Where did all the love go?

Here Franco Berardi (Bifo) explains some of the changes occuring in our relationship to language and time, suggesting mental exhaustion (not just exhaustion of the planet`s resources) might offer us a way out of capitalism

reprinted from FFG



January 8, 2013 · 9:07 pm

Where there are war crimes, there is always fresh British Council investment

Following on from the expose of the British Council´s tacit support for the rape and murder of the Tamil Community in Sri Lanka, here is a September announcement in 2012 of the British Council establishing a permanent office in Rwanda. This announcement was hot on the heels of a UN report which accuses the Rwandan government of aid and abetting war crimes in neighbouring DRC (yes, mass rape and murder, a key driver it seems in British Council investment decisions).

Here is some background to the Rwandan story that MTG posted a long way back and here is an excellent write-up on Rwanda by the neo-Trotskyist Revolutionary Communist Group

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British Council could be embarrassed again

The question is a simple one: If a state and its leader stand accused of war crimes, as does the Sri Lankan army and its leader, Mahinida Rajapakese , should a state funded body like the British Council invest so heavily in that country? Here is a picture of the wonderful new British Council development in Colombo

and here is Channel 4’s follow-up to their awarding winning documentary which details those crimes

For us to see the bodies of so many women raped and murdered by this army, to see blindfolded prisoners shot with their hands tied behind their backs and hospitals and their staff targetted by bombs, the answer is clearly no!! The British Council is clearly disgusting in progressing with such high investment projects in the absence of a proper independent enquiry into the atrocities.

But the situation appears to be taking a different direction and in response to increasing links between Sri Lanka and the Chinese, the US appears keen to progress with calls for the president to face justice (or at least stop offering the Chinese a naval base). In view of this prime minister Cameroon, despite the UK’s attempts to secure increasing relations and trade with Sri Lanka, has apparently raised the issue of an independent enquiry direct with Rajapakese. He is no doubt being pressured by the US to get tough with the Sri Lankan Leader.

Oh dear, poor British Council. There it is happily snuggling up to dictators and psychopaths only for British foreign policy to take a rapid turn of direction under the orders of its bosses in the US

Reprinted from FFG

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The Great Berlitz Strike 2008 – 2012. Absolute Victory!!

Our thanks to the reader who posted a recent link to  The Japan Times and a wonderful article by James McCrostie (we repost it again here together with another excellent McCrostie article here). It is a truly magnificent victory, with management withdrawing all legal action and awarding a pay rise to the union.

To celebrate here is a video of the Strawbs in 1973.

Did people really have such confidence then? Where is that confidence now? At least we know that in Japan a new confidence has been born owing to the courageous struggles of a group of foreign English teachers.

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Caffeine Cowboys and the Great Berlitz Strike 2008 till …..

Acquainting ourselves with our new premises at Marxist TEFL Group we felt it incumbent on ourselves to explore more fully the rich resource of articles available  on this site (or not available as they exist in draft form or notes). Without doubt one of the most intriguing  series of articles concerned the on-going industrial dispute between teachers and the Berlitz language school in Japan. Sadly, coverage of the dispute naturally and logically ceased when the site fell into disuse. This is not to say that people did, or do, not visit the old articles, wordpress stats show continuing interest, but that people have had to look elsewhere should they want to know how the story ended.

We (FFG) are delighted to report, however, a great victory (of sorts) because despite not wiinning their initial demands and despite continuing high court battles – the union held together despite incredible intimidation from management. In February of this year, the Japanese High Court dismissed Berlitz´s claim against unon activists (a claim of thousands upon thousands of Yen for organising illegal strike action) ruling in favour of the union on every single point.

It would have been so easy in the face of such intimidation (and great personal hardship) to surrender and for the union to collapse but it didn´t and these heroic individuals have fought a great hard battle not just for themselves and language teachers worldwide but also for the Japanese trade union movement.

There is a wonderful account of the dispute here by Patrick Dunbar where he talks about how management created a scab workforce called the caffiene cowboys (they were stationed in cafes drinking coffee awaiting management instruction about where they would be sent to the cover lessons of striking workers) and how even they were excited and surprised by the success of their union colleagues.

Maybe one day Ken Loach will make a film about these brave men and women, in the meantime we will do our bit to publisize their sacrifices and successes.

As MTG would have said, We salute you all!!

Here, here, here and here are previous articles by MTG on the subject. Our favourite, without doubt, however, is this little masterpiece of art critcism

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More Racism Disguised as the Need for English

In the FFG reading rooms there is a new article which develops a very similar story to that of the death of David Gray at the hands of Dr Daniel Urbani. In both stories, there is a clear lack of proper care by the state of vulnerable people. Unfortunately, rather than address the failures in this service provision, undue attention is given to the quality of English of the care givers. The real problems of society, however, run considerably deeper and can often be seen as the conflict between social needs and the profit motive.

On this occasion, it is a speech given by Ed Milliband but on the next occasion it could be any other unprincipled body or individual. What is important for language activists, is that they continue to demythologise the claims of such people while supporting the availability of affordable (if not free) language classes for all those who want them. Languages can unite us, can overcome barriers, but they are being used to divide us.

Don’t let them get away with it!! Raise the issues in your college or workplace. Organise!!


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El Gazette and A Very Pleasant Surprise

Many visitors to MTG seem extremely attracted to a highly critical (and in our view well-justified) critique of the free on-line ELT journal, El Gazette. But credit where credit’s due, December’s edition of the newsletter carries a front page about the October disurbances in Michoacán, which is commented on here in the FFG reading room

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