Thursday, December 18, 2008
THE MELTING of the Arctic ice is one of the clearest signals of global warming and scientists are now saying that there is nothing natural about the melting. They are confident that it is primarily due to pollution from the burning of fossil fuels.
Following the recent summers of record melting in the Arctic, the oil companies are eagerly awaiting permission to drill the first well in the National Wildlife Reserve while officials from the five Arctic nations hold urgent talks over the future of the Arctic.
The scramble for oil and other natural resources, which become more accessible as the ice is more rapidly thinning, intensified recently as Norway and Germany announced a new exploration partnership. And Russia has confirmed that its state-controlled oil companies would do business in the Arctic.
The stakes are high not only for the environment and the climate but also for world energy supplies.
For many years the oil companies have maintained that there are still large reserves left. BP’s Statistical Review of World Energy, published recently claims that there is still “enough ‘proven’ reserves to provide 40 years of consumption”.
Dr Colin Campbell, former chief geologist and vice-president of a list of major oil companies, including BP, Shell, Fina, Exxon and Chevron Texaco, admits that when he was the boss of an oil company he never told the truth: “It’s not part of the game,” he said.
But scientists are now warning that world oil supplies are set to run out even faster than expected and sooner than governments and oil companies are prepared to admit. Dr Campbell explains that the peak of regular oil – the cheap and easy to extract stuff – has already been passed in 2005.
There is still the more difficult to extract heavy oil, deep sea reserves, polar regions and liquid taken from gas, but the peak will come as early as 2011.
There are still natural gas fields in Alaska, Siberia and the Middle East that could provide fuel for about 20 years longer than the world’s oil reserves. But although it is cleaner than oil it is still a fossil fuel which emits CO2.
In recent years the considerable gap between demand and supply has narrowed and last year all but disappeared. If consumption begins to exceed supply by as little as 10 or even 15 per cent it could cripple the oi-dependent industrial countries. Yet BP still flatly denies this scenario.
None of them disagree that world oil demand is surging. The rapid development of India and China plus the West’s reliance on oil means that a lot more oil will have to come from somewhere.
The four countries with the biggest reported oil reserves are Saudi Arabia, Iran, Iraq and Kuwait but there are concerns about exactly how much they really have. In Kuwait last year a journalist found a document suggesting that the country’s real reserves were only half what was reported. Iran this year brought in oil rationing measures, the first major oil producing country to do so.
Over the past few years the biofuel industry has expanded enormously and the oil giants are leading the race to produce biofuel to replace the oil as it begins to run down.
Brazil, with an industry that only began in the 70s, has become the world’s second largest producer of biofuel crops and an agricultural superpower. The country was hard hit by the oil crisis and the then military government launched a subsidised drive to develop an alternative source of energy.
The authorities maintain that biofuel made from sugar cane, as opposed to corn, produces carbon monoxide emissions 90 per cent lower than petrol and that as sugar cane covers only five per cent of Brazil’s arable land and food prices are not affected.
Now the Brazilian government has announced a ten-year plan to slash rainforest destruction by 70 per cent, after new figures showed that the destruction was rising again after a period of slow down.
But environment minister Carlos Minc made it clear that this reduction depends on Brazil receiving enough funds from foreign governments to fight the loggers, pay for the protection of the world’s largest tropical rainforest and combat global warming.
Prominent scientists have recently predicted and computer models show that the North Pole could become ice-free as early as 2030, much sooner than the pace predicted by the United Nations’ Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change.
The big argument the five nations are having is not how to protect the Arctic environment but about which nation can claim which parts of the Arctic, particularly areas with potentially huge reserves of oil and gas, and the shipping routesLast year Russia planted a titanium flag at the North Pole, pointing out that the Unites States had not signed the international treaty governing land claims. By hosting the five-nation meeting, Denmark is trying to move on from these issues.
The Arctic National Wildlife Refuge lies between the Brooks Range Mountains and the shores of the Beaufort Sea and it contains the greatest diversity of animal life of any conservation area in the circumpolar region.
But even though the IPCC has found that drilling for oil and gas would cause severe damage to the fragile infrastructure of the tundra, the mega oil corporations continue to concoct schemes to open up the region for drilling.
President Bush, who became President with the backing of the oil giant Exxon, is a great supporter of opening up the Arctic for exploitation. And a recent poll showed that a big majority of the American people do not want their cars fuelled by gasoline from Middle East countries that “support terrorists”.
Environmentalists are also calling for cutbacks in ethanol subsidies, tougher environmental regulation and a new appreciation of scientific data that may bring them into conflict with some of the policies that Obama, who supported ethanol subsidies in the Senate, is likely to put forward.
At the European Union negotiations taking place in Brussels to tackle the climate crisis, they agreed to have10 per cent of vehicle fuel sourced with renewable fuels by 2020, in spite of warnings by scientists.
Reports from the United Nations and the World Bank have warned that many biofuels produce more greenhouse emissions than petroleum-based fuel and displace farmlands from their role of providing food.
Claude Turmes, the European Parliament’s chief negotiator on the issue, said: “The 10 per cent agrifuels target has been seriously undermined”.
The United Nations Commission on Climate Change in Poznan was held from 1st to 12th December and halfway through the agenda the leading countries were still stalling over the plan they had promised.
As President-elect Barack Obama does not take office until 20th January, whether he will “chill the drills” in Alaska will not be known until he gets round to debating the issue.
The environmental lobby will continue to keep him under intense pressure to not only save the fragile structure of the Arctic but save the rest of us from the rising tides that would be the result faster melting of the ice.
Tuesday, December 16, 2008
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Friday, December 05, 2008
by our European Affairs Correspondent
RUSSIA’S communists must be ready to take power. That was the message of Communist leader Gennady Zyuganov at the 13th Congress of the Communist Party of the Russian Federation (CPRF) in Moscow last weekend.
“The wind of history is blowing in our sails again ... At this time of crisis the world of imperialism is starting to die. We are standing on the threshold of political and social shifts,” Zyuganov said in a two-hour speech opening the Congress attended by delegates and observers from all over the Russian Federation, as well as 88 fraternal delegations from communist and progressive movements.
New Communist Party of Britain leader Andy Brooks and Richard Bos from the Central Committee represented the Party at the Congress and took part in a number of solidarity events held during the Congress.
The CPRF was established in 1993 when the ban on communists was lifted in Russia. It is now the biggest communist movement in the country with some 160,000 members and four million active supporters. It is the second biggest parliamentary party with 57 seats in the 450-strong Duma. Zyuganov won over 13 million votes in last March’s presidential election, which the communists say was rigged by Putin’s United Russia party.
Zyuganov, 64, has led the party from its foundation and he was re-elected on Sunday along with 105 members of the Central Committee, 75 of whom are under 40.
But the CPRF general secretary said the average age of the membership was a cause for concern. Most of the activists are well over 50. People under 30 barely make up five to seven per cent of the Party. “Given the average age of its members, the party will find it hard to be active in the event of a near inevitable deterioration of the situation in the country,” he warned.
The CPRF is the direct Russian successor of the old CPSU – but not that of the CPSU’s discredited politicians who led the Soviet Union to disaster in its final years. Zyuganov dismissed claims in the Russian media that his party was drifting towards social-democracy. “We categorically reject all these allegations. We believe that they are prompted either by incompetence or by wishful thinking. Social democracy is not our path,” he declared.
The CPRF harks back to the great victories of the Soviet Union under Lenin and Stalin. Though Zyuganov referred to the “abuses of power” and “tragic mistakes” during the political struggles of the 1930s he added: “We have no right to forget that it was in the 1930s that the powerful production and scientific base was laid which ensured the defeat of fascism and still forms the foundation of the country’s economy.”
Zyuganov condemned the corrupt Putin government whose only successes rested on windfall oil profits that were now evaporating and whose sole objective was to cling on to power at all costs. “The ruling class is an alliance of the oligarchy, the new bourgeoisie and the top bureaucrats, who between them own the bulk of the means of production and wield real power”, he said. The working class has shrunk numerically because of the policy of deindustrial-isation and the peasantry in the devastated Russian countryside fares even worse and it has become depoliticised and déclassé.
The communist party has drawn up a programme to restore the rights of working people and prevent the collapse of the Russian economy, including the renationalisation of mining, energy and other strategic sectors. But this, Zyuganov said, would be impossible to implement in the framework of the current system dominated by bureaucrats and oligarchs.
“At one time we believed that we could come to power by taking part in elections at various levels. Now, given massive election rigging and the severe pressure of the authorities on society, this is an unlikely scenario” he said while stressing that the CPRF would “use everything – parliamentary and non-parliamentary forms and methods of struggle – to weaken the ruling group and to expose its essence in the eyes of our compatriots”.
Friday, November 21, 2008
by Andy Brooks
W: Director Oliver Stone, 129 mins, 2008, general release.
IN YEARS to come perhaps George W Bush will be recalled as the man who lost the Iraq War or the Republican president who nationalised the banks. Whether he will be remembered as a half-wit manoeuvred into the war for oil by corporate America or the man with a chip on his shoulder because his old money domineering father thought his younger brother Jeb was better than him remains to be seen.
But that’s the central thrust of Oliver Stone’s epic film about “Dubya’s” eight years which was timed for the November US presidential elections but scripted well before the sub-prime crisis plunged the United States and the rest of the world into the biggest slump since 1929.
It’s a star-spangled cast with Josh Brolin as Dubya, James Cromwell as President Bush the father, Elizabeth Banks as Dubya’s wife, Ellen Burstyn as his mother, Richard Dreyfuss as the sinister vice-president Dick Cheney and a brilliant portrayal by Toby Jones of Carl Rove, Bush’s deputy chief of staff.
Stone says he wanted to understand and not to hurt George W Bush in this biopic but his depiction of an arrogant and immensely vain politician beset with drink problems and an inferiority complex is plainly simplistic and hardly flattering. This isn’t a drama-documentary but a tragedy of sub-Shakespearean proportions laced with satirical references to Bush’s rise to power which sadly may not be readily understood by a British audience.
There are some brilliant scenes in the film like Cheney’s frank call to invade Iraq to build a new American “empire” based on the total control of the world’s oil supplies. But the running metaphor of this film is Bush’s lust for glory on the baseball field, a game he never apparently excelled in, transferred to his quest for success in the political arena.
None of the major players are introduced and while the more obvious characters are instantly recognisable like that played by Thandie Newton, a ringer for Condoleezza Rice, others like “Rummy”, Bush’s defence secretary Donald Rumsfeld, or Carl Rove appear without any dramatic introduction or explanation of who and what they are.
This may not be a problem for the American audience the film is aimed at but it certainly will puzzle, confuse and disappoint the general cinema-going public this side of the Atlantic.
Thursday, November 06, 2008
THE SUCCESS of the blockade of Aldermaston Weapons Establishment on 27th October 2008 exceeded our wildest expectations. Sunday was spent in non-violent direct action training, where the emphasis was on no drugs, alcohol, no abuse of the police, no carrying of implements which could be construed as weapons, and show respect to everyone concerned.
Amongst the 350 who turned up, there were many young people from 18-25 and many others who had never been on any actions before.
Our task was to blockade the Construction Gate, through which much of the heavy material for building the new laser facility is transported.
A perfect strategy was developed and each gate was to be manned by those who were prepared to be arrested and those who would be legal support.
We spent the evening practicing training for the following morning, and discussing the reasons why we were there.
For me it was obvious, having two young children – Tad and Carwyn, both at school, who want a future, and who represent all the young people throughout the world who also want a future.
The financial crisis crippling the country, people losing their homes and their jobs; yet this Government was determined to spend over £50 billion to build a new generation of nuclear warheads to add to the obscene number we already have and violated Britain’s policy of non proliferation.
The warehouse in which we were stopping held 150 people, and by the end of the night sleeping bags filled every nook and cranny in every available room. Other facilities in Reading and Newbury housed yet more demonstrators.
Many people came early in the morning to join the blockade. At 4:15am the whole place awoke to the loudest alarm clock I’ve ever heard. By half-past-four, everyone was having breakfast.
Outside, the police were already searching the vehicles with their torches, taking masses of photographs.
On the 20 minute journey from Reading to the AWE, it was agreed that Marcus, Hutt Diane and myself would lock on. Six others would also be arrestable, locking their arms around the four of us.
The non arrestables would rush out with the banners to create a diversion, whilst we with our tubes already locked on would rush out and blockade the construction gate.
As we approached Aldermaston, the police were everywhere, reporting our progress. Mike, our driver from London, was brilliant; he slowed down just enough to allow people to rush out to create a diversion, while we followed a few seconds later and planted ourselves flat out on the floor before the police could stop us.
It was quite obvious that we had better preparation than the police. For the first hour, the adrenalin kept us warm, but the temperature was dropping rapidly, and by 10am, legs and feet were numb with cold.
We were cheered by the fact that all the other gates had been successfully blocked. The peace campaigners who could not be arrested were absolutely wonderful, pushing bananas and cereal bars into us, keeping our energy and spirits high. We sang a croaky We shall not be moved and Down by the riverside.
Some asked, “Where is Côr Cochion?” They thought when I arrived with my red beret the night before, that I had brought the Red Choir with me.
At 10:30am two large vehicles came from the base, and out poured an army of police in riot type gear. They immediately brought out heavy screens to isolate us from the rest of the protestors.
Two Reading policemen who had arrested me at Burfield a year ago came up to me and told me that they had checked up on their notes from last year – I lived at 172 Pandy Rd Bedwas, and this information would be passed on to the appropriate authorities.
This new bunch of energetic police, armed with equipment to cut away the arm locks, were extremely polite, with “yes please”, and “no thank you sir”.
One came up to me and said, “Mr Davies, I’m just going to put my fingers down the tube, sir, to see how you are hooked on”. He rammed his two fingers into the tube and twisted it around, giving me an excruciating jab of pain, and smiled and said he was sorry.
Suddenly there was pandemonium. The inspector called everyone away from the operation, and within 10 minutes the blue plastic barriers were removed and they all disappeared from the scene.
Shortly afterwards our gate support woman told us that 20 youngsters on Tadley gate had superglued themselves together and had all been arrested – a painful operation – and the gate cleared.
Most of the police moved away. This was immediately followed by people using tall tripods and stilts, who attached themselves to Tadley Gate, blocking the entrance and stopping the traffic which had only just started moving again.
Meanwhile at the construction gate, Diane felt ill, and had to disentangle herself from the lockon; but the three of us remaining were sufficient to block the entrance. All of us had gone through the pain barrier of our need to use the toilet, and our numb hands and feet.
We were told that the base was expected to be blocked until 12 o’clock, by which time most of the base would be cleared of protesters.
The police themselves expected to finish well before then; but by three minutes to 12 the police had barely cleared the tripod from Tadley gate, and we started the countdown to 12.
The police whistle went and they all left the gate. It was a total victory for the protesters, a wonderful achievement by Trident Ploughshares, CND, and all those who participated.
We had totally blocked the whole base for three hours, and no traffic had gone through; and we partially blocked it for a further two hours.
We beat the police tactically; they had obviously underestimated the number of protesters, and did not have the resources to deal with determined peace activists.
I shall look back with a great deal of pride on this day of action and wonderful memories of fantastic people, who more than make up for the Blairs and Bushes and Camerons of the world.
Friday, October 31, 2008
by Edwin Bentley
BURKINA Faso was different. Foreign dignitaries arriving in the capital, Ouagadougou, during the 1980s would be picked up at the airport in an old Renault 5 from the government’s transport pool. The minister of education of this West African country received the same wages as a schoolteacher, and Burkinabé diplomats attending United Nations meetings in Geneva would share a room in the cheapest bed and breakfast just across the border in France to save money.
No Mercedes, no shopping trips to Paris and London, no Swiss bank accounts. This was a country that had embraced its reality as an underdeveloped ex-colonial backwater, and in so doing had found the strength, unity, and dignity to look to the future with optimism.
From 1983 to 1987 the people of this West African country – previously known as Upper Volta – lived through a revolution which we can now see as a process of national liberation that shook off the shackles of neo-colonialism. The revolution was eventually crushed by its enemies, but as we commemorate the 25th anniversary of the Burkina Faso revolution we can celebrate its achievements and value it as a shining example for future African liberation.
Formal independence from France in 1960 had changed nothing for the vast majority of the seven million Burkinabé (as the people are called) who endured 98 per cent illiteracy in rural areas, a total absence of healthcare, feudal social structures, and rampant corruption by the tiny ruling class of some 30,000 government employees and landowners.
The Burkina Faso revolution was a mass movement, but it was lead, inspired, and represented by a young army officer, Captain Thomas Sankara. Sankara was born the son of a low-ranking colonial policeman on 21st December 1949 in the town of Yako. He always said how lucky he had been to receive a secondary education, something completely outside the dreams of the majority of his countrymen. Sankara joined the army and did much of his training overseas, particularly in Madagascar. It was there that he became politicised, as a consequence of witnessing a wave of strikes and demonstrations in 1972. Military duties back home were interrupted by further training and studies in Morocco and France. These travels lead to Sankara’s first contact with revolutionary ideas. “Thanks to reading, but above all thanks to discussions with Marxists on the reality of our country, I came to Marxism.” Together with like-minded military personnel, he formed an organised communist group within the army.
A gifted orator, strikingly handsome and with boundless energy, Sankara was invited to join the progressive military government of Jean-Baptiste Ouedragou in January 1983, and served as prime minister, but this government was overthrown by yet another coup on May 17th. Sankara and his closest collaborators Henri Zongo and Jean Lingani were arrested for a while, and on their release they worked underground to organise opposition to the reactionary regime in power. Meanwhile another of Sankara’s closest supporters, Blaise Compaoré, held out against the régime at the Army base in the town of Po. Sankara, Lingani, and Zongo and a large number of supporters escaped to Po. It was from there that the revolution started. On 4th August 1983 Blaise Compaoré and 200 soldiers marched on Ouagadougou the capital, overthrew the government and formed the Conseil National de la Révolution (National Council of the Revolution, or CNR), with Thomas Sankara as president.
From the first day of the revolution, in his broadcast to the nation on the night of 4th August, Sankara invited the people to form local Comités de Défense de la Révolution (Committees for the Defence of the Revolution, or CDR). These CDR became the method for exercising direct democratic control over the organs of state and local administration. Members were elected by direct voting by everyone in the village or urban neighbourhood. Not only within the country, but also amongst Burkinabé overseas, the CDR were the everyday instruments of democratic power.
Sankara saw his main role as one of animating and encouraging the CDR under the slogan “Raise consciousness! Act! Produce!”, helping ordinary working people to understand that they could run their country; that power really did lie in their hands, and that everyone had a part to play. Of course, there were many mistakes caused by human error and petty squabbles, but the CDR meant that for the first time every Burkinabé had a say in public life. As Sankara said, “We must dare to invent the future.”
The legal system of the country had remained unchanged since colonial days, and represented the interests of the former ruling elite. The courts and the old laws were therefore replaced from January 1984 by the Tribuneaux Populaires de la Revolution (TPR, or People’s Revolutionary Courts), with the judges all appointed from among the working people. On 3rd January, Sankara told the first session of the TPR: “There is no need for the judges to know the old laws; they only need to let themselves be guided by their sense of popular justice.” He made it clear that the main purpose of the TPR was: “To bring to light and publicly expose all the hidden social and political sides to the crimes perpetrated against the people, and to help them understand the consequences of them in order to draw lessons of social morality and practical politics.” Perhaps surprisingly to many observers, the TPR turned out to be remarkably successful in combating all sorts of crime, by helping people understand that criminal behaviour and corruption had no place in a socialist society.
On the first anniversary of the revolution, the name of Upper Volta was changed to Burkina Faso, which in the local languages means “The Land of Upright People”. Speaking during a cultural visit to Harlem in New York later that year, Sankara explained that “Upper Volta” was a purely colonial name, and that adopting a new name for the country symbolised its re-birth. He was deeply aware that all of Africa had been divided indiscriminately by the European imperialists, and that virtually none of the African countries had rational boundaries. But Sankara knew that it was impossible to turn the clock back to some imaginary pre-colonial golden age, and concentrated on accepting present-day realities and starting again to build something new.
“Starting from scratch” was certainly the core slogan of the Burkinabé revolution. The CNR never once proposed grandiose prestige projects. It focussed on low-technology plans that would lead to the greatest possible improvement in the lives of people within a sometimes non-existent budget. The country simply did not have the resources to provide schools for every child at once, so a campaign was launched to ensure that everyone who knew how to read and write would teach a certain number of others. In just the first two years of the revolution, literacy was almost trebled from eight per cent to 22 per cent, and 35,000 adults were trained as literacy instructors.
In 1983, Burkina Faso had one doctor per 48,000 inhabitants and one of the highest mortality rates in the world. The CNR rapidly moved to make basic healthcare available to everyone, and for the first time established centres for maternity and baby care. Perhaps the greatest achievement was the vaccination programme. In just two weeks in 1985, for example, volunteer health workers vaccinated 2.5 million children against measles, meningitis, and yellow fever. And these were not just Burkinabé children; foreigners crossed the borders and were vaccinated too. After only two years, by 1985 infant mortality had fallen from 208 to 145 for every 1,000 live births. By early 1987 river blindness – onchocerciasis — had been completely eliminated from the country.
Innovative technology was sometimes amazing in its simplicity, such as the mass manufacture by hand of thousands of simple clay stoves to replace the open fires that most people had used for cooking. The northern parts of Burkina Faso are in the Sahel, the very arid region on the edge of the Sahara. Because of the need to provide wood for cooking, deforestation had taken place at an alarming rate. The clay stoves were introduced to reduce wood consumption. Direct measures to protect the environment included mass tree planting; over a 15-month period 10 million trees were planted, and in the villages and settled agricultural areas each family was encouraged to plant 100 trees a year and take care of them. In towns, anyone given the tenancy of municipal housing was evicted if they failed to look after the trees for which they were responsible. In the villages, local people were entrusted with the management of forestry resources.
Agriculture employed the vast majority of Burkinabé, but feudal patterns of tenancy prevailed. The landowners were able to demand unpaid labour and tribute payments from their tenants. The CNR abolished these feudal rights, nationalised and redistributed land, and encouraged co-operatives. A National Union of Peasants was established. Irrigation was an age-old problem and there were no funds to build concrete dams, so with all available hands taking part, villages built their own simple earth dams, with reservoirs for the dry season. Agricultural production increased. For the first time ever, public housing schemes were launched. Just simple two-roomed bungalows built with mud bricks and managed by the local CDR, but something previously unimaginable.
But it was perhaps in the field of the emancipation of women that Sankara’s ideas had most impact. Sankara was profoundly influenced by Engels’ writings on the origins of social structures, and he applied them to the realities of Burkina Faso, where women did most of the manual work without enjoying any rights. He taught that women suffered doubly in neo-colonial societies. Firstly, they experienced the same suffering as men, and secondly, they were subjected to additional suffering by men! “Exploited in the fields and at home, yet playing the role of a faceless, voiceless extra. The pivot, yet in chains. Female shadow of the male shadow.”
Sankara and the CNR – which itself included women members – ensured that women were fully involved in decision making and public administration. As he said: ”The genuine emancipation of women is one that entrusts responsibilities to women, that involves them in productive capacity and in the different fights the people face.” Women played a powerful role in the CDR, served as ministers and as provincial governors. Forced marriages, polygamy, and genital mutilation were forbidden and family planning promoted.
Revolutionary Burkina Faso had close ties with progressive governments throughout the world, but maintained membership of the non-aligned movement and was the client state of no one. Sankara visited the Soviet Union in October 1986, but the closest international ties were with Nicaragua and Cuba and, in Africa itself, Mozambique. Samora Machel was something of a hero for Sankara, and the two were personal friends. Machel’s assassination by South African agents in an aircraft explosion was a cause for great sadness.
Burkina Faso was a good friend of the Polisario Front that sought the independence of the former Spanish Sahara from Moroccan occupation, and supported the cause of Palestinian liberation. The generally progressive government of Gerry Rawlings in neighbouring Ghana was friendly towards the Revolution, and there were joint military manoeuvres, but most West African countries were at best cool and often hostile towards Burkina Faso. On Christmas day 1985 troops from the neighbouring country of Mali even briefly attacked Burkina Faso following a dispute over the frontier.
Relations with Europe and North America were very difficult, but the CNR had no expectation of a helping hand from countries that were only interested in the exploitation of Africa. Sankara openly rejected aid from the imperialist countries, pointing out that hand-outs from the rich simply created a culture of debt and dependency and destroyed emerging local economies.
Burkina Faso was capable of feeding itself, and it was up to the Burkinabé to get their own house in order. Technical and social help was another matter when it came from friendly countries like Cuba, but the CNR was always aware of the impossibility of receiving no-strings help from the imperialists. When a French politician told Sankara that West Africans should be grateful for all the help they received from France, the Burkinabé leader replied that the French should be grateful for all the Africans who spent their lives sweeping the streets of Paris and cleaning the Metro!
What went wrong, when the Burkinabé revolution had clearly been such a success? Sankara himself had admitted in his speech on the fourth anniversary of the Revolution that time was needed to establish proper political structures. The CDR had functioned well, but they were clearly not a political party and the level of political education was low.
Sankara wanted everyone to take the time to catch up; revolutionary enthusiasm had to be properly channelled into a Marxist-Leninist party. This level-headedness by Sankara was opposed by ultra-leftist elements who wanted to go full steam ahead in immediately overthrowing all remaining vestiges of pre-revolutionary Burkina Faso without thought to the consequences. Some commentators have classified these people as “Maoists”, whereas they exhibited all the characteristics of Trotskyites in condemning everyone and everything and demanding immediate solutions.
These ultra-leftists, as is so often the case, made common cause with feudal landowners and the old ruling families, and with government employees who wanted to get back to the days of graft and corruption. To this alliance can be added the neo-colonialist leaders of neighbouring countries, particularly Houphouet-Boigny of Ivory Coast, who feared the export of the Burkinabé revolution, and also the French government of Mitterrand. Inevitably, Burkina Faso’s growing links with Nicaragua and Cuba also made it a target of the United States.
Sankara undoubtedly contributed to his own demise by his openness and transparent honesty in everything he did. An austere but friendly soldier who was happy to lead a spartan lifestyle, he upset those who were not prepared to make personal sacrifices and this lead to vendettas against him. Sankara was sometimes naive and assumed that everyone shared his values. Earlier that year, for example, he had sought to re-appoint schoolteachers who had been dismissed for taking a counter-revolutionary stand. In good faith, he believed that the teachers had mended their ways, but his opponents in the CNR used this decision as another way of attacking him.
On 15th October 1987, Thomas Sankara and 12 others were gunned down by an aide of Blaise Compaoré, who had been one of the leading lights of the revolution. Compaoré immediately seized power, abolished the National Council of the Revolution (CNR) and dissolved the CDR. Resistance went on for a few days, but the Revolution was over. Compaoré has been in power ever since.
THE POLE de Renaissance Communiste en France (PRCF) held a highly successful conference in Paris last weekend with delegates from across France gathering in a spirit of militancy and optimism. The New Communist Party of Britain was represented by Theo Russell from the Central Committee, who joined other fraternal guests from Cuba, Greece, Algeria, Spain, the Czech Republic, Croatia, Denmark, Belgium and Pakistan for the second national conference of the French anti-revisionist communist movement.
The PRCF is still a party in process of formation with many potential members still inside the revisionist and openly right-wing Communist Party of France (PCF), and growing left-wing opposition within the PCF by factions demanding a return to class struggle.
Plans to drop the word “communist” at the PCF’s congress next month are expected to lead many more members leaving the party in the New Year, but its draft resolution has dropped its open attacks on the Soviet Union and former socialist states for the first time in decades, in an attempt to retain the waverers.
The PCF’s official membership has slumped from 800,000 to under 100,000, with most of those leaving “scattering” into isolation or non-communist activity.
The Communist Renaissance leadership declared the organisation of factory cells as the PRCF’s most urgent priority, noting that the PCF’s decision to close down its factory branches in the late 1980s created a space that was filled by Trotskyist unions.
Several delegates stressed that the PRCF alone cannot bring about revolution, and that change was only possible through mobilising the working class.
Delegates also condemned the reactionary role of the CGT union confederation – previously linked with the PCF – giving examples of manipulation, vote-rigging and even using lawyers to prevent strikes and telling workers “you have ignored our instructions and must pay the cost”.
Veteran anti-Nazi resistance leader Leon L’Andini told delegates that almost 20 years since the collapse of the Berlin Wall capitalism was in severe crisis, with the new situation presenting new dangers, such as attempts in Europe to criminalise communists and militants by re-writing history.
Georges Gasteau of PRCF’s national committee described the threat now posed by capitalism to all humanity as “capitalist exterminism”.
The PRCF opposes the EU in its entirety, including the Treaty of Rome itself, demands the return of troops from Afghanistan (a demand supported by the 70 per cent of French people), and France’s departure from Nato.
The conference adopted a position supportive of the People’s Republic of China and opposing counter-revolutionary interference, but also supporting workers and communists defending socialism and resisting corruption and the negative effects of capitalist production.
The conference was addressed by a representative of the NMPP workforce, a national newspaper distribution cooperative set up in 1947, which is under attack by French President Nicolas Sarkozy in an effort to break a symbol of past working class gains.
for a year
The workforce has fought for a year with the PRCF, the only political party in France to give its support. Sarkozy was accused of acting for allies in the media with close ties to the arms industry, and foreign interests such as the German Axel Springer group, hoping to move into the French market.
The PRCF’s second conference was a highly successful, militant and inspiring event and an opportunity for the PRCF and NCP to establish close ties which will undoubtedly grow stronger in the future.
Friday, October 17, 2008
WHEN PEOPLE hear I’m a communist they often say, “Oh, communism is a great idea but it will never work.” The implication is that capitalism may not be a good idea but at least it’s practical.
The reply that usually springs to mind is whether the starving in the slums of South America, India or Africa find it so practical — or for that matter the homeless on the streets of Brighton.
But after the recent financial events around the world surely we should be asking, does it really work at all!
The writing is on the wall for all those who have eyes to see. Banks have been going under or have been bailed out by governments with loans of billions of dollars. The British government has stepped in with £500 billion and the term semi nationalisation has been used, yet still it goes on. Will we see another crash like the one in 1929?
Or will it be even worse and capitalism descend into chaos?
When the final crisis will come is impossible to predict but it will come in spite of states intervening in ways that make capitalist purists’ eyes water! These methods smack too strongly of socialism for them — their god is still the Market.But capitalist governments know that they have no other choice. Its either that or be swept away in a flood of either revolution or barbarism.
This not socialism of course but merely the capitalist state propping up its system. That is the role of the state.
They will of course try to make working people pay for this problem through taxes and loss of services and we will have to resist that.
But this intervention may have progressive aspects in so far as it helps working people in this crisis (if it does); in so far as it begins to lay the foundation of a different economic system of state ownership and in so far as it suggests to the workers that perhaps private ownership is not as essential as we have been led to believe!
After all if capitalism is so efficient and so necessary why is it that when a major war or crisis breaks out every thing fundamental to the economy is nationalised?!
It would be vastly ironic if George W Bush went down in history as the president who laid the basis of socialism in the USA!
But why do capitalist crises happen?
To try to answer this it is necessary to look at the roots and nature of capitalism.
With the industrial revolution, capitalists found that they could employ people in factories producing goods to be sold on the market and at the end of the process they were left with huge amounts of money.
Where did this surplus, this profit, come from?
There are still economists today who find this a mysterious, mystical process but Karl Marx had an answer in the 19th century.
Value is added to the materials by the labour of the workers. The goods could be sold over and above all the costs of producing them because of the work, the labour power, expended on them.
Workers only spend part of their time producing enough goods to make, when sold, enough money for their own wages. The rest of the time they are in fact producing profit for the owners.
Because the owners, the capitalists, controls the process, the means of production, they are in the position of being able to cream off the profit produced by the workers for themselves.
They ensure that wages are less then the extra value put into the goods and they pocket the difference.
You often hear of manufacturers “adding value” to their goods by making them more complex. They are adding more labour time to the product which adds value and means they can put up the price.
A T-shirt with a design on is worth more, all other things being equal, than a plain one. What is different? The extra work gone into it (plus some extra costs but these tend to be small).
If the capitalist passed on this value where it is due, the workers, the capitalists would be no better off — so they try not to!
But there are limits to this exploitation of workers. The work force has to be able to maintain itself — they wouldn’t want workers dying of starvation on the job would they? That would be messy and inconvenient!
But beyond that there are limits set by the social conditions of the time: such as the demand for labour on the labour market — because workers’ labour becomes a commodity too.
But limits are also set by the strength of the workers themselves – because workers are not like pieces of cloth or sewing machines.
They are capable of understanding the situation and they are forced into collective defence of their living standards in unions and eventually for their broader rights in political parties.
And so you have the essential and continual conflict within capitalism between bosses and workers over the value added by labour power.
Surprisingly perhaps an increase in machinery and technology by itself actually decreases the profit of the capitalist because there is less labour power needed and less labour power means less value and less surplus value — that is profit.
To escape this problem the capitalist must increase the scale of the whole production process so the number of workers is increased.
Although each individual worker produces less profit there is over-all more profit produced, which helps in the short term. But then the next improvement in technology, spurred on by competition, sets the process in motion again and so on in a vicious circle.
Or the capitalists can try to decrease the workers’ share to maintain or increase their own. The profit must come from somewhere, if not from their workers at home then from workers overseas, where wages are lower.
Many British companies have shifted manufacturing abroad to areas of cheap labour — even services such as call centres have been moved.
Wars are fought to establish influence over areas of the world and enable capitalists, joined together in national states, to control resources. Iraq of course is a good example — although the US is having a lot more trouble getting the oil than it expected!
Wars also destroy commodities, weapons as well as everything else, and therefore help counteract over production — which is the bane of capitalism.
Capitalism struggles to produce more profit and in the process more goods are produced. Prices fall because less value is going into the goods and because of competition between the capitalists and the tendency to flood the market.
But wages also fall because there are fewer jobs on the labour market and competition for jobs increases. Also there is deskilling on a large scale and therefore lower wages. So the workers, the majority of the population, still cannot afford to buy the goods.
So the system goes into a nosedive, as in the 1930’s, until enough goods are destroyed in war or wasted or a new technology comes along and helps them squeeze more profit from the workers.
Millions die therefore, in war or famine, in the service of capitalism.
These problems are not brought into the system by militant workers or communists but are part of it. Part of the nature of capitalism.
It’s true that this time the crisis seems to have started in the US housing sector with mortgages being given to people who could never afford to repay them to — such an extent that the whole banking system started to go into melt down.
Banks stopped lending to each other because no one was sure who was in serious trouble and then the anarchy of the stock market came into play. And when banks cease to lend to each other this limits their ability to lend to others.
Capitalism needs the credit system to oil its wheels — but it can’t stop its abuses and out and out swindles that escalate as the crash approaches.
So businesses stagnate and eventually go under without credit. People are unemployed and cannot pay their debts or buy goods and so the whole thing snowballs.
But the US economy never really recovered from the stock market crash of 2002 when the so-called internet bubble burst.
Even the stimulus of $2 trillion in military spending over five years did not significantly increase employment and now the jobless numbers are rising swiftly in a low wage economy.
We can see the low wage economy being built in Britain with so many young people doomed to the fast food industry.
The system cannot go on forever. This may not be final apocalyptic crisis but if we do not do something about it, if we do not guide its death throws into a revolution that produces a collective, planned, rational society that is not based on exploitation, eventually the end result will be melt down and barbarism.
That is why we need a party that understands this and acts accordingly. We in the New Communist Party are trying to build that party.
This party must fight for the good of the working class as a whole — not just a section of it.
It must work to unite the class around demands that advance and benefit all workers because only a united working class can ultimately win against a capitalist class which, history has shown, will fight desperately to keep what it has.
And it must fight both for short term and long term aims. Both for immediate reforms such as:
• for better wages and conditions,
• better education,
• better health services,
• better housing,
• a better environment,
• against war,
• against authoritarianism and injustice and for more democracy (that is more say for the workers),
• against racism, sexism and homophobia, which can divide the workers.
And for revolutionary objectives at home and support for socialism in other countries such as north Korea, China, Cuba, and Vietnam.
Short term victories are possible. They are good in themselves and act as schools of struggle, but in the longer term a revolution, the overthrowing of capitalism, is necessary to right the wrongs in our society.
Tuesday, October 07, 2008
The scramble for the spoils of global warming has already begun with the oil giants bidding record prices for large areas of oil-bearing land and off-shore in Arctic ready for the bonanza. Canada and Russia with thousands of miles of Arctic coastline and already lining up to make sure of they get a share of the spoils
Earlier this year Royal Dutch Shell broke records with their bidding for a lease in the Chukchi Sea and the other mega-corporations are not far behind to grab a piece of the action.
Shell made bids exceeding $100 million for rights to drill a single 3-mile by 3-mile northwest Alaska for oil and gas drilling.
The Chukchi Sea is home roughly one-tenth of the world’s endangered polar bears as well as walruses and whales. Alaska’s North Slope is also home to a number of indigenous villagers who rely on the sea doe cultural and nutritional subsistence.
To make sure that the US gets all that it wants the coastguard cutter is on its way to map the floor of the Chukchi Gas as part of America’s continental shelf and their right to any oil that is found.
Fuelling the drive to the Arctic is the US Geological Survey which revealed that the area north of the Barents Sea may hold as much 90 billion barrels of oil and about 1669 trillion cubic feet of gas.
This is about 13 per cent of the world’s total reserves of oil and 30% of the total undiscovered total of gas.
America’s Arctic is on the front line of global warming. The Arctic regions are warming at a rate that is about twice as fast as the rest of the world, and climate change poses a danger to the fragile environment. For the first time in human history the North Pole can be circumnavigate.
Rising temperatures are already a threat to the remaining polar bear population which needs the ice to hunt for the seals it needs for food, the walrus, seal and penguin populations are all now in an extremely vulnerable position. .
In the Pacific there are hundreds of small islands with land that is a mere metre or two above sea level people and preparing plans to evacuate their homes before they are swept away by the rising tides. A move born of desperation.
President Remengesau of Palau, a small island in the Pacific warned: “Palau has lost at least one third of its coral reefs due to climate change related weather patterns. We also lost most of our agricultural production due to drought and extreme high
“These are not theoretical, scientific losses – they are the losses of our resources and our livelihoods…For island states, time is not running out, it has run out. And our path may very well be the window to your own future and the future of our planet.”
Friday, September 05, 2008
by Andy Brooks
OLIVER CROMWELL, the leader of the English Revolution, died on 3rd September 1658. Cromwell, the MP for Huntingdon, was the leading Parliamentary commander during the English Civil War which began in 1642 and ended in 1649 with the trial and execution of Charles Stuart and the abolition of the monarchy. The Republic of England, or Commonwealth as it was styled in English, was proclaimed soon after.
The fighting had taken a fearful toll in lives and property in England, Wales, Scotland and Ireland. The death toll including civilians came to around 870,000, some 11.6 per cent of the pre-Civil War population. Material damage was immense, particularly in Ireland. In 1653, Oliver Cromwell became head of state, the Lord Protector. Scotland had been brought under Commonwealth control. Royalist hopes of a counter-revolution were crushed with the defeat of their forces at the Battle of Worcester in 1651.
The democratic movement born from the New Model Army, the Levellers, was crushed by Cromwell’s supporters and the most militant regiments sent to Ireland – in a reconquest whose harshness is remembered to this day by the Irish people.
Attempts to set up farming co-operatives by the Diggers, another group born from the Army, were also suppressed.
The republic that Cromwell led included England, Wales, Scotland and Ireland as well as colonies in New England and the Caribbean. During its brief life the Commonwealth became a force in Europe. Culturally it inspired the great poetry of Milton and Marvell and other radical and pacifist religious movements like the Quakers.
Oliver Cromwell died on 3rd September 1658 and was succeeded by his son, Richard. The new Protector was neither a politician nor a soldier. Unable to reconcile republican generals with the demands of the rich merchants and landowners to curb the influence of the New Model Army, Richard Cromwell resigned the following year. The government collapsed and the monarchy was restored in 1660.
Oliver Cromwell’s death had been the occasion of genuine mourning. His funeral, modelled on that of the King of Spain, was the biggest London had ever witnessed. Two years later his body was dug up and ritually hanged in public at Tyburn. Those still alive who had signed Charles Stuart’s death warrant were hunted down and hanged, drawn and quartered. A few managed to flee abroad never to return but the “good old cause” they had fought for was dead and buried. It was clear that a great revolution had taken place. It is equally clear that it was incomplete.
OLIVER CROMWELL undeniably played a pivotal role in the English Revolution and today’s bourgeois historians tend to assess the republic that Cromwell led solely in terms of his military leadership and his Puritan personality. But if Cromwell had fallen in battle during the civil war another would have taken his place. We can only speculate on what would have then have happened but we can be sure that the fundamental direction of development would have remained the same.
The short-lived Republic of England was notable because it was the outcome of class struggle; primarily that of the rising bourgeois class against the feudal elements headed by the King. It only won because of the mass support of working people, the apprentices, artisans and small farmers who swelled the ranks of the New Model Army that crushed the Royalists.
The New Model Army was a revolutionary force in itself. Though led by Cromwell and other senior officers who the rank-and-file dubbed “Grandees”, the army was a hot-bed of radical thinking which produced the Leveller movement which campaigned for social reform, a free parliament and a wide electoral franchise.
All 17th century governments claimed divine authority. Charles Stuart and his bishops turned to scripture to justify the “divine right” of kings while Puritan preachers just as easily found chapter and verse in the Bible to justify the toppling of tyrants.
But the Commonwealth claimed its authority came from the “people” – unlike Venice which was a republic solely of rich merchants or the Netherlands which was based on feudal provinces and a near-hereditary head of state from the House of Orange. The Commonwealth drew up representative constitutions, which would have been remarkable had they been implemented and it showed a degree of tolerance, almost unknown in any other part of Europe, to all Protestant sects and Jews, though not to Anglicans or Catholics who were synonymous with Royalists as far as most Puritans were concerned.
But who were these “people”? They certainly weren’t those the Levellers championed who angered Cromwell as much as the Royalists
The Leveller case was put by Colonel Thomas Rainsborough who said: “For really I think that the poorest he that is in England hath a life to live, as the greatest he; and therefore truly, Sir, I think it’s clear, that every man that is to live under a government ought first by his own consent to put himself under that government; and I do think that the poorest man in England is not bound in a strict sense to that government that he hath not had a voice to put himself under.”
While Henry Ireton, a Grandee, who was also Cromwell’s son-in-law, replied that: “no man hath a right to an interest or share in the disposing of the affairs of the kingdom... that hath not a permanent fixed interest in this kingdom”.
Only in the Army did Cromwell accept promotion by merit alone – a radical concept for those days and one which is still not applied in the British armed forces today. But he regarded the Levellers’ egalitarianism as dangerous and absurd. Dangerous because it threatened private property. Absurd because if people who paid no taxes and without a stake in the country could vote, like poor tenants or servants, they would vote for their masters and this would lead to the restoration of the monarchy that so much blood had been spilt to end.
“What is the purport of the levelling principle but to make the tenant as liberal a fortune as the landlord. I was by birth a gentleman. You must cut these people to pieces or they will cut you to pieces,” Cromwell declared.
Nor were they the entire bourgeoisie. The merchants and landowners opposed the King’s autocracy in Parliament but were divided on what they wanted to put in its place. Some wanted to end the monarchy altogether from the start. Others, like Cromwell only came to this conclusion after Charles Stuart had shown by his deceit and readiness to plunge the country into further bloodshed that only his execution could end the conflict.
But many favoured what they called a “mixed” monarchy in which Parliament, drawn almost exclusively from the wealthy, would wield the power in conjunction with a monarch bereft of feudal privilege but retained to uphold the principle of inherited wealth.
This is what they hoped for when their “Convention Parliament” recalled the second Charles from his exile in 1660. This was what they achieved when that Parliament deposed his brother James in 1688 and put William of Orange on the throne in what they called the “Glorious Revolution”.
Today the bourgeoisie would like us to forget Cromwell and the republic he led even though the basis of their power begins with the English Revolution. But since 1649 all monarchs remember that they have a joint in their neck as the Marxist historian Christopher Hill put it. And we remember Cromwell and those epic days of the 17th century as the time when the power of a tyrant was smashed by the might of a people in arms.
Wednesday, August 27, 2008
ANN ROGERS: Why was the NCP formed in 1977 -- what were the circumstances that led to its formation?
ERIC TREVETT: The New Communist Party was formed to re-equip the working class and labour movement with a revolutionary party based unequivocally on the principles of Marxism-Leninism and proletarian internationalism.
Under the leadership of John Gollan, the Communist Party of Great Britain (CPGB) abandoned those principles. It embarked on a course which inevitably led to the liquidation of the CPGB itself, as it betrayed its trust ever more blatently.
In forming the NCP we rejected the CPGB's programme The British Road To Socialism. And what came to be called "Eurocommunism" -- a form of revisionism that had infected a number of communist parties. This was characterised by Eurocentrism, narrow nationalism and denied the leading role of the working class and the class struggle itself.
Although we did not realise it at the time, "Euro-communism" had the tacit support of counter revolutionary elements that had actually penetrated the leading bodies df the Communist Party of the Soviet Union (CPSU).
Prior to 1977 in Britain, a 12 year inner party struggle to defeat revisionism in the CPGB had failed. The leadership was effectively purged of sound elements. Rajani Palme Dutt was manoeuvred off the CPGB's executive committee, and the crucial post of international secretary was secured for the revisionist and anti-Soviet leadership.
That became clear In 1968 when the CPGB opposed the Soviet intervention In Czechoslovakia. But that intervention enabled the working class in Czechoslovakia to avert counter revolution and maintained globally a cohesive socialist camp that ensured world peace and helped progressive humanity everywhere as it confronted imperialism.
We rejected The British Road to Socialism because it was totally flawed. It bred illusions that there could be a constitutional, parliamentary road to socialism.
But our party reaffirmed the teachings of Marx, Engels, Lenin and Stalin. Revolution, in which the capitalist state is smashed and a working class state is established, is the fundamental pre-requisite to building a socialist society.
We have always stressed that the working class has to take state power and retain its hold throughout the period of socialism. We never endorsed the CPSU's declaration by Leonid Brezhnev that under socialism the working class state machine gives way to being the state of the whole people.
Socialism is a political and economic system in its own right. It is also a transitional period between capitalism and communism, between class divided and classless society. The socialist revolution, in one or several countries, does not signify the end of the class struggle. Such revolutions positively change the national and international balance of forces in favour of the working class.
But following such revolutions, and certainly while imperialists command great economic, political and military power and ideological influence, the class struggle eventually intensifies and takes on a multitude of forms.
In those circumstances, in the countries that have experienced socialist revolutions, throughout the period of global transition to communism, the working class has to retain state power. And, at the same time, the revolutionary party of the working class has to be consistent and strict in maintaining discipline.
The collective will of the party is expressed through its congresses and this arises from its under standing of the laws of economic and social development. Its integral relationship with the working class thus enables the party to fulfil the aspirations of the working class it is duty bound to serve.
Our party operates under a major capitalist power and oppressor where there is wide acceptance of class collaboration in the labour movement. It operates in conditions where all the main political parties seek to perpetuate capitalism, share common policies regarding both the upgrading of nuclear weapons and in many areas of foreign policy.
In spite of the imposition of a massive array of anti-trade union legislation, many trade union and labour movement leaders spout their commitment to partnership with the exploiters.
Surely it is evident that a strong ideological position is essential if the party is to survive and win the allegiance of the labour movement as it serves the interests of the working class.
AR: Building a new party and launching a weekly newspaper must have been very hard. What are your memories of that time?
ET: I have never regretted being involved in the struggle for Marxist-leninist principles that led to the decision to form the New Communist Party in July 1977. And it was only when the party was established did we get down to working out and adopting fully comprehensive policies and strategies.
For instance, inside the CPGB we had either accepted or not made an issue of the party's position on Ireland, or a number of questions relating to political economy and working class unity. To be frank, the NCP's inaugural congress, held a few months after our formation, was a bit of a shambles. It reflected divergent opinions and demonstrated a shallow analysis of many issues.
We also had personnel problems. On the eve of launching our newspaper, the comrade who was to be editor got cold feet and resigned.
Nevertheless, the paper was launched under the editorship of a comrade with no journalistic experience. He set a high standard which has been enhanced by the four editors who succeeded him.
Of course, the quality of the New Worker is due to the party's strong ideological position, the dedication of the team of comrades responsible for producing the paper and the camaraderie in the party as a whole arising from its unity.
So the development of our party has been rewarding even though it has also given us more than a few headaches. We are strong in upholding vital principles and that is as it should be. We are also very clear that there should be no compromise on questions of ideology. This is of crucial importance.
AR: Unlike many larger and older parties, the NCP has survived the effects of the counter-revolution in the former Soviet Union and eastern Europe. Does this surprise you?
ET: Not altogether. Our policy was formed out of the struggle against revisionism. The parties that succumbed to counter revolution and liquidation had already, and at leadership level, been undermined by revisionist and counter revolutionary elements. Those revisionist elements had been gathering strength nationally and internationally over a period of decades.
From time to time our party expelled revisionist elements we had good reason to suspect were working in the service of the enemy and striving to destroy our party. Many of the parties that succumbed to liquidation pressures had weakened themselves ideologically.
Some of them consciously beguiled their members by presenting revisionist ideas and policies as "new thinking" and a creative" development of Marxism. In turn, that helped the revisionists, agents and liquidators to strengthen their position organisationally at every level of the party.
The lack of a consistent and sustained attack on "Eurocommunism" by the CPSU leadership should have alerted the sound elements in the international communist movement to the pending danger emanating from the revisionist factions in the CPSU.
Instead, the emergence of the traitor Mikhail Gorbachov's administration, with its slogans of glasnost (openess) and perestroika (new thinking), meant a counter revolutionary offensive was unleashed. It was a coordinated offensive masterminded by imperialists.
The bitter lesson of that defeat for communists, working class and progressive humanity has to be taken to heart. Revisionism, if it is not defeated and rooted out, will inevitably give rise to the eventual liquidation of the party.
AR: The working class and its organisations face many difficulties today -- what do you think is the party's task and role, and do you look forward with confidence to the future?
ET: The capitalist crisis today is profound. New technology plus intensifying competition for market share is promoting action by the employers (including state intervention) to downsize the labour force.
That tendency is being marginally offset by promoting a low wage economy, cutting the provisions of the "welfare state" and generally lowering the standard of living of the majority whilst enhancing the wealth of the few.
But these actions don't resolve the crisis, they actually exacerbate it. Moreover, job insecurity has engulfed large swathes of administrative, technical and professional workers who, up until recently, were quite satisfied with their lot under capitalism. Not only did they feel their own jobs were secure, they also felt certain that their children would be assured of a good job and a high standard of living.
They, and most others in 1997, considered the problem merely to be one of administration and Tory greed. The general election reflected a massive rejection of the Tory party which has been replaced by a Labour government under pressure from the working class, but with the clear intent of working to perpetuate capitalism and complying with the dictates of the dominant section of the capitalist class.
Hence, the crisis deepens, and experience shows that social democracy -- while to some extent mitigating sleaze and responding to working class pressure with a few concessions -- continues with the same basic policies as the previous Tory government.
Labour is seen as an alternative to a Tory government, but it cannot further the fundamental interests of the working class or take measures to resolve the crisis because it will not challenge capitalism.
The reality of capitalist crisis and its profoundly new features arising from new technology, provide an increased necessity for socialism. Social democracy and reformism is not the answer to this crisis. Marxism-Leninism, revolution and socialism is the only alternative to capitalism in crisis that is practically attainable and serve the interests of the working class.
There is no other solution that can unleash the creative energy of the working class and protect the environment. So our first job is to preach socialism as we help promote cohesive struggle around urgent, immediate demands. These range from higher wages, cuts in military spending, trade union rights, public ownership of basic services, defence of health and education, and so on. It is not easy to accomplish this, of course, but we must try and make the link between the immediate demands and the revolutionary aim of establishing working class state power.
We must also build our party. A key role in that respect must be to increase the readership of our paper the New Worker, which carries and develops communist analysis.
The way ahead is difficult and complex but it will not daunt us.
We face the future. Equipped with the revolutionary ideology and party of Marxism-Leninism, we are confident that through the struggle the working class will win its full emancipation with the triumph of socialism over the reactionary forces of capitalism and imperialism, which breed exploitation, war and poverty.
Thursday, August 21, 2008
COMMUNIST PARTY OF THE RUSSIAN FEDERATION
Moscow, August 14, 2008
Proceeding from the practice of a constructive and mutually beneficial exchange of views on various complex issues of the present situation in the world that has been already existing in our relations, we would like to state the firsthand information on the development of the armed conflict in South Ossetia. We consider it a matter of top priority with a view that the leading American and many European TV companies have been broadcasting extremely one-sided – if not to say biased- information on the above issue during the past several days.
Firstly, a few words about the historical background of the conflict. Ossetia became part of the Russian Empire as a single province (without any division into the Northern and Southern parts) in 1774. After the disintegration of the Russian Empire in 1917 Georgia stated its claims to the territory of South Ossetia. In 1918-1920 the people of South Ossetia were subjected to the first genocide by “independent and democratic” Georgia. Then, thousands of South Ossetins were annihilated and ousted to North Ossetia by Georgian troops which, in fact, destroyed almost all the villages in South Ossetia.
In 1921 the Soviet power was constituted in South Ossetia and in 1922 the latter was annexed to Georgia as an autonomous region. The new administrative status of South Ossetia did not change the attitude of Tbilisi. Under the slogans of friendship among nations the Ossetins were forced to change family names into Georgian names. The policy pursued by the Georgian authorities led twice to the change of the Ossetian alphabet into Georgian script as well as to a stable decrease in the number of the population of South Ossetia, although, there was a growth of the population on the whole territory of the USSR.
At the end of the 80s of the 20th century Georgian national extremists launched a campaign on the destruction of the South Ossetian autonomy. All the Republican legal acts that formed the basis of the existence of the autonomy were annulled. In 1990 the Supreme Soviet of the Georgian Soviet Socialist Republic abrogated all the legislative acts adopted after 1921 including the document on the annexation of South Ossetia to the Georgian Soviet Socialist Republic, thus placing South Ossetia beyond the constitutional and legal framework of Georgia.
Discrimination and threats with respect to the Ossetins turned into an armed aggression and destruction of the people of South Ossetia in 1989-1992. As a result of the forced actions undertaken by Georgia against South Ossetia in the period from November 1989 to July 1992 (to the moment of the stationing of Russian peacekeeping forces in the zone of Georgian-Ossetian conflict) more than 3 000 Ossetins died, 300 were missing, more than 100 Ossetian villages were burnt down and more than 40 000 people became refugees in Russia.
At the time of the disintegration of the USSR the referendum in the Abkhaz and South-Ossetian autonomies of the Georgian Soviet Socialist Republic, envisaged by the USSR Constitution still in effect to that moment, was never held. In that existing situation, on May 29, 1992, the Supreme Soviet of the Republic of South Ossetia proclaimed independence “taking into consideration the will of the people expressed during the referendum held on January 19, 1992”.
On June 24, 1992 in Sochi B. Yeltsin and E. Shevardnadze signed an Agreement on the principles of the settlement of the Georgian-Ossetian conflict, under which a peacekeeping operation in South Ossetia began on July 14, 1992. Joint peacekeeping forces, including Russian, Georgian and Ossetian military units, were stationed in the zone of the conflict. The Sochi Agreement also envisaged the creation of a Joint control commission on the settlement of the conflict. During the next years the peacekeepers have successfully solved the main goal – to prevent the resumption of military activities.
Secondly, the present stage of the conflict. As you may well know, on March 4, 2008, Georgia claimed that it no longer considered the Joint control commission an effective mechanism of the settlement and came out for its replacement by a new format of “2+2+2” (the Georgian authorities and the progeorgian so called Government of D. Sanakoev + the Russian side and the Government of E. Kokoity + the OSCE and the EU). This initiative was rejected by the South Ossetian side, what made the implementation of the above proposal impossible, no matter how Russia and other European states should treat it.
During the next five months tension has been constantly growing along the division line between the main territory of Georgia and South Ossetia, primarily, in connection with the consistent concentration of Georgian military units, including the heavy military equipment (prohibited by the Sochi Agreement) along this line. Frequent provocations on reciprocal basis were an additional burden to the Joint peacekeeping forces. Repeated appeals by Russia to the Georgian leadership and our appeals to the international community to support the idea of signing a legally binding document between the sides in the conflict on the renunciation of the use of military force have, unfortunately, remained unanswered.
It is becoming clear now, why for many months M. Saakashvili has been so consistent in rejecting our insistent proposal. Quite recently – before the military activities were unleashed against South Ossetia, M. Saakashvili said that there was no sense in asking for such a document as Georgia did not use force against its people. Now we see that it does use it.
In the night of August 7-8 the Georgian military forces launched the attack. It was done despite the promises of armistice given by the President of Georgia some few hours earlier before the well planned large-scale aggression. Thus, we are talking about a deliberate fraud and forgery committed by M. Saakashvili. By his actions he has as well grossly ignored the appeal of the UN General Assembly resolution to observe “the Olympic armistice” for the period of the Beijing Olympic Games.
Peaceful villages of South Ossetia were subjected to massive attacks and bombings, the capital of South Ossetia – Tskhinvali - was completely destroyed. M. Saakashvili in his activities has stepped all the limits of the admissible, in fact, giving his blessings to the “mop up operations” against his people. Actually, we are witnessing a purposeful and treacherous genocide sanctioned by him. According to the approximate numbers of victims of the Georgian aggression there may be up to two thousands of innocent civilian population – mostly women, old people and children, primarily Russian. Georgian snipers did not allow medical services to carry out life-saving operations. The civilian population of Tskhinvali remaining still alive were forced to hide from the heavy fire of the Georgian military forces in awful conditions in the cells and basements of the demolished buildings. M. Saakashvili is responsible for the immense large-scale humanitarian catastrophe. Since the beginning of The military operation by Georgians more than 30 000 refugees fled from the Republic.
The HQ of the Joint peacekeeping forces in Tskhinvali was also attacked. According to the available information, 18 Russian peacekeepers were killed, more than 100 were wounded. Many of them were hit by bullets fired by so called peace keepers from Georgia shooting against their brother-soldiers from behind as betrayers.
As is well known, 90% of the population of South Ossetia are Russian citizens. Under the Constitution of the Russian Federation the state shall ensure the security of its citizens. Under these conditions we started an operation on compulsion to peace. Up to now, the Russian peacekeepers were stationed in Tskhinvali in full compliance with the international law and the already existing agreements. The reinforcement units sent there were aimed to protect our peacekeepers in Tskhinvali, thus not to leave them without any help against the acts undertaken by Georgia, and were exclusively aimed to protect the Russian peacekeepers and the civilian population as well as to stop the Georgian aggression. Russian troops do not take up the regions belonging to South Ossetia or the regions that do not belong to it.
The present situation is a result of the personal decision made by M. Saakashvili, the decision that he made and realized at his own responsibility, thus jeopardizing the stability in the whole region. President of France Mr Nicolas Sarkozy took part in the name of the European Union in the regulation of the conflict and contributed much to an agreement upon the well known peace plane consisting of 6 positions which was supported both by the Russian President Dmitry Medevedev as well as by Mikhail Saakashvili. Russia is unconditionally fulfilling its commitments according to the plan? What matters right now is how Georgians will behave.
We hope that the information set forth above will be useful for you and that you will find an opportunity to make your contribution to the solution of a major task for the present moment – i.e. to safeguard security of people, to exclude any perspective of resumed military activities of the Georgian army against South Ossetia, to return the situation to the legal framework.
And the last point. The media coverage of the tragedy is South Ossetia in Western media is extremely one -sided, preconceived and biased. No reports from South Ossetia, everything is about Gori and other Georgian cities where casualties if any are definitely incomparable with those in Thshinvali.
Imagine CNN would never have mentioned 9/11 starting with US military operation in Afghanistan. How would it look like? This is exactly the way Russia is being presented right now in your eyes. This is definitely not fair.
of the CC CPRF
BRITAIN’S nuclear power programme was intended from the very start to produce plutonium for the manufacture of nuclear weapons. This purpose was played down and the publicity focussed on energy production and what was dishonestly referred to as “the peaceful uses of nuclear power”.
Today’s drive for a new generation of power plants is no different, even though the proposed new plants are expected to be Pressurised Light Water Reactors (PWRs) rather than the old Magnox type.
This is not surprising since nuclear weapon powers need a long-term source of plutonium and the ruling class need to be in control of its production.
Unlike those countries which have nuclear power for energy but no nuclear weapons, Britain has the facility for uranium enhancement, which can then produce plutonium. The Thorp plant at Sellafield in Cumbria is such a place – or it would be if a pipe failure in April 2005 inside a hot cell had not forced it into temporary closure.
The pipe was carrying spent fuel nitric acid. The 83,000 litre spill was contained in the cell but the incident was rated three on the International Nuclear Event Scale. The spilled liquid was recovered two months later and the British Nuclear Group (the decommissioning and clean-up arm of British Nuclear Fuels – BNFL) was fined £5,000,000 in October 2006.
Thorp (thermal oxide reprocessing) is the third reprocessing plant built to Sellafield, though the initial ideas for it go back as far as 1974. It was granted authorisation to begin operating in 1994.
As well as plutonium from uranium, Thorp was supposed to earn money. It contracted to accept spent nuclear fuel rods from countries that do not have a reprocessing plant of their own and reprocess it for a price. This meant countries such as Japan and Germany could send their nuclear waste to Britain.
Since the leak at Thorp the imported fuel has just been piling up – the contracts have not been voided. And even when the reprocessing is functioning there is a serious matter of safety because of the distances the fuel has to be transported.
Only about half of the 2,160 tonnes of fuel from advanced gas-cooled reactors (AGRs) has so far been reprocessed. As of the middle of last year, 1,500 tonnes of AGR fuel was planned to be reprocessed at Thorp and a further 4,500 tonnes (going up to the end of the working lives of the AGRs) was earmarked to be stored.
So, whether nuclear fuel is reprocessed or not, the problem of nuclear waste remains.
It cannot be got rid of – ultimately it can only be buried, either on land or under the sea. And given that some radioactive elements take generations to decay (for instance the most stable isotope of plutonium has a half life of 25,000 years) and that these elements are highly toxic carcinogens which can never leave us, it is a devastating time-bomb.
The latest thinking on nuclear waste seems to be to find a geologically suitable single depository. Britain has already tried a deep ocean site before 1982. But following protests from other countries the practice was subject to an international ban in 1993.
Even with land burial it has to be remembered that high-level waste is literally hot and has to be stored for 50 years to allow it to cool.
There already is a site for low-level radioactive waste at Drigg in Cumbria and this is at present is the responsibility of the Nuclear Decommissioning Authority (NDA). The NDA is now planning deep geological repositories for high and intermediate waste – it is claimed to cost some £7.5 billion.
Not surprisingly people are not happy to live near the chosen sites. So in June last year there was a public consultation around the idea of “partnerships with potential host communities that allow issues and opportunities to be fully discussed and evaluated”. Oh how very Blairite!
More recently there has been talk of offering local communities cash incentives to agree to these plans.
In pressing for nuclear power the Government argues that nuclear power plants do not emit carbon. That is little comfort if the long-term problem of nuclear waste creates something far worse. The Government also claims that we need nuclear power in order to close the “energy gap”. First of all the term “energy gap” is misleading because the gap is not on all energy but only in electricity production. The carbon emissions from all forms of transport – air, road, rail and sea will not be lessened by nuclear power.
According to the Government the electricity gap will occur over the next few years, accounting for about one third of our current electricity supply. Nuclear power will not solve this immediate problem since not one new nuclear plant will be operational for at least 10 years and the plan to build up to 10 stations will not deliver until at least 2025.
The alternatives to nuclear power are the clean electricity-producing renewable sources such as wind, solar, tidal, hydro powers and the cleaner use of fossil fuels. In addition there is now technology being developed to retrieve carbon and bury it – preferable to burying nuclear waste.
At present these alternative sources are a drop in the ocean and will not meet current and future needs. But there is no reason why this technology cannot be developed. It would require both capital investment and investment in further research and development.
The problem is that this is not likely to be achieved if the nuclear option is taken.
Back in the mid 1980s, when Thatcher was busy destroying our coal industry, the miners’ union argued then for investment to be made in coal-fired power station design to enable coal to be used without the emissions of ash and particulates. As we know, the miners were ignored.
The thrust now is all on nuclear. There are two main reasons:
1) The link between nuclear power and nuclear weapons, and2) The prospect of big profits for capitalist enterprise.
As always capitalism is the problem – its stances towards both climate change and the electricity gap is to take measures that will not endanger business or profits and, where it can, to exploit any crisis for its own ends. And so the proposed new nuclear power plants will be in the private sector and only regulated by bodies such as the Health and Safety Executive. And, of course, they are only interested in making money.
The vultures have already been gathering. The Government wasted no time in inviting energy companies to submit plans to build new nuclear plants.
Just over a year ago the Government announced that four designs had met the criteria to go to the first stage of the assessment process: the European-based Aneva, the US-based Westinghouse (since taken over), Canada ACR and the US-based General Electric. By January of this year the French state-owned EDF and the German company E.ON threw their hats into the ring.
E.ON claimed it could finance the project without Government subsidies but most independent nuclear experts do not think nuclear energy can be financially self-supporting. They point to the £3.4 billion Government bail-out of British Energy.
We now know that it is most likely that EDF will gain the contract and they are planning to build 10 new nuclear power plants – though this is currently on hold for further haggling over money.
The British working class will ultimately foot the bill. This will include £70 billion for decommissioning the existing nuclear plants and at least a further 320 billion for burying the existing nuclear waste.
As in everything else, privatisation has been gaining a momentum in the nuclear industry for years. Nuclear plants (apart from Magnox) were put into the private sector in 1996 under British Energy (BE). The then state-owned BNFL took over the Magnox plants. BNFL later bought Westinghouse.
When economic conditions in the industry changed BE turned to the public purse for help. Between 2003 and 2005 it was restructured and the Government took a 64 per cent share. The following year the Government sold this down to 39 per cent.
The list of companies coming on and off this stage and the wanderings in and out of Government support are too long to give here.
But the nub of the matter is that capitalism wants all it can get when the Government is prepared to pick up the tab for fluctuations in the industry and difficult problems that arise and wants to walk a way if it proves less profitable than expected. So promises by firms like EDF to be self-financing may not prove true in the long term.
Everyone can see what privatisation has meant in other industries – Notwork Rail, water companies and their leaks, the London Tube maintenance fiasco and so on. And in the energy industry itself we are acutely aware of the massive rise in bills to customers.
A new generation of nuclear power plants in private hands is against the interests of the working class. It means there is no democratic control, only the limited efforts of regulation. It means we get to pay or it all while the private owners take all the profits. And it means that other energy solutions will be sidelined, under-funded and largely under-used.