Sunday, 5 April 2009

Ian Tomlinson - police and media distortions unravel, public inquiry needed

The death of Ian Tomlinson is an indictment of the police and media. Even today the Sun repeats its lies about G20 'yobs' as the evidence piles up to illuminate an undeniable truth - that it was widespread police brutality, documented on this blog on the day, and in many other places, which provides the background to that day at the Bank of England when someone died.

Battering protesters and bystanders about the head is a dangerous thing for the police to do. The head injuries it is alleged Ian Tomlinson sustained, according to eye witness testimonies, when he fell to the floor with his head making heavy impact after being hit by rampaging riot police, means there are urgent questions to be answered by the authorities.

So it wasn't a banker that was strung up but a homeless man who did his best to get by through working at a newsagent. Ian Tomlinson lived in a hostel in the City, he was also a big Millwall fan.

Living where he did, surrounded by the opulence of the traders and bankers' gambling den he probably appreciated better than most how just a few crumbs from that table of opulence could have transformed his life, and many more besides. But it was out of reach, as it is for tens of millions of us, in Britain, the most unequal society in Europe.

His 'proflie' from a police perspective would place him in the target group of persons more likely to be stopped and searched. Forget about Inspector Morse, detection and forensics. The police on the streets are encouraged to act on initiative; this initiative is informed by prejudice - it is how they come to judgments on who is more likely to commit certain crimes; what a suspect 'looks like'. Not all crimes are priorities either. Domestic violence and rape are often ignored while protesters holding peaceful protests are smashed - an exact description of what happened to the climate camp on Bishopsgate.

So although Ian Tomlinson was a bystander would he have been hostile to the aims of the protesters? His widow, from whom he was separated, told Salford Online Ian died 'for the crimes of capitalism'. The distortions of the Sun, using a family's tragedy for its own ends, are for a warped agenda that sees it as a democratic duty of the media to support and assist in the suppression of dissent.

Ian Tomlinson memorial demonstration starts fight back on police brutality

[update 11:40 BST 5 April]

It is becoming harder and harder by the day for the IPCC not to open an investigation into Ian Tomlinson's death. Everything we've been saying about this death, although it now seems clear he was a bystander, is being corroborated by more and more witnesses - he was caught up in the 'kettle' and the police charges. He was 'assaulted' by police before falling.

Did police murder G20 protester Ian Tomlinson? - first posted Friday 3 April.

Today's [originally posted yesterday 4 April] memorial march and demonstration for Ian Tomlinson, and in support of his family and friends at this painful time, is also in disgust at the suppression of dissent his death represents. The strength of feeling and support shows he did not die in vain for the sins of capitalism as the mood of anger grows.

The police for years now have been taking unto themselves an ever expanding array of powers, courtesy of the politicians and establishment.

They are now officially allowed to use intimidation,harassment violence and prison against people protesting peacefully on our streets. Now someone has died in
what was part of a wider campaign plan of police brutality meted out to absolutely everyone caught in the path of the whirlwind of hate that seemed to inspire the riot police wound up like attack dogs.

The rapidly growing coercive and oppressive powers of the police may arguably go back to the defeat of the miners strike. But certainly we can all agree the war on terror has given this creeping state authoritarianism a massive boost. British police have become even more brutish, bullying arrogant and violent.

The crushing of the climate camp and the death of Ian Tomlinson are not going unanswered. The G20 protests galvanised a broad coalition of progressive forces, from the 40-50,000 that marched to 'Put People First' to the 10-15,000 who converged on the Bank of England and Bishopsgate to make the case that another world is possible. A national movement of outrage for the right to protest without being beaten or even killed beckons.

I work for a media company in the City and someone in ad sales commented that the 'pikeys' - a racist slur in the UK for people from the traveller community which he assumed made up a large part of the social profile of the climate campers although they were actually predominantly students - deserved all that they got in the way of a kicking from the police. And he said some appalling things on hearing the news that someone had died. This is a sick indictment of the way in which the media has whipped up a hysterical campaign framing G20 protests as a violent threat 'to order' and preemptively sanctioning the extreme police violence of the past few days.

So a line may have been crossed this April.

More and more people are deciding enough is enough and are fighting back - like the workers occupying the Ford parts factory in Enfield after being sacked at a week's notice by Visteon, owners of the factory since 2000. Many have worked at the site for 30 years service and are getting no severance pay and face the loss of their pension. Bailiffs have twice tried to gain entrance and as a consequence the plant room is now totally blockaded.

Whether it's fighting for a sustainable planet we can all live on or for equality and social justice at home and across the globe - be it Gaza, Haiti London, or Strasbourg, a challenge is being laid down not just to our rulers' financial order but to its social and political ones too.

Remembrance march and rally for Ian Tomlinson and against police brutality, Sat 4 April assemble 11:30 Bank of England.

Rally at Visteon factory occupation 11:00am Saturday 4 April, Morson Road, near Ponder End train station (from Liverpool St or Tottenham Hale).

Convenor at Occupied Visteon Plant Faces Jail Threat - Demo on Monday

> Kevin Nolan, convenor at the occupied Visteon plant at Enfield, North
> London, will be in the High Court on Monday at 10:30am.
> He faces charges of defying a court order to quit the plant.
> Clearly this is a major attack on a crucial focus of resistance.
> Anyone who can should be outside the Royal Courts of Justice in the
> Strand at 9:45am on Monday. Kevin and the workers in the occupation
> have
> asked for as many people to come down as possible.

Visteon workers occupation faces high court attack Monday

[update 15:22 6 April]

Visteon workers defy prison threat - and walk free

Visteon workers occupying their factory in Enfield were jubilant this morning after a judge in the high court threw out the charge of defying a court order against the convenor Kevin Nolan and his deputy.

It's not clear whether the judge's decision was part of an agreement to vacate the premises later this week - namely the Thursday vacation dates voted on, at the union's behest, last night in the occupation.

There still doesn't seem to be a concrete proposal from Ford or Visteon on the table with regards the workforces demands on fair severance pay and pension protection.

[update 11:45 BST 6 April]

Last night's Visteon occupation meeting.

Pictures from Saturday's (4 April) rally today attended by 300
supporters. This fight needs urgent financial support from your union,
friends and neighbours now.

The union leader at the factory is in court Monday 6 April 10:30 high
court Strand.

Bailiffs have made several attempts to enter the building.

The plant hall has been barricaded and the workers, organised in the
large Unite trade union, hold the initiative with. They have the
bargaining chip of physical ownership of millions of pounds capital
investment the US parent company wants to strip.

People have worked at this plant, owned by Ford until just a few years
ago, in some cases for 40 years - now thrown out of work with
next to nothing. It's an outrage. Help them win their fight for jobs.


"Visteon occupation of enfield. Going from strengh 2 strengh. Had demo outside plant 2day. Very popular. Public super generous. Thanks 2 all."

Building support for Visteon sit-in Enfield this Saturday

A tale of two grandads

Socialism or Zionism: a tale of two grandads
picture by Tim Sanders

Socialism, not Zionism, was once the dominant political force among European Jews. It’s time to reclaim that tradition, writes Dan Mayer

I have two Jewish great-grandfathers, Leon Simon and Gustav Mayer. Their different political trajectories cast a light on the history of Jewish people in the first half of the 20th century.

Leon Simon’s family fled Russian antisemitism and came to Britain in the late 19th century. Leon became an active Zionist and took the minutes at the 1917 meeting of British Zionists where the Balfour declaration was drafted.

Gustav Mayer was a German social democratic historian who wrote a biography of Frederick Engels and attended the Zimmerwald conference of anti-war socialists in 1915.

Most Jews living in Europe at the time suffered from poverty and oppression. But there was a vibrant debate among Jews over how to fight this oppression. And Gustav’s response was more typical than Leon’s.

Of the four million Jews who left Russia between 1880 and 1929, just 120,000 emigrated to Palestine – and half of them didn’t stay. Meanwhile Jews were heavily involved in the socialist movements, and in the leadership of those movements.

In Eastern Europe hundreds of thousands of Jews were organised by the Bund, a Jewish socialist group that was bitterly opposed to Zionism.

Leon Trotsky and Rosa Luxemburg are among the many Jews who helped lead the wave of revolution that swept Europe after the First World War.

The rise of the British Union of Fascists in the 1930s was resisted not by Zionists but by the Communist Party, which recruited heavily among Jewish immigrants already steeped in socialist tradition.

The majority of Jews saw the links between racial oppression and economic exploitation – and fought against both.

The minority of Jews who were attracted to Zionism were also reacting to antisemitism – but in a very different way. They accepted racism as an inevitable fact of life. Their response was to retreat into Jewish culture and emigrate to Palestine, rather than challenging antisemitism.

Chaim Weizmann, head of the World Zionist Organisation, told a Berlin audience in 1912, “Each country can only absorb a limited number of Jews, if she doesn’t want disorders in her stomach. Germany has already too many Jews.” In the early period of Adolf Hitler’s rule the Zionists helped him deport Jews to Palestine.

The problem for the Zionists was that people already lived in Palestine – and the world was already carved up between imperialist powers. If they wanted a Jewish state they would have to collaborate with these powers.

Leon’s movement, which began as a well meaning if misguided response to racist oppression, had to sell its soul to survive – first to the British Empire and then to the US.

Gustav’s Jewish socialist tradition, meanwhile, found itself squeezed between a rock and a hard place. Josef Stalin had brutally destroyed the gains of the 1917 Russian Revolution – and pandered to antisemitism to do so.

The rise of fascism led to the Holocaust and the extermination of six million Jews, including most of Gustav’s family. The Nazi-Soviet pact discredited Communist parties in the West, while Britain and the US closed their doors to Jewish refugees.

It was in these dark times that Zionism was finally able to defeat socialism in the battle for the hearts and minds of the Jewish community.

After the Second World War many Jews continued to join socialist movements and take a principled stand against Zionism, not least Ygael Gluckstein – also known as Tony Cliff, a Palestinian Jew who founded the Socialist Workers Party.

Many Jews who did not question Zionism nevertheless opposed what they saw as Israel’s “excesses”. But these currents were marginal to mainstream Jewish opinion.

Now things are beginning to change. The global anti-war movement, the breakdown of the “peace process” and Israel’s invasions of Lebanon and Gaza have created the first major cracks in Zionism’s domination of the Jewish community since the creation of Israel.

Gerald Kaufman, a Labour MP who was once a staunch Zionist, denounced Israel’s leaders as “mass murderers and war criminals” in parliament last week. “They bring shame on the Jewish people whose Star of David they use as a flag in Gaza, but whose morals go completely against what this Israeli government are doing,” he added.

Israel’s latest massacre in Gaza has created turmoil within the Jewish community. Many Jews, especially the younger generation, simply refuse to associate themselves with a country synonymous with racism, militarism and barbarity.

For some, participation in the mass anti-war demonstrations will lead them to the rediscovery of a rich Jewish tradition of socialist anti-Zionism, one that has lain nearly buried for decades.They will see that Leon Simon’s dream was destined to become a nightmare – and that Gustav was right all along.

From Socialist Worker