Thursday, 28 October 2010

China: Overturning global balance of power and freeing the South from the West - Interview with Mohamed Hassan

Is the fate of the world being decided today in the Indian Ocean ?
Grégoire Lalieu, Michel Collon

25 octobre 2010

Straddled by the Islamic arch (which stretches from Somalia to Indonesia, passing through the countries of the Gulf and Central Asia), the region has certainly become the world's new strategic centre of gravity. This new chapter in our series 'Understanding the Muslim world', takes us there on a tour.

Mohamed Hassan explains to us how China's economic development is overturning the world balance of power and is freeing the countries of the South from their dependence on the West. He also lays bare the strategies employed by the US in its efforts to maintain its leadership. And why it is that the US empire is nevertheless destined to die. Finally, he predicts the end of globalisation. It remains to be seen if their planetary domination will end without a struggle, or whether the gangsters will be shooting hostages. INTERVIEW OF MOHAMED HASSAN BY GREGOIRE LALIEU & MICHEL COLLON

From Madagascar to Thailand, passing by Somalia, Pakistan or Burma, the Indian Ocean area is in turmoil. How can you explain these tensions ?

The world balance of power is being completely overturned. And the Indian Ocean region finds itself at the heart of the geopolitical storm.

What region are we talking about exactly ?

It goes from Africa's east coast to the south of Asia, incorporating a lake (the Caspian Sea) and 3 rivers, i.e., the Persian Gulf, the Red Sea and the Mediterranean.

Why is this region so important ? The first reason is that 60% of the world's population is concentrated in Asia and is connected to the Indian Ocean. China and India alone account for 40% of the world population. Besides that, the emergence of these two economic powers has made the Indian Ocean a zone of special strategic interest. Currently 70% of the world's oil is shipped through this Ocean. This percentage will increase along with the growing needs of both countries. On top of that, 90% of world trade is carried in container ships, with the Indian Ocean alone hosting half this traffic.

As the US journalist Robert D Kaplan, a close adviser of Obama and the Pentagon, has predicted, the Indian Ocean will become the 21st century world's strategic centre of gravity. Not only does this ocean constitute a vital passage for trade and energy resources between the Middle East and the Far East, but it is also at the heart of the economic axis that is developing between China, on the one hand, and Africa and Latin America on the other.

Does the emergence of these new trading relations mean that the South is in the course of freeing itself of its dependence on the West ?

Certainly. Some of the statistics are dizzying : trade between China and Africa has increased by 20 times since 1997. Trade with Latin America has increased by more than 14 times in less than 10 years ! India and Brazil are also collaborating more closely with the black continent. Encouraged by China's development, South-South investments have grown rapidly. After having been pillaged and sacked for centuries, the South is finally emerging from its torpor.

Why are so many African and Latin American countries turning towards China ?

For centuries the West has been looting the resources of the South, preventing these countries from developing, especially because of their crippling debts. But China is offering higher prices for raw materials and is investing in the countries of the South in order to develop their infrastructure, their social policies or plans for non-polluting energy production. China has at the same time abolished import taxes on numerous African products, which greatly favours that continent's production and trade. And finally, China has also written off the debts of the poorest African countries.

In addition, unlike western powers, China does not interfere in the internal policies of its economic partners. At a Sino-African ministerial conference, the Chinese Prime Minister Jiabao summed up his country's policy thus : "Our economic collaboration and trade are based on mutual advantage. … We have never imposed political conditions on Africa and we will never do so in the future." What a difference from the western powers which never cease creating and bringing down African governments !

Finally the western capitalist countries are going through a severe economic crisis which has its repercussions in China, but has not prevented it from continuing with a healthy rate of economic growth. In such a situation it is natural that African and Latin American countries should turn towards their most robust economic partner. As the Financial Times pointed out, at one time Brazil would have been affected by the crisis in the US. But in 2009 its economy continued to grow, and it is not by chance that China has become its main trading partner.

This south-south axis is standing up to western hegemony. Will the US and Europe stand aside while China treads on their toes ?

Globally the development of this south-south axis poses two major threats to the imperialist powers, especially the US. First of all, it is removing countries that are rich in raw materials from the western sphere of influence. And then it is allowing China to access to all the resources it needs to pursue its stellar growth. Peking is rising towards catching up with the world's primary economic power, the US. According to Albert Keidel, a former World Bank economist and member of the Atlantic Council, China could overtake the US in 2035.

These days Washington is therefore seeking to contain the emergence of China in order to safeguard its leading role. And control of the Indian Ocean lies at the heart of its strategy. The struggle against Somali piracy, by the way, is merely a pretext for positioning NATO forces in the Indian oceans so that western powers can retain control of the area. Japan too has begun building a military base in Djibouti with a view to fighting piracy.

There's a lot of talk about pirates and Islamic terrorists. Are these real threats or just an excuse ?

I am not saying that there is no threat. All I am saying is that the western powers are making use of it in order to promote their strategic interests in the region. How did piracy arise in Somalia ? For more than 20 years the country has not had a government. Certain European companies took advantage of this fact in order to come and help themselves to fish stocks along the Somali coast, and other companies came to deposit their toxic waste. In these circumstances Somali fishermen have taken to piracy in order to survive. Of course, the phenomenon has taken on another dimension in the meantime. But if you want to resolve the piracy issue you have to get to the root of the problem and re-establish a legitimate political order in Somalia.

This is an order that has been unacceptable to the US up to now.

Indeed and its mindless policy can cause much worse trouble. It should be realised that Somalia is the historic Islamic heart of East Africa. At one time the influence of Somali religious leaders was very important. They took Sunni Islam all the way to Mozambique. So, when Shi'ites from Oman extended their influence to east Africa during the 18th century, they were able to enormously influence the culture of the region, though they were never able to convert the population to Shi'ism.

Nowadays an Islamic movement could develop as a result of the errors committed by the US in the Horn of Africa. If the leaders of this movement used this common history to rally members throughout eastern Africa and to defend Somalia as a historic centre of African Islam, then the threat would really become a major one for the US.

The Indian Ocean is crowned by the 'Islamic arch', which stretches from East Africa to Indonesia via the Gulf countries and Central Asia. How was it possible for this ocean, the cradle of Islamic powers, to fall under the domination of western powers ?

Before the Suez Canal was opened in 1869, four big powers dominated the region – the Ottomans, the Persians (Iranians today), the Moghuls (an Islamic empire that developed in India), and China. Across the Indian Ocean, trade brought Muslim people into contact with other people in the region and enabled Islam to expand even to China and East Africa. This is how the Islamic arch was formed and how the Indian Ocean came to be largely dominated by Muslim powers.

But a major event, occurring in India, began the process leading to European domination of the region : this was the Sepoy revolt in 1857. The sepoys were Indian soldiers in the service of English companies. The injustices inflicted on them by their employers led them to mount a rebellion which rapidly sparked off a great mass movement. It was a very violent revolt, with the sepoys massacring lots of English. However, the English did manage in the end to put down the movement. In Britain a major propaganda campaign was waged against sepoy barbarity. Karl Marx analysed these events and drew quite different conclusions : "Their methods are barbaric, but we should ask ourselves who led them to display such barbarity – it was the British colonialists installed in India".

We see today something similar with the attacks of 11 September. All western public opinion is whipped up to indignation concerning the barbaric methods of Islamic terrorists. But nobody asks questions concerning the factors that have given rise to this kind of terrorism : that would bring us back to US foreign policy in the Middle East over the last 50 years.

Finally, the repression of the sepoy rebellion had two important consequences ; firstly, that the Indian colony that had up to then been managed by private companies, passed officially to the administration of the British government. And then Great Britain deposed the last Islamic ruler of India, the Moghul emperor, Mohammed Bahadur Shah. He was exiled to Burma where he lived out the end of his life.

11 years after the sepoy revolt, the Suez Canal was opened, which joined the Mediterranean Sea and the Indian Ocean. Was this an important factor in facilitating European domination of that ocean ?

Absolutely. European colonisation of the countries bordering the Indian Ocean accelerated. France seized Djibouti, and Britain seized first Egypt and then Bahrain, with the aim of protecting India from Russian expansionism.

Then, after many an upheaval among the various imperialist powers towards the end of the 19th century (e.g., the unification of Germany and Italy, the division of Africa among the European powers), the Empire of the Sultanate of Oman was the last great Arabic power active in the Indian Ocean. In order to overthrow it, the Europeans mounted a propaganda campaign around the fact that Omanis were exploiting Africans as slaves. Under the pretext of fighting slavery, Europe mobilised its troops in the Indian Ocean and overthrew the Sultanate of Oman. In this way western domination of the Indian Ocean became total.

However, today this domination is being challenged by the emerging Asian powers and the Indian Ocean could become a theatre of Sino-US competition. The US being in decline while China is in the course of a spectacular rise, how will Washington be able to block its main competitor ?

The Pentagon is well embedded in the region : it has its enormous military base in Okinawa (Japan) ; it has accords with the Philippines on the pretext of the fight against terrorism ; it has extremely good relations with the Indonesian army that was created by Washington to murder a million communists and instal a military dictatorship in the 1960s...

Besides that, the US has a military base on Diego Garcia. This coral island situated in the heart of the Indian Ocean would be a holiday maker's dream with its beach of white sand and its palm trees. Yet the history of this island is a lot less glamorous. In 1965 Diego Garcia and the rest of the Chagos Archipelago became part of British territory in the Indian Ocean. In 1971 all the inhabitants of the island of Diego Garcia were deported by the US who built a military base there ; and it is from this strategic position that Washington carried out various operations during the Cold War and the wars against Iraq and Afghanistan. Today even though they have won in British courts, the inhabitants of Diego Garcia are prevented from returning to their island by the government of the UK.

So the US military is well entrenched in the region. For its part, China has two Achilles heels : the straits of Hormuz and of Malacca. The first (which is between Oman and Iran) constitutes the only entry into the Persian Gulf and is only 26 kilometres wide at its narrowest point. About 20% of China’s oil imports go through this place. The other weak point, the straits of Malacca (between Malaysia and the Indonesian island of Sumatra) bears heavy traffic and is very dangerous ; yet it is the principal route for cargoes from the Indian Ocean destined for China. About 80% of Chinese oil imports go through these straits. The US being well established in the zone, could block the Straits of Malacca were a conflict to break out with China. That would be truly catastrophic for Beijing.

Does this explain why China is seeking to diversify its sources of energy ?

Absolutely. Confronted with this major problem, China has developed several strategies. The first is to obtain its supplies in Central Asia. A gas pipeline is now linking Turkmenistan to the Chinese province of Xinjiang ; between now and 2015 it is expected to provide 40 billion cubic metres a year, which amounts to almost half of current Chinese consumption. A pipeline is also linking China to Kazakhstan, bringing oil from the Caspian Sea.

There is also south Asia. Beijing has entered into accords with Bangladesh to acquire gas and oil. The construction has recently been announced of an oil pipeline and a gas pipeline which will respectively supply from Myanmar (Burma) 22 million tonnes of oil and 12 billion cubic metres of gas a year.

Finally, there is the third Chinese strategy, codenamed the ‘pearl necklace’, which consists of building ports in friendly countries along the north coast of the Indian Ocean. The objective is to have at its disposal autonomous maritime traffic in the region. Included in this strategy is the construction in Pakistan of the deep water port of Gwadar. This type of port is specially adapted to the traffic in container ships and China proposes to build others, in Africa in particular. It should be understood that certain container ships carrying merchandise to China from Latin America are too wide to reach the Pacific Ocean by passing through the Panama Canal. Therefore they cross the Atlantic Ocean and then the Indian Ocean in order to reach China. For this journey, they would not have to transit through Europe anymore as they do at present to reach the Indian Ocean through the Suez Canal. In the context of South-South trade, these container ships would rather travel via Africa in their journeys between Latin America and Asia.

This would have major consequences for Africa. Countries such as Mozambique, Somalia, South Africa or Madagascar could join this Indian Ocean network. If new ports were developed there similar to the one at Gwadar, this would cause a major economic boom in this part of Africa. At the same time, activity in the major European ports such as Marseilles or Antwerp would decline. Connecting Africa to the Asian market thanks to the Indian Ocean would cause a veritable boon for the black continent. Nelson Mandela, when he was the President of South Africa, wanted to see this project undertaken, but the US and Europe opposed it. Today China has the means of taking the initiative. The South-South axis is being established : the third world countries are escaping the divisions that have been created between them and are increasingly cooperating. The world is being turned upside down.

How was China able to become such a great power in so little time ?

Until the 19th century, China was a great power. It sold high quality merchandise and held more foreign currencies, gold and silver, than the European powers. But the country was not really open to international trade. There were only a few trading posts along the coast, to the annoyance of Great Britain. The latter, at the height of its industrial revolution, wanted to sell a large quantity of products throughout China as a whole.

Thus, when the Viceroy Lin Zexu ordered the destruction of 1838 of chests full of opium that Great Britain had been importing illegally into Chinese territory, the British used this as a pretext for war. Lord Melbourne sent an expedition to Canton, which was the first Opium War. It came to an end 4 years later. Beaten, the Chinese were forced to open up their country further to international trade.

But the imperialist powers desired to penetrate still further into the Chinese interior in order to sell their merchandise. They demanded legalisation of opium sales, despite the ravages that these caused to the population. For this highly lucrative trade enabled them to demand to be paid in silver lingots and secure a favourable balance of trade. In response to the refusal of the Chinese empire, Great Britain and France unleashed the « Second opium war » (1856-1860). On its knees, China then became a semi colony of the western powers. Finally, the sale of opium was legalised and Great Britain and the US devoted themselves to it at great profit to themselves.

Nothing is ever said about all that in Europe where it would seem that little is known of the history of China.

It’s the same elsewhere too. It is important to understand that these imperialist wars and the destruction caused by the colonial powers caused the death of over 100 million Chinese people. Some were taken as slaves to the Peruvian mines to work under appalling conditions which caused numerous mass suicides. Others were exploited to build railways in the US. While thousands of Chinese children were kidnapped for the purpose of sinking the first Shell oilwells in Brunei at a time when mechanised drilling techniques were not yet available. Those were terrible times. No other people have suffered so much. It is not until 1949 and the revolution led by Mao that China re-established itself as an independent and prosperous state.

There are those who attribute this amazing Chinese success to Deng Xiaoping and claim that it is only through having distanced itself from Maoism and opening China to foreign capital that the country has been able to develop.

That is to forget that under Mao, China already secured continual growth which oscillated between 7 and 10 percent every year ! Of course, Mao did make mistakes during the cultural revolution. Yet he nevertheless took a country of a billion inhabitants out of extreme poverty. He enabled China to re-establish itself as an independent state after a century of oppression. It is therefore a mistake to attribute China’s development solely to Deng Xiaoping’s policy of opening China up. Starting from nothing, the country’s economy has not stopped growing since its revolution in 1949, and this task is not yet over.

Obviously, the present opening up to capitalism raises many questions over China’s future. There will certainly be contradictions between different social forces as a result of this strengthening of the local bourgeoisie. China could become an entirely capitalist country, but one that is not dominated by imperialism. But in either case, the US will seek to prevent this country from becoming a great power that has the means to stand up to it.

In fact, there are those who claim that China has itself become an imperialist power, exporting its capital to the four corners of the globe and prospecting throughout the South for the purpose of securing supplies of raw materials.

Confusion exists, even within the left-wing movement, over Lenin’s definition of imperialism (Lenin being the person who has undoubtedly best studied this phenomenon). Some people only hold on to one aspect of this definition, i.e., the export of capital to foreign countries. Of course, this is an essential factor. And of course, it is thanks to the export of capital that capitalist powers are able to enrich themselves faster and end up dominating the economy of less developed countries. But in the context of imperialism, this economic domination is inseparable from a political domination that transforms the country into a semi colony.

In other words, if you are an imperialist, you must, in the countries to which you export your capital, create a puppet for yourself : a government which serves your interests. You can also train your semi colony’s army to organise military putsches if the puppet was to disobey. This is what happened recently in Honduras where President Manuel Zelaya was overthrown by an army whose officers were trained in US military academies. You can at the same time infiltrate the political system through organisations such as the CIA in order to create quislings. In short, we can say that imperialism rests on a two-fold domination, economic and political. You can’t have one without the other.

This is where the major difference lies with China. China does not interfere in the politics of the countries with which it trades. And its export of capital does not to seek to suffocate or dominate the economies of partner countries. Thus, China is not only not an imperialist power, but on the contrary assists countries that are the victims of imperialism to free themselves by overturning the relations of domination established by the West.

Will the US still be able to stop their Chinese competitor ? True, the Pentagon is firmly established in the region, but a direct military confrontation with China seems improbable. Washington seems still to be mired in the Middle East and, according to numerous experts, would be in no position to enter into direct conflict with Beijing.

It’s true that bombing and invading China is not a viable option. The US has therefore developed other strategies. The first is to rely on its vassal states in Africa in order to control that continent and block China’s access to raw materials. This strategy is not new, but was applied after the Second World War to contain Japan’s development.

And which are nowadays these vassal states ?

In North Africa you have Egypt. In East Africa, it’s Ethiopia. In West Africa, it’s Nigeria. In the South and centre of the continent, Washington was relying on South Africa. But this strategy has failed. As we have seen, the US has not been able to prevent African states from trading with China and it has lost a lot of influence in that continent. Witness to this is the snub suffered by the Pentagon when looking for a country in which to establish the headquarters of its regional Africom command. Every country in the continent refused to host this base. The South African Defence Minister explained that this refusal was a « collective African decision » and Zambia even replied to the US Secretary of State : « Would you care to have an elephant in your living room ? » Currently the headquarters of this regional command for Africa is based in … Stuttgart ! This is an embarrassment for Washington.

Another US strategy for controlling the Indian Ocean would be to use India against China by exacerbating the tensions between these two countries. This technique has already been used in the case of Iran and Iraq in the 1980s. The US armed both sides at the same time, and Henry Kissinger declared « Let them kill each other » ! Applying this theory to India and China would enable them to kill two birds with one stone by weakening the two emerging great powers in Asia. Moreover, during the 1960s, the US had already used India in a conflict against China. But India was beaten and I don’t think that today its leaders would make the mistake of going to war against their neighbour for the benefit of a foreign power. There are definitely contradictions between Beijing and New Delhi, but they are not major ones. These two third world emerging nations must not get involved in this kind of typically imperialist conflict.

No way out then for the US in India or Africa. But in the Far East it has numerous allies. Can’t it count on them for the containment of China ?

There too Washington has failed because of its greed. South-east Asia underwent a terrible economic crisis in 1997, caused by a serious ‘error’ on the part of the US. It all started with a devaluation of the Thai currency which had come under attack from speculators. At a stroke, the Stock Exchanges went mad and many enterprises became bankrupt. Thailand hoped to get support from the US, whose faithful ally it was. But the White House didn’t move. It rejected even the idea of creating an Asian monetary Fund to come to the assistance of the countries worst affected. In fact, US multinationals took advantage of this Asian crisis to wipe out their Asian competitors whose rise had been worrying them.

In the end it was China which saved the region from catastrophe by its decision not to devalue its currency. A weak currency helps exports, and if the yuan had fallen, the increase of Chinese exports would have completely decimated the economies of neighbouring countries which were already in a bad state. Therefore, by maintaining the value of its currency, China allowed the countries of the region to rebuild their exports and to lift themselves up. While many Asian governments were angry with Washington because of its role during this crisis, the Malaysian prime minister declared « China’s collaboration and its high sense of responsibility saved the region from a much more catastrophic scenario ».

Since that time, economic relations between China and its neighbours have not ceased widening. In 2007 China even became Japan’s largest trading partner, despite the fact that Japan is one of the US’s most strategic allies in Asia.

Moreover, China has no pretensions towards hegemony in the region. The US thought that the countries of the Indian Ocean would be frightened by Chinese power and would seek to be protected. But China has established relations based on the principle of equality with its neighbours. From this point of view, the US has therefore also lost the battle in the Far East.

Has the US therefore no means of preventing China from competing against it ?

It would seem not. In order to develop, China desperately needs energy resources. The US is therefore seeking to control these resources to prevent them reaching China. This was a major objective of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, but these have turned into a fiasco. The US destroyed these countries in order to set up governments there which would be docile, but they have failed. The icing on the cake is that the new Iraqi and Afghan government trade with China ! Beijing has therefore not needed to spend billions of dollars on an illegal war in order to get its hands on Iraq’s black gold : Chinese companies simply bought up oil concessions at auction totally within the rules.

One can see that the USA's imperialist strategy has failed all along the line. There is nevertheless one option still open to the US : maintaining chaos in order to prevent these countries from attaining stability for the benefit of China. This means continuing the war in Iraq and Afghanistan and extending it to countries such as Iran, Yemen or Somalia.

This short term strategy could turn out to be catastrophic as it brings ever more people into the anti-American, anti-Nato and anti-western front. Those who want to continue to pursue military means would do better to study the history of the US over the last 60 years. Washington has not won any war except against the tiny island of Grenada in 1983.

How did this decline of the « American empire » come about ?

After the Second World War, the US took the jackpot. It had intervened very late in the conflict, after having for a long time financed (very lucratively) both sides : the Allies and the Nazis. Finally, Washington decided to come to the assistance of the Allies. When the conflict ended, Great Britain was undermined by debt, German power had been destroyed and the USSR had paid a heavy price (more than 20 million dead) to defeat the Nazi army. By contrast, the US having made hardly any sacrifice, came out as the major victors : they had a vast territory, an industry that was in full swing, major agricultural capacity and their principal European competitors were on their knees. This is how the US became a world superpower.

But they then spent all the jackpot won during the Second World War to fight against communism. The US economy was militarised and the wars followed one after the other, from Korea to Iraq, via Vietnam to name but a few. Today, for every dollar of the US government budget, 60 cents goes to the army. It’s a disaster ! The country’s other major industries have been destroyed, and the public schools and hospitals are in a deplorable state.

Five years after Hurricane Katrina, the inhabitants of New Orleans are still living in camps. One can compare this situation with that of Lebanon : those who lost their homes as a result of the 2006 Israeli bombings are now once more housed thanks to Hezbollah. This has caused one mullah living in the US to say that it was better to be a Lebanese than to live in the US because in the land of the cedar one at least has a roof over one’s head.

This militarisation process has plunged the US into debt. But today their main creditor is none other than … China ! Strangely, the destiny of these two great competitors seems to be intimately interlinked.

Yes, the economy is something crazy ! In effect, China exports a lot of products to the US, which bring in a lot of profits in dollars. The accumulation of these profits enables China to maintain a stable rate of exchange between the yuan and the greenback, which favours its exports. But the accumulation of these US dollars leads to Beijing buying US Treasury bonds that finance US debt. Thus in financing US debt, China in fact finances the war on terror ! Yet the Pentagon is waging this war in order to better control the energy resources of the world in an attempt to contain the emergence of China. You can see that the situation is paradoxical ! But this campaign on the part of the US has failed and its economy is on the edge of bankruptcy.

There is only one option left : to reduce its military expenditure and to utilise its budget to kickstart the economy. But imperialist logic is dominated by immediate profit and unbounded competition. As a result, it keeps going unto the death. The historian Paul Kennedy has studied the history of great empires : each time that the economy of a great power finds itself slowing down, while its military expenditure increases, that great power is destined to disappear.

Is this the end, then, of the « American empire » ?

Who can say ? History moves in zigzags and I have no crystal ball to predict the future. However, everything points to US hegemony nearing its end. There will no longer be any world superpower and the US will probably become once more an important regional power. We will inevitably see a return to protectionism and as a result, the end of globalisation. Regional economic blocs will emerge and of these blocks, Asia will be the strongest. Today the billionaires are less and less to be found among western Whites. They are in Asia where wealth and production capacity is to be found.

What will happen to Europe ?

It has very strong links with the US, particularly through NATO, a US invention that appeared after the Second World War to control the old continent. Nevertheless, I think that there are two types of leader in Europe : those who are pro-US and those who are truly European. The former remain dependent on Washington. The latter promote European interests and are allying with Russia. With the economic crisis and the decline of the US, Europe’s interests logically turn it towards Asia.

In his famous book The Grand Chessboard, the American political commentator Zbigniew Brzezinski contemplated such a possible alliance between Europe and Asia. But he said that this union will probably never see the light of day because of cultural differences.

After the Second World War, the US dominated the economic scene, particularly in Europe, and was able to export their culture and lifestyle. The economy in fact generated cultural links, but culture creates no links unless stomachs are full. One cannot eat culture. And when stomachs are empty, culture comes second to the economy.

That is why today, now that the capitalist world is in crisis, Europe has to put its economic interests ahead of the cultural links that unite it with the US. It would therefore be logical for it to turn towards Asia. In fact the cultural links between Europe and the US were forged in Hollywood. Historically one could say that the cultural links are stronger, for instance, between Italy and Libya, or between Spain and Morocco.

Henry Kissinger, when he was not ordering the Iranians and Iraqis to be allowed to kill each other, used to say that US hegemony was essential for maintaining the peace and propagating democracy throughout the world. Numerous experts such as Brzezinski held the same view. Does the end of the ‘American empire’ not risk provoking major conflicts ?

The democracy they were talking about is that of the western countries which do not represent more than 12% of the world’s population. Moreover, it can scarcely be said that US hegemony has brought peace and stability to the world. On the contrary ! In order to remain the world’s sole superpower, they have unleashed wars and fomented conflicts in the four corners of the planet.

Today many Europeans, even if they condemn US excesses, would not like to see the fall of the ‘American empire’. It has been for over 60 years that Washington has effectively been militarily dominant over the old continent, claiming to be guaranteeing its security. A lot of Europeans have taken fright at the idea of putting an end to this ‘protection’ and taking charge of their own security.

A European army would require a large part of the European economy to be invested in the army. But this is not a productive sector and this enormous cost could cause a renewed crisis. Moreover, if you invest in the army the question arises : who is going to fight ? In case of war, Europe has serious demographic problems.

In my view, this situation explains the desire shown by certain European leaders to get close to Russia. This is the only peaceful and prosperous alliance that can be envisaged for Europe. But this means allowing Russia to become a great power in which Europeans could invest their technology. However, the US has always opposed the integration of Russia into Europe. If this happens anyway, there will be one too many in the alliance and Washington will have to leave the old continent.

In the 8 years of the Bush administration, its aggressive policies, its massive military expenditure and its crushing defeats have accelerated the fall of the US. Do you think Barack Obama is able to change anything ?

His election was historic. Afro-Americans have suffered so much in the past. Even though they contributed enormously to the development of the US, their political rights were betrayed. In fact, during the American Civil War, the Afro-Americans were victims of slavery in the South. The northern bourgeoisie promised them their freedom if they would agree to fight on their side. The slaves agreed and their participation in the conflict enabled the North to win. Between 1860 and 1880, the US went through a period of prosperity, free of racism, which the celebrated Afro-American leader, William Edward Burghardt Du Bois, described as a period of reconstruction. But very soon the US elite took fright on seeing people of colour, workers and ordinary citizens rallying together : the property rights of the minority bourgeoisie were threatened by the solidarity of the popular strata. As a result, segregation was reintroduced. The aim was to break the unity of the popular classes and to set ordinary citizens against each other with a view to preserving the elite in case of revolt.

In the context of US history, the elevation of a black man to the White House is therefore very important. But if it’s his colour that makes Barack Obama a progressive president that is not enough : the reactionary character of US imperialism has resurfaced, as we can see more and more. As a result I do not think that Barack Obama can change anything at all in the coming months or years. Imperialism cannot be changed or adapated. It has to be overthrown.

And where is the Muslim world in this great confrontation between the US and China ? Does it really have an important role to play ?

Yes, very important. As we indicated at the beginning of this interview, the US has demonised the ‘Islamic peril’ in a whole series of countries bordering the Indian Ocean : Somalia, the Gulf states, central Asia, Pakistan, Indonesia … The aim, linked to the interests of US multinationals, is to control the region’s oil and energy resources, as well as its strategic pipeline routes. But in the Middle East and in the whole Muslim world an anti-imperialist movement had developed, that stands up to the US domination.

There is a very positive factor here. All the world’s peoples have an interest in developing relations based on the principle of equality and putting an end as quickly as possible to the western hegemony that has engendered so much aggression and crime. In the past, all kinds of personalities and political currents tried to push the Muslim world into the arms of the US and its grand anti-communist alliance. But in fact the interests of the peoples of the Islamic arch, the interests of Muslims in general, lie on the other side. If everybody understands and supports the positive role played by China in today’s shifts in the balance of power, it will then be possible for a grand alliance to emerge, an alliance of all those countries which intend to develop themselves independently and in the interests of their people, i.e., by escaping from the imperialist powers’ looting and interference.

Everyone should inform those around them and help spread the understanding of these important and positive changes. To put an end to the hegemony of the imperialist powers will open up great potential for the liberation of the people of the world.

Mohammed Hassan recommends the following texts :


Robert D. Kaplan, Center Stage for the Twenty-first Century, in Foreign Affairs, March/April 2009

Robert D. Kaplan, The Geography of Chinese Power, in Foreign Affairs, May/June 2010

Chalmers Johnson, No longer the lone superpower – Coming to terms with China

Cristina Castello, “Diego Garcia”, pire que Guantanamo : L’embryon de la mort

Mike DAVIS, Génocides tropicaux. Catastrophes naturelles et famines coloniales.
Aux origines du sous-développement, Paris, La Découverte, 2003, 479 pages

Peter Franssen, Comment la Chine change le monde

Pepe Escobar, China plays Pipelineistan

Edward A. Alpers, East Africa and the Indian Ocean,

Patricia Risso, Merchants And Faith : Muslim Commerce And Culture In The Indian Ocean (New Perspectives on Asian History)

F. William Engdahl, A Century of War, Anglo-American oil politics and the new world order

Michel Collon, Media Lies and the Conquest of Kosovo (NATO’s Prototype for the Next wars of Globalization), traduction anglaise de Monopoly, Investig’Action

No terror arrests in 100,000 police counter-terror searches, figures show

Just 504 people out of 101,248 searches under counter-terror powers last year were held for any offence, Home Office reveals

*, Thursday 28 October 2010 12.30 BST

Rise in 'stop and search' complaints - report The 101,248 searches under counter-terrorism powers in 2009/10 was 60% down on the previous year. Photograph: David Parry/PA

More than 100,000 people were stopped and searched by police under counter-terrorism powers last year but none of them were arrested for terrorism-related offences, according to Home Office figures published today.

The statistics show that 504 people out of the 101,248 searches were arrested for any offence – an arrest rate of 0.5%, compared with an average 10% arrest rate for street searches under normal police powers.

The figures prompted the former Conservative home affairs spokesman David Davis to call for the controversial policy to be scrapped.

"This astonishing fact of no terrorism-related arrests, let alone prosecutions or convictions, in over 100,000 stop and searches, demonstrates what a massively counter-productive policy this is," said Davis.

"A policy which fuels resentment and antagonism amongst minority communities without achieving a single terrorist conviction serves only to help our enemies and increase the terrorism threat."

The annual Home Office bulletin on the use of terror powers also discloses for the first time that more than 85,000 people were questioned by police at airports and other border points in the last years under counter-terrorist legislation. More than 2,600 of them were held for more than an hour.

As Home Office ministers consider proposals to cut the current 28-day limit on detention without charge of terror suspects, the official figures reveal that nobody has been held longer than 14 days for the last two years before being charged or released.

The annual bulletin on the police use of counter-terrorism powers shows that, since the 9/11 attacks, 1,834 people have been arrested in Britain in connection with terrorism-related incidents.

A total of 1,000 of those suspects have been released without charge, 422 charged with terrorism-related offences, 228 with other crimes, and the remaining 184 dealt with by other action such as being transferred to the immigration authorities.

So far, 237 of those charged with terrorism-related offences have been convicted. There are 14 outstanding trials yet to be completed.

The Home Office figures show that 102 convicted terrorists were serving prison sentences – 84 of them Muslims – as of 31 March this year, with a further 25 released into the community after finishing their sentences in the last year.

The bulletin shows that the use of section 44 counter-terrorism stop and searches, which allowed the police to randomly search anyone without grounds for suspicion in a designated area, declined sharply in advance of a ruling earlier this year by the European court of human rights that it was unlawful.

There were 101,248 searches under these powers in 2009/10, a 60% reduction on the previous year. The vast majority were carried out by the Metropolitan police in London or by the British Transport police. The use of section 44 powers peaked at more than a quarter of a million searches in 2008/09 in the aftermath of the Haymarket bomb attack in London in 2007.

The figures show that 506 people were arrested as a result of the 101,248 searches and none of these arrests had anything to do with terrorism. Home Office statisticians say this arrest rate of 0.5% of searches under counter-terrorism powers compares with an average 10% arrest rate for searches under normal police powers.

The home secretary, Theresa May, is considering the future of section 44 under the review of counter-terrorism legislation which is due to report in the next few weeks. Since the Strasbourg ruling a residual power under section 44 has remained in force to allow the police to conduct random searches of vehicles.

The police use of section 44 to stop and search on the street has further declined since March, when the official figures were collected. An ethnic breakdown of the 101,248 searches shows that 59% of those stopped were white and 27% were black or Asian.

The counter-terrorism review is also looking at whether the 28-day limit for detaining terror suspects without charge should be retained, with Liberal Democrats pressing to reduce it to 14 days. The figures show that since the limit was raised from 14 to 28 days in 2006, 11 people have been detained for longer than 14 days. In the last two years nobody has been held without charge for longer than 14 days.

Sunday, 24 October 2010

20,000 Scots take to streets of Edinburgh to protest against spending cuts

Oct 24 2010 Mark Aitken,
Sunday Mail

THOUSANDS of Scots marched in protest at Government spending cuts yesterday as Treasury axeman Danny Alexander battled to justify them.

More than 20,000 joined a rally in Edinburgh to oppose the spending review announced by the Con Dem coalition on Wednesday.

Union leaders warned of strike action over the slashing of public services, which will see Scotland lose around £3billion over the next four years.

Up to 50,000 of the 500,000 public service jobs under threat will be lost in Scotland and the same number could go in the private sector.

The Scottish Trades Union Congress organised the rally and general secretary Grahame Smith said: "If members decide that the best way is to take industrial action then they will do that. I'm not saying that as a threat, but as a fact.

"We want to work constructively with employers but if they are not willing to do that then members will take action to protect their rights.

"There is no coordinated campaign of action at the moment. We hope it can be avoided but it's a real possibility."

But Alexander claimed the cuts were fair, despite moderate earners being penalised by changes in child benefit. The Chief Secretary to the Treasury said: "The decision we've made on child benefit was right and fair. It's part of ensuring that people with broader shoulders bear the greater share."

STUC president Joy Dunn told the Edinburgh protest: "A line has been drawn in the sand.

"Now is the time for organised co-ordinated industrial action. The fight starts here.

"This cabinet of millionaires know the price of everything but the value of nothing."

Marcher Peter Allison, 40, a staff nurse from Dundee, said: "This protest sends the message that people are prepared to work together against the cuts.

"People are trying to push the consensus that these cuts have to be made but I think the money can be found elsewhere.

"They say they will ring fence the health service but once the cuts have been made elsewhere, I think we will be next."

Among the marchers in Edinburgh were Scottish Labour leader Iain Gray and SNP Justice Secretary Kenny MacAskill.

The SNP government last night said the public spending cuts made borrowing powers for Scotland "absolutely essential".

Finance Secretary John Swinney's spokesman said: "We are building economic recovery in Scotland.

"But the UK government's damaging decision to slash our capital budget by a quarter next year threatens to take a wrecking ball to recovery."

Tories back on road to economic disaster

Have the Tories learned nothing from the 1980s and early 90s? Do they not realise that longer dole queues mean higher welfare bills, let alone that the social cost that communities can take years to recover from?

Do they want to add to their tragic litany of economic vandalism over past decades - Linwood, Bathgate, Ravenscraig? Their own figures show that for every extra 100,000 people claiming jobseeker's allowance, the Government needs to spend £400million on benefits.

George Osborne's Office for Budget Responsibility has even estimated that the Government's plans will cost an extra £700million in job seeker's allowance claims.

The Tories and the Lib Dems want you to think there is no other alternative to their plans to cut so deep.

But there is an alternative.

We should deal with the deficit in a fair way. It can't be fair, as the Tory government is doing, to take more money from children - in child benefit and tax credits - than from the banks.

We need an approach based on jobs and growth otherwise it will be impossible to get the deficit down.

Tragically in Scotland we have seen this Tory prescription before. And we know the results.

Thursday, 21 October 2010

Britain's communists urge militant resistance to 'Barbarians at the gate'

French CGT union members of the National Corsica Mediterranean Company (SNCM) demonstrating with a pirate flag and flares in Marseille’s old port aboard ferry shuttles yesterday during a protest against the government pensions reform. Photo: Anne-Christine Poujoulat/AFP

The Communist Party of Britain issued the following statement today (October 20, 2010)


The Comprehensive Spending Review constitutes the most comprehensive assault on public services and the Welfare State in British history.

The public finance deficit is being used as the cover for a programme of tax cuts and privatisation—including in the NHS—to benefit the rich and big business.

The mass media and the City have colluded with the ConDem government to launch an ideologically-driven offensive against the public sector, in the interests of monopoly capitalism.

They are pursuing an agenda designed by the European Commission and European Central Bank, while excluding any alternatives from public discussion.

Under instruction from Hilary Clinton, they have cushioned the military budget—and thereby intensified cuts elsewhere—in order to maintain Britain's junior role in the imperialist alliance with the US.

Corporation tax on business profits is being cut to one of the lowest levels in the developed world, while wages and benefits are devalued or scrapped and a new VAT increase hits the poor hardest.

The ConDem coalition could have cut the deficit by taxing the super-rich and monopoly profits. Instead, it attacks the jobs, incomes, living standards and quality of life of millions of workers and their families.

Yet a 2 per cent Wealth Tax on the richest 10 per cent of the population would raise £78 billion in just one year—almost the equivalent of the CSR measures (£83 billion) over four years.

A one-off 20 per cent windfall tax on the super-profits of banking, energy, retail, arms and drug monopolies this year would raise £16 billion.
Closing the tax havens under British jurisdiction and clamping down on tax dodgers would bring in around £70 billion each year.

A 'Robin Hood' tax on City transactions would raise £30 billion a year.
PFI payments to big business (£56 billion) and net contributions to the EU (£49 billion) over the next four years should be renegotiated.
Such measures would not only wipe out the projected £149 billion public finances deficit—they would also finance massive new investment in public sector housebuilding, public transport and non-nuclear renewable energy.

There is no need to slash public services and destroy more than a million jobs in the public and private sectors.

But if the ConDem government succeed in implementing the CSR cuts, the economic recovery could grind to a halt as unemployment rises above three million. Relying on private monopoly markets to provide a lot more investment in manufacturing, housebuilding, energy, research and development and jobs is madness.

Trade unions and the left must take the lead in building a broad-based mass movement, rooted in local communities, targeting vulnerable ConDem MPs to force a change of government policy or—failing that—a change of government.

Such a campaign could include a wide range of actions including lobbies, petitions, strikes, marches and demonstrations. Taking up the People's Charter would enable the movement to project a positive alternative which puts people, workers, public services, the environment and peace before monopoly profits.

All attempts by the government, employers and the courts to use and extend the anti-trade union laws should meet with mass solidarity and resistance.

We should take inspiration from the popular, militant resistance in France, Greece, Portugal and Spain to the pro-big business, anti-working class programme unfolding across Europe.

This is also an opportunity for Ed Miliband and the Labour Party leadership to dump New Labour and stand with the people and public services against the profiteers and privatisation.

Britain's Communist Party will do all in its power to help defend the historic social gains of the 20th century against the ConDem public school barbarians at the gate.

We will expose the treachery of the LibDems—the party of William Beveridge— who posed as the 'real' enemies of the Tories at the last General Election in order to win working class votes.

The Tories and their little LibDem helpers cannot be allowed to succeed in their attempt to turn the clock back decades if not centuries.

Vulnerable 'shut out of society' by spending review welfare cuts

Increase in welfare cuts to £18bn condemned by charities and unions

Nicholas Watt and Phillip Inman,
Wednesday 20 October 2010 18.39 BST

The disabled and other vulnerable people are being shut out by the spending review, say charities.
The government was accused today of shutting vulnerable people out of society after George Osborne announced a series of reforms that will create an extra £7bn in welfare cuts.

Charities and trade unionists lined up to condemn the chancellor who announced he will increase the £11bn in welfare cuts identified in the June budget to £18bn.

Osborne has identified the savings, aimed at keeping departmental spending cuts over the four years from 2011 to just under 20%, though changes to disability payments, housing benefits and child tax credits. The main changes include:

• Withdrawing employment and support allowance, which will eventually replace incapacity benefit, after one year for one million claimants in the Work Related Activity Group. This is the second group for those heading back towards work. Claimants in the first group are too ill to be considered for work. This will save £2bn a year by 2014-15.

• Removing the mobility component of the disability living allowance (DLA) from residents in care homes from October 2012. This will save £135m by 2014-15.

• Freezing the basic and 30-hour element of the working tax credit for three years from April 2011 after which they will be uprated by the consumer prices index, rather than by the more generous retail prices index. This will save £625m by 2014-15.

• New rules so that couples with children must work 24 hours between them, with one partner working at least 16 hours a week, in order to claim the working tax credit. This will save £390m a year by 2014-15.

• Reducing the percentage of childcare costs parents can claim through the childcare element of the working tax credit from 80% to its previous level of 70%. This will apply from 2011-12 and will save £385m by 2014-15.

The changes were condemned by charities. Sue Brown, head of policy at Sense, Britain's charity for deafblind people, said: "The long-term implications of this are almost incomprehensible. We have worked so hard to ensure a society where we all participate. These cuts will shut vulnerable people out of society. The government is cutting the mobility component of the disability living allowance for people who live in residential care which will impose further isolation on vulnerable people, including those with deafblindness, and will effectively cut many disabled people off from their families and communities."

Lord (Victor) Adebowale, chief executive of Turning Point, said: "The dark shadow is the potential impact of the extra £7bn of cuts to welfare benefits. There is a danger that in removing benefits from vulnerable people, issues such as poor mental health, substance misuse and criminal activity may spiral out of control. It is our hope that the poor are not affected disproportionately."

Brendan Barber, the general secretary of the TUC, said: "Low income families will have welcomed a £30-a-year increase in child tax credit – even if it is only 60p a week. But they will be shocked to learn that buried in the small print are other tax credit cuts of up to £1,500 a year.

"This is a classic conjuring trick – distract the audience while making what they are really interested in disappear. This cut is part of a theme to single out women, children and families to bear the brunt of the cuts."

The Centre for Social Justice, founded by the work and pensions secretary Iain Duncan Smith, welcomed the changes. Gavin Poole, the CJS executive director, said: "Broadly, this is a brave and necessary reforming agenda and one that the CSJ welcomes. We must now look at the detail, however, to see how this will be delivered. This is particularly true for family policy.

"It remains to be seen how the government will make good the prime minister's commitment to make Britain the most family-friendly country in Europe. We support the principle that those with the broadest shoulders should bare the greater burden, but we do question the continued fairness anomaly in the government's child benefit reforms. As stands, they are unfair and we urge the chancellor to revisit his decision."

The cuts follow a previous announcement to link annual benefit rises from next April to the lower consumer prices index (CPI) measure of inflation. September's CPI inflation figure of 3.1% will be used rather than the 4.6% retail prices index (RPI). The move away from the higher RPI figure will deny benefit claimants a rise of one and a half percentage points next year. Analysis of the difference between CPI and RPI over the previous decade shows the cut will amount to an annual 0.5 to 0.75 percentage points each year.

Jobseekers' allowance is currently £65.45. Under RPI it would rise to £68.60 next April, but under CPI it would rise to £67.50 (difference £1.10).

Carers' allowance is currently £53.90. Under RPI it would rise to £56.40, but under CPI it would rise to £55.50 (difference 90p).

Bereavement allowance for 55 years old to state pension age is currently £97.65. RPI increase £102.15, CPI increase £100.70 (difference £1.45).

The state pension will rise in line with the CPI, average earnings or 2.5%, whichever is the higher. Occupational final salary pensions, in both the private and public sector's are also affected without the "triple lock" protection afforded the basic state pension. An occupational pension of £100 a week would rise to £104.60 under RPI but would now rise to £103.10 under CPI (difference £1.50).

By 2015/16 the Treasury predicts a £2.55 cut in JSA, a £2.60 cut in carers allowance and a £6.40 cut in bereavement benefit. These assume RPI closing the gap with CPI to below its long run average.

Wednesday, 20 October 2010

Spending Review: A comprehensive austerity attack that will lead to a second slump

by Raphie de Santos - 20/10/2010
Scottish Socialist Party

The coalition government have announced the most severe cuts in public spending since the great depression of thirties. The £83 billion (bn) of announced cuts and the £30 bn of tax increases for the next four fiscal years starting in April 2011 are on top of the already announced £8bn cuts for this fiscal year. Add in the hidden cuts (the NHS) and it all amounts to a rolling back of a large part of the gains that people have fought to establish since the end of the second world war. Local spending and the poor on welfare will bear the brunt of the cuts with the NHS under attack through efficiency savings..

We will lose services, see wages frozen, our pensions come under attack by increasing the retirement age, increasing contributions to public pension with no guaranteed pay out in the end. Pensions and benefits as well as being cut will be linked to the less generous consumer price index instead of the retail price index meaning further real cuts in our living standards. In addition public sector workers face a pay freeze.

The 28% cuts in local council grants will be devastating – this is what they mean by the bi society with care and services being carried voluntarily by the community. Extra cuts from the department of Work and Pensions are required above those detailed in the budget.

The most savage cut was an extra £7bn on welfare spending on top of the £11bn announced in the emergency budget.

The cuts outlined in comprehensive spending review are summarises as follows:

Capital Spending: fall in real terms of the five years with the ring fencing of grants lifted.

Health (White Paper): reorganised with tens of thousands of redundancies, outsourcing of services to private sector and £20bn of efficiency savings by 2014, in addition £1bn taken per year to be given to shortfall in local councils. Budget growth, before efficiency savings, increased by less than rate of inflation.

Pensions: State and public sector retirement ages to be raised, the state to 66 in 2020, for all - four years stated earlier starting with men in 2018. Larger contributions (£1.8 bn cut) to public sector pensions and no guaranteed final income, linked to less generous consumer price index.

Welfare: An extra £7 bn of cuts on top of £11bn announced in the emergency budget by more severe means testing with incapacity benefits and housing benefit cut, linked to less generous consumer price index, the extra £2bn promised for social care taken will be outstripped by inflation and ageing population.

Communities & Local Government: discretionary charges for swimming pools libraries etc, overall 7.1% to local councils per year totalling a near 30% cut. Squeeze on statutory services that have to be provided by local councils, eligibility to services tightened.

Transport: Rise in fares no longer tied to inflation, no new rolling stock.

Home Office: Likely 10,000 jobs losses in police departments through a cut of 16% of the budget over four years.

Justice: Legal aid bill cut and prison building programmed curtailed, 14,000 jobs to go.

Schools: cuts in sixth form education and curtailment of capital spending.

Universities: 80% reduction in teaching funds and cuts to research, students to pay for increased fees through taxes.

Housing: End tenancy for life pushing people into private sector, 270,000 fewer houses not build because of cuts leaving 1.8 million on waiting lists for social housing.

Defence: 8% budget cut by 2015 with 42,000 jobs lost.


The coalitions’ compressive spending review was accompanied by a corresponding comprehensive set of lies. Lie number one: the NHS will be ring fenced. Lie number two: the cuts are not ideologically based. Lie number three: Labour is solely to blame. Lie number four: the cuts will be made fairly. Lie number five: that the cuts will lay the foundation for economic growth. And finally lie number six: there is no alternative.

Ring Fencing the NHS

The NHS will not be protected. The coalition’s white paper “Liberating the NHS” clearly points out that the NHS will be fragmented and privatised by the outsourcing of services to private providers and that the NHS will have to achieve £20 billion of “efficiency savings” by 2014. These cuts will be reflected in a reduction in the Scottish central grant as Scotland will be expected to make similar savings and provide the same services.


These cuts, the coalition claim, are being made to repair the public debt. But even by the government’s own estimates the debt will grow by £540 billion to £1.5 trillion over the next five years with in the same period £305 billion of existing debt having to be renewed and £250 billion of interest payments made. The cuts will only save £5bn interest payments over the four years while seeing them rise from £44bn to £60bn a year. The cuts are being carried out because the coalition does not believe in public services in public hands and providing a safety net for the poor and vulnerable. These cuts they claim will not be restored even if there is an economic recovery. They want a leaner state run by the private sector so that they can reduce the tax burden on business and pay the rich and wealthy more. As one Whitehall source said in the Financial Times there is no rationale to the planned cuts – they are simply taking a salami slice off each department’s budget.


They lay the blame on Labour for the debt and the deficit. We do not have a structural deficit; the debt and deficit has arisen out of bailing out the banking system and the recession that the credit crunch induced. It was a crisis of the economic system based on a private housing market bubble, consumer credit based on this bubble and a deregulated financial sector. This economy was given birth by Thatcher’s Tories as a replacement for our manufacturing economy which is almost destroyed. It was this model that was repeated in many major economies to varying degrees from the USA, to Ireland, to Spain, Greece and Iceland. All these bubble driven economies have collapsed and have had to be bailed out by the majority of us through cuts.


Under the cover of taking child benefits from some middle and upper class families – also setting the doors open for means testing – they are saying the cuts will be shared equally. But as the Institute of Fiscal Studies and the Financial Times have shown it is the poorest with families who will suffer most by the cuts. The Financial Times estimates that poorest 10% of families will see a 6% reduction their living standards while at the other end the richest 10% of families will only see their living standards cut by just over 1%.

Foundation for Growth

The coalition says that the cuts will lay the foundations for growth. But all the economic numbers are indicating that the global economy is slowing down rapidly with unemployment starting to grow and the housing market beginning to fall again in most developed countries. Growth estimates are being revised down by governments and financial bodies worldwide. The Centre for Economics and Business Research is estimating that the UK economy will grow only by 0.1% in the first quarter of 2011. That is there is a 50 percept chance of a second recession even before the cuts have started to be implemented.

The estimates for the number of job losses in the public sector as a result of the cuts range from the government’s 490,000 to research bodies 1,000,000. With PWC estimating 500,000 to 650,000 job losses expected in the private sector as result of losing private sector contract tied to the public sector and reduced spending power in the economy from those public sector workers who lose their jobs because of the cuts. As the cuts start to bite in the second half of 2011 the economy will be stagnant or in a mild recession. Four years of cuts will drive the economy into a slump like they did in the 1930s. The idea that a structurally weak UK economy - with a bust housing sector, consumer credit and financial sector - with some of the lowest rates of profit in the developed world will attract investment and pull the UK into growth creating millions of jobs is dangerous fantasy.

There is an Alternative

The Tories say there is no alternative to the cuts. Labour can only advocate slightly smaller cuts and tax rises implemented more slowly. The SNP can only offer a wage and council tax freeze and wait for fiscal autonomy.
We say there are an alternative all these parties’ policies that reduce the debt immediately, reducing the interest we are paying annually which is set to rise to £60bn annually by 2015 – 10% of annual government revenues:
- We would take the banks under full social ownership and control – they have £560 billion in liquid cash and £5 trillion of assets. This would not only allow us to recoup the £375 billion (£175bn indirect investment and £200bn through quantitative easing) that we have ploughed into them during the financial crisis and allow us to pay down a major part of our debt and fund socially useful projects. An example of this would be a renewable energy programme. The design, administration, construction, maintenance, running, assembly, commissioning and servicing of the programme would create hundreds of thousands of jobs and apprenticeships for our young and old.

- Rather than spend £4.5 billion on two socially useless aircraft carriers build new rolling stock for an integrated public transport system.

- We would introduce a progressive local income tax to replace the council tax; this would raise another £20bn across the UK and £1.5 bn in Scotland.

- We would reduce spending on defence by half and withdraw from the Afghanistan and Iraq saving up to £20 bn per year to spend on socially useful projects with no loss of jobs.

- Instead of raising indirect taxes or widening there scope we would raise taxes on corporations which have seen their tax rates halved under successive Conservative and Labour governments and a further 4% cut is planned in the budget. This could raise an additional £30 billion a year in revenues;

- Instead of the cuts in services we would close the loop holes in tax avoidance schemes - this would save £20 billion a year.

- We would tax the rich and wealthy. A one off 10% tax on Britain’s richest people would raise £35 billion. This would be used to provide millions of much needed houses through building conversion, building renovation and housing insulation and all the jobs that would be needed to achieve that.

- We would shift the burden of taxation from the poor and middle earners to the wealthiest 20% in society who earn 16 times more than the poorest 20% of society. Per head of the population the UK is the third richest country in the world but the second most unequal. This could generate up to an extra £30 billion a year.

- We would raise another £38bn a year for fifteen years by in taking North Sea Oil under full public ownership control

- Instead of cutting pensions and demanding people pay more towards their pensions we would look to provide an alternative retirement provision that is not dependent on the whims of the financial markets. We would provide for all people over 60 free rented housing, electricity and gas, public transport and free access to cultural and sports facilities.

An alternative world is not only possible but it is now necessary if we are to avoid paying for the crisis of their economic system and suffer years of austerity and slump.

Sunday, 17 October 2010

'Racist' UK policies blamed for deaths of 77 asylum seekers and migrants

Fatality figures likely to be an underestimate, according to report for Institute of Race Relations

Karen McVeigh, Sunday 17 October 2010

Racist asylum and immigration policies in the UK have led to the deaths of 77 asylum seekers and migrants over the past four years, according to a report for the Institute of Race Relations (IRR).

More than a third (28) of the deaths reported by the IRR are people suspected or known to have taken their own lives after their asylum claims had been turned down. Seven are said to have died after being denied health care for "preventable medical problems", seven are said to have died in prison custody, and 15 are said to have died during desperate and "highly risky" attempts to enter the country.

The report, which chronicles the often invisible lives and deaths of asylum seekers as they struggle to gain status in Britain, comes less than a week after the death of Jimmy Mubenga, 46, who died while being deported to Angola, and includes his death.

Witnesses have told the Guardian that the father of five collapsed after being restrained by security guards and complaining of breathing problems.

Not all the deaths in the report, which the IRR said was likely to be an underestimate, could be independently verified, although some have been extensively reported.

The IRR said the 77 deaths, most of which happened in the UK, were a consequence of "direct racism or indirect racism stemming from" asylum and immigration policies.

Among the seven that the IRR claims died in prison custody are Abdullah Hagar Idris, 18, a Sudanese asylum seeker found hanged in his cell on Christmas Day 2007, after being told wrongly he was to be deported, and Aleksey Baranovsky, 33, a Ukrainian national on suicide watch who bled to death in a cell at Rye Hill, Warwickshire in June 2006.

In June, an inquest jury said failings by the Prison Service and Essex social services contributed to Idris's death and criticised the way the prison gave him news of his deportation. Last year, a coroner condemned the "appalling and unacceptable conditions" and treatment at the GSL-run prison where Baranovsky died.

Baranovsky, who feared he would be killed by the Russian mafia if sent home, repeatedly harmed himself in protest against his pending deportation after serving a seven-year sentence for burglary.

The report, Driven to Desperate Measures, published today says the number of deaths of asylum seekers in the community has increased and now averages one a month.

However, it also says that, due to the difficulty of obtaining figures, this is likely to be an underestimate.

Over the four-year period, it recorded one death as having taken place during deportation – that of Mubenga, who died last week as he was being deported to Luanda, escorted by three guards from G4S, a private security company.

Those said by IRR to have died as a result of being denied access to medical treatment include Ama Sumani, a Ghanaian woman who died in March 2008, following deportation from Britain while undergoing treatment for terminal cancer.

Her deportation was described as "atrocious barbarism" by the Lancet medical journal.

It also lists Mohammed Ahmedi, 18, an asylum seeker with a heart condition who died as doctors tried to establish whether he was entitled to treatment on the NHS. Gloucester Royal hospital, where Ahmedi died in February 2008 after being treated there, has said treatment was not withheld.

The 77 deaths include seven who died on the streets in attacks "at the hands of racists", four after deportation back to a country where they feared for their safety, two as a result of becoming "destitute and unable to access services", and four as a result of often dangerous work in the "black economy", the report said.

It said that "hundreds if not thousands" of people had perished making desperate journeys to the UK, as stowaways on planes, lorries and ships.

Harmit Athwal, a researcher at IRR and the report's author, said: "Racism percolates right through the immigration-asylum system – from forcing people to risk life and limb to enter, forcing them to live destitute on the street, prey to violent racist attack. That 28 people died at their own hand, preferring this to being returned, when their asylum application failed, to the country they fled, is a terrible indictment of British justice.

"Asylum seekers are demonised by the mass media as illegals and scroungers and to appease popular racism, governments across Europe, in addition to making access to refugee status much more difficult, have decided to accelerate the deportation of the many who have 'failed'.

"Such forced deportations of those terrified of being returned to the countries they have fled – often areas in which we are involved and at war – will inevitably lead to more deaths."

The fate of Osman Rasul

Last July, Osman Rasul perched himself on railings at the top of a seven-storey tower block in Nottingham, and, ignoring efforts of police officers to talk him down, placed his hand on his heart, looked up to the sky, and jumped to his death.

Rasul was an Iraqi Kurd aged 27, who had been classified by the local refugee centre as a "destitute asylum seeker", having lost the legal aid to pursue his application to remain in the UK after the charity helping him, Refugee and Migrant Justice, went into administration. His relationship with the mother of his two children had broken down.

He arrived in 2001 claiming he was in danger from the political factions running northern Iraq. After being refused permission to stay, he was preparing a fresh claim. He was not allowed to work, and got food parcels and £10 a month from the Nottingham Refugee Forum.

On a trip to Croydon to confront Home Office immigration officers, he was turned away and told to find a solicitor. It was the last straw, said his friends, who described him as a "warm, kind, respectful man". One, Corin Faife, spoke of an "unbearable strain" Rasul had felt.

Writing in an online magazine, Ceasefire, Faife said: "Living with Osman I saw first hand the spirit-crushing inhumanity of the British asylum system, and how unremittingly bleak life can be for those who are left in limbo. Prohibited from working, with no access to housing or financial support after his first claim was rejected, and still awaiting further documents to make a fresh claim, he was left destitute, forced to rely on the charity of others to his continual chagrin."

His friend's mental health, which had shown signs of fragility, started to decline before his trip to London, at which point, "the light at the end of the tunnel, which had kept him going for so long, flickered out".

A website was set up to raise money to repatriate Rasul's body and to promote awareness of the "struggles which he and so many others like him face". His body was sent to his family in Iraq and a funeral held on 6 August.

US shaken by sudden surge of violence against gay people

Carl Paladino, a Republican politician running for governor, is calling for gay people to be barred from teaching in New York, where homophobic attacks are on the rise

Paul Harris The Observer, Sunday 17 October 2010

For Alan Bounville it has felt like a lonely protest. For 16 days he has held a vigil outside the campaign office of Kirsten Gillibrand, a New York senator, holding a sign calling for equal civil rights for gay people.

The 33-year-old New Yorker has suffered the stares of strangers, been ignored by the political target of his demonstration, and endured the harsh cold of sleeping overnight outside on a hard Manhattan pavement. But a series of brutal attacks on young gay men, a number of tragic suicides and alarming anti-gay public statements by Republican politicians have led Bounville to feel he has no choice. "Our people are dying. So I am just going to sit and protest. That is my job," Bounville said.

Liberal America has looked on aghast as virulent homophobic prejudice seems to have returned to its streets and cities. Most remarkable of all, much of it seems to be centred on the New York region, usually tolerant in its politics and not seen as hostile to homosexuals living openly. But it was just a few miles away from Bounville's protest in the Bronx that a group of suspected gang members brutally beat and tortured a 30-year-old gay man and several other youths who had been associated with him. The details of the assault, for which 10 people have been arrested, horrified New Yorkers. The gay victim was kidnapped, beaten, whipped and burned.

The shocking crime was just one of a series of incidents that have hit the city. Others have even occurred in the heart of New York's vibrant gay scene. In the Chelsea neighbourhood, which has a large gay population, a group of men hugging each other goodbye after a night out were punched and had a rubbish bin thrown at them. Meanwhile in the famous Stonewall Inn, where the modern gay rights movement was founded after a police raid in 1969, a customer was beaten and robbed by men who hurled homophobic insults at him.

For many observers the violence has been especially worrying as it has come at the same time as several leading Republicans have made anti-gay statements. South Carolina's Senator Jim DeMint, one of America's most powerful Republican politicians, has publicly said that gay people should not be allowed to become teachers.

Those sentiments were echoed by the Republican candidate in the New York governor race, Carl Paladino. In an astonishing piece of political theatre at a meeting of conservative Orthodox Jews, Paladino condemned gay pride parades and said gay people should not teach in schools. When the comments stirred outrage in the media, Paladino went on the talk show circuit in New York to complain about men "grinding" against each other at marches while wearing Speedos. "Is that normal?" he asked one TV interviewer.

The remarks were so bizarre some observers dismissed them as just another gaffe from a candidate dogged by allegations of infidelity and sending pornographic images by email. But gay rights activists say that is a mistake. There is a direct link, they say, between such public statements of homophobia and attacks. "These comments give licence to those who use violence. It is dangerous. It is tragic to think these hateful kinds of words have consequences," said Michael Cole, a spokesman for the Human Rights Campaign, which campaigns for gay rights in America.

Such sentiments do not just encourage violent attacks; they can also spur people to suicide. Recently a student at Rutgers University committed suicide after his room-mate broadcast one of his gay sexual encounters over the internet. In Oklahoma recently a 19-year-old man killed himself after attending a local council meeting where members of the public had spoken out against celebrating the local gay community. The family of Zach Harrington, who committed suicide at home, told their local newspaper in the small town of Norman that they believed the "toxic" environment of the meeting had pushed him over the edge.

Yet the rash of violence, deaths and homophobia has actually come against the backdrop of a series of legal and political advances in gay rights. The longstanding "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" ban against gay people serving openly in the US military has suffered a series of legal defeats and President Barack Obama has committed himself to revoking it. In Florida a recent court case allowed gay people to adopt children.

"Things are moving faster and in more unpredictable ways then we could have thought even six months ago," said Julie Shapiro, an expert on the legal struggle for gay rights at Seattle University. History, she said, was on the side of equality and that was making homophobic people more anxious. "They will land up where the white supremacists landed up. Fifty years ago it was OK to oppose inter-racial marriage. Now they are marginalised," Shapiro said.

Bounville has a simple thought when he hears statements such as those made by Paladino. "People like him are the new Ku Klux Klan," he said.

Saturday, 16 October 2010

Jimmy Mubenga death: Witness accounts of a racist, state murder

‎25 years ago, people rioted and chopped up coppers over this sort of state murder.
Nowadays, all we get is a few uneasy tweets from those who stood by and did nothing while an innocent, desperate man was murdered by racist state thugs - NOT A DINNER PARTY

Accounts from BA flight 77 where Jimmy Mubenga died after he was restrained during a deportation

Paul Lewis,

Friday 15 October 2010

Witness 1, Kevin Wallis, seated in the back row across the aisle from Jimmy Mubenga. A mining engineer from Redcar

"The guy was sitting right next to me on the plane, there was just the aisle between him and me, so I could see everything … When I got on the plane, this Angolan guy was already there, with three security guards holding him tight, one on each side and one on him.

"The Angolan guy was going to be deported, obviously, and he didn't want to. And he couldn't breathe. He was shouting in English, saying "I can't breathe, get off me". And the guys were holding him very strongly … They were saying: "He'll be quiet once we take off. At one point, they checked on his pulse, and couldn't find anything. Then some other guy came. An ambulance. I cannot say if he was dead when they took him out of the plane. We hadn't taken off yet. I cannot say if the guy was sick before he came inside the plane.

"They were holding him too tight when I arrived, I couldn't see him well. Then the flight was delayed, and we were all taken to a hotel. I tried to talk with other passengers about what happened, but I was the only one who could see him that well. Because I was right next to him. I asked a policeman at the airport about this Angolan guy. And the policeman answered 'between you and me: he's dead'."

• Listen to Kevin Wallis

Witness 2, Ben, was seated in the row 28 middle seat, in the middle section of seats around ten rows in front of Mubenga. A 29-year-old engineer

Ben became aware a passenger was in distress after he boarded the plane and saw a commotion. He said he saw one of three security guards remove a handcuff from his pocket to restrain Mubenga's arms. "There were three guys trying to hold him … This led to them pushing everyone further up the plane, so we were all pushed into first class."

Allowed back into the main cabin, he said the three guards were leaning on top of Mubenga. "You could hear the guy screaming at the back of the plane. He was saying 'they are going to kill me'. That's what he repeatedly said. He was saying that right from when I got on the plane. He just kept repeating that all the way through."

Ben said it was not clear whether Mubenga was referring to the guards or his political adversaries in Angola, and most of the passengers were not concerned. "He was muffled because they were holding him down … No-one was that alarmed by what he was saying. He just then went quiet. We were about take off and there was an announcement saying that someone on the plane was very ill."

Ben estimated that the total time the security guards were on top of Mubenga trying to restrain him was "over 45 minutes". "He had been slumped down on his seat because they were pressing down on him. You only ever saw the top of his head a little bit or you heard him muffle, because they were on top of him."

Passengers were kept on the plane until the early hours of this morning, he said.

Witness 3, Michael, was seated in row 28. A 51-year-old oil worker and US citizen

Michael contacted a Guardian reporter via Twitter after reading what he believed to be misleading accounts of Mubenga's death released by the Home Office and G4S, a private security firm the government has contracted to escort deportees.

He said he was haunted by Mubenga's pleas for help: "For the rest of the my life I'm always going to have that at the back of my mind – could I have done something? That is going to bother me every time I go to sleep … I didn't get involved because I was scared I would get kicked off the flight and lose my job. But that man paid a higher price than I would have."

• Listen to Michael

Witness 4, Andrew, seated row 23. A 44-year-old Eastern European passenger

"At approximately 19:30 I boarded the aircraft. On my way to my seat, seven to 10 rows in front I noticed that there was something going on in the last row of seats. I noticed two big guys pushing something with the weight of their bodies against the seats in the last row. At that moment I saw only the backs of these men. I heard one voice screaming and begging for help. I realised that the voice was coming from the person which two men were pushing down.

"I took my seat in the vicinity of that place, across the aisle. I could not see from my place what was happening behind me, but every few minutes after I took my seat I changed my position to look back and see how the situation developed. The screaming behind me continued for the whole time. The man's voice was begging for help. The tone of the voice was anxious and excited but not aggressive in any way. The man among other words was using the following words which I can recall: 'somebody help me', 'don't do this', 'they are trying to kill me', 'I can't breathe', 'I have family', 'why are you doing this', 'no, no, no, no'.

"He did not swear or use bad language. He constantly continued to shout. In the beginning his voice was strong and loud but with the time passing by, the voice was losing its strength. I heard the man had difficulties breathing. Two men pushing the person down were silent, at least I did not hear one word said by them. I did not hear any fight noises – no kicking, no punching, no struggling which I should have heard if it happened. Every time I looked back, I saw the same picture – two men sitting on top of somebody. It continued for approximately 30 minutes until the plane started to move.

"In the meantime cabin crew moved some of the passengers sitting nearby to the front of the plane. I felt very disturbed by the way two men were dealing with the situation. But, as I was sure that they were policemen I expected them to know what they were doing. Also, I was a foreigner not in my country and the cabin crew were around the whole time. I was really afraid to intervene. I just said ironically to my neighbour 'shall we call police?'

"The voice which continued to ask for help suddenly went silent. I thought he was given some tranquilisers but then I realised that police has no right to do that. From the moment he went silent, it took a very long time – 10 minutes maybe? – until an announcement about a sick person on board was broadcast and even longer – another 10 minutes? – until paramedics arrived. The man was put on the floor, only then I heard CPR going on, but for a very short time only. Then I realised the man must have died already. I know from experience, that when people around the victim are no longer in a rush the person must be dead.

"Later police officers arrived, he was removed to the galley area and we were moved to the front of the plane where police took our contact details. That was horrible, I also feel terrible because I did not do anything. I would like to make his wife know how very, very deeply sorry I am about this situation and about the fact I have not helped her husband. Now, when I know that it was not the police, I am also deeply shocked that the plane crew did not do anything to help this man. I did not see them help even with first aid afterwards, when he became silent. After all, the crew's first most important duty is the safety of all passengers - including handcuffed, isn't it?

"I have been working for many years as an officer on board of cruise ships, I have seen similar situations – never ending so dramatically – and I would never ever imagine the situation like this could happen in the civilised world. Maybe that is because in the UK the authority of police and security is so high? I believe in my country, where police is not so much respected, people would be much more willing to do something witnessing situation like this."

Witness 5, Makenda Kambana, Mugenba's wife, spoke to him by phone from her home in Ilford shortly after they boarded plane

Kambana said she spoke to him as he sat on the plane waiting to be deported. "He was so sad, he was saying 'I don't know what I am going to do, I don't know what I am going to do.' Then he said 'OK just hang up and I will call you back' … but he never did call back … I never heard from him again."

She said she had spoken to him earlier in the day and he had appeared to be calm and getting on with his guards. "He was friendly with them. They did not put him in handcuffs because he was good to them. I heard them asking him how are the children."

Kambana said the family had been devastated by his death. "I feel so sad … I don't know, I was thinking if I was there to help him. The children just can't stop crying and I don't know what to say to them."

• Listen to Makenda Kambana

Monday, 11 October 2010

'How Fair is Britain' report shows that for UK, race is still the issue

Major report finds ethnically diverse Britain facing new challenges – but homosexuality now far more accepted

• Datablog: How fair is Britain? Get the key data

Randeep Ramesh, social affairs editor
The Guardian, Monday 11 October 2010 Article history

Life's winners and losers were laid bare today in an official report by the Equality and Human Rights Commission into how fair Britain has become.

The commission's first three-year review, How Fair is Britain, shows that while some inequalities remain entrenched, new challenges are emerging as the country's population becomes older and more ethnically and religiously diverse.

The study identifies "five great gateways" to opportunity – revolving around well-being, education, work, security and voice in society – where millions could benefit if barriers are lifted. These should become the basis to assess "fairness" in public policy, the commission says.

In health, the report says, the poorest can expect to live seven years less than the richest. In education, boys are falling far behind with girls outperforming them at ages 5, 16 and degree level. Students of Indian and Chinese origin are streaking ahead at school.

In criminal justice, Gypsy and traveller communities appear to be targeted – and women prisoners have become a prominent feature of Britain's jails. The ageing society means that women have a 50% chance of becoming a carer before they reach 59.

Trevor Phillips, chair of the commission, says in the 21st century there are still "gateways to opportunity that appear permanently closed, no matter how hard they try; while others seem to have been issued with an 'access all areas' pass at birth".

These distinctions are more nuanced than in the past. Race matters, but so does heritage. Ethnic differences at GCSE are narrowing, except for the top end where the two highest performing groups are students of Chinese and Indian origin.

Free school meals, given only to those on low incomes in Britain, are a strong indicator of class distinctions even at the upper levels of performance. The highest performing group in England are Chinese girls, with even those on free school meals outranking every other group's "educational development" – except better-off Chinese girls.

In employment, a quarter of men of Pakistani descent drive for a living – mostly in a taxi cab.

"There's good news for some ethnic minorities who perhaps prioritise education," said John Hills, professor of social policy at the London School of Economics, who chaired the last government's National Equality Panel report. "At the same time we are seeing a huge amount of self-employment in other groups, such as Pakistani men. There's evidence to suggest that discrimination in the recruitment process keeps them out of jobs."

Prof Hills said that the report showed "we can both be upbeat and also know how far we have to go … which is hugely important given that the equal opportunity society has been put at the heart of the [coalition] government."

The commission does say that Britain is a largely "tolerant and open-minded society", which has become more socially liberal in recent decades. Opposition to working for an ethnic minority boss and aversion to mixed-race marriages has dropped. Gone too are the stereotypical views about the roles that men and women should play in family.

The study says the biggest change has been the dramatic shift in attitudes to homosexuality. "A gap of less than 20 years separated the parliamentary debates about Section 28 [which banned councils from 'promoting' homosexuality] and civil partnership."

This is not to say that Britons are not worried by the speed and direction of change in the country. The commission says this is best exemplified by the "immigration paradox": three-quarters of Britons say that they are concerned about the scale of immigration at a national level – about the same proportion feels that immigration is not a problem for their own communities.

There is also an acceptance that however far we have travelled towards being a fairer society at ease with itself, substantial evidence shows Britons get neither equal outcomes nor equal chances.

From the cradle to the grave, race, religion, class, disability and gender can all have a bearing on a person's prospects. But explanations are never simple: the report shows that black Caribbean and Pakistani babies are twice as likely to die in their first year than white British babies – yet Bangladeshi babies survive as long as their white peers.

While disabilities often mean lower income levels and life expectancy, the commission finds that "being black and male appears to have a greater impact on levels of numeracy than being learning disabled". In terms of geography, the commission says that "one in four Welsh adults lack basic literacy skills, more than in any English region and in contrast to one in six in England overall".

The gender pay gap remains – men earn 16% more than women on average and "progress appears to be grinding to a halt". But there are significant differences among women. Those with degrees are estimated to face only a 4% loss in lifetime earnings as a result of motherhood, while mothers with no qualifications suffer a 58% loss.

Disabled groups said they were concerned how, given such degrees of disadvantage, the government could target vulnerable people with spending cuts. Richard Hawkes, chief executive of disability charity Scope, said: "If disabled people in their early 20s are twice as likely not to be in employment, education or training, then we question the wisdom of the government's plans to strip away employment support services to the tune of £4.87bn over the next five years."

One of the most shocking revelations, given the acceptance of homosexuality in adult life, was the level of homophobic bullying found in schools. The commission found that two-thirds of "lesbian, gay and transgender" secondary students report that they have been victims of often severe bullying – 17% of those bullied reported having received death threats.

"It is a very worrying statistic," said a spokesman for Stonewall, the gay and lesbian rights group. "We have seen a number of recent high-profile homophobic hate crimes, including assault, where the attackers have been schoolchildren or school leavers."

Another worrying feature of crime in Britain is the prevalence of rape – and the low rate of conviction. There has been no significant fall in the level of rape or serious sexual assault recorded in the British crime survey over the last five years. Over a quarter of all rapes reported to the police in England and Wales last year were committed against children aged under 16, while that figure rose to over half for male rapes.

The review acknowledges it is not definitive. It admits to "significant gaps in knowledge and data" about particular groups, such as transgender people.

A spokesman for the Government Equalities Office said: "When people are treated fairly, everyone in society benefits. That's why this government is committed to tackling all forms of inequality and discrimination, and we welcome the EHRC's contribution to the debate. We will be studying the review's conclusions carefully."