Monday, 27 April 2009

SOAS sacks key activist

From Lenin's Tomb

Employers have a number of ways of getting back at successful strikers, and one of them is to target militant trade unionists. Recently, after a high-profile campaign by SOAS Justice for Cleaners, which was ultimately victorious in its demands for decent pay*, the SOAS Unison Branch Chair, Jose Stalin Bermudez, was suspended pending a disciplinary hearing. This was presumably good news to the management at my alma mater, Birkbeck College, where Bermudez was supporting the Living Wage campaign by cleaners there - a campaign that continues to this day, and which involves staff and students at Birkbeck.

The charge against Bermudez was that he had made a "death threat" to a colleague in 2007. The charge has not been substantiated, and was rejected by an earlier grievance hearing, but nonetheless Sharon Page of the SOAS directorate resuscitated the charge in order to justify his sacking. This was the same Sharon Page who had, in 2008, conceded that there was "no evidence or witness to substantiate" the claim that there was "any verbal threat" to the life or safety of the complainant. This was subsequently confirmed in correspondence from the Human Resources manager Charles Perry.

Following the initial decision to sack Bermudez, an appeal was launched. SOAS selected a panel to hear the appeal, rejecting the arguments from SOAS Unison, UCU, NUS and several members of the Academic Board for an independent review. That panel, under the direction of the HR advisor, affirmed the original decision. The basis of the decision was the perception of the complainant, Norman Riseley, of the Estates and Services staff (Estates and Services manages the facilities at SOAS). But there was an independent witness, Pablo Grisales, who - instead of being given the opportunity to testify - was brought before three managers, who read to him a prepared statement and asked him to confirm it. He was given no chance to read the statement, or qualify it in any way. He was prevented from offering his own independent version of events. And the statement, never signed, became the official "witness statement".

Grisales subsequently attended the disciplinary hearing earlier this year, and supported Bermudez's recollection that there had been no threat of any kind. However, Sharon Page dismissed the evidence as a fabrication, declaring that "on the balance of probabilities" she would prefer to believe the managers' claim that Grisales had "verbally confirmed" the unsigned "witness statement". Further, the complainant's version of events was deemed "far more credible" than that of either Bermudez, the accused, or Grisales, the sole independent witness. This absurd judgment reeks of prejudice. In their statement on the decision, SOAS Unison and SOAS UCU, say: "To say that this borders on downright racism would be an understatement. Sharon Page made her decision to dismiss Stalin on her perception of the complainant's perception. One white manager's perception of a white complainant's perception of a black employee. No contest in SOAS."

*The SOAS Living Wage campaign successfully sought to raise cleaners' wages to the modest London Living Wage level of £7.45 per hour, set by the Greater London Assembly to account for the high costs of living in the city. This campaign continues at the other Bloomsbury colleges.

Friday, 24 April 2009

State the bleeding obvious

I know it looks like a razor but this lovely, ergonomically designed state-of-the-art piece of equipment is actually a vegetable peeler. Mind you, either one could be potentially fatal if used incorrectly so I am so thankful to the kind manufacturers for warning us of any impeding danger.

On a more serious (no really) note, I actually want to recommend this lovely friendly item.

When I worked in restaurant kitchens I actually really enjoyed peeling carrots-i can speedpeel which made me VERY popular! But the trouble with most peelers is that they are only designed for use in one direction only. This one, however, clever little thing, has a swivel head for use left handed, right handed, and either horizontally or vertically (i personally prefer the blade the other way round to in this photo-it makes it easier to peel quickly).

And the blade is made from non-rusting silicon so will not blunt and hence last for years .

Great, fab...

So, hope you are all now inspired to rush out and buy this beautiful thing.

Wednesday, 22 April 2009

Students Fuming over Labour Party tricks-spot the difference anyone?

Alice Mahon who has recently left the Labour party wrote us this little leaving note. I have made a few changes-mine are underlined. Feel free to comment with any further suggestions.


It became clear to me during my insert number of years/18 years in NUS/parliament that, with the phenomenon called New Labour, two things would change the politics of the student/Labour movement forever.

One, Tony Blair and Gordon Brown would adopt with great enthusiasm the free market economics pursued by Thatcher and the US neo-cons. Two, they would have to change the structures and policies of the NUS/party to achieve their goal.

A machine was put in place to crush anything remotely connected to Old Labour. Conference was changed beyond recognition, any dissent ruthlessly stamped on by the new spin masters. Delegates were sought out and pressurised into supporting New Labour policies even if they were against what the local students' unions/party had decided.

This nastiness was a hallmark of New Labour and they exercised it at every level of the movement.

I have stood for conference arrangements committee twice and the party machine has moved in and spent enormous amounts of money supporting the candidates who would always support the leadership's bidding. No expense was spared when it came to defeating an independent voice. Opposition/Party members have effectively been banned from any decision making.

For those of us on the left, the weekly parliamentary Labour Party meetings were not a happy event.

I remember asking for a motion at the NEC/two-day debate on the Iraq war and the sky almost fell in. The Blairite foot soldiers ran out to brief the press and sure enough on the front pages the following day it was reported that I and other usual suspects had been opprresive to minority students causing inaccessibility/ridiculed and "roundly booed" for opposing the Wes Streeting's/leadership position.

There are very few of what I would call real Labour candidtaes/MPs in the student movement/Parliament.

I stayed in the movement/party hoping that with a new leadership we might go back to being a really progressive and caring party. In the event I could not have been more wrong. Under Streeting/Brown things are just as bad. The decision to privatise the student fees/Royal Mail is inexplicable and simply wrong. We said in our 2005 manifesto we would not give up the fight for Free Education/privatise Royal Mail; we lied.

His/That manifesto promised real democratic change/a referendum on NUS activity/the European Constitution, we renamed it the Governance Review/Lisbon Treaty and reneged on that promise also.

Now we find out that Ednet/Facebook/NUS websites/NUS mailing lists/a website was to be set up in our name whose sole aim was to smear members of the opposition and their families. Well not in my name and, from the response I am having to my decision to resign, not in the name of many party activists either.

I have spent most of my life working for and representing the Labour Party. I always took the view that I should stay and fight within, but New Labour have done such a good job of demolishing our democratic structure (with a Governance Review) that I realised there was nothing I could say or do to change things from within.

There was only one thing for me to do and that was to resign.

Victory for Matthis Chiroux - good things come to those that struggle

Chiroux, a member of Iraq Veterans Against the War, refused to participate in what he described as "an illegal and immoral occupation" May 15th, 2008, in Washington D.C., after nine other veterans testified to Members of the U.S. Congress about abuses they experienced during deployments to Iraq. Chiroux also vowed to remain public in the U.S. to defend himself from any charges brought against him by the military.

"My resistance as a noncommissioned officer to this abhorrent occupation is just as legitimate now as it was last year," said Chiroux, adding, "Soldiers have a duty to adhere to the international laws of war described as supreme in Art. 6 Para. 2 of the U.S. Constitution, which we swear to abide by before the orders of any superior, including our former or current president."
I received this from the campaign this morning:
Today, I stood before the Army. I looked a board of officers in the eyes, and I told them I thought they were sending people off to participate in war crimes. And what did they say? Get out of here, Sergeant, and keep your damn G.I. Bill!!!Indeed, folks!
The Army awarded me a recommendation for a general discharge under honorable conditions from the Individual Ready Reserve for my refusal to deploy to Iraq last summer. This landmark decision means not only am I a free man, I’m free to continue school this fall with the “new” G.I. Bill that I earned while on active duty.
During the hearing, my girlfriend Alexandra among others were present in the board room to offer moral support. Having them there made all the difference as I squared off with the military over human slaughter that we’ve all been forced to bow down to.So what does this mean for the military?
RESIST!!!! Now’s the time, ladies and gentleman. The flood-gates are open. Your leaders are listening, and more and more, they are agreeing. Resisters are moving away from being the exception, and slowly becoming the norm.If I can refuse to go to Iraq, climb monuments, march into presidential debates, lobby congress, face the military, not go to jail and not even loose my G.I. Bill, we just don’t have any excuses anymore!
Resistance is rising, and IVAW will stand firm underneath it. My story is now history, and I humbly pass the torch. More to follow soon on my testimony at Winter Soldier and the juicy details of my hearing.
Now, I’m going to sleep like I haven’t in a year!
Peace and Solidarity,
Matthis Chiroux
My heartfelt thanks go out to him and all the resisters-we need more people to do this and now hopefully they will find the encouragement they need. In solidarity brother.

Tuesday, 21 April 2009

May Day, May Day, low pay, no way

P R E S S S T A T E M E N T Victory for Living Wage protesters at Birkbeck College!

Staff and students to demonstrate to end poverty pay for cleaners + caterers across Bloomsbury!

March, stunt + rally this May Day!

The recently-formed Bloomsbury Living Wage campaign has called a demonstration for this May Day (1st May.) The protest will include a stunt to make visible the contribution that low-paid and mainly-migrant cleaners and caterers make to our city; and will call for the introduction of the London Living Wage (LLW) across the many educational centres in Bloomsbury.

The LLW is a minimum wage and conditions package established by the GLA, which takes into account the higher costs of living in London. Its rate (currently £7.45 an hour) has been calculated carefully through adapting the national minimum wage to local conditions. It also includes a series of other basic rights (including sick pay and union rights.)

Recently, after a long campaign by Birkbeck staff and student unions, which was supported by public figures such as Ken Loach and MP John McDonnell, management at the university agreed to pay all cleaning and catering staff the Living Wage rate. This followed a similarly successful campaign at SOAS, and the decision by 27 other employers across London to implement the Living Wage. Now Birkbeck and SOAS activists have joined forces with other Bloomsbury college campaigners to organise a May Day protest.

Some Bloomsbury universities still pay wages as low as the minimum wage of £5.73. This means that to make ends meet cleaners and other staff often end up doing several jobs (sometimes on top of organising childcare) and working unsociable early morning and weekend shifts. Further, there even have been cases of unscrupulous subcontractors not paying employees for months.

We say that the people who prepare our food and make our buildings fit for purpose are essential to making universities function properly. They deserve to be treated with dignity!

We have chosen international workers’ day (May Day) to demand this, as too often low-paid migrant workers are treated as ‘invisible’ and their contribution to the work and society, ignored.

Our 1st May action will begin with a rally (including MPs and other public figures) at 12 pm midday at the main steps, SOAS, 10 Thornhaugh St.

The Bloomsbury Living Wage Campaign is supported by activists from UCL, SOAS, Birkbeck, LSHTM, Senate House, and Institute of Education.

For more information contact Camilla on 07789 680 115 or

Everyone deserves a Living Wage!

Assed Baig beats the BNP. Go President Baig

In the face of a vicious, racist campaign at his uni Assed Baig has proved that All it Takes for Evil to Triumph is for Good Men to do Nothing by winning the presidency of the students' Union.

Assed has not done nothing and therefore evil has  not triumphed.

Baigus has been an inspiration to many standing firm on his politics fighting fascism on campus, defending liberation campaigns and campaigning for free education for all (amongst many other things). Last year he did a national speaking tour  on the topic 'What is Racism?' putting his studies in jeopardy, and not seeing  his son for days on end. 

The campaign against him included smears about his personal life but worse still apparently he was going to:
  • implement sharia law
  • close the night club
  • separate women in classes and social spaces
  • have only curry in the catering services (like that would be a bad thing!!)
  • references to Assed bin Osama
  • and more.
Read his report HERE if you are on facebook  or HERE if you are not which includes all 116 comments.

His university is in the heartland of the BNP and has had fellow campaigners beaten up for working with p*ki's. He has campaigned tirelessly on his campus for a few years now, has been on  the SU exec for 2 and now has proven that he knows how to put his money where his mouth is and has built many campaigns on what was otherwise an awful politically passive university.

Here are a few of the lovely comments on his facebook page: 

From Bonolo Woracker - Oh My Days Brother!!!! Congratulations dude, I am so proud and happy. I knew you would make it!! You have been an inspiration and mentor to me and now I know you can only bring good things to the students at Staffs!! If you don't stand up for something, you will fall for anything!! Congrats President Assed!!

Jennifer Jones - So amazing you're elected, can't believe you managed despite all the lies and smears. proves you can't win an election by relying on islamophobia! now racism will never go unchallenged on your campus. you're gonna be brilliant next year I will be so proud to waive motions to you at NUS! "Goldsmiths waives to Assed Baig, President of Staffordshire Students' Union"!!!

Shamin Akhtar - Success is not measured by what you accomplish, but by the opposition you have encountered and the courage with which you have maintained the struggle against overwhelming odds.

I feel compelled to share the thoughts of Subhaiha Sheik which she wrote after having accompanying Assed on his tour: Why racism is very much White on Black.

I want to wish Assed all the best and would like you all to send your support to him on facebook (if you're on it).

Wednesday, 15 April 2009

Matthew Chiroux continues resisting Bush's illegal wars

Hi folks,

Just passing on the press release for my hearing with the Army this Tuesday. If you are or know any journalists or bloggers, independent or otherwise, please pass this release on and help spread the message that just because Obama's in the whitehouse doesn't mean G.I. Resistence to our illegal wars is going to stop!

Peace and Solidarity,

Matthis Chiroux

For Immediate Release

(ST. LOUIS, MO) The U.S. Army will hear the case of Sgt. Matthis Chiroux, an Individual Ready Reservist who last summer publicly refused activation and deployment orders to Iraq, on April 21 at 1 Reserve Way in Overland, St. Louis, MO, at 9 a.m.

Chiroux, a member of Iraq Veterans Against the War, refused to participate in what he described as "an illegal and immoral occupation" May 15th, 2008, in Washington D.C., after nine other veterans testified to Members of the U.S. Congress about atrocities they experienced during deployments to Iraq. Chiroux also vowed to remain public in the U.S. to defend himself from any charges brought against him by the military. (see for a record of that speech and others by Chiroux)

"My resistance as a noncommissioned officer to this abhorrent occupation is just as legitimate now as it was last year," said Chiroux, adding, "Soldiers have a duty to adhere to the international laws of war described as supreme in Art. 6 Para. 2 of the U.S. Constitution, which we swear to abide by before the orders of any superior, including our former or current president."

Following Chiroux's refusal to deploy, the military did not contact him until after he and 10 other IVAW members marched on the final presidential debate Oct. 15, 2008, in Hempstead, N.Y. demanding to question then Senators Obama and McCain regarding their war policies and plans to care for returning veterans. After the veterans were brutalized and arrested by police, (one suffered a fractured skull and is currently suing the police for damages) the Army charged Chiroux with "misconduct" for refusing to deploy, announcing their intentions to discharge him from the reserves as a result.

"I go now to St. Louis to honor my promises and convictions," said Chiroux. "Obama or No-Bama, the military must cease prosecuting Soldiers of conscience, and we will demonstrate to them why."

Following the hearing, Chiroux and other IVAW members will testify about their military experiences which led them all to resist in different capacities the U.S.'s Overseas Contingency Operation (formerly the Global War on Terror).

For more information, see and

Tuesday, 14 April 2009

Poem for Peach Blair


Our teacher Blair
Had tousled old hair

Big brown eyes
An enormous size

And they smiled when he walked
And they smiled when he talked

And whenever he stammered
His love only hammered

Our teacher Blair
He was always fair

Black white or brown
He’d never let us down

He taught us words
That made us fly like birds

And the meaning of together
And to stay that way forever

He taught us right
And how we’d have to fight

To make the world again
And find peace again

One hell of a teach
Was our Mr Peach

He didn’t make nno fuss
Just struggled and died for us

ANON, London

This poem was read out at a packed fringe meeting at the NUT Annual Conference last Sunday to remember East London NUT member Blair Peach, who was murdered by a police officer in Southall on 23 April 1979 whilst on a demonstration against the National Front. It is part of an anthology of poems for young people called One for Blair which anti racist teacher and now lecturer Chris Searle put together in 1989 to commemorate Blair on the 10th anniversary of his murder.

The message from this meeting was of the urgency needed now to organise against the BNP, with the European elections set for June. It is possible that this Nazi organisation could gain 7 MEP places if the turnout is low. We will need to organise in our areas to ensure that people exercise their right to vote and use it against the Nazi BNP.

Salmon fishfingers are apparently 'pink in the middle'

Why am i always amazed when i see advertising mogules come up with yet another sexist way to sell a product by objectifying women's bodies? What a ridiculously tenuous link. 

As if we women don't have enough to worry about and now we're being compared to fish-frickin-fingers and yes I am aware of all the extra puns that Nuts magazine could come up with but right now I am fuming and can't think how else to put it. Check this post again and I should hopefully thought of a better way to express my anger. 

Don't watch it HERE

Anyone got any ideas on what we can do to compain?

Brutal cop's badge number is 5042U.

Great to see this taken up by  the mainstream media. This would not have been done without pressure from below.

Copied this from Indymedia:

14.04.2009 19:16

The Guardian are linking to the photos on this indymedia posting! Normally the other way round!!

All power to the people and the power of citizen/democratic journalism. Has anyone come up with a better name for it than this?

Monday, 13 April 2009

Another cop abuses his power. Down with police brutality

We have been asked to spread this video and find out who he is. Up with 'citizen' journalism: up with democratic coverage of demonstrations

Clearer pics can be found at Indymedia HERE

Hossein Derakhshan and Virtual Iran-Free the Blogfather

My friend Hossein who was at SOAS with me has been imprisoned in Iran for now 163 days. He was arrested on suspicion of spying for Israel. Please help spread the news annd help get him released.

** Hossein Derakhshan has been nominated by Index On Censorship for "the Economist New Media Award 2009" for it's contribution to the Iranian blogosphere. May this nomination help to more to raise voices on his behalf.


1. Please Sign the petition, available in 4 languages, asking for his immediate release. (FYI-GB is Royaume Uni in French. It took me ages to work it out!)

2. For bloggers and journalist. Please help spread the word.

3. If you have personal story to tell about Hossein Derakhshan, or if you want to contribute by writing something that we will post on freetheblogfather' site.
The Iranian blogging phenomenon was triggered after the contribution of Hossein Derakhshan on how-to to write blogs in Farsi and one of the most recurrent themes analysed by academics interested in Iran's youth culture.

Hossein Derakhshan now imprisoned since last November 2008 contributed in establishing bridges of communication between a country with a limited public sphere like Iran and the rest of the world. The phenomenon he contributed to represents the need for alternative platforms of expression and is a vehicle for social development and assertion of Iranian Identity both within and outside the boundaries of the Islamic Republic of Iran. However, the usage of new media technology sets Iran the challenge of global free-flow of information.Hossein’s arrest is the prove of the danger that new media set to the I.R.I. This leads one to question: is Iran ready to use those media to develop its own “Neither East nor West” particular political, social and economical non-western-like model in setting the country back into the race of worlds most influential country? Or is it going to use them to increase its isolation from the international panorama by threatening the safety of Iranian online journalists and bloggers hence contributing to it’s own demonization?

Hossein Derakhshan is an Iranian-Canadian blogger and journalist and a fellow student at SOAS, University of London, who spent the last eight years between Canada and the U.K before his return to Tehran in the past month of October 2008. Hossein, aka Hoder, is hailed as the "blogfather" of Iranian Blogging because in 2001 he published guidelines of how to blog in Farsi on the site contributing to the boom in blogging that has led to Iran being today amongst the ten biggest blogging nations of the world according to Technorati statistics on the State of the Blogosphere.

According to Derakhshan (Khosravi 2008:157), the popularity of blogs among young people in Iran symbolises the great changes that Iranian society has undergone during the past two decades. The Iranian blogosphere is a reflection of the increasing tolerance in Iran’s society, he says. (1) His blog Editor:Myself or Rooznegar blog by Sina Motallebi his fellow blogger and journalist, were held by the Online Journalism Review as powerful tools for free-speech that linked Iran with the West.

Read the middle section HERE

Let us hope that Hossein Derakhshan's passionate quest for a progressive and tolerant Iran does not fade with his arrest and – for now – uncertain future.

If you want to contribute to the Request of the immediate release of Hossein Derakhshan visit the website and sign the petition.

By Maria Rijo Lopes da Cunha.

Egyptian circus clowns on strike!!

From arabawy

Talk of a strike wave: Egypt’s state-run National Circus clowns, performers and workers stage sit-in against privatization, demanding medical insurance, allowances and bonuses…

Now there's a story to brighten your day. I bet the bosses aren't laughing (all the way to the bank) now.

Saturday, 11 April 2009

Protest the Thai way: that's the way to do it

Thai protesters force the government to declare a National holiday along with closing down the ASEAN summit.

Watch the video HERE

Not bad AlJazeera coverage including protestors overturning Police truck  HERE

We could learn a lesson or two from our Thai comrades.

New York school occupation-watch the police brutality.

At approximately 6am yesterday, Friday April 10th, students re-occupied the Graduate Faculty building at the New School in New York City. Students were able to occupy the entire building this time, holding it for nearly five hours. The building was surrounded by 100+ police from every division of the city, plus dozens more undercover and black suv ops, horse police and police helicopters.

Police used pepper spray and mace while forcibly arresting students, and several students were assaulted by NYPD. So far 19 students have been arrested, and are currently in jail in Manhattan's 6th Precinct at 100 Center Street in Chinatown. There is a solidarity rally being held at 10pm tonight in Union Square in Manhattan for anyone in the city to come and show your support! More details, video of police violence and lies, and well as photos.

See videos and reports HERE

Send messages of support HERE

The Army needs subvertising-we need real jobs not bombs.

Outside my son's college all the phone boxes are covered in these Army recruitment adverts. As the world plunges deeper into recession and unemployment levels skyrocket a 'career' in the army can appear to be an exciting prospect, offering working class kids the 'opportunity' to travel the world and do many things otherwise out of their reach.

I could not believe it when my son came home a couple of weeks ago and announced that if he doesn't pass his exams he's going to join the Navy along with his friend. They had had a visit from the Military recruiters at his college and were told that they wouldn't have to fight in Iraq or Afghanistan!

Given that even MY son can fall for this--he has been on Stop the War demo's and has Free Gaza posters on his wall--I am outraged by the military's blatant lies and propaganda.

As an army brat I did too get to travel the world but at what cost? Attending a military school meant that the education we received was quite different to what other schools teach. Our history lessons, for example, did not teach us about Imperialism and colonialism. We were pushed into attending military training. I was in the Air Training Corp and learnt all about the 'good' work that the military does around the world.

My Dad left in the end because he was disillusioned with the army and went onto to become a nurse. I have met up with other ex-military friends of my dad's and they are still suffering from depression and disillusionmeent. All of them say that they could not resist because at the end of the day they were just 'doing their job' and the only way to protest was by leaving which they could not do until they had served a minimum time or pay thousands to buy themselves out. I understand how many people join the military because they want to help people but what help exactly are they giving?

I fully support this campaign and urge us all to do similar actions.

See Clara's blog post about another fabulous action by Hackney Stop the War

and a link to website offering advice to people thinking of joining the military:

Top military lies about recruitment: