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.