Hollywood Goes To Iran

The fact that Ben Affleck is a schmuck does not mean he cannot produce or direct fine art.

We know the former because for some time our friend, the British writer and actor John Wight (‘Dreams That Die’ – 2013), was his body double. All day, every day in Hollywood, John would guard Affleck’s mark, act like him in innumerable rehearsals, without Affleck ever having nodded him a “thanks” or any gesture of appreciation.

Maybe he was in the zone, psyched up for his own performance? Alas, Affleck could not even manage a “hello” – “good morning” to his double off set.

We know the latter because we’ve seen “Town” and now we’ve seen “Argo”. Produced by Affleck and his buddy George Clooney, starring Affleck himself, who also directs, with Alan Arkan and John Goodman as veteran movie men.

Cinematically, it is a good and exciting film largely deserving its recent – mostly American patriotic – hype and heap of awards -albeit mostly from Western institutions. Content-wise, the movie is based on a true story, though but a snippet of a much larger one, namely the quarter of a century that the US buttressed the cruelest tyrant of them all.

The Shah of Persia was installed as a puppet ruler in Tehran after Washington and London organised, paid for and ultimately directed Operation Mongoose to overthrow the democratically elected Prime Minister Mossaddegh. The PM after all nationalised ‘their’ oil that happened to lie under his country.

Under the Shah and his terrifying secret service – Savak – mass torture, rape and murder were the norm. Secular opposition to his rule was exiled and impotent. Religious opposition retired to the Bazaar and the mosque to nurse its wrath.

When Ayatollah Khomeini – whose audio cassette borne revolution had preceded him – returned from exile to a tumult of millions of supporters, there was no doubt that the Shah would have to flee. The town just was not big enough for both of them, and the Shah was running out of sheriffs. He fled to the US, riddled with cancer, rotten with money – billions of dollars in ill-gotten gains.

Khomeini and his revolution, as George Bush might put it, were then “mis-underestimated”. By compounding their crime against Iran when US president Jimmy Carter gave the ailing Shah (and his money) political asylum, decades of animosity was  guaranteed. And the anti-imperialist anti-Zionist character of the Iranian revolution was hopelessly missed by the west who imagined Khomeini would not actually change Iran out of all recognition and that somehow there could be business as usual once the dust cleared. After all, the empires had dealt with Islamist revolutionaries before (and now, cf Syria) and had found them mainly obliging.

But these were a new type of Muslims. And Iranians in revolution, were a new type of people.

This background to the story was fairly depicted (minus the powerful image of Khomeini recording his audio tapes from Paris in the run up to the revolution) in, to the liking of Gayatri, a wonderful animation sequence at the beginning of the movie.

But it is not the background which will stay in the memory of most viewers by the end of it.

In the film’s foreground, Iranians become ranting, raving, literally salivating hangmen, torturers and all-round sadists while the Americans – escapees from the US embassy siege – hiding out in red-wine splendour at the Canadian Ambassador’s residence – are blinking, perplexed, “how could they do that to us, we were only trying to help” ingenues. Innocent bureaucrats or not, the US embassy itself was a nest of spies and was the centre of the Shah’s despotism. Its staff therefore accessories before and after the fact of a criminal conspiracy against the Iranian people.

Despite one’s self being caught in a 120-minute picture perceived from merely one end of the lens, it is difficult not to wish Affleck well as Tony Mendez, the Mexican-Italian-Irish (only the latter being the ancestral and apparent commonality with Affleck himself) CIA exfiltration specialist who hatches with Arkin and Goodman a clever plot to get the six American individuals out. It leaves George wondering if the CIA knew at the time that Iran was, and is still, a world capital of movies and that pretending the escapees were Canadian film people scouting out venues in the middle of a revolution for a sci-fi film, even starring half naked female Martians, was just the sort of crazy but true wheeze Iranians might go for?

Affleck drills the fugitive diplomats into their new persona in just 48 hours and yet it seems unlikely that such a large group of North Americans can possibly be sprung. When the CIA brings the Secretary of State options, which include bicycling to the Turkish border three days away, the sci-fi movie “Argo” begins to look like the least bad option of all.

The fictionalised snippet of a true story leaves the North American countries as heroes of the 444-day crisis – in which not a single American hostage was hurt or killed – whilst leaving its severe humiliation aside, never mind the victory and 8 billion US$ unfrozen assets on the Iranian part.

The operation was classified until 1997, thus none of us ever heard of it before that and few of us since. It is a classic example of how mountainous things can look in the historical moment yet such a molehill looking back. But that molehill has been made into a terrific film and we have to thank Affleck for that. Even if he has difficulty with that word himself.

Words by Gayatri & George

A Year of Living Dangerously

This article is dedicated to the memory of the greatest ever British parliamentary figure, Charles James Fox MP

If a year could be compared to an earthquake, then the 12 months which have just elapsed, has definitely been at the upper reaches of the political Richter scale.

Exactly a year ago at around 11pm I tweeted the following: “By the Grace of God we have won a landslide victory in the Bradford West by-election. Long live Iraq, Long live Palestine”. Not only had the votes not been counted by then, they hadn’t even arrived at the Counting House.

 

That tweet may have been the most audacious act I had ever performed. But within a few hours almost everyone in the country knew it was, indeed, a landmark landslide, in fact unprecedented in British political history.

It was the biggest swing recorded in Britain in a by-election since 1945. It was the first time a fourth party candidate ever secured 58% of the vote (and in an eight party race) more than the Conservatives, Liberal Democrats and Labour combined.

It was the first time a candidate standing to the left of Labour took a seat from them whilst the Tories were in power (and in trouble). And it was the second time I had taken a seat from Labour.  In 2005 I was the first left of Labour MP elected in England since 1945.

And it placed me alongside only Sir Winston Churchill, as having won six parliamentary election victories in four constituencies in two countries (Scotland and England). Churchill briefly sat for Dundee, the town in which I was born and my ancestors – of Irish extraction – had helped turn over his car when he was defeated and pelted out of town).

The result took almost everybody by surprise, gladdened many, and infuriated some of the most powerfully prolific interests in the land.

On the day the parliamentary vacancy was announced I had tweeted “A parliamentary by-election in Bradford West. Hmmm…. interesting”.

Other than my large Twitter following, no-one in politics seemed to have noticed. Not the national media, who virtually ignored my candidature until I won. Certainly not the Labour Party (from which I had been expelled by Tony Blair over the Iraq war, after 36 years of membership, in 2004) If they had they would not have proceeded to select local councillor Imran Hussein, possibly the worst of the available candidates in the whole country to defend the seat, which had been held by popular MP Marsha Singh, sadly now deceased.

My nearest and dearest, every one, urged me not to stand. They told me that I didn’t need it, couldn’t afford it, was better off (in every respect) out of it. Most of all, they told me that I couldn’t win. One of my chief strategists told me I would lose my deposit (i.e. gain less than 5% of the vote)!

Labour even made it one of the shortest by-election campaigns in modern times – a crucial error given our desperate financial position (virtually nil, in fact I had to use my own money to fund my candidature in the beginning) and facilitating the short sharp and ultimately overwhelming campaign we were able to mount. We would have struggled badly over a lengthy campaign.

“The Bradford Earthquake” as a respected academic study (funded by the Rowntree Foundation) of the campaign came to describe it, started with the merest of tremors and finished shaking the political establishment to its foundations.

On the day I arrived in the city to announce my interest in standing in the by-election Labour moved the writ in parliament and so my speech on the steps of the City Hall was thus instantly transformed into a campaign launch.

My campaign consisted of just two Respect members, Arshad Ali and Riaz Ahmad from Bradford, my now chief of staff Rob Hoveman, who had been by my side for many years, and another Respect member Caroline Conway, my former parliamentary assistant, who couldn’t be there for reasons of work.

Moments after the launch we encountered a former Respect member Abu Bak’r Rauf and his wife Kauser with their baby daughter Arabyah. So now we were seven (and a fraction).

It turned out magnificently for Respect, tragically for the Rauf’s. Midway through the short campaign Abu Bak’r aged just 28, fell dead in front of his family and other campaigners in a local car park. I next saw him on the mortuary slab; he was still wearing my rosette and my election leaflets were bulging in his pockets. May God have mercy upon him. His big brave heart had simply stopped beating. And we stopped campaigning, until his brave widow Kauser literally beat me on the chest berating me back onto the campaign trail after just a 24 hour hiatus. Deducting that 24 hours, and other day trips back to London for previous unbreakable commitments, my battle to win Bradford lasted just 19 days.

The few ebbs and the many flo’s of the campaign – the hundreds of activists who flocked to the cause, the role of Muslim women in the campaign, the triumph over “Baraderieism”, the enormous physical contribution of a family of local solicitors, particularly my now lawyer Alias Yusef, Bradford’s top restaurateurs Shabir Akbar and Ishfaq Farooq, a former RAF officer “Sugar” Ray from Sheffield and others will all have to be described another time. Suffice to say the subsequent electoral landslide caused much consternation amongst the powerful, in the political class and in their media echo-chambers.

How could this happen? How could this turbulent priest of whom they thought they were rid, come back from the dead… again!? How could Tweedledee and Tweedledum have been rolled off the dyke like some… Humpty Dumpties? How could the three cheeks of the same arse get such a comprehensive spanking? And how come nobody saw it coming?

In my book “I’m not the Only One” (Penguin) I talked about “the boys in the bubble”. The political bubble, in which only those opinions which agree to remain within the prevailing orthodoxy, get heard and considered valid. That was the bubble which burst on 29th March 2012.

Of course no-one who’s watched events ever since could say that the establishment accepted their thrashing with grace!

It started in the morning after the night before. A queue of media monkeys lined up to try and rubbish the result. And they have been trying ever since. My religion, my marriage, my record, my work pattern, my views, my podcasts, my suits, my tweets, my beard, my facebook status and more have all been savagely traduced over the last twelve months.

The dogs began barking immediately, apparently oblivious to the fact that the caravan had moved on.

For example when I sacked my secretary I had discovered had been entertaining a senior commander of the Metropolitan Police Anti-Terrorism Squad (head of the Muslim “Contact” Group no less) in our house without our knowledge or consent. Subsequently they were both arrested and are currently still on bail suspected of a slough of offences. Never mind; the media – “liberal” as well as right – STILL signed her up and have been mining stories from her right up until this very day.

They attacked me for being in Venezuela supporting the hero and martyr Comandante Hugo Chavez during his last triumphant election, even though the other MPs were sitting on deckchairs at seaside resorts at the time.

This weekend (at the end of a week in which I made TWO speeches in parliament) they attacked me for not speaking enough in parliament. Maybe I should speak more there, though this week’s experience of sitting on the back benches for more than EIGHT hours to make two FIVE minute speeches does make me wonder…

They imply I am not in parliament enough, even though the staff there (and the CCTV), could establish that I am in parliament virtually every day (today, Good Friday, I was the ONLY person there because it was on holiday as it has been for 50% of the time since my re-election).

They haven’t noticed, apparently, that in the last 12 months I have placed more issues before the British parliament than ANY other MP; ranging from the Rohingyan genocide in Burma to the price of popcorn in British cinemas. That I have tabled more motions than all the other Bradford MPs put together. That I’ve asked scores of parliamentary questions, entertained scores of campaigning organisations in the House, pursued the cases of hundreds of constituents with ministers, agencies and others.

They say I haven’t “voted” in parliament enough though they know that in parliament MPs can ONLY vote for David Cameron’s motions or Ed Miliband’s amendments, and that I seldom wish to vote for either. They don’t record abstentions, or “none of the above please” in the House of Commons.

In any case what would be gained hanging around the parliament building in the evenings most nights ? Unlike most of the rest, I have never set foot in the many, subsidised, bars and the place holds few attractions for me. To reduce the government’s majority by one? I prefer to use my evenings to speak at public meetings, and I have addressed more of those in the last twelve months than have the other hundreds of MPs put together.

New Labour routinely lie about my work in Bradford, and no wonder. They will never win the seat back if the truth be told. I have a busy surgery in my constituency office there almost every Saturday morning, and have done since I was elected. I have organised three large demonstrations in the City Centre; on the Rohingyas, on Drone strikes, and on the Israeli attacks on Gaza. They say “Make Bradford British”. We say “Make Bradford a World City”

When the Westfield site was occupied by concerned citizens furious at the TEN year delay in filling in the big hole in the centre of the city where a shopping mall was supposed to be, I was the first public official down there to join them. In fact I was the ONLY public official who ever joined them. Westfield now say they will start work this year. If they are telling the truth; well the focus we placed on them by that occupation must have helped.

When I was elected as MP for Bradford West the iconic Odeon building was slated to be knocked down. Now it’s been saved, though its future is still not being guaranteed by the New Labour City Council.

As if in counterpoint to the “Bradford Spring” Bradford City Football Club which had been facing relegation from the football league before I arrived had a simply astounding run of victories all the way to Wembley and their first Cup Final for a hundred years. They became the first ever fourth-tier English football team to reach a Cup-Final. And, thanks to my friend and parliamentary colleague Gerry Sutcliffe MP – the Rugby League team The Bradford Bulls are on the up again.

We forced New Labour to suspend one of its Bradford councillors (he’s now been expelled) over financial skulduggery. We defeated the City Council leader; we won five seats on the city council….all this in twelve months!

Our campaigns in Bradford; against war, crime, corruption, the state of Bradford schools ( the third worst in the country) child poverty ( the third worst in the country) youth unemployment (tripled in the last two years) infant mortality (second worst in the country – 1 death in a hundred births) unemployment levels ( at 12%, one of the highest in the country) car insurance (the highest premiums in the country) to have the Tour de France actually enter the city of Bradford when the council is paying them hundreds of thousands of pounds, rather than merely circumvent it through our admittedly beautiful hinterland, our devastating election victories over all three of the big parties in council elections – have all disturbed the calm in the political class who were bent on Bradford’s steady decline. Fifty years ago Bradford was every bit the equal of Leeds, now Leeds is booming and Bradford is sinking. Their panic, and the ensuing backlash has been considerable.

Local press, echoing obediently their paymasters in the big parties whose council advertising keeps them afloat, either ignore us or attack us, whenever they possibly can. Thankfully fewer and fewer people read newspapers, and fewer still believe much what off what they read there.

Anyway my message is still getting out there.

In a whirl of Question Time, Any Questions, C4 News, Daily Politics, Parliament Channel, Press TV, Russia Today and other appearances.

On YouTube, where there are more than 30,000 videos featuring my work, attracting millions and millions of viewers.

On Facebook and on Twitter I have approaching a quarter of a million friends and followers from all over the world. When I give public speeches, which I do every week and often several times a week, the halls are always full. As is my public appearances diary.

My books sell well; my articles circulate on the internet. Google me and you’ll find millions of references. Who can name the other Bradford MPs, however worthy?

It’s been a truly amazing year, through the turbulence of which I have only passed safely by the Grace of God, the love of my brilliant intellectual and beautiful wife Gayatri, my staff, and the work and support of my comrades and friends and constituents in Bradford, on the internet, across the country and around the world. Here’s to the next year, God-willing.

Words by George Galloway MP

Design by Gayatri

Copyright Red Molucca

Note:

Charles James Fox was Parliament’s finest ever orator, was thrice expelled from the House and thrice carried back by the people on their shoulders. He was the only British MP to support the American side in their War of Independence against the British Crown. He was the only British MP to support the French Revolution to the extent that he tabled a Motion congratulating the people of France on the execution of their King and looking forward to the day when the same fate befell all the Crowned heads of Europe. He fought against slavery and for Catholic Emancipation and parliamentary reform.

Mass Murder in Gaza: Déjà Vu

As the death toll mounts and the pile of lifeless children grows higher the same old suspects loom into view.

The Bush and Blair Corporation formerly known as the BBC plumbs new depths though. Three Israelis are “killed” whilst twenty times that number of Palestinians have “died” with the former of course deserving first billing in the story. I knew that Palestinian blood was cheap, just not quite that cheap.

Sky News (my phone IS on guys?) play follow the leader, Rupert Murdoch, dementedly tweeting his slavering support for Israel’s murderous attack.

Little Willie Hague the bon vivant Foreign Secretary takes to the floor of the House (as opposed to Geoffrey Archer’s) to dispatch verbal gunboats bearing “Great” Britain’s peremptory demands; foremost of which is that the victims of the mass murder must stop their aggressive behaviour. Even Gilbert&Sullivan couldn’t make it up.

The moral vacuum that is President Barak Obama says the same. That’s Obama who “couldn’t look at Netanyahu’s face” (as he conveyed to Sarkozy and millions more via an unguarded microphone) whose presidency the Israel lobby tried so hard to destroy. Obama who has no more need of any lobby, need raise no more campaign billions, who knows the truth but continues to tell the lies. Of them all it is of him for whom I feel most ashamed.

Then there’s the middle east “peace envoy” ( now THAT’s going well, huh?) the war criminal Tony Blair. Not since Caligula appointed his horse a pro-consul of Rome has there been a more grotesque appointment than that of Mr Blair as a middle-east “peace envoy”. Dripping in blood (pockets stuffed with blood money) from head to foot having climbed to his pinnacle over a mountain of dead middle-easterners. Blair too is very clear about it; its Hamas what is to blame!

As I once told a Sky News interviewer during an earlier part of the war six years ago (Anna…my phone IS on?) this crisis didn’t start when Sky news turned up…

Israel is murdering Palestinian women and children because there is Palestinian resistance in Gaza.

There is Palestinian resistance in Gaza because the 1.5 million people, mainly refugees, who live in Gaza have been under siege for more than five years, totally blockaded in what David Cameron called a “huge prison camp”, to punish the people there for how they voted in a free election. For Hamas.

The people are refugees because their country, Palestine, has been wiped off the map. Thirteen million Palestinians now live under siege, or illegal occupation, in illegally annexed territory, as third class “citizens” in what they call Israel, or in their millions as refugees and exiles outside of their country. The vast majority have no passports, papers, status, rights, or hope. What they do have are the titles to the houses and lands from which their families were driven by “Israelis. And they have their eternal legal and moral right to return to their homes.

The Palestinians could have resigned themselves to the destruction of their society by “superior” western, European, settlers more than sixty years ago. They could have quietly entered the museum of “Ex” nations. We could today be visiting that museum, viewing their garments in the glass cases, lamenting their lost culture.

But they refused to go quietly into that good night. They still exist because they resist. They will not be quiet. They will not surrender. Even if abandoned by the rotten rancid corrupt cowards who rule virtually every Arab regime. Even if abandoned by the so-called “Jihadists” who are too busy murdering other Arabs and Muslims to notice the Palestinian blood and tears running in rivers right by them. Even if every last western journalist, feasting upon their suffering turns their face away. As long as 100 Palestinians remain alive they will never surrender their rights.

Friends of “Israel”; know this. As long as there is no justice there will be no peace. As long as there is no peace in the middle-east there will be no peace in the world. You have been warned.

[George Galloway MP]

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The Coming Battle for Croydon North

On this day in 1983 the Reverend Jesse Jackson embarked on his first attempt to win the presidency of the United States of America. Before then, it was an impossible dream. Twenty years before, black people in America had to sit at the back of the bus, piss in a separate pot – indeed a separate washroom – eat at a different lunch counter, go to a separate school, almost never go to university.

Black people in America scarcely ever voted, found it hard to get registered to vote. Outright racists, segregationists, like Governor George Wallace were pillars of the Democratic Party. Places like Mississippi were still burning with Ku Klux Klan fiery crosses, strange fruit – lynched black men – still twisted and turned whilst hanging from southern trees.

The Reverend Jackson’s electrifying run for president that year began to change all that for good. His three million votes in that campaign and his six million votes in 1988 directly paved the way to the presidency of Barak Obama. After Jesse Jackson – who would have made a better president than Obama – there was no turning back, for African-Americans, for the Democrats, for the United States of America.

Thus his endorsement this very day of Lee Jasper our Respect candidate for the forthcoming Croydon West by-election in South-West London is worth his weight in gold for us. That Jesse Jackson is following our democratic rising against the politics of austerity, neo-liberal economics, imperialism, occupation and war is a compliment in itself. That he rates our candidate Lee Jasper so highly is not only a vindication of our choice but might be worth serious numbers of votes too.

We have been attacked, as always, this time for “targeting” black voters (24% of the total electorate), making a change from the usual charge that we are “targeting” Muslim voters – there are 10,000 of those in the constituency. Except we are being attacked for “targeting” those voters too.

Of course the only sense in which we are “targeting” either is that we are asking them to vote for us.

Sinister, huh?

Every party “targets” the voters they think most likely to respond to their policies, don’t they?

So what are our policies, and why would black (Christian, Hindu, Sikh) and Muslim voters be most likely to respond to what we stand for?

Well, Respect is the anti-racist party in Britain. New Labour (renamed by the criminal Tony Blair) the right-wing Conservatives and their peculiar bed-fellows the Liberal-Democrats have all played the racist card in recent years, issuing forth their “dog-whistle” pitch in an attempt to attract the “Little Englander”, “hunt the immigrant”,” scapegoat the Muslim” section of the electorate and ahem, curry favour with the rabid yellow press which whips such sentiments up.

Respect is the anti-war party in Britain. It emerged out of the great movement against the Afghan and Iraq wars, when millions marched against these catastrophes and were betrayed by their parliamentarians. Respect opposes all British imperial wars. New Labour, the Conservatives, and the Liberal Democrats continue to support what they have now re-named the “mission” in Afghanistan, even though the public in overwhelming number oppose it. Britain has neither the blood or the treasure to waste on the plains of Afghanistan where so many other occupation armies have bled and suffered only later, too much later, been forced to withdraw in ignominy.

Respect is the anti-austerity party in Britain. We reject the idea that the working people and the poor, the unemployed, the pensioners, the young people, should pay the price of capitalist failure and bankers’ greed. All the other parties support the savage cuts in public spending and the services the money funds. We say, reverse these cuts; the working people have already paid. Many are suffering from the freezing blasts of austerity. Black and minority ethnic communities are suffering the most.

My victory in the Bradford West by-election six months ago – the biggest swing in British post-war history – when Respect won a landslide victory with a majority in the “safe” Labour seat of over ten thousand votes showed that nowhere is “safe” any more for the parties of austerity and war. That a politics of democratic insurgency has been born, and that Britain is not immune from the radicalisation sweeping mainland Europe, Latin America, the Arab world and beyond.

The attacks upon us – and the campaign hasn’t even officially started – are a clear sign that the lamestream political class and their mouthpieces in the media are running scared. As well they might be. When all they have to offer is more blood, more pain, more poverty, why shouldn’t they be scared that the people, if offered a better way, might just choose it.

[George Galloway MP]

If you can help Respect’s Croydon campaign, with financial donations or in any other way, please contact us at www.respectparty.org

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Michael Marra RIP. A rolling stone comes to rest.

Michael Marra the singer-songwriter and gentle musical genius who died this week at the tender age of 60 was largely unsung outside of Scotland and Ireland. Which is a pity. The rest of the world lost out on that. As a chronicler of our times, ordinary peoples’ times he was up there with the best. He ‘coulda’ bin a contender’. Perhaps if he’d been born in New Orleans instead of Lochee, the Irish quarter of the industrial Scots’ city of Dundee, he might have really made the big time. Perhaps he never wanted to.

Michael Marra came from a prominent Roman Catholic and Labour family in Dundee, a family full of schoolteachers and educationalists, music, culture and grace. Which is how he came to be, maybe the most musical, cultured and graceful Dundonian of them all. I first saw him play in Laings Hotel in Dundee’s Roseangle back in the mid 1970s. The hotel wasn’t really a hotel, more a dive for students from the university across the road, and the city’s prestigious Art school just a hundred yards up the road.

His band – Skeets Boliver – were really something and hoped, with some expectation, to be another far from Average White Band which originated largely from Jute City like Mick Marra, and indeed myself. They were a loud explosive rock formation as I recall – does anyone have any footage of them I wonder? Or audio? But they were capable – under the influence of Mick – of dropping way down low, quiet like, reflective. Just like him. They were totally original, performing their own material at a time at least in venues like these where the pay must have been peanuts, or more likely in liquid form and i don’t mean “readies”. Most of that material, and virtually all of the arrangements were the first craft of this master-craftsman, Michael Marra.

If Skeets weren’t original enough for you – they had an alter-ego: Mort Wriggle and the Panthers! You could book the band in either ego, or even both with the guys changing gear and playlist at half-time. The Panthers were a pure rock and roll show, mainly covers, early Elvis, Chuck Berry, all leather bikers jackets and Brylcreamed quiffs and DA’s. I must tell you that in both of these guises, they were really amazing, and I remember those performances 35 years on.

The lead singer Stuart Ivens was a real star, and the sax player Peter McGlone who was at school with and played in the same orchestra as me – though no friend, he once doorstepped my mother on behalf of Rupert Murdoch’s Sun newspaper – was a terrific and terrifically cool saxophonist. I apologise to the rest of the guys whose names I’ve now forgotten, but I’ve never forgotten Michael Marra who was truly the heart and soul of both incarnations.

In fact just a few weeks ago I was teaching my half-Dundonian son Zein to sing his peaen to another of the city’s proud products – the Bridie. A kind of pastie, unique not just to the city but to one bakery in the city – Wallace’s Pie Shop – it can be enjoyed plain, or with an onion in it. Or in my native language, to enjoy both you’d just ask, like in the Michael Marra song, for a “plen ane en an inging ane an a’ ” Only Mick could make magical music out of a Dundee pie.

Ditto his hymn to “Hamish the Goalie”, the evervescent hero of the Tannadice goal mouth, Dundee United’s evergreen keeper Hamish Macalpine. Everybody loved Hamish, a sometimes crazy often-times brilliant goalkeeper who seemed to have kept the United goal for the best part of twenty years – and their best years at that. Everybody loved Hamish, but not everybody could save him for ever in a song. But Michael Marra did.

He wrote musicals, experimental stuff in foreign genre, and played the smallest of places, even bars! The sort of thing you don’t do if you’re in it for fame and fortune. Fortunately or unfortunately, Michael Marra wasn’t in it for either. If he had been, far more of you would have known who I was talking about. I’m hoping now, you’re going to try and find out why. Take a walk down ‘Pity Street’, the only album of his I still have, somewhere, for starters.

May God have mercy on you, Lochee Mick. Though come to think about it, you’re probably playing the piano and crooning at His right hand already.

[George Galloway MP]

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In Memoriam Comandante Che Guevara

In Memoriam
Comandante Che Guevara Lynch
Born June 14th 1928
Murdered 8th October 1967
45 Years Remembered

Che Guevara was one of the men of the 20th century. Born in Argentina (with the blood of Irish rebels flowing through his veins as his father said) he played a leading role with Comandante Raul Castro and Comandante Camillo Cienfuegos under the leadership of Comandante en Jefe Fidel Castro in the liberation of Cuba from fascistic dictatorship.

He helped build the socialist foundations of Cuba as Minister for the Economy and Governor of the Bank of Cuba.

He participated in the military defence of Vietnam against US imperialism and fought by the side of the greatest of all African leaders Patrice Lumumba (later assassinated by the imperialists) in the Congo.

Che Guevara led an uprising of the Bolivian revolution against dictatorship and in October 1967 he was captured by the forces of reaction and, after consultation with Washington, murdered by the agent Mario Teran on the orders of the CIA.

Sensing his assassin’s cowardice Che told him “What are you waiting for?” – “Kill me now, I am only a man”.

Seldom can the word “only” have been less appropriate.

Mario Teran and all of the servants of the CIA who participated in the murder of Che Guevara met with revolutionary justice; each and every one of them being consigned to early and violent deaths.

The blood of Guevara watered the earth of Bolivia which fructified in the victory of the Bolivian revolution under the leadership of Evo Morales.

Che Guevara never died in truth, his face his spirit and his sacrifice are to be found throughout the world wherever the flags of freedom fly.

Hasta Siempre Comandante. Hasta la Victoria Siempre.

Comandante Che Guevara: Presente!

George Galloway MP
Revolutionary Venezuela
October 8th 2012

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Today, with the Comandante we stand

From the hills around Caracas, the poorest slum barrios, the universities, the workplaces, the people came. More than eighty per cent of all elgible Venezuelans exercising the precious right to vote, freely and fairly and in their millions for the continuation of the Venezuelan revolution.

Ask yourself this; for whom did the poorest Venezuelans vote? For whom did the hardest working Venezuelans vote? For whom did the black Venezuelans  vote? For whom did indigenous Venezuelans vote? For whom did the youngest Venezuelans vote? For whom did the disabled Venezuelans vote?

And then this; for whom did the richest Venezuelans vote? For whom did those Venezuelans with the closest ties to the gold-toothed Miami emigres and the United States, or with “Israel”, vote?

When you have worked out (not too difficult) the answer to those questions you will easily understand why we shared the joy of the Venezuelan masses until the middle of last night on the streets leading to the presidential palace. From the balcony, clutching the sword of Simon Bolivar -the Liberador of Latin America, Comandante Hugo Chavez Frias addressed a crowd so vast and assembled so quickly as to take the breath away.

The doubters were many. They ranged from the absurd to the merely malignant.

The opposition camp of Henrique Capriles Radonski released “exit polls” on election day which claimed that they had comprehensively defeated President Chavez in every province in the country bar one, which they gave to Chavez by 1%!

It was the kind of disinformation routinely fed to gullible (or worse) “liberal” journalists like Britain’s Guardian newspaper and regurgitated to their readers ad nauseam in the run up to the polls. Indeed first prize for irony must go to the Guardian reporters themselves whose first paragraph after the result was announced included the words “Chavez proved his doubters wrong”. Without a word of self-criticism – themselves having been the most unremiting “doubters”.

It is a persistent problem of western foreign correspondents that they seek out the sources who look, sound and think most like them. Venezuela has proved no exception. “Anyone here who hates Chavez and speaks English?” they might as well ask.

This victory, for a president expressing in the most vivid terms, an open challenge to the neo-liberal economic consensus, and an even more vibrant challenge to the “western” camp of war, occupation, domination and interference in the sovereignty of other peoples’ countries is simply dumfounding for the US and its allies. The US government today congratulated the Venezuelan people on their election but couldn’t bring themselves to breathe the name of the man who won it. Again.

This just shouldn’t be happening – and time after time. After all, the prevailing western orthodoxy is that there is but an inch in which politics can live. That some things are simply a given. Tweedle Dee-Tweedle Dum “democracy” and the “free market” to name just two.

But the repeated victories of Hugo Chavez prove that history has not ended, as Fukuyama the neo-con guru claimed twenty years ago. That another way is possible. That the mass of the people can be engaged in politics, and that their hearts can, if captured, beat louder than the drums of despair, disillusion and dread.

For it was the joy of the Venezuelan people which we shall remember most, in the pre-election rallies, in the queues on polling day -which opening hours had to be extended to cope with the swell, and above all in the spontaneous mass celebrations occupying entire avenues leading to the Miraflores Palace within an hour of the result.

Chavez corazon del pueblo” (Chavez is the heart of the people) they sang and sang and with a sincerity to melt the hardest most cynical of hearts.

They really meant it. Chavez really means it. That’s why some hate him so.

He is a leader not for sale, not for rent. He says what he means and he means what he says. He faces his enemies now, newly strengthened by his victory. And his allies are duly strengthened too. He is a spectre haunting the remaining US comprador in Latin America – the governments of Chile and Colombia – and any lingering hopes in Washington that this region can ever again be the US “back yard” as the Monroe doctrine once claimed it.

Hugo Chavez now towers over the progressive anti-imperialist camp in the world. We are many, they are few. The great -in the words of the Irish revolutionary James Larkin- only appear to be great as long as the rest of us are on our knees. Today, with the Comandante we stand.

[George & Gayatri]

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The Al-Aqsa under fire -business as usual?

Last Friday in occupied Jerusalem, one of the holiest sites in Islam, the Al-Aqsa mosque was violently attacked during the Juma’a prayers – the most significant prayer of the week – by illegal armed “Israeli” settlers and then by foreign occupation soldiers firing live rounds rubber bullets, gas and stun-grenades.

The leaders of the Muslim “Ummah” (people), however, did precisely nothing about it, leaving western leaders to continue their bottomless support for “Israeli” crimes.

In other words: it was business as usual.

The western part of Jerusalem was violently seized and ethnically cleansed more than sixty years ago. The eastern part likewise, in 1967.

All demands by the so-called “international community”, the passage into international law of successive UN resolutions demanding “Israeli” withdrawal from the stolen property, have been treated with contempt.

Indeed, “Israel” has gone further and illegally annexed the Holy City of Jerusalem, an annexation recognised by nobody. This recognition however, has now been promised by both Mitt Romney and President Barak Obama over the last few weeks.

The ethnic cleansing and Judaeisation of Jersualem has been well charted elsewhere, best of all by the Jewish academic Illan Pappe in his book The Ethnic Cleansing of Palestine (2006), who is now in exile at Oxford University and a hero and intellectual giant of the struggle for justice for the Palestinian people.

What happened last Friday is just the latest terrorist attack upon Palestinian Muslims in their own city, but its significance to the nearly two billion Muslims in the world cannot be underestimated.

If Jerusalem is no ordinary city, then the twin Mosques on the Haram al Sharif – the Al Aqsa and the Dome of the Rock – are no ordinary Mosques.

Before Mecca was liberated by the Muslims in 624, Jerusalem was, because of its significance to the People of the Book, their first direction for prayer.

And it is from the roof of Al-Aqsa, Muslims believe, the Prophet Mohammed (peace be upon him) ascended to the heavens on the Night Journey, where he met and prayed with earlier Prophets (peace be upon them) like Abraham, Moses, Enoch, Joseph and Jesus, and returned with Revelations.

The sight of fire, smoke, clouds of gas and the sound of guns and grenades erupting from the weapons of foreigners from Brooklyn, London, Paris and Moscow last Friday in such a holy place reverberates mightily.

The sound of silence from the Muslim leaders however, echoes even louder.

Many Muslims will contrast their inability to even raise a finger in defense of the Al-Aqsa, with their hyper-activity, guns and money being spent in attacks upon other Muslims, whilst “Israel” destroys the Arab character of Jerusalem.

And they will be nursing their wrath, to keep it warm…

[George & Gayatri]

Extradition of Babar Ahmad is a stain on Britain’s reputation…

To the best of my knowledge I have never met Babar Ahmad, but I know his father well. Like his local MP, Sadiq Khan now a prominent New Labour frontbench spokesman, I have always been convinced of his innocence on the charges trumped up against him in the United States. And even more convinced that if he did commit any such crimes he must be tried before a jury on them in the country the crimes were allegedly commited in. His own country, Great Britain.

It is simply bamboozling that the British state could think one of its own nationals not worth prosecuting for alleged crimes, yet be prepared to imprison him for eight long years then extradite him on the Banana Republic terms of our one sided treaty, to the US instead.

Worse than bamboozling, it is a mark of shame upon our country.

Like most of the current crimes being carried out by the Cameron gang, this one can be traced back to the Blair-New Labour years.

It was David Blunkett, Tony Blair’s then Home Secretary, who secretly, behind parliament’s back concluded an extradition treaty with the US that Vanuatu would have turned up its nose at.

In short, Washington need not show a scintilla of evidence to extradite our citizens whilst we would find it harder to climb through the eye of a needle than to succesfully extradite one of their citizens to the UK.

Babar Ahmad is certainly not the first and will not be the last victim of this treaty.

Previous victims though are not Muslims, not facing bogus “terrorism” related charges, not likely to face Guantanamo style prison arrangements, and not likely to be banged up for the rest of their naturals as enemy aliens in the infamous US prison system. Most are not black.

Not that Babar Ahmad is even accused of involvement in terrorism of course, merely that he may (he denies it and I believe him) have, that most nebulous of terms, “glorified” it via a web-site.

His long calvary has not of course been confined to eight years, untried, in sundry UK prisons. The Metropolitan Police have already had to pay him a vast sum in compensation for the horrific torture he suffered at their hands when they dragged him from his bed, his petrified wife lying beside him, and savagely beat and mistreated him, insulted his religion, resulting in injuries more often seen in torture victims abroad.

Will Babar Ahmad receive a fair trial in the United States? If you believe that, you will believe anything.

Will Britain ever expunge this this stain from its hands? To paraphrase Shakespeare “all the perfumes of Arabia will not out that damned spot”.

| George |

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