Recent claims within the right wing of the Labour Party concerning the allegiance of new members to supposedly Trotskyist causes have by now been thoroughly refuted and justifiably mocked. However, less attention has been given to the British Left’s historical and contemporary sympathies with Leninism. This ideology is often defined as being concerned with establishing a particularly hierarchical political party in the service of subsequently bringing about a ‘dictatorship of the proletariat’, which in turn is geared towards bringing about socialism. Many prominent figures on the Left have often expressed their admiration for Vladimir Lenin, citing him as a political and personal inspiration. These include Chris Nineham, Alex Callinicos, Richard ‘Lenin’ Seymour and numerous others, from trade unionists to academics. Strong, almost fanatical support for political figures such as Lenin is perhaps to be expected given that after the undermining of the traditional religions during the Enlightenment, ideologies such as Jacobinism and the more zealously violent forms of nationalism began to replace deity worship as belief systems ordinary people could feel some form of meaningful connection to. Today we have things like Leninism, the neoliberal belief in ‘free markets’, and the often belligerently war-mongering, racist presence of the New Atheists, all of which are ultimately forms of irrational adherence to a belief system. Why, then, does Leninism get a free pass as the ‘common sense’ of the Left?
The UK has failed to check whether training it has provided to Saudi police has contributed to abuses including torture and the death penalty, new research by human rights organization Reprieve has revealed.
Since 2009, the British College of Policing has provided training to officers from the Saudi Ministry of the Interior, which oversees policing, prisons, and executions in the country. Human rights organization Reprieve has discovered that the College has carried out no checks that would establish whether human rights abuses, such as torture, have resulted from the training.
Prime Minister Theresa May is to meet the Egyptian President, Abdel Fattah el-Sisi, at a UN summit today, amid mounting concerns over the scale of rights abuses in Egypt.
According to reports today, Mrs May is set to meet Mr Sisi “on the margins” of a meeting of the UN General Assembly. The meeting comes as concerns rise over the abuses associated with Mr Sisi’s rule. Yesterday, the UK criticised Mr Sisi’s government at the UN Human Rights Council, saying: “Reports of torture, police abuses and enforced disappearances are deeply worrying. We call on the Government to release political detainees and end the use of pre-trial detention beyond its legal limits.” However, the statement omitted any mention of the Sisi government’s use of the death penalty, which has seen nearly two thousand prisoners handed death sentences in mass trials since July 2013.
Over baklava and sweet tea, openDemocracy hears about Turkey’s post-coup crackdown and the dreams of an independent Kurdistan.
The Kurdish Community Centre in Harringay. (Image courtesy of the KCC)Harringay Green Lanes is home to London’s largest Kurdish community. The Victorian Grand Parade advertises this identity, with shops named after Gaziantep and Diyarbakir, the two largest cities in Turkish Kurdistan. The pavements were recently widened to accommodate the crowds that flock for food at one of the many enticing restaurants, or buy the legendary pastry gözleme, rolled by women sitting at a kiln in the front windows of the cafes, one of which is named after Taksim Square.
The Kurdish part of Green Lanes is a hive of political activity. Last June, after the moderate Kurdish Peoples’ Democratic Party (HDP) gained over 50 seats in Turkey’s election, weakening the power of President Erdoğan with a hung parliament, the area was filled with celebratory chanting and car honking. (A re-run of the election in November resulted in gains for Erdoğan’s AKP and losses for the HDP). The party spoke strongly in favour of the Gezi Park protests of 2013, when Kurds in the area congregated around Finsbury Park and marched down Harringay with banners. Less mainstream organizations are also represented: in 2012, graffiti appeared on phone boxes and under the railway bridge in support of the youth wing of the MLKP (Marxist-Leninist Communist Party), a small underground Hoxhaist group, some of whose members have travelled to Rojava in Syrian Kurdistan to fight against the Islamic State.
The British Prime Minister today refused to re-establish an independent, judge-led inquiry into UK involvement in the CIA torture programme – despite having promised on taking office in 2010 to do so.
Earlier this month, British prosecutors published the first official confirmation that the Government had been involved in the kidnap and ‘rendition’ of two families to Libya, and that ‘political authority’ had been sought in some form. However, despite having received a 28,000 page file from London’s Metropolitan Police after a five-year investigation, the Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) said that there was ‘insufficient evidence’ to charge any suspect.
A total of 52% of voters in Britain chose in a dramatic referendum to leave the European Union (EU) on June 23, 2016.
After the results were finalized, people across Africa, where various countries were colonised by Britain and are current members of the Commonwealth, an intergovernmental organisation of member states that were mostly colonies of the former British Empire, wondered if the decision to quit the EU would have any effect on them.
Examining what Brexit, as its been dubbed, means for Africa, Grieve Chelwa noted on the Africa is a Country blog that economic recession in the UK as a result of the referendum is one of the ways in which African economies could be affected. However, he concluded that Africa is more worried about recession in China:
On 23 June 2016, the United Kingdom held a referendum on whether the nation should leave the European Union. This historic vote resulted in an unexpected victory for the Leave side, giving the government a mandate to start negotiations to leave the EU. Immediately following this news, financial markets and the Pound Sterling plummeted causing financial chaos around the globe. This reaction demonstrates that the international community is fearful about the impacts of a Brexit. As a result, it is worth exploring the impacts that it is likely to have.
The campaign season leading up to Brexit referendum was arduous and marred by deliberate misinformation, xenophobia, and nativism. After this campaign, the referendum resulted in an unexpected victory for the Leave side, which won 52% of the vote. However, this referendum, which was not legally binding, does not automatically withdraw the UK from the European Union. In order to withdraw, the UK will need a majority vote in Parliament to repeal the web of legislation that allowed the UK to accede to the EU. In addition, the UK will need to invoke Article 50 of the Lisbon Treaty to formally withdraw from the EU. Once Article 50 is invoked the UK will have two years to negotiate the terms of its departure.
Far-right nationalists and neoliberal capitalists will survive the demise of institutions like the EU. What about the rest of us?
This week might represent the beginning of the end for international cooperation. All the treaties, alliances, and unions that have incrementally strengthened the ties between nations over the last several centuries have suddenly been revealed as a house of cards, which a wayward puff of air known as Brexit might suddenly blow away.
Surely this must be an overstatement. The decision this week of British voters to stay inside the European Union or make the unprecedented move to leave can’t be that important. Brett Arends writes in MarketWatch that’s it’s really all a bit of a scam: If the voters decide to leave, the British government will negotiate “a face-saving formula that gives the illusion of Brexit without much substance.”
The Labour MP Jo Cox, killed on Thursday by a man who shot and stabbed her on a West Yorkshire street, was an exceptionally principled and effective advocate for human rights, humanitarian causes, development and social justice. We are many at Human Rights Watch who worked closely with Jo, and we are shocked and devastated by her murder.
Jo did so much in the British Parliament to highlight the suffering in Syria’s conflict. She championed the cause of protecting civilians in Syria, and in many other countries, including Sudan and Yemen.
Jo was courageous and outspoken on refugees, and a powerful voice calling for Britain and other countries to resettle more desperate and vulnerable people fleeing war and rights abuses in their home countries, including children. She never stopped reminding those in power that they could make choices to affect people’s lives in a positive way. She was in so many ways a visionary leader, and humanity was her guiding principle.
The EU referendum debacle has, regrettably, boiled down to a choice between David Cameron’s business-oriented ‘Project Fear’ and Ukip’s anti-migrant sentiment.
For left-wing progressives, a Remain vote in support of an institution which prioritises profits over people flies in the face of socialist ideology. The alternative – Brexit, with its overtones of jumped-up xenophobia – is equally unappetising.
But what will actually happen if the UK leaves the EU? Is it really all doom and gloom?
1. The EU won’t implode.
There are mixed opinions on what the impact of Brexit would be on the EU itself. Some speculate that Britain’s exit would encourage other member states to hold referendums of their own: a ‘domino effect’. Surging euroscepticism seems to walk hand-in-hand with Europe’s swing to the right, and Morten Messerschmidt, an MEP with the right-wing populist Danish People’s Party has described Cameron’s in-out referendum as an ‘inspiration’.
Optimists suggest that Britain’s exit from the EU could actually strengthen what is ‘good’ about the Union. The UK has famously been a dissenting voice within the EU: from 2009-2015 it voted against legislation in 13.3% of cases and failed to ratify some of the most crucial pieces of policy the EU has produced, such as the Istanbul Convention on combating violence against women. Throw into the mix the fact that David Cameron is one of the biggest cheerleaders for the Transatlantic Trade Investment Partnership (TTIP), which would (amongst other things) give corporations the power to sue governments for loss of profits, and it begins to look like the EU might function better without the UK gumming up the works.
The UK Foreign Secretary Philip Hammond says he has used a visit to Ethiopia today to secure ‘legal access’ for a British man who was kidnapped and rendered to the country in 2014, and who is now held under sentence of death.
In a statement today, following meetings with the Ethiopian Prime Minister and Foreign Minister, Mr Hammond said that he had “raised the case” of Andargachew ‘Andy’ Tsege, a father of three from London. Mr Hammond said he had “received a commitment from the Prime Minister that Mr Tsege will be allowed access to independent legal advice to allow him to discuss options under the Ethiopian legal system”, and that, following a consular visit from a senior Foreign Office official, he was “satisfied that he is not being ill-treated.”
Mr Hammond had faced calls to use today’s visit to request Mr Tsege’s release, including from international human rights group Reprieve, which is assisting his family in the UK.
What steps did the London Anti-Corruption Summit make towards eliminating corruption?
On 12 May 2016, David Cameron hosted the Anti-Corruption Summit in London. This summit aimed to bring together world leaders to discuss ways to expose corruption, punish those responsible, and to eliminate institutionalized practices that encourage corruption. I previously wrote an article explaining why this conference was unlikely to result in meaningful reform. So far, many civil society organizations have claimed that the Summit was underwhelming and did not go far enough. However, some positive steps were taken and as a result, I believe that it is worth exploring the end result of this Summit.
In the days before the Anti-Corruption Summit, tension started to brew as David Cameron was caught on camera stating that “Nigeria and Afghanistan are possibly the two most corrupt countries in the world.” This was expected to cause problems as the Nigerian and Afghani presidents were high profile invitees to the conference. Fortunately, this faux pas appeared to have been forgiven and the summit was able to proceed in a cooperative manner. At the Summit, several commitments and provisions were agreed to and published in a communiqué. Some of these provisions are as follows:
An influential committee of Parliamentarians has today [Tuesday] called on the British Government to “urgently” clarify its legal position on drone strikes, warning that its policy “may expose…Ministers to the risk of criminal prosecution for murder.”
A new report from the Joint Committee on Human Rights (JCHR) also states that the Defence Secretary, in evidence given to the committee, demonstrated a “misunderstanding of the legal frameworks that apply” to the use of armed drones outside of warzones.
The report, titled ‘The Government’s policy on the use of drones for targeted killing,’ warns that the UK’s own policy of targeted killing – announced as a “new departure” by the Prime Minister last year – may “end up in the same place as the US policy,” despite ministers’ claims to the contrary.