Archive for August, 2008

Russia invades – and the labour movement is silent

Sunday, August 31st, 2008

This article appears in Democratiya (number 14).
Russia, it was said, was still reeling from the loss of its empire. It had formally accepted the right of countries like Ukraine to self-determination. But among its leaders, some sought ways to bring the “near abroad” back into the fold. As a result, all the countries on Russia’s borders were actively seeking the protection of European powers and America. This, in turn, was interpreted by the Kremlin as a kind of encirclement. Tensions with Poland were running expecially high. And then the Russian army invaded Georgia.
The response of the trade union movement and the democratic Left was swift – universal condemnation of a blatant act of aggression, an obvious attempt to seize control over a country whose independence Russia had recognized. Georgia had no better friend than the international labour movement which stood by its side at a difficult moment.
That was in 1921 – not 2008.


Should socialists back Obama?

Saturday, August 30th, 2008

This article was published in the most recent issue of Solidarity.
The latest issue of Solidarity contains two articles about the American presidential elections, offering two different perspectives with the aim of stimulating debate. That’s certainly positive, except for one thing. I can’t tell the difference between the two points of view.
In one corner, Malik Miah argues for not voting for Obama and possibly backing Nader or the Greens. In the opposite corner, Sacha Ismail urges socialists to … not vote for Obama.


Where is Harry’s Place?

Tuesday, August 26th, 2008

Apparently, another cowardly British ISP has shut down a political website for fear that it might be sued for libel. Harry’s Place – formerly here — made the mistake of writing about a Sheffield based academic who in the course of discussing the academic boycott of Israel on a trade union mailing list linked to the website of American KKK leader, neo-Nazi and Holocaust-denier David Duke. Harry’s Place ran the person’s name and photo, and apparently their ISP was threatened.
The name of the academic is Jenna Delich. The “offensive” photo appears to the left.
There, I’ve published it too. Sue me.
Harry’s Place has temporarily moved here.
More details about the matter are found on the ever-helpful Engage website.

Hands off Georgia!

Friday, August 8th, 2008

As a democratic socialist, I have to say that I am very concerned by reports that Russian tanks have entered Georgia.
You might think — what an odd topic to comment on? After all, I don’t normally address current affairs issues on this blog.
But a quarter century ago I began a love affair with Georgia — a country I’ve never seen whose language I do not understand.


Real-time online translation: Breakthrough technology for social change?

Friday, August 8th, 2008

This article is my regular monthly column in Industrial Worker, the newspaper of the Industrial Workers of the World.
As anyone who has done any kind of global solidarity work will tell you, the number one problem we face is the problem of language. It’s not a problem companies face. When McDonald’s wants to summon all its managers from around the world to attend a meeting, the company decides what language everyone will speak – English.
Unions can’t do that. We believe in cultural and linguistic diversity and equality. So instead, international union meetings are incredibly expensive events due in large part to the need for simultaneous translation. And being expensive, they are held infrequently.


Beyond traditional email campaigns: Two British examples

Saturday, August 2nd, 2008

This is my regular monthly column for Labour Research.
Unions are increasingly looking for ways to get beyond the traditional email-based online protest campaign.
One innovative solution was the TUC’s initiative in June 2008 to create a photo montage showing the faces of two jailed Zimbabwean trade union leaders. The photo was made up of some 2,000 individual supporters from around the world.
The same kind of thinking was behind UNISON’s latest effort to get broad public support for the July strikes by low-paid public sector workers. The union set up a page where you can send in texts, photos or videos using an online form, or SMS text messages, or phoning and leaving a voicemail message. The use of cutting edge social networks like Flickr and YouTube was encouraged. Using Google Earth, a map is generated showing in a strikingly visual way the widespread support the workers have received.