Solidarity 200, 6 April 2011

Libya: from revolution to reform?

Political and military developments in Libya have continued to move at a significant pace over the last few days.

The initially successful rebel onslaught against Qadaffi forces in mid-Libya seemed to promise a decisive attack on the strongholds of Tripolitania and relief to rebel-held Misurata. The potential capture of Sirte would have initiated the end of the regime as it was both the military and ideological heartland of the regime. This did not happen.

Syria: democracy protests spread

Pro-democracy protests have spread to the Syrian capital, Damascus. On Friday at least 15 people were shot dead in Douma, a satellite of Damascus.

On Saturday, Syrian security forces arrested dozens of people, mostly in Deraa and Douma. Those that have been arrested have been brutalised and tortured. On Sunday. thousands marched in Douma as eight of those gunned down were buried. The crowd chanted “Down with the regime!”

Islamists defeat left in Westminster University election

Last year, following a big upsurge in student struggle at Westminter University, activists from the Fight Cuts campaign took over and began the process of transforming their previously moribund student union.

Now that process will be thrown into reverse, after left activists at Westminster narrowly lost this year’s elections to people who we believe to be supporters of the radical right-wing Islamist group Hizb ut-Tahrir (HT). The incumbent VP Education, AWL member Jade Baker, was very narrowly defeated.

NUS conference - a chance for the left?

The National Union of Students conference 2011, which takes place next week (12-14 April) in Newcastle, will be unpredictable.

Incumbent president Aaron Porter is standing down, following repeated embarrassment in the wave of student struggles during the winter; there are two high profile right-wing candidates standing to replace him. The whole leadership is embarrassed and discredited by recent events, and could lose some important policy votes. Certainly at NUS Women’s Conference last month the left was on the offensive, despite having only just re-established itself.

Trade union news in brief

Refuse workers in one of the Tory’s flagship councils may ballot for strike action against their employer, recycling contractor May Gurney.

UNISON leaders betray pensions fight

The standing orders committee (at Unison Health Conference, in sesssion as we go to press) agreed under pressure to allow a motion on the attacks on pensions onto the conference agenda.

We will be debating a motion submitted by Service Group Executive and Scottish Region on Wednesday 6 April. However at least one motion with a clear call for action has still been ruled out. Now conference will not be able to have a debate about how to defeat the biggest ever attack on our pensions.

Army to break prison officers' strikes?

The British state is preparing to mobilise the army to break a prison officers’ strike if they take action against the privatisation of Birmingham Prison.

Commenting on the proposed privatisation, Prison Officers” Association (POA) leader Steve Gillan said: “This is a disgraceful decision. Prisons should not be run for the benefit of shareholders nor for profit. The state has a duty to those imprisoned by the criminal justice system and this coalition government have betrayed loyal public sector workers for their friends in the private sector.”

British universities' Libyan connections

According to the Guardian, Mutassim Qaddafi (son of Muammar), who has been described as a “war criminal” by Libyan anti-government protesters, was given private lessons at the School of Oriental and African Studies (SOAS) in the summer of 2006.

This is one of many sordid revelations that have come to light about British universities and their relationship with Colonel Muammar Qaddafi’s dictatorship.

Many universities not only profited from ties with the Libyan regime, but actively trained people earmarked for roles in Gaddafi’s feared security network.

The left and Libya

A statement about Libya has appeared on the website of Unite, declaring itself simply to be a “Unite statement” without any indication of what committee of the union it was endorsed by. It seems to have been presented to the national executive as a ready-made “take it or leave it” statement. Its line is “end the intervention now!”.

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