Russia and President Mugabe

The following is a translation of "Russland und China decken Simbabwe - Zynische Diplomatie", an article published in the German newspaper Die Welt
What Price a Nation’s Word?
14 July 2008

Does a nation honour its word? In Japan, last week, the Russian president, Dimitri Medvedev, joined with other world leaders including Angela Mekel, in condemning the brutality of the Mugabe regime in Zimbabwe. The election in that sad country was stolen by the 84 old dictator. He did so using all the techniques of tyranny throughout history – torturing and killing his opponents, muzzling the press, giving the military-security elite the right to steal the nation’s wealth, allowing inflation to reach Weimar heights as a debauched currency destroys all economic hope. All those who can flee from Zimbabwe have. Three million refugees are in South Africa causing riots as they fight with native South Africans for economic space. Scores of thousands of Zimbabweans have fled to Europe.
Unlike Darfur or Chad where there is a war between factions or tribes sometimes with a religious element, the situation in Zimbabwe is a classic tyranny where a single monster of a dictator devours his people. Mugabe shames Africa and sends out the worst signal about that continent which in many respects is looking happier as its raw materials command mammoth prices and many of its leaders quietly govern their countries in a broad national interest.
Hence the anger and concern at the G8. The European Union already has in place sanctions against the Mugabe regime. Now the G8 agreed to make this a global priority. Yet when Britain, France and other democratic G8 members sought to take the spirit of Hokkaido to New York and get the UN to agree a condemnation and some modest sanctions against Mugabe they found that on his return to Moscow, Dmitri Medvedev had forgotten the agreement at Hokkaido and reverted to the worst kind of cold war style cynical diplomacy. Moscow ordered its ambassador at New York to say Nyet to the UN resolution on Mugabe. Russia acted with China in this disturbing new axis against democracy being shaped between Moscow and Bejing. Of course Russia wants its place back as a recognised world power but never before has Russia so quickly performed a 180 degree turn between agreement on Zimbabwe in Japan and three days later the tearing up of that promise in New York.
This is also a test case for Europe. Does Europe simply ignore Mugabe and treat Russia going back on its word at the UN as just a diplomatic game? Does Europe’s interests in seeing a stable Russia develop which sells its gas and oil to Europe and buys European products and services in exchange mean that Europe turns a blind eye to Russia’s support for the tyranny of Mugabe? In past times, the word for that behaviour was appeasement. Russia wants to turn the clock back to the cynicism and duplicity of cold war diplomacy. Does Europe have to play according to Moscow rules? The people of Zimbabwe are the main victims of Russia’s behaviour. So too is the UN which again shows itself impotent to deal with a regime that violates all UN norms and defies the international community. The question is does Europe have to do the same or can the EU start being honest with Russia and honest about the new axis which renders the UN impotent and the victims of tyranny without hope.

Labour after Glasgow by-election

This article was published in the Sunday Telegraph

For Labour, the Scottish years are over
27 July 2008

After Glasgow, Labour has to do more than debate its leadership and see off excited calls by union leaders for challenges to Gordon Brown. Instead the party has to confront an existential problem of its own making: the question of England.
Voters are punishing political leaders across the globe as the triple tsunami of rising costs of fuel, food and credit destroy purchasing power. For Britain's Ryanair and Easyjet voters - there are plenty in Glasgow East, despite its poverty - the anger about seeing ends no longer meeting is taken out in the safety of a by-election polling booth.
But Labour has to understand the deeper currents of political history far removed from the leadership buzz, as ministers and activists meet in Warwick today. If Tony Blair answered the Irish question, the people of Scotland and the voters of Glasgow East have answered the Scottish question: namely, that rule by Westminster and Whitehall is no longer acceptable.
In the 1980s and 1990s, Labour and the Lib-Dems made the fatal mistake of thinking the Scots hated only the Tories. They did and still do, but they hate rule by England even more. It matters little if a Scottish PM and a host of Scottish ministers are in charge. Gordon Brown represents London rule and that writ no longer runs in Scotland.
Scotland is destined to be the Quebec or the Catalonia of the United Kingdom. One monarch, one army, one health service, one language, but never again a unitary state, a single parliament, one law or even one flag, as the saltire now flies in place of the union flag.
A different union is being invented. I believe that, like the Quebecois and the Catalans, the Scots will not vote to break up the UK but live within it on their terms. Scots will still star in British politics in the manner of Pierre Trudeau or Jean Chretien, able Quebecois who were two of the best prime ministers Canada has ever had.
But the Glasgow East by-election now demands that Labour answers the English question. How does Labour, both as a government and as a political party, shape a politics that talks to and for the people of England?
It is a question that David Cameron, whose party's vote has collapsed in Scotland, tried to answer with Ken Clarke's breezy proposals to divide MPs into two classes: Scots and the rest. But since I, as a Yorkshire MP, can vote on the London Crossrail project and the future of Heathrow - which are further from my constituency than Scotland - and Tories can vote on investment in South Yorkshire or Liverpool where they have no representation, Clarke's ideas make no sense in a unitary parliamentary system of law-making.
An alternative would be to adopt American, Australian or Canadian systems of moving law-making and tax-raising closer to the people of England. Today there is little appetite for a make-over of our centralised state system that parties criticise in opposition but love to use when in power. In the end, however, some form of devolution within England will come.
If David Cameron's problem is that nearly all his senior shadow ministers and aides come from a narrow elite of wealth with no worries about mortgages, pensions or education costs, Labour has been dominated by Scots since it transformed itself from protest to power in the 1990s.
As a recently elected MP in the run-up to the 1997 election I was in awe at how Gordon Brown, Robin Cook, Donald Dewar, George Robertson, John Reid, Helen Liddell, Alistair Darling as well as the Edinburgh-educated Tony Blair and bagpipe-playing Alastair Campbell worked 18 hours a day, seven days a week to make Labour fit for purpose and power.
The sheer talent of this remarkable political generation obscured the extent to which Labour's English political leadership was vitiated. Today, there are no cabinet ministers born and bred in the great English cities, representing them in parliament, and making the case for Labour back home in Manchester, Birmingham, Leeds, Bristol, Liverpool and Newcastle.
Labour's elite is now a next generation of Scottish protégés or former aides to Blair and Brown, brilliant but not rooted in the patchwork of English geographies and traditions. Between the Glasgow-Edinburgh axis and the dinner parties of Islington lies a political space - England - with which Labour now has to grapple.
How to do this? First, by understanding English culture, which from Shakespeare to Pope to Brontë to Orwell has been about a deeply felt sense of language and history. Citing Kennedy and Gertrude Himmelfarb, or worshipping a sex pest like Bill Clinton, sits ill with this English culture. Labour needs to ignore transatlantic, cross-Channel or multicultural rhetoric and revert to the great words and vision of the makers of the English language.
Second, by understanding English capitalism, which is aggressively accumulationist, individualist and internationalist. In England today, the state is too big and the individual too small. Fair taxes are one thing, but when county council bosses earn more than a prime minister and BBC bosses milk taxpayers for pay hikes worthy of pharaohs, the English gorge rises. Unions in England could help Labour by exposing waste and useless bureaucracy.
Third, by understanding that a key word in English is indeed "fair". The English want a fair deal. The people who glue England together get up early, work hard as individuals, get their children off to school where they expect discipline - and not criticism if they opt for a religious school. They want to see more uniformed police out and about, fewer sneaky speed cameras and more chances for their children to enjoy their time off and not congregate on the streets.
When Labour was successful, as in 1945, in 1966, and in 1997, it was as a party of England as well as Britain. The message from Glasgow East is not just about Gordon Brown, as no political leader can alter the terms of trade in world economics. But it is a wake-up call to Labour that relying on Scottish votes is no longer enough. Labour needs a politics for England before it is too late.

Balkans: Karadizc's arrest

This article was published in the Yorshire Post

A defeat for evil as principles triumph in Serbia
23 July 2008

The arrest of Radovan Karadzic shows that good politics can win. The arrival of the principled pro-European Boris Tadic as Serbia’s president with a working majority in the Serbian parliament appears to have opened the way to a new vigorous approach by Serb police and security agents.
No-one can doubt the importance of arresting Karadzic. Together with his accomplice, Ratko Mladic, - the military brawn to Karadzic’s warped political brain – they stand accused of the worst crime against humanity in post-war European history.
In the summer of 1995, upto 8,000 unarmed men were taken away and shot after the failure of the UN, with the complicity of the appeasement policies of the then British government, to tackle the Serb military as they surged into the harmless Bosniak town of Srebrenica. To put the massacre in perspective, the world remembers with horror the Nazi’s killings at Lidice or the massacre by the Das Reich division at Oradour-sur-Gland in France. But the total number of people killed by the Nazi in those two atrocities amounted to the less than a quarter of those murdered by the Karadzic-Mladic killing machine at Srebrenica.
For four years as Minister charged with the Balkans policy I travelled to Belgrade to urge the post-Milosevic government to hunt down K and M. I was told not to be obsessive and that it was impossible to find Karadzic who was hiding outside the reach of the Belgrade authorities in the Serb part of the Bosnia-Herzegovina.
Mladic was reported to be seen in Belgrade and his family was still receiving his military salary and pension. So now Karadzic has been found and taken without resistance, it is time Mladic too is detained. Both men should be sent to the Hague. International justice can work and if Obama Barrack does become President of the United States, one of his first symbolic actions should be to signal America’s adherence to the International Criminal Court.
The clear political winner in this in President Boris Tadic who has taken a principled stand within Serbia in urging his fellow citizens to accept what happened in the Milosevic era was a terrible stain on Serbia’s honour and history. He was viciously attacked by nationalists inside Serbia and their fellow-travellers in the west including those journalists and intellectuals in London who see the intervention to destroy Milosevic’s murder machine as an unacceptable example of liberal interventionism.
The last time I spoke to Tadic was at the Socialist International congress in Belgrade earlier this month. Montenegrin and Bosniak politicians there were critical of Tadic entering into coalition with the left-over Serb socialists, once the party of Milosevic. But Tadic’s judgement appears to have been correct. If Mladic is also detained the chances of Serbia under Tadic, who remains close to Labour in Britain, bringing closure to the Milosevic era are good.
One major obstacle remains. Kosovo. The Serbs cannot accept that Kosovo is no longer theirs. Like the Germans who insist “Schlesien bliebt unser” – Silesia belong to us – Serbia insists that Kosovo remains part of Serbia. This delusion at a time when dozens of countries from Europe to Japan have recognised Kosovo as an independent nation-state remains a blockage to Serbia’s full-speed-ahead progress to EU and even Nato status.
; Russia is doing all to block a resolution of the Kosovo problem and has support from Spain. The latter’s political position is curious. Spain, in effect, has lined up with the worst ultra-nationalist politicians in Belgrade, men whose politics is more reminiscent of falangism than modern European social democracy. Karadzic and Mladic are closer in style, rhetoric and actions to the fascist terrorism of ETA and Spain should now take the opportunity of this development to rejoin mainstream EU foreign policy and recognise Kosovo.
Bit by bit, European policy has worked in the western Balkans. The Croatian war criminal, Ante Gotivina, is also in the Hague after years of denial by the Zagreb authorities than he could be found and transferred. When it was made clear that Gotovina in the Hague was a condition for Croatia to start EU membership negotiations the Croats found Gotovina quickly enough. I made myself unpopular in Zabgreb by going on radio and television to demand Gotovina’s arrest. The president of Croatia even travelled to see Tony Blair to complain that Britain was taking too hard a line. Downing Street officials urged me to ease off but I insisted that Britain should take a lead at EU meetings saying Gotovina should be in the Hague where he now is.
Tadic now needs support and congratulations and private encouragement to find a way out of Belgrade’s dead-end Kosovo posturing. If Gordon Brown gets bored with Southwold, a quick visit to the Balkans where British political-military prestige remains high would show a senior European leader supporting democrats in the region. A Brown visit would face down the growing Russian efforts to meddle and thwart the efforts to bring stability and progress in nations between Greece and Austria, between the Black and Adriatic seas. Russia’s new president, Dimitri Medvedev, supported Brown’s had line on Zimbabwe at the G8 summit. But on return to Moscow, he executed a 180 degree reversal and Russia blocked UN sanctions on Mugabe. No-one wants quarrels with Russia but appeasement is not an option.
Back in Britain, there may now be a case for an inquiry into the behaviour of British ministers and officials in the disastrous handling of the Balkans during the Milosevic years. Some of them remain close to David Cameron and remain influential in Tory foreign policy thinking. Tadic and other Balkan leaders do not forget easily those in Whitehall and Westminster who did deals with Milosevic as Britain had20to wait for the arrival of Tony Blair before clear judgement was applied on what needed to be done to defeat Balkans fascism.
In the meantime, as with the release of Ingrid Bettancourt, not all the news from afar is bad. Evil can be defeated.

Obituary: Bronislaw Geremek

This obituary of the Solidarnosc leader was published in the Independent on 15 July 2008

Bronislaw Geremek 1932-2008: leading figure in the Polish Solidarity movement
15 July 2008

Bronislaw Geremek was Poland's most prominent European figurehead at a time when Poland's store of statesmen is low. He first became well known internationally as one of the key advisers to the Gdansk electrician Lech Walesa, when the Polish shipyard workers went on strike and occupied their workplaces 28 years ago. The movement and the union they founded, NSZZ Solidarnosc (Solidarity), rang the tocsin for European Communism.
Geremek's importance was that he brought a sense of Europe, a sense of social democracy, and a sense of history to the National Catholic excitement of the Poles as the world watched to see if Russian tanks would smash through the giant metal gates of the Lenin shipyard to restore socialist "order" as they had done in Prague in 1968 or Budapest in 1956.
Geremek, along with other intellectuals such as Tadeusz Mazowiecki or the younger journalist Adam Michnik, an activist in the 1968 movement at Warsaw University, developed the concept of a self-limiting revolution. In negotiation with Communist officials, Geremek and his fellow intellectuals helped fashion the wordy texts of the Gdansk accords. These allowed the Warsaw régime enough face to sign a deal with the workers. Poland thus escaped the fate that from Kronstadt to Tiananmen has been the stock response of Communist governments to any protest by their workers.
Geremek brought a unique quality as a French-trained historian. He had been born to Jewish parents in 1932 and during the Second World War was rescued by a Polish family from a Nazi Selektion which saw others sent to Treblinka's gas chambers. He was typical of the generation of Poles who lived abroad to escape the stifling lack of freedom of thought and expression. Unlike the Polish Nobel laureate, Czeslaw Milosz, and many others, however, he always returned to Poland.
Exile creates its own passions, well caught in Storm Jameson's jewel of a novel A Ulysses Too Many, about exiled Poles in France in the 1950s dreaming of overthrowing Communism and restoring the unhappy Polish politics of the pre-war period. Instead, Geremek studied history in Paris and taught at the Sorbonne in the 1960s. He specialised in medieval social history, writing about those marginalised by the power-holders of the day.
With his elegant French, Geremek was a link between Poland and France as strong as Chopin created in the 19th century. He had good English and with the manners and politeness that is in the Polish DNA, he charmed everyone he met, both by his interest in what they had to say and a desire to have an intellectually rigorous political conversation, rare amongst the solipsism of most political animals. He loved stories, jokes and gossip, and had an incomparable network of European friends and admirers.
Geremek became a European ambassador for Solidarity but was always called to Lech Walesa's side as Solidarity continued its rocky existence between August 1980 and its suppression in December 1981. The source of the Polish democratic revolution remained Polish. Geremek, like the Polish Pope, as well as a network of younger, politically savvy Poles who had sought refuge in London and Paris after the crackdown and anti-Semitic purges which followed the 1968 protests, allowed the Polish movement to internationalise itself.
They won the support of the democratic left and the trade unions, which embarrassed those who claimed Communism represented the workers' interests. Geremek was imprisoned for a year in 1982 at a time when I was briefly put in prison in Warsaw for running money to the underground Solidarity operation. He was re-arrested in 1983, but with the arrival of Mikhail Gorbachev, it was soon to be game over for European Communism.
In a sense, Geremek's greater service to his nation and the cause of European freedom came in 1989, when he helped launch the so-called round-table process with Michnik. This allowed the Jaruzelski regime to sit down with Walesa and other representatives of Poland's civil society and paved the way for the first free elections to the Sejm (the Polish parliament). The famous Polish call that Poles "fight for our freedom and yours" was turned into reality as other East and Central European nations followed the Geremek-fashioned model of a peaceful transition from Communism to democracy.
Revolutions notoriously devour their children and Walesa became a sad figure. By contrast, Geremek grew in stature and became Poland's best-known global politician during the 1990s as the architect of Poland adopting a European destiny and seeking membership of the European Union as well as joining Nato.
Geremek was a liberal, tolerant social democrat, but he supported the tough economic reforms of the early 1990s as he understood from history that the statist, corporatist economics inherited from Communism needed not tinkering repairs but a complete uprooting. He chaired the Sejm's committee on foreign affairs from 1989 until 1997 and then was foreign minister until 2000. He worked closely with Tony Blair and Robin Cook to prepare Poland's entry into the EU. As Europe Minister in 2002, I found myself sitting in the British seat at the European Council when Poland's prime minister made the formal entry speech. Although Geremek was out of office it was clear to anyone who knew Polish and European history that he had been one of the main influences in bringing Poland into the heart of Europe.
He became an MEP in 2004. Many thought he should have been chosen as President of the European Parliament but, to their shame, socialist and conservative MEPs stuck to their "Buggins' turn" scheme that keeps European Parliament jobs safe for time-servers. Geremek became president of the Lausanne-based Robert Monnet Foundation and remained an idealist about European integration.
On the day Geremek died, Poland's President, Lech Kaczynski, assured European leaders in Paris for the EU Mediterranean conference that Poland would sign the Lisbon Treaty. It is a fitting tribute to one of Poland's greatest sons and one of the most important European political forces of the last three decades.

Bronislaw Geremek, historian and politician: born Warsaw 6 March 1932; Lecturer, Sorbonne 1962-65; Assistant Professor, Polish Academy of Sciences 1972-89, Professor 1989-2008; member of the Sejm 1989-2001; Foreign Minister 1997-2000; MEP 2004-08; married (two sons); died Lubien, Poland 13 July 2008.

Rapprochement needed on threat of Iran's arsenal

The letter below was published in the Financial Times

Rapprochement needed on threat of Iran’s arsenal
8 July 2008

Sir, I read with interest Anatol Lieven’s appeal for Britain to break ranks with the US in the event of military force being used to prevent Iran developing nuclear weapons ("Britain must act to prevent an attack on Iran", July 7). François Heisbourg, of the International Institute for Strategic Studies and Geneva's Centre for Security Policy has recently published a book, Iran, le choix des armes? , in which he argues that "using force would be marginally less of a calamity than accepting that Iran develops nuclear weapons".
Both Prof Heisbourg and Prof Lieven are respected international policy commentators well known to FT readers. Yet they appear to take diametrically opposing views of the danger an Iranian nuclear bomb represents and what needs to be done to prevent a new nuclear arms race in the region as well as the fears of Jewish people after the call from the president of Iran for Israel to disappear from the map of the world.
Can the FT bring these two intellectuals together because it is important that on Iran, unlike Iraq, Europe (including Russia) and the US and our joint allies and friends speak and, if necessary, act as one.
Denis MacShane,Labour, Rotherham, UK

Denis Macshane MP Urges New Russian Leader to Develop Better UK Relations

Former Europe Minister, Denis MacShane MP, Urges New Russian Leader to Develop Better UK Relations
7 July 2008

Denis MacShane MP told BBC Radio 4 Today listeners on the 7th July 2008 that the new Russian president, Dimitri Medvedev, could start a new era of UK-Russia relations by dropping the campaign of harassment against the British Council operations in Russia.
"The British Council is a fine organisation that promotes understanding between Britain and Russia but President Medvedev has described it as a ‘nest of spies’ which is aggressive cold war language," said MacShane.

G8 faces its moment of truth

This article was published in the Japanese edition of Newsweek
G8 faces its moment of truth
In Hokkaido there will be no hiding place. The G8 will have to show leadership or announce its impotence to a nervous, anxious world. Created thirty years as a friendly chat between the leaders of the free market northern democracies, the G8 today has grown in ambition to be the executive committee of the planet. Russia and more or less China have joined. South Africa is invited. India and Brazil turn up. Spain has a bigger GDP than Mexico but the Mexican president, Felipe Calderon is invited while Spain’s Prime Minister Zapatero sips Sangria in Madrid. The presence of Canada with the same size economy as South Korea which is not invited reinforces the dominance of the Euroatlantic Christian white powers.
But can the G8 provide world governance? Thirty years ago there were the capitalist democracies, the communist world, and the developing world. The G7 as it then was only had to worry about its own geographically small share of the world. Now everyone wants to take the capitalist road but not everyone wants to take the democratic road. Then, the problem was one of sharing out an unfair world economy. Now, as every citizen in China, India, Indonesia, Latin America and Africa expects the right to a car, to air conditioning, and to meat or fish in a daily meal, the fight is over core and dwindling resources like energy, raw materials, water, clean air, and food. It is not yet war but it is far from peace.
Ghandi noted that there is enough in the world for everyone’s need but not enough for everyone’s greed. Today the G8 has to find a politics that allows the world to satisfies its needs and stop the world being deformed by its greeds. And the greediest of nations are those that sit around the G8 table.
Take the United States which has refused any limit on the god-given right of Americans consume as much energy as they please. The US also rejects any international rules aimed at reducing CO2 emissions. Or take Germany which refuses to contemplate nuclear power in the hope that windmills will produce enough energy to turn turbines and provide heat, light and cooling at the flick of a switch.
China is now colonising Africa and refusing all appeals to help promote peace or democracy in the genocidal dictatorships of Sudan or Zimbabwe. If President Thabo Mbeki of South Africa lifted his finger, he could stop the mass murders, tyranny and torture in Zimbabwe and allow free elections to replace the dictator, Robert Mugabe. But he will not. China is stealing the world’s intellectual property. The biggest sales in Beijing during the Olympics will be fake Casio watches, counterfeit Mont Blanc pens, and imitation Ralph Lauren polo shirts.
Russia stops a peaceful resolution of the Balkans conflict by insisting Kosovo still belongs to Serbia and allows other disputes with Georgia, Ukraine, and Moldova to keep alive tensions and conflicts instead of promoting a wider integration based on open markets and rule of law between the Atlantic and the Caucasus.
France’s President Sarkoy has launched an assault on the European Commission’s efforts to secure a world trade deal in the Doha round, insisting that the EU must "protect" its citizens from globalisation even as French multinational companies draw all their profits from an open world economy. Japan’s protectionist approach to agriculture helps keep the poor peasants of the world, unable to export their produce, in an abject condition.
Thus the G8’s narcissism of small differences. Each political leader is convinced that his national position is righteous and that national public opinion will not allow a greater sharing of sovereignty to promote common world solutions.
President George W Bush comes for his last G8. Prime Minister Yasuo Fakuda for his first. Nicholas Sarkozy, Gordon Brown, Angela Merkel, Canada’s Stephen Harper all face sinking popularity in opinion polls at home.
Their citizens want less world and more nation. Barack Obama has talked more nation-first and protectionist rhetoric than any US leader since the 1930s. European voters are leery of giving more power to the EU. The United Nations is seen more and more as a remake of the League of Nations unable to impose its will anywhere in the world and blocked from offering a clear world lead by non-democratic China or neo-authoritarian Russia. The G8 leaders will have to confess they are reducing their promised aid to Africa. The armies of Nato are bleeding in Afghanistan with no answer to Islamist terrorism which has bases from Pakistan to Algeria with support for democracy-denying Islamist ideology in many parts of the world, including in the heart of Europe’s main cities.
Can the G8 plus other invited top nations find something more than lowest common denominator answers? Or is the world reverting to a network of competing nations each insisting it has the one shining truth and self-righteously tell the rest of the world go hang. Never has global leadership been more needed. Never has it been less on offer. Perhaps the Hokkaido G8 will be different. Don’t hold your breath.

BA, Virgin told to cut links to Zimbabwe

News Release

4 July 2008
Former Minister Says Cuts Air Links and Disinvest from Zimbabwe
British Airways and Virgin Atlantic flights and taxpayer’s aid to Zimbabwe should be suspended until the Mugabe regime has been replaced Denis MacShane MP for Rotherham and a former Foreign Office minister has told the House of Commons. He added that Tory MPs who invested in firms propping up Mugabe should be required to disinvest along similar lines that helped bring an end to the apartheid regime. MacShane singled out Robert Goodwill, the Tory MP for Scarborough and Whitby who has refused to sell his shares in a company involved with Zimbabwe on the grounds that “this is not a good time to sell shares.”
MacShane said that BA amd Virgin Atlantic made stopovers in Harare and these should now be cut. He also revealed that Lufthansa and KLM flew directly to Harare and described these flight as a 'life-line for the Zimbabwe regime' which the EU should sever.
MacShane also told the Commons that Gordon Brown should use the forthcoming G8 meeting due to be attended by South Africa’s Thabo Mbeki to step up global pressure for the restoration of democracy in Zimbabwe. But he revealed that the ANC at this week’s congress of the Socialist International – the global federation of centre-left parties, has sought to block an application for membership from the MDC, Zimbabwe’s democratic opposition party which has seen its electoral victory stolen by Mugabe’s thugs. “The ANC is not helping democracy and progressive politics in Zimbabwe and the ANC needs to side with democracy and against tyranny just we the ANC was supported against the tyranny of the non-democratic apartheid regime in South Africa,” said MacShane.
Below, MacShane’s intervention in the Commons (3 July)

Mr. Denis MacShane (Rotherham) (Lab): I very much agree with the hon. Member for Newbury (Mr. Benyon), who has just spoken. This is the 21st century, and it is time to hold Zimbabwe to the same criteria and standards
as we did South Africa, fascist Germany, fascist Italy and other hideous regimes. Why, therefore, are we unable to take stronger action?
Mr. Swire: China.
Mr. MacShane: The hon. Gentleman says “China” from a sedentary position—all well and good. We must put pressure on China. But why, for example, are Virgin Atlantic and British Airways using Harare as a stopover on flights to South Africa? Why are KLM and Lufthansa flying to South Africa through Zimbabwe? Why are we talking about putting more money into Zimbabwe via the Department for International Development? Why are we not looking at the companies that prop up the Mugabe regime, such as Shell and Rio Tinto, and asking their shareholders whether they should not be divesting—rather than complaining, as the hon. Member for Scarborough and Whitby (Mr. Goodwill) did, that this is not a good time to sell their shares?
What can we do to get the United Nations to focus on its responsibilities? It is unable to discharge its responsibilities. What can we do to make sanctions work? They failed against Serbia during the Balkan crisis, and they failed against Iraq under Saddam Hussein. They are failing against Sudan and they failed against Burma. What do we want from an effective sanctions policy? I hope the Foreign Secretary and the Prime Minister will speak personally to all their opposite numbers at the G8 about the importance of this matter. Reference to the International Criminal Court is important, but the United States has refused to ratify the relevant treaty. What is good for the United States goose will be good for the Zimbabwe gander. We have a new culture of international responsibility, and we need to develop sanctions that can work, not just in Zimbabwe, but in other countries around the world, to guide them towards democracy.
This is a huge test case, and it is time for the Government to be robust, and time for Britain to cut financial support of any sort for Zimbabwe. It is time for Britain to take a lead, not wait for others to decide what to do.

Letter to the Guardian on Medvedev, the new Russian President

The letter below was sent to the Guardian newspaper in response to an interview the paper published with the new Russian President
3 July 2008

Your headline "Russians move to end rift with UK" (front page 3 July) is not matched by the important interview with President Medvedev. The British Council still faces harassment without parallel in any other state. BP employees are having their visas cancelled in a cynical state-controlled move to hand over part of the oil industry to the Kremlin’s cronies. And on the Litvinenko murder, Mr Medvedev’s PhD in private law obviously did not cover cooperation between states on major crimes.
On Iran, the new Russian president criticises European efforts to put pressure on Teheran to stop the drive towards a nuclear confrontation in the Middle East; he parrots the Milosevic line that Kosovo has to accept eternal rule by Belgrade; and he even manages a gratuitous side-swipe at the UN Secretary General – usually language reserved for John Bolton.
Many want Russia to become more European and work with the EU as a partner to solve current problems. Alas, the interview with President Medvedev does not live up to the headline and it looks as if we have the same old Russia in place – what we want we will get, what you want you can wait a long time for.

Article in Guardian on the transtlantic union

This article was published by the Guardian on their web-site (http/
on 2 July. Please note usual copyright restrictions

What the transatlantic union can do
2 July 2008

It has been a long journey for Derek Simpson, the joint general secretary of Unite, the new union formed out of the merger of the engineering workers' union, Amicus and the Transport and General Workers' Union. Barely a decade ago he was a regional officer of the engineering workers union who had spent his formative years in the Sheffield communist party. Today he will stand up in a luxury hotel resort in Las Vegas and announce that his union is to create a new force as a result of a link-up with the United Steelworkers of America (USWA). Simpson's fellow general secretary, Tony Woodley, will join the ceremony by video link from London.
What will the 3,500 delegates gathered in Las Vegas, which, like Blackpool in the UK, is now the favourite conference centre for American unions, make of the announcement that a new global union has been formed? Certainly, the USWA president, Leo Gerard, a Canadian social democrat with vision and drive, is a rare internationalist amongst American labour leaders.
But only up to a point. A few years ago I was giving a talk at the Pittsburgh head office of the USWA with whom I have worked for a quarter of a century. It was a grim time for American steelworkers. Their answer was to launch a political charter to keep jobs safe. They asked me to sign it. I looked at the first clause. It called for a complete ban on imports of steel into the US. I had to say:
Sorry, guys. I represent Rotherham which makes the world's best engineered steel and exports tonnes here. How do I go home and say I have signed a protectionist pledge to block my constituents' exports to America?
President George Bush did support USWA and imposed a ban on British steel being exported into America. It was reversed after a bitter battle in which the EU did the heavy lifting for British steelworkers.
So it will be fascinating to see how the new Unite-USWA alliance deals with the first instinct of embattled American industrial workers which is to demand import restrictions.
American unions have fulminated against the decision of the Pentagon to award a contract for 130 refuelling tankers to a European consortium headed by Airbus. This was a boost to jobs of Unite members in Britain but there is now a ferocious battle in Washington to reverse this decision and award the contract to Boeing. It will be an important test case for the Unite-USWA alliance to see if the new transatlantic union can see off the protectionist attitudes of American labour.
But any coming together of trade unions across frontiers is to be welcomed. The US trade union movement is in even weaker shape than Britain's. Fewer than 15% of American employees are union members and the majority of those are in the public sector or work for federal, state or municipal employers.
In Britain, if you take out top managers and senior professional categories, there are more VAT registered companies (1.96 million) than trade union members in the capitalist sector of the economy (1.94 million). The situation is far worse in France and German unions have lost half their membership in the past 15 years.
American and British unions often keep retired members on their books which flatters to deceive in terms of membership numbers. Both American and British unions are more lively and imaginative than ever. Check the Unite website or the USWA website and there are struggles, detailed negotiations, political support for Senator Obama, and international solidarity actions which are impressive and wide-ranging.
In the past, the links between British and American industrial unions were based on specific industries. Thus the skilled engineers of the AEU looked to the Machinists' Union. The carworkers of the TGWU looked to the United Autoworkers Union. The steelworkers of the ISTC, now Community, had a special relationship with the USWA.
The more logical merger would have been put to put together the three American metal industry unions into one giant union, along the lines of IG Metall in Germany or Svenska Metall in Sweden. A merger was attempted in the 1990s but it fell apart over issues like the president of the Machinists' Union refusing to give up his union-financed private plane. The narcissism of small differences is as true in the higher reaches of organised labour as in any other institutions.
In fact, the merger between Amicus and the TGWU could be a model for a new generation of American union leaders. Instead, what we are seeing in the US is the transformation of classic US industrial unions into catch-all general unions which seek to recruit and organise in many different sectors from healthcare to university employees.
As in Britain, American unions spend as much time fighting over what they call jurisdiction issues – who can organise which workers and where – as they do in fighting the bosses.
But both sides of the transatlantic labour movement can learn from each other. British unions might gently explain the virtues of the NHS, for example. An American union contract has perhaps 20 pages on wages, grievance procedures and pensions and 200 pages setting out in detail the level of medical insurance an employee is entitled to. As a result, American unions have, in the past, been very jealous of the medical cover they negotiate for their members and families and have not been enthusiastic about a more general tax-financed healthcare system à la NHS.
Another issue Unite might discuss with its new American partners is the need to break down protectionist barriers in North America so that the poorer nations of the region like Mexico can grow. At the moment, a lorry driver taking his load of Corona beer from the brewery in Mexico has to unload his cargo at the US-Mexico frontier and transfer it onto trucks driven by teamster drivers. Imagine if in Europe, a lorry driver from Yorkshire had to stop and transfer his cargo to another lorry each time he passed a frontier. As a result, the Mexican trucker cannot share in the broader US-Canadian prosperity and may be tempted to become an illegal immigrant as US labour campaigns against open borders.
Therefore some gentle education on the value of open economics as a way of reducing poverty might be useful. Equally, the USWA can explain how unions do not have to be a formal part of the Democratic party structure or pay money directly to the party in order to influence its direction or contribute to progressive politics. The USWA is a doughty political campaigner and spends money generously on causes and candidates it supports. But Britain's Labour party is the last place in the world where unions expect as of right to sit on the party's leadership body, send blocks of voting delegates to the party conference, and directly pay party bills.
There is a rich tradition of radical and progressive politics in the US but it is hidden away in states or cities or smaller towns. From Britain, we focus on Washington and the White House but American unions are strong in many communities and influence political culture in a progressive manner which British unions could learn from.
Welcome as the Unite-USWA link-up is, the real game in town for British unions remains Europe. The future of British workers will not be determined by changes in US law or policy. As Jonathan Freedland rightly notes, the swift rightwards march of Senator Obama suggests that if he wins the White House, hopes of a rupture with US policy up until now may be disappointed. Certainly Obama's language on protectionism in his bid to win over working-class votes makes President Sarkozy sound like an Adam Smith free trader. Obama's protectionist line will be watered down in the White House but anyone who saw a drawn, exhausted Peter Mandelson on Newsnight replying to Sarkozy's intemperate attack can have few hopes that a new trade round to help the jobless and poor of the world is likely to be agreed by today's US.
It will be interesting to see if the Unite-USWA alliance amounts to a real fusion with one governing body and a British union member able to go and find work in the US and vice versa under common terms and agreements or whether it remains a leadership alliance in which the top people from both sides of the Atlantic meet twice a year and issue communiques. The latter is worthwhile but has actually been happening in any event under the aegis of existing international union federations.
The bigger question to answer is what do unions in both America and Europe do to win back membership and shape a new relationship with employers and with allied political parties. In Germany, Bertold Hubner, the new moderate leader of the giant IG Metall union has rebuked the left, organised in Die Linke (The Left) under Oskar Lafontaine's leadership. Hubner has said his union wants to see mainstream social democracy triumph and told Die Linke to go away. In Britain, that kind of support for a Labour government is curiously absent from today's union leadership. Their spin doctors prefer aggressive language in which a Labour government not a millionaires' anti-union resurgent Tory party is the chief target of union anger.
Worldwide, employees need unions more than ever. But the international union outfits from the International Labour Organisation to the global union federations are less and less able to transform their demands into reality. This is where real thinking and new leadership is needed. If the Unite-USWA alliance can prod unions on both sides of the Atlantic into rethinking what they do and what their 21st-century role and mission has to be, then it is to be welcomed.

Hostages liberated in Columbia

Press release: Denis MacShane MP welcomes the release of Columbian hostages
3 July 2008

Denis MacShane MP, former FCO minister for Latin America, has welcomed the news of the release of Ingrid Bettancourt and others from the hands of the Colombian terrorist group, FARC. "This is wonderful news for Ingrid Bettancourt, her children, and all those who have been liberated from the terror of the FARC. It justifies the support of the Labour government for the democratically elected government of Colombia which has refused to surrender to the blackmail of FARC, despite the support the narco-trafficking kidnappers have had from Venezuela and from some people in Britain who have criticised the Colombian regime but turned a blind eye to the extremism of their opponents."

Speech at Congress of Socialist International

"Let us build down nuclear weapons and invent new global institutions for 21st century"
23rd Congress of Socialist International
Athens, Greece, 1 July 2008

Mr President, Comrades,

It is a great honour to follow Fukishima-san, leader of the Japanese social democratic party. We need to learn from parties all over the world. The democratic left faces a few problems in Europe but in Australia and New Zealand as well as in Latin America, centre-left parties are showing a way forward.

I bring the best wishes of Gordon Brown, a newly elected Vice-president of the SI. He is kept in London by tricky parliamentary business but we are all proud at how he has found the money to double the share of British GDP going to overseas aid. Gordon has taken the lead in alleviating debt for poor countries and led at the G8 and in the EU for a commitment to eradicate illiteracy and lack of education in Africa. So his priorities are those of the Socialist International.

I want to invite the SI today to consider taking the lead in building down the level of nuclear weapons in the world and to reduce the nuclear menace that faces humankind.
It is strange that the main call for a reduction in nuclear weapons has come from American conservative Republicans like the former Secretaries of State, Henry Kissinger and George Schultz, who launched their appeal last year for the world to take new initiatives to reduce nuclear weapons.
There are still too many nuclear warheads scattered around the world. The USA has around 10,000 active and inactive nuclear weapons and Russia has an estimated 16,000.
These two major nuclear states need to build down their arsenals.
We have seen the positive examples of Libya and just recently North Korea, where active diplomacy involving Europe as well as the US, Russia and China have led those two states to renounce being nuclear powers.
But what can we do to stop India and Pakistan indulging their regional nuclear arms races? How can India, which has more citizens living in absolute poverty than Africa, justify its nuclear arms expenditure? How can India lay claim to permanent membership of the UN Security Council – which many of us support – while being in flagrant violation of the Nuclear Non Proliferation Treaty?
And now there is the awesome menace of a nuclear-armed Iran. Make no mistake. From Mr El Baradi to every source of information inside Iran as well as all independent agencies, no one doubts that Iran is going as fast as it can to get a nuclear weapons capability.
The president of Iran has called more than once for Israel to be wiped off the map of the world. This is the language of extermination. I hope that the Socialist International, whatever the different views on the Middle East conflict, will be concerned, indeed outraged to hear again from the lips of a head of state the language of the extermination of the Jewish people.
An Iranian or Shia nuclear bomb would destabilise the entire region. How would Sunni Saudi Arabia or Egypt react if Shia Iran asserted its rights to have nuclear weapons? Would Turkey not seek its own nuclear shield if Iran gets nuclear weapons? So an Iranian nuclear bomb would launch a regional arms race.
And given the way Iran uses proxies like Hezbollah in Lebanon or Shia groups in Iraq to carry out its policies, can anyone be sure that a nuclear Iran will not be a conduit to terrorist groups for nuclear weapons or nuclear know-how? An Iran with nuclear weapons thus opens the way to non-state groups and fundamentalists being armed with nuclear weapons.
So as socialists we have to say to Iran: ‘Turn back from a new nuclear arms race in a region that need peace, not a new threat of nuclear Armageddon.’
And we need new steps from America, Russia, from China, India and Pakistan as well as from the European nuclear powers to build down current levels of nuclear weapons.
Let us develop Gordon Brown’s ideas of an international uranium enrichment facility to support nuclear power demonstrably only for civil and not military use.
The idea of such a new international body and the need to rethink and make work the Nuclear Non Proliferation Treaty is part of the thinking about new international networks and institutions relevant to the 21st century. The Socialist International, true to its values, should help develop this thinking.
We all hope that the next president of the United States does less war and more peace.
But the great issues of war and peace need new international architecture to achieve the latter and prevent the former.
We are still living within the architectural framework of supranational global institutions of the mid-20th century – the UN, Nato, GATT/WTO, the EU or G8.
Is this network of global bodies able to deliver what we, as socialists, want and the world needs?
I am a great supporter of the UN. But just in the last week we have seen the UN unable to condemn the tyranny, torture, murder and electoral fraud in Zimbabwe. The UN is unable to stop the genocide in Darfur; unable to implement its own doctrine of the responsibility to protect – R2P – in Burma; unable to get the Attisari plan for Kosovo accepted, or to get its own UN proposals for Cyprus accepted.
Walid Jumblatt told us in the morning, in the context of Lebanon, that the United Nations was in danger of becoming as impotent as the League of Nations. None of us want to see that happen but I believe the SI needs to look at whether the UN is fit for purpose for the new century. Instead we need to ask the question: What new networks, global institutions or groups of like-minded democracies may be needed to support fairness and social justice.
I began by regretting that it was a group of conservative Republicans in America who put forward the idea of reducing the world’s nuclear weaponry. Let us not make the same mistake of allowing the global right make the intellectual and policy argument on new institutions needed to promote democracy and human rights in the 21st century.
We need a global alliance of democracies to face down the rising tide of those justifying non-democracy – the concept advanced by thinkers who argue that all that matters is stability and prosperity and that democracy, freedom of expression, women rights and so forth are secondary issues.
Other speakers have denounced the neo-liberal Washington consensus but we might be facing a new danger of a neo-authoritarian Russian-Chinese-Singapore consensus, which puts the fake stability of political control in the name of economic accumulation ahead of core human freedoms, which the Socialist International has always upheld and insisted upon as non-negotiable alongside the fight for economic fairness and social justice.
So let us put on our thinking caps. There is a battle of ideas, of ideology unleashed in the world and we, as democratic socialists, have to engage in and win this debate. If not, the 21st century will see a victory for reaction and the dark side of humanity and the light shining from the hills of freedom which we seek to lead humanity towards will no longer be there to guide us.