Tuesday, May 29, 2007

Shame on Europe!

Europes anti immigration force FRONTEX is killing people! It dragges refugees in desasters on seasides like this:

'malta_refugees' von azadi

The Independent reports about this recent incident caused by the Maltese autorities:

Europe's shame

By Peter Popham in Rome

Published: 28 May 2007

For three days and three nights, these African migrants clung desperately to life. Their means of survival is a tuna net, being towed across the Mediterranean by a Maltese tug that refused to take them on board after their frail boat sank.

Malta and Libya, where they had embarked on their perilous journey, washed their hands of them. Eventually, they were rescued by the Italian navy.

The astonishing picture shows them hanging on to the buoys that support the narrow runway that runs around the top of the net. They had had practically nothing to eat or drink.

Last night, on the island of Lampedusa, the 27 young men - from Ghana, Nigeria, Cameroon, Sudan and other countries - told of their ordeal. As their flimsy boat from Libya floundered adrift for six days, two fishing boats failed to rescue them. On Wednesday, the Maltese boat, the Budafel allowed them to mount the walkway but refused to have them on board.

This is the latest snapshot from the killing seas of the southern Mediterranean, the stretch of water at the European Union's southern gate that the UN High Commissioner for Refugees says "has become like the Wild West, where human life has no value any more and people are left to their fate".

On Friday, The Independent reported how a Maltese plane photographed a crazily overloaded boat in this area carrying 53 Eritreans, several of whom telephoned desperate pleas for help to relatives in London, Italy and Malta. The boat disappeared with all hands before anything was done to save them. They died, not because help was unavailable, but because no-one wanted to do anything. Malta is full up. Libya, where these voyages begin, takes no responsibility. One might think that the EU's new frontiers agency, Frontex, had a part to play. But its "rapid response team" remains on the drawing board.

Frontex is expected to begin joint patrols in the Mediterranean shortly, following a brief pilot programme last year. But the critical stretch between Malta and Libya is to be controlled by Malta and Greece, and the hard-nosed attitude of the Maltese in recent weeks does not inspire optimism.

The Maltese captain of the Budafel refused to land the men, he later explained, because he had $1m-worth of tuna in the pen. If he had taken them to Malta, the trip would have taken 12 days, given the tug's slow speed. There, he would have found himself in the middle of a diplomatic wrangle. "I couldn't take the risk of losing this catch," he said.

The captain informed the Maltese authorities. The Maltese phoned the Libyans - the Africans were about 60 miles from the Libyan coast, within Libya's area of competence for search and rescue. Libya said they would send a helicopter to the spot and throw down a life raft. Malta - by this point Prime Minister Lawrence Gonzi had become directly involved - said that was unacceptable. They gave Malta's armed forces the task of persuading the Libyans to pick the men up.

The 27 had by this point spent three days and nights standing on the walkway, which is 18 inches wide. The Budafel's captain said he wouldn't mind being on the walkway for an hour. Any longer - under the fierce sun, or in the chill of the night - no thanks.

The Libyan government eventually sent a fax saying they would pick the men up. But no help arrived. The Maltese steadfastly refused to take the initiative. In the past five days, 157 illegal immigrants have come ashore on the Maltese coast. The small island is full to capacity. The impasse continued all Saturday.

By a stroke of luck an Italian navy vessel, Orione, was not far away: last week Libya had given Italy permission to search for the 53 doomed Eritreans, and it was still in the area, still searching.

The Italian navy dispatched first a plane and then the Orione. By 9pm on Saturday night, after more than 70 hours clinging to the pen, they were on their way to Sicily. Last night, they were reported to be weak and exhausted but out of danger. For them it's a happy ending. But in the past five days, sources in Malta say four other boats have gone down, with the loss of about 120 lives. As Laura Boldrini of the UNHCR puts it, "setting off across the Mediterranean in these boats is a game of Russian roulette".

Up to 10,000 people are believed to have drowned trying to cross the Mediterranean from Africa. The passage from west Africa to the Canary Islands is no less perilous. In Spain, where shocking images of a dozen dead would-be migrants in their boat were published in newspapers last week, estimates of the total number of dead run as high as 7,000.

"Governments must encourage fishermen to save human life," says Laura Boldrini. "Now they fear that if they help, they can be stuck for days and weeks. But international maritime law says governments have a duty to allow the speedy disembarkation of people rescued at sea. We say, let's save human lives first. This must be the priority for all the parties involved."

Tuesday, May 22, 2007

The Great Wall of Segregation in Baghdad

April 26, 2007
Baghdad Burning
from riverbendblog a Girl Blog from Iraq to talk about war, politics and occupation.

. . . I'll meet you 'round the bend my friend, where hearts can heal and souls can mend. . . .

The Great Wall of Segregation

Which is the wall the current Iraqi government is building (with the support and guidance of the Americans). It's a wall that is intended to separate and isolate what is now considered the largest 'Sunni' area in Baghdad- let no one say the Americans are not building anything. According to plans the Iraqi puppets and Americans cooked up, it will 'protect' A'adhamiya, a residential/mercantile area that the current Iraqi government and their death squads couldn't empty of Sunnis. . . .

The Wall is the latest effort to further break Iraqi society apart. Promoting and supporting civil war isn't enough, apparently- Iraqis have generally proven to be more tenacious and tolerant than their mullahs, ayatollahs, and Vichy leaders. It's time for America to physically divide and conquer- like Berlin before the wall came down or Palestine today. This way, they can continue chasing Sunnis out of "Shia areas" and Shia out of "Sunni areas".

I always hear the Iraqi pro-war crowd interviewed on television >from foreign capitals (they can only appear on television from the safety of foreign capitals because I defy anyone to be publicly pro-war in Iraq). They refuse to believe that their religiously inclined, sectarian political parties fueled this whole Sunni/Shia conflict. They refuse to acknowledge that this situation is a direct result of the war and occupation. They go on and on about Iraq's history and how Sunnis and Shia were always in conflict and I hate that. I hate that a handful of expats who haven't been to the country in decades pretend to know more about it than people actually living there.

I remember Baghdad before the war- one could live anywhere. We didn't know what our neighbors were- we didn't care. No one asked about religion or sect. No one bothered with what was considered a trivial topic: are you Sunni or Shia? You only asked something like that if you were uncouth and backward. Our lives revolve around it now. Our existence depends on hiding it or highlighting it- depending on the group of masked men who stop you or raid your home in the middle of the night.

On a personal note, we've finally decided to leave. I guess I've known we would be leaving for a while now. We discussed it as a family dozens of times. At first, someone would suggest it tentatively because, it was just a preposterous idea- leaving ones home and extended family- leaving ones country- and to what? To where?

Since last summer, we had been discussing it more and more. It was only a matter of time before what began as a suggestion- a last case scenario- soon took on solidity and developed into a plan. For the last couple of months, it has only been a matter of logistics. Plane or car? Jordan or Syria? Will we all leave together as a family? Or will it be only my brother and I at first?

After Jordan or Syria- where then? Obviously, either of those countries is going to be a transit to something else. They are both overflowing with Iraqi refugees, and every single Iraqi living in either country is complaining of the fact that work is difficult to come by, and getting a residency is even more difficult. There is also the little problem of being turned back at the border. Thousands of Iraqis aren't being let into Syria or Jordan- and there are no definite criteria for entry, the decision is based on the whim of the border patrol guard checking your passport.

An airplane isn't necessarily safer, as the trip to Baghdad International Airport is in itself risky and travelers are just as likely to be refused permission to enter the country (Syria and Jordan) if they arrive by airplane. And if you're wondering why Syria or Jordan, because they are the only two countries that will let Iraqis in without a visa. Following up visa issues with the few functioning embassies or consulates in Baghdad is next to impossible.

So we've been busy. Busy trying to decide what part of our lives to leave behind. Which memories are dispensable? We, like many Iraqis, are not the classic refugees- the ones with only the clothes on their backs and no choice. We are choosing to leave because the other option is simply a continuation of what has been one long nightmare- stay and wait and try to survive.

On the one hand, I know that leaving the country and starting a new life somewhere else- as yet unknown- is such a huge thing that it should dwarf every trivial concern. The funny thing is that its the trivial that seems to occupy our lives. We discuss whether to take photo albums or leave them behind. Can I bring along a stuffed animal I've had since the age of four? Is there room for E.'s guitar? What clothes do we take? Summer clothes? The winter clothes too? What about my books? What about the CDs, the baby pictures?

The problem is that we don't even know if we'll ever see this stuff again. We don't know if whatever we leave, including the house, will be available when and if we come back. There are moments when the injustice of having to leave your country, simply because an imbecile got it into his head to invade it, is overwhelming. It is unfair that in order to survive and live normally, we have to leave our home and what remains of family and friends And to what?

It's difficult to decide which is more frightening- car bombs and militias, or having to leave everything you know and love, to some unspecified place for a future where nothing is certain.



Monday, May 21, 2007

We are here because you destroy our countries

Particular Reference to Nigeria’s Niger Delta

Africa is a continent of National states which were originally created by the European colonial masters mainly or only for the purpose of promoting their commercial and economic interests. This happened in 1884 when the European powers came together in Berlin Conference in order to arbitrarily divide up the African continent into single entities (which they called nations) along boundaries marked by rivers or other possible lines. By so doing people of same tribes or same cultures found themselves included in same boundaries with people of other tribes or cultures other than their own. No thought was given to possible consequences, of which we are now familiar – conflicts, wars, mass murders, mass annihilations, rape, oppression and so on. The continous and never-ending conflicts of macabre nature which we see today among African peoples are traceable to the Berlin Conference. For the reason that peoples were arbitrarily divided and were forcibly thrown under the rules of different or various European powers; old African kingdoms or hegemonies were destroyed under these new structures. Different African cultures were, therefore , forced to live under one roof, so to speak.

As the “wind of change” started blowing through Africa in the 1960’s in the wake of which many African nations gained independence from their colonial masters it was very important to note that the basis for independence for the National African states is to satisfy the wishes and wants of their colonial masters, in areas of economic and commercial considerations. So it was that any person or any peoples that were considered a threat were or are ruthlessly eliminated or annihilated. This method took different forms in different areas of the African continent. This f… has been confirmed by several Europeans themselves – (Refer “Der Spiegel” of March 19. 2007. In it, James McAvoy (28), of the Oscar winning film “The Last King Of Scotland” fame said: “Wir haben uns in Afrika viele hundert Jahre eingemischt; wir haben diesen Kontinent zugrunde gerichtet.” „We“ refers to European Powers!

The fact that African rule Africans in independent African states in which the economic interests of Europeans are served has the tendency to strengthen governments to deal with weaker, smaller tribes with violence and violation of rights for the purpose of enslavement and annihilation. What untold sufferings and death this tendency brought on Africans can only be imagined.

Nigeria is one good example. More than 250 peoples of different cultures and tongues were brought under one roof as a nation by the British only on the basis of same colour of skin. This happened in 1914 when the northern and southern British protectorates were brought under one authoritative rule under Lord Lugard, who was then the Governor General.

After independence in 1960 a few elites took over the rule of the country and the bitter and difficult ethnic differences were too obvious to be ignored. The major actors in the political scene, who were from the three major tribes, namely Hausa-Fulani, Yoruba and Ibo, soon were openly divided, a division that cut across members of the civil service and the military. This led to a situation whereby they started going after the throats of each other – the bloody civil war in which an estimated one million people died was the result.

Foreshadowing the cause of the civil war was the oil revenue. Oil was discovered in the Niger Delta Area of Nigeria in 1958. Shortly after independence, oil revenue increased in leaps and bounds. In order to gain control of the oil revenue, military leaders resorted to the power of the gun. One military dictator after another, and mainly from the Hausa-Fulani tribe, forcibly took over the rulership of the country.
These military dictators were nothing more than bandits accompanied by big western oil trusts, namely Shell, and their main objectives was to loot the public treasury to the extent, that every military officer became a millionaire. For the fact, that the dictators had no formal meaningful education to be able to discharge their enormous state duties, they hand-picked individuals to assist them. Together they looted the treasury. Nigerian upper-class, who were not willing to work, but were satisfied with the free oil money flowing freely to them through corrupt practices, also lend them support.

They slashed away their loots running into hundreds of billions of dollars in foreign banks without giving a thought to investing in Nigeria so that young people can benefit by way of gaining employment.

The military had nothing to offer the people of Nigeria other than violence and death. Through threats of violence they blindfolded the people and that way they held the different tribes together as one nation. Under these circumstances, the interests of the minority groups, particularly in the Niger Delta region, suffered untold hardships.

The sufferings and deaths in Nigeria’s Niger Delta will be of particular interest here. The oil exploitation carried out in Niger Delta rendered the entire region in desperate waste and pitiable desolation.

As a result of the oil exploitation land, particularly farmlands, rivers and creeks are completely and permanently contaminated with oil, the air is pestered with methane, carbon monoxide, carbon dioxide emanating from gas flaring which has continued 24 hours a day since up to 50 years and this right near human habitations.

Acid rain, oil pipeline leakages and oil-blow-outs here left the region of Niger Delta completely in waste. High pressure pipelines criss-crossing landscapes and economically useful potions of the land.

The result of this uncontrolled environmental destruction and contamination is the complete destruction of the ecosystem of the Niger Delta. Sauna and fauna are dead. Mangrove forests die out and nypa-palms are adversely affected. The rain forests fall to the destructive axe of oil firms, wild life has disappeared, fishes are all dead, farmlands are no longer farmable for the reason of very poor or no yields because of acid rain. Fresh air is now a thing of the past. Economic crops are destroyed without any compensations.

Now the people of the Niger Delta are mainly fishermen and farmers. Entailing the environmental destruction is the fact, that millions of farmers and fishers were thrown out of their jobs – contaminated soil, dead fish.

Consequently, men are no longer able to feed their wives and children, nor are they able to send their children to school.

Added to all these, the people of the Niger Delta are politically marginalized and denied their rights, even to their lands and means of livelihood. In spite of the oil wealth of the region, the people of the Niger Delta live in the most primitive and backward conditions. They live in tattered huts in mosquito infested surroundings without electricity, potable water, hospitals, houses and schools. They are like slaves amidst their own god-given riches.

Since over 50 years there have severed cases of paid assassinations, murders, disappearances or imprisonments of people who have dared to demand rights for the people. The most prominent and well known, perhaps, is Ken Saro-Wiwa, who was a teacher in 1965 of the writer of this article – in Stella Maris College in Port Harcourt. In short, if any one raises his finger in protest he has his head cut off.
Space does not allow complete list of woes that have befallen the people Niger Delta for so long. But sufficient to mention just a few here.

Because of poverty, some people resort to bursting oil pipes to fetch oil to sell and unfortunately most lost their lives due to fire resulting from pipeline explosions.

In the little town of Apawar (inhabitants about 2000) more than half died from fire while extracting oil from a burst oil pipeline.

On the 12 th July 2000 in the town called Adeje more than 250 got burnt alife in the same way and 497 were treated for serious burns, 97 of whom later died.
Or November 20th 1999, protesting youths from the Ijow tribe killed two policemen in a town called Odi (inhabitants 25.000). As a result the Obasanjo Regime sent in mobile police and military panzers. In their trail they left many people dead, including women and children and laid all houses flat. The government prevented foreign journalists from getting there and did not allow them to interview wounded soldiers in Port Harcourt hospitals.

On April 11th 2000 in K-Dere, inhabitants were protesting against Shell building a road across community land. A boy by name Barimadua Jungle Obarako was shot dead, 5 others died later. Houses were burnt down because a police inspector was wounded. Some Ogonis were arrested and mishandled in detention.
Around march 2007 militant youths in Niger Delta kidnapped a group of Filipino seamen and held them hostage for a period of time just to draw the attention of the world community to the situation of the people in Niger Delta.

We demand:

1. that all those, who are extra-legally imprisoned be set free!
2. Try those who have wasting in detention over the years!
3. End extralegal executions and mistreatment of detained persons!
4. Extralegal executions and mistreatment to be investigated!
5. Do away with Sharia courts!
6. Take drastic steps to wipe out corrupt practices!
7. Pay compensation to locals in the Niger Delta!

“Mwalimu”, refugee from Nigeria

Wednesday, May 16, 2007

CARAVAN tour 2007


'plakat_tr_fa_ar copy' von mazdak'plakat_de_en_fr copy' von mazdak

Download: pdf_english

Aufruf deutsch, çağrı türkçe, Farsi

# # # call for the CARAVAN tour from mai 19 to june 4, 2007 # # #

we are here, because you destroy our countries
solidarity against deportation
for a world without exploitation, oppression and wars

Nine years after the first caravan tour we call everyone for the third time to unite, stand up in solidarity with us against the system of exclusion, oppression and deportation in Germany. This time the Caravan tour takes place shortly before the meeting of the Group of Eight countrıes in Heiligendamm, Germany.

When most of us: migrants; including refugees and migrants left our destroyed countries, we did not leave as free women and men. We were forced to leave by the unbearable and inhuman conditions that have been imposed on us there. Some people have acknowledged these conditions in various forms as hunger, wars, poverty, dictatorship and so on which has its root in the systems of exploitation, injustice and perpetual subjugation and eternal dehumanisation that have become the hallmarks of the world order that the imperialists G8 (the leading capital monopolists backed up by their states or governments) are imposing on us.

The wealth of the so-called rich countries of the North, especially the “Group of 8”, the Greedy 8, accrue from the massive and inhuman exploitation and colonization of our countries. At the same time the governments are building borders and electric fences to ward-off the ”unwelcomed and unwanted” from the countries they have so shamelessly and brazenly exploited.

'1085a' von mazdak

In their xenophobia or frenzy of controlling our movements, they are militarising their borders with the deadly effects of their soldiers and police shooting and killing innocent people as witnessed in Ceuta and Melilla. Not to mention police shooting and killings of blacks and other migrants in Germany. Nor the detention camps in the Canary Islands, Spain, Italy amongst others, of ‘Boat people’ who were lucky to survived the ordeals of the high seas. Of course not forgetting the construction of the United States–Mexico border like the European outside borders which are acts of murder.

The Russian Government abuse of fundamental human rights like its G8 counterparts and its war of aggression against breakaway Chechnya, are all too obvious indicators of arrogance, and irresponsibilities .This war is said to be part of the so-called war against terrorism, like the occupation of Afghanistan and Iraq that the G8 states are executing.

These wars are all as well consequences of the competition between these states them- selves. In the name of the international fight against terrorism, wars of aggression and occupation are justified and in course of this, people flee from the destroyed countries to safe countries where they are excluded and deported.

While Europe is taking extra-ordinary steps to impede our will to cross its borders, European governments and the USA are crossing borders to exert their control in our home countries, destroying the very means of our livelihood. They export arms and ammunitions, prop and support dictatorships in our countries, and here in Europe, persecute and deport those who fight against these injustices.

We are justified to say that the precursors of deportation are imperialism and capitalism. Deportation is an abuse of human right, an injustice perpetrated by the sadistic exploiters against the exploited who are hunted and slammed into the ”Lager system” to face the deportation machinery with its weapons of manipulation, mind-bending, sexual abuses, exploitation, family separations and what have you.

We as the Caravan for the Rights of Refugees and Migrants with other refugee and migrant self-organisations such as The VOICE, SPI and AGIF, have been able to show in our daily struggles for basic rights that unity of people from different continents and backgrounds is possible.

From Manilla to Diyarbakir, from Lome to Palestine, from Tehran to Bremen and Colombo to Berlin, we have been able to unite our common struggles because only an international dimension can strengthen our demands for freedom of movement, right to stay and above all our human dignity.

With this tour we express our freedom and overcome the internal borders imposed on us by the German government through the Residence Obligation Law against refugees (more about Residenzpflicht on The VOICE Refugee Forum).

We have involuntarily fled our countries, we have migrated,
and many, many more will follow suit.
Whoever has taken or will take these steps must know
that freedom is not a gift
but must be fought for, to be attained.
We are prepared to take this course to attain
our freedom for the space of our freedom today,
is the space of our common struggle.
Everyday and everywhere, with our deeds
and our pens we fight,
with our voices we say loud and clear:

We are here because you destroy our Countries!

Freedom of movement for all!

Stop all deportations!

'1088a' von mazdak

The Caravan for the Rights of Refugees and Migrants invites you to participate in the 2007 Tour with us. We will be travelling through Germany for two weeks (May 19 to June 4,2007) before the G8 Summit. The Tour will begin in Neuburg close to Munich and will end in Rostock close to Heiligendamm, where the Summit will take place. This is how we want to show the connection between migration and the destruction of the home countries of refugees and migrants by the G8 States. we will focus on the countries of origin at every station of the tour. We also want to draw public attention to the awful situation of deportations and camps in Germany and Europe as a whole. The Tour is organised by refugee and migrant selforganizations in cooperation with the NoLager Network and other antiracist groups.

more information in the internet on: http://www.thecaravan.org und
www.thevoiceforum.org | www.plataforma-berlin.de | www.aveg.org | www.jonbesh-iran.com | www.nolager.de

Donations to:
The Voice e.V. Göttingen
Kontonummer: 127829 | Bankleitzahl: 26050001 | Sparkasse Göttingen.
Stichwort Tour 2007

+ + + + + tour dates + + + + +

Mai 19 to 20 - Neuburg, Bayern
demonstration in defence of the rights of iraqi refugees | opening of CARAVAN tour | Public Hearing on the resistance against the Lager system and racist special laws | decentral actions | solidarity party at the Lager

Mai 21 - Nürnberg & Jena
demonstration and action against the policy of the Federal Office for Flight and Migration (BFMI) | conference „No compromise with deportation! Racism kills!“

Mai 22 - Jena & Freibessingen
continue of conference | solidarity action in Freibessingen (Thüringen)

Mai 23 - Frankfurt
Public Conference in the City Centre of Frankfurt at Main | Jam Session

Mai 24 - Düsseldorf
conference „United against deportation, exclusion and worldwide exploitation“ | Demonstration in front of the ZAB an in the city centre of Düsseldorf

Mai 25 - Dortmund, Büren
manifestation in remembrance of Dominique Koumadio, killed by the police in Dortmund on April 14, 2006
demonstration in front of the deportation prison Büren | classical concert with the music group Lebenslaute

Mai 26 - Bramsche
demonstration against the deportation lager in Bramsche | open microphone for refugees | action for children

Mai 27 - Bremen
manifestation at the Hauptbahnhof | conference with migrants self organizations

Mai 28 - Oldenburg
action at the deportation lager Blankenburg | demonstration in the city centre of Oldenburg

Mai 29 - 30 Hamburg & Horst
actions against the praxis of the Ausländerbehörde Hamburg
manifestation in front of the lager Horst | cultural festival in Hamburg

Mai 31 - Schwerin
action vs. the refugee policy and the lager system in Mecklenburg-Vorpommern | Demo against the interior ministry

Juni 1 - Berlin
demonstration with the Youth without Borders against the newly planned foreigners law by the interior ministers | action against police brutality in remembrance of Oury Jalloh burnt alive in a police cell in Dessau

Juni 2 bis 4 - Rostock & Heiligendamm
Resistance against the G8-Summit | international action day for global freedom of movement and equal rights | final discussion and reflection | actions focusing on flight and migrants

to the call, tour dates, to the top

# # # detailled descriptıon of the tour stations # # #

May 21, 2007 - Jena, Thüringen

Aufruf deutsch, Call in English

18.00 - Welcoming of the Caravan at Schillergässchen 5 in Jena
20:00 - „No Compromise with deportations – Racism kills!“, Conference
Podium discussion with the Caravan activists on mass deportation and the stay right propaganda of the IMK- Internal Ministers’ Conference in Germany
Place: Friedrich-Schiller-Universität, Ernst-Abbe-Platz/Carl-Zeiss-Str. 3

21:00 - Cultural Night - Live Band Music and DJs
Place: CALEIDOSPHERES Jena - Westbahnhof Gleis2/Ladestrasse 3

The VOICE Refugee Forum Jena
Schillergässchen 5, 07745 Jena
Tel.: ++49 (0) 3641 - 6652 14
Mobile/Handy: ++49 (0) 176 24568988
Fax: ++49 (0) 3641 - 420 270

to the call, tour dates, to the top

# # # # # # # # # #

May 22, 2007 Jena/Freienbessingen

Fax campaign for the closure of the lager Freienbessingen

09:00 to 11:00 - Continuation of the discussion in Schillergässchen 5, Jena.
12:00 - Manifestation at Holzmarkt, Jena
15:00h - Departure from Jena to Freienbessingen – Sonderhausen
16:00 - Manifestation with speaker’s corner and live
concert in Freibessingen

The VOICE Refugee Forum Jena
Schillergässchen 5, 07745 Jena
Tel.: ++49 (0) 3641 - 6652 14
Mobile/Handy: ++49 (0) 176 24568988
Fax: ++49 (0) 3641 - 420 270

to the call, tour dates, to the top

# # # # # # # # # #

May 23, 2007 Frankfurt at the Main river

12:00 - Welcome manifestation of the Caravan at the Konstablerwache
Opening of the Exhibition "Agrar production and militarisation"

15:00 talk no. 1: Exploitation and Wars
17:00 talk no. 2: Work and precarization
19:00 talk no. 3: Deportation, Airport exclusions and resistance

Besides the activists from the Caravan for the rights of refugees and migrants active members of the workers unions, antiracist initiatives and antimilitarists groups are invited.

21:00 Jam-Session
United against racism, wars, and deportation

to the call, tour dates, to the top

# # # # # # # # # #

24.Mai.2007 Düsseldorf

10:00 Uhr at ZAKK, Fichtenstr. 40, Düsseldorf route description
United against deportation, exclusion and worldwide exploitation

Presentation of the political positions of the Caravan for the rights of refugees and migrants and other migrants self organizations from North-Rhine Westphalia with the aim to built the basis for continous local cooperation.

CARAVAN tour 2007 | The Caravan

Thursday, May 10, 2007

French elections: darkening clouds

7 May 2007. A World to Win News Service. The election of Nicolas Sarkozy in France’s presidential elections represents a serious turn for the worse for the people of that country and the world. This is not to say that he and his opponent, the Socialist Party candidate Segolene Royal, represented two opposing roads. One reason she lost is that she went from trying to pass him on the right on some key campaign issues to refusing to commit herself on others. While the candidates did differ on some questions, they both represented a certain consensus in French ruling circles, and that consensus stamped the campaign with its character. But both the campaign and its results have made a real difference.
In his victory speech, Sarkozy declared that his election had put an end once and for all to the lingering influence of the revolutionary upsurge of May 1968. (His claim to represent the “anti-68s” is well founded: he got his start in politics as a member of the right-wing vigilantes organized by the de Gaulle government to fight demonstrators.) He pledged “to give greater value to work, to authority, to respect, to merit.” In the French political context, these words are recognizable to everyone as a combination of the slogan of the Pétain government under the Nazi occupation in World War 2, “Work, family, fatherland”, and the Thatcherite (or Reaganite) free market policies designed to put an end to the long-standing social pact between France’s ruling capitalists and a section of France’s working and middle classes. Sarkozy declared, “I want to give French people back the pride of being French – to finish with repentance, which is a form of self-hate.” This was directed against French people who criticize the country’s colonial and slaveholding past, a subject of great controversy because of what it implies about France’s role in the world today. He also said, “I’d like to tell our American friends that they can count on our friendship.” This was widely understood to mean that France will drop its criticism of the US-led war in Iraq (which has long been Sarkozy’s position) and is likely to back the U.S. in its confrontation with Iran. France is the only country besides the US with a nuclear aircraft carrier, and that ship is cruising near the shores of Iran today. In light of a threatened US nuclear attack, Sarkozy’s criticism of the US on the issue of global warming just doesn’t amount to much.
The first few minutes after the announcement of the election results revealed a lot. Before appearing at the victory rally, the winner insisted on stopping off at Fouquet’s restaurant on the Champs-Elysées – a notorious symbol of the French superrich reputed to refuse service to women dining without men. One of the first to kiss him when he climbed onto the stage was Faudel, a popular young singer of Algerian descent. This was supposed to show that you don’t have to be white to love “Sarko”. As if in response, another entertainer broke into “Algiers, that France where I was born,” a celebration of French domination of Algeria much appreciated by unrepentant colonialists.
'sarkozy' von azadi
The election night triumphal attitude of Jean-Marie Le Pen, leader of the fascist National Front, is one of this election’s great ironies and a bitter example of how the electoral system really works. The dismantling of the “French social model” – a welfare state with state capitalist enterprises – took place to a large degree under Socialist-led governments. Fed up with not getting what they thought they’d voted for, so many voters rejected the Socialist Party in the last presidential race in 2002 that Le Pen came in second in the initial round of voting. This sparked a very positive protest movement that drew many immigrants and others from the proletarian suburbs into the streets of Paris and other city centres and into the political life from which they are normally excluded. Then, under the slogan of uniting to stop Le Pen, the vast majority were induced to “Hold your nose and vote” for Jacques Chirac – who made Sarkozy his top cop and most visible minister, a perch he used to prepare to succeed Chirac. In this year’s election, after the first round in which Royal and Sarkozy emerged as the frontrunners, the same slogan was recycled by Royal against Sarkozy. But the logic that led people to put their hopes in voting has led them to exactly where they are today: very unhappy, especially the lower classes and all those with any sense of justice. When the results came in and the media asked Le Pen how he viewed them, he said he considered this election a great victory for his party because both candidates had embraced his ideas. Sarkozy’s promises were fine, he said – the question was whether or not he would fulfil them. (Part of the explanation for Le Pen’s exclusion from the prevailing rightist consensus is his insistence that France must leave the European Union. This may play well with some of the lower classes, which is why some “leftists” spout similar slogans, but it makes him a pariah with France’s ruling classes.)
Another irony is that Royal and her Socialist Party were just as eager as Sarkozy to proclaim this election as symbolizing the end of May 1968. This was explicitly stated by Socialist leader Bernard Kouchner, one of the first student leaders to abandon revolutionary politics more than three decades ago, who said that even though Royal lost, the conversion of the Socialist Party to a “normal” European social-democratic party would be a great victory. It was notable that Royal never even used the word socialism in her campaign. Her disagreements with Sarkozy were relatively petty and narrow. In their televised debate, which was almost universally watched in France, she chose not to call him out around the issues where he is most widely hated. By the same token she failed to use what should have been her greatest advantage: the fact that Sarkozy, from early on, had the lead in terms of the number of people who intended to vote for him, about a third of the electorate, but also had the distinction of being the country’s most frightening politician in the eyes of many more people. Instead of trying to expose and oppose his positions, she followed a strategy of assuming that all those who hated Sarkozy would have to vote for her no matter what, and focused on trying to appeal to the very same opinion that Sarkozy was trying to appeal to, and on the same narrow- minded and backward basis.
For instance, Royal and Sarkozy both kept that debate focused around two issues: the 35-hour week and pension funding. As Royal pointed out, for the previous five years Sarkozy’s party had led a government that had the power to overturn France’s 35-hour work week and chose not to. She and Sarkozy both promised to keep that law on the books, with the difference being that she called for “consultation” on “reforming” it, without making it clear what that meant, while Sarkozy called for “paying people more for working more”, that is, eliminating taxes and other charges to employers on overtime pay so as to encourage them to get people to work longer hours. As Karl Marx pointed out a century and a half ago in calling on workers to fight for an eight-hour legal limit to the work day, in a given society a given standard of living is considered acceptable, and if workers can attain that by working more hours they are less likely to struggle for higher wages, even if the lack of free time stunts them physically and intellectually. Further, the 35-hour week has been a hoax as well as a diversion. Just as in Germany, when a similar work-week reduction was introduced by law, the number of hours people actually work has tended to be more. Some statistical experts claim that the real average workweek is longer in France than in many other wealthy countries.
More basically, what is most important about the 35-hour week is that it represents the Socialist Party promise of a capitalist society where workers and employees can live the good life. Three things are wrong with this: 1) What is the meaning of a good life in a society where profit rules, and the vast majority of people are slaves to capital and can never realize their potential as thinking and acting human beings? 2) Even when France was most “Socialist”, during the Mitterrand government in the 1980s, France’s working people were split into those with some comfort and security, no matter how meagre, and those with none. 3) Much of the wealth of France, like all the imperialist countries, comes from French capital’s ability to fatten off globalized investment and the division of the world into oppressed and oppressor nations.
These issues were absent from Royal’s discourse. Rather than blast Sarkozy for his most infamous action, when he called housing project youth “low-class scum” and vowed to “clean them out with a high-pressure hose”, she countered with a proposal that young people in trouble with the law (another definition of housing project youth) be sent to camps run by the military. She did venture to bring up a particularly notorious case where police looking for someone to deport to fulfil Sarkozy’s quota ambushed an elderly immigrant in front of a school where he had come to pick up his granddaughter. Although Royal didn’t mention it, what was special about this incident was that, when the school head was arrested for placing herself between the grandfather and the police, many people came forward to say she had done the right thing and pledged to act likewise.
Yet Sarkozy taunted Royal and beat her down on this question by demanding that she say whether or not she was in favour of allowing all “illegal” immigrants to stay in France – to which she would not answer yes. Sarkozy’s avowed intention of “cleaning out” many immigrants was a central issue to many millions of people in this campaign, a major reason why the percentage of people who voted was so high. Further, when it came to France’s role in the world, she followed Sarkozy in keeping silent concerning French neocolonialism in Africa, for instance, about which there is little debate among France’s “political class”. She was also silent about his pro-Israel bent, which represents a shift from France’s traditional policy of seeking to own or influence Arab regimes. (For instance, outgoing President Chirac is moving into an apartment owned by one of Lebanon’s most economically and politically powerful families.) Nor was there any discussion at all about France’s attempts to secure a place in the American “new world order”. Overall, many people felt that love him or hate him, “Sarko” was saying what he thought, while “Sego” was evasive and dishonest.
George Bush was said to be the first to call and congratulate Sarkozy. But Royal, during the debate, put forward as her role model German Chancellor Angela Merkel – another Bush ally who is the head of the centre-right Christian Democrats and doesn’t even claim to be any kind of leftist. Not that a “real” leftist president is what France needs – it already had that with Mitterrand, and that was no good either. But this is a striking example of how far the political spectrum on the Continent and internationally has moved to the right. Even France’s Communist Party has gone from being a major revisionist force (it had so little in common with communism for so long that it tried to put down the May 1968 upsurge) to irrelevant, eclipsed by a Troskyist party whose programme is a recycling of old and now abandoned Mitterrand-era Socialist promises.
Even if Royal had won, it is unlikely that there would have been dancing in the streets around the Bastille like when Mitterrand won in 1981. The hope for a new world through elections has largely evaporated among those who most long for such a change. The most many progressive people hoped for this time was staving off the worst – but worse was on the agenda no matter who won. There was dancing in the street on election night, not at the Bastille, once a symbol of popular revolt, but at the Place de la Concorde on the rich and rightist end of town. In the housing projects and proletarian neighbourhoods where vans packed with suited-up riot police stood ready to pounce, the sullen silence was punctuated now and then by burning cars. Many immigrants and other working class people regard the results as a direct and mortal danger to their hopes of living a normal life. Despite the prevailing sentiment of being stunned, some students and other youth staged rowdy street protests in Paris and especially other cities, including Rennes, a stronghold of last spring’s student and youth movement.
Sarkozy’s promises to make France more like the UK or the US (and Royal’s agreement with that as a goal, especially Blair’s Britain) are particularly ironic in a country where life for many ordinary people has been slightly less harsh than in those two “models”. France has been able to take shelter from some of the economic, political and military winds sweeping other countries. That period may be coming to a close.

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