(researched November-December 2009) Files in LAB5 (Ministry of Labour). Evidence before this committee was heard in the closing stages of World War One. Contains rich description on work processes and gender dynamics in the workplace, for example in the Potteries. Witnesses include Union and labour leaders, for example from National Federation of Women Workers, National Union of Women's Suffrage Societies, the Amalgamated Society of Male and Female Pottery Workers, and GDH Cole for the Labour Research Department. Beatrice Webb sat on the Committee.
Post bombardment reflections on Gaza, Israel, and displacement. [This post was written November 2012 pending the cease-fire and augmented early January.]
The mid-November outrages. 80 died in Gaza, 3 in Israel. Did you see the photograph of the Dalou children, dead? It would stop your heart, if nothing else has. In Israel the glossy lively Tel Aviv, thought to be somehow immune, was battered. A friend visited there in 2011, partied in the bars. It was just after the release of Gilad Shilat. Like many liberal Jews, her hosts were outraged by oppression of Palestine.
In Gaza - the territory's now so small, that people are effectively kettled within borders. It was never possible for the Israeli military to be avoiding civilians if firing into settled areas. Why did they even pretend?
Am I asking the proper questions? Perhaps where we outside, observers only, see through the eyes of journalists, we connect to individuals and separate narrative from context. Though this is not to despair the journalists' role, rather, it expands. In this conflict journalists (at least those heard in Australia) were physically brave and reported in-depth and with integrity. (I'm talking especially the ABC's Matt Brown in Gaza, and Phil Williams in Tel Aviv - Matt Brown being current Middle East Correspondent).
And since? Israel's response to the UN's vote to recognise Palestine as a non-member state was to declare 3000 settler homes to be built in east Jerusalem and the West Bank - the east Jerusalem plan undercutting Palestinian wishes to annexe east Jeruslaem as their capital, and the West Bank plan splitting the occupied West Bank. (Added info: don' t think 'West Bank': think 'Judea and Samaria'. This throws light on hard-line Israeli perspectives. And Crisis Group Brussels/Jerusalem published in December on physical and cultural changes in east Jerusalem since 2000, the article well worth reading - http://tinyurl.com/b2m5s3c "Jerusalem: Extreme Makeover?". Go to the maps: the UK Guardian's historical interactive on changing boundaries in Palestine is instructive - http://tinyurl.com/bya7po5 ).
Last Wednesday 2 January (as Harriet Sherwood reported for the Guardian), Likud demanded annexation of Area C (that is, 60%) of the West Bank - and funding for Palestinians to emigrate: 'the perfect solution for us'. Solution? Really? With Israel holding a general election at the end of the month, the right is set to entrench political control. Recognition doesn't mean resolution, not yet.
The United Nations Audiovisual Library of International Law was first proposed by the Codification Division of the Office of Legal Affairs and approved by the General Assembly as an activity under the Programme of Assistance in the Teaching, Study, Dissemination and Wider Appreciation of International Law in 1997 (resolution 52/152). The Audiovisual Library was initially created to serve as a lending library of audio and video cassette tapes for educational and government institutions in developing countries. The Audiovisual Library, as originally conceived, encountered insurmountable practical difficulties. In response to the dramatic increase in requests for international law training beginning in the late twentieth century, the Codification Division proposed and the General Assembly approved the creation of a newly revitalized United Nations Audiovisual Library of International Law via the Internet which avoids the practical difficulties of its predecessor and brings the resources of the library to individuals and institutions around the world (resolution 62/62).
Finalising my article about state's failures on asylum-seeking and refugee policy and I've just listened again to this interview. Geraldine Doogue interviewed James Hathaway in September this year on Labor's 'Pacific Solution Mark 2'. Intriguing and compassionate argument from Hathaway and a quite different take on people-smugglers. I think that take must be noted: extended, recall that the people-smuggler follows a long tradition of helping displaced persons escape persecution. Historically and in other contexts (WW2, Cold War Berlin for example) the role has been heroic. Sure the role is also business, but through Hathaway's lens deaths are down to government policies punishing the process and the agents of escape, and thereby rendering the mode of escape costly, dangerous, and lethal. If punitive policy ends - and people are welcomed according to international covenant - so too does the dying. Substitute Soviet East German administration for a western national government (it doesn't have to be Australia) in this narrative and what's your perspective? Short interview, worth hearing.
Bernie was stubborn, passionate and a working-class hero. He was elevated to iconic status, but only because he was willing to take on corporate greed until his last breath. He was bold, funny, exciting and wasn’t afraid of a challenge. The media just happened to find someone that was lost in life, and Bernie found his calling and relished that. He was a man diagnosed with a horrible condition and who just didn’t want to go quietly. He wanted to rattle the cage; wanted everyone to know he was suffering and that others were suffering.
A terrible massacre yesterday at the Lonmin Marikana platinum plant (and acknowledging that this comes after a week of utter violence at the plant, machetes, including between workers; is not unprecedented in global historical terms; and that police have also died): but am shocked speechless by this event, as must be trade unionists everywhere, and certainly as is South Africa, hurting again. Is it worth noting that Lonmin is a ftse100 company, with all that this implies in a country lacking leadership right now? Take a look at the Twitter feed hastag Lonmin for the local disbelief, grief, and the anger towards Zuma. There's a current Reuters report at http://tinyurl.com/9o7tke2. [Thanks to the relentless LabourStart website for these leads].
London is a town on a series of visible ‘ups’ right now – the Queen’s Jubilee celebrations, the Olympics imminent, the annual tennis festival Wimbledon; the town bubbles away in an intriguing soup of international visitors and media hype.
But less visible ‘downs’ lurk. Last year’s riots are still puzzled over, as though they were a puzzle and not an inexorable, rippling, shocking outcome of deep social frustration and fragmentation. The rest of the country observes the partying, unsure how to approach the shenanigans – to share vicariously, or to resent. London geographer, scholar and activist Doreen Massey (World City, 2007) comments on the inequalities - of funding and opportunity created by London’s status as the ‘national’ as opposed to anywhere else being ‘regional’ - ‘the national is pulled apart by its very geography’ . The large cultural institutions epitomize this, all the time. The Olympics tops them; it sits with Londoners, invades or enhances their town, but it's somehow also to be owned and paid for by the rest of the nation, hosting the world of sport.
Being there, I got to be interested in what was happening behind the Olympics: after all a site had been nominated and appropriated, and in an urban context this made it inevitable that people had been displaced. There's excitement, argument (ticket-sale management has been a shemozzle) and apprehension. It hardly needs saying that security is an even bigger project than usual; a struggle to address real fears and strategies: in the midst of this the Ministry of Defence decided missile batteries should be installed on rooftops in East London. Affected residents were shocked, angered, galvanized into protest. Last week the Guardian credited this piece of non-consulted idiocy with having ‘brought together communities from across London’ and creating a real sense of common purpose. (See http://www.guardian.co.uk/commentisfree/2012/jun/29/olympics-londoners-march-rooftop-missiles )
Against all this, and indulging my own eclectic and increasingly comfortable treks around the city, I thought Iain Sinclair’s Ghost Milk: Calling Time on the Grand Project looked like a logical read – mandatory for naive visitors and likely toscratch the complaisance of locals. Sinclair recalls the early 70s around Hackney Wick, areas of London later allowed to decline – a process arguably aimed at softening up development grabs for the 2012 Olympics. While I asked questions about location friends suggested that siting the Olympics around the old Hackney Marshes was no great loss, but Sinclair wouldn’t agree. He prods the runaway raptor that's the modern Olympic Games - its teeth feeds on the worst of capital's dodgy underbelly. My words, Sinclair's sentiments. London these days, to an occasional drop-in (which I am; always greedy to return) is highly accessible, a much fonder city than it was 3 decades back. But Sinclair implies this shift has been at great cost to its most vulnerable long-term residents. The smooth-talking bureaucrats turn his stomach. He's savage: his anger's infectious.
Owen Hatherley in the Independent July 8 2011 thought this book fragmented, patchy, showing occasional brilliance. I haven’t read Sinclair’s previous London works (been busy changing other worlds though am now downloading London, City of Disappearances to the iPad Kindle app, and noting for later London Orbital and Lights Out for the Territory ) but can’t agree: this scribbled meandering has a purpose. It builds the anger. Robert Macfarlane in the Guardian a week later seemed to agree: “Ghost Milk has many of the same problems as Hackney. It's over-stuffed, indulgently prolix and maddeningly dispersive. What saves it, though – indeed, what makes it brilliant – is its fury. Anger drives the book forwards, and pulls its details into suggestive order: anger at corporate conjurings, civic hubris and "lachrymose orgies of nationalism". Ghost Milk is documentary writing as opposition, literature as resistance. Or, as Sinclair more calmly puts it, it is an example of memoir operating as "an element within a larger social argument".”
I'm floored by how this book so successfully insists on my seeing a London outside my knowing, as an L-plater still despite all my recent visits and my strange few years in the seventies holed up in Surrey as a wife. Those years I looked to north of the river and the Spare Rib collective, too absorbed in Anglo-Australian feminism to think much about the mouth of the Thames, the Lea Valley where London 'ends'.
Nonetheless in three weeks time this will be, for many, where London starts – and ends. But that London won’t be the Lea Valley. A lot of people – working people, people with no agenda beyond the delight in sport and being there, people whose world is the physical and whose whole being has been focused towards these weeks – will have the time of their lives. And fair enough too. But the five boroughs (Hackney, Waltham Forest, Greenwich, Tower Hamlets and Newham) which conceded their land will be invisible and unprivileged and Sinclair will continue angry, hurling good words at societies’ grand projects, their circuses and bread. Lights out indeed, for the territory?
Am now back in the UK which has Council/ Borough elections next week, and am about to travel to Paris, serendipitously in the countdown week to final round Presidential election ballot. Last week I was in Scotland at the European Social Science History Conference in Glasgow: Scotland certainly seemed to be gearing up to a Labour resurgence in the election: am now in London where the real contest is Ken Livingstone and Boris Johnson. Johnson will doubtless win but it’s an intriguing match: was at a dinner party the other night where the debate was of Johnson cycling in his popular reforms on rails already set by Livingstone. Not all is an up though: the UKIP is running a hate campaign: Europhobic, xenophobic, ‘put up the barricades’ tv ads, in dialogue reminiscent of Pauline Hanson’s One Nation in the years of Howard Government, but which would certainly be at least reined in these days in Australia.
But never mind democracy – in these same weeks the real popular focus is on Chelsea FC’s winning through to the finals of the European Champions League, to play Munich. Again though the real loser is Spanish football – with Spain’s plummeting economic status another football triumph was surely not an unreasonable wish.
How great is the internet. It used to be quite difficult to locate Cynthia Cockburn's work online even through university websites pre the days of blog. And now she has her own website/ blog at http://www.cynthiacockburn.org/
Cockburn is both scholar and activist, politically involved in Women in Black against War and in the Women’s International League for Peace and Freedom. These days her research and writing is, as you might know, very much on women and/in peace movements, feminists as anti-militarists, but I first came across it in another genre - gender / labour process - 15 years back during my PhD historical research on, inter alia, women in the printing industry. Cockburn's book re male domination in the UK printing industry - Brothers: Machinery of Dominance (1983) - was a thunderbolt on gender-labour relations in an industry that, pre the take-over by computer publishing, combined craft/ technical skills and manufacturing.
She has an extraordinary and creative facility for persuading people to talk, for listening, and then for writing the detail in a style both direct and vivid. Her cumulative feast of projects has taken in women's peace activities in various states in Europe and the Middle East; she describes her forthcoming book (next month, 2012) Antimilitarism: Political and Gender Dynamics of Movements as 'a study of antiwar, antimilitarist and peace movements in several countries and contexts'. The Space Between Us: Negotiating Gender and National Identities in Conflict (1998) investigated women’s projects of cooperation in Northern Ireland, Bosnia-Herzogovina and Israel/Palestine in the 90s. It's fascinating stuff, including re the differences between the national cohorts of women which derive from differing cultures, experiences, and immediacy of political urgencies. And - she has been published in Turkish, Georgian, Spanish, Bosnian, Greek, Russian, Korean and German. Now That is being accessible.
On January 26 1939, in the third year of the Spanish Civil War, General Francisco Franco y Bahamonde finally took Barcelona. In March he took Madrid and in April he and his nationalist, royalist, ruling class forces controlled Spain. Franco established a repressive, elitist, anti-worker regime which would last until his death in 1975.
This photograph (2006) from my own collection is of the Telephone (Telegraph) Building on the perimeter of Plaza Cataluna in Barcelona, at the upper end of the Ramblas. In May 1937 it was held by anarchist/ republican forces in a battle eloquently described by George Orwell in 'Homage to Catalonia'. Next time you're mixing it with the entertainers on the Ramblas, and deciding on a cafe for coffee, take instead this image: 'The bullets from the tower were flying cross the street and a crowd of panic-stricken people was rushing down the Ramblas, away from the firing; up and down the street you could hear snap-snap-snap as the shop-keepers slammed the steel shutters over their windows.' (Orwell, 1938).
Horrible. I was foolishly surprised to pick up this info last night from an Amnesty tweet. A few months back when the Iran government backed off on stoning Sakineh Mohammadi Ashtiani for 'adultery while married' we could have been excused for thinking that a measure of safety for Sakineh had been achieved. You might recall that she was originally imprisoned for complicity in the murder of her husband: AWID, Association for Women's Rights in Development, observes that the prison term linked to that conviction has possibly expired. Signing Amnesty petitions seems the most rapid action in support of last minute attempts to stop a hanging. Amnesty UK has a link (on their Take Action page). AWID also points out that the 'FreeSakineh' website has not been updated since 2010. This is truly shocking, given the great swell of anger apparent across the west when her case became public. I recall being in Rome a year ago, seeing huge photographs of her mounted at high points in key public spaces in the centre of the city. Just how much must be done to save one life? So please, sign the petitions, talk, tweet, facebook, write, whatever is within or even beyond your scope.