Monthly Archives: August 2015

PSC Demo at Wales v Israel football game

From Jeff Hurford:

(Pictures added by me)

2.00 SUNDAY 6 SEPTEMBER – CITY HALL CARDIFF

March to Cardiff City Stadium

Protesters are set to descend on Cardiff City Stadium when Wales play Israel in scenes that will be reminiscent of the sporting boycott of apartheid South Africa.
On 6 September, when Israel play Wales, thousands of people are expected to protest in a call for UEFA and FIFA to expel Israel and for action to be taken against its apartheid state. Organisers hope the protest, labelled Fair Play for Palestine, Don’t Play Israeli Apartheid, could spark a movement reminiscent of the 1980s that saw South Africa banished from the sporting world and led to international pressure help end apartheid and free Nelson Mandela.

The boycott saw South African teams in sports such as rugby union and cricket expelled from playing international matches after boycotts, pitch invasions and protests.

The match could be one of the biggest in Welsh football history with the potential of Wales qualifying for their first major competition since 1858 if they win their next two games.

Former South African minister and ANC leader Ronnie Kasrils is supporting the campaign and organisers were given a boost when a vocal supporter of Israel and Zionism admitted Israel is an apartheid state for its treatment and separation of Palestinians.

Bradley Burston, a convinced Zionist and senior editor of the Israeli daily newspaper Haaretz, has joined those who now regard Israel as an apartheid state.

Writing in Haaretz he says: “I used to be one of those people who took issue with the label of apartheid as applied to Israel. I was one of those people who could be counted on to argue that, while the country’s settlement and occupation policies were anti-democratic and brutal and slow-dose suicidal, the word apartheid did not apply.

“I’m not one of those people any more. Not after the last few weeks.

Not after terrorists firebombed a West Bank Palestinian home, annihilating a family, murdering an 18-month-old boy and his father, burning his mother over 90 percent of her body – only to have Israel’s government rule the family ineligible for the financial support and compensation automatically granted Israeli victims of terrorism, settlers included.

“Not after Israel’s Justice Minister Ayelet Shaked, explicitly declaring stone-throwing to be terrorism, drove the passage of a bill holding stone-throwers liable to up to 20 years in prison.

“The law did not specify that it targeted only Palestinian stone-throwers. It didn’t have to.

“Just one week later, pro-settlement Jews hurled rocks, furniture, and bottles of urine at Israeli soldiers and police at a West Bank settlement, and in response, Benjamin Netanyahu immediately rewarded the Jewish stone-throwers with a pledge to build hundreds of new settlement homes.

“This is what has become of the rule of law. Two sets of books. One for Us, and one to throw at Them. Apartheid.”

John Rose, a Jewish campaigner and author of ‘The Myths of Zionism’ will be speaking at the demonstration on 6 September.

Screen Shot 2015-08-29 at 22.01.39He said: “In Britain the best way to achieve solidarity with the Palestinians fighting the Apartheid state is to become active in the Boycott Disinvestment & Sanctions campaign, BDS.

“The Israeli government is so panicked by BDS that it has established a special unit to try and combat it.

As a member of the UCU, the University & College Lecturers Union, I helped introduce BDS onto campuses. Resolutions supporting BDS have been carried by our union’s annual congress.”

Apartheid does not exclude football and Palestinian players have been prevented from playing at international tournaments, while stadiums have been demolished, players shot at checkpoints, while Arab players and fans face vile abuse from many Israeli terraces.

The demonstration has been called by the Palestine Solidarity Campaign (PSC), with support from PCS Wales, Red Card Israeli Racism, Friends of Al Aqsa and others in a bid to extend the Boycott Divestment and Sanctions Campaign (BDS) into sport.

Jeff Hurford of PSC said: “This the first mass demonstration calling for a sporting boycott of apartheid since the defeat of South African apartheid.

“All sporting links should be broken with the apartheid Israeli state that oppresses the Palestinians. Fair play means siding with the Palestinians who face constant violence, harassment and murderous attacks -most recently last summer in Gaza.

Screen Shot 2015-08-29 at 22.22.43“Israel has launched a war on football in Palestine: footballers have been killed, stadiums bombed and players have been refused permission to travel to matches.

“We are near a “tipping point” where Israel faces its “South Africa moment” and becomes very broadly isolated and vilified, and 6 September will bring that movement to Wales to act as a catalyst for the rest of the UK and world.

“Israel has launched a war on football in Palestine: footballers have been killed, stadiums bombed and players have been refused permission to travel to matches.

“There can be no normal sport in the abnormal situation that exists between Israel and Palestine. We stand for a free Palestine and an end to Israel apartheid.”

Buses have already been booked from across the country for the demonstration and activists have had a warm response leafleting Cardiff City matches, mosques and Cardiff city centre.

How are the Wales Green Party and Plaid Cymru doing in the polls since their unprecedented exposure in the General Election campaign?

Screen Shot 2015-08-23 at 23.23.00I have just been looking for opinion poll information since the General Election to see how the supposed progressive left parties have managed to build on their unprecedented media exposure.

The short answer is that neither Wales Green Party, nor Plaid Cymru have anything to boast about, sad to say, but Plaid Cymru would seem to at least be heading in the right direction, be it painfully slowly.

Looking at these polls from April 2014, from just before the ‘Green Surge’ in members kicked in and before the Greens, PC and the SNP announced their potential alliance in December 2014, the Greens initially saw a rise from their Regional Vote level in 2011 of around 5% to the dizzy heights of 7-8%, before plummeting back down to a disappointing 3% between the Welsh leaders debates and polling day. The latest figure of 4% is exactly where they were 18 months ago.

It is barely much better for Plaid Cymru. Their low point of 15% coincided with the Greens high point of 8% just after the ‘three party alliance’ was floated, but bounced upwards well from here to hover around 20-21% for the last 6 months. But again, this is no real advance on where the were 18 months ago (19%). In relative terms though, the PC:WGP ratio has gone from 2:1 in January 2015 to 5:1 in June 2015. This must reflect their growing strength within the progressive left of Welsh politics, even if the progressive left as a whole not really seen any advance at all.

The June 2015 poll also includes ratings of the party leaders in Wales. These are quite revealing too:

Screen Shot 2015-08-23 at 22.01.43Screen Shot 2015-08-23 at 22.01.12

Perhaps most disappointing for Pippa is that despite two televised debates and considerable other media coverage 61% of the sample still don’t know her (at least enough to have an opinion on her).This means the scores of 0 – 10 for those that had an opinion on her are actually out of just 39. Screen Shot 2015-08-23 at 23.18.33Putting these into % terms reveals the following:

  • 0 = 18%
  • 1 = 8%
  • 2 = 10%
  • 3 = 10%
  • 4 = 10%
  • 5 = 24%
  • 6 = 8%
  • 7 = 8%
  • 8 = 2%
  • 9 = 0%
  • 10= 2%

With a score of 5 representing a neutral (neither like of dislike) score, Pippa has 56% of varying degrees of dislike, 26% giving her the lowest scores of 0 or 1 out of 10. Just 20% give her any sort of positive like score, with only 2% giving her on of the top scores of 9 or 10 out of 10. With figures like this, it is probably just as well that 60% don’t know her!

Leanne’s scores have to be recalculated out 78 meanwhile, giving the following:

  • Screen Shot 2015-08-23 at 23.20.380 = 12%
  • 1 = 5%
  • 2 = 7%
  • 3 = 7%
  • 4 = 6%
  • 5 = 17%
  • 6 = 12%
  • 7 = 14%
  • 8 = 10%
  • 9 = 4%
  • 10= 6%

With a score of 5 representing a neutral (neither like of dislike) score, Leanne has 37% of varying degrees of dislike, 17% giving her the lowest scores of 0 or 1 out of 10. A pretty good 46% give her a positive like score of some kind, with 10% giving her on of the top scores of 9 or 10 out of 10.

So we see that of those people that know them enough to have an opinion on them, more than twice as many people dislike Pippa than like her; whereas significantly more people like Leanne than dislike her. Her figures were comfortably the best of all the Welsh leaders. Only Carwyn Jones, of the others managed a small net ‘like’ score. Pippa’s were almost identical to UKIP’s Nathan Gill (all the way down in fact). Kirsty Williams scored a small net ‘dislike’ and Andrew Davies scored a significant net ‘dislike’, but not as bad as PB or NG.

It may be a bit too simplistic to conclude that Leanne is an asset to her party, whereas Pippa is a liability to hers, even though many may have suspected this for a long time, but as both parties strive for elusive breakthroughs at the polls that count, it something they probably both need to reflect long and hard about.

A progressive alliance? The problem in a (rather big) nutshell

Ever since well before the General Election we have heard a lot (and I have written a lot) about the need for the progressive left to get its act together and work together for common aims. What is increasingly evident is that are not enough progressive left members in any party in Wales to make this a realistic possibility.

I have consistently argued for such attitudes within Wales Green Party and, for example, Vicky Moller has done much the same from within Plaid Cymru. We are routinely savaged by members of each other’s parties and even members of our own parties for doing so. There are full-time mischief makers, character assassins and trolls active in both parties, but it when rank and file members and especially non-party members start spouting the the sectarian, tribalist bile, more commonly associated with UKIP and the far right, that we have to recognise we are in big trouble.

Screen Shot 2015-08-20 at 15.35.36Below is a Facebook discussion that I think encapsulates exactly what we are up against. It is in response to a post by James Luchte on the Anti-Austerity UK Alliance public group, that James Luchte set up in response to the positive moves made by Nicola Sturgeon, Leanne Wood and Natalie Bennett towards an anti-austerity alliance in Westminster. Luchte (below) is himself an interesting character; ‘an expatriate American’ (i.e. immigrant) ‘philosopher, author, writer and poet based for over a decade in West Wales and in the United Kingdom since 1995’. He is a Plaid Cymru supporter.

James Luchte's psychedelic phase!

James Luchte’s psychedelic phase!

I very much doubt he expected the thread below to develop as it did. It is also dangerous to draw too wider conclusions from the contributions of the individuals involved. My own contributions could perhaps have been better put, but that is one of the dangers of social media quick fire responses. But taken as a whole, I think it does go a considerable way to understanding why Wales has no hope of any sort of progressive alliance working anytime soon, and also, perhaps, why Plaid Cymru has failed to replicate the success of the SNP in Scotland.

I am actually a bit hesitant about posting this at all. My hope is that it might give some people pause for thought (it has me) about our attitudes to each other on the left flank of Welsh politics. My fear is that it may be used as more grist to the mill of the the tribalists and mischief makers. The net result will almost certainly be no change to anything. To nick a quote from Ian Woodall on the thread:

“Witness the People’s Front of Judea take on the Judean People’s Front. And all the time they are arguing the Romans tighten their grip.”
Screen Shot 2015-08-20 at 15.48.32Screen Shot 2015-08-20 at 15.49.49

The Facebook thread (pics added by me):


James Luchte
 
Yesterday at 12:50

#‎ProgressiveAlliance

Could post-Corbyn Labour form progressive alliance with Plaid, Libs and Greens?Plaid Cymru’s Adam Price suggests Labour, Plaid and Greens could form ‘progressive alliance’WWW.WALESONLINE.CO.UK|BY DAVID WILLIAMSON

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You and 33 others like this.

Ian Woodall It should. It won’t  Yesterday at 12:57 · Like · 2

Darren Mumford this ^  Yesterday at 13:01 · Like

Sean Dawson Davis Would be cool, but there’s still too much imperealisim and unionism in labour and even the greens.  Yesterday at 13:09 · Like

Alan Caig Wilson The left-wing caucus is already forming – cfCompassonline.org.

Screen Shot 2015-08-20 at 16.41.33COMPASS Online COMPASS coordinated and conducted a five-day communication and leadership training in Sweden for… COMPASSONLINE.ORG   Yesterday at 13:09 · Like

Paul Rubyshine this would and had been my dream for many years, a strong opposition is essentiall if the tory-pigs are to be kept at bay. Onwards….   Yesterday at 13:12 · Like · 1

Kirstein Rummery and SNP?!   Yesterday at 13:18 · Like · 2

Ian Woodall Sean Dawson Davis in what way are we Greens imperialist? English and scottish green parties are separate. We were on the SNPs side in the referendum. Feeling a bit miffed by that.  Yesterday at 13:52 · Edited · Like

Sean Dawson Davis Almost every candidate in Wales for the greens is English. They dont like our language, they dont like our culture and they dont want to listen to any Welsh problems that are caused by England. Head in the sand. I agree with almost all their policies. But there are issues here unique to the Welsh that they dont want to listen too. Too many snides  Yesterday at 14:01 · Edited · Like · 1

Ian Woodall Ok…. look thanks for raising that. Being a bloody saxon from Staffordshire that has passed me by. I will take it to conference with me.  Yesterday at 14:02 · Like

Sean Dawson Davis I’m sure they will listen intentivly  Yesterday at 14:04 · Edited · Like · 1

Ian Woodall Actually you could come yourself. Our conferences are open and we welcome input from outsiders both in the policy forums and the hall.  We just politely request you dont actually vote unless you have a party card. I am half serious actually. It may be we could do a joint platform fringe meeting and even get the idea of alliances discussed on the floor of the conference.  Yesterday at 14:09 · Like

Paul Rubyshine I’m Green and live in Wales, I like plaid too, we should not compete for the same seats IMO. Many of the policies are similar.  23 hrs · Unlike · 3

Andy Chyba Paul/Sean, unfortunately there are a small number of people in both the Welsh Greens and Plaid Cymru that do all that they can to wreck any chance of constructive relations between the parties. Tarring everybody in a group with the same brush is prejudice and discriminatory and barrier to progress.  22 hrs · Like

Sean Dawson Davis Don’t lecture a welsh man on prejudice and discrimination we are well versed.  21 hrs · Like

Sean Dawson Davis Its an unwillingness to listen that stops progress.  21 hrs · Like

Andy Chyba Couldn’t agree more with your last point.  18 hrs · Like

Sean Dawson Davis Its not acknowledging the first one that creats alot of devision between us. England’s legacy with Wales is not going anywhere . I’m all for a clean slate. But its going to have to be faced, no matter how uncomfortable or unpopular it is. But no one want to listen yet. The popular response is “you have a chip on your shoulder” or that we are ” anti English” These are the things the greens ignore also.  17 hrs · Like · 1

Sean Dawson Davis It sucks but its part of the deal as far as I’m concerned. and I’m not alone. There are reasons we feel the way we do about you. The blame cannot always be conveniently placed on us.  17 hrs · Like

David Ford I wouldn’t want it for the Greens.  17 hrs · Like

photoAndy Chyba As an Englishman living in Wales for half my 53 years. I have grown to love the Welsh and hate what England stands for. I have an Owain Glyndwr standard flying in my garden. But every time threads like this harp on about what it is or isn’t to be Welsh or English, we get distracted from the task of working together for a better future for us all. It is why I have left the Welsh Greens and why I am not interested in joining Plaid Cymru. When the sectarianism ends and there is genuine desire to build alliances, ie there is real hope if achieving something, then I hope to re-engage with welsh politics. In the meantime I will focus on particular campaigns that are successfully non-partisan and achieving a lot more.  7 hrs · Like

Sean Dawson Davis But your assuming everyone here wants to work together. And not wanting to do so is something negative, worthy of distancing yourself? Independence would remove Wales from so many of the Uk’s problems. Their not ours to fix nor do we have the power to fix them. Not wanting to help England stitch together this crooked union or fight its own demons does not make me or anyone else a bad person. So many countries in the world have the right to sovereignty and to fight for themselves, to focus on their own problems. Why cant we? Why is that so offensive to you? So wrong?  15 hrs · Edited · Like

Sean Dawson Davis And tbh Welsh politics never speaks about these things. I know people in Plaid. They know how bad Wales has it but they never dare mention it in public. Because they know they would get ruined Politically  15 hrs · Edited · Like

Andy Chyba Someone is not listening. It took a while, a long while, but I am now firmly of the opinion that Wales would be best served by full independence from England and the that the whole world would be better off if the UK was broken up. I support full independence for Scotland and the re-unification of Ireland. What I find offensive is the attitude I get from too many Screen Shot 2015-08-20 at 17.08.56Plaid supporters that you are not ‘proper welsh’ if you don’t speak, or at least pretend to speak Welsh. Implicit in these people’s attitudes is that not all citizens of Wales today are regarded as equals. It is the UKIP style, blame the immigrants, especially if their English, mentality. This is, in my opinion, why PC has not had the same success as the SNP. The SNP are seen to fight for the Scottish nation – everybody living in Scotland. Plaid Cymru, rightly (in the case of too many supporters) or wrongly (in the case of most of the leadership) are seen to fight for the welsh people (the ‘proper welsh’ people). When we are all ecosocialists together, pulling in the same direction together, and completely unbothered where our fathers and grandfathers were born we might start getting somewhere – together.  14 hrs · Like · 2

David Ford Sean, I think your on the wrong page. Anti Austerity Alliance, not I’m Welsh we don’t want to work with anyone. bullshit. It’s ridiculous and child like.  14 hrs · Edited · Unlike · 1

Sean Dawson Davis Now who’s painting with the same brush? I certainly ain’t native welsh in my genetics, and I don’t speak the language either. Your over simplifying it. I’m not against the English living here either. I’m against the speed at which they have been moving here. Look at the fuss that is kicked up over England’s 13% non native born population.

Ours is over 20% just from England alone in Wales. Its constant double standards and hypocrisy. I don’t see why you cant see that. And if we got our independence tommow I wouldn’t ask not one of them to move. I accept our reality. But doesn’t mean id want the rate of migration to continue, and I’m not blaming this for all of our problems. But it is a problem, to us. Unique to us. And it gets ignored. Just talking about it. Or how our English population earns over £2 and hour more than their welsh counterparts for example gets me called childish /\. We have battles we can fight together. But some are unique to this Country. And you have shown despite living here you don’t see it as a problem. But many here do, its doesn’t make us bad and your gonna have to at least try and see it from our perspective one day. instead of simplifying it to convenient little judgements. I want more balance and the truth to have its day. Its not going to be skimmed over in the name of working together (admirable as it is I don’t see our incentive, or why you expect it, like Wales owes you something). Wales is like a Beaton housewife who is being demanded to bail her ex husband out of his problems. No, sort it out yourselves. We can help but not without sovereignty, not without a restraining order.   4 hrs · Like

Ian Woodall And, that ladies and gents, boys and girls the problem it in a nutshell. The above thread is the reason why an alliance of anti Tory parties will not work.  Witness the People’s Front of Judea take on the Judean People’s Front. And all the time they are arguing the Romans tighten their grip.  3 hrs · Edited · Unlike · 1

Karen Linley hahaha ian …saxon lol   3 hrs · Like

Sean Dawson Davis Trust has to be rebuild. Credibility needs to be rebuilt. But there is none atm. Our mistreatment is predictable. We need convincing to help. And this work with us or get judged is not the way to do it.  3 hrs · Like

Sean Dawson Davis You need to understand why we are the way we are, stop judging ot.  3 hrs · Like

Ian Woodall 1. Takes mouse  2. Clicks on ”unfollow thread”  3. Wonders off to make a cup of tea even more convinced that trying to talk to the Nats, Libs and Labour is a fruitless task  4. Considers Canadian citizenship application because the progressives here have cursed us with 20 more years of Tory rule.  3hrs · Unlike · 1

Sean Dawson Davis Your voters have curses us with Tory rule. Time and time again. But yes ignore and run away. Doesn’t prove my point at all  3 hrs · Like

James Luchte We need to see the big picture and drop the tribalism.  1 hr · Like

It carries on a way from here!!

What to make of this? Sean is a tad extreme, but sadly representative of a body of opinion I encounter too often among people identifying as nationalists. He states more than once that plenty of others share his perspective. This includes many Plaid members/supporters – but rarely Plaid activists I am pleased to say.

It is, no doubt, not helped by insensitive comments at times by people (like me in the past) about the Welsh language and British unionist perspectives from a Green Party in Wales joined at hip to the English party even more assertively than any other party, as stated in its full name of the Green Party of England & Wales. 

We therefore all have to grow up a bit and get past focussing on the things that can divide us to focus on the things that should unite us.

Can Corbyn Truly Resurrect the Left?

Screen Shot 2015-08-12 at 09.12.10Steve Belcher, UNISON official, captured the mood at the Cardiff Rally perfectly last night.

He stood up and pronounced, loud and proud to a packed audience, ” I’m Steve, and I am a socialist!”

He went on to say it had been a long time since he had felt able to say that confidently in Labour gathering. It embodied the new found, long lost, confidence that we lefties have been suffering from for so long, certainly since Blair and New Labour. Steve also pointed out that we have now reached a point that every time Blair or Campbell stand up and slate Corbyn and what he stands for, all it achieves is driving thousands more to rallying behind Corbyn’s campaign.

Among these thousands are lefties of all affiliations and none. At the Cardiff rally last night I bumped into comrades from Left Unity, the SWP, the Socialist Party, TUSC, the Lib Dems, Plaid Cymru and various campaign groups. I guess there were a few more Greens there than just me and John, but I didn’t see them there. I also didn’t see anyone I recognised from Bridgend Labour Party, but they appear to be backing the wrong horse and favouring Andy Burnham, from the few that have spoken to me.

What I did see was a true cross-section of demographics present. There were some wizened old-stagers for sure, but far more encouraging was the high proportion of young people, a close to even male:female ratio, a noticeable number of people from various minority groups and the general air of optimism.

So what does all this lead me to conclude?

Firstly, it is refreshing to see the left being emboldened and refreshed. Corbyn’s greatest achievement to date in this campaign is have largely dispelled the New Labour Blairite mantra that socialism is a dirty word and that electability depends on buying into the neoliberal hegemony. There is a real sense that people are regaining the confidence to promote socialist ideas again, and, crucially, that the wider public are beginning to be prepared to listen.

This last point is the critical one for me. Socialist ideas have had little traction with the general public for a long time now because no credible party of government has been espousing them. They have become minority views for minority parties. Corbyn is beginning to change that, and people are beginning to sit up and take notice.

In his address to the rally, Corbyn stressed just how dysfunctional our democracy has become with over 50% of young voters not taking part along with despair setting in among the oppressed minorities, the poor and the vulnerable, such that they too have given up on politics and, especially, the Labour Party. The result is Hobson’s choice of the barely distinguishable Thatcherite Tories or Blairite New Labour.

At last, Corbyn offers something different. To the young, he offers a fresh, new, previously unseen (in their lifetimes) alternative based on fairness, equality and human decency. That has to be hugely attractive, doesn’t it? To the poor and vulnerable, he offers real hope that there can be empathy and a desire to change their lives for the better. Isn’t that worth a cross on a ballot paper?

The biggest challenge in Corbyn’s way is, of course, his own party. Despite their roots and their inner convictions, too may Labour councillors and Labour MPs have convinced themselves that they have only been elected because of their Tory-lite policies of the last few decades. In Wales, at least, that has translated into pretty much jobs for life on the back of an electorate that keep voting them in out of deeply ingrained hope, rather than any real expectation any more, that they may do something to improve their lives.

The disgrace of child poverty in Wales

The disgrace of child poverty in Wales

Wales is in desperate need of a truly socialist agenda. There can be little doubt about that. This is why Plaid Cymru, with its raison d’etre of doing the best for Wales, has become an avowedly ecosocialist party over the last few decades. It is why committed socialists also find themselves in the Green Party, SWP, Left Unity, TUSC, Socialist Party, etc. rather than in the Labour Party, because socialism has become a dirty word to Welsh Labour.

One of the big achievements of last night’s rally was in bringing people from across the left spectrum together in one room in a spirit comradeship and hope. It is something I have been dreaming of and trying to engineer, and utterly failing, for years now. So where do we go from here?

I see two ways forward for socialists in Wales:

  1. If you are in a political party, Labour or otherwise, push the socialist agenda, loud and proud, and ensure that your leadership, at all levels buy into it (more of a challenge in some parties than others). Encourage dialogue and co-operation across and between parties and recognise common objectives. Learn from the good things achieved by Syriza in terms of unifying the voice of an even more splintered left in Greece.
  2. If that is not possible, or you are not currently in a party, wait and see that Corbyn is elected first and then join the Labour Party and work to ensure that it recognises the opportunity for the Labour Party to rediscover its raison d’être.

Screen Shot 2015-08-12 at 10.40.38Given that 1 seems beyond the Green Party in Wales, I am therefore looking at following my own advice and joining the Labour Party if Corbyn wins the leadership. Whether I can actually bring myself to do that, given my deep-seated loathing of everything represented by New Labour, remains to be seen. And given that I am probably not the only one thinking like this, this may well be what fatally derails the Corbyn bandwagon ultimately.

Nonetheless, I have no reservations about taking Steve Belcher’s inspiration and saying:

I’m Andy, and I am a Socialist.

Nagasaki – the greatest war crime in history?

Screen Shot 2015-08-09 at 17.00.26

Byth Eto = Never Again

Seventy years ago today, the Unites States dropped the second atomic bomb “Fat Man” on the Japanese city of Nagasaki. Three days earlier, a first nuclear weapon, “Little Boy”, was dropped on Hiroshima. To date, these are the only nuclear attacks in the history of human warfare. Disappointingly few were present at the commemoration event in Roath Park today. Surely we dare not forget!

There have been a variety of articles and programmes tucked away in the schedules, but not enough in my opinion. Among the better articles I have read was by Dr Akil N. Awan is associate professor in Modern History, Political Violence and Terrorism at Royal Holloway, University of London. He wrote an excellent piece in New Statesman recently in which he said:

It is difficult to survey the carnage and devastation, even in the cold light of day 70 years later, and not be appalled at this flagrant crime against humanity. The key justifications for the bombings still rest on the fallacy that they were necessary to end the war in the Pacific, representing the lesser of the evils. Apologists for the bombs claim the only alternative would have involved a protracted ground offensive that would have proved too costly for the Allies.

Screen Shot 2015-08-09 at 17.09.51The somewhat racialised argument goes that the Japanese adhered to a “bushido” warrior ethic of sacrifice, considered surrender to be dishonourable, and were committed to the notion of “total war”, in which every man, woman and child would be mobilised for war, armed with rudimentary bamboo spears if need be. In other words, the Japanese, having rejected all opportunities to surrender, had vowed to fight to the bitter end. Consequently the planned invasion of Japan, Operation Downfall, would have resulted in much higher casualty figures. The US anticipated losing up to 1m US soldiers during the invasion, alongside another 10m Japanese deaths.

However, none of this cold calculation detracts from the fact that the bombings were indisputably heinous acts of state terrorism, fitting the standard definition almost perfectly: the use or threat of violence against civilians, to instil fear and achieve a political goal. Indeed, the Secret Target Committee in Los Alamos proposed that the large population centres of Kyoto or Hiroshima should be deliberately targeted for the “greatest psychological effect,” and to ensure the bombs’ “initial use was sufficiently spectacular for the importance of the weapon to be internationally recognised”.

Incidentally, this curious phrasing also points to the true targets of the bombs – the Soviet Union. This atomic diplomacy was effectively a display of strength and a warning to Stalin, representing the opening salvos of the Cold War.

Screen Shot 2015-08-09 at 17.12.53The selection of the cities to be bombed was also more akin to a scientific experiment, rather than a purely strategic military calculation. The nominated cities had thus far been left deliberately untouched during the regular nightly bombing raids, in order to accurately assess the full capacity and damage inflicted by the atomic bombs.

Screen Shot 2015-08-09 at 17.16.30The decision to use the bombs was also predicated on racist and dehumanising attitudes towards the Japanese. The Japanese were frequently depicted as “yellow vermin”, “living snarling rats” or “monkeys”. Indeed, the dehumanisation was such that the mutilation of Japanese soldiers became widespread. US servicemen frequently removed ears, teeth and skulls as grisly war trophies. Even President Roosevelt was infamously sent a letter opener carved from a Japanese bone by a US congressman. It was easier to drop inhumane weapons on those who were not really human to begin with.

But perhaps the greatest condemnation of the bombings is that they were unnecessary on the eve of the inevitable Allied victory, as the 1946 United States Strategic Bombing Survey later concluded. The Japanese were militarily exhausted and on the verge of defeat at this stage. In addition to staggering casualty figures, and extensive devastation of infrastructure through the aerial bombardment and firebombing campaigns, the naval blockade codenamed Operation starvation had also completely crippled the wartime economy. 

Yes, unconditional surrender was publicly rejected by Japan’s leaders. However, privately, they were also making desperate entreaties to the then neutral Soviet Union, to mediate peace on more favourable terms. The Japanese would also have been keenly aware that the collapse of Nazi Germany had worrying implications for the redeployment of Allied forces.

The “betrayal” by the Soviets, who declared war on Japan on 9 August, just before Nagasaki was bombed, was the final straw. The Soviet army quickly defeated the Japanese in Chinese Manchukuo, crushing any vestige of hope that Japan might survive the conflict intact.

There is little disagreement that the atomic bombings constituted war crimes, even amongst its architects. As the US Secretary of Defence, Robert S. McNamara, famously reflected: “If we’d lost the war, we’d all have been prosecuted as war criminals.”

Surely 70 years is long enough for us to put to rest the tired canard of the lesser of the two evils, and recognise the true gravity of this crime against humanity.

It has to be acknowledged that many dispute Dr Awan’s analysis above. But I would contend that, even if one accepts the bomb apologists arguments for the initial bombing of Hiroshima, it is impossible to apply the same thinking to Nagasaki. It is the details of the Nagasaki bombing that really endorse Dr Awan’s analysis, especially the contention that what we have here is a scientific trial that puts Dr Mengele’s crude experiments utterly in the shade.

So, in conclusion:

  Little Boy was a uranium fuelled bomb; Fat Man was a plutonium fuelled bomb. The previously, and otherwise unaccountably, untouched cities of Hiroshima and Nagasaki were the baseline tests. Which would prove most ‘effective’?

  That the Soviet Union was the intended audience has been extensively researched by Professor David Holloway. He summarised his view in an interview by sayinghttp://www.pbs.org/wgbh/amex/bomb/filmmore/reference/interview/holloway05.htmlSo [bombing Hiroshima] was seen as something unnecessary because…it was clear that Japan would be defeated. And secondly, it was seen as a kind of anti-Soviet, a kind of sly, or cunning anti-Soviet political move. So yes, it was seen very much as directed against the Soviet Union and directed against the Soviet Union, not only in order to deprive the Soviet Union of gains in the Far East, but generally to intimidate the Soviet Union. You know, look what we have. We have this bomb which is so powerful that with one detonation, we can destroy a city. And you better behave yourselves. You better be more tractable, more amenable in the dealing with the post-war settlement in Europe. And I think that’s very much how Stalin interpreted Hiroshima. 

  The military case was not being made by many in the military: 

  • o   “It always appeared to us that, atomic bomb or no atomic bomb, the Japanese were already on the verge of collapse.” – General Henry H. “Hap” ArnoldCommanding General of the U.S. ArmyAir Forces Under President Truman
  • o   “I had been conscious of depression and so I voiced to (Sec. Of War Stimson) my grave misgivings, first on the basis of my belief that Japan was already defeated and that dropping the bomb was completely unnecessary, and secondly because I thought that our country should avoid shocking world opinion by the use of a weapon whose employment was, I thought, no longer mandatory as a measure to save American lives. It was my belief that Japan was, at this very moment, seeking a way to surrender with a minimum loss of ‘face.’ ” – General Dwight D. Eisenhower
  • o   “Japan was at the moment seeking some way to surrender with minimum loss of ‘face’. It wasn’t necessary to hit them with that awful thing.”  – General Dwight D. Eisenhower
  • o   “It is my opinion that the use of this barbarous weapon at Hiroshima and Nagasaki was of no material assistance in our war against Japan. The Japanese were already defeated and ready to surrender. My own feeling was that in being the first to use it, we had adopted an ethical standard common to the barbarians of the Dark Ages. I was taught not to make war in that fashion, and wars cannot be won by destroying women and children.”  – Admiral William D. Leahy, former Chair of the Joint Chiefs of Staff

Thus, Harry Truman stands accused of perpetrating one of the greatest “war crimes”, if not for dropping “Little Boy”, most definitely for his failure to pause after the Hiroshima bombing.  Hiroshima remains, at the most generous, a highly questionable act, but failing to wait to see if it, along with the Soviet declaration of war, would produce a swift Japanese surrender is indefensible. So when, on August 9, the second atomic bomb was dropped over Nagasaki, killing another 90,000, the vast majority women and children, the evidence becomes pretty much incontrovertible.

Daily Post headline: “De Facto Ban on Fracking in Wales” – a tad misleading!

Tory Energy Minister Andrea Leadsom has said today: “We’re now confirming that no new licences will be awarded in Scotland or Wales, including as part of the 14th onshore licensing round. “Devolved administrations already have significant control of onshore oil and gas activities through planning and environmental systems, but as we have previously announced in the Queen’s Speech, we are giving the Welsh and Scottish Governments more decision-making powers when it comes to licensing.”

So, in essence:

  • The UK Government will no longer issue licences for gas extraction in Wales, at the request of the Welsh Government.

  • This appears too give Welsh Government the power over granting such licences, if it sees fit.
  • It also would appear to give them the power to impose a moratorium or ban if it so decided.

Notice the big “ifs” in these statements.

Screen Shot 2015-08-07 at 19.09.08Despite what you might read in some papers (e.g. The Daily Post) this news does not represent a ‘de facto fracking ban’ at all.

In fact this news only goes to underline the fact that until these powers are transferred, the supposed moratorium on fracking in Wales simply does not exist – despite the misreporting of the vote in February, tabled by Plaid Cymru, to agree to the principle of a moratorium. Labour’s Planning Minister, Carl Sargent, was shamelessly spinning these events in claiming the powers to impose a moratorium, called out by Gareth Clubb from Friends of the Earth Cymru.

First Minister Carwyn Jones has never said more than he would ‘consider a moratorium’ if he ever had the powers to impose one. Well, the Welsh Labour government no longer has the option of sitting on the fence and using its default “It’s all Westminster’s fault” position.

We should be able to expect an unambiguous statement of policy and intent regarding fracking and dirty fossil fuel technologies, from all the Parties aspiring to have a say in government in Wales after next year’s Assembly elections.

Does today signify an outbreak of sanity and the true beginning of the end for the the dirty fossil fuel industries?

Two news stories today offer genuine cause for celebration and hope in the long and arduous battles against the multi-faceted ravages of the dirty fossil-fuel industries.

STORY ONE
Caerphilly councillors stick to their guns and reject the application for the opencast mining on Nant Llesg, despite the bully boy tactics of the mining company, Miller Argent, who were threatening to sue the council if it dared turn them down.

I was among the several hundred protestors outside the council offices before the the crucial meeting (see photo). There were representatives from many parts of the country and messages from around the world in support, as the message was repeatedly put out that these sorts of development have enormous negative impacts at every scale for the local to the global.

Screen Shot 2015-08-05 at 22.09.45BBC coverage of today’s events: HERE

Miller Argent’s disgusting attempts to overthrow local democracy : HERE
(A preview of what will happen routinely if TTIP is ever brought into force)

The moment of triumph:  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7ZzdS6KzoYo

STORY TWO
DECC Public Attitudes Tracker, latest edition published this week, has found the following:
Screen Shot 2015-08-05 at 22.32.58Three quarters of the public were aware of fracking (75%). Awareness of fracking has remained stable over the last 18 months, following a significant increase between wave 2 (42%) and wave 8 (70%). However, only 14% claimed to know a lot about it, compared to 42% saying they knew a little. Just under one in five (19%) were aware of it but didn’t really know what it was. Awareness of fracking was higher for over 45s (upwards of 85%), social grade AB (90%), and people in rural areas (83%).

When asked whether they support or oppose extracting shale gas, almost half of the public neither supported nor opposed it (46%). Amongst those that did offer an opinion, slightly more opposed (28%) extraction of shale than supported it (21%). This is a reversal of the findings when these questions were first asked at wave 8, when 27% supported it against 21% that opposed. This shift towards more opposition has happened gradually over the last 18 months, with support currently at its lowest since the survey began.

Support for fracking appears to be linked to awareness. Amongst those that were only aware of fracking but did not really know what it was, and those that hadn’t heard of it, over 60% selected the neutral option and therefore didn’t give an opinion. There is more opposition than support amongst those who know a lot about it (54% vs. 32%), know a little about it (35% vs. 27%), and those who are aware of it but don’t really know what it is (23% vs. 13%). The only group to be more supportive are those that haven’t heard of fracking, of whom 12% support it and 7% oppose it.

Support for fracking differs by gender, with men (27%) more likely than women (16%) to support it. Older people also tend to support fracking the most, as 30% of over 65s are supportive.

That third paragraph really is huge, and a thorough vindication of all the hard work that we fractivists have been putting in over the last 5 years. There is still much to do, of course, and there are some good indicators here for demographics that we possibly need to spend more time addressing, but it uplifting to see a government source providing positive proof that we keep winning the battles for hearts and minds, even if the war is not yet won.

More detailed analysis of the survey:
Business Green
BT.com/news 
Edie.net