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

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

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

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

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

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]

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

This is what democracy looks like!

Eat your hearts out Fox News, The Guardian, the Observer, The London Times…THIS is what democracy looks like!

After 14 years in power seven electoral victories, subversion by his enemies, unremiting media hostility from both the right wing and the so-called “liberal” press (yes, Rory Carroll we mean you) Hugo Chavez has taken the streets of Caracas by storm today.

Five huge avenidas are right now (1pm) filled to overflow with many millions of people all out for Comandante Hugo Chavez, his Socialist Party and his long project for consolidating national independence, liberation of the Americas from US domination, and the construction of a new socialist society in Venezuela.

His triumphant progress through the whole country in the these the last days of the presidential election campaign has been something miraculous to behold. Even in “marginal” or “swing” provinces where his political adversaries are strongest the crowds have numbered in their millions.

The fruits of the Bolivarian Revolution are hanging ripe now, growth is 5.6% in the first half of this year, wages are rising, new housing springing up, 22 new universities in full swing, 98% of the country eating three meals a day and a promise that by the end of this next term should he be re-elected on October 7th, every Venezeulan will live in a “dignified house”

Pictures of what is happening on the streets here right now are being broadcast via Venezuela’s new satellite – Miranda – their second, the only satellites in Latin America.

So the baying carping critics have no excuse. They can see with their own eyes, hear with their own ears, the cry of the poor, the young, the working people, the intellectuals, the minorities….All with one voice, all with one heart,

“Viva The Venezuelan Revolution!”

“Viva Socialism!”

“Viva Comandante!”

“Hasta la Victoria Siempre!”

| George |

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

Chavez by a Knock Out?

Hugo Chavez is the most elected politician on earth having been vindicated seven times at the polls – elections, referenda, he’s won them all. That doesn’t stop Fox News calling him a dictator though, and successive US presidents treating him as if he was.

It’s easy to see – and hear – why neither Washington (or Miami) nor the former oligarchy, the Venezuelan elite ,like him very much. Chavez is like an unstoppable force of nature if you admire him ( as I do ), a bull in a China Shop if you don’t. To say he doesn’t pull his punches would be like saying that Mike Tyson got into his opponents fast. A statement of the blindingly obvious.

On our first day here President Chavez – El Comandante – was laying into the “bourgeoisie” and the “Yankee Imperialists” in the province of Monagas like his political life depended on it (which it doesn’t – he’s comfortably ahead in the polls).

But he always speaks like that -possibly the last world figure so to do..

He was addressing a million people ( and this in one of the few “swing states”), outdoors, but none of the wildly enthusiastic crowd failed to get his message. And if they had there were always his election posters (millions of them) to provide a refresher.

“For national independence, for the workers, without capitalists” is one of the less contentious of his election messages (see pic)

He sketched out the formidable achievements of his 14 years in power (by the way, and I speak as a politician, there is not a fourteen years in elected power anywhere a leader who can command this kind of adulation). Twenty two new universities built, the fifth highest student body in the world, every Primary schoolchild given a free laptop – made in Venezuela. Ninety eight per cent of all Venezuelans eating three meals per day, in a country where the poor used to go hungry, free medical care and a whole raft of gains of the revolution. The one-million strong crowd roared its approval at the mention of every one of these gains, like they’d never heard of them before.

Chavez’ style is interactive. “Hands up all those who’ve used the free clinics we built in this province, medical services provided by 1000 Cuban doctors whom we brought here?”

Practically every hand in the crowd goes up…

“Who here is the candidate of the bankers?” The crowd roar Capriles!!! – the name of his oligarchy and US backed opponent on October 7th

“Who here is the candidate of the Bourgeoisie/Yankee Imperialism/those who would sell the country back to its previous owners?” Answer: Ditto.

I’m currently writing high above the streets of Caracas and the air is filled with revolutionary songs and music, pictures of the Comandante clad here in red, now in blue, always casually dressed always smiling always thrusting forward, are simply everywhere.

It is very heaven to be here amidst a democratic and socialist revolution. It is bliss to be alive, and by the side of one of the most dynamic and succesful conviction politicians on the planet.

This morning we breakfasted with Jody McIntyre the British human rights campaigner, infamously pulled from his wheelchair and dragged along the street by the police during the student uprising against the Labour/Conservative/Liberal democrat tuition fees.

We had each been contemplating the contrast between political leaders in our own country and here in Venezuela.

Hugo Chavez and……..Ed Miliband we said simultaneously.

And both burst into laughter.

Sorry Ed, but really, it’s Hugo Chavez who is the real deal!

| George |

This slideshow requires JavaScript.