Lindsey German

It is important to vote

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I was struck by an obituary in the Guardian a few months ago. It was in the "Other Lives" section, where friends and family write in to celebrate the lives of people who were their own "local heroes".

This man had lived in Plymouth, where he worked on the railways, went off to fight in the Second World War, then carried on working on the railways, was a member of Aslef, and a Labour councillor who became mayor.

Then in 2003 he left Labour because of the war in Iraq.

Peace, or just war?

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"The instruments of war do have a role to play in preserving the peace." So said Barack Obama in Oslo last month as he accepted the Nobel Prize for Peace.

Obama's speeches are increasingly remarkable. His announcement of the 30,000 surge of troops to Afghanistan was made at West Point military academy to a near all-white audience. With shades of George Bush, he evoked visions of the US's manifest destiny and made repeated references to 9/11 as the continued justification for war in Afghanistan. He could have come straight from the pages of George Orwell's Nineteen Eighty-Four.

Remembering Dissent

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Debate on Afghanistan is reaching boiling point. I write this on 11 November, Remembrance Day, marking the date of the armistice which ended the First World War.

That was famously the war to end all wars - although it was followed in just over 20 years by an even greater conflagration. Modern warfare has certainly seen comparable death tolls and suffering.

Cuts, war and MPs' expenses: Are we all in it together?

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A poll conducted after the Tory party conference last month showed that they were down one percentage point over the previous month, while Labour was up three points.

So they received none of the usual boost that the high media profile and set piece speeches give these parties after their conferences, in fact the opposite.

I'm not surprised. Telling everyone that they are going to have to work a year longer before they get a pension is hardly popular. Nor is the constant refrain that cuts in the public sector, of both jobs and services, are absolutely necessary to overcome the budget deficit.

21st century feminism

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"I myself have never been able to find out precisely what feminism is: I only know that people call me a feminist whenever I express sentiments that differentiate me from a doormat."

The novelist Rebecca West wrote this nearly 100 years ago. Today women who want to differentiate themselves from doormats face some of the same problems. More than 40 years after women's liberation became part of radical politics it seems incredible that there is still so much confusion and division about what feminism is.

The Afghan quagmire

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The summer of 2009 marked the time when the war in Afghanistan came back to haunt the British government.

The "good war" has now become a hotly contested conflict. The new head of the British armed forces has predicted a 40 years British presence in the country, while the US army chief has admitted that Nato forces are losing the war and that they have a year to turn the situation round.

Operation Panther's Claw, launched as the US and British attempt to finally deal with the Taliban, caused ever higher casualties among the occupying troops and was manifestly failing in its stated aim.

Unrepentant empire

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The long shadow of the Iraq war still hangs over British politics.

Instead of assuaging worries about the government's role in the war, and drawing a line under it, Gordon Brown's announcement of an inquiry into the war rekindled all the opposition and discontent which led to the mass movement against the war in the first place.

Brown's own goal is quite remarkable. Just days after committing to greater transparency and democracy he announced an inquiry in secret, which would not apportion blame and would be conducted by four knights and a baroness.

Discontent and the police

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I have been on two demonstrations where protesters were killed and on a few more when I thought someone would be killed.

In every case there was a build up to the demo where the police, in particular, hyped up the threat of violence and the supposed need for aggressive policing. An atmosphere is created in which these police tactics are deemed acceptable and even reasonable, even though they rely on high levels of surveillance and violence.

A government's revenge

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It's beginning to look as if the government is out for revenge on the Muslim community for its resurgent mobilisation over Gaza.

That is surely the explanation for the pressure now being put on the Muslim Council of Britain (MCB) to force one of its leading officers, Dr Daud Abdullah, to resign. Dr Abdullah is the deputy general secretary of the MCB and has played a staunch and active role in opposing the "war on terror" and the attacks on the Palestinians. He is a regular speaker on demonstrations and at meetings.


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