Resistance continues in Syria (June 29 2012)

Anti-government protests continue to wave their green, white ,black flags in Syria. According to the Local coordinating committees (LCC) the government opposition only gets bigger as the death toll increases. The Syrian people are brave and they are able to protest freely not because they are free from government oppression but because they have the Free Syria Army to protect them. They are also highly organised and able to trick the regime by organising fake protests and by carrying out other actions while the demonstrations continue so that the security forces are distracted by other activities. While Internet and telecommunications are often cut off and monitored, activists are organising themselves through the use of satellite phones and using traditional meeting places like mosques where they “name” the demonstration. The Syrian people will win as we are seeing more soldiers desert and join the FSA, who continue to support the peoples revolution. Say “No to intervention” and say “Yes to solidarity”.


Eco village Britain

On June 6th 2009 Kew Bridge Eco village was created. A small group began by camping on derelict land by the bridge which had been bought to build expensive apartments. It was a space where low impact living, self sufficiency and egalitarian community living could be practised. The camp was set up by using mostly recycled materials that were found or donated. Growing food was a crucial part of the philosophy and the remainder of the campers diets were supplemented by skipping of supermarket bins and donations. The group quickly grew and developed, they managed to maintain the eco village for over a year until they were forcefully removed by private security, after the court had ordered an eviction notice on behalf of the housing corporation.

However the legacy of KB still remains in the hearts and minds of many in the original group as well as those who were inspired by this new kind of activism and went on to get involved in similar projects. In the months leading up to the eviction “grow your own village” meetings were set up for those interested in setting up similar projects on unused green spaces across the UK. The initial meetings inspired similar camps in Bristol, Hull and Hounslow in west London. Some of the Kew Bridge residents went on to be key members in what was “democracy village” across from the houses of parliament.

The Grow your own village  page is now dedicated to the memory of kew bridge eco village has now been renamed “grow your own village” and provides information for those interested in low impact community living. There is also video footage of a Kew Bridge eco village tour and interviews with some of the residents.

Although the battle over land continues with the court verdicts predictably siding with private business interests over environmental and social justice, one group have managed to avoid this vicious cycle. Syon Lane community allotment was set up by an agreement between a member of Hounslow community gardens and the private owner of the sight who liked the idea of a group of people looking after the land that he was not using. They signed a legal contract for 3 years and it is now being used for local allotments. It also gives those involved a space to set up workshops and meetings.

Diggers2012 have been at Runnymede since 9th June 2012. The site was once a campus of Brunel University. Following the sale of the land to private owners it has been neglected and largely disused for the past five years. It is now being put to good use. Well done to all the dedicated diggers and dreamers.


A lack of genuine political education


I used to watch television debates and get frustrated with both sides, I never agreed with either but my unlearned voice had little to say against the experts in their sharp suits and well articulated words. Somehow the solution or possible sane response is omitted and dismissed as irrelevant, almost as if it doesn’t exist. It lacks common sense, when we look for genuine solutions to real problems we look in every corner and from every angle, not just a very narrow framework that dismisses “facts” that may point us in the right direction.


I had a similar experience while studying politics and economics with the open university. Far from being “open” to different ideas, the head of the course team wrote an essay titled; “Framing the international” informing us that capitalism is now the only game in town. Not only was this persuasive piece of writing telling us that revolution is simply no longer on the cards but was also informing the entire student body of OU students interested in international development that the work of NGO’s and transnational institutions like the UN were the best the poor could hope for. Even the not so radical Keynesian economics which helped bring the US out of the great depression and into the boom years, was simply outdated and unheard of in course materials relating to economics. The best they could offer for a third year module was the economic model known as “comparative advantage”. This model dates back to the period of colonisation where countries under colonial rule had to specialize in the product that they were best at producing so that they would get more out of trade. With independence, these policies were scraped in many countries in favour of building schools,hospitals and the kind of things that do make a difference to those living in poverty. With the oil crisis of the 70s came the restructuring of the 80s where countries were forced to change their macroeconomic policies and along with all the neo-liberal reforms that dominated what has been called “the lost decade” came the return of comparative advantage. The truth is that it has created dependency on trade as by specializing they lost all diversity and could not live on coffee alone. Furthermore they didn’t really benefit from trade as primary commodities were worth less than manufactured goods and have been constantly decreasing in value, which means that farmers have to produce more for less and consequently those who trade in manufactured goods, get more for less.


For many students this was really frustrating as they had enrolled on a course in international development hoping to work in development for an NGO or even the UN. People that studied not for financial gain but in the hope that they would be able to help those less fortunate than themselves. The hope that they could make a difference, that they could be part of the solution in ending poverty. Unfortunately by the end of the course that had all changed. People had discovered that in some ways these organisations are part of the problem rather than the solution. I think it was more the combination of independent research, awareness of current affairs along with some of the views in the course material that helped people to come to such a conclusion.

People are just sick of humanitarian intervention being used as an excuse for war. Iraq is now commonly acknowledged as being a war for oil despite it originally being sold as a humanitarian intervention. When NATO decided to invade Libya, another oil rich country, for sceptics it was Iraq all over again.  

Beyond the propaganda about syria

This interesting and in-depth article gives a perspective on the Syrian revolution which is neither pro- western intervention or pro-Assad.

Much of mainstream media is polarized in such ways. If a critical observer feels horrified at the thought of another US/NATO/UN style humanitarian invasion of a country with vast oil wealth which is marketed to the masses as a war to save the Syrian people but in reality is carried out at the expense of the Syrian people and their interests. They may well fall for the pro-Assad propaganda media which has also been backed up by conspiracy theory sights such as infowars as well as Russia Today.

We need to say no to the brutal leaders whatever their country or alliances. We must unite as people against the tyrants internationally, not replace one by another. We need to believe in ourselves and know that when the lion told all the animals he was dying, they entered the cave to say their goodbyes. The fox didn’t enter the cave he sat for over an hour outside the cave until the lion came out of the cave to ask the fox why he didn’t come to greet him. The fox replied;”I’m not going in until the other animals go out alive”.

Barcelona united 15-M

On Friday 27th May the mossos (Catalunya police) decided to kick in a few heads at the protest camp Barcelona. They came at 7am and said that they had been ordered to clean out the camp for the champions league final the following day. Protesters soon returned to the square; some panting their hands white and holding them up in the air as a symbol that they have no blood on their hands and they are peaceful. Others held up photos of police violence with the message that this brutality is what the police call cleaning. Others held up mops and messages that it is the protesters who are doing the cleaning; their cleaning out the system. As news got out about the attacks on the protesters the camp grew in size. Many protesters claimed that on Friday the camp was bigger than ever. The square was full of people and in that moment and that place in time you could believe that a revolution is possible in Spain.

The movement is often referred to as 15-M because it started on the 15th may. Originally the idea was the work of the Internet site set up in January; Democracia Real Ya! A platform to help organise global actions, with the slogan No somos mercancia en manos de politicos y banqueros (We are not merchandise in the hands of the politicians and bankers). The Madrid protesters were the first to camp out by the 17th there were camps in 30 different cities; making the movement bigger than anyone could have imagined. There is talk in the Barcelona camp about the possibility of camping out for the whole month of June. Originally represented in the media as an opposition to the local elections; something that would go away after the 22nd May. The message from the camp is one of disbelief in the two party political system that does not represent the people. Unemployment is close to 5 million now in Spain and the current PSOE government led by Zapatero is following the same line of cuts and austerity as their European partners. The movement echoes the message of those resisting throughout Europe; Why should we pay for your crisis? Ordinary people are being fed the idea that the state needs to cut back on welfare and education while unemployment is rising and the bankers who caused the crisis are being given millions in bonuses. These issues are some of the many being discussed daily at the protest sights. Democracy in action is being practised through the organisation of commissions and assemblies. Each commission is responsible for looking after a different aspect of the daily camp duties. The communications commission takes care of communicating with the outside world. The kitchen commission needs to make sure everyone’s fed and so on. Issues that are discussed throughout the day are announced by individual representatives and then voted on in the assemblies. As the camp progresses a manifesto is written, making the ideas clearer to understand.

The plaza Catalunya is not the only place where there is a visible opposition, there are many small rallys in the different barrios in Barcelona. Protesters are inventive in their techniques to get others to join. Small groups walk through train carriages telling others to join them in the plaza de Catalunya. Others walk along the ramblas approaching members of the public for discussions and debates. They are yet to win the hearts and minds of the all the Spanish people. The divisions that exist cannot be broken down within a few weeks. Only with time we will know what kind of impact this movement is capable of achieving.

The lack of belief that anything will change does not stop people from enjoying a good party. There is plenty of beer to go round as the beer sellers of the streets make the most of the opportunity to make money. Some of them wearing hippy style bags and dancing to the music. When it gets to 4am and they are still doing theirs rounds it gets a bit annoying having to say no thank you after you’ve spent all your money on beers. Many enjoy climbing up the rope swing and watching others fall off. Others are divided into their own groups, some singing and playing the guitar, others drunk and others discussing politics until the early hours. Others are already in bed, some very comfortable in their tree houses, tents and others under tarp canopies or out in the open with their camping mats and sleeping bags. There is no presence of any security commission. Who is going to defend the sleeping campers from an attack in the night? Within the camp there seems to be a consensus on keeping things quiet. When people start to make noise they are quickly stopped by the sound of shhh! Coming out of the sleeping area. When it gets to 6 in the morning many groups pack up their camping gear and head off to catch the first train home.

Anyone who believes that capitalism isn’t working, that a better world is possible can not help but be impressed by the conscious and compassionate individuals camped out and united against injustice. Many have their reservations on how effective their presence will be in a sea of apathy which becomes more of challenge with the presence of the football fans,who are used by the local police as an excuse to try and violently remove the peaceful demonstrators. Nobody knows how long they will stay or whether it will change anything. At least for now there is a positive atmosphere and the will to continue. This movement alone may not succeed in achieving all the hopes of the dreamers, but at least people are trying to make a change, talking about a change and most importantly; thinking.