Tuesday, July 28, 2015

Joint Statement in Solidarity with KKE

Joint Statement in Solidarity with KKE

Dear comrades,

We, Communist and Workers Parties are following the developments in Greece, the offensive of the European Union, capital and its political representatives against the workers’-people’s rights.
We, Communist and Workers’ Parties have supported the struggles of the Greek workers and we have expressed our internationalist solidarity with and support for the struggle of the KKE.
For many years, the governments of ND and PASOK in cooperation with the EU-ECB-IMF have implemented memoranda and harsh anti-people laws with painful consequences for the working class and popular strata.
Today, the anti-people agreement-third memorandum which was signed by the SYRIZA-ANEL government, supported by ND and PASOK, with the Troika maintains the anti-people measures of the previous governments and thrusts new burdens onto the workers of Greece, unbearable taxation, the abolition of social-security and labour rights, the reductions in wages and pensions, privatizations etc., worsening the situation of the families from the popular strata even further.
These developments allow us to draw certain useful conclusions in order to strengthen the people’s struggle, such as:
  • Capitalism can not be humanized. It gives rise to crises, unemployment and poverty. In reality, it has been demonstrated that every kind of management of the system sharpens the people’s problems and increases the profits of big capital.
  • The EU is a reactionary imperialist organization. “Democracy”, “Solidarity” and social justice can not exist inside its framework.
We, the Communist and Workers Parties which sign this message, appreciate the decisive-consistent stance of the KKE at the side of the working class, the Greek people for the abolition of the memoranda, against the anti-people agreement signed by the SYRIZA-ANEL government (and the other bourgeois political parties) with the Troika (EU-ECB-IMF).

Our parties salute the struggle of the communists in Greece for the workers’-people’s rights, the overthrow of capitalist barbarity, for socialism.

17/07/2015 
  1. CP of Albania
  2. Algerian Party for Democracy and Socialism (PADS),
  3. CP of Australia
  4. CP of Bangladesh
  5. WP of Bangladesh
  6. Brazilian CP
  7. CP of Britain
  8. NCP of Britain
  9. CP of Bulgaria
  10. Party of the Bulgarian Communists
  11. CP of Canada
  12. CP in Denmark
  13. CP of Macedonia (FYROM)
  14. UCP of Georgia
  15. Workers' Party of Hungary
  16. Workers' Party of Ireland
  17. CP of Luxembourg
  18. CP of Malta
  19. CP of Mexico
  20. Popular Socialist Party of Mexico
  21. NCP of the Netherlands
  22. CP of Norway
  23. CP of Pakistan
  24. Palestinian CP
  25. Palestinian PP
  26. Phillipinese CP [PKP-1930]
  27. CP of Poland
  28. CP of the Russian Federation
  29. Russian CWP
  30. CP of Soviet Union
  31. NCP of Yugoslavia
  32. CP of Slovakia
  33. South African CP
  34. CP of the Peoples of Spain
  35. CP of Sweden
  36. Syrian CP
  37. CP (Turkey)
  38. CP of Ukraine
  39. Union of Communists of Ukraine
  40. CP of Venezuela
Other parties
  1. Party of Labour of Austria
  2. CP of the Workers of Belarus
  3. Communist Pole Luis Carlos Prestes - Brazil
  4. Union of Communists in Bulgaria
  5. CP, Denmark
  6. Communist Workers' Party - For Peace and Socialism (Finland)
  7. Pole of Communist Revival in France
  8. CP, Italy
  9. Socialist Movement of Kazakhstan
  10. CP of Puerto Rico
  11. Galizan Movement for Socialism
  12. Primeira Linha, Galicia
  13. Party of Communists USA
  14. Freedom Road Socialist Organization (USA)
  15. Communist Refoundation Uruguay

Friday, July 10, 2015

Latest Revolutionary Democracy from India



By Robert Laurie

REVOLUTIONARY DEMOCRACY
Vol. XXI, No 1 April, 2015 £5.00 + £1.00 PP from NCP Lit: PO Box 73, London SW11 2PQ

FOR OVER 20 years Vijay Singh and his comrades in New Delhi have published the twice yearly journal Revolutionary Democracy. The latest issue for April 2015 reflects this milestone with a number of congratulatory messages from various communist parties across the globe. These messages are simply the icing on the cake of another interesting issue which contains articles on present day politics in India and hotspots in the struggle across the globe, along with historical articles and documents.
One message is from Nexhmije Hoxha, the widow of Albanian leader who found the journal valuable after her release from imprisonment by the country’s counter-revolutionary government.
The Indian articles include one on the recent Indian budget by the fascist BJP government, which exposes that its self-proclaimed anti-poverty programme is simply a case of encouraging the “Rich to get Richer and Throw Crumbs to the Poor”. There is an account of the February 2015 election to the Assembly for Delhi state which saw a crushing defeat for the ruling BJP. This interesting article presented something of a puzzle to this reader. It was not until near the end that it dawned on me this was a state, not a municipal election.
Perhaps the editors could supply some more background to articles such as these for the benefit of its deservedly wide international readership. I also needed also needed Google to tell me that “crores” meant 10 million. In addition to articles on recent general economic developments in India there is an account of a 1978 massacre of 42 Muslims by the Uttar Pradesh Provincial Armed Constabulary. 
On the international front there are articles providing a Marxist critique of Spain’s reformist “Podemos” movement and a report of a “Conference on Socialism” held by the National Union of Metalworkers of South Africa in April, which was highly critical of the post-apartheid Tripartite Alliance headed by the ANC.
Many eyebrows will be raised by the statement from the Greek organisation Anasintaxi that the Communist Party of Greece, which is leading the fight against austerity, is: “in essence, the policy of this reformist party is not different than that of Syriza”. Some articles will spark disagreement, but readers will never be bored.
            The historical material includes a draft document of the Tactical Line of the Communist Party of India. This had been produced in February 1951 after discussions with the Soviet Communist Party including Stalin. The introduction by Vijay Singh describes its emergence after a period of crippling internal disputes. The programme set the tone for the coming decades, not just for the CPI, but later in the Communist Party of India (Marxist) founded in 1964.
The issue concludes with an illustrated article on the “History of Soviet Architecture: From Palaces to Boxes” by A Bazdyrev, which relates the rise and fall of a specific Soviet architectural style to the politics of the Soviet era. He is particularly critical of a 1954 decision by Khrushchev which “basically liquidated Soviet architecture”.
We can hope that there will be many more anniversary editions of Revolutionary Democracy.

Friday, June 12, 2015

AKEL: Strength comes from struggle: Hope comes from the Left


by New Worker correspondent

THAT WAS the watchword for Cypriot communists charting the way forward in the fight against austerity and for the peaceful reunification of the island. Fraternal observers from all over the world, including New Communist Party leader Andy Brooks, joined some 1,500 delegates from the island and from the overseas Cypriot community, in Nicosia for the 22nd Congress of the Progressive Party of the Working People (AKEL) last week.
Seventy fraternal observers representing 55 parties and movements took part in the Congress and an AKEL-sponsored conference on the threats of fascism and reactionary forces in the era of imperialism and wars. Ruling communist parties were in the hall including delegations from People’s China, Cuba and Vietnam, as well as Sinn Féin, the Kurdistan National Congress and some parties of the European Left movement including Greece’s Syriza and Podemos from Spain.
AKEL was founded in 1941 but it has a much longer history as it is the direct heir of the old Communist Party of Cyprus (KKK) that was established in 1926 and later banned by the British colonial authorities. Following independence in 1960 AKEL struggled to defend the island from imperialist plots that culminated in the 1974 coup organised by the reactionary Greek military junta that gave Turkey the pretext to invade and occupy northern Cyprus.
AKEL formed a left-leaning government after it won the Cyprus parliamentary elections in 2006 and its then leader, Dimitris Christofias, won the presidential race in 2008. Working people made considerable gains when AKEL and its allies were at the helm. But welfare, pension rights, public health and education are being cut to bone by the right-wing, who took control of parliament after the 2011 elections and defeated the AKEL candidate in the presidential race in 2013.
The new government is implementing austerity with a vengeance to meet the demands of the European Union and the banks to make working people bear the entire burden of the so-called “bailout”. Unemployment has doubled in the last four years — officially now at 15.6 per cent. In reality it’s much higher if part-time and seasonal employment is taken into account. Tourism, the major industry, was hit by the worldwide capitalist slump that began in 2008. The drop in numbers of visitors from western Europe was partially off-set by others coming from Russia. But now even that sector has dipped as Russians, angry at the European Union’s sanctions over Ukraine, cross the EU, including Cyprus, off their holiday lists.
“Today, one could say that we are at the most dangerous juncture of this difficult path of struggle. The Cyprus problem remains unresolved with the danger of permanent partition growing day by day. Our people’s gains and rights, all that it has so painstakingly built and won over the years are under attack,” AKEL general secretary Andros Kyprianou declared.
Andros Kyprianou
“The elderly on low pensions, the unemployed, refugees, single parents, large families, recipients of public assistance, young scientists, farmers and workers are all thinking that perhaps for the first time in their lives they cannot hope that tomorrow things will get better.”
Nicosia is now the only divided capital in the world and the continuing division of the island, of course, dominated much of the Congress. The Turkish government publicly says that it will never betray the interests of the Turkish Cypriot community to obtain admission into the European Union. But everybody knows they would if that was the price to join the European club. And everybody also knows that Turkey’s accession is as far away as ever in these days of slump.
If the Turks were seriously concerned about the fate of the Turkish Cypriots they would have done more to preserve their community in northern Cyprus rather than seeing it evaporate over the years through immigration. Although the ethnic balance is maintained through immigration from the poorest parts of Turkey, about half the original Turkish Cypriot population now live in Britain and other parts of the European Union while the rest are outnumbered by Turkish immigrants encouraged to settle since the invasion in 1974.
Some 200,000 Greek Cypriots were driven out of their homes after the invasion while 50,000 Turkish Cypriots were incited to move to the north. Turkey occupies 36 per cent of the island, which is administered by “Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus” — a phantom state governed by Turkish Cypriot leaders and recognised by no one apart from Turkey itself. Real power lies with the Turkish “ambassador” and the 40,000 Turkish troops based in the north.
The end of partition and the restoration of a united republic with full rights for both the Turkish and Greek communities has, all along, been the paramount objective of AKEL and its allies. But no major advances can be made while the island remains divided and occupied by Turkish forces. Now there are glimmers of hope on the horizon.
The first is the search for oil and the development of natural gas fields in Cypriot waters, which has fired hopes for an economic turn-around based partly on offshore reserves. The Aphrodite natural gas field off Cyprus is commercially viable and plans are being prepared for producing eight billion cubic metres a year and the construction of a pipeline to Egypt. The big oil corporations along with Greek and Israeli oil and gas companies are all looking at the potential in the eastern Mediterranean. And so is Turkey, which has intervened, supposedly on behalf of the Turkish Cypriots it claims to represent, but in reality because they too want a share of this new energy cake.
The second was the victory of Mustafa Akinci in the northern Cyprus presidential elections. Akinci is a social-democrat and his Communal Democracy Party (TDP) is committed to reaching a compromise to end the division of the island. Following his election in April Akinci held talks with the Turkish government in Ankara and reported that they would support the resumption of negotiations with the Greek Cypriot side amid speculation that Turkey would respond realistically to long-standing Cypriot government demands in return for concessions on the oil and gas issue.
The Cypriot communist movement has always fought against nationalism and chauvinism. The Party has Turkish Cypriot members and from the very beginning the Cypriot communist movement worked to end ethnic divisions, to build united unions and a united working class. AKEL considers that the Cyprus problem should be resolved on the basis of the UN resolutions and calls for an end to the Turkish occupation and for the demilitarisation of the island and the closure of the British, Turkish and Greek bases.
Andros Kyprianou said that the party was working with other peace-loving forces on the island to help create a “dynamic solution” to the Cyprus problem. “But not just ‘any solution’, he said, “a solution that will reunite the island on the basis of a bi-zonal, bi-communal federation, which will lead to a state with a single sovereignty, international personality and citizenship; a solution without guarantees, without intervention rights and foreign armies; a solution based on the relevant UN resolutions, the High Level Agreements, international and European law; a solution that will serve the people of Cyprus, Greek Cypriots and Turkish Cypriots and the cause of peace in the region.”
No one knows what the future will hold but the talks are going ahead and many Cypriots on both sides of the island are hoping that, at long last, an end to the conflict is in sight.

Monday, May 04, 2015

US-led exercises in Korea threaten nuclear catastrophe in East Asia



By George Cockburn

ONE OF the world’s largest military drills, involving almost a quarter of a million personnel, the United States Seventh Fleet’s “battle force” Task Force 70, B-54 and stealth bombers, amphibious beach landings, hundreds of tanks, artillery pieces and “nuclear-powered attack submarines” is coming to an end as this newspaper goes to press.
These exercises are taking place in one of most likely flashpoints on the planet for a major war to break out, in a divided country with one of the largest concentrations of armed forces in the world along the Military Demarcation Line (an artificial line drawn by US imperialism to divide Korea) – and yet they are virtually ignored by the western mass media.
In 2013 the Pentagon declared that the exercises included “long-range nuclear-capable B-2 (stealth) bomber flights over the Korean peninsula in a show of force,” in other words dummy nuclear bombing runs, yet in the same breath claimed they were of a "non-provocative nature"!
And this month Washington announced a plans to deploy missile defence forces in Korea, clearly intended to make a pre-emptive first nuclear strike against the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (DPRK) possible.
No wonder the Pyongyang (capital of the DPRK) daily Rodong Sinmun (Daily Worker) recently declared that inter-Korean relations were "inching close to a catastrophe". Viewed from Pyongyang such exercises can easily be seen as a cover for an actual invasion.
The Foal Eagle-Key Resolve exercises led by the US occupation forces in south Korea started 18 years ago this and year are taking place from 2nd March to 24th April.
Korean patriots and supporters of national re-unification and liberation in south Korea have held many protests at US bases and command centres in recent years calling for an end to the exercises.
They have been supported by many organisations, all of them risking arrest, police raids and prison sentences under south Korea’s infamous National Security Law and they include the Korean Confederation of Trade Unions, one of the two largest trade union centres in south Korea with almost 700,000 members.

The Korean people need peace!

The Korean peninsula is one of the most dangerous flashpoints in the world, where war could break out at any time. The Korean War ended 1953 with a simple armistice signed by the US, DPRK and Chinese military commanders, but not by the puppet south Korean forces.
This means the DPRK and south Korea are technically still at war 62 years later, despite repeated proposals by the DPRK to normalise the situation and reduce tensions.
The true reason for the refusal by Washington and the puppet south Korean regime to negotiate a genuine peace is that the Korean peninsula is one of the world’s most strategic locations, from which the US can threaten the DPRK, China and Russia, and if the need arose Japan as well. In Washington’s eyes it is the key to its domination of East of Asia and the Pacific.
This policy treats the people of Korea, north and south, with contempt, as pawns in US imperialism’s drive for world domination. It is underpins Washington’s determination not to leave Korea and its ceaseless of lies and propaganda about the DPRK.
The bogus human rights allegations against the DPRK constantly churned out by the Washington-Seoul-Tokyo-Canberra propaganda machine are merely a smokescreen designed to hide US imperialism’s true intensions in Korea.
As the Foreign Ministry of the DPRK recently said: "These exercises are intolerable aggression moves pursuant to the US-Korea strategy designed to ‘bring down’ the socialist system chosen by the Korean people.”
In other words, they are yet another attempt at “regime change” by Washington.
Because of the ongoing state of war, the DPRK has no choice but to maintain large military forces and advanced weapons, and to be prepared for war, which could be unleashed at any time.
In this way the US hopes to prevent the DPRK from developing its economy and improving the living standards of its people but this policy, like the 55 year-long attempt to isolate Cuba, has failed spectacularly.
Danger: nuclear holocaust!

The danger of a US nuclear strike in Korea is very real. In 2011 Wikileaks revealed that the Pentagon had drafted plans for “pre-emptive” nuclear strikes against several states, and the US-Russian nuclear arms reduction talks have now completely broken down as a result of Washington’s mounting provocations against Russia.
Indications that US imperialism, in its desperate drive for world hegemony, is inching towards a new world war, even a nuclear war, are growing by the day.
This month Washington has announced a new shift in the military balance in Korea which, like the plans for a missile defence complex in Poland, are a new threat to the whole of East Asia.
The deployment of the THAAD (Terminal High Altitude Area Defence) anti-ballistic missile system in south Korea has been condemned by the Korean National Peace Committee, and is clearly intended to enable a pre-emptive nuclear strike on the DPRK.
But it also opens the way for “first strikes” against Russia and China, and follows the setting up of similar systems in Hawaii, Guam, Israel and Turkey, and is part of US imperialism’s plans for pre-emptive nuclear strikes against several countries.
Meanwhile Washington is giving the green light to Japan to end its constitutional ban on using force in international disputes. And plans for Japanese troops to be sent to Korea in the event of a military crisis are likely to be announced during Shinzo Abe’s imminent visit to Washington.

A history of US nuclear threats

During the Korean War President Truman ordered the transfer of nine Mark 4 nuclear bombs to Korea, and in November 1950 he said using nuclear weapons had "always been under active consideration".
This prompted British Prime Minister Clement Attlee to hurry to Washington, to be told by Truman him that the US had "no intention" of using atomic weapons in Korea except to prevent a "major military disaster”.
But soon after the end of the Korean War it was the US that unilaterally broke the 1953 armistice commitment not to bring new military systems into Korea, when President Eisenhower decided to deploy nuclear missiles and artillery in Korea. By 1967 the US had 950 nuclear warheads which threatened the DPRK, China and the Soviet Union.
By 1991 these nuclear weapons had been withdrawn, but the Korean peninsula is still under the US “nuclear umbrella” provided from the many US bases in the region.
Even without nuclear weapons, the north was utterly devastated in the 1950-1953 war, in which two million civilians died and more bombs were dropped than during the entire Pacific War.
As US Air Force General Curtis LeMay recalled: "We eventually burned down every town in north Korea... and some in south Korea too. We even burned down Pusan – an accident, but we burned it down anyway".
Napalm was widely used, including against Pyongyang. The world was shocked by the indiscriminate bombing of civilians, and Winston Churchill (in his second term as prime minister) declared he would not take responsibility “for napalm being splashed about all over the civilian population”. Many others protested, including the Archbishop of New York and the Free Church of Scotland. 

The DPRK has extended the hand of peace

In view of this history, it is little wonder the DPRK feels the necessity to have nuclear weapons of its own to defend its revolution and its sovereignty. In recent years Pyongyang has witnessed the spectacles of Iraq and Libya, having agreed to renounce their advanced weapons programmes, being swiftly and mercilessly crushed at the cost of hundreds of thousands of lives, their once high living standards now but a distant memory.
The DPRK’s leaders and people are not afraid of war to defend their national sovereignty, but their greatest desire is peace and reunification. For over 40 years the DPRK has set out proposals to consolidate peace, reduce tensions and move towards Korean reunification.
In 1972 DPRK President Kim Il Sung put forward the Three Principles of Reunification, plans for a Confederal Republic of Koryo in 1973, followed by the Five Point Policy for National Reunification in 1975.
On June 15 2000 the historic North-South Declaration was signed by DPRK Dear Leader Kim Jong Il and south Korean President Kim Dae Jung, opening the way for family visits, economic and transport links.
But all these efforts were sunk when George W Bush took office in 2003, declared the DPRK part of an “Axis of Evil”, and scrapped the 1994 Agreed Framework, the closest the DPRK and US have ever come to a peace settlement and normalisation of relations.
In his 2015 New Year Address DPRK First Chairman Kim Jong Un once again called for the north and south to avoid confrontation and resolve their differences, free of foreign interference, “By Our Nation Itself”.

End the exercises, withdraw US forces, negotiate peace!

Here in Britain the Korean Friendship Association, supported by the New Communist Party and other parties and progressive organisations, calls on the United States to pull its military forces out of Korea, end its nuclear strike threat against the DPRK, and agree to a genuine peace settlement.
Rather than being side-tracked by bogus allegations about human rights in the DPRK, the world should unite and call for an end to America’s sabre-rattling exercises, a peace agreement followed by the withdrawal of all US personnel, the reunification of north and south Korea after 60 years of sacrifices and humiliation, and the final national liberation of the Korean nation.
That would be a great achievement for the entire world peace movement.

Monday, April 20, 2015

Richard III, or how to be an anthropologist in your own country



By Steve Hanson

AMERICAN friends often comment on British culture, particularly its weirder manifestations. I usually respond by explaining that it is often no less weird for the island’s inhabitants. It comes and goes, but recently the weirdness has spiked, with the live, televised re-burial of the remains of Richard III, which were found in a car park in Leicester. Here we had a resurgence of what many academics call the “invented tradition”.
“Invented traditions” are no longer a radical proposal. The historian Eric Hobsbawm first used the term when writing about the televised Investiture of Prince Charles at Carmarthen in 1969, commenting that the “imagined communities” of the country suddenly seemed more real than their inhabited spaces.
Benedict Anderson wrote about the historical rise of these “imagined communities”, emerging from newspaper coverage of geographically distant, but suddenly imaginable places. The Investiture in 1969 presented a kind of televised, imaginary medievalism, but in the re-burial of Richard III, we perhaps had a much more real, authentic, 2015 medievalism, to go with the very real poor on the streets in Britain.
No, the “invented tradition” has a de facto curriculum now. For instance Raphael Samuel on the Lost Gardens of Heligan botanical centre, and Patrick Wright on the raising of the Tudor warship the Mary Rose, which I watched all day at school, when I was 10 years old, in October 1982.
As the Mary Rose was being lifted, Government statistics for unemployment were being switched. They were now to be based on the numbers of those claiming benefit, rather than on those registered as unemployed. In the same month, Margaret Thatcher justified her economic policies as “working”. Their cruelty was not really the point, monetarism was, and the emaciation of ordinary people just a by-product of laissez-faire economics. We always have to ask ourselves, when we smell “invented tradition”, what is being masked, and what is being highlighted?
Here was the general atmosphere that the televised raising usefully covered, but what was being pointed to? The Mary Rose was lifted on the 11th October, and the day after, a parade was held in London to celebrate “victory” in the Falklands. The British media had focused on the naval battles, coverage which included the controversial “GOTCHA” headline on the front page of the Sun newspaper. War in Ireland continued, although the Irish National Assembly was in motion. Here was a conflation of “victory” in the Falklands with a naval battle in the 16th Century: It was “invented tradition”.
Prince Charles actually became Prince of Wales in 1958, but the investiture took place over a decade later, in 1969, the point at which Welsh nationalism had taken, in places, the violent form it took in Ireland. The ceremony was only “formal”, not required to rule, but we must think of its “formalism” in art school terms here, aesthetics hooked up to rhetoric, propaganda.
It was doxa, unexamined opinion disguised as natural fact. It was a mishmash of historical litter, re-collaged and re-presented to the population as “authentic”. But the director of the ceremony, Lord Snowdon, wasn’t the first Kurt Schwitters of spin. The 1911 Investiture of Edward, later King Edward VIII, presented a “Welsh” collage, largely stitched together by Lloyd George.
We can fast-forward to the Royal Wedding in 2011 and the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee party a year later, and then watch Stephen Frears’ film The Queen, to understand what those occasions masked, alongside their functions as celebratory highlights in a time of “austerity”. Then of course we arrive at the present day and the re-burial of Richard III, a re-burial that also re-inscribes a monstrous character as a national hero.
So, what might the re-burial of King Richard III be both masking and highlighting? This most desperate of “state” funerals occurs at a time when statehood and democracy in Britain is at its most tattered and fragmented. Its forms have been petrified by globalisation, not just here, but right across Europe. If you think you smell a whiff of white English protestant chest-beating pride in the burial of Richard III, which might contain a trace of euro-scepticism, as I do, it is easy to rebuke without using cockney rhyming slang (in which Richard III has a very special significance).
Because under the Plantagenets, England was ruled from Europe as a slightly backwards colony, and Richard III – Richard Plantagenet – took his name from a family with lands in Anjou and Aquitaine. I write this from an ideologically pro-Europe standpoint, but the far right could well invert the point, with some logic-defying acrobatics. If you want to be nationalist about all of this, and I don’t, the Mary Rose was sunk fighting the French, but King Richard III and the Plantagenets were “French”. But really, they were as “French” as the Windsors, our current Royal family, are German: not very. This is all ideological conflation. It is invented tradition.
The recent casting of the actor Benedict Cumberbatch as Richard III is interesting. He is already a kind of international trope of the “‘naturalness” of the British upper classes. There was an attempt to symbolically re-embed a “right to rule” for the old elites in the re-burial, but also a simultaneous mourning for the waning of their power, as the “elite” inevitably morph once more, through the processes of capital accumulation, into the London demographics we might see now: Russian, Chinese, global billionaires, living in and among the remnants of empire.
It seems somehow fitting that Cumberbatch read a poem for the fragmented remains of a man accidentally discovered in a car park in Leicester. Cumberbatch was tenuously introduced as “a cousin of Richard”, before reading a poem written for the occasion by Laureate, Carol Ann Duffy. There was no incense burning but Cumberbatch delivered a censer full of romanticism to intoxicate the nation. Watching the funeral service live on television made me want to read a Raoul Hausmann sound poem over a discarded KFC party bucket full of chicken bones, before burying it somewhere random, weeping uncontrollably.
Of course, this was not a “state” funeral with the full Royal Family in attendance; they are well advised of the risk of people like me pointing fingers, and so sent some minor players along, to be simultaneously present and not-present. Neat trick.
 Julian Fellowes, writer of the vastly influential English heritage fantasy Downton Abbey, sat on the sofa to comment on the burial during its live broadcast to the nation. His very presence, along with Cumberbatch, unconsciously attached the re-burial of Richard III’s remains to the equally fragmented patriarchal, monarchical, Christian, conservative, white upper class vision of Britain, right at the moment when it is becoming remnants, with the recent near-devolution of Scotland, and future challenges looming.
As the German philosopher Walter Benjamin explained, to really seize hold of the past is to grab an image of it in a moment of crisis. The televised re-burial was full of such images of desperation. We could focus in to see the controversy of a ceremony for a Catholic king in an Anglican church, but the city of Leicester itself, the most multicultural city in Britain, was the larger complexity being masked and suppressed by this fantastical imperialist performance.
This is not a conspiracy theory, nor is it even a complicity theory. These rituals are no different to science fiction, and science fiction is not about some future time, or distant galaxies, but the here and now. The re-burial of Richard III is not about the past either. The author Mark Fisher writes about dyschromia, popular culture constructed from decontextualised bits of the past. But this is nothing new. The past of Richard III was also symbolically constructed from scraps of other times and places. As I watched the purple-robed priests by the TV celebrities and khaki-clad pallbearers, I may as well have been watching a Nambikwara rite-of-passage in the Amazon.
This, for me, wasn’t evidence of the persistence of “postmodernism”, here was proof that it is still both possible and worthwhile to be an anthropologist in your own country.