Tuesday, February 24, 2015

Great moments in the struggle for social justice

Leveller Women in the English Revolution 1647

THREE years ago professional photographer Red Saunders created a series of tableaux depicting great moments in the long struggle for rights and representation in Britain. The aim of the Hidden Project, through reimaging those events, is to portray important historic scenes involving the dissenters, revolutionaries, radicals and non-conformists who have so often been hidden from history.
Tony Benn, the original Patron of the Hidden Project, said: “Those who see these photographic representations will then be able to identify with past generations and gain confidence from the knowledge that they are part of a world-wide movement that has always existed and must be sustained.”
From the Peasants’ Revolt to the Swing Riots, Red’s photographs are on an epic scale and they were acclaimed by critics at exhibitions at Bradford’s Impressions Gallery, the People’s History Museum in Manchester and the Museum of London.
They are now available as posters and greeting cards from Past Pixels, the publishing venture that works with the labour movement to bring alive our illustrious past. Past Pixels was set up in 2009 to make images of working class struggle more widely available to a newer generation and it has carved a niche for itself with a series of greeting cards dedicated to the working class movement
Individual posters are £8.00 and each card costs £2.00 from independent booksellers or directly from Past Pixels.  Check out their website for online sales or write directly to Past Pixels, P O Box 798, Worcester, WR4 4BW for the Hidden Project brochure.

Thursday, February 19, 2015

Review: Revolutionary Democracy, September 2014

By Theo Russell

The latest issue of the Indian Marxist journal Revolutionary Democracy ,which only recently arrived in Britain, has the usual valuable selection of articles from around the world, this time with more of a focus on India.
A report on the re-emergence of the national liberation movement in South Africa by Raul Martinez is a timely and detailed criticism of the “the neo-liberal economic policies and the perpetuation of the neo-colonial dependence on imperialism” of the ANC and its close ally, the South African Communist Party.
The current issue also has a swathe of articles on India looking at the repression of national minorities, the agrarian crisis, the role of the left, the growing danger of more Bhopal-style disasters, the banking sector and other topics.
The article Agrarian Crisis: Life at Stake in Rural India describes the fundamental imbalances in the agriculture sector, accounting for 58 per cent of the workforce but only about 14 per cent of GDP.
Just over 5 per cent of landowners own 43 per cent of farmland, while 90.5 per cent share 43 per cent and 10 per cent of rural households have no land. The mass of small farmers have a weak position in the markets and are plagued with indebtedness.
The authors suggest that “farmers must come together transcending caste and religious differences” and “consider pooling land together to form production cooperatives”.
The Labyrinth of the Neo-Liberal Crisis: The Indian State and Its Instrument of Peace, by Dr Malem Ningthouja, looks at the Indian state’s “carrot and iron policy to tame (domesticate) people or wipe out those who dissent” in India’s North-eastern provinces, where “a soldier could suspect anyone and kill with impunity”. India’s “annexation” of the region aims to secure labour, raw materials, markets and “a buffer vis-a-vis presumed Chinese social imperialism, and a military stockpile and commodity stocked for commercial expansion in South and Southeast Asia”.
India’s repressive actions in the Northeast are much less well known in the West than its brutal oppression in Kashmir, but Ningthouja also looks at the problems and weaknesses of the various liberation movements in a region “inhabited by disunited and economically backward tribal and peasant communities”.
Factionalism and splits have plagued the many liberation movements, and a timeline of organisations in Manipur State since 1948 shows that there have been no less than 40 parties and guerrilla organisations resisting the Indian state in this one province alone, many of them breakaways from existing groups.
In Trotsky’s ‘Exile’ and Social Democracy, written in Moscow in 1928, Clara Zetkin attacks “the loyal band of followers of Trotsky and Zinoviev” for encouraging and magnifying the “distortions, falsifications, calumny and suspicion” of the Second International against the Soviet Union. She describes Trotsky and Zinoviev as “a gift from heaven for all who hate and fear the world proletarian revolution in the Soviet Union, and are intent upon choking it to death”.
And the article Gramsci Rejected the Ideas of Trotsky consists of excerpts from a new book by Jose Antonio Egido, showing that while Trotskyists “shamelessly attempt to appropriate Gramsci”, in reality Gramsci repeatedly criticised Trotsky, denounced the “permanent revolution” theory and staunchly supported the “socialism in one country” policy.
Other topics covered include the formation of the International Stalin Society, and report on the 4th National Congress of the Workers’ Party of Tunisia, the struggles against ISIS in the Middle East, against an anti-democratic and militarist European Union, the problems facing revolutionary forces in Latin America, a discussion between Stalin and Zhou Enlai in 1952, and some surprising and controversial comments by Mao Zedong on Stalin shortly after his death.

Revolutionary Democracy, Vol XX, No. 2, September 2014, is available from the New Communist Party for £5  plus £1 P&P. It is also stocked at Housmans Bookshop in London and News From Nowhere in Liverpool.

Tuesday, January 20, 2015

The two-faced sponsors of terrorism

IF ANYONE still had any doubt about the true nature of the Syrian rebels, last week’s killings in Paris should have finally opened their eyes. The Charlie Hebdo terror attack and the assault on a Jewish supermarket showed what Syria is up against today.
The gunmen who killed 14 civilians and three police officers in the name of the “Islamic State” are no different to those who are spreading death and destruction across Syria in an attempt to overthrow the Popular Front government of Bashar al Assad in Damascus. In fact they are clearly linked.
Initial French reports suggested that the terrorists were petty Muslim criminals radicalised in prison who were acting on their own. But one of the gunmen, at least, recorded a seven- minute-long “martyrdom” video in front of the “Islamic State” banner in which he discussed support for the reactionary terrorist movement that has seized control of parts of Iraq and Syria.
The “Islamic State” is now in conflict with the imperialists. When the IS militia overran large tracts of Iraq last year it grew too big for its boots. The captured oil wells meant that the Islamic State no longer needed direct western support to pursue its reactionary agenda and when the imperialists attempted to drive their militia out of the oil fields they responded with savage reprisals against western hostages. This wasn’t always the case.
When the imperialists and their feudal Arab allies launched the uprising in Syria in 2011 the “Islamic State in Syria,” as it was known, was supported by the Nato powers. Arms and cash were conveyed across Turkey to sustain the ISIS militia as well as those of the Muslim Brotherhood and Al Qaida in Syria to bring down the Assad government, which has long been an obstacle to total imperialist domination of the Middle East.
Thousands of Muslims were recruited in Europe to join in the anti-Assad crusade with the covert assistance of imperialist intelligence agencies. Over 1,000 French Muslim “volunteers” are believed to have gone to Syria. The Charlie Hebdo terrorists may have been among them. Certainly the ease with which the wife of one of the slain gunmen was able to flee the country suggests some sort of cover-up is going on.
But we may never know the full truth. The investigating French police chief committed suicide within hours after being asked to file a report on the Charlie Hebdo attack and all the Paris gunmen were conveniently killed in the subsequent shoot-outs with the French police.
More than 40 world leaders joined millions of Parisians on Sunday to rally in support of the victims of the terror attacks. Most went to express their grief at the senseless slaughter. But the great and the good from the imperialist camp had another agenda — to fix the public focus on the supposed culture clash between Islam and so-called “western” values and divert any attention from their own role in fomenting the violence in Syria.
They bleat on about the freedom of speech which is enjoyed in differing degrees in the European Union and the United States but say nothing about Britain’s crippling libel laws, which protect the rich and powerful and helped the late Jimmy Saville cover up his sordid perversions. At the same time they are preparing the ground for more restrictions on Internet privacy and the total elimination of encrypted communications.
They are once again talking about a “war on terror” which in reality ends up as a war against the Arabs, as it did in Iraq, Libya and Syria. But none of them say anything about ending imperialism’s support for Syrian rebels and “regime change” in Damascus.
If the imperialists really want to stop terror they should stop supporting the Syrian rebels and back Russian mediation efforts to bring an end to the conflict. If they really want to prevent another Charlie Hebdo they should co-operate with Syrian and Iraqi intelligence to break the terror finance and recruitment networks across the western world. But all they want is the Arabs’ oil. They can’t and they won’t do it.

New Worker editorial 
16th January 2015

Friday, January 16, 2015

Review: Revolutionary Democracy

Revolutionary Democracy Vol. XX, No. 1, April, 2014

 by Theo Russell

The latest issue of the Delhi-based Marxist-Leninist journal Revolutionary Democracy is packed with new and fascinating articles from around the world, of which we only have space to delve into a selected few.
There have been many recent revelations about US intelligence, but an interview with former senior CIA officer Robert Baer by Yugoslav journalist Milos Cupurdija is particularly revealing.
Baer details how, in the early 1990s, US agents were tasked with whipping up fears in each community of attacks by extremists from other communities, such as the fictitious ‘Serbian Supreme’ group, supposedly poised to attack key buildings in Sarajevo.
The CIA targeted the news media, and Baer explains: “Of course the news readers did not know anything as they received their instructions from their bosses, who received instructions from his boss, who was our (CIA) man”.
He says the Srebrenica massacre was “an exaggerated story” and says “the numbers of people killed there were all part of the political marketing”, adding he was told well in advance that “there would at some point be a big con in Bosnia” which “would be known around the world.”
The CIA actively assisted the new Bosnian army’s attacks on civilians in Srebrenica, leading Serb forces to retaliate “as they would have been incited and paid to do so also”.
His conclusions are of wide significance: “Simply, they made slaves of you, your people are working for free and the products are going to Germany and America, they earn! In the end you have to pay to import what you have made yourselves and since you have no money you must take out loans. It’s the story with the whole of the Balkans!
Ironically, another article, by Red Action (Croatia), shows how the violent unrest in the Federation of Bosnia and Herzegovina – but in the Republika Srpska – last February was followed by attempts to whip up communal tensions.
Bosnia has much higher rates of youth unemployment than Greece or Spain, and among the protestors’ demands were calls for privatisations to be reversed. But the Croatian media and politicians claimed the protests were aimed against Croats in Bosnia and Herzegovina, while Serb media and politicians claimed they were the “beginning of a Muslim war against Serbs”.
In contrast to the increasingly violent Ukraine protests, Brussels not only condemned the protesters, but the EU’s Special Representative for Bosnia and Herzegovina Austrian diplomat Valentin Inzko threatened EU military intervention, while other EU and US officials called for faster “NATO integration” in Bosnia to “ensure stability”.
In a debate on the economic relations of People’s China since 1947, Rev Dem editor Vijay Singh argues that the establishment of a people’s democracy 1949 based on an alliance with the middle bourgeoisie, advocated by Stalin, was never followed by the removal of the national bourgeoisie from the National People’s Congress, and today “the state structure remains frozen at the level of the democratic revolution”.
In 1953 he says, the rich peasantry were brought into the collective farms, now called ‘people’s communes’, and after 1958 the Machine Tractor Stations were dissolved.
Singh concludes that “the means of production were never socialised in large sections of the economy of the PRC, so they never were able to go beyond a democratic economy to a socialist economy”.
A recent speech by Mohammad Shafi Khan, secretary general of the Trade Union Centre of Jammu and Kashmir, exposes India’s hypocrisy on the self-determination of Kashmir.
Khan recounts that after Kashmiri patriots decided to adopt non-violent tactics,  “during the mass uprising of 2008 more than 50 people and during the 2010 people’s revolution more than 120 people were killed during peaceful and democratic demonstrations,” and thousands more were injured imprisoned and tortured.
In sharp contrast to much smaller events in China’s Xinjiang province, the Western media ¬– which routinely describes India “the world’s largest democracy” – largely ignored these events.
In their latest talks, Khan says, “India and Pakistan are trying to exclude the Kashmiri leadership from the decision-making process.” He calls on India to hold a referendum “to identify the genuine leadership in Kashmir for a dialogue”.
An interview with Hindu fundamentalist Swami Aseemanand, involved in bomb attacks on a Pakistan-India train in 2007 killing 68 people, anti-Christian riots, the destruction of dozens of churches, and raping of nuns, reveals the new Indian premier Narendra Modi’s close ties to the paramilitary fascist Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS).
In his campaign to be the right wing Hindu BJP’s prime ministerial candidate, Modi defeated Lal Kishan Advani by backing Aseemanand, gaining the crucial backing of the RSS, the RSS forerunner and core of the BJP.
In the 1930s the RSS had relations with Mussolini and Hitler and regarded Hitler as “the saviour of Germany”, and Hitler is still widely admired in its ranks.
The article “Corruption Plagues the CPI(M), Too”, says that “the fact that corruption has become endemic within the CPI(M), especially in states where it has been in power, has been admitted in successive party documents on ‘rectification’”. 
But, while many  senior leaders have been expelled or side-lined for exposing dishonesty, “there is hardly any instance of the CPI(M) initiating disciplinary action against any senior leader on corruption charges, at least in recent decades”.
There are many more articles on Africa, Latin America, Ukraine, Soviet and communist history. We highly recommend this issue of Rev Dem to any progressive observer of current events.

Our supply of the April 2014 edition has sold out but most of the articles can be read online on the Revolutionary Democracy website.

Wednesday, December 24, 2014

Tuesday, December 16, 2014

Kim Jong Il

The Guardian of Socialism

by Andy Brooks

COMRADE KIM Jong Il was born on 16th February 1942 at a revolutionary base in the thick forests of Mount Paekdu. His father was great leader Kim Il Sung who had started the anti-Japanese guerrilla struggle from nothing in the 1920s and his mother was the dedicated communist Kim Jong Suk, who fought side by side with the partisans in the liberation struggle.
Kim Jong Il’s early days were of hardship and struggle in the battle that ended in victory in 1945 and the liberation of Pyongyang. Five years later the country was plunged into new horrors when the US imperialists and their lackeys attempted to crush the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea and plunged the peninsula into war.
Kim Jong Il’s boyhood was spent in the thick of battle amid great national convulsions and ordeals. Like millions of Koreans of his generation Kim Jong Il dedicated his life to the Workers Party of Korea and the socialist system they were determined to build to create a better life for the Korean people.
The American imperialists and their lackeys were fought to a standstill and the guns fell silent in 1953. Kim Jong Il went to university where he developed his ideas in the political, economic and cultural fields. But like all Korean students Kim Jong Il took his turn at manual labour with the people in the fields and on the construction sites.
After graduation in 1964 Kim Jong Il worked for the Workers Party of Korea particularly in the field of literature and art. He saw that popular culture was a major key in renovating the Party’s ideological work as a whole and he wrote many articles on this theme.
Kim Jong Il devoted much time to developing the reborn DPRK film industry, particularly in the adaptions of classic plays written by his father during the anti-Japanese revolutionary struggle such as The Sea of Blood and The Fate of a Self-Defence Corps Man. Screen versions of these works won critical acclaim and not just in Asia. One film produced under the guidance of Kim Jong Il was awarded the special prize and medal at the 18th International Film Festival in Karlovy Vary, Czechoslovakia, in 1972, and it enjoyed unprecedented success in Japan.
 Kim Jong Il  gave on-the-spot creative guidance to DPRK  filmmakers but he never took a direct credit although he drew on his own experience when he wrote On the Art of the Cinema in 1973 and The Cinema and Directing in 1987.

 Kim Jong Il developed the Juché idea, applying it to all spheres of economic construction and for the promotion of north-south dialogue for the independent peaceful reunification of Korea. His modesty, faithful service, tireless work, total loyalty to Kim Il Sung and the Korean revolution and undoubted ability meant that when the Workers Party of Korea considered the question of the succession – and this was decided long before Kim Il Sung’s death – Kim Jong Il was the unchallenged candidate to be the successor to great leader Kim Il Sung.
Kim Jong Il made powerful contributions to the development of the Juché idea including Abuses of Socialism are Intolerable and  Socialism is a Science, published in the early 1990s, when whole sections of the international communist movement were wavering following the counter-revolutions in the Soviet Union and eastern Europe.
The Juché philosophy has rarely been properly understood in the western communist movement, which only embraced the economic ideas of Marx and Engels and ignored the philosophical content of their works. It is often simply described as “self-reliance” but it is much more than that. Juché, Korean-style socialism, takes its roots from Marx and Engels but stresses the importance of every individual and it is centred on every individual worker, who can only be truly free as part of the collective effort.
Juché opposes flunkeyism and dogmatism – the slavish adoption of models from other socialist systems and the sterile repetition of Marxist tenets. Socialism is a science for the emancipation of working people that must be applied to the concrete conditions of any particular country and it must be understood by the broad mass of the people to successfully carry out a revolutionary programme.
It is not an abstract or idealistic philosophy but an ideology that liberates the individual and the class. Kim Il Sung always stressed the need for ideological advance and material benefits for the masses – what he called the “twin towers”. When one tower advanced the other must follow. In the 1980s the DPRK made phenomenal economic advances that transformed the cities and countryside of north Korea. In the 1990s the ideological tower was advanced following the collapse of the Soviet Union.
Korean communists always welcome discussion about Juché as long it comes from people who have studied it in the first place rather than taking impressions from second hand sources or from the enemies of socialism. Juché is the essence of Kim Il Sung’s thinking – for independence for all countries, anti-imperialism, south-south co-operation, peace and socialism – policies that the DPRK put in to practice with its material support to the struggling people of Africa and Asia over the decades.
Comrade Kim Jong Il took to the helm of state as the Korean masses north, south and overseas grieved at the passing of Kim Il Sung, the veteran leader who had defeated Japanese and American imperialism and led the Workers’ Party of Korea to victory after victory in the battle to build a modern socialist democracy in north Korea.
In the midst of sorrow the people were hit by wave after wave of natural disasters. Floods and storms ravaged Democratic Korea while the American imperialists stepped up their economic and diplomatic blockade against the DPRK to again try force the Korean people to beg for terms on their knees. But Kim Jong Il made it clear from the very beginning that they could “expect no change from me,” dashing wild imperialist hopes that the Korean communist movement would waver in times of loss and hardship.
The Workers Party of Korea, with Kim Jong Il at the helm, mobilised the masses to overcome the damage caused by the natural disasters that had swept their land. The mass of the Korean people closed ranks behind the Workers Party of Korea led by Kim Jong Il, to defy US imperialism, repair the damage to the economy, smash the diplomatic blockade and develop the people’s armed forces that defend the immense gains of the Korean revolution.
Democratic Korea opened the door to talks with the south Korean regime and showed it readiness to negotiate over its own nuclear research programme and only when those talks failed, due entirely to the intransigence of US imperialism, the DPRK amazed the world by testing its own nuclear device in October 2006. What other country could have achieved so much in so short a time?
The answer lies in the fighting spirit of the Workers Party of Korea and the Jucheé philosophy, Korean-style socialism that applies the tenets of Marxism-Leninism to the concrete conditions of the Korean people and the needs of the modern world we live in.
Kim Jong Il developed the Juché idea based on the revolutionary experience of the Korean masses.
Kim Jong Il led the economic recovery in the DPRK.
Kim Jong Il led the drive for defence against the threats of US imperialism.
Kim Jong Il rallied the Korean people throughout the Korean peninsula behind the demand to end the occupation and partition of south Korea and for peaceful re-unification based on a confederal “one country – two systems” .
 Kim Jong Il stood by the world communist movement and the national liberation movements of the world in their struggle against imperialism.
Kim Jong Il followed in the footsteps of Kim Il Sung and led the Workers Party of Korea to greater victories in the 21st century.
Now progressives and communists are now holding events in honour of Comrade Kim Jong Il, who died at his post on 17th December 2011. But Kim Jong Il lives on in the hearts of communists and everyone struggling for a better tomorrow and Kim Jong Il will be found at all times among the millions upon millions of Koreans advancing onwards full of confidence under the leadership of the dear respected Kim Jong Un.

Saturday, October 25, 2014

Review: SPGB Proud But Flawed

Socialism or your money back, articles from the Socialist
Standard published by the Socialist Party 2004, ISBN
0-9544733-1-0, soft back, 300 pages.

by Eric Trevett

This review was published in the New Worker 
on 20th August 2004

THE SOCIALIST Party of Great Britain has celebrated the
centenary of its foundation (June 1904) and the production
of its monthly paper with a special edition of selected
articles in a single volume. On an occasion such as this it
would be churlish not to congratulate the SPGB on its
achievement, especially as it purports to be supporting
workers' struggle to end their exploitation and achieve a
socialist society.

Indeed some of the articles, such as the one about the
attack on the Tonypandy miners, are very good in exposing
the ruthlessness of the capitalist class and the betrayal
of right-wing Labour leaders. But the SPGB is based on an
ideological position that is fundamentally wrong and leads
it into a position of condemning any and all attempts
hitherto to establish a socialist society.

Not only that, but the national liberation movements are
also condemned and the valid fight for reforms within
capitalist society also tend to be denigrated. To prove the
point, let us quote a full passage from the foreword of the
collected articles. It is a long quotation but it must be
made in full in order to do justice to the SPGB argument:

"The Socialist Party is particularly proud of the fact
that one of the things we have succeeded in doing over the
past 100 years has been to keep alive the original idea of
what a socialist society was supposed to be  a classless,
stateless, frontier less, wage less, moneyless society, to
define it somewhat negatively. Or more positively a World
community in which the natural and industrial resources of
the planet will have become a common heritage of all
humanity, a democratic society in which free and equal men
and women co-operate to produce the things they need to
live and enjoy life, and to which they have free access
with the principle from each according to their ability, to
each according to their needs." Accepted

For many years it has been accepted that socialist
revolution ushers in a long period of transition before a
communist society is established and in the initial period
of socialism, the principle is not from each according to
their ability, to each according to their need. But it is
in fact from each according to their ability, to each
according to the work they do.

The seed of socialist society germinates in the womb of
the capitalist system and when through struggle  economic
and political  it breaks free of the body of its parent, it
inherits many of he faults, inadequacies and shortcomings
of the previous society. To overcome these, as well as
developing the necessary production to eliminate poverty,
and achieve a situation where co-operation is an even
greater force than competition, will certainly take
decades, perhaps centuries.

When judged by such standards as the SPGB puts forward, it
is not surprising that any attempt to break with the
fetters of capitalism is condemned by the SPGB as being
state capitalist.

In addition the SPGB adopts a position of hostility
towards such countries. For instance, during the vicious
war launched by the United States against Vietnam, the SPGB
declared that they did not support either side and said:

"Of course defeat in Vietnam and the whole of South East
Asia would have serious consequences for American
capitalism. That is why they are fighting. It would deprive
them of access to many raw materials, but more important it
would shift the balance of power around the Pacific in
favour of Chinese state capitalism.

"It is not true that the Vietcong and workers are fighting
the same enemy. The Vietcong are fighting American
capitalism. The interests of workers are opposed not only
to American capitalism but also to capitalism everywhere
including Russia and China.

"Victory for the Vietcong, as we have already explained,
would shift the World balance of power from American to
other capitalist powers. This is not something that is in
the interests of workers, or something they should support.
There is not an issue at stake in Vietnam worth a single
worker's life."

Lest there be any doubt we can include another quote:
"Politically the socialist party nailed its colours to the
mast on the nation or class issue at the outset and the
article here on the rise of Sinn Fein in Ireland is a
stinging attack on the idea that national liberation
movements against established imperialist powers are in
some way progressive and worthy of working class support."

Another crucial issue ignored in this volume is the
question of state power and the concept of the dictatorship
of the proletariat in particular. Without the working class
establishing its authority on society, having command of
its oppressive and persuasive organs of power, socialism
cannot be developed. This goes far beyond the social
democrat idea that socialism can be achieved comfortably by
parliamentary legislation. For socialism to be developed
there has to be mass involvement of the working class,
which takes political power to itself and can effectively
defend itself against the national and international
efforts to destroy it whilst at the same time taking
measures to consolidate and develop conditions for a new

The extent to which the revolution will be bloody or
bloodless depends on the unity and determination of the
working class to champion the interests of the bulk of the
people. This is essential to win firm allies in support of
the revolutionary process. It will also depend on the
degree to which there is disaffection among the personnel
of the coercive forces of capitalism. This will determine
the extent to which the capitalist class, which is being
displaced, can command the loyalty of its state apparatus.

From the standpoint of the SPGB, such an authoritarian
interpretation of socialism would be invalid. But in the
world we live in the working class needs to be aware that
it is dealing with a ruthless adversary, which as we have
seen in innumerable wars does not blink an eyelid at
consigning millions of men, women and children to their

The SPGB's general negative approach to people in struggle
is often reflected in the articles published in this book.
This includes the efforts of the suffragettes and extends
to people active in the peace movement. This is a book that
has to be read very critically. It would be nice to think
that, on its centenary, the SPGB would reflect
self-critically on its ideologically flawed position. Only
in this way can it correct its practice and really play a
positive role in the fight or socialism.

Currently it is in effect opposing and impeding all real
efforts in the direction of socialism because they cannot
achieve full, perfect communism in the blink of an eye. And
this position helps to sustain capitalism.