CHRISTMAS comes but once a year, we are endlessly told by our rulers to encourage us to make the most of a welcome break from a year of work, for those of us who still have a job, and to make the most of it for those struggling to survive on our miserable benefits regime in the midst of the worst slump since 1929. The great and the good will make their annual obeisance to the birth of the Jesus, whom they all claim to uphold but whose teachings they ignore for the other 364 days of the year while encouraging the masses to celebrate the “Prince of Peace” in an orgy of eating, drinking and consumer spending. For a week or so we can put our feet up to live a life that the rich enjoy every day of their parasitical lives. We will be told to think about those needier than ourselves and many of us, will indeed, give generously to beggars or charities. But what we should be thinking about is those much wealthier than ourselves and the rotten capitalist system they uphold and how they’ve got the money to spend every day of the year like Christmas, living off the backs of workers forced to make do with the miserable crumbs left at the rich man’s table. For some the “needy” now include the worthless banks, whose executive bonuses are at long last are facing a modest increase in income tax. For others “goodwill to all men” is reduced to respect for our “betters” and certainly for the people of Iraq and Afghanistan struggling against imperialist occupation. Meanwhile over in Copenhagen, the masters of imperialism can wring their hands at the plight of global warming while trying to avoid any serious contribution to reversing climate change and attempt to pin the blame for it on the struggling nations of the Third World. But all’s not well for the bourgeoisie. Their end- of-decade prophesies are full of gloom and doom. Gone are the days of the neo-cons who said that communism was finished and that this was going to be the “New American Century”. Gone are the gurus of capitalism who preached the greatest virtue was the possession of the largest amount of money, argued that socialism was finished and that capitalism was the only game in town. They still defend capitalism but cannot point to a single capitalist country where it does work and turn to neo-Keynesianism and talk about “quantitative easing” as they scrabble around trying to head off financial collapse. Capitalism, of course, does work for those at the top. That, in the final analysis, is all it is, a system designed to perpetuate the rule of the landowners, industrialists and capitalists. And so it will continue until we end the system altogether. The entire wealth of the world comes from workers in factories and peasants tilling the land. Yet outside the remaining socialist countries working people only receive a miserable fraction of the wealth they produce through their labour. At the same time the ruling elite live the lives of Roman emperors through the capitalist system that guarantees them ease, health and everything money can buy – all off the backs of the workers. Socialism will end this rotten system once and for all. The sooner the better!
WHAT IS IT about the traditional commercial Christmas that really annoys us communists and atheists? We do not subscribe to the sentimental legends about the sweet little baby Jesus nor are we tree-worshipping druids. We know that capitalism survives by selling as many commodities as it can. So why do we feel so offended by the excess of sales pressure at this time of year? Why do we feel that some deep internal sensibility inside us is being exploited; expectations aroused and then disappointed and betrayed? The Victorians, and especially Charles Dickens, must take a lot of the blame for creating the myth of a golden age of Christmas – a time of families coming together for a great merry feast in some vast warm indoors, where the cold and snow are shut out and where children are wide-eyed and open-mouthed at the sudden splendour of the decorations. It always snows exactly on Christmas Eve, like an extra decoration/plaything sent from above to transform dingy cities into a sparkling paradise and provide the materials for shaping snowmen and snowballs. There is carol-singing, holly and ivy everywhere and endless mountains of food and drink. For most working class Victorians this was very far from reality. They would be lucky to get the whole day off work and lucky to have any kind of roast meat for dinner. But it was during the Victorian era that Christmas cards and Christmas trees were introduced and the possibility of making profits out of selling stuff that people would not otherwise buy. In northern latitudes there has always been some sort of festival in midwinter around the solstice – a celebration because days had stopped getting shorter and darker and had started to get longer and lighter. Warmer would have to wait for some time around March or April but that was a different festival. And there is something innate in human beings that needs regular cultural feasts and festivals. Human beings – like bees, ants, starlings, herd animals, chimpanzees and many other species – cannot survive as solitary individuals. We may get the odd Ray Mears or Behr Grylls who can survive alone in the wilderness but hermits and anchorites do not found dynasties. Passing your genes on to the next generation requires living in a social context. Human children require a lot of bringing up and it takes a group/tribe/village environment to give them a reasonable chance of survival. So we are all descended from long generations of people who were part of society – who contributed and received from the collective. And deep inside us all there is a need to take part in the traditions and rituals that bond society together. This is the essence of culture. We need to belong. The sellers of trinkets, baubles, Barbie dolls, useless gizmos and gadgets know this and their advertising campaigns tap into this deep need inside us and then betray. Their message is that if we do not spend every available penny on the rights cards, a big enough tree, enough lights to festoon the entire house and garden, we will not be a proper part of the group – and our children will be disappointed and feel left out. We are pressured into buying mountains of food that cannot possibly eaten and dozens of “must-have” presents for distant relatives and friends to prove we have really thought of them, albeit fleetingly. The gift they really need and want is a proper slice of our time and attention but modern pressures of work make this the rarest and most precious commodity of all. Wage slavery and debt slavery cut our cultural bonds with family and friends as working hours expand to take up all our time and our only bonds are with our employers and banks/credit card providers. And even at work our opportunities to make a cultural bond with fellow workers are taken away with the demise of tea breaks and lunch-hours. And the excess spending of Christmas pushes us further into debt bondage every year, keeping our noses firmly fixed to the grindstone and our shoulders to the wheel more effectively than any Roman slave-master’s whip. We feel guilty about debt; put it down to our own foolishness and worry about it alone in the night. We don’t want to admit that the sales pressures have worked on us and we have spent more that a sensible person should. We have so little time left for family social bonding that when we do get together with them at Christmas we hardly know them and we feel awkward and guilty for neglecting them. We feel alienated and alone – and increasingly cynical. Thus ultimately the sales pressure of Christmas, instead of satisfying our need for belonging to the group/family/tribe actually isolates and alienates us from this and turns us into millions of lonely individuals. And we wonder why our society is becoming dysfunctional! The advertisers particularly target children. They come into this world ready primed to absorb and bond with the culture of the society in which they find themselves. If their friends have a particular toy or brand of trainers their need to be part of the group – and the advertisers – tell them they must have the same and that urge is very strong. It can exert enormous pressure on parents, especially those feeling guilty because work pressures have not allowed them enough time to spend with their children. Commercial pressures turn Christmas buying into a competition, pitting one household against another in the amount they can spend on their children at Christmas. Failing to satisfy your child’s demands is a crime against their youth and innocence. Parents are expected make sacrifices – of their money and their reason – to try to satisfy the insatiable. Thus people are in reality further alienated from each other by this competitiveness and parents are alienated from their children. The satisfaction the presents bring to the children is shallow and fleeting. Too soon they become as cynical and disillusioned as their parents. Women are under enormous pressure to provide a proper Christmas feast, even though they know a lot of it will end up in the bin. The capitalist Christmas ends abruptly on Christmas Day with the declaration of the start of the January sales. And once the whole thing is over – with all its pressures, extra work and social disappointments – most working people heave a sigh of relief and hurry back to their workplace and the mind-numbing routine monotony. Just occasionally at Christmas we catch a glimpse of the real thing. I remember a few years ago in Woolwich main shopping centre – a very run-down area with high unemployment and a high proportion of locals on benefits, by-passed by the worst commercialism – a drama group staged a bit of street theatre in fantastic costumes with music and dancing. It was not hot stuff to the adults but the children running about were too young to have seen anything like it before. They were genuinely entranced and captivated by it and gleefully joined in; because of this their parents were smiling too. It was quite unexpected and no money was involved. It was real. When workers and their families get together a relax a little, when the joking and laughing break out, that is real; that is the sort of happiness that capitalism can never provide; it involves no money and no profits. What would the ideal socialist mid-winter festival involve? That is hard to prescribe; it is the sort of thing that will happen spontaneously given the right conditions and circumstances. But those conditions must include an end to huge commercial pressures; it must cost very little to stage. It must allow workers a lot more time to relax and unwind. It is impossible to find joy if you are exhausted. It must allow all generations to come together to give each other time and attention. And it must involve genuine fun – though that it a quality impossible to define or command. All we can do is to give it the right soil to grow in.
Andy Brooks, NCP General Secretary, moves the Main Resolution at the 16th Congress of the New Communist Party of Britain in London on 5th & 6th December 2009 Dear friends, comrades and honoured guests
We meet again at a time of intensifying struggle in Britain and across the globe. We meet while the British ruling class and the bourgeoisie throughout the capitalist world are struggling to recover from the greatest slump since 1929. We have seen sweeping changes across the world over the past three years. The Zimbabwean government refused to bow to imperialist demands to reverse the land reforms, held an election and formed a coalition government without imperialist interference. The Nepalese people overthrew the hated monarchy in 2008. Russia defeated an imperialist attempt to build a Nato bridgehead in the Caucasus when it crushed the Georgian aggressors. The Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, the second socialist country today to possess nuclear weapons, stood firm in the face of threats of the US imperialism and by so doing so forced the Americans to negotiate face to face to ease tension on the Korean peninsula. The Iraqi and Afghan resistance forced the imperialists onto the defensive and have made the long-term occupation of their countries untenable. Though the “new world order” and “globalisation” have been put on hold by the new Obama administration in the United States, the primary contradiction in the world today is still between American imperialism and the rest of the world it seeks to dominate. Though the most reactionary and aggressive sections of the US ruling class suffered a setback in the 2008 presidential elections when their Republican candidate was defeated, the Obama administration has not abandoned US imperialism’s dream of world domination but has merely changed tack to take into account the changed economic climate and the growing resistance throughout the world to open US hegemony. US imperialism, weakened by the slump that began with the near collapse of the banking system last year, is on the defensive but it is not in retreat. US imperialism wants to hold on to what it’s got. US forces continue to occupy Iraq and Afghanistan. Iran is still under threat. Cuba still suffers from the US blockade and the Americans are working to prop up the remaining reactionary regimes in what they like to call their own “backyard” to halt the advance of popular democracy in Latin America. Israel continues to deny the legitimate rights of the Palestinian Arabs and Korea, Cyprus and Ireland remain partitioned. We have taken part in the biggest anti-war movement this country has ever seen — a movement that mobilised millions throughout the Western world and led to the defeat of the most reactionary circles of the ruling class in Britain and the United States. Bush has gone and so has Blair and along with them has gone the dream of the “New World Order”, the “Project for a New American Century” and the “New Middle East”. The neo-conservative economic model has been dumped and the bourgeoisie is once again turning to Keynesianism to stave off economic melt-down and head off mass social unrest in the imperialist heartlands. We meet as working people rally to defend their jobs and livelihoods in the Royal Mail, the civil and national health service and local government. We meet in the run up to a general election next year with a resurgent Tory Party promising to resume its all out offensive against trade union rights should it return to power, while the neo-nazi BNP attempts to stoke up anti-Muslim and anti-ethnic minority hatred in its bid to politically legitimise a racist and fascist bloc within the ranks of the bourgeoisie. All of this is reflected in the analysis of the draft main resolution which is the product of the intense discussion that has taken place in the Party Cells, Districts and the Central Committee over the past 11 months. Now this document comes to the highest authority of the Party, the Congress, for debate and to chart our course for the next three years. We have always maintained that peace is the central issue in all our campaigns. In Britain the labour and peace movement must step up the fight to bring about the immediate and unconditional withdrawal of all British troops from Afghanistan and indeed from every other part of the world. At the same time the labour and peace movement must mobilise to stop this Labour government or whatever takes its place next year from spending more billions on the needless and useless replacement of the Trident nuclear weapons system and then develop the campaign to scrap all British nuclear weapons and close down all US bases on our soil. In the past the ruling class has always closed ranks during times of economic crisis. But this slump has only sharpened the divisions between those who believe that the future for British capitalism lies in greater European integration, those who think British imperial interests are still best served through the alliance with the United States and those who believe that British imperialism can extract the maximum benefit by playing off one against the other by acting as a trans-Atlantic “bridge” between American imperialism and that of France and Germany. And the latter course was the traditional path of all Labour and Conservative governments from the late 1950s to 1997. The Tories directly represent the ruling class while the right-wing leaders of social-democracy collaborate with whichever the section of the ruling class that they believe is the dominant one. After the 1997 Labour victory Tony Blair put all his bets on the Americans siding with the most reactionary elements within the British ruling class in the belief that victory in Iraq would give British imperialism a significant slice of the spoils when the “new world order” was established. That dream died on the streets of Baghdad along with Blair’s hopes to see out a third term in office. His successor, Gordon Brown, would still like to straddle the Atlantic as the arbiter between US and Franco-German imperialism but that bridge was burnt in Iraq and this Labour Government is now increasingly looking towards the European Union for its salvation. The bourgeoisie, as always, do not want the general election debate to go beyond the issues in which they themselves have differing opinions. Our task is to fight for working class based politics and argue the case for socialism. Everyone knows that Britain is an immensely wealthy country and that economic basis for socialism has existed here for over a 100 years. But we are no nearer to socialism than we were in the 1900s. The fact is that the class as a whole is still committed to social democratic reform. This is not because the class is collectively stupid but because they know, quite correctly, that the British ruling class could restore the entire public sector and the entire Welfare State and more by simply disgorging a fraction of the profits they make at home and abroad. Our electoral policy is to vote Labour in all elections apart from the bogus European parliamentary polls which we boycott. This is not because we supported the venal reactionary policies of “New Labour” or have been taken in by Brown’s neo-Keynesian reforms. It’s not because we think a Labour government can solve the problems of working people. We know that isn’t possible in a bourgeois “democracy”. Our policy, which has been discussed and elaborated from Congress to Congress since 1977, exists because it is based on the concrete conditions that exist in Britain today. In our view a Labour government with the yet unbroken links with the Labour Party, the trade unions and the co-operative movement, offers the best option for the working class in the era of bourgeois parliamentary democracy. Our strategy is for working class unity and our campaigns are focused on defeating the right-wing within the movement and strengthening the left and progressive forces within the Labour Party and the unions to create a democratic Labour Party that will carry out the demands of organised labour when in office. Working people have made some gains since Labour returned to office in 1997, gains that would not have happened under the Tories, like the peace process in Ireland, devolution in Scotland and Wales and creation of the Greater London Authority. Though the anti-union laws have not been repealed they are largely in abeyance and the Brown Government tacitly accepts the principle of consulting the unions, even if it rarely takes the advice it is given. Let’s be clear about bourgeois democracy. We believe that the working class can never come to power through bourgeois elections but that doesn’t mean that we turn our back on working class demands for social justice and state welfare. We believe that social democracy can never lead to people’s democracy but that doesn’t mean that we turn our back on social democratic movements that represent millions upon millions of working people in Britain in the unions and within the Labour Party. We believe that the class collaborationist ideas of social democracy can and must be defeated within the working class. But it cannot be defeated by imitating it in the countless variations of the British Road to Socialism upheld by the revisionist, pseudo-communist and Trotskyist movements in Britain today. The fact that these platforms do not work; that they are rejected time and time again by the same working class these programmes claim to advance, never deters these pseudo-revolutionaries who believe they can change the consciousness of the masses through rhetoric and wild promises. Now we can all play that game and conjure up imaginary legions beyond the British working class to take us down the revolutionary road. We can all invent a class that is seething with anger and mobilised for revolutionary change that is just waiting for the correct party with the correct formula to lead them to victory. As communists we have to work with the working class that exists and not the phantom of romantic ultra-leftism. Standing left candidates without mass support against Labour divides the movement and the class and ignores the obvious fact that the only realistic alternate governments are those of the Tories and the Liberal Democrats that have been and would be much worse than any Labour government. Since the 1920s communists have been isolated from the mainstream of the labour movement largely due to hostility from the right- wing within the movement and partly due to the sectarian and revisionist policies of the old CPGB. We have worked since our foundation in 1977 to end these artificial and anti-working class barriers and that is why we affiliated to the Labour Representation Committee in 2005 and focus much of our work in building that movement. We will support social reform and our immediate programme outlined in this document charts our demands and details how it could be achieved by a left social-democratic government and how it all could be paid for through taxing the rich and scrapping Britain’s weapons of mass destruction. But our major task is to build the revolutionary core within the class. The communist movement is based upon the revolutionary principles of Marxism- Leninism. Its purpose is to equip the working class so that it can establish working class state power and then build a socialist society. Bourgeois democracy is a fraud. It is democracy for the exploiters and dictatorship in all but a formal sense for the exploited. Bourgeois elections, when they are held, are used so that the smallest number of people can manipulate the maximum number of votes. We have continued to make political and organisational progress over the past three years. Our general position on the Labour Party, Ireland, peace and national liberation is known throughout the British labour movement and the international communist movement. Our New Worker supporters’ groups continue to grow like the fund-raising which has sustained the New Worker and enabled us to go into colour production. Over the past three years we produced more pamphlets that in any over similar period since our establishment in 1977. We stand for peace and socialism. Peace because only the oppressors and exploiters want war. Socialism because it is essential to eliminate exploitation, unemployment, poverty, economic crisis and war. Socialism is the only solution to climate change, pollution and global warming. Let us work together to build the movement that will ensure that this century becomes the era of socialism.
THERE WAS an air of excitement as we arrived and drove into Beit Fourik. It was my third visit to our SE London Linked Village in the West Bank.
The old checkpoint had been demolished and had been replaced by two concrete pillars. I think a “sweetener” to the world while the land grabbing, collective punishments, deaths continue unabated.
The soldiers stopped our mini-van and Jamal told us to say that we were going to a “celebration”. We were let through. The old checkpoint has always been desperately commented about on previous visits: the constant closures, the impossibility and/or delays getting to the hospital, the pregnant women giving birth, the deaths. The new one still a checkpoint controlling the village, denying access in and out arbitrarily at a whim.
I did not recognise entering Beit Fourik A new tarmac road had replaced the old stony one. People were walking up and down it celebrating. We got out of the mini bus and entered the Municipal Building and met the community leaders. Fouad, our community representative, was there to meet us.
It took a while for us all to settle down together, we were taken into another Municipal Building newly refurbished since my last visit and eventually we all began talking about the village and the people within it.
We were introduced to Maheeda, the newly elected woman councillor for the Municipality, which was wonderful and I was proudly told about her appointment by Fouad, taken onto the roof of the building and in the village space music and dancing filled the night.
We were all taken to a Beit Fourik wedding, men’s night. The women were on the roofs of the houses cheering and laughing and the men in a giant circle dabka dancing. We were given Arabic coffee to drink. It was joyful and will live in our memories. The “celebration” sent a message to the lights in the hills from the Settler watch towers, the illegal settlements and the vicious settlers within them: “You will not defeat us, we will resist, we will overcome and gain our freedom; we will dance in spite of you all.”
A barbecue followed. Wonderful meats, salad and rice all cooked by the men and we smiled at the universatility of the “man at the barbecue” occasions. We met Safia who is going to come from Nablus/Beit Fourik on the Project visit to Britain from Palestine next spring.
There was some confusion as we were told to split into groups of “how many” two, three, fours to go to our families who were having us to stay. Laughter and doubts spread as we could not make head or tail of what was what and I was told “don’t worry, don’t worry” as I anxiously with Christina and Jane went with Yoher to Marina’s house. In the morning everyone said they had a wonderful time in their accommodation. The families they had stayed with had taken some of them to their extended families and they had revisited the women watching the wedding.
It was great seeing Marina and family again. Her family was well and she talked about how she wanted to start a health project looking at diet and exercise with the women of the village because they suffered from diabetes, heart problems, extreme stress. She said that the Red Crescent medical clinic had closed. There was no funding for Municipalities that had officials that were Hamas. There was a new mayor he had replaced the Hamas mayor. We wondered if this was why.
The next day we were taken up into the hills. Marina and Maheeda came with us. We could see the watch towers and settlements all around and were shown the hillside where the farmers’ land had not been farmed for years and their fig and olive trees were unattended because it was too dangerous. The settlers had harassed, injured and killed people who were olive harvesting.
We walked amongst the sublime rolling, rocky, milky, brown rich earth. The sun was shinning, small plots of land were being tilled with small ploughs and donkeys. We became aware slowly that the seemingly isolated landscape was filled with activity. The colours the farmers were wearing blended into the earth. New modern tractors, carts passed us intermittently and we were told that the agricultural “Park” scheme supported the village.
High in the hills there was a “sanctuary” where the villagers could pray, stay the night; a spiritual place and Jamal said that “he loved coming to Beit Fourik”. It is a magical place.
We were taken to meet a farmer and his sheep. He had built a shelter for them. I noticed with such pleasure how the sheep, who were all woolly and fluffy with brown faces all looked to him as we came to the opening it reminded me of a “father with his children”. A shepherd and his flock. We were taken to see the bee hives. Members of our group went amongst the sheep and looked closely at the bees in their hives.
We washed our faces and hands in the cool clear stream of water that flowed from the hillside.
It was curious how the occupation, the viciousness of the settlers, receded during this time. We were told how there is a severe water shortage, reminded of the danger of farming the land and land lost. We were overlooked all the time by the watch towers, no doubt photographing everything we did, and yet the beauty of place, of people, of nature was greater and for a little while together we were able to be free in our minds and enjoy.
We were taken to a family (I am so sorry I forgot to take their names down). Their son had been shot by the Israeli military. He had been a university student in Nablus and the family’s house had been demolished. This meeting symbolised to me the resilience, resistance of the Palestinian people confronting daily the horror of the illegal Israeli occupation.
The villagers of Beit Fourik had clubbed together and rebuilt the family house and we were sitting in a beautiful home, drinking Arabic coffee in a community that looked after each other; that were providing rights for themselves where they had had all rights taken from them even their son. The father talked about his son’s death quietly with dignity and his mother sat gently beside him. We were welcomed and introduced to the tragedy of their lives and for a moment we entered into it with them in solidarity.
We were told that the whole extended family was in effect under open house arrest. Collective punishment. That they could never leave their village, never travel; the Israeli authorities would be punishing them all for the rest of their lives. We said our goodbyes, got in our mini bus and drove back to Abu Dis. Thank You Beit Fourik you are not alone or forgotten and we will tell your stories.
COMMUNISTS and progressives will be rallying to mark the 92nd anniversary of the Russian Revolution this weekend in parades and ceremonies across the world. The Bolshevik revolution on 7th November 1917 swept away the rotting edifice of bourgeois rule in Russia and lit the torch of revolution that burns on throughout the world communist movement.
Back in 1891 the first workers’ uprising established the Paris Commune, which lasted for two months before being drowned in blood by the French ruling class. The Russian revolution mobilised the starving masses with its battle cry of “peace, bread and land” to build the first workers’ and peasants’ republic. The Bolsheviks’ first call was the peace decree calling for an immediate armistice, the annulment of secret treaties, self-determination and no annexations. That call ended the senseless slaughter with Germany and ultimately brought the First World War to a close.
The Bolsheviks established a revolutionary militia, the Red Army, which against all odds, beat back the forces of reaction during the civil war that followed to establish the world’s first socialist state: the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics, which under the leadership of Lenin and Stalin became a bastion for the international working class.
The Russian Revolution electrified the entire colonial world. For the first time in the history of humanity the masses had overthrown feudalism and capitalism and were beginning to build a workers’ and peasants’ state. The oppressed peoples of Africa, Asia and the Americas were inspired by the fledgling Soviet state that defeated the reactionary White Guards and beat off the combined might of the imperialist interventionist armies. Within decades the colonial chains of slavery would soon be broken with the help of the Soviets.
When the entire imperialist economy crashed in 1929 plunging millions upon millions into poverty and desperation, the Soviet Union was building a new life for working people, emancipating women, eliminating unemployment, eradicating illiteracy and providing free education and a health service that was second to none.
While reactionary ruling circles in Europe tried to turn the clock back by turning to nazism and fascism to crush the working class, Soviet citizens were enjoying a new life in the USSR. Working people were in command at all levels of government and the Soviet Union was the centre of modern scientific and artistic development. And when the Nazis plunged the world into another global conflict it was the Soviet youth who smashed Hitler’s legions and saved the world from barbarism.
When the counter-revolutionaries who had wormed their way to the top of the Soviet leadership destroyed the USSR and brought down the people’s democracies of eastern Europe, the imperialists rejoiced and told us that communism was finished. Now we’re plunged into another global slump that is entirely the creation of the world capitalist system.
The Soviet Union is no more but the spirit of the Great October Russian Revolution lives on in the world communist movement and the people’s democracies of Asia and the Caribbean. The lesson of 1917 is that working people can take destiny into their own hands and end the era of exploitation. The Soviet peoples under the leadership of the Bolsheviks proved that you can build socialism in one state and create a social system far superior to the decadent, corrupt and oppressive capitalist world. Above all it shows that there is no limit to human creativity when the chains of exploitation are broken and the energy of working people is released.
Capitalism cannot solve the problems of the world economy and indeed that is not its intention. It is merely a system that ensures that a tiny minority of landowners, industrialists, speculators and parasites can enjoy the life of Roman emperors by living off the backs of working people. Now great mass movements are again sweeping the continents. Working people are demanding social justice, democratic rights and an end to exploitation. It’s capitalism that’s finished — not us.
I have long been confused about the origins and early events of the Second World War, not just because I am now 88. My confusion dates back seventy years to that September morning when, delivering Daily Workers, I learned an ultimatum by Neville Chamberlain to Hitler to cease his attack on Poland had expired and we were at war with Germany. Like many others I was already confused about our alliance with and guarantee to Poland. What did we have to help that country stave off German aggression? Nothing except words of condemnation. Air raid sirens sounded but there was no raid. There followed an autumn, winter and spring of what was called the phoney war, as far as we and our allies, the French were concerned, as Hitler got on with putting right what he saw as another error of Versailles. Then, in May 1940, came the German attack on the French Army and the British Expeditionary Force in the West, through Holland and Belgium, avoiding the French Maginot Line of fortresses in which both Western allies had put their trust. German superiority in weapons and generals such as Rommel and Guderian overran the French army within a week. The BEF, to the West, awaited the coming of those German forces but Hitler ordered a pause, inexplicable to his generals. The full-blooded assault was never resumed. No determined land effort against the BEF was ever made. Nothing more was heard of the prong of the German offensive which reached the Channel coast. Hitler went to Paris to receive the French surrender in the railway coach in which the Germans had surrendered in 1918, while still in occupation of French territory. The BEF retreated along that coast to Dunkirk from which the men were evacuated, some with rifles, some without, but leaving all heavy equipment behind. That was, however, an unexpected achievement, to raise public spirits, even a majority of MPs, to reject the surrender terms Hitler offered. Many must have felt confused by all that and our prospects. Was our island to be invaded? Ancient rifles, relics of 1914-18 and even earlier were handed out to part time volunteers, first known as Local Defence Volunteers, then the Home Guard, ‘Dad’s Army’, still surviving as TV’s favourite comedy. Reports of barges being assembled for invasion came as the Luftwaffe launched bombing attacks on RAF fighter stations in South East England, the Battle of Britain. That was a war by communiqué, football report fashion, numbers of German planes downed in the air for us, of British destroyed on the ground for Germans. Reporting it for the national news agency, The Press Association, I heard that the head of Fighter Command was to tell Churchill destruction of airfields was forcing his planes out of Southern England. That would mean German planes in France would be nearer than the RAF to any fighting along our coast. Was invasion imminent? Instead the Germans switched to bombing London and I switched to describing that, confused as ever. Now, however, some sense has come into all that, from reading a book which should have been required reading for all those wanting to look into the German dictator’s mind. The book was Hitler’s Mein Kampf [My Struggle], written in 1924 during the nine months he spent in prison of the five years sentence given him on the failure of the Munich Beer Hall Putsch of November 1923, to seize power in Bavaria ,organised by his Nazi Party and the wartime general Ludendorff. Adolf Hitler was born in Braunau on the Austro-Hungarian border with Germany, later moving to the capital, Vienna. It was there that he developed his third great hatred, to add to those of Jews and Marxists, of the Slavs, particularly Czechs, whom he saw as destroying the German nature of Austria. An English translation of the book, then a world best seller, was published in Britain in the 1930s, the title page of my copy having the inscription ‘109th Thousand’. How many of those thousands were read by those likely to benefit from understanding Hitler’s motivations at the time one has no idea but it has shone light on my confusions. Alongside those hatreds, Hitler reveals his likes, in particular one for Britain and the British, also the role he believed we British could play in his ambitions for Germany. It all stemmed from his experiences in the World War One. He had moved from Vienna to Munich, was called back to Austria for military service but rejected as unfit. When war broke out, however, with Germany allied to Austria-Hungary, he volunteered to serve in a Bavarian regiment and was accepted. Except when he was hospitalized from wounds, in 1916, and gassed, at the end of the war, he was continually in the front-line as a headquarters runner, earning first an Iron Cross Second Class, for bravery in December 1914 and an Iron Class First Class, a rare distinction for a corporal, in August 1918. He ended the war, after his gassing, back in Munich, in a reserve battalion. He was horrified by what he found, the collapse of the public and political will, with Jews and Marxists, as he saw it, running everything. The Army had not been defeated. It had been betrayed by the strikes and breakdown in ordinary life at home was what Hitler believed. The truth was that Germany was not large enough to sustain, economically, the effort the war demanded. It could not feed and provide services for both its civilian population and army. As Hitler claimed, the great opportunity for victory which came with the removal of Russia from the war was frustrated by a general strike at home. Hence the need for what was to dominate Nazi propaganda, lebensraum, or living space. The settlement of World War One had made Germany smaller. Its Eastern border had been moved West to produce a Polish corridor leading to the new international port of Danzig, separating East Prussia from the rest of Germany. Its population had been mostly Poles but included Germans. It was the World War One outcome which led to World War Two. Yet Hitler rejects the idea of restoring Germany’s 1914 frontiers as politically foolish. “They were no protection in the past nor would they mean strength in the future. They would not give the German nation internal solidarity nor provide it with nourishment.” Yet the need for lebensraum was growing remorselessly “for,” he writes, “the population of Germany increases by nearly 900,000 annually.” Even before the war Germany was too small a country for its people and for its rulers’ ambitions of ‘peaceful economic conquest of the world’. Its alternative means of growth were territorial acquisitions within Europe, to the East, and colonisation. The latter might have been possible in alliance with Russia but by the nineteenth century it was too late except by a hard struggle. Such a struggle would be better employed gaining territory nearer home. “For such a policy there was only one possible ally in Europe – Great Britain. Great Britain was the only Power which could protect our rear, supposing we started a new Germanic expansion. No sacrifice would have been to great in order to gain England’s alliance.” In fact Germany’s pre-war rulers failed to consider a regular scheme of defence or plans for acquiring lands in Europe, sacrificed chances of an alliance with England and neglected to seek support from Russia. That was written while discussing the mistakes of Germany’s past rulers but he makes it clear that his policies for the future continued to depend on British support. The old Triple Alliance of Germany, Austria and Italy in WW1 had proved disastrous for Germany. Italy remained neutral and eventually joined the Anglo-French side. What Hitler proposed in Mein Kampf was another Triple Alliance, of Britain, Germany and Italy, no doubt, in part, with thoughts of the growing power of France, reaching down though its African territories and the effect of that, then, on the traditional British policy of balance of power in Europe. So there it is. During all those years of Hitler’s fight for and acquisition of power, of the growing dislike of him, his policies, his actions, among many Britishers, not just left wingers like myself, did the German dictator continue to harbour those thoughts of alliance with Britain. After all the British he met, at Berlin and Berchtesgarten, were by no means ordinary left-wingers. How many, even while Britain was supposedly discussing a possible alliance with France and Russia against German aggression, would be in agreement with Hitler’s plans to go East, if it brought him up against Stalin and his hated Reds. Some of us were even of the opinion that our own prime minister, Chamberlain, was somewhat submissive to him until that confusing Polish reaction. So were Hitler wartime actions involving Britain tempered by not just a touch of pro- Britishness? I find my confusion lessened by the thought they could well have been. What might have happened if Hitler had behaved differently or we had accepted his offer of terms of surrender? One can only speculate but I suspect things would have been very little changed. Hitler must have known that he had to go East for his territorial enlargement and attack the Soviet Union before 1942 when, his spies must have told him, the Red Army would have its new weapons which eventually won the war.
SOMBRE CEREMONIES marked the 70th anniversary of the start of the Second World War across Europe last week. The war, which cost over 61 million lives, began with the Nazi German invasion of Poland on 1st September 1939 and ended on 2nd September 1945 when the Japanese Emperor Hirohito surrendered following the destruction of Hiroshima and Nagasaki by American atom bombs. In Britain the focus was naturally on 3rd September, the day the British and French ultimatums to Germany expired, and the sacrifice of our people that followed in the struggle to defeat the Axis powers. Here, with the dubious exception of some neo-nazis and anti-semites, there is no doubt that Nazi Germany started the war in a bid for world domination. But if you were to believe the ravings of some of the reactionary rulers in eastern Europe today you could be forgiven for thinking that it was the Soviet Union that had plunged the world into turmoil in 1939. Polish President Lech Kaczynski says little or nothing about the pre-war Polish regime’s despicable collaboration with Nazi leader Adolf Hitler. But he’s got plenty to say about the Soviet Union - blaming them for the outbreak of hostilities because they had signed a non-aggression pact with Germany and then absurdly claiming that Poland would have successfully repelled the Nazi legions if it hadn’t been for the Soviet intervention - which incidentally occurred after the Polish government had collapsed under the Nazi onslaught. The leaders of the Baltic states elevate Nazi collaborators as heroes and bang on about demanding compensation for what they say was decades of Soviet occupation while the rest of the pack want communism equated with Nazism and outlawed. All of this is done under the approving eye of the big-wigs in the European Union who choose to forget the people who made the greatest sacrifice in the struggle against Nazi Germany and who eventually forced the Wehrmacht on its knees begging for surrender in 1945. War-time leader Winston Churchill said that the RAF’s battle with the Luftwaffe in 1940 was the “finest hour” in what would later be called the Battle of Britain. It certainly was, but the finest hour for the world communist movement was undoubtedly the battle for Europe. The Soviet people, led by Joseph Stalin and the Bolsheviks, liberated half of Europe and smashed Nazi Germany while Josef Broz Tito’s guerrilla army and Enver Hoxha’s partisans drove the fascists out of the Balkans. Communist-led resistance forces had the fascists on the run in Greece, France and Italy while others fought alongside the Red Army on the eastern front while in Asia Mao Zedong, Kim Il Sung and Ho Chi Minh led the fight for freedom against the Empire of Japan. If it wasn’t for the Soviet Union Germany and Japan would have won the Second World War. What that would have meant can easily be seen by their actions during the conflict - the extermination of millions of Jews and all others deemed unfit to live by the Nazis; concentration camps, mass slavery and dictatorial rule by an elite of industrialists, landowners, war-lords and degenerates of every kind. This was the world ruled by Hitler and Hirohito - a world that would have set back civilisation hundreds of years had it succeeded. The Soviet Union is now sadly no more but nothing can take away its achievements. The words of microbes like Kaczynski and his kind will soon be forgotten. The Soviet victory will be remembered by working people for ever.
The Falsifiers of History Have the Aim of Covering Up Their Own Preparations for Fascism and War
by Chris Coleman National Spokesperson of the Revolutionary Communist Party of Britain (Marxist-Leninist)
September 3rd marks the 70th anniversary of the declaration of war by Britain and France against Nazi Germany, following Hitler’s invasion of Poland on 1st September 1939. On the occasion of this 70th anniversary of the outbreak of the Second World War, the imperialists and their apologists – as did the leaders at Gdansk on 1st September – have lost no time in attempting once again to rewrite history. They have as an aim to cover up their plans for state arrangements at home which serve their dictatorial rule, and internationally their preparations for a new inter-imperialist war for the redivision of the world. The focus of their falsifications, as ever, is the role of Stalin and the Soviet Union in the lead up to the war, in particular the gross slander that Stalin “connived” with Hitler, carved up Poland and set off the war. The truth is the precise opposite. The Second World War was a terrible catastrophe for the entire humanity. There is no doubt such a tragedy could have been avoided, or at the very least limited in its devastation. Facts, readily verifiable from the documents of the time, make clear the causes of the war. It was the ruling circles of Britain, France and the USA who re-financed and re-armed Germany to be the dominating force in Central and Eastern Europe and egged Hitler on to “Go East”, to realise his cherished dream of taking over territories such as the Ukraine and destroy the Soviet Union and Bolshevism. Faced with Hitlerite aggression, the Soviet Union called on Britain and France to sign a collective mutual assistance pact with military clauses. They refused, choosing instead to sign the Munich Agreement with Nazi Germany and fascist Italy, an act of betrayal which sealed the fate of Europe, ceding Czechoslovakia and its powerful armaments industry to Hitler, and giving him the green light to go east and attack the Soviet Union. The Polish government, imperialist itself, took the same stand, for which it was to pay so dearly. Appeasement was not a sign of weakness, as is claimed, but of connivance. The imperialist mentality was to fear communism more than fascism, to follow a short-sighted and self-serving policy which brought the most terrible devastation on the peoples of the world, including their own. It is also fact, readily verifiable, that the Soviet Union, following the policies of Lenin and Stalin, was a factor for peace in the lead-up, the waging, and the aftermath of the Second World War. It was, after all, the October Revolution which brought the First World War to a close. It was the collective security proposals of the Soviet Union which could, if taken up by the imperialist powers, have prevented, or at least limited, the Second World War. Faced with the refusal of Britain and France to take up these proposals, the Soviet Union had no alternative but to sign a Non-Aggression Pact with Germany in order to give it time to prepare for the inevitable Nazi invasion of its territories. It was also forced to move its Red Army on 17th September 1939, into Ukrainian and Byelorussian territories seized by Poland in 1919-20, thus saving millions from the slaughter visited upon the rest of Poland, and moving its forward defensive line several hundred kilometres west. When the inevitable invasion came, in June 1941, the war took on an anti-fascist character. Millions upon millions were inspired on the world scale to participate in destroying the fascist menace. This was the main factor in the victory of the anti-fascist forces over Nazism. The policy of the Soviet Union was based on steadfast opposition to aggression, invasion, occupation and annexation, to the imperialist redivision of the world and inter-imperialist war. Despite all the waverings, the cynicism, the treachery, the obstruction of the governments of Britain, France and the USA and others, they stuck to their stand. They made huge sacrifices in order to do this, and with great proletarian generosity ensured that the war effort progressed and victory over fascism was ensured. It was not down to the failure or weakness of the policy of the Soviet Union that this victory over fascism in 1945 was not consolidated and the opportunity for peace and democracy cast aside, with the imperialist powers reverting to their old policies, which had brought such disaster to the world’s people, including their own, of “containment of communism” as their main aim, along with renewing their support for and practice of fascism worldwide. Why the falsifications of this indisputable history? Everything points to the fact that the attack on communism today is not so much on what it is or has been, but on what it can do. In the 20th century communism solved the problems that faced humanity. It led and inspired people to make huge advances and win great victories. The crises later in the century were due to its abandonment, not its legacy. Now in the 21st century, despite the raised consciousness of the people, the result of the achievements of the 20th century, and the opportunity which that presents to take matters into their own hands, in the last 25 years of retreat of revolution the forces of reaction have been and are determined that the people will take no such initiatives, that they will leave the solution of the problems which face humanity in the hands of those who created them, in the hands of today’s so-called “benevolent despots”. Thus communism must be attacked. Its ideology and politics must be discredited. History itself must be falsified and rewritten. The attack, the falsifications, come not merely in the form of lies, but as total disinformation which distorts the whole progress of humankind, the basis of change, motion and development, how a new society has been and is being created, and if not challenged deprive the people of any perspective, of an outlook on their lives. As the late Hardial Bains pointed out in his important work Modern Communism,the attack is not just on communism but on all real change. History, he says, has been turned on its head, with the worst crimes of the Hitlerite fascists attributed to the communists in general, and to Stalin in particular. This disinformation is intended to disorient the workers, women and youth and provide them with no prospects whatsoever. It is also to divert the attention of the world’s peoples from the crimes being committed today by the imperialists and world reaction in the name of democracy. The question must be put: How can one believe the stories of those who commit such dreadful and dastardly acts these very days? Guantánamo, Fallujah, Gaza, the bombing of villages in Afghanistan and Pakistan are facts of history too. How can the solution of the world’s problems be left in the hands of those who cause them, who are leading the peoples into such terrible catastrophes? It is vital that the falsifications of history, such as of the causes and lessons of the Second World War, are exposed and combated. This is necessary not as something in itself, but as part of providing all the information, the perspective, the outlook – which only Modern Communism can do – to enable the working class and people to discuss and plan the way forward, what kind of new society is needed, how to take matters into their own hands, to bring about democratic renewal and bring into being a pro-social anti-war government, and solve themselves the problems facing society.
Joint Appeal of the Communist and Workers’ Parties in Europe on the new Irish Referendum
Solidarity with the Irish NO Vote
The rejection of the Lisbon Treaty by the Irish people in the referendum that was held last year, as well as the previous rejection of EU Treaties and the EU Constitution by other peoples in several EU member-states, has created great difficulties for the governments and a series of political forces that serve monopolies as well as the EU, this interstate imperialist union that has the interests of great capital as its driving force.
For that reason, refusing to accept the result of the vote of the people, Brussels, with the support of the bourgeois political parties in Ireland, are obliging the Irish people to vote again, hoping that they can be frightened and bullied into changing their decision.
The Lisbon Treaty, like the Maastricht and Nice treaties before it, consolidates and reinforces the EU imperialist strategy in favour of the interests of monopoly capital.
This treaty in particular:
Reinforces the militaristic character of the EU, enhances the powers of the High Representative for Foreign Policy, and establishes a closer collaboration with NATO and the US.
Limits the sovereign rights of member-states and recognizes the supremacy of EU law over national law.
Elaborates new policies for the exploitation of workers and the demolition of labour and social rights, following on from the judgements of the Court of Justice of the European Communities in the Vaxholm, Laval, Ruffert and Luxemburg cases based as they were provisions on previous treaty.
Abolishes the veto in 50 sectors for the benefit of the powerful countries in the EU, also increasing the relative voting strength of the bigger states.
Decisively reinforces police and repressive powers at central level and in each member-state separately, in the direction for the creation of a single European policy of internal order and security.
Strongly restricts and hits individual and people’s political rights and liberties and includes the combat against “radical” ideologies to the existing “anti-terror” package of the EU.
Reinforces the rapacious and threatening international role of the EU in its dealings with developing countries, dictating terms of trade and economic policy, and opening up their resources to exploitation by European multinational corporations.
Further undermines the ability of member states to take sovereign independent action on key social, economic and political issues and, hence, any reference of the traditional “Irish policy of neutrality” would be devoid of any practical significance.
The worker’s and people’s forces are now more aware of the fact that the EU has nothing to do with the interests of the peoples. It is a union of unemployment and underemployment, of the abolition of labour and social insurance rights, of the wage and pensions freezes, of the commercialisation of health, social welfare, education and culture. The peoples of Europe have accumulated experience since it has been proved in practice that the EU and its treaties not only constitute any shield against capitalist crisis, but on the contrary, they reinforce the profits of the capital that causes the crisis.
The communist and workers parties of Europe express our solidarity with the Irish people and we urge them once more, to decisively oppose the anti-democratic and anti labour class direction inherent in the EU, to reject EU militarism and the threat to peace and people’s rights it represents. We urge them to defy the EU ultimatums; not to believe the promises for regulations, improvements and “protocols on the respect of rights beyond the treaty” that do not change the reactionary character of the treaty.
We call upon workers across the member states of the EU:
To show their active solidarity with the Irish people.
To support them through messages of solidarity and any other form, as this is a common struggle and its result will have an impact upon workers across the EU.
Europe of multinationals has rallied behind the forces of the “yes” vote; we, the communist and workers parties call upon workers to rally and stand in solidarity with the Irish working class and the other popular forces of the country.
We call upon the Irish people to hold their nerve and vote “NO” once more and give the decisive blow that will signal the rejection of the reactionary treaty. This result will pose new obstacles to the attack of EU imperialists and will give a new impetus to the struggles of the working class and the poor popular strata throughout Europe.
====================== The Parties
Communist Party of Belarus Workers’ Party of Belgium Communist Workers’ Party of Bosnia and Herzegovina Communist Party of Britain New Communist Party of Britain Socialist Workers’ Party of Croatia Communist Party in Denmark Communist Party of Denmark Communist Party of Estonia Communist Party of Finland Communist Party of Greece Hungarian Communist Workers’ Party Communist Party Ireland Workers’ Party of Ireland Socialist Party of Latvia Communist Party of Luxembourg New Communist Party of the Netherlands Communist Party of Norway Communist Party of Poland Portuguese Communist Party Communist Party of the Russian Federation Russian Communist Workers' Party – Revolutionary Party of Communists Communist Party of Slovakia Communist Party of the Peoples of Spain Communist Party of Sweden Communist Party of Turkey
We Sell Our Time No More by Paul Stewart, Ken Murphy et al, pbk, illus., 272pp Pluto Press London £19.99
First of all a word of warning. Despite the snappy title this is not a rank-and-file saga about struggle on the shop floor but rather an academic study of the problems facing workers in the face of a renewed employers’ assault on their terms and conditions. Written by a team of academics and some union officials this book is packed with historical analysis and useful statistics based on research covering two decades. More precisely this book is a detailed analysis of the unions’ response to “lean production” in the British motor industry. Two of the main contributors, Paul Stewart and Ken Murphy, are pillars of the Automotive Workers’ Research Network. Ken Murphy worked for General Motors for over twenty years and Paul Stewart is Professor of the Sociology of Work and Employment at Strathclyde University in Scotland. Lean production, devised in Japan and pioneered by Toyota, claims to be an approach which produces world class performance and employee satisfaction. In fact all it consists of is a management programme to replace traditional work-practices with a system that cuts “waste” and tries to use every minute of the workers’ time in the productive process in methods which they call “team work”, “quality circles”, “flexibility” and “just-in-time” production. It’s a very old game called squeezing as much as you can out of the worker and paying as little as possible in return. In the past organised labour not only regulated pay and conditions but also managed to win significant improvements on the shop floor. Now with the unions crippled by anti-union legislation management has been able to pump up production and impose draconian cuts in pay and conditions. The book focuses on the unions’ official response and rank-and-file resistance at Vauxhall-GM and Rover/BMW using survey data and discussions with shop-stewards on the front-line. This book is an invaluable aid in the struggle for union officials in manufacturing and beyond as well as providing an important resource for students of industrial relations. It can be readily obtained from any high-street bookshop or ordered from your library.
OLIVER CROMWELL, the leader of the English Revolution, died on 3rd September 1658. Cromwell, the MP for Huntingdon, was the leading Parliamentarycommander during the English Civil War which began in 1642 and ended in1649 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. Scotlandhad been brought under Commonwealth control. Royalist hopes of acounter-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 toIreland – in a reconquest whose brutality is remembered to this day.Attempts to set up farming co-operatives by the Diggers, another group bornfrom the Army, were also suppressed.
The republic 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 religiousmovements like the Quakers who are still with us today.
Oliver Cromwell died on 3rd September 1658 and was succeeded by his son,Richard. He was neither a politician nor a soldier. Unable to reconcilerepublican generals with the demands of the rich merchants and landownersto curb the influence of the New Model Army, Richard Cromwell resigned thefollowing year. The government collapsed and the monarchy was restored in1660.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 hanged, drawn and quartered. And the “good old cause” they had fought for was buried with them. It was clear that a great revolution had taken place. It is equally clear that it was incomplete.
ON SUNDAY 3rd September 1939 families and neighbours throughout Britain were clustered around their radio sets waiting for Neville Chamberlain – the prime minister who had previously announced it was “peace in our time” – to state whether we would be at war with Germany. At 11am he confirmed that we were at war with Germany over the issue of Germany’s invasion of Poland on 1st September; the Nazi government had not responded to Britain’s ultimatum to withdraw from that country. With war declared a whole lot of things happened quite quickly. More than one-and-a-half million women and children were sent into evacuation from the big cities; rationing was introduced; street names were painted over and the blackout was introduced with no lights to be shown from houses or shops after dark and cars had their dipped lights further light restricted. And conscription was introduced in stages; at the start of this period there has been one-and-a-half million unemployed. Women were also conscripted – into non-combatant roles in the armed forces and into factory work and the land army – to a much greater extent than in the First World War. And then nothing happened. There were no air raids and people were encouraged to take advantage of the good weather and go on holiday. Of course elsewhere a lot was happening but not so much in this country. British planes showered Germany with leaflets indicating it would be a good idea if peace was restored. By contrast the Germans were preparing to launch their offensives against western European countries. The period from September 1939 to May 1940 was known as the phoney war. The only acts of war between Britain and Germany took place at sea, where Germany sank a number of merchant ships and British warships pressured the German pocket battleship Graf Spee into blowing itself up. Meanwhile at home agitation had been growing for a more aggressive war policy. Prime Minister Chamberlain was discredited by his appeasement policies throughout the 30s, which among other things allowed Germany to increase its armed forces seven-fold from 1933. Agitation for a more aggressive policy towards Nazi Germany resulted in Chamberlain effectively being forced out of office and Winston Churchill became Prime Minister and accepted leader of the country for the duration of the war. It was recognised that this was an imperialist war but at the same time it was also recognised that Hitler had to be stopped and in the circumstances that could only be achieved by the force of arms. One of the big problems facing Britain was that although France had six million men under arms it still expected the war to be conducted in much the same way as the First World War – in other words a new war of position, trench warfare, in which front lines of combatants would move back and forth, losing thousands of men to take a few yards of land. In light of this they built the Maginot Line, named after the French Minister of War who commissioned it. It was an impregnable fortress but the defences were not extended to the sea. The Line was highly armed and equipped and would probably have stopped any invasion directed against it. The only problem was that the Germans did not see a need to breach it; they circumvented it as they drove through Holland, Belgium and France. The German breakthrough was at the Ardennes Forest, which the French had deemed to be impenetrable and who therefore put poorly trained and inexperienced soldiers in that area. British troops were also involved along the Belgian frontier and they too had to retreat in some disorder under the onslaught of the German offensive. The Germans has mastered the art of modern warfare in a strategy that became known as blitzkrieg. It was a heavy bombing attack by war planes backed up by masses of tanks and armoured cars moving fast and the deployment of land troops to mop up and round up the defeated defending soldiers, who became prisoners of war. Such was the effectiveness of this strategy that there was only nominal resistance in Belgium and Holland; France capitulated within five weeks. The retreat as far as Britain was concerned culminated in the evacuation of the expeditionary force at Dunkirk, thanks to the mobilisation of a host of smaller ships as well as the naval contingent. Nonetheless thousands of British troops were made prisoners of war and a great deal of heavy war weaponry was lost. Churchill proved to be an effective war leader; his resolute and confident assertions in his speeches gave inspiration to the people. He was a good war leader but he was also a treacherous ally, as events later proved. He made a valuable contribution to achieve Britain’s rearmament and capacity for waging effective warfare against the Nazi forces. He personally saw the German threat as being greater to British interests, in particular to the British colonies, which were being targeted by the Germans. But he also flirted with the idea of going to war with the Soviet Union over the issue of Finland. Soviet preparations for defending itself against German aggression required access to territories in Finland in order to protect Leningrad. The Finnish government would not agree to this and the Soviet-Finnish war happened. The British ruling class and media urged all the support it could muster to support Finland. Some aid went and an expeditionary force was standing by when Finland agreed to the Soviet terms for access to the territory required to defend Leningrad. Undoubtedly some ruling class elements thought this could be a way of declaring war on Russia and resolving the problems with Germany to attack a common enemy. That possibility had now been eliminated. After the fall of France Churchill said the battle for Europe is over and the Battle of Britain has now begun. It is not altogether clear whether Nazi Germany ever intended to invade Britain. There was only one element of blitzkrieg, namely air power, that could be effectively used and in the struggle for air supremacy over Britain it was Britain who had the initiative. First of all radar enabled our forces to have advance warning of attacks, the number, type and direction of aircraft involved. British pilots were able to take off in the minimum of time and engage the enemy and they were able to engage for longer. The German fighter Messerschmitt 109s fighting over London had only 11 minutes to engage before they had to return to base for refuelling, though their bombers had bigger fuel tanks. Another factor was the effectiveness of the planes themselves and their well-trained pilots. The Battle of Britain was won in the air and Churchill made his famous speech: “Never in the field of human conflict has so much been owed by so many to so few.” What Germany had achieved at this stage of the struggle was a relatively pacified rear whilst it mobilised its forces for the war against the Soviet Union – the war in which, as Churchill stated, the Soviet Red Army tore the guts out of the German war machine. We shall look at that struggle at a later date.
By Thierry Schaffauser GMB Sex Work and Entertainment Branch
WHEN THE sex workers’ movement was born in the 1970s it was women only and most of them were identified as straight. It is only in the last few years that more and more trans and male sex workers have been involved in the movement and that activists have brought new ideas influenced by “queer” theories.
Queer workers can very easily compare the similarities between LGBT phobias and the “whore” stigma. In both cases, we have to hide our identity or even to lie sometimes to avoid violence and repression. We are told that we need to be cured or rehabilitated.
The only way to be recognised is to accept the dominants’ rules, and sometimes some of us indeed accept and act as the victim the system expects us to be. The alternative is to take a big risk and claim your pride or at least refuse to accept the imposed shame. But those who refuse to be “rescued” will then expose themselves to repression. Being LGBT could send you to prison. Being a sex worker can also jeopardise your citizen’s rights such as parenthood, housing and protection from the police – and according to the way you work you risk getting jailed.
As homophobia serves as a gender police for men, whorephobia does the same for women. We are what we must not become when we are taught what a man or a woman is. We are those who betray their sex. The insult “queer” is the only limit to men’s sexuality and actions. The insult “whore” is also an instrument to control women’s freedom. Each time a woman transgresses the gender rules, she knows she will face the whore stigma. That’s why so many people will distance themselves from these identities even if it means fighting against us as persons.
Solidarity of minorities
Being a queer sex worker helps you to understand the intersection between different discriminations. We are working class women, queers, drugs users, HIV positives, transgenders and migrants. Our enemies often say that we do sex work because of a lack of choice. And indeed, as minorities we often don’t have the same choices and sex work appears as one of our only options. But when sex work is so repressed and criminalised, what is described as a lack of choice can also been seen as an economic strategy to get the resources we would never have in a system which excludes us.
As a migrant, I know I can work in any country and will always find clients. As a young queer I know I could leave my family and escape from a father’s authority. Without sex work I would never have been able to pay my tuition fees and have the same access to education. So instead of criminalising further the sex industry in thinking it will force us to do something else, why is the problem never looked at from the opposite side?
There are people who indeed have a lack of choices, but rather than taking away the sex work option in criminalising always more our clients or ourselves, we could once think about giving more options and more choices in fighting for minorities’ rights. But it is probably easier for the Government to claim being feminist in targeting prostitution while at the same time cutting single mothers’ benefits, deporting migrant workers and doing nothing against women’s economic apartheid.
Sex workers have a lot to bring to the labour movement. We have to build tools to avoid exploitation. Many of us used to work in hard low-paid jobs before choosing sex work and thus avoid now exploitation from a boss. We can choose when we want to work and not to wake up early in the mornings. We always ask to be paid first and we can have better incomes. But other sex workers work for escort agency managers or brothel keepers and can’t benefit from the same social protection as other workers gained thanks to our ancestors. This is the result of our division. Many workers keep thinking that we are not proper workers. The system divides us between the public and the private sector, the intellectual workers and the manual workers, and those who like sex workers are not even considered as workers. The system pushes you to think that at least you are not selling your body and that you are better than these prostitutes. But what are you selling?
The idea of separating our mind and our body doesn’t come from nowhere but from religion. Women used to be burnt as witches for selling their soul to the devil. Now they say sex workers sell their body. The consequence is always to reduce us to non-political objects who can’t make decisions for ourselves. The abolitionist ideology was born in the 19th century by the meeting of social Christian philanthropists and upper class feminists. Their will to reform us was for our own good for sure, but like when they wanted to educate the working classes or when they thought they brought civilisation to the colonies, they maintain a hierarchy between those who are the helpers and those who need the help.
What sex workers want is that you treat us as equals because we share the same struggle for our liberation, not as an under proletarian class who need to be saved. The emancipation of the workers must be the act of the workers themselves.
None of us will ever forget the miners’ strike of 1984/85 and snapshots that capture the sacrifice and struggle of the mining communities are now available as greeting cards from Past Pixels, a new venture in publishing images of labour movement history.
The set is a personal selection by the photographer, Martin Shakeshaft, from a collection of sixteen postcards that have already been published. These high quality black and white images remind us of the epic scale of the struggle of the mine workers and their supporters to defend an industry, jobs and communities. The five greeting cards include shots of pickets, marching miners and a cheerful Arthur Scargill cycling down the street in Treorchy in the Rhondda Valley.
Martin Shakeshaft is a well-known photo-journalist and a member of the NUJ and the British Press Photographers’ Association and some of his work is on permanent display in the National Museum of Wales. To celebrate the 25th anniversary of the miners’ strike he revisited some of the locations of his original images which were displayed in a touring exhibition entitled “Look Back in Anger”. These images are featured on the reverse of the greeting cards.
The set contains:
1. Alan ‘Massum’ Jones. The march back to work, Maerdy – 5th March 1985
2. Maerdy Women’s Support Group, Ferndale, The Rhondda – 27th August 1984.
3. Orgreave Coking Plant, near Sheffield – 18th June 1984.
4. Arthur Scargill, NUM President, Treorchy, the Rhondda – 16th June 1984.
5. Early morning picket, Celynen South Colliery – 6th November 1984.
The set of five cards costs £4.00 including postage and packing. Make cheques payable to “Past Pixels” and send to Past Pixels, PO Box 798, Worcester, WR4 4BW. Alternatively you can buy them online via their website.
photo. Maerdy Women's Support Group. Martin Shakeshaft
THE DECISION of the Scottish Government to free Abdelbaset Ali Mohmed al Megrahi on compassionate grounds has been denounced by US President Barack Obama and his FBI boss Robert Mueller who called it “a mockery of justice”. Scottish Labour former First Minister Henry McLeish says Mueller’s intervention was “totally out of order” and “none of his business” but Gordon Brown’s silence has fired speculation that the release of the dying Libyan intelligence officer convicted of the Lockerbie bombing was part of a secret deal to secure lucrative new oil deals in Libya. The Scottish National Party administration has quite rightly said that the release of al Megrahi, who is dying of cancer, was fully justified under Scottish law. Alex Salmond’s government was equally totally justified in pointing out that while Scotland had a strong relationship with the United State it did not always depend on the two countries coming to agreement. But this was no random act of mercy. Al Megrahi’s decision to drop his appeal was clearly prompted by promises of freedom. His release a week later was clearly timed for the run-up to the 1st September celebrations in his country to mark the 1969 Libyan Revolution. It is inconceivable to believe that the devolved Scottish government, which is ultimately answerable to the Westminster Parliament and the Crown, could have made this decision without prior consultation with the Prime Minister. The Libyan Arab Airlines manager who sat in the dock with al Megrahi was acquitted by the special Scottish court that sentenced al Megrahi to life imprisonment in 2001. Al Megrahi always denied the charges at the trial and still protests his innocence. He is seen as a martyr in Libya and his incarceration was always seen as a barrier to improving relations with oil-rich Libya. This was recognised by former premier Tony Blair, who met Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi in 2007 to conclude a $900 million oil and gas deal and sign up to a law, extradition and prisoner transfer agreement that clearly was focused on the only significant Libyan in British custody. British Petroleum and Shell have got their eye on the vast and still untapped oil and gas reserves that lie under the Libyan desert and many other British companies are eager to get a slice of the action in the new multi-million dollar Libyan construction programme that includes new ports, airports, holiday resorts, water nano-filtration plants and 27 new universities. We may never know if the British Government was behind his release. Only Gordon Brown can say whether it was an act of altruism by the Scottish Government or part of deal to boost Anglo-Libyan trade and the Prime Minister is saying nothing. The New Communist Party has actively backed the campaign for justice for Megrahi and for Libya from the very beginning and we will continue to do so. We will continue to demand that the record be set straight and the machinations of the CIA be fully exposed. By abandoning his appeal al Megrahi has given up any chance of clearing his name and resolving the mystery of the downing of Pan Am Flight 103. To this day no one has claimed responsibility for the destruction of the plane that cost the lives of 259 passengers and crew along with eleven Scots killed when parts of the aircraft hit the ground. The trial was seriously flawed and the “evidence” produced by the CIA suspect. Many believed al Megrahi would have been able to clear his name at the appeal. In Libya and throughout the Arab world many believe he was innocent. This view is shared by many campaigners in Britain who had grave doubts about his trial. Clemency or natural justice - whatever the motive the release of the Libyan was right and long overdue.
ABDELBASET Ali Mohmed al-Megrahi last Tuesday abandoned his appeal against conviction for the Lockerbie bombing in order to make it easier for the Scottish law courts to allow him to return to Libya on compassionate grounds before he dies, aged 57, of prostate cancer. It another cruel twist to the mountain of injustices that have been heaped on this innocent man that he must surrender his long battle to clear his name - a legal battle that would take longer than his life expectancy - in order to be allowed to return to his home.
His incorrect conviction has in effect been a death sentence because he is dying from a cancer that is easily treatable and curable if the Scottish prison system had given him basic medical care and caught it in its early stages.
Two-hundred-and-seventy people died when Pan Am flight 103 exploded over the skies of Lockerbie in southern Scotland in December 1988.
At first the British and American security services blamed unspecified Palestinian terrorists. There had been warnings before the Lockerbie bombing of a possible revenge attack after an American warship in the Gulf shot down an Iranian airliner the previous year, killing all the civilians on board. An intelligence report from the US State Department on 2nd December 1988, 19 days before the Lockerbie bombing, warned: “Team of Palestinians not associated with the PLO plans to attack American targets in Europe. Targets specified are Pan Am and US military bases.”
For a while the imperialist leaders used accusations of being involved in the bombing to try to bully several Middle Eastern countries. Eventually they settled on brow-beating Libya by claiming the bombing was the work of two Libyan intelligence agents - Megrahi and Al Amin Khalifa Fimah.
At first the Libyan government refused to hand them over and US imperialism subjected the country to economic and cultural sanctions. Then it bombed the capital, Tripoli, the bombers taking off from Britain. In the bombing raid Colonel Gaddafi’s infant adopted daughter was killed; they had been trying to kill Gaddafi himself.
The Libyan government finally demanded some evidence that the two accused were involved in the bombing. Up until then the US government had never even considered presenting a shred of evidence. Now the CIA went into overdrive to cook up some evidence. They leant heavily on stooges to identify Megrahi and Fimah as people who had bought clothes in Malta that were found in the suitcase that contained the bomb; one vital witness who originally described the purchaser as over six-foot and aged about 50 while Megrahi then was five-foot-eight-inches and 37. The list of dodgy “evidence” is very long.
But the two men were eventually handed over to be tried in 2000 in a special court by a panel of Scottish judges with no jury. The evidence was so bad that they could not bring themselves to convict both of the accused. The CIA had to be content with one sacrificial lamb.
The magazine Private Eye wrote: “The judgement and the verdict against Megrahi were perverse. The judges brought shame and disgrace, it is fair to say, to all those who believed in Scottish justice, and have added to Scottish law an injustice of the type which has often defaced the law in England. Their verdict was a triumph for the CIA but it did nothing at all to satisfy the demands of the families of those who died at Lockerbie - who still want to know how and why their loved ones were murdered.”
Since then Megrahi has been held in prison in Scotland; his wife moved from Libya to Scotland to be able to visit him regularly and they have both been separated from their home and the rest of their family.
The New Communist Party and the New Worker have actively backed the campaign for justice for Megrahi and for Libya from the beginning and we will continue to do so. He may no longer be in a position to fight to clear his name but that does not mean the fight will end. Along with millions of other progressives in Britain and around the world, we will continue to demand that the record be set straight and the machinations of the CIA be fully exposed.
Communist Party of Scotland Independent Scotland – A Left Perspective pp. 38. Available from CPS/Alert Scotland, PO Box 7311, Glasgow G46 9B2. £2.00 plus 50 postage and packing.
On the 9th November last year the Communist Party of Scotland held a conference aimed at “uniting the left in Scotland around a number of shared political positions on Scottish independence”. This pamphlet is the result of that conference. Well produced and reasonably priced it provides an account of the views of various groups, mostly on the left, seeking Scottish independence. A firmer editorial pen might have cut out the contributions which are clearly not relevant to the subject of the cause of Scottish independence: there is a contribution from a Communist Party of India (Marxist) representative describing the reasons for his party recently leaving India’s governing coalition. Given the conference was about independence the CPIM could have more productively made some observations about India’s complex national questions such as the status of Kashmir. Another irrelevant piece is that from a speaker from Action for Southern Africa, the successor to the Anti-Apartheid. There is also a brief piece on the short history of the Scottish Workers Republican Party. Presumably the author considers this to be an example to be followed, but his outline merely demonstrates how irrelevant the SWRP was to the Scottish working class. It was founded in 1922 by John MacLean, a popular Marxist speaker and writer who refused to join the recently formed Communist Party of Great Britain which he absurdly saw as the product of a cunning plot by the British Government to create a tame dead end organization to ensnare genuine revolutionaries. What of the main contributions? A Scottish Green Party representative presents a shopping list of policies on renewable energy, and poverty related issues but fails to make clear why an independent Scottish government would improve things or a British wide government cannot do the same. Mike Danson, a Professor Economics at the University of the West of Scotland sees the example of the capitalist Scandinavian countries as an inspiring model. Another academic, Chris Harvey, who has returned from being Professor of British and Irish Studies at the University of Tübingen to be a Scottish Nationalist list MSP seems to think imagine that the Scottish economy can be rescued by German banks funding huge Scottish tidal energy projects which could power much of Europe. Strangely none of the speakers has anything to say about the European Union. Although all speakers denounce “Thatcherite” neoliberalism they are silence about its Brussels variety. The main Communist Party of Scotland’s speaker Maggie Chetty attacks the Labour Party for betraying its values but then goes on to praise the good work down by race relations bodies which it established, lamenting only that they are inadequately funded. She praises France and Spain for being “more successful than we have in resisting Coca Cola and Big Mac culture which is a very venal aspect of America’s cultural imperialism”. This is unfair to Scotland. The traditional Scottish diet of Irn Bru and haggis and chips keeps these deplorable American influences at bay. Was the conference a success? Not entirely. While it briefly brought together speakers from both the rump of the Scottish Socialist Party and its breakaway Solidarity the war between these two tiny sects continues. At the recent Euro-Elections Solidarity joined the Communist Party of Britain in the No2EU alliance. The CPB are roundly denounced earlier in the pamphlet for acting as a “Trojan Horse in the heart of the Labour Movement”.
On 27th July 1953 the guns fell silent on the Korean peninsula. US imperialism and its lackeys had been defeated. The Korean people, led by Kim Il Sung and the Workers Party of Korea, had preserved the independence of the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea and forced the greatest imperialist country in the world to the armistice table.
The heroism of the Korean People’s Army and the Korean people had beaten off the might of US imperialism and its satellites.
The imperialists had hoped to smash Korean socialism in 1950. Their legions believed that carpet bombing and terror would crush the spirit of the Korean revolution that had liberated the country from Japanese colonialism. They were proved wrong.
American imperialism. flying the false flag of the United Nations, believed that Democratic Korea could be isolated and crushed. But the socialist world rallied to assist the Korean people in their just struggle. The Korean people did not stand alone. The Chinese Volunteers and the assistance from the Soviet Union and the People’s Democracies of eastern Europe was a concrete demonstration of proletarian internationalism while the peace movement across the world, not least in Britain and the United States, exposed the crimes of the imperialists and mobilised world public opinion to end the war.
But the consequences of the Korean war remain unresolved. Though the Americans had pledged to end the partition of Korea to end the fighting Korea remains cruelly divided and the DPR Korea continues to be subjected to a US embargo in breach of international law.
Throughout his life Kim Il Sung worked tirelessly to fulfil the dream of the entire Korean nation for the peaceful re-unification of the country. His proposal for a reunified Confederal Democratic Republic of Koryo based on the principle of “one country/two systems” remains on the table. Korean leader Kim Jong Il has striven to normalise relations with the south Korean authorities to end tension on the peninsula and pave the way to reunification.
All these efforts have been thwarted by US imperialism that seeks to retain south Korea as a protectorate and military base as part of their efforts to dominate the region. Americans imperialism reneged on their commitments forcing the DPR Korea to resume its nuclear research. American imperialism stepped up its military threats and economic blockade forcing the DPR Korea to develop and test its own independent nuclear deterrent.
Now US imperialism stands isolated and exposed. The DPR Korea has stood firm breaking the diplomatic and economic embargo in the 1990s and the people have closed ranks around the Workers Party of Korea with renewed determination to defend their independence and socialist system.
Today communists throughout the world join their Korean comrades in reflection on the anniversary of the victory of the Fatherland Liberation War to pay tribute to the sacrifice made by the generations before us in the struggle for socialism and the emancipation of the working class.
Andy Brooks General Secretary New Communist Party of Britain
Comrade Kim Jong Il General Secretary, Workers’ Party of Korea Chairman of National Defence Commission, DPRK Pyongyang Democratic People’s Republic of Korea
25th July 2009 (Juche 98)
Dear Comrade Kim Jong Il,
Our organisations participating in this celebration to mark the 56th anniversary of the end of the Korean War and the historic victory of the Korean people send you the warmest congratulations and heartfelt best wishes.
The Korean War was an illegal war of aggression organised by the US imperialists under the flag of the United Nations. US imperialism is the most barbaric force that humanity has encountered, armed to the teeth with nuclear and other weapons and operating on the fascist dictum "might makes right". It seeks to blackmail any people who affirm their collective right to existence, just as the DPRK is leading the Korean people in doing.
Just as hundreds of millions of people opposed the US-led illegal war of aggression against the Korean people in 1950, so today the working class and people of Britain, as well as all the peace loving people of the world, must not permit Anglo-US imperialism to justify another Korean War.
We participating organisations, on behalf of all democratic forces in Britain, are indeed proud to be called Friends of Korea. We declare our great admiration for the historic victory of the Korean people, and the heroic advance in rebuilding their country, and in their fervent aspiration to once again reunify the Korean Peninsula under the precept of “By our nation itself”. We also celebrate on this occasion your tireless and peerless work, your leadership, and the collective spirit of the whole Korean people under your guidance in defending their socialist system and fighting for complete freedom and independence.
We expresses our utmost confidence that the Korean people through their own efforts will oust the US occupation troops from the south of their country, and reunify their country through their own efforts, peacefully and without outside interference.
We regard the Korean people’s victories as our victories, as we struggle for the same ideals and against the same enemies. As ever, we assure our comrades in the DPRK that we fight shoulder to shoulder with them in their struggles now and in the future also.
With warmest fraternal regards
Communist Party of Great Britain (Marxist-Leninist) European Regional Society for the Study of the Juche Idea UK Korean Friendship Association New Communist Party of Britain Revolutionary Communist Party of Britain (Marxist-Leninist) Socialist Labour Party