Mar 2011 31

Aspecks was in attendance this weekend as the TUC organised March for the Alternative took place in London on Saturday 26 March 2011. The number of people protesting against the Government’s cuts was somewhere between 350,000 and 700,000 depending on who you believe, but the turnout was certainly higher than expected. Indeed, the carnival like atmosphere contained a real fruit salad of people, with greater variety in demographic than we at Aspecks have ever seen at a comparable event, as families, students, pensioners, trade unionists, environmental movements, the Green Party, the Labour Party, nurses, teachers and other public sector workers and general members of the public demonstrated peacefully together. This march was the biggest public demonstration since the Iraq War in 2003 and the diversity and humour at work in many of the signs and placards people carried reflected a real unity and expressed their collective frustrations and determination. You can see a quite a few of the signs in the footage we filmed below as well some scenes of the infamous “black bloc” walking peacefully down Piccadilly.

Now obviously there has been a tendency amongst some sections of the media to focus on the few hundred protesters who participated in more direct action than just marching and chanting (after all as Dan Hodges in the New Statesman points out – what are we marching to?), but are we really suggesting that such acts are not reflections of the real anger that is felt by many people? After all the minor damage caused will cost little to repair in comparison with the amount of money that some of the companies targeted (such as Fortnam & Mason, owned by Whittington Investments) manage to save each year through tax evasion. Indeed, even the Treasury admits that tax evasion costs about £40 billion per year to the UK economy which is significantly more than the £80 million worth of Government cuts happening this year even before you consider the fact that different sources (including the World Bank) put the tax evasion figure at somewhere more like £70 billion.

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Mar 2011 16

The call for democracy is one of the common recurring themes evident in protests that stretch f rom Morocco in North West Africa to Iran in the Middle East.  Similarly common is the brutal and violent suppression of peaceful protestors; which is a daily occurrence in Libya and has been most recently evident in Bahrain where six people have been confirmed dead after police opened fire on protesters. Another recurring theme is the reluctance of many leaders to relinquish power.  In Yemen President Ali Abdulla Saleh has refused to stand down until the end of his term in 2013 despite his citizens taking to the streets for the past month calling for his removal. President Saleh showed his willingness to use force to guarantee his position when 140 protestors were injured in the Western City of Hudeida today.

In Saudi Arabia, widespread protests on the capital Riyadh had been arranged for last Friday, however these failed to materialise after a massive show of force from the Saudi police. At the start of March, the Iranian police used tear gas and batons to disperse crowds calling for the release of two opposition leaders. Whilst, in Oman despite concessions made by Sultan Qaboos bin Said after the deadly protests in February, calls for economic and political reforms continue, with a group of private security guards today blocking the country’s main airport in their bid to receive a higher wage.

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Too Revolutionary for TV?
Dec 2009 03

People can “wear many hats” and so we find that Immortal Technique is not only a rapper but has evolved into a political activist and social commentator. In this interview with RussiaToday he appears as an articulate activist instead of an angry rapper whose uncompromising passion can easily be interpreted as intimidating aggression. His musical anthology thus far is dominated by the theme of social revolution and protest against what he would describe as the corrupt dictatorial power structure(s) that keep the majority of the worlds’ population poor and oppressed (it is possibly encapsulated by this song The “Third World”).

The interview covers many topics that we have touched on here before such as; the power of capitalism, the importance of maintaining an interest and participating in politics, safeguarding democracy from dictators like Chavez, how his music’s lyrics should be interpreted, Marxism and even the misappropriation of religion.  The interview ends with him talking about his charity work in Afghanistan; where he has used proceeds from his last album to build a school and an orphanage.

We welcome your opinions on his music and views as well as some of our previous posts in the comments section(s). There’s a music video of his to a song called The Poverty of Philosophy over the jump.
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Open letter from the Commissioner of Human Rights, Council Of Europe
Dec 2009 02

Europe today is not free from racism, xenophobia, islamophobia, anti-Gypsism, anti-Semitism, homophobia and other phobias directed against others.

Minorities are made targets of hate speech, violence and systematic discrimination, not least in the job market. Responsible politicians must take such negative tendencies more seriously. There is a need to analyse and address the very root causes of these human and political failures.

It appears that intolerance has spread during the economic crisis. During my travels, I have observed that extremist groups and parties have become more active and more threatening and have succeeded in recruiting supporters from amongst young, unemployed men.

Groups such as Roma, who are already marginalised, have been increasingly targeted and subjected to particularly violent attacks. The response from mainstream political parties and other majority representatives has often been meek and confused.

The impact of “globalisation” is seen as one explanation for these problems. Increased migration inside and between countries [read more..]

Right to Protest? Part 2
Nov 2009 23

Mohammad Ali Abtahi, the former Iranian vice-president and leading reformist in the administration of President Mohammed Khatami (1997 to 2005) was yesterday released on bail of $700,000 (£424,000) pending his appeal. Mr Abtahi has been sentenced to six years’ imprisonment for fomenting unrest after President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad’s disputed re-election in June. The most senior of hundreds of dissidents to have been locked up in the past five months “confessed” to his alleged crimes during a state televised trial that has been internationally denounced in similar fashion to Mr Abtahi’s claims about the election, as ‘a swindle’.

The protests on the streets of Tehran were of an unprecedented scale and the reaction of the Iranian Government speaks for itself as the regime has gone as far as to state that the protests were illegal whilst nationally televising rallies that support the Government. The right to protest is a fundamental part of any society, especially a democracy but Iran is not a democratic state, indeed it is one that is deeply divided. The main split, between those who support the Government and those who do not, appears to centre around different and opposite understandings of Iran’s political evolution since the 1979 revolution. One side wants a gradual evolution of democratic institutions and a more democratic reading of Islamic institutions, whilst the other desires a more a populist and authoritarian reading of Islam. Both sides claim to represent the majority of the population which is difficult to prove either way although it can be argued that the split is also one between the younger, more globally-minded individuals who wish for Iran to have more connections to the outside world and those who feel that Iran has been bullied culturally and politically by the West and trust in Mr. Ahmadinejad to deliver the revolution’s promises of economic and social justice.

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