Lockerbie – the Truth

Abdel Basset al-Megrahi and the Elephant in the Room.

Comment by Dave Roberts SLP vice-president

The press and media are full of hysteria over the release of the convicted “Lockerbie bomber”. The moralising outrage stretches across the Atlantic. The Scottish Justice minister is being slated for going soft on terrorism by senior FBI officials, the SNP and Scotland are being threatened with international isolation and even pariah status. Mandelson, Brown, Blair and Straw are being accused of doing a grubby back room deal with the Libyans for oil contracts in exchange for the release of the “greatest murderer” in British History.

To add to their squirming misery Saif Gaddafi, Colonel Gaddafi’s second son has confirmed to the world’s media that al- Megrahi’s release has been on the table of every oil trade negotiation meeting during the last two years.

So has the Scottish and British establishment completely lost the plot and are they going soft on terrorism? Is the frantic scramble for oil now so paramount that it threatens a British rift with the US establishment?
In the smoke and mirrors of what passes for international diplomacy what is actually going on?

The answer is simple, if not even more troublesome for the British and American establishments and many of their media sycophants who insisted throughout the Lockerbie case in elevating their journalism to the dizzy heights of the gutter.

The enormous elephant in the room that at the moment everyone is painfully trying to ignore is that al Megrahi is an innocent man and in that sense yet another victim of the Lockerbie bombing and the whole world was about to be told it and shown it.

Terminally ill he was given the opportunity of release on compassionate grounds in return for dropping his appeal. An appeal that would have proved that he was innocent, that he was fitted up by the British and American Governments in what Professor Robert Black (the lawyer responsible for brokering the deal for the two accused of the bombing to stand trial in the Netherlands under Scottish law) describes as one of the greatest travesties of justice in the history of the Scottish Judicial System.

An appeal that was welcomed by Dr Jim Swire .who lost his 28 year old daughter Flora in the bombing and who represents many of the families of the British victims because he knows al-Megrahi to be innocent, an appeal that would have shown that it was the British and American governments that engaged in a grubby deal with Syria and Iran to keep them out of Gulf War1 by lifting arms and trade sanctions and dropping the investigation into their involvement in the Lockerbie bombings. Until that time the investigation had centred on an Iranian sponsored Syrian/Palestinian revenge attack for the mass murder of 290 Iranian pilgrims when their civilian airliner was shot down by the American aircraft carrier Vincennes.

This grubby deal was done to allow the Americans to invade Iraq without Syrian and Iranian intervention and the investigation was conveniently realigned, pointing the finger at Libya, which paved the way for the American and British to commit mass murder in Iraq.

This is the substantive truth of the case which the British and American establishment fear would surface in any appeal. A truth that many of the victims’ families are painfully aware of and now demand the evidence.

Dr Jim Swire often quotes a telling fact from Thatcher’s biography in which she triumphantly claims that since in the face of international condemnation, she agreed to join the Americans in the bombing of Tripoli Benghazi and much of costal Libya and specifically the targeting of Gaddafi’s home, a raid which left his 7 year old daughter dead, and another 280 civilians killed, “Libya had not been involved in any further attacks on western interests”.

Unfortunately for Mrs Thatcher, if the fabrication of Libyan involvement is to be believed, she seems to have forgotten that the biggest single attack on Western interests before 9/11, involving an American plane in British airspace and a death toll of 270, took place nearly 24 months after the bombing of Tripoli. Unless of course she knows something different?

It is Kafkaesque for Jack Straw, who with the rest of the Labour government has conspired to keep an innocent man in jail for 8 years whilst ensuring that the war criminal General Pinochet goes free, is titled the Minister for Justice. Some Minister, Some justice !

Open the files, for a non- redacted public enquiry now and show some real compassion and justice for all the Lockerbie victims including Abdel Basset al- Megrahi!



What Economy?

The following article was forwarded to me by an American friend. It's written by the former Assistant Secretary of the Treasury in the Reagan Administration. No leftwinger then! If he's correct in his assessment it makes for scary reading.

July 16, 2009

There's Nothing Left to Recover

What Economy?


There is no economy left to recover. The US manufacturing economy was lost to offshoring and free trade ideology. It was replaced by a mythical “New Economy.”

The “New Economy” was based on services. Its artificial life was fed by the Federal Reserve’s artificially low interest rates, which produced a real estate bubble, and by “free market” financial deregulation, which unleashed financial gangsters to new heights of debt leverage and fraudulent financial products.

The real economy was traded away for a make-believe economy. When the make-believe economy collapsed, Americans’ wealth in their real estate, pensions, and savings collapsed dramatically while their jobs disappeared.

The debt economy caused Americans to leverage their assets. They refinanced their homes and spent the equity. They maxed out numerous credit cards. They worked as many jobs as they could find. Debt expansion and multiple family incomes kept the economy going.

And now suddenly Americans can’t borrow in order to spend. They are over their heads in debt. Jobs are disappearing. America’s consumer economy, approximately 70% of GDP, is dead. Those Americans who still have jobs are saving against the prospect of job loss. Millions are homeless. Some have moved in with family and friends; others are living in tent cities.

Meanwhile the US government’s budget deficit has jumped from $455 billion in 2008 to $2,000 billion this year, with another $2,000 billion on the books for 2010. And President Obama has intensified America’s expensive war of aggression in Afghanistan and initiated a new war in Pakistan.

There is no way for these deficits to be financed except by printing money or by further collapse in stock markets that would drive people out of equity into bonds.

The US government’s budget is 50% in the red. That means half of every dollar the federal government spends must be borrowed or printed. Because of the worldwide debacle caused by Wall Street’s financial gangsterism, the world needs its own money and hasn’t $2 trillion annually to lend to Washington.

As dollars are printed, the growing supply adds to the pressure on the dollar’s role as reserve currency. Already America’s largest creditor, China, is admonishing Washington to protect China’s investment in US debt and lobbying for a new reserve currency to replace the dollar before it collapses. According to various reports, China is spending down its holdings of US dollars by acquiring gold and stocks of raw materials and energy.

The price of one ounce gold coins is $1,000 despite efforts of the US government to hold down the gold price. How high will this price jump when the rest of the world decides that the bankruptcy of “the world’s only superpower” is at hand?

And what will happen to America’s ability to import not only oil, but also the manufactured goods on which it is import-dependent?

When the over-supplied US dollar loses the reserve currency role, the US will no longer be able to pay for its massive imports of real goods and services with pieces of paper. Overnight, shortages will appear and Americans will be poorer.

Nothing in Presidents Bush and Obama’s economic policy addresses the real issues. Instead, Goldman Sachs was bailed out, more than once. As Eliot Spitzer said, the banks made a “bloody fortune” with US aid.

It was not the millions of now homeless homeowners who were bailed out. It was not the scant remains of American manufacturing--General Motors and Chrysler--that were bailed out. It was the Wall Street Banks.

According to Bloomberg.com, Goldman Sachs’ current record earnings from their free or low cost capital supplied by broke American taxpayers has led the firm to decide to boost compensation and benefits by 33 percent. On an annual basis, this comes to compensation of $773,000 per employee.

This should tell even the most dimwitted patriot who “their” government represents.

The worst of the economic crisis has not yet hit. I don’t mean the rest of the real estate crisis that is waiting in the wings. Home prices will fall further when the foreclosed properties currently held off the market are dumped. Store and office closings are adversely impacting the ability of owners of shopping malls and office buildings to make their mortgage payments. Commercial real estate loans were also securitized and turned into derivatives.

The real crisis awaits us. It is the crisis of high unemployment, of stagnant and declining real wages confronted with rising prices from the printing of money to pay the government’s bills and from the dollar’s loss of exchange value. Suddenly, Wal-Mart prices will look like Nieman Marcus prices.

Retirees dependent on state pension systems, which cannot print money, might not be paid, or might be paid with IOUs. They will not even have depreciating money with which to try to pay their bills. Desperate tax authorities will squeeze the remaining life out of the middle class.

Nothing in Obama’s economic policy is directed at saving the US dollar as reserve currency or the livelihoods of the American people. Obama’s policy, like Bush’s before him, is keyed to the enrichment of Goldman Sachs and the armament industries.

Matt Taibbi describes Goldman Sachs as “a great vampire squid wrapped around the face of humanity, relentless jamming its blood funnel into anything that smells like money.” Look at the Goldman Sachs representatives in the Clinton, Bush and Obama administrations. This bankster firm controls the economic policy of the United States.

Little wonder that Goldman Sachs has record earnings while the rest of us grow poorer by the day.

Paul Craig Roberts was Assistant Secretary of the Treasury in the Reagan administration. He is coauthor of
The Tyranny of Good Intentions.


The Hidden Story Behind Rwanda's Tragedy

Below is a recent article by Chris Black from Canada. It deals with the background to the Rwandan tragedy and contains information not to be found in the western news coverage.

Toronto-based Christopher Black is a Barrister and International Criminal Lawyer. He is Lead Counsel for General Augustin Ndindiliyimana, Chief of Staff, Rwandan Gendarmerie before the International Criminal Tribunal For Rwanda (ICTR).

The Hidden Story Behind Rwanda's Tragedy By Christopher Black July 3rd, 2009 Rwanda before 1990 was considered the Switzerland of Africa, a model of social development.

The result of the 1959 social revolution that deposed the Tutsi monarchy and aristocracy and freed the majority Hutu population from serfdom and a lifetime of humiliation was the establishment of a collective society in which both Hutus, and Tutsis, as well as Twas, lived together in relative harmony.

Tutsis were members of the government, its administration, present in large numbers in the education system, the judiciary, and controlled most of the large private commercial companies in Rwanda.

The Rwandan army was a multiethnic army composed of both Hutus and Tutsis, and it stayed a multiethnic force even when the Rwandan Army was forced by the invaders from Uganda to retreat into the Congo forests in July 1994 because it ran out of ammunition due to the Western embargo on arms and supplies.

Rwanda descended into chaos in 1990 when the self-described Rwandan Patriotic Front (RPF) forces launched a surprise attack on October 1, 1990, from Uganda. In fact, every one of the enlisted men and officers of that invasion force were members of the Ugandan national Army. It was an invasion by Uganda disguised as an independent force of “liberation”. Liberation from what, has never been stated.

Initially the justification put out by the RPF was that of attaining the return of Tutsi “refugees” from Uganda to Rwanda. However, that problem had been resolved by an agreement between the RPF, Uganda, Rwanda, the United Nations High Commission for Refugees (UNHCR) and the OAU, a few weeks earlier.

The Rwandan government had agreed to the return of all those Tutsis in Uganda who wanted to return to Rwanda. That accord required that Tutsi representatives of the refugees travel to Kigali for a meeting to determine the mechanics of that population-movement, and how to accommodate all those people in a small country. They were expected at the end of September 1990. They never arrived. Instead of civilians returning in peace, Rwanda was viciously attacked on October 1, 1990, by a force that unleashed unbridled savagery.

During that invasion the RPF forces of the Ugandan Army slaughtered everyone in their path, Hutu or Tutsi. Tens of thousands of innocent civilians, the majority Hutu, were butchered. These crimes have never been accounted for.

The RPF’s favorite method was the bayonet or knife with which they disembowelled men and women, or to tie their hands behind their backs and smashed their skulls with hoes, the farm tool iconic of the Hutu peasantry.

After several weeks of intense fighting, the RPF forces were destroyed by the small Rwandan Army and the remnants fled, on US instructions, back into Uganda to regroup and reorganize. The RPF still never justified this aggression and the needless slaughter of civilians in a peaceful country. Individual Tutsis had always been allowed to return to Rwanda from the early 1960s and several times the Rwandan government invited them all to return. However the Tutsi aristocracy, jealous of its lost power and viewing the Hutus as merely subhuman, refused to return unless their absolute power was restored. This the people of Rwanda, even the Tutsis who remained in the country, refused.

In the 1960s and early 1970s various Tutsi groups in Uganda and elsewhere had organized terrorist raids into Rwanda in which they murdered without pity anyone they caught. These raids were repelled by Rwanda’s tiny armed forces. The years that followed were a period of development and peace for Rwandans.

Even though one of the smallest and poorest countries in the world, it had the best roads, healthcare, and education systems in Africa. Until the late 1980s, it prospered and received help from both the socialist countries, like the USSR, North Korea and China, and West Germany, France, Israel and others.

Some Tutsis in Uganda became involved in the civil wars there between the socialist Milton Obote and the US- and UK-puppet, Yoweri K. Museveni, who was supported by the West to get rid of socialism in Uganda. By 1990 Tutsis composed a large section of the Ugandan Army and all the senior officers of the RPF were high officers in the Ugandan NRA (the National Resistance Army). Paul Kagame, himself, was one of the highest-ranking officers in the intelligence services of the Ugandan army and was notorious for his enjoyment of torturing prisoners. Rwanda until 1990 was a one-party socialist state.

The ruling party, the National Movement For Revolutionary Development (MRND), was not considered a party as such, but rather a social movement in which everyone in the society took part through local elections and the mechanism of consensus, much like the system in Cuba.

The fall of the Soviet Union led to pressure from the West, notably the United States and France to dismantle the one-party state system and permit multiparty democracy. The President, Juvenal Habyarimana, instead of resisting, agreed to a change in the constitution, and, in 1991, Rwanda became a multiparty democracy. The fact the Rwandan government did this in the middle of a war is more than remarkable. It was also an offer of peace. The RPF, since its abject failure in 1990, had changed its strategy from a frontal assault to the tactics of terrorism. The RPF likes to refer to this phase as ‘the guerrilla’.

However, it was not the guerrilla of a liberation struggle like the FLMN in Vietnam or the FARC in Colombia. It was, instead, a mirror image of the Contras campaign of terrorism conducted against the Sandinistas in Nicaragua. Its purpose was not to make revolution. Its purpose was to overthrow the 1959 revolution. And, like the contras, the RPF was supported by the United States. This was clear from the beginning of the war. When the RPF launched their attack, President Juvenal Habyarimana was in Washington, lured out of the way, by the US State Department. The evidence that the US was aware of and supported the October surprise attack was the US Administration’s offer to Habyarimana of asylum in the United States if he surrendered power to the RPF. Habyarimana refused and immediately flew back home. There was no condemnation of the Ugandan-RPF aggression by the United States--a matter France raised at the United Nations--or any of its allies despite the big noise they made at the same time about the advance of Iraqi forces into Kuwait. Further, the Rwanda ambassador to the UN, then on the Security Council, filed a protest with the UNSC, but the US had it taken off the agenda.

In fact the US and its allies supported the aggression against Rwanda from its onset, and US Special Forces operated with the RPF from the beginning. Recently, while former president Bill Clinton was in Toronto, he denied any involvement in Rwanda--this is one of the Big Lies of the century. Clinton and George W. Bush are up to their necks in the blood of the Rwandan and Congolese people.

With the arrival of multiparty democracy in 1991, the RPF took full advantage and created several front parties to take away support from the popular MRND. These parties, though claiming to represent different political views, were, in fact, the main front parties for the RPF. The press was expanded and many of the new papers were financed by and acted as mouthpieces for the RPF.

At the same time as these parties sprang up, criticizing the government, the RPF continued its terror campaign: planting mines on roads that killed Hutu and Tutsi alike; assassinating politicians and officials; and blaming it, with the help of various western intelligence agency-funded NGOs, on the government. In 1992, a coalition government was formed with the RPF, with its front parties seizing control of key ministries and appointing the prime minister. Through these agents they also controlled the civilian intelligence services that they then began to dismantle. The RPF engaged in a “talk and fight” strategy. Always agreeing to a ceasefire, pressing for more power, then launching new attacks on civilians. The most egregious of these ceasefire violations was their major offensive in February 1993 in which they seized the major town of Ruhengeri, while murdering 40,000 civilians, most of them Hutu, in the process. The Rwandan Army, even though hamstrung by the civilian ministries controlled by the RPF, managed to drive the RPF back. Finally, in August 1993, under pressure from the United States and its allies, Rwanda signed the Arusha Accords, giving the RPF major concessions in return for the formation of a broad-based transition government, which was to be followed by general elections.

However, the RPF knew they could not win such elections, as they were not only unpopular with the majority Hutu population, but it did not even enjoy the support of many internal Tutsis whose lives and businesses had been destroyed by this war that they did not see a need for. Instead of preparing for elections, the RPF prepared for their final offensive. As far back as December 1993, UN reports document the massive build-up of men and weapons coming in from Uganda.

A UN force was deployed supposedly to ensure a peaceful transition; in fact, it was a cover for the US and its allies to assist in this build up. General Roméo Dallaire, the Canadian general in charge of the UN force, hid this build up from the Rwandan army and the President. The build up was accompanied by death threats against the president. According to an account of Habyarimana’s last conversation with Mobutu Sese Seko, president of what was then Zaire, just two days before the Rwandan president was murdered, Assistant U.S. Secretary of State for African Affairs Herman Cohen had, in October 1993, told Habyarimana that unless he ceded all power to the RPF they were going to kill him and drag his body through the streets. These threats were punctuated by the murder by Tutsi officers in October 1993 of the first democratically-elected Hutu president of neighboring Burundi, Melchior Ndadaye, a terrorist act in which Kagame and the RPF also had a hand; the officers who committed the murder, including Lieutenant Paul Kamana, later fled to Uganda. Ndadaye was in office a mere four months, having won the country’s first free elections. In the aftermath of that murder, 250,000 Hutus weremassacred by the Tutsi army of Burundi and hundreds of thousands of Hutus fled to Rwanda.

The result of the 1993 offensive was that one million Hutus fled the RPF terror in northern Rwanda towards the capital, Kigali, so that by April 1994, over a million refugees were encamped close to the capital and hundreds of thousands more in camps in the south, all having fled RPF terror. The RPF did all it could in 1994 to paralyze the functioning of the government, to exacerbate racial tensions, and to prepare for war. Then on April 6, 1994, they launched their final surprise attack by shooting down the Rwandan presidential plane returning from a meeting in Tanzania that had been arranged by Uganda’s president Museveni. In fact, it is known that Museveni’s half-brother, General Salim Saleh, was at the final meeting in which the date for the shoot-down was fixed. The missile attack killed Habyarimana, as well as Burundi’s new Hutu president, Cyprien Ntaryamira, and Rwanda’s military chief of staff, and everyone else on board. This was the first massacre of 1994, and it was a massacre of Hutus by the RPF.

The RPF then immediately launched attacks across Kigali and the north of the country. In the sector of Kigali known as Remera, they killed everyone on the night of the 6th and the 7th, wiped out the Gendarme camp there, wiped out the military police camp at Kami and launched a major attack against Camp Kanombe, Camp Kigali and the main gendarme camp at Kacyriu. The Rwandan government and army called for a ceasefire the same night and the next day. The RPF rejected the call. The Rwandan government asked for more UN help to control the situation. Instead, the US arranged for the main UN force to be pulled out while flying in men and supplies to the RPF in C130 Hercules aircraft.

The Rwandan Army, short on ammunition and unable to contain the RPF’s advances, even offered to surrender unconditionally on April 12th. The RPF rejected even this offer, and, instead, shelled the Nyacyonga refugee camp where one million Hutu refugees were located, provoking their flight into the capital. The effect of one million people flooding into a small city that itself was under bombardment cannot be described. The RPF used this flood of people to infiltrate its men behind Rwandan army lines. This created panic among the Hutu population, which began killing anyone they did not recognize. It was clear that the RPF was not interested in saving lives, even Tutsi lives, but only in seizing total power and did not want to negotiate at all. The late Dr. Alison Des Forges, the American who was considered a noted scholar on Rwanda, in her testimony in the Military II trial at the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda (ICTR) in 2006, testified that the RPF’s claim that they attacked to stop a “genocide” was a myth; just propaganda to justify their attempt to seize power by force of arms. She also testified that the Rwandan government did not plan and execute genocide. This accords with the testimony of General Dallaire, who also confirmed an earlier statement that there was no genocide planned by the government, as well as that of the deputy head of Belgian Army intelligence, Col. Vincent, who also testified at the ICTR that the idea of a genocide was a fantasy. The fighting in Kigali was intense. UN officers–confirming what has been said by Rwandan and RPF officers who have testified—state that the RPF was launching hundreds of Katyusha rockets every hour, round the clock, while the Rwandan Army ran out of hand grenades in the first few days and was reduced to fighting the RPF with hand made explosives. The vaunted RPF could not take Kigali. The siege of Kigali lasted three months and only ended when the Rwandan Army literally ran out of ammunition and ordered a general retreat into the Congo forest. RPF officers have stated that the RPF killed up to two million Hutus in those 12 weeks in a deliberate campaign to eliminate the Hutu population. The Akagera River, the full-length of which was under RPF control throughout, ran red with the blood of the Hutus massacred on its banks. The RPF claimed these were Tutsis, but there were no Tutsis in that area and only the RPF had access to it.

Robert Gersony, of the USAID, in an October 1994 report to the UNHCR filed as an exhibit at the ICTR, stated that the RPF carried out a systematic and planned massacre of the Hutu population.

Please see http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Robert_Gersony

As the Rwandan Army, including Tutsi officers within that army and its enlisted men, retreated into the Congo forest, the Hutu population, in fear for their lives, fled in the millions along with them. In local villages, Hutu neighbors attacked Tutsis in revenge for the murder of Hutus or fearing death at their hands. Tutsis also attacked Hutus. It was total war just as the RPF had wished. The RPF later pursued the Hutus through the Congo forest between 1996 to 1998 and killed hundreds of thousands and possibly millions. They were shelled, machine gunned, raped, cut to pieces with knives.

Accounts of that trek are difficult to bear. The RPF was assisted in its offensive by the United States. The UN Rwanda Emergency Office in Nairobi, in fact, was manned by US Army officers, and acted as the operational headquarters for the RPF, giving them intelligence on Rwandan Army movements, on actions and directions.

Prudence Bushnell, the U.S. Deputy Assistant Secretary of State for African Affairs, telephoned the Rwandan Army chief of staff in May 1994 and told him that unless he surrendered he must know that he was fighting the United States of America and would be defeated. US Special Forces fought with the RPF. There is also evidence that Belgian forces of the UN were involved, as an intercepted radio message from Kagame to his forces in the field refers to the help they had received from the Belgians. There is also evidence that Canadian forces were likewise involved, and Antoine Nyetera, a Tutsi prince, who was in Kigali in that period, testified for the defense in the Military II trial and stated that not only were there no massacres committed against Tutsis by the Rwandan Army, but that it was the RPF that began the massacres after they took Kigali and began killing Hutus. Nyetera testified that despite the claim by the RPF of being a Tutsi liberation group, when he saw their long columns enter the capital, he saw that most of them were Sudanese, Eritreans, Ethiopians, Tanzanians and others speaking Swahili or Sudanese languages, in other words, mercenaries.

Several RPF officers have testified at the ICTR that they fled the Kagame regime because they had been promised that they were fighting for liberation of the Tutsis. However, when they wanted to take over the streets of Kigali to stop reprisals against Tutsis by Hutu civilians the junior officers were forbidden to do so, putting the lie to Kagame’s claim that he attacked to save Tutsis. These officers testified that Kagame wanted deaths to justify his war. The RPF could have controlled large parts of Kigali as they had at least 15,000 men in or near the capital opposed to 5,000 Rwandan Army forces. Instead, Kagame used his men to ethnically cleanse the rest of the country of the Hutu population.

The Rwanda War was a total war. All means were used to destroy that country and the Hutu people. The ultimate objective was the resources of the Congo. The US agreed to support the RPF in return for the RPF’s acting as a US proxy force to invade the Congo and seize its resources. The US now has several military bases in Rwanda, and the country is nothing more than a colony of the US and UK, run by thugs who control the majority of the people through intimidation, murder and disinformation.

None of this could have happened if those in the UN like Kofi Anan, then in charge of the Department of peacekeeping operations, had done their jobs. None of this could have happened without the connivance of the NATO countries and Uganda, from where the invasion was launched. Ultimately, the prime responsibility rests with the United States of America and, in particular, with the regimes of Bill Clinton and George W. Bush--and now with President Barack Obama.

As Boutros Boutros-Ghali, then UN Secretary General, stated to Canadian historian Robin Philpot in 2004: “The United States is one hundred percent responsible for what happened in Rwanda.”

Toronto-based Christopher Black is a Barrister and International Criminal Lawyer. He is Lead Counsel for General Augustin Ndindiliyimana, Chief of Staff, Rwandan Gendarmerie before the International Criminal Tribunal For Rwanda (ICTR).

How Belarus Fought the Fascists

July 3rd 2009 marked the 65th anniversary of the liberation of Belarus from the Nazis. Here is Neil Clark's article on the massive contribution Belarus made to the anti-fascist struggle.

Question: Which currently existing nation lost the largest percentage of its population in World War II - a higher percentage than that of France, Britain and the US combined?

The answer is Belarus, which lost a staggering one-third of its people in The Great Patriotic War - a total of 2.5 million citizens.

As Stewart Parker states in his excellent book The Last Soviet Republic, "the destruction wrought on Belarus was immense in terms of human life and of infrastructure."

Thousands of towns and villages were destroyed, many, like Katyn, burnt to the ground with all their villagers.

This week marks the 65th anniversary of the liberation of Belarus from the nazi occupation and the event will be commemorated across the country and in Russia too.To find out more about the sacrifices that Belarus made during World War II in the struggle against the nazis - and the way that its experiences during the war has helped shape the country's foreign policy today - I met up in London recently with the country's ambassador to Britain Aleksandr Mikhnevich.

"Not a single country involved in the hostilities was faced with such appalling atrocities and destruction," Mikhnevich told me. "The war left a deep mark in history and in the minds of the Belarus people."

I asked him for some examples of heroism in his country's anti-nazi struggle.

"One can talk for hours about the heroism of the Belarussian people and all the peoples of the USSR during the war. I will give one example. A small garrison deployed in the Brest Fortress was fighting with invaders for a month. The German troops were already near Smolensk but battles in Brest - 600km from the front line - were still underway. Even Hitler arrived by plane to Brest in July 1941 as he couldn't understand why his powerful army could not capture this small islet on Belarussian soil."

By the end of 1941, six months after the launch of Operation Barbarossa, the whole of Belarus was under nazi occupation. But the people refused to lie down and lick the jackboots of the illegal invaders. The resistance movement was strong and determined. By 1943, there were 75,000 partisans active in the country.

Overall, a total of 370,000 partisans fought in Belarus, with fighters coming from other Soviet republics and from western European countries too. "The scale of the partisan movement was self-evident as single partisan zones sprang up in 1943 - two and half years before the hostilities were over," says Mikhnevich.

"Around 60 per cent of the occupied territory was recaptured by the partisans. Government was restored in those areas, bringing the life of civilians back to normal. Belarussians took part even in the French Resistance."

Arguably no other country invaded by the nazis did more to protect its Jewish population than Belarus. In July 1941, the nazis established a Jewish ghetto in the capital Minsk with over 100,000 inmates.

Parker relates how the head of the ghetto, Yefim Stolerovitch, recounted after the war that though the Germans did find individual collaborators, "they were the exception and not the rule.

The dominant characteristic of the Belarussian population was one of friendship and sympathy towards the Jews." An example of this took place on July 21 1941, when the nazis roped a group of 45 Jews into a pit and then ordered 30 Belarussian PoWs to bury them alive. The PoWs refused and subsequently the Germans shot all 75.

Such acts of solidarity in Belarus were, as Parker notes, "in stark contrast to the overt anti-semitism that was reported by Germans in Polish, Baltic and Ukrainian territories."

The role that Belarussians played in protecting Jews in World War II has been acknowledged by the Israeli authorities. The Righteous Among the Nations is a secular award given by Israel to gentiles who risked their lives in the Holocaust to save Jews.

There are no fewer than 587 recipients of the award in Belarus.

One of the Belarussians so honoured is Galina Imshenik who, together with her husband, rescued a little Jewish toddler named Yelena Dolgov. Sixty-five years later, Yelena and her husband care for Galina, who is now 96, round the clock. It's a wonderful story of human kindness being repaid.

Eventually, the combined might of the Red Army and the partisans evicted the nazi invaders from Belarus.

Due to the worldwide recognition of the role that it had played in defeating fascism, Belarus, despite not being a sovereign state at the time, was made a founding member of the United Nations. And at the very first session of the UN general assembly a resolution proposed by Belarus was passed on the extradition and punishment of war criminals. The enormous losses the country incurred during World War II continues to shape the foreign policy of Belarus today.

"Belarussian people as nobody else value peace, prosperity and universal values," Mikhnevich told me. "Our foreign policy is aimed exactly at the creation of a zone of neighbourliness. We will never forget the price of our freedom."

Since becoming a sovereign state in 1991, Belarus has taken a consistently pro-peace and anti-war line, opposing both the illegal NATO attack on Yugoslavia in 1999 and the equally unlawful aggression against Iraq in 2003.

The country that was at the forefront of the anti-fascist resistance 65 years ago is still standing up for the rights of free, independent nations today.


Shrewsbury 24 Rally

An excellent and spirited rally of the Shrewsbury 24 campaign took place in Shrewsbury itself Saturday, 4th July 2009.

The Shrewsbury 24 campaign is fighting to clear the names of twenty four rank and file trades unionists who participated in the 1972 national building workers dispute. These men were singled out by the state acting on behalf of the major building companies and were prosecuted on trumped up charges of "conspiracy". The show trial passed down vicious sentences on the men intended to intimidate other workers from effectively furthering trades union struggles for better wages and conditions. Des Warren and Ricky Tomlinson received the heaviest sentences of three and two years respectively. Both men refused to bend the knee and defied the prison authorities claiming political status. Des Warren suffered greatly and died still a young man as a consequence of drug induced Parkinson's Disease as a result of the "liquid cosh" - a cocktail of sedative drugs administered during his time in jail.

The campaign now is to have all the men's name cleared through a public enquiry as well as to expose the role of successive governments and the secret services in the events surrounding this important time in labour history.

The platform of speakers was superb and all gave outstanding contributions including Ricky Tomlinson himself and Arthur Scargill photos of whom are with those shown above...


CWU Dispute - Irvine


Glasgow & District Amalgamated Branch

Tam Dewar CWU Area Delivery Rep DG/KA

The last national Postal strike in 2007 was concluded when the CWU and Royal Mail agreed a process to negotiate change in response to new technology. This Pay and Modernisation Agreement, endorsed by 60% of the membership, laid out a four phase process to conclude by April 2009 in a new pay and reward scheme and methods of working in Delivery.

From 2007 till 2009 the CWU agreed changes locally through the PMA which resulted in massive savings to Royal Mail. Some units were rewarded by a 50/50 bonus scheme, most units received no bonus. Lump sum awards and a 1.5% increase in basic pay in 2008 was largely self funded. Royal Mail has now walked away from the final phase of this Agreement, not only announcing a pay freeze, at a time of growing company profits, but introducing changes to working practises which affect members earnings and job security. Royal Mail have a view of future delivery jobs being largely part time.

The recent CWU national conference in Bournemouth was dominated by requests for industrial action from units throughout the UK in response to Royal Mail’s misuse and eventual abrogation of the Pay and Modernisation Agreement. Many members feel that if Royal Mail can walk away from this agreement then the CWU should declare the PMA dead and return to established ways of working. It is worthy of note that the Postal Executive which endorsed this Agreement was returned to office with around 10% of the membership voting.

Postal workers in the East of Scotland were the first to use the collective power of the CWU to resist the RM model of “Modernisation” spreading eastwards. Their action had such an effect on the service that Ayrshire managers (members of Unite) were ‘drafted’ to deliver mail. Now that members from the Ayrshire Coast will take to the picket line to explain their case, these managers will be occupied in Ayrshire.

Members in my home unit of Irvine took strike action on Saturday 20th June in response to Royal Mail managers who ignore agreements with the Union on working practises, only after months of talks at local level have been exhausted.

This may well be a prolonged action given the complete inability or unwillingness of senior RM managers to pay due regard to the wishes of the men and women who deliver and collect the mail. Although Irvine DO is the first to take action they will be followed by other units in Ayrshire unless Royal Mail negotiate “modernisation” plans.

Although the Irvine strike is local, in that it concerns the abuse of working practises and the intimidation and threats against senior serving and part time staff, it illustrates the attitudes of RM managers to national and local agreements. We need the protection, at local bargaining level, of a strong Union with national bargaining power.

In addition CWU members face the possible “Part Privatisation” of Royal Mail by a Labour Government elected with a mandate from the British electorate to maintain RM in public ownership. Likewise the Leadership of the CWU believed they had a similar commitment from the Labour Party through the “Warwick Agreement”.

My old Aunt, who read palms and tea leafs, had more accurate powers of prediction than the Leadership of the CWU have managed over what Labour will do next. Prior to the release of the Hooper report we were told that the CWU had a good working relationship with the Business Secretary John Hutton and that Labour would fulfil the “Warwick Agreement”. The very next day Hutton was replaced by Lord Mandelson, “Warwick” was forgotten and Labour intended to privatise Royal Mail. At a briefing in May we were told that the Prime Minster need CWU help out of the privatisation hole, Mandelson would be moved and the CWU view would prevail. Less than two weeks later the PM’s jacket is on a slack nail and Lord Mandelson rules supreme, showing no sign of backing off Privatisation. Not a lot of return for the £1m of CWU members money flowing into Labour coffers. On a more positive note the CWU have run a faultless campaign to influence the public and politicians on Royal Mail privatisation. It would make more sense to spend the political fund on more of the same as the legislative programme rolls on.

That it should be a Labour Government which proposes privatisation of Postal jobs holds it own paradox for Irvine workers. A clandestine meeting of the newly formed Ayrshire Miners Union met on Irvine Moor in 1887 to adopt resolutions advocating “the formation of a Labour Party in the House of Commons“. The Ayrshire miners, following the lead of James Keir Hardie, realised that industrial strength and political representation of the working class in parliament were necessary to change society for the better. Now that the political representation has been corrupted, despite the views of ordinary Labour members, we depend even more on our industrial strength to defend jobs and conditions.
Tam Dewar
(in a personal capacity)



The Socialist Labour Party has achieved a stunning vote in the European Union elections. It has polled more than 20,000 more votes than the coalition known as NO2EU which was supported by the RMT, CPB and a variety of other so called "Left organisations". All who really want the UK to remain in the European Union.

The Socialist Labour Party was the only Socialist Party in this election which called for the total withdrawal from the European Union and at the same time called for the building of a campaign to establish Socialism in the U.K.

Socialist Labour Party Leader, Arthur Scargill, said that "the result was a substantial increase on the Party's performance in the 1999 European Union election and represents a lesson that all those who claim to be socialist but who seek to remain within the European Union which is the epitome of Capitalism and the free movement of capital and labour".

Arthur Scargill congratulated all comrades within the Socialist Labour Party and in particular the magnificent achievement of our comrades in Scotland whose policies won the support of all those who want to shake off the shackles not only of the European Union but also of a rotten, corrupt, bankrupt capitalist society.



Irvine Meadow celebrate as 2 - 1 Ayrshire Cup winners over Auchinleck Talbot. Before the game the West of Scotland Premier League Champions trophy was presented.

Onwards to the Scottish Cup next season !

Meadow manager Chris Strain celebrates with the trophies in Irvine's Porthead Tavern after the match.


Hungary Tears Up the Ballot Paper

by Neil Clark

His approval ratings are among the lowest ever achieved by a prime minister. As the former manager of the country’s finances, many blame him for its current economic predicament. By nature an introvert, he is finding it hard to build up a rapport with the electorate. His name is Gordon B.... No, not Gordon Brown, but Gordon Bajnai, who last month was sworn in as the new prime minister of Hungary.

The similarities between the political situations in Hungary and Britain are striking. In both countries a nominally left-of-centre – but actually pro-big business and pro-privatisation – government has presided over an unsustainable credit boom. Both have been hit hard by the global recession. We should also note that Bajnai’s predecessor, Ferenc Gyurcsány, was widely referred to as “Hungary’s Tony Blair” and is a friend of Peter Mandelson.

But there are important differences, too. Britain’s Gordon B may not have had his elevation to the premiership endorsed by the electorate, but he is nonetheless a democratically elected member of parliament. Hungary’s Gordon B has not been elected to any office.

A millionaire businessman, nicknamed “Goose Gordon” for his controversial role in the liquidation of a poultry firm in which hundreds of producers lost their savings, Bajnai became prime minister due to the support of the neoliberal SZDSZ party (Alliance of Free Democrats), who despite having the support of only 1 per cent of the electorate, according to recent opinion polls, hold the balance of power in parliament.Bajnai is not a member of any political party, but a friend and former business partner of both Gyurcsány and the SZDSZ leader, János Kóka.

Imagine if in Britain the Lib Dems held the balance of power in the next parliament and Nick Clegg installed an old business buddy, who was not an MP, as PM.It sounds far-fetched, but it has happened in Hungary. Realising that they stand little chance of winning seats in the next election, the SZDSZ, who reacted angrily when voters in a referendum last year rejected the imposition of hospital and doctor’s visit fees and higher-education tuition fees, have been pushing for a “government of experts” to impose the draconian cutbacks in public spending that they have long advocated. Now they have got what they wanted.In addition to the prime minister, other unelected “experts” in the new government include finance minister Peter Oszko, formerly head of Deloitte Hungary; economy minister István Varga, the former head of Shell in Hungary; and minister of transport, telecommunication and energy, Peter Honig, the former CEO of the airline Malev.

The fact that unelected figures hold so much power in a European country that styles itself a democracy is alarming. The formation of “non-political” governments to introduce swingeing cuts in public expenditure – and privatise health care, lower pensions and drastically reduce welfare provision – is an undemocratic development that could spread.Such governments are a long way from being “non-political”. On the contrary, they are espousing ideologically motivated economic policies, but do so under the smokescreen of “financial necessity”. Unable to receive a popular mandate for their reforms, neoliberals in Hungary have stuck two fingers up at the democratic process. As the economic crisis deepens and public unrest grows, don’t rule out their counterparts in other countries

This article first appeared in the New Statesman 14th May 2009.

Neil Clark will be speaking at the Hay-on-Wye festival in Wales on 23rd May 2009.

Scroungers, Parasites & the Crisis of Capitalism.

A Comment by Ian Johnson

The recent expenses scandal, which has at the last count covered over 400 of the 646 Members of Parliament, cannot fail to appal and disgust all who have followed, even in passing, the nauseating details.

Prime Minister Gordon Brown said, “I want to apologise on behalf of politicians, on behalf of all parties, for what has happened in the events of the last few days.”
The last few days? As we now know this scrounging from the public purse has been going on for years!

The politicians meekly whisper that the expenses claims are necessary for them to function properly as MPs. However, claims for moat cleaning, chandeliers, mansions, non-existent mortgages, non-existent cleaners and gardeners, stables, three homes, right down to bath plugs and pornographic films among countless other such abuses, are not, even with the widest stretch of the imagination, essential to the job of representing their constituents.

Communities’ secretary Hazel Blears stood in front of the television cameras, not to apologise, but to wave a £13,332 cheque proclaiming “Look, I am paying it back”

The cheque was for capital gains tax which Blears had not paid on the sale of one of her homes, yet she insisted she had done nothing wrong and she had acted within the rules. Apart from the fact that MPs themselves make the rules, what follows from Hazel Blears’ action are two things: One, if she has done nothing wrong and everything is legal and above board, why on earth would she send the Inland Revenue a £13,332 cheque, and why would they accept it? Two, if indeed she has avoided paying what she was legally obliged to pay then that is surely a criminal offence and should be prosecuted as such. If memory serves correctly, Al Capone got a seven- year sentence for tax avoidance.

Blears was one of a host of new MPs that came into Parliament in 1997 on the back of Blair’s election victory. The mantra at that time, emanating from the very top, was that any MP who serves a full term and does not come out as a millionaire is a failure.

Although abuse of the expenses system, no doubt by all the main parties, has always been a factor, the sheer greed and avarice that is now exposed to the general public was crystallised by the philosophy that accompanied the election of Blair’s Labour party in 1997.

These cross-party exposures reveal who the real scroungers and parasites in society are. In comparison, the example of a person working a part-time job to supplement meagre benefit payments and claiming a few pounds more than they may be entitled to, pales into insignificance. Perhaps MPs should be subject to the same interrogation, demeaning treatment and obstacles that are endured by workers who dare to try and claim benefits? Then again, this is not about fairness, but about class.


In November 2008 all MPs were warned to get their expense claims in order because of the changes in ‘transparency’ that would eventually be introduced. They were asked to accomplish this ‘cleaning up’ exercise by July 2009, so that by the time the general public had access to the information, there would be nothing untoward to discover. One can ponder the deceitfulness of this but another question is of more interest.

The MPs expenses scandal was exposed by the Daily Telegraph. The Telegraph had hold of this story for some time, yet it chose to publish it in the run-up to the European elections when it must have been fully aware of the damage it would cause to all the main three political parties.
The Daily Telegraph is a right-wing newspaper; historically it has always displayed a sharp ruling class consciousness and has close links to the machinery of the state itself. Why then would it publish at the time it did?

Almost every television and radio debate and almost every serious newspaper article covering the recent revelations give a clue as to why. All intimate that the beneficiaries from the fallout of the scandal are expected to be the extreme right-wing parties. Such a development is no accident.

The fact that the Telegraph did publish the story at this time is a reflection of a split within the ruling class. The Telegraph is expressing the thoughts of the most reactionary section of that class, and is creating the conditions whereby the question can be posed that a strong authoritarian force, capable of sweeping away corruption and sleaze, similar to the cleansing of the Weimar Republic in Germany, is surely worthy of consideration?

It does not explicitly state this of course, it has no need to. And if creating such an atmosphere means sacrificing a few MPs on the way then so be it.

However, why does the Telegraph and the section of the ruling class it represents feel a more authoritarian government is needed merely to sort out a group of grubby, parasitic MPs?
This question cannot be answered by considering the MPs scandal in isolation. It is but one part of an entire process which flows from an understanding by sections of the ruling class who realise that attempting to lay the full burden of the developing economic crisis onto the backs of workers will result in ‘domestic unrest’ and a government, possibly a ‘strong’ national coalition government, would be required to accomplish the task of controlling this unrest and completing the job of pauperising the working class in order to save their profit system.

No Recovery

Recent statements by Chancellor Alistair Darling and Mervyn King of the Bank of England, in relation to economic recovery have been ridiculed by the IMF and World Bank, who are predicting that the UK will be the hardest hit of all developed nations as the crisis gathers pace.
Already within the European Union suggestions are being made that only emergency cases should be treated under the NHS, while all other treatments should be paid for.

Unemployment has now soared to officially 2.2 million, unofficially to 7 million, and will increase further, throwing millions more onto benefits that this government, with its cuts in public expenditure, will not financially cater for. Tellingly, the last time the UK had a national coalition government its first act was to cut the dole.

The ruling class desire for ‘a strong government’ should be seen together with developments in policing, such as the tactic of ‘kettling’ people at perfectly legal demonstrations, the introduction of the shoot to kill policy and the recent creation of the Confidential Intelligence Unit (CIU) who’s remit is to spy on and organise surveillance of ‘domestic extremists’ and to address any “threat to public order”.

‘Domestic extremists’ include, as journalist Seamus Milne discovered, “groups such as those involved in the recent Gaza war protests, trade unionists taking part in secondary industrial action and animal rights organisations.”

It must also be remembered that anti-terrorism laws are now in place that will be used, not against terrorists in the generally accepted sense, but against people and groups as described by Milne. Furthermore, at the 30th March G20 summit people were arrested under the Terrorism Act for “possessing material related to political ideology.”

This is the future that sections of the ruling class are preparing.

Will the current wealth – seeking, morally bankrupt set of Labour MPs resist these developments? On the contrary, it was the Labour party that introduced the National Public Order Intelligence Unit in March 1999 from which the CIU operation has originated from. The difference being is that the CIU operates outside any parliamentary oversight and is not held accountable as it will not be subject to the Freedom of Information Act. Yet many trade unions leaders still financially support the Labour party with significant contributions of their members money, which is the equivalent of saying to the government “here is some more money, please go out and buy a bigger hammer so you can hit our members harder.”

Considering the above developments, it is important to note that the danger of fascism does not originate from any extreme right-wing group, it stems from the state itself, who will use such groups as and when it deems fit. In general the ruling class would prefer to rule via parliamentary democracy but in times of crisis they are perfectly willing to introduce and finance a different type of rule.

It is not the duty of socialists to ignore developments and deny reality, but to analyse them and to prepare and build a Party that can offer an alternative to the nightmare scenario that is currently unfolding brick by reactionary brick.

Ian Johnson is General Secretary of the Socialist Labour Party.


May 2009.



The SLP has announced that they will be standing a full slate of candidates in the forthcoming European elections being held on 4th June 2009. All nine regions in England plus the Scotland and Wales regions will be contested.

The EU is a capitalist club that makes it easier for the multinational companies to exploit workers throughout its member states. Factories are uprooted from one country to another in pursuit of the cheapest labour, without any social responsibility being accepted towards the devastated communities they are leaving behind.

Moreover, EU directives on privatisation are destroying Britain’s health, education and postal services and now there is no part of the economy safe from the hands of the privateers.

The Socialist Labour Party is totally committed to complete withdrawal from the European Union. However, the SLP recognises that the EU is but one instrument of capitalist rule; therefore what is ultimately needed is a genuine socialist alternative to the vast array of problems that workers and their families are facing today.
The SLP is the only party that is offering such an alternative.

Opposing the European Union is part of the Socialist Labour Party’s internationalist outlook. We want Britain to come out of Europe and into the world, developing and expanding trading links with the rest of the world.

Only by coming out of the EU can we begin to put things right economically and socially.

Vote us in to get us out!


For further information on SLP policies please visit our website:

or email:


Socialist Labour contests 2009 European Elections

The Socialist Labour Party (SLP) will contest all electoral divisions of Scotland, Wales and England in the June 4th 2009 European Elections.

The SLP are the only socialist party ever to have offered every voter of Britain the opportunity to vote for socialism. With the on-going collapse of the free market system this is now more important than ever.

A full list of SLP candidates will appear in due course.

Vote Socialist Labour Party on June 4th 2009 X


'We could surrender - or stand and fight'

ARTHUR SCARGILL – The Guardian 7th March 2009

Twenty-five years ago, the Tory government led by Margaret Thatcher declared war on the National Union of Mineworkers. The Tories had been preparing for a showdown with the NUM since before the 1979 general election. They could not forget the victorious miners' strikes of 1972 and 1974, the second of which had brought down the Tory government in a general election.

But the NUM's historic battle did not begin in March 1984, as so many pundits claim. The seeds of the dispute had been sown long before. A pit closure plan in 1981 resulted in miners, including miners in Nottinghamshire, taking unofficial strike action (without a ballot) and forcing Thatcher into a U-turn, or in reality a body swerve.

At that time, Britain's coal industry was the most efficient and technologically advanced in the world, a result of a tripartite agreement, the Plan For Coal, signed by a Labour government, the National Coal Board (NCB) and the mining trade unions in 1974, and endorsed by Thatcher in 1981. And yet, shortly after I became national president of the NUM in 1982 I was sent anonymously a copy of a secret plan prepared by NCB chiefs earmarking 95 pits for closure, with the loss of 100,000 miners' jobs. This plan had been prepared on government instructions following the miners' successful unofficial strike in 1981.

I took this document to the union's National Executive Committee (NEC) - its contents were not only denied by government and NCB chiefs, but were disbelieved by militant NUM leaders who had been assured that their pits had long-term futures. However, the exposed revelations struck a chord among our members throughout Britain's coalfields where colliery managers - clearly acting on instructions from above - had already begun unilaterally changing agreed working practices, affecting shift patterns and supplementary payments.

It became clear that the union would have to take action, but of a type that would win maximum support and have a unifying effect. The NEC accepted a report from me recommending that we call a special national delegate conference, and link our opposition to the pit closure plan with a demand that the coal board negotiate the union's wage claim. The NEC agreed, and the special conference was held on 21 October 1983. Delegates from all NUM areas were given a detailed report so that they could vote on what action - if any - should be taken. Following a full debate, they agreed to call a national overtime ban from 1 November - until such time as the NCB withdrew its closure plan and agreed to negotiate an increase in miners' wages with the NUM.
Over the next four months, the overtime ban had an extraordinary impact. It succeeded in reducing coal output by 30%, or 12m tonnes, thus cutting national coal stocks to about the same level as they had been during the miners' unofficial strike in 1981.

Then, on 1 March 1984, acting I believe on national instruction, NCB directors in four areas announced the immediate closure of five pits: Cortonwood and Bullcliffe Wood in Yorkshire, Herrington in Durham, Snowdown in Kent and Polmaise in Scotland.

Coalfield reaction was electrifying. On Saturday 3 March, accompanied by the NUM Yorkshire president, Jack Taylor, I spoke at a packed meeting in South Yorkshire initially organised to discuss various issues that had already brought seven Yorkshire pits out on strike. I knew we had to do everything possible to persuade our members to direct their rage in a united way at the pit closure plan and its threat to butcher our industry.

On Sunday evening Taylor and I attended a Yorkshire Brass Band Festival in Sheffield city hall. By then I had consulted my fellow national officials, the vice-president, Michael McGahey, and the national secretary, Peter Heathfield.

It was essential to present a united response to the NCB and we agreed that, if the coal board planned to force pit closures on an area by area basis, then we must respond at least initially on that same basis. The NUM's rules permitted areas to take official strike action if authorised by our national executive committee in accordance with Rule 41. If the NEC gave Scotland and Yorkshire authorisation under this rule, it could galvanise other areas to seek similar support for action against closures.

During an interval in the concert, I used the back of a programme to draft a strike resolution which I asked Taylor to present the following morning to the Yorkshire area council meeting. I told him that McGahey would be doing the same thing at the same time in Scotland.

On 6 March, at a consultative meeting at NCB London headquarters, the coal board chairman, Ian MacGregor, not only confirmed what we had been expecting, but announced that in addition to the five pits already earmarked for immediate closure, a further 20 would be closed during the coming year, with the loss of more than 20,000 jobs. This, he said, was being done to take four million tonnes of "unwanted" capacity out of the industry, and bring supply into line with demand.

The Scotland and Yorkshire NUM areas did vote to seek endorsement from the NEC for strike action, and at the NEC meeting on 8 March were given authorisation under Rule 41. South Wales and Kent then also asked for authorisation. The NEC agreed, and confirmed that other areas could, if they wished, do the same. We realised that the NCB announcement on 6 March had amounted to a declaration of war. We could either surrender right now, or stand and fight.
A question that has been raised time and time again over the past 25 years is: why did the union not hold a national strike ballot? Those who attack our struggle by vilifying me usually say: "Scargill rejected calls for a ballot."

The real reason that NUM areas such as Nottinghamshire, South Derbyshire and Leicestershire wanted a national strike ballot was that they wanted the strike called off, believing naively that their pits were safe.

Three years earlier, in 1981, there had been no ballot when miners' unofficial strike action - involving Notts miners - had caused Thatcher to retreat from mass closures (nor in 1972 when more than a million workers went on strike in support of the Pentonville Five dockers who had been jailed for defying government anti-union legislation).

McGahey argued that the union should not be "constitutionalised" out of taking action, while the South Wales area president, Emlyn Williams, told the NEC on 12 April 1984: "To hide behind a ballot is an act of cowardice. I tell you this now ... decide what you like about a ballot but our coalfield will be on strike and stay on strike."

However, NUM areas had a right to ask the NEC to convene a special national delegate conference (as we had when calling the overtime ban) to determine whether delegates mandated by their areas should vote for a national individual ballot or reaffirm the decision of the NEC to permit areas such as Scotland, Yorkshire, South Wales and Kent to take strike action in accordance with Rule 41.

Our special conference was held on 19 April. McGahey, Heathfield and I were aware from feedback that a slight majority of areas favoured the demand for a national strike ballot; therefore, we were expecting and had prepared for that course of action with posters, ballot papers and leaflets. A major campaign was ready to go for a "Yes" vote in a national strike ballot.
At the conference, Heathfield told delegates in his opening address: "I hope that we are sincere and honest enough to recognise that a ballot should not be used and exercised as a veto to prevent people in other areas defending their jobs." His succinct reminder of the situation we were in opened up an emotional debate to which speaker after speaker made passionate and fiercely argued contributions.

Replying to that debate, I said: "This battle is certainly about more than the miners' union. It is for the right to work. It is for the right to preserve our pits. It is for the right to preserve this industry ... We can all make speeches, but at the end of the day we have got to stand up and be counted ... We have got to come out and say not only what we feel should be done, but do it because if we don't do that, then we fail."

McGahey, Heathfield and I had done the arithmetic beforehand, and were truly surprised that when the vote was taken, delegates rejected calls for a national strike ballot and decided instead to call on all miners to refuse to cross picket lines - and join the 140,000 already on strike. We later learned that members of one area delegation had been so moved by the arguments put forward in the debate that they'd held an impromptu meeting and switched their vote in support of the area strikes in accordance with Rule 41.

During the strike I was also criticised, indeed attacked - by my own colleagues - for arguing that the NUM's prime picketing targets should be power stations, ports, cement works, steelworks and coking plants. But evidence now available shows my argument was correct.

My passionate conviction that the Orgreave coking plant in South Yorkshire should be selected as a main target was rubbished at the time. Yet, it has now been revealed from official sources that show coal stocks at steel plants - particularly Scunthorpe in Yorkshire, Ravenscraig in Scotland and Llanwern in Wales - were so low that these works could only continue in production for a matter of weeks, with Scunthorpe - where British Steel had already laid off 160 workers due to coal shortages - actually earmarked for closure by 18 June 1984.

The issue of dispensations that would allow provision of coal supplies created divisions among the most militant sections of the NUM. I had argued passionately that there should be no dispensations for power stations, cement works, steelworks or coking plants, whose coal stocks were extremely low.

Many on the union's left - particularly those in the Communist party - argued that the union had a responsibility to ensure that a minimal amount of coal could be delivered in order to keep the giant furnaces and ovens "ticking over". Heathfield and a number of others on the NUM left agreed with me that there should be no dispensations and that if steelworks had to close down, as British Steel's chairman, Bob Haslam, warned was inevitable, then the responsibility lay firmly at the door of the government, not the NUM.

Despite the passionate arguments made by Heathfield and myself, areas did give dispensations. Two months went by before it dawned on Yorkshire, South Wales and Scotland that they had been outmanoeuvred by British Steel, and the leadership of the steelworkers' union, and that British Steel was moving far more coal than the dispensations agreed with NUM areas. Yet there was still time to stop all those giant steelworks, and if the steelworkers' union would not cooperate with the NUM to stop all deliveries of coal to the steelworks then the National Union of Seamen and rail unions Aslef and NUR had already demonstrated that they would stop all deliveries.

The scene was set for the battle of Orgreave.

Orgreave coking plant was a crucial target for mass picketing. I knew that its coal supplies could be cut off as had been the case at the Saltley coke depot in Birmingham in 1972 - a turning point after which that strike was soon settled.

Contrary to popular mythology, Orgreave was closed twice: first on 27 May 1984, when together with dozens of others I was injured on the picket line. Second, on 18 June, when 10,000 pickets faced 8,500 riot police in a scene reminiscent of a battle in England's 17th-century civil war.
So fierce was the conflict on 18 June that dozens of pickets were hospitalised (including me), but the picketing resulted in British Steel's chairman sending a telex closing down Orgreave on a temporary basis - exactly as had been the case at Saltley coke depot in Birmingham 12 years before.

The fundamental difference between Saltley in 1972 and Orgreave in 1984 was that in 1972 following the first closure at Saltley, picketing on my demand was increased the following day - while at Orgreave, on 19 June 1984, the pickets were completely withdrawn by the NUM Yorkshire and Derbyshire areas and other coalfield leaders, despite my desperate urging that picketing be stepped up.

Had picketing at Orgreave been increased the day after 18 June, I have no doubt that Orgreave - and Scunthorpe - would have faced immediate closure, forcing the government to settle the strike.

For 25 years, I have been accused of refusing to negotiate a settlement with the NCB, and of "snatching defeat from the jaws of victory" - a blatant lie. The NUM settled the strike on five separate occasions in 1984: on 8 June, 8 July, 18 July, 10 September, and 12 October. The first four settlements were sabotaged or withdrawn following the intervention of Thatcher.

The most important settlement terms were agreed between leaders of the pit deputies' union Nacods and the NUM at the offices of the conciliation service Acas on 12 October 1984 and included a demand that the NCB withdraw its pit closure plan, give an undertaking that the five collieries earmarked for immediate closure would be kept open, and guarantee that no pit would be closed unless by joint agreement it was deemed to be exhausted or unsafe.

Nacods members had recorded an 82% ballot vote for strike action, and their leaders made clear to the NCB that unless the Nacods-NUM terms were accepted, the Nacods strike would go ahead.

I was later told by a Tory who had been a minister at the time that when Thatcher was informed of the Nacods-NUM agreement she announced to the cabinet "special committee" that the government had no choice but to settle the strike on the unions' terms.

However, when she learned that Nacods - despite pleas from the TUC and the NUM - had called off their strike and accepted a "modified" colliery review procedure, she immediately withdrew the government's decision to settle. Nacods' inexplicable decision led to the closure of 164 pits and the loss of 160,000 jobs.

The monumental betrayal by Nacods has never been explained in a way that makes sense. Even the TUC recognised that the Nacods settlement was a disaster.

The fact that Nacods leaders ignored pleas from the NUM and TUC not to call off their strike or resile from their agreement with the NUM not only adds mystery but poses the question - whose hand did the moving, and why?

Over the years, I have repeatedly said that we didn't "come close" to total victory in October 1984 - we had it, and at the very point of victory we were betrayed. Only the Nacods leaders know why.

A full account of the strike of 1984/85 is still to be written. However, we have learned more and more about the then Labour party leader, Neil Kinnock's treachery, the betrayals by the TUC and the class collaboration of union leaders such as Eric Hammond (the electricians' EETPU) and John Lyons (Engineers and Managers Association), who instructed their members to cross picket lines and did all they could to defeat the miners.

We have also seen how many who, like Kinnock, bleated constantly about the need for a ballot during the miners' strike didn't call for the British people to have a ballot in 2003 when Tony Blair took the nation into an unlawful war and the occupation of Iraq.

During the past 25 years, many who have attacked the NUM, and me, about the need for a ballot, or argued that we selected the wrong targets have done so to cover their own guilt at failing to give the miners a level of support that would have stopped the Tories' pit closure programme and thus changed the political direction of the nation. Britain in 1984 was already a divided and degraded society - it has become much more so in the 25 years since.

The NUM's struggle remains not only an inspiration for workers but a warning to today's union leaders of their responsibility to their members, and the need to challenge both government and employers over all forms of injustice, inequality and exploitation.

That is the legacy of the NUM's strike of 1984/85, a truly historic fight that gave birth to the magnificent Women Against Pit Closures and the miners' support groups. I have always said that the greatest victory in the strike was the struggle itself, a struggle that inspired millions of people around the world.

• On 12 March, at 7.30pm, Arthur Scargill will be speaking on the lessons of the 1984/85 miners' strike at the Conway Hall, Red Lion Square, London, WC1