Scottish Television investigative Reporters have produced a programme, “The Dark Side of Dairy.” For a wee bar of milk chocolate, or milky tea, male calves are put to death almost as soon as they are born. Their lives are almost totally worthless in our for profits capitalist system. Same with eggs. Male birds are worthless, so when they hatch, they are thrown into a grinder for feed.
I find veganism difficult for only two reasons. One when I’m in Northern Ireland, restaurants and cafes rarely have good vegan alternatives. I’m waiting to be offered a cabbage sandwich. And two, if its in the house (I live with an omnivore and a vegetarian) my resolve can melt. I’m getting better at that though.
My veganism is for many reasons. But primarily because with all conscience, I couldn’t kill an animal myself, so I don’t feel anyone should do it on my behalf.
This is the same regarding war. I won’t support anyone sent on my behalf to kill people if I can’t do it myself. And I couldn’t.
I’ve been wrestling with Syria and what is going on there. There are many reasons why a British or American led force to stop Assad and Russia from slaughtering people in Idlib can or can’t be deployed. The left are pretty adamant as a semi cohesive group are against military intervention. But something MORE needs to happen. And those like me on the left, should be talking about it. It’s time to ignore the conspiracy theorists and Assadists. I feel the left, by almost ignoring the slaughter in Syria (and the Yemen) have shown really, how weak we are. How incohesive we really are. How scared we are in the current onslaught by conspiracy theorists, the alt right and the likes (and how the Venn diagram of these groups, and the left overlap, as Sheridan for example, here in Scotland issues a series of idiot conspiracy theorist tweets and takes ultra capitalist Russian gold with a contract with the propagandist broadcaster, Sputnik).
And worse still, how scared we are of the Puritans on our own side. In my opinion those who wave their analysis like some street corner Preacher points his Bible at passers by, and name call and tell those of us debating and discussing some kind of intervention, “You are supporting Imperialism,” are tacitly supporting the murder of tens of thousands of children, women and men.
The shutting down of conversation about what we as the left should call for, or we as the geo-political entity currently called the UK can do will be a defining moment in 21st century history. This current period will shame the left for decades to come.
Have I got a solution? No, I haven’t. I don’t know all of the options. As an individual I can do nothing. I cant take up arms, and me boycotting the arms trade in the UK in order to try to stop the state sanctioned murders of Yemini families has no impact. Making statements on social media has absolutely no impact – it only draws the conspiracy theorists, the Vanessa Beeley fanboys and girls and the ultra left manic street preachers. The coalition to stop the war is no longer campaigning to stop war. Only some war. So I feel I am no longer part of a coalition, I am part of a group of people effectively silenced while all around me, for my consumption, people are sacrificed. I am -we are- silenced. We are unable – incapable – of discussions on stopping the war, stopping the state sanctioned murders for profit.
I salve my conscience regarding the meat and dairy trade. I do my best not to take part. But my silence and my fear regarding what is happening in the Yemen, Syria, Palestine and other theatres of war, allows the capitalist forces of the USA, the UK, France, and Russia to slaughter human beings in order for billionaires to create new markets for whatever crap they want us addicted to.
When will I find my voice again? I fear never. Because we are shamed. What can we ever say on a world wide stage that should be taken seriously? We’ve given the stage to Putin, Trump and the corporations they oil the wheels for.
And they gladly send people to slaughter others, because the lives of daughters, sons, mothers, fathers are almost worthless in their profit driven, capitalist system.
Language is a powerful tool, not least because of how subliminal it can be. The societal gaps that exist between peoples is reflected in our use of language, often so subconsciously that it can be difficult to notice the rifts we create with our words. For example, there are many terms to describe immigrants (and before we go any further, I want to emphasize that this article refers to certain colloquial uses of these words rather than their dictionary definitions). There is the term refugee, used to describe somebody escaping violence or persecution. There is economic migrant, used to describe those who have immigrated for work. And then there is expat, typically used to describe migrants from developed countries.
But in a world that is increasingly anti-immigration, perhaps the best term to use when speaking about somebody who happens to have been born in another country is simply the blanket-term “immigrant”. For all three of the other terms — refugee, migrant, and expat — are used to reflect the disparity between those who are considered superior immigrants and those who are not. This language not only harms those who might be considered lesser immigrants but also hurts those who fall into the less-vilified expat category.
Firstly, yes, the term “refugee” has a specific definition that makes those who fall into this category distinct from other groups of immigrants. The fact that there are different policies regarding refugees should leave the word out of this debate. However, “refugee” has often been used by the Left to describe any immigrant coming from a developing country. While this may be done with good intentions, in order to help as many people as possible, the political backlash to this terminology misuse has allowed the situation for true refugees to worsen due to increasing hostility towards them by the general public and governing parties.
Take the Mediterranean immigration crisis: liberal news sources and politicians tended to refer to the situation as the “refugee” crisis. And obviously, many thousands who came across the sea were refugees. But a substantial number, potentially/probably the majority, were not. By claiming the crisis was one of refugees rather than immigrants, liberals allowed conservative politicians and news sources to (rightly) point out the fact that a large percentage of those coming were economic migrants. From the political scorecard standpoint, this allowed the Right to portray the Left as naive and ill-suited for leadership because it had allowed so many supposed migrants into Europe, no questions asked.
While liberals used the term “refugee” to subliminally convey sympathy for the immigrants, conservative governments and parties capitalized on our subconscious use of language in their own way. The Right wanted to call the crisis one of migrants rather than refugees in order to turn as many people away as possible. In the UK, as in nearly all EU countries, immigration has been drastically cut since the Conservatives took office in 2010. David Cameron and other politicians across Europe had promised fewer non-EU immigrants, and would face electoral backlash if they allowed those coming via the Mediterranean to come to their countries. By calling them migrants rather than refugees, governments were somewhat released from their responsibility of helping the refugees. As it can be quite difficult to prove a person’s right to refugee status, there is a high chance of an asylum-seeker’s claim being denied in the best of times. When a native population is hostile towards foreigners, governments have even less incentive to grant asylum-seekers their refugee status (though perhaps this is too jaded a take — after all, 80% of Syrian applications for asylum were accepted, with 52% of overall applications approved).
** If you are curious as to the legal requirements of EU countries in regards to refugees, please scroll to the bottom for a brief description.
For a concrete example of conservative rhetoric, between April 2015 and June 2016, UKIP only used the term “refugee” either when they were discussing the treatment of Christians in the Middle East, or when saying that other European countries (and not the UK) should be responsible for the refugees. But when the crisis was referenced in any way to the UK, the term migrant was always used. On multiple occasions, party leader Nigel Farage stated that the EU was ruled by a naive and liberal elite that insisted on calling migrants “refugees”. Considering the outcome of Farage’s Brexit and the strong role anti-immigration played in the decision, these statements clearly struck a chord with the British public.
In short, by calling everyone a refugee, the Left potentially caused hard to actual refugees because it allowed the Right to say that the immigrants coming were mostly migrants who were scamming the system in order to get a free pass into the EU. Unsurprisingly, this only furthered anti-immigrant sentiments in Europe, which were already high after years of portraying migrants as people who come to steal jobs, steal welfare, and potentially even commit terrorist acts. In a poll taken by Ifop in October 2015, the majority of citizens in France, Italy, The Netherlands, the UK, and Denmark all said their countries already had too many immigrants and that they did not want refugees to come.
Given these high anti-immigrant numbers, this article does not argue that a simple language change would have significantly diminished the anti-refugee sentiments amongst the European population. What is does argue is that both liberals and conservatives used language to incite certain emotions amongst the electorate, with the Right using its chosen term more effectively. The Left needs to learn from this mistake and apply the term “refugee” only in cases when it is warranted. Had the Left used the term “immigrant”, the Right would not have been able to co-opt the narrative in the way that it did.
This language debate reaches far beyond the Mediterranean crisis. Again, migrant is the term, often used negatively, to describe those who have come for economic purposes. To British readers, how often did you hear the term “European migrant” during the lead-up to the Brexit vote? When you did, how often did you think of a Pole or Romanian rather than a German or Dane? I’m going to go ahead and assume your brain never pictured a Western European. Why? Because Germans, French, Swedes, etc, along with Australians, Canadians, New Zealanders, and Americans are all supposedly expats. Except…they are migrants too.
In terms of policy impact, expats are no different than migrants. By using the term “expat”, we not only reinforce the idea that rich, white economic migrants are somehow different from poor migrants, but we also reinforce the idea that if we were to try and move abroad we are somehow different than immigrants from developing countries, and that we will not be impacted by the strict immigration policies Western countries have imposed.
For a personal example, I was an immigrant in the United Kingdom and was forced to leave the home I had made for myself because of strict-and-getting-stricter immigration laws. But while my life has been greatly (and negatively) impacted by the laws surrounding immigration, I can appreciate that I was a privileged immigrant, being a native English-speaking white person. In the entire time I was there, I was on the receiving end of just one anti-immigrant rant (though it was an impressive one, I will give the man that).
In the weeks leading up to my return to the US, and in the six months since, I have lamented situation to countless people on both sides of the Atlantic. Almost always comes the same response: shock that I had to leave the UK and an assumption that all I need to do is apply for a new visa and I will be allowed to go back. This reaction is partially due to the fact that few people realize just how difficult it is to immigrate, but it also very much occurs because few think of expats as migrants. But they are and the law agrees. It is one aspect of the immigration situation where the privilege between “welcome” and “unwelcome” immigrants does not exist — policies are no different for those considered expats and those considered migrants. Nor should they be.
Another take on the term “expat” is reflected in what a white, British woman who currently lives in the US told me recently — she considers herself an expat because she plans to move back to the UK at some point. But here’s the thing: many immigrants of all types expect to return to their origin country eventually. Refugees often want to return when it is safe, migrants may find that they miss their family too much, students tend to want to go home at the end of their studies, etc. A Pakistani friend of mine, for example, has lived in London for two years and plans on returning to Karachi in another two. Now, raise your hand if you think anybody would call her an expat.
Westerners who call themselves expats merely show their privilege when doing so. My Pakistani friend laughed out loud when I asked her if she believed that society considered her one. This is not to use anecdotes as evidence, but merely to hone in the point that short-term residency is not the main criteria for the colloquial usage of “expat”. In order for immigrants of any type to be treated more humanely, citizens of rich, white countries need to realize that they would be migrants if they ever tried to move abroad. I have lost track of the number of times I have talked with Americans about my situation, incited their sympathies and outrage, only to have them turn around and discuss moving to Canada in order to escape Trump. You guys. You can’t move to Canada. They have immigration policies! What were we just talking about?? Or recently, The Times ran an article that said up to a quarter of working-age Brits would move abroad after Brexit in order to find work. This article was widely shared amongst the Remain crowd on Twitter and Facebook. But after Brexit, the UK will probably lose the EU’s freedom of movement. So please, explain how this supposed 25% will get past the strict immigration policies that nearly all Western countries, including the UK, have enacted in recent years. The short answer is: they won’t because they can’t.
Language matters. My master’s degree was focused nearly entirely on immigration. In order to avoid any unconscious images swirling in my professors’ heads regarding who was being discussed, I almost always used the term “immigrant” (unless “refugee” was absolutely warranted). I do my best to never say the terms “migrant” or “expat”, and am careful about when I use “refugee”. Not that I do not slip up. Language is deeply engrained in our subconscious and it takes concentration and dedication to change how we talk. But I try my best, because immigrants need to stick together. We are all targets of these policies. All of our lives can be destroyed. The true fight regarding immigration is to ensure that immigrants of all types are treated like human beings. We do not need the additional battle of tackling condescending terminology ascribed to different groups of immigrants. And so it might seem like a small detail in the battle for immigrant rights, but we need to re-examine our usage of various terms. Please stop calling people expats. Please be careful when you use the term refugee. We are all immigrants.
** A basic breakdown of the complicated legal requirement of EU countries towards refugees is this: the Dublin Regulation states that the country a refugee initially arrives in is the country they must make their asylum claim in. However, the EU recognized that Italy and Greece — the two countries which received nearly 100% of all refugees during the crisis — could not handle the burden, especially considering that they were two of the countries worst affected by the recent economic crisis. In response, the majority of interior ministers from the EU member states voted to relocate a small percentage of the refugees to other countries. This was met with significant backlash, with nearly 60% of EU citizens against the agreement. It took nearly two years to complete the relocation process, and far fewer refugees than originally agreed upon were moved.
“We live in the age of the refugee, the age of the exile”
This is a story told to me by a remarkable student. She attends my Philosophy classes and the classes I teach.
Gabriela Inostroza de Gatica is very Latin, the native blood of South America flows in her veins. She is passionate , intense, exceptionally kind and has a wicked sense of humour . She contributes so much to the classes and still laughs in the midst of a life full of losses and tragedies and yet, in Kahil Gibran’s words, she makes of her heart a chalice through which she feasts on the elixir of life.
She has been twice a refugee, confronted several times fascism in all its totalitarian horror. Yet she understands how we effete left-wing progressives of Wales have never feared the knock on the door in the night, never really understood what it is to be watched, what it is to wait outside a prison for her loved ones. She mostly excuses those who claim that the solution to totalitarianism and fascism is to grant to the fascists the same rights we would give to the standard political parties of the west.
At those times in the class I think of the thoughts of Trotsky and his comments about a paving stone and a fascist. But I am the first person who would run a mile from a violent encounter and so I stay quiet.
This remarkable student is called Gabriela Gatica Leyton. I have known Gabriella and her husband Umberto for over 12 years now. Umberto has presence, he fills a room with both presence and gravitas.
In 1973, General Augusto Pinochet imposed a military dictatorship in Chile. Gabriela was 23 and had only been married to Umberto for a few days when he was seized by government officials for “gathering in a public place” (more than three people together was seen as an act of treason).
Umberto was put in prison and tortured. Many of his fellow inmates just disappeared. Gabriella says;
“the prisoners were kept underground, in a cellar. Over 100 people crammed in a room only big enough for 10.”
When Umberto was released, he and Gabriela knew they had to get out. They left their families behind and were smuggled by plane into Argentina where they spent a year in a refugee camp.
It was freezing, and they weren’t allowed to work legally. They got black market jobs, mending door locks or working in bars – and they spent hours just sat in a backstreet bookshop trying to keep warm.
Then their luck changed dramatically – the couple were offered scholarships to study at Swansea University, under a scheme to help refugees from Chile in 1976 they moved to Swansea and they’re still there.
Gabriella told me a story about an experience she had recently. She was in Wales and a woman kept asking her where she was from. Gabriella told her that she was from Mount Pleasant in Swansea. The woman kept insisting and asking where she was from. In this intolerant society, this brexit-Ukip poisoned Wales and this Trump polluted world. Like myself Gabriela believes that those of us who live in Wales are Welsh.
“We could cook real food for ourselves. I even started physically shaking when I saw four different sorts of cheese in the supermarket. I always call Wales my adopted mum. My adopted mum brought me up, gave me opportunities and nurtured me. One day, my bones will be buried here,”
Umberto and Gabriella fled Chile in the 1970s after Umberto was detained and tortured under General Pinochet brutal regime. They live in Wales. Umberto has just retired from 30 years in the department of Photography at Swansea Metropolitan University, and Gabriella from 25 years as a social worker. Both of their children work in the NHS.
It’s an incredibly difficult story to tell. Twice exiled. A story of fear, detention, of suspicion and of loss…Umberto continues:
We are Chilean, I am an artist. In the Chile of the early 1970s I worked in the Culture Section of a Community Development program, with rural communities making works of theatre, photography, journalism and film. This was a community who had never had the chance to see a film or play before – through artistic expression the doors for social development could be opened.
But the community never got to see their first film. The military coup of the 11th of September 1973 by General Augusto Pinochet put Chile under brutal restrictions and terror. So many strange things happened then. I’m still unsure what lead to my imprisonment, but I think I have some idea.
I had married my wife, Gabriella, in July 1973. We were young and had very little money, so after we married I rented a room while she lived with her mother. We had been married only six weeks when the military took power.
They enforced a curfew on Friday nights which stayed in place until the following Monday. Over the weekends, I stayed with my new wife at her mother’s home.
After three or four days I guess my neighbours began to notice I was ‘missing’. Someone reported my absence to the authorities. I suppose they thought I was a guerrilla member. Two days later I was detained, interrogated and tortured. No matter the extremes of my torture, I was unable to give the authorities the information they wanted. I wasn’t a member of any party. I did not know of the activities of the guerrilla fighters or where they kept the guns. I was an artist, a husband. I simply knew nothing. So the torture continued.
I was put on a chair, blind-folded so that I didn’t know where the next punch or kick would come from. In a way I was very lucky – I wasn’t shocked with electricity the way many others were. A common method was to tell me – “If you don’t know anything, I’m sure your wife does.” My young wife and her mother were frequently harassed by the authorities, their house turned upside down. But of course neither they, nor I, had any information to offer up.
Weeks after detention and interrogation I was moved to a sport centre, used as a detention camp. After a while I was moved to the city jail, to a political prisoners corridor.
Gabriella was totally lost, she went into autopilot. Everything you have, the ordinary things like a salary, a family, to speak, to laugh – were suddenly all gone. It was like an alternative reality. She couldn’t visit me and didn’t even know if I was alive or dead.
Once, after I was moved to the sports centre, she was allowed to send me some new clothes. She wrote me a letter on very thin rice paper which she pushed into a minute tube and sewed into the hem of a shirt. I don’t know how I knew it was there or managed to find it, but I did. She simply told me she was alive and thinking of me – she told me to keep faith. Maybe this is what kept me going.
I was kept in a centre with hundreds of other men. There was no space to sleep – we took it in shifts to lie down. It was as you see in American films – men in dark glasses guarded us with machine guns.
Within the group we were erratically and frequently called for interrogation. Many men from the group were taken and never returned. Many disappeared during the night.
In a climate of such fear and stress we eventually we took to holding lectures and classes among ourselves – something to provide focus, give structure and meaning back to our wasted days. The prison was full of political prisoners of all ages and backgrounds – university students and professors, journalists, chess masters, scientists, farmers – teaching and learning maths, music, reading and writing. I was in charge of the library and in turn studied creative writing, chess and guitar. There was a theatre group run by some of Chile’s most famous actors, who were detained alongside the others. Eventually, after 9 months of arbitrary imprisonment, the authorities realised they were wasting their time with me. I was released without charges.
The very next day my wife and I visited the Chilean Catholic Church, who created a body to help political prisoners and the relatives of the disappeared, taking their cases and offering legal aid. The lady lawyer in charge of our case advised us to leave the country, even though there was not a policy within the organization to persuade people to go into exile – we couldn’t be sure when we would be targeted again.
The very next day, when I went to collect our passports, I was taken in and questioned by the authorities.
“How could I possibly have done something in the last 24 hours, since my release?” I retorted. Thankfully, I was quickly let go. The next day, Gabriella and I fled to neighbouring Argentina to seek asylum. We fell in love with the country and with the people. Everywhere people helped us. There was a true sense of solidarity with Chilean refugees and we were welcomed like one of their own.
But it wouldn’t last.
One year later – in October 1975, a military coup saw the streets fill with soldiers and their fierce dogs. They were nasty. Foreigners were intimidated, detained and disappeared. We tried to be invisible. Suspicions rose. No one knew who could be an informer. Eventually we were advised, once again, to leave the country. At the time, governments around the world offered their support to Chilean refugees – they knew our lives were seriously at risk if we remained in Argentina. We left Argentina with a grant from the World University Service for my wife, the help of the UN Refugee Agency and a visa extended by the British Consulate in Buenos Aires.
We arrived in Swansea, Wales and I started working in a Community Centre in Neath, running photography workshops for young, unemployed people. I went on to work in the department of Photography of Swansea Metropolitan University for 30 years.
After working hard to re qualify and earn a Masters, my wife continued her vocation as a social worker in Wales. She worked with schools cross the area with children at risk of physical, sexual or emotional abuse for 25 years.
When we first arrived in Wales we expected to only stay for a year or so until the situation in Chile improved. We didn’t even buy any furniture, but we kept active working, learning English and campaigning to raise funds and awareness of what was happening back home in Chile. With the support of the churches, universities and unions in Wales, we organised huge fundraisers for political prisoners in Chile – the Welsh absolutely loved the Latin music – the salsa, rumba, cumbia – and loved the saucepans full of Gabriella’s rice, empanadas and my chilli con carne. Gabriella will always remember the opportunities she has been offered in Wales and fondly remembers her gratitude after being offered her first job. She was always treated with respect and on merit – never treated differently for having an accent, or being a foreigner, being a refugee. Wales gave her a chance. And she gave so much back to the community.
This is our home now, this is our country. Both of my children work for the NHS. My son qualified as a Biomedical Scientist at Cardiff and now works as a biologist, testing organs before transplants take place. My daughter is a mental health nurse.
When I see people fleeing across the Mediterranean, my heart breaks. We spent just one year in a refugee camp, these people have spent so many. The support we were offered from the international community saved our lives. My wife, children and I are now a valuable part of our adopted community. I know, first hand, the danger of countries turning a blind eye to the kind of humanitarian crisis we are currently witnessing.”
My philosophy course is multi cultural and multi-ethnic we have Irish, Italian, Chilean individuals all of who are tolerant and full of laughter, yet all have a profound understanding of sadness and of the nature of the world.
Even Luciarno Luciano Welsh Balsamo, now approaching eighty, and after living here in Swansea for fifty years, has been told at times to go home. We live in a more brutal Wales now, a barrier in the collective mind has been breached and through that portal we have revealed a deep and dark racist id spilling its poisons on to those who are both refugee and those oppressed and exploited by the demons of the large corporations and the high priests of neoliberalism who separate us from one another and lay blame, causing us to project and displace our fears, our shame and envy upon one another. There is, of course, no reason for Gabriella and Umberto to have that told to them…they know that so well.
‘You know, those of us who leave our homes in the morning and expect to find them there when we go back – it’s hard for us to understand what the experience of a refugee might be like.”
Many minorities are said to be ‘the new Jews’ because of the hate and bigotry they face. But this can sometimes ignore how Jews are still ‘the new Jews’. Antisemitism has become a serious problem in the UK since 2008. This article will attempt to analyse the reasons why.
The rise in antisemitism cannot be separated from the consequences of the 2008 crisis, which legitimized every form of racism and bigotry in British society, and the all-out assault on minorities since 2016. The weak, unstable and short-lived governments which imposed austerity also introduced and strengthened punitive anti-immigrant policies. Xenophobia and racism surged even more in 2016 following Brexit and the US election. While Brexit cannot purely be explained by racism, the referendum outcome legitimised existing anti-immigrant policies, stoking extreme nationalism and myths of going ‘forward to the past’. A common sentiment was ‘we voted for you to go home’.
2018 saw a ‘scandal’ involving the deportation of thousands of people who came to the UK in the 1950s and 1960s from the Commonwealth and held British passports – or had the ‘right to remain’ – a ‘right’ which means nothing for those chewed up and spat out by the UK state. The Home Office even produced a ‘guide to Jamaica’ for long-term residents who had not been there in decades, advising deportees to ‘adopt a Jamaican accent’. Disability hate crimes have soared in the years following 2008, due to marginalization and lack of support, social stigma and years of tabloid and state rhetoric about ‘scroungers’. With the housing crisis, soaring homelessness and extortionate rental costs, lack of job security and ability to save, the ripping out of the social safety net and the terrifying speed of climate change, we are all looking at a ‘cancelled future’.
Antisemites too are increasingly organised, confident and empowered.
The Community Security Trust, which monitors and records antisemitic incidents, recorded its worst ever number in 2017 at 1,382 (see p.4 of link), beating 2016 and 2015, which were both also ‘the highest on record’. Most of these incidents involve verbal harassment and abuse in the street, but also include property damage and violence. The recorded number for January to June 2018 is down on 2017, making it ‘only’ the second worst year ever, with around a hundred incidents recorded every month. A 2013 EU report showed 21% of Jews in the UK suffered harassment in the last 12 months (p. 6). Most hate crimes in the UK go unreported, suggesting the true incidence is far higher. The CST reported 145 violent assaults in 2017 (p.6) – with charges brought in less than a tenth of cases.
It is impossible to believe the incessant claims of antisemites to ‘just be criticizing Israel’, when one considers that antisemitism has returned with such viciousness as a political force whenJews are more critical of Israel than ever. Even the Board of Deputies of British Jews, notorious for being a conservative and slow-moving body, was among those criticizing Netanyahu’s new law enshrining religious discrimination into the constitution. This would have been unthinkable twelve years ago, when they organized poorly attended demos supporting Israeli stances. The Movement for Reform Judaism have criticised Israel’s prohibition on non-orthodox and secular marriages and ban on women praying at the Wall, and have taken part in protests against religious discrimination. Groups such as Jewdas are vocal in criticizing Israel’s policies against the Palestinians. Any view of Jews as ‘zionists’ unable to handle criticism of Israel has no basis in reality.
As the pro-Corbyn left enjoy pointing out, antisemitism exists in all political parties. Examples include Tory MP Aidan Burley who dressed up as an SS officer at a dinner party, and members of a Conservative Association at Oxford University singing Nazi songs and making ‘gas chamber jokes’. Lib Dems who have made antisemitic statements includeJenny Tonge and David Ward. David Icke was a Green Party spokesman in the 1990s; other ex-members have included Tony Gosling and the Holocaust denier Nick Kollerstrom. UKIP has shed its previous attempts at respectability politics to embrace the extreme right. Yet Labour under Corbyn has been hit by more accusations of enabling and covering up antisemitism than any other party. Corbyn supporters, with some justification, ask why he is being singled out for this criticism. Many, but not all internal critics of Corbyn have views substantially to the right of the leadership, and suspicion has arisen that these accusations are part of a ‘Blairite coup’.
Corbyn is not entirely responsible for how this situation has developed. His widespread popularity has ensured people on the fringes of anti-capitalist scenes, often attracted to conspiratorial views, have drifted into supporting or joining Labour. Any popular left-wing leader in the UK would have attracted the support of antisemites and would have struggled to tackle this problem, let alone one with Corbyn’s longhistoryof questionable acquaintances. The organized far left in Britain has suffered defeat after defeat, and is largely invisible outside student activism and the public sector. When a popular leader finally achieves mainstream success with something resembling ideas they’ve devoted their lives to, some people see the mildest criticism as ‘sabotage’. This is exacerbated by the authoritarian, cult-like atmosphere common on the left, with party leaders using ‘democratic centralism’ to stay in power forever. The exposure of previous ‘scandals’ such as the ‘Comrade Delta’ rape case, was met with outrage and desperate attempts at a cover-up, with the SWP holding a ‘trial’ by themselves rather than facing exposure in the ‘bourgeois courts’. Now the stakes are higher, with the possibility of real political power for the first time in decades and the chance to ‘make the left great again’.
The nearest parallel to leftist antisemitism is probably leftist transphobia and ‘trans-exclusionary radical feminism’ (TERF ideology). TERFs use feminist language combined with conspiratorial rhetoric about a ‘trans lobby’ controlling the medical establishment and media. They claim ‘women and girls’, especially lesbians, are oppressed by ‘privileged’ trans women who ‘force their way into women’s spaces’ such as bathrooms. TERFs say they are ‘gender critical’, often proclaiming a ‘socialist’ or ‘Marxist’ ideology, and have won support among trade unionists, anarchists and the extra-parliamentary left, despite the well-documentedlinks of TERF groups to the US far right. The furious denials from ‘moderate, reasonable’ people with ‘good politics’ that TERF arguments are based on bigotry, and their demands trans people take part in dishonest ‘debates’, should be familiar to anyone who has experienced antisemitism.
Leftists sometimes assume ‘fascist’ ideas are ‘far right’ economically, and socialists cannot be bigoted by definition. But most modern European antisemitism views Jews as powerful, rich, and evil. These beliefs can coexist with opposition to capitalism, believing there should be more money for the poor, investment in the health service, and so on; you can oppose and campaign against injustice while believing ‘the Jews did it’. There are only around 200,000 Jews in the UK, meaning many people have never met one, making stereotypes hard to challenge. Slogans associated with ‘the left’ are routinely employed by neo-Nazis, with banned terrorist group National Action vandalising a Jewish memorial in 2015 with slogans such as ‘1%’ and ‘bankers’. The NSDAP itself produced pamphlets encouraging a vote for Hitler to ‘bring down the system’ so the working class could take control.
Conspiracy theories are often seen as harmless and fun, and have gained mainstream popularity through being packaged as entertainment. However, they are an insidious way of spreading hate, fake history and pseudoscience. Conspiracy theories about the Rothschilds and the Illuminati proliferate on social media, often spread by professionals like David Icke, who has promoted the Tsarist-era forgery the Protocols of the Elders of Zion. As described in Norman Cohn’s book ‘Warrant for Genocide’, the Protocols purports to show a Jewish conspiracy and helped provide Hitler and the NSDAP with a justification for the Holocaust. Icke has worked with celebrities such as Russell Brand and hosted debates with the Canary editor Kerry Anne Mendoza, performed at music festivals around the world and been given sympatheticinterviews on popular internet news outlets. Antisemitic conspiracy theorists deliberately present an image of themselves as being harmless cranks, thus avoiding serious opposition.
Discussions of antisemitism in the UK often overlook English nationalist mythology regarding World War II and the British Empire. English nationalism centres around WWII, Churchill and ‘Britain standing alone’ against ‘the Germans’, which often ‘stand in’ for modern-day Germany and the EU. This attitude trivialises the Holocaust and contrasts with state and media glorification of the British Empire and refusal to acknowledge the UK’s crimes, including against Jews. These include the infamous ‘blood libel’ myth of Jews drinking children’s blood, originating with the death of William of Norwich in 1144, and the ‘Edict of Expulsion’ by Edward I in 1290. This WWII obsession goes with a myth that the UK is more ‘generous’ towards immigrants, ‘less racist’ and ‘less antisemitic’ than other countries. The English nationalist attitude to Germany can be summed up in the phrase ‘two world wars and one world cup’, and Germans in the UK themselves face xenophobia.
As the last generation of Holocaust survivors and WWII veterans die out, post-Nazi social taboos about open antisemitism have lessened. In the world of ‘alternative facts’ online, deniers can easily portray the Holocaust as a myth. The UK’s failure to face up to its past, its glorification of the war, and the impression given by popular culture that the UK went to war to protect Jews against Hitler, fuels accusations that Jews are distorting and exaggerating the Holocaust, perhaps even starting it themselves. The SWP once did a ‘Sean Spicer’ on the Holocaust, mentioning every group to be killed except Jews. Jews are accused of ignoring Hitler’s other victims and those of other genocides, although it is not ‘Jews’ doing this, but nationalist British politicians. Holocaust memorial events organised by Jews, while being religious commemorations, emphasise non-Jews killed by the Nazis, other genocides in history and the importance placed in Judaism on resisting hate.
International developments also influence conditions in the UK. The 2008 crisis and the so-called ‘refugee crisis’ since the outbreak of war in Syria and elsewhere in the Middle East have acted as a catalyst for the extreme right across Europe. Many far-right parties are now in coalition governments. Hungarian and Polish neo-Nazis are active in the UK and leading figures from Hungary’s Jobbik such as Gabor Vona have spoken at events in London. Hungary and Poland are examples of authoritarian right-wing governments who discriminate against Jews and promote antisemitic campaigns on social media, and politicians from Ukraine and Romania have also made bigoted remarks. The Polish government made a law forbidding criticism of the country’s war record or stating Poles participated in the Holocaust, and Hungary has passed ‘Stop Soros’ laws preventing citizens from helping refugees, with George Soros depicted in a stereotypical Jewish way. Recently, Soros was blamed by the Telegraph for a ‘plot to stop Brexit’.
Mainstream and far-left groups in Europe have also embraced anti-migrant, islamophobic and antisemitic sentiments; this often comes with pro-Assad stances on Syria and the idea Syrian rebels are all ‘jihadis funded by Saudi Arabia and Israel’. Iran’s Press-TV has promoted Holocaust denial and ideas of a Jewish conspiracy as it uses Israeli state racism as a cudgel to attack Jews; Corbyn has been criticised for his repeated appearances on the channel. Russian disinformation campaigns to support Assad and Western ‘populist’ candidates have been covered in depth and do not need to be mentioned in detail here, but RT is popular and has employed antisemitic conspiracy theorists such as Tony Gosling. But Putin’s opponents sometimes play into such tropes by exaggerating Russian influence and ascribing dissent in British society to ‘foreign money’ and a ‘Russian conspiracy’ to undermine our society and values. The Economist’s depiction of Putin as an octopus tightening its grip around the world is an example of how these ideas are unthinkingly repeated.
The election of Donald Trump in 2016 provided a beacon and an inspiration for the extreme right. It’s hard to see accusations of bigotry as a ‘nuclear bomb’, when the president of the world’s most powerful country, and the UK’s most important ally, tweets racist things every day and rants about ‘shithole countries’. Trump has rarely (!) been openly antisemitic, despite using antisemitic dog-whistles in his campaign, and the Trump administration includes Jews such as Stephen Miller and Jared Kushner. But in 2017, neo-Nazis marched in Charlottesville chanting ‘Jews will not replace us’, killed one anti-fascist protester and threatened worshippers at a synagogue, while Trump criticised anti-fascists and talked about ‘right and wrong on many, many sides’. Trump has made the unacceptable acceptable even for his leftist opponents, none of whom are immune to prejudice. His constant incitements to hatred, instantly visible on social media, create a ‘hostile environment’ for every minority and embolden fascists and white supremacists worldwide.
Antisemitism in the UK is now an extremely serious social problem. It has been enabled by both the far right and left, as well as sections of the media and political establishment. Inaction on the left and a willingness to ignore and cover for antisemitic discourse has resulted in its widespread acceptance, as a resurgent far right takes power across Europe. Rather than concerning prosecco-sipping socialites earning more than 70k a year, antisemitism kills and hurts vulnerable people. In this it resembles transphobia, also dismissed as something only ‘millennials’ with ‘first world problems’ care about.
Many Jewish people have now lost all faith in the organised left and view socialist movements with mistrust. The left must not just cry about being ‘smeared’ and close ranks around their political leaders, but do something. They can start by challenging hate from ‘comrades’, examining their own behaviour, listening to people and believing their experiences, instead of saying, ‘Well actually, it’s about Israel,’ while ignoring naked antisemitism. If they really want to ‘condemn all forms of racism’, they must drive out bigotry and hate from their own ranks. Until then they are just another set of lying politicians.
The STUC organised #dumptrump Anti-Trump Rally in George Square, Glasgow was a colourful and enjoyable affair.
I suppose the good weather helped but there was a party atmosphere. Many different groups (there were three I’m a part of) there under the one cause of being against the racist, misogynistic, ruthless capitalist… you know the rest, “The Donald” Trump.
There were Trade Unions (GMB, Unite, EIS and others), pressure groups (like Global Justice Now & Stand Up to Racism), political parties (Scottish Greens, Scottish Labour, Scottish Socialist Party) and ordinary members of the public.
There was a large diversity in those attending. Age; there was a baby in a papoose, who really didn’t have a say whether to attend or not but there were a number of young people from 5 upwards, there, happy and having fun brandishing their homemade placards opposing the presence of the current incumbent of a great office. Also ethnicity (biggest ethnic diversity I’ve seen at a rally), social background (I hate the word ‘class’) – posh folk and ordinary folk like me. And a wide range of politics, albeit all on the left.
As you will see in the pictures there were many home made placards deriding Trump and people were only too pleased to pose with them for my (and many others) pictures. This shows that they didn’t only want their hatred/disdain/etc of Trump to be noticed today at a rally but were happy for it to be shown worldwide, as people know that’s what happens to photographs these days. And everyone with a smile or pose for the camera. I hadn’t intended taking so many shots of banners & placards but they were fascinating, just wish I could have got them all.
If only the left could unite on all causes like it did today. All there, all for one cause, happy, sharing stories, praising each other’s placards/banners and most importantly engaging the normally non-politically active members of the public.
If we could do that, austerity wouldn’t have a chance! Bring it on.
By Debora Kayembe, Human Rights campaigner and Director of Full Options
It’s summer, most countries in the world expect migration movement to increase. Human migration is the movement by people from one place to another with the intentions of settling, permanently or temporarily in a new location. The movement is often over long distances and from one country to another, but internal migration is also possible; indeed, this is the dominant form globally. A person who moves from their home to another place because of natural disaster or civil disturbance may be described as a refugee or, especially within the same country, a displaced person. A person seeking refuge from political, religious or other forms of persecution is usually described as an asylum seeker.
Since the Arab spring widely considered as the Arab revolution which was a revolutionary wave of both violent and non-violent demonstrations, protests, riots, coups, foreign interventions, and civil wars in North Africa and the Middle East that began on 18 December 2010 in Tunisia with the Tunisian Revolution. The world has witness an expected and unprecedented massive movement of refugees to Europe that result to a reception crisis; thousands of refugees cross the sea and attempt to settle in the most appropriate place that they taught suitable for them.
Once arrived the host country; it is not always a welcoming sight; a lot it expected from the new comer as well the from refugee perspectives; it is the time to rest, recover and make choices. Some likely manage to make it to the place of their choice, some do not and the most unfortunates end up in detention centre or being deported back to their home land depending on countries and immigration refugee policies.
When integration in the host countries comes to the mind of a refugee, the challenges are immeasurable. It requires great mental and/or physical effort and is a major test of a person’s ability. It is also important for members of the host society to recognize that it is the right of a person to have or to do something in order to strive to move forward.
Integration is, after all, defined as a process of developing a society in which all the social groups share the socio economic and cultural life. Each and every country holds its own policies on refugees and asylum seekers in order to allow them to settle. We can divide these in two parts: the socio economic integration and the cultural integration. There is also a third part and that is the responsibility that both the host country and the refugees (that includes asylum seekers) take for ensuring that the policies work.
A new life in a host country places a lot of expectations on refugees and little thought is often given to how much or how well the refugee understands the society in which s/he has joined and been called up to integrate. Are there any ways that the host country can help the refugee to overcome the challenges that they will certainly face? Have ways of teaching the new way of living been provided to minimize additional tensions on the life of the refugee? While each country has its own systems, they all have some things in common, namely, they are discriminatory, non-equal, and segregationist. People are led to believe that the world is working towards less racist policies at local levels, but in the context of the refugee (and asylum seeker) experience this is not the case.
We also need to think about the ignorance and naiveté that can be part of the refugee’s way of seeing the world after going through tremendous trauma, and their expectation that the world will look upon them with compassion.
Challenges are not only felt by the newcomers and it is important to consider that those attempting to welcome them can face significant challenges too including offer refugees the opportunity to participate in a dialogue and to be open-minded about how refugees might be perceived.
Fundamentally, there is a need for an open and inclusive local/national society that offers refugees the opportunity to be introduced to a new culture through non-judgmental inclusion. Being a refugee in host countries is like finding refuge in your neighbor’s home.
Your neighbor will give you a bed and will probably provide food for you in the earliest days on your arrival, but will soon expect you to make a contribution to their home as long as you stay. I do not think the neighbor will be pleased to see you stealing or destroying his property for no reason. But it is also true that, the refugee will be much settled if his host offers him in equal measure and all the necessary help that he need in order to be become self-sufficient.
I will not finish to write this article without mentioning the immigration detention Centre; around 30,000 people are held under Immigration Act powers every year, for a range of reasons. In 2017, 27,331 people entered detention. Some are asylums seekers who have had their claim refused. Others are asylum seekers who have a claim in process, and are being held while that decision is made (under what is known as the Detained Fast Track). In the Scotland we have a detention centre called Dungavel, I always call for the closure of that centre because of the persistent and continuous violations of Human rights that happens in that centre ; It is also true that immigration matters are not part of the devolved powers to the Scottish government ; but the welfare of the individuals in Dungavel it’s very much a Scottish responsibility ; I am calling upon to the Scottish parliament to conduct an investigation into the conditions of detainees in that centre .
The UN must recognise Palestine’s right to exist, says leading Human Rights Campaigner
Today 136 out of 193 UN member states have formally recognised Palestine. The UK needs to show some leadership and be amongst the first Western European countries to recognise Palestine and its right to self-determination.
British Government already recognises the principle that the Palestinian people have an inalienable right to self-determination but has not granted this officially because it wants to reserve the right to do so at a moment of its choosing to best help bring about peace.
That moment is now. Recognition is a good starting-point for negotiations and would help guarantee that the focus of talks is about how Palestine becomes a viable and secure sovereign state – not whether it becomes one. Denying recognition as the current British government is doing is entirely at odds with the principle of self-determination.
Of course, neither Israel nor Palestine’s right to exist should be subject to veto or any kind of conditions and we must actively challenge any refusal by either side to deny the other’s right to exist. It can be difficult to understand the scale of the human tragedy that is occurring on this narrow strip of land, day in day out. Not just when the camera crews and journalists are there, but every single day.
It’s vital that human rights violations and violence on all sides cease and that the international community take strong action to hold the perpetrators to account.
One of those core causes is the eternal question mark that hangs over Palestine’s right to exist. Recognition would help the process of removing that question mark and allow Israelis and Palestinians to look forward to a future defined by equality, justice, freedom and peace.
In Gaza, entire families sit in the darkness of their living rooms, with candles creating the only light. Thousands of families have lost loved ones in house fires. Gaza’s residents face so much struggle and pain, just to secure one of life’s basic necessities.
Today, if you ask Palestinians in Gaza how they are doing, they might respond: “Alive, due to lack of death.” This commonly used expression captures the misery of everyday life in Gaza.
Every second in Gaza under Israel’s blockade – where water and medical care are luxuries – is tainted by tragedy. Every time a family can’t afford to put food on the table, every time a house fire claims yet another victim, every time a cancer patient can’t acquire life-saving treatment or another desperate human ends their life, the dreadfulness of the blockade comes into full view.
The UN has declared Gaza “unliveable”, and the blockade creates a passive, collective death. What will it take to convince the international community that the people of Palestine, like all humans on this Earth, deserve to live in dignity?
So long as Israel maintains great control over Palestinian lives but denies them their basic rights and freedoms, it cannot call itself a democracy.
The premeditated murder by the Israeli Zionist state of another 58 innocent Palestinians is further evidence that Israel the Apartheid state is being protected by the US and the West in its policy of ethnic cleansing.
These brutal murders along with thousands of innocent Palestinian protesters injured are being portrayed by the BBC as “clashes”. Not one Israeli has been injured in these so-called “clashes”. It is obscene and racist the way the BBC and other mainstream media report on these barbaric acts by the Zionists.
The Labour Party also need to take to task “Labours friends of Israel” organisation who are absolving the Zionists of any blame for the murderous carnage and acting as apologists for the IOF (Israeli Occupation Forces).
The UN, EU and the West stand by and watch this genocide unfold and do nothing. They are all complicit with Israel and the US who allow and condone these atrocities.
Palestine is under occupation by the Zionists who have one of the biggest militaries in the World. The IOF used marksmen to shoot and kill innocent unarmed Palestinians including women and children. Tear gas from drones was also used to incapacitate the peaceful Palestinian protests before carrying out their cold-blooded murders of innocent people. Many of these weapons used to kill Palestinians will have been made in the UK. We need to continue to expose these companies and the Government for allowing these weapons to be sold to Apartheid Israel. Yet the Western powers turn the other cheek and pay homage to the American dollar.
We all need to do what we can in anyway we can to support the Palestinian resistance to the illegal and immoral occupation, a resistance that will never die or be defeated by elite Zionists in occupied Palestine.
Trump and his fascists in the White House are dancing to Netanyahu’s tune and are determined to invade Syria and Iran to create the greater Israel the Zionists desire and also to plunder the rich resources these countries hold.
The Palestinians are brave beyond words. Their land has been occupied for 70 years by the Zionists with the total support of the West. Unemployment in Gaza is at 60% because the Apartheid state decides who can and cannot work. Power and water are controlled by the Zionists. There is no freedom of movement on their own land with hundreds of checkpoints set up as part of the control mechanism used by the Zionist IOF.
We all have a responsibility to do what we can, however small an act, to support the Palestinians in their struggle for Justice, Peace and Equality.
NO PEACE FOR ISRAEL, WITHOUT JUSTICE FOR THE PALESTINIANS.
Like many on the left I was optimistic when Jeremy Corbyn became the leader of the Labour Party. I was happy to see him fend off the centrist Labour MPs such as Liz Kendall and latterly Owen Smith to be the leader of the opposition in Westminster. I was hopeful that the UK had a leader of the Labour Party that believed in the scrapping of our Trident nuclear weapons and ending Austerity.
I find myself wanting to cheer him on but get disappointed when I hear him acknowledge the ‘will of the British people’ in the 52/48 EU referendum to end freedom of movement. I got even more disappointed when Jeremy Corbyn stood on a manifesto, in June 2017, which supported the renewal Trident nuclear weapons; outvoted by his own party to do so. I lost all faith when he addressed the Scottish Labour Party conference this week and delivered a speech which blurred an issue of poorly paid agency workers with migrants coming to this country.
This has pandered to the controlling of mass immigration narrative which has been made to be a major factor for the working condition woes in the UK which is completely unfounded. Poor pay and working conditions are stagnated and driven down in the UK labour market because the National Living Wage (NLW) is low, precarious work is unregulated and jobs are being deskilled because of automation and centralisation of power structures.
Agency workers in areas such as manufacturing and hospitality sectors in the UK have historically been accepted and normalised. In fact, organisations such as Amazon and Ryanair still use agencies to staff their business. Different organisations use agency staff to different extents.Amazon has both their own employers and agency staff working in the back office and on the warehouse floor alongside each other. This allows them to quickly increase their workforce to the business needs and when workload demand increases. Ryanair has a slightly different approach, where their cabin crew and customer service staff are from agencies and their pilots are employed by Ryanair. This is known as marketisation where different specific areas of an organisation can be tendered out to an agency or in some cases third party companies; this is common with cleaners or maintenance for example.
These types of working arrangements can cause huge problems for employment relations and attempting to collectively mobilise staff to strike, or collectively bargain, as employees all work for different organisations or agencies and have unique terms and conditions of work. This fragmentation of the workforce dilutes any power the collective employees may have had to strike and means that, where trade unions are even acknowledged within the organisation, the strike will only impact on a small section of the business and have limited impact on the organisation’s ability to function and produce profit. It is important to acknowledge this is not accidental and organisations have adopted marketisation for this reason to ensure the employer holds the power and prevents, as much as possible, strike action taking place and it allows them to tender out parochial, specialised or in some organisations low skilled job roles.
I believe this is the issue that Mr Corbyn wants to address in relation to his speech at the Scottish Labour Party conference but what he did, which may be unintentional or possibly not, is talked about this issue in relation to cheap agency workers migrating to this country from abroad. I was shocked to see these words come out of his mouth and sounded like dog whistle politics of mass immigration driving down the wages and quality of work in the UK. He has previously stated that with the EU referendum result he would want to see the end of free movement of people because of ‘genuine concern over immigration by the electorate’ but, as a socialist leader, he should be standing up and arguing the case for free movement. Moreover, he should be specifically highlighting areas of the country which need immigration to continue to function such as here in Scotland. We have a declining population numbers overall and an ageing population, we have an urgent need to attract immigrants. By closing the door to the single market we stop the free flow of people from the EU and speeches like this could make us seem unwelcoming. The underpaid agency worker issue could be policed with the legal framework we already have; regardless to where that worker has come from.
It has been known, since the debate of introducing the National Minimum Wage (NMW), that the offer of meals, refreshments and accommodation from an employer can be offset from an employee’s wages. This means that if an employer is paid the ‘National Living Wage’ (NLW) they can have accommodation and cost of meals taken from their pay packet resulting in the employer having to part with less money to the employee. This type of working arrangement can be occupied by anyone not just workers from abroad. These types of adverts exist on Gumtree every summer for remote hotels in the north of Scotland and such like. The fact is agency workers are already protected under UK employment law to receive at least the NMW under the UK Governments Rights for Agency Workers. I do believe that a threshold should be put in place to ensure agency workers are not paying over the cost price for in-work accommodation and meals. A comprehensive framework is needed to ensure that employees are receiving company perks at production cost incurred to the business and the employer is not pocketing additional profit by exploiting agency workers in this manner.
The desirability of agency workers, from my extensive research in the hospitality sector, has reduced in the last ten years due to the adoption of zero hour contracts (ZHC). The use of these contracts, which contributes massively to in-work poverty and degradation of the power held by the employee in the UK, gives the employer similar flexibility benefits they traditionally had with agency staff. The use of these types of contracts rose by 300% in 2015-16 and is most common in service sector work. The ZHC is also more attractive as they do not have to pay agency fees. Agency fees can be particularly expensive and could cost the employer double the hourly rate than it would be to have their own employee but it did give the employer to stability of staff ‘on tap’ but this can now be achieved through ZHC’s. The use of ZHC’s as a method of employment tends not to suit skilled manual labour or specialised jobs which may amount to agency workers in these fields; for both indigenous and migrant workers.
The European Union is looking to change laws and regulations to migrant temporary agent workers which may not match ‘our’ values. There have been multiple treaties and policies that the UK has either managed to not sign up to or negotiate progressive changes at the ratification stage. Jeremy Corbyn talks of these potential EU developments in employment policy, which we won’t be part of as we’re leaving the EU if he gets his way, but neglects to reassure the audience what domestic levers could be used. I found the speech to be clouded and he was confusing incredibly important issues with migrant labour when it really didn’t need to be; as it’s an issue across the entire UK workforce.
It is clear that if Jeremy Corbyn genuinely wanted to help with this issue he could have dealt with it without referring to migrant agency workers. I don’t feel it was appropriate or relevant to do so, especially with all the misinformation and falsely created tension around immigration. I do feel it was opportunistic and yet he chose to make that speech in one area of the UK where we are crying out for migrant workers to come and join our workforce in Scotland. If Corbyn really had an understanding of what Scotland needs he would back Scotland having all immigration and workers’ rights devolved to Holyrood. This way we could see the end exploitative precarious working conditions and set an immigration policy that reflects our values and our needs for the future.
There were many more casualties resulting from the Twin Tower attacks than the 2,974 people who died in New York that day on 9/11. As well as those poor souls, there have been countless thousands killed in the resulting war on terror carried out in Afghanistan, Iraq, Syria and Libya, and the fall out still continues, with victims continuing to be created in the wake of the chaos inflicted across the Middle East.
The latest iteration of this appeared in reports which came via CNN, who have recently published an investigation they have been carrying out in Libya following reports about slave auctions. Incredible as this is to believe in 2017, the evidence they have amassed looks pretty convincing. There are still thousands of people trying to reach the Mediterranean who cross Libya’s borders each year. This has contributed to the wave of boats trying to cross the Med, which is of itself a tragic tale of greed, need, prejudice and misery; figures complied on 24/10/17 show that more than 18,800 people had been intercepted so far this year, with over 111,000 successfully reaching Italy, the vast majority of whom travelled from Libya.
However, latterly Libyan coastguards (and militias) have been attempting to address this, and crossings have therefore dropped sharply since the summer. Nonetheless, migrants and refugees still continue to travel to Libya, which has led to a surplus of would-be passengers. People smuggling has become big business in the country, so the people behind it have done what any good capitalist would and diversified. If you believe people smuggling represents a good opportunity to make a profit, why would you baulk at extending this to slavery? What would be the difference to you between herding hundreds of people in a boat and sending them to an uncertain fate, and parading them as goods for sale at an auction?
Although the 1926 Slavery Convention was ratified by Libya in 1957, slave auctions have resurfaced there partially because of the instability caused by the 2011 overthrow of Muammar Gaddafi. He was undoubtedly a brutal dictator, but his overthrow highlighted the dangers of creating a power vacuum, and over half a decade later, Libya is no closer to being stable. Although there were no shortage of Western countries willing to get involved in air strikes under the auspices of NATO in 2011, there doesn’t seem to be a similar impulse to help deal with the fall out. As a result, Libya has effectively two governments operating out of Tobruk and Tripoli, a shattered economy and its own internal refugee problem. Small wonder that there seems to be little resource or will around in the country to deal with slave auctions.
CNN casting an international spotlight on this may bring about change; certainly, several countries seem to have been galvanized into action. One headline reads ‘Burkina Faso recalls ambassador to Libya over ‘slave markets’ report’ while another says ‘France pushes U.N. to impose sanctions over Libya migrant crisis’. However, Donald Trump’s war of words with CNN has proved a gift to the Libyan media; as he had repeatedly denounced the network as peddlers of ‘fake news’, the Libyan broadcaster Libya 218 has used trump’s tweets on the subject to doubt the veracity of the slave auction story, saying;
“Here the possibility arises that the channel has published the report of slavery in Libya to secure an as yet hidden political objective.”
What a mess. An ill thought out ‘war on terror’ initiated by the US post 9/11 brought, as widely predicted, greater instability to an already frighteningly unstable part of the world. The knock-on effect of this enabled NATO intervention in the Libyan civil war and the instability resulting from that and other nearby conflicts created the conditions for the slave auctions. And now their reporting may well be hobbled by the current US president, who is ignorant of, and entirely careless about, the effect of his words abroad. While he rides up and down in his golden elevator and continues his privileged life by other, more lucrative means, the tired, poor and huddled masses yearning to breathe free will just have to continue to yearn.