The Lucas Plan

Flyer for the Lucas Plan Conference, which was held on 26th November 2016 in Birmingham. Design: The Coastal Invention Company


What if the workers were in control?   Hilary Wainwright reflects on an attempt by British workers to produce a democratically determined alternative plan for their industry .

The Lucas Plan was a pioneering effort by workers at the arms company Lucas Aerospace to retain jobs by proposing alternative, socially-useful applications of the company’s technology and their own skills. It remains one of the most radical and forward thinking attempts ever made by workers to take the steering wheel and directly drive the direction of change. Today, in 2016 — 40 years after the Plan — we’re facing a convergence of crises: militarism and nuclear weaponsclimate chaos, and the destruction of jobs by automation.



The battle of Cable Street on 4th October 1936

‘The notorious Daily Mail headline, “Hurrah for the Blackshirts”, is just one chilling indication of the very real threat Oswald Mosley’s British Union of Fascists (BUF) posed in the mid-’30s. Inspired by the successful rise to power of Mussolini in Italy and Hitler in Germany, Mosley sought to galvanise support via a combination of naked anti-semitism and brute force.  By 1936 he was attracting both well-heeled establishment support and thousands of ordinary people to his rallies. Any counter-protests would be dealt with violently by Oswald’s supporters, and the police scarcely intervened. On 4th October, Mosley planned the BUF’s biggest and boldest initiative yet. His uniformed Blackshirts would march through London’s East End, home to one of the country’s largest Jewish communities. The intention was clear: to cause fear and stir up hatred.’ They did not pass

On the day, more than a hundred thousand East Enders, of any faith or none, turned out to protect their community.


Cable Street mural © jo marshall/wikimedia commons


Through tireless mass work, the growth of fascism in 1930’s Britain was stymied. The community actions at Cable Street in Stepney, East London were the culmination in a decisive fight against Oswald Mosley and his Blackshirt thugs. The British struggle was part of a worldwide battle against fascism and war.

After a long period of decline, Stepney was largely slum property. It had a population of 200,000, the same as Leicester or Plymouth, ‘housed’ in an area a fraction of their size. The main issues were bad housing and rampant unemployment.

Anti-semitism flourished in these conditions; it was calculated to influence backward sections in the community – folk ready to seek out scapegoats, to blame easy and wrong targets.

Under the guise of allowing ‘free speech’, the Labour Home Secretary supported the Tories and Liberals, enabling Mosley to re-establish his poisonous movement.

On a memorable Sunday in October 1936, East London was at fever pitch. A campaign of propaganda and preparation had been organised against a provocative Blackshirts march.

Steps were taken to bar the fascists from all the roads leading to Stepney. Scores of rousing meetings were held. Thousands of posters and leaflets were produced and distributed. Hundreds of gallons of whitewash were used in advertising the counter-demo. The Communist Party was the prime mover in these activities. Approaches were made to the British Legion, trade councils, trade unions, Labour Party branches, religious organisations, dock workers, residents and many others: a broad church was mobilised for participation. Motor cyclists, cyclists, bands, contacts and observers were organised. Though other sites were full of protesters ready to block the march, the aim was that Cable Street be the focus of activity against the fascists. It was a narrow street with alleys and side roads, ideal for building barricades. Timber and furniture were utilised. Trams, buses and lorries were abandoned by sympathetic drivers or commandeered to block other routes, to funnel the Blackshirts down Cable Street.

The day began as it would continue when the right of British Legion ex-servicemen to march against fascism in their own borough was challenged by the police who ripped their Union Jack to shreds. Thus began the establishment of ‘law and order’ by the authorities that day. Six thousand foot police were on duty. A police observation aeroplane flew low overhead. An immense human barricade of 50,000 anti-fascists gathered at Gardner’s Corner. The police charged, catapulting folk through shop windows. Failing to clear a path for the fascists through such a massive crowd, the police turned their attention to Cable Street, as expected. Resistance there was so strong that some policemen surrendered, to the surprise of the counter-demo organisers. Several East London homes proudly displayed batons and even a souvenir helmet on their mantelpieces that night.

There were many arrests and multiple injuries. The first-aid depots that had been organised and opened in shops and houses were kept busy. The police carried on their battle as the fascists lurked in the background, waiting for a signal to begin their march. It never came. The preferred route went uncleared, the march was forbidden by the police commander on the ground near Cable Street, and Mosley’s thugs retreated to disperse on the Embankment. Mosley was to have staged a rally in Victoria Park Square: instead a jubilant victory demonstration was held there.

Cable Street showed the world how to oppose fascist forces in a community. The recipe was unity: the ingredients made for strange bedfellows – orthodox Jews had joined with Catholic Irish dockers, for example. Comrades on the barricades went on to join the International Brigades fighting fascism in Spain. The slogan issued at Cable Street had been ‘The fascists shall not pass’. This slogan was inspirational for the Madrilenos at that time as they defended their city against the rebels at the start of La Guerra.

Christy Moore – Viva la Quinta Brigada. Live at Barrowland Glasgow

Mass action on the streets isn’t so common nowadays – think CND marches, Poll Tax demos, Iraq war protests, and community-driven anti-fracking activities. State agents still react with similar tactics – remember the massacre of 200 Algerian workers by French police in Paris on October 17th 1961, the advent of kettling at the anti-Vietnam war demo in Grosvenor Square (1968), violent attacks by the police on striking miners at Orgreave and the Peace Convoy at Beanfield (1985).

In these dark days of ‘post-truth’ psychosis and ‘alternative facts (lies)’, often we are failing to confront narratives, let alone march – think immigration and racially motivated attacks, Trident and jobs, the lies revealed by Chilcot, corrupt bankers, explaining ‘neoliberalism and austerity – the alternatives’ in concise terms, detailing a Scottish currency post-independence, and exposing the folly that is Hinkley Point.


Reading: ‘Our flag stays red’, Phil Piratin’s 1948 book from which much of this article is sourced and edited.


News footage from 1936

The Men they couldn’t hang – ‘Ghosts of Cable Street’ on YouTube

‘Yesterday’s Witness’, BBC TV documentary.

Theatre: ‘Chicken soup with barley’ – Arnold Wesker play.


Related reading:

‘Received-ideas-of-racism-and-nationalism’ – Simon Hardy   ‘No credible study published shows any correlation between immigrant labour and a reduction in jobs or a reduction in wages.’ Simon is a trade union activist and a Momentum member. In this article he highlights the distinction between ‘common sense’ (widely-held, received ideas) and good sense (empirical ideas, backed by evidence).

A Spanish Civil War memoir by International Brigader Bob Cooney (1907-84)

Bob Cooney joined the International Brigades in August 1937. Bob Cooney, Spain. Article and photo in forviemedia gallery. Published for the first time, Proud Journey is Bob’s memoir of those times. It takes us from clashes with the Blackshirts on the streets of Aberdeen to the battlefields of Spain and the heroism and sacrifice of Cooney and his comrades facing the forces of Franco, Hitler and Mussolini. Written in 1944 with the Second World War as a backdrop, this is a rousing personal account of one man’s part in the long and bloody fight against fascism that helped define this key period of history.






Grunwick – 40 years on

grunwick     John Callow blogspot

John Callow is the Director of Archives at the Marx Memorial Library. He is the author of seven books on history and politics. John’s blogpost discusses dignity at work, decency, the far-reaching impact of the Grunwick strike and how it foretold of the coming storm of right wing intervention in industrial relations.

Grunwick became the largest and one of the most well-known examples of British union action. The dispute involved thousands of trade unionists, attracting global attention. Between 1976 and 1978 there were 550 arrests at the picket line. Mostly South Asian women, Grunwick workers were protesting about inadequate wages, treatment by management and deplorable conditions at the film processing plant. Grunwick changed how trade unions thought about race, about their own core values and the best way to organise among immigrant communities coming to Britain in the 1970s.

“What you are running here is not a factory, it is a zoo. But in a zoo there are many types of animals. Some are monkeys who dance on your fingertips; others are lions who can bite your head off. We are the lions, Mr. Manager!” – Jayaben Desai.    Grunwick: The Workers’ Story. Author(s): Graham Taylor & Jack Dromey

In the beginning, Grunwick wasn’t a strike about wages – it was about something much more important than that. It was about dignity at work. For the small band of Asian women strikers, who braved sun, rain and snow month-in and month-out on the picket-lines, from August 1976 to July 1978, rights in the workplace and pride at work, were far more important than any amount of money. At the time, this book was the seminal account of the dispute, providing the workers’ own story in their own words and told by two of the leading participants in the strike. Now, forty years later, its themes still resonate, making this book vital reading for all of those who seek to organise within their own communities and workplaces.

World Nomad Games

World Nomad Games


‘Girl in traditional dress performs an impressive display’: photograph © Viktor Drachev TASS/Getty Images

2016 was a great summer for us sports enthusiasts, with a succession of successful events. After the Olympics, the inspirational Paralympics took place in Rio – with Belarus staging an under-publicised pro-Russia protest during the opening ceremony, then the Central Asian nation of Kyrgyzstan hosted the second World Nomad Games in Cholpon-Ata City’s brand new hippodrome beside Lake Issyk Kul. Many of those attending stayed in traditional yurts in Kyrchyn Gorge where there were concerts and activities for spectators. Two thousand competitors from forty countries participated; some nations have long nomadic histories, others were mainly there to party, for the crack of the Games.

It is a time when competitors pitch up from all over the world, a place where riders on horseback wrestle and try to catch a dead goat and hurl it into a goal, a game that might be worth a slot at one of Scotland’s Highland Shows, if our polo players are willing to ditch their mallets and give it a shot. Chasing around after the decapitated carcase of a goat would doubtless amuse Royalty, worthies and visitors to the Braemar Games, for example. It would complement and make a change from tugs-of-war, kailyard kitsch, stunt and steam displays, Scottish country dancing, pipe band competitions and face-painting.

The World Nomad Games also featured such unorthodox disciplines as hunting with eagles, tossing bones and javelin throwing. The fiery highlight of the Kyrgyzstan Games was the horse-riding competition: Kok-boru (gray wolf) dates back to when wolves that preyed on livestock were hunted. Fierce competition was also evident in stick wrestling, an event in which two competitors try to gain control of a small stick.

Golden eagles, caber throwing, rewilding with wolves in the Highlands …  I understand that the games are designed to celebrate the nomadic heritage of the Central Asian nations, but already Scotland, as well as our diasporic credentials, has many ingredients in place to participate. As a nation we are well-suited and could take a turn – not just by borrowing or copying events – but at hosting the Games, or at least sending a team. I suggested to my gymnast granddaughter that she emulate the archer quine (pictured), with a view to putting on a bow-and-arrow display at her local Lonach Gathering, but she said that her ticklish toes would make the feat impossible.

I thought this article would crash my spellcheck; the only word it challenged was ‘quine’ (see footnote).

“In the modern world, people are forgetting their history, and there is a threat of extinction for traditional cultures,” said Kyrgyz president Almazbek Atambayev at the opening ceremony in Cholpon-Ata. “Nomadic civilisation is a good example of sustainable development, which is what all of humanity is looking for today. The Games were designed to unite, not divide into nations.”

With twenty-five golds Kyrgyzstan topped the medals table.


Quine = lass, girl.

Caber = a big stick.

Kyrgyz president Almazbek Atambayev was a visitor to Aberdeen this summer.   Lonely Planet photographs  TRT World  Davide Monteleone works on independent projects using photography, video and text

Felicia Browne



In the summer of 1936 Hitler’s Nazi Party was planning an Olympic Games in Berlin that they hoped would promote to the world the superiority of the Aryan master race, a tactic scuppered by Jesse Owens winning four gold medals.

Barcelona was supposed to be hosting a Peoples Olympics as a protest against the Berlin Games, but this was cancelled when La Guerra broke out. Barcelona’s games was to feature chess, folk-dancing, music and theatre alongside traditional Olympic sports.

In July 1936 English sculptor and political activist Felicia Mary Browne took a driving holiday to Spain with photographer Edith Bone. It became a trip both serendipitous and fateful, as it happened.

When Franco’s rebel coup started the Spanish War on July 18th, Felicia enlisted in the Catalan Karl Marx Militia, demanding to fight.

She was the first British volunteer – woman or man – to die in armed defence of the Popular Front Government and the fledgling Second Republic

Felicia Mary Browne (1904 – August 1936); English sculptor and political activist.


By the age of thirty Felicia had studied metalwork, taken a stonemasonry apprenticeship, designed TUC Tolpuddle martyr medals, fought brown-shirted thugs on the streets of Berlin, supported refugees and visited the Soviet Union. In July 1936 she undertook a driving holiday to Spain with photographer Edith Bone. It was a trip both serendipitous and fateful, as it happened. Felicia was in Barcelona when the coup began on July 18th. She enlisted in the Catalan Karl Marx Militia and demanded to fight in the battle against Franco’s military fascist forces.

In the summer of 1936 Hitler and his Nazi Party were planning an Olympic Games in Berlin that they hoped would show the world the superiority of the Aryan master race, a tactic countered by Jesse Owens winning four gold medals. Barcelona was supposed to be hosting a Peoples Olympics as a protest against the Berlin Games, but this was cancelled when the La Guerra broke out. Barcelona’s games was to feature chess, folk-dancing, music and theatre alongside traditional Olympic events.

Elected in May 1936, the Popular Front Government was a left-wing coalition of the Spanish Socialist Workers’ Party, the Republican Left, Esquerra Republicana de Catalunya, Republican Union Party, the Communist Party and Acció Catalana.

On August 22nd 1936 – sources contest the date; some say it was the 25th or 28th – Felicia Mary Browne was killed on her first mission, trying to dynamite and derail a rebel munitions train in Aragon. The party was itself ambushed; Browne was shot dead while assisting an injured Italian comrade. She was the first British volunteer – woman or man – to die in armed defence of the Popular Front and the fledgling Second Republic. Browne’s body had to be left there, but comrades retrieved a sketchbook filled with drawings of her fellow fighters.

These sketches made their way to Tom Wintringham, a journalist on the Daily Worker, now the Morning Star. Tom suggested that Felicia’s drawings be sold by the Artists International Association (AIA) to raise money for Spanish relief. The AIA correctly considered her to be a fine example of an artist choosing to embrace and combine art with direct political action. Archive drawings  An artists eye Press release

“You say I am escaping and evading things by not painting or making sculpture. If painting and sculpture were more valid and more urgent to me than the earthquake which is happening in the revolution, I should paint and make sculpture.” From a letter to her close friend Elizabeth Watson Letters

YouTube clip  Felicia Mary Browne – blogs Morning Star article  International Brigade Memorial Trust on Facebook

“It is better to die on your feet than live on your knees.” Dolores Ibárruri, known forever as La Pasionaria.

The new colonialism



As its wealth is seized by foreign interests, Africa faces a colonial invasion as devastating in scale and impact as that which the continent suffered in the nineteenth century.

The largest island in the Indian Ocean, the fourth largest in the world and one of the poorest countries, Madagascar is famous for its biodiversity. Yet, the QIT Madagascar Minerals (QMM) project (80% owned by Rio Tinto, 20% by the Madagascan government) is wrecking lives and livelihoods and doing irreparable damage to the area’s rich and unique natural environment.

When a new government came to power in Mozambique last year, it raised questions about the prices that the country was paying oil trader Vitol.

Protests in Morocco; LakeMalawi drilling …

‘The continent (Africa) may be a blot, but it is not a blot upon our conscience. The problem is not that we were once in charge, but that we are not in charge anymore.’ Boris Johnston, writing in the Spectator in 2002.



A new report by War on Want,  ‘The new colonialism: Britain’s scramble for Africa’s mineral resources’, reveals that as many as 101 companies listed on the London Stock Exchange – many of them British companies – have mining operations in Africa. Combined they control, for instance, 6.6 billion barrels of oil, 3.6 billion tonnes of coal, 80 million ounces of gold, platinum and diamonds, gas – a booty worth in excess of $1 trillion.

African countries are being treated as mere enclaves, subservient to a global economy that favours business and the super-rich ahead of ordinary (indigenous) peoples and our fragile planet. Trade relationships ensure that the winners are foreign, private interests, chiefly Western organisations and companies. Global losers are most of Asia, much of Latin America and all of Africa, as its wealth in natural resources is seized; there is no sign of this stopping. This is the ‘new colonialism’, and it’s time British companies and the British government were held to account.


The QIT Madagascar Minerals mine is extracting ilmenite, used in titanium and as a pigment in toothpaste, paint and sunscreen. Already thousands of people have been affected by the mine, in many ways, including being forced from their land. Farmers and fisher folk have seen their livelihoods disrupted as agricultural land has been flooded and subjected to dust pollution. Meanwhile, precious coastal forest habitat is lost to dredging. Predictably, mining companies talk about ‘safeguarding’ the local environment; at the same time as their bulldozers line up, ready to trash precious natural habitats. At Fort Dauphin the local communities already affected by the construction of the mine are now confronted with a ‘conservation zone’, denying them access to the natural resources of the forest on which they depend for food, firewood, and much else. A way of life passed down for generations is being destroyed. The local community and environmental activists are fighting back.   ‘The New Colonialism’ pdf: full report.


Mozambique is another one of the poorest countries in the world. Affordable fuel is crucial to its attempts to develop its economy. When a new government came to power last year, it raised questions about the prices that the country was paying oil trader Vitol, and shifted the supply contract to Vitol’s rival Trafigura. Mozambique is demanding Vitol refund $80 million in alleged excess charges. Vitol counters that Mozambique actually owes it money for breach of contract. If no agreement is reached, Mozambique plans to take Vitol to court.  A report this month by CIP, an anti-corruption NGO, alleged that overcharging for fuel was rife by multinational traders such as Vitol. It claimed illicit profits may have been shared in the past with officials in the country. Vitol says that it has ‘zero tolerance of corruption as a company and is upfront about contracts’.

Separately, the CIP report reckoned that Vitol had won extensions to supply contracts in the country twice between 2013 and 2014 despite being eliminated in the tender process after rivals beat them on price. The CIP claimed senior politicians had intervened. A document for the supply of unleaded petrol, jet fuel and diesel in 2013 shows Vitol quoting 32% more than Trafigura. Vitol was still chosen to supply the contract, and says that contracts are not always awarded to the lowest bidder. Invoices from Vitol’s gas and oil deliveries show it converting metric tons to barrels at a ratio of 8.2 barrels per ton rather than the 7.45 which had been agreed. Using the lower conversion rate would have saved Mozambique $2 million on one gas/oil shipment alone. Vitol deny using the higher ratio, saying that it only looks higher because of ‘various specifics’ in the contract terms agreed by Mozambique. The G.N.P. of Mozambique doesn’t come close to nearing Vitol’s annual turnover.

Vitol is run by Scot Ian Taylor, who during the 2014 Scottish referendum campaign threatened to take National Collective pro-independence media activists to court for exposing Vitol’s links to a Serbian warlord (plus other dodgy practices). Taylor had donated £250,000 to Better Together for their anti-independence campaign funds.

Vitol said to win €1bn pre-pay oil deal with Iran

Vitol – turnover 250billion a year


_   Morocco: Massive protests against neoliberalism


Drilling for oil around Lake Malawi will threaten a UNESCO World Heritage site and one of Africa’s most iconic lakes as well as driving more climate change in a country that’s already bearing the brunt of it. The lake supports the livelihoods of more than 1.5 million people living on its shores – it’s also home to Nile crocodiles, hippopotamus, monkeys and African fish eagles.   Greenpeace post and petition.

A Latin/South American and Caribbean digest


Impeachment of Brazil’s President  Coup plot confirmed

Capital, oil and climate change

U.S. destabilising elected governments

Bolivia, Chile and Venezuela

Columbia’s referendum, sponsorships, tobacco companies, the leaked Panama papers, drug cartel money and David Cameron: as footnotes, the 1698 Darien scheme and Scotland’s influence on Jamaica and Argentina.

Ecuador; Peruvian activists; Indigenous and environmental organiser assassinated in Honduras; Debt default for Puerto Rico; Achievements of Costa Rica; Cuba fails to spit out a dummy delivered in error, comic equivalent of a missile crisis …

Updated on November 26th: farewell Castro – Se murió Fidel. Mourning is declared by leaders Evo Morales in Bolivia, Nicolas Maduro in Venezuela, South Africa’s Jacob Zuma and Daniel Ortega in Nicaragua, all of whom were inspired and helped by a Castro-led Cuba


Other major South American news this year covered the Rio Olympics, the Zika virus and Brazil, where the President, Dilma  Rousseff, has been suspended from office. Installed in a US-backed coup in 1964, a ruthless right-wing dictatorship ruled in Brazil until 1985.

Lately there’s been a concerted effort by Brazil’s traditional ruling elite, backed by corporate-owned media, to return to the dark days of dictatorship by reversing the result of 2014’s election, won by the Workers Party. e-democracy portal

The agenda is one of destabilisation and regime change; the President’s removal is impeachment, part of a toxic smear campaign. It constitutes a soft coup. Dilma Rousseff hasn’t garnered a cent personally – she is accused of tampering with accounts in order to conceal a budget shortfall, common practice for politicians left and right the world over, misleading electorates with sovereign dual accountancy. Leading the impeachment process has been Brazil’s Speaker of the House, Eduardo Cunha, himself accused of spiriting away $5 million into a Swiss bank account. In the background lurk the corruption-riddled state-owned oil company Petrobras amid U.S. foreign policy-mongers. Their offensives aim to impose austerity measures, combating the election of progressive governments.

The Chilean Popular Unity government was overthrown in a military coup that installed the murderous General Pinochet’s regime in 1973.   Victor Jara article in Blogs.

In 1954, a democratically elected government in Guatemala was overthrown, unleashing decades of horror in that country. In Venezuela a coup attempt backed by the US succeeded for two days before grassroots reaction ousted the plotters in 2002. The U.S. and France, with Canadian connivance, kidnapped the President of Haiti and dispatched him to Central Africa in 2004. In Honduras a military/corporate coup resulted in a reformist President being overthrown in 2009 and an ongoing refugee crisis. The US President-elect has characterized Mexicans as criminals, rapists and killers. If regime change is illegal under international law, why haven’t the U.S. or her malleable allies been prosecuted? Taking many forms, there has been solidarity, strong resistance. Examples follow from Bolivia, Chile, Venezuela, Columbia, Ecuador, Peru, Honduras, Puerto Rico, Costa Rica and Uruguay.

‘Evo Morales has led an extraordinary movement in Bolivia, where popular movements are an inspiring phenomenon. The civilised achievements in Latin America are astonishing – against all the odds – constantly subverted by the United States and its clients, and by the bad faith reporting of much of western journalism.’ Edited transcript from a John Pilger webcast.  Bolivia and climate change   Democracy Now article on climate change    Renationalisation in Bolivia

‘On March 20th 1974, when Bob Fulton arrived for work at the Rolls-Royce factory in East Kilbride, Scotland, he noticed something out of the ordinary – a cargo of Avon aircraft engines had arrived for repair bearing Chilean insignia. These engines were from the Hawker Hunter aircraft that attacked Chile’s presidential palace during a right-wing coup six months earlier: Fulton refused to work on the engines. The 4,000 workers at the Rolls-Royce plant joined him in solidarity. For four years the warplane engines lay – defiantly unworked upon – until they disappeared in the middle of the night, leaving the workers in the dark about what happened to them. Back in Chile, the Scottish boycott became a celebrated moment in the struggle against the ruthless Pinochet regime.’ From ‘A story of solidarity that stretched from Scotland to Santiago’ by Peter Geoghegan, writing in The National.

‘Obama announced that he would begin to normalise relations with Cuba, yet the 54 year-old trade embargo is maintained. An image of Venezuela as the new country to be sanctioned is created. How it’s read in Latin America is, once again, the U.S. and big stick diplomacy intervene. The notion that the U.S. does not support coups is ludicrous; we’ve had the 2009 coup in Honduras, Lugo in Paraguay a couple of years later. From Guatemala to the Dominican Republic, Chile in 1973, to support for military dictatorships in Argentine and Brazil, to 2002 in Venezuela, when the U.S. supported a coup against the democratically elected Hugo Chávez, the shortest coup in history..’  Miguel Tinker Salas, a professor at Pomona College in Claremont and author of ‘The Enduring Legacy: Oil, Culture and Society in Venezuela’ and a forthcoming book, ‘Venezuela: What Everyone Needs to Know’.  The threat from Venezuela   Post-Chavez   State of emergency

‘Gilberto Torres was visiting Edinburgh as part of a ‘Fossil Free’ tour. Torres was abducted and tortured while working on the Ocensa pipeline in Colombia. BP used the pipeline to transport its oil, as well as owning a 15.2% share of the pipeline. Many workers and union organisers disappeared while working on the pipeline, with Torres the only one to be returned alive after huge strikes against his abduction effectively stopped production. He is now taking BP to court over its alleged involvement in his abduction. Upon his release from captivity in 2002, Sr Torres said ‘solidarity is the strength that the powerless need’. We took action in solidarity with him, with others affected by BP’s actions around the work, and with all those suffering the effects of the global climate crisis. We ask for BP to be dropped as a sponsor of the portrait awards and for the Scottish National Gallery to put pressure on the National Gallery down in London to refuse oil money. People have largely forgotten now, but before they were the ‘BP Portrait Awards’, the awards were sponsored by John Player, a tobacco company.’    Sponsorship and corporate responsibilties

Panama hit the headlines this year as a prime mover and shady fave powerhouse place for capitalists and others to stash cash. As well as a tax haven, Panama has huge geo-political significance, sharing a border with Columbia, linking Asia and Europe via the Canal, strategically sited between North and South America, and ideally positioned for the Caribbean. It’s a coveted location – Scottish history reminds us that the 1698 Darien project was an ill-fated scheme to create a colony on the Panama isthmus.  Leaked Panama papers, Columbian drug money, David Cameron and the Darien scheme    ‘Darien – a Journey in search of Empire’ by John McKendrick    Scotland’s influence on Jamaica and Argentina

South America is trying to break free from foreign domination. Through Economic Partnership Agreements, the EU imposes dictatorial pressure on weaker Caribbean economies. Yet the government in OPEC-member Venezuela has declared a state of emergency, Kirchner is facing charges in Argentina for causing a financial abyss; Brazil’s Da Silva, the former president, and Dilma Rousseff, the incumbent until her recent impeachment, were accused of malpractice. Colombia’s civil war, which began in 1964, has claimed some 220,000 lives. More than 5 million people are estimated to have been displaced. In the autumn of 2016 a referendum brokered to make peace with FARC resulted in narrow rejection of the deal. Bolivia’s president, Evo Morales, has lost a referendum that would have eased his maintenance of power.

Meanwhile, Ecuador’s military flexes its muscles, as President Correa faces formidable budgetary challenges due to the low price of oil, which comprises 40% of the nation’s revenues. Essential welfare expenditure has been blamed for the impending recession by the International Monetary Fund. Correa is trying to steer a polarised society through high unemployment, rising violence and rampant drug trafficking. In 2015, the government seized 79.2 tons of cocaine, which had entered the country from Colombia in the north and Peru to the south. Most of South America’s white marching powder is consumed by affluent European hedonists and gibbering Yanks with more money than sense.   A caravan of environmental activists travelling to the United Nations climate summit in Lima, Peru, has been stopped by authorities in Ecuador and had their bus seized. Activists with the group Yasunidos departed from Quito to denounce the extraction of oil from Yasuní National Park, an area of the Amazon renowned for its biological diversity.

To thwart its dwindling influence and isolate Venezuela, Obama visited Cuba as the U.S. thawed relations, prompting Fidel Castro to comment that: ‘From the Bay of Pigs invasion to the economic embargo, we don’t need the empire to give us anything.’ Cuba was delivered a U.S.-bound, laser-guided, air-to-surface Hellfire missile in 2014. Lockheed Martin was authorised to export the dummy weapon after a NATO training exercise in Spain. Freight forwarders mistakenly shipped it from Europe to Cuba.

Cuba plans to drill exploratory deepwater wells in the Gulf of Mexico by the end of 2016. The country is on the cusp of a tourism and consumer boom. The U.S. has refused to give up control of its Navy base and military prison at Guantánamo Bay.

sw-castroMajor Cuban news in 2016 was former President Fidel Castro’s death in November at the age of 90. He survived 11 U.S. presidents and allegedly 638 assassination attempts, many orchestrated by the CIA. U.S. tactics included blatant destabilisation and an ever-tightening economic embargo. Mourning for Castro was declared by leaders Evo Morales in Bolivia, Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro and Daniel Ortega in Nicaragua, all of whose people were inspired and helped by Cubans. Hundreds of thousands gathered in the Plaza de la Revolución in the eastern Cuban city of Santiago on December 3rd, cheering speeches by the heads of state-run groups of small farmers, women, revolutionary veterans and neighborhood watch committee members. The event was attended by former Brazilian presidents Dilma Rousseff and Lula da Silva.

The leader of the People’s Movement for the Liberation of Angola said Castro was like Nelson Mandela. South African President Jacob Zuma thanked Castro for his help and distinguished support in overthrowing apartheid. “President Castro identified with our struggle against apartheid. He inspired the Cuban people to join us,” Zuma said.

In March 2016 environmentalist Berta Cáceres was assassinated in her Honduras home. She was a leading organiser for indigenous land rights. In 1993, she co-founded the National Council of Popular and Indigenous Organizations of Honduras. For years the group faced death threats and repression as they stood up to mining and dam projects that threatened to destroy their community. Last year Cáceres was awarded the Goldman Environmental Prize.

In a crisis that echoes Greece’s battle to restructure debt, Puerto Rico’s Senate and House of Representatives have authorised suspension of payments totalling $72billion – setting up a dramatic showdown between Puerto Rico and the hedge funds: Puerto Rico has incurred huge bond defaults. The suspension will protect public welfare by using government funds first and foremost for services, particularly its beleaguered healthcare system.  A group of hedge funds sued to freeze the assets of Puerto Rico’s Government Development Bank in efforts to stop the bank from spending money that the hedge funds wanted to go towards meeting upcoming debt ‘obligations’. In what is viewed as a colonial takeover, a U.S. debt bill for the island proposes a seven-member oversight board with dictatorial powers, geared to protecting bondholders and making massive cuts to public services. In April 2016 Senator Jim Inhofe proposed reopening a U.S. military base in Puerto Rico as U.S. Congress considers legislation to address Puerto Rico’s debt crisis. For decades, Puerto Rico was host to a slew of military bases: the U.S. Navy conducted bombing practices and war games, dumping old munitions, napalming the island and leading to lasting environmental damage.

Costa Rica has shown extraordinary courage in pursuing alternative policies, becoming the first nation in the world to abolish its military back in 1949, in spite of the volatility of the region. Consequently, having invested in programs of social uplift instead of armaments, Costa Rica has achieved the highest rating of Well-being in the world, with a life expectancy greater than the United States, according to the New Economics Foundation. Receiving little attention in the Western media, a documentary film, ‘A Bold Peace’, has been produced that highlights these remarkable achievements. There’s a film trailer on our YouTube channel.

While mapping subversion, plus the overthrow of elected governments in Latin America and the clawing, asset-stripping tentacles of big business, mining and oil in particular, let’s not forget what befell the Popular Front Spanish government in 1930’s Europe, closer to home. On 18th July 1936 in colonial Morocco, and in mainland Spain the day after, Generals opposed to the republican government staged a military coup with the intention of its overthrow. Recall the dismemberment of Czechoslovakia, the Suez debacle of 1956, the invasions of Iraq in 1916, 1941 and 2003.

Nor should we ignore Capital challenging the result at the ballot box in recent times, for instance the Troika – EU Commissioners, the European Central Bank and the International Monetary Fund (IMF) – undermining and overriding the Greek government’s popular anti-austerity programme, German bullying, a narrative demanding a neoliberal agenda and debt repayments, in full and on time. For Britain, the cost of the 1976 IMF bailout loan resonates to this day. Post 2010, witness what the IMF calls ‘fiscal consolidation’ being imposed on heavily-indebted states – Ireland, Portugal and Spain. Basically the money lenders or global investors can render electorates redundant. Rather than risk confidence, states become impotent. For investors in Britain, read the financial sector centred on the city of London.

I found the following links revelant and of interest.    President Dilma Rousseff’s impeachment    Brazil – coup plot confirmed

Fidel Castro wanted no personality cult after his death – no public monuments, no images of himself on posters or T-shirts. Of the 82 freedom fighters who disembarked to take on Batista, only 17 escaped an ambush to flee to the mountains and begin their liberation campaign in 1959. Camilo Cienfuegos (1932-1959) is one of the five heroes of the Cuban Revolution along with Fidel and Raúl Castro, Ché Guevara, and Juan Almeida Bosque.    Camilo Cienfuegos     Motorcycle tours of Cuba    Cuban shopping   Uruguay and Jose Mujica: blog article. Legalization of marijuana.     Faith and Latin America Customs clearance into the US – spoof video  Eliane Correa – ‘A Cuban view on Fidel Castro’s legacy’