Friday, January 23, 2009

A Labour Friend Of Iraq

Anyone interested in improving conditions for the Iraqi people should read this speech by Ann Clwyd (see photo) in the Commons on 14 January. Not only is she the Prime Minister's Special Envoy on Human Rights in Iraq, but she identifies strongly with the important work of Labour Friends of Iraq (LFIQ).

When Labour Friends of Iraq (LFIQ) was founded in 2004, the initial Joint Presidents were Ann Clwyd and myself. She had been as vigorous in her support of the 2003 invasion of Iraq as I had been in opposition to it. Neither of us have changed our minds about the issue since then. But we both felt that whatever people's views in the Labour Movement had been about the invasion, a situation had arisen which meant that the clear priority for Labour should be to try to aid the people of Iraq by giving support, assistance and encouragement to those Iraqis who were trying to meet the basic needs of their people in terms of security, living standards, civil rights and democratic opportunities. In particular we believed in working with our Labour Movement equivalents in Iraq; especially those within the Trade Union Movements in Iraq and Iraqi Kurdistan. Both these movements are interconnected and see each other as being close brothers and sisters.

After I retired from Parliament, I gave up the position of Joint President of LFIQ as I felt that it would be more helpful to have that position filled by a serving Member of Parliament. Dave Anderson was then a newly elected MP for Blaydon and he shared LFIQ's approach. Like me he had also been an opponent of the invasion. When he replaced me as Joint President this retained what for LFIQ was a meaningful pattern of having Joint Presidents who came initially from different camps. They might still disagree about the past, by they shared the LFIQ horizon on the priority of furthering the immediate and basic needs of the Iraqi people.

For old times sake, I was made Vice-President and I am still proud to retained that position, along with honorary membership of the Iraqi Trade Union Movement. I recommend a close study of Ann's speech.

Hat Tip : LFIQ

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

This Land Is Your Land

This is a photo of 89 year old Pete Seeger and Bruce Springsteen at the celebrations for the inauguration of Barack Obama as President. They are leading the massive crowds outside the Lincoln Memorial singing Woody Guthrie's greatest-ever song (and my favourite) "This Land Is Your Land". Better still here is the link* (see comment at end) to the You Tube video of this unbelievable inaugural event.

In his book "Woody Guthrie : A Life" Joe Klein describes a left-wing hootenanny in 1946 with "a thousand people singing This Land Is Your Land in four-part harmony, Pete directing with one arm and plucking his banjo with another". 63 years later he now performs a similar role at the highest level in America. I doubt whether it comes as any surprise to Pete who has always been a political optimist. He probably expected that it would have happened long ago. But he teaches us never to give up on our dreams.

In 1997 Bruce Springsteen recorded "We Shall Overcome" for Where Have All The Flowers Gone : The Songs Of Pete Seeger and in 2006 he came out with a CD and DVD which was entitled "We Shall Overcome : The Seeger Sessions" with what became known as the Sessions Band. They then toured Britain and Ireland with a programme built upon their 2006 production and published another CD/DVD set entitled "Live In Dublin" . It is not to be missed.

There could be nothing better than a Woody Guthrie. Pete Seeger and
Bruce Springsteen harmony to usher in (and direct) the hopes placed in Barack Obama.

Hat Tip : Bob Piper

* = Update 7 February : This link has now been removed, seemingly for commercial reasons. So "This Land Isn't Yet Your Land", but it could be some day.

Update 16 February : Restored - THIS LINK IS OUR LINK

Monday, January 19, 2009

We Have Lift Off

I have been Political Education Officer for my local Labour Party in Dronfield for almost three years now. My major activity has been to arrange what is normally a monthly discussion meeting. Given that other commitments can sometimes clash, we have been meeting nine or ten times a year. The meetings are held on a Sunday evening and are separate from the normal branch meetings.

One of our regular attenders calls it our "blather". This is because after the meeting numbers of us retire to the Lounge Bar to carry on our discussions or to argue about other political matters directed towards saving the Labour Party, Britain, the World or the Universe.

We seem, however, to have made a quantum leap recently thanks to two innovations.

First of all; whilst we still make use of our main formula of getting a speaker to open up a debate, we came to realise that we can also have a worthwhile discussion without having a speaker. All that we need is a meaningful question to apply our minds to. This is also likely to raise the question of what we should do next about the ideas we have been discussing.

Then secondly: we decided to provide a blog which can be used by those who participate in our meetings and by anyone else who is interested in the topics we pursue. We have called it Dronfield Blather. In this we are fortunate to have an active member who set the blog up, fully participates in it and goes under the handle of Blogger Brader. Apart from words, a good blog needs a good photographer and in that we have Dave Hill.

It helps that Blogger Brader, Dave Hill and myself also meet regularly to support Sheffield FC. But I personally must apologize for letting politics get in the way of soccer, for I have failed to report on the last two Sheffield FC games I attended. But I will make amends.

Monday, January 05, 2009

Hadi Saleh

Hadi Saleh
Eric Lee of Labour Start has circulated this telling email -

It has now been four years since the murder of Hadi Saleh, the
international officer of the Iraqi Federation of Trade Unions.

I had the honor of meeting Hadi not long before his death when he
visited Britain. We discussed the trade unions in Iraq and ways in
which we could give them support and solidarity.

Not long after Hadi was killed, the Trades Union Congress (TUC) in
Britain published a book in his honor entitled "Hadi Never Died".

"On January 4, 2005," it began, "masked assassins broke into his home,
bound his feet and hands, and blindfolded him. Then they tortured and
burned his body and, finally, strangled him with an electric cord. A
life of idealism and selflessness, filled with solidarity and love for
his family, country and the labour movement, came to this terrible,
pain-filled end."

The book does much more than describe Hadi's murder. It tells the story
of death and re-birth of the Iraqi trade union movement.

"Hadi Never Died" is a large format, full-color paperback and
LabourStart is pleased to be able to offer it to our readers for £10.00
(about US$14.50) -- with free shipping to anywhere in the world.

Please order multiple copies for yourselves, your co-workers and other
members of your union.

To order "Hadi Never Died" securely go here:

Thank you.

Eric Lee

I can confirm the importance of everything that Eric says, having chaired two meetings which Hadi Saleh addressed in the Commons. He was as fine a person as it has been my privilege to meet. I was honoured to be one of the speakers at the remembrance service held in his memory at the TUC's Congress House on 13 February 2005. There is no better way to repay our debt to his work than to give support to the Iraqi Trade Union Movement. The book "Hadi Never Died" explains both why and how. For more details on the book click here and to my post here for the day I became threescoreyearsandten.