Bringing down the EU house

8th December 2018

Paris-protests

 Protests continue in the French capital, Paris

In advance of nationwide gilets jaunes (yellow vest) protests the French state made 280 arrests this weekend.  Over 89,000 police have been deployed across the country, 8,000 on the streets of Paris alone, backed up by heavy duty VBRG armoured vehicles, as the Macron government desperately tries to get a grip on the fast moving insurrectionary mood in the country.  Having been elected only 18 months ago, as a ‘new force’ in French politics, the En Marche movement of which Macron is head is in danger of splintering into several pieces.

The reasons for this are clear.  Macron was never more than old wine in new bottles.  Representing the interests of the French bourgeoisie in a smart suit could fool some of the people some of the time but was never going to fool all of the people all of the time.  The recent fuel duty increase proposals, withdrawn due to popular pressure, would have hit those least able to pay the hardest.

This follows on from Macron’s programme of tax breaks for the rich, attacks upon social welfare programmes, the attempt to extend the working week and the furore caused over the attack on public sector pensions.  The inept socialist government of Francois Hollande created a political void into which Macron was able to step.  Faced with the choice of a Macron presidency or one headed by far right demagogue, Marine le Pen, in the presidential run off French voters were faced with little choice.

Under these circumstances however it was always going to be only a matter of time before the superficiality of the Macron programme was exposed and the French people had to look for new solutions.  The spontaneous protests have no clear programme or leadership at present other than being united around regarding Macron as being a puppet of the French political elite, with no idea of how the less well off live.

However, if protests are sustained beyond this week it will be essential for a Left platform to be articulated which can capture the mood of the protesting French working class.  Without unity around a progressive set of demands the danger is that the Front National of Marine le Pen will step into the void, with the usual easy targets of immigrants and refugees in their sights.

The protests in France are the latest manifestation of popular discontent across Europe, which has accelerated since the bank bailouts of 2008 saw Europe wide austerity programmes imposed by EU governments, to pay for the bankers gambling debts.  Discontent has been manifest in the Podemos movement in Spain, the Five Star movement in Italy, the election of nationalist governments in Poland and Hungary, the rise of the far right AfD in Germany and the vote to leave the EU in the UK.

That the austerity programme has coincided with a migration crisis, as refugees flee NATO led interventions in Afghanistan, Iraq, Libya and Syria, has added to the self-inflicted pressures face by European governments.

As a political project the EU has been a spent force, dissociated from the interests of the peoples of Europe, for some time.  The acceleration of the protests in France may be the start of the final act in the EU’s demise.  If that is the case, the debate over Brexit in the UK will pale into the background as the EU is plunged into existential crisis.

There are alternatives.  The French Communist Party (PCF) for example has a programme for a people’s Europe stating,

“Today, everything is done to make us believe that we should make a choice between an increasingly liberal European integration or nationalist disintegration. In France for example, Emmanuel Macron tries to reduce the political debate of the European elections between “pro” and “anti” EU. But there is an alternative: that of a Europe of peoples and nations, free sovereigns and associates, turned towards social and ecological development. The communist project is that of a break with the current EU and a refoundation of its objectives, missions and institutions. In other words, a Europe of the Human first and no longer of finance.”

It may not be fully formed in every detail but such an objective would certainly be a start and give the peoples of Europe some hope that, whatever institutions were established to coordinate real solidarity across the continent, they would be ones which would be working for them, not against them.

 

Take a chance on May? No Thanks!

26th November 2018

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 Jeremy Corbyn outlines a Labour Brexit at the CBI last week

UK Prime Minister, Theresa May, follows her party conference Dancing Queen embarrassment with another Abba themed pitch today, as she appeals to the British public and the House of Commons to take a chance on me.  The Brexit deal negotiated over the last two years with the EU is, May tells us, the best possible deal.  It is a rare moment of concurrence with President of the European Commission, Jean-Claude Juncker, also desperate to get a deal concluded, who has made it clear that this is the only deal on the table.

It took leaders of the EU 27 states less than an hour to sign off on the deal and the mood music suggests that there is little if any room for manoeuvre as far as the rest of Europe is concerned.  For May, in a premiership which has been defined entirely by Brexit, it is a case of this deal or no deal at all.  She clearly sees the endgame in terms of her time as both PM and Tory Party leader and has decided that she will stand or fall on the ground she has marked out.

The deal will go before the House of Commons this side of Xmas.  All of the politics and Parliamentary arithmetic at the moment suggests that it will not be passed.  The fascist bully boys of the DUP, whom May has leaned upon to prop up her government, have branded the deal “pitiful and pathetic”.  They are unhappy about Northern Ireland being treated differently from the rest of the UK due to its land border with the Republic of Ireland but are essentially scared that the deal opens the way to a United Ireland by the back door.

May herself has vowed to defend the fiction of the so called United Kingdom, a defence of the historic partition of Ireland, but the DUP do not regard this as enough assurance.  The pro-Brexit European Reform Group, led by the anti-charismatic Jacob Rees-Mogg, are equally concerned by the defence of the union issue, as well as the timescale on any transition period, and would rather see a no deal scenario with the UK reverting to World Trade Organisation (WTO) rules than a deal which gave the EU any say beyond 29th March 2019.

The much vaunted challenge to May, which Rees-Mogg and his plotters have trailed for months has still failed to materialise, betraying either a lack of nerve or a lack of numbers in their ranks.  While it seems likely that they could muster the 48 ‘letters’ needed to trigger a leadership contest, the 150+ votes needed to oust May seem less likely to be forthcoming.   Without a clear leader, who could command majority support even amongst Tories, the pro Brexit faction are worried about handing the keys of No 10 to Jeremy Corbyn.

In his speech to the CBI recently, Corbyn set out the key elements of what he has described as Labour’s “sensible” approach to the Brexit issue.

Instead of the temporary customs arrangement May has signed up to as a backstop, to prevent a hard border in Ireland, Corbyn has underlined Labour’s backing for a permanent customs union.

Corbyn has been quite emphatic that,

“This is a bad deal for the country. It is the result of a miserable failure of negotiation that leaves us with the worst of all worlds. It gives us less say over our future, and puts jobs and living standards at risk.

“That is why Labour will oppose this deal in parliament. We will work with others to block a no deal outcome, and ensure that Labour’s alternative plan for a sensible deal to bring the country together is on the table.”

Corbyn has also stressed the need for workers’ rights and environmental standards to be protected to prevent a “race to the bottom”, a live issue given that EU membership has seen a proliferation of low paid jobs and zero hours contracts across the UK.

Corbyn has also called for “a strong single market relationship that allows British business continued access to European markets for both goods and services – while also ensuring we have the powers to support our public services and industry and transform the economy in all our regions and nations.”

With the Commons vote now confirmed for 11th December the ground is likely to move quickly.  Support for Brexit within Labour’s ranks is by no means solid, with a cohort led by Chuka Umunna seeking to press for a second referendum, rather than accepting the result of the first.  A lack of discipline in Labour ranks could certainly complicate the Parliamentary arithmetic in the short term and even jeopardise the chances of a Labour government being elected.

There are those in Labour ranks who would rather see a pro Remain Tory government than a pro Brexit Labour, such is their lack of class awareness.  Now is the time for Labour to hold firm to its present position, defeat the shambles which is the May government, then from a position of strength in government, negotiate a Brexit deal which works for the people of Britain, not just its banks and corporations.

 

 

Historic Visit by Cuban President

18th November 2018

Diaz Canel

Cuban President Miguel Díaz-Canel is greeted at the airport by Cuban Ambassador HE Teresita Vicente     

“The Cuba Solidarity Campaign is proud to have worked with the Cuban Embassy to support this historic visit by the Cuban president to Britain. We hope it will foster increased understanding, exchanges and trade between our two islands, especially at a time when the United States is tightening its blockade of Cuba and trying to isolate the island from the international community.”

Miguel Díaz-Canel, President of the Republic of Cuba, arrived in London on 12 November on a transit visit, following his first tour of European and Asian countries.

During this historic visit – the first by a Cuban President to Britain since the Revolution – the president was accompanied by a delegation of ministers from the Council of State including Deputy President Ricardo Cabrisas, Foreign Minister Bruno Rodríguez, and Deputy Foreign Minister Rogelio Sierra.

During his brief stay he had a packed schedule holding meetings with Phillip Hammond MP, Chancellor of the Exchequer, Jeremy Corbyn MP, Leader of the Labour Party, members of the British business community involved in the Cuba Initiative, the Caribbean Council, and a meeting in the House of Lords with peers representing arts and culture. Additionally, the Deputy President, Ricardo Cabrisas, held a meeting with Dr Liam Fox MP, Secretary of State for International Trade.

On Tuesday 13 November, the president and members of the delegation attended a welcome reception in the House of Lords, jointly hosted by Baroness Angela Smith and the Cuba Solidarity Campaign. Many members of parliament attended including Karen Lee MP, Chair of the APPG on Cuba, and Mark Menzies MP, Chair of the APPG on Latin America and leader of the recent IPU delegation to the island.

Addressing the meeting, the Cuban President said the was struck by the warmth of his welcome: “that in a place that is so far away from Cuba, we can find so much warmth affection and love, that it seems like we have know each other for a very long time. And for that I want to thank you very much.”

He described the trip as being “very significant” for Cuba. Originally the trip was supposed to be just a transit stop over, but the British government had made it possible to have high level meetings.

“We’ve come to London to ratify and confirm to the British government our political will, our intent and our endeavours to continue expanding our relations,” he said. “Particularly we should recognise that the current state of our relations are good and our economic and trading relations are expanding. We have expressed that we have come to tell the British business community and financial institutions that we want them to be present in Cuba, not only as investors but also supporting and providing finance to the various projects that we are developing in our country.”

Díaz-Canel said that Cuba was especially interested in exchanges in areas such as energy, since Cuba had set out the goal of having at least 24 per cent renewable energy by 2030, as well as tourism, agriculture, telecommunications and biotechnology.

The President spoke of the huge impact that the blockade has on Cuba’s development and ability to trade. “Every time we make progress, then the blockade comes in with its extraterritorial tentacles. And one may wonder – how it is possible that we let another country make decisions on our behalf?

“It’s not just about the United States wanting to impose a blockade on Cuba, but the United States also wants the rest of the world to follow their lead and blockade Cuba as well.

“And the blockade has been tightened under the Trump administration – financial persecution against Cuba has been intensified.

“This is a struggle that we have to face together,” he said. “The British government has expressed that it does not support the blockade”.

Speaking at a solidarity reception later in the evening hosted by the Cuban Ambassador HE Teresita Vicente and the Cuba Solidarity Campaign, President Díaz-Canel promised representatives of the solidarity movement, trade union leaders, MPs and Cubans resident in the UK that Cuba would: “uphold and remain committed to that legacy of respect, friendship, and affection. I only ask something that we will share among us in spite of the adversities, in spite of pressures, in spite of anyone’s wishes to oppose and interfere. Among all of us, united and together, we shall overcome all obstacles, interference, and stumbling blocks and the triumph will be the best of us that will emerge from all of us together, which is friendship, solidarity and cooperation.”

The President thanked CSC Director Rob Miller, the Cuba Solidarity Campaign and the British trade union movement for its campaigning on the blockade and the freedom of the Miami Five over many years. Cuban television channel Canal Caribe filmed the reception and interviewed Natasha Hickman, CSC Communications Manager and guests.

On Wednesday 14 November, the Marx Memorial Library organised for him and the Cuban delegation to visit Karl Marx’s tomb in Highgate Cemetery, north London, where the President paid his respects and presented flowers from the delegation.

The visit of President Miguel Díaz-Canel comes on the back of increasing exchanges and bilateral agreements between Britain and Cuba. Almost 200,000 British tourists visited Cuba in 2017. In September, MPs and Lords were part of an exchange visit to Cuba organised by the Inter Parliamentary Union, following the November 2017 visit of a group of Cuban parliamentarians to the UK.

Recent ministerial exchanges include the visit to Britain of Ana Teresita Gonzalez, Cuban vice minister of Foreign Affairs in September 2018, and the first visit to Cuba by a Foreign Secretary in 2016 when Phiilip Hammond visited. In addition to senior level bilateral contacts, agreements in banking, renewable energy technology, and biotech have recently been signed.

Internationally, Britain has continued to vote against the United State’s blockade of Cuba at the United Nations. On 1 November 2018, the UK joined 188 other countries in voting in support of Cuba’s resolution calling for the US to end its 58 year old blockade of the island.

The US blockade of Cuba has cost the island $933 billion dollars since its imposition in 1962. It hinders the development of the Cuban economy and causes shortages and suffering to the Cuban people. The extraterritorial impact of the blockade has seen British banks fined by the US Treasury department for financial transactions involving Cuba, and recently resulted in the Open University barring a Cuban student from studying at the institution – a move overturned as the result of lobbying by the Cuba Solidarity Campaign.

The Cuba Solidarity Campaign is proud to have worked with the Cuban Embassy to support this historic visit by the Cuban president to Britain. We hope it will foster increased understanding, exchanges and trade between our two islands, especially at a time when the United States is tightening its blockade of Cuba and trying to isolate the island from the international community.

Cuba Solidarity Campaign c/o Unite, 33-37 Moreland Street, London EC1V 8BB, UK

Telephone: +44 (0)20 7490 5715 | Fax: +44 (0)20 7490 3556 | Email | http://www.cuba-solidarity.org.uk

 

 

 

The Outcome of the War

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10th November 2018

The commemoration of the centenary of the Armistice, following the cessation of hostilities in World War One, will dominate the news this weekend.  The focus will be on the personal stories, the human interest angles, the tragic loss of life, all of which must be remembered and marked.  There are civic and political occasions across Europe, which will be the opportunity for the current leaders of European nations to come together.

Activities to mark various centenary events across the whole period of the war have been going on for the past four years.  In spite of this the public would be hard pressed to find the real causes and underlying consequences of a conflagration which took millions of military and civilian lives and devastated thousands more across the world.  They would be even more hard pressed to find any acknowledgement of the crucial role of the Russian Revolution, not only in taking Russia out of the war but initiating the world’s first socialist state.

The attempt to bury the truth in talk of heroism and glory is not new but, in the period between the first and second world wars, there was at least some clarity of analysis within the ranks of the Communist Party of Great Britain (CPGB) in the form of R. Palme Dutt, particularly in his work World Politics 1918-1936 (Victor Gollancz Ltd 1936).

Palme Dutt in his chapter which considers the outcomes of the war is quite clear,

“The first fact to recognise about the eighteen years since the Armistice is that none of the world problems set by history since 1914 has been solved, many have intensified, and many new ones have been added, while the greater part of the “settlements” which followed the war have either broken down or are in the process of breaking down.”

Palme Dutt, in assessing the world situation in 1914, outlines the growing conflicts between the imperialist powers which had plundered the world throughout the nineteenth century and were now at a point where the division of the spoils could only be addressed by conflict.  Most of the globe having been ‘conquered’ the only way in which to expand was to take from another competing capitalist power.

Capitalist concentration continually requires new markets and a rapidly developing Germany needed room to expand.  British colonialism dominated the globe but this also made it more vulnerable to the rapidly emerging German imperial ambitions.  New markets inevitably meant expanding into British markets and the British would not give up hard won imperial gains without a fight.

While war in Europe raged the real emerging power in the world, the United States of America, stood to one side, confident that its financial and corporate interests in Europe would be defended by the alliance of Britain, France and Russia in opposition to German advances.

The Russian Revolution, set in train in March 1917, marked the point at which US intervention in the war became essential to prop up the Allies and head off a potential German victory.  As Palme Dutt states,

“The numerical and material superiority of the Allies through the accession of America, which finally secured them the victory, was itself the reflection of the revolution.  It was the Russian Revolution of March 1917, with the consequent inevitable prospect of Russian withdrawal form the war and menace of Allied collapse, which was the decisive motive cause behind the American entry into the war, within four weeks of the Russian Revolution, to safeguard its interests already heavily mortgaged on the side of the Allies.”

The punitive reparations imposed upon Germany in the Treaty of Versailles in 1919 did not resolve the issues which led to war in 1914 and effectively laid the basis for the rise of Fascism in Germany and Italy.  The seeds of World War Two were planted the moment that the first war was over.  As Palme Dutt states,

“The treaties of spoliation which followed the war laid the seeds of future war.  At the same time new conflicts in the extra-European sphere came to the forefront.  In consequence, within two decades of the war of 1914 the issue of the re-division of the world had arisen anew in still sharper form.”

The issues present in 1914 and which led to further global conflict in 1939 remain unresolved.  While the world balance of forces ushered in with the Russian Revolution may have changed once again, with the defeat of the Soviet Union, the capitalist class is no more able to agree amongst itself now than it was then.  Tensions within the European Union are one expression of this, with secessionist tendencies likely to grow as the right wing gains more power in the existing bloc.

The United States continues to pursue an undeclared war against Iran while exercising its regional neo-colonial muscle to prevent progress in Latin America.  A US / China trade war is shaping up to threaten what little stability there is in the world economy.  Interventions in Afghanistan, Libya, Iraq and Syria have not succeeded in stabilising the influence of Western imperialism in the Middle East.  Post Soviet Russia has its own emerging ambitions to regain some semblance of superpower status.

Palme Dutt’s words in 1936, preceding the Second World War, could equally be applied today,

“…the issue of the new division of the world is now definitely in the forefront, alike in respect of colonial territories, of the revision of frontiers in Europe, and of the distribution of power between the main States; war has already begun, not yet on a world scale, but on a regional scale, involving world issues….”

The centenary commemorations this weekend will not be reflecting upon the words of Palme Dutt, or the many others who have warned that capitalism cannot resolve its issues of greater accumulation and competition without conflict.  We could do a lot worse than go back to those words now.  Better still we could act upon them.

 

 

 

Venezuela: Communist leaders assassinated

4th November 2018

 fajardo

Luis Fajardo (centre) and Javier Aldana – murders condemned

Two campesino leaders and members of the Communist Party of Venezuela (PCV) were assassinated on Wednesday in Nueva Bolivia, Merida State.

A press release from PCV Secretary-General Oscar Figuera revealed that central committee member Luis Fajardo had been assassinated along with his brother-in-law, Javier Aldana. According to reports, the two men were making their way home on a motorbike, when they were killed by a burst of gunfire from a moving car.

Figuera added that the party held landowners, as well as corrupt personnel of the National Guardsmen and politicians, responsible for the crime, while demanding that the state carry out a thorough investigation of the case.

Multiple organizations in Venezuela, including the Tupamaros and elements within the ruling United Socialist Party of Venezuela (PSUV), have condemned the episode and expressed their condolences.

The local branch of the PCV in Merida also put out a press statement on Thursday, recalling that Fajardo and Aldana’s activities in defence of campesino rights had made them a target for landowners and that Fajardo’s numerous public denunciations of the threats made against his life and his family had been ignored by authorities. The PCV called on President Maduro and Attorney General Tarek William Saab to ensure that justice is served in this case.

The incident comes just weeks after a similar assassination attempt targeting Barinas-based PCV campesino leader Robinson Garcia, who came under fire from several motorcyclists on October 9, but managed to escape with his life.

Nueva Bolivia is located in the so-called Sur del Lago region, south of Venezuela’s lake Maracaibo, which extends along the states of Merida and Zulia. Fajardo was spearheading the claims of some 250 campesino families to the Cano Rico ranch, which was being occupied and utilized by the campesinos whilst they awaited legal adjudication of the lands.

The lake region has seen some of the most intense land struggles by small farmers, to which large landholders have responded with deadly force, often taking the form of paramilitary violence. This past July’s Admirable Campesino March, which covered more than 400 km on foot to demand a meeting with President Maduro, presented several grievances from Sur del Lago. In one of the latest examples of violence against campesinos, teenager Kender Garcia was murdered on September 19.

For their part, the Venezuelan communists have also repeatedly drawn attention to the violence taking place in the countryside and what they deem a complicit lack of response from authorities.

Earlier this month, Figuera had called for an urgent meeting with President Maduro in the context of the electoral agreement between the ruling United Socialist Party (PSUV) and the PCV, signed before the May 20 presidential elections.

The communist leader accused the government of not fulfilling any of the agreed-upon points, among them, addressing the campesino demands and putting an end to violent evictions and targeted killings in the Venezuelan countryside.

This article is taken from https://venezuelanalysis.com/news/14128

 

A “People’s Vote” for the people?

27th October 2018

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 A people’s vote? Protesters in London march against Brexit

Over half a million people descended upon the streets of London last weekend to demonstrate in favour of a vote on whatever Brexit deal is finally agreed, the hidden agenda clearly being to campaign against any deal and force a rethink on the whole Brexit process.  The People’s Vote campaign brings together Tories, right wing Labour, Greens and Liberal Democrats in a coalition of those disaffected with the outcome of the June 2016 referendum.

The organisers have made much of the lack of media coverage, given the scale of the demonstration and have, justifiably, criticised the BBC for its reporting priorities and adherence to ‘balance’, which saw a minor gathering in Harrogate, featuring Nigel Farage, gain airtime alongside the bigger London protest.

However dubious the BBC’s editorial approach, and they do love any opportunity to give Farage airtime, in this instance two wrongs do not make a right.

The People’s Vote campaign premise is based upon the assumption that the EU is a good thing and the equally questionable presumption that a second referendum would lead to a vote in favour of remaining in the EU.

The June 2016 referendum itself, although close, did result in a vote to leave and there is nothing to suggest that the conditions which led to large parts of the country expressing their disaffection and voting that way has changed significantly.  With millions living below the poverty line, public services crumbling, transport infrastructure in disarray and austerity continuing to bite, whatever Theresa May might say, there is nothing to suggest that turning back the clock to the day before the 2016 referendum would improve life for the majority of people in the UK.

On the contrary, 40 years of EU membership, compounded by the 2008 banking crisis has brought the UK and much of Europe, to the position it is now facing.

The People’s Vote campaign reflects much of the post war social democratic consensus that capitalism can somehow be made to work for all of the people, not just the few at the top and, that by clubbing together in an ever expanding union of European states, this goal will somehow be achieved.  Currently on their third tranche of bail out and having to sack thousands of public sector workers in order to meet payments to the international banks, it is unlikely that the people of Greece would agree.

The 40% of young people under the age of 25 who are unemployed in Spain would probably have a different view.

Having been signed up to a failed consensus it is little wonder that voters across Europe are turning to parties which promise to deliver on their behalf, provide easy ‘answers’ to their problems, such as blaming immigrants for lack of opportunity, and generally take a critical view of the EU hierarchies and bureaucracy.

People know from their own experience that their lives have not improved greatly over the past 40 years.  In the UK alone, we have seen the demise of comprehensive education, underfunding of the NHS, the selling off of council houses, mass unemployment, zero hours contracts, university tuition fees.  The list goes on.  Being in the EU has not stopped any of that. Why should people believe that sticking with the same deal will make it better over the next forty years?

If the demagogues of the so called populist parties, such as the Front National in France, the Five Star Movement in Italy and right wing government in Hungary and Poland, are not to consolidate their positions the Left needs to articulate credible alternatives to their views and those of the EU bureaucracy.

The EU will remain for as long as it suits the interest of the banks and corporations which back it.  As we saw with tragic consequences in the 1930’s they are quick enough to change allegiance if they see a new centre of power emerging.  The only way to stop history repeating is to make that alternative centre of power a true expression of people power.  That will take more than a so-called people’s vote, it will take the people demanding a real people’s socialist alternative to the both the EU and the right wing demagogues.

 

 

Brutality of Saudi regime exposed

20th October 2018

bin Salman

Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman – the mask slips

The toxic Saudi dictatorship, not content with routinely abusing human rights, suppressing democracy, oppressing women and being responsible for the massacre of innocent civilians in Yemen, now appears to be implicated in the assassination of a journalist.  Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, friend of Prince Charles, adored by Donald Trump and recipient of millions of pounds worth of UK weapons, is desperately struggling to cover this one up.

Washington Post journalist and prominent critic of the Saudi dictatorship, Jamal Khashoggi, was last seen alive entering the Saudi consulate in Istanbul, Turkey.  He has not been seen since.  That was two weeks ago.

The Saudi response has metamorphosed over the past fortnight as pressure has grown upon them to reveal the facts.  At first the Saudis claimed that Khashoggi was the victim of an interrogation which had gone wrong.  Presumably, this was not as a result of him being shouted at too loudly, so the Saudis were implicitly admitting to the use of torture.

Next tack was to fall back on the old ‘rogue elements’ routine, suggesting that Khashoggi had fallen prey to a maverick strand in the Saudi security services, not sanctioned by the government, who just happened to silence one of its most vocal critics.

More recently the Saudi authorities are suggesting that Khashoggi was killed in a fight with an interrogator.  These explanations would be implausible under most circumstances but are further undermined by the evidence from Turkish security, that a team of up to 15 Saudi agents were seen to be entering the Saudi consulate not long after Khashoggi.

The whole affair has had US President Donald Trump desperately back peddling.  On the one hand he does not want to offend the Saudis, as key Middle East allies in his warmongering against Iran.  Trump is also conscious of both US economic interests in Saudi Arabia and the fact that he personally has made a fortune from dealings with the dictatorship.  After all, he may not be president forever and why burn such lucrative bridges?

Quite apart from the scale of UK weapons sales to Saudi Arabia, well documented by the Campaign Against the Arms Trade, a wide range of UK companies are implicated in trying to mask the image of the dictatorship, with London being described as “a hub for global Saudi PR and media influence campaigns.” (The Guardian 20/10/18)

The network of companies with their noses in the Saudi trough, either now or in recent years include Freuds, a major PR company and a number of other London based PR firms. The Independent newspaper has recently decided to partner with Saudi publisher, Saudi Research and Marketing Group (SRMG) to produce its Middle East editions.  SRMG, which has close links to the Saudi government, has made significant donations of £7.6m to the Tony Blair Institute for Global Change, in exchange for his advice on the dictatorship’s so called ‘modernisation’ programme.

The furore over the Khashoggi affair is not yet spent but there is no doubt that the Saudis will be doing all in their power to make it yesterday’s news as quickly as possible.  What the Saudis no doubt regard as a blot on their international media campaign is in fact a reflection of the brutality at the heart of the regime.

The Saudi reach into the UK and US state clearly runs deep but the extent of their malign influence needs to be continually exposed.  Immediate support for the Campaign Against the Arms Trade is a start but campaigning for a UK government with a foreign policy not dependent on the sales of weapons of mass destruction would be a massive step forward.