Thatcher Played No Part in Abolishing Apartheid – Letter in The Times 16 December

One of the more distressing aspect of the week of remembering Nelson Mandela has been the extraordinary claim that Margaret Thatcher was at the head of the anti-apartheid struggle. On the contrary she opposed the relatively modest sacntions imposed by the United States and fought tooth and nail at Commonwealth conferences to limit any pressure on the apartheid regime. In The Times (13 December) the last apartheid leader, FW de Klerk had the cheek to argue that Mrs Thatcher was instrumental in ending apartheid! I wrote this letter to The Times to set out the truth. The letter was published as lead letter in The Times on 16th December and was mentioned on the BBC

FW de Klerk protests too much when he says Margaret Thatcher helped abolish apartheid by rejecting sanctions (Comment 12 December). I worked in South Africa with independent black trade unions in the 1980s and was briefly detained. It was scarring to be in Soweto and Alexandra townships and see apartheid in operation. What changed was the realisation that the South African economy needed African workers to produce and serve and, more importantly, to become consumers. Employers were forced to recognise trade unions especially in German and Swedish firms which operated there. Trade union leaders of the quality of Cyril Ramaphosa emerged and intelligent white South Africans realised it was game over. The main sanctions player was the United States which banned the sale of Krugerrands and sent an African-American diplomat, Edward Pickering, to be Ambassador in South Africa. The US embassy became home to opposition leaders in South Africa. I do not recall anyone thinking the British government was playing any important role, one way or another, in the end of apartheid. It was the people of South Africa, including many white South Africans that came for realise apartheid had to go. FW Klerk was in post when it happened but it was going to happen anyway and Mrs Thatcher played no major part.

Interventionism Doesn’t Work

This article was published in Le Monde on 11 December 2013

Le Monde 11 December 2013

L’interventionnisme militaire occidental est un échec permanent

 

 

“Assumez le fardeau de l’homme blanc », écrit Rudyard Kipling, le poète de l’impérialisme anglais à la fin du XIX  siècle. Il lançait ainsi un appel aux Etats­Unis afin qu’ils viennent soutenir l’Angleterre et la France dans leurs missions «civilisatrices » en Afrique et en Asie. Aujourd’hui, c’est au tour du présidentFrançois Hollande d’assumer ce fardeau afin d’apporter un brin de stabilité en Afrique centrale.

On ne peut que souhaiter le plus grand succès aux soldats français dépêchés enCentrafrique , mais le palmarès des anciennes puissances impériales qui ont cherché à imposer leur vision à des régimes qui font fi de nos valeurs « civilisée» n’est guère encourageant. Depuis l’expédition de Suez en 1956, aucune intervention militaire menée par les forces européennes en dehors de l’Europe n’a obtenu les résultats espérés. Dans tous les pays où elles ont établi une présence, elles laissent derrière elles plus de problèmes que de solutions.

Les Russes ont envahi l’Afghanistan en 1979 dans le but d’asseoir un gouvernement non islamiste et de protéger leur flanc sud. Quel fut le résultat ? Un Afghanistan pris en otage par les Talibans et une base pour Al­Qaida .

En 2006, le ministre de la défense , John Reid, affirmait que le but de la présencemilitaire britannique en Afghanistan était « de fournir assistance et protection au peuple afghan pour qu’il reconstruise l’économie et rétablisse la démocratie dans son pays. Nous serions très heureux de quitter l’Afghanistan dans trois ans sans avoir tiré un seul coup de fusil ».

Depuis que ces paroles ont été tenues, 445 soldats britanniques ont perdu la vie ; 86 soldats français, 156 soldats canadiens et 2 287 soldats américains ont été tués. C’est moins que les 15 000 soldats russes qui ont payé de leur vie la présence de leur pays en Afghanistan. Mais tout comme les Russes, les armées des pays occidentaux vont quitter l’Afghanistan en laissant le pays dans une situation bien pire que celle qui prévalait en 1979, en 1989 ou en 2009.

Le droit d’ingérence et la doctrine de l’intervention sont des concepts qui remontent à l’ère de Francis Fukayama et sa thèse sur la fin de l’histoire. Bernard Kouchner à Paris , Michael Ignatieff à Harvard et Tony Blair à Londres ont lancé l’idée selon laquelle il est possible et nécessaire d’avoir recours à la puissance militaire pour changer le régime, voire le gouvernement des pays qui rejettent les normes prévues par les conventions des Nations unies.

Au Kosovo , cette thèse a donné des résultats, mais pas au Rwanda ni au Soudan.Comme François Hollande aujourd’hui en République Centrafricaine, Tony Blair a envoyé, en 2000, un petit contingent en Sierra Leone pour protéger les expatriés britanniques. Ces militaires avaient également pour mission de protéger les intérêts économiques des entreprises minières qui exportent l’or et les diamants.

La guerre civile en Sierra Leone s’est poursuivie jusqu’en 2002. La courte intervention des 1 200 parachutistes anglais a été applaudie par les médias et la classe politique à Londres, sans aboutir à un véritable changement en Sierra Leone, qui, douze ans plus tard, reste un des pays les plus pauvres et les plus corrompus de la planète .

Le succès apparent de l’intervention militaire au Kosovo et en Sierra Leone a conduit Tony Blair en Irak. Un des multiples mensonges colportés à propos de l’invasion de l’Irak est que ce fut une décision ultrapersonnelle de Tony Blair, le petit caniche de George W. Bush. Rappelons cependant que 419 députés de gauche comme de droite ont voté en faveur de cette guerre.

William Hague, aujourd’hui ministre des affaires étrangères , avait affirmé en 2002 devant la Chambre des communes que « 400 sites et installations nucléaires étaient dissimulés dans des fermes et même dans des écoles en Irak ». Plus de dix ans plus tard, tout le monde outreManche admet que l’invasion de l’Irak fut pire qu’un crime et que ce fut une erreur.

En tant que député et ministre, j’ai moi­même voté en faveur de l’invasion en Irak. Renverser un dictateur inspiré par les idéologies phalango­fascistes et libérer lepeuple Irakien de la torture et de l’oppression de Saddam Hussein semblait correspondre à mes valeurs progressistes et interventionnistes. Dix ans plus tard,je préfère dire comme Benjamin Franklin que « la pire des paix vaut mieux que n’importe quelle guerre ».

Le Parti travailliste lui aussi a changé. Alors que David Cameron, François Hollande et les faucons de Washington étaient prêts à faire la guerre en Syrie au profit des djihadistes et d’Al­Qaida, le jeune et nouveau leader inexpérimenté de la gauche britannique, Ed Miliband, a refusé de plier sous la pression exercée par lemagnat de la presse Rupert Murdoch et de ses camarades du Parti socialiste français. Il a décliné l’invitation de David Cameron à rejoindre l’union sacrée avec les djihadistes syriens. Son leadership de jeune chef travailliste a inspiré d’autres députés, tous partis confondus, qui ont voté contre le chef du gouvernement, David Cameron.

Le Parlement britannique a corrigé l’erreur commise en 2003, encourageant ainsi le Congrès américain à dire non à une nouvelle intervention occidentale dans un pays arabe. Ensuite, il y a eu l’accord de Genève avec l’Iran . Comme a dit Churchill : « Jaw jaw is better than war war », « faire parler les gens vaut mieux que faire la guerre ».

Les Britanniques estiment que l’intervention de Nicolas Sarkozy et de David Cameron en Libye a été un désastre même si elle fut applaudie par les journalistes à l’époque. La Libye est maintenant sous le contrôle des milices et desseigneurs de guerre salafistes, qui exportent des armes, et des guerriers dans toute la région.

Le bilan des interventions en Afghanistan, dans les pays arabes et en Afrique depuis 1979 est donc globalement négatif. Ces interventions sont parfois moralement justifiées, légalement souvent discutables et stratégiquement toujours désastreuses. Après le succès de l’intervention en Sierre Leone, Tony Blair n’a pas annoncé que c’était le plus beau jour de sa vie.

Tout pays qui se respecte doit soutenir son armée . Mais l’Histoire ne plébiscite les interventions militaires qu’à de rares exceptions. Ce n’est pas la fin de l’histoire qui doit nous troubler , mais plutôt le fait que l’on n’en tire plus aucun enseignement, surtout lorsqu’il s’agit d’événements récents.

 

Denis MacShane (Ancien ministre des affaires européennes du gouvernement de Tony Blai

Ukraine Journalism

Published on openDemocracy (http://www.opendemocracy.net)

Publish and be decapitated
Denis MacShane [1] 10 December 2013

Thirteen years ago a brave journalist, Georgy Gongadze, who had dared to publish criticisms of the then President Kuchma, was strangled and then decapitated, apparently on the orders of the president. The murder was carried out [8] by General Oleksiy Pukach, with his own hands. Earlier this year he was convicted and sentenced to life imprisonment. His trial was held behind closed doors with no journalists present. The man who allegedly ordered the murder of the journalist, former president Leonid Kuchma, is still free.
It was the most gruesome of the many murders and violent attacks on journalists working in Council of Europe member states. Conservatives everywhere increasingly dislike the Council of Europe and its European Court of Human Rights (ECHR), but, as the struggle for democracy and respect for core Council of Europe conventions has moved to the mass protests in Maidan (Independence Square) in the Ukrainian capital Kyiv, an important spur to protest is a sense that Ukrainians have been denied the free journalism that the end of Soviet imperialism was meant to bring about.

Lenin’s statue may have been toppled but a Leninist desire to control and manipulate the media infects all power-holders in Ukraine, including the oligarchs denouncing ‘Yukashenko.’ The story of media repression in Ukraine is not new, and Open Democracy has carried [9] reports.
In the difficult times ahead, if Ukrainian journalists and the media cannot find a way to break out of the existing ways of doing business in the country, the hopes of the hundreds of thousands braving the cold in one of Europe’s biggest displays of human resistance to oppression may yet be disappointed.
Ukrainian Truth
Georgy Gongadze was publisher and editor of the web journal, Ukrainska Pravda (‘Ukraine Truth’), which can still be read online (link [10], in Ukrainian); in Google translation it seems very lively, a match for Slate or the Huffington Post. Sergiy Leschenko wrote about it a while ago. Its coverage of the pro-European demonstrations against President Viktor Yanukovych (who still uses Kuchma as an adviser) in Kyiv and elsewhere in Ukraine has been a very important window into the desire of Ukrainians to get closer to Europe, even if their rulers prefer subordination to Moscow.
‘Jeans’
Gongadze’s Ukrainska Pravda may still be a vigorous online and independent journal, but now it has been cloned by a web paper, Ukrainska Kryvda, (link [11], in Ukrainian), which means ‘Ukraine Falsehood.’ It looks like Ukrainska Pravda, uses the same layout and typeface but its stories are all attacks on journalists and on anyone who criticises the ruling powers.
Other, more direct means are used to sap journalists’ morale.
Other, more direct means are used to sap journalists’ morale: media outlets change owners, journalists are fired; there is crude intimidation. According to Natalya Perevalova, an editor at ATV – the most popular television station in the Black Sea region around Odessa – ‘Journalists are just frightened. They don’t know what might happen to them so they are just cautious and conformist.’
Increasingly, the press in Ukraine is less able to perform its role as a watchdog of government and political actions; and handicapped from delivering reliable information to the public on the situation in the country. The instrument of ‘mass-media’ has become institutionalised as a public relations and propaganda tool to serve political and commercial objectives without regard to factual reporting or analysis.
Ukraine’s Institute of Mass Information [12] is a media oversight institute. According to its data, 2012 saw a peak in clampdowns on media critical of the government: 324 cases, the highest number in the last 10 years. This trend is regarded as linked to the impunity of the police, officials and politicians, and has continued to rise in 2013.
The national lexicon even sports a special term, ‘jeans’, to describe news coverage paid for by oligarchs.
Those close to President Yanukovych are known as ‘The Family’. They are very keen to ensure there is no media examination of how state assets or contracts are handed out on the basis of political loyalty and pay-offs. The national lexicon even sports a special term, ‘jeans [13]’, to describe news coverage paid for by business.
‘On Freedom of Speech…’
In October 2013, five of the best journalists at the country’s main news agency, the Ukraine National News Agency (UNIAN), were suddenly banned [14] from access to their computers, and relegated to a new TV-news monitoring service. They had all been involved in August 2012 protests at UNIAN against the agency’s fake stories and censorship of reporting.
Another example of media manipulation is the hacking into journalists’ computers, and subsequent publication of personal files to discredit the victim. Oksana Romaniuk, director of the Institute of Mass Information, has seen material from her computer appear in a spoof newspaper, thus casting severe doubts on the reliability and credibility of her organisation.
These tactics and techniques are less murderous than the decapitation of Gongadze but, whereas his brutal murder sparked a sense of outrage and a major international campaign, the updated methods used to damage and demoralise free journalism, today get little
Ukraine has passed a number of laws about press freedom (Access to Public Information [15], 2011), including a wonderfully titled decree signed by Yanukovych on 1 July 2013, ‘On Ensuring Observance of Legislation On Freedom of Speech and Preventing Interference in Professional Activity of Journalists.’ These are ‘Potemkin villages’, just for show and designed to persuade international bodies like the OSCE that the government is committed to media freedom. The regular attacks on journalists and independent media operations tell the real truth.
A recent pilot project [16] studying press freedom in the six Eastern Partnership countries (Ukraine, Belarus, Moldova, Georgia, Azerbaijan, and Armenia) ranked Ukraine above only Azerbaijan and Belarus. This is a long way from the European status Ukraine claims for itself.
Press freedom is not a given, when a country moves from totalitarianism, as at the end of the communist era, or some other regime change. In Western Europe, after 1945, there was a deliberate effort to create a nucleus of independent, rigorous newspapers and a conservative broadcasting network where news selection was anti-sensationalist to the point of being almost boring.
This did not stop the excesses of tabloid journalism illustrated in Heinrich Böll’s 1975 novel The Lost Honour of Katherina Blum or the right-wing excesses of the Hersant Group [17] in France in the second half of the twentieth century; or what we see today in the trials of Rupert Murdoch’s editors for illegal phone hacking.
Deontology
Yet there was always a silver thread of high-quality journalism with a clear journalistic deontology that set higher standards. Speaking at the European Book of the Year award in Brussels earlier this month, Eugenio Scalferi, the founder of L’Espresso, and then first editor of Repubblica after he set it up in 1976, joined with Poland’s Adam Michnik, founder-editor of Gazeta Wyborcza, to highlight the need for a nucleus of honest journalists in any country laying claim to European values.
The post-Soviet countries in the EU do have plenty of vivid, often strident, tabloid journalism in papers, on television, and on websites
The post-Soviet countries in the EU do have plenty of vivid, often strident, tabloid journalism in papers, on television, and on websites, but, other than Gazeta in Poland, where is there a nucleus of reliable, balanced, fair journalism, which owes no favour to a political party, a business group or an ideology?
When I worked for the BBC World Service in the 1970s, we were not allowed to include a fact unless it came from three sources – Reuters, AP, BBC Monitoring etc. At one level this made for agonizingly slow journalism, but it also raised the BBC’s careful unbiased truth telling to heights that few other news disseminators could match.
Yet how does one create that unbiased journalism in cultures like Ukraine, where journalists are often political activists with iPads, and see their task as putting their case, not reporting facts? As yet, the liberal professions still require qualifications before embarking on a career as, for example, an architect or doctor, but today anyone who can write, photograph or video, every blogger and facebooker is a self-styled journalist.
The wall between business and journalism has become porous.
The wall between business and journalism has become porous, and business journalism is overtaking political and social journalism. The highest paid practitioners of public relations are now to be found in the world of business and finance as they try to steer good news about their clients into the papers, and keep out or minimise bad news. In this context, hoping that Ukraine would conform to standards that are rapidly being eroded in the West of Europe and the wider democratic world may well have been a hope too far.
Ukraine’s best chance of securing greater media freedom could only have been based on closer relations with the EU, even though membership would have been some way away. Now, Russian threats of denial to market access, and cheaper gas have tipped the scales, and Yanukovych chose the other option. The ‘Family,’ moreover, prefers doing business à la Russe.
The ‘Family,’ moreover, prefers doing business à la Russe.
Maidan and the Grand Place
John Lloyd, Director of Journalism at Oxford University’s Reuters Institute for the Study of Journalism, has written recently of Samuel Huntingdon’s 1993 warning in the context of his much discussed thesis on a clash of civilisations: ‘The principal conflicts of global politics will occur between nations and groups of different civilisations.’ Lloyd points out that Huntingdon said the ‘Slavic-Orthodox culture’, to which Ukraine belongs, was a civilisational group headed by Russia; and distinct from the rest of Europe.
The people on the streets of Kyiv seem determined to prove Huntingdon’s determinism wrong, but there is a wider, deeper Ukraine, beyond the capital, which has never known much media freedom, and does not know what it is missing. The appeal from Maidan to the Grand Place comes at a bad time: the EU has never been so inward looking, resulting in the worst populist and nationalist politics seen since the 1930s. If all that Brussels can offer is austerity, mass unemployment for young people, ever-growing inequality, and nervous conservative leadership in most EU member states, the chances of Europe making a generous offer that corresponds to what Maidan Square wants is not high.
The chances of Europe making a generous offer that corresponds to what Maidan Square wants is not high.
If David Cameron can write an op-ed in the Financial Times, rejecting a few thousand Romanians coming to work in Britain, what has Britain to say to 46 million Ukrainians who want the freedom and democracy the EU claims to profess; and which David Cameron says he defends?
The Ukrainian political-business elite that controls Ukraine has got the measure of our double standards; Kuchma’s brutal tactic of decapitation has been replaced by a broader set of measures that deliberately avoid concerted international condemnation..The longer Ukraine stays distant from the EU, the stronger those forces – and the weaker Ukraine’s media – will become. The people in Maidan Square want a different Ukraine and a decent media, but who can help them achieve this aim?
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Poles in London

This book review was published by Tribune 29 November 2013

Where the Devil Can’t Go by Anya Lipska. Harper Collins £7.99
How to Get Filthy Rich in Rising Asia by Mohsin Hamid Hamish Hamilton £14.99

It is through novels that we get to know the country we live in. One of the biggest changes in today’s Britain has been the arrival of so many non-British workers. Many of them were Poles coming to join the 250,000 Poles who settled after 1945 and who after the end of communism created a dynamic new community in Britain.
The biggest group of EU citizens working on the Olympic stadium were Irish and it is curious that xenophobic populists in UKIP, or Immigrant Watch are hostile to Poles who are hard-working, hard-drinking Catholics but welcome hard-working, hard-drinking Catholics from Ireland.
Now we have a terrific, page-turning thriller that takes us into the heart of the new Brit-Pole community. Anya Lipska has chosen the classic Anglo-Saxon police and politics format to convey a great deal of information about what the life of the new London Poles is truly like.
Her hero, is a burly 40 something Pole with a physics degree from the Jagellonian University in Krakow who threw himself as a student activist into the Solidarity movement that begun the process of ending communism 30 years ago.
He comes to London to work as builder and stays as a fixer and adviser to all the young Poles whom Easyjet and Ryanair bring to Britain every day. He a bad Catholic and unconfident lover who knows the cash-in-hand economy which makes Britain function more than the formal stats announced by the ONS.
He is asked to help find a Polish girl who has disappeared and interfaces with a pugnacious women detective, with nails bitten to the quick, who is determined to find out who killed another young Polish woman fished out of the Thames. Ms Lipska, gets the east London police culture right and the parallel, sometimes overlapping actions of the Pole and the Policewoman make for an excellent page-turner.
There is high politics involved and a wonderful invocation of Polish life in today’s London though I wish Ms Lipska would list the restaurants where you can get a good bigos. Difficult to know if this is a one-off or the start of a new major series about today’s London and its new Polish community. But this is a strong talent which deserves to be transferred to television.
Mohsin Hamid is trying for much higher art than Anya Lipska. The Reluctant Fundamentalist was a subtle set of insights into the ideological formation of a smart US educated Islamist. It was turned into a spectacularly bad film which was unfair on a very good book. But Hamid does not seem able to move on. His new novel is a set of reflections on life in the modern sub-continent torn between its rural impoverished masses and its rising business bourgeoisie. It is a much thinner and slower-moving version of Aravind Adiga’s The White Tiger. The book rattles through 80 years in the life of a man from poor childhood, to first sex, to working his way up the corrupt greasy pole of business, including bribing politicians who make their Chinese and Russian counterparts look like puritans, until finally his brother-in-law steals the firm’s money and the narrator dies.
We are asked to believe each chapter covers a decade but the action is all about India and Pakistan of the last 20 years. This plus a great deal of over-writing shapes a book where character and plot fail to hold. There is an important talent here but this book strives for literary effect and doesn’t quite make it. But both novels tell you more about modern Britain and modern India-Pakistan than any number of non-fiction books.

Denis MacShane