Archives for: "April 2006"

National Union of Students passes resolution supporting Venezuelan Revolution

After the Trade Union Congress expressed its unconditional solitarity with the Venezuelan Revolution, British students continue the trend. From HoV:

The National Union of Students at its Easter National Conference passed a resolution supporting the Venezuelan Revolution. The motion recognised the “enormous social change has taken place in Venezuela in recent years, with the government funding wide-ranging social programmes.”

It pointed to the “dramatic increases in democratic participation, especially by indigenous people, women and the poor, including in eight national elections and referenda since Hugo Chavez’s election as President in 1998.” Again, it welcomed the “right to publicly funded free education including at university… (where), through literacy drives, over 1.2m Venezuelans have been taught to read and write since 1998, virtually abolishing illiteracy.”

On healthcare, the resolution explained that “more than 70% of the Venezuelan population for the first time now have access to free healthcare and medicines… through ‘Operation Miracle’ is funding up to 1,500 free eye operations daily for poor people in Latin America and the Caribbean. Over six million are expected to be treated over the next decade.”

The resolution concluded by opposing US military intervention in Venezuela and stressing the need to work with the trade unions and solidarity movement to provide student unions with information about education and healthcare achievements in Venezuela. Furthermore, it agreed to send a message of support to the Venezuelan Education Ministry commending the provision of free education and steps taken to eradicate illiteracy.

Jeremy Dear and Rodrigo Trompiz from the HOV Steering Committee visited current NUS President Kat Fletcher and President elect Gemma Tumelty to discuss how the campaign can work together with the union to achieve the goals stated in the resolution. The meeting was extremely positive, and the NUS is very keen to help all that it can to promote solidarity with the Venezuelan revolution, whether with screenings, speaker tours or at freshers’ fairs.

May Day photos

Getting ready for May Day..... Send in any pictures of marches or meetings and I'll post them up. E-mail them to webresponse@smirnov.demon.co.uk thanks!

Orion

Here's an image of Orion I took on the 26th of February 1997, using a 35mm camera with a 50mm lens with 1600 speed film exposed for 30 seconds. Light pollution was removed using Photoshop.

Orion

Now do I want to spend £500 on getting a Digital SLR.....

SWP & StWC bureaucracy and Stalinism

I'm sure everyone on the left in Britain has heard of the Socialist Workers' Party - they're the largest "Marxist" organisation in Britain. However they are under complete control of a tiny minority of people, they stifle all other groups in their coalitions, like the Socialist Alliance, RESPECT and the Stop the War Coalition. Time and time again they have stamped out any traces of democracy to maintain their control of an organisation that believes solely in membership numbers and nothing in Marxism.

Here's two separate recordings made by Heiko Khoo, firstly at the "People's" Assembly and secondly at a meeting to decide what to do when Bush visited the UK.

It shows brilliantly how they crush any ideas they disagree with (don't want to upset their bourgeois friends do they?), how they stage meetings with their stooges who shout anyone else's ideas while democracy is given away in waves of applause.

This is an appeal to comrades in the SWP, to stop and actually think for a change. They're anti-democractic, pro-bourgeois and Stalinist in organisation by supporting them you are destroying the movement.

Flight Simulator X

It should be with us at the end of the year.

Microsoft Flight Simulator XMicrosoft Flight Simulator XMicrosoft Flight Simulator XMicrosoft Flight Simulator XMicrosoft Flight Simulator X

Now where's the beta?

Why creationism is wrong and evolution is right

An excellent hour long lecture on evidence supporting evolution carried out by Professor Steve Jones.

Science is about disbelief. It accepts that all knowledge is provisional and that any theory might in principle be disproved. Some theories are better established than others: the earth is probably not flat, babies are almost certainly not brought by storks, and men and dinosaurs are unlikely to have appeared on earth within the past few thousand years. Even so, nothing is sacred in 1905 classical physics collapsed after a seemingly trivial observation about glowing gases and the same is potentially true for all other scientific theories.

Many biologists are worried by a recent and unexpected return of an argument based on belief by the certainty, untestable and unsupported by evidence, that life did not evolve but appeared by supernatural means. Worldwide, more people believe in creationism than in evolution. Why do no biologists agree? Steve Jones will talk about what evolution is, about new evidence that men and chimps are close relatives and about how we are, nevertheless, unique and why creationism does more harm to religion than it does to science.

Ninety years since the Easter uprising

By Alan Woods and Ted Grant, Saturday, 14 April 2001:

From the start of the War, Connolly was virtually isolated. Internationally, he had no contact. Outside of Ireland, the Labour Movement seemed to be as silent as the grave. True, there were symptoms of a revival in Britain, with the Glasgow rent strike of 1915. But Connolly feared that the workers of Britain would move too late. The idea of an uprising had clearly been taking shape in Connolly's mind. The threat that Britain would introduce conscription into Ireland was the main issue that concentrated the mind, not only of Connolly, but also of the petit bourgeois nationalists of the Irish Volunteers. Connolly therefore pressed them to enter a militant alliance with Labour for an armed uprising against British imperialism. In the event, the leaders of the Volunteers withdrew at the last movement, leaving the Rising in the lurch.

Was Connolly right to move when he did? The question is a difficult one. The conditions were frankly unfavourable. Although there were strikes in Ireland right up to the outbreak of the Rising, the Irish working class had been exhausted and weakened by the exertions of the lockout. There were rumours that the British authorities were planning to arrest the leading Irish revolutionaries. Connolly finally decided to throw everything into the balance. He drew the conclusion that it was better to strike first. He aimed to strike a blow that would break the ice and show the way, even at the cost of his own life. To fight and lose was preferable than to accept and capitulate. When Connolly marched out of Liberty Hall for the last time that fateful morning, he whispered to a comrade: "We are going out to be slaughtered." When the latter asked him: "Is there no chance of success?" he replied: "None whatever."

Connolly was undoubtedly a giant. His actions were those of a genuine revolutionary, unlike the craven conduct of the Labour leaders who backed the imperialist slaughter - with the enthusiastic support of the Irish bourgeois nationalists. Yet he also made some mistakes. There is no point in denying it, although some people wish to make Connolly into a saint - while simultaneously ditching or distorting his ideas. There were serious weaknesses in the Rising itself. No attempt was made to call a general strike. On Monday 24, 1916, the Dublin trams were still running, and most people went about their business. No appeal was made to the British soldiers.

Only 1,500 members of the Dublin Volunteers and ICA answered the call to rise. The nationalists had already split between the Redmondites - the Parliamentary Irish Group - who backed the War, and the left wing. However, on the eve of the Rising, the leader of the Volunteers, Eoin MacNeil publicly instructed all members to refuse to come out. As so many times before and since, the nationalist bourgeoisie betrayed the cause of Ireland.

The behaviour of the nationalist leaders came as no surprise to Connolly, who always approached the national liberation struggle from a class point of view. He never had any trust in the bourgeois and petit bourgeois Republicans, and tirelessly worked to build an independent movement of the working class as the only guarantee for the re conquest of Ireland. Since his death there have been many attempts to erase his real identity as a revolutionary socialist and present him as just one more nationalist. This is utterly false. One week before the Rising he warned the Citizens Army: "The odds against us are a thousand to one. But if we should win, hold onto your rifles because the Volunteers may have a different goal. Remember, we are not only for political liberty, but for economic liberty as well."

From a military point of view the Rising was doomed in advance - although if the Volunteers had not stabbed it in the back, the Uprising could have had far greater success. As it was, the British used artillery to batter the GPO (the rebel centre) into submission. By Thursday night, after four days of heroic resistance against the most frightful odds, the rebels were compelled to sign an unconditional surrender.

Although the Rising itself ended in failure, it left behind a tradition of struggle that had far-reaching consequences. It was this that probably Connolly had in mind. In particular the savagery of the British army, which shot all the leaders of the Rising in cold blood after a farcical drumhead trial, caused a wave of revulsion throughout all Ireland. James Connolly, who was badly wounded and unable to stand, was shot strapped to a chair. But the British had miscalculated. The gunshots that ended the life of this great martyr of the working class aroused a new generation of fighters eager to revenge Ireland's wrongs.

The Easter Rising was like a tocsin bell, the echoes of which rang throughout Europe. After two years of imperialist slaughter, at last the ice was broken! A courageous word had been spoken, and could be heard above the din of the bombs and cannon-fire. Lenin received the news of the uprising enthusiastically. This was understandable, given his position. The War posed tremendous difficulties for the Marxist internationalists. Lenin was isolated with a small group of supporters. On all sides there was capitulation and betrayal. The class struggle was temporarily in abeyance. The Labour leaders were participating in coalition governments with the social-patriots. The events in Dublin completely cut across this. That is why Lenin was so enthusiastic about the uprising. But he also pointed out:

"The misfortune of the Irish is that they have risen prematurely when the European revolt of the proletariat has not yet matured. Capitalism is not so harmoniously built that the various springs of rebellion can of themselves merge at one effort without reverses and defeats."

Had the Rising occurred a couple of years later, it would not have been isolated. It would have had powerful reserves in the shape of the mass revolutionary movement that swept through Europe after the October Revolution in 1917. But Connolly was not to know this.

Importance of leadership

Some sorry ex-Marxists criticised the Easter Rising from a right wing standpoint, such as Plekhanov. In an article in Nashe Slovo dated 4 July 1916, Trotsky denounced Plekhanov's remarks about the Rising as "wretched and shameful" and added: "the experience of the Irish national uprising is over....the historical role of the Irish proletariat is just beginning."

Unfortunately, this prediction was falsified by history. The tragedy of the Irish working class was that, unlike Lenin, Connolly did not create a revolutionary Marxist party, armed with theory, that would have carried on his work after his death. This was his biggest mistake, and one which had the most tragic consequences. In the same way that the murder of Rosa Luxemburg and Karl Liebknecht later beheaded the German revolution, so the killing of Connolly removed any chance of the Irish working class leading the revolutionary movement against British imperialism. This was a heavy price to pay!

Today is cosmonaut day

Yuri Gagarin

Forty five years ago Yuri Gagarin rode a tower of fire into space, Vostok 1 propelled him into Earth orbit. Cosmonaut day became an official holiday the following year.

Yuri Gagarin in ManchesterYuri Gagarin in ManchesterYuri Gagarin in Manchester
Yuri Gagarin visiting Manchester, UK.

And of course one of my favourite monuments; the Space Obelisk, built to celebrate humankind's conquest of space.

Space ObeliskSpace Obelisk

It stands at over 100 meters, which is about 350 feet and was built in 1964. The guy sat in front of it is the father of space travel - the guy who thought of using multi-staged liquid fuelled rockets to reach orbit - Konstantin Tsiolkovsky, born in Siberia in 1857, at the age of 10 he lost his hearing due to scarlet fever and was excluded from any schooling - however he educated himself, he wrote over 500 scientific papers and influenced many Soviet engineers, including Sergey Korolev who became Chief Designer of the Soviet Space program.

"The Earth is the cradle of the mind, but we cannot live forever in a cradle."

Tsiolkovsky, aged 78 died in 1935, he lived long enough to witness his ideas starting to unfold, he proved mathematically the possibility of space flight, calculated the escape velocity from the Earth into orbit was 8 km per second - easily achievable with multi-staged liquid hydrogen and oxygen rockets, predicted; space suits, double pressurised hulls, reclining seats to resist G force, the problems of eating, drinking, and sleeping in weightlessness, and even closed cycle biological systems to provide food and oxygen for space colonies. And so on. Truly a legend considering he did a lot of this before the Wright brother's first flight.

"Men are weak now, and yet they transform the Earth's surface. In millions of years their might will increase to the extent that they will change the surface of the Earth, its oceans, the atmosphere, and themselves. They will control the climate and the Solar System just as they control the Earth. They will travel beyond the limits of our planetary system; they will reach other Suns, and use their fresh energy instead of the energy of their dying luminary."

Update:

And from the BBC:

BBC on this day: Soviets win space race

They never learn

How many countries has Iran ever invaded?

How many countries has the United States ever invaded?

Who is the only country in the world to use nuclear weapons?

One mass grave, filled with murdered people

This was a boy, he was 7km away from the epicentre

The above people were murdered by the American ruling class when they used nuclear weapons against two civilian cities with no military value at all.

Through the atmosphere

So what do the videos I take look like? Here's one, 1.6MB, looking at the Moon through the barlow lens - this is why I use a webcam instead of a normal camera, there's a better chance that by shooting video I'll get some decent frames where the atmosphere for a split second is more stationary.

Of course it's then a case of picking out the best frames and aligning and stacking them - luckily tools like Registrax handle the aligning quite well.

If you want to see some raw Saturn video take a look at this, 10MB, another problem with the atmosphere - cloud.

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