East London Rising – 3rd-9th August 2015

East London Rising banner

From Monday 3rd to Sunday 9th August 2015 Anarchist Action Network is holding a free week of events at LARC (London Action Resource Centre) in East London. The week will include a social space with free drinks and evening meals, workshops, discussions, film screenings, practical skillshares and more. We hope that these events will address some of the issues which most people are facing right now – including problems with housing and welfare cuts, and the government austerity agenda, increased poverty, racism and the racist border system, state violence and harassment.

Programme of Events

Each day there will be themed workshops and discussions:
Monday 3 Aug – Anti-racism, Anti-borders
Tuesday 4 Aug – Environment & degrowth
Wednesday 5 Aug – Skillshares
Thursday 6 Aug – Benefits claimants and workers rights
Friday 7 Aug – Housing struggles and anti-eviction
Saturday 8 Aug – Anti-militarism and anti-imperialism
Sunday 9 Aug – Anarchism

Free every day:
– Tea and coffee
– Hot meals each evening
– Info area

Click here for the full details

Anti-Austerity Court Solidarity – 27th July

Time: 12.00pm
Date: Monday 27th July 2015
Location: Cardiff Crown Court
Address: Cathays Park, Cardiff, CF10 3PG

Demonstration to show solidarity with two facing serious charges after being violently attacked and arrested by police at an anti-cuts demonstration at a HSBC branch in Cardiff in May this year.

There will be a short solidarity demonstration outside the court from 12.00 pm on Monday the 27th of July 2015. Anti-repression and anti-austerity banners and well-wishers welcome.

URGENT WITNESS APPEAL:
***********************
Were you present at the Mayday demonstration and march in May 2015? Even if you think you didn’t see anything you may be able to provide useful defence evidence as to the nature of the day. If you think you may be able to help please email: bristoldefendantsolidarity@riseup.net

Facebook Event: https://www.facebook.com/events/838276806226790/
Blog: https://cardiffuncut.wordpress.com/2015/07/20/anti-austerity-court-solidarity-27th-july-2015/

Conservative Defence Policy – Five Knowns & Ten Unknowns

Oxford Research Group
Global Security Briefing – July 2015
Richard Reeve
14 July 2015

800px-Raf-sentinel-ZJ692-071023-27-16.112636
800px-Raf-sentinel-ZJ692-071023-27-16.112636.jpg

 Summary

Two months on from its surprise electoral victory, the Conservative Party government has provided a good deal of clarity about its defence policy and proposed military expenditure, procurement, deployments and future engagements. Yet, already over a month into the Strategic Defence and Security Review (SDSR, as UK defence white papers are now termed), there is still much that we don’t know about the planned course of British military policy. This briefing sets out five things that we now know about the SDSR and ten things we do not yet know.

1. The SDSR is already under way

Secretary of State for Defence Michael Fallon formally announced that the SDSR had begun in early June. This was not unexpected given that a new defence policy review process is now standard following a general election. With the five-year term of parliament fixed by law in 2011, SDSRs are now assumed to be five-year defence strategies rather than ad hoc policy updates.

What we don’t yet know…

What is the process and timescale for the SDSR?

Beyond that it is under way and is due to conclude before the end of 2015, little else has been disclosed about the SDSR process or its timescale. In the run up to the general election, the House of Commons Defence Committee did sterling work in interrogating the Coalition government on its plans for the review and in soliciting a wide array of inputs from experts and civil society on important issues ranging from intervention norms to force structure to the crises in Iraq and Syria. This was particularly important because the first SDSR, following the May 2010 election, was widely seen to be rushed and unsatisfactory as the Coalition government looked to shed costs.

Who will the SDSR team consult with?

Five years later, the 2015 SDSR is not looking very much better. While there is clearly not the same urgency to fix capabilities to spending cuts, the clear review process with input from experts outside of the MoD has not emerged. According to Mr Fallon, responding to a parliamentary question on the SDSR’s consultation plans last week, “The Government is engaging with a range of audiences, including non-governmental organisations.” No more specifics than that.

How will the SDSR link to the National Security Strategy?

The really key question remains how the SDSR timetable sits with the review of the National Security Strategy (NSS) that is also now a post-election fixture. Again, little information has been released about the process and timescale despite the requests of the parliamentary Joint Committee on the NSS. In theory, the security threats identified in the NSS and its risk register inform the responses prioritised in the SDSR. In practice, the 2010 reviews were published almost simultaneously and the SDSR did not obviously respond to threats identified in the NSS. Despite the recommendations of the Joint Committee, this scheduling looks likely to be repeated and it remains unclear to what extent the SDSR will be nested in the findings of the updated NSS.

2. The UK will spend 2% of GDP on its military until at least 2020

In a surprise announcement, Chancellor George Osborne announced in his July 2015 Summer Budget Statement that the Government would commit at least 2% of GDP (a measure of annual national economic output) to financing defence over the full course of the 2015-2020 parliament. This was significant partly because of the intense public lobbying that the government faced from senior officials in the US and NATO for British defence spending not to slip below this symbolic minimum financing level for NATO member states.

Coming ahead of the defence and security reviews, this spending commitment is primarily a political message – of reassurance to the US, and of resolve to an assertive Russia. It says nothing about why the government might think 2% of GDP (about £35 billion in 2015, rising to over £39 billion in 2020 at constant prices according to official growth predictions) is a reflection of the security challenges to the UK nor why the armed forces are the appropriate means of response to these challenges. Despite the target, the NATO average (mean) is actually about 1.4% of GDP.

The 2% announcement was also significant because it had been expected that the SDSR would to some extent be dependent on the findings of the post-election Comprehensive Spending Review, which might force further cuts in the armed forces in the context of fiscal austerity. The 2% commitment is a relief to many in the Ministry of Defence and takes some of the pressure off those running the SDSR.

What we don’t yet know…

What is included in the 2% ‘defence’ spending commitment?

There are three big unknowns in response to the new 2% commitment. First, it is not clear what the government intends to include within this ‘defence’ spending envelope. NATO will make its own assessment of what it accepts as defence spending but it is possible that the Chancellor plans to include some or all of UK intelligence spending, support for peacekeeping operations or military pensions in the total. Such bolstering looks unlikely, even though the government is greatly increasing its combined (and secret) allocation to military and civilian intelligence agencies.

Is 2% of GDP sufficient to fund ambitious procurement and personnel targets?

Secondly, even with the higher-than-expected spending commitment, it is not at all certain that the government can finance its very ambitious procurement plans (£163 billion to 2024) and keep its manifesto commitment to preserve the armed forces at their current size. The Coalition government made important progress in constraining MoD procurement practices and cost over-runs but the current focus of resources on procurement of some relatively unknown systems, especially the next generation Trident submarine and missile system and the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter, makes the prospect of cost over-runs very likely. This, in turn, would put pressure on personnel strength.

Why was the 2% commitment not in the Conservative manifesto?

Thirdly, there is the question of why the 2% commitment did not appear in the conservative electoral manifesto, as the £160+ billion procurement plan did. During the campaign, Conservative ministers (and their equivalents in Labour and Lib Dems) repeatedly refused to be drawn on meeting the 2% commitment. As the BBC’s defence editor Mark Urban put it, during an election “even a party that historically has prided itself as strong on defence feels unable to make the argument for spending more on it.” This surely says something interesting about the sceptical public mood on defence spending even in the context of renewed crises in the Middle East, Mediterranean and Ukraine.

3. The Government will renew Trident from 2016

The Conservative Party made a clear commitment to renew the UK’s Trident submarine-launched nuclear weapons system in its 2015 manifesto. Unlike the other major parties, it was also unequivocal that it favoured like-for-like procurement of a four vessel “continuous at sea deterrence” capability. Estimated procurement costs for such a system are already built into the £163 billion procurement plan, although there is little consensus on how much such a massive undertaking will really cost to build, maintain and operate.

Less clear is whether the future of Trident will be looked at seriously within the SDSR process. Most likely it will be treated as a given, even though the ‘Main Gate’ decision to proceed with procurement will be taken via a parliamentary vote in 2016. The Coalition government already considered and rejected alternatives to Trident replacement in 2013, and the Conservative government is unlikely to feel the need to replicate this. Even if a number of Conservative backbenchers revolted on the Main Gate vote, the government could likely retain a majority through the support of Unionist parties and at least some MPs from the opposition.

What we don’t yet know…

How will the SNP respond?

The bigger question is not whether government or parliament will support Trident renewal, but how the Scottish National Party (SNP) will react. The Achilles’ heel of the submarine-based Trident system is its dependence on shore facilities at Faslane and Coulport on the west coast of Scotland. The SNP is now the third party in Westminster with 50% of Scottish votes, 56 of 59 MPs from Scotland and a solid majority in the Scottish Parliament. It is the largest pro-nuclear disarmament party in the UK parliament since the 1980s.

Neither the SNP nor the Scottish Government has a mandate or veto over UK defence facilities in Scotland. However, the SNP is likely to claim a moral authority from its Scottish majority and to make political capital out of the nuclear issue, especially ahead of the May 2016 Scottish elections. Ways that this could be manifested include disruption or failure to maintain basic services to the naval bases, lobbying for the Scottish government to gain powers over military bases, or even pressure for a new referendum on independence. While the Trident system could be relocated elsewhere in Britain – west Wales, southern Cornwall or Plymouth – the cost and disruption would be enormous. Due to be in service until the 2060s, Trident II depends on a stable home base for the next half-century.

The SNP is still very much testing the waters on defence and foreign affairs but it now has the strength to ask awkward questions in Commons committees as well as Parliament. It may look to trade guarantees of orders for Royal Navy shipbuilding for yards in Rosyth and on the Clyde for acquiescence on Trident but neither this nor Scotland’s long-term place in the UK can be taken for granted.

4. The government would like to expand current and new military operations

The withdrawal from major operations in Afghanistan at the end of 2014 did not mean the return of the British armed forces to a peacetime footing. Since September last year, the RAF has been involved in a new phase of war in Iraq, where it is bombing Islamic State positions.

Ahead of the general election, the government was keen to avoid British “boots on the ground”, and the risk of capture or casualties, in Iraq. Since June it has increased the number of British Army personnel in Iraq to 275, including training personnel outside of Iraqi Kurdistan. There are also at least 75 troops in Turkey training Syrian opposition militia, and there may be others doing the same in Jordan.

Since 30 June, the government has also made clear that it would like to extend its bombing campaign to targets in Syria, where some members of the anti-Islamic State coalition already conduct attacks supported by RAF reconnaissance aircraft and drones. It is not clear if this would require any more aircraft or personnel than those currently deployed in Cyprus and the Gulf. This would follow a vote in parliament, considered necessary given the Coalition defeat on the issue of bombing President Assad’s forces in Syria in August 2013.

Oddly, part of the rationale for extending UK action to Syria is the late June terrorist attack on mostly British holidaymakers in Tunisia, which was linked to Islamic State but appears to have been planned from lawless Libya. The UK is meanwhile one of several European states pushing for a UN mandate to allow EU military forces, including British attack helicopters and possibly the SAS or SBS, to attack and disrupt human trafficking operations along Libya’s coast to prevent illegal migration to Italy and Malta.

What we don’t yet know…

What is the UK strategy for peace and security in Iraq, Syria and Libya?

What is still missing from the proposed extension of UK military operations into Syria and Libya is the larger strategy for peace in either country or the wider Middle East and North Africa region. This is not necessarily something that the SDSR can resolve but it is something that the NSS needs to address and once again underlines the necessity for defence policy to be rooted in a broader, longer term security strategy.

While it is certainly the case that the government is devoting much thought internally and with its foreign partners to how to confront, contain and defeat Islamic State, it is also clear that it does not yet have a coherent strategy. It cannot be sure that more bombing of Islamic State will either degrade that movement, which thrives on anti-‘crusaderist’ propaganda, or contribute to the goal of a stable post-Assad Syria.

The EU plan to attack people traffickers in Libya and sink their boats is so nonsensical that it is difficult to believe that it was not concocted by European leaders in a bid to be seen to be doing something muscular to prevent in-migration, safe in the knowledge that the UN Security Council would scupper any attempt at a mandate to use force. Such potential interventions help to make the case for why such expensive equipment as aircraft carriers might be useful for military operations, but not how such military operations might contribute to international or national security.

5. The government wants to spend more on remote control warfare

Finally, Mr Cameron made it known in a speech on 13 July that his government would prioritise spending on Special Forces, drones and surveillance aircraft as part of the defence policy review, with particular focus on combating Islamic State. He also stated that the government would look at ways for the new Queen Elizabeth Class aircraft carriers to deploy drones and Special Forces as part of counter-terrorism operations.

The government has thus made it a priority to follow the US lead in investing heavily in ‘remote control’ warfare technologies permitting rapid intervention over a wide radius with minimal or very short term presence of British forces on the ground.

What we don’t yet know…

The unknowns here are intrinsic to the secretive technology sought: where will we seek to deploy and use it, and what will be the terms of its use?

Where are the UK’s drones and Special Forces?

At present the RAF has ten MQ-9 Reaper armed drones, procured from the US for use in Afghanistan from 2007. Their planned redeployment to their pilot station at RAF Waddington in Lincolnshire (where they would be stored given their lack of license to fly in UK airspace) has been disrupted by their use in Operation Shader over Iraq and (reconnaissance only, so far) Syria. However, unlike manned aircraft, the government will not confirm or deny details of how many Reapers are in use over the Middle East or where they fly from. Mr Fallon stated in June that every one of the UK’s drones was “out on service” but not where they were in service. Rumours of their use in West Africa or over Yemen remain just that.

A similar situation surrounds UK special operations forces: the Special Air Service (SAS), Special Boat Service (SBS), Special Reconnaissance Regiment (SRR) and other units. Successive governments have invested in Special Forces capabilities since at least the advent of operations in Afghanistan in 2001 but we still don’t know how many personnel serve in these units or where they serve. Like submarines and drones, the nature of their operations is covert and usually deniable. We know roughly that UK Special Forces have engaged in operations in Libya, Mali, Nigeria and Iraq since 2011, in most cases in contexts in which the UK was keen to deny it had any presence on the ground.

Under what conditions may UK drones and Special Forces be used?

As Jon Moran concluded in a recent Remote Control Project publication, UK ‘remote warfare’ capability is in danger of being “a collection of tactical innovations which is in danger of becoming an end in itself”. Since few British lives are directly at stake, it also lowers the perceived risk threshold for foreign interventions. In other words, such tools as Special Forces and drones are stop gap measures useful in the absence of a larger strategy but unable to win wars on their own. This returns us to the question of long-term strategy and how the priorities already being outlined for the SDSR fit with the updated NSS.

Conclusion

While the early clarity on the new Conservative Government’s priorities for defence procurement and expenditure are welcome, there are four issues of concern that emerge from this analysis of what we do and do not know about the current SDSR.

The first is the lack of transparency in the process. Despite repeated assurances from the Coalition government to ORG and numerous other civil society groups that the 2015 process would be much more open than the 2010 scramble, the parameters of the SDSR remain obscure and engagement with outside parties seems to be minimal. The UK’s main partners including the US, France and Germany have defence review processes much more open to scrutiny and comment by legislative, external and even foreign peers. While respecting the essentially secret nature of defence planning, the UK should have the confidence to be as open.

The second is the growing disjuncture between Scotland and the rest of the UK on the issue of nuclear weapons. A parliamentary majority in favour of Trident renewal next year seems almost certain, just as the expression of majority Scottish disapproval becomes manifest. While constitutionally the Scottish Government must cede to Westminster on defence, the prospect of Trident becoming a major political issue within the Union next year is high.

The third is an accelerated drift away from accountability, particularly in terms of what it means for the UK to go to war. Investment in remote warfare technologies lowers the threshold for foreign interventions at a time when we already don’t know where the most potent military assets of the UK are deployed and what they are doing in the name of national security. The Chancellor’s announcement of an ill-defined £1.5 billion Joint Security Fund for intelligence also raises questions of accountability in the face of creeping counter-terrorist policy.

Last and by no means least is the weakness of any strategy underpinning government security policy, particularly in the Middle East and North Africa. We can be fairly sure that the UK will have superior firepower to adversaries such as the Islamic State for the foreseeable future but what is the end state that we are trying to deliver and how, if at all, does military action help the UK to deliver it? Doubtless the parallel NSS review and SDSR are not being conducted in isolation from each other but without the long-term strategic context of the former the tools that the latter delivers will not make the nation or wider world any more secure.

 

 

 

 

They shall not pass! Stop the White Man March in Liverpool

Stop the White Man March

Facebook event

On Saturday 15th August, neo-Nazis will attempt to march through Liverpool. The so-called “White Man March” – this time on its second outing – is organised primarily by members of neo-Nazi youth group National Action. It is supported by neo-Nazi groups from across Europe.

In March this year, the first “White Man March” took place in Newcastle. Around 100 neo-Nazis marched through the city before burning gay, communist and Israeli flags, screaming “Hitler was right” and sieg-heiling at counter-protestors. Although small compared to other far right protests, this was the largest and most explicit neo-Nazi march to take place in the UK since the eighties.

These events have been organised by people from an alliance of neo-Nazi groups. In Newcastle National Action were joined on the streets by the British Movement, Creativity Alliance, Misanthropic Division and National Rebirth of Poland. We expect the EDL splinter group North West Infidels to join this march. They have been responsible for attacks on picket lines, anti-fascists and Irish republican marches in Liverpool.

National Action members openly praise Hitler, trade anti-Semitic conspiracy theories and talk about their genocidal fantasies. Liverpool resident and National Action member Garron Helm was jailed for sending anti-Semitic abuse to MP Luciana Berger.

While some far-right groups have tried to moderate their public face, National Action revel in their blatant Nazism. These groups are growing as other parts of the far right collapse. Although they are nearly all tiny by themselves, the numbers they can bring out for the “White Man March” are worrying.

Liverpool, as a city with a proud left-wing tradition, has been chosen to demonstrate the “strength” of the neo-Nazi movement. We expect to see more than the 100 they brought to Newcastle and if we want to stop their growth they must be opposed. In 2013 we saw 5000 people march against fascist Nick Griffin and we need to draw on the city’s anti-fascist roots when the “White Man March” comes to town.

History has shown that Nazis need to be confronted head on, so they don’t have the space to spread their racist bile and grow in size and confidence. Given the chance, they will attack workers’ organisations, ethnic minorities, LGBT people and anyone else they perceive as their enemy. We are calling on anti-fascists across the North West to stand with the people of Liverpool in opposing these Nazi thugs.

They shall not pass!

SOLIDARITY CALLOUT: MR. BIELA, START THE REPAIRS!

Join Bristol Solidarity Network’s fight against a slum landlord and for decent housing.

Mr Ernie Biela, of 58 ETHELBERT ROAD, MARGATE, KENT, CT9 1SB is a slum landlord intent on maximum profit and minimum responsibility. A family living in one of his properties in Easton, Bristol have repeatedly asked him for much needed repairs to their home. After 8 years of ignoring his tenant’s requests for a livable home, Mr. Biela recently tried to evict them rather than do the right thing and do the repairs. He has arrogantly flouted the law and disregarded council improvement notices served on him. In phone calls to the tenants he claims to understand what life is like for immigrants and low income families. He is very quick to chase rent, claiming he will use it for repairs, but not as good at fixing the house. He agrees to send builders round to carry out work but instead sends an eviction notice which we found to be invalid. The family has suffered a great deal of stress and anxiety facing the threat of being made homeless.

The house is in an appalling state of disrepair, with a seriously leaky roof, huge cracks in walls and ceilings, broken doors, rotting window frames and intolerable mould, cold and damp. According to the council there is a class 1 hazard of mould. Four family members, including three children, have developed asthma as a result of these conditions they have been forced to live in by the landlord’s neglect.

We will not allow this absentee landlord to bully and threaten this family into keeping quiet about the state of their home. Neither will we let Mr Biela ignore his responsibility to provide a decent home and safe environment for this family.

It’s time to put the pressure on. Please take some time to support this family and make a stand against this bad landlord.

From Tuesday 21st July we are calling for an ongoing communications blockade and constant phone and email reminders for Mr. Biela.
Call and email this slum landlord to add your voice to the calls to stop the stalling and start the repairs. For calls from outside the UK add 0044 instead of the first zero of the phone numbers:

Mr Ernie Biela: Tel. 07917 570624 Email ernie.biela1@btopenworld.com

Mr Biela is the registered director and sole shareholder of 5 companies:

LVG Canterbury Ltd  Tel. 01227 714715
Westbere Garage / Canterbury Recovery Services Ltd Tel. 01227 712381
Hedgend Motors Ltd
Mot 4 U Ltd
1 Stop Property Services Uk Ltd

All of these companies are registered here:

6-7 Cecil Square, Margate, Kent, CT9 1BD
Tel. 01843 280004

July 25th: International Day of Solidarity with Anti-Fascist Prisoners

The Anti-Fascist Network is supporting New York City Antifa‘s call for an international day of solidarity with anti-fascist prisoners.

https://antifascistnetwork.files.wordpress.com/2013/08/free-all-antifa-prisoners1.jpg

They write:

Antifascists fight against those who—in the government or in the streets—dream of imposing their fascist and other Far Right nationalist nightmares on the rest of us. Throughout the world, Islamophobic, anti-Semitic, anti-immigrant, and racist bigotries are on the rise. Antifas are on the frontline in confronting these reactionary politics, and we will not forget our comrades imprisoned in the course of this struggle.

The July 25 International Day of Solidarity with Antifascist Prisoners originated in 2014 as a Day of Solidarity with Jock Palfreeman, an Australian who is imprisoned in Bulgaria for defending two Romani men from an attack by fascist football hooligans. Groups around the world took action: holding demonstrations, benefits supporting the Bulgarian Prisoners Association, writing to Jock, and talking about the plight of the Romani and Sinti people in general.

In 2015 we would like to expand this day of solidarity to all antifascist prisoners around the world. We encourage groups to take the day to plan an event of their choice—whether it is a letter writing, demonstration, benefit, or other action—and to focus on the prisoners and related issues that are of most importance to them locally.

Below is a list of global antifascist prisoners; if there is an antifa prisoner who is missing, please e-mail us with his or her details and the language(s) they can read.

No Pasaran!
Until All Are Free!

Send prisoner updates, announcements for local events, and additional group endorsements to nycantifascistaction@gmail.com

EVENTS:
Many cities will be holding events and actions, which include New York City, Philadelphia, La Puente, California, Chicago, and Denver (US); Sydney (Australia); Helsinki and Tampere (Finland); as well as events in the United Kingdom, Bulgaria, and lots of other places!

TRANSLATIONS OF THE CALL:
Finnish and Russian

LIST OF ANTIFA PRISONERS:

EUROPE

Belarus
Roman Bogdan

[Update 7/12]Roman Bogdan was arrested on April 15, 2015, as part of the long-going state repression of anti-fascists in Brest, stemming from a fight between anti-fascists and fascists on May 8, 2013. Roman is facing up to ten years in prison on charges of aggravated bodily harm.

He can read Russian and simple English phrases.

Address:
Roman Bogdan
224030
Brest
ul. K. Marksa, 86,
SIZO-7
BELARUS

Dzmitry Stsyashenka

Dzmitry Stsyashenka was arrested on October 4, 2013, for his alleged involvement in a fight between antifascists and neo-Nazis in Brest on May 8, 2013, that sent one Nazi to the hospital. He is also accused of another fight with neo-Nazis during the summer of 2013. He was sentenced to four years in prison, but in 2014 his term was reduced by one year due to an amnesty.

He can read Russian and simple English phrases.

Address:
Dzmitry Stsyashenka
224030
Brest,
ul. K. Marksa, 86,
SIZO-7
BELARUS

http://abc-belarus.org/?cat=3&lang=en

Dzmitry Zvan’ko

Dzmitry Zvan’ko was arrested for his alleged involvement in a fight between anti-fascists and neo-Nazis in Brest on May 8, 2013, that sent one Nazi to the hospital. He was arrested the next day, along with four other people, in a police raid on the homes of known anti-fascists. Dzmitry filed a complaint to the prosecutor about psychological and physical abuse while in custody. He was accused of malicious group hooliganism and serious bodily assault and faced up to ten years of prison. Dzmitry was found guilty and sentenced to five years of prison, but after paying off about 4,000 euro in damages he was granted amnesty, which has reduced his term by one year.

He can read Russian and simple English phrases.

Address:
Dzmitry Zvan’ko
225295
Brestskaya oblast Ivatsevichi
p/b 20 IK-22
Volchi Nory
BELARUS

http://abc-belarus.org/?cat=3&lang=en

Bulgaria
Jock Palfreeman

Jock Palfreeman is an Australian anti-fascist political prisoner serving a twenty-year prison sentence in Bulgaria for the rather mysterious death of a neo-Nazi football hooligan who was part of a group attacking two Romani men in Sofia, Bulgaria in 2007. Jock came to the aid of the Romani, and quickly found himself the focus of the attack. Bulgarian authorities did everything they could to ensure that Jock did not receive a fair trial, and after his sentencing have refused–in contravention of their own treaties–to transfer him to Australia to serve the rest of his time closer to his family. Jock wants donations for him sent to the Bulgarian Prisoners’ Association, which he is part of.

He can read English and Bulgarian.

Address:
Jock Palfreeman
Sofia Central Prison
21 General Stoletov Boulevard
Sofia 1309, BULGARIA

www.freejock.com
http://www.brightonabc.org.uk/jock.html

Russia
Aleksandr Kolchenko

Aleksandr Kolchenko was arrested in Crimea on May 17, 2014, along with several others, and accused by Russian authorities of participation in a “terrorist group” which planned explosions near the Eternal Fire memorial and the Lenin monument in Simferopol, as well as having sabotaged railway tracks and electricity lines. Aleksandr is also alleged to have carried out two arson attacks in April: against the headquarters of the Russian Unity-Party, and the Russian Community of Crimea. He was transferred to Moscow and is being kept in draconian conditions. His lawyers are under a gag order, and have been refused elementary rights to defend him. He faces fifteen-to-twenty years in a labor camp.

Russian authorities claim that Aleksandr is a member of Right Sektor, a Ukrainian ultra-right nationalist organization, but he has no connection to the group—a fact confirmed by relatives and friends. Moreover, Aleksandr is an antifascist and anarchist who consistently opposed nationalistic movements in Crimea and faced constant fascist attacks for his activism. For example, after a film screening about murdered anti-fascist journalist Anastasiya Baburova, he was attacked by thirty Nazis with knives.

Since this case is highly political, Aleksandr’s legal costs are high, around 850 euro per month. The investigation has created a heavy financial strain on local ABC groups, and there is a call for financial support and information distribution. You can make donations via PayPal to abc-msk@riseup.net or using a bank account (write to the same e-mail address for details).

Address:
Please note that Aleksandr is currently being moved to a different prison in Rostov. We are waiting to confirm his new address.

http://avtonom.org/en/news/repressions-against-crimean-activists-political-context
http://wiki.avtonom.org/en/index.php/Aleksandr_Kolchenko

Alexey Sutuga

Alexey Sutuga is a longtime anarchist and anti-fascist who was arrested in April 5, 2014, for a fight with members of the ultra right in Moscow. He was sentenced on September 30, 2014, to three years and one month in prison for his alleged involvement in the fight.

However, this sentence comes in the context of an earlier case from April 2012, when he was arrested for allegedly taking part in a fight at a punk/hardcore concert in Moscow on December 17, 2011. The conflict began after club security, consisting of members of the far right, provoked guests. The concert was stopped prematurely because of the fight, but the security then attempted to take some of the audience hostage and threatened to call their nationalist football hooligan friends in reprisal. The audience members resisted and the club security opened fire with rubber coated metal bullets. However, the club security was neutralized and sent to the hospital. The case against Alexey and several others was eventually dropped in January 2014 on the eve of the Sochi Winter Olympics as part of the amnesty bill, approved as a PR stunt on initiative of Vladimir Putin.

Address:
Sutuga Alexey Vladimirovich 1986 g.r
Ispravitelnaya Koloniya № 2
Pervy Promyshlenniy massiv
kvartal 47
d. 6 g. Angarsk 665809
Irkutskaya oblast
RUSSIA

Please note: Moscow ABC advises that letters in English are seldom accepted in Russian prisons, so please write only in Russian (try using a translation program), or just send photos and postcards.

http://wiki.avtonom.org/en/index.php/Alexey_Sutuga

Sweden
Joel Almgren

Joel Almgren was sentenced to five years and six months for defending a local community-organized anti-racist demonstration in Stockholm against a brutal Nazi attack on December 15, 2013. The peaceful protest—against fascist assaults on local anti-racists and the dissemination of Nazi propaganda in area schools—was attacked with knives, sticks, and glass bottles by the most militant Nazi group in Sweden. Anti-fascists at the scene defended the demonstration from the attack and many were injured themselves.

Joel has over 4080 USD in fines, and his supporters are asking for help raising the money. The group can be contacted at the web site below.

He can read Swedish and English.

Address:
Joel Almgren
KVA Tidaholm
Skogsholmvägen
522 85 Tidaholm
SWEDEN

http://www.fanggruppen.com

https://www.facebook.com/freejoel

Linus Soinjoki

Linus Soinjoki was charged and convicted for actions related to his involvement in the anti-fascist movement in Sweden. He was given fourteen months in prison and began serving his sentence in mid-May 2015.

Linus can read Swedish and English.

Address:
[Update 7/12]We have received news that Linus would rather people contact a Swedish Antifa support page, Föreningen fånggruppen, for his address if people are interested in writing to him.

http://heyevent.com/event/keiajdw7gqvtga/free-linus-break-down-the-walls

NORTH AMERICA

United States
Luke O’Donovan

On New Year’s Eve of 2013, Luke O’Donovan attended a house party in Reynoldstown, a neighborhood in Atlanta, Georgia. Luke was seen dancing with and kissing other men at the party. Later in the night he was insulted with homophobic slurs, and attacked by several people at once. Luke unsuccessfully attempted to escape, at which point several witnesses reported watching between five and twelve men ganging-up on Luke and stomping on his head and body, evidently with the intent to kill him. He was called a faggot before and during the attack, throughout the course of which he and five others were stabbed. Luke was subsequently imprisoned and charged with five counts of aggravated assault with a deadly weapon as well as one count of attempted murder.

Luke’s trial concluded on August 12, 2014, when he accepted a negotiated plea deal. He agreed to a two year sentence beginning that day, and then eight years of harsh probation. The judge also banished Luke from the state of Georgia for the term of his probation.

He can read English.

Address:
Luke Patrick O’Donovan
#1001372271
Washington State Prison
P.O. Box 206
Davisboro, GA 31018
USA

https://letlukego.wordpress.com/

Jason Hammond

Jason Hammond accepted a non-cooperating guilty plea and was sentenced to forty-one months on January 2015 for his part in an organized direct action taken against a group of white supremacists.

In 2012, a group of racists and white supremacists organized a White Nationalist Economic Summit in the Chicago suburb of Tinley Park. Groups of anti-fascists and anti-racists from the Midwest confronted the meeting and successfully shut down the event through a righteous melee. In the aftermath, five antifascists were arrested, and dubbed the Tinley Park 5. The five were sentenced to upwards of three years and all have since been released. Jason was arrested later, and is the last person still in jail for this action.

He can read English.

Address:
Jason Hammond, M50190
P.O. Box 500
Vandalia, IL 62471
USA

http://freejasonhammond.blogspot.com/
https://fundrazr.com/campaigns/0w0Ma/ab/94SfS3

RESPONDING TO THE TUNISIA ATTACK

Oxford Research Group
Global Security Briefing – JULY 2015
Paul Rogers
14 July 2015

RAF Voyager KC2 refuels two Tornado GR4 over Iraq
An RAF Voyager KC2 refuels two RAF Tornado GR4 in March 2015 over Iraq

Summary
This briefing has four aims: firstly to provide an update on the state of the war against Islamic State; secondly to assess the reasons for Islamic State’s resilience; thirdly to question whether an extension of the UK involvement in the war is wise; and finally to examine alternative courses of action for the UK.

Context
A three-part series of ORG briefings on Islamic State, in February, April and May, analysed the status of the movement, looking initially at indications early in the year that it might be in retreat after its series of unexpected gains in 2014. The conclusion was cautious as to the actual degree of retreat, and the April and May briefings then examined its resilience and the possibility of its spread to other states. Two months later, and bearing in mind two anniversaries in early July – the establishment of the Islamic State proto-caliphate in a proclamation in Mosul a year ago, and the tenth anniversary of the 7/7 London bombings – it is appropriate to return to an analysis of the status of the movement.

This is especially pertinent in relation to the 26 June attack on the tourists at a beach resort just north of Sousse in Tunisia which killed 38 people, 30 of them from Britain. Following the attack, the UK Prime Minister, David Cameron, announced that Britain would embark on a “full spectrum response”. Defence Secretary Michael Fallon made it clear that extending Britain’s role in the coalition air war against Islamic State to Syria was being actively considered, but it was accepted that parliamentary approval would be required and might be sought before the end of the current session on 21 July.

A further element in the post-Sousse attack was the decision of the Foreign and Commonwealth Office two weeks later to advise British nationals to leave Tunisia because of a possible further attack. This confirmed the view of some analysts that Islamic State was specifically targeting the UK, a factor that appears to underpin the intention of the government that UK involvement in the coalition air war must extend to Syria.

The Current State of the War 
Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi declared the new Caliphate, Islamic State, in Mosul on 4 July last year, following the rapid takeover of much of north-west Iraq by the new movement, culminating in the collapse of Iraqi Army units and the taking of Iraq’s second city of Mosul. Two months later the United States started air strikes against Islamic State forces in Iraq, later being joined by many other states, including the UK.

The US then extended its bombing to Syria with some of the coalition partners joining in, although the overwhelming majority of air strikes there are conducted by US forces. Britain is not currently involved in Syrian airstrikes but in the overall war it is second only to the US in the extent of its involvement. Its main contribution is Tornado strike aircraft operating out of RAF Akrotiri on Cyprus and Reaper armed drones deployed from Kuwait but operated from RAF Waddington in Lincolnshire.

In nearly a year of the air war the US claims that the coalition has undertaken around 15,600 air sorties, has hit over 7,000 targets and is killing a thousand Islamic State fighters every month, about 10,000 since the air war started, although there is no independent verification and no way of knowing how many of them were actually civilians. Over the past nine months UK forces are reported to have killed 240 Islamic State supporters through air operations by strike aircraft and armed drones.

Islamic State has not only survived all the attacks but in many places is thriving, attracting up to a thousand new recruits each month from across the region and beyond, including more than a thousand from Russia. It has consolidated its organisational hold on towns and cities across the substantial territory it has overrun, demonstrating a brutal ability to control and manage them.

Islamic State Resilience 
Trying to explain such tough competence and organisation and why Islamic State looks increasingly to be a robust entity is crucial if we are to understand its prospects, and this is best understood by recognising that the movement is an integrated coalition of elements. At its core is an extreme religious outlook rooted in a perverted interpretation of Islam that looks to create a “pure” caliphate. This has a strong eschatological element that looks beyond this earthly life, an aspect that has two particular effects. One is that it is working to a long time scale, far longer than most revolutionary movements, and the other is that it attracts people readily wanting to give their lives to the cause.

A second element is that Islamic State has a core of highly experienced paramilitary fighters and leaders, most likely numbered in the thousands. They draw on many nationalities and include people with extensive experience of fighting in Chechnya, Libya, Bosnia, Afghanistan, Kashmir and many other recent zones of conflict. The main element, though, stems from Iraqis who fought western forces in Iraq from 2003. At the centre of this are highly experienced, resentful, angry and determined Iraqis who survived the extensive but largely unreported “dirty war” fought by US and UK Special Forces in central and western Iraq between 2004 and 2008, run by US Joint Special Operations Command (JSOC).

Finally there is a technocratic element that may or may not have extreme religious outlooks but has a range of competencies in many fields of urban and rural management and organisation. Most of these are drawn from the ranks of former Iraqi Baath Party members with huge experience of the rigid technocratic system of the Saddam Hussein era.

This last element is far more important than is currently recognised and is reflected in the ability of Islamic State to run towns and cities, organising public services including transport, food distribution, sanitation, health and educational services. The provision may be backed up by brutal force and violent suppression of any opposition but is, at least for now, providing stability and even a degree of support. One of the most indicative demonstrations of competence comes from frequent reports that IS-controlled territory sees a great reduction of bribery and corruption, in marked contrast to preceding experience.

At present IS seeks to consolidate and expand its control of territory while extending its influence to other states, the main ones being Libya and Afghanistan, though the singularly tough anti-Islamist policies of the al-Sisi government in Egypt make that a strong candidate for additional support to opposition elements, not least in Sinai. In addition, Islamic State needs a steady flow of recruits from across the region and beyond and is especially interested in recruits from western states with significant Muslim diasporas among their populations.

To Bomb Syria?
By far the most difficult challenge for a UK government is recognising that it has little capacity to influence events in the region, partly because of its past policies, especially its contribution to deeply unpopular wars that have helped create Islamic State. It is natural enough that the demand that “something must be done” is met in some way, and that with Britain being a significant military power that has used its forces on so many occasions in the past century, not least in Iraq and the Middle East, it should believe that this is once again the answer.

The problem is that this is precisely what Islamic State wants. Its strongest recruiting tactic is to present itself as the one true guardian of Islam under attack from “crusader” forces. In doing so it points to the recent western intervention and occupation of Iraq and Afghanistan and the use of force in Libya, Somalia, Yemen, Pakistan and Mali as well as the support for repressive regimes in Saudi Arabia, Egypt and elsewhere, not forgetting sustained western support for Israel. This, in turn, is rooted in a much more general representation of Islam under essential need of renewal back to the “true faith” espoused by Islamic State, following a retreat stretching back centuries and even to the high point of the Abbasid caliphate a millennium ago.

In the case of the UK it can point to its specific involvement in the Middle East back to the 1916 Sykes-Picot Agreement and the Palestine Mandate, and it sees marginalised young Muslims in the UK as fertile ground for current recruitment. This, in its view, will be aided by greater British involvement in the air war – further proof that the UK is part of the crusader assault on Islam. The Sousse attack should be seen as a direct provocation, an incitement to the UK government to bomb Syria, and there may well be further attacks.

Is There Another Way?
If the UK government decides not to extend its participation in the air war to Syria, perhaps through failing to get parliamentary approval, then there are actions which can be taken.

1. Humanitarian Response
A humanitarian disaster is unfolding across the Middle East, with huge pressures in particular on Lebanon and Jordan. Resources to aid mass refugee flows are sparse and the UN is under considerable pressure to respond. Quite apart from the humanitarian imperative, there is the risk of greatly increased bitterness on the part of hundreds of thousands if not millions of people displaced from their homes and even their countries. Britain has been prominent in underwriting UN programmes of aid and helping in other ways, but there is scope hugely to increase its support. This should be a priority.

2. Diplomatic Activism
At a governmental level Britain has an experienced diplomatic service with strong connections right across the Middle East, possibly the most experienced and best connected of any western state. This should be recognised and used far more:

• Priority should be given to encouraging much stronger dialogue between Iran and Saudi Arabia, the two most important players in what is in many ways a proxy war in Syria.

• This should extend to improving dialogue with Russia, bearing in mind that Russia itself has a growing internal problem of Islamist extremism and has an interest in limiting the further growth and influence of Islamic State in the Caucasus.

• There should be specific efforts to aid and support UN and other initiatives in seeking to resolve the bitter conflicts in Libya which will otherwise provide fertile ground for the growth of Islamic State influence.

• The UK should use its best endeavours to encourage the al-Sisi government in Egypt to rethink its suppression of the Muslim Brotherhood, since there is potential here for IS influence to grow rapidly.

3. Inclusive Settlements 
Britain should seek to influence the Abadi government in Baghdad and the Rouhani government in Tehran to ensure a greater reaching out to the Sunni minority in Iraq, the continuing marginalisation of this community being one reason for its support for Islamic State. An eventual political settlement in Syria that is inclusive enough to share power between Sunnis, Alawites, Christians, Druze, Kurds and others is also imperative to peace there.

These responses may not specifically limit Islamic State in the short term, but could help to contain its further advance, which should be a policy priority. Responding to the current predicament by bombing Syria will not do this.

Conclusion
There are no easy answers to the serious problem posed by Islamic State but the evidence of western military action in the Middle East, North Africa and South Asia over the past fourteen years is that it is persistently counter-productive. Since in the case of Syria, Islamic State appears specifically hoping to provoke the UK to greater military involvement this should be avoided. Islamic State cannot be defeated by an air war, and there is no western appetite for a full-scale ground war. Even if there were, Islamic State would welcome it, anticipating a further surge in support for its cause.

The fundamental issue is that Islamic State wants war and to extend its power to other regions. Working to prevent that spread and to respond to the huge humanitarian catastrophe should be a priority and Britain is singularly well-placed to contribute.

In the longer term, the experience of recent years once again reinforces the need for genuine multilateralism through the UN and regional organisations as a means to channel and resolve geopolitical rivalries. An effective UN standing force such as the proposed UN Emergency Peace Service might also go some way to rectifying the huge distrust that much of the world has for US, UK or NATO-led ‘peacekeeping’ operations. There remains little or no appetite for this among UN member states in spite of the evident need, yet Britain could play a major role in encouraging the development of such a force. Much else is up to the states of the region to resolve within and among themselves.

About the Author
Paul Rogers
is Global Security Consultant to Oxford Research Group (ORG) and Professor of Peace Studies at the University of Bradford. His Monthly Briefings are available from their website, where visitors can sign up to receive them via their newsletter each month. These briefings are circulated free of charge for non-profit use, but please consider making a donation to ORG, if you are able to do so.

Image: An RAF Voyager KC2 refuels two RAF Tornado GR4 in March 2015 over Iraq. Image courtesy of Wikimedia.

 

Critical Mass London 31 July 2015

This is where reports of the July ride of Critical Mass London will be posted.

If you were there, please write a short – or long! – report of where you rode, what you saw and post it as a comment here. Better still, you can ask for a user name for this blog and post on the body of this post to substitute this rant instead. That will make the work of checking closed facebook for reports finally obsolete.

Thanks for riding and reporting in the open web!

any old Green / White books please

hey, legal types,

we really need a more up to date version of the Civil Court Practice / Civil Procedure rules

We are currently using a 2012 Green Book, which doesn’t even have CPR 83, the new rules on enforcement. Someone must be working somewhere that has the 2015 version in and could give us your hand-me-downs