Protestors March in Seville

28th June, 2002

Activists from a number of organisations gathered last weekend in the southern Spanish city of Seville in a ''counter-summit'' to a meeting of the Council of the European Union (the heads of government). After two days of meetings and discussion, they marched through the city in a peaceful demonstration against the EU’s neoliberal economic agenda.  

The “Social Forum of Seville” was the major umbrella event, though a total of around a hundred different separate protest demonstrations ended on Saturday night with the march, attended by around 100,000 people. Despite temperatures around 40C/100F, there were few ‘incidents’. The atmosphere was festive and the police, though present in enormous numbers, remained calm. The only violence took the form of car bombs set off by the Basque separatist group ETA, which injured several people.

The Social Forum is calling, amongst other things, for a Tobin Tax on capital transactions, the  cancellation of the external debt of poor countries, the prioritisation of peoples needs and the environment over profit, and the defence of civil liberties in the face of the bogus “war on terrorism.”

Carried at the head of the march were two banners, reading ''Against a Europe of Capital and War'' and ''No Person is Illegal''.

The Seville Summit came just as it was revealed that Italian police had framed a number of activists, planting weapons on them, in the course of the Genoa G8 summit just under a year ago. You can read more about this at this website

In addition, while Seville was under siege, on the other side of the Atlantic a couple of thousand thousands were marching through Calgary, Canada in the first anti-G-8 march of the Kananaskis G8 summit. Read all about it here

French police used tear gas to push back about 200 protesters who  blocked traffic early Wednesday in a continued protest to the  reopening of a mountain tunnel to heavy trucks after its closure following a fire three years ago cost 39 lives.  On Monday, when it reopened, 4,000 protesters blocked the approach to the French  entrance to the Mont Blanc tunnel.

"The transit of trucks  under Mont Blanc is not compatible with our health and with our  economy, which is based on tourism," said Nora Gallieni of the Mont  Blanc Defence Association, which organised the protest with  environmental groups and trade unions. Some of the protesters  sported white boiler suits bearing the words "Juggernauts: they stink,  they pollute, they kill".

French environmentalists say pollution from the relentless heavy traffic through the tunnel is damaging the  fragile Alpine ecosystem. Three years without thousands of lorries grinding up and down their  narrow, unspoiled mountain valley each day convinced the people of  Chamonix and the surrounding area that heavy goods traffic through  the tunnel - an important economic link between France and Italy - is  not only dangerous but an environmental disaster.

Thanks to the Oread Daily, from which this report is extracted. Based in the US, the Oread Daily “provides daily (Monday-Friday) progressive, left,  anti-racist, anarchist, commie, activist, environmental, Marxist,  revolutionary, etc. news and information from around the US and  around the world.” To view the entire Oread Daily, visit:  here

Comment: Blair looks after his own

Last year the European Commission proposed, and the Parliament and Council agreed, rather a good directive obliging car manufacturers to shoulder the costs of recycling end-of-life vehicles. The directive will eventually lead to a cleaner environment, but it has already had one beneficial effect in the UK, demonstrating (and yes, to some it still does need demonstrating) just who the Blairites’ friends are. For those who do not enjoy the privilege of living in Britain, we should explain that whole tracts of the country are without public transport, and that public transport in most cities is unreliable, patchy and expensive. The result is that, as in the US, people who can’t really afford them are obliged somehow to scrape together enough to buy a car. Many acquire great skill and ingenuity in keeping some ageing rust-pile on the road so that it can get them to work, which in Blair’s dynamic, thrusting (etc etc) economy probably means a call centre or private cleaning or security firm, with weird hours and therefore even less likelihood of a bus.

Appalled by the expense that the car industry would have to incur were it to be forced to pay to recycle the garbage for which it is 100% responsible, the Blairites prefer to lumber the “final owner”- invariably a man or woman on limited income – with the bill. As poor people don’t vote anyway, the “Labour” Party couldn’t give a 1972 Ford Escort for them. The upshot is that final owners will have to cough up until 2007.  This will have three results. It will make the rich people who own the corporations which are directly responsible for the polluting effects of cars even richer. It will make poor people who are forced to buy ageing vehicles by the absence of any alternative form of transport (and this in a country now entirely designed for cars) even poorer. And it will provoke a huge amount of illegal dumping, resulting in dangerous and unsightly tips. Nice one, Bush-puppets.

Italian Communist Refoundation Euro-MP Luisa Morgantini, who is president of the delegation of the European Parliament for relations with the Palestinian Legislative Council, has issued a strong protest against Israeli authorities’ refusal to allow an international civil mission to enter the country. “The denial is showing once more the repressive policy of the Israeli government and undermining Israeli democracy as well as regular relations with EU citizens,” said Ms Morgantini.

Members of the civil mission, from many different countries, were planning to take part in a human chain, an international event that should have taken place on June 28 and 29 in the West Bank and in Jerusalem. This has now been postponed. Organised by the Israeli-Palestinian Peoples' Peace Campaign, which represents both Palestinian and Israeli peace movements, the goal of the demonstration was to show that in both peoples there are majorities that believe in the possibility for peace based on ending the occupation, on two states for two peoples, on Jerusalem as two capitals for two states,on a just solution for the refugees.

Groups of international civilians who arrived at Ben Gurion airport were denied entry by the Israeli border police despite the fact that the initiative had been previously officially permitted by the authorities. The reason given to explain why entrance was not allowed was that "participating in the human chain is a non sufficient reason for entering Israel".

Many European citizens were expected to arrive in Israel, among them Members of the European Parliament and around 350 Italians, organised by Action for Peace and Peace Roundtable Coalitions, by the Regional Government of Campania, Toscana and Umbria, and by many associations, trade unions, local authorities and political parties. Many were obliged to take a flight back to Italy immediately, while 15 of them had to spend a night in a locked room, where they received food and water only after twelve hours and only thanks to the repeated requests of the Italian Embassy in Israel.

Diplomatic sources say the Interior Ministry of Israel took the decision to prevent any foreigners from taking part in the human chain as well as in any other initiative. Knesset members and the leaders of Peace Now - which is among the promoters of the human chain - have been informed and have sought a commitment to change this decision. However, despite this, the Israeli government has refused to alter its position.

“The Israeli authorities bear a very heavy responsibility, by preventing international support to the forces which are trying to stop the occupation which kills all, to break the circle of violence and terror and to reopen the way to dialogue and negotiation,” Ms Morgantini commented, adding that "It is time for a just peace. Peace is necessary to both Palestinians and Israelis, it is time for the Israeli army to stop their crimes, to withdraw and end the occupation, it is time for the Palestinian groups who make terror to stop it, it is time for Palestinian People to choose in freedom their leadership and to build a democratic state. It is time for the European Union, Arab Countries, the UN, and Russia to put pressure on Israel and the US to implement international law.  It is time to send international forces, as requested by Palestinians and Israelis for peace, to prevent violence and defend the civilian population".

The G-8 and the American Empire

Murray Dobbin writes, in the Winnipeg Free Press:  “What should Canadians think of the G-8 meetings coming up in Kananaskis? They could just treat the whole photo-op for the world's "most important" leaders as a relatively ho-hum event livened up by anti-globalization demonstrators. But it might be a good idea to closely examine this self-appointed forum of the powerful. While it's legitimacy now seems beyond question, just what gives these powerful politicians any moral authority in world affairs? Simply, power. They declare their legitimacy because there is no one around to challenge it. Here we have eight countries who have arrogated to themselves the lofty role of deciding how the world will be run.

This is not multilateralism or democracy -- that role is supposed to be played by the United Nations. No, this is effectively a dictatorship of some nations over all others. Except members of this exclusive club now prefer to call themselves "economies." That may seem an esoteric point, except that it reveals a lot about our current world, one in which nation states are being systematically weakened in terms of their capacity to act in the interests of their citizens and communities.

But, of course, not all nation states are seeing their sovereignty eroded. Despite all the hype about "leading economies," globalization and the borderless world, the United States has no plans to abandon its status as a nation-state. Indeed, as the only superpower remaining in the world it is becoming increasingly comfortable -- even enthusiastic -- about the idea of being an empire.”

To read the rest, go to this website

WorldCom and the corporate crisis

WorldCom this week announced that it had overstated its cash flow by more than $3.8 billion over the last five quarters, the largest corporate overstatement in history. $3.8 billion! WorldCom accomplished this remarkable feat through a series of accounting tricks to hide expenses and inflate cash flow, all approved by WorldCom’s esteemed auditor…Arthur Andersen. The CEO who presided over this, Bernard J. Ebbers, abruptly resigned in April, owing WorldCom more than $366 million for loans and loan guarantees.

As a result of this restatement, WorldCom plans to lay off 17,000 workers. Its stock, once valued at $62 a share, is now worth about 9 cents a share.

What began as an Enron/Andersen scandal is spreading fast. Global Crossing. ImClone. Tyco. The list goes on, growing every week and destroying jobs and retirement security in the process. The health of our economy is sinking. The value of the dollar is falling.

Go here  and sign up for the Corporate Reform Weekly to read more about dirty doings amongst the corporate parasites.

  President Alejandro Toledo’s administration was forced to suspend the sale of two power utilities in the south of the country after violent protests rocked the region for nearly five days.

Two deaths, hundreds injured and arrested, and nearly US$100 million in damages resulted from demonstrations in the southern city of Arequipa last week. The government declared a state of emergency, putting the military in charge, and imposed a night-time curfew in the city to control rioters.

The protests began the same day the government sold the power utilities to Belgium’s Tractebel for $167 million.

The upheaval follows a wave of political conflict, much of it violent, in the Andes and neighbouring regions, including the recent attempt to remove Venezuela’s democratically-elected President Chavez and replace him with a US stooge.

The Peruvian government, under pressure from the IMF, was planning to sell the two power utilities to the Belgian firm for less than half of their true value. The tendering process was criticised for lack of transparency, no other company but Tractebel apparently bidding, and suspicion arising from the fact that, like Tractebel, the wife of President Toledo is Belgian.

We are delighted to announce that political  prisoner Mark Barnsley, whose case we have featured several times in Spectre,  was finally released from Whitemoor prison this week, on the morning of Monday 24th June 2002.

Mark walked out of maximum security HMP Whitemoor to loud cheers and applause from waiting supporters. Friends, eager to welcome Mark out of prison had travelled from around the country and included an official delegation from the NUM, complete with their National Union banner.

After having his first decent breakfast in 8 years at a local cafe and thanking everyone for coming, Mark set off back to South Yorkshire where he will be living for the foreseeable future. He was later reunited with his children. Mark's youngest daughter who is now 8 years old, last saw him outside a prison when she was just 6 weeks old.

After spending over 8 years in just about every maximum security hell-hole the prison system has to offer, Mark is in good spirits and obviously glad to be finally out. Whilst Mark tries to re-build his life and adjust to living in the outside world again the Justice for Mark Barnsley campaign will continue to help him get the justice which is long overdue. Mark has been released after serving two thirds of his 12 year prison sentence but he has yet to clear his name and have his wrongful conviction overturned. Prior to his release Mark refused to sign his licence on the principle that he is an innocent man and freedom is his right.

The Justice for Mark Barnsley campaign will be producing a more detailed bulletin shortly which will contain updated news about Mark's release and a few words from Mark himself.

Until Mark gets his own e-mail address you can send e-mails to him at

Columbia 3 refusing food - IRA suspects' poison fears

Three IRA suspects detained in Colombia are refusing food for fear of being before they stand trial. Niall Connolly, Jim Monaghan and Martin McCauley, who are accused of training FARC guerrillas, have been prevented from supervising the preparation of their own food even though strychnine was found in the system of another inmate held on the same prison wing, according to supporters of the three.

Caitriona Ruane, who is leading a campaign to have the men brought back to Ireland, said today: ``At present there is no safe food supply available to them in jail.``

The three were arrested as they prepared to return home last August. They are due to stand trial later this year. They are being held in La Picota jail in Bogota, and according to Ms Ruane a new prison regime stopped allowing prisoners supervising the preparation of their own food. Food from the prison shop had also been withdrawn.

In Brief

A Europol document dated 10 April 2002 shows that EU governments and law enforcement agencies are planning a "Proposal for common European Union law enforcement viewpoint on data retention". The confidential document is a detailed agenda for a meeting in the Europol HQ in the Hague and confirms a previous Statewatch report. Read more here

It’s Official: sanctions against Iraq took 500,000 lives. United Nations officials and Human Rights groups have confirmed in a report released this week that five hundred thousand Iraqis mostly children have died as a result of sanctions related diseases. The children in Iraq are still dying because of western sanctions. The report further said that seven thousand children under five have been dying every month.

Scottish Socialist Party leader and Member of the Scottish Parliament Tommy Sheridan was acquitted this week on a charge of breaching the peace at blockade of the nuclear weapons base at Faslane in Scotland. Mr Sheridan was arrested at the blockade of the base last October, a demonstration police witnesses acknowledged had been peaceful and good-natured.

After a long adjournment the JP returned to say that he was not persuaded that there was a sufficiency of evidence and upheld Tommy’s submission that there was no case to answer.

A mass blockade of the Faslane base is planned for 22nd April 2003. Full details will appear on our Action page nearer the time.

Krista van Velzen, while we are on the subject, a Dutch anti-war activist, was also arrested at Faslane. So particular congratulations to her for her recent election to the parliament of the Netherlands, where she became part of the new Socialist Party team of nine MPs, four up from last time.

Statewatch: As the EU adopts an ever more aggressive attitude towards “illegal immigration”, with potential huge impact on human rights, asylum-seekers and developing countries, UK-based group Statewatch has produced a new observatory detailing all the key developments and proposals. Consult it here


Globalisation and the Media is a new video from undercurrents exploring the role of the media in the corporate led take over of the planets natural resources. It's £10 - details from here

Green Left Weekly, Australia’s socialist newspaper, provides news, information, opinion and debate from an environmental and left perspective. Featured this week: Howard backs Bush’s war. The "Bush Doctrine" has expanded to officially include "first strike" attacks on any state or group that Washington decrees is associated with "terrorism". Prime Minister John Howard has been quick to enthusiastically endorse this declaration of war on the world. Green Left Weekly explains why. Also, How the IMF and World Bank make Africa sick, and why 800 million are hungry for change. Go here

But I’ve never ever seen a straight banana: however much they try to deny it, the European Union really does have a set of what they called “grading rules” which in effect outlaw curvy cucumbers, pink aubergines and other threats to humanity. Living near one of Europe’s biggest fruit and veg markets, Spectre rather likes these rules, as they mean you can buy huge quantities of curly cucumbers – some of which assume most amusing shapes, which is probably why they’re banned, given the growing influence of the Vatican at EU level – for next to nothing, along with lots of other dodgy fruits. Now it seems that the rules have no force anyway, or that, at least, is the opinion of the English High Court, which ruled that Asda could sell whatever damned shape cucumbers they wanted. On top of the war on terrorism, Enron, WorldCom and the threat by Italy to pull out of the next World Cup if they don’t get all their own way, this could be the end of civilisation as we know it.