Is the left right?

Has the left/right divide disappeared, has neo-liberalism won the day, or is there a credible alternative?

According to some commentators, the relevance of the traditional left/right divide is declining in relevance as political parties abandon their “isms”. The result is a much more de-ideologized political sphere where parties sell political “products” such as leaders or case-specific policies, rather than the hopes and dreams of ideologies.[1] Others claim that liberal, capitalist politics have won the day, and that the political sphere is therefore mono-ideologized rather than de-ideologized.

But are any of these standpoints true, and if they are, can the circumstances that they describe be reversed?

Traditionally, and in very general terms, the Right has tended to blame the individual for his or her suffering. The solution to any problem is therefore within the individual, e.g. by way of the hard work of the individual and the individualism of free market capitalism. The Left, on the other hand, has tended to blame society. The solution to any problem is thus viewed as being more communalistic, e.g. by way of redistribution of wealth. Read more of this post

Swaziland – a country in a constant state of crisis

Swaziland, the last autocratic monarchy in Africa, is a country in an almost constant state of crisis. The repeated human rights violations and harassment of the Swazi democracy movement by the Swazi regime, the huge inequalities between a small Swazi elite and the poor majority, and an Aids prevalence rate of over 40% should make newspapers and governments around the world act. But these stories are rarely if ever covered by the foreign media or condemned by world leaders or governments. In recent months the house of the Swaziland United Democratic Front National Organising Secretary Secretary has been bombed, maybe by the Swazi police; the leader of the largest opposition party, PUDEMO, has been charged with acts of terrorism for speaking his mind and is more or less constantly harassed by police; student leader Pius Vilakati has gone missing after having been attempted abducted by police; human rights activist Sipho Jele has died in police custody, probably at the hands of the police; and the President of the Swaziland Federation of Trade Unions has had his house searched for bombs. Read more of this post

International Labour Organisation Conference pressurizes Swaziland

In a speech given at the recent International Labour Organization (ILO) Conference in Geneva, British TUC representative and member of the governing body of the ILO, Sam Gurney, criticised the Swazi government for its repression of union members and “broken commitments” in regard to human rights. “Swaziland joined the ILO in 1975 and in the following years ratified a large number of conventions, 16 in a single day in 1978. Sadly as we have heard it has honoured many of them only in the breach and in particular has failed on conventions 89 and 98”. He also specifically referred to the cases of Sipho Jele and Alex Langwenya. “Very few people believe he really killed himself”, said Gurney of Sipho Jele’s alleged suicide while in police custody. Read more of this post

World Cup 2010: England play “one of the worst games ever” yet again…

So if all goes to plan in this World Cup, England will scrape through the group stage with unspectacular wins over Algeria and Slovenia and loose to Germany or Serbia in the second round, or France in the quarterfinals, on penalties. But perhaps this is being overtly defeatist?

I wrote this five days ago after England’s 1-1 draw with the USA. Apparently, I was being rather optimistic in my pessimism because England (and France for that matter) does not look like a team that has the will, or the skill, to progress.

Tonight’s goalless draw against Algeria must go down as one of the worst performances, or at least one of the most lacklustre, in recent history, although I guess the term “one of the worst” is becoming something of a cliché when talking of England’s performances in major tournaments (or in the case of 2007, 1993, 1983, 1977 and 1973 in failing to qualify for them).

Players like Gerrard, Rooney, Lampard, Cole, Terry, all valuable, world class players for their clubs were all made to look very mediocre indeed by an Algerian side whose captain plays for a mid-table French side. Read more of this post

Bheki Dlamini charged with terrorism in Swaziland

Foundation for Socio-Economic Justice Volunteer, Bheki Dlamini 28, has been charged under Swaziland’s Suppression of Terrorism Act this morning in connection with the recent bombings in the country. Bheki Dlamini, who had been kept at an undisclosed location by police, was charged at Swaziland’s high court this afternoon.

According to a representative of the Swazi democratic movement the charges are ludicrous, as he claims that Dlamini could not possibly have committed the crimes he is charged with. Read more of this post

The voiceless non-Westerners

Watching the news today about refugees in Kyrgyzstan on Danish television, I saw not one of the refugees, but a Western aid worker, a psychologist from Doctors Without Borders, interviewed. Nothing out of the ordinary. But it made me wonder whether the Western media as a general rule believes that non-Westerners are incapable of speaking for themselves, that they need an “enlightened”, educated Westerner to interpret their situation for them and for the Western viewers and readers. This is the problem, really. We are so used to watching non-Westerners represented in this way that we subconsciously come to accept the fact that they are silent, helpless victims that need our help and guidance. It is not only the media that refuses to give a voice to the voiceless, however. Read more of this post

Brian Ashley: The South African movement against neo-liberalism is on the move

It it ironic that thousands yesterday protested against the spending on World Cup stadiums instead of on South Africa’s poor on June 16, the anniversary of the Soweto-uprising in 1976. But since South Africa’s first truly democratic elections in 1994, the ANC government have gradually but unremittingly gone back on their own ideals and promises of socialism, nationalisation and general redistribution – even though Mandela himself had promised in 1990 that, “the nationalisation of the mines, banks and monopoly industries is the policy of the ANC, and a change or modification of our views in this regard is inconceivable”. Read more of this post

Yet another democracy activist, Bheki Dlamini, has gone missing in Swaziland

According to Swazi civil society organisation, Foundation for Socio-Economic Justice (FSEJ), one of their volunteers, Bheki Dlamini, has gone missing. His family say that they haven’t seen him since yesterday, and his mobile phone has been switched off since last evening. Friends and colleagues are now searching for him and a lawyer has been put on the case. FSEJ believe that Bheki has been kidnapped by the police, however, and that he might well be tortured if this is the case, as police had been looking for him in his home area in the Hhohho region at Buhleni last week.

Police kidnappings and the torture of members of the democratic movement in Swaziland is increasingly commonplace – most recent was the alleged beating up and murder of Pudemo member Sipho Jele in police custody. Jele had been arrested for wearing a Pudemo T-shirt. Read more of this post

World Cup 2010: The positive side of the World Cup

Having already dealt with the undeniable negative sides of the 2010 World Cup, such as human rights violations, unnecessary expenditure, and South African riot police charging peaceful demonstrators, let us look at the positive side of the World Cup for South Africa and Africa as a whole.

On the pitch, South Africa drew 1-1 with Mexico, having gone 1-0 up from a magnificent strike from Tshabalala. Ghana deservedly beat Serbia 1-0, with a both skilful and tactically adept performance. And although Nigeria expectedly lost 1-0 to Maradona’s Argentina, Algeria lost 1-0 to Slovenia, and Cameroon and the Ivory Coast are yet to play, the World Cup can therefore be seen as having been a relative success for Africa on the pitch so far. Read more of this post

World Cup 2010: Will England disappoint yet again?

Yesterday seemed something of a déjà vu for England fans: Enormous expectations ahead of a major tournament that were doused by personal error and underachievement. This time it was England goalkeeper Rob Green’s schoolboy error of a fumble from a seemingly harmless shot from Clint Dempsey that saw the USA earn a point, but there have been many other disappointments.

In 1950, an England team that was supposedly one of the best in the world shockingly lost 1-0 to the USA in Belo Horizonte, Brazil, in what is probably the biggest upset in World Cup history and a premonition of things to come. Even the USA, a team of amateurs and semi-pro’s, hadn’t really believed themselves capable of winning, and had been out drinking the night before. Joe Gaetjens, a dishwasher by trade, scored the winning goal. Read more of this post

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