Sport & Politics DO Mix

Independence CelticContrary to the cliché, sport and politics DO actually mix. Whether you think that is a good thing or not is where the debate comes in.

Most people seem to like politics at football (or sport in general) as long as it is politics they agree with.

In order to see where you stand on the political issues you could compare your reactions to what Tommy Smith and John Carlos did at the Mexico Olympics or Emily Davidson becoming a martyr for the suffragette movement to some of the right-wing banners you see, for example, amongst the Serbian fans.

I was happy last night because there were two little political bits that I noticed that were both up my political street. At the Celtic V Barcelona match I was happy to see this banner in amongst the support…

But I’d have to say that yesterday the politics in football trophy goes to Greenpeace for their amazing protest which involved abseiling off the stadium roof and unfurling a huge banner at the Basel V Schalke match.

Here are a couple of videos of the event. I also notice that UEFA are blocking some of them…


A Venezuelan Footnote

Something arrived in my inbox and with the permission of its author, who is the political cartoonist Rick The Pleb, and I think it is worthy of a wider audience.

It’s a story direct from the recent protests outside the Venezuelan embassy.

I think it is interesting in a couple of ways. Firstly for what it says about the continuing campaign to undo what Chavez and his companions did, and want to continue doing,  and secondly for what it says about protest in the modern age and how protests are occasionally organised by the rich and powerful to give the impression of a grassroots movement of the people where no such movement actually exists.

Even the Guardian seemed to cover the story from a particularly one-sided perspective, neglecting to mention that there has also been some fairly aggressive behaviour toward Venezuelan consular staff by Capriles supporters,  so I hope this provides some kind of corrective.

Here’s Rick…


I’ve come back from London, where I was attending a counter-demonstration outside the Venezuelan Embassy.

The Opposition supporters who have refused to recognise the election result had organised a demonstration, so a group of us in the Venezuelan Consul yesterday agreed to organise a counter demonstration.

Here’s how the day went…DSC_0170

We (the pro-democracy, pro-Maduro group) arrived early and started to talk to people walking past. Then a few early Opposition demonstrators arrived. I talked to them and tried to reason with them. I quickly realised that facts do not matter to them.

One of the Opposition was from Italy. We ended up talking about Cuba. He said he knew about Cuba because he had seen a documentary on TV !!

“I’ve been to Cuba 7 times” I said.

“But you’ve only been to Havana!”…so I reeled off a list of places I’ve been to “Havana and Santiago, Santa Clara, Guantanamo, Cienfuegos, Bayamo, Holguin, Camaguey, Remedios…”

“Ah, but did you speak to any Cubans!!!” Er…yes!

We clearly would not agree. I said that the Carter Centre and the EU have verified Venezuelan elections as free and fair…and said it would be a big conspiracy if he was correct(!)..a conspiracy of the Venezuelan Government with the EU, Jimmy Carter… “Yes!” he replied.

He even asked me if I was being paid to be there! Er, no. I spent £14 on a train ticket! I said, “OK, can we agree that when the rest of the paper ballots are counted (54% have already been counted)…if it is the same as the electronic vote…can we agree that Maduro is the President?” No prizes for guessing the answer: “Um, er..” and he walks away.

Then the mass of the Opposition arrived. We had already occupied the space around the Embassy, so they could not get near.

One of the Opposition walked down our line saying “Shame on you!”. I gestured comically in shock, so she said “Speak Spanish!” (assuming I couldn’t)…so I said “Yo hablo español” [“I speak Spanish”]…so she walked away.

The Opposition protest organisers had called the police, they wanted us removed! The police arrived and simply stood between the two groups. About 8 policemen, all were OK. The police faced us and had their backs to the Opposition. After about an hour they faced the Opposition – the more likely side for trouble! We were worried that the Opposition would simply kick the crap out of us, so I was quite pleased to have some police there. We were outnumbered by the Opposition, it was their demonstration after all, and the counter-demonstration was only organised yesterday so we didn’t have much time to get people there.

An Opposition demonstrator entered our group and called one of us a “Paki” [slur for Pakistani, or anyone with slightly brown skin]. She swore at him, and then the police escorted him back to his side of the demonstration. There were a few more incursions, mainly to try and remove our flags that were taped to the Embassy wall.

The Opposition were perhaps 99% white, and in their 20s or early 30s (except for a few little kids), and seemed to be mainly Venezuelan or British. I think they clearly had more Venezuelans than us, but then our demonstration was organised in just over 12 hours.

We were a complete mix of ages and colours, and had people from Britain, Venezuela, Bolivia, Chile, Cuba and Paraguay.Untitled

“Go to Cuba!” they yelled at us. “Go to Miami” we yelled back. By this time we had a proper sound system. We were outnumbered but we were by far the loudest.

The Opposition suddenly had a massive Venezuelan flag. Measuring perhaps 1 metre by 20 metres long! I asked who paid for the flag…no answer. I asked more and more people…one said I had to speak in Spanish! So I asked in Spanish…still no answer.

The funny thing was the number of stars on this flag. The Venezuelan flag has 8 stars. Chavez’s government added the 8th. The Opposition still say there are only 7 stars…but their massive flag had 8.

They put the flag in front of us, then held it up high to block us out from their photos (I assume). Sometimes they would turn and look over the flag to yell at us. If we were speaking English over the megaphone…they would yell “Speak Spanish!!”…so we’d get a Venezuelan, Cuban or a Chilean to speak.

One Opposition girl was speaking at us. I decided to use a metaphor: “If someone comes second in the Olympics, they can’t have the Gold Medal. It’s the same with elections, Capriles came second”. The metaphor was lost on her, she said I knew nothing and walked away.

They continued to complain to the police, but the only people the police had to move away were Opposition protesters trying to cause trouble.

I think we drowned them out with sound, and their films for YouTube or the Opposition Media are hopefully ruined. I don’t think they were happy with our presence!

Then the strangest thing happened. Many of us had been asked if we were being paid to protest. Clearly not. I had looked at my phone to see what time it was. It was nearly 5pm. Then suddenly the entire Opposition protest walked away?!

Now I have been guilty of “clock-watching” in my office job sometimes, and leaving at exactly 5pm. But why would a whole protest suddenly vanish at 5pm? Were they all from the same bus? Were they being paid until 5pm? Were they flown in especially from Venezuela and had to catch the flight home? No idea, but its very strange. Any ideas?

We then had the entire area to ourselves. As people who had probably been visiting the Museums nearby were walking past and taking photos, a group of various nationalities and colours were dancing and singing in a big circle!

En Solidaridad


There are some photos and videos from the event here and here.

Film Guide (with free films) – Part 5 – Protest Documentaries

A few years ago I used to run a biweekly free film showing in the University for anyone who wanted to come along. The films were a mix of documentaries, fiction and  based on true story stuff. I would try to get a guest along to speak too.

I thought I would make the list of films available here with links to where you can see them free where possible.

I’ve divided them into rough groups and posted links to where you can find them online if you want to. The first week I had some films about the media and the second was economics, the third was biographies and the fourth was some great anti-war films.

This time round we are looking at documentaries from various protests around the world…

Taking Liberties – This is of interest to anyone who has forgotten how bad the bLIAR was and the civil liberties he stripped away. Also of interest to people who want reminding of it and for people who enjoy gnashing their teeth.

Here is a link to the first part online and you can work your way through it.

The Miami Model – A remarkable film about the protests in Miami at the FTAA meeting and the policing of those protests.

It is online here. I wrote a review of it here. David Rovics wrote a song about it here.

The Fourth World War – This documentary takes a look at different struggles all around the world and shows how they are based around similar discontents.

The first part is here and you can work your way through.


Striking Out

With UK strikes on the way and the media, as usual, only ready to focus on the disruption that may be caused and barely willing to focus on the reasons for it here are a few ideas, mostly in an American context but applicable to anywhere, taken from here, on the subject of striking that aren’t likely to get much play in the next few days…

[T]he strike is inherently dangerous to the rich, and to the corporations who have brought this country to her knees, because it is the only defense the ordinary citizen has.

Keith Olbermann, speech at Cornell University, March 29, 2011

In our glorious fight for civil rights, we must guard against being fooled by false slogans, as ‘right-to-work.’ It provides no ‘rights’ and no ‘works.’ Its purpose is to destroy labor unions and the freedom of collective bargaining… We demand this fraud be stopped.

— Martin Luther King, Jr.

The governor can stop a strike any time. If I were the governor I would stop a strike by simply saying, “These men have a grievance and demand redress from you. Come and discuss these questions with the miners on the fair soil of America like intelligent, law-abiding citizens. If you refuse I will close up your mines. I will have the state operate mines for the benefit of the nation.” It is not right for public officials to bring scabs and gunmen into any state. I am directly opposed to it myself, but if it is a question of strike or you go into slavery, then I say strike until the last one of us drop into our graves.

Mother Jones, 1913

Never forget, people DIED for the eight hour workday.

Rebecca Gordon

The only thing workers have to bargain with is their skill or their labor. Denied the right to withhold it as a last resort, they become powerless. The strike is therefore not a breakdown of collective bargaining-it is the indispensable cornerstone of that process.

— Paul Clark, 1989

Hoping for a Tommie Smith Moment

When it comes to sport we are all familiar with the concept of the vast majority of Scots not supporting England in major tournaments.

Furthermore, we are also familiar with the complaint that when it is a UK team, a Scottish winner is described as “British” and a Scottish loser is described as “Scottish”.

But I will go you one further.

I don’t support the UK in any of these competitions either. I don’t like it when the olympics etc come round and a Scot wins or does well and is then seen parading around with the union jack. So in these tournaments I support no one. Not even the Scots in the UK team because if they do well then the victory parade with the Union Jack is on the way.

So when the olympics are on and the media are frenziedly trying to turn a London party into a UK party (does that last line make anyone think of something else too?), I’ll be waiting for a Tommie Smith moment.


A Tommie MacSmith moment would of course be nice but some displays of social conscience by any of the athletes would be good. I know they are told not to but I think the point is that you do it even though they don’t want you too.


Before everything resolves into election chat today I just want to point out that there is a general strike in Greece.

Good luck Greek strikers, I hope you win.

“There are other things the [government] can do, before taking money from a pensioner who earns 500 euros (£430) a month,”

– Spyros Papaspyros

(Photo from older protest)

Cartoon by THE PLEB


This week we have Eugene Jarecki’s Why We Fight which, amongst other things, examines the lies that are used to manipulate the public into supporting wars…