‘I believe the Union is over-democratised.’ Herman van Rumpuy EU President from 2009 to 2014 (quoted by Perry Anderson in ‘The European Coup’ London Review of Books, 17 December 2020)
I was fourteen at the time when on 3 February 1960, Prime Minister and old Etonian Harold Macmillan made his wind of change speech to South Africa’s parliament during his African tour. That day he said: ‘The wind of change is blowing through this continent and, whether we like it or not, this growth of national consciousness is a political fact’. To many the speech is remembered as firing the starting gun to speed up the decolonisation of the British Empire in Africa, a rush for the exit you might say, whilst seeking to minimise Soviet influences on these emerging nations. But it was also an attack on South Africa’s system of apartheid which was only swept away some thirty years later. I did not realise at the time that this was the precursor to a long courtship with the then European Economic Community (EEC) which as we all know ended in an acrimonious divorce.
Continue reading Europe, a road crash that was decades in the making
It’s been a week of mixed fortunes for Julian Assange. On Monday many were taken aback by the ruling of district judge Vanessa Baraitser not to allow the US to extradite Julian to stand trial on criminal charges of conspiracy, hacking and violations of the 1917 Espionage Act. On closer reading it was clear that the judge had rejected all the defence arguments against extradition to protect free speech, that the extradition was politically motivated and he would not get a fair trial in the US. It was the appalling state of the US prison system that was the key factor and the ‘supermax’ prison ADX Colorado, where it is generally accepted Julian would have been sent, if sentenced by a US court. This taken with Julian’s mental health history led her to believe that he would be potentially in danger of taking his own life if so incarcerated.
Two days after her ruling against the US extradition came the setback when the same Vanessa Baraitser sitting at Westminster magistrates court rejected his application for bail, saying that Julian “…still has an incentive to abscond from these, as yet unresolved, proceedings. As a matter of fairness the US must be allowed to challenge my decision…”
Continue reading As Julian Assange edges towards freedom investigative journalism takes a big hit.
On the evening of 15 December I watched ‘A celebration of Jewish radicalism’, with Alexei Sayle, Leon Rosselson, Naomi Wimborne-Idrissi, David Rosenberg, Andrew Feinstein and Barnaby Raine. Organised by Red Labour, I found it moving, education and inspiring – the event is at: https://www.facebook.com/RedLabour2016/videos/402437467682837/
The most moving contribution was the reading of a poem by Irena Klepfisz, (which can also be found in the current issue of Jewish Socialist). Irena was born in the Warsaw Ghetto and smuggled to safety with her mother when she was two and a half years old. Her father Michał who made weapons for the resistance fighters, took arms back into the Ghetto just before the Nazis entirely destroyed it, along with the few fighters left. He knew that if he went in at that point, he wouldn’t survive. He died in the Warsaw Ghetto on 20 April 1943. Irena, a remarkable woman, now lives in New York. Continue reading Celebrating Jewish radicalism – lessons for today and tomorrow