England fans lay wreath for Soviet war dead:

England fans lay wreath for Soviet war dead ahead of World Cup opener

An England fan at the Mamayev Kurgan in Volgograd (Owen Humphreys/PA)

By Scott D’Arcy, Press Association in Volgograd – Press Association – 18 June 2018

England fans lay wreath for Soviet war dead ahead of World Cup opener

England football fans have laid a wreath in memory of Soviet war dead in a moving ceremony in central Volgograd.

Two fans, James Lockett and Billy Grant, were among an official party who paid tribute in the city’s Hall of Military Glory, in the heart of the Mamayev Kurgan memorial park commemorating the Battle of Stalingrad.

The group also included British deputy ambassador Lindsay Skoll and FA chairman Greg Clarke.

Three Lions manager Gareth Southgate pointed to the “perspective” the war-ravaged history of Volgograd, which was formerly known as Stalingrad, had given his team ahead of the World Cup opener against Tunisia on Monday.

And more than a dozen England fans turned out to watch the ceremony, which began with a short display by the Russian soldiers who guard the site.
Volgograd is the site of one of the bloodiest battles in history, with estimates suggesting the number of troops killed, captured or wounded on both sides totalled nearly two million.

Historians believe the Soviet defence of the city, on the banks of the Volga river, was a turning point for the Allies against Hitler’s forces in the Second World War.
A huge monument known as The Motherland Calls looms on the hill overlooking the Volgograd Arena and the memorial park is a short walk away from the stadium.
The city is also twinned with Coventry, after women from the Midlands city wrote to express support during the war.

Ms Skoll wrote in a book of commemoration: “May our bonds between the people of the UK and Russia remain forever strong and enduring.”

She told reporters: “As you know the links between the UK and this great city are strong and enduring.

“They were forged during the Second World War, with shared experience of destruction and devastation and immense bravery, and started by 900 women in Coventry, who sent messages of support and solidarity to their sisters in Stalingrad.”

Ms Skoll spoke about shared values between the two nations.

And she added: “Given the immense suffering of Volgograd and the pivotal part it played in the route towards victory I think it’s only fitting that the 2018 World Cup should have Volgograd as one of its host cities, after all Volgograd today plays host to people from all over the world including Great Britain, who are here in peace and with a common purpose.”

The Queen Mother was made an honorary citizen of the southern Russian city.

18 Jun 2018 – 12:35 by WDNF

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Programme of, “The Music of Hugh Shrapnel”, Morley College, London, 2018.

Cornelius Cardew Concerts Trust presents:

Welcome to Alternative Worlds – the music of Hugh Shrapnel, at London’s Morley College.

I’m delighted to be hosting this concert. Hugh Shrapnel is one of the most original composing voices I know, as well as a good friend, and with the richness and variety of his work (with moods ranging from music hall levity to Autumnal profundity!), I know the programme will be a highly enjoyable one. I hope you have a wonderful evening with us.

Sarah Walker

ALTERNATIVE WORLDS

A RETROSPECTIVE OF THE MUSIC OF HUGH SHRAPNEL
FRIDAY, JULY 6, 2018
7.30PM
THE HOLST ROOM
MORLEY COLLEGE LONDON

Part of the Morley College Planets Festival of Arts and Culture, celebrating the centenary of the first performance of The Planets by Gustav Holst. Introduced by Sarah Walker.

PROGRAMME

4 Vignettes
Oxleas Wood
Songs, Fanfares & Other Things
Coalition Blues
Follow Me Up to Carlow
Autumn Pieces
Ruth Shrapnel
piano
Michael Chant
Elif Karlidag
piano duet
Alan Tomlinson
trombone
Alan Tomlinson
Elif Karlidag
trombone & piano
Ivory Duo
two pianos
Sarah Walker
piano

INTERVAL

Alternative Worlds

The Buggy Army & Hunt Hunt

Love Sonnets of a Building Worker

October

Comintern Song

For James Allen

Easter 1916

Ivory Duo
two pianos

Ruth Shrapnel
Hugh Shrapnel

piano duet

 

Lesley Larkum
Michael Chant
violin & piano

Lesley Larkum
Michael Chant
violin & piano

Health & Calm Choir
Lesley Larkum
Michael Chant
violin & piano
Johan Höglind
viola
Quartet De Madrugada
Jo Cooper
string quartet & folk fiddle
INTERVAL
PROGRAMME NOTES

4 Vignettes
These little piano pieces were written in 1972 when I was in the Scratch Orchestra; they were revised in the mid-1980s and first performed by myself at a concert of my piano music at the British Music Information Centre (BMIC) on December 1, 1994. Each piece has a continuous unchanging figure in the left hand.

Oxleas Wood
The first of my suite for piano duet South of the River, evocations of various parts of South East London’. Oxleas Wood is a 7000 year old wood up the hill from Blackheath and Greenwich and was written in support of a successful local campaign to save the wood having a motorway carved through it.

Songs, Fanfares and Other Things
These four short pieces for solo alto trombone were written for Alan Tomlinson with his playing very much in mind. They were first performed by him at the 10th London New Wind Festival in 2007.

Coalition Blues
This piece was written in response to the election of the Coalition Government in 2010. A cheerful little trombone tune (echoed by the piano) represents the working people in their battle against the coalition government’s imposition of austerity, the piece ending with a slow triumphant rendering of the ‘people tune’. Dedicated to Alan Tomlinson, it was first performed by him at the 14th London New Wind Festival in 2011.

Follow Me Up to Carlow
This piece for 2 pianos was written for and dedicated to the Ivory Duo for their Morley College concert In Step With The Times presented by the Cornelius Cardew Concerts Trust in 2016 in memory of James Allen, the founder and first secretary of CCCT who died in 2012. The music is based on the old Irish song which celebrates the defeat of an army of 3000 English soldiers by Fiach Mac Aodha Ó Broin (anglicised to Fiach McHugh O’Byrne) at the battle of Glenmalure during the Second Desmond Rebellion in 1580 during the reign of Queen Elizabeth 1. The piece seeks to express the spirit of the Irish freedom fighters against the British occupiers.

Autumn Pieces
These two piano pieces, dedicated to Sarah Walker, were first performed by her at a BMIC concert in 1990. The first piece is a Keatsian ‘Ode to Autumn’, the shifting harmonies reflecting the changing tints of autumn leaves. The second, much longer piece depicts an autumnal storm and its aftermath – the swirl of autumn leaves ending with the bare trees and chill of winter.

Alternative Worlds
Written for and dedicated to the Ivory Duo and written for the concert In Step with the Times organised by the Cornelius Cardew Concerts Trust, celebrating the life and work of Cornelius Cardew. Cardew was a tutor in experimental music at Morley College from 1968 to 1973, and the Holst Room was the venue for these classes. Alternative Worlds’was inspired by the spirit of Cardew as a fighter for a better world and pathfinder in opening up a new music to express this vision.

The Buggy Army & Hunt Hunt
These two pieces were written for the Save Lewisham Hospital Campaign (SLHC) which successfully defeated the Secretary of Health Jeremy Hunt’s plan to close this South East

London hospital

in 2013. The Buggy Army is an arrangement of a song from an opera I’m writing about the SLHC, with its Secretary, Olivia O’Sullivan. The Buggy Army was a protest by young mums, dads and their children on a very cold day in January 2013 who marched down Whitehall to the Ministry of Health to confront Hunt. Hunt Hunt for piano duet was used in a video made by the film maker Stuart Monro Victory For Lewisham. Stuart, an enthusiastic supporter of the Campaign sadly died in September last year and this performance is dedicated to his memory. The piece quotes a song sung on the two big SLHC demonstrations in Lewisham Who do you think you are kidding Mr Kershaw (to the Dads Army signature tune), Kershaw being the local health administrator whose plan it was to downgrade Lewisham Hospital.
Love Sonnet of a Building Worker

An arrangement for violin and piano of the first song of a song cycle I wrote in the late 1990s, settings of a cycle of 34 sonnets by the Scottish communist poet John Maharg, an old friend and comrade who died in 2004. It was first performed by Lesley Larkum and Michael Chant in their concert The Heart’s Response at Schotts Music Publishers on November 7, 2008.

October
This very brief piece for violin and piano is based on themes of Shostakovich’s 12th Symphony ‘The Year 1917’ celebrating the October Revolution. It was written at the request of the Communist Party of Canada (Marxist-Leninist) and first performed by Lesley Larkum and Michael Chant at a concert, being dedicated to all anti-fascist resistance fighters, at a concert of CPC(ML) in August 2017 in Ottawa. It was written at the request of the Communist Party of Canada (Marxist-Leninist) and first performed by Lesley Larkum and Michael Chant at a concert of CPC(ML) in August 2017 in Ottawa, being dedicated to all anti-fascist resistance fighters.

Comintern Song
An arrangement for singers, violin and piano of Hanns Eisler’s international worker’s song to words by Berthold Brecht written in the 1930s, still sung by workers throughout the world today. This arrangement was also first performed at the CPC(ML) concert in August 2017.

For James Allen
This piece for solo viola was written for the concert “Music to Relieve the Mind” at Morley on July 12, 2014 (the third annual concert dedicated to the memory of James Allen) and was performed by Lesley Larkum.

Easter Rising 1916
This piece was written for the Morley College concert put on by CCCT to commemorate the centenary of the Easter Rising in 2016. It is an extended work depicting the background, the Rising itself and its aftermath and significance. The music of the actual uprising is dominated by the tune of We Only Want the Earth, a revolutionary song by James Connolly, one of the leaders of the Rising. The 1919 song The Foggy Dew, played on the fiddle near the end of the piece, expresses the spirit and significance of the Rising and the cause of Irish freedom.

Hugh Shrapnel was born in Birmingham in 1947 and studied composition at the Royal Academy of Music with Norman Demuth and Cornelius Cardew. Under the influence of Cardew Shrapnel became increasingly interested in experimental music, joining Cardew’s experimental music class at Morley and the Scratch Orchestra and playing in many experimental groups including the Promenade Theatre Orchestra, with John White, Chris Hobbs and Alec Hill. In the 1970s he joined Cardew playing the oboe in People’s Liberation Music and the PCA Band along with Cardew, Laurie Baker and others. Shrapnel, along with many other composers, was inspired by Cardew’s search for a genuinely new music which reflected the desire for a better world. Like Cardew as well as being a composer, he has been politically active, most recently in the campaign to save the NHS.

Over the years, Shrapnel’s music has drawn on many musical styles and traditions including folk music, music hall and jazz, as well as the classical tradition and experimental music. His music is characterised by a strong feeling for community, particularly South East London where he has lived most of his life, lyricism, wit and humour, love of nature and support for the struggles of the people.

Sarah Walker is one of the most recognisable voices on BBC Radio 3. She is currently the regular host of Sunday Morning. She is well known for her interviews, not just with leading composers and performers but with a variety of celebrities ranging from politicians and poets to movie stars. Sarah was born in Barnsley, and studied at Royal Holloway College and Reading University. She gained a PhD for her research into English Experimental Music, often playing an active role as a performer, and in recent years her musical activities have included jazz piano and singing. Sarah has also written several volumes of keyboard music for young players, inspired by her work as a teacher.

Michael Chant is Secretary of the Cornelius Cardew Concerts Trust. He first worked with Hugh in 1968, participating in the Morley College experimental music class from 1968-1973, and was a member of the Scratch Orchestra from the beginning in 1969. As an organist, he has been closely associated with performances of The Great Learning by Cornelius Cardew. He, like Hugh, and as Cornelius did, combines being a musician with being active in the communist and workers’ movement.

Elif Karlidag began her musical education in Bucharest, Romania. She studied composition at Izmir Dokuz Eylul State Conservatory in Turkey, graduating in 2004, and completing her Masters degree there in 2007. Since 1992, she has given piano recitals and concerts in Romania, Turkey and London. Elif has lived and worked in London from 2008, pursuing her interest in New Music. Her compositions have been performed at a number of concerts at Morley College sponsored by the Cornelius Cardew Concerts Trust.

Ruth Shrapnel has been teaching piano and music theory since 1977. She was also a piano accompanist for singers in Brighton at that time. She gained a BMus degree at Goldsmiths College and played in many concerts of new music there. Since 1993 she has taught piano at Bromley Youth Music Trust. Over the years she has played in many concerts of contemporary music, notably Hugh Shrapnel’s music.

Alan Tomlinson plays the tenor and alto trombones. He began playing improvised music in Manchester and by early 80’s was an active member of the London and European improvised music scene. Member of Tony Oxley’s Angular Apron, Peter Brotzmann’s Alarm, and a long-time member of Barry Guy’s London Jazz Composers Orchestra. He has played festivals, concerts and broadcasts throughout Europe with many different ensembles and continues to do solo gigs. He has also worked professionally in most fields of music and as a member of the contemporary music groups New London Winds and Sounds Positive has given many first performances of pieces written for him.

Lesley Larkum is an Australian-British musician active as a violinist and composer in London. After studying in her native Sydney, she came to London to study conducting at the Royal College of Music and also completed a Masters degree in ethnomusicography. She has been active in the political movement in Britain for over 20 years, and has participated along with Hugh Shrapnel and Michael Chant in developing music and performance in step with today’s times. She holds the post of Head of Strings at Dulwich College.

Jo Cooper grew up listening to the sounds of the sea, the wind rattling sash windows and mysterious creaks in an old farm house in wild west Wales. She played traditional Irish and Welsh music on the fiddle and tin whistle for years before moving to the north east of England, where her horizons expanded to include other European and North American traditions. She regularly performs with The Old Time Wasters, Ceilidh Tree, and Laura Victoria, and teaches folk music across the country, as well as composing and occasionally performing in a contemporary classical style.

Johan Höglind is a graduate of the Royal College of Music, and is much in demand as a soloist and chamber musician.

The Ivory Duo Piano Ensemble was formed by Natalie Tsaldarakis and Panayotis Archontides shortly after their marriage in 1994. After individual studies in Greece, Australia and the US, the pianists were coached by Elena Riu and Martino Tirimo as a duo at Trinity Laban and Morley College. The duo has broadcast on Greek National Radio and TV and on Resonance FM 104.4. Important international collaborations include those with Mikis Theodorakis, Sir Charles Mackerras, Michael Chant, Douglas Finch, George Hadjinikos, James Judd, Nadia Lasserson, Ian Pace, and Lola Perrin. Natalie and Panayotis have performed at a number of Morley College concerts sponsored by the Cornelius Cardew Concerts Trust, demonstrating their dedication and professionalism.

The members of the Quartet De Madrugada performing tonight are Lesley Larkum (violin), Luca Franchi (violin), Johan Höglind (viola) and Jane Hyland (cello). The quartet in 2016 performed a concert of new music at Morley College organised by the Cornelius Cardew Concerts Trust to mark the Centenary of the Easter Rising, which included Hugh Shrapnel’s Easter Rising 1916. Last year, the quartet joined forces with the Ivory Duo Piano Ensemble at Morley College in a concert of music for piano duo and string quartet.

The Cornelius Cardew Concerts Trust was set up on June 6, 2008. It became a registered charity on June 20, 2016. Its object is to finance concerts of the music of Cornelius Cardew, and encourage the writing and performance of new music which champions the enlightenment and progress of which Cornelius Cardew was a pathfinder. The trust works for the advancement of education in new music for the public benefit.
For more information about the Cornelius Cardew Concerts Trust visit http://www.cornelius-cardew-concerts-trust.org.uk

email info@cornelius-cardew-concerts-trust.org.uk
twitter @CardewConcerts
Registered charity no. 1167744

Ticket revenue goes to Morley College to cover expenses. Please donate to the Cornelius Cardew Concerts at the end of the concert to contribute to its work.

FUTURE CONCERTS SPONSORED BY
THE CORNELIUS CARDEW CONCERTS TRUST

ONE WORLD: the Seventh annual concert in memory of James Allen; new compositions for piano quintet commissioned by the CCCT.
Performed by Luis Parés (piano) and the Quartet De Madrugada
Friday, October 5, 2018, 7.30pm; Morley College
The Complete String Quartets of Howard Skempton and Michael Chant.
Performed by the Eusebius Quartet
Monday, April 29, 2019; Kings Place
MORLEY COLLEGE
Morley College is one of London’s largest adult education colleges. Based near Waterloo and within a short walk of the South Bank, it provides part-time day and evening courses in a range of subjects, from art & design, the performing arts and the humanities, to languages, health studies, business & enterprise and essential skills.
For more information about courses at Morley visit
http://www.morleycollege.ac.uk

Throughout the year the College hosts a busy calendar of events, performances and exhibitions featuring students and staff as well as visiting artists.
For more information about upcoming events visit
http://www.morleycollege.ac.uk/events

Follow us on Twitter: @morleycollege @musicatmorley
Morley College
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London SE1 7HT
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Funding for War or the NHS?

British Government Cannot Reconcile Its Anti-Social and Pro-War Direction with the Needs of the People

This week saw another chain of events that show how Theresa May’s government cannot reconcile its anti-social and pro-war direction with the well-being and needs of the people. On June 17, Theresa May announced that the National Health Service (NHS) in England is to get an extra £20 billion a year by 2023 as a “70th birthday present.” By June 19, after criticism from her military chiefs, she was boasting to visiting NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg that “we are the biggest defence budget in Europe,” and “we will continue to contribute in a whole variety of ways across conventional, cyber and nuclear capabilities.”

This statement on June 15, by the Prime Minister on the NHS had no further detail and came at a time that the government said it would launch a Green Paper detailing future spending on health and social care. Of course, there was no mention of the further investment desperately needed in the NHS in Scotland, Wales and the north of Ireland for which the Westminster government has overall funding responsibility. Neither was there any recognition of the depth of the crisis in the NHS caused by the neo-liberal direction driven by the big health corporations and state institutions under their control, or the 3 per cent “efficiency savings” — cuts that are imposed on all NHS Trusts every year. Commenting on the interview, the BBC report said that the £114 billion NHS budget in England “will rise by an average of 3.4 per cent annually — but that is still less than the 3.7 per cent average rise the NHS has had since 1948. The prime minister said in the interview that this would be funded partly by a ‘Brexit dividend,’ but also hinted at tax rises.” This brought comments in Parliament on June 18, especially from Leader of the Opposition Jeremy Corbyn, who at PMQs [Prime Minister’s Questions] questioned the “Brexit dividend” and asked, “Which taxes are going up and for whom?”

It also was reported in the Financial Times and other papers that Theresa May had told “stunned military chiefs” and defence secretary Gavin Williamson that “the MoD [Ministry of Defence] would need to make cuts and end having a full spectrum of military capabilities.” The reports said this sent “shockwaves through the Ministry of Defence” that the Treasury will not find any extra money for the armed forces when a review of British capabilities concludes in the autumn.

Then on June 17, Jens Stoltenberg, who was visiting Britain ahead of next month’s NATO summit in Brussels with government leaders, called on Britain to maintain its role as one of the world’s biggest military spenders. He also met with Theresa May and held a joint press conference with her where May said that “the reports that you have read are not correct.” She said that Britain will continue to be that leading contributor to the alliance but also a leading “defence nation” and will continue to spend 2 per cent of GDP on the military.

The NHS is a vital part of the well-being to the people in a socialised economy. This fact has to be recognised and not diminished to one of being a “cost” to the economy to be played off against the ambitions of the ruling elite to interfere in other countries and go to war. Health workers create value in the socialised economy. The huge value they produce needs to be claimed by the government in large part from the monopolies and oligopolies that consume and profit from this value in having a healthy workforce. The crisis of NHS funding shows that the NHS cannot be reconciled with such an archaic tax system that does not claim this value. It also cannot be reconciled with the pro-war ambitions of the imperialist ruling elite, and their striving to retain British military interference and carry out wars of aggression with the empire-building aim of making Britain a “leading power” in the world to serve their interests and the interests of the imperialist system of states.

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July 1 Election in Mexico:

Overwhelming Expression of People’s
Desire for Change


Victory celebration in Mexico City’s main square, El Zócalo, on election night, July 1, 2018.

In what has been referred to as an electoral tsunami, on July 1 the Mexican people expressed their desire for change in an overwhelming show of strength by electing Andrés Manuel López Obrador (AMLO) and his  Together We Will Make History (Juntos Haremon Historia) coalition to the Presidency of the Republic. Not only did Mexican citizens favour AMLO for President, they also formed an absolute majority in the two chambers of the Mexican Congress by electing deputies and senators who were candidates of AMLO’s coalition made up of his National Regeneration Movement (MORENA) Party, the Labour Party (Partido del Trabajo — PT) and Social Encounter Party (Partido Encuentro Social — PES). In addition, the coalition won five of the nine governorships up for election.

The same phenomenon took hold across the country with the election of mayors and councillors. More than 50 per cent of the 17,000 seats to be filled at this level of government went to people associated with the Together We Will Make History coalition.

In this way, more than 63 per cent of the close to 89 million citizens who were registered to vote — 45 per cent of them between 18 and 35 years of age, and many of them were new voters — ended 78 years of domination by the Institutional Revolutionary Party (PRI), including 36 years of neo-liberal policies imposed on the Mexican people by the PRI and the National Action Party (PAN).

The extent to which the old parties have destroyed the social fabric, rubbing elbows with organized crime and imposing a policy of fear, permitting kidnappings and assassinations of social and community leaders, investigative journalists and local government candidates to carry on with impunity, led the Mexican people to clearly proclaim, Enough! The people’s action to realize their desire for change was such that in the aftermath of the July 1 elections the PRI, PAN and their allies — for instance, the Democratic Revolution Party (PRD), New Alliance (NA) and the Ecological Green Party (PVEM) — found themselves completely decimated throughout the Republic.

In rejecting these parties, the people have rejected the anti-people and anti-national policies that have been their lot for decades. Over the past 36 years, Mexican citizens have seen their natural resources handed over to and pillaged by mining companies — most of them Canadian and to whom more than 25 per cent of the national territory has been ceded as concessions made in violation of the requirement for the free, prior and informed consent, and of the ancestral rights of the Indigenous peoples who live on these lands. The country’s agriculture has been destroyed to the extent that Mexico, which created different types of corn, now has to import seeds from the United States. Energy resources have all been privatized and handed over to big foreign multinationals. The last resource to be privatized was oil, always a source of pride for Mexicans, which brought in revenues that assisted in guaranteeing a modern education and health system for the people. From being a producer country, Mexico has become an importer of refined petroleum to the extent that, of the close to 850,000 barrels a day required for domestic consumption, it must now import more than 650,000 from the United States. What is more, Mexicans have had to deal with a restructuring of state arrangements that has impacted labour legislation, health, education, pensions, security and the justice system, all in favour of the big multinationals and to the detriment of the interests of the people.

The rejection of the old system is also, and above all, the rejection of a system of utter corruption and impunity of unimaginable proportions, spread throughout all spheres of government and public institutions at the federal as well as the state and local levels. More than half the population is left in extreme poverty, where human dignity is trampled in the mud and human life is worth less than a handful of pesos.

It is therefore with eyes wide open that the Mexican people decided to show that they wanted change and opted for the national project of AMLO, who has stated that he will put an end to corruption, create jobs by developing an economy based on national production, and, as soon as he takes office in December, ensure a universal monthly pension for the elderly, and provide education and work scholarships to the youth. These are some of the measures he has announced, along with a foreign policy based on non-intervention in the affairs of sovereign countries, peaceful resolution of conflicts, and friendly relations with all peoples and governments. Without a doubt, in their efforts to bring about change, the people will most certainly follow developments with a watchful eye.

Heartfelt congratulations to the fraternal people of Mexico! They have indeed expressed their desire for change in a decisive and overwhelming way. It is their continued involvement in activating the human factor/social consciousness which will continue to bring that change about.

 

Mexican People’s Movement for Empowerment

CANADA


Celebration of election results in the streets of Mexico City on election night, July 1, 2018.

While, in general, it was felt throughout the campaign that Andrés Manuel López Obrador (AMLO) was heading for a victory in the presidency of the Republic, attracting thousands of people every time he visited any of the country’s major cities, what was not expected was the depth of the people’s expressed desire for change throughout all levels of government, federal, state and municipal.

At the level of the presidency, AMLO won 31 of the 32 states of the Republic, with just over 24 million votes or 53 per cent of the votes cast. The closest contender of the other three candidates achieved just over 22 per cent. In the most conservative states, such as Baja California and the northern states such as Sinaloa, and even in the northeast with Nuevo León, Mexicans overwhelmingly rejected decades of domination by the Institutional Revolutionary Party (PRI) and the National Action Party (PAN), with more than 60 per cent opting for the Together We Will Make History (Juntos Haremos Historia) coalition led by AMLO’s party, MORENA. Together We Will Make History is made up of MORENA, the Labour Party (PT) and the Social Encounter Party (PES). Even in the PRI strongholds, such as the States of Mexico and Coahuila, citizens rejected the old parties, casting hundreds of thousands of votes in favour of AMLO’s coalition.

The overwhelming vote in favour of Together We Will Make History completely changed the situation in the two chambers that make up the Mexican Congress. Before the July 1 election, the distribution of seats in the Senate was as follows: PRI 55, PAN 34, PT 19, PRD 7, Independents 7, PVEM 6.[1] With the July 1 election, the new Senate will be comprised as follows: MORENA 55, PAN 24, PRI 13, PRD 8, MC 7, PES 7, PVEM 7, PT 6, PANAL 1. This gives the majority to the Together We Will Make History coalition, with 68 senators out of a total of 128. The same scenario is repeated in the House of Representatives, in which, before the election, the representation was: PRI 204, PAN 107, PRD 53, MORENA 47, PVEM 38, MC 21, NA 12, PES 12, SP 5, Independent 1. The new representation will be: MORENA 191, PAN 82, PT 61, PES 55, PRI 45, MC 27, PRD 21, PVEM 16, PANAL 2, This gives the Together We Will Make History coalition an absolute majority, with 307 deputies out of a total of 500.

The desire for change was also evident in the election of governors of the eight states and the head of government in the case of Mexico City which was recently elevated to the rank of Member State of the Republic, whose governing bodies were up for renewal in this election. Five of the nine posts were won by AMLO’s coalition — Tabasco, Mexico City, Chiapas, Morelos and Veracruz. It is probable that the state of Puebla will also tip to the side of the coalition because of the exposure of a massive fraud. It should be noted that winning Veracruz, the state considered the granary of Mexico with its extensive production of citrus, coffee and sugar cane, as well as oil, puts an end to its domination for more than 78 years by the anti-people politics of the PRI.

The determination of the people to reject decades of threats, assassinations, corruption and fear campaigns also extended to the majority of governments at the local level, both in the north and south of the country, giving control over legislative power to MORENA and its coalition in the states of Mexico, Oaxaca, Veracruz, Sinaloa, Michoacán, Guerrero, Durango, Baja California Sur, and in more than half of the country’s municipal councils. In other words, the northern states with their high concentration of mining, industrial and beef production, as well as the southern and southeastern states with extensive oil, coffee and food production have said, No! to the continued contempt for the people of the PRI and the PAN, and expressed their desire for change. Eloquent examples testify to this determination to break with the past, such as in the Mezquital community in the extreme south of the state of Durango, where Indigenous peoples of the region walked their donkeys for kilometres through the mountains with the electoral material, not hesitating even to swim across rivers to ensure that the population could exercise their right to vote freely. Or the thousands of calls that families made from one state to another to remind everyone of the importance of voting to end 78 years of the PRI’s domination over the country.

The state capitals and large cities of the country were not spared by this wind of the will of the people for change. In fact, 11 capital cities from north to south opted for the Together We Will Make History coalition, including La Paz, Tuxtla Gutiérrez, Toluca, Morelia, Cuernavaca, Oaxaca, Culiacán, Hermosillo, Villahermosa and Zacatecas, as well as the major cities of Acapulco and Ciudad Juárez, on the border with the United States, and infamous for the kidnappings, rapes and mass murder of women in the region.

This tidal wave of change also manifested itself in the capital of the Republic with the election of the MORENA-led coalition candidate, Claudia Sheinbaum, as head of government, and 11 of the 16 borough councils that are part of Mexico City.

The fact that more than 63 per cent of the approximately 89 million citizens with the right to vote did vote, despite the high level of violence characterized by more than 100 assassinations of candidates and social leaders in recent months, or the hundreds of letters from large companies sent to thousands of workers to intimidate them by threatening an economic catastrophe and job losses if they did not vote the right way — to mention only a few challenges — demonstrates the daring of the Mexican people and how much they were willing to risk to declare through their vote: Enough is enough, a change is needed.

In this respect, participation was not limited to the electorate going out to vote. It was also manifested through people taking action to ensure that attempts at electoral fraud were defeated and their vote was respected. More than 3 million citizens, including hundreds of thousands of young people, responded to the call of the political parties to act as their representatives in the polling stations. Add to that the 350,000 citizens of all ages who agreed to be official clerks of the National Electoral Institute for the election. This was a real citizens’ movement from one end of the country to the other that arose in the spirit of a great sense of responsibility and concern to affect the future of the country as much as possible. It is this preoccupation, characterized by a deep love for the country, that could be felt throughout the Republic.

Note

1. The political parties are:

MC, Movimiento Ciudadano (Citizens’ Movement)
MORENA, Movimiento de Regeneración Nacional (National Regeneration Movement)
NA, Nueva Alianza (New Alliance)
PAN, Partido Acción Nacional (National Action Party)
PANAL, faction of the Partido Nueva Alianza (New Alliance Party)
PES, Partido Encuentro Social (Social Encounter Party)
PRD, Partido de la Revolución Democrática (Democratic Revolution Party)
PRI, Partido Revolucionario Institucional (Institutional Revolutionary Party)
PT, Partido del Trabajo (Labour Party)
PVEM, Partido Verde Ecologista de Mexico (Ecological Green Party of Mexico)
SP, Sin partido (no party affiliation)

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The EU & the Customs Union.

For your information

The EU Customs Union and Single Market

Background

The Customs Union and Single Market go back to the earliest days of the EU’s history, when its forerunner, the European Coal and Steel Community (ECSC), set up a committee (the Spaak Committee, named after Paul-Henri Spaak, the Belgian Minister for Foreign Affairs) in 1955 to draw up proposals for the creation of a common market and the establishment of an atomic energy community. This committee was made up of representatives of the ECSC member states along with Britain.

The ECSC consisted of West Germany, France and Italy plus the three Benelux countries. Together with Britain, they formed a bloc of the main powers of western Europe in the conditions of the Cold War, aligning themselves, but at the same time in competition, with the US camp. The attempt was to redefine a role in the world for these old European powers, in response to the emergence of the two superpowers. Britain also had its own separate interests as the centre of the its old fallen empire. The context was also that of the Post-War social democratic arrangements that prevailed across western Europe, in which a social contract still existed between people, civil society and the state, and a functioning public authority still operated. Supranational arrangements had not yet begun to supersede nation states, but development had reached a level in the advanced economies that demanded increased interdependence and the beginnings of modern globalisation. [1]

In that context, the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade (GATT) had been signed in 1947 in Geneva, which was an agreement between various states, the core being the Anglo-American countries, aimed at the “substantial reduction of tariffs and other trade barriers and the elimination of preferences, on a reciprocal and mutually advantageous basis.” A number of further rounds of GATT talks were held so that, and by the fifth “Dillon” round in 1960-62, some 26 countries were involved.

The report of the Spaak committee formed the basis of the discussions of the subsequent Intergovernmental Conference on the Common Market and Euratom in 1956, the outcome of which was the establishment of a European Economic Community (EEC). The EEC was formally created by the Treaty of Rome, signed in 1957 by the ECSC countries. Britain was not a part of the EEC at that stage.

The Customs Union

The Treaty of Rome planned the creation of the Customs Union, which was eventually established on July 1, 1968, by the six member states of the EEC. This lifted all customs duties and restrictions between those states, and established a common tariff on imports from outside the bloc.

The European Commission explains that the EU Customs Union in its current form as defined by the Community Customs Code, adopted in 1992, means:

  • No customs duties at internal borders between the EU Member States;
  • Common customs duties on imports from outside the EU;
  • Common rules of origin for products from outside the EU;
  • A common definition of customs value.

The common external tariff distinguishes the Customs Union from the lower level of integration known as a “free trade area”. As a form of supranational trade policy, facing the outside world as a single entity in this respect, it is already a form of political as well as economic integration.

The present legal framework for the Customs Union is defined by the Union Customs Code, which came into force on May 1, 2016 with the stated objectives of modernising and simplifying the arrangement, including the transition to fully electronic customs.

Currently, membership of the EU Customs Union is virtually identical to membership of the EU itself, with the addition or exception of various territories of EU member states.

The EU also has bilateral customs unions in place with Turkey, San Marino and Andorra.

To be continued: the European Single Market.

Notes

[1] It is important to bear in mind when looking at these origins that a shift occurred in the late 1970s from social democracy, which had gone into crisis, to neoliberalism. The present neoliberal period is characterised by: the restructuring of the state under the anti-social offensive where all of the previous arrangements of civil and political society lie in tatters; the end of the bipolar division of the world; the crisis of the nation state and the rise of supranational organisations; the unrestricted imposition of monopoly right; and conditions of generalised disequilibrium. The institutions and agreements set up straddle these two periods.

Main sources: European Commission, ec.europa.eu; Centre Virtuel de la Connaissance de l’Europe (CVCE), http://www.cvce.eu.

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TUC: 50,000 Jobs Axed in first half of 2018

‘Government needs to up its game,’ says union chief Frances O’Grady

Alamy

Around 50,000 jobs have been axed in the first half of this year as retail workers bore the brunt of hundreds of store closures, new figures have shown.

Analysis shows that 50,000 staff have been made redundant or seen their role put under threat, with the bulk of them working for well known high street chains.

In the past few weeks alone, House of Fraser has put more than 6,000 jobs at risk with its store closure plan, while Poundworld has plunged into administration, endangering a further 5,100.

It comes after the collapse of Toys R Us and Maplin earlier this year. The same period also saw chains like Prezzo, Byron and Jamie’s Italian shut restaurants, culling hundreds of jobs.

Retailers have been hammered by Brexit-fuelled inflation, soaring business rates, and falling consumer confidence.

Responding to the figures, the TUC called on the government take action to stem the tide.

The union’s general secretary, Frances O’Grady, said: “Retail depends on customers having money in their pockets. One reason why some shops are struggling is because wage growth has been very weak.

Government needs to up its game, boost the economy and invest in great jobs that people can live on.”

Soaring business rates have been flagged as a major contributor to the high-profile retail failures seen this year.

Robert Hayton, head of UK business rates at Altus Group, said: “Business rates are rarely the sole driver for insolvencies but certainly a contributory factor, with bills having risen by more than a fifth through inflation during the seven years before last year’s revaluation.

“Add that to the lethal cocktail of other increased operating costs for the national living wage and apprenticeship levy and it creates the perfect storm.”

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House of Fraser to shut 31 stores and put 6,000 jobs at risk

Figures from Altus show that the average business rates bill for a department store in England and Wales this year for rocketed 26.6 per cent to £717,952 following last year’s government revaluation.

Away from retail, BT is axing around 13,000 jobs as part of a revamped cost-cutting drive, with two-thirds of the cuts to fall in the UK.

The collapse of outsourcer Carillion has so far resulted in the loss of more than 2,375 jobs, with further pain expected.

Meanwhile, British Gas owner Centrica has announced that it is to axe 4,000 roles over the next three years under a ramped-up efficiency programme.

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Teacher Numbers at Lowest:

Teacher numbers at lowest since 2013, official figures show

BBC
Teacher in primary classroom  
Teachers leaving the profession outnumber new recruits, the figures suggest

 

The number of teachers working in state-funded schools in England has fallen to its lowest level since 2013, official statistics show.

Last year, 451,900 full time equivalent teachers were working in English state schools, compared with 457,000 in 2016.

Teacher numbers have not been lower since 2013, according to figures published on Thursday by the Department for Education.

The government said recruiting more teachers was a top priority.

Until last year, teacher numbers had been rising steadily.

In 2011, there were 440,000 teachers in English schools, reaching 449,000 by 2013, and 457,000 by 2016 – but last year the number fell sharply.

Dr Mary Bousted, joint general secretary of the largest teachers’ union, the NEU, said the statistics would make “grim reading” for Education Secretary Damian Hinds.

She said qualified teachers leaving the profession outnumbered new recruits.

“We are losing teachers too quickly, undoubtedly because the government is burning them out with an excessive workload and they can earn more and have a better work-life balance in another profession.”

Chris Keates, general secretary of the NASUWT union, said parents would be particularly concerned that the teacher shortage coincided with evidence of increasing class sizes.

Separate government figures, also published on Thursday, show the number of pupils in England’s schools continues to rise, with secondary schools affected for the fourth year in a row.

There are now 66,000 more children in England’s schools, compared with last year.

Some of the increase is in primaries but most of it is in secondaries, where overall numbers have risen 35,400 as the baby boom of the early 2000s makes the transition.

‘Skills shortage’

The figures suggest the staffing crisis means teachers increasingly lack university-level qualifications in the subjects they teach, with more than a third of physics teachers and almost a quarter of chemistry teachers without a relevant higher education qualification in the subjects.

A spokesman for the Department for Education pointed out that an additional 32,000 trainee teachers had been recruited last year.

“Teacher recruitment will always be challenging in a strong economy with record numbers of jobs,” he said.

“But we know there is more to do, which is why the education secretary has made it his top priority to make sure teaching remains an attractive and fulfilling profession.”

Mr Hinds has already promised to cut teachers’ workload and to reduce their “bureaucratic burden”.

Paul Whiteman, general secretary of the school leaders’ union NAHT, said ministers had until recently failed to heed warnings about staffing.

He urged ministers “to address the root causes of the problem, which sees too few new recruits entering the system and too many experienced hands leaving prematurely”.

“Paying teachers’ properly for the essential work they do, not overloading them with work, and giving them access to proper professional development throughout their careers are the key steps that the government needs to take. And they need to do it fast,” said Mr Whiteman.

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