Wednesday, 29 August 2007

Beyond the Hoodie

I just read about this film today, it's a short film created in response to a film shot by Tory MP Ann Widecombe, where she basically steam-rolled over the views of most of the estates to impose a right-wing law and order view of inner city estates. It's a good response, but i somewhat doubt whether it'll get the same coverage as David Cameron's tough on crime statements made over the last few weeks.

Saturday, 25 August 2007

Attacks on Nigerian Students Union

23 August 2007

Akinola Saburi (President, Students' Union) Arrested, Union Proscribed!
"Students' unionism in the University had been proscribed until further notice. In its place…the University had approved the constitution of a STUDENTS' TRANSITION COMMITTEES that would be made up of the leadership of students' associations at the departmental and faculty levels" (emphasis ours).

"Students who had been indicted for various cases of misdemeanour had, however, been banned from the halls of residence. … …any of such students who had rooms allocated to him previously should consider such revoked"

"…Ogunruku warned returning students against "squatting" stressing that the practice had been banned. Students found harbouring squatters, the registrar added, would forfeit their allocations."

(Extracts of a Press Release published in Tuesday 21st, August, 2007 issue of The Punch newspaper revealing what fate awaits OAU students and Union leaders upon resumption by August 26, 2007)

If there has ever been such period in our history, the past ten months have, indeed, been very trying for the Students' Union, activists and generality of students of Obafemi Awolowo University (OAU), Ife. The reason is the avalanche of vicious attacks, frame ups and victimization launched by the management of the Institution against the right of students to independent unionism. In an earlier outcry titled "OBAFEMI AWOLOWO UNIVERSITY CRISIS: After Banning of the Students Union, Authorities Set to Victimize Student Leaders; Appeal for Solidarity Protest Letters" ( we had explained the background of the crisis as rooted in the defeat of the efforts of the Vice Chancellor Prof. Faborode-led management to impose their lackeys into the leadership of students by interfering in the Students' Union elections. How the mass of students defeated this move and voted massively for the left bloc constituted by the Democratic Socialist Movement (CWI, Nigeria) and other organisations. Ever since, the University Management had resolved to use any means necessary to crush the OAU Students' Union.

We also pointed out how the management had, in search of any excuse to pick on the Union, refused to grant students' legitimate demand for observance of the regulations of the statute of the University that, before examinations, a week devoid of lectures and other academic activities must be set aside for students to revise for examinations. When students protested peacefully against this arbitrariness, the management closed down the campus on February 28, 2007. Then, a month after the closure, members of Academic Staff Union of Universities (ASUU) struck nationally for three months over refusal of the Federal government to fulfil some agreements reached in 2001 on staff welfare, reinstatement of 44 victimized lecturers in Unilorin and better funding of education. Four months after, when ASUU had called off their strike action, the campus was opened for the Harmatan Semester examination.

The current crisis where the President of the Students' Union has been unjustly and illegally detained at Ilesha and other union leaders declared wanted is an offshoot of these earlier attacks. During the period of the closure, the management had declared the Students' Union banned while attempts were made to victimize about seven Union leaders, three of whom are members of Democratic Socialist Movement (CWI, Nigeria). This was effectively resisted by a Court order of the Federal High Court in Osogbo, which granted the seven Union leaders an injunction putting on hold the undemocratic disciplinary panel set up by the management to witch hunt them. Also, the President of the Students' Union, Akinola Saburi, who had been earlier expelled from the University after the Students' Union elections, approached the court of law during the closure and was also granted leave to exercise his fundamental human rights which includes right to free movement, association and expression without harassment. On the basis of this court order, Akinola Saburi came to onto campus after re-opening to take charge of his official responsibility as the head of the Union.

However, the Management felt intimidated by the popular and enthusiastic welcome he received from the mass of students and they therefore swore to get him out of campus at all cost. They themselves understood the implication of his coming and the enthusiastic welcome he received as a bold rejection of the ban of the Union. After repeated attempts to kidnap him on campus with the aid of the University rag-tag fascist force tagged "Crackers" (a security team comprising members of local militias of community where the University is situated) were defeated by the mass of students, Akinola Saburi was eventually ambushed and arrested on 31st, July 2007 by men of the State Security Service(SSS) at the premises of the Federal High Court, Osogbo where he had gone to file some applications for the pursuit of his legal case against his unjust dismissal.

In order to give quasi-legal justifications for this arrest, which totally contravene the earlier order of a Federal High Court, Osogbo in Saburi, was arraigned before a Magistrate Court (a lower court) the next morning (1st, August 2007) on a 10-count charge. It must be noted that in Nigeria, as in all nations claiming democracy, the Constitution clearly specifies ways and manners the law can be enforced without violating people's fundamental human rights. These are eloquently stated in sections 35 and 36 of the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria. However, in gross violations of these sections of the constitution, Akinola Saburi was arraigned without being informed of the details of the allegations against him nor was he allowed to contact his lawyers. Instead, a certain lawyer was arranged to stand in his defence without his consent. Not surprisingly therefore, the court did not find it difficult to remand him in Ilesha Prisons and adjourn his case till October 19, 2007 when he would have spent a total of three months in detention.

In response, the Union has, at every opportunity, declared Akinola Saburi's arrest and detention as illegal, unconstitutional and unjust. We have rejected the composition of a "Student Transition Committee" as illegal and null and void. We have also demanded the management to hands off our Union and to stop the victimization of Union activists. To allow the general public to know the truth of the crisis, the Union has kick started a press campaign with press conferences and protest visits to media houses.

However, we appeal for political support from all student unions and organizations, progressive organizations, CWI sections, Trade Unions and working class platforms all over the world. The Students' Union of Obafemi Awolowo University is only being victimized for its radical stance against the neo-liberal anti-poor policies of successive Nigerian governments on education and the economy as a whole. We appeal to organizations, in Nigeria and beyond Nigeria, who are ready to participate in the struggle to save OAU Students' Union from these attacks to send the protest letter below. Outside Nigeria, there could be protests outside Nigerian embassies and activities help to raise awareness through leaflets, posters, Union bulletins, symposia etc about the events happening here among students in your country. The aim and focus is to show to the Nigerian capitalist government and the anti-poor governments of all countries that unity exist among all oppressed people of the world and that no matter the distance that separate us, we shall collectively fight to win the struggle for a society where education will be free and functional and people's needs will form the basis of governance.

In the opinion of the Democratic Socialist Movement (DSM), such a society for the millions and not the millionaires is only possible if the workers and the mass of poor people take over the running of society and form a "workers' and peasants' government". It is only this kind of government of the poor that can, through socialist plan of production and democratic ownership of the commanding heights of the economy, channel the enormous resources of the society for the welfare of the poor.

H.T Soweto, Secretary, Democratic Socialist Movement (DSM), OAU branch.


Copy and send this protest letters to the Obafemi Awolowo University (OAU) at, the Vice-Chancellor – & and the Federal Ministry of Education at and Note copies of all protest letters sent should be made available to the Democratic Socialist Movement (CWI, Nigeria) at

Release Akinola Saburi
We have been informed about the proscription of the Students' Union of Obafemi Awolowo University (OAU) by the management of the University led by the Vice Chancellor Prof. Michael Faborode and the composition of a Student Representative Committee as a replacement for the Union. We have also heard about the unlawful arrest and detention of the President of the Students' Union, Akinola Saburi, the takeover of the Students' Union Building and the victimization of several union leaders.

May we clearly state it that the above actions individually and collectively taken by the management is an affront on the democratic rights of students to association and expression as eloquently provided for in the constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, African Charter on Human Rights and the 1948 United Nations Declaration of Human Rights (UNDHR). It must be stressed that the management and even the government have no lawful right to proscribe or suspend a Union. Thus, the alleged proscription of the Union and the Student Transition Committee are illegal.

We decry the arrest and continuous detention of Akinola Saburi who we insist has committed no crime. We regard the 10-count charges preferred against him as unfounded, unsubstantiable, wild and inconsistent. We also regard the whole process as a mockery of the judiciary for the magistrate court to have remanded Akinola Saburi in contravention of an order of the Federal High Court empowering Akinola Saburi to exercise his fundamental human rights without harassments.

We therefore call for immediate reversal of all illegal and draconian actions taken against the Union as well as a halt to victimization of Union activists.

Thank You

Tuesday, 21 August 2007


I expect most people will have heard of wikipedia, the online free encyclopedia. I happen to be a fan of it and have contributed to several topics myself. I guess i'm just drawn to the idea of such a large collaborative project. Lately, i've been editing some of the criminology and committee for a workers international articles.

Anyways, the English version is, and the list of articles i've either started or helped develop is

I was alos wondering what other people think of wikipedia?

Wednesday, 15 August 2007

A New Prison for North Wales

This article was originally written for the website of the Socialist Party Wales website, here

The current prisons crisis has forced the present New Labour government into a new programme of prison building, the first new prisons are due to open over the next few years in Liverpool and London. At the same time, however, it is also considering building a prison in North Wales, which currently has no prisons.
As the five prisons currently existing in Wales are all in the south, the present the situation for remandees and prisoners from North Wales is that they will be held in either Merseyside or Cheshire up to 90 miles away from where they live. Clearly this is a big problem for families wishing to visit prisoners, which is reflected in the support for building a new prison from local politicians.
However, is this move diverting from the need to reduce the prison population generally as senior probation officers in North Wales have argued? The prison population has been at record levels for the last year, prompting the emergency use of police and court cells to hold prisoners. Furthermore, the huge overcrowding in some prisons has meant that prisons are spending much longer periods locked up in cells, time that would have previously be spent learning or training.
Socialists argue for a minimal use of imprisonment where it is necessary, as the net effect of imprisonment is usually to drive people further into a criminal lifestyle. We support the right to a decent standard of living for all prisoners including the right to regular visits with the minimum invasion of privacy only needed for security. A new prison in North Wales should be built as part of a plan to reduce the prison population across the UK, including closing older prison units and removing the need for filling prisons over capacity. Socialists would also call for remand facilities to be provided at such a prison, which are not part of the options being currently considered. But we demand that any new prison should be built and run by the Prisons Service, not by private contractors such as Securicor who run Parc Prison, Bridgend with its poor record of combatting racism and drug abuse. Any private firm is bound to put profits before the care and rehabilitation of prisoners.
Ultimately, we can only reduce the amount of crime in society, and thus the numbers of prisoners by creating a society based on need rather than the brutalisation of market competition. For this, a socialist transformation of society is necessary.

Thursday, 9 August 2007

Review - Prisons Under Protest (1991) Phil Scraton, Joe Sim and Paula Skidmore

Prisons Under Protest is a book about the causesand issues involved in the disturbances at Peterhead prison in Scotland in the late 1980's. The author's also suggest that their findings can be generalised to other prison disturbances such as Strangeways in Manchester during April 1990.

Scraton, Sim and Skidmore (referred to as Scraton during the rest of this article) point out that prison protests/riots were not just isolated events, there had been many major prison disturbances throughout the 1970's and 1980's, including several in Scotland.

Scraton discusses the history of Peterhead prison. It was opened in 1888 designed to hold 208 prisoners but was consistently overcrowded. Prison warders wore cutlass and scabbard until 1939 and rifles were carried until 1959. By 1985, Peterhead was seen as 'Scotland's gulag, a prison of no hope' (pg14), the regime had degenerated into extreme brutalization with much more severe punishment than many prisons and some abhorrent punishment such as the 'cage'.

Scraton gives further examples of the poor conditions, prisoners were not allowed to see the prison rules and were punished for trivial offences such as standing against a wall, trying to speak to a doctor, hands in pockets and possesion of a prison rulebook.

Prison protests come becuase they are the prisoners only ways to fight back against the poor conditions, like riots are the 'sigh of the oppressed' so with the prison protests.

This book sets out what poor prison conditions do, they brutalise a section of the population, and rather than stop crime they merely make it worse. Some changes did come as a result of the protests of the 1990's, but with the current overcrowding protests are likely to occur again. Capitalism has nothing to offer offenders rather than poverty and a slow descent back into crime and prison, socialists need to fight for decent jobs and living conditions for offenders and all other working people. Only putting an end to capitalism will finally begin to solve these problems.

PS. This book comes from the Critical Criminology tradition (otherwise called left idealism), I'll discuss the left trends in criminology in future posts

Friday, 3 August 2007

Review - In The Name of the Working Class by Sandor Kopacsi

In The Name of the Working Class is an autobiography/description of the 1956 Hungarian Revolution, written by the at that time Chief of Budapests Police.

The book begins with Kopacsis description of his upbringing, his origins as a metal worker and his involvement in the resistance against German occupation during the second world war.

He then describes his move to Budapest to become a police officer and how he rose through the ranks to become police cheif, but including description of the general political situation and the influence of the Russians and his disdain for the AVO (the Hungarian secret police).

One of the most interesting parts of the book is his depiction of his involvement in the 1956 revolution and how his somewhat blind faith in the Russians was broken in the course of events. He then goes onto desribe his imprisonment and the sham trials to convict him and the other leaders of the rebellious government. (Many other people were simply executed or fled to Austria). Kopacsi once released from prison eventually emigrated to Canada where he died.

The book is not a full depiction of the event, but it does give huge insights into it, especially where Kopacsi was involved. This is not so say he didn't make mistakes during the course of the revolution, I for one thought he didn't put enough faith in the working masses, however, given the dominance of Stalinism it is somewhat understandable. Of particular interest is when Kopacsi details the revolt of sections of the Hungarian Army and how he dealt with his own role as chief of police.

The major criticism I would make of this book is the introduction, I believe it is in desperate need of reprinting with a different one that seeks to put the event fully in its context rather than be loaded with capitalist triumphalism, it isn't the worst I've ever seen, but to me it seemed to misrepresent what Kopacsi says and the lessons of this event.

Ps. This book is fairly cheap second hand on and despite its heavy topic made fairly good light reading