Friday, July 25, 2008

The British Government Must End All Interference in Zimbabwe

Statement of the New Communist Party of Britain and the Revolutionary Communist Party of Britain (Marxist-Leninist), July 26, 2008

We vigorously condemn the government’s continued interference in the internal affairs of Zimbabwe, the most recent example of which resulted in a decision by the EU General Affairs and External Relations Council on July 22 to impose new sanctions on those associated with the government of Zimbabwe.

The government has been at the forefront of external attempts to interfere in the electoral process in Zimbabwe and to attempt to determine that country’s economic and political future. It has openly given its support to the candidate of the opposition party, imposed sanctions and destabilised Zimbabwe’s economy, and is striving to bring maximum pressure to bear on the mediation efforts of those from neighbouring countries and from the African Union. At the same time, a great propaganda campaign has been launched in the monopoly-controlled media, to spread as much disinformation as possible on Zimbabwe and its history. Nothing is said about Britain’s colonial domination of that country and the fact that no reparation has been made; or of the fact that the Labour government has reneged on agreements made in the past to provide financial support for land redistribution in Zimbabwe. The same media never mention that Britain has openly interfered in Zimbabwe’s internal politics through the so-called Westminster Foundation for Democracy and other sinister organisations.

The government currently seeks to justify its interference on the grounds that violence has prevented the second round of the presidential election in Zimbabwe from being viable and has called for further EU and UN intervention. At the same time, it has declared itself content with the first round of the election held in March, since although that vote was inconclusive it favoured the candidate who is acceptable to Anglo-American imperialism and the other big powers in the EU. It is now demanding that Robert Mugabe, the president of Zimbabwe, should stand aside and that a “transitional government” favourable to the big powers should be established. Then, it is promised, sanctions will be lifted and “aid” will be provided so that the rebuilding of Zimbabwe’s economy can begin.

We totally condemn such interference and what amounts to outright blackmail. Zimbabwe is no longer a British colony and the British government has no right to declare itself the arbiter of which political party or individual is a “legitimate representative of the will of the people of Zimbabwe”.
What must also be condemned are the economic measures taken in the past by Anglo-American imperialism and the international financial institutions in which it holds sway, which have created many of the economic problems facing Zimbabwe and its people. Indeed, it is the big British and other monopolies such as Anglo American, Rio Tinto, and Standard Chartered which still dominate Zimbabwe’s economy, 30 years after formal independence. They now stand poised to strengthen their grip and continue to dictate the actions of the British government.

It is also clear that Britain and the other big powers have created all the conditions for violence to take place and have not ruled out its use and “whatever it takes” in order to effect “regime change”. But while apparently deploring violence during the elections in Zimbabwe, the Labour government condones and perpetrates it during the elections illegally held in occupied Iraq and Afghanistan.

The British government presents itself as the guardian of so-called “universal values”, which are nothing more than the values of neo-liberal globalisation. It attempts to impose such values all over the world, just as the imperialists of the 19th century declared that they had a “civilising mission” to impose the alleged benefits of colonial rule. It demands that all should bow down and accept its definitions of “democracy” and “good governance”, and declares it is ready to “export democracy” on the basis that “might is right” to those who refuse.

We call on the working class and all democratic people to resolutely oppose this old colonial mentality. In regard to Zimbabwe, the important principle that must be upheld is the right of the people of that country to choose their own path of development and government free from the meddling of Britain and the other big powers. The attempts of the government to impose its “universal values” in any other country must be resolutely opposed and it must end all its interference in Zimbabwe.

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

Problems of power failure

by Renée Sams

THE RAPID expansion of cultivation of plants for the production of biofuel has forced up global fuel prices by as much as 75 per cent. This startling fact was revealed in a leaked World Bank report, completed in April, that was not published, it is believed, to avoid embarrassing President George Bush.
It came at a critical point in the international negotiations on biofuel policy about to be discussed at the G8 summit in Hokkaido, Japan, where the world food crisis was high on the agenda.
The hypocritical leaders of the world’s most powerful countries, however, ignoring intensive lobbying by environmental organisations and the large demonstrations where several protesters were arrested, failed to take any action to prevent or even slow down the production of biofuel from agricultural land.
They made a lot out of their unity in their commitment to the reduction of carbon dioxide but actually meeting their targets did not seem to be a priority.
The secret report reveals the impact that the drive for biofuel has had on rising food prices that have already pushed 100 million people below the poverty line.
This contradicts the US claim that plant-derived fuels contribute less than three per cent to food price rises.
Robert Bailey, policy adviser at Oxfam said, “Political leaders seem intent on suppressing and ignoring the strong evidence that biofuel are a major factor in recent food price rises.”
President Bush linked higher food prices to higher demand from India and China but the World Bank report disputes that saying that: “Rapid income growth in developing countries has not led to large increases in global grain consumption and was not a major factor responsible for the large price increases.”
The basket of food prices examined in the study rose by 140 per cent between 2002 and February 2008 and it was estimated that higher energy and fertiliser prices accounted for an increaser of only15 per cent. But biofuels have been responsible for the 75 per cent rise over that period.
Don Mitchell, author of the report and a senior economist at the World Bank, has done a detailed month-by-month analysis of the surge in food prices, revealing a much closer link between biofuel and food prices.
He argues that the production of biofuel has distorted food markets in three main ways. First, it has diverted grain away from food to fuel, with over a third of US corn now used to produce ethanol, and about half of vegetable oils in the EU going towards the production of biodiesel.
Second, farmers have been encouraged to set aside land for biofuel production. And third, it has sparked off financial speculation in the grain market driving prices up further.
China, which is excluded from the G8, strongly refuted the US claim that their support for biofuel is the cause of the surge in global food prices and said that the US should take the blame.
Zeng Xiao’an, from the ministry of finance said that China’s scale of corn-based biofuel was very small, only 1.3 million tons compared to the US 19.8 million tons. And he added: “The US biofuel strategy has greatly affected the global grain supply.”
China is 95 per cent self-sufficient in grain and all the corn used to make ethanol is raised by its own farmers. And Zeng pointed out the government will offer financial support for the development of biofuel from agricultural waste.
Chinese farmers have long recycled agricultural waste including crops, straw, grass, husk and animal dung, which is used to make bio-gas, an environmentally friendly fertiliser.
While China is doing all it can to improve a worsening food crisis situation, in America 24 states are offering incentives to farmers to increase their planting of biofuel crops.
And President Bush came up with another threat to the world’s climate. At a briefing at the opening of the G8 he promised; “Now is the time … to open up the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge…so that we can say to the world we will do our part in increasing (oil) supply”.

Friday, July 11, 2008

My Childhood mate -- John Lennon

by David Ashton

MY FIRST recollections of my mother were on the night of a late bombing raid during the 1939-45 war. We, my sister Pauline and myself, had gone into our Anderson Bomb Shelter, at the back of our Liverpool home. I was hugging my Golliwog, called Golly who got me through the worst of the blitz krieg, with his love for me, lying on my bunk bed.
The adults: Mother, (our Dad was on fire watch duty in Liverpool) and our neighbours called Meakin from next door and Miss Newman, were stood outside looking up at the sky, watching the searchlights pinpointing the German bombers. The Polish Air force Hurricane Squadron based at Speke Airport defended Liverpool and saved us from the worst of the Nazi onslaught. John and I suffered terribly from the war; we saw dead bodies piled up in the street. My mother put a coat in front of my eyes and for years she denied that it had happened.
John told me that he’d had similar experiences. It really was the basis of John’s search for peace. John, like me, was very much committed to peace because we had that trauma of war. But when the men came home there was no time to listen to our childhood traumas.
As kids we were afraid that if our houses got bombed we wouldn’t be able to get out. Every 20th house was given a ladder.
When I was five John and I drew pictures of us jumping out of our houses onto the ladder some of these pictures turned up just two years ago, after my Mum died.
Dialectically I wish to argue that the aftermath of war gave our generation a great deal of freedom, which may have helped to feed John Lennon’s extraordinary imagination, which was growing up in progressive working class Liverpool. But when the men came back from war they were shaken up. They’d killed. They’d been brutalised. They were violent. You’d be sitting down having your dinner and all of a sudden the food would go flying across the room.
The women had to try and cope with it, and that gave us kids a lot of freedom to wander as far as we wanted without supervision. We’d go to “Speakers’ Corner” at the Pier Head where a world of ideas would be pulled apart and discussed in an informed, intelligent way. Liverpool was a major port. There were people from every nationality: Ulster’s Orangemen, Jews, Muslims, Arabs, Africans – every race and creed on earth. I don’t think we’d be more than five or six. Such was the wonder world of the Woolton, Liverpool of our childhood. It was there were we learnt about “Dialectical Materialism as the Ultimate Foundation of Working-Class Analysis”, and in identifying solutions to complexities like the “Current Food, & Political/Economic Problems of today”!
In the case of John Lennon that wonder was overshadowed by tragedies that marred his childhood and scarred the rest of his life. John had a very troubled childhood. He had experienced the war. He had lost his mother when his Aunt Mimi took him away from her; then he lost her again when she was knocked down and killed by a drunken policeman after John had only just got to know his mother again. When she died John talked to me.
Mimi more or less kidnapped John with the help of Liverpool Corporation Social Department because John’s mum, Julia, was, as they called it in those days, “living in sin”. She had a child out of wedlock with a lovely man who she had taken up with since her own man, a seaman, had not returned after the war. Aunt Mimi denied that John had got a mother or sisters.
But John had a very progressive uncle who told John where his mother was. It wasn’t far from where John was living. So we got on our bikes and went to see her. I would have been seven or eight. That was the first time John seen her for years.
It was of course very emotional. Julia, John’s mum was very tactile and kissed us both and we talked and talked. She was always very kind to me, as she was to all of John’s friends. She was herself a loving, kind, progressive person and a great musician, and we loved her!
As John says in his great Ballad to the Working Class Hero:

As soon as you’re born they make you feel small

By giving you no time instead of it all

Till the pain is so big you feel nothing at all

A working class hero is something to be

A working class hero is something to be

They hurt you at home and they hit you at school

They hate you if you’re clever and they despise a fool

Till you’re so fucking crazy you can’t follow their rules

A working class hero is something to be

A working class hero is something to be

Many of John’s poems and lyrics use his dialectical experiences of childhood in a progressive way. I guess there are very few who would understand the origins of these references in his or the other Beatles songs, but those of us close to John in childhood do in fact understand. The problem in many ways being that the bourgeois scriptwriters took over the script, after the Beatles became famous. I would argue that fame is a curse, which very few working people can cope with in our bourgeois democrat society.
So those of us who were close to John and still talk a lot to one another even today, can hardly recognise the image portrayed of our own childhood. A few years ago, at the urging of John’s childhood friends, I wrote, The Vanished World of a Woolton Childhood with John Lennon, which we put on “Age Concern UK” and “Beatles Ireland” websites . But it seemed only to encourage the fable making scriptwriters to rewrite our childhood to their own image. So I then after lots of discussion, I helped John’s sister, Julia Baird, to write Imagine This Growing up with my brother John Lennon published by Hodder in 2007 and also I helped Steve Turner write The Gospel According to The Beatles published by WJK in 2006.
But it has taken me a long time to make sense of my friend John’s life and death. I have rarely talked about John Lennon except for a July 2007 BBC Radio 4 interview, when I made a contribution to a documentary about the forthcoming 50th anniversary of the day the Beatles’ two main songwriters, John and Paul, met at St Peter’s Church Garden Fete in Woolton. I have also given an interview to BBC Radio Merseyside.
However I am very very proud of the fact that there is a statue unveiled by Fidel Castro, of my childhood mate John Lennon in Cuba! I will never be able to afford to go to Cuba and see the statue though I would truly love to see it! But it seems that the Cuban people have truly understood that the artist who was John Lennon had a universal message and a way of presenting what had baffled those of us who want to see a more humane democratic world. John it seems knew how to say these things in many of his lyrics and drawings. As kids we drew together I am often amazed how similar my own drawings even today are to John’s, but then childhood experiences last long into adulthood. But let me finish with another verse of John’s Hymn to Working Class Emancipation:

When they’ve tortured and scared you for twenty odd years

Then they expect you to pick a career

When you can’t really function you’re so full of fear

A working class hero is something to be

A working class hero is something to be.

Keep you doped with religion and sex and TV

And you think you’re so clever and class less and free

But you’re still fucking peasants as far as I can see

A working class hero is something to be

A working class hero is something to be

There’s room at the top they are telling you still

But first you must learn how to smile as you kill

If you want to be like the folks on the hill

A working class hero is something to be

A working class hero is something to be.

David Ashton ©