Will Saudi warmongers kill millions of Yemenis?


This video from the USA says about itself:

Amnesty International Reveals the Bomb That Killed 16 Civilians in Yemen Was Made in the U.S.A.

22 September 2017

A major new investigation by Amnesty International reveals a bomb that killed 16 civilians in Yemen’s capital last month was made in the U.S.A. Among the survivors was 5-year-old Buthaina, whose photograph went viral in the aftermath of the strike. She lost her entire family in the strike.

Amnesty International’s arms expert analyzed remnants of the weapon and found clear markings that matched U.S.-made components used in laser-guided, air-dropped bombs. Coalition airstrikes continue to be the leading cause of child casualties, as well as overall civilian casualties. The latest finding by Amnesty comes as some European Union countries recently tabled a motion at the U.N. Human Rights Council calling for an independent inquiry into human rights abuses committed by all sides in the conflict. The U.N. high commissioner for human rights has called the humanitarian crisis in Yemen an “entirely man-made catastrophe.” We speak with Raed Jarrar, the advocacy director for the Middle East and North Africa at Amnesty International USA.

By Niles Niemuth in the USA:

US-backed Saudi war and blockade puts millions of lives at risk in Yemen

18 November 2017

The heads of the World Health Organization, UNICEF and the World Food Program (WFP) released a joint statement Thursday demanding the immediate lifting of the Saudi blockade of Yemen, warning that it is putting millions of lives at risk in the poorest country in the Arab world.

On November 6, Saudi Arabia dramatically escalated its nearly three-year war against Yemen by implementing the total blockade of all seaports, airspace and land crossings into the country. The move came in supposed response to the firing of a single missile from Yemen which was shot down near Riyadh’s international airport.

The blockade is a war crime being carried out in direct violation of Article 33 of the Geneva Conventions, adopted in the aftermath of World War II, which bars the collective punishment of civilians. According to a confidential brief obtained by the Intercept, UN experts believe that Saudi Arabia is deliberately blocking the delivery of aid without any legal justification.

Amid calls to lift the blockade, Saudi’s ambassador to the UN facetiously announced that ports and airports controlled by coalition backed forces would be reopened, meaning that an overwhelming majority of the country remains under blockade. Hodeida, the port through which 80 percent of humanitarian aid enters the country, is still controlled by the Houthis and therefore remains blocked from receiving shipments of any kind.

WHO Director-General Dr. Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, UNICEF Executive Director Anthony Lake and WFP Executive Director David Beasley warned that “untold thousands” will die without access to crucial life-saving medicines, vaccines and food supplies. Even before the crushing blockade was put in place, Yemen was suffering from the worst humanitarian crisis in the world.

“The clock is ticking and stocks of medical, food and other humanitarian supplies are already running low,” they warned. “The cost of this blockade is being measured in the number of lives that are lost.”

Their statement reviewed the catastrophe which has resulted from the daily war crimes being carried out by Saudi Arabia with the full backing of the US government. These crimes have been passed over in almost complete silence by the Western press.

Nearly the entire population of Yemen, 20 million out of 28 million people, are in need of some form of humanitarian assistance, 11 million of those in need are children, and nearly 15 million are without any access to basic health care.

Approximately 17 million people do not know where their next meal will come from, and 7 million are totally dependent on food aid to avoid starvation. Some 400,000 children are on the verge of death from starvation, suffering from acute malnutrition. Without treatment 150,000 malnourished children will die in the coming months.

The international aid organization Save the Children reported this week that 50,000 Yemeni children have already died from extreme hunger or disease this year, with more than 130 dying every single day.

The Saudi monarchy, leading a coalition of other Sunni Persian Gulf monarchies with the support of the United States, has been waging a brutal war against Yemen for nearly three years in an effort to push back Houthi rebels and allied forces who seized control of the capital city, Sanaa, in early 2015.

Saudi coalition fighter jets have carried out an unrelenting campaign of bombing, destroying hospitals, schools, marketplaces, factories, ports and residential neighborhoods as well as crucial electrical and water infrastructure. This campaign has been facilitated by refueling flights, targeting information and other logistical support provided by the United States military, first under Obama and now Trump.

So far, the Saudi onslaught has directly killed more than 12,000, over half of them civilians. Approximately 3 million have been displaced.

The destruction of Yemen’s infrastructure and the collapse of its health system has led to the worst cholera outbreak in modern history, with nearly 1 million suspected cases since late last year. More than 2,000 people have died from the waterborne disease, which is easily treatable with access to medication and clean water.

While the number of newly reported cases of cholera has recently been waning, the Red Cross warned Friday that fuel shortages caused by the blockade have put nearly 1 million people in the cities of Hodeida, Saada and Taiz at risk of contracting the disease.

An outbreak of diphtheria, a bacterial infection that is easily preventable with proper vaccination, has already claimed 14 lives. While the disease has been almost entirely eradicated worldwide, it now threatens the lives of 1 million children in Yemen as vaccine shipments have been blocked from entering the country.

The Saudi monarchy claims that the Houthis are being funded and armed by Iran, a charge with Tehran has repeatedly denied. Nonetheless, the war is seen by the Saudis and their backers in Washington as a crucial effort to block the emergence of Iran as challenge to Saudi and American dominance over the Arabian Peninsula and the wider Middle East.

Of particular importance to Washington is the fact that Yemen borders the Bab al Mandab strait, a geopolitical choke point through which much of the world’s oil shipments must flow.

On Monday, the US House of Representatives passed a nonbinding resolution 366-30 acknowledging the already well-known fact that the US is facilitating the war in Yemen without any congressional authorization. The House resolution will do nothing to ease the suffering of millions of Yemeni men, women and children.

Introduced by Democratic Representative Ro Khanna, the resolution grimly pledged support for Saudi efforts to “improve their targeting capabilities” and specifically condemned Iran. The resolution also reaffirmed the United States’ right to patrol the Bab el Mandab strait and wage war in Yemen under the threadbare guise of the war on terror against Al Qaeda and ISIS.

While a handful of Democratic representatives and senators, including Khanna and Senator Chris Murphy, have postured as critics of the Trump administration’s support for the Saudi slaughter in Yemen, the Democrats have no fundamental opposition to the war, supporting every war initiated or expanded by former President Obama, including in Yemen.

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Macron escalates French neocolonial war in Africa


French soldier in Mali with skull mask

This photo of a French Foreign Legion soldier, part of the invasion of Mali, shows the real face of that war.

That war is not “against Al Qaeda terrorism” (supported by the French government in Libya and in Syria). It is not for women’s rights, human rights or secularism.

It started in support of a military dictatorship.

It brings death, mainly to Malian civilians.

This war is a neo-colonial war.

The French Foreign Legion became infamous in the nineteenth century for its atrocities while imposing colonial rule in Algeria and elsewhere. Now, it plays a role in twenty-first century neo-colonialism as well.

By Kumaran Ira in France:

France intensifies intervention in West Africa with launch of Sahel G5 force

18 November 2017

The Sahel, which has been devastated by the 2011 NATO war in Libya and the resulting French war in Mali starting in 2013, is facing a new military escalation as France steps up its deployments in the strategic, resource-rich region in its former colonial empire.

The new regional force set up by Paris, the Sahel G5—comprising Burkina Faso, Mali, Mauritania, Niger and Chad—carried out its first operation, code-named Haw Bi (“Black Cow”) from October 27 to November 11 in the border region between Mali, Burkina Faso and Niger. The G5 force operated in coordination with French troops and the MINUSMA, the 12,000-strong UN peacekeeping force in Mali. It carried out patrols aimed at ethnic Tuareg or Islamist fighters hostile to Paris and the Malian central government in Bamako.

“This operation has the character of a try-out,” said the G5 force’s commander, Malian General Didier Dacko. According to French army sources, the “territorial control” operation was carried out by 350 soldiers from Burkina Faso, 200 from Niger and 200 from Mali.

Since his election in May, French President Emmanuel Macron has pushed to intensify the war launched by his predecessor, François Hollande, in France’s former colonial empire, amid growing geostrategic tensions between Europe, the United States, and China. On July 2, Macron attended a summit of the G5 states in Bamako. The summit formally inaugurated the new force, which officially includes around 5,000 troops in total furnished by the countries of the alliance.

Macron confirmed that France will not leave Africa and or redeploy its 4,000 troops fighting in Operation Barkhane (the war in Mali), despite the launching of the G5 force. He said France would remain engaged in Mali “as long as it takes” to carry out a struggle against terrorism. He gave no indication of when, or even if, Paris might withdraw its forces.

“I came to Bamako today and went to Gao last month to show you that France will remain engaged as long as it takes,” Macron said in a speech before the French community in Bamako. “Thanks to our engagement, we aim in the long term to accompany and support the national and regional forces,” he added.

Paris faces a significant difficulty, in that it confronts a budgetary crisis. The G5 estimates that its operating costs will run to €423 million in the first year. Macron has announced material and logistical aid from France worth €8 million by the end of the year; the European Union (EU) has promised €50 million, and each G5 member country has committed to contributing €10 million. France is therefore forced to ask for financing from its imperialist allies, principally Germany and the United States.

In the final analysis, the imperialist capitals plan to put the costs of this neo-colonial escalation on the backs of the workers—which Macron made clear by calling for multi-billion defense spending increases while eliminating the special tax on large fortunes. Austerity and slashing cuts to social spending aim to boost financing for wars like the G5 operation in Africa. At the same time, Macron is demanding that the G5 countries, which were already among the poorest in the world even before being devastated by the wars during this decade, to provide large quantities of cannon fodder.

The claim that these sacrifices in blood and treasures are necessary in a struggle against terrorism is a shameless political lie.

The crisis in the Sahel flows from the bloody war for regime change that NATO waged against Libya in 2011, relying directly on Islamist militias as its ground troops. After the fall of the Libyan regime, Tuareg forces that had fought inside the Libyan army returned to northern Mali and backed local Tuareg fighters, including the National Movement for Liberation of the Azawad (MNLA) against the Malian army. This provoked a major crisis in Bamako, where a coup toppled President Amadou Toumani Touré in March 2012.

Initially, Paris tried to remove the military junta of Captain Amadou Sanogo, which it forced to hand over power to an interim government. But finally Paris decided to back the Sanogo junta when it launched its own war in Mali in January 2013—which it nonetheless presented as a war to protect democracy from Islamism.

Since 2013, the French war in Mali has aimed neither to fight terrorism nor to create democracy in Mali. Rather, amid increasingly sharp international rivalries, Paris is preparing major new wars in Africa to protect its imperialist interests, including its control of the region’s vast uranium mines that fuel France’s nuclear plants.

These successive wars have devastated the G5 countries. According to the UN, 5 million people have fled their homes and 24 million people need humanitarian assistance in the region. Even Malian officials kept in power by French troops now feel compelled to confess that the war in Libya had horrific consequences for the region. Malian Foreign Minister Abdoulaye Diop called the Libyan war a “strategic error” whose fall-out was not “well handled”.

As US troops also intervene in Niger and across the Sahel, there are growing differences between the imperialist powers and also with China, whose political influence in Africa is growing in line with its commercial weight. Washington—which is opposed to French demands that African operations function under the aegis of the UN and is reticent to fund French operations—has expressed serious reservations over the G5 force.

Washington has refused to finance the G5 through the UN, particularly under conditions where the Trump administration is trying to slash US payments to the UN, and has announced that it will provide funding directly to the G5 member states. It reportedly plans to provide aid worth €51 million to the five countries and has declared that this money would not go to the UN.

US Ambassador to the United Nations Nikki Haley bluntly criticized the French plans. “They can’t show us a goal, they can’t show us how they’re going to proceed,” Haley told CNN. “If they go back and they show us a strategy, and if it’s something that General [James] Mattis and General [Joseph] Dunford feel like is moving in the right direction, then yes. We will. But right now they’re not showing that, and so it doesn’t make sense for us.”

London Grenfell fire survivors betrayed


This video says about itself:

25 October 2017

Lowkey performs ‘Ghosts of Grenfell‘ live at his headline show at the Coronet in London.

By Ann Czernik in Britain:

Grenfell five months on: Britain’s most courageous community still abandoned, abused and betrayed

Saturday 18th November 2017

Across the various communities coexisting in Lancaster West, there is a sense of waiting and increasing frustration.

ON JULY 5 2017 Communities Secretary Sajid Javid sent a taskforce into the Royal Borough of Kensington and Chelsea (RBKC).

The team — a mixed bag of experts in housing, local government, public services and community engagement — were dispatched to find out if the council could provide an appropriate response to the Grenfell fire.

But no-one ensured that Kensington and Chelsea homes were fire-safe in the immediate aftermath of the tragedy.

Five months later, shocking details are emerging of fire safety concerns in RBKC homes which could potentially lead to loss of life.

Samia Badani runs a Grenfell residents’ group and says: “We do not understand why after five months the council cannot take any interim measure to guarantee fire safety, including suspending all health and safety functions of the TMO [tenant management organisation].

“Local authority environmental health inspectors should assess fire safety and hazards of all council property immediately and bring this function in-house. We would have expected the council to do a full risk assessment after the Grenfell tragedy.”

Some 6,500 fire doors are now scheduled for inspection and possible replacement following an investigation last week by LBC.

Residents’ associations in north Kensington say that their buildings are still dangerously compromised by defective construction and failing fire safety measures.

Yet astonishingly RBKC council leader Elizabeth Campbell told the Independent last week that resident safety was not the council’s responsibility while housing remained under control of the Kensington and Chelsea TMO.

Campbell washed her hands of any responsibility on fire safety, telling the Independent: “It’s not for me to be reassured or not reassured, the TMO is responsible for it.”

But Javid told MPs that “the taskforce is satisfied that RBKC, under its new leadership, recognises the challenges it faces and is committed to delivering a comprehensive recovery programme. For that reason, the taskforce does not see any practical advantage in further intervention at this time as it would risk further disruption.”

On the night of Britain’s worst fire in over half a century, Badani was standing helpless metres away from Grenfell Tower, watching her community go up in flames. She still lives within metres of Grenfell Tower.

Like thousands of others in the tight-knit community around the Lancaster West Estate, the building was the first thing she saw as she opened her door in the morning.

The majority of the stream of familiar faces in the streets, or waiting with her at Latimer Road Tube on their way to work are directly affected by the events that took place on that fateful summer night.

In the aftermath of the fire, Badani joined the community relief operation. It was left to an army of residents, volunteers and charities to provide immediate support to victims, survivors and each other in the hours and days after the fire as agencies struggled to respond.

For five months, money poured in and promises were made. The cash has not yet reached many survivors, and Theresa May’s promises to quickly rehouse the displaced have been broken.

Andrew Gwynne MP challenged Javid’s rosy picture of a reformed RBKC, saying: “For many survivors, the situation is far bleaker than the information provided to us today by the Secretary of State would suggest.”

Official figures suggest that at least 376 households from the Tower and surrounding properties were made homeless — comprising 857 people; 311 of these households are in bed and breakfast accommodation; and 87 households are in temporary accommodation.

The Central and West London Mental Health Trust has become the largest trauma service in Britain, according to chief psychologist Dr John Green. Health professionals estimate that around 11,000 people in the wider Grenfell area could be affected.

In the days after Grenfell, Badani found herself speaking out at meetings, lobbying councillors, MPs and the leadership of the council.

“We will never go back to how it was before,” she says.

“They don’t represent us, they don’t represent our interests.

Whatever we did on June 14, it worked. We delivered nothing short of a public service. We need to keep doing that. It worked and we need to be trusted to run, plan and deliver services our way. It’s how we need to move forward. It is the only way forward.”

Across the various communities coexisting in Lancaster West, there is a sense of waiting and increasing frustration.

If there is a metaphor, it is of an abused partner who finally snaps and demands control of their own destiny.

Badani says: “What happened woke up this community and it now feels empowered. That’s the change.”

Councillor Mary Weale sits on Grenfell Response Scrutiny Committee. She told the Star that the fire safety of all blocks of flats of 10 storeys or more is being comprehensively reviewed by a specialist fire consultancy. The council says it will look to publish the reviews.

Weale says: “The council is working with the community, the London Fire Brigade and the Department for Communities and Local Government during this process of assessment.”

The Morning Star has uncovered confidential correspondence which suggests that fire safety in Kensington and Chelsea properties is still failing to meet current regulations.

Campden Houses is a Victorian building with 125 flats over seven storeys owned by RBKC and managed by the TMO. Residents at Campden Houses wrote to RBKC and the borough fire commander on August 8 2017, raising concerns that had emerged during a flat inspection on July 14 2017 by the TMO.

The concerns were passed to the fire safety team leader for Kensington and Chelsea at London Fire Brigade.

Correspondence seen by the Star shows that Campden Houses residents were advised that, although the only fire exit to the buildings was locked, they were safe.

Resident Gordon Futter says: “Access to the roof was our fire escape. The TMO, without consultation, chose to lock the doors and remove the fire exit signs because it was easier for them to lock the fire escapes rather than deal with the anti-social behaviour of squatters, illegal tenants. In some cases, these issues have been ongoing over nine years.”

Futter was advised that Campden Houses was built in accordance with the building regulations that were in force at the time of construction, with adequate separation between floors and neighbouring flats.

But, he says: “This may have been true when the building was completed in 1877 but in the ’60s major works converted two flats per floor into three or four units. We believe that the compartmentation between the floors was compromised at this time. We can smell and hear immediately everything in the units around us and in some cases from flats diagonally two floors below.”

Campden Houses recently had a fire door inspection.

Futter says: “The only door that met the fire standard was my door because it had been replaced this year. There is no insulation between apartments other than the wooden floorboards and the ceiling below that. Because our building is over 18 metres we have a stay-put policy. The notices appeared 21 days after the Grenfell fire. Due to the lack of compartmentation we believe this to be an incorrect and unsafe policy and they have failed to investigate that aspect of our building. We continue to feel unsafe as a result of the decisions taken by RBKC, KCTMO and the fire department.”

The impact of institutional failings on the people of north Kensington’s lives is dramatic. Badani explains: “We are walking to what we had before. The power balance needs to change. It’s like being in an abusive relationship. We can’t leave them, we can’t leave our homes. The council provide for every aspect of our lives.”

She says: “For 20 years, you don’t have a voice and [we] didn’t realise we were being abused. We gave the council the benefit of the doubt. We are still waiting on something tangible for us to hold on to. A rare hope that there is a change, real change — where is the change?”

The Morning Star was unable to obtain any response to our questions from the TMO or RBKC.

Youth demanding justice for the Grenfell inferno victims on last Tuesday’s silent march through North Kensington

British author Michael Rosen interviewed


This video from Britain says about itself:

The Wicked Tricks of Till Owlyglass – DAY 12 – Kids’ Poems and Stories With Michael Rosen

When we hear how Till Owlyglass cured a small boy’s constipation, and how he taught a merchant to pack eggs tightly. Till Owlyglass (Till Eulenspiegel) is a boy who was special from the day he was baptised three times. But not in a good way. Not in a way his parents liked. He was always in trouble for his rudeness and practical jokes, and grew up to be the most outrageous trickster in Germany. Everyone told stories about him – and they still do five centuries later.

By Louise Raw in Britain:

‘I used to think Marx’s or Lenin’s books said communists must go camping’

Saturday 18th November 2017

MICHAEL ROSEN talks to the Star about his communist parents, his childhood, Jeremy Corbyn, Brexit and art.

I DON’T associate with many creative power couples. The Beckhams call, but there are only so many hours in the day. I’d be surprised, though, if they came much more productive or interesting than Michael Rosen and Emma-Louise Williams.

Williams, a radio producer and film-maker, is curating the current art exhibition at Bow’s Nunnery Gallery, along with her husband. It centres on the life and work of the extraordinary Albert Turpin: window cleaner, firefighter, anti-fascist and post-war mayor of Bethnal Green.

Turpin was a member of the East London group of working-class male and female artists, who painted life as they saw it in a way that was ground-breaking.

As well as the paintings, the exhibition displays Turpin’s sketch books — a pencil drawing of Mother, Asleep is breathtakingly tender — and his scrap books, which show how crucial politics were to him; he carefully preserved cuttings detailing the rise of fascism in the 1930s East End and the push-back from men and women like himself.

Williams has also created the show’s soundscape — an aural tapestry of voices and sounds evoking Turpin’s East London.

She tells me she has a long fascination with what the Germans call Strassenrausch — street clamour — and is often to be found around London, happily recording all its manifestations.

She and Rosen collaborated on the 2011 film Under the Cranes, set in Hackney, which uses both sound and image to capture the atmosphere of the place.

Merging words from a voice play by Rosen with geo-history and the testimony of migrants to the area from Bangladesh, Ghana and the Congo, it’s both dreamlike and politically forceful, showing us 1930s street fights with fascists and raising urgent questions about the treatment of migrants, regeneration and “gentrification.”

Rosen’s new memoir, So They Call You Pisher! (a Yiddish expression meaning “What’s the worst that could happen?”) is also redolent with the presence of the past.

The absences of Jewish relatives, there before the war then just gone, and of Rosen’s elder brother Alan, who died in infancy and whose existence Rosen discovered by chance only when he was 10, were palpable in his childhood. His mother Connie never spoke Alan’s name to him or acknowledged that she knew he knew about him. That silence must have reverberated.

Rosen is proudly the child of this intriguing, intellectually engaged couple. He and Williams come today from a meeting on education, and Rosen’s mother and father, both teachers, developed separate reputations as educational theorists.

Williams has to rush off to finish a blog as well as be ready for their 12-year-old’s return from school and, after we talk, Rosen is headed to Brighton for a publicity event for Pisher! and to meet an old friend — poet, legendary activist and CP member Len Goldman, now a mere 101 years old.

But the former Children’s Laureate still submits graciously to what must be a strikingly unprofessional interview in his publicity round (proper journalists don’t rant intemperately about politics, I think, or fail to make comprehensible notes).

Tremendously good company, Rosen is interested in everything and has read everything (probably twice), but wears his knowledge lightly, with no detectable pomposity.

His warmth and enthusiasm are palpable in his work, and key to the huge popularity of his children’s writing. He was one of the first poets not simply to draw on his childhood experiences for his poems, but recount them in words children could understand, and would use.

He’s modest and honest about the creation of his blockbusting kids’ book We’re Going on A Bear Hunt. It is based on an US folk song he used to perform live and his editor commissioned the magical illustrations by artist Helen Oxenbury.

Impossible as it is now to imagine the book without them, Rosen couldn’t at first see how drawings and text would combine, but trusted the process. It was only feedback from young readers down the years which made him fully appreciate what he and Oxenbury had created.

Men of letters tend not to admit to either their strokes of luck or cock-ups along the way, preferring to imply all was planned with godlike genius — not so Rosen.

In his memoir, he shares awkward moments like the sketch he devised at college in Oxford, intended to mock capitalism, which instead appeared to lampoon a flat-capped worker and the forthright consternation of his father on seeing it.

There was also a youthful essay he felt rather brilliantly skewered Jonathan Swift, until his tutor gently pointed out that Swift’s irony had gone soaring over his head: “I had been a knakke (‘know-all’), and thought I could rumble Swift… You can never rumble Swift,” he says. This is something of a relief, given the otherwise imposing scale and scope of Rosen’s achievements.

As well as the memoir, he has a collection of political poetry, Listening to a Pogrom on the Radio, and a biographical work on Emile Zola’s exile in England out this year alone. He presents the Radio 4 stalwart Word of Mouth and has advised the government on literature and literacy.

When his 18-year-old son Eddie, whom Rosen has called the hub of the family, died suddenly from a strain of meningitis, Rosen managed to parlay desolation into a campaign to add a vaccine to the childhood immunisation schedule and a book which helps children deal with grief.

Much of his art is for more than art’s sake, contributing something to the greater good or focusing on those who have, such as Turpin, who confronted British fascists head on, or Zola, who made his own life difficult by challenging anti-semitism at the highest level over the Dreyfus Affair.

He is very much a public artist, in and of the world, not sequestered in a study but out here with the rest of us, worrying about inequality and discombobulated by Brexit. As he’s written, “Poetry can stick up for the weak or it can mock the mighty; it can glorify our rulers or it can dissect them. You choose.”

Rosen’s father Harold joined the Young Communist League in 1935 and there met Rosen’s mother Connie Isakofsky.

In 1936, the young couple were at the battle of Cable Street; Connie would later work in the typing pool of the Daily Worker, the forerunner of the Morning Star.

Rosen’s childhood was shaped by their politics. His memoir recalls the Tuesday evening routine in his childhood home. He writes: “Now, boys, off you go to bed. We’ve got a party branch meeting.”

“Len Goldman himself was a regular attendee. My father said [he] was terrific’ but sometimes, no-one came.

“Even so, my parents still held their branch meeting. We sat on the stairs and they went into the front room and shut the door.

“I’ve often wondered how those particular meetings went…”

The young Michael copped some flak, too, for his and his parents’ views. A teacher he admired looked sideways at the May Day badge on Rosen’s school blazer and sneered: “Oh. We’re communists, are we?”

Bemused, he told his mum about the incident: “She looked into the distance for a moment and then glanced down at my shoes. She gasped. ‘Look at your shoes. You haven’t polished them. They’re going to think communists are people who don’t polish their shoes’.”

Childhood for the Rosen boys also involved Communist Party camping holidays. “No-one in my school went camping…

“Somewhere in one of those books by Karl Marx or VI Lenin on our shelves, I used to think, it must say communists go camping.”

Camps in France began a life-long love affair between Rosen and France and Frenchness (this has served him well: his page-turner of a book on Emile’s exile to England is all the more so because of Rosen’s translations of Zola’s letters home. It’s compelling to see the great author and political crusader moaning about English cooking — to both his wife and his mistress).

Rosen’s parents left the CP in 1957 though never disengaged from socialist politics.

I ask Rosen how they responded to the anti-semitism they inevitably encountered as a Jewish couple. He tells me they had very different approaches.

His father Harold let insults glance off him, and rather enjoyed baiting anti-semites. From his mother, however, he saw occasional manifestations of the pain and anger absorbing prejudice had caused her, as on the occasion she and Harold were lambasted, post-Hungary, for “betraying the working classes” with their CP membership. “Who else” she asked her accuser, “was going to stick up for us?”

Rosen’s father Harold comes across as formidable in the book, if not to his son, certainly too others; one girlfriend thought him something of an intellectual “ogre.”

I ask Williams how she got on with her late father-in-law. “Very well,” she tells me, though his primary relationship was always with Michael and she bonded with him initially over their shared interest in what made Rosen Junior tick. Through Harold’s reminiscences, she came to know the boy and young man who became her husband (‘It was a conspiracy!” chips in Michael).

I tell Rosen I found his mother a more mysterious presence in the book — harder to grasp. This isn’t a failure of characterisation, though, but deliberate.

Rosen found her that way too and realises that her maternal role was perhaps at the heart of that. The “comforts of philosophy” had to cede to day-to-day-life concerns about what to do about the corned beef, for example, of which she had a cupboard full when there was a health scare about it. Connie’s response was typically gnomic, keeping the tins, but not opening them until the panic was over.

After his mother’s death, Rosen came upon a piece of her autobiographical writing about her girlhood and felt he encountered a woman he didn’t quite know, with thoughts and feelings he hadn’t heard her express.

“I think that she must have felt there wasn’t the space in our home for her to say those things … She wasn’t given (or she didn’t take?) the space for that kind of reflection … the airwaves were taken up by Harold, me and Brian,” he writes. Even in a loving, fairly egalitarian household, corned beef can stifle a woman.

Connie really found herself, Rosen says, when she began to study educational theory in earnest and became known in her own right. She gave a series of morning talks on the BBC and suddenly people were coming to the house not for Harold but to talk to Connie.

I ask him if any of her writing is available now and he tells me he’s going to collate them, as he has his father’s.

Success has not steered Rosen’s own politics to the right. He contributed in 2015 to the e-book Poems for Corbyn.

How does he think Labour is doing now? He remains supportive of Corbyn but says he’s worried by signs Labour might “wobble” on immigration. He’s rightly adamant that the Left should always oppose protectionist arguments, such a dangerously slippery slope.

Labour should just tell the truth loudly and clearly. He thinks migration is and has always been a huge benefit to this country.

And Brexit? He is, he says, a “militant abstainer.” He sees the whole thing as an argument between sections of capital in which socialists wouldn’t involve themselves. “Corbyn should say one thing — that our concern is just jobs, conditions and services. Beyond that, let them fight it out.”

He uses the rather good analogy of of a boxing ring. All the lights and focus are on the two fighters in battling it out, but that’s not where the real game is. Surrounding the ring, quiet in the dark, sit the real players — the money and the men and women whose only interest is profit and who will always try to fix the match to their advantage.

He adds that he knows Labour is preparing for power and trying to cover all bases, that, inevitably the day after a Labour victory, billions will be wiped off the economy and the gloves will really be off. If we think the Establishment has gone after Corbyn before, we’ll see that was nothing, he says.

“[The capitalists elite] doesn’t care who’s in charge, as long as it’s a safe pair of hands for capital and its interests. Blair was fine, Corbyn is not.”

Our response, he says, must be to refuse to be panicked and simply call out the false narrative of the Establishment and media. “We should constantly ask them to prove it, to show us one immigrant who caused the flight of capital that has really rocked the economy, one immigrant who caused Dagenham.

“We should question what they mean when they say it’s ‘bad for the economy’. What is our economy? It’s a capitalist system and we have to constantly remind people of that.”

Would Rosen act as adviser to the Corbyn camp, if asked? Probably, he says, though on an independent basis. He is not a Labour Party member. Had he joined during Corbyn’s early term, he thinks he would have been used as a “scalp” in the same way Mark Steel was and refused membership.

He doesn’t agree, however, with my gloomy assessment that the Right has won the battle of language and thought.

Labour’s slogan, For the many not the few, he points out, is quite brilliant in its simplicity, Marx in a sentence, which has succeeded in turning the debate.

As we wrap up, I tell him that, although his career is inspiring in its refusal to accept limits (why “just” be a poet when you can also write biography, memoirs, plays?), it also seems impossible to emulate today.

Young people wanting a broad artistic career are often told they must “settle down” and specialise. I expect Rosen to agree that his trajectory would be hard to emulate, but, cheeringly, he’s having none of that. He doesn’t accept its uniqueness. “Look at the comedians who act, write and so on.”

He also thinks it would be entirely possible to do today. “I lived on soup for a long while and had one pair of trousers and one pair of shoes, but you can do it.” The key, he says, is to take projects that really interest you, regardless as far as possible of the money, because they will usually lead somewhere interesting.

Surely it’s a tougher world now, though, with arts cuts and austerity? Rosen points out that there are also the advantages of the internet and social media, allowing artists to market themselves more effectively than before. He offers some useful pointers. Keep your website clear and up-to-date, make it obvious what skills you offer and easy to book and contact you.

It’s nice to hear. Too often, those who have “made it” seem more interested in pulling up the ladder after them than helping others climb it.

Rosen’s career is also an illustration of Marx’s observation that most people possess a wide range of interests and abilities which they would enrich over their lives if capitalism wasn’t so stultifying limiting for the “cogs” in its machine.

In the awkward moment where you’ve said goodbye then realise you’re going in the same direction, Rosen has to walk with me to the station.

I feel sorry for him but he’s typically nice about it, and regales me with stories of treatment for his ongoing hip problem which necessitates “having my bum electrocuted, basically.” You wouldn’t, I imagine, have got this from Wordsworth, I ask.

At the last minute, I remember I wanted to ask him about an unusual facet of his autobiographical writing. I’d noticed he rarely tells the reader what the people in his life look like. Is this a deliberate strategy to make us focus on their personalities and voices alone?

Rosen thinks for a second, then says: “I suppose I’m just not very good at all that…” I raise an eyebrow: that seems unlikely for a writer of his calibre. “And I suppose it’s because when I went to school at Watford Boys, I got a lot of negative comments. I was told I looked weird. I think it’s because I looked Jewish, probably.”

As a result, he feels uncomfortable focussing on people’s appearances, to the extent that he feels guilty about having described someone several times as bald. “But he was bald,” I ask. “Yes, but I still feel bad about it.”

Michael Rosen is a poet, biographer, memoirist, film-maker and art curator.

Emma-Louise Williams and Michael Rosen’s free exhibition The Working Artist: The East London Group is on at the Nunnery Gallery until December 17. Entrance is free. For more informatiob visit: bowarts.org.

Provisional victory against Trump’s elephant killing plans


This video from the USA says about itself:

16 November 2017

Trump is making poachers great again. Ana Kasparian, Michael Shure, and Mark Thompson, hosts of The Young Turks, discuss.

The Trump administration plans to allow hunters to bring trophies of elephants they killed in Zimbabwe and Zambia back to the United States, reversing a ban put in place by the Obama administration in 2014, a U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service official confirmed for ABC News today.

Even though elephants are listed as endangered under the Endangered Species Act, a provision in the act allows the government to give permits to import such trophies if there is evidence that the hunting benefits conservation for that species.”*\

Read more here.

That was two days ago. But now …

From the Washington Post in the USA:

Trump puts hold on this week’s decision to again allow trophies from elephant hunts in Zimbabwe

by Juliet Eilperin and Darryl Fears

November 17 at 11:08 PM

President Trump and Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke on Friday night announced that the administration’s reversal of a ban on importation of elephant hunt trophies from Zimbabwe and Zambia has been put on hold until further review. The sudden decision follows protests from animal rights groups and even some conservatives after the administration decided to reverse an Obama-era rule barring such imports. …

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service had announced the policy shift just two days earlier, with officials signaling in a statement that they would expand efforts to promote trophy hunting as a form of conservation. …

African elephants are listed as threatened under the Endangered Species Act, but the Interior Department agency said it had determined that large sums paid for permits to hunt the animals could actually help them “by putting much-needed revenue back into conservation.”

Under the Obama administration, elephant-hunting trophies were allowed in South Africa and Namibia but not in Zimbabwe because Fish and Wildlife decided in 2015 that the nation had failed to prove that its management of elephants enhanced the population. At the time, Zimbabwe could not confirm its elephant population in a way that was acceptable to U.S. officials and did not demonstrate an ability to implement laws to protect it. …

The change was to apply to elephants shot in Zimbabwe on or after Jan. 21, 2016, and to those legally permitted to be hunted before the end of next year.

The African elephant population in that country has fallen 6 percent in recent years, according to the Great Elephant Census project. It is relatively stable in Zambia, which has decided to renew hunting after having previously banned it because of several decades of sharp decline. …

The Fish and Wildlife Service has also been reviewing whether to allow elephant trophy imports from Tanzania, where poaching is rampant and the species has suffered a sharp decline in recent decades. …

Two of the department’s existing wildlife advisory bodies — the Advisory Council on Wildlife Trafficking and the Wildlife and Hunting Heritage Conservation Council — remain suspended as a result of a temporary freeze Zinke imposed earlier this year on all such panels. And the U.S. Task Force on Wildlife Trafficking, which was codified into law last year and is led by Interior as well as the Justice and State departments, has not been active since Trump took office.

“If you care about wildlife, how can you ignore wildlife trafficking?” said Bob Dreher, vice president for conservation at the Defenders of Wildlife, who served as Fish and Wildlife associate director from 2014 to 2016. …

A representative of the [Safari Club International, a hunting advocacy] group, along with several other hunting activists, joined Zinke in his office on his first day as he signed one secretarial order aimed at expanding hunting and fishing on federal lands and another reversing an Obama-era policy that would have phased out the use of lead ammunition and tackle in national wildlife refuges by 2022. …

While hunting has fostered conservation in the past, allowing it now could undermine efforts to curb the widespread poaching that underpins the global ivory trade, according to Iain Douglas-Hamilton, founder and senior scientist at the Nairobi-based Save the Elephants.

Africans, he said in an interview Thursday, are “being told don’t kill elephants, and rich Americans are being allowed to come and do it. When you go back in history, it did do good, but now is absolutely not the time to be opening up hunting.”

In another potential policy reversal, Fish and Wildlife posted an online guide for hunters on how to import lion trophies. In 2016, after listing African lion populations as threatened or endangered depending on their location on the continent, the agency established specific requirements for allowing imports of their trophies. The Service also banned imports of trophies from lion populations kept in fenced enclosures to be hunted.

How to treat animal trophies Americans shoot overseas has been a contentious issue for years. The pelts of nearly four dozen polar bears that U.S. citizens shot in Canada in spring 2008 have remained stuck there after Fish and Wildlife declared the species as threatened under the Endangered Species Act.

Read more:

Overwhelmed U.S. port inspectors unable to keep up with the illegal wildlife trade

This hunter wanted a rare trophy — a rhino’s head

Zimbabwe was home to famous lion — that was hunted and killed