Left-wing politics from the US to Nepal, via Zimbabwe, South America and Palestine.

Friday, May 05, 2006

Lots of interesting stuff today...

Local elections in England seem to have produce few shocks. Labor lost 19 councils, while the Conservatives gained 11. Pretty much as expected. The slight rise of the fascist British National Party (BNP) in a couple of councils is a temporary populist protest vote and is unlikely to be repeated:
"It is not that people who vote BNP are all racist, those who vote Green all rabid environmentalists. Support for these parties is often rooted in a broader dissatisfaction with politics and a desire to find a fresh alternative."
Tony Blair has taken the opportunity to initiate a major 'reshuffle' of his cabinet. Most interestingly, Jack Straw has been kicked out of his post as foriegn secretary. Ewen MacAskill asserts that he was fired due to his soft position on Iran:
"He said a military strike against Iran was inconceivable. His problem is that Tony Blair thinks differently."
The usual calls for Blair to resign find good expression here and here.

Far more importantly: it's the 25th anniversary of the death of Bobby Sands, the leader of the IRA hunger-strikers. Sands and others went on hunger strike to protest their horrific conditions of imprisonment:
"There was just one blanket in the bare cell and they draped that around themselves. Republicans went on to serve years, often in solitary confinement, without access to books or newspapers or writing material. They lived in cells floating with urine and covered in their own excrement. As a punishment they were given a Number One bread and water diet (which was illegal)."
I was in a Belfast a couple of years back, visiting my friend Ciaran. Like many, I suppose, my most enduring memory of Belfast is the political art on its streets. The way that the British government dealt with the IRA prisoners at the time, by denying them political status and seeing them as common criminals did nothing to assuage their hatred for their British colonizers. It is widely acknowledged in the UK that by creating conditions ripe for martyrdom, such as with the case of Bobby Sands, the goverment sowed the seeds of horrific violence later on, such as the Omagh bombing in 1998. Both the British and American governments would do well to learn something from that: denying people their basic rights does not undermine terrorism or violence. Its only outcome is increased violence.

More later...

Update: Many people in Jenin are hunger striking to protest the starvation policies of the US and others.


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