Monday, June 26, 2023

A slippery slope

Last month an investigative journalist was detained by the counter-terrorism police at Luton Airport. Kit Klarenberg had flown from Belgrade for a home visit when he was arrested and subjected to an intense interrogation over his political views and journalistic output. He had his photo, fingerprints and DNA taken and his bank cards, electronic devices and SD cards seized under Schedule 3 to the Counter-Terrorism and Border Security Act 2019.
    Klarenberg writes for the Grayzone, an independent American news website dedicated to original investigative journalism and analysis on politics and imperialism.
    He is, perhaps, best known for using leaked emails to expose Paul Mason’s scheming with influential security figures to discredit alternative media outlets, academics and peace activists critical of NATO’s role in the Ukraine war and shut down anti-NATO publications and organisations. Mason, a Labour Party supporter, reported Klarenberg to the police.
    Klarenberg has also written on role of intelligence services in shaping politics and perceptions for Iran’s Press TV and Russia’s Sputnik news. All of this is clearly why he was detained.
    His interrogators demanded to know whether the Grayzone had a special arrangement with Russia’s Federal Security Bureau (FSB) to publish hacked material and whether he had any contacts with Russian state media and Russian intelligence. They wanted to know who owns the Grayzone and they asked him whether he thought that it was sponsored by the Russians.
    When Klarenberg noted that he had publicly criticised Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, the police demanded to know if “anyone” from the Russian government had contacted him to complain. “Presumably, they wanted to know if my criticisms had pissed off my ‘controllers’,” Klarenberg said. “Which is a completely ridiculous proposition.”
    An extended philosophical discussion about journalism and the public interest followed. “Your work might be interesting to the public,” an officer told Klarenberg, “but it’s not in the public interest.” He insisted that a journalist could be furthering the interests of a hostile state actor in reporting on national security issues.
    “I tried to explain that if material can be authenticated, then the material is the source. We are not citing claims from a human source that provided the material, we are reporting on provided source material in a factual way,” Klarenberg said.
    The journalist was eventually released after five hours of this nonsense and his property returned apart from one of his memory cards that was said to be "relevant to criminal proceedings" that would be returned when the investigation was over.
    Klarenberg is a member of the National Union of Journalists (NUJ), and his union did issue a statement on 2nd June expressing their “grave concern” over his arrest. The NUJ said that: “The apparent targeting of a journalist risks creating a chilling effect on others reporting on stories in the public interest and many will be aware that it follows the recent arrest of publisher Ernest M [detained over his connection with the pension protests in France], also under counter-terrorism legislation by British police in April. Journalists will no doubt be astounded by actions of the police and rightly expect information on reasons behind Kit's detention.” Sadly, the article was removed from the NUJ’s website within 24 hours.
    We are constantly told that we have a ‘free press’ but that ‘freedom’, as we well know, only operates within the boundaries of what is deemed acceptable to the bourgeoisie. In the past the ruling class has been content to use the draconian libel laws and their control of the mainstream media simply to marginalise dissenting voices. Now it seems they are going to use anti-terror legislation to intimidate journalists who challenge the bourgeois consensus.

Friday, June 23, 2023

The ever-changing Earth

 by Ben Soton

The Earth Transformed – An Untold Story by Peter Frankopan, London, Bloomsbury Publishing 2023, 736pp, £27 rrp.

The Earth Transformed – An Untold Story is the latest work of Peter Frankopan, professor of Byzantine History at Worcester College Oxford. His previous works include The First Crusade: The Call from the East (2012), The Silk Roads: A New History of the World (2015) and The New Silk Roads: The Present and Future of the World (2018). All of Frankopan’s works are published by Bloomsbury.

    The book’s underlying theme is how ecological, geological and climatic factors have influenced the history and pre-history of our planet. What is noticeable about the book, other than its length (over seven-hundred pages long), is the degree of scientific research and primary historical research that contributed to its publication. Examples of sources cited include extracts from diaries describing climatic events to tree ring data showing metrological change.
    The story begins with our planet’s creation around four and a half billion years ago; covering the Eons that pre-date humanity. However, most of the book covers the human period from the emergence of agriculture and first city states. The author goes on to point out that agriculture may not have been possible were it not for the climatic changes that took place around 13,000 years ago. Namely a period of limited global warming that took place at the end of the last Ice-Age; starting what has been called the Holocene Period.
    The Earth Transformed has similarities with Frankopan’s earlier work The Silk Roads: A New History of the World. Both books place considerable emphasis on global trade and it’s impact on ecosystems, culture and even diet. This discovery of the Americas by Europeans saw a major shift in world trade away from the ancient Silk-Route across the Eurasian land-mass towards both the transatlantic crossing and routes around the Cape of Good Hope. Whereas the Silk-Route involved a number of small-scale exchanges the new trade system involved a much smaller number of traders as well as states. The degree of wealth accumulated became concentrated in fewer hands; eventually resulting in the development of capitalism.
    Meanwhile the author points out that whilst we associate tomatoes with Italy; they are a South American product. A customer in an Indian restaurant in Britain see icons of chillis to indicate the level of spice in a meal; again, chillis have their origins in South America not India. Whilst we associate chocolate with Belgium or Switzerland; it once again comes from South America. All examples of man-made changes to global ecosystems. In later chapters he correctly points out the damage done to the Global South caused by slavery, colonialism and imperialism. However, the book is unfortunately marred by Frankopan’s attacks on aocialist countries; the USSR and China in particular. Again, a major flaw of liberalism; willing to attack the excesses of capitalism but God forbid anyone who offers an alternative. However, in mitigation he points out measures by the present Chinese government that are helping to mitigate and even reverse climate change.
    Human induced climate change is the subject of the last chapter of the book. He correctly cites irrefutable evidence in favour of this phenomenon and the book should be a warning to climate change sceptics and deniers. Although an incredibly long book, a reason why this column has not appeared for some time it is worth reading as a source of some useful information and interesting facts.

Saturday, June 03, 2023

A step in the right direction

Union activists broke through the bourgeois consensus on Ukraine last week when delegates passed a motion that has enraged the union bureaucracy as well as the fake left cheerleaders for imperialism within the University and College Union (UCU).
    At the UCU’s annual conference in Glasgow delegates passed a motion that explicitly said no to sending arms to Ukraine and no to NATO expansion and escalation.
    The union’s chief bureaucrat, General Secretary Jo Grady says that she was “deeply disappointed the motion passed”, claiming it was being used to “attack the union and question our solidarity with the working class and people of Ukraine”, whilst the movers claim this was a major victory for the anti-war movement.
    Arthur Scargill and Bob Crow were the exceptions that proved that rule that senior union full-time officials rarely reflect the demands of the membership they claim to serve. So Ms Grady can bleat on for as long as she likes as far as we’re concerned.
    At the same time it must be said that this motion is a very modest step indeed in the battle against the war lobby within the labour movement. Like the Stop the War movement that has clearly inspired this initiative, the motion brands Putin a “war criminal” and calls on Russia to withdraw from Ukraine. But it says nothing about the fascist terror that followed that drove the people of the Donbas to take up the gun in 2014.
    What it does tell us is that Putin has “unleashed war crimes” and says “we should stand in solidarity with ordinary Ukrainians and demand an immediate withdrawal of Russian troops”. The motion would have been carried unanimously had it stopped there. But it didn’t.
    It goes on to state that: “NATO is not a progressive force: escalation risks widening war in the region only through a peaceful resolution can lives be saved.” It calls on the Government to stop arming Ukraine and calls on the union to support protests called by Stop The War, CND and other anti-war organisations. This is what has enraged the war-lobby.
    The cause of peace is not helped, however, by those in the anti-war movement who blame the Russians for the crisis, ignore the legitimate demands of the people of the Donbas and fail to recognise that this war began in 2014 when the legitimate Ukrainian government was overthrown by fascist gangs supported by Anglo-American and Franco-German imperialism.
The hidden hand is always at work amongst the fake left within the peace and anti-war movement who essentially argue that peace is only attainable on imperialist terms. We saw this time and time again over Serbia, Iraq, Libya, Syria and Palestine, and now we’re seeing it over Ukraine.
   The movers of the UCU motion have opened up the debate and taken a step in the right direction. But they still call for an unconditional Russian withdrawal from Ukraine – which is also the demand of US imperialism and its lackeys.
The communist stand must be for a just peace in Ukraine – for a neutral and de-Nazified Ukraine that recognises the decision of the Donbas and Crimean republics to join the Russian Federation and grants equal rights for all the people of the regions of the Ukraine.