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France braced for ‘rebirth of violent left’

Despite claims of exaggeration, government reports insist a new generation of extremists will soon launch a wave of sabotage and bombings
Jason Burke in Paris
The Observer, Sunday 4 January 2009
Article history
The French government fears a wave of extreme left-wing terrorism this year with the possible sabotage of key infrastructure, kidnappings of major business figures or even bomb attacks.
Secret French government reports, seen by the Observer, describe an “elevated threat” from an “international European network … with a strong presence in France” after the radicalisation of “a new generation of activists” in recent years. Senior analysts and experts linked to the government have drawn parallels with the Action Directe group, which carried out 50 or more attacks in the early 1980s. Others cite the example of the Baader-Meinhof gang.
A report by the French domestic intelligence service talks of “a rebirth of the violent extreme left” across Europe that is likely to be aggravated by the effects of the economic crisis. Other secret documents expose alleged links with activists in Italy, Greece, Germany and the UK. “It has been growing for three or four years now and the violence is getting closer and closer to real terrorism,” said Eric Dénécé, director of the French centre of intelligence research and a former Defence Ministry consultant.
While some believe such claims to be scaremongering, the present political atmosphere is tense, with many among right-wing President Nicolas Sarkozy’s aides fearing a repeat of the violence in Athens last month, when angry and alienated young people and a hard core of violent left-wing extremists rioted for several days, causing significant damage and bringing the city to a halt.
Last week hundreds of fly-posters around Paris called on young people “forced to work for a world that poisons us” to follow the example of their Greek counterparts. “The insurrection goes on. If it takes hold everywhere, no one can stop it,” the posters said.
The recent intelligence reports have blamed violent demonstrations against changes in employment law in 2006, often by middle-class young people, for the recruitment of large numbers of new activists.
A series of incidents last year confirmed the fears of French police. In January two activists were arrested in possession of what was alleged to be bomb-making materials. In November nine people were arrested after a lengthy surveillance operation in the central French village of Tarnac, where they had set up a commune. Two of the alleged ringleaders, Julien Coupat, 34, and his partner Yildune Lévy, 25, are still in prison accused of sabotaging high-speed TGV railway lines and “associating with wrongdoers with terrorist aims”.
Gilles Gray, assistant director of economic protection of the French domestic intelligence service, spoke recently of “a philosophy that was spreading in Europe”. The arrests in Tarnac were “a strong message … addressed to those who might be thinking about committing similar acts,” he said. “We hope that this affair has put a stop for a time to this kind of violent action [and will avoid] a return of Action Directe.”
Investigators believe that the arrests at Tarnac provoked “reprisals” in Athens, where the offices of the French news agency Agence France-Presse were attacked with makeshift incendiary devices, and in Hamburg, where the French consulate was daubed with paint.
A claim of responsibility for the sabotage of the TGV lines was, police say, sent to a German newspaper from Hanover and signed “those who have had enough … in memory of Sébastien”, believed to be a reference to Sébastien Briat, a young anti-nuclear militant crushed by a nuclear waste train in eastern France exactly four years before the night of the recent spate of sabotage. Coupat and Lévy had taken part in demonstrations and actions in Germany, the US and the UK.
Coupat has also been accused by investigators of anonymously writing a book, The Coming Insurrection, published by a little known Paris publishing house in 2007. The book, which has been translated into English and posted on US and UK anarchist websites, was found in the possession of three young activists arrested after detonating a bomb in a field. It contains instructions about sabotaging railways and other means of “destroying the power of the police, seizing local political power by the people, and blocking the economy”. A statement from the publishing house said the author was “a committee from the subversive tendency”.
But some accuse France’s right-wing government of both exaggerating and exploiting the left-wing threat. “They are turning my son into a scapegoat for a generation who have started to think for themselves about capitalism and its wrongs and to demonstrate against the government,” said Gérard Coupat, father of the alleged ringleader of the Tarnac group.
“The government is keeping my son in prison because a man of the left with the courage to demonstrate is the last thing they want now, with the economic situation getting worse and worse. Nothing like this has happened in France since the war. It is very serious.”
Author and researcher Christophe Bourseiller told the Observer the threat was being exaggerated. “Yes, there is a certain renewed level of agitation, but there is a huge difference between deliberately slowing down a few trains without injuring anyone and something like the Madrid bomb blasts,” he said. “The Ministry of the Interior has made it look like the Tarnac arrests halted a serious campaign of violence with a huge, huge media operation.”
Certainly there is a widespread fear at the ministry in the Place Beauveau of violent protests in the coming months. A powerful and growing movement among schoolchildren forced the tactical withdrawal of wide-ranging reform plans after demonstrations in Lyon led to clashes with the police, mass arrests and the burning of cars.
Trade unions have promised a series of mass stoppages in the coming months. Among a population already made bitter by static salaries, rising prices and structurally high levels of unemployment, the lay-offs and wage cuts that could result from the economic crisis will fuel anger.
“Whether or not the Tarnac group is guilty, there are other groups in France, in Italy, in Germany, which, having lost faith in a political left in disarray, are tempted by violent action and are in a phase of semi-clandestinity,” Alain Bauer, a criminologist at the Sorbonne, told the Observer. “With Action Directe and the Red Brigades, there was a first intellectual phase, followed by a radicalisation and then a transition to physical action. Books like The Coming Insurrection are strongly reminiscent of the first phase.”
Other similarities include the tactics envisaged and the middle-class, educated profile of most of the activists.

Obama is losing a battle he doesn’t know he’s in

The president-elect’s silence on the Gaza crisis is undermining his reputation in the Middle East
Comments (1077)

Simon Tisdall
guardian.co.uk, Sunday 4 January 2009 15.55 GMT
Article history
Barack Obama‘s chances of making a fresh start in US relations with the Muslim world, and the Middle East in particular, appear to diminish with each new wave of Israeli attacks on Palestinian targets in Gaza. That seems hardly fair, given the president-elect does not take office until January 20. But foreign wars don’t wait for Washington inaugurations.
Obama has remained wholly silent during the Gaza crisis. His aides say he is following established protocol that the US has only one president at a time. Hillary Clinton, his designated secretary of state, and Joe Biden, the vice-president-elect and foreign policy expert, have also been uncharacteristically taciturn on the subject.
But evidence is mounting that Obama is already losing ground among key Arab and Muslim audiences that cannot understand why, given his promise of change, he has not spoken out. Arab commentators and editorialists say there is growing disappointment at Obama’s detachment – and that his failure to distance himself from George Bush’s strongly pro-Israeli stance is encouraging the belief that he either shares Bush’s bias or simply does not care.
The Al-Jazeera satellite television station recently broadcast footage of Obama on holiday in Hawaii, wearing shorts and playing golf, juxtaposed with scenes of bloodshed and mayhem in Gaza. Its report criticising “the deafening silence from the Obama team” suggested Obama is losing a battle of perceptions among Muslims that he may not realise has even begun.
“People recall his campaign slogan of change and hoped that it would apply to the Palestinian situation,” Jordanian analyst Labib Kamhawi told Liz Sly of the Chicago Tribune. “So they look at his silence as a negative sign. They think he is condoning what happened in Gaza because he’s not expressing any opinion.”
Regional critics claim Obama is happy to break his pre-inauguration “no comment” rule on international issues when it suits him. They note his swift condemnation of November’s terrorist attacks in Mumbai. Obama has also made frequent policy statements on mitigating the impact of the global credit crunch.
Obama’s absence from the fray is also allowing hostile voices to exploit the vacuum. “It would appear that the president-elect has no intention of getting involved in the Gaza crisis,” Iran’s Resalat newspaper commented sourly. “His stances and viewpoints suggest he will follow the path taken by previous American presidents… Obama, too, will pursue policies that support the Zionist aggressions.”
Whether Obama, when he does eventually engage, can successfully elucidate an Israel-Palestine policy that is substantively different from that of Bush-Cheney is wholly uncertain at present.
To maintain the hardline US posture of placing the blame for all current troubles squarely on Hamas, to the extent of repeatedly blocking limited UN security council ceasefire moves, would be to end all realistic hopes of winning back Arab opinion – and could have negative, knock-on consequences for US interests in Iraq, Afghanistan and the Gulf.
Yet if Obama were to take a tougher (some would say more balanced) line with Israel, for example by demanding a permanent end to its blockade of Gaza, or by opening a path to talks with Hamas, he risks provoking a rightwing backlash in Israel, giving encouragement to Israel’s enemies, and losing support at home for little political advantage.
A recent Pew Research Centre survey, for example, showed how different are US perspectives to those of Europe and the Middle East. Americans placed “finding a solution to the Israel-Palestine conflict” at the bottom of a 12-issue list of foreign policy concerns, the poll found. And foreign policy is in any case of scant consequence to a large majority of US voters primarily worried about the economy, jobs and savings.
On the campaign trail, Obama (like Clinton) was broadly supportive of Israel and specifically condemnatory of Hamas. But at the same time, he held out the prospect of radical change in western relations with Muslims everywhere, promising to make a definitive policy speech in a “major Islamic forum” within 100 days of taking office.
“I will make clear that we are not at war with Islam, that we will stand with those who are willing to stand up for their future, and that we need their effort to defeat the prophets of hate and violence,” he said.
As the Gaza casualty headcount goes up and Obama keeps his head down, those sentiments are beginning to sound a little hollow. The danger is that when he finally peers over the parapet on January 21, the battle of perceptions may already be half-lost.

Israel broke ceasefire by killing six

OPINION: IN JUNE, Israel agreed a six-month ceasefire with Hamas. Until December 27th, no Israeli, civilian or military, was killed as a result of rocket or mortar fire from Gaza.
None. Not one. And there was very little rocket or mortar fire out of Gaza until Israel broke the ceasefire in early November.
Those key facts have been missing from most of the reporting of Israel’s slaughter of nearly 300 Palestinians in Gaza, which began on December 27th.
Israel’s claim that it had to act in order to protect Israeli civilians from being killed by rocket or mortar fire from Gaza is bogus.
There was another way. It was to maintain the ceasefire. From the point of view of protecting Israeli citizens, the ceasefire was a success. If the Israeli government had the protection of Israeli civilians as its first priority, it would have done its best to have the ceasefire continued indefinitely.
But it didn’t. On the contrary, it broke the ceasefire by killing six Palestinians in Gaza on the night of November 4th, while the world was watching the election of Barack Obama.
As a result of this unprovoked assault by Israel, the ceasefire broke down – and rocket or mortar fire from Gaza started again. The ceasefire formally came to an end on December 19th after six months.
Under the terms of the ceasefire agreement, brokered by Egypt, in exchange for Hamas and other Palestinian groups ceasing the firing of homemade rockets and mortars out of Gaza, Israel undertook to end military operations against Gaza and its economic strangulation of Gaza.
Not only did Israel bring the ceasefire to a premature end on November 4th, it failed to live up to its obligations under it to lift its economic embargo.
Even humanitarian supplies continued to be restricted during the ceasefire. As John Ging, the Irish head of UNRWA (United Nations Relief and Works Agency) in Gaza, told The Electronic Intifada on November 25th: “There was five months of a ceasefire in the last couple of months, where the people of Gaza did not benefit; they did not have any restoration of a dignified existence. In fact at the UN, our supplies were also restricted during the period of the ceasefire, to the point where we were left in a very vulnerable and precarious position and with a few days of closure (of the international crossings) we ran out of food.”
Even though there was a ceasefire, the people of Gaza continued to be collectively punished contrary to international humanitarian law, in particular, to Article 33 of the Fourth Geneva Convention.
I repeat: Israel’s murderous assault on December 27th was not necessary to make its citizens safe from rocket and mortar fire from Gaza. Israel had it within its power to make an agreement with Hamas to extend the ceasefire.
All it had to do was to stick to the terms of the original ceasefire – to end military operations against Gaza and its economic strangulation of Gaza. Then Hamas would have agreed to extend the ceasefire.
David Morrison is political officer of the Ireland Palestine Solidarity Campaign
This article appears in the print edition of the Irish Times

Menezes jury’s verdict explained

The jury at the inquest into the death of Jean Charles de Menezes has returned an open verdict.
The coroner also asked the jury to answer a number of key questions.
THE FINAL MOMENTS
“Did firearms officer C12 shout armed police?” ANSWER: NO
“Did Mr de Menezes stand up from his seat before he was grabbed in a bear hug by officer Ivor?” ANSWER: YES
“Did Mr de Menezes move towards C12 before he was grabbed in a bear hug by Ivor?” ANSWER: NO
These three questions were focused on the final moments of Jean Charles de Menezes’ life as he was surrounded by undercover police officers on the London Underground.
The police officers on the carriage all maintain that a warning was shouted before two of their number opened fire. But passengers who were sitting in the same carriage say they heard no warning.
Rachel Wilson and her boyfriend Ralph Livock were sitting opposite told the inquest nothing was said to alert the man before shots were fired. One of the police officers who was approaching the carriage seconds before the shooting told the inquest he heard several verbal warnings.
In his evidence, officer C12, the first of two to fire, told the jury that he had no preconceived ideas as to how he was going to apprehend the man. He said he decided on firing fatal shots because Mr de Menezes stood up and moved towards a gun pointed at his head. He concluded that the man was about to detonate a bomb and had to be killed to protect others. A surveillance officer says he pinned Mr de Menezes down before the shots were fired.
A majority of the jury disagreed with this account. They said that they accepted that Mr de Menezes had stood up – but they did not believe he had moved forwards into the path of a gun.
THE WIDER CIRCUMSTANCES OF THE OPERATION
The coroner also asked the jury to consider which of these other factors, if any, contributed to the death. The Jury were allowed to answer “yes”, “no” or “cannot decide”.
“The pressure on police after the suicide attacks in July 2005.” ANSWER: CANNOT DECIDE
“A failure to obtain and provide better photographic images of failed bomber Hussain Osman to surveillance officers.” ANSWER: YES
“The general difficulty in providing identification of the man under surveillance in the time available.” ANSWER: NO
“The fact that the views of the surveillance officers regarding identification were not accurately communicated to the command team and firearms officers. ANSWER: YES
The Metropolitan Police had never been in a situation like this. Already reeling from the 7 July attacks, the city woke up on 22 July knowing that four more suicide bombers were apparently on the run. Resources were, to put it mildly, stretched – but the jury could not decide whether this corporate pressure on the Met played a role in the tragedy.
In the space of a few hours, the team linked one of the bombers to a gym card found at the scene – and then from there to the block of flats which was also home to Mr de Menezes.
During the inquest, the jury heard that some of the police staking out the south London flats did not have a picture of the real suspect they were looking for. Several of the surveillance officers watching the flat had only seen a poor image of would-be bomber Hussain Osman.
Some officers had seen a picture of Osman from the gym membership card. But it was indistinct and over-exposed, making him appear to have lighter skin. Another picture from his wedding day, also found at a bomb scene, was clearer but had not been circulated to the same extent.
A majority of the jury concluded that this lack of a decent photograph of the suspect was a more important factor in the tragedy than the fact that nobody could identify Mr de Menezes himself. Crucially, the jury said the confusion over exactly what the surveillance teams thought about who they were following also played a part.
The surveillance officer closest to the flat, Frank, says he was relieving himself as Mr de Menezes he left the property – so he could not help with the identification.
The Operation Room noted that the subject matched Osman’s description – and one officer said he was “possibly identical”. Another surveillance officer told the operation room that a request for a percentage certainty was “ridiculous”. By the time Mr de Menezes reached the Tube, Commander Cressida Dick said he had to be stopped from entering the system.
In his evidence, Charlie 2, the second shooter, told the jury that he had heard the surveillance officers positively identify the man over the radio.
“A failure by police to ensure that Mr de Menezes was stopped before he reached public transport.” ANSWER: YES
Commander John McDowell, now the national co-ordinator of counter-terrorism operations, set the day’s strategy in the early hours of Friday morning.
Surveillance officers would surround the property and would be supported by firearms teams. According to his plan, anyone leaving the flats would be stopped and discounted a safe distance away.
The idea behind this was to isolate the property and its occupants – but not to alert any bombers, in case they had explosives with them.
The property was in a cul-de-sac, making a quiet stop outside the front door impossible. Crucially, the front door was a communal entrance – no officer knew who was coming from which flat.
When Mr de Menezes left the flat, the firearms teams were not yet in position to stop the possible suspect, as set out in the plan. Within minutes, the Brazilian was on a bus and heading through London, with officers chasing – and trying to work out whether or not he was a threat.
“The innocent behaviour of Mr de Menezes increasing suspicion.” ANSWER: NO
Officers who were following Mr de Menezes reported that he was nervous and acting strangely, standing on the bus stairwell and being twitchy. The electrician was, it later emerged, probably late for a job in north London.
When Mr de Menezes’ bus reached Brixton town centre, he got off and walked in the direction of the Underground before suddenly doubling back and getting back on a bus. Surveillance officers are trained to look for people suddenly changing direction as a means of shaking a tail. In reality, the Tube was closed amid the security chaos across London.
“The fact that the position of the cars containing the firearms officers was not accurately known by the command team as firearms teams were approaching Stockwell Tube.” ANSWER: YES
“Shortcomings in the communications system between various police teams on the ground.” ANSWER: YES
“Failure to conclude at the time that surveillance officers could have been used to carry out the stop on Mr de Menezes at Stockwell.” ANSWER: YES
Detective Chief Inspector Greg Purser was one of the senior officers involved in the stake-out. He told the inquest that officers were under “undue pressure” and facing an “appalling dilemma”.
Decisions had to be taken in seconds or minutes – rather than leisurely in hours like in other investigations.
“We put undue pressure potentially on surveillance officers and then potentially on firearms teams,” he said.
“We had an enormous task that morning. To try and take the operation to the level we would have liked would possibly have taken a day. We were trying to do it in a short time. It’s extremely difficult.
“We ask so much of our surveillance teams and we ask much of our firearms teams

Après la démocratie (After Democracy)

Review by John Thornhill
Published: November 30 2008 22:41 Last updated: November 30 2008 22:41
Après la démocratie (After Democracy)By Emmanuel ToddGallimard €18.50 (£15.30)
The financial crisis is convulsing politics in unexpected ways. The triumph of an inexperienced black liberal senator in the US presidential election may yet be counted as the first surprise of many. What else could be in store?
Emmanuel Todd, the French historian, made a name for himself by predicting the collapse of the Soviet Union. He has been peering into his crystal ball again. In his latest book, Après la démocratie (After Democracy), he conjures up the alarming possibility of a post-democratic Europe reverting to ethnic scapegoating and dictatorship.
Mr Todd’s thesis will strike many readers as nonsense. In particular, his conclusion that only overt protectionism can preserve Europe’s social fabric has already been attacked for being dangerously counter-productive. After all, was it not the reversion to protectionism after the crash of 1929 that tipped the world into the Great Depression and fuelled the rise of Hitler? Yet some of Mr Todd’s arguments are as insightful as they are polemical, and reflect the evolution of Europe’s political debate. His warnings of a democratic meltdown in France, and perhaps more generally in the developed world, certainly deserve to be read, challenged and debated.
The author’s starting point is incredulity that a politician as “vacuous, violent and vulgar” as Nicolas Sarkozy could ever have been elected president. As interior minister, Mr Sarkozy proved he was ill-suited to high office by inflaming social tensions during the riots in France’s troubled suburbs, Mr Todd argues. Mr Sarkozy’s first months in power have only confirmed this judgment. As incompetent in economics as in diplomacy, the hyperactive Mr Sarkozy is going nowhere fast, the author contends, rather like a cyclist pedalling away on an exercise bike.
Yet Mr Sarkozy’s election is a symptom of the sickness of French democracy rather than its cause. Once, French politics was neatly defined by its ideological divisions: the Communists represented the secular, internationalist, working class; the Gaullists represented nationalist, conservative, Catholic values. But the collapse of religion and ideology has destroyed that framework, leaving behind a politically atomised society wide open to manipulation by the likes of Mr Sarkozy or Silvio Berlusconi in Italy. Tough economic times will only tempt such populist politicians to stoke public fears of immigration and to adopt ever more authoritarian ways.
However, the author is equally scathing about France’s opposition Socialists, a party of cosseted bureaucrats who have betrayed the workers they once represented. French civil servants do not have to worry about the corrosive effects of globalisation because their own jobs cannot be sent offshore.
Mr Todd paints a picture of a collusive political-media elite that benefits from globalisation while being disconnected from the people who suffer from it. As arrogant as the aristocracy on the eve of the 1789 revolution, this elite blithely ignores the views of voters whenever it suits them. French voters rejected the European Union’s constitutional treaty, but a modified version was later adopted by parliament. Britain’s voters protested massively against the war in Iraq, but the government sent in the troops regardless.
Ordinary workers blame cheap-wage China for killing jobs and compressing wages. Instead, France’s leaders scapegoat Muslim immigrants and target militant Islam, justifying an unpopular intervention in Afghanistan. Employees want Europe to protect their jobs but, in spite of his increasingly protectionist rhetoric, Mr Sarkozy – and the opposition Socialist party – still adhere to the free-trade dictates of the EU and the World Trade Organisation.
In Mr Todd’s reductionist view, globalisation is simply the exploitation of cheap workers in China and India by US, European and Japanese companies. He is therefore an unabashed champion of European protectionism. Erecting trade barriers would increase European wages which, in turn, would increase demand and boost trade, he argues. The “social asphyxia” that is sucking the breath out of democracy would disappear.
The British, whose very identity is wrapped up in free trade, will never buy protectionism, Mr Todd suggests, but Germany and the rest of the EU could be persuaded.
At times, Mr Todd’s anger outstrips his analysis. Too many questions are left hanging. Does globalisation not benefit western consumers? Why would Germany, one of the great exporting nations, turn its back on free trade? Has Mr Sarkozy not performed well in the crisis? But there is no doubt that the intellectual assault on free trade is intensifying. Mr Todd’s book is an impassioned salvo in that war of ideas.
The writer is the editor of the FT’s Europe edition

Hebron settler riots were out and out pogroms

By Avi Issacharoff
Tags: Hebron, settlers, Israel News
Are these reaaaly the children of the same jews who created the best and most equal kibbutz where i worked in the 1960s?????
An innocent Palestinian family, numbering close to 20 people. All of them women and children, save for three men. Surrounding them are a few dozen masked Jews seeking to lynch them. A pogrom. This isn’t a play on words or a double meaning. It is a pogrom in the worst sense of the word. First the masked men set fire to their laundry in the front yard and then they tried to set fire to one of the rooms in the house. The women cry for help, “Allahu Akhbar.” Yet the neighbors are too scared to approach the house, frightened of the security guards from Kiryat Arba who have sealed off the home and who are cursing the journalists who wish to document the events unfolding there.
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The cries rain down, much like the hail of stones the masked men hurled at the Abu Sa’afan family in the house. A few seconds tick by before a group of journalists, long accustomed to witnessing these difficult moments, decide not to stand on the sidelines. They break into the home and save the lives of the people inside. The brain requires a minute or two to digest what is taking place. Women and children crying bitterly, their faces giving off an expression of horror, sensing their imminent deaths, begging the journalists to save their lives. Stones land on the roof of the home, the windows and the doors. Flames engulf the southern entrance to the home. The front yard is littered with stones thrown by the masked men. The windows are shattered and the children are frightened. All around, as if they were watching a rock concert, are hundreds of Jewish witnesses, observing the events with great interest, even offering suggestions to the Jewish wayward youth as to the most effective way to harm the family. And the police are not to be seen. Nor is the army. Ten minutes prior, while the security forces were preoccupied with dispersing the rioters near the House of Contention, black smoke billowed from the wadi separating Kiryat Arba and Hebron. For some reason, none of the senior officers of the police or the army were particularly disturbed by what was transpiring at the foot of Kiryat Arba. Anyone standing hundreds of meters away could notice the dozens of rioters climbing atop the roof of the Abu Sa’afan family home, hurling stones. Only moments later did it become apparent that there were people inside the home. I quickly descend to the wadi and accost three soldiers. “What do you want from me? The three of us are responsible for the entire sector here,” one said, his hand gesturing towards the entire wadi. “Use your radio to request help,” I said. He replies that he is not equipped with a radio. A group of journalists approach the house. A dilemma. What to do? There are no security forces in the vicinity and now the Jewish troublemakers decided to put the journalists in their crosshairs. We call for the security guards from Kiryat Arba to intervene and put a halt to the lynch. But they surround the home to prevent the arrival of “Palestinian aid.” The home is destroyed and the fear is palpable on the faces of the children. One of the women, Jihad, is sprawled on the floor, half-unconscious. The son, who is gripping a large stick, prepares for the moment he will be forced to face the rioters. Tahana, one of the daughters, refuses to calm down. “Look at what they did to the house, look.” Tess, the photographer, bursts into tears as the events unfold around her. The tears do not stem from fear. It is shame, shame at the sight of these occurrences, the deeds of youths who call themselves Jews. Shame that we share the same religion. At 5:05 P.M., a little over an hour after the incident commenced, a unit belonging to the Yassam special police forces arrives to disperse the crowd of masked men. The family members refuse to calm down. Leaving the home, one can hear a settler yell at a police officer: “Nazis, shame on you.” Indeed. Shame on you. Related articles: IDF, police gird for wave of violence by West Bank settlers IDF declares Hebron area closed military zone after settler rampage Defense Ministry: Hebron evacuation could spur rampant settler violence Border Patrol deploys around Hebron house in wake of violent clashes in West Bank city

Money is the new secret of a happy job

By Lucy Kellaway
Published: December 14 2008 19:59 Last updated: December 14 2008 19:59
Last week, I sent an e-mail to a friend who had just lost his job. “I’m so sorry,” I wrote. “Your bosses are morons to have got rid of such a genius as you. I can only suppose a queue will shortly stretch round the block as less brain-dead employers clamour to take you on. Hope you are OK.”
The e-mail was heartfelt except for one word, and that was “shortly”. I don’t expect a queue to form for my friend shortly. Even geniuses are not getting snapped up quickly – unless they happen to be security guards, social workers, accountants or teachers.
In a trice, I had a message back. He said he had had a brief panic about the mortgage and school fees but otherwise was really rather cheerful. Indeed, he was in such high spirits that he even sent me a funny anecdote*.
I could not help comparing the tone of his message with one that I got the very same afternoon from another friend who works for a company that has also been celebrating Christmas with some savage job cuts. Never, she said, had her morale been as bad. The weight of work was crippling as she was now doing the jobs of three people. There was talk of pay cuts. The office was spookily quiet, too; since most of her friends had been sacked, there wasn’t even anyone around to moan to. Worst of all was the fear that her job would be next.
It is tempting to conclude from these two messages that, if there is one thing worse for hitherto successful, well-paid people than being fired, it is not being fired. Those who have been axed don’t need to take the sacking personally, and not working in the days before Christmas can be rather jolly. Whereas for those who have not been fired, the not-so-festive season this year is an orgy of fear and drudgery.
There might be some truth in this now but it is not going to stay true for long. The grimness of the unemployed will get worse as no queues form to take them on, while the grimness of those in work will, in time, start to recede. This is not because the economy will improve – it is because the grimness itself will bring on a sounder and altogether more realistic approach to work.
Over the past decade, the rich, professional classes have developed an increasingly unhealthy attitude to their jobs. We took our jobs and our fat salaries for granted and felt aggrieved if our bonuses were not even bigger than the year before. We demanded that the work be interesting in itself and, even more dangerously and preposterously, that it should have meaning.
The result of all these demands was, of course, dissatisfaction. We had climbed to the very top of Maslow’s hierarchy of needs and discovered that, at the top of the pyramid, the air was very thin indeed. As an agony aunt, I found that by far the most common problem readers submitted came from rich and senior professionals who had all their basic needs more than catered for, leaving their souls in torment. Help me, I’m bored, they cried. Or, worse: what does my work mean?
In the past few months, anguish of this sort has vanished. When one’s job is at risk and one’s savings are a shadow of their former selves, the search for meaning at work is meaningless. The point of a job becomes rather more basic: to feed and house (and, at a pinch, to educate) one’s family and oneself. If we can do this, then anything we manage over and above this is a bonus. Once expectations have fully adjusted to this new reality and we see earning money as the main reason for work, greater satisfaction will follow.
Low expectations have an awful lot to be said for them. In surveys women turn out to be more satisfied at work than men, in spite of earning less for the same jobs and doing most of the work at home too. The reason is simple: women’s expectations of working life are lower. Similarly, Denmark is the happiest country in the world in spite of having a cold, dark climate and a top tax rate of 68 per cent. The stoical Danes do not expect so much of life and, expecting less, find what little they have rather nice.
Climbing down Maslow’s pyramid is painful and progress is slow. However, there is something that managers can do to make the descent a little less grim. The easiest and cheapest way of cheering up demoralised workers is to tell them that they are doing a great job. It is one of the great mysteries of office life why most managers are so resistant to this when it does not cost one penny. Here is all they have to do: pick people off one by one (to do it in groups is lazy and quite spoils the impact) and say thank you and well done, and look as if they mean it.
* For anyone who needs further cheering, here is the anecdote of my sacked friend, who heard it from someone who works at the school that Paul McCartney’s child attends. At a recent parents’ evening, Heather Mills was told that her daughter was rather good at the recorder. Ms Mills apparently replied: “She gets that from me.”
lucy.kellway@ft.com
Read and post comments at www.ft.com/kellaway
Copyright The Financial Times Limited 2008

MONEY -THE LAST ILLUSION? PART TWO

Last time we examined how the money appearances conceal a vast communal world-wide web of producers

Producers who produce what we need but also the things we think we need and love!

However, private ownership (enforced by states, police and armies) of the means of production controls the means of production (dead labour-ie factories, land etc) for their max private profit.

Producing for max individual profit not workers’ needs and luxuries.

BUT we need to go deeper to answer the question how ‘greed is good’ turns into ‘greed is bad'(banker wankers today); How ‘momey makes the world go round? To money makes the world grind to a halt boom to bust?

Adam Smith argued that greed was good

How did he justify that??

Remember that great film Wall Street with Michael Douglas as Gordon Gecko

He argued that if everyone pursued their own selfish aims in competitive markets individual greed would turn into collective good

How?

Pursuing individual greed – max profit – would make some producers more efficent and reduce the cost of commodities

In technical terms the Average Socially Necessary Labout Time for a commodity would reduce and the money price would fall

Workers would buy from the most competitive producer and money prices would fall even further and so on and so forth

Smith and Marx agreed on this

In history the money price of food, cars, TVs, clothes etc etc has reduced as the ASNLT and money price fell – ie it takes less of the workers’ labour time to produce the goods.

As Marx said – capitalism is ‘the most progressive mode of production the world has ever seen’

Yes he praised it to the heavens

But because the means of production were in private hands the aim of production was individual max profit

So production is skewed to favour the rich

Production of luxury goods and not basic food, essential drugs etc which the starving and disease ravaged billions need.

If the world could vote on one person one vote they in their billions would vote for a very different set of goods. Don’t you think?

Workers would then be producing for human needs not indidual private max profit

An utopia? Not at all a real communal world which we already have but without private ownership

All we need to do is abolish private ownership of the means of production and run under worker democracy production for human need

Of course here will be a little bit of a fight by the private owners!!!!!!

THE MOTTO WOULD BE FROM EACH ACCORDING TO THEIR ABLITY TO EACH ACCORDING TO THEIR NEED

We could have a democratic vote on what is needed by the billions.The internet now provides the technology to do that

On Facebook it would be known as the World Democracy Party (presently The Real Democracy Party – do join)

World hunger and illnesses would be abolished at a stroke

Just think no more boring Jubilee marches no more Children in Need and no more bloody Geldof!!!

BUT how does money become bad/evil?

How does money go from making the world go round to money bringing the world to a grinding halt?

Well, the private pursuit of max profit drives down the value/money price of goods and the mass of profit increases for the efficent private producers

As competitors rush to invest in more efficent means of production the mass of capital in production also increases

So there is a tendency for the rate of profit to decrease

Thus in 1956 mass of profit is say £20 billion and mass of capital is £100 billion pounds
The rate of profit is 20% – very nice too-for some

In 2000 the mass of profit is £40 billion but the mass of capital is £320 billion.
The rate of profit is 12% – not so good for capitalist investors

You get the idea don’t you????

there would be a tendency for the rate of profit to decline

By 1994 the rate fell to 3% which was negative given inflation at 3%

What then happens?

Well, investors won’t invest in that production but look for higher profit elsewhere

Where?

Why in land, house building, shares, stocks paintings etc etc

This drives up the cost of these things and so a price bubble develops (see Robert Brenner Boom and Bubble)

But as say the housing industry in the USA shows this bubble bursts as Brenner predicted in 2003

In the main industries as we have said wages stagnate as profits are lower and unemployment creeps up

So you get mortgage defaults and repossessions start and more houses are for sale than there is demand

House prices fall and what were good assets for banks turn into toxic debts – rational behaviour by bankers leads to irrational consequences which they – poor chaps not being marxixt method persons – could not predict

The crisis appears as financial – a banking crisis – but is actually a crisis in the real economy because of the tendency of the rate of profit to fall which causes factories to close and workers to lose their jobs which causes more factories to close as demand falls and so on into a classic capitalist spiral downwards

THAT IS WHAT WE ARE FACING NOW MY FRIENDS

Bankers become wankers and unemployed
Bankers are the villians or are they?????

In Section 3 we ask what can governments do and more importantly what can we do now

Academics petition over ‘spying’ bbc news online 10/12/2008

Academics and students have presented a petition to Downing Street, urging the government to withdraw new immigration rules for overseas students in the UK.
From next March, universities will be expected to monitor whether overseas students are attending tutorials.
Many academics have complained they are being asked to “spy” on students in a quasi immigration officer role.
But the government says it must clamp down on foreign nationals using student visas as a bogus route in to the UK.
The petition has 4,500 signatures and was delivered to Downing Street on Wednesday afternoon.
Trust
It has been organised by Ian Grigg-Spall, academic chair of the National Critical Lawyers Group and honorary fellow at Kent Law School.
Mr Grigg-Spall said there had to be trust between teacher and student.
“Now if they think that we’re wearing two hats – teacher, but also a hat labelled ‘immigration officer’ – I think that’s a complete contradiction,” he said.
“That’s why I say it’s a breach of our university autonomy and why in fact it’s a breach of academic freedom.
“This is a slippery slope, this is a dangerous slope and as a human rights lawyer, I am very worried.”
But the government said it was crucial to prevent bogus students exploiting the system.
Licence for overseas students
From next March, universities will have to have a licence to offer places to students from outside the European Union.
Universities will also have to act as a sponsor for overseas students. Lecturers will be expected to monitor these students’ attendance at tutorials and report if they fail to attend.
A spokesman for the Home Office said: “Universities have a duty of care to all their students – checking that they are attending and making progress is part of that responsibility.
“Institutions benefit from bringing foreign students to the UK, so they must share some responsibility for them whilst they are here.
“These requirements were discussed at length and agreed with Universities UK and other representatives of the higher education sector as part of our consultation.”

Lord Lester quits

One of the eminent outsiders brought into Gordon Brown‘s “government of all the talents” has revealed that he quit in disgust at what he describes as Labour’s “dismal” lack of political leadership on human rights.
Lord Lester, a Liberal Democrat and distinguished human rights lawyer, quit as the prime minister’s adviser on constitutional reform a month ago. In a scathing attack yesterday, he revealed for the first time how he felt tethered by the government, describing its record on human rights as “dismal and deeply disappointing”.
He was speaking on the 60th anniversary of the UN’s declaration of human rights, and singled out the justice secretary, Jack Straw, for failing to produce a radical constitutional renewal bill or to defend the Human Rights Act.
Straw angered human rights campaigners by giving an interview in the Daily Mail this week in which he said many people felt the act, passed by the government in 1990 while he was home secretary, was perceived as a “villains’ charter”.
Lester angrily described the interview as a “sly attempt” to undermine public support for the act. Under the headline “Straw gets tough”, the Mail described his pledge to “reform ‘villains’ charter’ “.
Lester said: “The interview reports Jack Straw as blaming ‘nervous’ judges. In his effort to appease the editor of the Daily Mail, Paul Dacre, the justice secretary has undermined the Human Rights Act. That is a lamentable departure from his predecessors as lord chancellor, Lord Irvine of Lairg and Lord Falconer, who staunchly defended the Human Rights Act.”
Lester went on: “In spite of its achievement in introducing the Human Rights Act, the government has a deeply disappointing record in giving effect to the values underpinning the Human Rights Act in its policies and practices. Through a lack of political leadership, it has also failed to match the expectations raised by the Governance of Britain green paper for much-needed constitutional reform.”
Lester went on to criticise the government’s failures to fight for human rights across a range of issues.
“The government could have celebrated Human Rights Day by defending the Human Rights Act against unfair attack. It could have celebrated by accepting the recommendations of the UN human rights treaty bodies, the joint committee on human rights and NGOs to allow the people of this country to exercise the right of individual petition against the government under the international covenant on civil and political rights, the convention for the elimination of all forms of racial discrimination, and the torture convention.
“The UK is alone in the European Union in refusing to do so in the case of the international covenant. And the government is judge in its own, rather than in the people’s cause, in shielding itself in this way.”
He said the government’s failures to pursue constitutional reform were “why I decided, with regret, to cease to be a government-tethered ‘goat’ – that is, one of those flatteringly and misleadingly described as part of a government of all the talents”. Lester is understood to be dismayed that Straw has allowed the constitutional reform bill not to find a firm slot in the Queen’s speech, and fears the justice secretary is using his plans for a bill of rights and responsibilities to weaken rather than strengthen British commitment to human rights.
Speaking at an event to mark the 60th anniversary of the UN declaration, Gordon Brown struck a different tone from Straw, defending the Human Rights Act. The prime minister insisted it was a “shield and a safeguard for us all”.
He said: “In a country like Britain with a strong tradition of democracy, it is all too easy to take our rights for granted.”
But in comments after the prime minister, justice minister Michael Wills reminded the audience of government plans to overhaul the Human Rights Act (HRA), echoing Straw’s remarks.
Wills said that although his government was proud of the Human Rights Act, it would be pushing ahead with plans to “build” on it.
He said: “We must recognise some people have misgivings because they don’t see the responsibilities that inevitably accompany most rights and which are inherent in the HRA and we do have to address that.”
Lord Lester is regarded as the founding father of the Human Rights Act and has a record of advising on the subject stretching back to his role as special adviser to then home secretary Roy Jenkins in the 1970s. One prominent lawyer described his decision to withdraw support for the government’s planned “bill of rights” as “heartbreaking”. He said: “Lord Lester wanted to believe in the capacity of Labour to build on human rights. This would have been a very difficult decision for him to take.”
The Ministry of Justice said it would not be replacing him. “The government has no plans to appoint further advisers on the issue of constitutional reform,” a spokesperson said in a written statement. “The justice secretary wrote to Lord Lester on November 20 expressing gratitude for his advice and assistance over the past 15 months.”
A green paper is likely to be published in the new year including a bill on rights and responsibilities. There had been reports that cabinet-level disagreement had shelved the plans by the Ministry of Justice to bring forward the new bill as the country has slid into recession, with Wills reportedly despatched to sell the idea to other Whitehall departments.