Harold Pinter

This speech was given at the Committee for Peace in the Balkans Conference at The Conway Hall June 10th 2000.

I'd like to read you an extract from Eve-Ann Prentice's powerful and important book about the NATO action in Serbia, One Woman's War.

"The little old lady looked as if she had three eyes. On closer inspection, it was the effect of the shrapnel which had drilled into her forehead and killed her. One of her shoes had been torn off and the radishes she had just bought at the market lay like splashes of blood near her outstretched hand.

At first, the dead had seemed almost camouflaged among the rubble, splintered trees and broken glass but once you began to notice them, the bodies were everywhere, some covered in table cloths and blankets, others simply lying exposed where they had fallen. There was barely a square inch of wall, tree, car or human being which had not been raked by shrapnel. Houses which had been pretty hours before, with picket fences and window boxes bursting with blooms were now riddled with scars from the strafing. Widows in black leant on their garden gates, whimpering into handkerchiefs, as they surveyed their dead neighbours lying amid the broken glass, gashed trees, smouldering cars and crumpled bicycles. Plastic bags lay strewn near many of the dead, spilling parcels of fruit, eggs and vegetables, fresh from the market but now never to be eaten.

It was Friday 7th May 1999 in the southern city of Nis and NATO had made a mistake. Instead of hitting a military building near the airport about three miles away the bombers had dropped their lethal load in a tangle of back streets close to the city centre. At least thirty-three people were killed and scores more suffered catastrophic injuries; hands, feet and arms shredded or blown away altogether, abdomens and chests ripped open by shards of flying metal.

This had been no "ordinary" shelling, if such a thing exists. The area had been hit by cluster bombs, devices designed to cause a deadly spray of hot metal fragments when they explode. The Yugoslav government had accused the Alliance of using these weapons in other attacks which had cut down civilians but the suggestion had been mostly laughed to scorn in the West."

The bombing of Nis was no 'mistake'. General Wesley K Clark declared, as the NATO bombing began: "We are going to systematically and progressively attack, disrupt, degrade, devastate and ultimately - unless President Milosevic complies with the demands of the international community - destroy these forces and their facilities and support". Milosevic's 'forces', as we know, included television stations, schools, hospitals, theatres, old people's homes - and the market-place in Nis. It was in fact a fundamental feature of NATO policy to terrorise the civilian population.

I would ask you to compare those images of the market place in Nis with the photographs of Tony Blair with his new- born baby which were all over the front pages recently. What a nice looking dad and what a pretty baby. Most readers would not have connected the proud father with the man who launched cluster bombs and missiles containing depleted uranium into Serbia. As we know from the effects of depleted uranium used on Iraq, there will be babies born in Serbia in the near future who won't look quite so pretty as little Leo but they won't get their pictures in the papers either.

The United States was determined to wage war against Serbia for one reason and one reason only - to assert its domination over Europe. And it seems very clear that it won't stop there. In showing its contempt for the United Nations and International Law the United States has opened up the way for more "moral outrage", more "humanitarian intervention", more demonstrations of its total indifference to the fate of thousands upon thousands of people, more lies, more bullshit, more casual sadism, more destruction.

And the government of Great Britain follows suit with an eagerness which can only merit our disgust. We are confronted by a brutal, ruthless and malignant machine. This machine must be recognised for what it is and resisted.


Nobel-winning playwright Harold Pinter dies at 78

By PAISLEY DODDS, Associated Press Writer

LONDON: Harold Pinter, praised as the most influential British playwright of his generation and a longtime voice of political protest, has died after a long battle with cancer. He was 78.
Pinter, whose distinctive contribution to the stage was recognized with the Nobel Prize for Literature in 2005, died on Wednesday, according to his second wife, Lady Antonia Fraser.

"Pinter restored theater to its basic elements: an enclosed space and unpredictable dialogue, where people are at the mercy of each other and pretense crumbles," the Nobel Academy said when it announced Pinter's award. "With a minimum of plot, drama emerges from the power struggle and hide-and-seek of interlocution."

The Nobel Prize gave Pinter a global platform which he seized enthusiastically to denounce U.S. President George W. Bush and then-British Prime Minister Tony Blair.
"The invasion of Iraq was a bandit act, an act of blatant state terrorism, demonstrating absolute contempt for the concept of international law," Pinter said in his Nobel lecture, which he recorded rather than traveling to Stockholm .

"How many people do you have to kill before you qualify to be described as a mass murderer and a war criminal? One hundred thousand?" he asked, in a hoarse voice.
Weakened by cancer and bandaged from a fall on a slippery pavement, Pinter seemed a vulnerable old man when he emerged from his London home to speak about the Nobel Award.
Though he had been looking forward to giving a Nobel lecture "the longest speech I will ever have made" he first canceled plans to attend the awards, then announced he would skip the lecture as well on his doctor's advice.

Pinter wrote 32 plays; one novel, "The Dwarfs," in 1990; and put his hand to 22 screenplays including "The Quiller Memorandum" (1965) and "The French Lieutenant's Woman" (1980). He admitted, and said he deeply regretted, voting for Margaret Thatcher in 1979 and Tony Blair in 1997.
Pinter fulminated against what he saw as the overweening arrogance of American power, and belittled Blair as seeming like a "deluded idiot" in support of Bush's war in Iraq .
In his Nobel lecture, Pinter accused the United States of supporting "every right-wing military dictatorship in the world" after World War II.

"The crimes of the United States have been systematic, constant, vicious, remorseless, but very few people have actually talked about them," he said.
The United States , he added, "also has its own bleating little lamb tagging behind it on a lead, the pathetic and supine Great Britain ."

Most prolific between 1957 and 1965, Pinter relished the juxtaposition of brutality and the banal and turned the conversational pause into an emotional minefield.
His characters' internal fears and longings, their guilt and difficult sexual drives are set against the neat lives they have constructed in order to try to survive.
Usually enclosed in one room, they organize their lives as a sort of grim game and their actions often contradict their words. Gradually, the layers are peeled back to reveal the characters' nakedness.

The protection promised by the room usually disappears and the language begins to disintegrate.

Pinter once said of language, "The speech we hear is an indication of that which we don't hear. It is a necessary avoidance, a violent, sly, and anguished or mocking smoke screen which keeps the other in its true place. When true silence falls we are left with echo but are nearer nakedness. One way of looking at speech is to say that it is a constant stratagem to cover nakedness."
Pinter's influence was felt in the United States in the plays of Sam Shepard and David Mamet and throughout British literature.

"With his earliest work, he stood alone in British theater up against the bewilderment and incomprehension of critics, the audience and writers too," British playwright Tom Stoppard said when the Nobel Prize was announced.

"Not only has Harold Pinter written some of the outstanding plays of his time, he has also blown fresh air into the musty attic of conventional English literature, by insisting that everything he does has a public and political dimension," added British playwright David Hare, who also writes politically charged dramas.

The working-class milieu of plays like "The Birthday Party" and "The Homecoming" reflected Pinter's early life as the son of a Jewish tailor from London 's East End . He began his career in the provinces as an actor.

In his first major play, "The Birthday Party" (1958), intruders enter the retreat of Stanley, a young man who is hiding from childhood guilt. He becomes violent, telling them, "You stink of sin, you contaminate womankind."

And in "The Caretaker," a manipulative old man threatens the fragile relationship of two brothers while "The Homecoming" explores the hidden rage and confused sexuality of an all-male household by inserting a woman.

In "Silence and Landscape," Pinter moved from exploring the dark underbelly of human life to showing the simultaneous levels of fantasy and reality that equally occupy the individual.
In the 1980s, Pinter's only stage plays were one-acts: "A Kind of Alaska " (1982), "One for the Road" (1984) and the 20-minute "Mountain Language" (1988).

During the late 1980s, his work became more overtly political; he said he had a responsibility to pursue his role as "a citizen of the world in which I live, (and) insist upon taking responsibility."
In March 2005 Pinter announced his retirement as a playwright to concentrate on politics. But he created a radio play, "Voices," that was broadcast on BBC radio to mark his 75th birthday.
"I have written 29 plays and I think that's really enough," Pinter said . "I think the world has had enough of my plays."

Pinter had a son, Daniel, from his marriage to actress Vivien Merchant, which ended in divorce in 1980. That year he married the writer Fraser.
"It was a privilege to live with him for over 33 years. He will never be forgotten," Fraser said.



International Disabled Persons Day

A report from Teresa Rayner.

Wednesday 3d December 2008 was International Disabled Persons Day; how many people would have known that?
I would not have known had I not been involved with the disabled people’s Direct Action Network (DAN).

There were two main events; one involved going on a demonstration to London, a demonstration about the changes made in the new Welfare bill for the sick and disabled, the other was to go to Sheffield to an organised event of No Barriers No Borders, an event in which disabled asylum seekers and other disability groups meet to share food and stories of their plight since leaving their countries. I chose to go to Sheffield, manly to make sure I could get to an event and get back the same day.

The evening was quite well organised, the food was plentiful, all made by the asylum seekers themselves. Many of the people were from Iran, Zimbabwe and Afghanistan, who had fled their countries because of war, torture, imprisonment or worse, to a country they hoped to feel safer in. We listened to the stories being told by the asylum seekers themselves, telling stories of their great struggles of leaving their country of birth as it was a choice of life or death.

Some became disabled while in England, as in the case of one young man called Behzaad. His family had been killed and he fled from Afghanistan, he failed to get asylum here and was denied any support. So he started work in the illegal economy repairing roofs of houses, so he could clothe and feed himself. He fell off the roof and broke his back and was in hospital for six months, and was given a bill for £95,000 for his treatment. After this, because of his status as an asylum seeker, he was refused any more treatment and given an old wheel chair and put in accommodation, which did not meet his access needs. He seemed to go from one disaster to the next as the police came to arrest him at dawn and take him to an immigration Removal centre. However a solicitor has now submitted a fresh claim for him on medical grounds.

There were many stories like Behzaad. Some came to this country with children and one family had two children with sickle cell disease, for which in their own country there is no treatment. One woman fled from Pakistan because of domestic violence by the husband and his family, as her own country offered her no protection, she fled with her two daughters to England. Another disabled woman of 23 from Nigeria was rejected by her mother and left to survive on the streets, and ended up in prisons and was raped. She was brought to England in 2005 and abandoned, she was refused asylum and is still fighting a legal battle for asylum. She tells us she too lives in inaccessible accommodation in a flat and there are many days she does not go out, she worries about danger especially if there was a fire she would not be able to get out.

There were many stories being told about services, such as social services, refusing to help, they claimed because of their status as an asylum seeker. Even if they were granted asylum, this brought a new set of problems and very often left the person feeling abandoned as the money an asylum seeker receives while they wait for asylum was removed and they were never given any information on what to do next. Many were given notice to leave their accommodation, as the accommodation was only for people seeking asylum and they had been granted permission to stay.

Some asylum seekers preferred to tell poems that created a vivid picture of their experiences, some talked about not having a choice, yet they all would prefer ‘solidarity not pity’, and most of all ‘dignity’.

Meanwhile the disabled people who went to demonstrate in London seemed to have had quite an eventful day.
The disabled people’s Direct Action Network protested and blocked the traffic outside Downing Street, to object to welfare reforms proclaimed in the Queens speech.

Instead of celebrating International Disabled Persons day they decided to demonstrate against the government’s ‘Employment Support Allowance’ and the ‘Work Capability Assessment’, which is replacing Incapacity Benefit. They claim that this punitive economic attack will hit out at some of the poorest in society, forcing them into even further poverty and a discriminatory job market, while thousands more are losing their jobs due to the deepening recession. They claim that they are sick and tired of politicians who attack minorities that they see as easy targets for public spending cuts and biased media/press coverage that negatively portrays disabled people as lazy scroungers and benefit cheats. Also lack of meaningful education and training leads to lack of qualifications and job skills.

Work in hostile environments means employers continue to discriminate: i.e. against disabled employees that need part-time and flexi-time work due to their impairments and don’t have mechanisms that allow disabled people to be absent without prior notification, for their impairment/condition.

The demands were for justice in the work place with real penalties for discriminatory employers; a positive approach for the inclusion of disabled people who wish to seek work and a non-punitive system for those who cannot currently work. A Dan activist claims that the action was short and sweet, a symbolic action outside Downing Street showing that even on the day of the Queens speech we can still get close to Parliament and government. The sight of disabled activists demonstrating along Whitehall continues to illicit the support of the public and sets the marker for a future of real rights in Britain for disabled people.



Afghanistan, Another Untold Story

by Michael Parenti

Global Research, December 4, 2008

Barack Obama is on record as advocating a military escalation in Afghanistan. Before sinking any deeper into that quagmire, we might do well to learn something about recent Afghan history and the role played by the United States.

Less than a month after the 11 September 2001 attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon, US leaders began an all-out aerial assault upon Afghanistan, the country purportedly harboring Osama bin Laden and his al Qaeda terrorist organization. More than twenty years earlier, in 1980, the United States intervened to stop a Soviet “invasion” of that country. Even some leading progressive writers, who normally take a more critical view of US policy abroad, treated the US intervention against the Soviet-supported government as “a good thing.” The actual story is not such a good thing.

Some Real History

Since feudal times the landholding system in Afghanistan had remained unchanged, with more than 75 percent of the land owned by big landlords who comprised only 3 percent of the rural population. In the mid-1960s, democratic revolutionary elements coalesced to form the People’s Democratic Party (PDP). In 1973, the king was deposed, but the government that replaced him proved to be autocratic, corrupt, and unpopular. It in turn was forced out in 1978 after a massive demonstration in front of the presidential palace, and after the army intervened on the side of the demonstrators.

The military officers who took charge invited the PDP to form a new government under the leadership of Noor Mohammed Taraki, a poet and novelist. This is how a Marxist-led coalition of national democratic forces came into office. “It was a totally indigenous happening. Not even the CIA blamed the USSR for it,” writes John Ryan, a retired professor at the University of Winnipeg, who was conducting an agricultural research project in Afghanistan at about that time.

The Taraki government proceeded to legalize labor unions, and set up a minimum wage, a progressive income tax, a literacy campaign, and programs that gave ordinary people greater access to health care, housing, and public sanitation. Fledgling peasant cooperatives were started and price reductions on some key foods were imposed.

The government also continued a campaign begun by the king to emancipate women from their age-old tribal bondage. It provided public education for girls and for the children of various tribes. A report in the San Francisco Chronicle (17 November 2001) noted that under the Taraki regime Kabul had been “a cosmopolitan city. Artists and hippies flocked to the capital. Women studied agriculture, engineering and business at the city’s university. Afghan women held government jobs—-in the 1980s, there were seven female members of parliament. Women drove cars, traveled and went on dates. Fifty percent of university students were women.”

The Taraki government moved to eradicate the cultivation of opium poppy. Until then Afghanistan had been producing more than 70 percent of the opium needed for the world’s heroin supply. The government also abolished all debts owed by farmers, and began developing a major land reform program. Ryan believes that it was a “genuinely popular government and people looked forward to the future with great hope.”

But serious opposition arose from several quarters. The feudal landlords opposed the land reform program that infringed on their holdings. And tribesmen and fundamentalist mullahs vehemently opposed the government’s dedication to gender equality and the education of women and children.

Because of its egalitarian and collectivist economic policies the Taraki government also incurred the opposition of the US national security state. Almost immediately after the PDP coalition came to power, the CIA, assisted by Saudi and Pakistani military, launched a large scale intervention into Afghanistan on the side of the ousted feudal lords, reactionary tribal chieftains, mullahs, and opium traffickers.

A top official within the Taraki government was Hafizulla Amin, believed by many to have been recruited by the CIA during the several years he spent in the United States as a student. In September 1979, Amin seized state power in an armed coup. He executed Taraki, halted the reforms, and murdered, jailed, or exiled thousands of Taraki supporters as he moved toward establishing a fundamentalist Islamic state. But within two months, he was overthrown by PDP remnants including elements within the military.

It should be noted that all this happened before the Soviet military intervention. National security adviser Zbigniew Brzezinski publicly admitted--months before Soviet troops entered the country--that the Carter administration was providing huge sums to Muslim extremists to subvert the reformist government. Part of that effort involved brutal attacks by the CIA-backed mujahideen against schools and teachers in rural areas.

In late 1979, the seriously besieged PDP government asked Moscow to send a contingent of troops to help ward off the mujahideen (Islamic guerrilla fighters) and foreign mercenaries, all recruited, financed, and well-armed by the CIA. The Soviets already had been sending aid for projects in mining, education, agriculture, and public health. Deploying troops represented a commitment of a more serious and politically dangerous sort. It took repeated requests from Kabul before Moscow agreed to intervene militarily.

Jihad and Taliban, CIA Style

The Soviet intervention was a golden opportunity for the CIA to transform the tribal resistance into a holy war, an Islamic jihad to expel the godless communists from Afghanistan. Over the years the United States and Saudi Arabia expended about $40 billion on the war in Afghanistan. The CIA and its allies recruited, supplied, and trained almost 100,000 radical mujahideen from forty Muslim countries including Pakistan, Saudi Arabia, Iran, Algeria, and Afghanistan itself. Among those who answered the call was Saudi-born millionaire right-winger Osama bin Laden and his cohorts.

After a long and unsuccessful war, the Soviets evacuated the country in February 1989. It is generally thought that the PDP Marxist government collapsed immediately after the Soviet departure. Actually, it retained enough popular support to fight on for another three years, outlasting the Soviet Union itself by a year.

Upon taking over Afghanistan, the mujahideen fell to fighting among themselves. They ravaged the cities, terrorized civilian populations, looted, staged mass executions, closed schools, raped thousands of women and girls, and reduced half of Kabul to rubble. In 2001 Amnesty International reported that the mujahideen used sexual assault as “a method of intimidating vanquished populations and rewarding soldiers.’”

Ruling the country gangster-style and looking for lucrative sources of income, the tribes ordered farmers to plant opium poppy. The Pakistani ISI, a close junior partner to the CIA, set up hundreds of heroin laboratories across Afghanistan. Within two years of the CIA’s arrival, the Pakistan-Afghanistan borderland became the biggest producer of heroin in the world.

Largely created and funded by the CIA, the mujahideen mercenaries now took on a life of their own. Hundreds of them returned home to Algeria, Chechnya, Kosovo, and Kashmir to carry on terrorist attacks in Allah’s name against the purveyors of secular “corruption.”

In Afghanistan itself, by 1995 an extremist strain of Sunni Islam called the Taliban---heavily funded and advised by the ISI and the CIA and with the support of Islamic political parties in Pakistan---fought its way to power, taking over most of the country, luring many tribal chiefs into its fold with threats and bribes.

The Taliban promised to end the factional fighting and banditry that was the mujahideen trademark. Suspected murderers and spies were executed monthly in the sports stadium, and those accused of thievery had the offending hand sliced off. The Taliban condemned forms of “immorality” that included premarital sex, adultery, and homosexuality. They also outlawed all music, theater, libraries, literature, secular education, and much scientific research.

The Taliban unleashed a religious reign of terror, imposing an even stricter interpretation of Muslim law than used by most of the Kabul clergy. All men were required to wear untrimmed beards and women had to wear the burqa which covered them from head to toe, including their faces. Persons who were slow to comply were dealt swift and severe punishment by the Ministry of Virtue. A woman who fled an abusive home or charged spousal abuse would herself be severely whipped by the theocratic authorities. Women were outlawed from social life, deprived of most forms of medical care, barred from all levels of education, and any opportunity to work outside the home. Women who were deemed “immoral” were stoned to death or buried alive.

None of this was of much concern to leaders in Washington who got along famously with the Taliban. As recently as 1999, the US government was paying the entire annual salary of every single Taliban government official. Not until October 2001, when President George W. Bush had to rally public opinion behind his bombing campaign in Afghanistan did he denounce the Taliban’s oppression of women. His wife, Laura Bush, emerged overnight as a full-blown feminist to deliver a public address detailing some of the abuses committed against Afghan women.

If anything positive can be said about the Taliban, it is that they did put a stop to much of the looting, raping, and random killings that the mujahideen had practiced on a regular basis. In 2000 Taliban authorities also eradicated the cultivation of opium poppy throughout the areas under their control, an effort judged by the United Nations International Drug Control Program to have been nearly totally successful. With the Taliban overthrown and a Western-selected mujahideen government reinstalled in Kabul by December 2001, opium poppy production in Afghanistan increased dramatically.

The years of war that have followed have taken tens of thousands of Afghani lives. Along with those killed by Cruise missiles, Stealth bombers, Tomahawks, daisy cutters, and land mines are those who continue to die of hunger, cold, lack of shelter, and lack of water.

The Holy Crusade for Oil and Gas

While claiming to be fighting terrorism, US leaders have found other compelling but less advertised reasons for plunging deeper into Afghanistan. The Central Asian region is rich in oil and gas reserves. A decade before 9/11, Time magazine (18 March 1991) reported that US policy elites were contemplating a military presence in Central Asia. The discovery of vast oil and gas reserves in Kazakhstan and Turkmenistan provided the lure, while the dissolution of the USSR removed the one major barrier against pursuing an aggressive interventionist policy in that part of the world.

US oil companies acquired the rights to some 75 percent of these new reserves. A major problem was how to transport the oil and gas from the landlocked region. US officials opposed using the Russian pipeline or the most direct route across Iran to the Persian Gulf. Instead, they and the corporate oil contractors explored a number of alternative pipeline routes, across Azerbaijan and Turkey to the Mediterranean or across China to the Pacific.

The route favored by Unocal, a US based oil company, crossed Afghanistan and Pakistan to the Indian Ocean. The intensive negotiations that Unocal entered into with the Taliban regime remained unresolved by 1998, as an Argentine company placed a competing bid for the pipeline. Bush’s war against the Taliban rekindled UNOCAL’s hopes for getting a major piece of the action.

Interestingly enough, neither the Clinton nor Bush administrations ever placed Afghanistan on the official State Department list of states charged with sponsoring terrorism, despite the acknowledged presence of Osama bin Laden as a guest of the Taliban government. Such a “rogue state” designation would have made it impossible for a US oil or construction company to enter an agreement with Kabul for a pipeline to the Central Asian oil and gas fields.

In sum, well in advance of the 9/11 attacks the US government had made preparations to move against the Taliban and create a compliant regime in Kabul and a direct US military presence in Central Asia. The 9/11 attacks provided the perfect impetus, stampeding US public opinion and reluctant allies into supporting military intervention.

One might agree with John Ryan who argued that if Washington had left the Marxist Taraki government alone back in 1979, “there would have been no army of mujahideen, no Soviet intervention, no war that destroyed Afghanistan, no Osama bin Laden, and no September 11 tragedy.” But it would be asking too much for Washington to leave unmolested a progressive leftist government that was organizing the social capital around collective public needs rather than private accumulation.

US intervention in Afghanistan has proven not much different from US intervention in Cambodia, Angola, Mozambique, Ethiopia, Nicaragua, Grenada, Panama, and elsewhere. It had the same intent of preventing egalitarian social change, and the same effect of overthrowing an economically reformist government. In all these instances, the intervention brought retrograde elements into ascendance, left the economy in ruins, and pitilessly laid waste to many innocent lives.

The war against Afghanistan, a battered impoverished country, continues to be portrayed in US official circles as a gallant crusade against terrorism. If it ever was that, it also has been a means to other things: destroying a leftist revolutionary social order, gaining profitable control of one of the last vast untapped reserves of the earth’s dwindling fossil fuel supply, and planting US bases and US military power into still another region of the world.

In the face of all this Obama’s call for “change” rings hollow.




Apparently when the G20 was mentioned to George Bush earlier this year by Kevin Rudd the Australian Prime Minister, Bush had to ask what it was. Unfortunately this is not another joke about the limited intellectual capacity of the outgoing US President but rather it reveals the insignificance of the G20 meeting held in Washington on 15th November. Despite the optimistic statements issued by the participants the underlying fact was that they had no collective answer to the deepening crisis facing their economies.

US Treasury Secretary Henry Paulson had already backtracked from his previous decision to buy up the ‘toxic assets’ of the financial institutions because of the sheer volume of debt involved, and updated forecasts by the IMF now signal that both the US and European economies amongst others, will be in recession throughout 2009.
With this background it is beyond ironic to hear the world leaders proclaim that capitalism is ‘the best possible system of government’, making one wonder what the worst system of government would be like!

Yet such rhetoric is stock in trade for the defenders of capitalism, feeding the general population with statements made purely for public consumption, while the reality is often the complete opposite to what is being said.

The Labour government has told workers for years that the economy could not afford above inflation wage rises, and that there was no money available for the development of health and education, yet the moment the wealthiest layers in society run into self-made problems, this same government suddenly find billions of pounds to bail the financial sector out.
Furthermore, in an attempt to placate the population at large Gordon Brown and his ministers announced that they have asked the mortgage lenders to explore all avenues to ensure that home repossessions only take place as a last resort, knowing full well that this is merely political spin and the reality is quite different.

Recent figures reveal a 40% increase in the number of home repossessions in the last six months alone. Moreover, the main culprit in repossessions is the government-owned Northern Rock, which has been responsible for more than 20% of the total, whilst also recruiting almost five hundred more people to work in its repossessions department. In addition, a recent court ruling, dragging up legislation from the 1920s, allows mortgage lenders to repossess properties even if they are a mere two months behind in missed payments. Does that sound like the action of last resort as promised by Brown?

Yet this financial sector that are now so quick to resort to repossessions, have had, on a worldwide basis over £5 trillion handed over to them to keep them afloat.
In the United States the emphatic victory of Barack Obama signified that the American population wanted a complete break with the policies of the Bush Administration, and far from being a question of race, Obama’s election demonstrated that in the final analysis it is not religion, gender or race that is the decisive factor but the deepening economic crisis and the class struggle it engenders that predominates.

However the hopes and aspirations that working people have invested in Obama will sooner rather than later be shattered as he gathers around him the same characters that have dominated both the Bush and Clinton administrations. Obama, no matter what his subjective intentions may have been, will defend capitalism at the expense of the interests of the millions of workers who put him in office, a situation that will result in increased social and industrial conflict.

In Britain the desperate attempt by the Brown government to control the crisis by cutting interest rates will not only see the collapse of the pound but will also raise the prospect of national bankruptcy, meanwhile doing nothing to prevent the rising levels of unemployment and the gutting of public services. Also, in an attempt to save the system, the Labour government will continue to pursue privatisation and wage cutting policies as they seek to make workers pay for a crisis not of their making and overturn every gain made by the working class over decades of struggle.

In contrast and in opposition to the desires of capitalism, socialists should see this coming period as an opportunity for change. The political void now open must be filled by developing and promoting SLP policies that do represent and give voice to the best interests of the majority of the population.