Sunday, 28 November 2010
Friday, 26 November 2010
The demographic most responsive to the call to dissent are the youth. Both the Gaza demonstrations of 2009 and this fateful November have been fuelled by the passion of mid-to-late teens. This world is theirs to inherit, they will not accept the perpetuation of settler colonialism, backed up with mass murder. Likewise, they will not accept a cuts agenda that stratifies society to protect the capital of the elites at the expense of the vast majority.
When blatant injustice is seen, known, yet unchallenged in the mainstream – grassroots protests will emerge and mushroom. However, since the violence of 2009 outside the Israeli embassy and the catastrophe of the G20, there has been a palpable difference in the policing of public dissent. The more recent demonstrations have seen a “hands off” approach by the police. An A to B to protest that disperses after a rally is easier to leave to its own accord than it is to contain. However, when there is a popular will to stop the agenda of the elites by any means necessary, the State will emerge as a Leviathan supported by its hound dogs, the right wing press, rabietic in their enthusiasm for criminalisation.
The intent of the students: to stop these cuts by any means necessary, is known at all levels of the State. Hence, we see a marked difference between 10/11 and 24/11. The return of kettling and baton charges on the streets of London is something that is not welcomed, but is indicative of the greater situation. When the police charged at the demonstrators in Kensington of January last year and kettled climate campers on the streets of London. They acknowledge that without such draconian policing measures, the will of the people could lead to something completely outside of what is currently considered possible – the breaking of the government agenda. 24/11 showed us the same thing.
We, therefore, find ourselves in a game of chicken. For those who do not know, “chicken” is a test of nerve. The typical example is of two cars coming at each other in the same lane. If both continue on their path, both will die. The game is won by the person who does not swerve, the person with the resolve and fortitude to stick the course. The students resolve is now being tested, but they have certain things in their favour. Unlike the Gaza demonstrators, the students are predominately white and middle class. The State racism that made pro-Palestinian demonstrators guilty of quasi-terrorism in the eyes of Joe Public cannot be replicated. Therefore, draconian sentences will lack legitimacy if handed down in the same way as they were for the public disturbances in Bradford and Kensington. The students must exploit the gaps afforded to them. Our state is racist and xenophobic. For too long, in spite of these conditions, the oppressed communities have taken the frontline in the struggle. Finally, the student movement has stepped up. It must stick the course and not swerve first. The path this government is on, is its own destruction.
We at GDSC fully support the students in their militant approach, knowing it is the only way to change this government’s agenda.
An estimated 130,000 school, college and university students across Britain participated in the day of action, which saw protesters in London -some as young as 13 - pressed into an area at Whitehall for almost nine hours without access to food, water or toilet facilities.
During a press conference which attracted national and international press, University of London Union president Clare Solomon said that it was "unbelievable that the police do not know the law themselves. Collective punishment was outlawed at the Nuremberg tribunal."
A number of protesters were also badly injured after police beat them with batons and one was reportedly trampled by police on horseback who unexpectedly charged at a crowd of about 1,000 protesters.
Joanna Pinto of the NCAFC described how a friend was badly beaten by police after trying to alert them to potential danger. And Ms Solomon revealed that footage of one young boy being so brutally attacked by one officer that his colleagues had to drag him away is expected to be sent to the media.
Simon Hardy of NCAFC urged the Metropolitan police to "change their tactics for further demonstrations."
With 16 universities still occupied today, representatives of both organisations insisted that direct action and demonstrations would "escalate," beginning with a third wave of nationwide protests next Tuesday which would gain the support of many of Wednesday's protesters.
Further mass mobilisations are highly likely on the day that tuition fees are voted on in Parliament, which is likely to be within weeks.
Speaking about of the Coalition of Resistance founding conference on Saturday, Feyzi Ismail, a student who is involved in the latest SOAS university occupation, said: "If you are going to spend £20 billion on the war, if you are going to spend £75 billion on Trident, you are lowering corporation tax and not collecting tax from the rich - we are asking: Where are your priorities?
"This is about what we value in society. You are cutting education, but this is a right not a privilege. We are shifting the debate and more people are on our side against the cuts."
Continuing the pressure on the Lib Dems, around 45 LSE and LSB university students were blockading the offices of party deputy leader Simon Hughes today as the Star went to press.
Thursday, 25 November 2010
Wednesday, 24 November 2010
Sunday, 21 November 2010
HIGHLY RESPECTED BLACK AUTHOR - ALICE WALKER - EQUATES APARTHEID iSRAEL WITH YANKEE AND BRIT COLONIAL SETTLER POLICIES TOWARDS BLACK PEOPLES
Sons of Malcolm and Beat Knowledge will be bringing out an article exploring this issue in the Grime and general 'Urban' scene very soon.
Friday, 19 November 2010
*By Sukant Chandan of Sons of Malcolm and Carlos Martinez of Beat Knowledge
Friday 19th Nov 2010
To make it clear from the outset, we are not saying that Maverick Sabre and Professor Green are racists; not at all. From what we know about them, they are aware of many social and cultural issues. From reading interviews with Maverick Sabre in particular, it’s clear he is a conscious brother with great talent and intelligence. Professor Green is also an intelligent, talented and well-respected artist who undoubtedly opposes racism. This track and video may even have been conceived as an attempt to address some negative aspects of our lives in order to move positively away from them.
Nevertheless, the most anti-racist and conscious of us will never wholly rid ourselves of white supremacist ideas, as they have been beaten into our consciousness, constantly reinforced by the education system, the media and the music industry, which always seeks to colonise our youth and community’s natural wealth: our culture. So it’s important for us to look out for each other when we might slip up, and discuss in a mutually respectful and calm way in order to build towards freeing our peers in our communities from the mess we are in. Many of us are doing this in many ways, including in such forums such as the recent Hip-Hop History evening, an inspirational event featuring a panel that included highly respected artists such as Lowkey and Akala, at which over a hundred youth took part in a deep debate on issues such as sexism, racism and violence within music.
So although we understand that Maverick and Professor are not racist, we consider that there are a number of very problematic elements to the track ‘Jungle’, which combined with the music video raises some deeply troubling issues.
The video is based in Hackney, in North East London. Hackney is one of the poorest boroughs in England and has a high concentration of working class people, including high concentrations of peoples from backgrounds from the Caribbean and Africa, Turkish and Kurdish peoples, and East European and Asian. The video starts of with Green stating:
“Welcome to Hackney, a place where I think somebody's been playing Jumanji.
A manor where man are like animals, an' they'll yam on you like they yam on food.”
So this video features two white artists telling a story about how life in Hackney is like a “jungle”. To show this, exclusively Black people are used to portray a “jungle” life of back-stabbing, violence and crime - a dog-eat-dog world where the only two white people in the video are simply observing.
Apart from one young man, the video depicts only Black men committing graphic violence against other Black men with the use of various weapons including firearms. Admittedly, this is not the behaviour of upstanding human beings concerned with their fellow humans, but to compare these people to animals in the context of this video whereby those passing comment (Sabre and Green) are white men surrounded by a sea of Black on Black ultra-violence leaves a bad taste in the mouth. Or as one friend put it in relation to the video: “Dehumanised discourse, stereotypical ‘Black behaviour’, while two white boys take an observational stance, worried about getting ‘yammed’”.
We don’t know how much input Green had into the writing and the direction of the music video. Often in the mainstream industry, artists have very little say on the artwork and videos, so it would be interesting to know Green’s level of involvement in the conceptualisation, writing, directing and editing of the video. As it stands, this video is more akin to Daily Mail propaganda: fear culture injected into the underground music scene.
The theme of de-humanising the Black subjects in the video continues with Green stating:
“London ain't cool to cruise through where the hunters pray, Looking lunch today, and your chains looking like fresh fruit to a hungry ape.”
Although several other ‘jungle’ animals are used to talk about Black crime in Hackney, using the term “ape” in a video (when the word is mentioned the video cuts to a young Black man’s face at 1:13secs) is massively insensitive. Is it so difficult to understand that this can be construed as deeply offensive and racist?
Presumably some would argue that it's just a fair representation of reality, where Black people are over-represented in street gangs (an issue that deserves to be dealt with in a serious and considered manner). However:
a) While many gangs might be majority Black, most have white members as well. Given that Professor Green is a white artist making music that has its origins in the Black community, you'd think he would have the cultural sensitivity to paint a more balanced picture. Yes, Professor Green is from the ‘ends’ himself and is perfectly entitled to comment on what life in poor inner-city neighbourhoods is like (indeed this is to be welcomed), but we can’t afford to ignore the issue of race, which still runs deep in the society we live in. As the respected US professor Cornel West points out: “All people with black skin and African phenotype are subject to potential white supremacist abuse.”
b) Any artist trying to communicate a socially relevant idea has a responsibility beyond simply painting a picture of a dystopian reality. In the words of the legendary singer and civil rights activist Paul Robeson: “The role of the artist is not simply to show the world as it is, but as it ought to be.” The net result of this video is to promote white supremacist ideas - that's not helpful.
c) No doubt Sabre and Green would claim to be anti-racist. Hence they need to actively take responsibility for countering racist attitudes. Racism is overwhelmingly concentrated in the white community; therefore white cultural figures such as Green (especially where he's making a good living off Black music) need to have a clear, unambiguous, public anti-racist policy and to be an example to others.
Hackney has some of the worst levels of working class crime in the country. The reasons for this are many: for example, high levels of unemployment; poor provision of youth services; gentrification; concentration of poverty; neglect from the state; and many more.
Hackney has a large Black population and high levels of crime but our mainstream media does a very good job to portray non-white people in England as untrustworthy, crime-loving, dangerous savages and all this video seems to do is reinforce and glamorise that, which is a great shame as Sabre and especially Green are actually in a position to challenge that.
Also, there are plenty of white people involved in crime in east London, but to someone who relies on the Daily Mail or the Sun for information, this video would simply confirm their prejudices that violent crime is an exclusively Black affair.
Again it promotes ideas that Black people are condemned to a world of Black on Black violence. When in reality, the main problems for Black people are deep-seated racism that affects every aspect of their lives. From being 26 times more likely to be stopped and searched by police, twice as likely to be unemployed as white people, racism in our schools (which actively deletes Black people’s history in relation to England) which creates racist attitudes in society at large through to the dehumanisation of Black peoples of the Caribbean and Africa.
Instead of just saying ‘this is how it is’, could not have Sabre and Green not done something to show why it is like that? Hackney being the second poorest borough in the country obviously has a lot to do with the fact that for many people being a part of the system is not an option. Surely reinforcing white stereotypes of Black people was not the intention but as Sabre said in a recent interview: “If you've got four minutes in someone's head, in someone's room, a young person - why say bullshit to them? The most important thing to me is that people can say I really connected to your song, whatever the song may be, and I understand something about myself more or something about society more.”
It also has to be said, for fear of sounding clichéd, most of our youth are humble, intelligent young people who want to do well in life even though they are usually aware and spend nearly every day of their lives countering the many obstacles a racist and exploitative system puts before them.
Our youth need a culture that is not scared to address the negatives, but in a way that uplifts them, inspires and informs them, and gives due credit and direction to the potential and actual power that is in the hands of our youth. We are not “apes”! We are beautiful and intelligent human beings who are fighting for our cultural, moral, social and political freedoms. And for those who are falling victim to the society’s traps, our job is to unite with them positively and bring them into our freedom struggles.
*Sukant Chandan runs the Sons of Malcolm website and is a filmmaker, political analyst and works with young people
Carlos Martinez runs the Beat Knowledge website and is a music producer, writer and cultural activist
Thursday, 18 November 2010
Zimbabwe land reform 'not a failure'
Zimbabwe's often violent land reform programme has not been the complete economic disaster widely portrayed, a new study has found.
Most of the country's 4,000 white farmers - then the backbone of the country's agricultural economy - were forced from their land, which was handed over to about a million black Zimbabweans.
The study's lead author, Ian Scoones from the UK's Institute of Development Studies at Sussex University, told BBC News he was "genuinely surprised" to see how much activity was happening on the farms visited during the 10-year study.
"People were getting on with things in difficult circumstances and doing remarkably well," he said.
He declines, however, to characterise it as a success.
'Facts on the ground'
The policy was central to President Robert Mugabe's re-election campaigns in 2002 and 2008, as he argued that he was putting right the wrongs inherited from the pre-1980 colonial era, when black Zimbabweans were forced from their homelands in favour of white settlers.
But his numerous critics accused him of simply bribing voters, while destroying what used to be one of Africa's most developed economies.
"What we have observed on the ground does not represent the political and media stereotypes of abject failure; but nor indeed are we observing universal, roaring success," says the study - Zimbabwe's Land Reform, Myths and Realities.
Mr Scoones accepts that there were major problems with the "fast-track" land reform programme carried out since 2000, such as the violence, which included deadly attacks on white farmers and those accused of supporting the opposition, and the corruption associated with the allocation of some farms.
The study also notes that most beneficiaries complained about the government not giving them the support they need, such as seeds, fertiliser and ploughing the land.
But he says much of the debate has been unduly politicised.
"We wanted to uncover the facts on the ground," he said.
Mr Scoones says it is important that the full pictures, with all its nuances, is known and argues that the 10-year study of 400 households in the southern province of Masvingo debunks five myths:
- * That land reform has been a total failure
- * That most of the land has gone to political "cronies"
- * That there is no investment on the resettled land
- * That agriculture is in complete ruins, creating chronic food insecurity
- * That the rural economy has collapsed.
Investing in the land
The study found that about two-thirds of people who were given land in Masvingo were "ordinary" - low-income - Zimbabweans. These are the people Mr Mugabe always said his reforms were designed to help.
The remaining one-third includes civil servants (16.5%), former workers on white-owned farms (6.7%), business people (4.8%) and members of the security services (3.7%).
Of these, he estimates that around 5% are "linked to the political-military-security elite".
In other words, that they were given the land because of their political connections, rather than their economic need, or agricultural skills.
Mr Scoones accepts that the proportion of such "cronies" being given land may be higher in other parts of Zimbabwe, especially in the fertile areas around the capital Harare, and that 5% of people may have gained more than 5% of the land even in Masvingo.
But he maintains that they gained a relatively small proportion of the overall land seized across the country.
The researchers found that, on average, each household had invested more than $2,000 (£1,200) on their land since they had settled on it - clearing land, building houses and digging wells.
This investment has led to knock-on activity in the surrounding areas, boosting the rural economy and providing further employment.'Under the radar'
One of those questioned, identified only as JM, told the researchers that before being given land he had relied on help from others but now owns five head of cattle and employs two workers.
"The new land has transformed our lives," he said.
Others say they are much better off farming than when they had jobs.
He says that about half of those surveyed are doing well, reaping good harvests and reinvesting the profits.
Maize is Zimbabwe's main food crop but its production remains reliant on good rains and output remains well below that pre-2000. Mr Scoones says Zimbabwe's food crisis of 2007-8 cannot be put down to the land seizures, as those people who went hungry produced a large surplus both the previous and subsequent years.
Before the "fast-track" land reform began in 2000, tobacco, mostly grown by white commercial farmers, was Zimbabwe's biggest cash crop.
But producing top quality tobacco requires considerable investment and know-how, both of which are lacking among many of the new black farmers.
Instead, they often grow cotton, which has now replaced tobacco as the main agricultural export.
Mr Scoones says those who are struggling the most are the least well-off civil servants, such as teachers and nurses, who have been unable to get credit and do not have the resources, or political connections, to invest in their land.
He hopes that as Zimbabwe's economy slowly recovers under a power-sharing government, a new programme can be worked out which would give these people the backing they need to succeed.
It is often argued that large-scale commercial farming - as many of the white Zimbabweans used to practise - is inherently more efficient than the smallholder system which replaced it, but Mr Scoones dismisses this argument and says he is backed by several studies from around the world.
He says it is now impossible to return to the previous set-up and even suggests that some of the evicted white farmers may one day work with the new farmers as consultants, marketing men, farm managers or elsewhere in the overall agricultural economy, such as transporting goods to market or helping to transform and add value to their produce.
Many of those who remain bitter about losing their land may are likely to respond: "Over my dead body".
But Mr Scoones says a surprising number are already taking this option and making reasonable money from it "under the radar".