
83-84, September 1999.
(12) Cynthia Ghorra-Gobin, "South Central = Watts 2: De la
rivalité entre anciennes minorités et nouveaux immigrés",
Hérodote, no 85, 1997.
(13) Klaus Frantz, "Gated communities in the USA: a new trend
in urban development", Espace, Populations, Sociétés, no 1,
(14) Observatoire des Inégalités, "Chômage: le diplôme
protège moins dans les quartiers sensibles", 16 March 2005,
drawing on the National Institute of Statistics and Economic
Studies survey of employment trends published in 2003.
(15) See the contribution of Dr Régis Airault on the bangas
on Mayotte and the Comorres islands, in Catherine
Bergeret-Amselek, ed, De l'âge de raison à l'adolescence:
quelles turbulences à découvrir?, Erès, Paris, 2005.
(16) In the US it has been shown that gangs of youths do not
necessarily join criminal organisations when they grow up.
(17) It has long been recognised in the US that public
vilification of a specific ethnic community feeds and worsens
tension; Daniel Romer, "Blame discourse", Political
Communication, vol 14, Philadelphia, 1997.
(18) See "Les langues créoles", in Jean-Marie Hombert, ed,
Aux origines des langues et du langage, Fayard, Paris, 2005.
(19) See Edouard Glissant, Traité du Tout-Monde, 1997, and La
Cohée du Lamentin, 2005, both Gallimard, Paris.
(20) Loïc Wacquant, "L'Etat incendiaire face aux banlieues en
feu", Combat face au sida, no 42, December 2005 - January
(21) Interview with Roland de La Poype, a Normandie-Niémen
fighter pilot who fought in the Soviet air force during the
second world war, Libération, 3 July 2006.

Sunday, August 13, 2006

New Statesman Aug 14th

New Statesman (Aug 14th 2006)

This is a special Burma issue, but I'm more taken by the coverage of the Lebanon war. The Labour MP for Burnley, Kitty Ussher, has a page on the political impact of the government's policy on MUslim's in her constituency and the emphasised quote is 'The only only conclusion any right-minded person can draw is that the PM thought it was OK for Muslims to keep dying.' Lindsay Hilsum writes about The Death of Israel's Dreams: the death of a dream of secure borders. Mark Lynas writes about the environmental aspect of the war.

The Burma material is carried by Peter Popham on A nation in waiting, Jacob Rigg on The forgotten war about the Karen, and Maung Zarni with a kind of realist analysis saying we must talk to the generals.

Nothing on Tommy Sheridan.

Socialist Worker August 12th 2006

Socialist Worker (#2013, Aug 12th) continues it strong and impressive coverage of Lebanon. Front page is a picture of children on the August 5th demo (they say 100,000, but I don't really believe their counts, propaganda by exaggeration to my mind) and headline 'Get Israel Out of Lebanon'. The focus is on criticism of Israel and international attempts to find a ceasefire that benefits them. An interesting inside story has a diary by a photographer, Guy Smallman, in Lebanon. Bassem Chit ('a democracy activist in Lebanon') has a very good column asking Can Hizbollah unite Lebanon? He points out that Israel's talk of turning the country back 20 years is a direct reference to the horrendous Lebanese civil war, but that the result has been an extraordinary unification of Lebanese opinion behind Hizbollah. Chit provides some background: Hizbollah emerged out of the 'religious sectarian system' and is based among the poor Shia of the Lebanon; but also has some middle-class support. Its ideas are embedded in Shia religious beliefs, but it has to cope with the faultlines of class as well as religion. Support for Hizbollah shows a revulsion against religious sectarianism and a growing movement against neo-liberalism. No mention of Iran though, not even to deal with accusations that Hizbollah is an Iranian proxy. John Rees answers some questions which places the war as a proxy war by the US's imperial agent on a political movement sympathetic to Iran and a second front in the Iraq War, a preparatory war to war on Iran - as Afghanistan was for the war on Iraq [so Afghanistan not a war about oil pipelines then?]. Rees also argues why socialists should take sides with Hizbollah, but that support for resistance isn't a precondition of support for the STW Coalition - turns out that the NUS isn't supporting the Manchester demo because of support for Hizbollah. So STW needs to work with and include those who are against war, but aren't anti-imperialist. Phil Marfleet asks What can bring change for the Arab world? and starts with Robert Fisk asking 'How long before there's a revolution?', noting the gap between the absent Arab states (including Lebanon) and both Hizbollah and feeling in the 'Arab street', pointing to the level of protests in Egypt and the connections between solidairty with Lebanon and repression and inequality at home. Phil asks questions about the strategy of the movements, and poses the lessons of the Iranian revolution and the relationship with Islamist organisations; but without offering anything like an answer. Simon Assaf gives some background - comparing today's radicalism with the late 50s.

Other things:
Dave Sherry starts a series on industrial struggles in the early 1970s.

Esme Choonara gives the SWP line on Tommy Sheridan. Just to note that the paper didn't seem to have much to say during the course of the trial, but with the verdict backing Tommy against the News of the World, SW is in full suport of Tommy, emphasing the importance of his victory and Tommy's attacks on those who gave evidence against him as poliitcal scabs. In this version there is a 'groundswell' of support for Tommy in the SSP, backed up by quotes from a variety of members who see the possibility of a rebirth for the party. There's an editorial statement further aligning SW against his SSP opponents and seeing it as a victory for that majority who want to build a movement against poverty and war. There's a link to the SW Platform statement that came out immediately after the verdict was announced.

Alex Callinicos takes up a debate with Rifondazione about supporting Italian troops being sent to Afghanistan (including a Fourth Internationalist) and participating in Prodi's coalition, instead pointing to Liebknecht's example. Yep, he's right.

A special treat: China Mieville on international law, eloquently and adequately making the argument that international law isn't the way forward.

There's a centrepage spread marking 30 Years since the Grunwick Strike.

Wim Windisch and Pepjin Brandon have a piece about Brecht: good background and very solid, maybe too solid, in his defence over his later relationship with the East German state.

TNI-News Aug 10th 2006

The Transnational Institute offers a good fortnightly bulletin with interesting left commentators. Here's the one from August 10th 2006.
TNI-News is a bi-weekly e-mail service from the Transnational Institute. If you wish to view a complete version of this bulletin with direct links, please visit http://www.tni.orgFeel free to forward this message

In this issue:
1. Lebanon: struggle at the UN Security Council
- Phyllis Bennis
- Tanya Reinhardt
- Mariano Aguirre
- Immanuel Wallerstein
- Saul Landau
- Praful Bidwai

2. New Report on the financial industry by Myriam Vander Stichele

3. Crisis in the Philippines, by Joel Rocamora

4. From our network:
- Susan George on debt and development
- Hilary Wainwright on independent media
- Saul Landau on the effects of globalisation in Juarez, Mexico
- Heidi Bachram on carbon trading
- Boris Kagarlitsky on police action at the Russian Social Forum
- Boris Kagarlitsky on the new coalition government in Ukraine

Israel's halt to the enlarged offensive in Lebanon, just approved by its government to give diplomacy a chance, didn't stop it from capturing new towns in the south of Lebanon, giving clear signs for Israel's preferred ways for resolving the crisis. Meanwhile the negotiators at the UN Security Council are still trying to modify a draft resolution that would be acceptable to all sides, but the chances of reaching a deal are slim, since the US is not willing to give up on Israel's militarised solution that plays well into its plans for the region. Below, we bring a series of analytical pieces giving a broader perspective on the crisis.

The Lebanon War and the Failed UN Resolution by Phyllis Bennis
The draft UN resolution on the Lebanon crisis is very much Washington's resolution, playing into its drive to build unrivalled US global empire, that requires a militarised, expansionist Israel to play that same role on a regional level in the Middle East, writes Bennis.

Israel's "new Middle East" by Tanya Reinhart
Although it was presented as a response to the Hezbollah attack, there are all indications that Israel has been planning massive war on Lebanon for a long time, and was only waiting for the 'international conditions to ripen'. Israel's plans fit well with those of its sponsor - establishing the full US domination in the Middle East.

Resolución limitada y posiblemente ineficaz by Mariano Aguirre (In Spanish)
Aguirre analyses the draft UN resolution on the conflict in Lebanon and finds that it will be difficult to accommodate all the sides - Lebanon, Israel, and the main mediators, US and France. The UN should reach a n agreement and approve a resolution calling for an immediate cessation of fighting, but such an outcome is not very realistic, writes Aguirre.

Los derechos en Oriente Medio by Mariano Aguirre (In Spanish)
A key, almost forgotten question in the conflict in Lebanon and Gaza is the violation of International Humanitarian Law that explicitly prohibits attacks on civilian population. Israel, and to much smaller extent Hezbollah, have been violating this rule continuously. Aguirre makes the case.

What Can Israel Achieve? by Immanuel Wallerstein
Israel's current military campaign is a direct parallel to Bush's invasion of Iraq, heading for similar directions - the US towards a humiliating withdrawal from Iraq, Israel towards a humiliating truce arrangement, writes Wallerstein.

Peace in the Middle East? End the occupation! by Saul Landau
The media barrage of carnage reports from Lebanon and, to a much smaller effect, Israel, obscures causes and possible solutions to the new Middle East war: Palestine, not terrorism, remains the central conflictive issue in the area, says Landau.

Fighting terror with terror? by Praful Bidwai
Those who call for India to emulate Israel regarding Mumbai bombings are asking to copy a disgraceful model, rooted in illegality, gross immorality, and the terrorising of innocent civilians, writes Bidwai.

A disastrous by Praful Bidwai
attacks on Pakistan in response to the Mumbai bombings wish to emulate Israel's aggression. That is the worst model India could follow, says Bidwai

India hamstrung on Israel by Praful Bidwai
There is a major rift between Indian government and segments of the public over Israel's actions in Lebanon and Gaza strip, writes Bidwai.

SOMO Financial Sector Report by Myriam Vander Stichele
The private financial industry plays a pivotal role in the functioning of many economies in the world and is key to the international financial system. Banks, insurance companies and other financial services providers mediate capital flows for governments, corporations and individuals, which affect peopls's lives and the choices available in society. This report focuses on trends, structures, regulations and corporate responsibility initiatives at the international level. It explains the terms used in the private financial sector with the aim of increasing public understanding of its functioning. for Research on Multinational Corporations (SOMO)

From Regime Crisis to System Change by Joel Rocamora
The crisis of the Arroyo administration manifests the cumulative impact of a long simmering crisis of representation. It is not just Pres. Arroyo who is being challenged, it is the capacity of the whole political system to select leaders capable of responding to the needs of the Philippines in the 21st century. Rocamora analyses the current sitation in the Philippines.

Constitutional Reform in the Philippines: Out of Crisis, What? by Joel Rocamora
The ongoing crisis of the Philippine political order is going to bring constitutionalreform much sooner than we thought possible, or push it back many years into the future.For President Arroyo, offering constitutional reform can be a way of undercutting calls forextra-constitutional change. For Arroyo opponents on the Right, constitutional reformforms part of the promise of a more stable future even as they work to destabilize thepresent political order. All key political players from Pres.Arroyo, to former presidentRamos, the heads of both the Senate and the House, the leagues of local officials, theanti-Arroyo opposition among politicians and civil society alike have all declared supportfor constitutional reform. Rocamora analyses the debate.

Down the Great Financial Drain How Debt and the Washington Consensus Destroy Development and Create Poverty by Susan George
The "financialisation" of capitalism means new hardships for those who canleast afford them. The South, in particular, needs to get its destinyback under its own control.

The interplay of the independent media and radical politics by Hilary Wainwright
The independent media has a distinctive importance at times like the present when parties have lost their monopoly as political subjects and progressive forces are searching and experimenting with new ways of organising for social transformation. Wainwright recounts experiences of Red Pepper and a new collaborative initiative, Eurotopia.

Weekend in globalized Juarez by Saul Landau
While US companies previously moved to Mexico for cheap labour, now they leave for China, where labour is even cheaper, and non-unionised. Landau visits border town Juarez for a first hand experience of the social costs of globalisation.

Carbon rational? by Heidi Bachram
With some MPs now considering carbon rations as the cure-all for climate change, Heidi Bachram explores the effect it might have on the fuel-poor.

A St Petersburg Tale by Boris Kagarlitsky
The Russian Social Forum was held in St Petersburg, just after the G8 Summit. Kagarlitsky reports on the efforts the Russian police invested into disrupting the forum as well as on the aimless strategy of the left. Russian leftists need to draw lessons from this event. Political and economic changes are impossible without the understanding and support of society, concludes Kagarlitsky.

The Defender of the People by Boris Kagarlitsky
The political bankruptcy of the Communists and Socialists after the new Ukrainian coalition government was formed will leave Yulia Tymoshenko as the only opposition leader that will take up issues of social justice. So the left will either join forces with an ideologically doubtful populist opposition, or stay in the background of political life, says Kagarlitsky.