Monday, 19 July 2010

Get along to the Edinburgh People's Festival Saturday August 7th - 14th

It's astonishing to think that this is our 9th Edinburgh People's festival. Over the years we have presented some absolutely wonderful and ground breaking shows. Our first evening in the Jack Kane Centre in Craigmillar back in 2002 still fills me with huge pride as it clearly proved to be the engine for future progress and development. Our scintillating concert inside Saughton prison which featured comedian Mark Thomas and Paddy Hill of the Birmingham Six also springs quickly to mind as does Nancy Cartwrights afternoon entertaining the kids in the Royal Infirmary with our 'Bart Comes to the Simpsons' show stopper. Then there is our Hamish Henderson Memorial lectures, our award winning exhibition telling the story of the original People's Festivals back in the 1950's, our fine arts competition and not forgetting our superb sell-out comedy nights at the BMC Club in Gorgie.

We continue to challenge the official festivals to come out into the real world, into Edinburgh's indigenous communities instead of clinging desperately to 4 mega venues in the city centre and to present shows everyone can afford.

This years People's Festival programme again breaks new ground. We open on Saturday 7th with a remarkable film premiere. It's a drama set in Edinburgh's schemes and featuring local actors. ‘MORTICIA’ is the story of a little girl whose only ambition is to be a vampire. Written, produced and directed by the highly acclaimed and multi talented local film maker Nabil Shaban this film will be shown inside the graveyard of St Cuthbert’s Church off Lothian Road. The film starts at 9pm. Tickets are £4.00.
On Sunday [8th] we again present local historian Allan Armstrong leads a sedate walking tour around Edinburgh’s remarkable, radical past. This is the side of Scotland's Capital that no other tour reveals. It's revolutionary underbelly, the Edinburgh of Thomas Muir, of James Connolly and the political Robert Burns plus many other less well known but equally important radicals. Tour starts at 2pm from outside ‘The Last Drop’ pub in the Grassmarket. Returns 2 hours later.FREE
And on Monday [9th] we continue our walking tour theme this time 'Investigating Rebus’s Edinburgh'. Colin Brown’s award winning tour of those places made famous by Ian Rankin’s fictional detective John Rebus begins outside The Royal Oak public house at 6.30pm and ends- unless unforeseen and villainous events ensue - 2 hours later at the same location.FREE
Tuesday 10th sees us open 'The bad and the beautiful' a photographic exhibition introducing the arresting images of Edinburgh’s rising photographic talent Paul Jordan from Oxgangs. This is the official opening of Paul's most recent exhibition. The show runs from 1st August to 5th September and our official opening is at ‘The Wash’, at the top of the Mound 7pm.FREE
In 2008 we initiated the Hamish Henderson Memorial Lecture and this year we are delighted to announce that the third annual lecture will be delivered by the former West of Scotland MSP and independence fighter Campbell Martin. He will contend that the themes Hamish Henderson believed in most of all, internationalism, independence and anti-imperialism continue to be central causes in today's world. Event takes place in 'Word Power' Book shop in West Richmond Street at 7pm. FREE
And to show that Hamish's internationalism and anti-imperialism is not something we simply pay lip service to we present on Thursday night [12th] our 'Aid for Afghanistan' concert. Musical entertainment is provided first by the fabulous David 'Brucey' Bruce and then The Irresistible Urges. The evening is part of the campaign to bring home British troops from Afghanistan and all proceeds go to the Malalai Joya Foundation which is a democratic, secular and progressive organisation in Afghanistan opposed to both imperialism and religious fundamentalism. Concert takes place in the Valley Park Community Centre, Burdiehouse and begins at 7pm. FREE [Donations on the door]
Friday 13th sees us back in Gorgie at the comedy night to beat them all. Friday the 13th! Unlucky for some perhaps but not for those with tickets to this fantastic night at the BMC Club in Gorgie! This will be our 6th consecutive year at the BMC and this evening was booked for us last August and promises to be better than ever. Featuring 4 of the best comics in Edinburgh courtesy of The Stand Comedy Club our advice is to get there early as it was a sell out in 2009. BMC Club, Westfield Street. Show starts 7.30pm Tickets £4.00.
And our grand finale this year is certainly grand, a stage show on Saturday 14th with Spartaki Theatre Company. Four wonderful pieces of drama from Dalkeith playwright Cecilia Granger. Produced by Karen Douglas and set in the wonderfully atmospheric location of Inch House. This dramatic programme in full costume represents a first for the People's Festival, a full scale theatrical production.
Inch House, Inch Park, off Gilmerton Road. Doors open at 7pm show starts at 7.30pm.Tickets £4.00

For further details of all the shows and to buy tickets visit our website at

Sunday, 18 July 2010

Cameron's catastrophic cuts: only the acquiescence of New Labour and SNP is 'inevitable'

I can't make my mind up whether I am angrier at David Cameron and his savage cuts to public services or the equally useless New Labour/SNP opposition.
It really should be a clear cut decision I admit after all posh boy Dave is behind the most grievous assault on working people seen in decades. Not since the days of his 'beloved Margaret' [Thatcher] have we witnessed such naked class brutality and destruction of working class communities. The latest Eton schoolboy ensconced in Number Ten intends to protect the privileged elite who continue to enjoy the spoils the British economy incessantly provides them. Not for them the hardships planned for the 'proles'!
But you would have to have a heart of stone not to be equally furious at an inept opposition North and South of the Border who, in the face of such Tory and Liberal brutality, declare 'These are the wrong cuts at the wrong time.'?
My god almighty! I mean it would be one thing if they were suggesting an end to the senseless war in Afghanistan or the obscene nuclear weapons stockpile or cutting tax evasion conducted by the rich or better still ending pensioner poverty and child hardship. But they are not. The words above were uttered by SNP Finance Minister John Swinney and could easily have belonged to any one of the 5 Labour 'leadersheep' contenders.
Cameron's crime is clear cut. He is out to strangle much needed and essential services with the most vulnerable bearing the brunt as usual. But instead of going for his jugular so to speak by rallying people around a 'no cuts' campaign Labour and SNP politicians simply go along with his onslaught. They are Cameron's accomplices in this criminal injustice. And I suppose we have no right to be surprised. They did tell us they would make the same cuts if they were re-elected. I sat alongside Alastair Darling for example on five hustings podiums in our Edinburgh South West contest and heard him state his own cuts case repeatedly.
No wonder millions of people are angry at this political stitch up. Labour continues to fail working people. Perhaps that is inevitable, but the indisputable fact is these cuts to our essential public services are not. If Britain does have to pay back the £866bn debt run up by New Labour and the bankers then let them pay for it. That's right lets force the banks who continue to run the financial economy on their own terms but with our money make socially just and fair decisions instead. They continue to serve the rich elite who have so far got off scot free for their recklessness and greed these past 25 years. And lets build the real opposition to Cameron and his Con Dem coalition on the kind of programme above, improving the lives of those most in need most of all. It's that kind of approach that Scotland is crying out for not the mutually self serving consensus developed by MPs in the public schools, Oxbridge unions and Palaces of Westminster.

Sunday, 4 July 2010

Is NATO finished in Afghanistan?

Below is a copy of the latest article written by Mohammad N Asif, Chair of the Scottish Afghan Society, on the situation in Afghanistan.

"The latest NATO debacle over Afghanistan takes place against the whole background of brute military failure, proving how intractable the crisis really is.
The national security adviser of the world’s greatest superpower is a “clown,” its vice-president a nobody and its president “uncomfortable and intimidated.” With those words the officers around General Stanley McChrystal, the American commander in Afghanistan, engulfed America in a storm as damaging to its war effort as any Taliban raid.
The recent interview in Rolling Stone magazine with General McChrystal and his subsequent sacking only demonstrate the disarray of the US’s Afghan policy. Indeed the implementation of the Obama policy was always doomed to fail. This latest debacle takes place against the whole background of brute military failure, proving how intractable the crisis really is. According to NATO, June has been the worse month for international forces since 2001. The 91st soldier was killed on Sunday and 311 young British soldiers have already died as a result of the lies of Bush, Blair, Obama, Brown and now David Cameron.
Cameron believes that Afghanistan is the source of terrorism and as such, Britain should stay for another five years, killing more soldiers and innocent Afghans. Earlier this week the Afghan President met with Sirajudin Haqqani of the Haqqani Group, who is believed to be the strongest man of the Afghan Taliban and who also controls the Pakistani Taliban in Waziristan, with the help of Pakistan’s Army Chief and the ISI Chief. The aim of the meeting was to discuss peace, reconciliation and also safe passage for American and NATO forces from Afghanistan.
President Hamid Karzai has distanced himself from the British and Americans and does not trust them as partners in peace. He openly talks to the Taliban and other resistance groups to strike deals, because he does not believe that the US is willing to do what it takes to defeat the Taliban.
The US and its allies are actively looking for an exit strategy. But this search is fraught with difficulties, for the following reasons. Firstly, the imperial powers would have to explain to their citizens that their power and might are intact and that they cannot be beaten by a bunch of tribesmen. The problem is, the exit itself, unless plausibly linked to political and military progress, would prove the opposite.
Secondly, withdrawing “empty-handed” would mean having to explain the deaths of thousands of soldiers who were killed in Afghanistan and also the financial losses in Afghanistan. At present the Taliban and other resistance groups have a presence in more than 80 percent of Afghanistan. International forces are not even able to control southern Afghanistan. Out of 34 provinces and more than 360 districts, only eight towns are relatively safe in the whole of the country.
The central contradiction is that while they talk about exiting—because all the evidence points to the failure of NATO in Afghanistan—they are planning escalation.
What have NATO and other illegal occupiers achieved so far in Afghanistan since 2001? Have they killed Osama, Mullah Omar and others? Look at the state of the reconstruction effort, hospitals, schools and other development projects for ordinary Afghans. If the West brought democracy, prosperity, jobs and employment to the Afghans I am sure the Afghans would have hugged them and kissed them for helping to rebuild their lives.
Instead they bombed ordinary and helpless people and turned them into enemies. There was never any respect for their culture, religion and way of life; they have been driven out of their houses. NATO then expects them to welcome them in their country.
It is no longer a fight between the West and the Taliban and other resistance groups. The fight has shifted to the national level, where now almost 80 percent of the population want the US and NATO out of Afghanistan as soon as possible.
It is no longer a Taliban struggle but has become almost similar to the Russian occupation, where nearly every Afghan sees you as their enemy. The best example of this is the Kandahar operation which was planned to take place this month, but now seems to be in shambles as the Afghan President and most importantly the people of Kandahar do not want it to happen.
According to a US army survey, more than 86 percent of people are opposed to the plan and almost 80 percent think that the Taliban are their brothers. People do not want a repeat of the Marjah operation in Kandahar, where people were driven from their homes and Taliban not defeated.
The only option which is open to the West is to negotiate with the enemy and save face in an honorable exit. The British Army Chief openly supports talks with the enemy, after killing more than 80,000 innocent Afghans and also 311 British soldiers. General Richards said we must negotiate with the Taliban and other groups in Afghanistan: “From my own, and this is a purely private view, I think there’s no reason why we shouldn't be looking at that sort of thing pretty soon.” The time for this exit has not only arrived, it is overdue."

Thursday, 1 July 2010

Scottish Socialist Party vindicated as predicted job losses reach 120,000

During the recent General election campaign the Scottish Socialist Party warned that all our political opponents were planning job cuts in Scotland on a scale not seen in 25 years. We accused Labour, Conservatives, Lib-Dems and SNP candidates of concealing their intention to make ordinary working people and their families pay terribly for the economic and financial collapse the banks and government had precipitated. Of course all four of these neo-liberal, warmongering, capitalist parties vehemently denied this charge and the electorate was left to make up its own mind.
Now a study of the Scottish economy published by the highly influential Fraser of Allander Institute at Strathclyde University in Glasgow has reported that 120,000 jobs will go in Scotland over the next 5 years as the economy again contracts and the new CON-Dem Governments swingeing cuts in public spending take effect. Professor Brian Ashcroft the Institutes's chief economist concludes today that Scotland will fall back into recession this year and remain there throughout 2011. He forecasts the Scottish economy will stagnate for another year with growth in 2011 barely reaching 0.1%. Some 97,000 people in the public sector will lose their jobs and a further 37,000 in the private sector will join them in the ever lengthening dole queues.
'These cuts are absolutely inevitable' say the four neo-liberal capitalist parties in Scotland. New Labour appears to condemn the CON-DEM cuts but is in fact involved in a masquerade which sees them try to fool those gullible enough not to listen closely to what it is actually saying. Look at this quote attributed to Finance spokesman Andy Kerr in today's Glasgow Herald regarding the Fraser of Allander conclusions. 'This report' he says 'is absolutely damning. It confirms that the Thatcherite cuts agenda being pursued by the Tory-Liberal Democrat coalition is dangerous, unnecessary and unfair.' Indeed they are Andy, however Labour 'speaks with forked tongue' here because neither Kerr nor Alastair Darling are against slashing jobs and brutal public spending cuts. They argue 'the Thatcherite cuts agenda' is 'dangerous, unnecessary and unfair' but suggest similar swingeing attacks of their own!
I sat beside Alastair Darling several times at hustings in the Edinburgh South West election campaign. I heard him repeatedly and specifically warn audiences that there would have to be cuts, should his party be re-elected, as vicious as anything Mrs Thatcher introduced in the early 80's. So lets be absolutely clear here Labour are not against annihilating public services in this country and throwing millions of people across Britain onto the dole. Oh, they would rather not do so, I'm sure, but since the country's capitalist economy demands it they will do it and do it loyally as the lackeys to the so called 'free market' they are.
What a dreadful bunch of hypocrites New Labour are then. But surely then the SNP will be able to exploit that political position after all they trounced Labour in the Scottish Parliament elections of 2007 and the Euro elections of 2009? But no, the SNP are also in favour of making working people pay for the financial and economic collapse they had nothing to do with. The SNP also aim to perpetrate the same dangerous, unnecessary and unfair attacks on working people. John Swinney their Finance Secretary in the Scottish Government in the same Herald article quoting Andy Kerr says 'these spending cuts are too early and too deep'. Too early and too deep! So he is by inference in favour of annihilating our public services and the jobs of 120,000 people but not just yet and not so quickly!
Surely only those who don't want to see can't make out the very obvious conclusion here? Scotland needs the party that says no to cuts in public services more than ever. The vast majority of the population are now waking up to the odiously unjust and criminally unfair political con that is being worked on them. Apparently all 4 neo-liberal capitalist parties in Scotland intend to ensure those who made the most money out of the reckless, greed motivated short sighted gambling of decades just gone by are to be inoculated from the brutality of the economic recession they caused whilst those who gained nothing throughout are to pay the severest cost via prolonged unemployment, repossessions, appalling levels of public and social service provision, more hardship and misery.
Well I for one have more regard for and faith in the self worth, pride and resistance of the Scottish people.I do not expect them to meekly accept this criminal deceit now being carried out upon them.