Friday, December 21, 2007
by Daphne Liddle
FOR MOST of our readers Santa is the product of rampant capitalist propaganda and spin, invented to persuade workers, especially those with children, to spend more than they can afford on extravagant gifts and then spend most of the following year working harder than ever to pay off the debts.
Some may have noticed that this character is not quite the same as the old English Father Christmas. Santa definitely arrived from the United States at sometime in the middle of the last century, on his traditional sleigh pulled by reindeers and is entirely benevolent to children. He is based very loosely on Saint Nicholas, a Turkish saint who rescued orphan children.
Father Christmas is an altogether older, darker and more mysterious figure. He does not just bring gifts but also punishment for wrongdoers and he presides over a very chaotic time of year when the old certainties are, for 12 days, swept aside, for a festival of fun and anarchy.
Father Christmas was then also known as “The Lord of Misrule” or, in Scotland, “The Abbot of Unreason” and he brought a time when the lower classes defied the rules and regulations imposed by the upper classes and when masters had to wait on servants – and it was a time notorious for drunkenness and excess.
The Father Christmas figure is associated with ancient pagan nature religions that celebrated an annual cycle of crop growing and animal husbandry, where each year the cycle of light versus dark, summer versus winter, day versus night played out an endless dialectic that governed the working lives of the people.
Many of these religions had a god, like the Egyptian Osiris, who represented the corn they sowed. This god often took the form of a human god-king who achieved that office through a series of contests in physical and magic skills to marry the hereditary queen of the community.
He would be sacrificed annually or at regular intervals and buried. These gods always rose again from the dead as the corn rose after being buried in the fields – and a new god-king was chosen to replace the old.
The annual solstices were critical points, especially the winter solstice when the darkening and shortening of the days was suddenly reversed; when light had decisively won the battle over dark. It was a revolutionary point and a time of upheaval and chaos and rejoicing – when almost anything could happen.
Perhaps the oldest of the pagan gods that we know of associated with time of year is the ancient Greek god Chronos – often depicted as an old man with a white beard. To those who worshipped him he represented time itself. His followers recognised that time creates all things and eventually destroys all things – the dialectical principle of constant change. Chronos was said to eat his children. This can be interpreted as Victorian artists did, of a monstrous figure devouring real children, or it can be interpreted as an allegory that time eventually consumes everything.
The Roman god Saturn has been identified with the Greek Chronos and he presided over a 12-day festival in ancient Rome which included riotous feasting and drinking and, in households that observed the festival strictly, master waiting on slaves.
It was a time to remember the old agrarian village that had once been Rome, a time of primitive communism when “no man was master and no man slave” and “no one’s work was a burden” and when “no lines were drawn on the land” to mark out property boundaries.
Saturn was definitely a sun god and his triumph over darkness was a time of joy and freedom – and chaos. He was identified with Sol Invictus – the unconquered sun.
Saturnalia was a time of general relaxation, feasting, merry-making, and a cessation of formal rules. It included the making and giving of small presents (Saturnalia et Sigillaricia), including small dolls for children and candles for adults. During Saturnalia, business was postponed and even slaves feasted. There was drinking, gambling, and singing, and even public nudity. It was the “best of days,” according to the poet Catullus.
These nature gods, with their links to the annual agricultural cycle and their understanding of dialectics – and seasonal sacrifices – were later swept away; Zeus conquered his father Chronos as Jupiter did to Saturn. These gods, along with the Jewish Yahweh, declared themselves eternal, immortal and unchanging. They were the gods of people who owned property and upper class status and wanted to hang on to them for all time. These new gods hated uncertainty, chaos and anarchy.
Another Roman god strongly identified with Father Christmas was Mithras, who began in Persia as a god of the Zoroastrian religion. This was a dialectical nature religion – which is still practised today. It centres round an eternal flame, which of course is forever changing.
The Mithrasmas festival was celebrated on his birthday, 25th December (The Persian god Ishtar was also supposed to be born on 25th December). Mithras was popular among Roman soldiers. There are conflicting versions of his birth. Some say he sprang from a rock, others say from a tree. But another popular version says that Mithras was born of a virgin on December 25th in a cave, and his birth was attended by shepherds; he was considered a great travelling teacher and master and he had 12 companions or disciples.
Mithras’s followers were promised immortality; he performed miracles and as the “great bull of the Sun,” Mithras sacrificed himself for world peace.
He was supposedly buried in a tomb and after three days rose again and his resurrection was celebrated every year. Mithras was called “the Good Shepherd” and identified with both the lamb and the lion.
He was spoken of as the “Way, the Truth and the Light,” and the “Logos,” (word) “Redeemer,” “Saviour” and “Messiah”.
His worship moved from Asia Minor to Europe at a time when there were many wandering preachers who claimed to be “the Messiah” and to be able to perform miracles. It became strongest among Roman soldiers reaching a peak at around 200 to 250 AD. And it was a religion full of dark mysteries and initiation rites as practitioners rose through seven stages from outer to inner circles.
It does indicate that among the soldiers the attachment to dialectical nature religions remained strong in spite of Jupiter’s claims to eternal and unchanging immortality. They preferred a religion that gave hope of change in society and status.
Emperor Elagabalus (218–222AD) introduced the festival of Mithras, and it reached the height of its popularity under Aurelian, who promoted it as an empire-wide holiday.
But it was a religion that could not last – it was a strictly men-only religion and some argue that its elitist traditions deterred many. Sextus Julius Africanus popularised the idea that Christ was born on December 25th in his Chronographiai, reference book for Christians written in AD 221.
By the fourth century the Roman Emperor Constantine adopted Christianity as the main religion of the empire. He called a conference of Christian sects that was held at Nicaea where the final form of the New Testament was determined – with four gospels included and about a dozen other versions left out – many had been written long after the events they describe and their accuracy was disputed.
The Council of Nicaea was also a very political event; Constantine was a master of political spin who had broken with Rome’s traditional religions and philosophies but he did not want to endorse a religion that would challenge his authority on earth.
The celebration of Christmas as a Christian festival took off in Europe under the domination of the Frankish King Charlemagne. He fought many wars against pagan Teutonic tribes in what is now Germany and cut down their sacred tree groves.
But the sacred tree survived there in the form of the decorated Christmas tree, a tradition later brought to England by Queen Victoria’s husband, Prince Albert.
It also echoes the Anglo-Saxon winter solstice festival of “geol”, or Yule, with the well-known Yule log. Yule logs were lit to honour Thor, the god of thunder, with the belief that each spark from the fire represented a new pig or calf that would be born during the coming year. Feasting would continue until the log burned out, which could take as many as 12 days.
The prominence of Christmas Day increased gradually after Charlemagne was crowned on Christmas Day in 800. Around the 12th century, the remnants of the former Saturnalian traditions of the Romans were transferred to the 12 days of Christmas (26th December – 6th January).
Christmas during the Middle Ages was a public festival, incorporating ivy, holly, and other evergreens, as well as gift-giving.
Alas the midwinter festival we now “celebrate” every December has been well and truly taken over by the capitalist god Mammon.
But, as communists and subversives, we should encourage it to be remembered as a time when the social order can be turned on its head and slaves can become masters and enjoy themselves.
The meeting was organised by the British South Asian Solidarity Forum, which promotes education and discussion on the struggles of the working people of the South Asian subcontinent.
Gajurel’s talk was given against a background of growing instability in Nepal since the accession of an interim assembly and government, including the CPN(M), increasing mass pressure to declare a republic, and growing evidence of foreign interference. An account of his talk is given below:
“THERE IS NO socialist country providing support for revolutionary movements in the world today. There is an absence of a socialist camp in the world.
In Russia in 1917 a very strong working class existed (and in Europe as well) and the First World War exacerbated the crisis in Russia. Nepal lacks a strong working class and there is no war situation.
In the 1990s imperialism declared Marxism and communist revolutions over, and a relic of the 20th century, and claimed that only capitalism, not socialism could be sustained.
We are trying to have a revolution in the 21st Century. In Nepal we were fighting against a monarchy and a feudal system, but actually the monarchy has already been abolished.
Actually we are fighting US imperialism. The fight against the monarchy is almost finished. The king is no longer the head of state or the army and has no mass support, but he is backed by a reactionary class and by foreign reaction.
There is a need for solidarity with the ongoing revolution in Nepal and in the fight against imperialism. We aware of the weakness of the trade union and working class movement in the west, but we are seeking support from communists, Maoists, progressive and democratic forces, and liberal governments.”
Even if we achieve the Nepalese revolution, imperialism will not allow it to be sustained. In all respects your support is necessary.
During the people’s war of the last 10 or 11 years the army was effectively defeated and confined to its barracks, even though it was three times bigger than the People’s Liberation Army (PLA).
The people’s war had entered the stage of going over to the strategic offensive. It was at this point that negotiations began with the CPN(M) and other political parties for a settlement.
Eighty per cent of Nepal and most of the countryside was liberated and our own government set up, which collected taxes and provided security, and we were trying to capture Kathmandu.
We were at the gates of Kathmandu and 2,000 of the Nepal Army had been eliminated, and at that time negotiations began. The peace process began when the CPN(M) was in a victorious position. In Lenin’s words, “What you have won on the field of war will be legalised at the negotiating table.”
But the CPN(M) was not strong enough to seize power at the centre or mount a direct confrontation with the army. Success requires a general insurrection of the masses. Several efforts were made but they were not enough to win the war. Our strength was not enough.
During the war the enemies of the CPN(M) – the king and the Seven-Party Alliance (SPA) – united against the revolution and colluded with the king. The CPN(M) was declared a terrorist organisation and bounties were put on its leaders “alive or dead”.
Therefore it was necessary to divide this class. The CPN(M) adopted a strategy of dividing the opposing camp and unifying its own forces. We should thank King Gyanendra for arresting the leaders of the other parties and banning all parties and all political activities, driving them to the side of the Maoists.
The eight-point agreement between the CPN(M) and the SPA clearly mentions the organisation of a mass movement against the monarchy and for a republic.
The successful joint movement arose against the background of the people’s war and could not have been possible without it.
The Nepal Army could not use force against the mass movement because of the existence of the PLA.
After the surrender of the king the SPA made a secret deal with the king: they would call off the mass movement and the king would call on them to form a government. But the road map agreed with the CPN(M) called for an interim assembly and government to prepare an election for a new constituent assembly.
The US was opposed to this process as it contradicted the interests of US imperialism. When it was agreed that the CPN(M) would enter the interim parliament with 82 members, the US threatened to stop all assistance to Nepal.
When the CPN(M) entered the interim government the US threatened to ask its allies to impose economic sanctions on Nepal. But the United States’ policy met with total failure.”
Elections (to the constituent assembly) were scheduled for 15th June (2007), but all the parties attempted to use the elections to their advantage and against the continuation of revolutionary momentum and the CPN(M) achieving a majority.
So there was a conspiracy to sabotage the elections. The Election Commission decided it was unable to hold elections on that day due to inadequate laws and preparation, and the election was postponed, first for seven days and then for six months.
Meanwhile arms and money have flowed into the Terai* to promote ethnic violence.
The US prepared two ambushes against the CPN(M), using all the knowledge and experience of its successes and previous defeats of communist movements.
The first choice was for the CPN(M) to lose the elections, and if it didn’t accept this, they, and any mass movement supporting them, would be declared as “terrorists”.
The second strategy was that if the CPN(M) won the elections, the US had prepared contras – the Terais – and would claim that the elections were rigged by the CPN(M) and that these forces were fighting for “democracy”.
The CPN(M) saw these two traps ahead to be ambushed and killed, but the CPN(M) was also working out how to win the revolution.
An expanded CPN(M) central committee meeting was held in August representing 75 districts and the PLA leadership and a total of 2,174 delegates. The meeting unanimously adopted a declaration opting for a mass movement, and recognised serious mistakes on two issues.
The first was that a republic should be declared from the assembly – it should have been declared before the elections.
The second issue was the CPN(M)’s decision to demand elections based on proportional representation.
Thus the CPN(M) made a clear demand for a republic backed by a mass movement and decided to withdraw from the government and to refuse to participate in elections or to allow elections.
The Nepali Congress, the main party in the SPA, opposed these demands. After the mobilisation of a mass movement in the countryside the SPA retreated for two days for talks, then for five days.
Then the CPN(M) proposed a motion was declaring a republic. The CPN(M) said negotiations were no longer relevant and the motion should go to a vote.
The UML**, which was previously part of the government, was placed in a very difficult position. Supporting the motion would mean the motion would succeed, while opposing it would expose them as supporters of the king. The UML finally supported the motion along with the other left parties.
Thus the motion was approved by the interim assembly. But under the agreement with the SPA, the declaration of the republic could only be made by a newly elected government.
The CPN(M) is now demanding that the government put the proposal to declare a republic to parliament, but the Nepali Congress is in crisis and is unable to do so. If not, the CPN(M) would enjoy the most support in parliament, and the Nepali Congress would have to leave the government.
The CPN(M) is now demanding that the government itself puts the republic proposal to the assembly. But the Nepali Congress is in crisis and is unable to do this.
If they don’t it means the CPN(M) has majority support in the assembly, and the Nepali Congress should leave the government. The CPN(M) is now saying they will oust the Nepali Congress from the government via a mass movement, and a new government should be formed.
This would make the US very angry as it opposes any CPN(M) participation in the government. The CPN(M) knows that if it becomes the head of the government the US will not tolerate this. Thus the CPN(M) cannot fulfil the people’s aspirations, so it has asked the UML to take power.
Now the target is not the king; the target is now the Nepali Congress. Thus we are following the tactics of Mao: it is necessary to attack the enemy one by one, both in the military struggle and in the political struggle.
The monarchy is abolished, but feudalism and the feudal class still exist, and it is necessary to fight the parties representing the feudal class, which includes the Nepali Congress.
The UML consistently compromises with this feudal class. Both the Nepali Congress and the UML follow the US masters and the interests of imperialism and India. Now the CPN(M) is able to split the Nepali Congress and the UML through mass struggle, and now the two parties are fighting each other.
In the present situation the needs of the people cannot be implemented without a revolutionary constitution and government. Now the CPN(M) is building up a mass movement.
The definition of bourgeois democracy is the rule of the majority. US imperialism and Indian expansionism are opposed to this strategy and would not tolerate a revolutionary government. So the next stage will definitely be very difficult.
The US is not interested in Nepal’s resources or in economic control, but is afraid of the world-wide impact of the revolution in Nepal.
People are looking to the Nepali revolution, which supposedly cannot be successful without the support of a socialist camp, and cannot be successful in this world today because it would set a precedent for revolution for the oppressed, exploited and struggling people of the world.
There is also a growing Maoist movement in India and the Indian ruling class is very afraid of the success of the Nepali revolution and is ready to take any action.
So the situation is heading towards a climax. It is very difficult to predict what will happen in the next weeks or months. It is a life or death struggle we are working out in Nepal, and the situation is very serious, so at this point in time we think international support is very important.
We are preparing our people for the worst eventuality, including foreign intervention. But ultimately the masses will decide everything.
Previously Interpol issued arrest warrants in 120 countries against the CPN(M)’s leadership, and I was on the British visa blacklist. But now, as members of the Nepal government, the CPN(M) has been invited to Britain to attend a Department for International Development (DFID) conference on conflict management in south Asia.
Previously the Nepali government was supported by the US, Britain, India, and China, but now the situation has changed. Britain is now supporting the peace process. We think this is a divergence between British and US policy.
The CPN(M) has established relations with China, and the People’s Republic of China embassy in Kathmandu has issued a statement saying that China would not tolerate any interference in Nepal, including by India, after rigorous discussions between a representative of the CP China international department, Professor Wang, who met the CPN(M) leadership and visited the PLA’s camps.
In an interview Wang said that if the US or India attempted to intervene in various ways in Nepal, if a limit was exceeded, China would not tolerate this.
We are confident that we will eventually see the success of the revolution in Nepal, the first successful people’s revolution of the 21st century.
The CPN(M) will seek to develop relations with countries, for example in Latin America, who are resisting US imperialism, and wished to become a part of the anti-imperialist forces.
If it comes to power the CPN(M) will end the agreement for the its citizens to serve in the British Army. The CPN(M) would not allow any Nepali citizens to be used as mercenaries.
On the basis of national rights, the CPN(M) is in favour of establishing 11 regions in Nepal as part of a strong united Nepal in which the national minorities have been liberated.
Nepal is the richest country in the world in hydro-electric resources – “white gold” – and with the gifts of nature could develop tourism into a major industry. Nepal is rich in unique herbal and medicinal plants and is produces sufficient grain to export to India.
Nepal can also export workers to rich countries where the population is no longer growing. We believe that in a few years we can create a wealthy society.
Nepal was never a colony – it was never a British colony or under the rule of a foreign power.
It is not possible to copy revolutionary processes. There is a theory that developed countries should follow the example of the Russian revolution, while developing countries should follow the example of the Chinese revolution. But the CPN(M) believes that every revolutionary process must be unique.
Hinduism and casteism are very widespread in Nepal, but there are many different castes joining the revolution, and caste barriers are breaking down in the course of the struggle. Now inter-caste marriages are becoming accepted.
At present it is not appropriate to hold protests at the Nepali embassy, but if the parties don’t follow the agreements they have made and try to suppress the mass movement, then all forms of support would be needed along with pressure on the British government to take a favourable position.”
* The Terai region runs along the Indian border through the densely populated plains of southern Nepal.
** The UML (Communist Party of Nepal/United Marxist-Leninist, CPN/UML) is regarded as a “mainstream” communist party and is a member of the Seven-Party Alliance.
Friday, December 14, 2007
AS LONG AS the state machine has existed there have been ideas about how it came into being and why it was necessary. The predominant ideas have always reflected the views of the ruling class and have been an attempt to justify why they need to control the behaviour of other classes, using force and punishment. They have always tried to convince us they are doing it for our own good.
In the slave societies of Greece and Rome the views of Socrates and Plato predominated. They claimed that humans are definitely not equal, that someare born with superior qualities and abilities and it is in everyone’sinterests if they are put in charge of society and allowed to run it withoutinterference from the rest of us.
The democracy they advocated was based on a small elite of the population –freeborn men from native (patrician) families only. Their society required absolute obedience and loyalty from the slave working classes and offered in return to keep the slaves fed, housed and clothed in the same way as domestic working animals.
Feudal states in Europe were based on the Christian Catholic concept of a pyramid of power with the king at the top who ruled over different grades of lords – dukes above earls above barons above knights – and all above commoners. This was supposed to reflect the heavens – “as in heaven, so onearth” – with God at the top ruling over various grades of angels, seraphim,saints and so on.
This society again required obedience and loyalty; serfs were not allowed to leave their home village but were required to keep their own family houses and grow their own food, make their own clothes. In return the feudal lords guaranteed their right to access to the land to farm and gave them protection from thieves, bandits and invading armies.
Early bourgeois societies had a quite different idea about the state. Their Protestant views backed personal freedom and choice but held everyone responsible for their own fortune: the rich were rich because they had worked hard and saved; the poor were poor because they were lazy and stupid and did not deserve charity. They saw life as a battle of each person against the rest to make as much money as possible to buy their own security and comfort and that of their children. They saw the state as necessary as a sort of referee between these contending individuals, or the human race was likely to wipe itself out in wars of greed and acquisition.
The new philosophers put forward ideas of a model state based on reason. Hobbes saw the state as a rational power to the problem that while men depended on each other and had to live together, they were by nature selfish and greedy and the state was needed to suppress these natural tendencies andprevent war. He described life as “nasty, brutish and short”.
Later, just before the French revolution, the philosopher Rousseau also advocated a state based on reason and saw the state as a social contract between each man and society. Each individual agreed to abide by rational social laws in order to receive the benefits that came with living with other people.
Both Rousseau and Hobbes were rationalists but accepted private property as a natural law of society. On the other hand the model societies advocated by Thomas More (16th century) and Gerard Winstanley (17th century English revolution era) both advocated collective ownership of the means of production. They had a more optimistic view of human nature and believed that greed and selfishness grew out of insecurity and fear of poverty. They believed that in a society where all property was held in common, and everyone had the means to make a living, human nature would graduallychange. They were both religious, in different ways, rather than rationalist.
Our understanding of the state is that it is an apparatus that arises within a society divided into different classes. Such classes have an economic basis in that members of different classes have different relations to the means of production. In other words the ruling class has effective control through private property or some other mechanism over the way in which any member of that society can gain a living; that the natural raw materials of the earth cannot be worked on to produce the necessities of life without ruling class consent. In such a position of power the ruling class is able to expropriate for itself all the wealth produced by labour,only allowing the workers to have as much of that wealth as is necessary to keep them fit enough to keep working, producing wealth, and producing a next generation of workers.
Within such a society the interests of the workers and rulers cannot be identical. In the distribution of the products of labour the loss of oneclass is the gain of the other. Their interests are diametrically opposed and cannot be reconciled except by force exerted by one class upon the other. And it is for this purpose that the state machinery came into being.The state machinery includes the armed forces, civil administration, judiciary, courts, police and so on.
“The state is therefore, by no means a power imposed upon society from without; just as little is it ‘the reality of the moral idea’, ‘the imageand reality of reason’, as Hegel maintains. Rather it is a product of society at a particular stage of development; it is an admission that this society has involved itself in insoluble self-contradiction and is cleft into irreconcilable antagonisms, which it is powerless to exorcise.
“But in order that these antagonisms, classes with conflicting economicinterests, shall not consume themselves and society in fruitless struggle, a power apparently standing above society, has become necessary to moderate the conflict and keep it within the bounds of ‘order’; and this power,arisen out of society but placing itself above it and increasinglyalienating itself from it, is the state.” (From The origin of the family, private property and the state by Frederick Engels).
“The state is a product and a manifestation of the irreconcilability of class antagonisms. The state arises where, when and insofar as class antagonisms objectively cannot be reconciled. And, conversely, the existence of the state proves that the antagonisms are irreconcilable.” (From The State and Revolution by Lenin.)
Turning to the development of the state we now have in Britain and starting with the feudal state of the Middle Ages: it was an agrarian society and the chief means of production was the land. It was not held as private property but in fee or feu – hence the term feudal. In theory it all belonged to the Crown. The King delegated his great lords as dukes, viscounts, earls and so on to govern large estates on his behalf; they in turn delegated orsub-contracted to lesser lords – barons, knights and so on. Under them were the local squires and under them the commoners, villeins or serfs. There were different arrangements whereby serfs paid their dues to the lords above them. Some worked their own land (held in fee from the lord) and paid a portion of their crop to the lord. Others worked their own land on some days and also worked on the lords own fields – his demesne – on other days.
The feudal system already existed before the Norman Conquest in Anglo-Saxon society but in a bewildering variety of forms, with different duties and obligations including the remnants of slavery. The Norman regime standardised the relations between serfs and lords and among the different ranks of lords. Each lord owed taxes to the one above them. This could take the form of food produce, money or armed service. These lords were supposedto provide a certain number of trained and equipped fighters to keep orderi n their own patch and in time of war to be available to the lord above them, who in turn had to supply the king with armed men.
As the system developed sometimes this duty could be converted to a cash sum – a tax known as scutage – paid to the superior lord or king so he could hire mercenaries.
The local lords were supposed to dispense justice and keep the peace in their domain and provide welfare for the sick and elderly, widows and orphans. Many orphans and people with disabilities ended up being taken on as domestic servants in the manor house.
Alongside all of this was the church – almost a parallel state structureand supported by a 10 per cent tax – the tithe – on everyone’s income. The local priest would also have a glebe – a patch of land to grow food. In return the church was supposed to provide a variety of social services. For a significant donation the local lord could transfer his own duties to the sick and destitute to the local church or monastery. The church also provided what scant formal education there was to the sons of the rich and of course delivered religious services and teaching that informed the peasantry that humble obedience in this world would bring entrance to heaven in the next.
This began to break down when the Black Death plague hit Britain in the mid14th century. It wrought havoc throughout Europe, wiping out about one third of the population. This led to a labour shortage and local lords tempting the surviving peasants away from their home villages with wages, undermining the rules that tied the peasants to the village they were born in.
Then some lords, bereft of serfs to work the land, started keeping flocks of sheep to produce wool for sale. They thrived in Britain’s damp climate producing high quality wool that was saleable all around the then-knownworld.
Italian merchants were willing to pay so much for it that other lords were tempted to throw their peasants off their land and turn everything over to sheep and wool production. This was known as the enclosure movement and it happened on and off from 14th century. It still goes on today whenever publicly-owned land is transferred to private ownership through the privatisation of public utilities and facilities.
Thomas More, in his book Utopia, written mid 16th century, wrote, describing the contemporary situation in England: “Sheep … these placid creatures which used to require such little food, have now apparently developed a raging appetite, and turned into man-eaters. Fields, houses,towns, everything goes down their throats.
To put it more plainly, in those parts of the kingdom where the finest, and so the most expensive wool is produced, the nobles and gentlemen, not tomention several saintly abbots, have grown dissatisfied with the income that their predecessors got out of their estates.
“They’re no longer content to lead lazy, comfortable lives, which do no good to society – they must actively do it harm, by enclosing all the land they can for pasture, and leaving none for cultivation.”
The king decided to get in on the act by imposing a tax, known as the woolstaple, on wool exports, levied at ports which now bear the word staple or stable as part of their name (for example Barnstaple and Whitstable).
This pushed a lot of peasants off the land, forcing them to wander as beggars or seek work in the towns and creating a problem of disorder – and the beginnings of a working class that had no property rights and dependedentirely on wage labour for survival.
It coincided with the end of the Wars of the Roses and Henry VII curtailing the power of the great feudal lords. His son Henry VIII broke with the Catholic Church and confiscated its vast landed estates in England and parcelled this land out to his friends and supporters. The pattern of feudal land tenure began to break down in favour of private landownership, with a new breed of enterprising landowners eager to break old traditions in order to extract maximum profits from their land.
At the same time the New World had been discovered with vast wealth to be seized and looted. Fortune favoured the bold and the wealthy of Italy, Spainand later France and England were clubbing together to finance bold explorers – the beginnings of capitalist companies.
The Stuart King, Charles I, tried to put a brake on the slide from feudal property relations to private entrepreneurship and ended clashing with Parliament, which then represented mostly the growing class of private landowners and their mercantile adventurer allies. The English revolution or civil war was a triumph of the power of these private landowners, allied with the mercantile adventurers and the small but growing urban workingclasses over feudalism. Large scale industrial capitalism did not then existbut the revolution created the conditions for it to happen.
But the revolution also created the beginnings of class awareness among the workers and farm labourers who had been dragged into the war to support the parliamentarians. The Putney debates of the ordinary soldiers of theParliamentary Army threw up ideas and concepts way ahead of their time and created the movement of the Levellers.
This was alarming to the new private-property-owning ruling class and after the death of Cromwell, they back-tracked and Charles II was invited to take the throne in a new kind of state – a constitutional monarchy. Charles IIwas happy to go along with the growing economic boom that arose from trade in slaves and sugar and not to challenge the power of Parliament.
His successor James II was not so wise; he tried to reassert the old powerof the monarchy and was thrown out for it in the “Glorious Revolution” of 1668. Mary Stuart and her husband William of Orange were brought from Holland to replace James II under a compromise agreement between the monarchy and Parliament that is the basis of our modern state.
At that time the state structure was fairly simple. Power resided in the army and Parliament. The armed forces, the judiciary and the church were answerable to the monarch and the monarch was subservient to the will of Parliament. Parliament was entirely controlled by landowners, those who owned no land had no vote and the big landowners controlled the elections –which were anything but secret – in their boroughs.
The very wealthy aristocratic families, represented by the Whig party, benefited from inheritance laws that differed from those in the rest of Europe. On the death of the owner the estate went in its entirety to the eldest son; younger sons had to set out to make their own way in the army, the church and the law – the higher echelons of which were dominated – and the armed forces still are – by the big landowning families.
It meant that by careful marriages to wealthy heiresses, the landowners could within a few generations accumulate huge estates. Virtually all of them were also making fortunes in the slave and sugar trade.
This gave them the huge economic power to invest in the beginnings of the industrial revolution – the creation of canals, coalmines and iron foundriesand later in factories and railways.
Meanwhile their European counterparts had a different system where, on the death of a landowner the estate was divided between all the sons; they saw their estates grow smaller with each generation. As their incomes dwindled in real terms, honour forbade them to seek paid work so they gravitated tothe royal courts to become idle, hard-up parasites on their respective monarchs – until the French revolution.
The British Navy played a big role in making the industrial revolution possible – it can be looked on as the armed wing of British entrepreneurship in the same way that MI6 is now the armed wing of the Confederation of British Industry. The navy protected British ships while attacking those of other countries, securing British mercantile acquisition of raw material andmarkets around the world for British manufactured goods.
Its need for cannons helped to foster the expanding iron and steel smelting industry. Later it helped Lancashire’s cotton industry by using militarymight to wipe out India’s Calcutta-based cotton industry. They even cut the hands off India’s spinners and weavers.
The rise of British capitalism, funded by the great Whig landowners, produced enough wealth to keep them happy by and large and also the new class of bourgeois capitalists this process was spawning, so there was little strain on the coalition of landowners and bourgeoisie.
But there were a few areas of conflict. There was some antagonism between the big Whig landowners and the smaller landowners, the squirarchy, who did not have the resources to join in this bonanza – and the self-employed craftsmen and artisans such as weavers and spinners who found themselves put out of work with the rise of manufacturing industry. The squirarchy tended to support the Tory party – later the Conservatives – and generally opposed the rapid economic and social changes.
The Whigs were also bringing industrial innovations to agriculture, employing methods promoted by the chief minister "Turnip Townsend". Farm workers were now paid wage labourers – and very low paid at that. They lived in tied cottages and could be hired and fired at will and lose their homes as well as their jobs. The new farming methods called for wholesale enclosures – taking access to common land away from farm labourers and their little plots that they used to raise a bit of food and graze a few animals. The loss of this little bit of side income had a devastating effect on their diet and health.
They went from a wide and varied diet to living on just tea and potatoes. Those who indulged in illegal smuggling or poaching – on the land that had been stolen from them – stood more chance of survival than those who tried to scrape by on their less-than-subsistence diet.
Each enclosure required an Act of Parliament and as Parliament was entirely controlled by landowners it churned them out in a kind of mass production. This was early privatisation and direct theft of public property – but was made legal by the ruling class state. The idea that MPs should be impartial and not gain any personal advantage from the laws they passed had not dawned; they believed that only those who had a direct economic interest were qualified to know what it was all about.
And they claimed to be progressive rationalists who were rescuing the land from old fashioned, unproductive methods and using science to produce so much more wealth from the land. (The same argument is used today by giant transnational companies seizing land in the Third World). The workers who were in the way could bugger off to the towns and get jobs in the new factories.
The landowners and the new industrialists did clash over the Corn Laws. The process of industrialisation led to a large increase in the population, which in turn increased the demand for food – especially corn for bread – and corn prices rose in the late 18th century. The extra demand created by the Napoleonic Wars also increased prices. This led to a rise in rents that the big landowners charged to the tenant farmers. At the end of the war there was a sudden deflation of the economy and prices fell sharply. New methods of factory production led to an all round lowering of prices, especially in rural areas where self-employed spinners were being put out of business and whose income and spending power were reduced.
When corn prices fell many tenant farmers could not keep up with their rents; the landowners could not extract money that was not there. But corn prices in Britain were still above those in Europe and the landowners feared that imports would further reduce corn prices.
So the landowner-dominated Parliament, under the premiership of Tory leader Lord Liverpool, in 1815 introduced the Corn Laws, which forbade the import of foreign corn as long as the price of corn in England was below 80 shillings (£4) a quarter.
This was very unpopular with merchants and traders who wanted the freest possible trading conditions; it was not popular with the new growing working classes because it kept the price of bread high and it was not popular with the manufacturing industrialists because they had to pay their workers higher wages and this added to production costs.
So there grew up a popular movement to abolish the Corn Laws led by Whig politicians Cobden and Bright. It coincided with agitation among the new industrial bourgeoisie for them to have a voice in Parliament, along with the new ideas of equality, liberty and brotherhood that started with the French Revolution and were influencing liberal entrepreneurs throughout Europe.
Parliamentary democracy at the time was about as low as it can get. Constituencies had been mapped out centuries before and populations had shifted leaving some constituencies with about six people eligible to vote while huge new towns like Manchester and Birmingham had virtually no representation at all. Many constituencies were "rotten boroughs" – completely under the control of the local big landowner who could hand out a safe seat in Parliament to any of his friends.
In the late 1820s this threatened to unite the workers and manufacturers in agitation for electoral reform and the abolition of the Corn Laws. The big landowners reluctantly conceded – intimidated by the example of the French revolution and calls for similar revolution in Britain. This led to the 1832 Reform Act, which tidied away the rotten boroughs and broadened the electoral base to let in the better-off bourgeoisie – but the working class was still excluded. It was followed throughout the next century by other reform acts that gradually brought the right to vote to all adults over 18 by 1969. Thus total control of Parliament was wrested from the landowners.
The Corn Laws were eventually repealed in the 1840s by Tory/Conservative Prime Minister Sir Robert Peel – Britain’s first prime minister from a manufacturing-industrial family. He was strongly influenced by the devastating effects of the potato famine in Ireland and the need to bring down the price of bread for the starving. It was too late to prevent the deaths of millions of Irish people who starved while the English owners of Irish estates were still exporting food from Ireland to England to benefit from the high corn prices.
The bourgeois presence in Parliament began to grow but at the same times other parts of the state came into being, diminishing the relative importance of Parliament, and the bourgeoisie were in the forefront of creating and dominating these new parts of the state.
These included the growing civil service, which went from a handful of very rich young men being dished out sinecure jobs by the King to a small army of clerks and administrators to tackle the newly-introduced income tax, customs and excise and other state affairs.
The civilian police force was introduced by Sir Robert Peel – after trials in Dublin and London. This was seen as desperately needed in the new big towns and industrial conurbations to keep law and order at all times. It replaced a system of lone night-watchmen who had little power except to raise an alarm and the county militias – para-military forces under the control of local aristocratic landowners. Needless to say some of those landowners resented their power being usurped by a civilian police force.
The growth of new giant industrial towns brought public health problems: overcrowding, lack of access to clean water and sewage disposal problems – leading to epidemics of diseases like typhoid and cholera. The ruling classes recognised what was needed: piped clean water, sewerage systems and street lighting. But the bourgeois ideologues among them at first trusted to market forces to supply the obvious needs.
But while the great and powerful entrepreneurs had been willing to spend fortunes on creating canals, coalmines and factories that would bring them direct profit, no one was willing to spend the necessary sums to provide clean water, sewerage and lighting that would not bring a direct profit.
So the ruling classes gradually conceded that these things must be provided by the state from taxation – and at a local level. The old boroughs and parishes had to be incorporated to allow them to levy local taxes on residents (rates) to provide these essentials. An Enabling Act of 1835 allowed new towns the right to vote to become corporations. Once again there was resistance from local landed aristocracy that their powers as traditional lords of the manor were being eroded.
When campaigners, including Richard Cobden, for incorporation met for a debate in a large public hall in Manchester they were surprised at the end of the meeting they were presented with tickets for a "court leet" dinner from the local Lord Oswald Moseley (ancestor the 1930s fascist leader), who was reminding them that he was still in charge.
"Well what in the world does this mean?" asked Cobden. "Is it that in this great town of Manchester we are still living under the feudal system? Does his mandate down here for us to come into this dingy hole to elect a government for Manchester, and then go and get a ticket for soup at his expense? Why now I will put an end to this thing."
A Tory propaganda counter offensive said: "Working men beware! We must have no Middle-Class Government. No Whig Corporation – No New Police – No Turtle-fed Aldermen – No Cotton Lord-Mayors – No Civic Banquets – No Golden Mace – Collars and Orders – No Wine Cellars stored out of a New Borough Rate … The Whigs are not our Friends, their Reform tends to establish a Shopocracy to rule over and grind down the Poor."
In many areas the big landowners still had a predominant influence over local government – but now it was by tradition and not by automatic right; the power of the "Shopocracy" was growing.
One part of the state the landowners did keep for themselves was the army and they did this through structural changes to the army to keep the sons of the bourgeoisie out of leading position. Up to then anyone with enough money could by themselves a commission to be an officer in the army and it was mostly the younger sons of aristocrats and of local squires who did so. Officers would be expected to supply their own horses and uniforms.
They needed little in the way of military skills – just a natural ability to "lead men". The study of military skills was somewhat frowned upon as the study of killing. Only officers in the Royal Artillery needed some mathematics to work out where their canon balls were likely to land – if they did not want to hit their own side in battle, so the Royal Artillery Military Academy in Woolwich pre-dated Sandhurst.
In Europe there were many more military academies but these were largely a way of providing board and lodging for the sons of destitute aristocrats.
But as industrialists grew wealthier, some of them wanted to by commissions for their sons and from 1830 the percentage of officers from the landed gentry began to decline in favour of the middle classes.
This prompted the Cardwell reforms, which introduced the military college, which in theory was democratic. It stopped the sale of commissions and made it compulsory for all aspiring officers to attend the college – the main one being Sandhurst – to learn military skills and leadership. But effectively it kept the rising middle classes out because the criteria for acceptance in the college were less about skill and intelligence and more about "the right sort of attitude". This meant feudalistic paternalism towards the troops and any taint of commercialism or enterprise was frowned on. The Royal Navy underwent similar changes.
But the industrialists were compensated by the growing demands for guns, other weapons and uniforms for the professional army that ruled an empire around the globe – and secured markets and raw materials for the industrialists. By the end of the 19th century Frederick Engels wrote that where once it might have been possible to obtain socialism through Parliament that was now impossible because of the power and strength of the military industrial complex outside of Parliament.
As more and more working people won the vote, so its value as a means of changing society declined. Marx described Parliament as nothing more than "a talking shop".
Marx also foresaw, in his Grundrisse that there is still a fundamental conflict of interest between landowners and industrialists in that rents paid for workers’ housing, for factory land, for shops – indeed for access to land for any economic activity – all add to the costs of industrial products and so reduce profits. He predicted a day when the industrialists would want to nationalise all land to eliminate these costs. It has not happened in Britain – yet – because both parts of the landowner/capitalist coalition are still doing very nicely and because the landowners are still very strong within the state machine.
Lenin pointed to a clash between the British Parliament and the landowner-dominated army in 1914 over the Curragh Mutiny in Ireland. Prime Minister Lloyd George had just successfully steered a Home Rule Bill for Ireland through Parliament when the Ulster Loyalists in the north of Ireland rebelled under Sir Edward Carson. He led an Ulster Volunteer Force of 200,000 men in an armed rebellion to keep Ireland as part of Britain.
The Government in Westminster ordered the army stationed at the Curragh in Kildare to put down the rebellion but the officers – but they sympathised with Carson and mutinied; they refused to leave their barracks. Parliament had no power to compel them to obey and it was Parliament that was forced to back down. The result was the division of Ireland into the Free State in the south and the British-occupied Six Counties in the north – a source of conflict ever since.
Lenin was disgusted and wrote: "The Liberal government was completely overwhelmed by this rebellion of the landlords, who stood at the head of the army. The Liberals are accustomed to console themselves with constitutional illusions and phrases about law, and closed their eyes to the real relation of forces, to the class struggle."
Later in the 1920s Lloyd George tried to curb the power of the landowners when he introduced swingeing death duties on Britain’s huge landed estates. He hoped this would gradually reduce the size and power of these estates as they were handed from one generation to another. It worked up to a point – and the landed gentry howled about being persecuted. But many of them soon found ways around it by turning their vast estates into companies and making themselves technically employees of the companies.
In recent years they have regained everything they lost under Lloyd George and more under the European Union Common Agricultural Policy, which pays huge subsidies and grants to big landowners.
Currently the landowners prefer to remain in the background of the political arena but their wealth and power remain formidable. Many town centres are still owned by the old landed aristocrats who make fortunes from the rents of high street shops, offices and factories without lifting a finger.
There is no comprehensive land register in England and Wales, though there is in Scotland. This makes it difficult to asses the real power and wealth of the landowners. They are still in a mutually lucrative coalition with Britain’s bourgeoisie.
The main changes to Britain’s state machine are now coming from international bodies, like the European Union, Nato, the United Nations, the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund. These influences are dominated by the class of global industrialists and finance companies, who are happy to tolerate the anachronism of the feudal elements remaining in the British state so long as they are ready to trot out the British army to support global capitalism’s adventures in Iraq, Afghanistan and elsewhere.
Wednesday, December 12, 2007
The political process in Bolivia faces a critical moment.
The reactionary forces, the oligarchy, the US government and some European forces promote a large scale campaign aiming to reverse the progressive processes in this Latin American country.
The goal of all these forces is to block the changes promoted by the Constitutional Assembly for a democratic Constitution for the benefit of the popular demands.
The retrograde forces, defeated on October 2003 and during the elections in 2005 try again to reorganize their ranks, to stop any change and to undermine President Evo Morales.
In order to achieve their goals they use any means, including armed groups.
The consequent progressive forces of the country, the social movements and organizations, after great and heroical battles, alongside with the Moviemento al Socialismo [MAS] under the presidency of Evo Morales, were the winners with big majority in the elections.
Now these forces try to valorize this victory in order important demands of the working people to be adopted and further promoted.
We, the signatories of this appeal, sharply denounce the support provided by the US government as well as its direct involvement in the subversive actions in Bolivia.
We also denounce the scandalous tolerance showed by other imperialist states and international organizations towards such inadmissible actions.
There is an urgent task the reactionary forces to be unequivocally condemned, isolated and defeated both on national and international level.
We stand on the side of the people of Bolivia and fully support the great mobilizations against the plans for a coup d'etat.
We support the alliance between the people and the government of Bolivia against the machinations of the oligarchy.
We express our full solidarity to the Bolivian people, to the government of the President Evo Morales, to the Communist Party of Bolivia, to MAS-IRSP and to all other progressive and anti-imperialist forces and movements in their great battle in defense of the progressive gains, in the struggle for deeper changes.
We call on for the development by all means of a large solidarity movement with the anti-imperialist forces and the people of Bolivia.
Communist Party of Argentina
Democratic Progressive Tribune - Bahrain
Communist Party of Bangladesh
Communist Party of Belarus
Workers’ Party of Belgium
Communist Party of Bolivia
Communist Party of Brazil
Communist Party of Britain
New Communist Party of Britain
Party of the Bulgarian Communists
Communist Party of Canada
Communist Party of Chile
Communist Party of Bohemia & Moravia
Communist Party in Denmark
Communist Party of Egypt
Communist Party of Estonia
Communist Party of Finland
German Communist Party
Communist Party of Greece
Communist Party of India
Tudeh Party of Iran
Communist Party of Ireland
The Workers Party of Ireland
Communist Party of Israel
Party of the Italian Communists
Jordanian Communist Party
Socialist Party of Latvia
Lebanese Communist Party
Socialist Party of Lithuania
Communist Party of Luxembourg
Communist Party of Macedonia
Party of Communists, Mexico
Popular Socialist Party of Mexico
New Communist Party of Netherlands
Communist Party of Norway
Peruvian Communist Party
Philippine Communist Party (PKP-1930)
Communist Party of Poland
Portuguese Communist Party
Socialist Alliance Party, Romania
Communist Party of the Russian Federation
Communist Party of Peoples of Spain
Communist Party of Sri Lanka
Sudanese Communist Party
Communist Party of Sweden
Communist Party of Turkey (TKP)
Communist Party of Uruguay
Communist Party, USA
Communist Party of Venezuela
New Communist Party of Yugoslavia
Thursday, November 29, 2007
IT IS CLEAR that something fundamental is happening to the climate of our planet: glacial fields are melting at both the Arctic and Antarctic; there are unprecedented periods of drought in Australia, tornados of great intensity and huge floods in Louisiana and Mexico on a scale never witnessed before and the permafrost of Siberia is thawing out.
Not long ago people like George Bush and the former Australian Prime Minister, John Howard, denied there was any climate change at all. They have since had to abandon that point of view. A more sophisticated argument being put forward by some is that the climate change is a natural development. Climate changes like these have occurred before, like the one that caused the demise of the dinosaurs.
It follows there is nothing to be done to counter this natural process. Fortunately that defeatist view that justifies passivity and inaction fails to take into account the ability of human beings to influence and to some extent change their environment, while at the same time embracing and harmonising with the forces of nature.
Scientific analysis is that the prime reason or the climatic changes has been and still is the continuing build up of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere. Much of it comes from industry: power generation, motor cars, lorries and aircraft, which use fossil fuels. There was a comparatively small amount of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere before the industrial revolution but over the past 200 years there has been a massive build up of it and it has induced a process of global warming, which in turn promotes climate change.
If allowed to continue unabated the future will indeed be bleak and it is not an exaggeration to say that the survival of the human species itself could be problematic.
Having identified the problem and achieved broad acceptance, a top priority should be given to cutting the emissions of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere.
There is still much to do to actively achieve this. Britain’s record is not very good in that struggle to date. According to the Independent emissions have increased by three per cent over the past 10 years.
Former Prime Minister Blair spoke a lot about facing up to the dangers of global warming but it will take more than good speeches and changing a few electric light bulbs to resolve the problem.
In a way the shortage pf oil and the escalating price of fuel, together with the tax, insurance and maintenance are forcing increasing numbers to make their journey to work by train, even though train fares are exorbitant, for many it is still cheaper than going by car. We should be actively demanding the renationalisation of the railways to reduce fares as a basic part of creating an integrated transport system.
In regard to the harmful emissions from aircraft, it would not be too much of an inconvenience if all internal flights were stopped and with the development of rail links to major cities in Europe a number of international flights could be cancelled or replaced.
We should also add our voice to oppose the building of additional runways at Heathrow, Gatwick and so on. Of course to have a fully integrated transport system it would be necessary to nationalise the air travel industry, and while we are at it the road haulage concerns as well.
Of course under capitalism there is no chance of achieving an integrated transport system; yet this is basic for the effective tackling of climate change.
As a result of the climate changes it is clear that crises from flooding in some areas and drought in others and the encroachment of the sea over areas of land, it would be difficult to produce sufficient food to ensure an adequate supply. Therefore the temptation to divert land currently producing food crops in favour of crops for fuel production should be opposed.
It goes with out saying that the efforts to build up our defences against rising tides should combine with fresh efforts being made to desalinate water at an economic price for irrigation purposes and, if possible, for drinking water as well. On the nuclear issue, there should be more effort to explore the possibilities of using nuclear fusion, which eliminates the problem of radioactive waste.
The human species is facing a crisis different from and greater than it has ever faced before. Unfortunately big business will combine to put its thirst for profit above its concern for people’s wellbeing. People like George Bush fight for the vested interests of the likes of the oil industry. They stand in the way and in opposition to what is literally a struggle for survival. It is instructive to remember the rearguard action the tobacco companies put up in denying there was any link between smoking and bad health.
The fight for a healthy environment makes the struggle for socialism more important than ever before. Like the systems of slavery and feudalism that preceded it, capitalism is now standing in the way of the economic and cultural development of humanity.
This crisis cannot be resolved by market forces – nor by government at a local level. It must be addressed at central government and international levels.
I would welcome a debate from readers in the letters page of the New Worker.
Thursday, November 22, 2007
MOST of the energy we use today is provided by fossil fuels, coal, oil and natural gas, which have provided cheap and abundant power needed for the development of today’s industrial society. The choices that will be made in the very near future will have enormous consequences for the future.
At the time of the industrial revolution it was thought that those fuels were so plentiful they would last forever. It was not realised until the last century with its ever increasing need for power, that one day those resources would come to an end.
The first warning came in 1949 when M King Hubbert, a widely acclaimed geophysicist, startled the world with his assessment that the fossil fuel era would be very short-lived and that fossil fuels would not be able to meet world demand in the relatively near future.
In 1956 he predicted that US oil production would peak in 1970 and then decline. This prediction became known as Hubbert’s Peak.
But the world did not heed the warning, and since then world energy use has risen by almost 71 per cent. And while the developing nations now need their share of the dwindling resources, it is predicted that oil use will continue to grow exponentially as they become more industrialised.
With such an easily available cheap and profitable fuel there has been no incentive to research and develop alternative cleaner, renewable sources of mass energy and it is only now that some progress is being made in the use of alternative forms of renewable energy sources.
Currently, hydroelectric energy is the largest resource of renewable energy but progress is being made in tapping energy from solar, wind and water, to nuclear, biomass, geothermal and even new forms of fossil fuel.
As realisation sinks in that the end of the era of plentiful oil is approaching, the Bush administration has recently adopted a policy to produce a major amount of ethanol from corn as a substitute for fossil fuel to reduce the US reliance on imported oil.
An increasing use of biofuels seems like a good option for both governments and industry but far from reducing global emissions, increasing use of land to produce suitable crops is likely to accelerate climate change.
At the G8 meeting last June, President Bush stood out as the major obstacle to progress on climate. He forced the final communiqué to abandon any firm commitment to emission reduction.
In the US Bush’s new policy has already had some dire effects. It has driven the price of corn up sharply, more than doubling in the past 12 months and this has meant that the problem of hunger in the least developed countries of the world like sub-Saharan Africa and south Asia has increased.
Already it is clear that the sustainability of biofuel is very doubtful, with the continually increasing energy demands that will undoubtedly lead eventually to prime agricultural land being used to feed vehicles instead of people. Even in countries like Mexico and South Africa that have some level of economic development but where corn is a still a staple, a catastrophic rise of 400 per cent in the price of corn brought the people out on the streets their thousands in protest.
Brazil is one of the major producers of biofuel, using the waste from sugar production to make ethanol. About 30 per cent of the automotive fuel in Brazil now uses ethanol and the industry has recently announced that it intends to invest $9 billion to increase production.
It has been pointed out by environmental activists that this will require the clearing of a major area of the Amazon rain forest, which has already been massively reduced in size by the logging companies over the years.
The ethanol boom is raising commodity prices and large landowners have been burning more forest to clear land for ethanol production and obtain a higher profit than they can on cattle ranching.
And there is growing evidence that the rainforests play an important role in regulating the climate in the northern hemisphere.
In Africa a number of countries including Benin, Mali, Nigeria and Senegal, led by Ghana have been testing the production of biofuel from jatropha, a weed that animals won’t eat and farmers use as hedges for their fields.
It is a perennial weed that grows well in poor soil and arid conditions without fertilizer or irrigation, and its roots lying close to the surface stabilise the soil and this has made it useful for planting on earthen dams and dikes. Mali is an extremely poor, landlocked country and the government hopes to be able to power all the country’s 12,000 villages with affordable, renewable energy derived from jatropha. They have said that they will not be producing jatropha for export until the needs of their own people for energy have been met. It is an experiment that will need to be strictly controlled if they are to carry out this ambitious project.
In China they have made a breakthrough in the use of sustainable and renewable energy with revolutionary wind power technology. Last year they unveiled the world’s first magnetic levitation (maglev) generator which is expected to boost wind energy generating capacity by as much as 20 per cent over traditional wind turbines.
This would effectively cut the operational costs of wind farms by up to half, keeping the overall cost of wind power under 0.4 yuan ($ 5 cents). These new frictionless turbines are able to utilise winds with starting speeds as low as 1.5 metres per second, which is arousing interest in a dozen Chinese cities and more than 50 countries around the world.
A spokesman for the Guangzhou based Zhonke Hengyuan Energy Company said that the generator could be used on islands, in observatories, and television stations, and even provide roadside lighting by using the airflow from passing vehicles.
Beijing is going all out to achieve “Green Olympics”, Beijing Vice Mayor Liu Jingmin told a press conference “by not only improving the city’s ecology and environment, but also by adopting a ‘green’ environment-friendly approach to managing city affairs”. China is all set to spend US$200 billion over the next 15 years on environmental improvements.
President Bush, backed by the Exxon Mobil (trading as Esso in this country) is already prepared to continue the policy of preventing any meaningful action to bring down global emissions of greenhouse gases at the Bali Kyoto meeting.
Exxon is the largest oil company in the world with the biggest annual profits of any company last year of $36 billion.
This giant funds a variety of mainly extreme right-wing think tanks, which have lobbied against Kyoto from its inception.At a gathering of the 40 biggest corporations they all agreed that the only way forward for them is a market-based system of the buying and selling of carbon “credits” that will not reduce carbon emissions by one iota.
Join people all around the world to demand that world leaders take the urgent action we need to prevent the catastrophic destabilisation of global climate. The national demonstration in London will be one of many demonstrations on climate taking place around the world on 8th December.
Friday, November 16, 2007
Eighty communist and workers’ parties including the New Communist Party of Britain, from over 60 countries attended the 9th international communist conference in Minsk, the capital of former Soviet republic of Belarus, to discuss the relevance of the Russian revolution in the 21st century. NCP leader Andy Brooks and Richard Bos from the Central Committee took part in the three-day event, which was supported by the ruling parties of China, Cuba, Democratic Korea and Vietnam.
Leaders of the Communist Party of Belarus said the conference was of great significance because Belarus was where the first congress of the Russian Social Democratic Workers’ Party took place in March 1898. The congress established the Marxist party of the Russian proletariat, which played a decisive part in the success of the October Revolution. Now Minsk is the capital of Belarus, the only former Soviet republic which still has a progressive government committed to the welfare of the masses and the only former Soviet republic where the anniversary of the 1917 revolution is still a public holiday.
In the years that that followed the counter-revolution and break-up of the Soviet Union pro-imperialist revisionist and nationalist “reform” politicians formed a government committed to capitalist restoration that plunged the country into corruption, hyper-inflation and chaos. That was halted by the mass movement that defeated the reactionaries in the 1994 presidential elections and took Alexander Lukashenko, a Belarusian leader from Soviet days, to power.
Supported by the communists, the Lukashenko government has renovated the agricultural and manufacturing base which remains in public ownership. Belarus is now a “socially orientated market-economy” with free education and healthcare, virtually full employment, vibrant industries and collective farming that has made the country a major food exporter in Europe.
The conference began on 3rd November with the laying of flowers at Lenin’s monument and the monument to Victory in the Great Patriotic War against Nazi Germany followed by an official welcome from President Lukashenko. The communist forum reviewed the significance of the historic event in Russia in 1917, as well as current trends in social development, and exchanged points of view on the pressing issues internally and externally affecting one another’s countries. And on the last day the delegations visited four state-owned factories and farms to see the progress being made in Belarus with their own eyes.
On 5th November the international delegations departed by night-train to Moscow to take part in the celebrations organised by the Communist Party of the Russian Federation (CPRF). Life for working people in the Russian capital is far different to that of workers in Belarus. Though the Putin government has curbed the worst excesses of the worthless Yeltsin regime and it is safe to walk the streets of Moscow, at least in daylight, there are still plenty of beggars along streets full of shops packed with goods only the chosen few can afford.
Delegates visited the Lenin Mausoleum in Red Square and joined CPRF supporters for an October celebration in the columned hall of Moscow’s historic House of Unions. There it was clear that achievements of Lenin and Stalin had not been forgotten by the applause whenever their names were mentioned by speakers, including CPRF First Secretary Gennady Zyuganov and Soviet cosmonaut Svetlana Savitskaya, the second woman in space and now a CPRF MP in the Russian parliament, the State Duma.
Finally on 7th November they joined tens of thousands of Russian communists for a march through Moscow in sub-zero temperatures that ended in a rally addressed by Gennady Zyuganov and other leaders. Russia is in the throes of a national election that Vladimir Putin’s “United Russia” bloc is predicted to win. The CPRF, which has 45 members in the State Duma, is fighting to retain and expand its share of the seats.
This was the biggest communist demonstration in Moscow since 1993 and indeed the biggest of any kind in the Russian capital in recent years. The police put the numbers at over 40,000 but many participants thought it was much, much bigger.
As the rally ended with the Internationale, comrades from all over the world could see that the communist movement is alive and well in eastern Europe – defending the gains of the working people of Belarus and marching on the streets demanding change in the heart of Putin’s Russia.
Tuesday, November 13, 2007
On 7th November 2007 the Communist Party of the Russian Federation (CPRF) held a march and rally to mark the 90th anniversary of the Great October Russian Revolution. Over 40,000 people took part in the demonstration, the biggest communist rally seen in Moscow since 1993. Delegations from 80 communist parties including the NCP took part in the demonstration
Thursday, November 01, 2007
£5.00 plus 50p P&P, NCP Lit PO Box 73, London SW11 2PQ.
The second part of the report of the conference of communist and workers parties held in Lisbon in 2006. Part one is still available from the NCP at the same price.
by Ray Jones
YOU CAN ALWAYS finds things of interest in the Information Bulletin, there’s always something to learn.
Michael Perth from the Communist Party of Australia gives an insight in to Australia’s imperialist role. Not only its support of the United States’ imperialist adventures around the world but also Australia’s own role in the South Pacific.You might not know but the police commissioners in both the Soloman Islands and Fiji and many government administrators in these places are Australians. The Australian military and police are occupying Timor Leste, the world’s newest state, and Australia refuses to put them under UN control.
Badouin Deckers of the Workers’ Party of Belgium makes some good points about the relationship between China and the US. He claims that the Western powers and Japan hoped to gain control over China’s economy and to impose bourgeois parliamentarism — the 2002 report of the US Congress commission on economic relations says so explicitly.
But the 2005 report admitted the failure of the policy and says that in the long run the relationship will be negative for the US economy and security.
Deckers also quotes the independent research group Global Security saying that much of the US’s massive spending against “terrorism” is really aimed at China.
On Iraq Deckers also uses US sources against them. While the US has been busy blaming the resistance for the civilian deaths he points out that the Intelligence Agency of the US Defence Department has admitted in August 2006 that 70 per cent of the bomb attacks in July were against US-led forces and 20 per cent Iraqi puppet forces. The remaining 10 per cent against civilians have been denied by the Iraqi resistance.
There is much more good material in this Bulletin but there also does seem to be a worrying trend in a minority of contributions. The use of “Marxist” instead of “Marxist-Leninist” sometimes strikes a sour note for those of us who have come through the battle against revisionism in the old Communist Party of Great Britain.
We have learnt that the fight against revisionism does not end but must be a continuous process.
Wednesday, October 31, 2007
Our conviction is that putting political leaders on trial and banning their parties is the work of dictatorships, not democracies. The action of the Hungarian authorities violates all democratic norms.
We strongly condemn the political persecution directed by the judicial authorities against the HCWP, as a part of the anticommunist witch-hunt against communists in Europe and against all those who fight against mass privatisation of hospitals, schools, cutting down of social expenditures and other forms of neoliberal policy.
We consider this clear manoeuvre of the Hungarian authorities as a vengeful assault against the Hungarian Communists, and call on for international solidarity in defence of the legal and political rights of the HWCP.
We demand immediate stop of the judicial process against the leaders of the Hungarian communists.
We call upon Prime Minister Gyurcsany and the government of Hungary to step back from the abyss and keep its promises of political freedom, by cancelling all charges against the leadership of the HCWP.
Progressive Tribune Bahrein
Communist Party of Belarus
Communist Party of Brazil [PCdoB]
Workers’ Party of Belgium
Communist Party of Britain
Communist Party of Bolivia
Workers Communist Party of Bosnia and Herzegovina
New Communist Party of Britain
Communist Party of Canada
Communist Party of Cuba
Communist Party of Bohemia and Moravia, Czech Republic
Communist Party of Finland
French Communist Party
German Communist Party
Communist Party of Greece
Hungarian Communist Workers’ Party
Communist Party of India [Marxist]
Tudeh Party, Iran
Iraqi Communist Party
Communist Party of Ireland
Communist Party of Israel
Party of the Italian Communists, PdCI
Jordanian Communist Party
Socialist Party of Latvia
Socialist Party of Lithuania
Lebanese Communist Party
Communist Party of Luxembourg
Party of the Communists, Mexico
New Communist Party of the Netherlands
Communist Party of Norway
Communist Party of Sri Lanka
Peruan Communist Party
Communist Party of Poland
Portuguese Communist Party
PKP-1930, the Philippine Communist Party
Socialist Alliance Party, Romania
Communist Party of the Russian Federation
New Communist Party of Yugoslavia, Serbia
Communist Party of Slovakia
Party of the Communists of Cataluna, Spain
Communist Party of Peoples of Spain
Sudanese Communist Party
South African Communist Party
Communist Party of Sweden
Syrian Communist Party
Communist Party of Turkey
Party of Labour, Turkey [EMEP]
Tuesday, October 30, 2007
OUR lives and those of our parents and grandparents have all been touched by war. World wars, regional wars, the Cold War and threats of war have seared and scarred the century we are about to leave.
Most of our family albums have photos of at least two generations dressed in military uniform. Many families have those little brass boxes of campaign medals. Every city, town and village has a memorial to its war dead. In northern France and Belgium the lines of graves fill field after field with the headstones of slaughtered young men.
In every corner of the world the markers of war are tended — from the mass graves of the siege of Leningrad to the haunting memorials of Hiroshima, from the resisters’ tunnels in Vietnam to the graves of murdered children in Soweto.
Each of these conflicts seems to have its own separate cause and background. We are taught to regard these events as the result of evil or insane leaders, or of militarism, intolerance and bigotry.
These explanations merely serve to hide the claws of imperialism — the bestial system that lurks behind the violence of our time.
The beast of capitalism has found itself slowly being cornered in this century and, like any cornered beast, it lashes out savagely.
This is not, of course, the way the capitalist classes of the world explain things. Capitalism doesn’t want its countless victims to realise how vulnerable it is. On the contrary, it swaggers and struts around the world with its monstrous weapons and flaunts the fabulous riches that the capitalist minority possess.
On the face of it the beast is thriving — the multi-billionaire bankers, oil magnates, business tycoons, arms manufacturers and other industrialists are richer than ever before. And it is certainly true that the counter-revolution in the former Soviet Union and eastern Europe has given capitalism a breathing space and some fresh meat to chew on.
And yet capitalism has only been able to temporarily rid itself of some of the conditions that caused it to be characterised as being in a state of general crisis. It cannot return to the position it held when this century began.
Then, the system of capitalism held sway in all of the industrialised countries, and the most powerful of those countries dominated almost the entire world through colonial rule. Capitalism was constrained by its own contradictions, the rivalries between the leading powers and the liberation struggles of the peoples it ruled. But it was nonetheless dominant.
The general crisis of capitalism started with the First World War of 1914-18 and the Great October Socialist Revolution of 1917. The latter historic event was to free a sixth of the world’s surface from capitalist control.
Capitalism ceased to be a universal system; a progressive social system took root — socialism began to grow in the soil that had been cleansed by revolution.
This revolution was a catastrophic blow to the imperialist powers. And we can see why this was so when we consider these events in the light of Lenin’s definition of imperialism — the highest stage of capitalism.
Lenin wrote in 1916:'... we must give a definition of imperialism that will include the following five of it’s basic features:
1) the concentration of production and capital has developed to such a high stage that it has created monopolies which play a decisive role in economic life;
2) the merging of bank capital with industrial capital, and the creation, on the basis of this “finance capital”, of a financial oligarchy;
3) the export of capital as distinguished from the export of commodities acquires exceptional importance;
4) the formation of international monopolist capitalist associations which share the world among themselves, and
5) the territorial division of the whole world among the biggest capitalist powers is completed. Imperialism'is capitalism at that stage of development at which the dominance of monopolies and finance capital is established; in which the export of capital has acquired pronounced importance; in which the division of the world among the international trusts has begun, in which the division of all territories of the globe among the biggest capitalist powers has been completed.
Furthermore, the October Revolution demonstrated to the oppressed peoples of all countries that fundamental change was possible and that workers and peasants could seize state power and sweep the old capitalist order away.
From that moment on imperialism spared no effort, no expense nor hesitated to use any means in order to crush the new born socialist state and to denigrate everything that it did.
The imperialist powers initially tried to defeat Russia by direct military intervention. But the capitalist world, still wearied by the slaughter of the First World War, failed. The Russian Bolsheviks and people had a new spirit — for the first time they were fighting on their own account and not as mere pawns in an army of the class enemy.
Throughout the 1920s the new and developing socialist state advanced. Despite the enormous difficulties and suffering caused by the wars of intervention and the desperate last ditch battles waged by the remnants of the old order, the country moved forwards. Illiteracy in Russia was virtually eradicated, a programme of electrification was completed and great strides were made to build industry, housing and to develop universal systems for education and health care.
The 1920s and 30s were very different for the working class of the capitalist countries. This period was to become a byword for poverty and unemployment. The surviving troops from the First World War returned to homelands that were anything but “countries fit for heroes”.
There unemployment grew and wages and conditions were attacked. Capitalism had no answers and offered no respite. In Britain, as elsewhere, resistance was dealt with crudely and by 1926 the harsh and unjust treatment meted out to the miners became the catalyst for a general strike.
But general strikes, though they do directly hit the bosses and the ruling class, are not in themselves capable of bringing about fundamental change. Even if there had not been any class traitors, which sadly there were, the strike would not have resolved the crisis inflicted by capitalism. So the economic crisis went on after the strike and the working class continued to suffer.
The “Hungry Thirties” showed the total bankruptcy of capitalism for the majority of the people. The great depression gripped the capitalist world. Its brunt was borne by the working class everywhere.
While the rich elites swanned across the Atlantic on luxury ocean liners, lounged in the sunshine at Biarritz and Monte Carlo, the dole queues lengthened in the industrial heartlands. Hunger marches focused attention on the stricken towns of northern England. Unemployed workers, finding even their dole money under attack, had to organise and struggle in order to survive.
American workers also felt the full force of this capitalist-created slump — here in this land of much vaunted “freedom” and plenty, the soup kitchens sprang up and the bailiffs moved in.
In this period of profound crisis capitalism produced the vilest creature of its own making — the monster of fascism.
This view, in which the capitalist classes are let off the hook, is unwittingly helped by many dedicated anti-fascists who also subscribe to the idea that fascism has a life of its own — that it arises because racists and ultra-right elements are allowed space in which to grow.
While it is certainly true that racists and fascists should always be opposed, the temporary success of fascism in Spain, Portugal, Germany and Italy before and during the Second World War was a result of the deliberate intent of the ruling classes in those countries.
Bulgarian communist, Georgi Dimitrov, said in 1935: “...fascism in power is the open terrorist dictatorship of the most reactionary, most chauvinistic and most imperialist elements of finance capital...
“Fascism is not a power standing above class, nor a power of the petty bourgeoisie or the lumpen proletariat over finance capital. Fascism is the power of finance capital itself.
“It is the organisation of terrorist vengeance against the working class and the revolutionary section of the peasantry and intelligentsia.
“In foreign policy, fascism is jingoism in its most brutal form, fomentmg bestial hatred of other nations.”
The ruling classes which turned to fascist rule did so for a number of different reasons. But common to them all was the background of the severe economic crisis, the fear of Bolshevism — a perpetual dread among all the ruling elites — and the inability of the existing forms of government to deliver the extreme measures the capitalist classes deemed necessary.
In the case of Germany this extreme measure was the need to go to war in order to expand within Europe and to challenge rival imperialisms, especially British imperialism and its global empire of colonies.
The features most commonly associated with fascism — of anti-semitism, racism and the elevation of supremacist ideas — were not the cause of fascism’s rise to power. Rather they were weapons the fascist leaders, and eventually the fascist state, employed to conceal the hand of finance capital and to galvanise the reactionary elements of those societies.
Some in those states which did not choose to go down the fascist path at that time were infected by the climate of reactionary ideas. Britain’s blackshirts, led by Oswald Mosley, were an example of this.
Mosley, even if he had been more successful, was never going to become Britain’s Hitler because the British capitalist class did not need him to be that. But his activities and following brought much anguish to Britain’s Jewish communities, against whom the blackshirt thugs used physical violence, intimidation and harassment, and his movement peddled the most pernicious and reactionary ideas in all sections of British society.
It is to the credit of the Communist Party of Great Britain that it stood shoulder-to-shoulder with those threatened communities, exposed the propaganda of the fascists and fought the fascists both ideologically and, when necessary, on the streets. The victory of the Battle of Cable Street was a victory for working class solidarity and a defeat for reaction.
Communists and many other progressive people around the world recognised the enormous danger posed by fascism. It was going to become an instrument for war, repression and open terror both within and outside of national borders.
This perception of the wider threat of fascism rallied thousands of communists and socialists to take action in defence of the Spanish Republic when it was threatened by the forces of Franco. The International Brigaders fought and died in Spain — but they did so in the knowledge that this was the first major battle in the war against fascism — they were fighting for all of humanity.
The terrible suffering of the Spanish Civil War from 1936-39 showed too that the nature of warfare had changed. Since the ruling classes had appropriated to themselves the technological advances made since the First World War, they had at their disposal new weapons and new means of fighting.
For the first time there were heavy civilian casualties and the aerial bombing of cities. France was assisted by Germany and Italy — this help proved militarily decisive since it is almost certain that France could not have succeeded without it.
The first is the imperialist nature of this war when it began. It was launched by German finance capital which saw territorial expansion as necessary and which needed to break free of the constraints placed on Germany by the post First World War settlement.
Annexation, Blitzkrieg and invasions were to bring Nazi forces jackbooting across Europe from Poland in the east to France in the west. Britain, with its strong naval force and its fighter air force held Germany at bay until the allied forces were eventually able to go onto the offensive.
The second aspect is the impact of fascist ideas which led to the most barbarous and inhuman treatment of many people, especially Jews from Germany and the German-occupied countries. This persecution of Jews in Germany and Austria had begun before the war. Concentration and work camps were in use before the war too.
The concentration camps contained those the state deemed to be anti-social elements. This included some of the political opponents of the fascist regime, thousands of Romanies, homosexuals, vagrants, criminals, Jews and others.
Far worse was to come. The persecution of Jews and Romanies became a policy of slave labour and super exploitation, it became murder by brutality and starvation and ultimately it became mass slaughter in the gas chambers of the death camps.
This Holocaust took the lives of six million people — civilians murdered in the most horrific circumstances for being of a certain race or religion.
The third aspect was the war against the Soviet Union. This was more than an attack against a state, it was also a direct attack on socialism. The Nazis even used this fact to try and lure other capitalist leaderships to support its anti-communist crusade against the Soviet Union.
The Soviet Union under the leadership of Joseph Stalin had, years before, realised that it would face a renewed military attack from the forces of imperialism. The rise of fascism in western Europe showed where this attack would come from.
Stalin’s leadership had seen the urgent necessity for the Soviet Union to prepare itself — and this meant engaging in a determined national effort to build up its industrial capacity as quickly as it could.
The signing of the German-Soviet pact in August 1939 has always been portrayed by anti-communists as, at best, an act of appeasement and at worst as a gesture of endorsement for the Nazis. It was of course nothing of the sort — it was a necessary and justifiable measure to enable the Soviet Union to buy some time. Even as this pact was signed Stalin knew that Hitler’s forces would invade the Soviet Union and that war was coming.
When Hitler’s forces did invade in 1941 the most savage onslaught began — civilians were murdered out of hand, the countryside was raped and the most terrible crimes were committed. The Eastern front of the war was to become total war. By the end the Soviet Union had lost 20 million people.
The Soviet people fought as heroes whether as members of the Red Army, Navy or Air Force, as partisans fighting behind German lines or as civilians fighting and working to defend the cities and towns.
Under the leadership of Stalin, the people and forces of the Soviet Union tore the guts out of the Nazi war machine and turned the tide of the war. Stalingrad, Kiev, Leningrad, Moscow — all hero cities of the former Soviet Union — must go down in history as examples of the courage, determination and endurance that was to prove decisive in the defeat of Hitler fascism.
In Asia the Nazis had formed an alliance with the Japanese empire. Japanese militarism sought expansion in south east Asia and the Pacific and had already begun invading other countries in the region. Manchuria had been turned into a Japanese puppet state in 1932 and China had been resisting Japanese forces long before the war in Europe began.
But it was Japan’s attack on the United States naval base at Pearl Harbour which precipitated the Americans into the war.
Just as European fascism had been defined as the work of evil leaders, the militarism of Japan was explained away by the capitalist classes as a characteristic of the Japanese people — a phenomenon that just came to the surface. Reports of Japanese cruel treatment of prisoners of war and subjugated peoples were attributed to the cruel nature of the perpetrators.
In fact, like German fascism, Japanese militarism and expansionism was a creature of capitalism itself. Though it was not the same as European fascism, the impetus for Japan’s move to war was the need for Japanese capitalism to acquire new sources of raw materials, especially oil.
At the war’s end the world witnessed the use of the most terrifying and devastating weapon — the nuclear bombing by the United States of the Japanese cities of Hiroshima and Nagasaki in August 1945. At Hiroshima the bomb used (called “Little Boy” by the United States) was a uranium bomb and at Nagasaki the bomb used was a plutonium bomb (called “Fat Man”). The element of testing was quite clear.
Over 250,000 people were killed by these bombs. Many thousands more have since died from the effects of radiation and birth defects continue to this day.
Cold War and the nuclear threat
Even as the Second World War was being fought, and even though the Soviet Union was an ally of the United States, Britain and France, the ruling capitalist classes of the western alliance were preparing for a renewal of their offensive against the Soviet Union and socialism. The Hiroshima bomb was the warning shot.
Initially, some reactionary elements hoped the war in Europe could be continued and turned into a new war against the Soviet Union. This was unrealistic. Not only was the Soviet Union held in high esteem by working class people who recognised the struggle and sacrifice of their Soviet allies, but the peoples of Europe and the allied forces wanted peace.
The imperialists on the other hand began the anti-communist propaganda offensive as quickly as they could. The nuclear bombing of Japan was claimed to have a military objective in hastening the end of the war against Japan, was clearly intended as a threat to the Soviet Union.
Unlike the period following the First World War, the Second World War led to a period of boom in the advanced western economies. This was partly due to the enormous material destruction of this war — a war in which whole cities had been bombed to the ground and colossal damage done.
Reconstruction on a huge scale helped to relieve the pre-war crisis of overproduction which had been at the root of the terrible mass unemployment of that time.
Yet while the fifties and sixties were a period of economic boom in the United States and western Europe, the underlying general crisis of capitalism deepened. The cause of this intensification of the general crisis added new impetus to the Cold War.
The general crisis of capitalism deepened because the defeat of fascism and the victory of the Soviet Union enabled socialism to advance in the countries of eastern Europe. As a victorious ally, the Soviet Union shared in the postwar settlement thrashed out at Yalta and Potsdam.
The territory of the world taken out of the hands of imperialism was now even greater.
Furthermore, the socialist states were a progressive force in the world — at last the oppressed countries under the heel of colonialism had found a hand of friendship in their long struggles for freedom.
One by one the former European colonies in Africa and Asia won their independence. This process is almost completed — but sadly the north east of Ireland is still, despite the achievement of the Good Friday Agreement and the devolution process, under the aegis of the Crown — colonialism has not ended yet.
The capitalist world received a second shattering blow — China — the giant of Asia — crushed the barbarism of serfdom and the feudal order and defeated the Kuomintang nationalists. In 1949 the People’s Republic of China was declared by Mao Zedong, thus beginning the long march of the Chinese revolution, through difficult times, to the great developing economic power of today.
This takes us to mid-century. The Marxist dialectic clearly has been vindicated: While China appeared extremely backward, the process of counter-revolution and imperialist intervention ultimately ended the Soviet Union by the 1990s.
But China and other socialist countries carried the torch of socialism forward, and despite invasion and embargo, are clearly examples of how human progress could benefit all rather than the avaricious few. Out of every setback a renewed struggle for socialism makes its indelible mark.
THE second half of the 20th century was overshadowed by the Cold War — a war that had begun with the October Revolution of 1917 and which intensified in the second half of the century to become a sword of Damocles hanging over the entire world — the sword being nuclear armed and capable of destroying all of humanity.
The post Second World War phase of the Cold War got under way almost as soon as the war had ended. The Soviet Union, which had been hailed as a heroic ally in the war against fascism just a year or so before, was, by 1946, being held up as a new danger to the “free world”.
Winston Churchill’s notorious “Iron Curtain” speech, delivered to an audience at Westminster College in Fulton Missouri (1946) was an opening shot in this renewal of the Cold War. It is interesting to note that Churchill had to be careful to express his respect for the courage of the Soviet people and Marshal Stalin and give recognition to the wartime alliance — a reflection of the popular goodwill towards the Soviet people that existed then.
But these expressions of regard were drowned by the rest of the speech which sought to portray the Soviet Union and those parts of Europe within the Soviet zone as areas under totalitarian control. And, Churchill went on to assert that the Soviet Union had expansionist intentions. The speech concluded that this threat of expansion by a so-called “totalitarian” state had to be countered by an Anglo-American-led United Nations force that would defend “democracy” wherever necessary.
Churchill was really showing imperialism’s reaction to a further deepening of the general crisis of capitalism — which, despite the post-war economic boom, had intensified with the advance of socialism throughout eastern Europe.
The defeat of fascism and the victory of the Soviet forces on the eastern front had ended the opportunity to inflict military defeat on the Soviet Union, created the conditions for socialism to flourish in eastern Europe, and reduced still further the territory of the world open to imperialist control and exploitation.
Capitalism was not long in lashing out. Just three years after Churchill’s Fulton speech was delivered the imperialist powers formed the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation (Nato) — despite objections from the Soviet Union who said its formation was contrary to the United Nations Charter.
In a 1982 CND booklet, No No Nato, John Cox writes: “The formation of Nato was preceded by a year of intense diplomatic activity during which the impending Treaty was opposed vehemently by the Soviet Union, on the grounds that it was directed against the ‘socialist and democratic’ countries.
“The Soviet Union claimed that the Treaty was an exclusive grouping and therefore ‘contrary to the United Nations Charter’.
“The Nato response to this was to issue solemn assurances about its non-aggressive and defensive character. The Soviet Union then applied to join Nato and, by being rejected, proved that the alliance was indeed directed against it”.
Throughout the decades which followed, the imperialists poured out a steady stream of lying propaganda. Part of this propaganda attack was aimed at making Nato appear to be a purely defensive organisation which was merely responding to a variety of alleged Soviet threats. The lies were used to justify a costly and insanely dangerous nuclear arms race.
In truth, the Warsaw Treaty Organisation was not set up until 1955 — six years after the formation of Nato — and the nuclear arms race was, from the start, led by the United States and its Nato allies. The Soviet Union issued no threats and claimed no territory or sphere of influence beyond the terms of the agreement reached at Potsdam in 1945.
This intense period of the Cold War is often spoken of as if it were a long-running stand-of between east and west which fortunately for all of us didn’t degenerate into a “hot” war.
While it’s true that the peoples of the United States of America, Europe and the former Soviet Union did not experience nuclear war or bombing of their countries, the Cold War was neither “cold” and bloodless nor a “stand-off” for millions of people in the developing world.
For example, the United States’ war of aggression against Korea in the early 1950s, albeit cloaked behind the flag of the United Nations, and the later US war against Vietnam, were both terrible and bloody “hot” wars that were part and parcel of the Cold War.
The reason this was so is because the Cold War was not a struggle between east and west nor a national struggle between the US and USSR. It was in fact a global battle launched by the imperialist powers against the ideas and practice of socialism everywhere, though of course, the strongest — the Soviet Union and China — were especially targeted.
Indeed the capitalists’ great fear that socialism and socialist ideas would prosper was expressed by Churchill at Fulton. He said: “However, in a great number of countries, far from the Russian frontiers and throughout the world, communist fifth columns are established ... Except in the British Commonwealth and in the United States where communism is in its infancy, the communist parties or fifth columns constitute a growing challenge and peril to Christian civilisation”.
And so it was that any peoples which turned to the Soviet Union or China for friendship and alliance, that struggled against the oppression of capitalism, that began to follow communist leaderships or even progressive nationalist leaders, were implacably opposed by the imperialist camp.
Rabid anti-communism — the essence of the Cold War — fuelled the West’s response to the post-war struggles of people throughout the world. For instance, this feature was present in Britain’s war against the people of Malaya. It was present in the United States’ war to crush the Huk rebellion in the Philippines. In these anti-colonial struggles communists were at the forefront of the resistance movements.
Imperialism also waged the Cold War in its own heartlands where it sought to deal, often very crudely, with communist parties and other progressive movements. The most blatant of these Cold War attacks on the organised working class within the leading capitalist countries was the persecution of communists in the United Slates unleashed by the chief witch hunter, Senator Joseph McCarthy.
But the West’s worst efforts could not stop the struggle of the oppressed nor douse the flame of socialism that had been well and truly lit in the world.
The people of Korea, along with many troops from China, courageously defended their country against the US-led forces which had launched a bloody war against it in the summer of 1950. (The United States asserted that this war had been started by an invasion of south Korea by the north. This was a lie — but it is a lie that is still repeated by the western media).
Unfortunately Korea remains divided by a vast concrete wall, put up at the behest of the United States, and south Korea continues to have thousands of US troops and weapons (including nuclear weapons) stationed on its soil.
But in the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea the total devastation of that war has been overcome by the great efforts of the people under the leadership of the Workers Party of Korea. Modern cities, highways, great dams, energy plants and other sites of industry have grown up where once there was nothing but rubble. Above all the DPRK continues to advance on the socialist path.
After the Second World War the struggle of peoples around the world to break free from the bonds of colonial rule gathered pace.
In the decade after the war the long-fought struggle against British imperialism succeeded in the sub- continent and the Republic of India was formed in 1949.
To some extent the anti-colonial developments were regarded in Washington as no bad thing — the break-up of the old European empires could be considered by the rulers of the New World as a chance for extending their own sphere of influence.
But, of course, none of the imperialist leaders, on either side of the Atlantic, wanted newly independent countries to become independent of western capitalism. They certainly didn’t want any to follow a socialist course nor did they want them to forge alliances with the socialist countries.
The West’s economic interests and its Cold War was a clear threat to the developing world and the anti-colonial movements.
Solidarity was needed. This became reality in April 1955 when a great conference was held in Bandung (Indonesia) attended by 29 countries from Africa and Asia.
The conference outlined its ideas of positive neutrality and active non-alignment.
Since the socialist countries had no reason or desire to exploit or economically control the newly founded states, the call for neutrality and non-alignment would in practice be a policy to prevent the developing world’s enforced isolation from the socialist world and to help protect the new states from neo-colonialism — the iron fist of imperialism inside a velvet glove.
From the Bandung conference the Non-Aligned Movement grew. It had its first summit conference in Belgrade in 1961 attended by representatives of 25 countries. Over the years it grew to almost 100 member countries.
The Non-Aligned Movement became a potent advocate of world peace. It opposed the use and threatened use of nuclear weapons and incurred the anger of the West by speaking out on these matters.
The existence of strong socialist countries, Bandung (later the Non-Aligned Movement) and anti-imperialist consciousness among the peoples of the former European colonies, enabled a number of progressive movements to advance and many gains to be won.
Among these was the Nasser’s Free Officer movement in Egypt which in July 1952 had forced the abdication of the pro-British stooge, King Farouk, and proclaimed an anti-colonial and anti-feudal policy.
In 1956 the progressive nationalist government of Gamal Abdel Nasser took British imperialism head on and declared the nationalisation of the Suez Canal. The British government of the day responded with traditional gunboat measures but, with no support from the US, it failed to overthrow Egypt’s right to own the Canal.
A year later the Nasser government announced the nationalisation of all foreign property.
In the same period, Kwame Nkrumah and the Convention People’s Party led a campaign of “positive action” which forced the British to agree to elections in the Gold Coast in 1951.
The CPP won a majority of the vote and Nkrumah became head of what the British termed the “responsible government”. From then until 1957 Nkrumah and the CPP waged a ceaseless struggle for independence — which was proclaimed on 6 March 1957.
Nkrumah was a Pan-Africanist and believed strongly that Africa had to stand together if it was to shake off colonialism and neo-colonialism and advance.
In 1958 he sponsored an All-African People’s Conference in Accra. It was attended by the major national liberation movements of the continent including Algeria’s FLN, and the Congo’s MNC led by Patrice Lumumba.
That conference was to develop into the formation of the Union of African Anti-imperialist Governments — a body which Egypt later joined.
The decade of the 1950s, while it was a time of frenzied Cold War activity instigated by the imperialist powers, was also a decade which witnessed the ending of direct colonial rule in many parts of the world.
The decade ended with another major blow to the forces of imperialism — a new victorious socialist revolution occurred — this time in the western hemisphere and just 90 miles away from the United States. The oppressive Batista dictatorship in Cuba was overthrown and a new order of socialism welcomed in.
The revolutionary leader, Fidel Castro, became Prime Minister in February 1959.
The Cuban Revolution was not just a political blow to the United States — it had a direct economic impact as the Revolutionary Government began to implement its policy of state ownership, including a programme of agrarian reform. Under Batista a good deal of Cuban property had been in the hands of American business interests. On 6 August 1960, the principal US companies were nationalised and a month later all banks with US capital operating in Cuba were taken under the control of the state.
By the end of that year all foreign banks were nationalised as well as the remaining US companies operating in Cuba. All large Cuban companies were also brought under state control.
At the beginning of 1961 the United States broke off diplomatic relations with Cuba.
As the Cuban people began to free themselves of the old order of capitalism and build a socialist society in the interests of the majority, so the imperialist powers, led by the United States, started its Cold War attack on the infant socialist state. This attack has continued unabated to the present day.
The Cold War crusade against Cuba has included military threats, incursions by US-backed forces, an economic blockade, a propaganda campaign which involved the setting up of anti-Cuban radio and TV stations based in the US, attempts to kill Fidel Castro, germ warfare attacks and the cynical use of Cuban exiles — regarded by Washington as potential counter-revolutionary agents.
But Cuba’s Revolution has always had the support of the majority of the Cuban people. The might of the United States has been successfully resisted and the socialist revolution strides forwards.
Cuba has won the respect and friendskip of millions throughout the world and a great movement of solidarity with the revolutionary island now exists in country after country around the world.
At the United Nations it is the US which is isolated — it is Cuba which has won support.
The struggle for peace
In the second half of the 20th century imperialism threatened the whole of humanity with its insane nuclear arms race and with the development of other new weapons of mass destruction The dangers were met with widespread resistance. Peace movements sprang up in every continent and the issue of world peace came to the forefront of the political stage.
Some, like Britain’s Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament, grew out of the campaigns in the late 1950s to oppose the above-ground testing of nuclear weapons. Others were focused directly against the surging imperialist war machine.
The peace movements swelled as the Cold War erupted once again into bloodshed with the US government’s war of aggression against Vietnam.
Vietnam This was an appalling crime against the people of Vietnam who had already endured a long war to free their country from French colonial rule. The people of Vietnam won that war when the French forces were defeated at the battle of Dien Bien Phu in May 1954.
But, as elsewhere, the departing colonial power and its allies were unwilling to see the implementation of full independence. The departing French forces retreated to south of the 17th parallel under the terms of the ceasefire and, egged-on by the United States, encouraged the setting up of the pro-French local government of Ngo Dinh Diem. The People’s Army of Vietnam remained to the north of the 17th parallel.
In the south of the country, the imperialist stooge government of the self-proclaimed Republic of Vietnam refused to hold elections.
A resistance movement sprang up in the south where the US was taking over the reigns from the departing French. This movement became the People’s National Liberation Army. By the end of 1960 a Front of National Liberation was formed.
The war became a struggle between the US occupiers and the patriotic resistance forces. By 1964 the US attacked the Democratic Republic of Vietnam in the north with bombing raids.
The US leadership’s hysterical determination to wage war on Vietnam was based on its fear that Vietnam, under the leadership of Ho Chi Minh, would become another socialist state and another obstacle to imperialism.
US politicians poured out a stream of propaganda which ludicrously claimed that if Vietnam was allowed to develop into a communist state, it would only be a matter of time before the rest of south east Asia, and even Australia, would topple into the communist camp like falling dorninoes.
In fact, the very opposite was the case — the imperialist powers were themselves concerned with stamping their hegemony on the region and feared the progressive forces in Vietnam would act as a brake on these designs.
The United States threw its full might against this small Asian country. It committed the most obscene crimes against the people including blanket bombing, the use of terrible weapons such as flesh-burning napalm, Agent Orange and defoliants. Many Vietnamese citizens and US veterans and their families are still suffering from the effects of these crimes against humanity.
The enormous suffering caused by this war was matched only by the great heroism of the Vietnamese people. Their’s was the victory and the forces of imperialism had to eventually swallow military defeat at the hands of a small developing country.
Imperialism not only lost to the progressive forces of Vietnam, it had to also face the mounting anger of a growing army of peace activists in every corner of the earth. The huge US losses fuelled the growing anti-war movement in the United States itself. The end of the war was received with relief in the US.
The legacy of that war still affects US foreign and military policy — it feels unable to commit to any engagement that could lead to large numbers of US fatalities.
Vietnam was reunited and in July 1976 the National Assembly declared the Socialist Republic of Vietnam and began the process of reconstruction.
Not a penny was paid to Vietnam in war reparations and the US imposed a blockade against the country.
The Cold War and revisionism
The imperialist powers not only carried out an intense anti-communist propaganda war but spent fortunes on intelligence operations designed to undermine socialist regimes and to assist counter-revolutionary elements within the socialist world.
These efforts included the setting up of propaganda stations such as TV Marti (targeted at Cuba), Radio Free Europe, The Voice of America and so on.
Just as the socialist countries gave solidarity, help and friendship to the national liberation struggles, the peace movements, anti-racist struggles and anti-imperialist campaigns around the world, so too the capitalist heartlands provided every help they could to the remnants of the old orders in the socialist world.
So it was that the Cold War went hand in hand with the spread and growth of revisionism within communist parties, including the Communist Party of the Soviet Union.
The tactic is to gradually and bit by bit erode and water-down Marxist-Leninist ideas until a point is reached when a communist party can be led away from its revolutionary path. At the end of the process there is liquidation of the party or its transformation into a social democratic or even liberal organisation.
One of the first examples of this was the adoption by the Communist Party of the USA of the ideas introduced by Earl Browder which became known as Browderism. Fortunately this was exposed and did not last.
A much more damaging and dangerous development was the body of ideas known as Euro-communism which grew throughout the 1970s and 80s. These ideas which often used the writings of the Italian communist Gramsci had a strong influence on the communist parties of Italy, Spain, France and Britain. And the problem was not confined to these parties or to just Europe.
What was not clear at the time was the fact that the disease of revisionism was already well established within the Soviet party and those of its allies in the Warsaw Pact.
In the Soviet Union the defeated remnants of the Czarist regime and the old bourgeoisie were waiting in the wings for things to change and actively assisting whatever negative elements they could find. There was always an element of danger within.
When comrade Stalin died in 1953 a dangerous blow befell the CPSU with the 20th Party Congress and Khrushchov’s supposed “secret” speech in which Stalin was denounced. Whatever its intentions, this opened a door to those who wanted to weaken Marxism-Leninism and undermine the fundamental principles of the revolutionary party. The speech also gave ammunition to the imperialist camp to enable it to intensify its own anti-communist propaganda. In this way revisionism and the Cold War joined hands.
The counter- revolution which took place in the Soviet Union at the end of the 1980s and beginning of the 90s was in fact a moment of qualitative change — a long period of revisionism, of quantitative changes, had already taken place.
As the revisionism advanced so the party degenerated along with the economy. By the time of the counter-revolution the CPSU included many in its ranks who sought only to serve themselves and worse, it included the class enemy and those hell bent on restoring capitalism.
The counter-revolution was undoubtedly a terrible setback for the people of the former Soviet Union and eastern Europe as well as being a setback for the working class everywhere.
Imperialism had gained a breathing space and was relieved of the restraining hand provided by a strong socialist superpower.
A quarter of the world is now socialist whereas there were no socialist countries at all in 1900.
Colonialism has almost completely ended — the struggle for Ireland’s freedom continues and will without doubt be won.
The obscenity of Apartheid was brought to an end in South Africa and universal suffrage achieved for that country’s people.
Even the counter-revolution in the former Soviet Union has taught us important lessons so that the mistakes of the past may not be repeated — principally the need for constant vigilance against revisionism of both left and right.
Capitalism no longer holds sway in every corner of the earth and, despite the current short-term economic upturn in the West, is in a state of deepening crisis — a crisis it cannot resolve.
Around the world communist parties exist and flourish — where revisionism did its worst new and healthy Marxist-Leninist forces are rebuilding a new future.
We have every reason to go into the next century with confidence and enthusiasm. Long live the Revolution!