Sunday, June 13, 2021

Labour needs new agenda

The Conservatives are firm favourites to win the Batley and Spen by-election on 1st July. This “Red Wall” West Yorkshire seat came up for grabs after Tracy Brabin, the sitting MP, stepped down after winning the West Yorkshire mayoral election in the local elections last month. The Tories, who are fielding Ryan Stephenson, the Chair of the West Yorkshire Conservatives who sits on Leeds council, are upbeat about their campaign. Although Labour fended off the Tory challenge at the last general election in 2019, the Tories are now odds-on to take the seat that’s been Labour’s since 1997.
    That’s perhaps not surprising given that the only apparent qualification that the new Labour candidate has is that she is the sister of Jo Cox, the former constituency MP who was murdered by a far-right extremist during the European Union (EU) campaign in 2016.
    Kim Leadbeater has obvious campaigning skills. She worked as an ambassador for the Jo Cox Foundation, which was established to campaign for issues her sister supported, and she was appointed MBE in the New Year's Honours for her work in tackling social isolation. Although she only joined Labour some weeks before her nomination, she has the support of the local Labour party as well as Andy Burnham, the ambitious Mayor of Greater Manchester, and Labour’s leader, Sir Keir Starmer. Whether that’s enough to see off the Tories in July is another matter altogether.
    Fourteen others have put their names down for the election, including the Liberal Democrats and the usual Loonies as well as the assorted also-rans that include the ‘Yorkshire Party’ and George Galloway, who is standing on his own ‘Workers’ Party of Britain’ ticket. Galloway has had spectacular by-election successes in the past; but those days have now long passed along with the Respect party he set up after he was kicked out of the Labour Party by the Blairites in 2003 for opposing the Anglo-American invasion of Iraq.
    It will a big blow to Kim Leadbeater if she loses the by-election. It will be an even bigger one for Sir Kier Starmer, who came under flak from his own Blairite allies after the shock Tory win in Hartlepool in May. Losing this seat could well be the last straw for Starmer.
    The Blairites are already preparing their alibis for defeat. The blame-game will begin with renewed calls to drive the remaining Corbynistas out of the Labour Party. It will rapidly be followed by a call for an electoral front with the Liberal Democrats and a final break with the trade union movement – as long as it doesn’t jeopardise the millions of pounds that the unions loyally pump into Labour’s coffers every year.
    But if Labour lose it will entirely be down to them and the man with whom they chose to replace Jeremy Corbyn in the first place. No-one knows what Starmer’s crew stands for these days, apart from supporting Israel and witch-hunting former Corbyn supporters who don’t toe the line. The only consistent policy they do have – support for the EU – is one they dare not declare publicly because it would be the kiss of death for their election chances on the street.

The question is not who leads of the Labour Party – although clearly Starmer must go – but who sets the agenda for the party that claims to represent working people. We, as communists, have to fight for the demands of the unions for full employment and the restoration of the public sector, the health service and the welfare state. At the same time, we’ve got to ensure that the communist answer to the crisis is heard once again in factories, offices and streets throughout the land.

A Renaissance Man

by Ben Soton   

Execution by SJ Parris, HarperCollins 2021. Hardback: 496pp, £14.99;. Paperback: 496pp,   £8.99; Kindle: 496pp, £4.99.

Execution is the sixth novel by SJ Parris (the pen name of writer and journalist Stephanie Merritt) covering the exploits of Giordano Bruno. A Dominican monk, Giordano Bruno (1548–1600) abandoned Holy Orders after being discovered with the heretical work of Erasmus and was forced to flee Italy from the Inquisition. He spent much of his life as a wandering scholar and he is believed to have spent some time in England in the 1580s. Little is known about what Bruno did in England during his stay but Parris’ novels, based on Bruno’s opposition to the Catholic Inquisition, tries to fill the gap and puts him in the employ of Francis Walsingham, Elizabeth I’s spymaster.
    Bruno’s latest adventure takes place in Elizabethan London, or specifically Southwark. He infiltrates the plotters around Anthony Babington who plan to assassinate Elizabeth and put her Catholic cousin Mary Queen of Scots on the throne.
    Parris’s novels bring the Elizabethan world to life. As an author she details the dress, customs and even the food of the time. Southwark, on the south bank of the Thames outside the control of the City of London, was nominally run by the Bishop of Winchester. The prostitutes who worked Southwark’s streets were known as ‘Winchester Geese’ and the whole area was dominated by brothels, playhouses, bear pits and gambling dens.
    Parris’s depiction of Southwark reminds us that England has been a multicultural society for a long time. For instance, one character in this book is Leila, a ‘Moor’ – a general term in those days for people of African or Middle Eastern origin.
    Attempts to restore Catholicism in Elizabethan England were reactionary. A Catholic victory would have destroyed the limited free thinking that existed in England at the time. England would have come under the domination of Spain, which would have stifled commerce and prevented the development of capitalism. Parris’s interpretation of events and Bruno’s role in it broadly support this view. The author adds that Elizabeth’s advisor Robert Cecil wanted to alter the English constitution, making everyone including monarchs answerable to the law. In other words, Mary Queen of Scots’ execution may have set a precedent in English law paving the way for the trial and execution of Charles I, her grandson, less than a century later.
    What of Bruno himself? An outsider who risks life and limb for England but receives little reward for it; he is not given residence in the country. He is often insulted by members of the lower orders in alehouses for being a foreigner, whilst he is insufficiently rewarded by the likes of Walsingham who are happy to use his skills. At least members of the lower orders have the excuse of not knowing that he is actually doing them a favour. Bruno is the ultimate heroic outsider.
    Giordano Bruno was a truly remarkable man. He is known for having developed a system for improving memory as well as being a supporter of the ideas of Copernicus. Bruno also believed in the concept that if the universe were made up of numerous stars there could also be many planets. Parris’s novels fill in the gaps in his fascinating life and are a fitting tribute to a genuine Renaissance Man.

Saturday, June 05, 2021

Where’s the beef?

The Remainers told us that leaving the European Union (EU) would plunge the country into chaos, with empty supermarket shelves, rationed medicines and monstrous tail-backs of lorries at the Channel ports. The fact that none of this has happened despite the coronavirus lock-downs and lay-offs over the last year doesn’t appear to have been grasped by Europhiles, who still dream of another referendum to take us back into the Common Market.
    A lucrative new free trade agreement with Australia now opens the door to cheap meat imports from the southern hemisphere. This is a step in the right direction but there’s plenty more the Government should take to make the most of the UK’s new standing outside the shackles of the EU.
    Tory Brexiteers talk about “free trade” – but not when it comes to People’s China. Only last week the Trade Secretary, Liz Truss, was warning against the UK becoming dependent on trade with China. Why?
    Well, the answer is US imperialism. Crawling to the Americans comes as second nature to those sections of the ruling class who believe that their global interests are best preserved through the might of US imperialism. But Tory and Labour politicians should think for themselves for a change. China is already Britain's second-largest trading partner, just after the USA. China overtook Germany to become Britain's biggest single import market in the first quarter of this year.
    China is an open door for mutually beneficial trade. Free trade agreements with China and the rest of world will bring down prices on the high street and help end conflicts in other parts of the globe.
    During the ‘Golden Era’ of China–UK relations a few years ago, politicians repeatedly stressed the importance of a closer economic partnership with China. Now, after officially leaving the EU and under the impact of the global pandemic, it is clear that Britain needs China more than ever.

What a difference a day makes

 Or not in Dominic Cummings’ case. Last week Boris Johnson’s former chief adviser spent seven hours telling a parliamentary committee how bad his former chief was. He said government officials, including himself, had fallen “disastrously short of the standards that the public has a right to expect” and that the “government failed” over the coronavirus crisis. Health Secretary Matt Hancock should have been fired for lying, and that frontline workers and civil servants were "lions led by donkeys". As for Boris Johnson, "thousands" of people were better suited to run the country than him and that he was not a "fit and proper person" to get the UK through the pandemic.
    Some say Cummings still hopes to return to the corridors of power through the patronage of the Chancellor Rishi Sunak or his old mentor, Michael Gove. But who can trust him?
    This man was once seen as the √©minence grise of the Johnson administration. Tories, with varying degrees of affection, called him “Dom”, “The Mekon” or “Rasputin”. Now it’s just “Judas” – the man who betrays his master in revenge for being sacked.
    Cummings may have thought his revelations would lead to a Cabinet crisis or even force the resignation of Hancock and Johnson. But he was wrong. Most Tories still think Boris Johnson walks on water. The utterly useless leader of the opposition, Sir Kier Starmer, has totally failed to exploit the situation in Labour’s favour whilst the Remainer grandees stand back to watch the Brexiteers fight amongst themselves for a change. It has done nothing to dent the Tory lead in the opinion polls.

Half Full or Half Empty

by New Worker correspondent

The latest trade union membership figures for the UK have been published by the Department of Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy (that we no longer have a Ministry of Labour is telling). The latest figures show a rise of 118,000 in the course of last year.
    This is not as good as it sounds. The rise was due to an increase of 228,000 public sector workers who account for nearly two-thirds of the 6.6 million trade unionists in Britain. This has been offset by a fall of 110,000 workers in the private sector, where only 2.5 million or 12.9 per cent are in unions. Just over half the public sector workers are unionised. Despite the absolute rise, density is still lower than in 2015. The TUC claim that its affiliated unions account for 5.5 million.
    Coming out on top geographically was Yorkshire & Humber, whose TUC Regional Secretary Bill Adams boasted that: “Trade union membership in Yorkshire is on the rise –especially among women between the ages of 25–34, who face high levels of insecure work and low pay.
     “Thousands have turned to unions during this crisis, to protect their jobs, defend their rights and keep their workplaces safe.”
    Mayor of West Yorkshire, Tracey Brabin, said that union representation in local workplaces has jumped 10 per cent, reaching 58 per cent of all workplaces: “I’m really encouraged to see these figures today, because it has never been more important to join a union.” She should read the small print before breaking out the champagne.
    Although they represent the fourth annual rise in a row, the latest figures are still pathetic compared with the highpoint of 13.2 million in 1979. Frances O’Grady, General Secretary of the TUC, was correct in pointing out: “It’s never been more important to join a union. This pandemic has brutally exposed the terrible working conditions and insecurity many workers face.
    “Unions can play a key role in helping the country recover from this pandemic by supporting good, green jobs and working with employers to level up pay and conditions across Britain.”
    That does not, however, address the question as to why the figures in the private sector are so bad. Whilst public sector workers have had a rough time in the pandemic, particularly in the well unionised NHS, few have actually been laid off. But the lay-offs caused by pandemic-induced closures of businesses have badly hit numbers in the private sector.
    Daniel Tomlinson, senior economist at the Resolution Foundation think tank, has put us in his debt for his useful analysis of the latest figures. He points out that: “It is too early to pronounce a revival. Membership rates are still lower than in 2015,” adding: “The increase in membership levels in 2020 was in large part a product of the growth in size of the public sector.” He also points out that the average union member is not in the spring chicken category.
    Going into more detail, Tomlinson’s analysis shows that education and public administration are the main growth areas. In education, where there have been pay and pension battles, membership rates rose from 48.7 per cent to 51.4 per cent, or 150,000 members, reversing a four-year decline and returning to the 2010 rates.
    In public administration a slight fall in density was compensated by a growth due to there being 300,000 more employees in public administration in late 2020 than in late 2019.
    He notes that in many areas an expanded workforce doesn’t automatically lead to greater union growth. In the last four years union membership increased by 328,000 but the number of employees grew by three times that to one million.
    The current unusual conditions mean that despite public sector membership numbers increasing substantially, actual membership density has fallen amongst public sector employees. As a share of this new, higher total, fewer public sector employees were trade union members in 2020 than in 2019. Surprisingly for a difficult period when one would have thought that union membership was vital, rates also fell in the private sector as employment in the private sector fell substantially. In particular, rates ticked down from 13.3 per cent in 2019 to 12.9 per cent in 2020 in the private sector, and from 52.3 in 2019 to 51.9 per cent in 2020 in the public sector.
    He warns that growth in the public sector, which accounted for 27.3 per cent of employment in 2020 compared with 25.7 in 2019, will not boost membership. That has to come from the private sector, in particular the gig-economy.
    Only the retail sector has seen recent membership growth, where low pay and zero-hours contracts are common. This is due to shop-worker’s union USDAW amongst others signing agreements with the big supermarkets. Density is still low. It has risen slightly – from 10.6 per cent in 1998–2000 to 12.3 per cent in 2018–2020, whilst numbers increased from 410,000 in 2000 to 460,000 in 2020. But 12.3 per cent is still less than one in eight.
    Tomlinson suggests that because employment fell last year in retail, union members were more likely to stay in work as the sector shrunk but, given that, membership levels rose by 17,000.
    Curiously, in many parts of the private sector membership rates are less than 10 per cent for the lowest-paid private sector employees compared with over 60 per cent for the highest-paid public sector employees.
    Younger workers are starting to take an interest in unions – but it takes a clever statistician to work that one out. It is arguable that figures for young people were so low they had nowhere to go but up and depressingly a slight decline in the number of older members helped boost the percentage of youthful members. As the Jesuits say, you need to catch them young.
    Although membership rates are no longer falling amongst younger workers, a great deal needs to be done to recruit them. No branch secretary can assume that a new worker equals a new member.
    Contrasting the 46–64-year-olds with those between 16– 20, shows that those coming up for retirement who are likely to be members are not likely to be replaced in any great numbers.
    Tomlinson warns that if recent trends continue, the membership rate amongst all workers is likely to continue its decline to 18 per cent by the end of the decade. He points out that this prediction is better than one he made a few years ago. He concludes even-handedly that: “The recent upward trend in overall membership may continue. But it could also be too optimistic should the recent rise in membership end abruptly as COVID-19 fades.”

Wednesday, June 02, 2021

Joint declaration condemning the continued bloodshed and occupation by Israel

 We, the communist and workers parties undersigning this statement, strongly and unequivocally condemn the Israeli aggression meted out against Palestinians in Jerusalem - as well as the continued military bombardment upon Gaza which has resulted in the killing of scores of Palestinian civilians and the maiming of hundreds more, among them children. Israel’s brazen violation of international humanitarian law and international law has continued for decades now, aided and abetted with the full support of imperialist forces, and without any meaningful intervention from international institutions to bring these violations to an end or outwardly condemn them. 


We demand:

  • An immediate cessation to the bombardment and besieging of Gaza;
  • An end to the attacks and violations against Palestinians exercising their rights in and around the Al Aqsa Mosque site and all other holy sites;
  • A stop to the relentless attacks and intimidation against Palestinian residents in East Jerusalem by the Israeli authorities and settlers, namely the latter’s attempts to evict families from the Sheikh Jarrah neighbourhood as part of a continued campaign of ethnic cleansing.

We express our full and unwavering solidarity with the just struggle of the Palestinian people to end the occupation and towards the establishing of an independent state, within the recognised borders as they stood on June 4th 1967, with East Jerusalem as its capital, and the right of return for all Palestinian refugees according to the relevant UN resolutions.

We call on all progressive and peace-loving people to raise their voice and join this appeal.


  1. Communist Party of Albania
  2. Communist Party of Australia
  3. Party of Labour of Austria
  4. Democratic Progressive Tribune, Bahrain
  5. Communist Party of Bangladesh
  6. Workers Party of Belgium
  7. Communist Party of Belgium
  8. Brazilian Communist Party
  9. Communist Party of Brazil
  10. Communist Party of Britain
  11. New Communist Party of Britain
  12. Communist Party of Canada
  13. Communist Party of Chile
  14. Socialist Workers' Party of Croatia
  15. Communist Party of Cuba
  16. AKEL, Cyprus
  17. Communist Party of Bohemia and Moravia
  18. Communist Party in Denmark
  19. Egyptian Communist Party
  20. French Communist Party
  21. German Communist Party
  22. Communist Party of Greece
  23. Hungarian Workers’ Party
  24. Communist Party of India [Marxist]
  25. CP of India
  26. Iraqi Communist Party
  27. Tudeh Party of Iran
  28. Workers Party of Ireland
  29. Communist Party of Ireland
  30. Communist Party of Israel
  31. Party of the Communist Refountation (PRC)
  32. Jordanian Communist Party
  33. Socialist Movement of Kazakhstan
  34. Communist Party of Luxembourg
  35. Communist Party of Malta
  36. Communist Party of Mexico
  37. Communist Party of Norway
  38. Communist Party of Pakistan
  39. Palestinian Communist Party
  40. Palestinian People's Party
  41. Philippines Communist Party [PKP 1930]
  42. Communist Party of Poland
  43. Portuguese Communist Party
  44. RussianCommunist Worker's Party - CPSU
  45. New Communist Party of Yugoslavia
  46. Communists of Serbia
  47. South African Communist Party
  48. Communist Party of the Workers of Spain (PCTE)
  49. Communist Party of the Peoples of Spain (PCPE)
  50. Communist Party of Spain
  51. Communists of Catalonia
  52. Communist Party of Sri Lanka
  53. Sudanese Communist Party
  54. Syrian Communist Party
  55. Syrian Communist Party [Unified]
  56. Communist Party of Swaziland
  57. Communist Party of Turkey
  58. Communist Party of Ukraine
  59. Union of Communists of Ukraine
  60. Communist Party USA

Other Parties

  1. Party of Communists USA
  2. Galician People's Union
  3. Communist Front (Italy)


17th May 2021

Saturday, May 29, 2021

Death Disguised

By New Worker correspondent  

RIDDOR, Covid and under-reporting is the title of a short but damning report published by the Trades Union Congress on Sunday. It demonstrates that there has been massive underestimation by employers, public and private, of the number of deaths from COVID-19 contracted in the workplace.
    RIDDOR is the Reporting of Injuries, Diseases and Dangerous Occurrences Regulations, which was established in 2013.
    According to the bosses, a mere 2.5 per cent of working age COVID-19 deaths were caused by workplace exposure. The TUC, using Office of National Statistics (ONS) and Public Health England (PHE) data, paints a very different picture. They argue that the system for reporting workplace deaths and infections is “letting bad bosses off the hook”, and that under-reporting has badly undermined health and safety regulation and enforcement during the pandemic.
    The precise figures are that between April 2020 and April 2021 the ONS reported that 15,263 people of working age died from COVID-19. On the other hand, according to reports filed by employers only 387 (2.5 per cent) of these deaths came from workers contracting COVID-19 at work.
     Of course it is sometimes difficult to pinpoint whether medical conditions came from work or pleasure. A computer games fanatic might claim his hours in the office were responsible for his repetitive strain injury and it is sometimes debateable if a postman’s bad knees come from his round or the football pitch. But the ONS figures are likely to be more reliable than the claims of bosses who could face a day in court.
    Employers are obliged to report cases of COVID-19 infection where exposure occurs as a result of a person’s work – but it is left to employer who “must make a judgement, based on the information available, as to whether or not a confirmed diagnosis of COVID-19 is likely to have been caused by an occupational exposure”.
    Between April 2020 and April 2021, a total of 32,022 COVID-19 infections and 387 deaths were reported under RIDDOR.
    Even the official Health and Safety Executive (HSE) accepts that there is “widespread under-reporting”. Of the 387 deaths, only 216 occupational COVID-19 fatalities were worthy of investigation.
    “Ethical” investments consultancy Pirc states that COVID-19 infections at food factories could be more than 30 times higher than reported. In the transport sector there were 608 COVID-19 deaths amongst transport workers between March and December 2020, but only 10 formal notifications.
    An ONS study shows that there are significant variations in infection rates. Those able to work at home had much lower rates and jobs where social distancing was impossible had higher rates. The lack of access to sick pay has also increased the risks of spreading the disease as those showing minor symptoms would come into work because they cannot afford to take time off, thus spreading the disease.
    Only amongst health and social care workers is there a higher is a higher correlation between the number of deaths recorded by ONS and the number reports made by bosses in the NHS and private sector. Here 886 recorded deaths were matched by 271 reports from bosses. As hospitals and care homes are places for less than healthy people, even that is likely to be an underestimate. Food manufacturing is another particularly badly hit area, the Pre-Christmas rush saw more workers in factories.
    The TUC has concerns about how HSE advice on COVID and RIDDOR is being interpreted. The HSE accepts that there is “widespread under-reporting” in the context of the COVID-19 pandemic. This appears to be an understatement. It is likely that the official figures – 216 occupational COVID-19 deaths worthy of investigation – are falling well short of the true number of fatalities following work-related COVID-19 transmission.
    Amongst the cases not reported by bosses were two workers at a Kent salad factory in Kent who died after 70 employees tested positive. Here the employer, Bakkavor, refused to report the deaths via RIDDOR. Before the fatalities, concerns had been raised about poor PPE and social distancing.
    In the education sector, at Burnley College bosses refused to report the death of a teacher even after a known outbreak. It was only when her union, UCU, reported it to the HSE did the College properly report it. In such cases the role of effective trade union health and safety representatives is clearly essential.
    The TUC suggests this lack of reporting is due to the official guidance and the HSE needs to take a tougher line to force employers to report such deaths. It points out that both the HSE and local authorities (who also regulate workplace safety) have suffered drastic funding cuts in the last 10 years. In 2009/10 the HSE received £231 million from the Government, and in 2019/20 it received just £123 million. The Government’s pandemic one-year cash injection to HSE largely went on contractors.

RIDDOR, Covid and under-reporting can be freely downloaded from the TUC website.

Wednesday, May 26, 2021

Joint statement against US development of new types of biological weapons and increased military spending

Many countries are now experiencing the second and third waves of the coronavirus pandemic, which have exposed the complete inability of local health systems, destroyed by privatization and market reforms, to cope with the epidemic. The lack of adequate hospital beds, lack of oxygen, lack of medicines and lack of vaccines have led to an excessive increase in the number of deaths. This is the result of capitalism, when millions of workers were at risk of disease, losing their health, jobs, or even their lives.

In this situation, the leading capitalist countries, instead of increasing allocations for the health system, only increased their military budgets. In 2020, military spending in the world exceeded $ 1.98 trillion, which is 2.6% higher than in the previous year. The United States, as the most important hegemon of world imperialism, spent $ 778.0 billion on armaments, which is 39% of the total global spending.

Some of these funds go to the development of weapons of offensive biological warfare. According to American scientists published in the press, the United States has spent more than $ 100 billion on the offensive biological weapons industry over the past twenty years. 13 thousand biologists in 400 laboratories in the United States are busy creating new strains of offensive killer germs that are resistant to vaccines.

In total, the US Pentagon has created 1,495 laboratories around the world, which are not accountable to the governments of the countries where they work, and their activities are not transparent. Similar laboratories have been established in Ukraine, Georgia, Armenia, Azerbaijan, Kazakhstan, Uzbekistan and other countries. In a situation of increased international struggle and competition, the accumulated biological warfare agents can be used by the US military against its opponents, which will lead to disastrous consequences.

It is a matter of concern that new developments in biological weapons are underway. In particular, it became known that in Kazakhstan, a number of research institutes and laboratories built by the Americans are conducting military biological research under the Pentagon program, which is called "Camels as biosurveillance sentinels: Risk at the human-camel interface". The object of study is camels as natural carriers of a number of diseases in order to use them as containers for the spread of artificially created viruses.

The diversion or deliberate use of chemical warfare agents will hit millions of people and agriculture in Central Asia, China, and Russia. Such actions of American military biologists on the territory of Kazakhstan contradict both the "Convention on the Prohibition of the Development, Production and Stockpiling of Bacteriological (Biological) and Toxin Weapons and on Their Destruction" and the American "Law against Biological Terrorism" (Biological Weapons Anti-Terrorism Act of 1989, BWATA).

We support the immediate cessation of this research, development and production of biological and other types of weapons, and the transfer of military allocations to provide all workers and the general population with free medical care and to issue Covid-19 vaccines to everyone free of charge and without exception.

- We demand the admission of international observers of the World Health Organization (WHO) and representatives of all interested countries to military biological facilities in Kazakhstan, working under the programs of the US Pentagon.

- We demand the closure of all US military biological laboratories in all countries of the world.

- Funds spent on the development of biological and other deadly weapons should be directed to scientific research to combat the pandemic and to develop the health system.


Parties signing

  1. Communist Party of Bangladesh
  2. New Communist Party of Britain
  3. Socialist Workers' Party of Croatia
  4. Communist Party in Denmark
  5. Unified Communist Party of Georgia
  6. Communist Party of Greece
  7. Communist Party, Italy
  8. Party of the Communist Refoundation, Italy
  9. Socialist Movement of Kazakhstan
  10. Socialist Party of Latvia
  11. AKFM, Madagascar
  12. Communist Party of Norway
  13. Communist Party of Pakistan
  14. Philippines Communist Party [PKP 1930]
  15. Communist Party of Poland
  16. Communist Party of the Russian Federation
  17. New Communist Party of Yugoslavia
  18. Communist of Serbia
  19. Communist Party of Swaziland
  20. Communist Party of Ukraine
  21. Union of Communists of Ukraine

Sunday, May 23, 2021

Starmer must go!

 Many in the labour movement questioned whether Sir Keir Starmer capable of leading Labour when he got the job in the first place. Now there can be no doubt following last week’s disastrous elections which cost Labour 323 council seats, eight councils and the once save parliamentary seat of Hartlepool. Even the Blairites who have been covertly advising Starmer over the past year are beginning to openly call him an “interim leader” while they scrabble around to find another Blairite clone to replace him.
     Under current rules a Labour leadership election can only be forced if a challenger gets the support of 20 per cent of the Parliamentary Labour Party which more or less rules out the Corbynistas. But there’s no shortage of wannabee leaders from the supposed “centre” of the Party who would eagerly step into Starmer’s shoes if the opportunity arose.
    Andy Burnham, flushed with victory after trouncing the Tories in the Manchester Mayoral election, once again hints that he’s up for it. “In the distant future, if the party were ever to feel it needed me, well I’m here and they should get in touch,” he says. But Burham will need to get back into Parliament before he can stand under current Labour Party rules – unless they’re changed. And that’s not impossible given the curious remarks of the Blairite Lord Adonis who said last week that a future leadership race should not be “restricted to people who are currently members of the House of Commons”.
     Rule changes take time. Burnham can afford to. Others may not be as patient. After telling everyone he would take full responsibility for Labour’s setbacks in the polls Starmer tried to scape-goat his deputy, Angela Rayner. But she turned the tables on him and now her standing in the party has risen despite her apparent demotion. Whether that’s enough to win a future Labour leadership vote is, however, debatable.
     The same can be also said of Lisa Nandy, the Shadow Foreign Minister whose followers are already testing the waters in support of a possible bid for power when Starmer goes.
     At the end of the day what Labour needs is a campaign that reflects the unions’ agenda and the demands of the street and a campaigning leader who can mobilise working people to beat the Tories at the next election. At the moment Labour has neither.


Justice for the Palestinians

The Palestinians are calling for support in their struggle against the brutal Israeli occupation that began when Israel seized the West Bank and the Gaza Strip in 1967. But the tragedy really began when British imperialism first occupied Palestine during the First World War. British imperialism encouraged Zionist immigration to create a community of Zionist settlers to support the colonial administration. The Zionists helped British colonialism crush the Palestinian Arab revolt in 1936. But in the immediate post‑World War II situation the Zionists seized the opportunity to push for a separate state of their own. In 1948 the British colonial mandate ended and the State of Israel was proclaimed. On that day the first Arab‑Israeli war began. It has never ended.
The first war led to the expulsion of around a million Palestinian Arabs from their homes by the Zionist regime. Those refugees and their descendants have never given up their right to return to their land. And this is the heart of the crisis that has led to five full‑scale wars and continuing confrontation in the Middle East.
Zionist violence always leads to an equally violent resistance. A lasting solution must be based on the right of return of refugees and an independent Palestinian state with Israel giving up all territories seized since 1967.

Solidarity with Palestine

 Millions of people all over the world took to the streets last weekend in solidarity with the Palestinian people and to demand an end to Israeli aggression. In Britain, a 150,000-strong crowd marched through the heart of the capital in support of the Palestinian Arabs. Over 80 other demonstrations took place across the country on the same day.
    The Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) movement is urging a total military embargo on Israel, a boycott of firms ‘complicit’ in Israel’s occupation, and the cancelling of academic, cultural and sporting events in the Zionist state that is trying to terror bomb the Palestinians into abject surrender.
     Outside the gates of the Israeli embassy the former leader of the Labour Party stood shoulder to shoulder with the Palestinian ambassador, other left Labour MPs and the rapper Lowkey, to call for an end to the bombing and an end to the Israeli occupation.
    “Think what it’s like being a mother or father and seeing a building bombed in front of you, knowing your family is in there, and you can do nothing,” Jeremy Corbyn said. “It’s our global voices that will give succour, comfort and support in those settlements alongside Gaza, and all over the West Bank and East Jerusalem who are suffering at this time. End the occupation now. End all the settlements now and withdraw. End the siege of Gaza now.”
    Celebrities and sporting stars have now joined the legions of support for the Palestinian people. They include Hollywood stars such as Susan Sarandon, Natalie Portman, Mark Ruffalo and Viola Davis, and Pink Floyd musician Roger Waters. Top footballers in Britain, Turkey, Chile and the Arab world have also taken the principled stand in support of the Palestinian people. Arsenal midfielder Mohamed Elneny posted his support for the Palestinians on social media. Leicester City stars Hamza Choudhury and Wesley Fofana held up the Palestinian flag as they celebrated their team’s victory in the FA Cup final at Wembley Stadium on Saturday.
    This week key unions, including Unite, Unison and the postal workers’ union, pledged their support for the Palestinian general strike that shut down the occupied West Bank and the Arab regions of Israel on Tuesday. But where is Sir Keir Starmer?
    The new Labour leader has, to his credit, hit out at the “violence against worshippers at the al-Aqsa mosque”, but as Jeremy Corbyn told ITV, Starmer needs to be “stronger and clearer” over his policy towards Israel and the Palestinians.
    In the British Palestinian community, Labour supporters say Starmer is ignoring their concerns. They say that the straight-jacket imposed by the central party on any discussion of the issue of Palestine at Constituency Labour Party level is “disturbing and inimical to party democracy”, and they talk about the “hostile environment” that they say has engulfed the party since Starmer took over. They’ve sent five letters to Starmer asking him to intervene. They’re still waiting for a reply.
    Starmer thinks he can do what he likes. He thinks he can dismiss the slump in Labour’s fortunes as a mere blip on the road to recovery. He believes he can ignore the peace movement, the unions and the ethnic minorities with impunity. We must prove him wrong.
He’s utterly useless. The sooner he goes the better.

Whose finger on the trigger?

by Ben Soton

Danny Boy: BBC2 2021; currently available on BBC iPlayer. Director: Sam Miller. Writer: Robert Jones. Stars: Toby Jones, Anthony Boyle, Alex Ferns.

One of the ironies of British imperialism is naming a checkpoint in southern Iraq after an Irish folk song. The irony being that Ireland was the first acquisition of the British Empire and Iraq one of the last.
     The ‘Battle of Danny Boy’ took place close to the city of Amarah in southern Iraq, on 14th May 2004, between British soldiers and about 100 Iraqi militiamen of the Mahdi Army. Some 28 Mahdi Army militiamen were killed in the fighting. Some of the British troops were wounded but none were killed in the action. Brian Wood, who led a bayonet charge during the battle, was awarded the Military Cross.
    The battle is named after a local British checkpoint in Iraq called ‘Danny Boy’. Its repercussions are the subject of the BBC2 drama of that name that was shot nearer to home in fields made to look like the Iraqi desert just outside Watford while scenes set in Turkey were filmed in a Turkish restaurant in north London.
     The question of what constitutes a war crime is a touchy subject for the ruling class. The trial of two former British paratroopers accused of killing an Official IRA commander in 1972 collapsed after the judge found that the soldiers’ statements were inadmissible because they had not been cautioned while campaigners argue that the new Overseas Operations (Service Personnel and Veterans) Act 2021 risks undermining key human rights obligations that the UK has committed itself to respect. Now a coroner’s report has concluded that all those killed by British troops in the 1971 Ballymurphy massacre in northern Ireland had been innocent and that the killings were "without justification”.
     Danny Boy is set in the more recent conflicts in the Gulf. It focuses on the decorated soldier, Brian Wood (played by Anthony Boyle), who is accused of war crimes and a human rights lawyer, Phil Shiner who is played by Toby Jones.
     Wood is portrayed as a family man suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder; although it shows the guilt of a man who should have realised that the Arabs his men mistreated were not insurgents but simply farmers caught in the cross-fire.
    Shiner is portrayed in a less sympathetic light although it is pointed out that he represented more soldiers than any other lawyer. What is interesting are Shiner’s motivations. He is no anti-imperialist. He simply takes the view that the British army should adhere to higher standards than other imperialist powers. War-crimes are something done by the Germans on the Eastern front, Japanese in Korea, the French in Algeria and obviously the Americans in Vietnam. The truth is what should we expect of an imperialist power in a foreign country fighting a population who don’t want them there?
    Former soldiers abandoned by the army often find themselves living on the streets or in prison. Some even say that soldiers returning from Iraq and Afghanistan, with horrific injuries and damaged minds are, in fact, victims of imperialism as well.
     The key word here is imperialism, which is a system. This raises the question of should individual soldiers be put on trial for what are after all crimes of that system. It could even be argued that the actions of the likes of Shiner, who has since been barred from practising law for acting dishonestly, simply obscure the issue. 

     Although Danny Boy was first shown on 12th May it is available on iPlayer for the next eleven months.

Sunday, May 16, 2021

Donbas: The people have made their choice

 by Boris Litvinov

Chair of the Communist Party of the Donetsk People’s Republic

In February 2014, a coup d'etat took place in Ukraine. The capitalists of Ukraine, with the support of international capital, brought to power Ukrainian nationalists with their fascist ideology and methods of governing the country.
     Incitement of hatred towards the Russians and Russia, towards Soviet history and the socialist country, towards communist ideology and the supporters of the union of fraternal peoples became the basis of the state policy of Ukraine. With the money of Ukrainian oligarchs, the United States and a number of Western countries, armed detachments of neo-fascists were created, which forced the citizens of Ukraine to submit to the will of the organisers of the coup by force and threats.
     Crimea, thanks to the unity of the goals and actions of the people and local authorities, held a referendum on its self-determination in March 2014 and returned to Russia, where it had been historically located until 1954.
     Resistance to the invaders came from the eastern and southern regions of Ukraine. But in most areas, protests have been suppressed by force of arms and repression of dissent.
    The local authorities of Donbas chose the way of opportunism, submitting to the Kiev junta. And only the people of the proletarian, multinational Donbas (the Donetsk and Lugansk regions) rebelled against nationalism and fascist methods of imposing the will of those who had seized power on the inhabitants of Ukraine.
     Guided by the Constitution of Ukraine, which states that the source of power is the people who exercise their power, first of all, directly, using the UN principle of the right of peoples to self-determination, guided by the UN Charter and the practice of creating many states of the world, the rebellious people proclaimed the creation of the Donetsk and Lugansk People's Republics (DPR and LPR). At a national referendum, with a turnout of 75 per cent, by a majority of votes – 90 per cent – the people of Donbas approved of the creation of the DPR and LPR.
     The Kiev authorities have been trying, for more than seven years, to strangle the Donetsk and Lugansk People's Republics. Hopes for a peaceful solution to the issue within the framework of the Minsk process have practically melted away. Kiev does not want to peacefully resolve the contradictions between us, does not agree to conduct negotiations with the representatives of the DPR and LPR.
     The military situation is extremely tense. From the shelling of Ukrainian troops, people in the DPR and LPR, including children, die every day. The position of the communists of the DPR and the position of the Republic's leadership coincide in matters of war and peace. We have been calling on Ukraine for peaceful coexistence for seven years already. The lives of people on both sides of the confrontation should be the main value for any politician and government.
    We, the inhabitants of Donbas, defend our land, our cities and villages, our civilisational choice, our chosen path of life. And the Kiev junta is driving people to our land from all areas of its nationalist state – to die for the interests of Ukrainian big capital, for the geopolitical interests of the United States and some European satellites of America.
     Their goal is to destroy the people's republics, draw our brothers and sisters from the friendly Russian Federation into the internal Ukrainian conflict, weaken it and stop the barely outlined movement towards the unification of the peoples and states that previously made up Russia – the Soviet Union. Ukraine is counting on the help of the USA and other NATO countries. But drawing NATO countries into our internal conflict is drawing Europe, and indeed the entire Western world, into a war with us and Russia. We do not want this. We are against such a scenario.
     The people of Donbas made their choice to be with Russia in 2014. This is what our ancestors did back in 1654, when they were reunited with Russia into a single state. The inhabitants of the Ukrainian lands, together with the peoples of Russia, built and defended our united motherland for centuries. Our grandfathers and fathers built a great country – the USSR. Together they made the decisive contribution to the victory over fascism, liberated the peoples of the world from Hitler's bondage. Together they revived the country after the war devastation. They created a powerful industry, first-class science and education, sent the first man into space, created a reliable military shield to defend the country, built socialism and fought for peace on Earth.
     Yes, in the struggle against capitalism, the Soviet Union suffered a temporary defeat in 1991. For 30 years, we – the inhabitants of the Donetsk land – have experienced all the vices of the capitalist system, realized the futility of dragging behind Western civilisation. Like our ancestors, we decided to live in unity with Russia, Belarus and other peace-loving countries that respect our choice.
     Now we have to recreate and defend the civilisation called the "Russian world". And no pro-fascist Ukraine with its overseas masters will stop us on the path of uniting fraternal peoples together with Russia.
     Time will pass, and the people of Ukraine will realise that Donbas, fulfilling the behest of its ancestors “Together with Russia forever”, made the right choice this time too. They, the inhabitants of Ukraine, will go our way. So it was, and so it will be. For together we are strong. Only together with Russia and other fraternal peoples do we have a future.