The horrors of war are a marketing opportunity

Our planet is experiencing war, pandemics, dire poverty, displacement and now the stark realities of the climate catastrophe, yet Britain hosts some of the most brutal regimes in the world and funds an opportunity for their representatives and arms dealers to benefit from an arms fair in London’s Excel Centre. Thereafter they use these lethal weapons to carry out acts of suppression against their own citizens and wage war elsewhere.

The event ran this September from 12th to 15th September. There have been daily protests, co-ordinated by the Stop The Arms Fair (Staf), and a number of arrests. Organisations which have been involved in the protests include Campaign Against Arms Trade (CAAT), the Quakers, the Peace Pledge Union (PPU), the Palestine Solidarity Campaign (PSC). The PSC organised vigils in the evenings which have been pointing out the link between the arms bought at DSEI and the abusive treatment of the Palestinians. The PSC has too been sharing positive messages, messages of resistance and hope.

There are now almost daily reports of the effects of the climate crisis from all over the world, and the recent almost unimaginable loss of life and suffering in Morocco and Libya should surely shock the world into turning away from war and slaughter and propel us into action to address climate change and alleviate the overwhelming suffering it has already caused. Unfortunately, the greed of the arms dealers and the British Government’s total lack of morals and integrity make the radical changes we so urgently need unlikely.

(“The horrors of war are a marketing opportunity” – PPU campaigns manager Symon Hill)

The UK is becoming the toxic poster boy of Europe

According to a report by the Pesticide Action Network UK (PAN), the UK is becoming the “toxic poster child of Europe”, and, despite ministers’ promises to maintain EU environmental standards, this has not been adhered to since leaving.

Admittedly, the EU banned 30 of the 36 pesticides after the UK exited, but another six already banned in the EU have been approved by the UK, and, according to PAN, it is failing to speedily phase-out those that have since been found by the EU to be detrimental to human health and/or the environment.

Thirteen of the 36 are deemed highly hazardous by UN definitions, and four are poisonous to our precious bumblebee populations and their environs, the UK having authorised the emergency lifting of a ban on the use of a neonicotinoid which is highly toxic to bees – and surely we all know how vital bees are to pollinating our crops. One of the thirteen contaminates water, and another is highly toxic to aquatic organisms, but is nonetheless being allowed into our waterways.

In the EU, there is stringent legislation dictating Maximum Residue Levels of Pesticides – in the UK, there is no such legislation, although the government could retain those of the EU since it is very unlikely to spend time and money determining its own restrictions.

With this in mind, the UK government seems to have abandoned its 25-year Plan for “A Green Future: Our 25 Year Plan to Improve the Environment” in favour of further non-environmentally friendly policies for which they seem to have an appetite. Presumably, we shall all reap the benefits through our own ill-health, and that of our children and our children’s children.

Growing Protests against the Assad regime in Sweida

An uprising against Bashar al-Assad’s regime in 2011 escalated quickly into war. The result was hundreds of thousands of deaths and millions of refugees. Al-Assad, supported by Russia and Iran, retook most of Syria, but the economy has never recovered and there are desperate humanitarian needs.

Sweida, a government held city in southern Syria and home to the minority Druze population, escaped much of the violence. But now protests which began in August are growing in strength. Demonstrators are demanding al-Assad resign because of the worsening state of the economy and are trying to shut down the local headquarters of the ruling Ba’ath party. Violence erupted only last week, with gunshot and three people being wounded.

But could Assad’s hold on power be as strong as ever or even stronger? After the atrocities he committed in the civil war, he was largely shunned by the world, yet this year he appears to be being welcomed back to the Arab League. He was warmly received in Jeddah for the first time in 13 years. Al-Assad expressed hope that this reconciliation would usher in a new era of peace, but does this seem likely if events in Sweida are anything to go by?

Labour hypocrisy over Tories’ donors

“My daughters are 10 and 12, and I don’t want the way vapes are marketed, promoted and sold to be attractive to them. That’s why I am launching a new crackdown today to protect children.” Any thoughts about who may have posted this in a tweet? It was none other than Rishi Sunak, whose party has received a £350,000 donation from a company which sells vaping products with names like Watermelon Bubblegum and Cotton Candy Ice. So, on the one hand, Sunak announces a crackdown, but, revealing the well-known hypocrisy of the Tory leadership, he is happy for his party to receive a donation from a company, Supreme 8 Limited, which sells vaping products, one of which, Elf Bar, specifically targets younger age groups.

There are now said to be one in five children smoking e-cigarettes. This was revealed in June in an article in the i newspaper. The Royal College of Paediatrics and Child Health is urging that single use products be banned, such is their concern over the alarming rise in the number of school children using e-cigarettes.

There were cries of protest from Labour about the donation. But Labour should look to their own house. Where is the morality in a party which happily hosts, among others, weapons manufacturers, fossil fuel companies and a spy-tech firm at their annual conference?

Mexican court ruling widens access to abortion

Last week the Mexican High Court ruled that abortion be removed from the federal penal code and will require the federal public health service and all federal health institutions to offer abortions on request. Although it is unusual for abortion to be prosecuted in Mexico, many doctors refuse to give them because to do so would have meant breaking federal law. Twenty Mexican states still criminalise abortion, but it is likely that abortion rights advocates will ask them to follow federal logic. This ruling follows a trend in Latin America toward greater rights for women at a time when women in nearby America are having to obtain the so-called ‘morning after pill’ from pro-abortion advocates across the border in Mexico.

Looking back in time – Jimmy Reid and the Upper Clyde shipbuilders

“We are not going to strike…We are taking over the yards because we refuse to accept that faceless men can make these decisions.”

Jimmy Reid, charismatic Scottish trade union leader, who was one of the main architects of the Upper Clyde shipbuilders work-in in 1971/1972 and who declared the Tory plan to close the yard to be “the political assassination of an industry”, was a divisive figure. The achievements of the Upper Clyde shipbuilders struck a chord with many who were fighting to save their jobs, but Reid has also been accused of causing a diversion in the fight to bring down Edward Heath’s Conservative government and of failing to fight capitalism.

Heath’s government was committed to ending support for ‘uncompetitive industries’. In response, 200 trade union shop stewards met together and decided they were determined to fight the closures. This was followed by a mass meeting where the workforce voted for the proposal of the shop stewards to begin a work-in. The workers argued that the yards were clearly commerically viable. They received support from all over the world and local people who raised funds for them. The following exchange has been recorded when a cheque arrived:

One of the steward brought in a cheque donated in support of the work-in and says: “I don’t know but there’s a cheque here,” and he looked and all he could see was Lennon, L-e-n-n-o-n. He said: “Lennon, some guy called Lennon”. One of the old communist shop stewards from Dumbarton, he says, “It cannae be Lenin, he’s dead”.

In August 1971 there was a one day stoppage in support of the work-in and more than 200,000 workers took part. In February 1972, the government performed a U-turn and made a commitment to support a number of companies, providing government money to the tune of £35 million (a huge amount at the time) to continue the tradition of shipbuilding on the Clyde. The UCS occupation was said to be the catalyst behind 100 other similar actions.

Part of the criticism of Reid and his colleagues was that in the end the union compromised with capitalists and that the ultimate result was to further private enterprise. However, Reid was considered by many to be a hero and the jobs of the workforce and the tradition of shipbuilding on the Clyde were saved.

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