Saturday, October 13, 2018

Throne of Blood


Jamal Khashoggi, a veteran Saudi journalist and human rights activist, went to the Saudi consulate in Istanbul last week to collect documents for his forthcoming marriage. He’s never been seen again. The Saudis say he left the consulate safe and sound. The Turks say he was not seen leaving the building.
The Turkish police believe the Saudis murdered him and the Al-Jazeera TV network claims a body, believed to be that of the Saudi dissident, was found dumped in an Istanbul street on Sunday. Some Turkish reports say that Khashoggi was not only murdered in the consulate but that his body was subsequently cut into pieces and flown out of the country in boxes.
The Turkish government is outraged and Saudi Arabia’s European allies, and this includes Britain, are clearly embarrassed amidst renewed calls to cut ties and stop arms sales to the House of Saud.
Jamal Khashoggi was an unlikely dissident. He had once been an insider close to the movers and shakers within the Saudi royal family including, the former intelligence chief, Prince Turki al-Faisal, and the billionaire speculator, Prince Alwaleed bin Talal. He interviewed Al Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden several times in Afghanistan and Sudan, and was editor-in-chief of Al Watan, Saudi Arabia’s main daily, until 2010.
But his criticism of Saudi meddling in Lebanon and of intervening in the Yemen conflict put him at odds with Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, the power behind the throne in Saudi Arabia. Khashoggi went to work for the Washington Post in the USA, where he continued to criticise the Saudis and their current master in the White House, Donald Trump.
Khashoggi denounced Trump’s speech at the United Nations General Assembly on 25th September in which the chief American war-lord said that the USA expected other countries, such as Saudi Arabia, “to pay their fair share” for US military support – a demand Trump repeated last week when he said that Saudi Arabia and its King would not last “two weeks” in power without American military support.
Although the House of Saud has been allied to US imperialism since the 1920s the Saudi kings, in the past, always paid lip-service to the Palestinian cause and Arab unity. All this pretence has been swept aside by the Crown Prince, who clearly believes that the Islamic Republic of Iran threatens the very foundations of their kingdom and that the House of Saud’s security depends entirely on Israel and the USA.
This, of course, is also the view of Donald Trump and Khashoggi’s recent remarks may have sealed his fate.
The British government has told Saudi Arabia that it expects urgent answers over the disappearance of Jamal Khashoggi, warning that “friendships depend on shared values”. But the May government, which usually has plenty to say about ‘human rights’ when it comes to Russia and Syria, won’t want to risk losing its juicy Saudi arms contracts by going beyond the usual platitudes over the missing Saudi journalist.
Labour, on the other hand, has condemned the May Government’s role in arming Saudi Arabia. In March Jeremy Corbyn accused Theresa May of “colluding in what the United Nations say is evidence of war crimes” in Yemen.
“A humanitarian disaster is now taking place in Yemen. Millions face starvation, 600,000 children have cholera because of the Saudi-led bombing campaign and the blockade,” the Labour leader said, comparing Germany’s decision to suspend arms sales to Saudi Arabia with a sharp increase in British arms sales. And Jeremy Corbyn recently pledged to go to the United Nations “tomorrow”, after Labour win the next election, to present a resolution to end the war in Yemen. The sooner the better.
Saudi Arabia is a corrupt, feudal kingdom that does the bidding of US imperialism. Its vast oil wealth is used to enrich the House of Saud and the parasites that revolve around them whilst the regime oppresses its own people and spreads bigotry throughout the Islamic world. We should have nothing to do with them.

Marxist views from India


Review

by Robin McGregor

Revolutionary Democracy Vol XXIII, No 2. April 2018.
£5.00 + £1.00 p&p from NCP Lit: PO Box 73, London SW11 2PQ.

The arrival of this twice yearly Indian journal is always to be welcomed; the latest issue is no exception. The well-established format of articles on recent and contemporary India, materials from parties of the International Conference of Marxist-Leninist Parties and Organisations (ICMLPO), and translations of Soviet archival material are continued, along with reports on the centenary celebrations of the October Revolution.
The Indian material includes a damning indictment of the BJP government’s latest budget which, despite its rhetoric, is condemned for only benefiting the very rich. These are explained in more detail by a long article by a KB Saxena that looks at recent reactionary developments on India’s concentrated landownership, rights of access to forests, labour laws, mineral rights, education and freedom of information. It also highlights recent changes to the law that forbid poor people without approved educational qualifications from standing in elections. A book review of Indian big business in Nehru’s time demonstrates that these are long-term trends worsened in recent decades.
A more specific example of the hardships faced by Indian workers is contained in an account of a strike this January by rickshaw workers in the Punjabi city of Jalandhar, where a company making compressed natural gas vehicles persuaded the local authority to start fining drivers of older diesel-powered rickshaws. The authorities have also issued massive numbers of licences for drivers in rural areas where there is no demand, resulting in them having to move to the city to survive. Drivers are also forced into debt when they acquire new rickshaws in instalments.
The specifically Indian material concludes with a book review on the life and work of BR Ambedkar who, in the 1930s, tried to combine Hinduism with Marxism. Two major women activists also feature in this issue, with a summary of the life and works of Clara Zetkin and an obituary of Winnie Madikizela-Mandela.
After commentaries from ICMLPO parties from Bolivia, France, Iran, Italy and Tunisia we turn to the Centenary of the Great October Socialist Revolution. There is a short article on the role of trade unions before Birkram Mohan defends the achievements of the Soviet Union from the 1920s to the 1950s from its Trotskyite, modern revisionist and bourgeois critics.
The seemingly dry title of an article on The 1917 Russian Revolution and its Impact on International Law reminds us of how important 1917 was for anti-colonialism, and compares Chinese and Soviet concepts of ‘peaceful co-existence’.
Connoisseurs of factional polemics will enjoy a detailed critique of a work entitled Dawn of the International Socialist Revolution by Stefan Engels of the Marxist-Leninist Party of Germany, which is criticised for its Kautskyite tendencies.
There is a detailed progress report on work towards a new edition of the works of Stalin presently being prepared in Russia. At present eight volumes, covering up to June 1918, of a projected 40 volumes have been published, along with the first part of a detailed index of obscure individuals referred to in Stalin’s writings. Identifying the pseudonyms used to confuse the Czarist police has been a demanding task.
The archival material in this issue includes an extensive critique of the 1964 Programme Document of the Communist Party of India (Marxist) by Parimal Dasgupta when the foundation of that party was being debated. We also have the second instalment of reports of the 1949 secret mission of Soviet deputy prime minister AI Mikoyan to China, which reveal the extent of Soviet military aid to the Chinese communists and discussions on the type of state that was to emerge in China. The issue concludes with a letter from Stalin to Italian Communist Party leader Togliatti in November 1947 about a meeting he had held with Pietro Nenni, leader of the left wing in the Italian Socialist Party that wanted to cooperate with communists.

Dr Who?


by New Worker TV correspondent

Good science fiction is not actually about the future but about the present. This is perhaps the reason for the success of Dr Who, which like much of the world was at its best in the 1960s and 1970s.
Dr Who has seen many great adventures that had a relevance to contemporary events. In the 1974 adventure, the Monster of Peladon, the good Doctor, played by John Pertwee, arrives on a planet engulfed in a miners’ strike. The 1973 series Carnival of Monsters raised contemporary fears of conspiracies within the state apparatus and also the issue of scapegoating of migrants.
The 1977 adventure, the Sun Makers, saw a workers’ revolt and ends with a representative of the old regime being thrown off a building; the building was actually a cigarette factory in Bristol. New Worker readers probably won’t have any problems with that – but the scene may have reflected reactionary fears at the time rather than a call to arms on the part of the masses.
One of the earliest Dr Who script writers was the former communist Malcom Hulke, who worked on a number of adventures including War Games, Dr Who and the Dinosaurs and The Sea Devils. The idea of soldiers being manipulated into fighting for the interests of a sinister elite group who do not have their interests at heart comes across in War Games, which consisted of 10 episodes.
In the 1980s Dr Who, along with the global situation in general, took a turn for the worse when it turned into some hybrid form of mysticism and situation comedy, and temporarily ended in 1996.
It was revived in the early 2000s, first by Christopher Ecclestone, who appeared to be the first working class Dr Who, and then by David Tennant. The revival was aided the inclusion of the working-class inner-city family based around Rose Tyler, played by Billie Piper (Secret Diary of a Call Girl, The Ruby and The Smoke, Penny Dreadful, Collateral).
The last but one incarnation, played by Peter Capaldi (The Vicar of Dibley, Judge John Deed, Foyle's War), was ruined by his assistant Clara Oswald played by Jenna Coleman (The Cry, Young Victoria, Waterloo Road, Emmerdale). Many had high hopes when Peter Capaldi took on the role but when Oswald behaved more like his carer than his assistant the series turned into nonsense, not really set anywhere – past present or future.
What of the 13th Doctor, played by Jodie Whittaker?  Firstly, I am not going into the rights and wrongs of a woman doctor, there are no wrongs of a woman playing the role.  Women have been doctors of both medicine and philosophy for a good few years, and perhaps it’s about time a woman played a time travelling one. But this is not a guarantee of success. This country has had two female Prime Ministers, both of them worthless.
Sunday night’s episode revolved around an alien villain using the Earth to gather human DNA who is thwarted by the Doctor and a number of human companions. One obvious plus is that none of them are Clara Oswald and the new Doctor is able to start from scratch with a group of new assistants. This is not a new concept. The first Doctor, William Hartnell, travelled the galaxy with his grand-daughter Susan Foreman and her two teachers.
Having a single assistant can take the focus away from the Doctor, enabling them to steal the show. With a group, the Doctor becomes the leader of a team rather than in effect solving problems alone or with only one helper, which is much less plausible. It can also enable sub-plots about the relationships between the assistants as stories develop.
Whether it will meet the original purpose of science fiction as a unique way of explaining the present is perhaps too early to say. Her assistants do appear like real characters; a teenage boy with dyspraxia, a young police officer and a middle-aged cancer survivor could be the basis for a number of good stories. Jodie Whittaker (Broadchurch, Trust Me, The Smoke) as the first female Doctor is plausible. Whilst it may be inappropriate to spend too much time discussing the different anatomy in someone who has been used to regenerating as a male for the last 900 years, she certainly has a hard role to fill.
But Whitaker is believable and like every other Doctor since 1963 will hopefully bring some of her own characterisation to the role. The success or failure of the series comes down to a number of factors; the actors, director and script writers. So far, my advice is “watch this space!”.